Archive:

February 2005, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Just In Time For Valentine's Day, Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel gets romantic.
As [Ruy] Teixeira writes, the new research shows that unmarried women, who voted overwhelmingly for Kerry, "are social and economic progressives advancing a tolerant set of values."  One more reason to oppose marriage.
Ms. vanden Heuvel is right about this.   Single women are by far the most Democratic group in the country, at least in the last two decades.   (Married men are the most Republican, and married women and single men are between the other two groups and in most elections quite similar in their party choices.)

But why should single women be so Democratic?  Does being single make a woman more susceptible to Democratic pitches?  Do married women change their partisanship to match their husbands?  Is it harder for Democratic women to find husbands?

At one time or another, I have seen data that supported all three of those hypotheses.  The last may require some explanation.  Men and women tend to choose marriage partners who are similar to them in many ways, from earlobe length to religious beliefs.  And party choice is one of the areas in which they look for compatibility.  Since single men are much more likely to be Republicans than single women, those single women who are Republicans, or at least don't view Republicans with disdain, will have many more men to choose from than those who insist on a Democratic husband.  (Cosmopolitan won't tell you that, but I will.)

There is another point about being single that vanden Heuvel skips over, for some reason.  One of the best ways to escape from poverty, for a woman, is to get married.  So the editor of this leftist magazine is also saying that she wants to keep many women poor, when she says she opposes marriage.
- 4:54 PM, 7 February 2005
Correction:  As an emailer reminded me, Ms. vanden Heuvel is married and has a daughter, something I should have remembered.  And I certainly should have checked the point, instead of relying on another web post.  I've corrected the text above.

When I checked her biography, I was reminded of her husband's curious career, and a daughter's small rebellion.  Each contains a lesson, but vanden Heuvel seems to have learned from neither.

Her husband, Stephen F. Cohen, is a professor of Russian Studies, best known for his 1986 book, Rethinking the Soviet Experience: Politics and History Since 1917.   As the title suggests, it is a "revisionist" take on the Soviet Union.  The Amazon description (though marred by typos) is a good summary of his views.
Cohen's lucidly written, revisionist analysis reopens an array of major historical questions.   As he probes Soviet history, society, and politics, Cohen demonstrates how this country has remained stable during its logn journey from revolution to conservatism.  It the process, he suggests more enlightened approaches to American/Soviet relations
That was in 1986.  Cohen had studied the Soviet Union all his adult life and judged it stable, just before it collapsed.  As far as I can tell, this small failure of prediction did not cause either Professor Cohen or his wife to rethink their views in any fundamental way.

Katha Pollit writes for the Nation, and her daughter became briefly famous after the 9/11 attack.  Here's how Pollit explained it, in a column published by the Nation nine days after terrorists killed 3,000 innocent Americans.
My daughter, who goes to Stuyvesant High School only blocks from the World Trade Center, thinks we should fly an American flag out our window.  Definitely not, I say: The flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war.  She tells me I'm wrong--the flag means standing together and honoring the dead and saying no to terrorism.
. . .
I tell her she can buy a flag with her own money and fly it out her bedroom window, because that's hers, but the living room is off-limits.
We can take some pleasure in the way Pollitt's daughter overcame the effects of a bad environment.
- 5:50 AM, 8 February 2005
Correction to the correction:  Some days it doesn't pay to get out of bed.  It was Katha Pollitt's daughter, who staged the flag rebellion, not vanden Heuvel's.  I've corrected the post above, and added the link to the column, as I intended when I wrote the correction.  I try to have higher standards of accuracy than the New York Times, and like to think that I usually succeed.  But not this time.
- 3:31 PM, 8 February 2005   [link]


Not Everyone Was Pleased The Super Bowl Was Fit For Family Viewing:   Frank Rich even made a preemptive attack on the halftime show in one of his typical columns, complaining that:

Let us be grateful that Janet Jackson did not bare both breasts.

