Suppose you were standing at ground level several hundred yards away from the Pentagon. It is a clear day and you have an unobstructed view of the building. What is the probability that, from any random vantage point, you will be able to see three of the building's sides?
The answer will appear in the next paragraph, so don't peek, you cheatin' suckers. I've asked this question of many people over the years and have never gotten the correct answer. Most Republicans first ask how many sides there are to a pentagon. Most Democrats ask why they would want to look at the Pentagon in the first place. And most Independents lack the conviction and ability to look in one direction or another for any extended period of time.
The vast majority of people who consider this problem get bogged down in the fact that the Pentagon has five sides, so they come up with answers like 3/5 or 2/5. The correct answer is actually 1/2. Think of it this way: Assume you have a duplicate of yourself--a doppelgänger, if you will--standing directly opposite you an equal distance away from the Pentagon on the other side of the building. Together, the two of you can only see five of the building's sides, and since there is no way to see two-and-a-half sides of the building, if one of you is seeing three sides, the other must be seeing two, and vice versa.
By the way, doppelgänger is one of those really fun German words like sauerkraut, blitzkrieg and death camp. It serves the purpose of allowing one to think in terms of plus and minus, yin and yang, Abbott and Costello.
In almost all cases, for every winner in this election mess, there is a corresponding loser. We'll look at them in ordered pairs.
WINNER: MSNBC Cable Network. All election news, all the time. Onscreen clocks ticking down the time until the next announcement from a court. Bush's vote-tally lead constantly running like subtitles in a French farce. News anchors with sleeves rolled up, looking like they're actually enjoying what they're doing. Lively, informative talking heads on both sides of the aisle. Former national butt-flake Ollie North spouting interesting (though still completely wrong) stuff. All this, Tim Russert and Chris Matthews, too. Way cool.
Before the election, I didn't even know there was a Channel 46 on my cable box. Now I watch it 24 hours a day, effectively doubling their ratings.
LOSER: Fox News Network. Exposed as a fraud on election night when a Bush crony was allowed to call the race, Fox has yet to recover. Gives way too much air time to J.C. Watts and other walking embarrassments.
Popped all that yang about "We report, you decide." New slogan: "We slant; you buy it."
WINNER: Zogby poll. Of the 8 million or so polls out there (including some of those used to put Florida State in the "national championship" game against Oklahoma), Zogby was the only election-eve poll to have Gore winning the popular vote. Zogby also had Hillary winning the Senate comfortably while others called it a dead heat. She won by 12 points.
LOSER(S): ABC, CNN-Time, Harris, Gallup, Washington Post, Dandy Dime, CBS, New York Times, Desert Leaf and Lech Walesa.
WINNERS: The very rich. Now that Bush is going to be president, the Senate has pulled a modest tax cut off the table in hopes that they can kiss rich butt next year with a balanced-budget-busting, targeted mega-tax cut next year. Good for the rich. They haven't won one since ... oh, the last time there was something they wanted. And the time before that and the time before that ...
LOSERS: Medicare recipients, public-school students and teachers, our descendents who would have benefited from a balanced budget and a debt-free government ...
WINNERS: The American people. As it turns out, Joseph Lieberman's Jewishness had virtually no impact on the election. It may have given the Gore-Lieberman ticket a slight boost coming out of the convention, helping them temporarily pull ahead of Bush-Cheney, but after that, it was ho-hum. His religion wasn't a factor at all and that's a very good thing.
LOSERS: The wacko right-wing Cuban voters in southern Florida. People, it was right to send the kid back. He's happy with his dad. Batista was a Mob puppet. And apparently Castro isn't the full-out demon you try to make him out to be. I don't like Castro and I'm sure Cuba will be better off when he dies, but nobody stays in power for 40 years without the support of a substantial percentage of the populace. You'd better be glad you've got Gloria Estefan; otherwise, I'd really dog you.
WINNERS: Late-night comics, who were awash in potential punch-lines. Saturday Night Live has been in rare form these past few weeks and everyone from Bill Mahre to Jay Leno, Chris Rock to Conan O'Brien has made us laugh and kept things from getting too oppressive and dark.
LOSER: Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, Politicus Hackitus Maximus. Next time you want to pull a bald-faced partisan end run, at least wait until you're asked to do so. By far the most caricatured player in this comedy of errors.
EVEN BIGGER LOSERS: All the people who rushed to Harris' defense after comics poked fun at her slathered-on makeup. It wasn't because she's a woman, but rather because she chooses to look like an aging hooker. If a mid-40s man in a position of authority and respect came out with too-long hair, his shirt unbuttoned to his waist and gold chains around his neck, looking like a Disco Dentist, you can bet he'd get run, too.
WINNERS: Politics junkies.
LOSERS: All the blowhards and know-nothings who thought their votes didn't matter. They matter.