Archive:

April 2004, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Seattle, as most of its citizens will tell you, is a "progressive" city, so naturally there is strong support in Seattle for discrimination and law breaking.
Seattle monorail officials are aiming to hire minority and female workers for one-third of the Green Line's 600 construction jobs, undaunted by a state law that forbids racial and gender preferences in public hiring.
Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat thinks that's just great and misses the former policy of discrimination in favor of firms owned by women and minorities.
After the passage of I-200, the share of Seattle city construction contracts awarded to black-owned firms dropped by two-thirds.

Two years ago, this newspaper described how Initiative 200 had cut the yearly revenue of a black electrical contractor, Harold Wright, from $1 million down to $400,000.

I called him yesterday and he said it got worse from there.

"Last year it went all the way down to basically zero," he said. "Us blacks always said we wouldn't get any public work without laws to help us, and now you can see it's true — we're getting nothing."
Ending the discrimination by the race and sex of contractors was the single best change brought by Initiative 200.  As Westneat should know, the biggest beneficiaries of the previous policy were well-off white women.  And the second biggest?  Just think of who well-off white women are most likely to marry.  That's right, well-off white men.  (Undoubtedly, many of the construction firms "owned" by a woman or black were set up as shells and were not really minority or women owned firms in any true sense.)

If we returned to the previous policy, then Mona Lee Locke, the wife of our governor, would be able to benefit from the discrimination by setting up as a contractor.  I am not pulling that example out of thin air, since Hillary Clinton benefitted from one of these scams, while Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas and she was a partner in the biggest law firm in Arkansas.  Mr Westneat may think Mona Lee Locke and Hillary Clinton are deprived and need special help, but I don't.   (For those not familiar with Washington state's first family, I should add that Gary and Mona Lee Locke are Chinese-Americans.  One curious thing about the discrimination outlawed by Initiative 200 is that Asian-Americans benefited from it in contracting, but not in school admissions.)

Maybe the next time Westneat writes on this subject, he will explain why subsidies for the well-off, most of them white, are a practical way to help poor black people.
- 1:55 PM, 23 April 2004   [link]


The Boston Globe Is Still On Kerry's Case:  Now that he has released some of his military records, they are finding "discrepancies" in them.  (None of which seem like anything more than the usual errors found in any set of records kept by a clumsy bureaucracy.  But then I am no expert on military records.  Those who are seem to agree that there is rampant grade inflation in officer evaluations, so high grades may mean as little there as in an Ivy League transcript.)

And the Globe is now pressing for Teresa Heinz Kerry to release her tax returns — which she has just postponed filing.   Until she releases them, they will continue to be an issue, because the Kerrys' financial affairs are so mixed together.  His biggest source of income last year was the sale of a painting, or rather part of a painting, since his wife also owned a part.  (Was this a way for her to transfer money to him?  Maybe.)  And the funny story about his, or rather her, SUV, only reinforces that point.
During a conference call Thursday with reporters to discuss his upcoming jobs tour through West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, the Democratic presidential candidate was asked whether he owned a Chevrolet Suburban.
. . .
Kerry thought for a second when asked whether his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, had a Suburban at their Ketchum, Idaho, home.  Kerry said he owns and drives a Dodge 600 and recently bought a Chrysler 300M.  He said his wife owns the Chevrolet SUV.

"The family has it. I don't have it," he said.
But I imagine she lets him drive it from time to time.

(I have no idea why the Globe dislikes Kerry so much, given how close they are ideologically.   The simplest explanation, I suppose, is that they think he is a real jerk, an opinion held by others in Massachusetts and in the press corps.)
- 12:53 AM, 23 April 2004
More:  Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard has some informed speculation on what might be in Teresa Heinz Kerry's tax returns, subsidies for John Kerry.   (One interesting detail:  Kerry is misinformed on the disclosure laws.)

David Broder has an explanation for the Globe's dislike of Kerry; the editors and reporters there think he is a weasel, who is "trailed by a reputation for political opportunism".  And Broder, who, like the Globe, has views closer to Kerry than Bush, is beginning to share that opinion.
If you watched Kerry on "Meet the Press," you saw many examples of dodginess on his part.
Oddly enough, Broder doesn't mention the most striking example, Kerry's dodging on his anti-war statements from 1971, which you can see in the transcript.  Kerry should have expected to asked about them, but he bobs and weaves, rather than simply admitting that he was wrong in some of what he said back in 1971.  (Unfortunately, Russert does not ask Kerry whether the genocide in Cambodia or the mass exodus of the boat people changed any of his views on Vietnam.  Clinton got a similar pass on the subject in 1992.)  I expect Kerry's refusal to distance himself from those 1971 statements will hurt him badly with Vietnam veterans and Vietnamese-Americans.
- 9:33 AM, 24 April 2004   [link]


Nader's Effect In 2004:  In this February post, I explained that Ralph Nader's effect on the 2000 election has been exaggerated greatly, and that, when you consider the dynamics of the election, he may not have given Bush the win.  Now, James Glassman repeats the common mistake of over-estimating Nader's effect, in this column, and then argues that Nader may have an even bigger effect this time.

You might think that, since I think Nader had a small effect last time, I would disagree with Glassman.  In fact, I think that he might be right about his prediction, even though he is wrong — like so many others — in his analysis of the 2000 election.  In our last election, Gore and Bush were seen as quite similar by many voters, but there was no large issue to stimulate the voters on the extremes.  This time, though the campaign in Iraq will not be the most important issue for many voters, it will be for many on the isolationist left.  They are not a large group, at most 10 percent of the voters, but they are motivated to oppose almost any American action overseas, even the campaign in Afghanistan.

