URLs du Jour


  • Well, shoot. I'm not sure if watching Jeopardy! will ever be the same.

    I don't have any particularly profound thoughts. I started watching the show intermittently back in the Art Fleming era. For you kiddos: you can see Mr. Fleming parodying his role in the movie Airplane!, or in the Weird Al song "I Lost on Jeopardy". He was unusual for a host in that, going into a break, he politely asked the audience to watch the upcoming commercial.

    Alex (I call him Alex) continued that tradition, treating the TV audience with respect. Also the contestants and the live audience. Mrs. Salad and I have watched every episode in recent years, thanks to TiVo.

    Here's Christopher Jacobs (who was once a contestant on the show himself) at the Federalist: With Alex Trebek, We Say Goodbye To An Era In Television. A poignant observation:

    At that November taping, one of the contestants in particular struggled mightily. Early in the episode, she couldn’t master the signaling button to ring in. But once she learned how to use the buzzer, she rang in—and froze. She rang in for the wrong clues, and forgot responses under the glare of the stage lights. On this particular day, everything that could go wrong for her did.

    Having over-compensated when behind in a match myself, I couldn’t help but feel compassion for the contestant, who seemed shell-shocked by the experience. With a negative score heading into Final Jeopardy!, the producers escorted her off the stage, while the two remaining contestants played out the last clue.

    At the end of the match, the producers brought the contestant back on stage while the show’s closing credits rolled. While the two other contestants chatted with Alex, this third contestant stood there awkwardly, likely wishing she was standing anywhere else in the world than on that soundstage.

    Trebek noticed her discomfort, and pulled her aside for a quiet conversation as the cameras switched off. I know not what words he spoke to her, or whether his words helped to put the episode in proper perspective. But I couldn’t help but recognize the fact that a man fighting for his life took time to comfort this distraught contestant. That heartfelt gesture had an impact on me, an observer watching from a distance; I can only imagine it had a similar impact it had on her.

    I (still) harbor an ambition of being on the show myself. Part of the problem is that I'm so damned boring; I don't have any cute yarns to tell about my life during that mid-round chat with the players.

    "Paul, I understand you once met Richard Feynman."

    "That's right, Alex. I asked him a really stupid physics question which he answered with patience and kindness."

    "Good for you."

    It's theoretically possible, I suppose, that I could be on. But I won't be able to say what I dreamed of saying: "That's right, Alex."

  • Ah, well, back to election entrail-reading. Here's Jacob Sullum at Reason: According to Trump, Nearly Everyone Is Conspiring To Deny Him His Rightful Victory.

    The vast conspiracy that Donald Trump says delivered the presidential election to Joe Biden gets broader with each passing day. It now includes not just a cabal of pollsters, mainstream media outlets, and corrupt Democrats but also Republican officials and Trump-friendly new organizations.

    The president's assertion that the election was "stolen" posits massive, orchestrated fraud. But one study after another has found that voting fraud is very rare, and there is no evidence this year is an exception.

    Demanding evidence is fine. I still worry that it's too easy to vote fraudulently without leaving evidence. Advocates of mail-in voting, for example, cite a number of safeguards, so don't worry, move along, nothing to see here. But in a high-stakes election where we've been told incessantly over years that That Guy is a danger to democracy, the embodiment of evil, etc. … there's quite a high motivation for the Resistance to figure out loopholes and security compromises.

    Has any state red-teamed their voting system?

  • John McCormack doesn't wait for all the votes to come in: Joe Biden Victory Margin May Be Smaller Than Trump's in 2016.

    In 2016, Donald Trump’s majority in the Electoral College came down to 77,744 votes spread across three states — Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

    His margin of victory in each state:

    Michigan: 10,704 votes

    Wisconsin: 22,748 votes

    Pennsylvania: 44,292 votes

    If Trump had lost those three states, he would have lost the Electoral College to Hillary Clinton.

    So (by this measure) Biden may have pulled off even more of a squeaker than Trump did in 2016. His current leads (as I type, rounding to nearest thousand):

    • Wisconsin (10 Electoral Votes): 20,000
    • Georgia (16EV): 10,000
    • Arizona: (11 EV): 17,000

    So swinging about 47,000 popular votes from Biden to Trump in those states would shift 37 EVs from Blue to Red. Assuming Trump gets North Carolina (15 EV) and Alaska (3 EV), that would give a tie in the Electoral College at 269 each, which would throw the election to the House of Representatives.

    And then people would freak, but…

  • Speaking of vote margins, Walter Block, writing in the WSJ (maybe paywalled) is kind of disappointed: Libertarians Spoil the Election.

    Did the Libertarian Party throw the election to Joe Biden? Maybe. At this writing nominee Jo Jorgensen’s vote total exceeds Mr. Biden’s margin over President Trump in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, enough to change the outcome.


    In 2016 physician Donald Miller, historian Ralph Raico and I started a group called Libertarians for Trump. Our advice to libertarian voters was: If you live in Massachusetts or California, strong blue states, vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee. The Republicans will lose big there, and your vote for the porcupine won’t help the donkey beat the elephant. Likewise in Louisiana or Alabama, where Mr. Trump was sure to win. But if you live in a purple state, don’t vote Libertarian. It is crucial that Donald beat Hillary!

    I kick myself for not reinstituting this effort in 2019. My thought was that Gary Johnson, a former governor, was well-known and might manage 5% of the vote. He actually registered 3.27%, still more than three times the previous record of 1.06%, set by Ed Clark in 1980. I figured Ms. Jorgenson for 0.25%. She now looks on track to exceed Mr. Clark’s percentage slightly—and hand the presidency to Mr. Biden.

    Pardon me while I beat my head against the wall. How could libertarians in purple states be so stupid?

    We've covered various "blame [Ll]ibertarians" in the past. But, really, Walter: the question you should be asking is: How could Donald Trump be so stupid?

    All he had to do was appeal to a few tens of thousands voters (see above). Of whatever stripe.

    Maybe he could have done this by acting slightly more libertarian, peeling off some Jorgenson voters.

    Or acting slightly more presidential over the past four years.

    Or acting slightly more like a decent human being.

    But none of those things happened, did they, Walter?