Archive:

January 2005, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Here's A Suggestion For Dealing With The French:  John J. Miller, whose opinion of the French can be seen in the title of the book he just co-authored, has a sensible suggestion for our policy toward France.
Moreover, making an example of the French is precisely the wrong approach because it elevates France in the eyes of the world's anti-Americans, who will always be with us.  The one thing France and the neo-Gaullists can't possibly abide is being ignored.  Perhaps that's punishment enough.
That is, I think, the right strategy, in spite of some pretty nasty sabotage by the Chirac government.
- 9:05 AM, 7 January 2005   [link]


They Just Keep Going And Going:  The Martian rovers, that is.   The Spirit rover has been on Mars for a full year.
Sitting on the hill of an alien world millions of miles from home, a hardy NASA robot celebrates an anniversary today — one year on the planet Mars.

The Mars rover Spirit has come a long way since it hurtled down through the planet's atmosphere and came to a bouncy, airbag-protected stop at Gusev Crater on Jan. 3, 2004.  It has survived more than four times its initial 90-day mission, driven miles across the Martian landscape and weathered a red planet winter only to scale hills for its human handlers.
Almost no one expected them to last this long, and no one seems to know how much more exploring they can do.  Since they are solar powered, they will not run out of power, though there was some worry that the panels would get too dirty to work properly.  At some point, moving metal parts will fail — Spirit already has a problem with one of its six wheels — but so far both rovers have survived the harsh Martian environment without a failure that prevents further exploration.

Congratulations to the engineers who designed the rovers, and congratulations to NASA for managing the program properly.  It is good to see a government bureaucracy over fulfill its promises.

(Here are two detailed reports on their current explorations, one for Spirit and one for Opportunity.)
- 8:37 AM, 7 January 2005   [link]


Disgraceful:  That's the kindest word I can find for this Seattle Times editorial.

The U.S. plan to lock up suspected terrorists for life in secret locations without evidence is a horrifying development.

Torturing prisoners, denying them legal safeguards and essentially refuting their existence is what rogue regimes and lawless nations do.  Reading about it in China's Xinhua News Agency is especially disconcerting.  The Bush administration is not only doing all this now, but making systematic plans to create an American gulag of prisons and prisoners without names and cells without numbers.  From the old Soviet Union to Communist China to the banana republics of Latin America and Castro's Cuba, that's what others do.

The Seattle Times, though still more moderate than its local competitor, the Seattle PI, has drifted toward the loony left on foreign policy issues in the last few years, both in its news coverage and its editorials.

Let me begin by stating the obvious, since this seems to have escaped the editorial writer.   We are in a war with radical Islamists.  Prisoners of war are generally held for the duration of the war.  It is not our fault that this war will almost certainly continue for decades, and so we must find some way to contain these men who would return to their efforts to murder us if they were released.  We can no more release them now than we could release Nazi prisoners during World War II.

Less obvious, but still well known, is the status of irregular fighters in war.  What prisoners are protected by the Geneva Conventions?  Regular members of the armed forces and irregular fighters — provided those fighters meet some strict conditions.

2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfill the following conditions:

(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

(c) That of carrying arms openly;

(d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

I hope even the editorialists at the Seattle Times know that al Qaeda and similar groups do not meet any of those conditions, except possibly the first.  The main reason for these conditions is to protect civilians, as I assume you have already figured out.

And what can an army do with irregular fighters who do not fulfill all those conditions?   Traditionally, anything the army wants to do, including shooting them on the spot.  I don't think that we should do that, since we want to question the terrorists in the short run and try to turn them in the long run, but we have no formal obligations to them.

If legal arguments make no impact on the editorialists, they should at least consider this practical one: We have released many of the prisoners we captured during the overthrow of the Taliban, and some of them immediately returned to the war against us.  We know that because we had to kill or recapture them.  Catch and release is a fine policy for game fish, but it is crazy for terrorists.

