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Archive: March 25, 2004

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The Right Issue?

Thursday,  03/25/04  02:48 PM

One of the keys to winning a debate is to keep the discussion to points on which you can win.  There are always many different angles to any debate, and picking the right ones is essential.  In the same way, winning an election depends crucially on picking the right issues.  If the discourse during an election takes place about issues on which you can win, you stand a good chance of winning the election, too.

I think Democrats are making a big mistake by featuring the war on terrorism as an election issue.  This is an issue on which they cannot win.  I know there are a lot of people who disagree strongly with Bush on this issue.  But they are a minority.  Furthermore, for those in the majority, this is a "voting issue"; in other words, they will cast their vote based on how they feel about it.

Bush's handling of the 9/11 attacks, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the formation of the department of homeland security, etc., are all open to question.  He and his team's record is not perfect.  But to a stable majority of Americans, Bush did and is doing a good job.  As a "wartime president", people have confidence in him.  Democrats may not like it, but they ignore this fact at their peril.  The more Kerry and his team attack the Bush record, the better it is for Bush, because they are keeping the debate on a point that Bush can win

This was born in on me this morning reading about the congressional testimony of Richard Clarke.  Clarke has been very critical of the administration, and has said things that could convince people not to vote for Bush.  But he has done something else, too; he has kept the war on terrorism at the top of the news pages.  And that helps Republicans.  Really.

In the wake of the Madrid train station bombing and subsequent electoral victory by Socialists in Spain, I have heard people wonder whether terrorists might attack in the U.S. just before the election, as a way of tipping the scales toward Kerry.  I would say this depends on how savvy they are.  Because the truth is that any terrorist attacks benefit Bush, by bringing this issue back to the forefront.  Even the Spanish bombings had this effect.  Suddenly all the bad news about job creation was pushed to the back burners.

Ironically, the job market is an issue on which Bush is vulnerable.  There is a structural change under way in the U.S., there are fewer and fewer jobs for unskilled workers.  These jobs are being eliminated by technology or are moving overseas into less expensive labor markets, and they're not coming back.  There is little any President can do about it but saying so provides a weak defense. 

The best thing terrorists could do if they want Kerry to win - and who doesn't doubt that they do (in itself a pretty telling observation) - is to keep things quiet and hope the electoral debate shifts to economic and social issues, on which Bush is much more vulnerable.

[ Immediately afterward: Wow, I just saw this item on the Command Post.  "Over six in 10 think it is likely terrorists will try to influence the outcome of this year’s presidential election with a major attack on U.S. soil later this year."  I'm in that group; regretfully, I don't think terrorists are particularly savvy. ]


Uncle Sam I Am

Thursday,  03/25/04  08:51 PM

Wow.  So, I've always liked Dr. Suess (Theodore Geisel), but now I like him even more.  Check out this series of cartoons, drawn in the 1930s.  [ via Donald Sensing ]  I especially like this one:

Dr. Suess on appeasement...


Thursday,  03/25/04  09:14 PM

LGF makes a placeholder post: moderate Muslims call for restraint and compromise.  Maybe this is it: Prominent Palestinians urge nonviolence.  But Steven Den Beste is skeptical, and suggests Israel's assassination of Yassin is part of a clever plan.

Noam Chomsky has a blog.  Chomsky is fascinating to me; a brilliant man who nonetheless inevitably fails to draw the same conclusions I do (e.g. "the language organ"). 

George Bush has a blog.  So I agree with Bush on many things (not all), and I disagree with Chomsky on most things (not all), but I find Chomsky's blog infinitely more interesting.  Why?  It is the personal voice of a real person, while Bush's blog is a propaganda mill.

Dick Morris on the Hill: Kerry's Ides of March.  "March 2004 gives every sign of going down in history as the crucial month of the presidential campaign.  It will, very possibly, be recorded as the month in which Sen. John Kerry lost the election."  And this was pre-Clarke.

The Panda's ThumbGreat new group blog on evolution and debunking pseudo-science: The Panda's Thumb.  In particular, the bloggers seem determined to refute Intelligent Design.  Really great stuff, I've subscribed, stand by for lots of links...

