Archive:

December 2004, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Where State Law  determines what is legitimate is what I said in the previous post, and what I meant.  Does that mean that sometimes the winner is not the candidate that most voters tried to vote for?  It sure does, and San Diego's three way race for mayor gives us an example.
Only a week ago, it seemed to many people in San Diego that the race for mayor was finally settled.   After three lawsuits and considerable bickering, the Nov. 2 election was certified and the incumbent, Dick Murphy, was sworn in for a second term.

Not so fast.  City Councilwoman Donna Frye, whose write-in candidacy was at the heart of all the distress, said this week that she was the winner after all.

A tally of previously uncounted ballots that began on Tuesday showed that Ms. Frye would have won if all the votes that bore her name had been counted and declared valid.  The tally of those ballots, which ended on Wednesday, showed that at least 5,559 ballots were cast for Ms. Frye that had not been counted in the election's official results.

The total would have given Ms. Frye 3,451 more votes than Mr. Murphy.  Ron Roberts, a San Diego County supervisor, came in third.

The ballots had been disqualified because voters who wrote in Ms. Frye's name failed to darken a blank oval next to that particular line, as state law dictates.  The oval, sometimes called a bubble, is what scanning machines read as they record a voter's preference.
If that's what state law dictates, then Ms. Frye should go back to her surf shop.

(There are two other lessons in this result, one for write-in candidates and one for elections generally.  Successful write-in candidates generally have to educate their supporters on the proper way to cast a write-in ballot.  Often they pass out written directions with an example.   If Ms. Frye didn't do this, she should have.

And this close three-way race shows why we should have more run off elections than we do.  As I understand it, Frye entered the race because she thought that Murphy and Roberts were too similar.   But, if that is true, then she would have lost a run off against either.  There are a few places that do have run offs, but I think we should use them more often, perhaps when the winning candidate has less than 40 percent of the vote.

There are voting methods which achieve similar results, but I am not convinced they have any great advantages over run offs.)
- 2:25 PM, 16 December 2004   [link]


Routine Vote Counting Error:  That's what I find in this article describing the re-recount in Clark County.

A manual recount of Clark County ballots unearthed 58 previously unrecorded votes for governor, with Republican Dino Rossi increasing his lead over Democrat Christine Gregoire by two prized votes.

Nearly a week after it started, the hand-sorting of more than 172,000 ballots finished Tuesday with election workers doggedly quadruple-checking a last precinct to reconcile a discrepancy with the machine tally.

In the end, Rossi had 30 more votes than he had before, and Gregoire had 28.  Libertarian Ruth Bennett neither gained nor lost votes.

The new votes came from ballots with partly detached perforated squares, or ballots marked with pencil or ink instead of punched out.

That's about what I would expect, from previous experience.  It is also, I think, way too high.  I have been arguing for years that when counting punch cards (or optical ballots), election officials should first count as many as they can with the machines.  They should then look at the rest for legitimate votes, where state law determines what is legitimate.

One of the many things I learned to my dismay from the 2000 recounts in Florida is that some counties did not follow this common sense procedure and were too lazy to even look at the ballots that were not machine readable.

How many uncounted ballots would I find acceptable?  Zero.  All right, people are fallible, so that may be too strict.  But I will say that more than one or two, even in a county as large as Clark, is too many for me.  We know this is possible, because some counties did it in Florida in 2000 and some counties did it in Washington in 2004.

The right technology can help.  In this post, I suggest a hybrid voting system that would produce machine readable ballots that should have an error rate low enough even for me.  But what is essential is that attitudes change so that we no longer think that losing almost 60 votes, in Clark County, or anywhere else, is acceptable.

(Thirteen Washington counties, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Ferry, Garfield, Kittitas, Klickittat, Lincoln, Pacific, Pend Oreille, San Juan, Stevens, and Wahkiakum, had two or fewer votes change between the recount and the re-recount.  The largest of the thirteen is Chelan, where about 30,000 people voted in the governor's race.  The success of these smaller counties shows that it is possible to count votes correctly.  For what it is worth, only two of the counties, Pacific and San Juan, were carried by the Democratic candidate, Christine Gregoire.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.)
- 1:30 PM, 16 December 2004   [link]


Can Professors Trust Professors?  Not all the time, apparently.
It might seem that the only academic plagiarists are famous scholars with sloppy research assistants.

But a Chronicle investigation proves otherwise.  Among the cases we found were a political scientist who swiped five pages of his book from a journal article, a historian who cribbed from an unpublished dissertation, and a geographer whose verbatim copying appears to span his lengthy career.
. . .
In one of the rare surveys conducted about plagiarism, two University of Alabama economists this year asked 1,200 of their colleagues if they believed their work had ever been stolen.  A startling 40 percent answered yes.  While not a random sample, the responses still represent hundreds of cases of alleged plagiarism.
And, after reading the accounts of discoveries of plagiarism in the article, I would expect that many professors would have their work stolen without knowing about it.

