August 2004, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
Real Vote Fraud In East Chicago: This case has the same three characteristics as almost all the other cases of vote fraud that I have found in the last two years. The fraud was committed by Democrats, among minority voters, with absentee ballots. Enough vote fraud was found in the primary for mayor so that the Indiana Supreme Court overturned the election.
The Indiana Supreme Court on Friday concluded the overwhelming evidence that Mayor Robert Pastrick benefited from fraud and misconduct in the May 2003 Democratic primary warranted a new mayoral election.The challenger, Pabey, was able to prove that many of those absentee ballots were fraudulent.
There's another similarity to most of the other cases of vote fraud. Although the newspaper articles are sketchy on the history, vote fraud has apparently occurred for many years, not just in the 2003 election.
The only novel aspect was the kind of bribe used by the mayor to obtain votes, free paving.
What city officials christened the "1999 Sidewalk Program" was in fact a "sidewalks for votes scheme"--a brazen way to buy an election though laying pavement not only on city sidewalks, but also on private patios, driveways or even parking lots if constituents so desired, the complaint says. Free tree-trimming was another city-sponsored service, the complaint says.The mayor, who is 77, may be headed for jail.
- 6:57 AM, 8 August 2004 [link]
The Two Employment Measures, Again: As I have mentioned before, there is a growing divergence between the household and establishment surveys of employment. For a dramatic picture of that divergence, look at the first chart ("Two Different Surveys") that accompanies this article. The two measures have never been identical, and should not be because they rest on different definitions of employment, but the difference is far larger than it should be.
Note that the chart measures, not the absolute difference, but the growth in the difference since the beginning of 2002. And that has been spectacular; the two measures are now 3 million jobs farther apart than they were in January 2002. And they yield opposite political messages.
Over all, the household survey now shows that employment has risen by 1.9 million jobs, or 1.4 percent, since President Bush took office, while the establishment survey shows employment is down by 1.1 million jobs, or 0.8 percent.As I have mentioned before, I have read an effort by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to explain this growing divergence — and concluded that they had no explanation. I am not an expert on these measures, not even an economist, but I am beginning to think that the household survey may be the better measure because it is a more direct measure, not one constructed with a mathematical model using survey data for inputs. Assuming that I understand how the household survey is done, of course.
(For some of the "adjustments" made to the establishment survey, see here, here, and here. The last is especially interesting; those firm numbers that we see (for example, a gain of 32,000 jobs) include some very large fudge factors, as the BLS statisticians explain.
The most significant potential drawback to this or any model-based approach is that time series modeling assumes a predictable continuation of historical patterns and relationships and therefore is likely to have some difficulty producing reliable estimates at economic turning points or during periods when there are sudden changes in trend. BLS will continue researching alternative model-based techniques for the net birth/death component; it is likely to remain as the most problematic part of the estimation process.If you need a translation of that into English, let me know and I will add one.)
- 10:30 AM, 7 August 2004 [link]
How Realistic Is Kerry's Plan For Energy Independence? John Kerry has been promising to end American dependence on Middle East oil. Some of his advisers have doubts about the promise.
The idea of a United States independent of Middle East oil is a touchstone of Senator John Kerry's campaign and a huge crowd pleaser, but has divided and exasperated many of his most experienced energy advisers.Let's try two thought experiments.
First, suppose that we banned oil imports from the Middle East. What would happen? There would be a great shock and prices would settle somewhat higher, as suppliers shuffled contracts and tankers. But it would be possible, at least in the short run, because there is enough oil in other nations to substitute for the oil we get from Middle East. (Middle East oil is actually a smaller share of our imports than it was a decade ago.)
Second, suppose that we banned all oil imports, not just from the Middle East but from every other nation. What would happen? That, too, is possible, though it would result in much higher prices, rationing, or both. It would almost certainly result in a major depression, unless we went on a full war time footing, similar to that in World War II. Coal, of which we have ample reserves, can be substituted for oil, but at a greater cost, in many applications, a much greater cost. (And we could replace some oil with nuclear power.)
So, it would be possible to end our dependence on Middle East oil and even all oil imports, if we want to pay the cost. But John Kerry is not proposing anything as drastic or painful as those two thought experiments. Instead his vague proposals combine the usual mix of research and incentives for better fuel economy.
Any energy plan in a campaign reads more like notes from a brainstorming session than a detailed blueprint for economic and social change. The ideas are diverse and often vague, in an effort to have as many people as possible sign on.(Note that the Times calls Kerry's plan vague, but excuses that with the claim that every candidate does the same on energy.)
What's wrong with increasing the fuel efficiency of American cars (or houses or appliances)? Nothing, but it isn't a good way to end our dependence on oil imports. To see why, consider Joe Teenager, who has just gotten his driver's license and has $10 to spend on gas. In this area that will buy about 5 gallons of gas. Suppose that Joe is driving a car that gets 20 miles to the gallon. How far will he drive? If he is like me at that age, 100 miles. And if he is driving a car that gets 40 miles to the gallon? Two hundred miles. Greater efficiency encourages greater use, because it reduces the marginal cost of fuel use. And it is easy to think of similar examples. New houses are much better insulated, in general, than those built decades ago. Which is one reason why houses are so much larger now. They don't cost as much to heat or air condition as similar sized houses once did. So though there may be some gains from greater efficiency, they are less than one would first expect.
There are problems with alternative fuels and renewable energy sources, too, but not problems that can be treated in a brief post.
If Kerry truly wants to reduce our dependence on Middle East oil, then he should propose a tax on oil imports. (With, unless he wants to hurt economic growth, cuts in other taxes, so the plan is revenue neutral.) That would be effective, but the politics of it are horrible. An import tax on oil would be regressive, hitting poor people harder. It would hit rural areas especially hard, which would make it hard to pass the Senate. (That differential impact may partly explain why an increase in gas tax, which would have similar effects, has so much support from well-off urbanites, such as the editorial writers at many newspapers.) Worst of all, from a political point of view, it would produce an immediate increase in the price of gasoline. Kerry understands these political costs, I am sure, which is why he avoided a real solution and instead is advocating (with some demagoguery) his "unrealistic and misleading" plan. (Note that those two adjectives come from some of his advisers, not me.)