On the first anniversary of the Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction that shook the world, it's clear that just one was big enough to wreak havoc.  The ensuing Washington indecency crusade has unleashed a wave of self-censorship on American television unrivaled since the McCarthy era, with everyone from the dying D-Day heroes in "Saving Private Ryan" to cuddly animated animals on daytime television getting the ax.

(You'll note that Rich can't even get the facts right; Jackson didn't bare her breast, Justin Timberlake did, a rather different matter.)

Is there a "wave of self-censorship"?  Not as far as I can tell, but I don't follow pop culture very closely.  Rodger Morrow does, and has the facts here.

Does Mr. Rich seriously imagine we could have any less sexual repression in America, short of adopting the mating habits of bonobo monkeys?  Of course, he doesn't; this censorship nonsense is just another handy stick to beat The Evil Dubya with.

And a very old one at that.  In his essay*, "The Intelligent Coed's Guide to America", Tom Wolfe tells how he heard a similar argument in 1965 at a Princeton symposium.

The next thing I knew, the discussion was onto the subject of fascism in America.  Everybody was talking about police repression and the anxiety and paranoia as good folks waited for the knock on the door and the descent of the knout on the nape of the neck.  I couldn't make any sense out of it.  I had just returned from a tour of the country to write a series called "The New Life Out There" for New York Magazine  This was the mid-1960's.  The post-World War II boom had by now pumped money into every level of the population on a scale unparalleled in any nation in history.  Not only that, the folks were running wilder and freer than any nation in history.

And have been running even wilder and freer since, as anyone who has been paying attention knows.

So why does Rich resurrect this moldy argument?  Morrow says it is because he wants a "stick to beat The Evil Dubya with", which is part of the answer.  Rich also wants a stick to beat cultural conservatives with.  I am not sure that bigotry is the best word to describe Rich's attitudes toward cultural conservatives, especially Christians, but it is difficult to think of a better one.  And, as Wolfe pointed out forty years ago, a certain kind of American "intellectual" — and I am sure Rich thinks of himself as an intellectual — needs to pose against an imaginary background of repression.  That need is so great for such people that mere facts will never stop them from taking those poses.

Cross posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.

(*You can find the essay in Wolfe's collection, The Purple Decades.

In a previous post, I noted with some dismay that Rich writes badly.  There's more evidence for that argument in this latest column.  Consider, for example, the second sentence of his second paragraph.  Rich says "indecency crusade", but means crusade against indecency.   The metaphor he tries to use, a crusade unleashing a wave, is absurd.  (If that isn't obvious to you, try to picture a wave on a leash.)  "Getting the ax" also fails though not quite so badly.   Those who teach composition will find many, many other bad examples in the column with little effort.)
- 11:21 AM, 7 February 2005   [link]

Better Player Behavior At The Super Bowl?  I didn't watch the entire game, but in what I did see it seemed to me that the players behaved with class.  I didn't see any of the taunting, hotdogging, or cheap shots that so often ruin games for me.  I suppose that the NFL realized that, if it wanted to keep its viewers, it needed better behavior on the field as well as better halftime shows and better commercials.  And the Patriots, at least, have a reputation as a superbly disciplined team.

