April 2005, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
This Wedding Ceremony will include something out of the ordinary.
The Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles will acknowledge their "sins and wickedness" when their wedding is blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.The article doesn't say, but I don't think the next words will be: "And now you may kiss the bride."
Despite the couple's prominence, I don't think this innovation will be widely copied.
- 8:35 AM, 8 April 2005 [link]
Correction On Sandy Berger: Maybe. In this post, I said that the copies of secret documents that Sandy Berger destroyed must have been different, in some way, from the originals, and that most likely they had marginal notes that would embarrass the Clinton administration. Now, the Wall Street Journal asserts bluntly that the copies were identical to the originals, which still exist.
The confusion seems to stem from the mistaken idea that there were handwritten notes by various Clinton Administration officials in the margins of these documents, which Mr. Berger may have been able to destroy. But that's simply an "urban myth," prosecutor [Noel] Hillman tells us, based on a leak last July that was "so inaccurate as to be laughable." In fact, the five iterations of the anti-terror "after-action" report at issue in the case were printed out from a hard drive at the Archives and have no notations at all.That seems definite enough, but it provides no answer to two great questions: Why did Berger steal the five documents, and why did he destroy three of the five? I am now inclined to think that the answers to those questions is weird, rather than criminal, but until we have the answers — which Berger has promised to supply — we can't really know. That's why I added the "Maybe".
Finally, I should add that I can not think of answers that do not support this conclusion, which I came to when Berger was first chosen: He is unfit to be national security advisor.
- 8:01 AM, 8 April 2005 [link]
Does This Column Make Any Sense? When I saw the quotes at Orbusmax from this Robert Jamieson column, I thought it was an all out attack on those who want an accurate vote tally in King County. And it is, as you can see from the phrases he uses:
Republican Red Scare . . . swirling forces of sneer and smear . . . skeletal greybeard . . . slithered back . . . shooting hyperbole from the hip . . . ruthlessly right-wing . . . Slade the Blade . . . partisan puffery . . . relishes heat over light . . . politics of destructiveness . . . lock-and-load revenge mode . . . want the head . . . lunatic blog-crazed fringe . . . rage campaign . . . GOP Scream Machine . . . wild personal attacks
He is objecting, if you are wondering, to former Senator Slade Gorton's claim that King County "has the worst elections administration of any county in the United States". I wouldn't say that, because I haven't examined all the counties in the United States. But I would say that I do not know of any county with more errors than King. (I don't know whether Jamieson considers me a member of the "lunatic blog-crazed fringe". He has never replied to any of my emails, some critical, some complimentary.)
But it is also an admission, if you read all the way through to the 21st paragraph, that those in the "lunatic blog-crazed fringe" are at least partly right.
(And if he had been reading Sound Politics, he could have added many items to that list.) So, there are valid complaints, but it is wrong for Republicans to make them? Is that what he means? And why does he think it fair to hold King County Executive Ron Sims responsible, but not Sims' appointee, Dean Logan? I honestly don't know the answer to either question.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(Composition teachers will be amused by parts of the column; it would be better writing, for example, if Jamieson had picked a single metaphor or description for Gorton and then stuck to it, rather than mixing them wildly. And composition teachers will be annoyed by other parts; for example, the phrase, "somehow failed to make it up the chain", uses the passive voice to excuse the inexcusable. That's a trick politicians and bureaucrats often use; Jamieson should be ashamed to copy them.)
- 7:13 AM, 8 April 2005 [link]
Bizarre And Disturbing: On March 18th, a 75 year-old woman was nearly murdered in Berkeley. The strangest parts of the story do not concern the victim, or the attacker, but a woman who has been arrested as an accomplice.
The evening of the crime, a suspect was apprehended, a sixteen year old juvenile, whose name was withheld, as is the usual case with juveniles. She was jailed and then ordered to undergo psychological examination. Subsequent press reports indicated that the suspect had a history of both mental illness and violent attacks. She had escaped from a care facility.If I were reading the rest of the story in a novel, I would be annoyed because it wouldn't seem plausible.
- 5:29 PM, 7 April 2005 [link]
Some Stories are just plain fun.