The single most disgusting comparison is the one made in both the title and the second paragraph I quoted.  To call the camps in which we hold a few thousand terrorists and suspected terrorists a "Gulag" dishonors the millions of Stalin's victims, most of whom were completely innocent.

But you need not take my word for that.  Anne Applebaum, after she wrote her fine history of the Gulag encountered the same comparison in Britain.  She found the comparison so bizarre that she found it hard to even answer the charge.

If the editorialist who made this disgusting comparison thinks it valid, I have a small suggestion for them:  Send the editorial to a survivor of the Gulag, such as Natan Sharansky, and ask for comments.  I doubt they will get unqualified agreement from those who know the Gulag first hand.

(Editorials this bad usually contain factual errors, and this one is no exception.  Here's one that struck me:

Americans were shocked to learn of the torture and abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, and subsequent revelations of other, earlier abuses.

Some Americans were shocked, after an enormous effort by the "mainstream" media to inflate a small scandal into a large one, but most weren't, as anyone who saw opinion polls on the subject would know.   (I don't say inflate for no reason.  Karl Zinsmeister pointed out an interesting fact that has apparently escaped the editorialists at the Seattle Times; scores of detainees at Abu Ghraib had been killed and injured by terrorists who fire mortar shells into the camp, more or less at random.)  If I weren't so disgusted, I would look for more factual errors, and am almost sure I would find them.)

Cross posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.
- 2:46 PM, 6 January 2005   [link]


What Do You Make of these results?
It really is brains not brawn that women look for in a man.  An exhaustive study [in Britain] of people from primary school to middle age has proved that clever men are much more likely to marry than those with lesser intelligence.

But for female high-flyers, the reverse is true.  Their chances of walking up the aisle are considerably lower than those of classmates who left school at 16.
. . .
For boys, there is a 35% increase in the likelihood of marriage for each 16-point rise in IQ.   For girls, there is a 40% drop for each 16-point increase.
A woman with a PhD in biology made exactly this point to me years (all right, decades) ago on a first date.  For what it is worth, we did not have a second date.

Though the correlation seems clear enough, the causality is not, at least not to me.  Do men not "make passes at girls who wear glasses"?  Or are smart women pickier than smart men, and so refuse to marry men who aren't as smart as they are?  Or, is it something else entirely?

There's a technical point, not mentioned in the article, that adds to the mystery.  Although men and women have the same average IQ, men vary more than women, so that that there are more low IQ men — and more high IQ men.  The differences are fairly large at the extremes; it has been a while since I have seen the numbers, but I think at some level (130 to 140 perhaps) there would be two high IQ men for every high IQ woman.

One possible explanation is that higher education has different effects on men than women.   It requires a certain level of intelligence to complete graduate school or professional school, so we may be looking at the effects of advanced schooling, rather than IQ.  (It would be possible to check that with the right statistical techniques, though you might need more subjects for the study.)  Since men tend to marry at an older age than women, they might be less affected by the fact that both tend to marry after they complete their schooling.

And then there's the possibility that colleges and universities actively discourage high IQ women from marriage.  That's not a new idea; those who have read Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night will remember that the conflict between intellectual life and marriage is what drives the mystery, which is set in the 1930s.  Those more familiar with feminist doctrine than I can probably think of more recent examples.

Or, colleges and universities may make high IQ women less attractive, by teaching them values that offend many men.  Consider John Leo's description of his daughter's university, Wesleyan.
In the fall of 2000, I promised my daughter the freshman that I wouldn't write about Wesleyan University (Middletown, Conn.) until she graduated.  As a result, you readers learned nothing from me about the naked dorm, the transgender dorm, the queer prom, the pornography-for-credit course, the obscene sidewalk chalking, the campus club named crudely for a woman's private part, or the appearance on campus of a traveling anti-Semitic roadshow, loosely described as a pro-Palestinian conference.
I doubt whether very many men who want to get married would find those experiences attractive, at least in a woman they want to marry.