- 7:04 AM, 7 August 2004 [link]
As You Drive, you may want to watch out for violent Volvos. The Ford subsidiary has joined the race for power.
The car in the TV commercial rockets around corners, soars like Evel Knievel and then rolls over about half a dozen times. It's extreme driving even by advertising standards, but what's really remarkable is the type of car being pitched: Volvo, long known as one of the safest, most responsible of brands.Safety advocates are angry about the increase in power in the last two decades. (According to Edmunds, the average horsepower of new vehicles increased from "107 in 1984 to 227" currently.) And they are hurt that Volvo has joined the race. (That's as surprising as seeing a "Bush 2004" bumpersticker on a Volvo.)
I can't help but think that safety improvements, especially airbags, have, in a small way, encouraged people to buy more powerful cars and drive them faster.
The line often found in superhero comics — at least when I read them — may apply: "With great power comes great responsibility."
(I can't imagine buying one, but I have to admit that I love those Dodge "hemi" ads.)
- 2:54 PM, 6 August 2004 [link]
If You Are Going Out For A Drive this weekend, you might want to take along a Roadside Geology book from Mountain Press. They have them for many states; here's one for Washington that I have been using for years. From it, I learned that most of Washington immigrated from elsewhere, as microcontinents and large islands docked against North America, that there were immense floods in Eastern Washington during the ice ages, and that many of the rocks on the Olympic peninsula were formed under water.
The books describe, just as the name suggests, the geology you can see as you drive along the main roads. (The publisher also has an "Underfoot" series that might provide good companions on hikes, but I have not looked at them yet.)
If you study these books, over time the hard scenery will become less puzzling. I recall, for example, driving along Interstate 90 in the Cascades, looking up and realizing that I was seeing an old lake bed up on the hill (probably from the glacial era) that had been sliced open by erosion.
- 2:27 PM, 6 August 2004 [link]
Whatever The Truth of Kerry's story, one thing is certain. The "mainstream" media will, to the extent possible, hide the criticism from the Swift boat veterans. Compare, for example, how the New York Times treated Bruce Springsteen when he came out against Bush to how they treated the veterans' commercial. Springsteen got an uncritical article, an op-ed of his own, and five adoring letters (along with three criticizing him). (I have never understood why the political ideas of entertainers deserve more coverage than those of farmers, nurses, teachers, engineers, or any other group, but that's just me.)
In contrast, the Times buried what the Swift Boat veterans said in a hostile story on page A15. Here's the lead paragraph in that story and the next to the last paragraph, dismissing the claims of the veterans.
Senator John McCain on Thursday repudiated a new advertisement accusing Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts of lying about his Vietnam War record and called on the President Bush to do the same.(One of the men in the group, Steve Gardner, did serve, briefly, on Kerry's boat.) Note that the New York Times did not feel the need to tell you that these men are the vast majority of those who served on the Swift boats, and left much out besides.
- 1:46 PM, 6 August 2004 [link]
How Much Should We Care About Kerry's Vietnam Service? John Kerry has made his service there the centerpiece of his campaign, which meant, inevitably, that his record would be attacked, if not by the Bush campaign, then by others. Now that the Swift Boat veterans have put out a devastating commercial, the controversy over his service is raging in the blogosphere, as you can see at this site or this site.
My position is the same as it was in March. Kerry's service in Vietnam is less relevant to our judgments about his fitness to be president than his career as an anti-war protester, and far less relevant than his career in public office — regardless of which narrative, his or his critics' is closest to the truth. If he is telling the truth (mostly), that's a small plus; if his critics are telling the truth (mostly), that's a small minus. What Jane Fonda ally John Kerry did is more important than what Ensign Kerry did, and what Senator Kerry did (or didn't do) is far more important than what Ensign Kerry did.
But that's not the whole story. If Kerry is being dishonest about his record during this campaign, then the truth about his service becomes more important, for the simple reason that a man who will lie about one thing will often lie about many other things. In 1992, when Bill Clinton lied about not receiving an induction notice, he gave voters a clue to his character. If Kerry's current story is false in important details, then may be giving us a similar clue.
I say "may be" because our memories are less reliable than we like to think. Kerry may have begun by exaggerating his accomplishments and then came, over time, to believe his own story. That isn't that unusual, as anyone who is familiar with fisherman's tales can tell you.
(And I must add a rather sour point that I think memory experts will support. The testimony of both those now who support his story and those who attack it may have changed in systematic ways over time. As the two groups of veterans have talked within their groups about their experiences, they may have, without intending to, coordinated their stories. Or, just possibly, intentionally. I don't like to mention this suspicion, but it is possible that Kerry began meeting with his shipmates several years ago in order to coordinate their stories.)
How hard it is to clear these matters up can be seen in this fascinating post. Reverend Sensing argues that, contrary to what nearly everyone believes, Kerry tried to avoid combat and Bush sought it out. When Bush applied to join the Air National Guard, his unit had planes in Vietnam. And, according to a friend of his, Bush asked to be sent to Vietnam, but was told that he didn't have enough experience. Later, the planes were withdrawn since, as I understand it, the interceptors were not suitable for the missions in Vietnam. Is Sensing right about both points? Quite possibly, but to say the least, he is contradicting conventional wisdom.
- 1:07 PM, 6 August 2004 [link]
John Kerry Promised a more sensitive war on terror two days ago. (To be followed, I fear, by a brutal peace.) And the troops fighting that "more sensitive war" will drink dry water, get untanned by the sun, and sometimes march over warm ice.