Victims of plagiarism are often advised to forget about it, because the costs of complaining are so high, even if they are vindicated.

This shouldn't surprise anyone.  Guilds almost always tend to protect their members.   I can think of many examples of that rule, from doctors to policemen, but I can't think of a single exception.

The Chronicle article does not mention it, but these plagiarists often cheat the taxpayers, as well as their fellow professors.  If a professor is at a public institution, or receives a government grant for research, but then plagiarizes instead of doing original research, the taxpayers are not getting the research they paid for.  Since guilds tend to protect their members, the taxpayers will have to cut plagiarism by withdrawing grants and even dismissing those caught in plagiarism.  (One benefit from an attack on academic plagiarism would be to increase support for much needed reforms in our colleges and universities.)

(When I mention plagiarism, I always have to include columnist Molly Ivins, a serial plagiarist.  There's an example of her plagiarism here, and another one here, and I have seen others.  When I wrote the Seattle Times editorial page editor (not the current one, the previous one) about Ivins' plagiarism problem, I was ignored.  I still think any newspaper that carries her column should add a warning note, perhaps something like this: "Some of the ideas in this column may belong to Molly Ivins."

I was a little surprised when I learned that Ivins had stolen from Florence King.  Granted, King is often worth stealing, but she has such a distinctive voice that the theft would be obvious to anyone who knew her work.  (If you would like a sample of Kings' work, you might start with Memoirs of a Failed Southern Lady.))
- 6:06 AM, 16 December 2004   [link]


Ethics In Blogging:  I have tried to be fairly clear about my standards for writing these posts, and to be clear that I do not always meet my own standards.   Here, for example, are my standards for corrections.  I have not always corrected errors promptly, but I do try to.  (And there is one outstanding case that I hope to have corrected in the next few days.)  If I do not make a correction that you have sent me, it is usually because I do not agree that what I wrote was wrong.

And, as I explain in the standards, I often make minor corrections that do not affect the sense of a post, without noting that I have done so.  For example, I just changed "use" to "allow elections with" in my post on British voting with all postal ballots.  I thought the change in wording made the post clearer, without changing its meaning.

Recently, I have learned that some bloggers were accepting money from political campaigns without telling their readers about the subsidy.  I think they have every right to do that — and that they should have informed their readers about the subsidy.

I am almost certain that I would never accept such a subsidy, because I don't want to lose my freedom.  In fact, although traffic is approaching levels that would make advertising possible, I don't plan to accept ads, for the same reason.  I don't intend, by that, to even implicitly criticize those who do accept ads.  Most who accept advertising, from what I have seen, have been very responsible about it.  I would just rather not have to worry about the problem.

Finally, though I see no ethical problem in the practice, I should tell you that I have never written a post while in my pajamas.  Sweats, yes.  Pajamas, no.
- 7:02 AM, 15 December 2004   [link]


George And Laura Bush  are better at Christmas cards than I am.
During the past two weeks envelopes bearing a Crawford, Texas, postmark and a return address of the White House have been landing in mail boxes and on doormats at two million addresses.
. . .
In 2001, his first Christmas in office Mr Bush sent 875,000 cards.  That was more than double the 400,000 mailed by the Clintons, who themselves presided over a White House that was not exactly ascetic.

A year later the Bushes broke the million mark.  Why stop there?  In 2003 they kept up the pace, sending 1.3 million.  But they were just warming up.

By any measure, two million is a lot of cards.  It is an increase of more than 50 per cent in a year and of 400 per cent in four years.

It is more than a thousandth of the 1.9 billion cards all Americans will send this year.
Let's see, to catch up, I will have to send, uh, well, two million cards.  Maybe I won't even enter that contest.  (Wonder how many the Clintons will send?)

Here's the card, just in case you aren't on the Bush's list.  I like it more than most of the presidential Christmas cards.
- 5:09 AM, 15 December 2004   [link]


Castro The Grinch:  The Cuban dictator is opposed to some Christmas decorations.
The Cuban government has warned the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana to immediately take down Christmas decorations outside its offices or face unspecified consequences, the top American diplomat on the island said Tuesday.

The trimmings of Santa Claus, candy canes and white lights wrapped in palm trees on the mission's seaside lawn don't appear to be the problem.

What was likely irking the Cuban authorities, U.S. Interest Section Chief James Cason said, is a lighted sign about 3 feet in diameter among the decorations that reads "75" — a reference to 75 Cuban dissidents jailed last year.
You can understand why he wouldn't like that Christmas message.

