Archive:

August 2004, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Vote Fraud In Kentucky:  This case is different from most of those I cover here.  If you have been reading this site regularly, you know that most reported cases of vote fraud share three characteristics.  They are committed by Democrats, with absentee ballots, in minority communities.  If you have been reading the site for a long time, you know that I am peeved by the unwillingness of the New York Times to cover most of these stories.  This story, however, they did cover.  What made this one different?  Two things.  Absentee ballots were not used and, as you have probably guessed, both the accused and the voters are white.
LONDON, Ky., Aug. 26 - It was not so long ago, historians say, that some voting places in eastern Kentucky were virtual vote-buying bazaars.  Brokers bartered half pints of whiskey and $10 bills for votes just outside polling station doors.  The cheap ones could be bought for beer.  The smart voters always sold twice.

Those brazen days are gone.  But, prosecutors and political experts say, the mountain tradition of vote-selling is not.  And in a wide-ranging conspiracy trial that opened here this week, federal prosecutors are contending that influential people still try to buy elections in eastern Kentucky, just in more artful ways.
The article does not give his party, but the businessman accused of buying votes, Ross Harris, seems to be a Democrat, or at least to contribute mainly to Democrats.

There's a practice in the story, "vote hauling", that will seem familiar to anyone who knows about some of our less honest urban areas.  In this part of Kentucky, people are often paid, supposedly to take voters to the polls, but actually for their votes.  In urban areas, voters are often paid "walking around money", supposedly for their expenses in getting voters to the polls, but actually for their votes.

(The article mentions the big reason for the current reliance on absentee ballots.  In the past, voters sometimes sold their votes to both sides.  To prevent this, given secret ballots, was difficult and so corrupt election officials often tried to circumvent that secrecy.   Years ago, and perhaps still, a surprising number of Chicago voters required "assistance" in voting, assistance that allowed voting officials to see their ballots.  After the 2000 election, I felt a brief twinge of nostalgia when I read about Haitian voters getting similar "assistance" in Florida.  Absentee ballots solve the problem of secrecy for those who want to commit vote fraud.)
- 4:07 PM, 31 August 2004   [link]


There Are Two Claims that you will often hear from Republicans during this campaign, that President Bush cut taxes for everyone, and that John Kerry is the most liberal senator.  You won't read either of them here, because they aren't true.  In a later post, I'll have more to say about taxes; here I'll give you the evidence against the second claim.

The claim that Kerry is the most liberal senator comes from a single rating from a respected publication, the National Journal.  The rating drew so much attention that the Journal has taken the trouble to explain why it is misleading.
Last November and December, as we have for the past 23 years, National Journal editors and reporters began preparing for the magazine's annual vote ratings of members of Congress.   Each year, we pick several dozen votes in three broad issue areas -- economic, social, and foreign -- and identify yea and nay positions as representing a "conservative" or "liberal" stance.  Members are then ranked from the most liberal to the most conservative in each issue area.  Members also receive a composite liberal score and a composite conservative score -- basically an average of their issue-based scores.

When the tabulations came in for 2003, John Kerry had the highest composite liberal score of any senator.

But there was an asterisk.  As with other lawmakers who were running for president, Kerry missed a lot of votes in 2003 -- 37 of the 62 that were being used in the vote ratings.   He didn't vote often enough to merit scores in the social-policy and foreign-affairs categories.  (Under our system, a member has to participate in at least half the votes in a category to receive a score in that category.) He did cast enough votes (19 of 32) in the economic category to get a rating.  On those votes, Kerry took the "liberal" position every time.
But that was the only time during his career in the Senate that Kerry was the most liberal.   If you look at his career ratings, you get a different result; Kerry is quite liberal, but not the most liberal.
But if the standard is votes over a lifetime, Kerry isn't the most liberal senator.  By that measure, Kerry is the 11th-most-liberal senator, coming in below such Democrats as Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, Barbara Boxer of California, and, yes, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, according to a National Journal analysis published in March.
Were Kerry's 2003 votes part of an attempt to please Democratic primary voters, who tend to be to the left of the average voter?  Quite possibly.  And he may have become more moderate while Clinton was in office as Ed Morrisey notes.

There isn't much difference, ideologically, between the most liberal and the 11th-most-liberal, 5 points on their composite scale, but there is some.

(Technical point: Ideological ratings, such as these from the National Journal, are best used to compare senators (or congressmen) within a single session.  Since different sets of votes are used for the different sessions, comparisons between sessions should be accompanied with caveats.   Using different sets of votes means that the measuring sticks are not the same length from session to session.

That isn't the only problem with these scales, but it's the biggest.)
- 10:18 AM, 31 August 2004   [link]


Some Ideas Are So Bad that they lead you to question the judgment of the person who proposed them.  For example, USA Today's decision to use Ann Coulter (quickly replaced by Jonah Goldberg) and Michael Moore to cover the Democratic and Republican conventions makes me wonder about their editorial page editor.  Both Coulter and Moore can be entertaining, especially to their partisans; neither is a serious commentator, constrained by facts or elementary ideas of fairness.

USA Today rejected Coulter's first try and replaced her.  This semi-apologetic editorial shows that they should have done the same with Moore.
So news that filmmaker and activist Michael Moore will be writing a column for us at the Republican convention this week jarred a number of readers.
Rightly, and USA Today should listen to those readers.

Instead, editorial page editor Brian Gallagher digs himself in deeper, with this confession.
On the left, Moore was our first choice.  In addition to his success as a documentarian, he is a skilled writer whose work has appeared in other newspapers.  He's someone whose views — love them or hate them — energize the political debate.
Pollute is the verb I would use, not energize.  I can think of worse choices than Moore, but not many.