Is there a political point to this?  I think so.  I have long thought, though it is poltically incorrect to say so, that society is better off if children are raised by responsible married couples, especially intelligent and responsible married couples.  If we are somehow discouraging high IQ women from marrying and having families, we will all be slightly worse off.

(For what it is worth, all my life I have found that the more intelligent a woman is, the more attractive she is.

If you need an example, here's a minor confession.  A few months ago, a local TV news program got my attention by putting on a woman geologist to talk about Mt. St. Helens.  I was instantly attracted even though most would probably not have called her beautiful.)
- 10:02 AM, 6 January 2005   [link]


Is Al Jazeera On The Other Side?   Sure.
A videotape found in a pile of documents in Baghdad following the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime shows a former manager of the Al-Jazeera satellite channel thanking one of Saddam's sons for his support and telling him that "Al-Jazeera is your channel," the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported Sunday.

According to Asharq al-Awsat's report, the tape of the March 13, 2000, meeting shows former Al-Jazeera manager Mohammed Jassem al-Ali telling Odai Saddam Hussein, "Al-Jazeera is your channel," and Odai recalls that he proposed "some ideas" in previous meetings that led to "some changes" in political coverage, including the introduction of new hosts on Al-Jazeera programs.
This manager was dismissed, but only after Saddam was overthrown.

That's even closer ties with Saddam than CNN managed.  And it is worth mentioning that we might never have learned of these agreements between Saddam's regime and "independent" journalists if he had stayed in power.

(I have no evidence for this, but I strongly suspect that Saddam bribed at least a few Western journalists, just as he bribed many Arab journalists.  It seems nearly certain that he tried to bribe some, and it seems likely that he succeeded with a few.)
- 8:25 AM, 6 January 2005   [link]


Mt. Baker:  Yesterday morning was cold and clear, so I went over to the Space Needle to play tourist and take some pictures.  I will be putting up a few of them over the next week or so, beginning with this picture of Mt. Baker.  It was looking beautiful, as it almost always does during the winter, though there is still less snow than skiers would like.



Mt Baker is about 85 miles from the Space Needle.  At 10,775 feet high, it is the third highest mountain in Washington state, after Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams.
- 3:05 PM, 5 January 2005   [link]


Do Journalists Ignore Vote Fraud Directed At Republicans?  Republicans have thought so at least since the 1960 election, when fraudulent votes may have given the win to John F. Kennedy.  There was considerable evidence of fraud then, in the states of Illinois, Missouri, and Texas, but major news organizations did not make an effort to uncover it and to determine whether fraud had made the difference in the outcome.

In the past few days, I have had an interesting (and civil*) exchange with Danny Westneat of the Seattle, with that as the underlying issue.  His most recent email ended with this:
I vehemently do not agree with your assessment that journalists are uninterested in vote fraud.   We are looking and looking and looking.  Despite the low view of us these days, we do try not to print stuff unless we have proof of it.  Vote fraud is difficult to prove, but we're working on it.
But that is not quite what I had argued.  What I say is that journalists are not, generally, interested in stories on vote fraud directed against Republicans.  Compare, as I have, the considerable coverage given to the fear that many have of electronic voting machines (which might help Republicans) to the sparse coverage of fraudulent absentee ballots (which generally helps Democrats).  I know of no examples of fraud with electronic voting machines (though I do have my own objections to them), but fraud with absentee ballots is routine, so routine in some areas that there are vote brokers who make a little extra income every election with fraudulent ballots.

