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February 2005, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Follow-Up On British Absentee Ballot Fraud:  As I discussed in this post, the Labour government in Britain has been experimenting with absentee ballots (which they call "postal votes").  They found that absentee ballots were subject to fraud, something that will not surprise the regular readers of this site.  In the news reports I saw, there was every major problem with their postal votes that we have had with absentee ballots, except vote brokers.  And those, I predict, are only a matter of time, since Labour intends to continue and even expand the experiment.

The details given here about one of the scandals have parallels in most American vote fraud scandals.
Three Labour councillors accused of benefiting from "widespread" corruption of postal ballots during last year's local elections walked out of a High Court inquiry into the allegations today.

The unexpected exit of Shafaq Ahmed, Shah Jahan and Ayaz Khan came seconds before the start of the two-week hearing at the Birmingham and Midlands Institute.
. . .
Graham Brodie, a barrister representing members of the public who have made the allegations of fraud, said that every democracy relied upon a fair electoral process.

The lawyer continued: "The principal allegation made by the petitioners is that the three Labour Party candidates are, together with their agents, responsible for widespread corruption and illegal conduct in relation to the election.

"It was so extensive that it may reasonably be supposed to have affected the result."

Mr Brodie estimated that up to 1,500 postal votes in Bordesley Green had been cast with signatures on the ballot paper which differed from those on the original application form.

"They (those involved in the alleged fraud) procured large numbers of unused postal ballot documents, which they then completed in the names of persons who were entitled to a vote, but had no idea that postal votes were being cast by others in their names," Mr Brodie said.
Ahmed, Jahan, and Khan walked out after the judge refused their request for more time to prepare.   (They have had months.)

Once more, here's what we have learned the hard way about absentee ballots.  You can have elections free from the risk of vote fraud, or you can have widespread use absentee ballots, but not both.  At least not with the technology commonly used.  (And every technological fix I can think of would endanger the secrecy of the ballot.)

But I don't blame the British government for not figuring this out immediately.  We have been making this mistake for years and still haven't caught on.

(Thanks to Natalie Solent for pointing out this article.)
- 2:41 PM, 27 February 2005   [link]


Treason Is A Charge that I do not make lightly.  Others are less restrained.  For example, this letter writer.
Bush's Treason

George Bush's plan to "reform" Social Security amounts to nothing less than treason ["Wrecking Social Security," Feb. 16].  Bush, probably on orders from God, is out to destroy America as we know it by undermining and crippling the economy.  My only hope is that if he succeeds, the people who get screwed are those "red state" morons who elected him.  Seeing them take it in the shorts would be sweet music indeed.

John Painter Jr.
Portland, OR
Bush's plan would not change social security for older workers.  It would allow younger workers to set aside a small part of their social security taxes in private retirement accounts, voluntarily.   But if they didn't want to they wouldn't have to.

Does Mr. Painter know that Democratic politicians, including Bill Clinton, have suggested similar plans?  Would he care if he did know?  Why does he think that the plan would undermine and cripple the economy?  And what in his theology leads him to suspect God wants Bush to undermine and cripple the economy?  Alas, none of these questions get answered, and we are left with a letter from a man so angry at President Bush that he accuses him of treason.   And then Painter ends by wishing that the majority of his countrymen suffer.  I doubt whether he notices the irony.

(Fans of botched metaphors will enjoy the last sentence.  Painter could have said either that hearing them would be sweet music, or that seeing them would be a pretty picture, but missed both.)
- 7:42 AM, 27 February 2005   [link]


Octopus Blogging:  Some use Fridays for cat blogging.  This being Octopus Week at the Seattle Aquarium and not having a cat, I decided to octopus blog instead.

Unfortunately, the two octopuses they have on display, a large male named Thoreau and a small female named Sappho, were not being especially cooperative.  (I must apologize for the names, which seem peculiarly inappropriate for octopuses.  This is Seattle, so one shouldn't be surprised that even the naming of octopuses gets politicized.)