Mr. Gallagher is lucky that I am not doing his performance reviews.
- 9:27 AM, 31 August 2004   [link]


George W. Bush, Working Class Hero:  Working class choice, anyway.  Who says so?  The Minneapolis Star Tribune, a newspaper with no sympathy for Republicans.
Kerry campaigned at Anoka Hennepin Technical College on Thursday [in Minnesota].  Just two blocks away, across the city line between Anoka and Ramsey, Mike Hartinger had hung a new banner on the sign outside his restaurant, the Outpost: "All Presidential Candidates Eat Free."

It didn't succeed at luring Kerry, who could have had his choice of fare, including the special -- buffalo chicken salad and cream of chicken dumpling soup.  Lucky for him: Kerry would have had trouble swallowing the rest of the menu.

The Outpost is a working man's bar in a bellwether piece of a battleground state.  These are the voters who elected Jesse Ventura governor and who helped deter him from running for a second term when they fell out of love with him.  But if John Kerry had dropped in to seek votes Thursday, he would've run into a wall.

In a place full of carpenters, plumbers, auto mechanics, factory workers and other blue-collar guys who used to vote for Democrats almost as devoutly as they used to drink beer (most were sipping soft drinks), I could only turn up one John Kerry voter.

The rest plan to vote for George W. Bush.

"This is basically a Democratic place, but everybody seems to be going for the Republican," Hartinger said.  "That's what I hear over the bar.  Kerry's just too soft and a lot of the guys just don't like his wife.  They weren't too impressed when she started speaking all those foreign languages at the Democratic convention.  She's not American."
Nick Coleman's column reeks of condescension.  He thinks it unreasonable for working class voters to worry about the influence of Teresa Heinz Kerry, and he is sure that they get their opinions from the internet and other dubious sources.  (Would he even say that she should release her tax returns?  I don't think so, even though her inherited fortune helped Kerry's campaign at several points.  And many of us would like to know whether she invests in those "Benedict Arnold" companies that invest abroad, and that her husband condemned during the primaries.)

The column illustrates a shift in the left's attitudes during last 30 years.  During the Great Depression, those on the left respected the working class.  That began to change in the late 1960s and 1970s, with the rise of the new left.  Now, those on the left, such as Coleman, sneer at at the working class, and condemn those in it for ignorance, racism, and materialism.  That contempt is one reason I expect Bush to improve his results among "carpenters, plumbers, auto mechanics, factory workers and other blue-collar guys".  He may not be their hero, but he will be their choice, in spite of history, and in spite of their unions.

(There has been a parallel shift in political language and platform promises.  Democrats once appealed to the "working class"; now they more often appeal to the "middle class".   Once they argued for union-friendly legislation; now they are more likely to propose subsidies for higher education, subsidies that go mostly to the better off.)
- 10:48 AM, 30 August 2004   [link]


Estate Taxes And Mortality:  The post below on the Seattle Times' switch reminds me of a favorite story about estate taxes, and some recent findings.

In the 1950s, Britain had, for the largest estates, confiscatory rates of taxation.  I believe they went as high as 90 percent.  (As did our income taxes at the same time.)  According to a story I once read, a family could evade these taxes by having the owner give the estate away before his death.  But it couldn't be just before his death; there was, if my memory is correct, a six month time limit.

Let me add one more fact.  This was also the time that home freezers were becoming common.   Can you guess the rest of the story?  Right, some families, where the gift papers had not been filled out quite in time, used the freezer to postpone the official date of death.  I would guess that a careful autopsy would reveal this dodge — and that many coroners would go along with a prominent family.

Did this actually happen?  I'm not sure, but nothing about it seems implausible.

Now for the studies.  Recently, I saw an article on the effects of estate taxes on mortality.  (Almost certainly in either the New York Times or the Washington Post.)   Researchers, studying tax data, found weak effects on mortality from changes in the rates of estate taxes.  In the past several decades, a wealthy person could sometimes save his heirs some money by dying sooner, and sometimes by dying later.  The researchers found that both happened to a small extent.  Some wealthy people, when an increase in the rate was coming, died a little earlier than one would predict.  Others, when a decrease in the rate was coming, lived a little longer.

The first is easier to explain than the second, since many, near the ends of their lives, are on life support of some kind.  The second isn't a complete surprise since other studies have found that some of the elderly prolong their lives enough to reach an important date, a birthday or Christmas, or something similar.  How they prolong their lives is not clear, at least from what I have read.

There's a general lesson in this, a very old one.  Taxes affect behavior.  That's easy for legislators to remember with sin taxes, where the change in behavior is the main reason for the tax, but easy for them to forget with other taxes.
- 9:37 AM, 30 August 2004   [link]


Another Battleground State Shows A Bush Gain:  In this post, I argued that the Bush gains found by the Los Angeles Times in Wisconsin and Ohio were likely to be found in other states as well.  Now Gallup also has Bush leading in Wisconsin and tied in Pennsylvania, among likely voters.
USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup polls show Bush narrowly ahead in Wisconsin and the candidates even in Pennsylvania, a state that is crucial to Democratic hopes of winning in November.
. . .
"It's hard to do the Electoral College calculation and not figure that if Kerry can't win Pennsylvania, he can't win the presidency," says G. Terry Madonna, a professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., and director of the statewide Keystone Poll.
I wouldn't put it exactly that way.  Florida (27 electoral votes), Ohio (20 electoral votes), and Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes) are all close.  Under most plausible scenarios, Kerry must win two of the three states to win a majority in the electoral college.  Pennsylvania has been the best of the three for Democrats in recent elections, so a loss there is likely to mean losses in the other two as well.