Saddam Hussein watched the televised election of Iraq's new president from his jail cell yesterday and was "clearly upset", a senior official said.As I understand it, the jail cell TV set receives just one channel, so he couldn't channel surf to pro wrestling or the shopping channel. Be interesting to know whether Saddam has been watching the program with the confessions of captured terrorists, which is said to be quite popular with the Iraqi people.
- 8:18 AM, 7 April 2005 [link]
For The Children: I've heard that motive used to explain good actions, and to excuse bad ones, but none quite so bad as this one.
A Venezuelan who flew into London with a grenade in his luggage and a plan to become a "human bomb" to alert the world to the plight of suffering children yesterday pleaded guilty to endangering the public and the aircraft.Authorities there believe that he is not a terrorist, at least not a conventional one, in spite of some evidence to the contrary.
He [Hazil Rahaman-Alan] appeared to be a suicide bomber when he arrived at Gatwick on a flight from Caracas. He was a devout Muslim, who had worked as a receptionist in a mosque in Caracas, Venezuela, and had travelled, in 2001 and 2002, to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.If he is a terrorist, he is a most inept one, because the grenade that he smuggled on board had no fuse and would not have exploded even if the pin had been pulled.
It is men (and a few women) like Rahaman-Alan who keep me from discussing tactics for terrorists here, much as I would like to from time to time. There are brilliant, well-informed terrorists, and there are idiots like this man. We should avoid giving the idiots any tips.
- 3:59 PM, 6 April 2005 [link]
Canadian Scandal, American Rules: When two nations come into contact, ideas and practices get exchanged, as well as goods. That's at least as true for bad ideas and practices, as good ones. When, for example, the United States began to have extensive dealings with the Arab oil countries, where bribery is routine, it was inevitable that some Americans would accept bribes, just as it was inevitable that some Arabs would find the American idea that governments should be accountable to an electorate attractive.
A nation's leaders may not like that inevitable exchange and may try to limit it, with varying degrees of success. Limits on the exchange of ideas are much harder to impose now that there is an internet. We are seeing a remarkable example of that, as American bloggers publish information that Canadians can not, legally, and Canadians rush to visit those American sites. The scandal that brings them there is entirely Canadian, but they are learning about it under American rules.
First, a quick review of the scandal for those who don't regularly follow Canadian politics. The Liberal government of Jean Chrétien, worried about Quebec separatism, spent large sums, mostly in that province, to build Canadian patriotism. All well and good, except that much of the money was kicked back to the Liberal party, as this informative post explains:
An important note the Captain missed — the $250 million Sponsorship Program was concentrated in Quebec, where it was used to undermine the separatist Bloc Quebecois. I'll note for the record that I don't really have an issue with that aspect of it, though the Bloc sure does; they're Canada's 3rd largest federal party. The rest of Canada probably wouldn't care either, expect that [a] over $100 million of those funds were given out to Liberal Party friends for what was literally no work; and [b] rumours persist that a lot of those tax dollars found their way back to the Liberal Party's coffers via kickbacks from funding recipients.There isn't a neat translation of the scandal into American terms, since the United States does not have a significant separatist party, but I can say this much: Imagine the furor if a ruling party spent 2.5 billion dollars of public money to undermine an opposing party — and skimmed off perhaps 1 billion of that for themselves. A few Americans would find that objectionable, I think. And they might call for a commission to investigate the scandal, just as Canadians have done.
Canada does not have the same protections for freedom of speech and press as the United States. (In fact, offhand, I don't know of any other nation that has the same protections, though I suppose there must be a few.) In particular, Canada's judges can ban the publication of material that might prejudice a trial. And that is just what has happened with the testimony from three witnesses.
Most of the testimony heard by the Commission has been public, but Judge Gomery has decided to create a publication ban on the testimony of three key witnesses: Jean Brault, president of the ad agency Groupaction, Charles Guité, an officer of the Public Works ministry who worked on the Sponsorship Program, and Paul Coffin, president of the ad agency Coffin Communications.All three face criminal charges.
Now for the part that seems strangest to me. Although Canadians are banned from publishing the testimony of these three men, or even linking to American sites with the testimony, the hearings are not being held in secret. So, one of those attending the hearings (or watching them over closed circuit TV) has decided to send (by email, I suppose) accounts of the testimony to blogger Edward Morrisey ("Captain Ed"), who lives in Minnesota and is perfectly free — by American rules — to publish it, which he has, here, here, here, and even in French for the convenience of French Canadians, here.
