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October 2004, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Facilitating Vote Fraud:  Changes in our election rules, especially those made by the 1993 "Motor Voter" Act, have made fraud more common.  The growth in voting by mail has made vote fraud almost risk free.  The stupid errors of most of those who are caught make me think, not that those who commit vote fraud are mostly stupid, but that we are catching only the stupid ones, the ones, for instance, who do not check the obituaries before they mail ballots with some elderly person's name on them.

An analogy may illuminate what has happened.  Suppose that a manager in a retail chain wanted, for whatever reason, to encourage theft by employees.  It would be easy to think of ways for the manager to do that, from getting rid of cash registers to keeping poorer inventories.  Anything that made it easier to steal would increase theft, since there are always some who will be tempted.  But the manager would have no direct connection to the theft.  He would have facilitated it, but there would be no way to prosecute him for the theft.

Few journalists understand this new pattern of vote fraud; they still think that vote fraud is something committed by parties in an organized fashion.  To return to my analogy, they look for robbery by a gang, rather than pilfering by employees.  You can see an example of this kind of mistake in this Seattle Times column.   The author, Danny Westneat, is convinced that, at least here in Washington state, we need not fear vote fraud.  In the past, I would have agreed with Westneat, mostly.  Washington has had cases of vote fraud, notably in Pierce county, but it is not as common here as it is in many other states.

Let me do two simple, back of the envelope, calculations to show why Westneat is wrong, and that we do have to fear fraud — even in places that have had relatively clean elections in the past.

First, let's look at the vote by non-citizens.  Washington state has a population of about 6 million; of these, about 6 percent* are non-citizens.  If half of them are adults, then there are 180,000 non-citizen adults, who are encouraged to register when they get driver's licenses.  If 1 in 20 vote, as the process has encouraged them to do, then there will be 9,000 votes by non-citizens.  These votes will probably go to the Democrats by a margin of 2 to 1, giving the Democrats a net gain of 3,000 votes.  Democrat Maria Cantwell defeated Republican Slade Gorton in 2000 by 2,229 votes — officially, that is.

Some may say that 1 in 20 is far too high.  It may be.  I know of only one race in which we have a good number, the disputed 1996 House race between Robert Dornan and Lorna Sanchez.  After the race, Congressional investigators found 2,538 non-citizens on the rolls, of whom 624 had voted.  That we have no real estimates, or even other examples, is a scandal in itself.  (If you want some striking examples of non-citizens who have registered, see this Michelle Malkin column.   And yes, a few of them are terrorists, by any definition.)

Second, let's consider cheaters.  In the 2000 election, about 2.4 million people voted in Washington state.  Let's suppose that 1 in 1,000 cheated in some way, voted twice under different names, voted for some other person, or set up false registrations.  Let's suppose further that each of these cheaters averaged 5 illegal votes.  Then there would be a total of 12,000 illegal votes.  Given what we know about the tendency of felons to vote Democratic (along with journalists and academics), it is probably fair to guess that at least 2 in 3 of these 12,000 illegal votes went to the Democrats, giving them a net gain of 4,000 votes.

There are other sources of illegal votes, but these two are probably the main ones in Washington state.  These estimates are rough, as they must be, given our lack of knowledge.  Here is my overall guesstimate for Washington state, which has relatively clean elections.  If the Democratic margin, statewide, is less than 100 votes, then illegal votes will certainly have tipped the election.  If the Democratic margin is 1,000 votes, then illegal votes will almost certainly have tipped the election.  If the Democratic margin is 10,000 votes, then illegal votes probably did not tip the election.

Finally, let me add a question for those who find my estimates far too high.  Can you prove that they are wrong?  Without tighter controls on registration and voting we simply can not know how many fraudulent votes there are in each election, just as a retail chain without cash registers can not know how much its employees may be stealing.

(*I am taking the 6 percent from the Almanac of American Politics, which got it from, I suppose, the 2000 census.  The Almanac actually says 6.1 percent, which is far too precise.  Given the obvious problems of counting non-citizens, many of them illegal, the true figure may be anywhere from 5 percent to 8 or 9 percent, or even higher.)
- 7:27 AM, 31 October 2004
Update:  I have begun calling this "distributed vote fraud".
- 6:08 AM, 17 November 2004   [link]


Seanet Out Again:  My service provider is blocking access to my site (and theirs) again.  If you couldn't get to the site earlier, that's why.

In the past, Seanet has said that these outages were caused by faulty disk drives.   I wonder about that, because they always (almost always?) occur on weekends, which leads me to think that they have a software problem, perhaps some bug in a script.
- 6:02 AM, 31 October 2004   [link]


He's Baaaack:  Probably.  Since early in 2002 I have thought that there was a 70 percent chance that Osama bin Laden was dead.    The audio tapes that surfaced from time to time were not, I thought, convincing evidence that he was alive, and the lack of clearly dated video tapes suggested strongly that someone was faking the other evidence.  On the other hand, American intelligence continued to insist that he was alive, though I was never quite sure why they thought so.

Now I have changed the odds and would say that there is a 90-95 percent chance that he is alive.   I am not certain because video tapes can be faked, and I am sure we have experts considering that possibility.  For that matter, the Arab world has actors, and it is not impossible that we saw an impostor on the tape.

Since it is likely that bin Laden is back, we have to guess what he intends by his message.   (And even if he isn't we would want to know what al Qaeda intends, assuming the message is from them.)  Nearly everyone seems to think, given the timing of the release, that bin Laden was trying to influence the American election.

But which way?  The most likely answer is that he is trying to defeat Bush.  (And it is important to put it that way.  It is not that he wants Kerry to win, but that he wants Bush to lose.  Let me go back to an analysis I made earlier this year, responding to the argument by Mickey Kaus and others that some terrorists might want Bush to win.  I am sure that is true for at least a few terrorists, though I see no evidence that most of them do not wish Bush dead, and if that is not possible, defeated.