Kerry can take some solace in the lead Gallup gives him in Iowa.  As of now, I think that lead is real, though Iowa leans Republican in state politics.  I am not sure why Iowa has not shifted with the other states.  I would be inclined to think that the Iraq war is hurting Bush there, since Iowa has given strong support to peace movements for decades.   There is a little support for that idea in one of the Gallup questions; Iowans are a little more likely to call the war in Iraq a mistake than the rest of the nation.  And they are less ready to believe the SwiftVets than voters in Pennsylvania.  The Iowa results may also reflect the influence of the state's largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register, which is remarkably partisan, even by current standards.
- 8:32 AM, 30 August 2004   [link]


There's A Cynical Explanation for the Seattle Times' switch.  In 2000, the newspaper endorsed George W. Bush; this year, they have already endorsed John Kerry.   Why the switch?  You can read their reasons, but I don't think they are being as honest as they should be.

In 2000, the publisher, Frank A. Blethen, took a direct part in the endorsement.  (Whether he overruled a majority on the editorial board was never quite clear to me, though I think he may have.)  Blethen and his family had a direct interest in one Bush proposal, the elimination of the estate tax.  As the majority owners of the Seattle Times and other newspapers, the Blethens stand to benefit greatly from the repeal.  I am not saying that the estate tax was the only reason that the Times endorsed Bush in 2000, but I do think it was the principal one.

That motive is no longer as important, since the estate tax has been repealed.  Since Kerry, even if elected, is unlikely to be able to reinstate the estate tax, the publisher has what he wanted and can let the editorial board endorse the man they prefer.

I was not surprised by the switch; in both their news coverage and in their editorial pages, the Times has consistently passed on what one might call the official media view of the war to liberate Iraq, and the official media view on most other issues.  I think the editorial page editor, James Veseley, a man I respect, does not realize just how much those official media views have been discredited by independent sources, including, in a small way, this site.  (And I am certain that the executive editor, Michael Fancher, does not.  No one who understood that point would run so many stories from the Los Angeles Times, a newspaper increasingly viewed with disgust by people with open minds.)

It is understandable that the Seattle Times would not realize how badly journalists are failing.   It is natural to identify with one's own profession (assuming journalism is a profession) and to think the best of one's peers.  But it is, more and more, a mistake.  There are, I think, people on the Seattle Times editorial board who are intelligent and open minded enough to realize that their profession is failing systematically.  I hope some of them come to understand that before the next election.

(Some brief thoughts on the estate tax:  Unlike the Seattle Times, I have always favored an estate tax — in principle.  Taxing someone who is no longer with us seems like a fine idea to me.  And if you look at the third and fourth generations of families such as the Kennedys and Rockefellers, you will find many arguments for estate taxes.

There may be practical arguments against estate taxes.  I have the impression that they hit the rich much more than the super-rich, who are better able to use legal means to escape them.   And I have read that the compliance costs are greater than the take from the estate tax, though I don't know whether that is true, or, if true, inevitable..

More than a year ago, the New York Times published an op-ed describing a revised version that seemed quite fair to me.  Parents could give their children up to one million dollars totally through gifts before they died, or in their wills, tax free.  After the one million, the gifts or inheritances would be taxed at the ordinary rates for income.  Again, I have no idea just how practical this would be.

I'll have a detailed critique of the Seattle Times editorial endorsement soon &mdash unless someone beats me to it.)
- 9:51 AM, 29 August 2004
More:  An astute emailer reminded me of something I should have mentioned in the original post.  The estate tax was abolished temporarily and is due to return, the emailer says, in 2011, which sounds correct to me.  The Republicans are promising to repeal it permanently; as far as I know, the Democrats are not.  How this would affect Blethen's thinking I am not sure, though I should add that, as far as I know, he is young and healthy enough so that he can expect to live past 2011.

(Last night on Brian Maloney's talk show I heard another explanation for the switch.  Blethen wants stronger rules against media concentration, which might protect the Seattle Times.  The Bush administration is willing to leave these matters to the market.)
- 7:43 AM, 30 August 2004   [link]


Learn To Write By Studying Joanne Jacobs:  At a very pleasant lunch with Stefan Sharkansky, I learned that we both admire the writing of Joanne Jacobs.  I have thought for some time, and may even have said so before, that a person who wants to learn to write clearly would benefit by studying her examples.

Above all, she omits needless words.  Some will chuckle with familiarity on seeing that phrase; others will need a pointer to a classic, Strunk and White's Elements of Style.   Among their elementary principles of composition is this directive:
Omit needless words.

Vigorous writing is concise.  A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.  This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.
That helps me every time I try to improve a draft.  I look for ways to shorten sentences, or eliminate them, and when I find one, it almost always improves the writing.  (Example: This paragraph is now two-thirds as long as it was — and probably could be shortened even more.)

(Caveat: There are organizations, and even fields, that do not value clear writing.  Some people see jargon filled prose as evidence that the author is an expert and value it more highly than clear writing.  I recall, years ago, reading of an experiment in which papers were submitted to journals in two versions, clear and jargon filled.  The content was the same; only the presentation changed.  The reviewers were more impressed by the jargon filled versions and more likely to accept them.  (I have forgotten the field, so the guilty are protected for the moment.)

If you are in an organization or field that values bad writing, you will have to decide whether your conscience will allow you to write badly, for the career advantages.