Here's the entire sentence.
I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history.It's a natural mistake for a Democrat. Kerry strung together a series of adjectives that appeal to most Democrats and forgot that "sensitive" and "war" do not go together. I am fairly sure that, if pressed, Kerry would admit that war is almost never "sensitive".
(Kerry isn't the only one to make a verbal slip recently. Bush made a big one at the signing ceremony for the defense spending bill.
Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," Bush said. "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."Literally, Bush is correct. Those defending our nation must always be trying to think like the terrorists, so they do have to think about how to harm the country — in order to anticipate future attacks. But I am sure Bush left out some intended words when he spoke.)
- 9:20 AM, 6 August 2004 [link]
Does Senator Patty Murray Have A Conflict Of Interest? Possibly, according to the alternative (and angry left) newspaper, the Seattle Weekly.
Sen. Patty Murray has worked hard on Capitol Hill for port security funding, and her husband's Seattle employer, SSA Marine, has benefited.Now this is from the Seattle Weekly, not the most reliable source. On the other hand, it is by Rick Anderson, who I consider the best journalist there. (And he has a dry sense of humor I had missed in the past. He describes Murray, who has won the "not a rocket scientist award" given to the dumbest senators multiple times, as a "respected Senate leader".)
My own guess is that Murray did not help the company because of her husband, but that she has been, at the very least, careless about the connection. She's a party hack (or, if you prefer, party hackette), but not, as far as I know, dishonest. (For more on Murray, see this post from a year and a half ago.)
- 4:37 PM, 5 August 2004 [link]
Sometimes I Get The Feeling That They Don't Like Us: Judge for yourself from this letter, supposedly from the wife of a Saudi "martyr", and directed to Paul Johnson's widow.
Nay, we love them [our brethren] more than you can imagine because the blood of a Muslim is for us more precious than the Ka'ba, but the blood of your husband is the blood of a dog because he is an idolatrous infidel.But maybe I am just too sensitive.
- 3:12 PM, 5 August 2004 [link]
Two Perspectives On Abu Ghraib: This Seattle Times editorial presents the standard media view of the scandal.
For all the horror of the Army's first shocking report on the conditions at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, its blunt assessments were evidence of the military confronting its own mess.Now I don't know whether the second report is a whitewash, or a corrective to the impressions given by by the first. But the editorial writers at the Times don't know either — and don't admit that.
Now, compare that picture of Abu Ghraib to this one from Karl Zinsmeister, who, unlike the Times' editorial writers, spent time in Iraq.
How insightful is the Iraq reporting that you've been consuming? Take a little test.If, that is, your number one priority is the rights of the detainees. If your number one priority is driving Bush from office, then those deaths and injuries must be ignored.
Extremist Slate editor Dahlia Lithwick is more honest than the Seattle Times, and she doesn't care about the detainees either.
I keep thinking that one speaker at this [Democratic] convention needs to stand up at that podium tonight and say: "Ladies and Gentlemen. Abu Ghraib. Thank you. Goodnight."There you are. Abu Ghraib is important because it is (in Lithwick's opinion) a winning issue all by itself. Judging by the coverage of the subject, her view is nearly universal in the media.
(Zinsmeister has many more examples of media bias, all of them instructive.
Lithwick's piece, in which she wonders why Democrats are not emphasizing the issue of judges, is also instructive, but in a different way. She believes, honestly, I think, that the Democrats could gain by making judicial appointments an issue. This is, in a word, nuts. Bill Clinton, one of the most skilled politicians of our time, de-emphasized judicial appointments, because the issue is a loser for the Democrats in the general voting population. That Lithwick does not know this elementary political fact reveals much about this "Slate senior editor".)
- 10:21 AM, 5 August 2004 [link]
Worth A Look: George Shultz makes a simple point with the two charts that accompany this op-ed piece.
Because the economy has momentum, it's useful to look carefully at the trends in evidence at the time of presidential transitions. When you look at the record, a quick summary is this: President Clinton inherited prosperity; President Clinton bequeathed recession.Now I think that's too strong. Although many believe that the president steers the economy like a car, he has neither the information nor the power to do so. (Nor should he.) Imagine trying to control a car when someone else (the Federal Reserve) has both the accelerator and the brakes. Worse yet, your front windshield is almost completely fogged up and your best views are in your rearview mirrors. You can't see where you are going, and you have only a vague picture of where you are.
The limits of presidential power were shown clearly during the first Bush administration, when Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve kept interest rates too high, too long, aggravating and perhaps causing the recession in 1991. The limits of information were shown by the same recession; Greenspan and the Federal Reserve did not realize it had started until months after it had begun. (Some supporters of the Federal Reserve have never forgiven Bush and his Treasury Secretary for being right about the economy in 1990-1991.)
Moreover, many of the actions that a president takes have results that last far longer than his time in office. We are still paying for mistakes made by FDR in the 1930s in setting up social security. And we are still benefitting from deregulation during Carter's term.
But Shultz's charts are an important corrective to the claim, common on the Democratic side of the aisle, that the good years of the 1990s were caused entirely by Clinton's brilliant management of the economy. He deserves some credit, but only some.
Should Clinton be blamed for the recession in 2000? Again, only partially. The Bush team was less optimistic in 2000 about the economy than the Clinton administration. And they were right to be, as is now obvious. There were actions that Clinton could have taken in 2000 (and before), but did not, that would have made a recession less likely. But the main cause of the recession of 2000, in my humble, non-economist opinion, was the bursting of the tech bubble of the preceding years, not any Clinton policy. (And I'll have an example from this area soon to illustrate that argument.)
- 8:30 AM, 5 August 2004 [link]
You Can't Leave Them Alone For A Minute: Judges, that is. I went out for lunch (Wendy's, since I like their hamburgers), came back, and learned that a single King County judge had changed the law all by himself.