For this group, Kerry's position is disappointing.  To his credit, he understands how irresponsible it would be to cut and run, leaving Iraq to its own devices and a likely civil war, or perhaps several civil wars.  If elected, Kerry would go on an apology tour, but after the tour would pursue essentially the same policies that Bush is now.  That's not just my opinion; that's the opinion of two columnists as far apart ideologically as moderate conservative Charles Krauthammer and leftist Harold Meyerson.   (Krauthammer thinks that Kerry has moved to Bush's position, Meyerson that Bush has moved to Kerry's position, but they agree that the two now have similar stands on Iraq.)

In contrast, Nader's position is simpler.
Every day our exposed military remains in war-torn Iraq, we imperil U.S. security, drain our economy, ignore urgent domestic needs and prevent Iraqi democratic self-rule.  We need to announce a withdrawal of our troops, not increase them.
Oh, he follows that with a proposal for a solution that will be familiar to anyone who knows the recent history of Rwanda, an international peacekeeping force under the UN, eventual elections, and humanitarian aid, but what he really wants is an American withdrawal, regardless of the consequences.   And he is not alone in that.  There are enough people who share that view, especially on the left, that he might draw more votes this year than in 2000, and draw them more disproportionately from the Democratic candidate.

(Is it unfair for me to say "regardless of the consequences"?  I don't think so.  If Nader has ever expressed any regret over the genocide in Cambodia after our withdrawal from Vietnam, or criticized the UN for the massacres in Rwanda, I missed it.)

A more skillful politician than John Kerry might find a way to satisfy both the moderates and those on the Naderite left, though it would be tricky even for a Clinton.  Essentially, he would have to con at least one of the groups into thinking that he agrees with them, when he doesn't.
- 9:58 AM, 23 April 2004   [link]


In March, when President Bush was behind in most polls, I predicted, using standard political science ideas, that he would win by a very large margin (given two reasonable assumptions).  So I was not surprised when he regained the lead in the polls recently.

Others are, as you can see in these two pieces in the New York Times, both from people on the left.   John Micah Marshall thinks the election is all about Iraq.  It is for him, but not most voters, as I explained in my post.   Ryan Lizza doesn't have an explanation for Bush's gains, but is quick to say that the Democrats shouldn't worry too much.

Neither Marshall nor Lizza mentions the Democrats' loss of their advantage in identifiers, the most important fact about our elections.  Simply put, the Democrats were able to win many elections since 1932 because there were more Democrats than Republicans.  That's no longer true.   Neither Marshall nor Lizza has a coherent theory of elections, as you can see if you take the time to read their pieces — something I don't suggest unless it seems like a better way to kill time than a game of computer solitaire.
- 7:02 AM, 23 April 2004   [link]


Iraqi Olympians:  In 2000, when Saddam's son Uday was running the Iraqi program, Iraq sent just 4 athletes to the Sydney Olympics.  (And they may not have wanted to go, considering his training methods.)  This year, they are sending at least 30 athletes, in spite of many difficulties.  Not all the news from Iraq is grim, despite what you may see on network television.

(NBA scouts, take note:  One of the Olympians is "Haider Muhsin, a rugged 6-8 basketball player".  Almost every NBA team could use another power forward, though most would prefer him to be a few inches taller.  He would fit in well at Dallas, which has almost as many nationalities as players.)
- 8:53 AM, 22 April 2004   [link]


Journalistic Ethics, some think, is an oxymoron like "jumbo shrimp".   There are larger questions associated with the decision by the Seattle Times to print a picture on Sunday showing the coffins of American soldiers, but in this post, I want to discuss a smaller one, the ethics of the decision.  When I saw the picture, which is republished in this article, I immediately concluded that Tami Silicio, the worker who took it, would probably be fired.  I am almost certain that the editors at the Seattle Times knew that, too.  But they don't seem to have warned Ms. Silicio.
Silicio was let go yesterday for violating U.S. government and company regulations, said William Silva, president of Maytag Aircraft, the contractor that employed Silicio at Kuwait International Airport.

"I feel like I was hit in the chest with a steel bar and got my wind knocked out.  I have to admit I liked my job, and I liked what I did," Silicio said.
I see three main possibilities here.  The editors at the Seattle Times did not realize she would be fired (or at least disciplined), which I think quite unlikely.  The editors knew she would be fired, and did not care.  The editors knew she would be fired, and hoped that she would become a useful symbol in the campaign against Bush.  The third explanation seems the most likely.  (Of course, different editors at the Times may have had different motivations).

If the third explanation is correct, then the editors at the Times sacrificed a pawn, or two pawns since her husband was fired too, in order to attack President Bush.  As is usual, the pawns were given no say in the matter.  Was this ethical?  Would you trick two innocent strangers into losing their jobs in order to advance your career — or your political views?  I hope that I wouldn't, but then I am not a journalist.

(What about the policy of forbidding pictures of the coffins?  On that, I have no strong opinions.  If the soldier asked for privacy before death, or if the survivors want no media coverage, then I would honor their wishes.  Most families seem to prefer that, so the policy seems reasonable to me.  There's more discussion of the issue here, for those who want some background.)
- 8:24 AM, 22 April 2004
More:  Silicio now has an agent to help her sell the picture, though she may donate the proceeds to a charity.
- 7:33 AM, 23 April 2004
Correction:  The Seattle Times now says that it did warn Silicio that she might be fired.   So I no longer think that they unethically witheld that from Silicio.  I don't know why they left this out of their earlier stories, but I have my suspicions.
- 7:00 AM, 25 April 2004   [link]


Earth Day, and the news on the environment is mostly good.
The ninth annual Index of Leading Environmental Indicators shows that the environment continues to be America's single greatest policy success.  Environmental quality has improved so much, in fact, that it is nearly impossible to paint a grim, gloom-and-doom picture anymore.