Wonder which side the ACLU supports?
- 4:37 AM, 15 December 2004   [link]


Should Democrats Be Allowed To Handle Ballots?  All right, I am being sarcastic, but consider some recent history.  Nearly all of the problems in Florida during the 2000 election occurred in counties with Democratic election boards, counties with long histories of mismanagement and fraud.

And now we have still another mess in King County.  I don't think the discovery of 561 improperly rejected votes in King County is evidence of fraud, but I do think it is final proof of incompetence.   King County has one-third of the population of Washington state, and in election after election, most of the screw-ups.

It is time for King County executive Ron Sims to replace King County Elections Director Dean Logan with some one who is willing to clean house at the elections office and end these bi-annual King County embarrassments.  And Sims should take a cue from the voters of Washington state, who, for many years, have preferred to trust Republicans with the state's ballots.

(Cross posted at Sound Politics.)
- 11:42 AM, 14 December 2004
More:  King County found still more votes, as Al noted in the comments at Sound Politics.

Bill Huennekens, King County's superintendent of elections, said last night that election workers had recently found 22 ballots in the pockets of voting machines already put in storage.  The county's voting machines have pockets on the side where voters can place absentee or provisional ballots.

And that was after they changed their count on the improperly rejected ballots from 561 to 573.

Let me restate my main point to help get the discussion back on topic:  The mistakes made in King County in this election are proof of incompetence.  The series of errors demonstrates a need for new personnel and new policies.

What should King County be able to do?  To begin with, the elections office should be able to keep an accurate count of ballots received.  This is not a difficult task; all sorts of financial institutions do similar things every day.  There's much more, but that's where I would start.  I am sure many of you have more suggestions as to what we can reasonably expect from the office.

Reform may not be easy.  I suspect some of the offenders are protected by civil service rules.  But it is necessary if the citizens of this county and of Washington state are to have any confidence in our elections.
- 5:43 AM, 15 December 2004   [link]


Bird Brains?  Scientists once thought that was a fair description of our feathered friends.  And that conclusion was not entirely unreasonable, since birds lack the elaborate cerebral cortex that we use for abstract thought.  But the complex behavior of corvids (crows, ravens, jays, et cetera), has led to a new conclusion: These birds may be as smart as chimpanzees and gorillas.
A new study suggests their cognitive abilities are a match for primates such as chimpanzees and gorillas.  Furthermore, crows may provide clues to understanding human intelligence.

Published tomorrow in the journal Science, the study is co-authored by Nathan Emery and Nicola Clayton, from the departments of animal behavior and experimental psychology at Cambridge University, England.

They say that, while having very different brain structures, both crows and primates use a combination of mental tools, including imagination and the anticipation of possible future events, to solve similar problems.  They base their argument on existing studies.

Emery and Clayton write, "These studies have found that some corvids are not only superior in intelligence to birds of other avian species (perhaps with the exception of some parrots), but also rival many nonhuman primates."
Some corvids make tools for extracting insects from logs.  (The article has a link to a video showing a crow making a hook out of a straight piece of wire, if you want to see an example.)

How do the corvids manage to be so smart without much of a cerebral cortex?  They have a highly developed hyperstraiatum, which serves the same purposes as our cerebral cortexes, apparently.  And we shouldn't be too vain about our own brains.  A little thought will show you that a crow's brain must be more efficient, gram for gram, than a chimpanzee's brain, and possibly our own.

Is there a political lesson to all this?  Yes.
Increasingly, scientists agree that it isn't physical need that makes animal smart, but social necessity.  Group living tends to be a complicated business, so for individuals to prosper they need to understand exactly what's going on.  So highly social creatures like dolphins, chimps, and humans tend to be large-brained and intelligent.
Politics, even the simple politics of a flock, a pod, or a band, requires smarts.
- 7:58 AM, 14 December 2004   [link]


British Elections Are Too Honest:  So the Labour Party has chosen to liven things up by continuing to allow elections with all postal ballots — against the advice of its own experts.
The latest pillar to be removed from our democratic integrity came last week with the Government's decision to defy the recommendations of the Electoral Commission — a quango* which it set up — and go ahead with all postal ballots.  This is a retrograde step.  There are grave concerns about the all-postal ballots pioneered in June in the European elections.  And the complaints do not all come from Opposition politicians; they also come from the Labour MP Ann Cryer.  She has claimed that in some ethnic minorities, husbands filled in their wives' ballot papers or took them away to be filled in en masse.  There are still several cases outstanding of alleged fraud, where party activists have "helped" voters tick the right box.
To students of American elections, all of this will sound only too familiar.  There were credible reports of intimidation.
Ann Cryer, Labour MP for Keighley, said that all-postal voting in her constituency had disenfranchised [mostly Muslim] Asian women voters.  "There were people going around with carrier bags collecting up ballot papers and taking them to a safe house where they were filled in," she said.  "In a number of Asian households, the father filled all of them in for the whole family."
There were also reports of bribery and fraud, dead people voting, and dirty tricks by the parties.