If a terrorist did want to help Bush in the election, the best way, I suggested, would be to give Bush a win just before the election, perhaps by betraying a rival.  If a terrorist wanted to hurt Bush in the election, then the best way might be to inflict some defeats on him in the war on terror.  But that might not work because, if they came just before the election, the voters might rally around the president as they usually do in a crisis.

Bin Laden may understand that another attack, even a successful one, might help Bush.  So, he chose another way to show that Bush was losing the war on terror.  Borrowing, it would seem, from Michael Moore, bin Laden argued that Bush was deceiving the American people and that Bush was a failure from the beginning in the war on terror — which is just the kind of argument that I said terrorists who want to oust Bush should use.

And there is another reason to think that bin Laden was trying to defeat Bush.  Let's suppose that the earlier tape from "Azzam the American", threatening us with"rivers of blood" was part of bin Laden's plan.   That tape threatened us with great losses.  Bin Laden said that we could avoid those losses by changing our policies.  And which candidate should you choose if you want a change in policy?  That's not hard to figure out, is it?

All this is, of course, speculation.  And only partly informed speculation at that, since the full transcript of the tape has not been released.  But I think it fits the publicly available evidence.
- 2:54 PM, 30 October 2004   [link]


Boom!  That's what happened to some of the "missing" explosives that CBS, the New York Times, and John Kerry have been trying to make into an issue.
A U.S. Army officer came forward Friday and said a team from the 3rd Infantry Division took about 250 tons of munitions and military material from the Al-Qaqaa munitions base soon after Saddam Hussein's regime fell last year.
And what did he do with the munitions?  He blew them up, following standard Army doctrine, and common sense.  (I can't help but think that blowing up 250 tons of explosives must be great fun, by the way.)

This issue has always seemed absurd, for the reasons given in this Washington Post analysis, written before today's press conference.
U.S. military commanders estimated last fall that Iraqi military sites contained 650,000 to 1 million tons of explosives, artillery shells, aviation bombs and other ammunition.  The Bush administration cited official figures this week showing about 400,000 tons destroyed or in the process of being eliminated.  That leaves the whereabouts of more than 250,000 tons unknown.
. . .
"There is something truly absurd about focusing on 377 tons of rather ordinary explosives, regardless of what actually happened at al Qaqaa," Anthony H. Cordesman, a senior analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in an assessment yesterday.  "The munitions at al Qaqaa were at most around 0.06 percent of the total."
It has always seemed truly absurd to me for just this reason.  That some tiny portion of Saddam's munitions had been lost in the confusion of war is what anyone who knows military history would expect.  And the fact that the story had holes in it from the very beginning only made it worse.  If the charges that the New York Times was making, soon to be echoed by Kerry, were true, they were trivial.   But the New York Times had no idea whether the charges were true, as a close reading of their own story shows.

Why did the New York Times and John Kerry go out on a limb with a story that may not be true, and is trivial if it is true?  I don't know, of course, but I have an explanation that fits the evidence.  John Kerry, I learned from the Almanac of American Politics, has long felt contempt for George W. Bush.  So do many in the "mainstream" media.  And their contempt takes a particular form; they believe that Bush is incompetent.  Believing that leads them to fit every story, however trivial or dubious, into the theory.  If ammunition was missing, it must be because Bush is incompetent, even though he was nowhere near the scene and similar things happen in every war.

One would think that, having lost so many battles to Bush, they might want to reconsider their theory.  That neither the New York Times nor John Kerry have done that suggests to me that neither is as open to evidence as one would like.
- 10:39 AM, 29 October 2004   [link]


Wow!  Today's Seattle Times has two spectacular aerial pictures of Mt. St. Helens, showing the steam plume and some of the changes in the crater, as the lava pushes up from under one of the glaciers.

(The article accompanying the pictures has some interesting information on studies that help scientists predict eruptions, sometimes.

I grabbed a series of pictures from the volcano cam on Wednesday and may put them up for you after the election is over.  You can find more pictures here.)
- 7:55 AM, 29 October 2004   [link]


Baghdad Jim hit for 600K.
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has ordered Congressman Jim McDermott to pay $60,000 plus attorney fees that could total more than $545,000 to a Republican congressman who sued McDermott for leaking his cellphone conversations to news reporters.

In a harshly worded decision received by attorneys this week, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan said McDermott's "willful and knowing misconduct rises to the level of malice in this case."
I see that I'm not the only one who thinks that "malice" best explains the Seattle Congressman's actions.

Despite his illegal actions, McDermott was endorsed by both the Seattle Times and the Seattle PI.   If I recall correctly, the Times said that he represented his district well.  That seems like a nasty slur on the citizens of Seattle, but it is true that crime is higher in Seattle than in the rest of the state.

(Two details about this case not mentioned in the article:  First, the taped conversation was innocuous, but neither McDermott nor the New York Times reporter, Adam Clymer, recognized that, so great was their hate for Newt Gingrich.  Second, McDermott received significant contributions for his legal defense fund from an Iraqi-American with ties to Saddam Hussein.)
- 6:47 AM, 29 October 2004   [link]


Fake Republican?  Maybe.  The Democratic candidate for governor, Christine Gregoire, has been using an effective ad narrated by a woman who claims to be a Republican, but doesn't look much like a Republican.
In a radio ad, Beth Hjalseth of Fircrest identifies herself as a Republican who's crossing party lines to support Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Gregoire.

But Hjalseth's only donations on record have been to Democrats, and her vote in last month's primary — when she chose a Democratic ballot — was her first in Pierce County in at least eight years.
. . .
In the last two years, Hjalseth has given $535 to Gregoire, $250 to Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Smith and $250 to a group fighting to uphold a gay-rights law, according to records available on the Internet from the state's Public Disclosure Commission and the Federal Election Commission.

Those records didn't show any contributions to Republican candidates or committees.
Hjalseth may have been a Republican at one time, may even still think of herself as a Republican, but I wouldn't call her one.  My guess is that Gregoire's campaign was fooled, not that they were trying to deceive.  If so, they showed a little incompetence, not a little dishonesty.

