Archive for February, 2004

Why I prefer John Edwards

February 29, 2004

Put simply: it seems to me that John Edwards is a man who has a future, and John Kerry is a man who has a past.

(Either, however, is better than George W. Bush, a man who has nothing.)

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Supreme Court trivia

February 25, 2004

The membership of the current Supreme Court has not changed since August 1994. The 9½ years that the current members have served together is the longest such stretch without a change since the Court expanded to nine justices. (The Supreme Court went 12 years without a change from 1811 to 1823, when the Court had seven justices.)

The Amazon primary, as of February 24

February 24, 2004

Before the results of the February 24 primaries and caucuses are announced, here are the current totals in the Amazon primary.

 
Change since February 17:

John Edwards         $4,005
John Kerry            3,671
Dennis Kucinich         205
Al Sharpton              30

 
Total amount:

John Kerry          $35,610
John Edwards         18,337
Dennis Kucinich       2,882
Al Sharpton           1,245

 
Since February 3, George W. Bush has raised $12,088 through Amazon, somewhat less than the $16,456 that John Kerry has raised in that time.

Draft Nader ’72

February 22, 2004

Ralph Nader has declared that he is again a candidate for President. As this 1971 article from The New Republic shows, the “Nader for President” movement has a long history (though Nader did not finally run for office until 1996):

A funny thing happened to Edmund Muskie in Dallas on July 1 [, 1971]. As he ambled out of a trial lawyers’ gathering in the Sheraton, he was greeted by half-a-dozen young activists handing out Draft Nader leaflets and bumper stickers. The activists informed Muskie that a straw poll of 85 people in the hotel lobby had shown Ralph Nader getting more votes for President than either he or Richard Nixon. Then they told the same story to the waiting TV cameras. They also told the cameras that Muskie was a handmaiden of the military-industrial complex, soft on pollution, and indistinguishable except for his accent from Richard Nixon. It was an isolated incident, and Muskie may not have grasped its wider implication, which is that there is a movement afoot that could alter the shape of American politics, if not in 1972 then by the end of the decade.

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A familiar lament

February 20, 2004

From the lead article in the February issue of Atlantic Monthly:

Many of you young people of [today] have not heard of Cassandra, for a little Latin is no longer considered essential to your education. This, assuredly, is not your fault. You are innocent victims of a good many haphazard educational experiments. New ideas in pedagogy have run amuck for the last twenty-five years. They were introduced with much flourish of drums; they looked well on paper; they were forthwith put into practice on the hapless young. It has taken nearly a generation to illustrate their results in flesh and blood. Have they justified themselves to you?

The rising generation cannot spell, because it learned to read by the word-method; it is hampered in the use of dictionaries, because it never learned the alphabet; its English is slipshod and commonplace, because it does not know the sources and resources of its own language. Power over words cannot be had without some knowledge of the classics or much knowledge of the English Bible—but both are now quite out of fashion.

[…] I recall serving upon a committee to award prizes for the best essays in a certain competition where the competitors were [college] seniors […]. In despair at the material submitted, the committee was finally forced to select as ‘best’ the essay having the fewest grammatical errors and the smallest number of misspelled words. The one theme which showed traces of thought was positively illiterate in expression.

 
Did I forget to mention that this article leads off the February 1911 issue of the Atlantic Monthly? I did? My apologies.

(And a tip o’ the hat to Eddie Thomas.)

A Milwaukee hotel to avoid

February 19, 2004

For some reason, the Hilton Milwaukee City Center hotel doesn’t mention this 1972 review of its earlier incarnation, the Sheraton Schroeder, on its history page:

Eight days in the Sheraton-Schroeder is like three months in the Cook County jail. […] The room radiators are uncontrollable, the tubs won’t drain, the elevators go haywire every night, the phones ring for no reason at all hours of the night, the coffee shop is almost never open, and about three days before the election the bar ran out of beer. […] Dick Tuck, the legendary Kennedy advance man now working for McGovern, has stayed here several times in the past and calls it “the worst hotel in the world.”

— Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail ’72, pgs 168-69.

I stayed in this hotel for a conference a couple of years ago. The worst hotel in the world? I haven’t travelled enough to say. The worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in? Easily. You’d be better off in a Motel 6.