Environmental quality is improving steadily and in some cases dramatically in key areas:
  • Average vehicle emissions are dropping about 10 percent per year as the fleet turns over to inherently cleaner vehicles, including modern SUVs.
  • Ninety-four percent of the population is served by water systems that have reported no violations of any health-based standards.
  • There has been a 55-percent decline in toxic releases since 1988, even while total output of the industries covered by this measurement has increased 40 percent.
  • Despite most popular assumptions, U.S. air quality trends are found to be at least equal, if not slightly better, than in Europe.
I'll have more to say about this great success in the future, including which political leaders deserve the most credit.
- 7:34 AM, 22 April 2004   [link]


Serial Cheapskate?  Wall Street Journal readers may be generous, but John Kerry is not, at least when he isn't running for president.
Like Al Gore, who donated a miserly $353 to charity as vice president in 1997, John Kerry may be a serial cheapskate.

During the early 1990s, with no apparent presidential aspirations, Kerry contributed the following amounts: $0 in 1991; $820, 1992; $175, 1993; $2,039, 1994; and $0, 1995.  Last year, however, after media attention, he gave $43,735.

However, it was painless giving.  Kerry published a book -- still available in discount bins -- spelling out his positions on public policy issues.  He is drawing from the proceeds to pay his taxes and giving the rest to charity.
If Kerry loses, I think it fair to predict that charities will see less of his money next year than they did last year.

(This behavior, like Al Gore's, is shortsighted in a professional politician.  Donations to charities are some of the best ways to garner favorable publicity, as both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have shown.  In 1992, the Clintons, and in 2000, the Bushes had mixes of contributions that would have helped them with many of their supporters.  Even if a politician is not naturally generous, I would expect them to make many charitable contributions out of self interest.   Considering how long Kerry has been in politics, one would think he would have figured that out.)
- 3:12 PM, 21 April 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  This Weekly Standard article on the problems al Jazeera and al Arabia are causing in Iraq.  Sometimes they distort.
While it is difficult to isolate a single cause, the shift in opinion does not appear to be motivated by either an increase in the popular mandate of Muktada al-Sadr's cause, or by any alliance of convenience between the Sunnis and Shias.  Rather, it is a backlash--a visceral negative response to the perceived wrongs committed by the Coalition.  It is, in other words, the Al Jazeera effect.
. . .
Following the Marine offensive in Falluja, Iraqi journalists began grilling Coalition officials at nearly every briefing as to why Americans were targeting women and children, and why the Americans were punishing so many innocent Iraqis for the wrongs committed by the few who desecrated the bodies in Falluja.
. . .
Upon modest examination, however, the evidence of Coalition inhumanity turns out to be a combination of half-truths and no-truths.  For example, these networks reported that the Coalition dropped a JDAM on a mosque in Falluja.  This much is true, however many news sources failed to report why the bomb was dropped, or incorrectly stated that the action was unprovoked.  In reality, anti-Coalition forces had overtaken the mosque, and were using the high ground of the minarets to fire on Coalition forces.
Sometimes they conspire with the enemy.
While telling half of the story is bad enough, there is substantial evidence that outlets like Al Jazeera are in fact acting in concert with terrorists to generate overtly false and misleading news reports.  Colonel William Rabena, who commands the 2d Battalion, 3d Field Artillery Regiment Gunners in the Adhamiya region of Baghdad, related a scam coordinated between anti-Coalition elements and Al Jazeera in his area of operation.  A gunman would go to the mosque, where Al Jazeera, as luck would have it, would be setting up.  The man would open fire in order to draw fire from the Coalition.  After he was inevitably taken down by the Coalition, a bystander would rush over to check his condition, and in the melee secret away the firearm.  Al Jazeera then would swoop in for the story: Coalition guns down unarmed man in front of mosque!  And as in Falluja, they would have the pictures to prove it.
There is one thing in the article I disagree with.
The Western press, while not acting in concert with the terrorists, has performed little better.
In some cases, I think it almost certain that the Western press has acted in concert with the terrorists, though perhaps less directly than al Jazeera and al Arabia.  As evidence, consider the bias shown in this incident.
By way of example, long before the events in Falluja, an Iraqi reporter at a press briefing asked whether it was Coalition policy to target women and children.  After the briefing, a reporter for a major U.S. network congratulated the journalist for asking such a fine question.
Robert Alt concludes by saying that we must find a way to fight the effect of this kind of coverage.  Last Friday, Daniel Henninger suggested one way to make that fight.
The First Marine Expeditionary Force and U.S. Army in Iraq want to equip and upgrade seven defunct Iraqi-owned TV stations in Al Anbar province--west of Baghdad--so that average Iraqis have better televised information than the propaganda they get from the notorious Al-Jazeera.  If Jim Hake can raise $100,000, his Spirit of America will buy the equipment in the U.S., ship it to the Marines in Iraq and get Iraqi-run TV on the air before the June 30 handover.
Today's Wall Street Journal has an editorial (not available on line) describing the progress to date.
As of yesterday afternoon, some 3,684 Journal readers (and their friends) had contributed $707,750.   The individual contributions ranged from $3.50 to $50,000.
If you would like to help too, here's Jim Hake's site, which has a wonderful name and appears to be doing good things for our effort in Iraq.  
- 1:45 PM, 21 April 2004   [link]


Support For Terrorists, Patty Murray has told us, comes from people deprived of day care centers and hospitals.  These British Muslims do not appear to support Murray's theory.
Four young British Muslims in their twenties — a social worker, an IT specialist, a security guard and a financial adviser — occupy a table at a fast-food chicken restaurant in Luton.   Perched on their plastic chairs, wolfing down their dinner, they seem just ordinary young men.  Yet out of their mouths pour heated words of revolution.