(Those outside Washington state may need to know the state does not register voters by party.

There's a small slip in another Democratic radio ad, this one from Senator Patty Murray.  The woman reading a list of endorsements mispronounces "Yakima" slightly, making me think that the Murray campaign did not choose someone who grew up here to read the script.  That can be a mistake in a state where you still see "Washington Native" bumper stickers from time to time, and where local firms sometimes attack outsiders by mocking their pronunciation of local names.   Besides Yakima, those who didn't grow up here often miss on, among others, Spokane, Sequim, and, of course, Puyallup.  The last, if you are wondering, is pronounced as if the "u" and the "y" were swapped.)
- 11:22 AM, 28 October 2004   [link]


More Evidence We Shouldn't Trust Mail Ballots:  In Florida, someone, either a postal employee or a Broward county worker, may have lost thousands of absentee ballots.
Up to 58,000 absentee ballots may never have reached the Broward County voters who requested them more than two weeks ago, election officials said, and state police are investigating.

Hundreds of people have called the county elections office to complain that they never got their ballots.  The phone system was so overwhelmed some frustrated voters could not get through.

The county election office said the problem involved ballots mailed on Oct. 7-8, though the number of those actually missing was uncertain.  Some absentee ballots mailed on those dates have already been returned to be counted.
Since some of the ballots have arrived, I think it most likely that some were incorrectly addressed, rather than that some were lost by the Post Office.  Broward county, which is controlled by Democrats, has a long history of both election errors and fraud, so the more likely suspect is someone working for the county, rather than someone working for the Post Office.

I have been arguing for years that mailed ballots are simply too subject to error and fraud to be allowed, except for the few who absolutely have no other way to vote.  (And, even for those, we need tighter controls.)  Since mailed ballots need not be secret, those who buy votes almost always use them.  Since there is no check, in most places, except a signature comparison, voting fraudulently by mail is almost risk free, especially in jurisdictions that allow registration by mail.  The Post Office does not lose much mail, but it does lose some.  Most of our Post Office clerks are honest, but we can not be sure that every single one of them will not tamper with the ballots, either when they are sent out, or when they are sent back.  The 2000 presidential election in Oregon (which votes almost entirely by mail) was so close that a single clerk could have tipped the election, probably without much risk of getting caught.  Mailing ballots is as risky as mailing cash.

One last sour thought about the indifference of the media to the risks of mailed ballots, and the fraud often committed using them.  It is hard not to think that most journalists don't care much about this issue because, in general elections, the fraud mostly benefits Democrats.  I don't say that lightly, but it does seem that, when news organizations get interested in this issue, it is generally when the fraud was committed in a Democratic primary.

(Given Broward's history of fraud, I have to mention that it is just possible that there is a nastier explanation for these missing ballots.  Some Democratic activist may have staged this to provide an excuse for a court challenge if Florida is close again.  I don't like to mention that, but given the history of fraud in Broward, it can not be excluded.)
- 8:58 AM, 28 October 2004
Update:  Broward county officials are now saying that the problem was exaggerated in early reports, and that there may not even be a problem.
Fears that thousands of absentee election ballots had gone astray in a hotly contested Florida county appear to have been allayed on Thursday when officials said a far small number were missing.

"The extent of the problem is not going to be as great as it appeared," Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes told a news conference, easing concerns of a resurgence of the kind of problems that dogged the 2000 election.
. . .
She said that instead of having to send out as many as 58,000 replacement ballots, the county would probably only have to resend 10,000 to 15,000.

"I think it was more of a delay than that the ballots were lost," Snipes said.
This now looks even more like incompetence, rather than fraud.
- 8:38 AM, 29 October 2004   [link]


Safire Spots A Roorback:  William Safire thinks that CBS was planning to smear Bush with a last minute attack.
KING: Bill Safire, who's going to keep us safer?  SAFIRE: Let me be non-responsive to your question, Larry, and see if I can move the story of this story al Qa Qaa forward a little bit.   We now know from CBS's admission that CBS planned to broadcast this story, which we call in journalism, a keeper, one that's kept for its greatest impact.  They planned to broadcast it next Sunday night, 36 hours before the polls opened.  That is known as a roar back [roorback, actually].   That's a last-minute, unanswerable story, and it would have been all over the papers Tuesday morning as people went to the polls.  Now, I think that's scandalous.

What happened, because "The New York Times" was working with CBS on the story, and I don't work on the news side of the "Times" at all, so I'm speculating, the "Times," either -- probably from a combination of ethical and competitive standards decided, no, we're not going to hold this story.   We're going to go with it now.  And they went with it on Monday.  And -- but just think for a minute, if the plan had gone ahead, we wouldn't have had this debate this week where it's possible we could shoot some holes in this story or focus on the attack on the integrity of the examination by the troops that were there.

And instead, we would have had a last-minute manipulation of the election.
Note that Safire blames CBS, but gives the New York Times, his employer, an excuse.  I think he is being cute here, and letting the sharper people understand that he damning both of them.

I'll have more to say about the al Qa Qaa story later, not because I think it is important substantively, but because it may be important politically.

(Was this the "dirty Thursday" surprise that I speculated about yesterday?  Maybe, though I see no reason that there can't be more than one last minute smear.  For sure, this Sunday's "60 Minutes" program will not have a segment titled, "How We Keep Trying to Smear Bush — and Keep Failing".

What's the origin of "roorback"?  Here's the explanation from Safire's New Political Dictionary.
As election day drew near in 1844, the Ithaca (N.Y.) Chronicle printed what it claimed was a portion of "A Tour Through the Western and Southern States" by a "Baron Roorback," stating that Democratic candidate James K. Polk had bought forty-three slaves and branded his initials on their shoulders.  Other newspapers picked up the story, which later turned out to be a forgery by an Ithaca abolitionist.
In time, as has happened to other last names, Roorback changed to roorback.