There are still other fields, as many of you know, in which nearly all the writing is so stylized that practitioners have little choice about style.  But that's a different subject.)
- 9:12 AM, 28 August 2004   [link]


How Bad Is Local TV News?  Terrible.  Consider these examples from this morning's news program on KOMO 4.
  • A gardening expert, showing how to use ladybugs (ladybirds to the British) to control pests in the garden, named some other beneficial insects — and included spiders among those insects.  Was he not paying attention in grade school science?

  • The station ran another story, or I should say the same story another time, on the protests over the new primary in Washington state.  KOMO has yet to mention that Washington is just moving to the system used by most states, or to explain why some people might prefer party primaries to the old "blanket" primary.

  • They ran a story on Kerry's campaign visit to Everett and mentioned confrontations between Bush and Kerry supporters, but skipped this part of the story.
    Everett police arrested one man after he and a political rival got into a scuffle, Sgt. Boyd Bryant said.
    The Seattle Times did include the "scuffle" in their story, but left out a key detail, which I heard on a radio program yesterday.  The man arrested was a Kerry supporter, who had punched a Bush supporter after their argument got heated.

  • KOMO ran a small story supporting the Kerry campaign.  On a web site they didn't name, Ben Barnes, who in the past has said he helped get Bush and others into the Guard, has posted a statement saying he is sorry he did that.  They did not run any story on the new revelations that tend to discredit Kerry's tales from Vietnam, even though more appeared yesterday.  Nor did they run any response from Republicans to the Barnes story.
The half hour I spent watching KOMO 4 was not entirely wasted.  I was eating my breakfast at the time, I saw some highlights from the Mariners game (six home runs, all by the bottom five in the batting order), and I saw the weather forecast.  But I shudder when I realize that there are people who get their news from KOMO 4 and similar stations.

(If you are not from Washington, you may need an explanation of the "blanket" primary.  In Washington, for many years, primary voters were able to vote in both political primaries.   The voter could vote for a Republican candidate for governor, a Democratic candidate for senator, a Libertarian candidate for secretary of state, and so on down the line.  A farmer's organization, the Grange, got this passed years ago and has taken pride in it ever since.  (I believe Alaska used it for a while, too, but no other states.)  Although I prefer other ways to nominate candidates, I thought the court decision that killed it was idiotic.

If you are from Washington, you may need to know that most other states use party primaries to nominate candidates, and that you can only vote in one party's primary.  Some states even use "closed" primaries in which only those registered as members of the party can vote.  Others use "open" primaries, which usually means that both party members and independents can vote in them.   Washington has moved to what you might call a super open primary in which voters can choose to vote in any primary, regardless of which party they belong to.)
- 7:58 AM, 28 August 2004
More:  If you would like to see what the Seattle Times neutrally calls a "scuffle", and what KOMO 4 ignored entirely, here's the video.   (You'll need the Windows media player, or the equivalent, and to see it smoothly, a high speed connection.)  I wouldn't call it a scuffle; I'd call it an attack by the Kerry supporter.   (Via Polipundit.)
- 7:49 AM, 29 August 2004   [link]


John Kerry, Anti-Anti-Communist:  I have been thinking about John Kerry's political career and wondering how to characterize his approach to foreign policy.   I've decided that the odd term, "anti-anti-Communist", is the best brief summary.

Let's unpack it for clarity.  Communist is easy enough; my American Heritage dictionary gives "a member of a Marxist-Leninist party" as one definition, and that's enough for now.   An anti-Communist then is someone who opposes Communists, for whatever reason.  In turn, an "anti-anti-Communist" opposes anti-Communists.

The term came into use to describe a group of people for whom "pro-Communist" or even "soft on Communism" did not fit.  Such people would — if pressed — admit that Communism was not good thing, but opposing it did not interest them.  Instead, they opposed whatever the anti-Communists wanted to do.

The anti-anti-Communists were not always wrong when they opposed the anti-Communists.  The latter group, defined as it is negatively, had all sorts of ideas for opposing Communism, some of them nuts.  For example, in the 1950s, I recall reading an article proposing a preventive war with Communist China.  It wasn't in some obscure publication; it was in the Reader's Digest, and it was from, as I recall, a retired admiral.  About that same time, we were supporting small guerrilla movements in the Eastern bloc.  Most, perhaps all, were betrayed by Communist spies.

But the anti-anti-Communists were wrong, terribly wrong, in general.  The collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe vindicated those who had worked for that outcome and discredited those who had not.  The collapse came for many reasons, but the actions of the anti-Communists in the West played a part.  And it might have happened sooner were it not for anti-anti-Communists, including John Kerry.

Joshua Muravchik summarizes Kerry's failures in the Cold War, but does not provide an exhaustive catalog.
Many leaders had a hand in Washington's Cold War triumph, but Ronald Reagan's contributions were pivotal, and Kerry opposed every one of them.  Reagan's defense buildup disabused Soviet leaders of any hope that they could ultimately come out ahead of the United States.  Kerry derided these military expenditures as "bloated" and "without any relevancy to the threat."  In particular, Reagan's plan to seek a missile defense system against Soviet ICBMs and NATO's decision to station new missiles in Europe to counteract the new Soviet deployment there rendered futile the Kremlin's vast investment in nuclear supremacy.  Instead of these measures, Kerry advocated that we adopt a one-sided "nuclear freeze."