(Mickey Kaus had the best take on last year's half time show.
A Super Sunday reminder to Frank Rich and other righteous anti-FCCers: The big problem with last year's Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake halftime show was not that people saw Jackson's breast.   It wasn't what Jackson did that was offensive.  It was what Timberlake did.  Here was a massively popular, relatively hip singer whose message was that it was a hip, transgressive thing for men to rip clothes off women when they feel like it (which is quite often).  I watched the game with a group of non-evangelical, non-moralistic dads who were uniformly horrified.  The problem for them wasn't sex--their kids see flesh all the time in videos--but a form of sexism, not prudery but piggishness.
For those interested in the Super Bowl commercials, here's Timothy Goddard's live blog.   Both he and Michelle Malkin were touched by Budweiser's tribute to the troops.  But not everyone was, as Malkin notes.  A "reporter" for the New York Times thought it a "gauzy valentine to American troops" and implied that it was not Busch commercial, but a Bush commercial.)
- 8:53 AM, 7 February 2005
More:  Ambra Nykola had a negative reaction to an ad from GoDaddy.   I recall seeing the ad and thinking it distracting, rather than effective.  It's not that I don't like looking at attractive women; it's that I like looking at them too much to get the message from commercials that overuse sex.  I have seen articles, by the way, that claim that my reaction is common among men; we watch the women and miss the message in such ads.   So GoDaddy probably wasted their money.  (For what it's worth, Jeff Jarvis claims that Fox didn't like the ad either and kept it from running a second time during the Super Bowl.)
- 8:16 AM, 5 February 2005   [link]


Saudis Fund Hate:  Those who follow web sites like Charles Johnson's Little Green Footballs will not be surprised by this Sun-Times editorial.
What is happening in some American mosques, including a few in the Chicago area, is deeply disturbing.  In certain Islamic schools, textbooks spit vitriol against Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims: "Be disassociated from the infidels, hate them for their religion."  In mosque publications, America is the "Abode of the Infidel."  The idea of human and civil rights is heresy.  Working women are immoral.
. . .
The Center for Religious Freedom just issued a discomfiting report looking at the spread of hate propaganda in America by Saudi Arabia.  The center collected 200 books and other publications from mosques across the country and spent the past two years analyzing them.

"The Saudi textbooks and documents spread throughout American mosques preach a Nazi-like hatred for Jews, treat the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion as historical fact, and avow that the Muslim's duty is to eliminate the state of Israel," writes Nina Shea, the Center's director.  In addition, they "instill contempt for America because the United States is ruled by legislated civil law rather than by totalitarian Wahhabi-style Islamic law."  Woe to Christians who should be actively hated because they stir up images of crusaders and colonists and because they are "enemies to Allah, his Prophet and believers."  Woe to Muslims who advance tolerance and human rights -- they, too, are infidels.  Woe to homosexuals or heterosexuals who have sex outside marriage -- it is considered "lawful" to kill them.
For that matter, these revelations would not entirely surprise those who have read my short essay, "What Would Mohammed Do?".  (To be fair to Mohammed, I should add that he was not as extreme in all his views as the Wahhabis, a rather new sect of Islam.  Although the historical record is not entirely clear, he seems to have treated women much more equally than they do, for example.  And he left untouched some sites which they have destroyed as idolatrous.)

But the revelations would be a surprise to those who rely on the major networks for their news, who are delighted to run stories on the persecution of Muslims, which does happen, though rarely in the United States, but reluctant to run stories on the hatred spread by some Muslims.

(Are there mosques spreading this hate in the Seattle area?  I wouldn't be surprised.   There was one in Seattle that was fairly openly supporting terrorism.  I don't know if it still exists and still preaches the same hate.  That in itself is something of an indictment of our Seattle newspapers.)
- 7:06 AM, 7 February 2005   [link]


Free Nuclear Reactor:  That's what Toshiba is offering Galena, Alaska, an isolated town of just 700 people.  The town currently uses diesel fuel to generate electricity, fuel that must be brought in by barge on the Yukon during the summer.  That's not a very good solution, so the town has been looking for alternatives.  There is a coal seam near by, but no manufacturer makes a coal generating plant small enough for the town.   And solar power is not real practical during Arctic winters.  So it looked as though Galena would be stuck with their diesel plant.
But then along came Toshiba, which performs maintenance and repair work on conventional nuclear reactors around the world.  The company is trying to develop a new reactor that would run almost unattended and put out 10 megawatts of power, about 1 percent as much as a typical United States plant.

It sees Galena as a test market for a product that could appeal to other isolated small towns, factories and mines.