Via this Ann Althouse post at the Instapundit site.)
- 7:19 AM, 28 October 2004   [link]


Clarifying Pat Caddell:  In this post, I noted that Pat Caddell believes that, in presidential races, undecided voters mostly break toward the incumbent.  Most pollsters believe, as you can see in the same post, that undecideds generally (that is, in all races) break for the challenger.

The data support Caddell's argument for presidential elections — if you measure from when undecided voters begin making up their minds.  Today, on the Tony Snow talk show, Caddell added a small qualifier, saying that, near the very end, the few undecideds left might break for the challenger.

Snow isn't as quantitative as I am, so he didn't ask Caddell to be precise.  My guess is that, by the very end, he means the last two or three days, but that's just a guess.  (For what is is worth, the shift back toward the incumbent party in Canada, during their last election, appears to have occurred during the last two or three days.)
- 1:45 PM, 27 October 2004   [link]


Politics May Be Getting Rough in Florida.
A Sarasota man was arrested on an aggravated assault charge Wednesday after he was accused of trying to run down U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris and a group of supporters with his car.

A silver Cadillac sped toward the group at a Sarasota intersection Tuesday evening, then swerved at the last minute before driving off, according to police.

Witnesses gave the car's license plate number to police, and they tracked it to Barry M. Seltzer, 46.

He came to the police station Wednesday and complained to officers that Harris' supporters had impeded traffic.

"I intimidated them with my car," Seltzer told police.
This may not be political; there are jerks who threaten pedestrians this way every day.   But if it is political, Seltzer's comment about intimidation may explain it.  Democrats, especially in Florida, believe that the Republicans habitually intimidate minority voters.
- 1:10 PM, 27 October 2004
More:  Yes, the motive was political, as this Smoking Gun report shows.  (Via Megan McArdle at Instapundit.)

And Democrats do not have a monopoly on threats of violence, as you can see from this story.
An 18-year-old Marine recruit remained in jail on Wednesday, charged with threatening to stab his girlfriend over her choice for president, news partner NewsChannel 5 reported in its noon broadcast.

The enlistee, Steven Scott Soper, of Lake Worth, became enraged Tuesday night when his 18-year-old girlfriend said she was leaving him -- and voting for John Kerry for president
Can't we all agree to settle elections with votes, please?
- 6:18 AM, 28 October 2004   [link]


Kathleen Parker hasn't lost her sense of humor, as she shows by spoofing both candidates in this column.   First, a Bush sample:
"This is just a FAB-ulous example of the cubic forms and zigzag designs that characterize the best of Art Deco.  I adore the terra-cotta facing.  But of course my affection for the style really is a reflection of my lifelong affair with Egyptology as well as my fascination with the Bauhaus School."  Bush critics were quick to suggest that the president is a hypocrite and a phony for apparently concealing his artistic side all these years, preferring to shape a faux-cowboy image in an effort to stimulate his testosterone-rich retro base.
And, next a Kerry sample:
"Of course this fishing expedition has been tons of fun," he began. Then, apparently remembering who he was supposed to be in that particular instant, he corrected himself:

"No, wait, I mean, hell, man, I haven't had this much fun since I was a dadgum Swiftee in Vietnam, much as I hate to bring up the war in which I was wounded three times and received the Silver Star and Bronze Star as a Swift Boat captain.

"But anytime I fish, which I do pretty much whenever I'm not huntin', I can't help remembering one Christmas when my men and I pulled a few fish from the Mekong and, with a couple of bread loaves baked by some local Cambodian women, who were lesbians, we managed to feed a multitude.  It was a miracle — just like embryonic stem cell research."
I think that the Kerry bits work better, but that may just be my partisanship.
- 10:55 AM, 27 October 2004   [link]


Tomorrow Is "Dirty Thursday", the traditional day for smear attacks on an election opponent.  I think the odds favor an attempted smear against Bush, tomorrow or soon after, but I have no idea what it might be.  If you have an idea, please email me and I will add it to this post.

The likely sources of the smear are easier to guess.  There will be smears against Bush from CBS (certainly), the New York Times (almost certainly), other major news organizations (almost certainly), and Democratic operatives (certainly).  Fox and the Wall Street Journal will condemn any smears; most other news organizations will say that they deserve investigation.

(Why do campaigns choose Thursday for these attacks?  To give enough time for the smear to spread, but not enough time for it to be refuted.  Some Iran-Contra indictments were made on either the Thursday or Friday before the 1992 election for just this reason.  (The special prosecutor later admitted choosing the time for maximum political impact, which sounds highly unethical to me.)  The 2000 Bush drunk driving story was dropped on a Thursday or a Friday.

Some attacks, if they come from the media, can be later and still have an impact.  Is there anyone, for instance, who does not suspect that this Sunday's "60 Minutes" program will contain a hit piece attacking Bush?  If I were Karl Rove, I would be watching the program with my ad guys, preparing a reply to run the next day.

What about a "dirty Thursday" attack on John Kerry?  That seems to me far less likely, both for practical and ethical reasons.  The "mainstream" media would be far less likely to transmit it and might even label it a smear.  And I think the Bush campaign has been less willing to use smears than Kerry.)
- 8:38 AM, 27 October 2004   [link]


Eighth Election Prediction: In March, I made my first formal election prediction, that President Bush would win with 59 percent of the two party vote.  I updated it in April and then again in May, that time lowering it to 58 percent of the two party vote.  In July and August, I left it at 58 percent.  In September, I lowered it to 57 percent, citing uncertainties about the number of Republicans.  Last week, I lowered it to 55 percent, because polls show that voters' view of economy has worsened during the year, even though the economy has improved.

