Archive:

January 2005, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Two Admissions:  Yesterday, the two Seattle newspapers admitted two things I have been arguing for some time.  First, "mainstream" news organizations are not much interested in charges of vote fraud — when the charges are made by Republicans.   Second, those on the left favor keeping the current level of vote fraud, or even increasing it.

The first admission came indirectly in this Seattle Times editorial, which includes this interesting line.

Republicans are concerned that hundreds of provisional ballots mistakenly were fed into machines before signatures or eligibility could be verified.

Just Republicans?  Shouldn't every honest person be concerned?  Shouldn't even journalists be concerned?  Why doesn't the editorial say "We", rather than "Republicans"?

Now maybe I am making too much of what just may be awkward wording, since the editorial does call for reforms in the way provisional ballots are handled.  But consider these points.   The editorial mentions failures by the election officials in both Pierce and King counties, but has no criticism to make of the two Democratic elected officials responsible, Pierce County auditor Pat McCarthy and King County executive Rom Sims.  Would the Times be quite so indifferent if elected Republicans had failed in the same way?  Will they call for McCarthy and Sims to be defeated should they run for re-election?  I doubt it.  And the editorial skips these essential points: Putting provisional ballots into counting machines without checking them is illegal, and there is every reason to think that some of those provisional ballots were invalid.

Mark Trahant's column in the Seattle PI is more direct.

Every day I read new evidence about Washington's corrupt election process.  There's evidence of dead voters, felons who voted, fictional registrations, people who voted twice and registered at phony addresses.
. . .
We, the people of Washington state, decided to go further than other states.  Through our political process, we reached the philosophical conclusion that it's better to have more people voting, rather than fewer.  This is the very premise that's at stake in this demand for a new election.  The notion of an open election is not perfect because it means some people will cheat -- it's not ideal because a tiny slice of the population will register and vote illegally.   But at least under an open process, every citizen has the opportunity to cast a vote.

Now, consider the alternative course, an election system that is more closed than open.  Yes, we could purge the voting rolls.  We could demand identification and papers from every citizen who pursues the right to vote.  We could make fraud the highest priority, rather than access.

I like that column.  I don't agree with it, but I like it because it is honest.  Trahant wants to preserve (or maybe even increase) the current level of vote fraud.  He recognizes that measures such as the 1993 "Motor Voter" Act increased vote fraud, and he favors that because he thinks it also increased voter participation.

One can disagree with his assumption that allowing more vote fraud increases participation.  In fact, I know of no evidence for that assumption, and some evidence against it.  Efforts to make voting easier, such as the 1993 Motor Voter Act (or as some presciently called it, the "Motor Cheater" Act), have not increased voter participation.   In general, in the United States, voting participation is highest in places with relatively clean elections, and lowest in places where fraud is rampant.  One can argue about cause and effect in that correlation, but it seems plausible to me that allowing vote fraud makes voters more cynical and less likely to vote over time.

And I am disappointed that Trahant is not candid about the partisan effects of his desire to keep the current level of vote fraud, or even to increase it.  There is simply no doubt that vote fraud helps Democrats much more often than it helps Republicans.  Why should Republicans, independents, or even honest Democrats see that as fair?  When I propose election reforms, I look for measures that could draw bipartisan support.  I think that's a good approach — even for editors.

As I said, I like Trahant's column for its honesty.  Other editors might choose to pretend that measures they back will not increase vote fraud, but Trahant does not.  I prefer journalists to be openly in favor of vote fraud — if they must favor it.

But I don't think that Trahant is looking ahead as far as he should.  Those who have studied American election history can tell you that fraud by one party encourages fraud by another.   Democrats may have the edge now, but there is no reason to believe they will always have it.   If we don't clean up our elections, individual Republicans, and probably even some groups that support the party, will begin to try to match Trahant's Democrats in vote fraud*.  Some will even argue that some Republican fraud is necessary for fair elections, because only that way can Republicans balance the Democratic fraud.  The end result of such competition will be elections no one trusts.  So, unlike Trahant, I would rather see the two parties compete only for honest votes.