Thoreau decided not to come out at all, though you could see a little bit of him.  Sappho huddled at one end of a tube connecting the two tanks.  (They were kept separate for some time, though water was shared so that they could know the other was near.  Then for Valentine's Day, they were allowed to meet and start the process of making lots of little octopuses.)  Thanks to the curvature of the tube and the lights glaring down, there was no good angle to photograph her.  Here's the best I could do, and my apologies to Sappho, who is I am sure very attractive — if you happen to be a male octopus.



Just to show you that the camera was working and the photographer not completely incompetent, I took this picture in the coral reef area of the aquarium.  Didn't catch the name of the species, but it certainly is flashy.



The Aquarium had an octopus expert, Roland Anderson, answering questions, so I soon asked him the one that has been bothering me.  Among mammals and birds, the smartest are social, long lived, and have few children.  Octopuses may be the smartest invertebrate, and they are asocial, short lived, and have many children.  (If I caught one of the talks right, Sappho will be looking forward to somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 blessed events.)  So, my question was: Why are octopuses so smart?  Part of the answer is that they are not terribly smart, perhaps as smart as a rat, rather than a crow or monkey.  For the rest, no one really seems to know, though some think that octopuses may have traded a shell for smarts millons of years ago.

Dr. Anderson did tell me something I had never heard before about their nervous systems.  They have many nerves in their arms and seem to have some intelligence in the arms.  Years ago, when such experiments were more accepted, some researchers cut off arms, which continued to act as if they were attached to the octopus.  Remarkably, if an arm caught a piece of food, it would try to move the food to where the body was.  Distributed intelligence, I guessed, and Anderson agreed to that description.

Finally, to give Sappho her due, there is every reason to expect her to be an exceptional mother.  Female octopuses may mate several times, but they only lay one batch of eggs.   They then spend months guarding the eggs until they hatch, going without food the entire time.   When they hatch, the mother octopus wafts them out of her den and then dies.  That kind of drama deserves an opera, I think.
- 5:35 PM, 25 February 2005   [link]


How Big Are The Iraqi Security Forces?  Two days ago, I noted with some annoyance that a quarterly progress report in the New York Times evaded the issue, giving two widely varying estimates, but not choosing between them.  Yesterday, I spotted a front page article in the Wall Street Journal (not available free on line) by Greg Jaffe that gives a much better answer.
The U.S. has already set aside $5 billion to train and equip Iraqi forces, and last week, the Bush administration asked for $5.7 billion more.  The Iraqi interim government has budgeted about $5.3 billion of its money for such uses as well.

Since Gen. Petraeus's team took over training and equippin the Iraqi forces, there has been some real progress.  Today, the Iraqi government has about 48 deployable Army and special-police battalions, up from 1 in June [2004, I assume].  Those units count for about 15,000 to 20,000 troops.
So, the "independent" estimates given in the New York Times are probably counting only these troops and a few of the police.  The official estimate counts these troops and all the others.   If I were presenting the material, I probably would use the official number, 125,000 trained Iraqis, but immediately break it down into categories.

The Wall Street Journal article begins with a conflict between an American trainer and an Iraqi officer, who does not seem like a model soldier, but if you read the whole article, you will learn that the Iraqi officers are quite uneven in quality and that the war is slowly sorting them out, as wars do in their brutal Darwinian way.

Does the current Iraqi army remind me of any others?  Many others.  In fact, it sounds typical of an army being built from scratch, hastily.  But it especially reminds me of the army described in this book, which had the same mix of good officers and bad, and the same failures that we should expect from green troops.
- 8:43 AM, 25 February 2005   [link]


Coach K Helped An Officer Become A Leader:  This story of how Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski helped Colonel Bob Brown become a leader is interesting in itself:
Brown is in charge of 8,000 troops in the 1st Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division, known as the Stryker Brigade Combat Team.  And as he leads his troops in Iraq, Brown said, he uses the tenets of leadership and teamwork that Krzyzewski helped instill at West Point.

"It was that type of discipline that he demanded," Brown said. "Even if you hit a game-winning shot."
But almost equally interesting — maybe I have become too cynical — is the place where it appeared.  The politically correct New York Times.
- 8:07 AM, 25 February 2005   [link]


Don't Divide, Conquer:  That's my advice to the Washington state Republicans who are considering the idea of dividing the state in two.  It has been a long time since Washington has had a Republican governor, and much of the state has been neglected for decades, but we are, I believe, close to solving the first problem and tackling the second.   Currently, I would estimate Dino Rossi's chances of being governor by the end of this year at nearly 50 percent.  And I would estimate the chances that a Republican will win the governorship in 2008 at well above 50 percent.