As always, I must stress that these predictions are conditional on two assumptions, as I explained in March:
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.)
So far, both assumptions have held, even though voters have lower expectations for the economy than at the beginning of the year.  But surprises are still possible.  Tomorrow is "dirty Thursday", the day often chosen for the dumping of last minute scandals.  Since I have no idea what Democratic operatives or CBS (if you can tell the difference) may have ready for a last minute hit, I am adding a third assumption, that a last minute smear will not affect the results.

This week brought one more piece of evidence that voters have become less positive about the economy in the last few months.
Worries about job prospects drove consumer confidence lower in October for the third consecutive month, a New York-based private research group said Tuesday.  The decline was steeper than expected and raised questions about how consumers will spend during the critical holiday shopping season.

The Consumer Confidence Index dropped 3.9 points to 92.8, down from a revised 96.7 in September, according to The Conference Board.  Analysts had expected a reading of 94.

The October figure is the lowest since March, when the reading was 88.5.  The index had been rising since April, before falling 3 points to 98.7 in August and another 2 points in September.
Bush's support has been rising, in spite of this drop in confidence and other poll evidence that voters do not have a strongly positive view of the economy.  But I think that pessimism has limited the rise in support, and so I am again lowering my estimate of his share of the two party vote, this time from 55 to 54 percent.

(As always, let me review some of the other predictions.  There are a whole set of predictions from Ray Fair and others with mathematical models here.  They range from too close to call to a 60 percent vote share for Bush, bracketing my prediction.  None predict a Kerry victory.  They haven't changed because the page hasn't been updated since the end of August.   There is still a mistake in the table.  Fair is now predicting Bush will win 57.48 percent of the two party vote, not 60 percent.  A model from a consulting firm, Economy.com, predicts Bush will win 373 electoral college votes, which would correspond to a solid popular vote victory, but not a landslide.

The other predictions are not much changed since last week.  The Tradesports betters gave Bush a 56.5 percent chance of winning, when I checked this morning, down from from 58 percent last week.  Most other bookies are offering about the same odds as Tradesports, as you can see in the charts collected here.   The options market run by the University of Iowa has declined for Bush since last week; as of this morning, Bush had a 54.3 percent chance to win, down from 59.4 percent.

Ron Faucheux of Campaigns and Elections has not changed his prediction since last week, and is still giving Bush a 51 percent chance to win.

There is a set of predictions on the electoral college here.
Another week of solid gains for Bush, the second in a row.

While a bare majority (52%) of sites still list Kerry as winning in the Electoral College, and an additional 15% show him as ahead, a supermajority (76%) of updated sites show Bush gaining from last week, with the gains coming both from Kerry (down according to 68% of updated sites) and from states formerly designated as toss-ups/unassigned.
I have not made one yet, but I can say that, if Bush gets 54 percent of the popular vote, he will do better than 300 electoral votes, the current maximum in the set.  (The site, judging from its links, attracts more Democrats than Republicans.)

There are two other sets of predictions, one from the readers of Polipundit, and one from the readers of the Brothers Judd.   The Polipundit readers are, as of this morning, predicting that Bush will win 51.3 percent of the total vote.  The Brothers Judd readers are predicting that Bush will win 51 percent of the vote.  (Both sites probably attract more Republicans than Democrats.)

Finally, here's Scott Elliot's current election projection, which is not a prediction but a measurement of where we are currently.  His latest projection for the electoral college, done today, is a tie.  His latest projection for the popular vote, done Sunday, gives Bush a 1.6 percent lead in the popular vote, up from his previous projection.

I plan to do another prediction on election day, and will do one or more before then, if I think it warranted.  If you know of any serious predictions that I have missed, please let me know.)
- 6:36 AM, 27 October 2004   [link]


Republicans Are Not Always Treated Civilly In This Area:  That's not news, but it is news that Nichole Brodeur, who is not my favorite local columnist, noticed the problem.

In her column, she mentions the following attacks, all but one of them on Republicans.
Here in Seattle, we've wielded paint guns, knives, cars, rocks and even one of those ball-tossing wands used to play fetch with dogs.  Really.
. . .
And then there is Marilyn Sprague of Burien, who has repaired and replaced the Bush-Cheney signs on her front fence three times, had her house and minivan fired upon by a paint gun in the middle of the night, and been flipped off because of the Republican bumper stickers on her car.

"It's really hard," she said. "We have kids."

And we're teaching them valuable lessons, aren't we, with all this live-and-let-live?
And, yes, Republicans are not entirely innocent,  She mentions one example, some one driving over a Kerry sign, and I am sure that local Republicans have stolen more than one sign, something that happens every election.

But in this area, most of the violence and vandalism comes from the Democrats, though you wouldn't know that from the typical news article, such as this one.  To see one of the most leftwing columnists at the Seattle Times make that argument, if only indirectly by her examples, is a pleasure.

(My neighborhood is tamer than most of Seattle, but I have seen Republican signs tampered with just a few blocks away.  As far as I can tell, the Democratic signs on the same corner have been left alone.)
- 5:14 PM, 26 October 2004
Correction:  One of the attacks in the list was against a Democratic sign.  I've corrected the text above.
- 8:06 AM, 27 October 2004   [link]


Another Reason Kerry Is Worried About The Black Vote:  At an Edwards rally in Florida, the signs didn't match the people holding them.
But for all the anecdotal evidence of heavy African-American turnout, there are hints that Kerry might not be doing as strongly as he needs to be.  At a John Edwards rally in St. Petersburg on Saturday, white people held "African-Americans for Kerry-Edwards" placards.
Which may have made the signs somewhat less persuasive.

Via Orrin Judd.
- 4:55 PM, 25 October 2004   [link]


There Won't Be A Draft:  So says Ralph Peters, who knows a little about the military.
There is not going to be a military draft.  No matter who is elected.  No draft.   None.  Period.

Clear enough?

The shameless lies told for political advantage, the immoral scare tactics behind the warnings that President Bush has a "secret plan" to bring back the draft, have reached a new low point in recent American politics.

Sen. John Kerry knows there isn't going to be a draft.