The dispute over the Florida 2000 election provides an even more glaring example.  With two exceptions** that I am aware of, journalists from "mainstream" news organizations simply refused to look at the abundant evidence for vote fraud by Democratic officials in parts of Florida.  (If you are interested in the evidence, see this Q&A for some examples.)  Let me mention one example that those with a little statistical training will find especially striking.
In several Gore counties, notably Palm Beach, Gadsden, and Volusia, the results of the [first] recount were suspicious.  Consider the Palm Beach recount.  It produced gains of 787 votes for Gore and 105 votes for Bush, for a net gain of 682 votes for Gore.  Remember this result came, supposedly, from running the same punch cards through the same counting machines.  By way of comparison, Broward county, which is larger than Palm Beach, found 43 additional votes for Gore and 44 for Bush.  Both the size of the changes, and the bias in the Palm Beach recount, are completely implausible, without some human interference.  Several researchers have made statistical estimates that these Palm Beach recount results happened by chance; all found more that the odds against it were more than 1,000,000 to 1.  (Although the Palm Beach recount was obviously unethical, it may not have been illegal.  One would have to know what was done to the ballots and what is allowed by Florida law to decide.)
Broward and Palm Beach used the same voting systems in 2000, by the way.  (And I should add that Broward, which, like Palm Beach, has a history of vote fraud, made up for its relatively clean first recount by imaginative interpretations in the second recount.)  Did the New York Times investigate this miraculous gain for Gore in Palm Beach?  Did the Washington Post?   Did ABC, CBS, or NBC?  No, no, and no.

Now perhaps one could excuse this by saying that major news organizations do not have the statistical expertise to realize just how improbable the results from the first Palm Beach recount were.   (Though they certainly could have hired some one to calculate the odds.)  But what about the Haitian precincts in Miami?  Fox News found witnesses who said that election workers in some of them had gone into the voting booths to "assist" Haitian voters.  It doesn't require any statistical expertise to see what's wrong with that.  Did any of the "mainstream" news organizations follow up this story?  As far as I know, none did.

So I must say that, in my experience, journalists are not much interested in vote fraud &mdash when it is directed against Republicans.  I would very much like that not to be true.   I would rather spend my time on analysis and commentary, rather than pinning down the facts.   But since journalists are not doing this part of their job, the rest of us must fill in for them, as best we can.  (There are exceptions, and I try to give them credit whenever I see them.   I would be delighted if I could do that more often.)

(*I mention this to give Westneat some credit.  When I criticize a journalist, I often send them an email so that they can respond — on the off chance they don't read my site every day, as they should.  I have found that journalists do not usually respond when you send them a correction, and that they are not always civil when you send them a criticism, however gently you made it.   So I would like to say that Westneat is more civil and seems more open to other ideas than most journalists, even though I criticize his beliefs in this post.

**The two exceptions?  The Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post checked the Florida voter list and found that it contained thousands of felons.  A New York newspaper — I think it was the Daily News — cross checked the voting lists and found that thousands of voters had voted in both New York and Florida.  Felons and New Yorkers with dual residences in Florida both tend to be Democratic.  If Al Gore had been able to gain a lead in a recount in 2000, he would have owed his margin to illegal votes, without question.)
- 9:52 AM, 5 January 2005
More:  Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat tells me that journalists are eager to investigate allegations of vote fraud.  You have seen my reply above.  Now, take a look at this column from Seattle Times editorial writer Joni Balter.  I wouldn't say it proves my case, but it certainly provides more evidence for it.  Balter is simply uninterested in the possibility that Republicans might be right in their claim that Washington's gubernatorial election is tainted.

As I said above, I would rather be wrong on this question.  And to show that, I plan a long post over at Sound Politics with suggestions for journalists who want to investigate possible fraud in the governor's race.  We'll see if Mr. Westneat takes up any of my suggestions.  I think we already know what Ms. Balter will do — nothing.  (Wonder if she had the same position — do nothing about partisan charges — in the 2000 Florida dispute?)
- 7:02 AM, 6 January 2004   [link]


Sometimes The Mexican Government really ticks me off.
The Mexican government is giving out a colorful new comic book with advice for migrants, but immigration-control advocates worry that some of the tips may encourage illegal border crossers.