Toshiba offered Galena a free reactor if the town would pay the operating costs, estimated at 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, about the national average for power.  In December the City Council voted unanimously to take it.
That would cut the town's electricity costs by two thirds.  No word on whether Toshiba will offer these plants to individuals, too.  I may not even inquire, since I fear that not all of my neighbors would find the plants as attractive as I do.

The plant uses one of the new, super safe designs, though not one that I have heard of before.
Toshiba calls its design the 4S reactor, for "super safe, small and simple."  It would be installed underground, and in case of cooling system failure, heat would be dissipated through the earth.  There are no complicated control rods to move through the core to control the flow of neutrons that sustain the chain reaction; instead, the reactor uses reflector panels around the edge of the core.  If the panels are removed, the density of neutrons becomes too low to sustain the chain reaction.
The reporter who did this story, Matthew Wald, has covered nuclear power as if he were an anti-nuclear activist for many years.  Maybe the more positive tone in this story shows that he has finally learned something.  (Or has begun to fear global warming more than nuclear power.)
- 2:39 PM, 6 February 2005   [link]


The Chef Will Print Your Order Shortly:  If, that is, the chef is Homaro Cantu, who is using an inkjet printer for some of his creations.
Homaro Cantu's maki look a lot like the sushi rolls served at other upscale restaurants: pristine, coin-size disks stuffed with lumps of fresh crab and rice and wrapped in shiny nori.  They also taste like sushi, deliciously fishy and seaweedy.

But the sushi made by Mr. Cantu, the 28-year-old executive chef at Moto in Chicago, often contains no fish.  It is prepared on a Canon i560 inkjet printer rather than a cutting board.  He prints images of maki on pieces of edible paper made of soybeans and cornstarch, using organic, food-based inks of his own concoction.  He then flavors the back of the paper, which is ordinarily used to put images onto birthday cakes, with powdered soy and seaweed seasonings.
Cantu isn't stopping with an inkjet printer.  He is also experimenting with liquid nitrogen, helium, superconductors, a hand-held ion particle gun, and a box made of superinsulating polymer.   He even hopes to add a "Class 4 laser" (which sounds like something you could use in your own private missile defense system) to his restaurant's kitchen.

The reporter tries several different summary descriptions of Cantu.  He's like both Salvador Dali and Willy Wonka, which is a good trick.  Cantu is "a chef in the Buck Rogers tradition".  But my favorite description comes from restaurant patron William Mericle, who says Cantu is a "mad-scientist-meets-gourmet-chef".  (Wacky scientist might be slightly better than mad scientist,)

Wonder what the food snobs in Paris will think of all this?
- 4:12 PM, 5 February 2005   [link]


More Mountain Blogging:  Another picture from my trip to Rainier.  You'll notice that the mountain's cloud cap is fancier than usual, with streamers added to the usual lens.



The picture was taken with my little Nikon 2000, which is not very good with snow pictures.   I've found that using the normal setting and lightening the picture in a photo editor works better than using the snow/beach setting.

(I had to switch over to the Nikon because the battery in my Olympus had died after the first two shots.  I had ordered a spare battery, but it hadn't arrived, and I had forgotten that lithium batteries, unlike nicads, don't have memory problems, and so can be charged without causing problems, even if they haven't been used completely.)
- 3:51 AM, 5 February 2005   [link]


The Radical Socialist Democratic Party:  In recent years, I have been struck by the increasing resemblance of the Democratic party to a famous French political party, the Radical Socialists, often just called the Radicals.  (They still exist, but only in fragments.)

Despite their name, the Radical Socialists were not — with one great exception — radical in their policies, and they were not particularly socialist.  The party was a loose coalition, with its strongest backing coming from the rural middle class and the better off peasants.  What held them together was a disdain for religion, especially the Catholic church, which they largely succeeded in driving from public life early in the 20th century.  After that, they drifted back and forth, often splitting.  They were usually the largest party in the French parliament, and on economic issues they were usually in the center, so they were in the governing coalition more often than not, sometimes in coalition with parties on the left, and sometimes in coalition with parties on the right.