Sen. John Edwards, who doesn't know much else, knows there isn't going to be a draft.

The Democratic National Committee knows there isn't going to be a draft.

And they're all warning us that a draft is on the way — unless, of course, young people vote for the Democratic ticket.
There won't be a draft because the military, almost to a man (and woman) doesn't want a draft, and because it is not necessary.  The logic is simple.  A professional army, which is what we have now, is much better than an amateur army for the conflicts we are fighting, and most of those we are likely to fight.  Large armies of draftees are better only for scenarios in which we face other mass armies, where sheer numbers can outweigh quality.

How much difference does the professionalism make?  I am old enough to remember a study of casualties in the Vietnam War, comparing casualties in the first and second years of our large scale involvement.  About the same number of troops were in the field in both years, but the losses from accidents were twice as high in the second.  Why?  Because in the first year, most of the troops were from the career army.  In the second they were not, and many died because they did not know what they were doing.

One last point.  Although neither Bush nor Kerry is likely to bring back the draft — assuming they could get it through Congress — it is slightly more likely to come back under Kerry, who has advocated mandatory national service, and who would not be the best president for recruitment.

(I also recall — and on this one I may have some details wrong — a bizarre policy in which officers served only 6 months in the field in Vietnam.  The idea was to allow all officers a fair chance at combat experience, which would be crucial to their careers.  However "fair" this might have been to the officer corps, it was a crazy way to fight a war in which local experience was invaluable.)
- 12:54 PM, 25 October 2004   [link]


No Atheists In Foxholes, or in losing presidential campaigns, it would seem.
Appealing to late-deciding voters in explicitly religious terms, Senator John Kerry used the Bible on Sunday to accuse President Bush of trying to scare America, and said his own Catholicism moved him to help those in need but not to "write every doctrine into law."
(Some doctrines, but not every doctrine, I guess.)

I may have missed it, but I don't recall Kerry making such appeals during the primaries.  Nor does the authoritative Almanac of American Politics say that Kerry's religion is important to him.  They do say that he worked with Republican Kit Bond to allow religious organizations to receive direct grants for "early childhood education of at-risk children".   But that's all they say about Kerry and religion.  Neither he nor Teresa, from what I have read, make substantial contributions to religious organizations.  He was, by all accounts, a nominal Catholic — until he began to fear he would lose this presidential election.   (He has had connections for many years with a few radical Catholics, such as Father Berrigan, but I think that it is their radicalism, more than their religion, that attracts him.)

There's no secret about why Kerry has gotten religion late in life.  He needs some votes from believers, notably blacks, as even the New York Times understands.
Al Gore, the former vice president, sprinted across six pulpits Sunday morning to exhort African-Americans to avenge his disputed 2000 defeat in this deadlocked state, while Senator John Kerry hit South Florida, clapping along with the choir at another black church in Fort Lauderdale.
. . .
And on Monday, another Democratic powerhouse is set to take up the cause. Mr. Kerry plans to be joined in Philadelphia - and in a conference call to 1,000 African-American ministers - by perhaps the most popular politician in black America, former President Bill Clinton, who will then head to Florida.

Black voters are crucial for Democrats, and the party has been seeking to galvanize them in record numbers this year.
I would guess that Kerry's conversion has come too late to save his campaign, but we'll see next Tuesday.

(Isn't this kind of campaigning in churches blatantly illegal?  As I understand the tax laws, yes.  Or at least it would be if the campaigning was done by Republicans in mostly white churches.

There are good reasons for keeping churches a little apart from politics; Seattle PI columnist Joel Connelly is right when he makes just that argument.   But will Connelly condemn this law breaking by the Democrats?  Well, hope springs eternal, but I wouldn't bet on it.  Similar campaigning occurs in some Seattle black churches in every election and it hasn't bothered the Seattle PI and Connelly much, if at all.  Why not?  Two reasons:   Partisanship and, though I am sorry to say it, liberal racism.  Many liberal journalists do, in fact, have lower expectations for blacks and black organizations.)
- 9:18 AM, 25 October 2004
More  Jeff Jacoby knows more about John Kerry than I do and is even more suspicious of Kerry's last minute conversion.
I have been following John Kerry's career for 22 years, ever since his 1982 run for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.  I have encountered him in small private gatherings and in large public settings.  I have spoken about him often with people who know him well.  I have read innumerable accounts of his non-political passions and pastimes.  And if at any point during all those years you had asked me whether I thought Kerry was a religious man, I would have answered without hesitation: "No, not at all."
Imagine, just for amusement, what the New York Times would say if Bush had this same background and was now posing as a believer.

Jacoby has some telling numbers on charitable contributions.
As it happens, I have picked this particular bone with Kerry before.  During his Senate re-election campaign in 1996, I wrote a column contrasting his denunciation of Republican greed and heartlessness with his own record of charitable giving.  During the previous six years, it turned out, Kerry had given less than $5,000 to charity -- a minuscule seven-10ths of 1 percent of his gross income for the period.  In some years he had given nothing at all; in others, his charitable donations added up to only a few hundred dollars.  During the same six years, his Republican opponent, former Governor William Weld, had donated to charity nearly $165,000, or more than 15 percent of his gross income.
If Kerry were more than a nominal Catholic, wouldn't he have given his church a little cash from time to time?  As little as $20 every Sunday, not a lot for a senator, would have added up to more than $6,000 over that time.
- 9:53 AM, 27 October 2004   [link]


Endorsements And Self Interest:  This is the season for newspaper endorsements, and, as always, they are written as appeals to the common good.  Over and over you can read something like "we endorse candidate X because she is best for the country" (or state, or city, or whatever).  Interest groups, especially labor unions, are more frank; their endorsements usually read something like "we endorse candidate X because he is best for our members" (who deserve more, of course).

Endorsements from bloggers mostly read like newspaper endorsements, appealing to the common good, rather than self interest.  I suppose, given the number of bloggers, that there must be a few who endorse candidate Z because they will give the blogger a job, or because they are married to their sister, or some other self interested reason.  But I haven't seen any examples of of such arguments.