The 32-page book, The Guide for the Mexican Migrant, was published in December by Mexico's Foreign Ministry.  Using simple language, the book offers safety information for border crossers, a primer on their legal rights and advice on living unobtrusively in the United States.
As far as I know, the United States has not published a comic book, or anything else, that tells Americans how to break Mexican laws.

For more on the subject generally, see this Michelle Malkin post.  She links to and quotes at length from a Barron's article (not available free on line) that makes strong arguments for better border controls.  I was especially surprised by this:
[T]he underground economy is undermining the effectiveness of the Internal Revenue Service, which is highly dependent on employees' withholding taxes.  If the IRS could collect all the taxes it says that it is owed from the underground economy in a given year, then the current budget deficit would disappear overnight.  And if the IRS could collect these taxes every year, then the nation would have surpluses as far as the eye can see.
As I understand it, most of the employees in that underground economy are illegal immigrants.

(There is a political aspect to this, too.  I have argued, in my posts on "distributed vote fraud", that some non-citizens vote, and made some very rough guesstimates of how many do.  Those guesstimates were based on the standard estimates for non-citizens living in the United States.  If those estimates are too low, as Barrons argues, then my guesstimates on vote fraud may be as well.)
- 7:56 AM, 4 January 2005   [link]


Passing Grades:  How many local journalists deserve them for their coverage of the disputed Gregoire-Rossi gubernatorial election?  Not many, at least not many that I have seen.

Maybe I am too harsh a grader.  I would fail any journalist who says "count every vote", when even Gregoire usually qualifies that with "legitimate".  I would fail any journalist who would write this about the Florida dispute:

What was so jolting about the 2000 presidential election is that it ended when a court stepped in and declared: No, you cannot recount the votes. You cannot try to get a better sense of who really won.

In a clearly partisan 5-to-4 ruling, the court decided the presidency.  It was a shocking low point in American democracy. The court said: Voters don't have the final say, we do.

(Those who want some sport may want to try to count the errors in those two paragraphs.)

I would fail any journalist who simply dismisses the possibility that the Republicans may have a case.

They [the Democrats] didn't cheat, they didn't concoct votes that weren't real, they merely found the uncounted votes they needed while Republicans missed their opportunity to do the same.

And David Horsey misrepresents what the Republicans, most of them anyway, are charging.   Most are not arguing that Democratic officials fabricated pro-Gregoire ballots, but that the lax procedures in King County, and perhaps in other counties, allowed illegal votes, in what I have called "distributed vote fraud".

Horsey, and many other journalists, take comfort in Secretary of State Sam Reed's claim that the election was conducted honestly.  That may be true in the sense that election officials did not create fraudulent ballots themselves, but that does not mean that no fraudulent ballots were created.  And Horsey ignores the contrary opinions of former Governor Dan Evans, and former Secretary of State Ralph Munro, both of whom favor a re-vote.  Not necessarily because of fraud, but because King County so badly botched its procedures.

I would fail any executive editor who did not make a serious effort to investigate the Republican charges.  We know, from many national stories, that as the use of absentee ballots has spread, so has fraud.  We know, from many national stories, that many non-citizens, including most famously 8 of the 9/11 hijackers, have been registered to vote.  Is it wholly implausible that Christine Gregoire may have received 130 illegal votes, net, from those sources?

It's not that readers are uninterested in reading about this subject; take a look at the letters to the PI from Friday, Sunday, and Monday.   Nearly half of them, I would say, refer to the research that Stefan Sharkansky has been doing (with a little help from his friends).  So why don't our newspapers try to do some of the same research?

Finally, I would fail any journalist who gave Ron Sims a pass.  He is, after all, the King County executive and he promised in 2003 to clean up King County elections.  At the very least it is clear that the job is not finished.  Has Sims chosen the right person to clean up the mess?  Has he given Dean Logan enough authority?  Enough resources?  For some reason, almost no journalist seems interested in asking Sims these questions, or holding him accountable for the mess this year.