Gay couples can marry in Washington state, a judge ruled Wednesday, saying that banning such marriages violates the state constitution.As I have said before, I am genuinely ambivalent about gay marriage, since I am uncertain what effects it would have, if any, on society. But I am absolutely opposed to these judicial power grabs.
There's a bright side, I suppose. This will almost certainly help the Bush campaign in both Washington and Oregon.
(King County includes Seattle and the nearer suburbs, for those not familiar with this area.)
- 5:05 PM, 4 August 2004
More If you agree with me that this judge is as irresponsible as many toddlers, then you may want to read this post on some appalling brats, and the advice that follows from experienced parents. They say that parents should not be afraid to say "no", and that they should set clear limits. The end of Downing's term would be a good place for a "timeout", I think.
Those who suspected that the judge might be on the left will find some confirmation in this article.
His empathy comes in part through his own experiences. Both of Downing's parents died when he was young. He graduated from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and as a conscientious objector, worked in a psychiatric hospital during the Vietnam War. He also has worked as a deckhand on boats on the Mississippi River and on fishing boats out of Bellingham.Since the reporter is our old friend Janet "not the whole truth" Tu, there is probably much more evidence of Downing's far left views available, even though she doesn't include it in the article.
- 10:48 AM, 5 August 2004 [link]
Kerry's Curious Strategy: For some time, Mickey Kaus has been arguing that Kerry's strategy is like that of a batter who does not try for a hit, but just waits for a walk, convinced that the pitcher has already lost it. Given how close the polls have been for months (and the improving economy), I found this hard to believe. But after studying Kerry's acceptance speech and reading analyses by other pundits, I have decided it is true. Kerry and his people really believe that they have the election won — unless they disturb the voters.
Here's how Fred Barnes describes the Kerry team's theory about the election.
Is the presidential race John Kerry's to lose? After a successful Democratic convention and an adequate but uninspiring acceptance speech, Kerry would never say so publicly. But that's what he and his advisers believe. Their theory is that the country has fundamentally made up its mind that President Bush shouldn't have a second term. After all, his reelect number--the share of the electorate that thinks he deserves another four years--is only 43 percent. So Bush would need almost all of the undecided vote to tilt his way, but normally they wind up voting two-to-one for the challenger. That's Kerry. Besides, political analyst Charlie Cook has studied the undecided and found them to be overwhelmingly anti-Bush. All Kerry has to do is make himself minimally acceptable.Michael Barone describes the Kerry team's theory almost the same way.
The assumption by Kerry strategists was that a majority of the country's voters have already rejected Bush. (James Carville, on the afternoon of Kerry's speech, qualified this some by saying that a majority was as close to rejection as you can get.) The task then was to establish Kerry as an acceptable alternative, and in particular as a commander in chief who would defend America against attack.Neither Barnes nor Barone think that the strategy will necessarily work, and I agree with them. In fact, I go farther than they do, which is why I am still predicting a big win for Bush.
Let me begin by reviewing the obvious. Over the last six months, the Democratic party and the media pounded Bush almost non-stop. There were several months of uncritical publicity given to the Democratic candidates, especially John Edwards. There were millions of dollars spent on commercials attacking Bush in the primary states. After the primaries, came the much overblown Abu Ghraib scandal. And so on. And the result? According to the most recent Gallup poll, Bush has a small lead among likely voters.
In the next three months, the voters will begin to hear more balanced set of stories, if only through the Bush campaign ads. And they will hear more about Kerry's faults, including the other narrative of his service in Vietnam. As Barnes noted, the Bush team has devastating commercials all made, but is holding them back until the voters are paying more attention. Given Kerry's long history in public life, the possibilities are ample.
The Bush team won't be the only ones discussing Kerry's views and record. Most journalists do not like candidates who dodge the issues or obscure their record, and Kerry is planning to do both. We can already see the reaction to his strategy in this critical AP article.
Like those Republican presidential candidates [Nixon and Eisenhower], the Democrat's blueprint for peace lacks detail and has critics squawking.And, there's much more, as you can see in this analysis of the article by Ed Morrisey. And you can see the reaction, though in a milder form, in this David Broder column on Kerry's acceptance speech. Honest journalists — and there are some — are not going to accept three months of dodging and obfuscation.
The Kerry theory that the election has already been decided ignores many examples of politicians coming from behind to win, even politicians who were in deep trouble with their electorates. Let me mention just two. First, Pete Wilson's 1994 gubernatorial run. Here's a summary of the campaign from the 1998 Almanac of American Politics.
He started out the 1994 campaign 23% behind Kathleen Brown, the daughter of one governor and sister of another. But her opposition to the death penalty kept her June primary win over Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi to only 48%-33%. Meanwhile, Wilson was fending off a challenge from Conservative Ron Unz, a 32-year-old computer millionaire, who held Wilson to a 62-34% majority. But in the general Wilson relentlessly pounded home his support for capital punishment and of Proposition 187, to stop state spending on illegal immigrants.. . . Wilson won easily 55-41%, and Republicans won a 41-39 majority in the Assembly.For what it is worth, Bush has an advantage over Kerry on both the death penalty and immigration.
My second example is older, but more famous. Here's the picture that captured the end.
Truman trailed Dewey through most of the campaign, and caught up only in the last few weeks. At the beginning of 1948, a large majority of voters had decided that Truman did not deserve re-election, but many of them changed their minds as they compared the two candidates. And Dewey? Just like Kerry, he thought he only had to show up to win.
- 4:27 PM, 4 August 2004 [link]
CAIR Has Convictions: The Council on American-Islamic Relations is sometimes described as a civil rights organization, and sometimes as a pressure group. So are groups such as the American Muslim Council, founded by Abdurahman Alamoudi. As I mentioned in this post, at best those descriptions are incomplete. Daniel Pipes has some examples.