There's an example from a similar state that should encourage Washington Republicans.   After Oregon, perhaps, it is hard to think of a state more similar politically to Washington than Minnesota.  Here's what the 2004 edition of the Almanac of American Politics has to say about Minnesota's record in presidential elections.

Minnesota has the longest consecutive streak of voting Democratic for president of any state: the last time it voted Republican was in 1972, and even then it gave Richard Nixon his lowest percentage margin over George McGovern.  But in 2000 Minnesota was seriously contested, and in end gave Al Gore only a 48%-46% victory over George W. Bush.  It was a vivid contrast to 1988, when Bush's father lost the state to Michael Dukakis by 53%-46%.  What changed in the meantime?  Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura evidently detached many voters from their ancestral allegiance.  Perot won 24% of the vote here in 1992 and 12% in 1996, more in each case than in any other state this large.

There's another mid-sized state where Perot did almost this well.  Perot won 24 percent of Washington's vote in 1992 and 9 percent in 1996.  As you probably know, in 2004, Bush did slightly worse in Minnesota (and in Washington) than he had in 2000.  In 2004, Bush won 47.6 percent of the vote in Minnesota to Kerry's 51.1 percent.  (In both states, Kerry probably benefited from Nader voters returning to the Democratic party.)

But to skip from 2000 to 2004 misses what happened in 2002 in Minnesota.  In that year, Republican Tim Pawlenty won the governorship, Republican Norm Coleman won Paul Wellstone's seat after the death of Senator Wellstone, and the Republicans took control of the lower house of the Minnesota legislature by a big margin.  It was big enough so that they kept control last year, even though they lost many seats.

Although 2002 was a breathrough year for the Republicans in Minnesota, it only capped a long rise for the party.  This table, compiled by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, shows that Democrats* won control of the Minnesota Senate in 1972 and have kept it since — usually by margins of more than two to one.   (Before 1976, the legislature was officially nonpartisan, but split into "Liberal" and "Conservative" caucuses, which were almost identical to the Democratic and Republican parties.)  The Republicans have been gaining, seat by seat, since 1994 and are now within striking distance of a majority, with 31 seats in the 67 member body.

There's another similarity in the older data that those who have been around for a while — like me — will notice.  In the 1950s, Minnesota was more Republican than the nation as a whole — just like Washington state.

How did Minnesota Republicans make these gains?  With the right candidates and the right issues.  And, I suspect, a better organization.  There's no reason why Washington Republicans can't find good candidates and attractive issues.  Rob McKenna and Dino Rossi were better than any of the statewide Democratic candidates last year, and I think intelligent recruitment can find more like them.  The Democratically controlled legislature seems almost determined to give Republicans issues to run on in 2006.  And there's no reason why Washington Republicans can't improve their organization in this state.

What kind of candidates should Republicans look for?  There are lessons in the two biggest Republican success stories in Minnesota.  Governor Tim Pawlenty came from a notably poor background; the Almanac says that "when he was 16 his mother died and his father lost his job at a trucking company".  Pawlenty worked his way through college and law school and was the first college graduate in his family.  Norm Coleman also grew up in modest circumstances (though he went to the same New York high school as New York Senator Charles Schumer and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg).  He was elected mayor of Saint Paul as a Democrat (though he had to defeat the party's endorsed choice to win the nomination).  In 1996, he was Minnesota co-chairman for Bill Clinton and in 2000 he was Minnesota chairman for Bush.  Why did he switch?  He had conflicts with the Democratic party on abortion and dealing with the public employee unions.

If you think that Republicans have something to learn from Pawlenty and Coleman, as I do, you'll think that the party should be looking for candidates who didn't start out rich and for former Democrats who have broken with their party on matters of principle.  Democrats can get away with running Rockefellers and Kennedys; Republicans should look first for Smiths, Johnsons, Browns, Kims, and Chens.