So which journalists would earn passing grades so far?  David Postman of the Seattle Times, Robert Mak of King 5 (for the ballot story), and two at the Seattle Weekly, Rick Anderson and George Howland.   Robert Jamieson of the Seattle PI deserves some credit for arguing that people in the military should vote, but then even Paul Berendt agrees with that — in principle, while finding it merely sad that in practice men who were fighting in Fallujah did not know the technical details of our election laws.

But those are all the journalists that would get passing grades — at least from me.  If you know of some more who deserve to pass by those standards, please add them in the comments.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(In a few days, I'll have a post up on Oh, That Liberal Media describing a rather different reaction by journalists to a disputed election.  How many days?  That depends on how good the conditions are for cross country skiing in the next few days.)
- 4:12 PM, 3 January 2005
Update:  After an exchange with Danny Westneat, I decided to change how I described his comments on the Florida election.  "Ignorant" is not quite the right word.  "Misinformed" would be closer, but even that is not quite right.
- 6:57 AM, 7 January 2005   [link]

More Wins For The Numbers Guys?  The success of the Seattle Sonics this year was not widely expected.  Art Thiel of the Seattle PI was hardly alone when he predicted a terrible season after the embarrassing opening loss.  As he notes ruefully, he was off by just a little bit.
Suggesting that the Sonics finally were making progress, simply because a team this bad was destined for the first pick in the June draft lottery, I concluded, "The Sonics' biggest early season decision will be whether to curtain the upper-bowl seats of KeyArena, as with Storm games, or the lower bowl, since no discerning fans will spring for the expensive seats.

"Or both."

Holding my thumb and forefinger a quarter inch apart, I feel safe in saying the forecast missed by that much.  Give or take a freight train or two.
How big a freight train?  Here are the current division standings.  Only three other teams, Phoenix, Miami, and San Antonio, have comparable records.  Knowledgeable basketball fans will be especially impressed by the Sonics' road record, 11-3.

What explains the unexpected success?  Thiel has his own explanation; the Sonics are copying the better teams in Europe.  But this Seattle PI article suggests another explanation: The Sonics are benefitting from a numbers guy.
And, at age 35, it's numbers that have brought [Dean] Oliver to the NBA as the Sonics' statistics consultant, his first full-time crack at a lifelong pursuit.

For years, he has traded his statistical studies to NBA teams for free tickets.  He published a book on it last year, "Basketball on Paper."  This season, it's a full-time job after he took a 75-percent pay cut from the six-figure salary he earned in environmental engineering last year to study chemistry on the basketball court for Seattle this season.
Oliver does seem to have played a part in the Sonics' decision to bet on their young point guard, Luke Ridnour, who played inconsistently last season.  So far, as Thiel admits, that decision has been justified by the results.

I have been wondering, ever since the remarkable success of the numbers guys in baseball, whether they might be able to succeed in basketball as well.  If the Sonics continue their winning ways all season, they'll provide strong support for that idea.
- 7:03 AM, 3 January 2005   [link]


Bankers Are Betting On Success In Iraq:  That's the reluctant conclusion of this New York Times article.
Despite the continuing war and political uncertainty, Iraq's long-suffering financial industry has begun creaking to life.

The revival is being led by some private Iraqi banks that have begun using new economic rules, harnessing the surge of reconstruction money and, in some cases, forging foreign partnerships.

Though the environment here is such that businessmen in suits tote revolvers and hire bodyguards just to check their bank balances, "The prospects for banking are good, when they fix the problem of security," said Abdul Muhsin Shansal, chairman of the Iraqi Bureau of Financial and Economic Consultations, a business consultancy in Baghdad.
. . .
At least two new banks have opened since April 2003, and eight others have submitted applications to open.  Foreigners have begun venturing in, taking advantage of investment laws that grant non-Iraqis a level of access to the country unprecedented in much of the Middle East.  And Iraqi banks, mostly barred by Mr. Hussein from ties to the outside world, have been welcoming foreigners and venturing abroad as well.