Canada may have laws against publishing this testimony, but Canadian authorities now have no practical way to enforce those laws. (Though there are reports that they may actually prosecute a few of the Canadian bloggers who have defied the ban.) Is that a good thing? In general, I prefer the American rules, but I also think that Canadian governments, responsible to Canadian voters, should make the rules for Canada, not Americans. I'll let our friends to the north decide whether breaking those rules is worth it, in this instance. And whether, perhaps, a little more openness might not be good for their political system.
Finally, I should say something about the political consequences of this massive leak. The Liberal party barely kept power in the last election; it has a minority of seats in the Canadian House of Commons and needs the votes of the (socialist) NDP to stay in office. The chances are high that there will be an election soon and higher, I think, that the Liberals will lose it, thanks to the way the scandal is leaking out.
(Canadian Joe Katzman has a sensitive post on the ban, showing some of the complexities. He is obeying the ban — for now.
And "Captain Ed" adds an amusing twist to the story in this post. Although the campaign was directed against the separatist Partis Quebecois, that party also received some of the kickbacks. This will not surprise those who have read Plunkitt of Tammany Hall or those generally familiar with machine politics.)
- 1:46 AM, 6 April 2005 [link]
Pulitzer Reprimands: For several years I have been saying that the Pulitzer prizes were best understood as reprimands. The prizes, more often than not, were awarded for work that deserved criticism, not praise. (And the same is true of the Nobel Peace Prize, which in recent years has often gone to those who have damaged the cause of peace.) I was partly joking, since there are fields in which the prizes seem to go to people who merit prizes, rather than reprimands. But only partly, because in some areas, the judges consistently select winners who deserve, not prizes, but reprimands.
This year the prize for "breaking news photography" went to a set of twenty Associated Press photographs that deserve a reprimand. Here's a summary of what the twenty pictures show — and what they do not:
(Note: I corrected, or rather my spell checker corrected, a couple of mistakes in the quoted segment.)
The Associated Press must have many photographs in that second group. They chose not to submit them, judging, I would guess, that positive photographs on the war would not win any prizes.
But that isn't all that is wrong with this set of photos (though it is enough to show they deserve a reprimand). One of the photos was taken by Bilal Hussein, an embedded photographer, embedded not with coalition forces, but with the terrorists. This AP stringer is, if not a terrorist himself, an accomplice of terrorists.
Finally, there is reason to believe that the photograph showing the execution of a poll worker was staged, as the Power Line bloggers showed when it was first published.Cross posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.
- 6:01 AM, 6 April 2005
More: Michelle Malkin has more details in her link-filled post. And John Hinderaker of Power Line argues that the cartoonist who won this year's Pulitzer, Nick Anderson, also deserves a reprimand.
- 5:22 PM, 6 April 2005 [link]
The Strongest Argument Against Welfare is what it does to the recipients. That seems to be true of animals, as well as people. The latest example I have seen is this story on the welfare eagles in Homer, Alaska.
Not long ago, a bald eagle smacked right into Kurt Marquardt's head.Doesn't that behavior remind you of the behavior common in humans who depend on welfare? There are other parallels. The woman who feeds the eagles, Jean Keene, means well, just like many of those who dispense welfare to human clients. And there are many who profit from this eagle welfare, just as there are many who profit from welfare given to human clients.
- 7:41 AM, 5 April 2005 [link]
Who Opposes Photo IDs For Voting? Arizona governor Janet Napolitano just vetoed a bill requiring photo identification for voters in Arizona. Arizona state attorney general Terry Goddard also opposes photo IDs; Arizona secretary of state Jan Brewer favors photo IDs.
In 2003, Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle vetoed a bill requiring photo identification for voters in Wisconsin and is promising to veto a similar bill this year. Wisconsin state legislators John Lehman, Bob Turner, and Spencer Coggs also oppose photo IDs; Wisconsin state legislators Jeff Stone and Joe Leibham favor photo IDs.
Is there a pattern here? Yes. Every person listed above who opposes photo IDs is a Democrat; every person listed above who favors photo IDs is a Republican.
In Wisconsin, the party split is particularly clear. The Republicans control the Wisconsin state senate 19 to 14. They expect to get all 19 Republicans to vote for photo IDs and hope to win enough support from the Democrats (3 votes) to be able to override Doyle's veto.