I'll have more to say about issues in the future, but I will mention one that Republicans should jump on now, the issue that led me to write this post.  The desire of much of the state to escape from the control of Seattle Democrats should be a great issue for the Republican party.  The press release almost writes itself.  (That's a hint, Chris Vance.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(*The Minnesota Democratic party is officially the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party.  It was formed by the fusion of the Democrats with the Farmer-Labor party, just as you would guess from the name.   You'll often see it referred to as the DFL.

I probably should mention that I favor the proposal by Toby Nixon to split up King County into Seattle and the remainder of the county.  I think it makes sense for many reasons and would favor it even if I did not believe that it would help the Republican party.)
- 2:30 PM, 24 February 2005   [link]


Galaxy Without Stars?  That's what some astronomers claim to have found.
A galaxy that is made almost entirely of dark matter has been discovered.  It's the first galaxy found to have no stars at all, but it fits well with predictions made by astrophysicists about where the Universe's missing mass should be.

"We've thrown as many tests at it as we can, and it looks like a dark galaxy," says Robert Minchin from Cardiff University, UK, one of an international team of astronomers that made the find.
I think they need a different name for this object, since a galaxy without stars sounds like a garden without plants to me.  I understand what they mean, but the phrase contradicts the usual definition of galaxy.

The astronomers consider this finding more evidence for the existence of dark matter in our own galaxy.
Dark matter betrays its presence by its gravitational pull: without dark matter to hold them together, rapidly rotating galaxies would simply fly apart.  Scientists estimate that dark matter must be five times more abundant than normal matter in our Universe.  It is likely to be made of relatively large subatomic particles that rarely interact with their surroundings, although these particles have never been identified.
As I recall, physicists sometimes call those hypothetical "relatively large subatomic particles", WIMPs, weakly interactive massive particles.

(There's an alternative theory that can explain these gravitational effects without postulating WIMPs; unfortunately, it requires a modification of the work of Einstein and Newton, something most physicists find unattractive.  I wrote a post about it here.)
- 9:36 AM, 24 February 2005   [link]


Revel In Biases:  Joanne Jacobs spots a professor of social work who not only revels in his biases, but argues that his biases are a requirement for being a social worker.  And the professor, James Ryczek, acts on his principles, such as they are.  He flunked a master's student, Bill Felkner, who refused to lobby the legislature for proposals with which he disagreed.

Jacobs provides a link to an email from the professor to Felkner where Ryczek explains this, after explaining why he and other faculty members showed Michael Moore's propaganda film, Fahrenheit 9/11 in class.
I will be the first one to admit a bias toward a certain point of view.  But I don't characterize my "bias" in this instance as a pejorative thing.  In fact, I think the biases and predilections I hold toward how I see the world and how it should be are why I am a social worker.   In the words of a colleague, I revel in my biases.  So, I think anyone who consistently holds antithetical views to those that are espoused by the profession might ask themselves whether social work is the profession for them . . . or similarly, if one finds the views in the curriculum at RIC SSW antithetical to those they hold closely, then this particular school might not be a good fit for them.   I don't want you to think that I am suggesting that you are such a person . . . but, then again, you may be . . . only you can make that determination.  It is not uncommon that the educational process here lends itself to such reflections on the part of many students
In short, if you aren't a leftist, you shouldn't be social worker, and Professor Ryczek will try hard to convince you of that, should you be unlucky enough to take one of his classes.

Let me set aside the unprofessional style and content of the email and go directly to a more central issue.  Professor Ryczek does not seem to understand who his employer is.  He thinks that he is working for a "professional" group, the National Association of Social Workers, but actually he is employed by Rhode Island College, a public institution supported by the taxpayers of Rhode Island.