Alamoudi is hardly the only high-profile, seemingly non-violent leader of an Islamist organization to associate with terrorists. At the Council on American-Islamic Relations, five staffers and board members have been accused or convicted of terrorism-related charges and the same has happened with leaders of the Islamic Center of Greater Cleveland, Holy Land Foundation, Benevolence International Foundation, and the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom.Today, Seattle PI columnist Robert Jamieson, perhaps unaware of these convictions, makes this statement.
So, are Muslim and Arab Americans with us -- as they've shown time and again -- or against us -- as recent government actions suggest they could be?When officers of organizations as "mainstream" in the Muslim community as CAIR and the AMC are arrested and convicted for terrorism, then I think we can abandon the "could be". Some Muslims here in the United States, even some who are American citizens, are certainly against us.
(If you read my previous post, you may be wondering whether the reporter, Janet Tu, ever replied. Not yet. Unless she has been on vacation, I think it fair to assume that she knew about CAIR's convictions — and chose not to tell the readers.)
- 1:05 PM, 4 August 2004 [link]
Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 continues to draw interesting fans, first the terrorist organization, Hezbollah, and now Communist dictator Fidel Castro.
"Fahrenheit 9/11" was shown in prime time on Cuba's government-run television on Thursday after playing to packed theaters for a week.(To be fair to Moore, I must add that Fidel showed a pirated copy.)
It's worth noting that this Reuters story is told entirely from Fidel's point of view, with no reaction at all from the target of the film, the Bush administration.
- 7:33 AM, 4 August 2004 [link]
The Second Narrative Surfaces: Back in March, I noted that there were three narratives about John Kerry and Vietnam. The first, which he has been pushing, makes him out to be a selfless hero. The second makes him out to be a reckless, publicity seeking hotdog, or worse. The third, which has drawn the least attention, is about his time as an anti-war protester. Nearly all journalists have assumed the truth of the first narrative and ignored the second and third.
Now the second narrative has surfaced. Drudge has released charges from the book, Unfit for Command.
There is, as the current third place ranking for the book at Amazon shows, some interest in this narrative. Will "mainstream" journalists cover this narrative now? Only with the greatest reluctance. But it will get out anyway.
Which of the first two narratives is closer to the truth? I honestly don't know, though there appears to be more evidence for the second than the first. And, as I said in March, the third narrative is the one that interests me most for what it shows about Kerry's picture of the world.
(As always, I must mention that Drudge, like other journalists, is not always right.
Steve Antler guesses that the Drudge item explains the jump in Bush's chances of re-election. He's probably right.)
- 6:52 AM, 4 August 2004 [link]
Bacteria, Speculators, And Voting For Incumbents: In my first election prediction, I noted that George Bush would have an advantage as an incumbent. But why should he? There is a surprisingly general rule that explains that, and much else. Let me give three examples, the first two from Harold Morowitz's "Bulls, Bears, and Bacteria", which can be found in his entertaining collection of essays, The Wine of Life.
One day, Morowitz attended a seminar on the movements of bacteria, which are governed by simple rules:
By processes as yet incompletely understood, bacteria sense the time rate of change of molecules in their environment. They then respond by determining the length of time between tumbles. [changes in direction]. Thus if a bacterium is swimming toward a higher concentration of food it waits long periods between changes of direction, while if it finds it is swimming away from food it quickly tumbles.The same is true, in reverse, with repellents.
On the same day, Morowitz read the Handbook for Commodity Speculators from Merrill Lynch, and ran across this passage.
This is just another way of saying, "Cut your losses short and let your profits run," which is a basic principle in any kind of successful speculation.On Sunday, the Democratic mayor of St. Paul, Randy Kelly, endorsed President Bush, giving this reason.
"George Bush and I do not agree on a lot of issues," Kelly said in a statement. "But in turbulent times, what the American people need more than anything is continuity of government, even with some imperfect policies."See the general principle in all three examples? If things are improving, don't change course. If things are getting worse, do. In the United States, things improve far more often than they get worse, and so incumbents as different as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton will usually have an advantage when they seek re-election.
(Incumbents in House seats have other advantages, notably the accumulation of favors they can do for individual constituents over time.)
- 4:10 PM, 3 August 2004 [link]
Fifth Election Prediction: In March, I made my first formal election prediction, that President Bush would win with 59 percent of the popular vote. I updated it in April and then again in May, that time lowering it to 58 percent of the popular vote. In July, I left it at 58 percent.
As always, I must stress that these predictions are conditional on two assumptions:
First, my assumptions. I am going to assume that the consensus among economists is correct and that the next 8 months will show solid economic growth and gains in employment. I am also going to assume that there will not be anything dramatic like another massive terrorist attack on the United States or a war somewhere that involves the United States. To some extent these two assumptions balance each other. If the economy does not perform well, Bush will be hurt; if something dramatic happens, Bush will probably be helped. (Almost all dramatic foreign events, even disasters like the Bay of Pigs invasion, help the president at least in the short term.)I think those are reasonable assumptions, but will not quarrel with anyone who says that life is full of surprises. (There is another assumption underlying my analysis mentioned in my first post. I believe that the Republican and Democratic parties have roughly equal numbers of voters currently. I'll have a post discussing that assumption next week.)
This month, I am staying with my prediction that President Bush will win 58 percent of the two party vote. The "thud" after the Democratic convention supports my argument that Bush is a better campaigner than Kerry. Although the economy slowed a little in the second quarter (at least according to the preliminary statistics), we already see signs that it is picking up again. Finally, I expect that the return of Karen Hughes to the campaign (starting August 15) will sharpen the Bush message. I will leave it to you to decide whether I am being stubborn or principled.
