December 2004, Part 4
Jim Miller on Politics
The Next Posts will be on January 1st. I need a bit of a break so that I can catch up on some other things. Happy New Year to all!
- 6:40 AM, 30 December 2004 [link]
Worth Reading: Commentary magazine has a whole set of articles worth reading this month. Their lead article is James Q. Wilson's sober assessment of the potential for liberal societies in the Muslim world.
What are the prospects for the emergence of liberal societies in Muslim countries? Note my choice of words: "liberal," not "democratic." Democracy, defined as competitive elections among rival slates of candidates, is much harder to find in the world than liberalism, defined as a decent respect for the freedom and autonomy of individuals. There are more Muslim nations—indeed, more nations of any stripe—that provide a reasonable level of freedom than ones that provide democracy in anything like the American or British versions.Next is a worrying article by David Pryce-Jones, The Islamization of Europe?
Does this crisis amount to a "clash of civilizations"? Many people reject that notion as too sweeping or downright misleading. Yet whether or not it applies to, say, the situation in Iraq, or to the war on terror, the phrase has much to recommend it as a description of what is going on inside Europe today. As Yves Charles Zarka, a French philosopher and analyst, has written: "there is taking place in France a central phase of the more general and mutually conflicting encounter between the West and Islam, which only someone completely blind or of radical bad faith, or possibly of disconcerting naiveté, could fail to recognize." In the opinion of Bassam Tibi, an academic of Syrian origins who lives in Germany, Europeans are facing a stark alternative: "Either Islam gets Europeanized, or Europe gets Islamized." Going still farther, the eminent historian Bernard Lewis has speculated that the clash may well be over by the end of this century, at which time, if present demographic trends continue, Europe itself will be Muslim.That article is followed by Joshua Kurlantzick's article on the strange red-green alliance that has been developing between the Left and radical Islamists. (Green because that is the color traditionally associated with Islam, at least in the main Sunni branch. I believe Shiites use black.)
A decade ago, a red-green alliance would have seemed astounding. On campuses in Europe and America, women's groups usually avoided Islamist organizations, which often held highly misogynistic beliefs. The primary concerns of hard-leftist groups tended to be local issues, like labor rights and poverty. Few had ties to any Muslim organizations.All three of these articles are important; if you don't have time to look at them today or tomorrow, you may want to save them for future reading, before they go into Commentary's archives — which are not free. (And there are other articles in this issue that some of you may want to look at.)
- 6:15 AM, 30 December 2004 [link]
President Bush Slips Up: Since 2000, I have been arguing that President Bush liked to make opponents think he was less intelligent than he actually is, that he liked to make opponents "minsunderestimate" him. One way he has done that is to simplify his public language so that he rarely says anything fancy. But yesterday he slipped when he answered a question in this press conference.
First of all, we provide immediate cash relief to the tune of about $35 million. And then there will be an assessment of the damage so that the next tranche of relief will be spent wisely. That's what's happening now.Tranche? The word is not even in my American Heritage dictionary (3rd edition). Worse yet, from Bush's point of view, it's a French word. Americans have thought for years that you can appear sophisticated by throwing in a French word or two when you speak or write. (Of course a few of us will just think you a poser, unless French happens to be your native language.)
This slip shows, I suspect, just how much Bush needs a vacation. When his control slips to this extent, we can only guess that he must be exhausted.
(What does tranche mean? Slice is close enough, though tranche has a more precise meaning in the world of bonds.)
- 4:58 AM, 30 December 2004 [link]
The Sour Lesson Of Bob Dornan's Defeat: In 1995, Republican Congressman Bob Dornan, who had represented two different Southern California districts, starting in 1976, decided to run for president. He had great fun for about a year, but spent most of his campaign funds and neglected his district. This gave an opening to a Democratic financial analyst named Loretta Sanchez-Brixey, who had run for several minor offices without success. She dropped the Brixey (though not her husband) so as to appear more Hispanic and ran a clever campaign against Dornan, defeating him by the narrow margin of 984 votes. A visit by Bill Clinton and help from the state and national Democratic parties may have made the difference. (Clinton and the Democrats had good reason to dislike Dornan, who had criticized Clinton as a draft dodger and a "multiple womanizer".)
So far, this would seem to be a routine story, just another example of a politician who didn't pay enough attention to the folks back home, or how his district was changing. But there is more to the story. Dornan charged that Sanchez's margin came from non-citizens, and an investigation by th House of Representatives found that 547 non-citizens had voted in the election. Some believe that far more non-citizens voted, who were not detected. John Fund, in Stealing Elections, says that:
Unfortunately, Fund does not provide an end note for that quotation, though he does for most others in the book. The 4,023 is a larger number than I have seen in other accounts, though I have seen claims that more than 2,000 non-citizens were registered to vote in the district. The authoritative Almanac of American Politics (1998 edition) says only that "it is possible that Dornan has a case", which is as far as I would go, too.