Reagan also showed the Soviets that history was not necessarily on their side by ousting the erratic communist regime in Grenada and arming anti-communist guerrillas to challenge the leftist oligarchs of Nicaragua.  Kerry condemned the U.S. action in Grenada as "a bully's show of force," and he opposed our support for guerrillas in Nicaragua as vociferously as anyone in the Senate, even traveling to Managua to try to cut a deal with Sandinista strongman Daniel Ortega to thwart Reagan's policy.
(Kerry agrees with Muravchik about the importance of Reagan.  Here's what Kerry said a day after Reagan's death.
Free men and women everywhere will forever remember and honor President Reagan's role in ending the Cold War.  He really did believe that communism could be ended in his lifetime, and he helped to make it happen.  Perhaps President Reagan's greatest monument isn't any building or any structure that bears his name, but the absence of the Berlin Wall.
That's either surprisingly generous or terribly hypocritical, given Kerry's consistent opposition to Reagan's policies.)

Kerry makes no claims about his own contributions to defeating Communism, after the Vietnam War.   I searched his official site for "Communism" and " Communist" and found only this false claim.
Kerry has been under fire in recent days for his shifting stands on Cuba -- including his assertion in Florida recently that he backed a 1996 law to stiffen sanctions on the communist island even though he actually voted against it on final passage.
Which has a familiar ring.  (I can't imagine why his team put this article on the site.)

But we can find some very recent evidence of his continuing anti-anti-Communism, for example, here.  Amazingly, to study the crimes of the Vietnamese Communists, Senator Kerry supported "the hiring of Communist nationals from Viet Nam over hiring Americans who escaped and survived the persecution of the government which these two 'scholars' represent".

And in 2001, Kerry blocked the passage of the Vietnam Human Rights Act.
"Kerry's action burned bridges nationwide" within the Vietnamese community, according to Garden Grove councilman and Republican California State Assembly candidate Van Tran.  Sponsored in the House by Christopher Smith and co-sponsored by the unlikely bipartisan duo of Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA, whose district crosses into Little Saigon), the human rights act passed by a margin of 410-1.  Kerry, then ranking member of the Senate subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, did not allow the legislation to come to the floor for a vote.
Many Vietnamese-Americans believe that Kerry's act emboldened the Vietnamese Communists and led to greater repression in Vietnam.

Anti-anti-Communists generally opposed any official criticism of Communism as provocative; Kerry still does, it would seem.

(I'll have more on Kerry's anti-anti-Communism before the election, including, for the skeptics, an explanation of why it still matters.)
- 4:31 PM, 27 August 2004   [link]


Three More Surprising Polls From the LA Times.
Bush has opened small leads — within the surveys' margin of error — in Ohio and Wisconsin, states where the presidential race was closer in Times polls taken in June.  The new Times survey also finds Bush ahead in Missouri, though by a narrower margin than in June.
. . .
In Missouri, Bush leads among registered voters, 46% to 44%; in Wisconsin, he leads 48% to 44%; in Ohio, the president holds a 49%-to-44% advantage, the surveys found.
First, a caveat: The sample sizes in the three states are smaller than I like (507 in Ohio, 580 in Missouri, and 512 in Wisconsin).  But that is counterbalanced by the consistent results in the three states, and the fact that the LA Times polled registered voters, not likely voters.

If these polls are accurate, then it is likely that Bush has leads in other swing states in the Midwest and in the rest of the nation, as well.  The Midwest is fairly representative of the nation as a whole, politically.  If there is a movement to Bush in the Midwest, then there probably is one in the rest of the nation, too.

Most other national polls have shown a shift toward Bush of 3-4 points in the last two weeks, with the exception, curiously, of Fox.  When different pollsters reach such similar conclusions, I am inclined to believe them.  (This 3-4 point movement toward Bush in just a few weeks also suggests that the electorate is less locked in to their choices than many analysts think.)

And, for what it is worth, Kerry is coming to Washington state to campaign this weekend.  If Kerry has to defend Washington, a state carried by Michael Dukakis in 1988, then he is in serious trouble.
- 1:10 PM, 27 August 2004   [link]


Need Kid Costumes For Halloween?  Here's a firm with original ideas.  (At least I hope they are original.)  They are offering "Child Pimp & Ho Costumes". Think no one would buy them?  As I learned from a commenter at Assymetrical Information, the "Child Ho" costumes are already sold out.

I would guess that mothers order most of these costumes.  What kind of mother would choose to dress her daughter as a prostitute?  Or even agree to, if it was the daughter's idea?
- 7:59 AM, 27 August 2004   [link]


Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader, says she doesn't know why John Kerry says we were right to liberate Iraq.
Calling President Bush's invasion of Iraq "a grotesque mistake," Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, said in Las Vegas Wednesday that she can't understand why John Kerry has said he still would have "voted to give the president the authority to go to war" even had he known there were no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, Bush's original justification for war.

Labeling Bush an "incompetent" who didn't have the judgment, experience or knowledge to risk American lives in Iraq, the House Minority Leader then said she "can't answer" why Kerry continues to support a position that seemingly gives Americans little choice between the presidential candidates when it comes to the war in Iraq.

Asked why Kerry holds that position on Iraq, Pelosi answered "I don't know" in remarks that came after she appeared with Tom Gallagher at the Concorde Assisted and Retired Living Home near Eastern and Twain avenues.
Let's help her.  According to Ms. Pelosi, George W. Bush is an "incompetent" because of his decision to remove Saddam.  Therefore, John Kerry, who came to the same decision (or says he did), must be incompetent as well.  (Unless he is fibbing, of course.)   So too are British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and large majorities of the United States Congress (which voted to make the removal of Saddam national policy), and President Bill Clinton, who accepted that resolution, and Washington Senator Maria Cantwell who voted for the resolution authorizing Bush to remove Saddam, and California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who also voted for the resolution, and many, many others.  No wonder Washington, D. C. is a mess, with all these incompetents in power.