I am experienced enough or, if you prefer, cynical enough, to think that self interest sometimes explains blogger endorsements, though they are not as frank about it as interest groups.   Let me add that, often, bloggers fool themselves.  They go through what they think is a rational process, but they end up making a decision in their own interest, which does not coincide with the nation's.

Let me give an example.  Suppose an untenured professor is trying to decide who to endorse in this election, Bush or Kerry.  In most departments, at nearly all American colleges and universities, that professor will help their career by endorsing Kerry (with, of course, some qualifications to show that they have thought hard about the question).  (If you need an example of how this works, see this op-ed by Harvard professor Ruth Wisse, who has endorsed Bush — but understands why those without tenure might not do the same.)

Self interest would lead many writers and journalists to endorse Kerry, for similar reasons.   The editors who buy their pieces mostly back Kerry.  An endorsement of Kerry will not help them much, but an endorsement of Bush could hurt their career considerably.  A local example: Decades of experience have shown that the Seattle PI — which claims to value diversity — will not hire a moderate or conservative to write on politics, not even the token conservative that many newspapers have.  (And, no, Bill Virgin is not an exception, since he is confined to business stories.)

One can think of similar situations on the other side, in which a person could gain by endorsing Bush, though I think the pressure to conform in mostly Republican groups is less than in mostly Democratic groups.  Still, I am sure there are some who will endorse Bush because it is in their self interest, often, just as with many of those who endorse Kerry, unconsciously.

I am old enough so that I am not surprised or shocked to see people acting in their self interest — even as they claim to be acting in the public interest.  But I do think that bloggers who make endorsements should think about how their self interest may affect their decision — before they make an endorsement.

(What about newspaper endorsements?  Do they reflect self interest?  Yes and no.   They often reflect the self interest of the editorial writers, but not always the interest of the newspapers.  The writers gain the respect of other journalists by endorsing Kerry, but will, in many areas, lose newspaper readers.

Editor: And what about your self interest?  As far as I can tell, I have little to gain or lose by endorsing either candidate.  I don't have ads here, or ask for contributions, so there is no money involved.  Whichever candidate I endorse some of my friends will be hurt, and others will be pleased, though none should be surprised.)
- 7:38 AM, 26 October 2004   [link]


Science And Bush:   There has been a series of stories in the New York Times, such as this one, claiming that scientists are hostile to the Bush administration.  Unquestionably, some are, just as some scientists are hostile to every administration.  But does the evidence really justify this beginning?
Why is science seemingly at war with President Bush?

For nearly four years, and with rising intensity, scientists in and out of government have criticized the Bush administration, saying it has selected or suppressed research findings to suit preset policies, skewed advisory panels or ignored unwelcome advice, and quashed discussion within federal research agencies.
Science seemingly at war with President Bush?  What evidence does Andrew Revkin supply for that comic book exaggeration?  Not much, and what evidence he supplies is mostly flawed.

Let me start with the worst example, the Union of Concerned Scientists.  Here's what Revkin says about them:
Indeed, much of the criticism has come from private groups, like the Union of Concerned Scientists and many environmental organizations, with long records of opposing positions the administration favors.
And what kind of organization is the UCS?  Revkin leaves us thinking that it is a scientific organization.  What does the UCS itself say?  Something rather different.
UCS is an independent nonprofit alliance of more than 100,000 concerned citizens and scientists.   We augment rigorous scientific analysis with innovative thinking and committed citizen advocacy to build a cleaner, healthier environment and a safer world.
So it isn't a scientific organization, in spite of the name, and its members are not necessarily scientists.  In fact, given that they put "concerned citizens" first, we are entitled to suspect that a majority of their members are not scientists.

If the UCS isn't a scientific organization, what is it?  It is a radical left organization that has opposed nearly all weapons research and, at least in practice, nuclear power.  They opposed Reagan's missile defense system, and apparently have not noticed that officials of the former Soviet Union credit the program with helping defeat the Soviet Union.  Their opposition to nuclear power is not shared by most scientists, at least most of those who know enough to have an opinion.  On this subject the Bush administration is much closer to scientists than the UCS is.

Revkin's next piece of evidence seems more impressive:
This year, 48 Nobel laureates dropped all pretense of nonpartisanship as they signed a letter endorsing Senator John Kerry.  "Unlike previous administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, the Bush administration has ignored unbiased scientific advice in the policy making that is so important to our collective welfare," they wrote.  The critics include members of past Republican administrations.
Except that Revkin can't be bothered to mention who organized the letter — our friends at the UCS.  It is not a secret that some Nobel laureates, in every field, have odd opinions, and that some are on the far left.

And the rest of the article isn't much better.  We learn, for instance, that some bureaucrats with ties to leftist organizations are unhappy with Bush.  True enough, but that doesn't show us much about what scientists, as scientists, think.

As long as the article is, Revkin has no space for a discussion of funding for research.   As I understand it, funding for research is up substantially since Bush took office.  If Revkin had looked, I am sure he could have found a scientist or two who was pleased by that.

None of the evidence comes even close to justifying his screaming tabloid lead, that science is "seemingly at war" with the Bush administration.  But it is that lead that most readers will remember.
- 3:23 PM, 25 October 2004   [link]


Biased BBC, Example 6:  Here's a list of Americans the BBC has picked to comment on the American election: Madeleine Albright, Sidney Blumenthal, George Soros, James Woolsey, and . . . Michael Moore.

With the possible exception of James Woolsey, all of these people will vote for John Kerry.   (Woolsey was a Navy Under Secretary in the Carter administration, and CIA head in the Clinton administration.  He's been a Democrat, but, especially late in his career, a hawkish Democrat.)  Except for James Woolsey and Madeleine Albright, all of these people are on the far left and prone to conspiracy theories.  (Albright is, for a former Secretary of State (and one of our worst), remarkably partisan.)  The choice of Moore leaves me almost speechless, for all the obvious reasons, as does the lack of any Republicans.