Professor Ryczek may wish to read his institution's mission statement.  I found nothing in there about biases, but I did find these nuggets:
Its primary mission is to make its academic programs available to any qualified resident of Rhode Island who can benefit from its educational services.
. . .
In order to achieve its primary goal, which is the intellectual growth and development of students, the faculty of Rhode Island College is committed to excellence in teaching.
. . .
The College recognizes its obligation to provide an environment that fosters students' personal growth through recognition of individual differences, creative potential, and learning styles.
. . .
Aware of the richness that accrues to a college from diversity in its student body (the preponderance of which comes from Rhode Island), the College recognizes the need for a more diverse student group and welcomes students from other states and countries.
Professor Ryczek apparently believes that incorrect political views disqualify a student, that excellence in teaching does not include tolerance of different political views, that some individual differences are unacceptable, and that political diversity should be kept within tight bounds.   Judging by this article from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the president of the college, John Nazarian, agrees with Professor Ryczek on those points.  It will be interesting to see whether Rhode Island taxpayers agree with Ryczek and Nazarian.
- 8:26 AM, 24 February 2005   [link]


The New York Times Can Dish It Out, but it can't take it.  That's what I said in this post almost two years ago.  I was objecting to their refusal to print letters sharply critical of the Times, though they often print smears by some of their columnists.  (By the way, do take a look at the example I quote from Maureen Dowd.  Even now, it seems more than a bit shocking.)  In last Sunday's New York Times, the public editor, Daniel Okrent confirmed my conclusion.

Beyond that, many of the paper's readers find certain practices and policies regarding letters either dumbfounding or objectionable.  Chief among these is the paper's general hesitance to publish letters that make accusations against The Times, criticize writers or editors, or otherwise call into question the newspaper's fairness, news judgment or professional practices.

As letters editor Thomas Feyer points out, The Times does occasionally print correspondence of this sort.  But he also notes his unwillingness to publish criticisms of individual writers, and a reluctance to publish letters that suggest bias.  "Such letters," he says, "seem to impute motives to reporters or to The Times that the letter writers have no way to know."

Which is just what I said in June 2003.

It is worth noting that most newspapers, at least most newspapers I am familiar with, do not follow this protective policy.  For example, both Seattle newspapers sometimes print letters very critical of the newspapers.  (Though there are subjects, notably racial issues, on which they appear to censor letters.)

I think this refusal to take what they dish out shows a fundamental cowardice at our newspaper of record.  I would feel differently if the Times held its own writers to the same standard, but anyone who reads Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, or Frank Rich, among others, knows that the Times doesn't.  Rich, to take a recent example, can smear talk show host and movie critic Michael Medved, but the Times will never print an equally nasty letter about Frank Rich.

There are reasons, good reasons, why so many of us have begun to despise some of those who work in the "mainstream" media.  This aristocratic refusal by the Times to live by the standards it expects of its letter writers is one of them.

Cross posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.
- 3:35 PM, 23 February 2005   [link]


Magic Carpet Ride:  General Motors has developed a new suspension system with considerable advantages over conventional alternatives.
As in most suspension systems, the shock absorbers of these cars control the motion of the wheels by forcing fluid through a series of internal passages.  But rather than depending on specially calibrated valves to regulate the fluid flow for varying road conditions, G.M.'s system uses a peculiar substance called magnetorheological fluid that transforms from a free-flowing liquid to a thick syrup in the presence of a magnetic field.

G.M. did not build the system it calls Magnetic Ride Control to demonstrate its Mr. Wizard cleverness.  Instead, the shock absorbers were developed with Delphi, a major parts supplier, to minimize one of the most troublesome trade-offs in the engineering of a new car — the compromise between ride comfort and cornering ability.
. . .
The ride system offers a much wider range of soft-to-hard damping than conventional shock absorbers, and better control of vehicle motions for a flat ride and precise handling, said Jim Mero, a suspension engineer at G.M. who led the team that engineered both the Cadillac and Corvette systems.  He also said that the shock absorbers were so sturdy and simple that they should last the life of the car.
There is a small political point to the story.  From the description, I would think that these would be inexpensive to produce as well as sturdy and simple.  We can expect them to spread from Cadillacs and Corvettes to Buicks and Chevrolets.  The wealthy often pay the research and development costs for advances that benefit us all.

(If I had been coining magnetorheological, I would have used a hyphen, like this: magneto-rheological.  Easier to pronounce that way, I think.)
- 10:36 AM, 23 February 2005   [link]


Progress In Iraq:  The New York Times has another of its quarterly progress reports on Iraq.  As always, I urge you to study the chart before you read the article.  What I find in the chart is progress, but very uneven progress.