I vowed after I checked out that I’d never stay in a Hilton again, but I take that back now. It looks like Hilton didn’t have much to work with.

The Amazon primary, as of February 17

February 17, 2004

Before the results of the February 17 Wisconsin primary is announced, here are the current totals in the Amazon primary.

 
Change since February 10:

John Kerry           $5,325
John Edwards          1,290
Howard Dean             440
Dennis Kucinich         251
Al Sharpton             245

 
Total amount:

John Kerry          $31,939
John Edwards         14,332
Howard Dean          13,015
Dennis Kucinich       2,677
Al Sharpton           1,215

 
Since February 3, George W. Bush has raised $10,195 through Amazon, somewhat less than the $12,785 that John Kerry has raised in that time.

“Our children are learning”

February 12, 2004

On my way home from work today, I passed by the Gregory-Lincoln Education Center, my neighborhood’s middle school (and the world’s finest—and perhaps only—example of red-checkerboard Stalinist architecture). Its signboard had this message: “Our children are learning”.

I’m sure they are. That’s what children do, wherever they spend their time. The important question is, “What are they learning?”

Tennessee primary analysis

February 11, 2004

1. If you look at the state totals, you’d think that John Edwards would be happier with the Tennessee result (losing to Kerry by 15 points) than the Virginia result (losing to Kerry by 25), and perhaps he is. I’m not sure I would be.

The big positive for Edwards is that he ran strong across the state, losing badly only in African-American areas (in itself, though, a big negative). He ran especially strong in the rural areas east of Nashville and in the mountain counties next to his home state of North Carolina, winning four counties in all.

The big negative for Edwards is that, like in Virginia, John Kerry beat him badly with the Democratic base. Of the 53,690-vote margin between the two, 18,873 of those votes came from Shelby County (i.e., Memphis) alone, where Edwards won just 14% of the vote. Edwards is doing well at attracting conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans, but his inability to get core Democrats to vote for him over Kerry is becoming a fatal problem for his nomination bid.

Edwards had a good race in Tennessee, and pushed Kerry hard in most of the state, but, unlike in Virginia, he didn’t demonstrate that he has a base of voters (however small) he can deliver. His inability to win a single county in east Tennessee should concern him.

2. As in Virginia, Kerry had widespread support, and won almost every county, doing especially well in African-American and old Union areas. How deep that support is remains to be seen, and I hope that Howard Dean and Edwards remain in the race long enough for future voters to be able to decide whether they still like Kerry after the inevitable stumble.

3. Wesley Clark did not win a single county in the state, despite pulling 23% of the vote statewide. His best county-level performance was in Montgomery County, whose county seat is…Clarksville. Somehow, that says it all.

4. If there were any doubt left, Dean’s drubbing in Tennessee demonstrated that Al Gore has no pull left in what he calls his home state.

Virginia primary analysis

February 10, 2004

1. John Edwards’ strategy in this primary was to get the “NASCAR dads” to vote for him, and he seems to have succeeded. Winning this segment of the vote is important, because it gives him a base (albeit a small one), and with a base, he has a justification for continuing his campaign.

Edwards’ geographical base in Virginia can be roughly mapped by drawing a triangle with edges at Martinsville, Pulaski, and Kingsport, TN. He won six contiguous counties in this area (as well as winning three counties and a city outside of it). He also received strong support in the area around Roanoke, and won Harrisonburg.

(Notable fact: All nine of the counties Edwards won voted for Bush in 2000.)

2. Wesley Clark and Howard Dean, on the other hand, won nothing. Clark’s best showing was in Lynchburg, where he picked up 24% of the vote; Dean topped out in the college town of Harrisonburg, winning 16% of the vote. Dean’s performance is forgivable — few presumed he’d be strong in the South. Clark, however, should drop out at this point.

3. John Kerry ran strong throughout the state, but did especially well in the African-American areas of southeastern Virginia and the old Union counties on the Kentucky border. He easily beat Al Sharpton in the African-American stronghold of Petersburg (66-13 Kerry), and that’s where Sharpton ran best. As with Clark, it’s time for Sharpton to go.