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That’s Hot

Politics gets celebritized. Bayh the way. Playing the odds. Plus more.

8.7.08

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"WAR HERO" TO YOU, PARIS
Re: Ben Stein's Porn Star for Obama:

Having Ben Stein correct Paris Hilton is like having Stephen Hawkins teaching kindergarten. Sure, it's amusing, but is it worth Mr. Stein's time?
-- Ira M. Kessel
Rochester, New York

As usual, Ben nails it with his observation on the Paris Hilton "commercial" for Obama. We can count on this: she'll haul in 100 percent of the Hollywood strumpet vote, her natural constituency.
-- Tim Hughes
Fairport, New York

Way too much attention paid to a walking, talking, talentless nothing partygirl. Paris Hilton is just a product of a low sperm count: Low talent. Low looks. Low morals. But, as the bathing suit shows, a swimmer of sorts! What a perfect poster child for abortion.

Just chalk this up as another bimbo eruption for Obama. With less aptitude and charm than Obama girl. But with the same limited bubblehead intelligence.
-- Wolf Terner
Fair Lawn, New Jersey

Mr. Stein is on point as usual. The MSM scrambles to minimize the impact of this devastating ad. Junior Senator Obama has no CV. Senator McCain has a devastating list of accomplishments, and it has yet to be used as a weapon. When Mr. McCain, when? Senator Obama pads his resume with Hollyweird titans, rappers reverends and divas, instead of real accomplishments. In a star-struck U.S. though, it may be enough.
-- Greg Mercurio
Vacaville, California

Thank you for allowing Ben Stein to present his thoughts on the McCain ad that featured Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, and to which Ms. Hilton responded recently.

Having seen Stein's commentary on shows like 60 Minutes and other news programs, I already suspected he was, contrary to the media profile he promotes, a dangerously stupid man. But reading his piece, that is now confirmed. Really, he makes W look like a mensa candidate.

To give the original ad any credibility is beyond ludicrous, as is the outrage at Hilton's hilarious spoof.

Perhaps you could do all of us a favor and let Ben know that 1) he is irrelevant, 2) he ain't too bright, and 3) if he were to disappear from the media and publishing horizons tomorrow, no one would really notice or care.

Thanks in advance for doing us that favor. I, and all of America thank you.
-- Dan Hough

On a much lighter note, I like Ben Stein and I'm a McCain supporter, but methinks he doth protest too much about Paris Hilton's rebuttal to McCain's use of her picture in his appropriate political ad:

"First of all, Paris Hilton was a total nobody party girl in West Hollywood until she and her boyfriend made AND then "someone" SOLD a hard core video of Paris Hilton having sex. So basically, she got her start as a porn star. And she's being trotted out by the media barons to smear John McCain, as brave and patriotic a man as lives in this nation. This little tramp, who isn't even close to being pretty, is belittling a man who spent six years in brutal captivity for defending his country."

Paris, get this: in modern day America, we don't mock people because of things they have done that are unavoidable and not in any way blameworthy. We don't make fun of blacks for being black. We don't make fun of women for having breasts. We don't make fun of old people for being old. This is uncool from any source. It is downright disgusting coming from a porn star -- and not a very good porn star at that (yes, I have seen the tape)."

Uh...repeatedly? And has Ben seen so many pornographic tapes and stars that he is a capable critic with regard to their ability? Uh...really?

I don't know...his judgment that she "isn't even close to being pretty" sounds pretty clouded, to me. Whatever you may think of her ability as a porn star, or her mocking of McCain's age, she's undeniably a pretty woman. If you can't see that much, then what else have you blinded yourself to? Especially if you can see well enough to tell from presumably a single watching that she isn't a very good porn star.
-- Gregg Calkins

Eh, I don't think it's really that serious. The target of McCain's ad was not even really Obama and definitely not Paris Hilton. It was, rather, a pathetically stupid media/entertainment culture that is seriously trying to make it seem like you should vote for Obama because he's "cool" or "The One." This point had to be made and the ad will greatly raise the spirits of all the people who now have something to throw back at this culture.

Obama responded about as well as anyone could expect, with "Is that all you got?" Even better would have been a rueful chuckle first, acknowledging that indeed some of the hype is out of control but I didn't really expect that.

As far as Paris Hilton I guess I got the impression she really didn't take it all that seriously and was just having fun. Why should she be mad? Publicity is publicity. She said things like "I'll propose my energy plan when I'm done getting a tan" which was kind of a tip that she isn't really somebody we need to be listening to. If she really was put up to it by Obama's friends in Hollywood I think it backfired. As it was McCain's campaign took it perfectly by saying that she had a more substantive energy plan than Obama.
If the end result is a) more focus on substance by the candidates, b) a good laugh all around and c) a deflation of the idea that Obama should be elected because he is the biggest rock star, then everybody wins, especially McCain.