The only American innovation that I did not find was vote brokers, who buy and sell absentee ballots in every election.  But I am sure entrepreneurs in Britain will fill that niche by the next election.

In the United States, Democratic leaders often support lowering the safeguards on voting.  Some do, I am convinced, because they want to increase vote fraud by individuals, which I have begun to call "distributed vote fraud", knowing that Democrats will usually benefit from those illegal votes.  Could some in the Labour Party be making the same calculation?  I don't know enough about British politics to make that accusation, but there is nothing implausible about the idea.

(*Quango?  Quasi non-governmental organization.  Quasi because it receives tax money but is not directly controlled by the government.

The Labour Party was hoping that postal ballots would increase turnout for local elections and elections to the European parliament.  The news reports agree that they succeeded, but levels remain low, about 40 percent of eligible voters.  Low levels of voting for the European parliament seem to be universal, or nearly so, across Europe.  The elites have far more enthusiasm for the European idea than most citizens.)
- 7:10 AM, 14 December 2004   [link]


Are Vote Counting Errors Random?  This is not a post I enjoy writing, but I think I should prepare my fellow Republicans for some possible bad news.

Let me begin by saying that the answer to my question is no.  People tend to make mistakes that favor themselves or their team.  For example, I have found that when I balance my checkbook I make mistakes in my favor about twice as often as I make mistakes in the bank's favor.  Grocery store checkers tend to err in favor of their customers, because that's easier psychologically.  I know that when I watch for a checker's mistakes, I find myself telling them the total is too low far more often than I find myself telling them it is too high.

The same pattern is found in vote counting.  Counters tend to err in favor of their own party.   Please understand that I am saying that people do this even if they do not intend to consciously.  (I recall seeing, years ago, a study that found that counters tended to err in favor of their own parties.  As I recall, and it has been many years, the study was done in Wisconsin, a place that has relatively clean elections.)

We should expect errors to be more frequent when vote counters have to count very large numbers of ballots.  I would find it fairly easy to keep my full attention on the ballots for an hour or so, but I am not positive I could do so for an entire day — no matter how hard I tried.  Others will be better than I at paying attention to a boring task, but at least a few will be worse.

In King county one-third of the vote counters are Democrats, one-third are Republicans, and one-third are county employees.  We can be certain that most of the county employees are Democrats, so most of the vote counting teams will have 2 Democrats and 1 Republican.

King county has many ballots and mostly Democrat dominated vote counting teams, so I expect that the vote counting errors in King county will not be random, but will favor the Democrats.   The King county errors might be counter-balanced by Republican favoring errors in other counties.   To reach a conclusion on that, you would have to analyze the rest of the counties individually.  I do think that the smaller counties (nearly all Republican) will be less likely to have errors, simply because their vote counters will not be working such long hours.

(Cross posted at Sound Politics.)
- 4:18 PM, 13 December 2004   [link]


Who Made These Remarks About Newspapers?  The public editor of the New York Times, Daniel Okrent.

I suppose the speak-for-itself trope made sense back when the image of the American newspaper was embodied in a freckled newsboy tossing a rolled paper onto a porch hung with geraniums.  But in an age when the press is so widely regarded as a predatory and uncontrolled beast, the failure to allow readers a view inside the cage can only aggravate their worst suspicions.

This Okrent column replies to the cultural editors at the Times, who were "provoked by my use of 'glib,' 'arrogance' and 'condescending' to portray the attitude of the culture editors" in an earlier column.  All of those words seem to fit some of the editors at the Times, and many of the newpaper's columnists.  But I am not sure I would go as far as Okrent and describe the press as a "predatory and uncontrolled beast", even indirectly.

Okrent's general point, that newspapers should be more open with their readers, is one I support entirely.  For instance, I would love to know why the Times has not dismissed failures such as columnists Frank Rich, Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman, or the editorial page editor, Gail Collins.

(Cross posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.)
- 8:36 AM, 13 December 2004   [link]


Better Late Than Never:  Stuart Taylor comes to the same conclusion that I have held for decades.
Lately, some critics of racial preferences (including me) have also speculated that many of the supposed beneficiaries might be better off without preferences.  They are so much less qualified academically than their white and Asian classmates, this argument goes, that they end up near the bottom of their classes and drop out in disproportionate numbers.

Now comes Richard Sander, a UCLA Law School professor, with the first in-depth statistical study of how preferences actually affect black law students' academic performance, passage rates for the bar, and job prospects.  His stunning and copiously documented conclusion: "Blacks are the victims of law school programs of affirmative action, not the beneficiaries."
I have believed this ever since the 1970s when I watched black students, admitted under affirmative action programs, struggle in college courses.  And there is nothing original in my conclusion.   Thomas Sowell, among others, has been making this argument for decades.