One reason I started this site, and contribute to Sound Politics and Oh, That Liberal Media is that I do not trust the "mainstream" media on issues such as vote fraud.  Those two admissions will help show you why I don't

(Trahant does have a legitmate point, even though he takes it way too far.  In fact, we should not try to prevent all vote fraud.

How much vote fraud should we allow?  Zero is the wrong answer, and so is "as little as possible".  In this, vote fraud is similar to air pollution.  Trying to reduce air pollution to zero (even excluding pollution from natural sources) is impossible.   Trying to reduce air pollution (or vote fraud) below a certain level is undesirable because the costs are greater than the benefits.  That said, I do not believe that we have gotten down to the optimum level of air pollution — and we certainly haven't gotten down to the optimum level of vote fraud.

To begin with, we should match our election practices to our election laws.  For example, if our laws say that only citizens can vote, then we should check for citizenship at registration.   (Many of you will know that non-citizens could vote in many parts of the United States, even into the 20th century.  And, of course, some leftist cities are trying to restore that for local elections.)

Beyond that, we should enforce common sense rules similar to those used when we cash checks.   I doubt whether King County would accept my check without a photo id; they shouldn't accept my vote without one, either.  I am not sure how much farther we should go in controlling vote fraud.  I would like to see some scientific studies of vote fraud so that we would have a better understanding of its extent.

*Stefan Sharkansky suggests, tongue in cheek, that Republicans might want to take Trahant at his word and start committing vote fraud too.  Stefan even has an interesting suggestion for a place to start, Trahant's home of Bainbridge.  Stefan is joking, but, if we continue to tolerate Democratic vote fraud, other Republicans will take the idea seriously.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.)
- 12:44 AM, 31 January 2005   [link]

Would You Vote If It Might Mean Your Death?  I like to think that I would be as brave as the millions of Iraqis who voted yesterday, but I am not sure that I would.  Would I, for example, have stayed in line after a suicide bomber struck the line?   The Iraqis did, but I don't know whether I would have.  After all, it is easy to tell yourself that your individual vote doesn't count and that you can let others take the risk.   But Iraqis, millions of them, did not take that easy path.  They continued to vote even as the terrorists continued to attack the voting places.

I have said for some time that Iraqis will have to free Iraq from the rule of terrorists and thugs.   Yesterday's vote was the most dramatic evidence that the majority of Iraqis are doing just that.

Even some of those who oppose President Bush were impressed by the courage of the Iraqis.   Here, for example, is today's lead editorial from the New York Times.
Courageous Iraqis turned out to vote yesterday in numbers that may have exceeded even the most optimistic predictions.  Participation varied by region, and the impressive national percentages should not obscure the fact that the country's large Sunni Arab minority remained broadly disenfranchised — due to alienation or terror or both.  But even in some predominantly Sunni areas, turnout was higher than expected.  And in an impressive range of mainly Shiite and Kurdish cities, a long silenced majority of ordinary Iraqis defied threats of deadly mayhem to cast votes for a new, and hopefully democratic, political order.

That is a message that all but the most nihilistic of the armed insurgents will have to accept.   Many fierce political struggles lie ahead.  Yet all who claim to be fighting in the name of the Iraqi people should now recognize that — in an open expression of popular will — Iraqis have expressed their clear preference that these battles be fought exclusively in the peaceful, constitutional arena.
The Washington Post had a similar lead editorial.
For months news from Iraq has told the story of the extremists, those who destroy themselves to murder others and to proclaim the cause of a religious or Baathist dictatorship.  Yesterday the world saw and heard, at last, another Iraq, one in which millions of people from all over the country turned out to vote -- even in places where their nominal leaders had proclaimed a boycott, even at polling stations where mortar rounds fell or gunfire rang out.  Some danced or distributed chocolates, some wept with joy, others grimly pressed forward as if their lives literally depended on it.  A 32-year-old man who lost his leg in a suicide bombing arrived at the polls in Baghdad and told a Reuters reporter, "I would have crawled here if I had to." There were nine suicide bombings, and at least 44 people died, including one U.S. soldier.  But the day's message was unmistakable: The majority of Iraqis support the emerging democratic order in their country, and many are willing to risk their lives for it.
(Some of us will take some grim satisfaction in that admission of bias; "mainstream" news organizations have been telling the story of the terrorists for months — which is not the story of the majority of Iraqis.)

