- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 1999

Cyber-anchors, et al.

One thing has become clear after more than 600 news organizations from around the world took part in the media walk-through at the Philadelphia site of the 2000 Republican National Convention: This ain’t your father’s political powwow.
Instead, major news groups informed convention managers that technology has revolutionized the way they will cover both this convention and the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
One network, for example, has proposed a “virtual-reality anchor booth,” whatever that is, while press photographers will no longer need darkrooms (they will send digital photos via computer laptops). And newspapers now need more desk space and power for their Internet site correspondents.
Finally, for the first time ever, an on-line organization, America Online, will submit requests for an anchor booth, workspace and press passes for live convention broadcasting and coverage.

Lawyers, butt no jokes

It’s that time of year when D.C. Bar Association President Jack Olender looks into his legal crystal ball, which he claims is accurate 90 percent of the time.
Mr. Olender’s correct past prognostications, on behalf of Washington’s largest work force, include acquittal of O.J. Simpson in his criminal trial (there must have been zero visibility in his crystal ball when it told him that Simpson would win his civil trial), the recent conviction of Jack Kevorkian and a 0 percent chance that President Clinton would be convicted by the Senate.
With no big celebrity lawsuits on the horizon, Mr. Olender is left this year to ponder the fate of Linda R. Tripp, who he calls “the last fish in the legal frying pan of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.”
His prediction: Conviction. However, no time served; community service (maybe working as an intern at the White House) or a fine, most likely.
Other Olender predictions:
a) Election year fear of voter backlash will translate into a big win in Congress for the right of patients to sue their HMOs.
b) More lawyers will drop out of high-paying firm partnerships to find meaningful, quality-of-life and less-well-paying jobs in law or elsewhere. There will also be a surge in public-interest lawyers.
c) In 2000, there will be a truce in our culture’s war with lawyers. Lawyer jokes will be considered a form of hate speech. After years of being portrayed as scruffy ambulance chasers and mocked for their tasseled-loafers, lawyers will find respect. They might even be cool.

Thanking Tripp

“Monica Lewinsky should thank her lucky stars that Linda Tripp taped her conversations,” opines Catherine Forester, who like the rest of us has been following the case against Mrs. Tripp in Maryland for illegally taping phone conversations.
“Otherwise Monica would not be making millions and known everywhere; she would be just like Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick. Outcasts. Liars, stalkers, sluts. That is what [Clinton adviser James] Carville and the rest sold the nation and, without Tripp, Monica would be in the same boat.”

Redskins and the GOP

For years, Mark Abramson, formerly of Washington and now of Houston, has observed a rather amusing political-sports oddity, a good example of a high statistical correlation between two things for which a cause-and-effect relationship simply does not exist. Or does it?
“If you look back at the last 30 years or so in political and National Football League history, there is a remarkably high correlation between the party controlling the White House and the fate of the Washington Redskins,” he has found.
“It seems that when Republicans control the White House, the Redskins, for the most part, have had successful seasons. However, when the Democrats control the White House, well …”
Consider the following evidence:
a) Early 1970s: During the Richard Nixon-Gerald Ford (Republican) years, the Redskins went to the playoffs most of the time and even went to the Super Bowl following the 1972 season.
b) Late 1970s: During the Jimmy Carter (Democrat) years, the Redskins were lucky to make the playoffs.
c) During the Ronald Reagan-George Bush (Republican) years, the Redskins did quite well, going to the playoffs most of the time, including three Super Bowls, two of which they won.
d) During the Bill Clinton (Democrat) years, the team has nose-dived again, and has not yet quite recovered.
“Now two thoughts come to mind: 1) Why would any resident of Washington vote for a Democrat for president?; 2) I would think that, now that the Redskins are on the verge of a good season, this would be an ominous sign for the Democrats for the 2000 elections,” says Mr. Abramson.
“Oh, by the way, as a graduate student in applied mathematics at Rice University, I find this to be fascinating example of how to misuse statistics to make a point that is actually ludicrous. It sort of reminds me of … well, politicians.”

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