But the Almanac has more to say about how many of those non-citizens got on the rolls, and that part of the story is also instructive.
Hermandad Nacional Mexicana was running an interesting operation in Orange County.
And it was not just Dornan who found an irregularity or two in the group's registrations. So did the Los Angeles Times and an independent organization, the Fair Elections Group. Taxpayers will be pleased to learn that Hermandad Nacional Mexicana was not only a non-profit organization, in spite of its activities, but was subsidized by grants from a variety of governments. And those who have read this site for some time will not be surprised that nearly all of those registered by the organization requested absentee ballots. As we have learned again and again, absentee ballots are the choice of most who commit vote fraud.
Let's summarize to this point: There were a large number of fraudulent votes cast in the Dornan-Sanchez race, perhaps enough to tip the election to Sanchez. So, what happened after this vote fraud was revealed? Almost nothing. Dornan, who is not the most sympathetic character, became a object of scorn, even though he was the victim of vote fraud. (For an example of the scorn, see this Robert Scheer column.) In a 1998 rematch, Sanchez beat Dornan easily. As far as I know, California made no effort to strengthen its election laws or to remove non-citizens from the rolls. The director of Hermandad Nacional Mexicana at the time, Nativo Lopez, is still director, and the organization is still receiving government grants.
Given how abrasive Dornan had been through his career, it may be too much to expect Democratic politicians to criticize the vote fraud that may have cost him his seat. But it is not too much to expect those in the "mainstream" media to criticize that vote fraud, and to call for reforms. If any "mainstream" journalists did so, I missed it.
And that, I think, is the sour lesson that we in Washington state should take from Dornan's defeat. If you have read my earlier posts, you will know that I think that a fair count of legal ballots in the governor's race would almost certainly give the win to Dino Rossi. But you should not conclude that I would favor a court challenge. Though Rossi is not despised by journalists (at least most of them) in the same way as Dornan was (and is), Rossi is a Republican. Even if Republicans dig up proof that 130 votes were illegitimate, we should not expect journalists in this area to join us in a call to have Christine Gregoire thrown out of office, or even for a new election to be held. Most journalists, echoing Democratic party hacks, say "count every vote". Robert Dornan can tell you just what they mean by that phrase.
So what should Republicans do? We should keep digging up irregularities and publicizing them as best we can. We should consider backing an "honest elections" initiative in 2006, which would bring back minimal requirements for registration, such as citizenship, and for voting, such as a photo id. If, in the next few weeks, we can find enough evidence for a case that will get through the "mainstream" media filter to the public, then Rossi should consider going to court. Otherwise, I think it will be a losing move. I don't like that conclusion, but there are times, in politics as in war, where you have to retreat in order to advance later.
The Dornan-Sanchez election is the best example of distributed vote fraud that I have found. It is fair to wonder just how much we can generalize from it. One could argue that a Southern California district would have many more immigrants, legal and illegal, than most, a point I would grant. But it is also true that our immigrant population has increased greatly since 1996, and that there is no reason to believe that all the non-citizen voters in the race were detected by Dornan's investigation. And this year saw a surge in efforts by groups allied to the Democratic party to register people, whether they were citizens or not.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 12:23 AM, 29 December 2004 [link]
It's A Recycled Joke, but I like this version, too.
(What was the original joke? I'll give you this hint: Which nation is despised by all politically correct Europeans? And I suppose there may have been even earlier versions, now that I think about it.)
- 5:51 AM, 29 December 2004 [link]
Don't Count Every Vote: That's what the Montana Supreme Court just decided.
The Montana Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that a Democrat was the winner of a contested seat in the State House of Representatives, a decision that gives the party control of the governor's office and both chambers of the Legislature for the first time since 1977.And a lower Montana court.
I have no opinion on whether these votes should have been counted, since I know nothing about Montana's election laws, though it is significant that election officials, a recount board, and a lower court all thought they should be counted.
But I am certain that the New York Times editorial board will not complain about this result, even though not all the votes were counted and the Montana Supreme Court ignored the intentions of some of the voters. The Times does not really favor counting all the votes, though they often say so; they favor counting all the votes when that will help a Democrat or a leftist, but not otherwise.
(There are two other points that struck me about this three-way race. It seems likely that Windham would lose a run-off against either of her opponents, and that she is far from the majority choice in the district.