The Export and Finance Bank, a Jordanian investment bank, has bought a 49 percent stake in the National Bank of Iraq, a publicly held bank based in Baghdad, while the National Bank of Kuwait has bought a majority of Credit Bank of Iraq.  Standard Chartered Bank and HSBC Holdings, both based in London, have won contracts to do business in Iraq, though neither has done so yet.  Two government-owned Iranian banks, Mellat and Saderat, have applied to do business in Iraq.
Bankers, not a group known for wild enthusiasms, are betting their own money and the money of their investors on success in Iraq.  (The two Iranian banks may have other reasons for wanting to do business in Iraq, of course.)  What do these bankers know that our journalists, who almost all think that Iraq is a "quagmire", do not?
- 6:15 AM, 3 January 2005   [link]


The Bush Stock Market Rally:  The New York Times notes that "investors had plenty of reasons to breathe sighs of relief" at the end of the year, but does not explicitly mention the main reason until the 20th paragraph.
Some analysts said that the rally was so powerful because the election's outcome was the best possible one for the market: the re-election of President Bush, who had promised to make his tax cuts permanent, including those on capital gains.
I believe Bush's re-election was the main reason for the rally because of the timing.
Before the presidential election, the Dow and the Nasdaq were down for the year, while the S.& P. was up just 1.7 percent.  The 7.2 percent surge in the Dow after Nov. 1 was the fifth-best postelection rally in a presidential year since 1900 and the best since 1952, according to Ned Davis Research.  For the Nasdaq, the 9.9 percent postelection climb was the second best since the index began in 1971 and the strongest such rally since 1992.
As a sometime contrarian, I don't worship the wisdom of markets, but I do think that people who risk their own money are likely — in the long run — to be right more often than they are wrong, if only for simple Darwinian reasons.  Those who are wrong too often are forced out of the market.

Now why would investors be positive about the American economy and Bush's policies?  Steve Antler, the "Econopundit", has some fascinating numbers that give part of the answer.  Long term unemployment is far lower in the United States than in our main competitors.  In 2002 (probably the latest year for which data is available), just 9 percent of the unemployed in the United States had been without jobs for 12 months or more.  Here are the (roughly) comparable numbers for five other advanced nations:
Britain===23%
Japan====31%
France====34%
Germany=48%
Italy=====59%
As I am sure you know, unemployment rates are far higher in France, Germany, and Italy than in the United States.  There are more long term unemployed in Germany — in absolute numbers — than in the United States, despite Germany's much smaller population.   (The United States currently has about 295 million people, Germany about 82 million.)  And the same may be true for France, though the numbers are closer there.

It is simplifying greatly but it is not entirely wrong to say that John Kerry wanted to make our economic policies more like those followed by European countries.  You can see from the numbers above why the stock market celebrated his defeat, and why the unemployed here in the United States should, too.

(Perhaps it was the desire of reporter Jonathan Fuerbringer to hide these points that led him to miss two serious errors in the chart that accompanies the article.  But blogger "Tigerhawk" and his readers did not miss them.  Theodore Roosevelt was not elected president in 1900, nor was Truman elected president in 1944, though each soon became president after the deaths of William McKinley and Franklin D. Roosevelt, respectively.

Errors via Power Line.)
- 5:11 AM, 3 January 2005   [link]


A Good Geography Teacher Can Save Your Life:  Ten-year-old Tilly Smith of Surrey, England was paying attention in class.
"Last term, my geography teacher, Mr. Kearney, taught us about earthquakes and how they can cause tsunamis.

"I was on the beach, and the water started to go funny.

"I recognized what was happening and had a feeling there was going to be a tsunami."
And so she was able to give a warning which saved many lives.
The adults were curious, but Tilly froze in horror.

"Mummy, we must get off the beach now!" she told her mother.  "I think there's going to be a tsunami."

The adults didn't understand until Tilly added the magic words: "A tidal wave."