First, the good.  In each case, I will compare this January's numbers with those from January 2004.  Unemployment is down, though still very high.   There are four times as many phone subscribers.  Almost five times as much US aid has been disbursed.  Car traffic has more than doubled.  Three hundred thousand more children are in primary school.  There are now 125,000 trained Iraqis in the security forces compared to none a year ago (official estimate).  There are now 25,000 trained Iraqis in the security forces. compared to none a year ago (average of independent estimates).  There are 32 top Baathist/resistance leaders still at large, compared to 37 a year ago.

The difference in the two estimates of trained security forces requires some comment.  The article gives no explanation.  I suppose that much of the difference comes from different definitions of "trained".  There are probably zero men trained to an American standard; there are thousands who have been given courses that last no more than a few weeks.  Can such trainees still be helpful?  Sure, as many examples from American history tell us.  As do some of our current examples.  Security guards in the United States often have little training, and are usually able to do their jobs.  Policemen who direct traffic don't need much either.

Second, the bad.  Electricity production is down from an average of 3.8 gigawatts per day to an average of 3.3 gigawatts per day.  Fewer Iraqis are optimistic about the future, just 50 percent, down from 65 percent.  The estimated number of insurgents is up from 5,000 to 18,000 and the estimate of foreign fighters is up from 300 to 600.  There has been a sharp increase in the number of Iraqi civilian casualties, from 125 to 450.

Finally, there are the statistics that have changed by such small amounts that we can't be sure that the change is real.  In that category I put oil production and fuel availability.

These contrasting good and bad numbers show that the Iraqi economy is surging even while the terrorists try to derail the government and civil society.  It seems reasonable to expect that the Iraqi security forces will defeat them, in time and with some help from the United States.   There is much indirect evidence that the January elections helped delegitimize the terrorists and their supporters in Iraq — and even in some parts of Europe, though not yet, as far as I know, in American universities.

All in all, I remain cautiously optimistic.  As do the authors of this quarterly progress report, judging by the text.  They begin with this positive assessment:
Having completed its first democratic election, Iraq is teeming not just with traffic and street bazaars, but with political energy as well.  And the professed willingness of some Sunni Arab leaders to help write the new constitution may compensate for the very low Sunni voter turnout in last month's election — thereby defusing anger among that minority group and reducing the likelihood of further growth in the insurgency.
Before giving all the caveats, which we should not forget.  That's why I add cautiously to optimistic.

(You may wonder why I omitted discussion of the increase in the number or Iraqis who want an early exit of American forces.  Unlike the authors, I am not convinced that this is a measure of something bad.  After all, it could reflect an increasing confidence in the growing Iraqi forces, as well as an increase in the dislike for the occupiers.  I would like to see an early exit of American forces, if possible.  We really need to know more about Iraqi opinions to judge whether this is a positive indicator or a negative indicator.)
- 9:33 AM, 23 February 2005   [link]


Cascade Curtain Or Space Needle Effect?  In analyzing politics in Washington state, many think the basic division is between the wet western half and the dry eastern half.  In this theory, the Cascade Range divides Washington voters just as it divides Washington climates.  Democrats are in the wet half and Republicans in the dry half.

There's a second theory, which I have seen ascribed to former Secretary of State Ralph Munro.   I have seen different versions of it, but the simplest is that the state is divided into the section that you can see from the Space Needle, and the rest of the state.  If your house or apartment can be seen from the Space Needle, you live in Democratic territory; if it can't, you live in Republican territory.

The Space Needle is about 600 feet high.  Ignoring all sorts of complications and using the first formula, I calculated that you should be able to see about 30 miles in every direction from the Space Needle.   If Munro is right, voting patterns should look like this, with the Democrats concentrated around Seattle:



If the Cascade Curtain theory is correct, then the voting patterns should look like this:



(The county boundaries follow the Cascade Crest almost all the way through Washington.  The big exception is Scamania county on the Columbia, which straddles the range.  Following the crest instead of the county boundaries would move the division a little to the west at the southern end.)