(Correction: Weapons stockpiles was one of the justifications Bush gave for war, not the "original" justification, as everyone who paid attention at the time knows.  And, if you didn't, you can go back and read his speeches, which are available to everyone, even reporters for Las Vegas newspapers.

Wonder if we can get Pelosi up here to campaign for Senator Patty Murray?)
- 7:21 AM, 27 August 2004   [link]


Kudos To Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times for his suggestion to Seattle's "Congressman for life", Jim McDermott.  Westneat thinks that McDermott should tell the truth about the Gingrich tape.
A quick recap: McDermott was on a House ethics committee investigating then-Speaker Gingrich.   A Florida couple recorded a private cellphone call featuring Gingrich discussing how to spin the committee's findings, which Gingrich had promised he would not do.

The couple gave the tape to McDermott.  Rather than turn it over to a GOP-run committee McDermott felt was biased, he leaked it to three newspapers.
. . .
Whether ruling for or against him, judges have found McDermott infuriating.  One blasted him for playing the "innocent," another for his "pursuit of the politics of personal destruction."   And now another judge says McDermott has employed "faulty recollection" to try to obscure what happened.

I've never understood why he didn't tell the truth from the beginning.  Something like: "I released the tape because I no longer trusted the House to investigate its own.  I compromised my job as an ethics officer, and for that I apologize."
Why didn't McDermott do that?  Probably because he is a partisan, and a blind partisan at that.   Contrary to what Westneat says, there was nothing on the tape that showed Gingrich breaking a promise.  Gingrich had promised not to mount a campaign against the committee, and he didn't.  Another leader at the meeting remarked that the Democrats would attack Gingrich and then the Republicans could reply.  That's all.  That McDermott thought there was something wrong about this shows how blindly partisan he is.  (The New York Times reporter McDermott chose for the leak is interesting, too — Adam Clymer, yes that Adam Clymer, the "major league . . .", as candidate Bush called him in 2000.)

Despite getting that crucial fact wrong, Westneat deserves credit for trying to hold McDermott accountable, something most reporters in this area will not do, some because they are as partisan as McDermott, others because they have given up.

(Digression: Despite the ending "s", kudos is singular.  There is no English plural, though there may be one in Greek, from whence we borrowed the word.)
- 10:57 AM, 26 August 2004   [link]


LA Times Poll Puts Bush Ahead:  For the first time this year.
For the first time this year in a Times survey, Bush led Kerry in the presidential race, drawing 49% among registered voters, compared with 46% for the Democrat.  In a Times poll just before the Democratic convention last month, Kerry held a 2-percentage-point advantage over Bush.

That small shift from July was within the poll's margin of error.  But it fit with other findings in the Times poll showing the electorate edging toward Bush over the past month on a broad range of measures, from support for his handling of Iraq to confidence in his leadership and honesty.
What to make of this?  It is from the LA Times, which has produced poll results that many find hard to believe, notably on the Gray Davis recall.  That their poll results generally slant Democratic would suggest that this is very good news for Bush.  (Most of the other major polls, including those from Investors Business Daily, CBS, Harris, Gallup, the Associated Press, and Fox, have had Bush ahead at some point this year.)  That this was a poll of registered voters, rather than likely voters, would strengthen that conclusion.

According to the LA Times, Bush has gained among social conservatives, just as I have been predicting he would.  The pollsters think this reflects the SwiftVet ads, but I think it reflects a whole range of issues, especially gun control and abortion.  (In an amusing bit of bias, the Times contrasts cultural conservatives, not with cultural liberals, but with "moderates".)

Most analysts have been arguing that nearly all voters have locked in their choices.  I have thought these arguments exaggerated and am interested to see that the LA Time agrees, now saying that: "These results suggested that a substantial part of the electorate remained open to change."   Only a cynic would think that they came to this conclusion because Bush now leads in their poll.
- 7:20 AM, 26 August 2004   [link]


Sixty Years Ago Today, the German general, Dietrich von Choltitz, surrendered Paris to Free French forces commanded by General Leclerc.  But not after a fight, which Choltitz felt was required by his honor as a German officer.

The fight had begun about 10 days before, as the lightly armed resistance forces rose and began to take over key places in Paris.  The West Point Atlas of American Wars gives a laconic description of what happened next.
Free French risings in Paris on the 19th soon needed assistance; accordingly the V Corps took the city on the 25th; the honor of the triumphal entry being given to the French Second Armored Division.
If that sounds like Paris was a sideshow, that's because it was.  The allies, having broken out from Normany, and trapped or destroyed much of the German army at Falaise, were in full pursuit of most of the remaining German forces, well to the west of Paris.

Militarily the liberation of Paris was a distraction; psychologically it was all important.   From the first, De Gaulle had planned to capture the city with French forces (or appear to) — and to prevent other French groups from beating him to the prize.  The BBC, in a surprisingly unbiased article, explains part of the story.
Within hours of arriving in liberated Paris he went to the Hotel de Ville and said this:

"Paris — liberated by itself, liberated by its people, with the support of the armies of France, with the backing of the whole of France, of the true France, of eternal France."

Later in the speech he made only a passing mention of the Allies — and the myth of self-liberation would become the moral basis of de Gaulle's leadership of the post-war republic.
But that's not the whole story.  I said that the resistance forces inside Paris were lightly armed.  And they suffered heavily because of that.  The BBC article claims that 1,600 died during the rising.  (They may be counting German losses, too.)