"As far as I'm concerned, when they bomb London, the bigger the better," says Abdul Haq, the social worker.  "I know it's going to happen because Sheikh bin Laden said so. Like Bali, like Turkey, like Madrid — I pray for it, I look forward to the day."
I would say that British social workers have unusual values, except that the IT specialist, the guard, and the financial advisor agree with Haq.  (Are the British social workers who associate with Haq aware of his views?  And, if so, what do they think about his support for the murder of thousands of Britons?  The article does not say.)

As you might expect, the financial advisor is already thinking about plans for their objective.
"I agree with you, brother," says Abu Yusuf, the earnest-looking financial adviser sitting opposite.   "I would like to see the Mujahideen coming into London and killing thousands, whether with nuclear weapons or germ warfare.  And if they need a safehouse, they can stay in mine — and if they need some fertiliser [for a bomb], I'll tell them where to get it."
He doesn't say what kind of investments would do best after such a catastrophe.

These men take their views from a man with the adopted name of Sayful Islam (the sword of Islam).   Until two years ago, he was working as an accountant for the Inland Revenue (roughly equivalent to the American IRS), but quit and now has a different source of income.
He no longer works, even though he is able-bodied, he admits, preferring instead to claim housing benefit and jobseeker's allowance.  He smiles sheepishly and says the irony is not lost on him that the British state is supporting him financially, even as he plots to "overthrow it".
Britons would say that he is on the dole, Americans that he is on welfare.

There are many reported cases, even in this country, of extremists using welfare to support themselves while they plot to kill those paying the bill.  Welfare reform has had many benefits, possibly including removing support from some terrorists.  That's an idea that will never occur to Senator Murray &mdash who voted against welfare reform.
- 1:02 PM, 21 April 2004   [link]


Another Poll, Another Gain For Bush:  There is nothing novel in this Investor's Business Daily poll, but it does confirm something I first saw in a Gallup poll.  Bush's gains are concentrated in the swing states, which is where his ads have been running.
The poll also shows that Kerry has lost some ground in blue states as well as in swing states.   In blue states, his margin has narrowed from 15% to 12%.  In swing, or "battleground" states, Bush erased Kerry's 3-point lead and is now ahead by 6%.
Both candidates have concentrated their ads in swing states, so voters who heard both candidates' arguments have shifted to Bush.

Or to undecided from backing Kerry, as the poll also found.
- 10:11 AM, 21 April 2004   [link]


John Kerry's Father was a career diplomat, which explains much about him.   Since his father did not have high earnings, Kerry was always out of place among his rich friends and family.  An aunt had to pay for his expensive prep school, which must have been humiliating.  The chip on Kerry's shoulder, which you can sometimes see, probably formed then.  Perhaps defensively, Kerry seems to have absorbed the attitudes common among professional diplomats, attitudes held, I am almost certain, by his father.

We are not surprised to learn that policemen, especially those who work in high crime areas, tend to be suspicious of people, or that doctors tend to see people as diseased.  So, we should not be surprised if diplomats tend to over-value formal negotiations.  Since their job is talking, they see it as more important than it is and tend to mistake agreements on paper for actual achievements.  Sometimes treaties and other diplomatic agreements are real achievements, sometimes they are just words, and sometimes they are deceptive words that make matters worse.

There is a second way in which diplomats differ from most of us; after a time, they often switch sides.  Instead of representing their own countries to foreigners, they begin representing foreigners to their own country.  Since they value good diplomatic relations for themselves, they begin to focus on bringing the two sides together, not on promoting their own nation's interests.  It is this kind of thinking that leads so many diplomats to value the "peace process" in the Middle East.  The discussions are good in themselves — even though they do nothing to bring peace, and may even have made peace less likely.

You can see both distortions in what Kerry said in his Meet the Press interview last Sunday.
I don't think that surprise [the Bush announcement backing Israel's withdrawal from Gaza] evidences the kind of groundwork of diplomacy necessary.

Now, here's what I'll do.  If I'm president, I will not only personally go to the U.N., I will go to other capitals and I will have my secretary of state legitimately empowered to be able to be a full secretary of state, speaking for the administration, which we now know from Bob Woodward's book is not the case.
. . .
Within weeks of being inaugurated, I will return to the U.N. and I will literally, formally rejoin the community of nations and turn over a proud new chapter in America's relationship with the world, which will do a number of things.  Number one, change how we're approaching North Korea.   Number two, change how we're dealing with AIDS globally.  Number three, change how we're doing with proliferation with Russia and other countries.  Number four, change our approach to global warming and the effort of 160 nations.  And that will take some of the poison out of the well that this administration has put there.
. . .
Our diplomacy has been about as arrogant and ineffective as anything that I have ever seen, and I think if you ask people all around the world, that's exactly what they'll tell you.
. . .
No country will have a veto over what we need to do to protect ourselves.  But, that said, I will be a president who understands, as every president of the last century did, Tim, that multilaterism is not weakness, it is strength, and we need a president who understands how to reach out to other countries, build alliances.  His father did a brilliant job of it.  We need to do the kind of alliance-building that we have done traditionally.
. . .
I think that I can fight a far more effective war on terror.  I will build alliances and [c]ooperation.
. . .
Never has the United States of America been held in as low a regard internationally--and polls have shown this--as we are today.  We're not trusted and this administration is not liked.
. . .
What this administration has not done that it needs to do, what we need is a diplomacy that is ongoing and engaged with the Arab community in order to help to create and help emerge the kind of entity that will provide a peaceful resolution to this.
In all those statements, you will not find a single qualifier about the limits of diplomacy.  In all those statements, you will not find a single example of how his promised diplomatic efforts will improve the strategic position of the United States.  I don't doubt that, if asked, Kerry could tell us how his promised apology tour would improve the United States position, but I am not sure that he sees that as important.  For him, pleasant relations with the UN and France are good in themselves, regardless of whether they help the United States.  Nowhere in the entire interview did I find a single criticism of the United Nations, in spite of the mounting evidence of the corruption of the "oil for food" program or of France, in spite of Chirac's double dealing.