Second, I would suppose that Jore ran because he thought the Republicans insufficiently conservative. As the result of his run, the Montana legislature will be controlled by Democrats, which I assume he would find undesirable.)
- 4:38 AM, 29 December 2004 [link]
Polygamy And The Tax Man: Mark Steyn finds an interesting connection.
According to Nicholas Hellen in this weekend's Sunday Times, "The Inland Revenue is considering recognising polygamy for some religious groups for tax purposes. Officials have agreed to examine 'family friendly' representations from Muslims who take up to four wives under sharia, the laws derived from the Koran. Existing rules allow only one wife for inheritance tax purposes. The Revenue has been asked to relax this so that a husband's estate can be divided tax-free between several wives."And it is easy to see how this could happen, as a bureaucracy tries to accommodate its clients. And so the recognition of polygamy sneaks in via the back door, just as the demand for gay marriage was preceded by demands for partnership rights and civil unions.
I remain undecided on gay marriage, since I honestly do not know whether it would make raising children harder, or not. But like Steyn I am absolutely certain that gay marriage would inspire a powerful movement for the recognition of polygamy, which I believe would undermine Western society in a fundamental way.
(Steyn uses most of the column to argue that such backdoor methods of change are characteristic of Britain, in contrast to the United States. I don't know enough about Britain to be certain, but I suspect he may be right about the difference. However, it is also true that Americans can think of many backdoor examples of our own.
Don't miss his sober warning at the end of the column.)
- 1:56 PM, 28 December 2004 [link]
A Review Of Distributed Vote Fraud: Because it is almost certain that Christine Gregoire's 130 vote lead in Washington state's governor's race comes from what I have begun to call "distributed vote fraud", I thought I should review the concept. The ideas behind distributed vote fraud are not new, nor are they something that I discovered. I can think of examples that are literally hundreds of years old. What I have contributed is extensive coverage of the problem and, as far as I know, the phrase "distributed vote fraud".
What I mean by the phrase is vote fraud committed by individuals, acting by themselves, not the more traditional vote fraud committed by candidates, party officials, or election workers. I do not know of any good estimates of its extent, but I believe, from a variety of indirect evidence, that distributed vote fraud has made the difference in a number of close elections. I also believe, as I explain below, that it is a growing problem.
Because some find this argument distasteful, I am going to present it in an outline form and ask those who disagree to respond specifically to the points in the outline. In other words, if you think the argument is incorrect, I would appreciate it if you would explain where you think it is incorrect. And I will try to respond to those who make specific arguments.
The first point is, I hope, uncontroversial. The second should be, but you can find a few criminologists who argue that deterrence does not work, that the fear of getting caught and penalized does not deter some from crimes. I have never taken their arguments seriously, but will listen to anyone who has new thoughts on that question.
The third point should also be uncontroversial — at least for anyone who has followed the changes in our election laws. It is simply a fact that, in many jurisdictions, prospective voters are not required to prove their citizenship at registration, or their identity at voting.The fourth point follows from the same kind of argument that the second does; A cheater, I think, is more likely to cheat if the rewards (as the cheater measures them) are large. The fifth point is supported by a variety of evidence, the surge in voting, polls showing that voters thought this last election extremely important, and the growth in groups such as MoveOn.
The sixth point is undoubtedly the most controversial, and deserves a post of its own, which I will provide in the next day or so. For the moment, let me simply note that Democratic leaders act as if it is true. Both nationally, and in most states, most Republicans want stronger controls against cheating than most Democrats do. In 1993, nearly all of the opposition to the "Motor Voter" Act came from Republicans. President George H. W. Bush had vetoed it earlier; President Bill Clinton signed it.
From those six points above, I draw several conclusions. Distributed vote fraud has increased in the last decade, and was higher in 2004 than in 2000. In most cases, distributed vote fraud benefits Democratic candidates. (Often against other Democratic candidates in primaries, by the way.)
How much distributed vote fraud is there? That's the great question, and one for which I do not have an answer. Neither does anyone else, as far as I know. On the basis of very general arguments, I think that somewhere between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1,000 ballots cast in Washington's last election were fraudulent. That isn't a very high rate, but is enough so that distributed vote fraud may have provided Senator Maria Cantwell's margin in 2000, and almost certainly provided Christine Gregoire's current margin. It may well have provided the margin in some recent Washington legislative races, too.
One of the biggest sources of distributed vote fraud is voting by non-citizens. Those who disagree that it is a major problem often argue that non-citizens would not risk their green cards, if they are here legally, or deportation, if they are not. That risk is minuscule, and most non-citizens would know that. They are unlikely to be detected and very unlikely to be prosecuted if they vote.