Do Napolitano, Doyle, and the other Democrats think they get an edge from elections without photo IDs? It is hard to avoid that conclusion. And why would they think that making vote fraud easier would help Democrats? I leave the answer to that question up to you.
- 4:58 PM, 4 April 2005 [link]
Plug-In Priuses: The Toyota hybrid does not impress me. It strikes me as the kind of car that a man who owns a large house and who takes many trips abroad would buy — if he wants to pose as a friend of the environment. And the actual mileage didn't seem that impressive either, not greatly different from a Volkswagen Rabbit with a diesel engine.
But now some American tinkerers may have found a way to greatly improve that mileage.
Ron Gremban and Felix Kramer have modified a Toyota Prius so it can be plugged into a wall outlet.Those mileage claims may be exaggerated, but I see no reason why a plug-in Prius wouldn't have much better mileage than a stock model, at least if driven mostly in short commutes.
There is just one problem with their modifications: Toyota doesn't like them. (And Honda doesn't like similar modifications in its hybrids, either.)
This does not make Toyota happy. The company has spent millions of dollars persuading people that hybrid electric cars like the Prius never need to be plugged in and work just like normal cars. So has Honda, which even ran a commercial that showed a guy wandering around his Civic hybrid fruitlessly searching for a plug.Competition may change their minds, since DaimlerChrysler is experimenting with plug-in hybrid vans for use in cities.
- 1:42 PM, 4 April 2005 [link]
Educational Workhorses, Educational Show Horses: In this Seattle Times column, Kate Riley argues that this state's community colleges "are, in many ways, the workhorses of higher education". Her argument didn't interest me much, because I favor radical reform in higher education, but her metaphor did. If some institutions are "workhorses", then others — which she does not name — must be "show horses", institutions that look pretty but are not pulling their share of the weight.
Riley does not name any show horses, and I would not expect her, or anyone else at the Seattle Times, to do so. As understand it, the newspaper believes that any criticism of higher education in the state, however justified, would lessen public support for the institutions. So the newspaper avoids holding them to account, if possible.
But there must be some show horses in our public educational system. Any bureaucracy as large as those that run the schools in this state will accumulate show horses over time. And, though the Seattle Times may not be interested in finding those show horses, the taxpayers should be*. So, let's see if we can, together, identify some show horses in our educational system. And let's make this search broad. I don't see any reason to limit the search to institutions of higher education. If you know of a school, a department, or a practice that is a show horse, share that knowledge with us.
Those familiar Washington's colleges and universities will immediately suspect that Evergreen State is a show horse. I share that suspicion, but must admit that I do not know enough about the college to be certain that it should be put out to pasture. So I will leave Evergreen State to others who are better informed. (For what it is worth, the college seems pleased by Gregoire's budget. I am sure they got an increase because Gregoire thinks Evergreen State is a workhorse, not because their faculty voted, at a guess, 90 percent for John Kerry in the last election.)
But I can identify a show horse practice. Teachers in Washington state, like teachers in most other states, can get higher pay by taking courses, usually from ed schools. There is no evidence that these courses make them better teachers. I once asked my mother, who taught elementary school and then special education for years, whether any of the courses she had taken had made her a better teacher. She thought about it, said no, and then brightened a bit and said that she had enjoyed some of them. Which is not a sufficient reason, in my opinion, for the taxpayers to pay teachers to take those courses. Nearly every teacher I have spoken to has the same opinion as my mother about the usefulness of the courses. I have never seen a formal study that showed that these courses improved the effectiveness of the teachers who (usually) suffer through them.
So there's my show horse, just to get things started. Now it's your turn.(Since this is cross posted at Sound Politics, you may want to leave a comment there, rather than emailing me, but either is fine.) *(Note that this is true whether you favor lower expenditures for education, the same expenditures, or higher expenditures. Putting a show horse out to pasture releases resources that can be returned to the taxpayers — or used by work horses, or both.)
- 8:28 AM, 4 April 2005 [link]
Competing Principles: Stuart Buck explains why we need to balance one principle against another. It is an old argument — the United States constitution, to take a famous example, was written to change the balance between the federal government and the states — but one that needs repeating from time to time.