I can only hope that this list is incomplete, and that the BBC tries to bring some sanity, if not balance, to their coverage.

(There is a much told story about Woolsey.  When a crackpot crashed a light plane into the White House, the story went around that the pilot was Woolsey, trying for an appointment with Clinton.  It is a fact that Clinton ignored Woolsey and the CIA for months at a time.)
- 1:51 PM, 25 October 2004   [link]


Sinclair And Press Freedom:  This Wall Street Journal editorial has the essential facts on the (mostly) successful attempts to prevent Sinclair Broadcast Group from broadcasting "Stolen Honor", the film by Vietnam veterans who felt that Kerry betrayed them.
Sinclair bent under enormous political pressure, but notably a kind we haven't seen wielded before to silence the media.  We aren't referring to the raft of Democratic complaints filed with official agencies.  There's nothing unusual there.  A call for an advertising boycott came next--again, not pleasant, but not unheard of in this business.

The next step was something new: a double team by trial lawyers and government officials threatening shareholder suits.  Out of the gate first was William Lerach, a Democratic funder who announced plans this week to sue Sinclair because by running the documentary it was creating controversy that cost it advertising revenue.
. . .
But the real kicker came when New York State's Democratic Comptroller, Alan Hevesi, also decided to assail Sinclair.  Mr. Hevesi wrote a letter to Sinclair in his capacity as trustee of the state pension fund, which owns 265,000 shares in the company.

"Some critics suggest that Sinclair management is more interested in advancing its partisan political views than in protecting shareholder value," he writes.  "They say Sinclair's partisan agenda also risks alienating viewers, advertisers and regulators."  In other circumstances, this is known as an offer you can't refuse: Pull the show or else.

What's astonishing here is that this legal-political double team has gone on with barely a whimper of protest from the rest of the media.  In fact, it is being celebrated as a defeat for all of those right-wing scoundrels who support President Bush.
Actually, the Journal is being too kind to the media; consider this New York Times editorial, which attacks Sinclair for even considering showing the movie.  (So far as I know, Sinclair has not attacked the New York Times for carrying Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, Bob Herbert, or any of their other bitterly anti-Bush writers.)

I am close to a purist on free speech.  I have long thought that the best cure for bad speech (or press or video) is more speech, good speech, if possible.  "Fahrenheit 9/11" is, from everything I have read, a grossly misleading film, but I would not favor Republican officials or lawyers taking the actions that the Democrats opposed to "Stolen Honor" did.  The best response to either is for others to make the opposing case and let readers and viewers sort out the truth.

I am not even comfortable with organized boycotts of films or books, partly because they often are counterproductive, but mostly because I do not like even private efforts to restrict the speech of others.

This argument used to be widely accepted in the United States on the left, and somewhat more grudgingly accepted by most on the right.  Now, nearly all on the right accept it, but it is challenged in many leftist organizations.  Most newspapers and most universities once saw freedom of speech as uncontroversial.  Now, in many ways, from speech codes to "campaign finance reform", they want to restrict it.  Or, to be more exact, they want to restrict it for others.

But that never works for long.  Once a precedent is set, as the Journal tries to warn its colleagues in the media, it can apply to them, as well.
Now that this trial lawyer-government precedent has been set, who's to stop it if it next turns, as eventually it will, on the New York Times, or CBS?  One of the most important protections that a free press has is independent corporate ownership, but what if the Nixon Administration had unleashed its lawyer friends and government pension funds on the Times Company when it was publishing the Pentagon Papers, or the Washington Post when it was digging into Watergate?  If the standard now is that stirring controversy is a fraud against shareholders because it may cost ad revenue, a lot more media owners than Sinclair are going to become political targets.
And if the New York Times is among them, I will defend them, too.

(For more on why you should see "Stolen Honor", see this column.  For a critique of the movie, not entirely negative, see this New York Times article.  To order it from the veterans, go to this site.  And you may be able to see part or all of it free or at a low cost, by following some of the links in this Free Republic thread.)
- 12:43 PM, 25 October 2004   [link]


Are Republicans Nicer Than Democrats?  Richard Rushfield does an experiment to find out.
As a political and journalistic experiment, I decided to see how people who live in primarily one-party areas would react when faced with a living, breathing member of the opposition.  I appointed myself an ambassador to bridge the Red-Blue divide and ventured into each side's territory dressed in the T-shirt, campaign button, and tote bag of the other.
. . .
I didn't try to provoke the opposition; I simply lived an active consumer's life while dressed in a great big Bush or Kerry T-shirt.  I avoided any specifically political place, such as campaign headquarters, and any venue where politics would likely be discussed, such as churches or bookstores.  The idea was not to see how people would deal with overt opposition but how the mere existence of a political opponent would be tolerated.
In Republican areas, Rushfield's Democratic outfit provoked "only shades of indifference".  In Democratic areas, Rushfield's Republican outfit provoked glares and name calling, with "asshole" being a favorite epithet.

Here's Rushfield's conclusion:
Driving home, I rip off my Bush-Cheney shirt so I can walk the streets of my neighborhood unjeered at and without terrifying little children.  Reflecting on the sting of being called "asshole" during my travels through Blue America, I wonder: If I were truly a Bush supporter, how long would I be able to endure a life filled with epithets before I gave up on the shirt?  Changing into a nonpartisan brown Gap polo, I breathe a sigh of relief that I will never have to find out.
This wasn't a scientific study but it does confirm many other reports.  And it fits with what we know about the different coalitions for each party.  Democrats have most of the felons.  And the union leaders who are a crucial part of the Democratic party are not shy about confrontations.

(Kudos to Slate for publishing this experiment.  I have been hoping that some news organization would do a similar experiment.  And I would give high odds that a similar experiment in this area would have similar results.)
- 6:00 AM, 25 October 2004   [link]