A few months ago, I ran across an article in a Florida newspaper describing the experience of a Florida prosecutor who had prosecuted a number of cases of distributed vote fraud. I was struck by two points in the article. First, according to the prosecutor, he was unusual among prosecutors in being willing to bring any of these cases to trial. Most prosecutors did not see vote fraud cases as important, and did not want to get in trouble with one of the two major parties. Second, even this prosecutor ignored the cases in which an immigrant had voted after getting registered at the driver's license office. He accepted the immigrants' claims that they thought they were supposed to vote, and just told them to go and sin no more.
His experience shows why distributed vote fraud is such a difficult problem. Prosecutors are unlikely to see the few cases that come to their attention as deserving much of their time. But those cases, and the many that do not come to their attention, add up, and in close races, can change the result.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.
(I plan to write an extensive post on the extent of distributed vote fraud some time in the next month or so. If you have any data showing either that it is extensive — or that it is almost nonexistent — I would appreciate seeing it.Finally, as always, when I write on this subject, I refer you to my disclaimer. Please read it carefully if you disagree with the argument above.)
- 7:22 AM, 28 December 2004 [link]
I Wish I Had Been Proved Wrong: Before the election, I argued many times that the widespread use of absentee ballots was an invitation to fraud. There is nothing original in that argument; anyone who examined cases of vote fraud for a year or so would come to the same conclusion. Now, Stefan Sharkansky, who has been doing fine work on ballot problems, shows just how open Washington's system is to fraud with absentee ballots. (I had considered writing a similar post before the election, but decided not to give directions on how to commit a crime.)
Christine Gregoire gained a lead of 130 votes in the second recount.
The estimate was rough, as I said in the post, and in a subsequent disclaimer. Now, as he looks through King County's database of registered voters, Stefan Sharkansky is finding enough examples to show that my estimate was not unreasonable. See, for example, his findings on precinct 1823 in Seattle or his discovery that "hundreds" of King County voters are registered not at residences but at "various private mailbox services and storage rental facilities". And for those who would like to do similar investigations, let me add that I suspect that other large counties — Pierce and Snohomish come to mind — would have similar problems, though probably not on the scale found in King County.
During the recount process, I argued that an examination of dubious ballots would give gains to Christine Gregoire, because Democrats are more likely to err in voting. The re-recount did find some of those voters, even in counties carried by Dino Rossi. Whether all the gains that Gregoire received from counting these votes were valid is not clear to me, though I am sure that some of them were. You would have to know more than I do about Washington's election laws and the individual ballots to decide in each case.
Before the final manual recount, I argued that, since Democrats made up most of those counting and tallying the votes in King County, the errors would not be random, but would tend to favor the Democrats. The results did tend to favor the Democrats.
I suppose I could take some grim satisfaction in all this. But, frankly, I wish I have been proved wrong on all these points.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 5:41 PM, 27 December 2004 [link]
Two From The Telegraph: Yesterday, I learned from the Telegraph that London's police will no longer have black and Asian officers; instead they will have "visible minority ethnic" officers — and "visible minority ethnic" suspects.
The Metropolitan Police will no longer describe black people as black, as part of a new attempt to counter charges of racism in the force. Both black and Asian* people will in future be referred to as "visible minority ethnics".Presumably, the officers are to ask victims whether their attackers were "visible minority ethnics", which should cause considerable confusion. (And a grammarian objects that ethnic is not a noun. Maybe not in Britain, but it has been in the United States for many years.)
And I also learned that British school children are not learning important dates.
Schools are to be ordered to teach children key dates in British history in response to concern that youngsters have little knowledge of their country's past.Those of us who learned British history from 1066 and all that think that 2 dates, 55 BC and 1066 AD, are enough. (Two dates are enough for the United States, too. If a 14-year-old knows 1776 and 1861, American history teachers will have succeeded.**)
(*In Britain, of course, "Asians" are generally from India or Pakistan.
**I am only half joking here, since surveys show that large numbers of college students at prestigious schools can not locate the American Civil War in the right half century, much less pin it down to 1861-1865.)
- 1:06 PM, 27 December 2004 [link]
Absentee Ballots Were Used For Fraud In The Ukraine: As they so often have been in the United States, and as they were in Great Britain's recent experiment with them. The Ukrainian system was different; election officials carried ballot boxes to the citizens, as well as having them mail in ballots. From the brief descriptions I have seen, their system would be somewhat less subject to fraud than those in most of our states. Even so, it was used for massive fraud in the two earlier elections.
Ukraine's Constitutional Court accepted the new limits passed by the parliament on absentee voting, but rejected a limit on the number who can vote from home.
