Ripped from the Headlines

A school in New Jersey was accidentally strafed with 25 inactive rounds from a Air National Guard plane last week. CNN’s headline on the fallout:

Residents: School strafing ‘unacceptable’

That’s a bit harsh – I’m sure the Air National Guard was looking for a ‘negotiable’ at the very least.

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Fun with numbers

Peggy Noonan, famed for suggesting that Gore was mentally unstable when he sighed too loudly during the 2000 debate (but strangely didn’t say anything when Bush said “Let me finish” in the first 2004 debate when nobody was trying to stop him), writes

Let us get our heads around the size and scope of what happened Tuesday. George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States, became the first incumbent president to increase his majority in both the Senate and the House and to increase his own vote (by over 3.5 million) since Franklin D. Roosevelt, political genius of the 20th century, in 1936. This is huge.

George W. Bush is the first president to win more than 50% of the popular vote since 1988. (Bill Clinton failed to twice; Mr. Bush failed to last time and fell short of a plurality by half a million.) The president received more than 59 million votes, breaking Ronald Reagan’s old record of 54.5 million. Mr. Bush increased his personal percentages in almost every state in the union. He carried the Catholic vote and won 42% of the Hispanic vote and 24% of the Jewish vote (up from 19% in 2000.)

It will be hard for the mainstream media to continue, in the face of these facts, the mantra that we are a deeply and completely divided country. But they’ll try!

Now I’m not going to cry foul on any attempt to portray Bush as the winner because, you know, he like, won, and stuff. But let’s look at three factors that Ms Noonan glosses over:

  • FDR’s share of vote: 60.8%. Bush’s: 51.4% (lowest of any incumbent president since FDR)
  • Increase in population since Reagan’s victory: 24%. Increase in vote: 9.5%
  • Number of times the winner of the electoral college has lost the popular vote: 4 (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000).

There have been many closer elections in the popular vote, but 51% to 48% is hardly a blow-out. A lot of people voted for him, but not a meaningful record really. And to have won at all he almost had to improve his previous results.

A solid result then, and the Republican gains he led in Congress in 2002 and 2004 are striking, but nothing about it suggests that the country isn’t polarized; the divide is merely a little further to the right than before.

Update: Here’s a more thorough accounting.

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Netflix, why did I forsake thee?

For tactical reasons unimportant here I just signed up for Blockbuster’s DVD delivery service. So far the service is slow, the website unimpressive, and availability limited. But I am getting a free copy of Shrek 2. Once the month is up I think I’ll go back to Netflix, which is just better. In the meantime here’s an example of where Blockbuster go wrong…

I wanted to sign up for their email newsletter, to find out about upcoming releases. Already logged in to their site, I followed the appropriate link and was asked for my postal address. Not my email address, my meatspace one. Rather than supply this again, I wrote to customer support:

Why do I have to give you my address (that you already know anyway) to sign up for the electronic newsletters? Are you expecting to deliver the electrons via USPS?

Their reply?

Thank you for contacting Blockbuster Online Customer Service. My apologies for the delay in response to your e-mail. Recently we have been experiencing an unusually high number of e-mails, which has been affecting response times. It is necessary to make sure information is being issued to the correct individual.

.I immediately retorted with:

You’re saying that you are willing to ship me valuable DVDs without checking who I am, but you can’t send me essentially worthless email without having my address twice? That doesn’t sound at all sensible.

I shall update this thread when I get a new answer, as I’m sure all both of you are waiting with keen anticipation for a resolution.

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The Day After Yesterday

I was going to post about how I saw the result, but I think Pharyngula sums it up nicely, particularly on the fear angle. What I’m most surprised by is how relatively calm I am about it. I don’t know if it’s a result of having grown up watching the Labour Party blow two golden chances, but right now while the election is disappointing, it’s ultimately just one of those things (at least I get my tax cut, right?) In contrast the fact that 11 states decided that homophobia should be enshrined in their state constitutions is a much bigger deal for me. Fear is one thing – while I think it’s misdirected in this case, it’s an understandable reaction. But hate?

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