Maintaining Optimism in the Face of Reality. Occasional observations on the state of the world, society, business and politics. Usually anchored by facts, always augmented by opinion.

Random Friday: Shifting Polls; Bad Seeds and Jon Stewart  | e-mail post

Well, I'm off for a "boys weekend" in Chicago to see a couple of friends from college. One lives down there, the other is flying in from LA. They're both planning on voting for Kerry, so I'll be outnumbered if discussions turn to politics. Wish me luck.

Speaking of the election, in case there was every any question, we're in for a nail-biter Nov 2. RealClearPolitcs' EV count has had states shifting into "toss-up" all week. Right now, it's Bush 227, Kerry 189 and 122 votes in toss-up. Most interesting is that most of the states moved into the toss-up column this week have been from Kerry leaners. Michigan a toss-up? (The new Mason-Dixon poll for MN has Bush in a narrow 47-45-2 lead, and I've written before about how much I trust Mason-Dixon's results.) Of course, the Reuters-Zogby national daily tracking poll has been shifting to Bush for the past three days (at one point per day) and has Bush up 2.

I may not be posting over the weekend, but, in the meantime, here's a random collection of thoughts or things to check out.

Want to try to balance the budget? The Budget Explorer has a pretty slick Java applet that lets you drill down into the budget and make your own adjustments to bring things into line. Fortunately, you don't need to worry about the political fallout of your changes.

If you haven't seen the movie "The Bad Seed," it's a classic 1956 film about a little girl with a heart of darkness. Think Damien from "The Omen" but without the excuse of being the spawn of Satan. A couple of recent news items of life imitating art, in this respect:
For another cinematic experience with a bad seed, I just watched the movie "Godsend" last night. It stars Robert DeNiro, Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. It's not half as bad as some reviewers have suggested, and the DVD actually has 4 alternate endings. For my money, alt ending #3 is the closest to the mark, but doesn't quite go far enough.

It's certainly a better movie than "The Day After Tomorrow," which provides a total of maybe 7-10 minutes of some pretty slick effects, but forces one to endure one of the most poorly-written "human drama" storylines ever put to screens. I actually would have enjoyed more proselytizing about global warming if it were at the expense of the "story."

Speaking of proselytizing, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show went on CNN's Crossfire to tell them that they were not contributing to meaningful debate. I didn't think that was in question, but other than Stewart maybe coming off a bit too sanctimonious, he has some very good points, and it's fun seeing him light up Carlson Tucker. Paul Begala is smart enough (or scared enough) to not even try to take on Stewart on the issue. You can read the transcript at CNN, or see the video at iFilm.

The Crossfire guys really have no defense, apparently because they are either to stupid to realize, or to afraid to offend their their audience by saying: "we do this because TV ratings tell us that Americans would prefer to watch this compared to meaningful debate." Honestly, Jon, as sad as it may be, shows like that exist because Americans, by revealed preference, want them more than meaningful talk about issues. If they didn't, every market in the country would have three channels of PBS. Or look to the change in BBC programming since British television became a competitive market.

I think it would have been a fairer match if Stewart had tried to take on Carville and Novak instead, but I also think Novak would have been honest enough to throw the viewing public under the bus. While Carlson only has work because of the devolution of political "reporting," Novak has actually been in the business long enough to watch it change.

And if you haven't seen "Team America: World Police" yet, go see it. As I've said, everyone should.

Oh, and as always, check out Jay Cost's Horserace Blog for more updates on handicapping the election. He's got a particularly interesting post on what the sampling errors in polls really mean in terms of predicting the election. For example, in a 2-point race (candidates' spread is 2 points), the odds of two polls both incorrectly calling the winner: 9.7%.

e-mail post | Link Cosmos | [Permalink]  |  | Friday, October 22, 2004
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