(As before, let me review some of the other predictions. Ray Fair has run his economic model with new data and lowered his prediction of Bush's share of the two party vote from 58.74 percent to 57.48 percent. Fair changed his prediction because his economic model now predicts one fewer "good news" quarter during the Bush presidency. Alan Lichtman has not changed his keys prediction, which I am adding here for the first time. Nine of his thirteen keys favor the Republican candidate, that is, Bush. (Professor Lichtman is not planning to vote for Bush, by the way.)
All the other predictions are worse for Bush than a month ago, though not always worse than a week ago. The Tradesports betters gave Bush a 54.2 percent chance of winning, when I checked this afternoon, down from 54.8 percent a month ago. Ron Faucheux of Campaigns and Elections has lowered his prediction again, and now gives Bush a 50.5 percent chance to win, down from 51.7. The options market run by the University of Iowa has worsened slightly for Bush; as of this afternoon, Kerry has a 49.3 percent chance to win, up from 47.4 percent from last month.
Finally, here's Scott Elliot's current election projection, which is not a prediction but a measurement of where we are currently. His latest now puts Bush behind in both the electoral college and the popular vote.)
- 2:58 PM, 3 August 2004
Correction: Professor Fair has updated his prediction, contrary to what I wrote originally. I have corrected the text above.
- 7:30 AM, 5 August 2004 [link]
Ad Subcanem: I now have, thanks to an alert reader of Moira Breen, a name for the fallacy I complained of here. If we say that one side is right because they are the weaker party, or the underdog, then we are committing the ad subcanem fallacy, appealing to the underdog. (Ad means to in Latin, sub under, and canem dog, my correspondent tells me.)
The classic example, I think, is the way public opinion in much of Europe switched on Israel. Before the 1967 war, Isarel was seen as the underdog, bravely standing up to its larger and more powerful Arab neighbors. After the 1967 war, people began to see the Palestinian refugees as the underdogs and to sympathize with them against Israel. Arab propagandists have shrewdly appealed to this by stressing the weakness of the Palestinians. (Whether they believe those arguments themselves is an interesting question.)
I'm sure you've seen similar arguments with different parties. Many thought, for example, that Microsoft was cute when it was small, but came to have doubts as it grew.
Since the United States is very rarely the underdog, our enemies will often use this fallacy in their propaganda.
Ad subcanem fallacies are especially likely to fool those on the left, where it is almost an article of faith that the underdog is always in the right. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't, as the examples of the Palestinians, the IRA, most common criminals, and many other nasties show.
The ad subcanem fallacy is often combined with another fallacy that Moira mentions, the appeal to misery, ad misericordiam. Again, this is often used to indict Israel. The Palestinians are miserable; therefore Israel is in the wrong.
One question remains. As I mentioned in the original post, I am not sure just how universal this appeal is. I have read that most cultures do not share the Western chivalrous rules that the weaker should should be preferred socially. We say (or used to say), "ladies first", but most cultures do not. For similar reasons some cultures may prefer the top dog in quarrels, or as Osama bin Laden said, the "stronger horse".
(I once read that some Indonesians switched to "ladies first" during World War II, but not out of what I what I would call chivalry. The men feared land mines and sent their wives ahead to protect themselves.)
- 1:30 PM, 3 August 2004 [link]
Poor Scheduling: This might cause trouble.
President Bush and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry will be just a few blocks apart when they make overlapping campaign appearances Wednesday morning in downtown Davenport. [Iowa]This reminds me, believe it or not, of a similar problem at Shakespeare's Globe Theater. When I toured the replica in London, I learned that there was a great rivalry between Shakespeares's fans and Christopher Marlowe's fans. Marlowe's theater was just a few blocks away, patrons of both drank as they watched the plays, the plays at the two theaters often let out at about the same time, and you can imagine the rest. I am not an expert on those times, but I believe that most men in Shakespeare's time carried at least a knife with them constantly. Marlowe himself was stabbed and killed in an argument over a bill at an inn.
Fortunately the competing rallies in Davenport are unlikely to attract many who are both armed and drunk.
- 10:20 AM, 3 August 2004 [link]
The Frenchurian Candidate: That's what a caller to the Rush Limbaugh talk show dubbed Senator Kerry. Unfair? Of course. But is it completely unfair? Or does it catch something about the senator as unfair tags sometimes do? I think so.
The combination implies two things about Kerry, that he is the French candidate and, playing on the movie title, that he is not what he presents to the public. The first, on some level, is indisputable, with evidence from both sides of the Atlantic. The French, including Kerry relatives, are so pleased with the man that they are saying — in public — that they must be quiet about their support for Kerry. (The French effort to conceal their support for Kerry reminds me of a toddlers trying to keep secrets, but that's another matter.) And on this side of the Atlantic, it is no secret that Kerry gives all the blame to Bush for not getting along with France (and Germany). That position — and I don't think Kerry is taking it purely for political reasons — makes sense only if you identify with the French.
That one or two other presidents have had trouble getting along with the French, that the French put weakening American influence at the center of their foreign policy years before Bush even ran for the presidency, does not affect Kerry's thinking. If we don't get along with the French, it is our fault. (Those who think that judgment unfair are invited to find one example of Kerry blaming the French in a dispute — during this last year.)
Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had an article (not available free on line) on the French ambassador to NATO, Benoit d'Aboville, who says the following:
Therefore it's true that on many issues, we will be, at least at the start, on the opposite side from the U. S.That seems plain enough to me, and should be plain enough to Kerry. If you think that this is just the loose talk of one ambassador, consider this. Mr. d'Aboville was chosen for the position after long experience in other diplomatic posts — and is infamous for undiplomatic behavior, storming out of meetings and the like. He was chosen, in other words, in part because he would be a pain in the neck, for us and for most of the other members of NATO.