Through all that time, they were kept together by their hatred for the Catholic church, and other, lesser antipathies.  In The Collapse of the Third Republic, William Shirer first describes them as "anticlerical, antimilitary, anti-Bourbon, anti-Bonapartist", before telling us what they favored ("lay public schools, the rights of property and individuals and the little man (if he was not a worker)",  (The antimilitary and anticlerical sentiments had a strong connection, since so many French officers at that time were Catholic.)

So it was a party that favored, mildly, what we might call New Deal measures to improve the lives of workers, but did not have strong support in the labor movement.  But these economic principles were not as important to those in the party as what it opposed, strong leaders, the French army, and, above all, the Catholic church.

Because they helped form most French governments during the Third Republic, the party inevitably attracted careerists and crooks.  Over and over again, Radical officials were found to have been covering up for some slimy characters.  If you want to picture a typical Radical politician, imagine a lawyer who comes to Paris from a rural area, acquires a mistress and loses some scruples.

Much of this will already seem familiar to those who have been following the decline of the Democratic party.  But what about the anti-Catholicism?  Did not the Democratic party nominate a Catholic in the last election?  True enough, though Kerry's Catholicism struck me as nominal.  In any case, since the United States has never had a dominant Catholic church, anti-Catholicism does not have the same political meaning here as it does in France.   In its place, we find a generalized anticlericalism, often directed at evangelical Protestants and traditional Catholics.

A study done for Pew Research shows just how important anticlerical voters now are to the Democratic party.   Together, voters identifying themselves as secular or as atheist and agnostic are just 11 percent of the population, but they were 16 percent of Kerry's vote, more important to his coalition than black Protestants.  And if we add in some groups often allied to them, Jews, modernist Catholics, and modernist mainline Protestants, that share of his coalition rises to 38 percent.  (It may seem odd to group modernist mainline Catholics and Protestants with anticlericals, but not to anyone familiar with their leaders, who often find Fidel Castro far easier to tolerate than Jerry Falwell.)  And these anticlericals become more influential as you move up in the Democratic party.

These groups were surprisingly united in their election choices.  According to the survey, George Bush, who had, after all, overthrown a theocracy in Afghanistan, received just 18 percent of the vote of atheists and agnostics, 22 percent of the vote of mainline modernist Protestants, and 31 percent of the vote of mainline modernist Catholics.

As most leaders in the Democratic party have figured out, emulating the Radical Socialists is not the best way to win national elections in the United States, since Americans are far more religious than the French.  So, they are trying to pose as believers.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that John Kerry went to church more often during the last campaign than he had in the previous ten years.  And others are making similar gestures.

I think this is a mistake, at least in the long run.  Americans, even those with strong religious beliefs, have long tolerated leaders who did not share all of those beliefs — if those leaders respected their beliefs.  Democratic candidates don't need to pose in churches they never attend except during campaigns; they need to show some respect for evangelicals and traditional Catholics.  A decent respect for the people in those groups will be more honest, and in the long run more successful, than the endless posing in pews.

And if they do take that advice, it will be better for the nation.  I don't think that having our religious splits coincide with our political splits is good for our political parties, or for our churches.  There, too, the Radicals may have a lesson for us.  They had many talented leaders, and one great one, Georges Clemenceau.   But their policies almost lost France in World War I, and did lose France in World War II.  Along the way, their inability to build a decent party of the left did much to divide France and to strengthen those who hated it on both the left and the right.  Being against the Pope, or Jerry Falwell, is not in the end a good basis for a political party.
- 8:49 AM, 4 February 2005   [link]


Should We Give Terrorists Advice?  Last week, a local talk show host, Alan Prell, was criticizing Homeland Security.  He argued that they were useless because there were so many ways to get around them and to commit terrorist acts.  To prove that point, he explained how terrorists could get into the United States from Canada, described a big terrorist target elsewhere in the United States well enough so that I could find it easily, and gave a simple technique for disrupting transportation.