Collision detection reports on The Honesty Virus.  People behave more honestly online than they do offline.  But this doesn't have much to do with morals, apparently it is much easier to be caught in a lie online.  Also an NYT essay (registration required).  [ via Ottmar Liebert ]

The Supreme Court is hearing the "Pledge of Allegiance" case.  I know 9 out of 10 people think "under God" belongs in the Pledge, but I do not.  And it isn't because I'm an atheist (I'm not).  Separation of church and state is crucial to the U.S. Constitution, freedom of religion is the first freedom mentioned in the Bill of Rights.  How can anyone argue that adding "under God" to the Pledge doesn't imply the government is taking a religious position?  (BTW, I feel the same way about "in God we trust" on U.S. Currency.)

So the EU has fined Microsoft $613M.  Big deal.  I totally agree with David Coursey, who notes: Europe, I laugh at you.  "If you want to reign in Microsoft you have to be forward-looking, doing something about what Microsoft is or will be doing, not trying to right supposed wrongs that the marketplace has already accepted as a done deal."  All those years I hardly ever agreed with David while he was at ZDNet, now he's at eWeek and I agree with him right off.

Lawrence Lessig's new book, Free Culture, is out; "Lessig looks at the disturbing legal and commercial trends that threaten to curb the incredible creative potential of the Internet."  I'm looking forward to it.

Eric Sink hits another one out of the park: Closing the Gap, Part I, about sales in small software companies.  This is so true: "A good sales guy is someone who is motivated only by money.  One of the most dangerous personnel mistakes is to hire a sales guy who cares about anything else."

Microsoft has published a competitive guide comparing Microsoft Office to Open Office.  My reaction was "hmm... maybe it is time to check out Open Office".  After all, I remember John Patrick raving about it.  And then I read Eric Sink's reaction.  "When Microsoft publishes a comparison like this, they validate their competitor. has never really interested me very much, until now."

the Airider vacuum cleanerA hovercraft vacuum cleaner?  "The Airider, which has taken eight years to develop, uses patented aerodynamic technology to create a unique floating action. It is virtually weightless when turned on, and has no wheels, making it suitable for use on hard wood floors."  I'm pretty skeptical about the reality of this device; that's a computer model in the picture, not even a prototype.

Tim Oren toasts FOAF.  "If you want to spend your own time and money hacking FOAF, I'm all for it.  Train wrecks can be highly instructive.  Just try making some fresh new mistakes, rather than repeating the old ones."  I don't get it either.  Why are try so hard to model human relationships, which are about the most un-model-able thing there is?

Oh, and so does Mark Pilgrim, who also toasts Typekey, Dave Winer [of course], and the blogosphere in general.  I think Mark wakes up mad.  He is smart, though, and entertaining...

Jason Olson: Whidbey + Command Line = Good.  So a key feature of the next version of Microsoft's development environment is an integrated command line.  What?  [ via PDC Bloggers ]

3DConnexion two-fisted computingFinally, we now have "two-fisted computing".  "Designed to work together with the traditional mouse, 3DConnexion controllers deliver a unique and powerful two-handed work style...  Users can pan, zoom and rotate with a controller in one hand while they simultaneously create, edit or annotate with a traditional mouse."  So be it.


Understanding Engineers, Take 3

Thursday,  03/25/04  09:47 PM

Another in our ongoing attempts to understand engineers:

A pastor, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers.

The engineer fumed, "What's with these guys?  We must have been waiting for 15 minutes!"

The doctor chimed in, "I don't know, but I've never seen such ineptitude!"

The pastor said, "Hey, here comes the greens keeper.  Let's have a word with him."

"Hi George!  Say, what's with that group ahead of us?  They're rather slow, aren't they?"

The greens keeper replied, "Oh, yes, that's a group of blind firefighters.  They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime."

The group was silent for a moment.

The pastor said, "That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight."

The doctor said, "Good idea.  And I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if there's anything he can do for them."

The engineer said, "Why can't these guys play at night?"


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