Racial preferences make (mostly white) academics and administrators feel good, but on the whole they hurt the (mostly black and Hispanic) students who receive them.  That should be enough reason to get rid of them.

(Preferences do not always hurt the recipients; sometimes they hurt the taxpayers.  The debate over preferences in Washington state that preceded the the passage of Initiative 200 was not as informative as it should have been, but I did learn that the most of the beneficiaries in contracting were — white women, or since contractors who deal with the government are seldom poor, rich white women.  (Who are, of course, often married to rich white men.)  My guess is that there were two results from this policy; taxpayers paid a little more than they would otherwise, and politicians who supported this policy, mostly Democrats, received substantial contributions from these contractors.

There was a peculiar twist to the preferences outlawed by Initiative 200.  Asian-Americans were given preferences in contracting, but not university admissions.

Finally, here are two tips for enterprising journalists.  The University of Washington law school was a strong supporter of racial preferences.  Why not call up some of the professors there and ask them for their reactions to this study?  I don't think I am the only person who would like to know whether they would still support preferences, even if they are shown to hurt their recipients.  The same questions could be put to professors at many other law schools, I am sure.

Second, Emily's List is famous for its support of women candidates with extreme pro-abortion views.  I have often wondered whether many of its supporters have received preferences as women from various governments.  Do some, in other words, have strong financial interests in backing the candidates they do?)
- 7:17 AM, 13 December 2004   [link]


Sounds Like A Winner:  Though not, I suspect, with the public.   As I have mentioned here more than once, Hollywood is passing up big bucks rather than make an anti-terrorist movie.  Now Sean Penn is about to release a movie on terrorism that was postponed after the 9/11 attack.  If this description is reasonably accurate, I think we can say that the movie is, at best, ambivalent on terrorism.
In his latest role, Penn portrays the frustration of disgruntled blue-collar failure Sam Byck, whom Broadway aficionados may recall from the hit Steven Sondheim play "Assassins."  The real Byck barely achieved 15 minutes of infamy at the height of the Watergate scandal in early 1974.  In a sloven attempt to hijack an airplane in Washington and crash it into the White House, the unemployed furniture salesman murdered a pilot before taking his own life.

This loose adaptation, which follows Byck through the painful events leading up to the catastrophe, is a wholly depressing account of pursuing the American dream in vain.  It works best as a window into a mind ravaged by disillusion and fatigue, but like the tease of ingenuity with the flipped narrative of "Memento," once all the punches are pulled, what's left is something more or less akin to a gripping thriller.

(If you are confused on the meaning of "more or less akin", you are not alone.)

The New York Daily News has a funnier description of the movie.
Sean Penn's new film, "The Assassination of Richard Nixon," could be the feel-good Al Qaeda date flick of 2005.  The rest of us, however, might get a little squeamish.  (Among the horrors are two murders, Penn trying to fly a passenger jet into the White House and Naomi Watts in no makeup.)
(A nitpicker might want to object that Al Qaeda does not approve of dating, but that would ruin Ben Widdicombe's wonderful phrase.)

Critics seem to think that the movie, though it may not do well with the public, has a good chance of winning awards.   I think I'll skip it, even if that marks me as unsophisticated.
- 6:20 AM, 13 December 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  Bjorn Lomborg believes that the world is warming because of human activities.  He also thinks we have better ways to spend our money than in implementing the Kyoto agreement to fight global warming.
Global warming will mainly harm the developing countries, because they are poorer and therefore less able to handle climate changes.  However, even the most pessimistic forecasts from the UN expect the average person in the developing countries to be richer in 2100 than we are now.

So action on global warming is basically a very costly way of doing very little for much richer people far into the future.  We need to ask ourselves if this indeed should be our first priority.

Of course, in the best of all worlds, we would not need to prioritise.  We could do all good things.  We could win the war against hunger, end conflicts, stop communicable diseases, provide clean drinking, step up education and halt climate change.  But we don't.  And we have to ask the hard question: If we don't do it all, what should we do first?

Some of the world's top economists — including three Nobel Laureates — answered this question at the Copenhagen Consensus last May, prioritising all the major requirements for improving the world.   They found that dealing with HIV/Aids, hunger, free trade and malaria were the world's top priorities.   This was where we could do the most good for our dollar.  Equally, the experts rated urgent responses to climate change at the bottom.  In fact, the panel called these ventures — including Kyoto — "bad projects", simply because they cost more than the good they do.

The Copenhagen Consensus gives us great hope because it shows us that there are so many good things we can do.  For $27 billion we could prevent 28 million people from getting HIV.   For $12 billion we could cut malaria cases by more than a billion a year.  Instead of helping richer people inefficiently far into the future, we can do immense good right now.
The Kyoto agreement, though it fails the most basic cost benefit test, has two great advantages for those pushing it.  Kyoto would put a severe handicap on American industry, to the delight of our competitors.  And It provides almost endless opportunity to attack the United States, particularly President Bush.  So common sense arguments such as this one from Lomborg are unlikely to have much effect on the debate.