One of the odd things about the Schiavo affair is the argument that "if you care about federalism, you wouldn't favor Congress's involvement in granting federal jurisdiction for Schiavo's parents to have one more day in federal court." One sees this argument in many contexts: "If you really opposed abortion, you'd support the death penalty for women who have abortions," or "if you really wanted to clean up the environment, you'd agree to ban all automobiles," or "if you really supported bringing democracy to Iraq, you'd support war in about 100 other countries," or "if you really supported free speech, you wouldn't be in favor of hate crimes laws." In short, "If you really believed in Principle X, you'd follow that principle to all extremes without ever letting another principle override it."Nearly always wrong, I would say.
And while we are on the subject, I should add that those who place great weight on avoiding the minor vice of hypocrisy are often wrong. A person who does the right thing may be a hypocrite if their motives are other than they claim, but they are still doing the right thing. That's far better than doing the wrong thing with pure motives.
- 7:02 AM, 4 April 2005 [link]
New Religion? Here's one I hadn't heard of until I saw this sign in front of a Kirkland church:
I do use the search engine almost every day, but it never occurred to me to worship it.
You'll have noticed that this is a Unitarian church. I suspect that those who worship Google would be welcome there, though I am not so sure about those who voted for George W. Bush.
- 5:41 AM, 4 April 2005 [link]
Alienated Upper Class And Middle Class Kids: That's who joins Al Qaeda, according to a recent study. (And from its description, one of the best studies done on the subject.)
Dr Marc Sageman of the University of Pennsylvania has conducted an exhaustive study of al-Qa'eda's people. He collected the life histories of 400 individuals either in al-Qa'eda or closely linked to it, and found that traditional theories of what motivates a terrorist — poverty, desperation, ignorance — did not apply in al-Qa'eda's case. Indeed, some of them turned their backs on cushy lives to sign up for bin Laden's fanciful war against the West.And where do they become alienated? Here's a hint:
Strikingly, 70 per cent joined the jihad while away from home. Sageman describes them as the 'elite of their country' sent abroad to study because the schools in Germany, France, England and the US are better. Egyptian-born Mohammed Atta, who crashed the jet into the North Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, became a violent-minded extremist while studying architecture in Hamburg. Ahmed Omar Sheikh, the Briton convicted of murdering American journalist Daniel Pearl, attended the London School of Economics. Al-Qa'eda's 'breeding ground', it seems, is as much in fragmented cities in the West as in hotbeds of Islamism in the East.I wouldn't say cities; I would say universities, the very same places that produced the New Left, another movement dominated by alienated upper and middle class kids.
These findings imply that, if we want to reduce terrorism, we should either keep students from Muslim countries out of our universities, or reform our universities so that they are less alienating.
If you have been reading this site for some time, you will not be surprised by this study, though many politicians still seem unaware of these patterns. Including, of course, Washington state's senior senator, Patty Murray.
(If you want the latest from Murray, here's an almost entirely negative editorial on her trip to Iraq from the Seattle PI. The editorial may not be a fair reflection of her views; in her own blog, she had a number of positive things to say about her visit. For some obscure reason, the PI did not choose to share these Murray thoughts with their readers.
We then had dinner with the troops and ate in the mess hall — lots of calories there! Great conversation with troops who wanted to know latest details of everything from home! They also wanted us to know that they had done a lot of good here and that their work had been worthwhile. They fear the media is not showing the good side of their work.(From the March 21, 2005 entry.)
Maybe a PI editor can explain why the troops might have that fear.)
- 5:16 PM, 3 April 2005 [link]
John Paul II, Rest In Peace: The man who was born Karol Wojtyla was a quarryman, a poet, an actor, a playwright, a writer, a traveler, a skier, a sports fan, and a world leader.
And he was remarkably accomplished in all those roles. For instance, I had known vaguely that he was a playwright, but I had not known this.
Only one pope ever wrote a play about married life, "The Jeweler's Shop," that became a movie starring Burt Lancaster in 1988.As a world leader, his two greatest achievements were his part in the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and his part in bridging some of the rift between Christians and Jews. Historians will be arguing for years about how important he was in the first (just as they will be arguing over the part that Ronald Reagan played), but almost no one thinks that he did not at least aid the rollback of Communism from the lands conquered by Soviet armies at the end of World War II. And very few disagree about the importance of his actions in the second.