And by the way, somebody ask Mr. Stein how the "Lone Survivor" movie is coming along...
-- Roy Koczela

Ben needs to Lighten up a little. John McCain's commercial on the media cult of celebrity central to Obama's campaign did use Paris Hilton as a calibration marker in media obsession. She is perfectly responsible in commenting on it.

Paris Hilton is known for many things. Ben is right that all of them are light weight. When her "response" to John McCain showed more gravitas than the entire DNC and Obama campaign combined and an energy policy to the right of anything that the House of Representatives Speaker will allow to be discussed, Paris did the country no harm. She now serves as a scale to which Congressional Representatives can be held. "Is he/she as responsible as Paris Hilton?" My congressman here in eastern Connecticut, one of the men who tried to purge Joe Lieberman from the Senate, certainly is not.
-- Gregory Franke

BLAND, BORING... PERFECT?
Re: Jeremy Lott's Bayh, Bayh, Miss American Pie?:

Evan Bayh was also governor of great state of Indiana for eight mind-numbing years in which he did nothing but feed from the public trough. He is petrified of doing or saying anything to alienate any potential voter but, if forced to take a stand, will vote the Democrat party line every time. He is notorious for talking conservative at home but voting liberal in Washington. Good riddance if he is chosen by and subsequently elected. It may be the only good thing to come from an Obama presidency.
-- David Heinekamp
Indianapolis, Indiana

Following in his father's footsteps, when Evan Bayh first appeared on the horizon, little did we expect that the newspapers and television news programs suddenly display a belief in feudal primogenitor How else could we explain how such a young man with little accomplishment becomes destined to climb with political ladder. Evan scarcely spent any time living in Indiana prior running for his first office as, being a son of a Senator; he actually grew up in Washington.

Still, Evan Bayh supposedly exuded that mysterious, indefinable quality referred to as "Hoosier values." To outsiders, all Hoosier values add up to hard work, integrity, honor and common sense. To those native to Indiana, however, their state's mysterious values suggest a little ineffable loftiness that comes from saunter about the sacred hills and dales in the land of the Indians. (OK. Maybe not. But my guess is as good as anybody's.)

The more sober political note takers watched Evan's rise and comment that, whatever the issue that would land on his desk, he would always do what was good for Evan Bayh. Once Evan rode into Congress, even the dense among them realized that Evan's promises of independence and levelheaded cooperation went out the door and D.C. Democrat marching orders came in. Again, Evan did what was good for Evan Bayh.

Whereas the Vice President's office is another rung up the ladder for Bayh, America will just get another professional politician. Bland. "Moderate." A practiced politician who has little to recommend or distinguish himself except a personal conviction that he is destined for higher office -- the office his father was unable to attain. As they say, some come to Washington to do something. Others come to Washington to be something.
-- Mike Dooley

100%
Re: Robert Stacy McCain's Is Obama's Victory a Statistical Certainty?:

Extrapolate this -- Obama is all wind-up and no pitch. And on Convention night when he steps up to the plate, he would do well to remember -- you can't steal first base.
-- Diane Smith

Thank you, Robert Stacy McCain, for your article on "statistical certainty." It appears that you know what you're talking about. Well done.

Goodness knows you don't need my help in this, but let me try anyway.

The election of a president is not one election, but more than 50. In addition, it's not votes or voters who matter, but electoral votes [and electoral college voters aren't polled. and can't be because they are bound to what the electorate tells them to do]. Therein lies the first error in polling for a national election for president.

Let us assume, for argument's sake [for humor's sake, more like], that a pollster decides to do 50 state polls, then aggregate them.

Let's examine just the 50 states in more detail.

Each state has its unique political characteristics, demographics, and, sometimes most important, other sets of political races and/or referenda -- each of which can influence outcomes in the presidential race, each of which varies from year to year, and none of which are considered in preparing the sample. No "national" poll which pretends to be random can take all of that into consideration. Nor can a "statewide" poll, for that matter.

Assume that our intrepid pollster pushes on. Immediately upon deciding which of the thousands of telephone directories in each state he will use, the pollster destroys randomness. Skew.

Then, upon picking up each chosen telephone directory to "randomly" select people to call, the pollster has skewed his results toward people who have a telephone AND a listed number. Skew.

He then has to ask whether the person called wishes to participate -- another skew. He then has to decide to take whoever answers the telephone, or to screen out non-registered voters, or registered voters who tell him they don't plan to vote. Skew, skew, skew.