The second charge in the tag, the Manchurian part, is more explosive. The essence is that Kerry is not what he seems to be. (Since there are always a few literal minded people out there, I must add that of course I am not saying that Kerry is controlled by any evil conspiracy.) Let me try to be precise. Nearly every candidate for any office tries to present his best side to the public and tries to conceal his defects. But I think Kerry takes this much farther than most.
Consider his attitude toward the Vietnam War. Though he has been quite modest about mentioning it, you may have heard that Senator Kerry served in Vietnam for four months. Afterwards, as part of the anti-war movement, he said that he committed war crimes and once described the war as a complete loss. Now, he wants to be honored for his service there with the presidency. So what does he now think about the Vietnam War? Would he, for example, accept the late Senator Moynihan's description of it as a blundering effort to do good? Or does he still see it as a fundamentally evil enterprise? I honestly don't know, and I like to think that I pay more attention to these matters than most. Kerry could make his position clear; he has chosen not to. And the same is true of many other foreign policy questions.
Why has Kerry chosen to conceal many of his views on foreign policy? Presumably, because he thinks they might offend some voters.
As the campaign goes on, I (and many others) will be trying to determine what those views actually are, mostly through an examination of Kerry's record in the Senate.
- 8:25 AM, 3 August 2004 [link]
Why Is Al Qaeda Targeting Financial Institutions? We have, Tom Ridge tells us, specific intelligence information that Al Qaeda may be targeting financial institutions.
Intelligence information gathered and analyzed since Friday, intelligence officials said, indicates that Al Qaeda has moved ahead with plans to use car bombs or other modes of attack against prominent financial institutions, including the New York Stock Exchange and the Citigroup buildings in Manhattan; Prudential Financial in Newark; and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington.Why just financial institutions? On 9/11, there were attacks on financial centers (the twin towers), a military target (the Pentagon), and (probably) the government, since most seem to think that flight 93 was aimed at the Capitol. This time, only financial institutions appear to be targeted. Several explanations occur to me. The high value military and political targets may be much harder to attack now. We may have only part of the plan; it is routine for secret organizations to compartmentalize their plans. And, finally, attacks on these targets would be intended to damage the American economy — and, just possibly, George Bush's chances at re-election.
- 3:09 PM, 2 August 2004 [link]
No, Nixon Did Not Say, during the 1968 campaign, that he had a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. Instead a questioner in a crowd used the phrase, and it was picked up by the wire service and ascribed to Nixon.
Although he did not say so, did Nixon have such a plan? I think so, for several reasons. First, whatever else one may say about Nixon, he always had a plan. He thought strategically about nearly everything, and so I am sure that he had some plan in 1968. Second, almost as soon as he came into office, Nixon sent Kissinger on a series of diplomatic missions intended to further divide the Chinese from the Soviets. Nixon intended to play off the two Communist powers against each other, and to some extent succeeded. Third, Nixon understood the limits to American support for the war and began, almost immediately, to shift the burden of the fight over to the South Vietnamese.
But Nixon could not say that he had a plan, since he understood the delicacy of discussing it while negotiations were going on. Whichever Vietnamese side thought they would do better under Nixon would have a good reason to stall until after the election. If they did, then Johnson and Humphrey could claim that Nixon was blocking a peace settlement for his own political gains. So Nixon said little about his plan for Vietnam, both because that was the right thing to do, and because he did not want to risk the backlash if he appeared to be blocking a peace settlement.
(Kudos to "Big Trunk" of Power Line for quickly making this correction.)
- 1:32 PM, 2 August 2004 [link]
Michael Moore Versus The Pantagraph: It is always hard to say how much Michael Moore believes his own "documentaries". When pressed on individual points, he sometimes retreats to calling them comedies. Perhaps, as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman might say, Moore believes in their "essential truth", but not their truth.
With Fahrenheit 9/11, it is especially difficult, since the movie has an obvious political purpose, to defeat President Bush this November. About the time the movie came out, Moore blustered that he had a legal defense team all ready to defend the truth of everything in it — which made me suspect that the movie included some real whoppers.
A lawsuit from a small Illinois newspaper, the Bloomington Pantagraph, strengthens my suspicions.
The Pantagraph has a message for Michael Moore, creator of the movie hit, "Fahrenheit 9/11":Offhand, I can not think of an explanation for this "editing" that does not make Moore a deliberate liar. Not someone who is wrong, or someone who is being deceptive, but a deliberate, out and out liar.
I hope the Pantagraph wins their lawsuit.
- 9:31 AM, 2 August 2004 [link]
A Thud, Not A Bounce: Presidential candidates nearly always get a brief "bounce" in the polls from their conventions. The great exception, until now, was McGovern in 1972, who actually lost a few points after his convention.
If you saw early news stories on the voters' reaction to the candidate, you probably saw a reference to this Newsweek poll, which found a "baby bounce" for Kerry.
Coming out of the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Sen. John Kerry now holds a seven-point lead over President George W. Bush (49 percent to 42 percent) in a three-way race with independent Ralph Nader (3 percent), according to the latest NEWSWEEK poll. The poll was taken over two nights, both before and after Kerry's acceptance speech. Respondents who were queried after Kerry's Thursday night speech gave the Democrat a ten-point lead over Bush. Three weeks ago, Kerry's lead was three points.I ignored these poll results, because Newsweek polled the wrong group, something they do not admit until the very end of the article.
For the NEWSWEEK poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates interviewed 1,010 adults aged 18 and older July 29 and July 30 by telephone.Every place in the article where the writer, Brian Braiker, says "voters", he should say "adults". Not all adults are citizens, much less registered voters. And not all registered voters will vote, something obvious to anyone who has looked at turnout statistics.
Gallup did it right and found a "thud" among likely voters.
A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey, conducted on Friday and Saturday following the Democratic convention in Boston, finds that the presidential race remains close, with President George W. Bush receiving 50% support among likely voters, and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry 47%. Among the larger group of registered voters, Kerry leads 50% to 47%.Adding Nader to the choices increases Bush's lead among likely voters to 4 percent. If I were advising Kerry on political strategy, I would be sweating a little.