Even the Seattle PI, a newspaper that routinely publishes anti-American extremists such as Robert Fisk on its op-ed page, has a positive editorial.
Yesterday, the people of Iraq defied terrorism, five decades of tyranny and the chaos of war.   The simple act of casting a vote -- raising a marked, purple-stained finger for freedom -- was an act of courage that should inspire people everywhere.

"I am doing this because I love my country, and I love the sons of my nation," Shamal Hekeib, 53, who walked with his wife 20 minutes to a polling station near his Baghdad home, told The Associated Press. "We are Arabs, we are not scared and we are not cowards."

It's one thing to love a country; it's another to risk your life for that nation.  Yet millions of Iraqis did just that, voting in higher percentages than in many American elections.
The New York Times editorial takes back some of the praise in the last four paragraphs.  One of the four begins, naturally, with "But", just as many bloggers predicted.  And we'll see many more such "buts" in the next few weeks and months from those who would rather quarrel with President Bush than celebrate the courage of the Iraqis and the advance of democracy.  For the moment though, let's applaud the majority of Iraqis and take pleasure in the clapping even from some of those who usually sneer and boo.

(People in this area will be struck by the silence of the Seattle Times, which had no editorial on the Iraqi elections, either yesterday or today.)
- 6:08 AM, 31 January 2005   [link]


Sunset Over The Space Needle:  A few days ago, I saw this pretty little cloud over Seattle at sunset.   As I was taking pictures of the cloud, the ducks decided the picture would look even better if they flew into it.  I agree with them.



(Yes, the Space Needle is in the picture, though you may have to search a bit to find it.)
- 4:12 PM, 28 January 2005   [link]


Worth Reading:  Amazingly, this article by Anthony Browne was originally published in the Guardian.
Islam really does want to conquer the world.  That's because Muslims, unlike many Christians, actually believe they are right, and that their religion is the path to salvation for all

A year ago I had lunch with an eminent figure who asked if I thought she was mad.  'No,' I said politely, while thinking, 'Yup.'  She had said she thought there was a secret plot by Muslims to take over the West.  I have never been into conspiracy theories, and this one was definitely of the little-green-men variety.  It is the sort of thing BNP thugs claim to justify their racial hatred.

Obviously, we all know about Osama bin Laden's ambitions.  And we are all aware of the loons of al-Muhajiroun waving placards saying 'Islam is the future of Britain'.  But these are all on the extremist fringe, representative of no one but themselves.  Surely no one in Islam takes this sort of thing seriously?  I started surfing the Islamic media.
And he quickly learned enough to join the eminent figure in her madness.  Because, as anyone who wants to can verify for themselves, "Islam really does want to conquer the world."  Or, at least a significant fraction of Muslims do.  And conquer is the right word.  Many Muslim reject violence against the West not because Islam is a religion of peace, but because they think it impractical — at least in the near future.

Consider this detail.
A popular topic for discussion on Arabic TV channels is the best strategy for conquering the West.
Now try to translate that into Western terms.  Imagine, for example, the BBC running programs on how to convert Muslims into Christians.  Or 60 Minutes running a series of programs on how to Christianize the Arabian peninsula.  And these are popular programs, not fringe stuff, programs sometimes broadcast by government controlled TV stations, and sometimes by privately controlled TV stations.