There is an old joke told about a farmer who put up a mule for sale, promising that it followed commands well.

Another man bought the mule and began trying to direct it.  "Gee", he said.   Nothing happened.  "Haw", he tried.  Nothing happened.  In disgust, the buyer led the mule back to the farmer and complained that the mule did not follow commands.

The farmer said, "Oh, I guess I forgot to explain how to work with this mule.  The mule follows commands fine, but you have to get his attention first."  And the farmer took a two by four and gave the mule a whack over the head.  "Now try", he said.

"Gee", said the buyer, and the mule turned right.  "Haw", said the buyer, and the mule turned left.

Sometimes, before negotiating, we have to get the attention of other countries, a point understood by anyone who has worked with mules, but not, it would seem, John Kerry.
- 9:27 AM, 21 April 2004   [link]


One Of The Most Consistent Patterns in American elections is the drop off in voting as you go down the ballot.  In most states, the race for president will draw the most votes, the race for governor the next most, and so on down the ballot.  The 2000 election in Washington State provides some examples, though almost any other state or year would show a similar pattern.  There were 2,487,423 votes in the presidential contest, 2,469,852 votes in the gubernatorial contest, and 2,461,379 votes in the senatorial contest.   At the bottom of the statewide ballot, the race for Insurance Commissioner drew just 2,199,792 votes.  Judicial elections, which are nonpartisan, drew even fewer votes; just 1,873,810 votes were cast for the candidates for the 2nd position on the State Supreme Court.  (If you want to see more numbers, you can find them here.

(Washington manages to have the worst of both worlds in judicial elections.  We elect our judges but refuse to allow them to campaign in any meaningful way, so voters have great difficulty in evaluating the choices.)

This pattern is so well known that I was startled to see this piece by Joel Engelhardt, an editorial writer for the Palm Beach Post.  The drop off in voting in some down ballot races there had made some suspicious that the new touch screen voting machines were not working correctly, a suspicion increased, I am sure, by the identity of the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections — Theresa LePore, best known as the designer of the 2000 "butterfly" ballot.

To his credit, Engelhardt looked at some ballots and decided that there was nothing wrong with the machines.  But his ignorance of voting patterns is what interests me.  The results that he (and others) thought suspicious looked entirely normal to me at first glance, though I would want to look at earlier races to be sure.  This man, who is, I would think, an experienced journalist, was unaware of one of the best known patterns in voting.

His ignorance on this point may explain something that has puzzled me ever since the 2000 election.   There was enough statistical evidence of fraud by Democratic election officials in the 2000 election in Palm Beach county that I expected some newspaper to investigate, with the Palm Beach Post being the obvious candidate.  To my knowledge, there was never was such an investigation.   Engelhardt's column may explain why.  The reporters and editors at his newspaper may not know enough about election results to know when to be suspicious.  (They may be generally suspicious of Republicans, but that won't help them spot fraud by Democrats, a much more common problem.)

(Since these suspicious numbers in Palm Beach got so little coverage, you may want to know what I saw that made me suspect fraud.  You can find that in my Q&A on the 2000 election.  I am not the only one that found some of the Palm Beach numbers suspicious, by the way.  So did Patrick Caddell, President Carter's pollster.)

Those on the right often see bias in newspaper stories.  Sometimes, however, the problem is ignorance, or even innumeracy.  That's not a pleasing conclusion, since it means that the newspapers will miss stories on both major parties, not just one.
- 8:28 AM, 20 April 2004
Oops!  I entered the total for the gubernatorial contest in the senatorial contest by mistake.  I've corrected it above.
- 7:14 AM, 21 April 2004   [link]


Kerry Refuses To Release Records:  On Sunday, John Kerry said that reporters could come to his headquarters and see all his military records.   On Monday, Kerry's campaign rejected a reporter's request to see the records.
The day after John F. Kerry said he would make all of his military records available for inspection at his campaign headquarters, a spokesman said the senator would not release any new documents, leaving undisclosed many of Kerry's evaluations by his Navy commanding officers, some medical records, and possibly other material.

Kerry, in an interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet The Press," was asked whether he would follow President Bush's example and release all of his military records.  "I have," Kerry said. "I've shown them -- they're available for you to come and look at." He added that "people can come and see them at headquarters."

But when a reporter showed up yesterday morning to review the documents, the campaign staff declined, saying all requests must go through the press spokesman, Michael Meehan.  Late yesterday, Meehan said the only records available would be those already released to this newspaper.
Campaign promises don't usually get broken quite that quickly.

You may recall that Kerry has also refused to release all his medical records, unlike most recent presidential candidates.  (Clinton is the big exception, of course.)  One might almost think that Kerry has things to hide in both sets of records.

Will there be the same media frenzy over this broken promise as over Bush's National Guard records?  No, but I think Kerry won't be able to face Tim Russert again during the campaign.  Russert is a Democrat, but he has his pride.  And he won't forget that Bush promised, also on Meet the Press, that he would release his military records — and then released them.

The newspaper running this story, the Boston Globe, is almost as interesting as the story.   The Globe hates George Bush and agrees with John Kerry on most issues, but has done some of the most critical coverage of Kerry during this year's campaign.  The Globe has just issued a biography of Kerry with so much critical material that Kerry's previous campaign manager predicted it it would be "a collection of gaffes, controversies, disputations".  Slate's Chris Suellentrop has gone through the book and found the best of the "gaffes, controversies, disputations" (along with some tidbits that are interesting or amusing).   Some are quite embarrassing, for example, Kerry's investment in an off shore tax shelter, or his use of a free car provided by a local dealer while he was Massachusetts lieutenant governor.   In both examples, Kerry may have broken the law.