Above all, he was a religious leader. It may seem strange to say that of a Pope, but we live in such a secular age (in Europe and much of the United States, anyway) that it must be said. Many journalists tried, all through his career, to fit him into an ideological box or boxes. He was, they would say, again and again, liberal on this issue, or conservative on that issue. Even to use those categories is, I think, a mistake, for a man who was, as the ironical question reminds us, above all, a Catholic.
(And a mistake that continues to be made, as you can see in this churlish New York Times editorial and this unfortunate Seattle Times article. The first attacks the Pope over the Schiavo case in its third sentence; the second is headlined, appropriately, "Local Catholics admired pontiff's deep faith, but not always his policies". And inaccurately, I suspect. I am sure that Tu, had she looked, could have found more local Catholics who admired both his faith and his policies, some who admired his policies but not his faith, and even a few who admired neither. But since she (and the Seattle Times) disagree with many of those policies, the groups that disagree with his policies get top billing.)
The strengths that he brought to the Holy See were forged in his own losses as a boy and a young man, and in the suffering of Poland under the Nazis and the Communists. It is a sad fact that suffering often distorts, rather than ennobles, but for John Paul all the losses, all the horror, seem only to have strengthened him. We have lost a great man.
(For more, see this link-filled post by Joe Gandelman, this appreciation by William Kristol, and this Reuters article with enough statistics to boggle the mind. For instance, while Pope, he traveled 775,231 miles and visited 129 countries.)
- 2:03 AM, 3 April 2005 [link]
Explosives Found: In Iraq? Well, there too, but also in Terry Nichols's home.
The FBI is facing the possibility it made an embarrassing oversight in the Oklahoma City bombing case a decade ago after new information led agents to explosive materials hidden in Terry Nichols' former home, which they had searched several times before.The implications for the searches for WMDs in Iraq, which is somewhat larger than Nichols' home, are, I assume, obvious.
(By way of David Cohen at the Brothers Judd.)
- 9:45 AM, 2 April 2005 [link]
Cute Kids: Cute Iraqi kids. Cute Iraqi kids being helped by the American military. Bill Hobbs speculates that you may not see these pictures, or similar ones, in your home town paper. I can say with some confidence that the Seattle papers do not go out of their way to publish such pictures (or stories of American heroism in this war).
- 9:28 AM, 2 April 2005 [link]
G. K. Chesterton Didn't Say It: Odds are, you have heard or read that G. K. Chesterton once said: "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing — they believe in anything." It's a great quote, often used to illustrate the tendency of those who have left traditional religion to believe in mysticism of many kinds.
I have seen it often enough so that I started wondering about the context. I made a search for the quote a few months ago but was unable to find it. Yesterday, I learned why: Chesterton never said it, as Oliver Kamm explains.
Except it wasn't an appropriate quotation, but a spurious one. Chesterton no more wrote it than Edmund Burke made his famous supposed remark about the conditions for the triumph of evil. It was definitively traced a few years ago by the American Chesterton Society to a secondary source on the author by Emile Cammaerts, The Laughing Prophet, 1937. The 'quotation' is a paraphrase of Cammaert's own paraphrase of what he took to be an idea within Chesterton's Father Brown stories.It's a relief, at least for me, to know that.
(It is not unusual, as you may know, for the more famous to get credited with sayings made by the less famous. For instance, Talleyrand is often credited with the line: "It is worse than a crime; it is a blunder." (In reaction to Napoleon's seizure and execution of an opponent.) The person who actually said it, at least according to the third edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, was one Antoine Boulay de la Meurthe.)
- 5:45 PM, 1 April 2005 [link]
King County Elections Are Wide Open To Fraud:
(Stefan Sharkansky correcting Dean Logan.)
That's the principal conclusion I drew from last night's town meeting with Councilwoman Julia Patterson, Secretary of State Sam Reed, and King County election director, Dean Logan. Not every kind of fraud, but some kinds.
In practice, at least in King County, there is no requirement that voters be citizens. Washington law may require that voters be citizens, but King County does nothing to enforce that, which became clear from some of the answers Logan gave. (He chose not to answer my direct question on the subject.) And many in the audience were struck, as I certainly was, by the fact that after being informed of voting by two non-citizens, Logan did not refer the cases to a prosecutor. Many Republicans have suspected that some provisions in the 1993 "Motor Voter" Act (passed by a Democratic Congress) were intended to encourage voting by non-citizens. Logan gave me more reason to believe that charge last night.