Which theory is closest?  You'd really like to test them with precinct level data, which is a little too much work for this evening*.  But I can show you the results by county for two very close races.  First, the 2000 Gorton-Cantwell race, which Cantwell won, officially, by a few thousand votes:



That fits the Space Needle Effect theory fairly closely, I would say.  The Democratic county at the southern end of Puget Sound is Thurston, which includes the state capital of Olympia — and thousands of government employees.

Next, the 2004 Rossi-Gregoire race, which Gregoire won, officially, by just a little more than a hundred votes.



Here the pattern isn't quite as neat, but I would say that the Space Needle effect is closer to the results than the Cascade Curtain.

None of this would surprise students of American voting patterns.  The area within thirty miles of the Space Needle is the most urbanized part of the state, and Democrats have been strong in cities ever since the founding of the party.  The political division in the state is not between the wet and dry parts, but between the urban and rural parts, with the suburbs being the battleground between the two parties.

Although the pattern is an old one, it has strengthened in the last few decades, with urban areas becoming more Democratic and rural areas becoming more Republican.  President Bush won less than 20 percent of the vote in Seattle in 2004.

Which party will gain from these changes, net?  The party that wins the suburbs, obviously.   And how should the parties do that?  By looking for issues that divide the state on their side of the line.  For instance, Republicans would be wise to emphasize spending on highways rather than mass transit because that issue combines the suburbs and the rural areas against Seattle.  The right package of school reforms — one that returned more control to local areas — might also unite the suburbs with the rural areas.

In contrast, Democrats would do well to look for issues that unite Seattle with the suburbs against the rural areas.  And there are issues that would do that, but I am enough of a partisan not to mention them here.

(*The Seattle Times did a map of precinct results for the Bush-Kerry race last November.  (Not available on line, unfortunately.)  It shows a pattern of voting fairly close to the Space Needle theory, with the areas of King County farthest from the Space Needle the most likely to vote for Bush.)
- 8:51 PM, 22 February 2005   [link]


Should Americans Know American History?  Put that bluntly, few would answer no.  But in practice many disagree, as we can see from yesterday's non-celebrations of Washington's birthday.  Few in the media even got the name of the holiday right; though all the advertisements call it "President's Day", it is in fact Washington's birthday, at least for the federal government.  Some states do call it "President's Day".  And some states still honor Lincoln with a separate holiday.

Newspapers generally do not celebrate either Lincoln's birthday or Washington's birthday in any significant way.  That's a matter of policy I was told by the editorial page editors of the Seattle Times and the Seattle PI when I asked them about such matters last year.   And they followed that policy this year.  The Seattle Times had this silly piece on presidents as superstars; the Seattle PI had nothing significant at all.  As far as I can tell, the two Seattle newspapers were typical.  The Washington Post had this snearing piece on the celebration of Washington's birthday in Laredo and Nuevo Laredo.  The reporter is surprised that such things still occur, and from a very great height, amused at such an old-fashioned event.

It isn't that Americans know much about Washington (or Lincoln).  A poll done for Washington College had these dismal results.
The poll done for the college looked at how much the public knows about Washington and found that 46 percent knew that Washington led the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

Two-thirds knew his wife's name, Martha, and that he lived at Mount Vernon, his estate on the banks of the Potomac River in Virginia.

Not quite half of young adults knew the name of Washington's wife or where he lived
But our newspapers see no reason to enlighten that 54 percent who do not know that Washington led the Continental Army.

It is not surprising, given this ignorance, that Americans mostly cite recent presidents when asked to name the greatest presidents.   Recent presidents are the only ones many even recognize.

Newspapers, at least those I am familiar with, are not entirely opposed to covering American history.  Many do extensive series for Black History month and nearly all had extensive pieces for an earlier holiday, Martin Luther King's birthday.  I suppose that you could say that they neglect — as a matter of policy — the politically incorrect parts of American history.  And Washington, as a military leader and a man who embodied the masculine virtues, is about as politically incorrect as you can get.  It is amusing, and a little sad, that more knew his wife's name than knew about his command of the Continental Army.  I guess some schools find the second a trifle embarrassing.