The court ruled that a new limit on the number of Ukrainians who could vote at home — a major demand of the opposition candidate, Viktor A. Yushchenko, following the disputed runoff on Nov. 21 — violated the constitutional rights of ill or disabled voters who would not otherwise be able to cast ballots.Be interesting to know if Ukraine's election officials require a signature check on absentee ballots. I suspect they do, unless they were trained by King County experts, where, as we learned in this election, for years signature checks have been optional.
Experience shows that you can have large scale use of absentee ballots, or elections not subject to routine fraud, but not both. I can not understand why we keep choosing the first.
- 9:28 AM, 27 December 2004 [link]
More On The Earthquake: The New York Times and the BBC have summary stories. The latest number I have heard for the death toll is 21,000, and I expect even higher numbers as more information comes in. Even so, the death toll for this earthquake will not make the top 10 for the last 100 years.
Nearly all the deaths were caused by the tsunamis, not the earthquake itself. The BBC has a simple graphic showing the main danger zones for tsunamis; most are in the Pacific, but not all. It was their relative rarity in the Indian Ocean that led the nations hit by this disaster to think they need not build a warning system right away, though experts urged them to do so. Judging by this modest headquarters for the Pacific warning system such networks are not expensive. The headquarters did send out a tsunami warning within 15 minutes to Indonesia and Thailand, and called other nations shortly afterwards, but to no effect, as far as I can tell.
The USGS has a most informative preliminary report, with a map showing the location of the earthquake and the after shocks.
The devastating megathrust earthquake of December 26th, 2004 occurred on the interface of the India and Burma plates and was cause by the release of stresses that develop as the India plate subducts beneath the overriding Burma plate. The India plate begins its decent into the mantle at the Sunda trench which lies to the west of the earthquake's epicenter. The trench is the surface expression of the India-Burma plate interface.(Compare that map to the crude ones you see on TV news, and you will see how much is lost as the networks dumb down the information they have.)
That 6 cm/year (2.4 inches/year) is an average; the plates do not move smoothly, but in jerks, sometimes enormous ones, as we just saw.
When one plate goes under another, it creates a "thrust fault". When one goes over another, it creates an "overthrust fault". The worst recorded earthquakes all occurred at these thrust faults. (When two plates slip past each other, it creates a "slip fault", or a "stick-slip fault", if the plates do not move smoothly. Here's a useful glossary for these terms.)
Bloggers have been following the story intensively. Jay Manifold and Tim Blair have links to charities that are raising money for relief. Joe Gandelman has links to accounts by Asian bloggers. Justin of Classical Values has a long post, with much history on tsunamis. I learned that not all of them are caused by earthquakes, that one sent waves up to 1,700 feet in an Alaskan valley, and that there is geological evidence in Australia (and probably other places) of tsunamis much larger than those that just struck the nations around the Indian Ocean.
(Earthquakes are usually measured on the Richter scale. You probably know that it is a logarithmic scale, so a 9.0 magnitude earthquake is not just a little bigger than a 8.0 magnitude earthquake. I had not known that many geologists are not happy with the scale, for a number of reasons, among them the fact that it can not measure earthquakes this large directly.)
- 7:07 AM, 27 December 2004
Correction: Although reports are not final, and the different news organizations are reporting different totals, this earthquake will make the top ten list of worst earthquakes in the last century. The New York Times says that 44,000 deaths have been reported and everyone expects many more. That would still make the death toll far lower than the Tangshan, China earthquake, where 255,000 died in 1976, but is already higher than the death toll in the 1990 Iranian earthquake (35,000).
- 12:59 PM, 28 December 2004 [link]
Thousands Die From Earthquake In Indian Ocean: And the official death toll is rapidly rising. CNN, in a story dated 15:21 GMT, says that more than 4,100 people were killed by the earthquake and the tsunami it caused. The New York Times, in an AP story dated 15:03 GMT, says that more than 5,600 died. The BBC says, in a story dated 15:08 GMT, says that more than 6,000 died. These numbers, which will almost certainly be higher by the time you read them, are different because the different news organizations are at different points in their collation of numbers from the governments — and the governments themselves must have only the roughest ideas of the losses at this point.
The losses show, once again, that being poor is dangerous. These nations could have built warning systems for tsunamis, systems which would have reduced the death toll even from a quake as monstrous as this one, the fourth largest since the invention of the Richter scale. But it must never have seemed important enough to justify the cost, at least for nations as poor as these have been through most of their history.
- 7:58 AM, 26 December 2004 [link]
- 3:32 PM, 25 December 2004 [link]