Her warning spread like wildfire.  Within seconds, the beach was deserted — and it turned out to be one of the only places along the shores of Phuket where no one was killed or seriously injured.
Here's a picture of Tilly with her proud parents.

This may be thinking too far ahead, but it occurs to me that England has done well with women leaders, from Elizabeth I to Margaret Thatcher.  In a few decades, they may have another good one.
- 5:00 AM, 2 January 2005   [link]


Goodbye To 2004:  As the sun sets over Seattle.



It was a rough year, but one in which we made progress in many areas.
- 10:25 AM, 1 January 2005   [link]


Why Are Tsunamis So Destructive?  Because of their wave lengths.
Tsunamis are unlike wind-generated waves, which many of us may have observed on a local lake or at a coastal beach, in that they are characterized as shallow-water waves, with long periods and wave lengths.  The wind-generated swell one sees at a California beach, for example, spawned by a storm out in the Pacific and rhythmically rolling in, one wave after another, might have a period of about 10 seconds and a wave length of 150 m.  A tsunami, on the other hand, can have a wavelength in excess of 100 km and period on the order of one hour.

As a result of their long wave lengths, tsunamis behave as shallow-water waves.  A wave becomes a shallow-water wave when the ratio between the water depth and its wave length gets very small.   Shallow-water waves move at a speed that is equal to the square root of the product of the acceleration of gravity (9.8 m/s/s) and the water depth — let's see what this implies: In the Pacific Ocean, where the typical water depth is about 4000 m, a tsunami travels at about 200 m/s, or over 700 km/hr.   Because the rate at which a wave loses its energy is inversely related to its wave length, tsunamis not only propagate at high speeds, they can also travel great, transoceanic distances with limited energy losses.
That's an extraordinarily efficient transmission of energy, and all because of the tsunami wave lengths.   And I must add that I had never thought of the Pacific as "shallow", though it is, from the point of view of a tsunami.
- 8:55 AM, 1 January 2005   [link]


Why Were The Early Estimates Of Losses From The Tsunami So Low?   Almost everyone, certainly including me, underestimated the losses from the Indian Ocean tsunami in the first few days after it struck.  One reason the estimates were too low is that they did not include a good estimate of the damage done in Sumatra, where the waves were the highest and the people had the shortest times to escape.  The devastation there was so great that in many communities there was no one to call.  In other nations that were hit, the governments are often weak and ineffective and find it hard to cope with any unexpected event.  We in the West tend to take it for granted that our governments can assess a disaster and get help there quickly.  That capability is new even for us, historically speaking, and unknown in much of the world.

At least one man may have understood what was happening, almost as it happened, Vasily V. Titov.
It was 7 p.m. Seattle time on Dec. 25 when Vasily V. Titov raced to his office, sat down at his computer and prepared to simulate an earthquake and tsunami that was already sweeping across the Indian Ocean.
. . .
Dr. Titov, a mathematician who works for a government marine laboratory, began to assemble his digital tools on his computer's hard drive: a three-dimensional map of the Indian Ocean seafloor and the seismic data showing the force, breadth and direction of the earthquake's punch to the sea.

As he set to work, Sumatra's shores were already a soup of human flotsam.  Thailand to the east was awash.  The pulse of energy transferred from seabed to water, traveling at jetliner speed, was already most of the way across the Bay of Bengal and approaching unsuspecting villagers and tourists, fishermen and bathers, from the eight-foot-high coral strands of the Maldives to the teeming shores of Sri Lanka and eastern India.

In the end, Dr. Titov could not get ahead of that wave with his numbers.  He could not help avert the wreckage and death.  But alone in his office, following his computer model of the real tsunami, he began to understand, as few others in the world did at that moment, that this was no local disaster.
Efforts to blame others for the losses, or the failure to send aid quickly, spread almost as fast as the tsunami.  I'll have something to say about that in a few days, but I am not up to commenting on those efforts while we are still learning the scope of the disaster.
- 8:17 AM, 1 January 2005   [link]