(As always, when I discuss global warming, I add my disclaimer.)
- 1:52 PM, 12 December 2004
More:  As I expected, the professors who write for Crooked Timber attacked Lomborg here, here, and here.  None of them seem to understand his main point, that efforts to implement the Kyoto agreement will cost more than its benefits are worth.  I would not have thought that a difficult point for an economist to grasp, or even a student of political philosophy.  But I must say I admire John Quiggin's ability to divine Lomborg's motives — which Professor Quiggin is certain are bad.  I have no such abilities myself, and so I will not even speculate on Professor Quiggin's motives.  (Those who do want to speculate on them are welcome to look at the possibilities two paragraphs up.)

I hesitate to introduce facts to those who write for Crooked Timber, but even they might be interested in what that organ of right wing propaganda, the The New York Times, has to say.
With the United States keeping to the sidelines, delegates from more than 190 countries have gathered here both to celebrate the enactment of the Kyoto Protocol, the first treaty requiring cuts in greenhouse gases linked to global warming, and to look beyond 2012, when its terms expire.

Many delegates and experts concede that the pact, negotiated in 1997, is deeply flawed and that years of delays in finishing its rulebook mean that many adherents may have trouble meeting their targets for emissions cuts.

Its impact will also be limited because it exempts developing countries, including fast-industrializing giants like China and India, from emissions restrictions, and lacks the support of the United States, the world's dominant source of the heat-trapping gases.
So it won't do much good, and it will cost a lot of money, just as Lomborg says.
- 10:56 AM, 14 December 2004   [link]


Snoqualmie Falls In Flood:  Yesterday afternoon, I visited one of more famous local scenic attractions, Snoqualmie Falls.   I was hoping to see the falls in flood because we have had several days of heavy rain, enough to flood many of the local rivers.   The falls was in flood, as you can see in the picture below.



In fact it was so much in flood that this was about the best picture I could get.  The mist from the falls was so heavy that, just 20 yards away, it completely blocked the view — as well as drenching anyone who ventured that far down the trail.  Yacht gear would have been appropriate.

(The main picture at the official site shows the falls when the water is lower.  You can just see the place I took my picture yesterday.  It's in the upper right, where the trees begin.

For reasons that are not evident, at least to me, Microsoft sometimes uses Snoqualmie Falls as a place for off site meetings, when a group has to settle difficult question, or set of questions.)
- 7:48 AM, 12 December 2004   [link]


Make Sure It Fits Your Hands:  I should be wrapping my "away" Christmas presents so I can mail them early this morning, but I saw this post from "Jane Galt" and this one from the "Instapundit" on choosing a digital camera, and had to add my two cents.

While shopping for Christmas presents, I have also been looking for a digital camera for myself and have found that many, maybe even most, digital cameras are awkward to hold.  Some of that may just be me.  I wear size large gloves and am more clumsy than the average person.   But it is also true that I have never had any problems handling SLRs.

Different digital cameras have different faults.  Some are so slippery that I fear that I would drop them.  Many have buttons easy to hit accidentally.  A surprising number of them do not have good places to put my right thumb.

The biggest reason for this problem is that the designers are trying to make the cameras as small as possible.  This isn't all bad.  You are more likely to carry a small camera, and those who worry about the weight they carry, such as backpackers, will appreciate anything that reduces it.  But making cameras smaller does hurt the quality of pictures, everything else being equal.  David Pogue of the New York Times reviewed a batch of under $300 cameras and begins his review with this warning.
The lessons of this year's roundup are clear.  First, thin is in.  The manufacturers figure that making a camera microscopic makes it more fashionable - and makes it more likely that you'll have it with you when one of life's photo ops pops up.

Second, thin can't win; shrinking a camera's guts inevitably compromises its photographic prowess.   This year, the two cameras that take the best pictures happen to be two of the biggest, although they're certainly pocketable.
To which I would add, that same effort to shrink cameras while adding features has also produced cameras that many people will find hard to hold.  So, check that out before you buy one, especially if it is a smaller camera, with many features.

(I have decided to get the Olympus C-765, if you are wondering.  The sites I mentioned in this post, especially Steve's Digicams, were quite helpful in making that decision.  And I would add one more site that I have found useful, Imaging Resource.)
- 8:08 AM, 11 December 2004   [link]


MoveOn's Arrogance:  The leftist organization has some gentle suggestions for the Democratic party.
"For years, the party has been led by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base," said the e-mail from MoveOn PAC's Eli Pariser.  "But we can't afford four more years of leadership by a consulting class of professional election losers."
. . .
"In the last year, grass-roots contributors like us gave more than $300 million to the Kerry campaign and the DNC, and proved that the party doesn't need corporate cash to be competitive," the message continued.  "Now it's our party: we bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back."
It is curious that MoveOn objects to Democrats who lose elections, since one can make a strong argument that the organization contributed to Democratic defeats in both 2000 and 2004.  If Clinton had been forced to resign, I think it almost certain that incumbent Al Gore would have been elected in 2000.  But MoveOn fought to save Clinton.  And I think the extremism of MoveOn helped Bush again this year, net.