As I have mentioned before, many in Massachusetts, one of our most Democratic states, don't like John Kerry.  That includes, it is clear, many of the reporters and editors at the Boston Globe.
- 6:10 PM, 20 April 2004
Update:  Kerry has now started releasing records and is promising to release all his military records.   Nothing so far about his medical records.
- 9:53 AM, 21 April 2004   [link]


Clarke's Two Biggest Failures?  In this post, I said that it was easy to find examples of Richard Clarke's blunders in the war on terror.  Much of what he did is secret and will be for many years, so these are my guesses at his two worst.  There may be even larger Clarke blunders hidden in the top secret files.

First, Clarke approved the departure from the United States of Saudis after the 9/11 attack, including some in Osama bin Laden's family.  Much about this is still obscure; this discussion from Snopes probably has the essentials right.   The FBI did have a chance to question the relatives, most of whom had so little contact with bin Laden that it would be unlikely that they would know anything useful.  Most likely, none of them left before the general ban on aviation was lifted.  There is less here than Michael Moore and others have claimed.

But that does not mean that we should have allowed them to rush out of the country.  Most of the Saudis who fled did so out of fear, thinking that Americans would retaliate against them personally.  A few may have had useful information.  At the very least, we should have taken our time about letting them leave, to give our investigators a better chance to follow leads and to prevent just this kind of rumor from beginning.  (If we had kept them, Moore would have complained about our illegal detentions, of course.)  It was a blunder to let them go so quickly, even if all of them were completely innocent, which seems unlikely.

Second, Clarke may have rejected several offers from the Sudan to turn bin Laden over to us, as Mansoor Ijaz suggests.   This, like the departing Saudis is still obscure in part.  I think it fair to say from his questions that Ijaz believes that Clarke wrecked the chance of a deal.  Unfortunately, Ijaz will be testifying before the 9/11 Commission in private, as I understand it, so we may not know exactly what he is willing to accuse Clarke of while under oath.  At the very least, some one, probably Clarke, was clumsy in handling these offers from the Sudanese government.

(The Rwandan genocide is not part of the war on terror, but it does show a series of Clarke blunders.  Clarke is mentioned four times in Samantha Power's book on genocide, The Problem From Hell, each time for a blunder.  He drew up a memorandum (another presidential daily briefing) that made it almost impossible to intervene.  He sought to "shield the president from congressional and public criticism", which might have spurred Clinton into action.  Clarke underestimated the deterrent effect of even a small UN force.  Clarke blocked a relief force from going in to the Rwandan capital, Kigali.   His judgment was faulty in each case, sometimes seriously so.  He was good at winning bureaucratic battles in Washington and protecting Clinton, but every decision he made was wrong for the Rwandans.

Here's how the UN commander, Canadian major general Romeo Dallaire, summarizes the resistance to effective action from Clarke and others.
My mission was to save Rwandans.  Their mission was to put on a show at no risk.
A show that failed to stop the deaths of perhaps 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.)
- 4:27 PM, 19 April 2004   [link]


Credit Where Due:  Washington Post Ombudsman Michael Getler spanks two of the Post's problem children, Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, for a misleading lead.
The lead of the story by reporters Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus said: "President Bush was warned a month before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the FBI had information that terrorists might be preparing for a hijacking in the United States and might be targeting a building in Lower Manhattan."  The story said the information was in the written daily briefing presented to Bush on Aug. 6, 2001
Not quite.
The memo refers to "federal buildings" and not "a building," as the story's first sentence does.  The memo does not use the word "targeting."  It mentions "New York" but does not specify "Lower Manhattan."

. . . readers who believe this introductory paragraph was, or could be seen as, misleading and conveying a political bias make a fair point, in my view.  This was obviously a big story and the top of it could easily have stuck to the actual language and content of the briefing, which was pretty dynamic on its own.
And that isn't all that Getler finds objectionable in the article or the Post's front page that day.

As I have mentioned more than once, for example, here, Dana Milbank is often inaccurate in his stories on President Bush, and always in the same direction.  The OmbudsGod, who also liked the Getler column, mentions other Milbank distortions here.   It is long past time for the Post to find another reporter to cover President Bush.   Assigning Milbank to cover President Bush is like sending a vegetarian to cover the National Cattleman's Association.
- 10:04 AM, 19 April 2004   [link]


Oil For Food, Oil For Murder?  The corruption in the UN's "oil for food" program was massive.  It may even have paid for an assasination.
In a sinister oil-for-murder plot, Saddam Hussein used the scandal-plagued U.N. oil-for-food program to set up the assassination of a prominent Iraqi exile politician, the slain man's family has charged.

A mysterious George Tarkhaynan appears on an Iraqi Oil Ministry list, published by a Baghdad newspaper, of 270 politicians and businessmen who received sweetheart oil deals under the U.N. humanitarian program.

Safia al-Souhail, a leading political figure in post-Saddam Iraq, told The Post she has evidence that Tarkhaynan is a former Beirut shirtmaker and once-trusted family friend who helped Iraq assassinate her father, anti-Saddam dissident Sheik Taleb al-Souhail al-Tamimi, in Lebanon in 1994.
Even after charges like this one, neither the United Nations nor the media is much interested in investigating this scandal.  William Safire describes the foot dragging.
Meanwhile, because U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's son was on the payroll of the Swiss company hired to monitor the imports, and because Kofi's right-hand man had been in charge of the program rife with 10 percent kickbacks, the world's foremost diplomat announced he would appoint an independent panel to investigate.