I think Prell was wrong to be so specific (though I am not certain that all of his ideas would actually work).  I think we should avoid giving tactical advice to terrorists.  We don't need to identify targets for them, explain how to evade law enforcement, or describe techniques for terrorist attacks.  When I speculate on such matters, I avoid specifics, not because I have any reason to think any terrorist reads this site, but because in the age of the Internet, one simply can't know for sure.  Once something is posted, it's posted for everyone to read.

Some readers may be impatient with my argument already.  The ideas are already out, and there is no way to stop terrorists from learning about them, they would say.  It is obvious to them how to learn such techniques and so, these readers conclude, it must be obvious to would-be terrorists.  But to reason that way is to make a mistake common among smart people, assuming that others are as smart as they are.  A few terrorists are smart, but most aren't.   A few are willing to plan for years in secrecy, but most aren't.  A few are adept at finding what should be secret on the net, but most aren't.

And even the smartest terrorists can't think of everything.  There is no gain in putting out public advice for them, and there could be great losses.

Prell's simple technique for disrupting transportation gives me a tragic illustration for this argument.  What he explained was how to derail a train.  A day or so afterward, Juan Manuel Alvarez derailed two trains in Los Angeles, killing ten people and injuring hundreds.  True enough, Alvarez used a different technique than the one Prell had described.  But what if he had used Prell's technique?  Or what if someone in this area does after hearing the idea on Prell's show?  Would Prell (and KIRO 710) be partly responsible?  I think so.

Prell could, and should, have made his argument about the weaknesses of Homeland Security without being specific on targets, techniques, or ways to avoid law enforcement.

(You may wonder what Prell's alternative is to Homeland Security.  Believe it or not, he thinks we can stop terrorists by infiltrating their organizations.  Certainly we should try to do that, and we may succeed some of the time, but to rely on that for all of our security is absurd.  Some terrorists act on their own and do not belong to any organization that can be infiltrated.  Others belong to such small groups that infiltrating them will be impossible in most cases.  And even if we do succeed in infiltrating a group, the usual cell organization can defeat our agent's efforts to know about most attacks.

Those who have not heard Prell may wonder about his reasoning processes.  Let me put it this way: Prell is a member in good standing of the Church of Our Lady of the Perpetual Sneer.   He's not interested in solving problems; he's interested in denigrating opponents, especially President Bush.)
- 6:21 AM, 3 February 2005   [link]


Crayon Diversity Is Good:  Democratic legislators are proposing to restore racial preferences in admission to Washington's colleges and universities,
Currently, our public colleges and universities can evaluate candidates based on piecemeal traits, such as reasoning ability, age, writing style, grade-point average, athletic ability, musical talent and veteran status.

We believe many supporters of I-200 objected to the use of race, national origin, color or ethnicity as the primary characteristic in admissions.  But as a result of the law, public colleges and universities are prevented from including race at all as a consideration in order to achieve diversity.
. . .
Amending current state law along the lines of the [Supreme] court's decision [on using race in admissions to the University of Michigan law school] would set aside no admission slots for members of any racial groups, would give no racial group separate consideration based solely on its status as a racial group, and would not use predetermined, numerical values for diversity factors.

Instead, public colleges and universities would simply be allowed the flexibility to include race as one of many characteristics considered during the admissions process.
So having lots of different colors on campus is good, just as it is in a box of crayons.  It is important enough so that it is worth giving up some fairness in admissions — and please note that fairness is their term, not mine.