And who made Terry McAuliffe, whom MoveOn now wants to depose, party chairman?  Why, Bill Clinton did.  And I think it fair to say that Clinton and McAuliffe did much to increase the influence of corporations, especially dubious corporations, in the Democratic party.   MoveOn has every right to demand that McAuliffe resign — but they ought also to apologize for their part in keeping him in office.

Pariser has, I must say, a strange notion of democracy.  Most of us think that the power should go to those with the most votes, not those with the most contributions.

(But then MoveOn has always seemed strange to me.  As you may recall, they began as an effort to save Bill Clinton; they wanted to censure him and "move on".  But they never produced a proposal for censure, even though anyone who wanted to censure Bill Clinton could do so, by themselves.

As I recall, the founders of MoveOn got their small fortunes by inventing those flying toaster screen savers.  The screen savers were cute, but I very much regret buying one now.)
- 8:43 AM, 10 December 2004   [link]


Liberal Joan Vennochi and conservative Ben Stein agree.  Bush supporters who live in liberal areas face intolerance.  First, Ms. Vennochi.
She lives in Massachusetts.  On election eve, she sent me an email, telling me she was voting for Bush.  I caught up with her recently and asked her what life is like for a secret Bush voter in Massachusetts.  This is what she wrote:

"The day after the election, a group of women was sitting shiva in my health club locker room.   Huddled together, they asked, `How could Kerry have lost? How could Americans be so stupid?'  I meekly asked the most vocal if she thought everyone who voted for Bush was stupid.  `Yes,' she said. `Stupid, stupid, stupid.'
. . .
"Even though we didn't see eye-to-eye on most things, I liked the clarity of Bush's convictions and willingness to stand up for them.  So, I did the `dirty' deed and voted Bush.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he'll do a better job in his second term. And for the foreseeable future, I'm keeping my mouth shut that I voted for him."
If Ms. Vennochi thinks this desire to keep a Bush vote secret, for fear of reprisals, is silly, she does not say so.

Ben Stein lives across the continent in another liberal enclave, Malibu, and encountered other secret Bush voters.
This is the way it is here.  We meet in smoky places.  We give the high sign, we nod knowingly.  We are like members of the Maquis in Occupied France.  Or early Christians emerging from the catacombs in Caligula's Rome.  We are the GOP in Hollywood, and on the West Side of L.A.  The culture here is so dominantly left-wing, PC, vegan, hate-America that many of us feel we have to behave as if we were underground.
Even if you don't fear reprisals, you may not want to reveal your political views to those who call Bush a Nazi, something routine at "peace" demonstrations in this area.  That epithet does not bother our local newspapers or our local Democratic politicians, though they would be outraged if Republicans accepted calling John Kerry a Communist.

How bad is the hate and intolerance?  Seattle's two alternative weekly newspapers, the Stranger and the Seattle Weekly provide examples in every issue.  The Stranger, edited by Dan Savage, has been hysterical since election day, so filled with obscene abuse of Bush supporters that I will not quote it here.  And the Weekly, unsatisfied with comparing Bush to a Nazi or a Communist, just used their front page to call Bush the Antichrist — again.

Seattle, like many other leftist cities has a Hate Free Zone, an organization intended, one would think from the title, to decrease hate.  At one time, this combination of hate, and a Hate Free Zone organization that does nothing about it, would have struck me as ironical.  Now, the gap between word and deed is so large that I fear for the mental health of those who spread this hate, or at least tolerate its spread.  The idea that George W. Bush is the Antichrist, or can even reasonably be compared to the Antichrist, is insane — a word I do not use without careful consideration.

This insanity on much of the left has partisan advantages for the Republicans, because it makes them look moderate by contrast.  But it is bad for the nation to have so many of one party's activists so filled with hate that they can not see the world clearly.  And it is sad to see the personal costs, such as the lost friend that Lawrence Henry tries to retrieve with an open letter.

(What does the Hate Free Zone actually do?  As far as I can tell, they try to help illegal immigrants, at least those likely to despise America.)
- 6:48 AM, 10 December 2004   [link]


How Confident Are Voters In The Counting Process?  Not as confident as I would like, judging by the results from a Quinnipiac poll of Florida voters.  The press release uses positive language, but their numbers don't justify the language.
At total of 75 percent of voters are "very confident" or "somewhat confident" their vote was counted correctly, with 11 percent who are "not too confident" and 10 percent who are "not at all" confident the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.
(Always wondered how you pronounced Quinnipiac.)