In my first visit to Paris, I was struck a plaque commemorating a group of resistance fighters who had been shot by the Germans.   The plaque had a detail that helps explain why they were lightly armed.  It did not say that so many Frenchmen were shot, but that so many Communists were shot.  In Paris, the strongest resistance forces were Communist, and to block them from power, de Gaulle had dropped arms to other areas, especially rural areas, where his views had more support, but avoided sending arms to Paris.  French were to liberate Paris, but not the wrong French.  (There's more about the campaign in John Keegan's fine Six Armies in Normandy.)

From the first, there was a quarrel over who had liberated Paris, with the Communists wanting to claim most of the credit and de Gaulle wanting to give it all to the French (with just a little help from their friends).  At first, there was not much doubt about who deserved the credit; Parisians gave the biggest welcome to General Leclerc and the French Second Armored Division (or as they called it, the Deuxième Division Blindée or, more briefly, the Deuxième DB), and the next biggest welcome to the American forces.  (British forces, who had done much of the hardest fighting in Normandy, were farther to the west, though token groups did join the parades.)

Ernie Pyle, the great World War II combat reporter, entered with the American forces and described (in Brave Men) the delirious two day welcome.
As our jeep eased through the crowds, thousands of people crowded up, leaving only a narrow corridor, and frantic men, women and children grabbed us and kissed us and shook our hands and beat on our shoulders and shouted their joy as we passed.
. . .
There was one funny little old woman, so short she couldn't reach up to kiss men in military vehicles, who appeared on the second day carrying a stepladder.  Whenever a car stopped she would climb her stepladder and let the boys have it with hugs, laughs and kisses.
. . .
But on the second day it was a deliberate holiday.  It was a festival prepared for and gone into into on purpose.  You could tell that the women had prettied up especially.  The old men had on their old medals, and the children were scrubbed and Sunday-dressed until they hurt.
Times have changed, most who were there have passed away, and many in France now believe, as de Gaulle told them, that they liberated themselves.  The French Communist party had its story in 1944, and is sticking to it.   They liberated Paris, without much outside help.  The most influential newspaper in France, Le Monde, did an 8 page special on the liberation; they were more generous than the Communists, attributing the liberation to the French people, but giving almost no credit to the Americans, Britons, Canadians, and Poles who had done nearly all the fighting in Normandy.  Earlier, as if to prove that no good deed goes unpunished, Le Monde had run this cartoon in which German soldiers surrender — and beg not to be sent to Guantanamo.

Some will be angered or disgusted by this French dishonesty and ingratitude.  I find it mostly sad.

(Some Americans — perhaps from watching too many episodes of the Simpsons — think that the French do not produce great soldiers.  Were they to study the career of Leclerc and the other Free French who fought bravely both in North Africa and in the liberation of France, they would change their minds.

Although they were the first on French soil, Leclerc and the Deuxième DB were soon joined by many others.  After the landing in the south of France (just days after the liberation of Paris), there were five French divisions fighting to free their nation, and there were seven by the beginning of 1945.)
- 6:26 PM, 25 August 2004   [link]


What Would You Call a man who voted for George H. W. Bush in 1988, Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996, Al Gore in 2000, hoped to vote for John Edwards in this election, has friends in both parties, and has contributed to both parties?  I'd call the man an independent.  Who am I describing?   John O'Neill, who is heading the SwiftVets.
A close Democratic associate in Houston, Gerry Birnberg, chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party, said he believes O'Neill when he says that he voted for Al Gore in 2000 -- despite O'Neill's social and professional relationships with leading Republican figures in Texas, including Houston real estate mogul Bob Perry, who has given $200,000 to the swift boat campaign.

"I do not personally believe that John O'Neill is an evil person who is doing this for political purposes, per se, though I think some of the other folks are," said Birnberg, who said he has known O'Neill for at least 20 years.  "He's doing it out of a personal animus to Kerry that is the residual of the Vietnam debate."
And not because he is supporting Bush, according to Birnberg.
But as a friend, the Democratic county chairman said he does not question O'Neill's motives.

"He has told me on a couple of occasions that he believes George Bush is an empty suit who is not competent to be elected president," Birnberg said.  It is just that O'Neill is "so hung up with John Kerry," he said.
Birnberg, like many journalists, does not seem to understand O'Neill's old fashioned motive.  In 1971, Kerry attacked O'Neill's honor, when he made his charges against those who served in Vietnam.  One hundred years ago, nearly everyone would have understood O'Nell's reaction.  Now, his actions puzzle many, who ascribe them to partisanship or "personal animus".  (Most who have served in the military understand his motive, since honor is better understood there than in most civilian occupations.)
- 2:39 PM, 25 August 2004   [link]


Both Records And Memories Are Fallible, as I have been arguing for some time.  Here's support for that argument from Reverend Sensing.   A friend of his wrote as follows:
Don - Time distorts all memories, but there is something about the combat environment that really twists your recollection of events.
And then gives some vivid examples from the war to liberate Iraq.

The daughter of man who was killed in Vietnam, Karen Spears Zacharias, learned the same lessons the hard way, when she tried to learn how her father had died.
Amid the confusing debate over John Kerry's Vietnam record, one thing is clear: war — particularly the trauma of war — corrodes memory.
The eye witnesses she found disagreed, and the official records she examined did not resolve her questions.