Intellectual diversity is bad.  The same op-ed has this to say:
Every one of our state's public colleges and universities has indicated its desire to consider an applicant's background in its entirety and include race as one consideration among many in the admissions process.
Diversity of color is good; diversity of thought is bad.  The crayons must be of different colors, but must all have the same content.  The authors do not seem to realize what a devastating criticism they just made of Washington state's colleges and universities.

If there were more diversity of thought at our institutions of higher education, the authors might be aware of the argument that Thomas Sowell has been making for decades: Preferences hurt those who receive them.  That argument just received powerful support from a study of law schools that showed that black students who had been given preferential treatment fared badly in the schools and were much less likely to graduate and enter the bar.

It is not difficult to understand why preferences hurt the recipients.  Students do best when they are matched to their colleges or universities.  I had decent test scores and grades, but I would have been hopelessly out of my depth if I had been gone to Cal Tech, since I was so weak in math — compared to the typical Cal Tech student.  (My little rural school did not even offer calculus.)

But even if they accepted the argument that preferences hurt those who receive them, the authors might still favor them.  As it happens, the University of Washington, the most prestigious of the state's colleges and universities, has many more minority students than there are minorities in the state's population.  If the UW were to admit students proportionately, it would have to replace students of Asian descent with Hispanics and whites.  (Blacks are 3.7 percent of the state's population, and 3.8 percent of the freshmen admitted to the UW.)  John Carlson of KVI made this point to the lead author, Washington state Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and it had no effect on her.

Asians are greatly over-represented at the University of Washington.  Blacks are not under-represented.   Therefore, say the authors, the UW needs to be able to discriminate on the basis of race so as to get a more diverse student body.  I can not think of an argument to use with people who "reason" like that.

Finally, I should add something that the Seattle Times omits, because it raises an ethical question.  Kohl-Welles is a state senator.  She is also a part time instructor at the University of Washington.  I don't know what they pay her, but they seem to be getting their money's worth.
- 9:14 AM, 2 February 2005   [link]


Mt. Rainier Was Beautiful yesterday, beautiful enough to more than make up for the poor skiing conditions.

The trails were bumpy and, in many places, icy.  My trail skis don't have metal edges so I had to ski even more cautiously than I usually do on the first ski of the season.  There was so little snow that I was reluctant to do much skiing across the meadows, since it is easy to damage the vegetation underneath when the snow blanket is thin.

At this time of the year, I would expect feet of snow at Paradise on Mt. Rainier, but I found just inches.  (For many years, Paradise had the world record for snow in a single season, 1122 inches, but lost it to Mt. Baker in 1999.)   Ten feet of snow pack would be typical for Paradise at this time of the year.  The average was closer to ten inches.

But the mountain was beautiful, more beautiful than it is in the summer, when the melting snow turns dirty as it exposes all the grit that the glaciers produce.  And the drive, though longer than I like, gives you a series of views of the mountain.  When I first saw Rainier in the morning, I was looking almost due south and the mountain was looking dark and ominous in the backlight.  As I drove south, the views changed and the early morning clouds began to dissipate.



Despite the beauty of the mountain, there were almost no visitors.  I saw about fifteen vehicles in the parking lot at Paradise when I got there at 1 PM, and I saw only a few hikers and skiers as I skied up from the lot and then back.

Hikers and skiers on Mt. Rainier almost all set aside urban rules and freely speak to strangers.  I was working my way up a ridge when I saw a young couple ahead of me, who were engaged in something, but I couldn't quite tell what.  As I got close, the young woman yelled to me, "I just got engaged.  And you're the first person I told."  I was too startled to offer more than perfunctory congratulations, though I did think to offer to take their picture a minute or so later.  There was no need for that since the young man had brought a camera with a self timer.

I won't spoil that romantic moment by telling you about the last half of the drive back, when I hit rush hour traffic.  The first half of the drive gave me even better views of the mountain, only a few of which I captured, mostly with 35 mm slides.
- 5:31 AM, 2 February 2005
More:  The lack of a transition after the picture bugged me, so I added one.
- 5:47 AM, 3 February 2005   [link]


Slogan For Site:  Some time ago, I finally worked out the slogan I want for this site, and will be adding it to the banner as soon as I get one more photo to illustrate it.