Of the presidents, I would rank Washington second, just slightly behind Lincoln.  I can not think of any other presidents who come close to those two.  And the lives of both men still have much to teach us.  Americans who do not know about Washington (or Lincoln) are the poorer for that.  I won't try to give you even a short biography, but there's a brief sketch of his life here and you can read his first and second inaugural addresses here and here.  (You'll be amused by the brevity of the second.)  Power Line provides more on Washington's achievements in this post.

So, happy birthday to you, George Washington.  Your birthday is worth celebrating and your life is worth remembering — even if most American newspapers don't agree.

(Some of the newspaper accounts mentioned that today is Washington's birthday, and that he was born in 1732.  That neglects an interesting complication.  Washington was born before the American colonies switched to the Gregorian calendar that we now use.  If a birth certificate had been prepared for Washington, it would have been dated February 11, 1731, using the Julian calendar then standard in British possessions.  In the American colonies, the switch came in 1752, and must have been terribly awkward.  (See here for an explanation of the complications.  Protestant nations took longer to switch to the new calendar than Catholic nations because they suspected it was a Papist plot.)

Lincoln is not quite as neglected as Washington, perhaps because he is less politically incorrect.  NPR actually had a fairly long segment on Lincoln's birthday, although it was devoted almost entirely to the gossip raised by a recent book claiming that Lincoln was gay.  That gossip strikes me as unlikely, not very interesting, and not subject to proof.  For those who would like to know more about Lincoln, here's another brief sketch, and here are Lincoln's first and second inaugural addresses.  I have quoted extensively from the second in the past; the first, though it does not have the power of the second, does end with this soaring plea for peace and unity.
In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.  The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors.  You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."

I am loath to close.  We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.   Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Mystic chords of memory.  Not many speeches match the power and humanity of that final paragraph.)
- 2:21 PM, 22 February 2005   [link]


More On "Jeff Gannon":  Should you need it, Tom Maguire has a link-rich summary, "James Guckert For Dummies", here and a little more here, where he catches Frank Rich of the New York Times in an error or two.  (Someone has to clean up after Rich, and I am glad it isn't my turn this week.)

World Net Daily, a conservative news organization, claims that there is a pattern.
"Outing" of reputedly closeted homosexuals, particularly those associated with the Republican Party or conservative politics, has become a favorite pastime of homosexual activists in recent years.   Similarly, the "outing" of famous historical figures, from Abe Lincoln to Alexander the Great — whether or not the allegation of homosexuality is actually true — is a key activist tactic.
I would guess Farah means "leftwing homosexual activists", not "homosexual activists", though I can't claim any great knowledge of these efforts.  Remember all those sanctimonious arguments from the left that Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky — conducted in the White House partly during work hours and for which she received a government job — was a private matter?
- 10:18 AM, 22 February 2005   [link]


Worth Reading:  Michael Barone's column on how the blogosphere* has changed politics.  Here are some of my favorite bits:
The Democratic Internet constituency was and is motivated by one thing more than anything else: hatred of George W. Bush.
. . .
But Bush hatred was not enough to beat Bush in 2004--while Democratic turnout was up, Republican turnout was up more--and doesn't seem likely to beat Republicans in 2006 and 2008.  The left blogosphere has driven the Democrats into an electoral cul de sac.
. . .
The focus of hatred in the right blogosphere is not Kerry or the Democrats but what these bloggers call Mainstream Media, or MSM.  They argue, correctly in my view, that the New York Times, CBS News, and others distorted the news in an attempt to defeat Bush in 2004.
. . .
MSM tried to defeat Bush but instead only discredited itself.
. . .
So what hath the blogosphere wrought?  The left blogosphere has moved the Democrats off to the left, and the right blogosphere has undermined the credibility of the Republicans' adversaries in Old Media.  Both changes help Bush and the Republicans.
I can't speak for other conservative bloggers, but I can say that I don't hate the "mainstream" media, even though I dislike much of their product.  I don't see their power to set the national agenda as legitimate in a democratic society.  And I have come to despise their carelessness with facts and their partisanship, which they deny even as they practice it.

(*Credit where due.  The term "blogosphere" was invented by Bill Quick.)
- 7:57 AM, 22 February 2005   [link]