With one exception, I have found no reason to think that either Kerry or the SwiftVets have been lying about what happened in Vietnam.  The exception?  Kerry's claim to have been in Cambodia.  That he would not even answer a question on Cambodia says much, I think.
- 2:01 PM, 25 August 2004   [link]


In 1992, my favorite bumper sticker read: "Annoy the media; Re-elect Bush."  (I wasn't the only one who liked it.  Two or three days after I saw it in a local Bush headquarters, I went back to get one and learned that all of them were gone.)   This year, according to Stephen Green, the bumper sticker might begin "Infuriate" or Outrage", instead of "Annoy".
Should George W. Bush win reelection, you know who is going to be pissed off the most?

It won't the Deaniacs.  It won't be (if you'll excuse the oxymoron) die-hard John Kerry supporters.  It won't be gay activists, civil rights leaders, peaceniks, or even the brigades of B-list movie actors.  All of them will be upset, surely, and some of them with good reason.

But Big Media is going to be angry.  Stark raving, foot stomping, breath holding, going-to-bed-without-dessert mad.  That's just how some people get when their man loses, and as Newsweek's Evan Thomas noted last month, Kerry is the media's man:
I think Green is right.  And the media are more open about their bias than they were in 1992.   There's an example from 1993 that shows the change.  ABC was so concerned about the many complaints of bias in their 1992 election coverage that they did a special examining the charges — and although they didn't say so in the special, they in effect conceded that they had not been entirely fair.  Can you imagine any network doing the same after this election, regardless of who wins?

(One puzzle:  Why hasn't anyone revived the 1992 bumper sticker?  There's an opportunity for some entrepreneur.  I think they will be even more popular this year than they were in 1992.  If an entrepreneur reads this, I would suggest keeping the original wording, even though a stronger word might fit.  Light touches usually work best on bumper stickers.)
- 1:17 PM, 25 August 2004   [link]


Election Fraud In Oregon?  In 2000, Al Gore carried Oregon by 6,765 votes.  I have long thought that his margin there might have come from illegal votes, as I explained in my analysis of the election here, but I have not thought that there was organized fraud in Oregon, at least on a large scale.  Now, a claim in this column on Democratic vote fraud makes me wonder.
In Oregon, 36,000 of the mailed-in ballots were signed by someone other than the registered voter.
I had not seen this claim before and Colon does not give a source, but here is my guess at the origin of the number.  Voting officials in Oregon found 36,000 ballots with incorrect signatures and rejected those ballots.  That seems reasonable, considering that about 1.5 million people voted in Oregon in the 2000 election.

Now then, let's try a little extrapolation.  Did the voting officials detect all the fraudulent signatures?  Of course not.  Imitating another's signature is not that difficult, assuming you have one to copy.  So Oregon officials must have accepted some fraudulent ballots.  How many?  I have no idea, but it is not hard to imagine that it might have been as many as 6,765.  And it is not implausible to believe that supporters of Gore — almost certainly not part of his campaign — constructed some fraudulent ballots for him.

(I did see two reports of fraud in Oregon in the 2000 campaign.  The Republican party held a large rally for Bush and several people went around collecting mail ballots.  Later, the Republicans realized that no one knew those people, and that, almost certainly, they were Democrats who stole the votes.  And, on election day, a man stood in front of a Portland post office collecting ballots and promising to deposit them for those who wanted to skip inside.  Instead he took the ballots.  I never saw any indication of who he was working for.  Although Portland favors the Democrats, there are parts of Portland where one might collect mostly Republican votes.  Or, the man might have steamed the envelopes open and discarded the "wrong" ones.)

As I have said many times before, mail ballots are simply too subject to fraud to be used on a large scale.  Oregon now uses only mail ballots, and they will soon, I predict, see some disputed elections because of that.  (And there may be others that should be disputed, but won't be, because the evidence isn't clear enough for a challenge.)

(There were, I am sure, some fraudulent votes for Bush in Oregon in the 2000 election.  But since he lost, they did not make the difference in the election.   Fraudulent Gore votes might have.)
- 10:09 AM, 25 August 2004   [link]


Seen Any Good Floods Lately?  Nothing like these, I am sure.
HOPE, Idaho — Thousands of years ago, with a force that shook the earth, ice dams in the mountains here gave way, sending a towering, churning wall of water — the equivalent of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie flowing at a rate of 10 times all the rivers on the planet — on a frantic dash to the Pacific Ocean.  The mammoth lake held back by the dam, Glacial Lake Missoula, was drained like a giant bathtub, in perhaps as little as 48 hours.  And like an enormous high-pressure fire hose, the water moved massive amounts of rock and left scars in the bedrock of four states.

This catastrophic event, in the last ice age, was not the only flood from the lake.  There were dozens or more similar "flood outbursts" in the last ice age, and perhaps many more in previous ice ages.
There's more in the story, though it leaves out many interesting details.  There was so much water that some tributaries of the Columbia flowed backwards for a time.   Geologists have found reverse beaches from these flows and rocks rafted on ice chunks down from Canada, high above the tributaries .

As the article notes, the discoverer of these floods, Harlan Bretz, was scorned initially.   At the time, geologists, reacting to stories from Genesis, were reluctant to consider catastrophes as causes for geological features.  And Bretz, despite all his fieldwork, never seems to have looked for the answer to what seems an obvious question: Where did all the water in the floods come from?  It would seem natural to work upstream, but he never did so.

Political point?  A small one.  It is common among Greens to see the earth as a benign environment.  The ancestors of Native Americans who saw those walls of water could have corrected the Greens on that point — assuming they survived.

(I have seen significant floods on three rivers, the Wenatchee (a tributary of the Columbia), the Mississippi, and the Susquehanna.  I have tried to scale them up to these floods in my imagination and failed completely.)
- 9:00 AM, 25 August 2004   [link]