The slogan?  "Facts, analysis, and commentary . . . . from a cross country skiing conservative."

And shortly I will be off to Mt. Rainier to justify the last part of the slogan.  The ski season has been an absolute bust so far in this area.  Although cross country skiing does not require as much snow as downhill, it does require some.  How bad has it been?  All the downhill areas are closed, and the snow play area at Mt. Rainier, which is usually open in May, is currently closed.

(Tomorrow I have scheduled some time to catch up on email.  Should do it today, but this looks like the best chance for skiing this week.)
- 8:41 AM, 1 February 2005   [link]


More On The Iraqi Elections:  Reverend Sensing notes that the Iraqi policeman who died to stop a terrorist from disrupting the elections would deserve a Congressional Medal of Honor if he were in the American military.
In the US military, sacrificing oneself like this is usually recognized by the presentation of the Medal of Honor to the next of kin.
If this is the same incident that I read about elsewhere, and I think it is, then the voters in line stayed in line, even after the attack.

Lieutenant Smash takes no credit for the Iraqi elections (though he deserves some), but does feel much joy in the results.
HOW DO I FEEL?  Elated doesn't begin to describe it.  I have always felt a surge of joy whenever I see masses of people stand up against bullies and would-be tyrants to claim their God-given right to be free.  My post yesterday was an attempt to capture that feeling.
And, you'll want to look at that post, too.
- 8:21 AM, 1 February 2005   [link]


Classic Example Of Distributed Vote Fraud:  A reader sent me this example:
I witnessed it firsthand in November.  I volunteered to go to Ohio to help with the Bush/Cheney '04 campaign.  My partner and I were assigned to a particular county and were on call (along with another two-person team) to handle any legal problems (we are lawyers) that arose during Election Day.   Early that afternoon the other team in our county got a call from the county B-C headquarters.

Apparently, a local lawyer voted four times at four different polling places, using provisional ballots at three of the four.  He told his office staff what he was up to.  Unfortunately for him, his secretary was a Republican.  When he left to go to polling place #4, she called the B-C campaign and immediately told us what was happening.  Fortunately, we won the election by a comfortable margin so there was no need to challenge this individual's provisional ballots.

But this seems to be a perfect example of what you are talking about.  I doubt that this person was part of an organized effort; he almost certainly wasn't being paid to vote, and he wasn't the sort of patronage worker that can be ordered to support the party.  Even if he did coordinate his activities with others it was probably on a strictly informal and voluntary basis.  More interestingly, he took a huge risk; by voting four times, he committed a felony.  If he didn't do jail time, he'd still lose his license to practice law if discovered.
It is a perfect example.  And some points in it deserve emphasis.  This happened in Ohio, the state that decided the election, just as many expected.  A lawyer would be more likely than most of us to have a good estimate of the risks of getting caught; this man must have thought they were trivial.  And, as John Fund has pointed out, provisional ballots are subject to abuse.

That last point may apply to Washington state's current dispute over the governor's race.  I have thought for some time that the number of provisional ballots in Washington state was suspiciously high last November.  This story from Ohio, and the growing scandal from same day registration in Wisconsin*, make me believe that even more strongly.  I have seen no plausible explanation for the sharp rise in provisional ballots in Washington state between 2000 and 2004.   There may be one, but I haven't seen it.

(*Those who have not followed the growing scandal in Wisconsin may need this background.   There was a very large number of same day registrations in Wisconsin, especially in the Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee.  Since the election, thousands of those have been shown to be suspicious.  Enough have been found so that there is a very real possibility that George W. Bush, not John Kerry, actually won Wisconsin.  I'll have more to say about this subject soon.)
- 7:09 AM, 1 February 2005   [link]