He chose men of integrity: Paul Volcker, former U.S. Fed chairman; Judge Richard Goldstone, the first Balkans war crimes prosecutor; and Mark Pieth, a Swiss lawyer said to be an expert on money laundering.

End of cover-up, right?  Wrong.  Volcker properly required a Security Council resolution, which would presumably empower his panel to take sworn testimony and gain access to the U.N.'s corrupt contracts that enabled Saddam to build palaces instead of providing food to his people.

But such a U.N. resolution would reveal dealings with companies in Russia, France and China — all Security Council permanent members whose nationals had their hands in the till.   As Senator Lugar suggested, some nations had secret profiteering reasons to keep Saddam in power.
. . .
And what of those "mass media reports" about the scope of the corruption, which are backed by the initial findings of Congress's General Accounting Office?  Editorialists have dutifully tut-tutted.  Reporters have passed along some details of what the G.A.O. estimates is a $5 billion fraud (not counting $5 billion more in smuggled oil).  The Financial Times, working with Italy's Sole, recently advanced the story, interviewing a middleman to show how an apologist for Saddam got $400,000 to finance a film.

But outrage that drives coverage is selective, and there is little establishment appetite to pursue this complex scandal.  Speaking power to truth, Newsweek headlines "Anti-U.N. Campaign," and reports dark suspicions by U.N. bureaucrats that the scandal was "drummed up" by the doves' Iraqi villain, Ahmad Chalabi.
As Safire puts it, "Obstruction of justice has never had it so good."  Even, it seems, obstructing the investigation of a murder.
- 7:08 AM, 19 April 2004   [link]


Did Racism Help Defeat Bobby Jindal?  Maybe.  There is statistical evidence for that in a new study.
Two political scientists from Hamilton College in New York compared the areas where David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klansman, ran well in 1991 with the vote for Jindal's Democratic opponent, Kathleen Blanco, in 2003.  There was a remarkable correlation.  Where Duke did well, Blanco did well.

Blanco, who'd served as lieutenant governor before being elected governor, did not make any racial appeals in the campaign.  Yet she benefited enormously from race-influenced voting. "Our results indicate that a significant number of those who voted for David Duke, the most racist statewide candidate of the post-civil rights era, contrary to previous elections and even after controlling for other factors, swung their support from the non-white Republican to the white Democrat," Richard Skinner and Philip A. Klinkner concluded in their study.
None of the accounts that I saw of the campaign suggested that Blanco used racist appeals, even though she may have benefited from racist feelings.  If she were a Republican, many in the media would see her victory as tainted; since she is a Democrat, she will escape that criticism.

(After Jindal's narrow defeat, I speculated that hidden racism might explain why Jindal had run behind his polling numbers.  This study gives more support to that idea.)
- 5:50 AM, 19 April 2004   [link]


I Have Been Getting Blocked yesterday and today when I try to access this site, so I suppose some of you may have been blocked, too.  I've sent an email to Seanet and hope to have the problem resolved soon.  (They may be under a denial of service" attack, in which they get so many requests that they are unable to process the legitimate ones.)

Meanwhile, just keep trying and you'll get in eventually.  At least that's been my experience.
- 5:22 AM, 19 April 2004   [link]


Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott is returning some of the tainted money he received from a man with ties to Saddam.
Congressman Jim McDermott this week returned a $5,000 contribution made to his legal defense fund by an Iraqi-American businessman who has admitted to financial ties with Saddam Hussein's regime.

Shakir al-Khafaji, a Detroit-area businessman who had been active in the anti-Iraq-war movement and who accompanied McDermott, D-Seattle, on his highly publicized trip to Iraq in 2002, acknowledged to the Financial Times of London this week that he received lucrative vouchers for Iraqi oil from Saddam's government.
I say some of the money, because McDermott's trip to Baghdad in 2002 was paid for by a non-profit organization supported by Al-Khafaji, and McDermott has yet to return that money.  I don't think McDermott was bribed by these payments; as a Weekly Standard author said, McDermott has been saying foolish things for years without being bribed.  But I do think his hyper-partisanship helped make him a "useful idiot" for Saddam.  He hates Republicans so much that he automatically sides with their opponents, even dictators like Saddam.

Will either Seattle newspaper criticize McDermott now that he has been caught with Saddam's money?  Probably not.  Note that the Seattle Times did not dig up this story on their own, but got it from the Financial Times, months after it became known in conservative publications and blogs.  And the Seattle PI is even worse about investigating leftist politicians, or holding them to account for their errors.
- 9:13 AM, 18 April 2004   [link]


Remember Those Awful Super Bowl Ads?  Janet Jackson's stunt got much more coverage (uncoverage?), but I found some of the ads much more offensive, and argued in this post that they weren't the best way to sell Budweiser and similar products.   Anheuser-Busch agrees.  
ANHEUSER-BUSCH, one of the largest American advertisers and the one perhaps most under fire recently for provocative pitches in mainstream entertainment like the Super Bowl, is rethinking the tone and content of its advertising campaigns for beer brands like Bud Light and Budweiser.

August A. Busch IV, president of the Anheuser-Busch Inc. division of the Anheuser-Busch Companies in St. Louis, disclosed the reappraisal yesterday in a question-and-answer session after his speech here in the opening general session of the 2004 management conference of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
. . .
"As we came out of the Super Bowl, the mood of the country seemed to have changed, and some of our ads got wrapped into that same controversy," Mr. Busch told the audience of about 330 people at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach hotel.

As a result, "we are taking a more cautious approach to our creative," he added, seeking to "not be distasteful in our content moving forward."
They've stopped running the ad with the flatulent horse and are planning more tasteful commercials for the next Super Bowl.