(Technical questions: How do pollsters decide which respondents are "adults", "registered voters", or "likely voters"? By asking them, using different questions for each category. The first, "adults" is fairly obvious. You've probably been asked those questions by a pollster yourself.
The second and third categories are more difficult. Asking someone whether they are a registered voter is not correct for all states, since some have same day registration. (I don't know whether the polling firms adjust their questions for state laws, but they should.) And some people don't know whether they are registered, and others will say they are registered, because they think they ought to be. Likely voters are the hardest of all. Pollsters use a number of questions to identify them and then weight them according to a formula. Here's Gallup's vague explanation of their questions and formula.
Results based on likely voters are based on the subsample of 763 survey respondents deemed most likely to vote in the November 2004 general election, according to a series of questions measuring current voting intentions and past voting behavior. For results based on the total sample of likely voters, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is 4 percentage points. The likely voter model assumes a turnout of 55% of national adults, consistent with recent presidential elections. The likely voter sample is weighted down to match this assumption.The last two sentences make an important point. If you assume that the turnout will be 50 percent (or 60 percent), then the results for the likely voters will be different.
(Different polling firms use different questions to identify likely voters and different formulas to weight them. As a result, Gallup and, for example, Zogby, could poll exactly the same people — and come to slightly different results. )
Should Nader be included in these polls, since he may not be on the ballot in all states? That's uncertain. For now, I would agree with Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics, who is including Nader for his main results, but may switch to two-way contests if Nader fails to make the ballot in critical states.)
- 7:40 AM, 2 August 2004
More: USA Today provides a menu of possible explanations for the thud; Dick Morris, who is never uncertain about these things, says it was the switch to foreign policy on the last day. (I think there's something in what he says.)
- 8:58 AM, 3 August 2004 [link]
Worth Reading: The Parade Magazine cover story on retired General Tommy Franks, who led our forces to victories in Afghanistan and Iraq. (To read it on line, you'll have to wait a week. Begining August 8, you'll be able to find it here, after you jump through some hoops.)
Here are three bits from the printed version to whet your appetite.
In January 2003, two months before the Iraq War, Jordan's King Abdullah and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak both told Franks that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons, or WMD. According to Franks, Mubarak told him point blank: "Saddam has WMD — biologicals, actually — and he will use them on your troops."Which will prolong the war. Buy it and read the whole thing.
- 11:20 AM, 1 August 2004 [link]
Sandy Berger Took Classified Documents From The Archives: Or did he? On Friday, this story appeared.
The Wall Street Journal on Friday quoted National Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper as saying her agency is "confident" that no originals are lost — but she couldn't be reached and other officials declined to confirm that claim.ABC picked this up and added that Berger had been cleared. The Journal reporter either has a giant scoop, or has made a big error, because, shortly after, Susan Cooper disagreed.
A senior spokeswoman for the National Archives denied a report Friday morning that Archives officials have cleared former Kerry-Edwards campaign adviser Sandy Berger on charges that he withheld documents from the 9/11 Commission.Yesterday, listening to the local NPR station, KUOW, I heard two people, one of them newsman Daniel Schorr, say that Berger deserved an apology from the Republicans. Maybe, maybe not. One thing is almost certain, though. Daniel Schorr and company will not apologize for their attack on Republicans, if the charges against Berger turn out to be true.
(The Journal story seems a bit implausible to me. In such investigations, officials ordinarily do not speak on the record until charges are filed or the suspect is cleared. And, for what it is worth, I could not find the ABC story in a quick search of their news site.)
- 10:47 AM, 1 August 2004 [link]
John And Teresa And John And Elizabeth Go To Wendy's: Not everyone there is friendly.
John Kerry's heavily hyped cross-country bus tour stumbled out of the blocks yesterday, as a group of Marines publicly dissed the Vietnam War hero in the middle of a crowded restaurant.Teresa does not appear to be familiar with the menu.
The Edwardses had hearty meals of burgers and fries and shared a chocolate Frosty. Teresa Heinz Kerry, apparently unfamiliar with the Wendy's menu, pointed at a picture of chili and asked the cashier what it was before ordering a bowl. Her husband had the same, along with a Frosty.(Like many others, I disagree with Teresa Heinz Kerry, but rather like her. Her public persona seems far more genuine than her husband's. Her convention speech was far more honest than his, and had some genuine optimism at the end.)
Teresa may have been puzzled because her usual fare comes from fancier places.
While Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards, and their families were having a "lite" lunch at Wendy's in the Town of Newburgh Friday, drumming up local support right after the national convention in Boston, their real lunches were waiting on their bus.Too bad the Kerrys didn't try Wendy's hamburgers, which are pretty good, as fast food goes.
(The Edwards' tradition of celebrating their anniversary by having a meal at Wendy's, just as they did after their wedding, seems truly romantic. From everything I have read they have a solid marriage, and I hope this forray into politics doesn't damage it.)
- 8:32 AM, 1 August 2004 [link]
Who Is Registering Voters Here? Among others, a Canadian Muslim, originally from Somalia, working for CAIR.
[Abdullahi] Jama is heading a voter-registration drive on behalf of Hate Free Zone Campaign of Washington, a civil-rights advocacy group, and the Seattle branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Seattle). The groups are hoping to reach as many as 10,000 Muslims statewide — either new voters or those who've registered but are not on the mailing list of either group.Does the reporter, Janet Tu, know of the many arrests of CAIR officials for connections to terrorism and choose not to tell her readers, or does she not know?
This should settle the question, if it wasn't already, of which presidential candidate most terrorists prefer.
(Stefan Sharkansky has demolished the "Hate Free Zone" nonsense more than once; here's his latest)
- 6:41 AM, 1 August 2004 [link]