He then has to depend on the veracity of the called person. Skew.

Heaven forbid that the pollster avoids these problems by setting up a database from which to select called persons. Let's see, how do I indicate a frenzied shouting of SKEW!

Then he has to introduce all of the adjustments the pollster silently makes in order to make his non-random sample seem random or unbiased.

Howard Hirsch wrote in a letter published on August 1st: "Of course, the trick is to make the sample as random as possible, or at least stratified according to known characteristics. In that regard, sadly, most current polling falls far short." Well said, Mr. Hirsch.

Something is either "random" or it's not "random." There's no "as random as possible." "Stratification" further destroys randomness. And, according to Mr. Hirsch, pollster don't even do those things well.

Skewed is skewed, whether it is accidental or intentional.

A pox on pollsters. A poll pox.

Randomly applied, of course.
-- A. C. Santore

IMMOVABLE OBJECT
Re: Shawn Macomber's Healing Health Care:

The American healthcare financing system can be fixed entirely with two actions: 1) Pass a national law that all premiums paid to insurance companies remain the property of the beneficiary rather that the property of the insurance company, e.g., mandate universal health savings accounts by instantly converting all health insurance policies to Health Saving Accounts (Glass-Steagall has been repealed). 2) Give the tax deduction directly to the individual paying the premium rather than the employer.

This would instantly create a first-party payer market system, with all the salutary effects that would arise from such a system. The insurance companies could still earn lots of money exploiting the spread between their return on equity and the interest they pay to account holders, while actually fitting their description as service companies. Contracts could remain in place so that patients get the discounts already negotiated by the insurance companies with providers. Account holders could gain access to the insurance companies' data-bases on cost and outcomes with competing providers of healthcare services to become well-informed consumers. Patients would have ultimate flexibility in choosing the type of coverage they need, and controlling and expending or saving their own healthcare dollars; they would have ultimate portability with ownership of their own policies and funds, thus breaking the inhibiting link of healthcare coverage with employment, although employers could still offer coverage policies; and they would have strong incentives for employing cost-effective preventive measures (such as diet and exercise, which would prevent a massive amount of illness, from diabetes and heart disease to cancer and renal failure). Private charitable organizations or even government could fund accounts for the indigent. The result would be a miraculous lowering of medical costs, and improvement in both the access to and quality of medical care, as well as the overall health of Americans.

Simple but not doable, of course. Lilliputians have tamped down permanently the American Gulliver, who is immobilized by his plight and fearful of what might happen if he were to twitch a muscle against the cords that bind. Better to remain immobile and supine than risk injury at straining against the ligands that restrict his liberty but secure his corpus, or incite the self-interested retaliation of the Lilliputians warily over-seeing and constraining him.
-- Kent J. Lyon
College Station, Texas

FLOCKING TOGETHER
Re: Lisa Fabrizio's Birds of a Feather:

Here's what Obama's energy plan amounts to: tax the oil companies' "windfall profits" and give that money to the American people. Then oil companies pass that tax on to the American people who spend the thousand Obama just gave them to pay for the increased gas prices. Or maybe the people end up spending more than a thousand dollars extra for fuel because oil companies have less money to spend developing new sources of oil.

Only economic morons -- or the Democratic Party and its standard-bearer -- could buy into such a "solution" for the energy crisis.
-- Arnold Ahlert
Boca Raton, Florida

PAGING DR. HATFILL
Re: Jay D. Homnick's Not Mollified by Ivins:

"There is not a scintilla of evidence that would indicate that Dr. Hatfill had anything to do with this (the Anthrax murders)," U. S. District Judge Reggie C. Walton, who presided over Dr. Hatfill's civil suit, said, in urging the DOJ to settle. The only thing we know for sure about Bruce Ivins is that he was not as tough as Hatfill. It remains to be seen whether there was a "scintilla" against him.
-- Ty Knoy
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Having written two critical letters in re a Homnick piece (thanks for publishing them), lo and behold, I have to agree with Mr. Homnick's latest piece -- as far as it goes. Homnick, especially in his 4th paragraph, questions the FBI's conduct. After pursuing poor Mr. Hatfill relentlessly and using vile tactics (ie leaks) they recently had to pay him $5.8 million for their perfidy. So now they hound Mr. Ivins into suicide; leak daily tripe (decades getting even with a college sorority, etc etc) to the media hounds after his death. The dead guy makes a great scapegoat. What is HE going to say in his defense? Or do?