The problem, which you can find in the table at the very end of the press release is that a large majority of Florida Democrats do not have full confidence in the counting.  Here's the question Quinnipiac used:
How confident are you that your vote in the 2004 presidential election in Florida was counted correctly — very confident, somewhat confident, not too confident or not confident at all?
Just 31 percent of Florida Democrats were very confident, 27 percent were somewhat confident, 22 percent were not too confident, and 16 percent were not at all confident.  I view the last three answers as negative, since this is a matter on which we want voters to have no doubts.  (Independents, as you would expect, were more confident than Democrats, but less confident than Republicans.  Forty-nine percent of them were very confident in the counting.)

It may be that Florida voters are unique, and that voters in the rest of the nation do not have the same doubts about our vote counting.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Florida voters had a higher level of doubt than all American voters, but I would be surprised to learn that they that they have a much higher level of doubt.

It is mainly these doubts among a significant fraction of voters that have led me to propose a hybrid system, in which voters use voting machines to print ballots that are read by optical counting machines.  It is, I think, a serious problem when a significant fraction of voters are not certain that their votes will be counted.

(There was another problem in Florida; many voters had to wait far too long.  About 18 percent of the voters said they had waited an hour or longer.  It would be interesting to know what caused the bottlenecks in the areas with long waits.)
- 3:25 PM, 9 December 2004   [link]


Another Guesstimate On Distributed Vote Fraud:  In this post, I described the problem of "distributed vote fraud" and in this following post, I gave it that name.   (If you missed those posts, what I mean by "distributed vote fraud" is the illegal votes cast by individual voters, acting separately, not illegal votes cast by a party official or a candidate.   Our lax election laws make some such votes inevitable.)

Because these illegal votes are seldom detected, and the people who cast them almost never prosecuted, there are no good estimates on their total number in Washington state, or anywhere else.

I gave my own guesstimate on the extent of the problem in Washington state in the first post; in my opinion, somewhere between 1 in a 100 and 1 in a 1000 Washington votes are illegal.  For a number of reasons, explained in my first post, I believe that that the illegal votes are about 2 to 1 Democratic.  That would mean that a typical Democratic candidate in Washington state would have a net gain of somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 votes from this distributed vote fraud.

Yesterday, I heard talk show host (and one time Republican gubernatorial candidate) John Carlson give his own guesstimate on the size of the problem.  He said that, were only legitimate votes counted, Republican Dino Rossi would have a lead of not 42 or 45 votes, but 5,000 votes, in the race for governor.  Carlson did not explain this, other than to say that he thought that many non-citizens were voting.  If, like me, he thinks that illegal votes go to the Democrats by a 2 to 1 margin, then he thinks that 1 in 200 votes cast in Washington state are illegal.

Many Republicans are aware of this problem; almost no Democrats are, or at least will admit to being aware of the problem.  (A few, of course, see it not as a problem, but as part of the solution.)   Yesterday, I also heard talk show host (and losing Democratic congressional candidate) Dave Ross assert that no one was claiming that there was vote fraud in Washington's gubernatorial election.  This shows, assuming Ross was being honest, that he doesn't listen to many Republicans.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Those who are bothered by my guesstimate should read this disclaimer.)
- 8:07 AM, 9 December 2004   [link]


How Big Would The Audience For An Anti-Terrorist Film Be?  Screen writer Bridget Johnson has a number.
The war on terror is a Tinsel Town taboo, even though a Hollywood Reporter poll showed that roughly two-thirds of filmgoers surveyed would pay to see a film on the topic.
I don't know a lot about movie attendance, but isn't the correct term for a movie that attracts two-thirds of filmgoers a "smash hit"?

Cowardice may be part of the reason that Hollywood has refused to make movies showing radical Islamists as villains, in recent years.  The murder of Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh was intended to discourage others from making films critical of Islam — and the silence afterwards in Hollywood afterwards shows that the murderers probably succeeded.  And I'll admit that, were I to make a film showing radical Islamists as villains, I would get some extra protection for myself and my company.  Despite the danger, it is obvious that Hollywood is giving up very large amounts of money, rather than be politically incorrect.

Hollywood's unwillingness to do films with negative depictions of our enemies and Hollywood's similar reluctance to do films with positive depictions of the United States have real effects on our image abroad, where so many learn about us from our movies.

(Via Michael Totten, whose discussion of the same column is surprisingly muddled.  Surprisingly, because Totten is usually much clearer in his thinking.  He errs in thinking that political correctness is found on both sides of the partisan divide, and never really recovers from that mistake.)
- 5:52 AM, 9 December 2004   [link]