King County elections are also wide open to fraud with absentee ballots, especially by people who register by mail. It is simply too easy to establish a false identity and then use it in elections.
And it is too easy to borrow someone else's identity. The only check the elections office makes on mailed ballots is a signature comparison. We didn't get a good description of the process from Logan, but I do know that the clerks use computer scans of signatures for comparison. Given the low resolution of computer screens, getting a copy of someone else's signature past the clerks should not be very difficult. The larger the county, the easier such fraud is likely to be, since the clerks in places like King County will know few, if any, of the people whose signatures they are checking. Logan admitted, when I pressed him on the point, that he simply did not know how many fraudulent signatures were accepted in last year's election. (It was not clear to me whether he had even thought about the problem.)
Given these problems, it seems bizarre that Patterson, Reed, and Logan all want to do more elections with mailed ballots. Do they just think that fraudulent absentee ballots are such a small problem that we can ignore it? I really couldn't tell.
Most in the audience seemed to share my frustration at the answers given by Logan. At several points, Stefan Sharkansky, who has done so much to uncover errors in last November's election, had to correct Logan. After several such corrections, it was hard not to be skeptical about everything that Logan said.
There was one interesting hint in Logan's talk. He said that, when he came to the elections office, he found problems with the "culture" there, problems that he admitted were still there, in part. I have speculated, without much evidence, that some of the problems in the elections office may have been caused by a conflict between Logan and some in the office who did not accept him. What he said is consistent with that speculation.
And, to be fair to Patterson and her guests, I should say that I agree — to some extent — with an argument that the three made many times. On issue after issue they argued that they were just following state and federal law. I think they exaggerated, but I also think that our most important problem is lax election laws, not bad administration in the King County office. Unfortunately, Reed's description of the "reform" efforts in the state legislature also convinced me that important reforms will not even be considered by the Democrats who control the Washington state legislature. (Need an example? Requiring photo identification for voting. That would make many kinds of fraud more difficult.)
All in all, a discouraging meeting.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(That sign in the background? Pure coincidence. I didn't even notice it when I took the picture.)
- 4:41 PM, 1 April 2005 [link]
Sandy Berger Makes A Deal: And a pretty good one, for him.
Samuel R. Berger, a national security adviser to President Bill Clinton, has agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and give up his security clearance for three years for removing classified material from a government archive, the Justice Department and associates of Mr. Berger's said Thursday.The great question, to which we may never know the answer, is what was different about those copies. I think the most likely answer is that they contained marginal comments that would have embarrassed members of the Clinton administration. But we almost certainly will never know for sure.
Ordinary citizens might find Berger's destruction of evidence in a crucial inquiry disgusting. The New York Times seems more worried about the effects on poor Sandy Berger's career.
It is unclear what impact the case will have on Mr. Berger's future in government. While the plea agreement requires him to give up his secret security clearance for three years, it allows him to have it reviewed and restored within that time if the government asks him to serve on a panel or in another position with access to secret material, associates said. But some political analysts said the case against him, which Republican leaders seized on last year in accusing him of imperiling national security, may have made him unemployable in government in the short term. He is currently chairman of a global business strategy firm.I think he got off way too easy and that, at a minimum he should have lost his clearance permanently.
It was a little sad and more than a little amusing to see two usually reasonable Democrats, Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias, refuse to accept the obvious explanation — a cover up — for Berger's actions. Drum calls Berger's actions "inexplicable" and Yglesias argued that nothing has being covered up because the White House hasn't leaked the material yet. Guys, just pretend that Berger is Republican for a moment and then it will all become clear to you.
(The New York Times describes Berger, rather kindly, as a "respected figure in foreign policy circles for years". That's not my impression. I recall being startled when, with no relevant experience, he was named Clinton's national security advisor. He struck me then — and now — as one of those fixers who protect their clients, and as peculiarly unsuited to the job of national security advisor.)
- 7:53 AM, 1 April 2005
Correction: The Wall Street Journal says that the copies had no marginal notes; for more see this post.
- 8:08 AM, 8 April 2005 [link]