Mr. Homnick in his article suggests that the embarrassing settlement with Hatfill may have motivated "Justice" to crank up the Get Ivins machine. Such forms of obfuscation are common with the Feds. I come to this matter with close up background. As an Ohio County Prosecutor I had experience with the one way street of Fed cooperation in law enforcement/justice matters. Bruce Ivins attended my High School, albeit years later. His brother was a manager of our football team and his father was our local pharmacist. His father was widely respected and a friendly man I remember well. His brother was a friendly young man. "Justice" is yet to be done to Bruce Ivins and this family.

Yesterday, a Richard Spertzel wrote an op ed piece in the Wall Street Journal with the head: "BRUCE IVINS WASN'T the ANTHRAX CULPRIT." Spertzel's piece was very detailed. He has a background with the experience to know whereof he speaks.

Mr. Homnick concludes his Spectator piece opining that he "would give Hatfill the right to reopen his case and get a check with a bigger balance." To Mr. Homnick, who I congratulate for his examination of this affair, I say: Use your literary talents to magnify the Ivins matter. He and his family could use your help.
-- M.J. Turkelson
Lebanon, Ohio

UNDERSTANDING GROVER
Re: Peter Ferrara's Understanding American Politics:

Because of Peter Ferrara's article, I plan to read Grover Norquist's book, Leave Us Alone.

According to Mr. Norquist, there are two coalitions competing for political dominance -- "The Takings Coalition and the Leave Us Alone coalition." The "Takings Coalition is the heart and soul of the
Democrat party" and the "Leave Us Alone Coalition is the heart and soul of the Republican Party, whether actual Republican leaders understand that or not."

Not having read the book, I must admit that I am skeptical of Mr. Norquist's analysis. It appears to me that both political parties have a huge interest in "money, power and control." Hyperbolically, while the Democrats prefer taxing and spending, the Republicans prefer spending and charging, leaving the day of reckoning to the future. Democrats prefer straight welfare; Republicans favor corporate welfare. Democrats like trail lawyers; Republicans like contractor likes KBR and Blackwater.

But here's the real kicker: Everyone understands that the hired guns for anyone seeking a government handout are lobbyists. Who labored harder to empower lobbyists than former Republican representative Tom DeLay in his K-Street Project? How does building a powerful lobbying machine seeking money from the government lead to smaller, more efficient government, especially given the fact that lobbyists are writing the legislation?

Concerning the religious right, a member of the Leave Us Alone coalition, I read this: "But doesn't the "religious right" want to legislate morality, and impose their values on others? How can they be part of a Leave Us Alone Coalition? Norquist explains, "The 'religious right' is best understood as a parents' rights movement that fears state interference in the family..." For those members of the religious right for whom this is true, the Terry Schiavo fiasco must have been disconcerting. But, more to the point, is there anyone who really believes that Pat Robertson are James Dobson are uninterested in imposing their values on society?

Mr. Norquist presents members of the Leave Us Alone coalition and the GOP as victims. Members of the religious right are victims of the secular left. Gun owners are victims of those who would trash the Second Amendment and everyone, of course, is a victim of gays and their agenda. Democrats favor minorities and women as victims. Whatever else can be said, both parties truly cherish their respective victims.

Most interesting was the description of Mr. Norquist's Wednesday meetings. Having long been impressed by the Right's ability to disseminate talking points and to stay on message, I now appreciate how important Grover Norquist is to the process. I wish he were as successful in getting rid of the AMT.
-- Mike Roush

IT'S ONLY ROCK AND ROLL
Re: Mike Dooley's letter (under "Rock of Ages") in Reader Mail's School's Out:

I laughed out loud when I read Mr. Dooley's letter about his musical journey.

I remember watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan -- my father generously allowed the whole thing to play through even if he didn't appreciate it.

Then in 1967, I was in Greece visiting family, and we were listening to Armed Forces Radio (back when we still had a base in Greece). The first song I heard that hit me upside the head was "Windy." And like Mr. Dooley, I followed what I liked over the years. Only thing is, I did like older stuff and loved classical music -- my degree is in music.

And so I grew up, got married, had children and somehow, they all love "my" music and older. They manage to pick contemporary stuff that I enjoy as well. If we were doing those silly "intersection" diagrams we used to do, our intersections would be huge, while the spots where we don't agree would be pretty small. My son's first musical love was doowop -- go figure. My oldest daughter has her degree in music -- specializing in voice and opera.

All to say that my youngest daughter volunteered at my job this last week. She was stuck up in a file room purging charts and had her iPod going. Meanwhile, Mom is working and listening to an "oldies" station. When she came down for a break, I told her she could change the station. She said, no, she liked what was playing and then proceeded to sing along word for word.

She stopped, saying "Is it a bad thing that I know the words to these songs better than the stuff they play now?"

I smiled and said, "No." She's starting sound production school in September.
-- Anastasia Mather
Staten Island, New York

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