Most, but not all, advertising people agree with Anheuser-Busch.  One who doesn't has an interesting reason.
Kevin Roberts, worldwide chief executive at Saatchi & Saatchi in New York, also part of Publicis, offered another perspective, declaring that agencies "are not here to mirror culture; we're here to inspire."

While the Anheuser-Busch reassessment "is a good thing, because it will probably get us to a better place," Mr. Roberts said, "we must not respond to every reaction" by consumers that is not adulatory.  "It should be a proactive, creative-driven approach, rather than a defensive reaction to an isolated accident."

To demonstrate, Mr. Roberts, in a speech he made after Mr. Busch's, showed a commercial his agency created in Australia that featured a mass murderer named Mark Read, known as Chopper — for a campaign to stop drunken driving.
The article does not explain how Mr. Roberts wants to inspire us, but I suspect he and the public may have different ideas about what is inspiring.
- 8:11 AM, 18 April 2004   [link]


Kerry's Clumsy Photo-Op:  One reason I expect President Bush to defeat Senator Kerry is that Bush is a natural politician and Kerry is not, though he has been in the business for more than two decades.  Here's a small example.
On Wednesday, when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton took her colleague John Kerry to a Head Start program at Columbus Avenue and 108th Street in Manhattan, the photographers got a lovely picture of the Democratic presidential candidate reading to a group of 4- and 5-year-olds.
. . .
Mr. Kerry, who is often faulted as failing to connect to audiences, was doing his best to reach the 10 children at the Bloomingdale Family Program — and their voting-age teachers.

He folded his lanky frame, sat on the floor and opened "Abiyoyo" by Pete Seeger, a book about a giant tamed by an African boy and his father, whose magic wand makes the giant disappear.  Mr. Kerry, whose daughters are long since grown, kept neglecting to show the children the pictures.
So Hillary reminded him, not once but twice.  This is such a standard photo-op that botching it shows a surprising clumsiness in retail politics.  President Bush may not be glib in press conferences, but he handles these with ease.  (Some will wonder what this shows about Kerry's role in raising his own children.  His first marriage did end in a very bitter divorce; perhaps his inattention to his kids was one of the reasons.)

(Although these shots of candidates reading to cute little kids are universal, I don't like them.  I would much rather watch a candidate listening to a teacher who has a record of success, and hear what questions the candidate asks.  Of course, if I put on my political consultant hat, I would go for the photo-op with the little kids every time.)
- 4:08 PM, 17 April 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  Collin Levey's Seattle Times op-ed on Scott Ritter.
Former U. N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter has spent the past few years imagining himself a great geopolitical riddle, independent and unfathomable.  Like a half-baked military version of Arianna Huffington, he made his fame as a flamboyant dissenter.  Now, revelations about a benefactor may force him to stop playing Peter Pan and grow up: It's time for him to decide whether he wants to go down in history as a shill, or a tool.

The big news (if sadly predictable) was the confirmation that the financier of Ritter's Iraq propaganda film "In Shifting Sands" was among an elite cabal that received "oil allocations" from the U.N.'s oil-for-food program.  The confirmation comes from Shakir Khafaji himself, the Iraqi businessman in Detroit who set up Ritter with a $400,000 "loan" to make his film and also helped him get interviews with members of the Baathist regime.
Many have thought that Scott Ritter was bribed by Saddam; now there is enough evidence for that to justify an investigation.  As Levey concludes, people like Scott Ritter may have encouraged Saddam in his attempts to split the UN and made war inevitable.

(In this area, apologist Ritter has his own apologist, talk show host Dave Ross, who has had Ritter on his program many times, and never challenged him.  If Ross were honest with his audience, he would tell them about this latest news suggesting Ritter was bribed.  From previous experience, I doubt very much that Ross will be that honest.)
- 2:00 PM, 17 April 2004   [link]


He Read Books by authors such as Gogol, Chekhov, Hugo, Thackeray and Balzac, he listened to Mozart to relax, he watched his favorite movies, "'It Happened One Night,' 'Mission to Moscow,' John Ford westerns and anything by Charlie Chaplin", he liked roses and mimosas, and he was a "people person", who charmed many.   He was Stalin, who murdered millions.

I learned this from a review of a new biography, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, which draws on new sources.  The New York Times reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, thinks this biography can best be read as a companion to books such as Robert Conquest's The Great Terror; Montefiore's book gives an private portrait of the monster whose public deeds have been recounted elsewhere.  This sounds about right to me; I have read several biographies of Stalin, including one by Conquest, but have never thought that I understood the man or his private circle.

Montefiore's conclusion that Stalin was a "people person" explains something that has always puzzled me.  After the Bolshevik Revolution, Stalin slowly rose to power through his control of the party apparatus.  He gained the support, as he said later, of the middle ranks of the party, and used that support to defeat more famous rivals such as Trotsky.   I have always wondered how Stalin gained their loyalty, given the suspicion and even paranoia that he showed through most of his career.  Apparently, he could also charm those whose support he needed, at least early in his career.  And he was able to charm more than one Western visitor, even in the 1930s during the worst of the purges.

Anyone familiar with Hitler's private life will see parallels.  Both men were monsters, but not just monsters.  Both had parts of their lives that we are forced to call normal, perhaps even admirable.  That's disconcerting; we want our monsters to be recognizable in all their actions, not men who like Mozart and are fond of their dogs.  Perhaps it was this veneer of normality that enabled them to disguise their natures from so many as they rose to power.
- 1:22 PM, 17 April 2004
More:  Soviet expert Richard Pipes gives the biography a positive review here.   His conclusions are similar to Kakutani's, though he is skeptical about some of Montefiore's larger claims.
- 7:32 AM, 18 April 2004   [link]