Consider these comparisons.
In Saudi Arabia the government bans all churches, while in Europe governments pay to build Islamic cultural centres.  While in many Islamic countries preaching Christianity is banned, in Western Christian countries the right to preach Islam is enshrined in law.  Christians are free to convert to Islam, while Muslims who convert to Christianity can expect either death threats or a death sentence.  The Pope keeps apologising for the Crusades (even though they were just attempts to get back former Christian lands) while his opposite numbers call for the overthrow of Christendom.

In Christian countries, those who warn about Islamification, such as the film star Brigitte Bardot, are prosecuted, while in Muslim countries those who call for the Islamification of the world are turned into TV celebrities.  In the West, schools teach comparative religion, while in Muslim countries schools teach that Islam is the only true faith.  David Blunkett in effect wants to ban criticism of Islam, a protection not enjoyed by Christianity in Muslim countries.  Millions of Muslims move to Christian countries, but virtually no Christians move to Muslim ones.
And you will see why the Muslim plans, or hopes, of conquest can not be considered completely daft.

The eminent figure was wrong on one point.  The plan is not secret — except from nearly everyone in the Western media.  So few Western journalists have religious beliefs, or even know someone who does, that they simply can't understand those who do.

(One minor correction.  At the time of the Crusades, what the Crusaders called the Holy Land had a very large population of Christians.  The eminent historian of Islam, Bernard Lewis, even thinks that Christians may have then been in the majority there.)
- 1:37 PM, 28 January 2005   [link]


H'mmm:  Front Page has long interview with Peter Lance, author of Cover Up: What the Government Is Still Hiding About the War on Terror.   Among the many things that Lance believes the government is covering up is the 1996 loss of TWA 800.
FP: Briefly illuminate for us the story of terror mastermind Ramzi Yousef and TWA 800.

Lance: The first half of Cover Up is the most explosive.  I present probative evidence that the crash of TWA #800 on July 17th, 1996 which killed 230 people, was an al Qaeda act of terror -- a bombing that was effectively the second biggest mass murder in U.S. history.
I did not find the official explanation for the loss of TWA 800, an explosion of a fuel tank caused by an internal spark, entirely satisfying.  And their explanation for the detection of explosives, contamination from a test with explosive sniffing dogs, seemed, though not impossible, a little too convenient.

There's much more in the interview, but nothing that suggests that Lance is a conspiracy nut.
- 8:50 AM, 28 January 2005   [link]


Europeans Are Closed Minded Whiners:  That's not what I think, that's what Thomas Friedman of the New York Times thinks.  But what is most amazing about Friedman's column is the conclusion that he draws from that nasty picture of Europeans.
In such an environment, the only thing that Mr. Bush could do to change people's minds about him would be to travel across Europe and not say a single word — but just listen.
All right, why?  Friedman admits that Bush would mostly hear "classic Eurowhining, easily dismissible", and that the rest of what he hears will mostly be misinformed.  I fail to see how Bush would gain from this, and I can't see why catering to misinformed whiners would improve their behavior or their knowledge.

In fact, despite what Friedman claims — again — Bush has friends in Europe, more, in fact than he does at the New York Times.  They may be a minority, but they are there.  And when Bush has done public diplomacy, as he did recently in Canada or earlier in Britain, he has succeeded in softening some of the criticism of himself and his policies.  As I have said more than once before, I think Bush should do more public diplomacy, but a listening trip is not the way to do it.

(It is curious that Friedman never meets open minded Europeans, or Europeans who support some of Bush's policies.  As I discussed in this post, Bush has supporters even in France, and Friedman would not have to speak to very many French citizens before he found one who supported Bush.)
- 7:37 AM, 28 January 2005   [link]


Climate Control:  Regular readers will know that I am something of a skeptic about the alarmist claims of global warming theorists.  I say something of a skeptic because just as I am not convinced that the alarmists are correct in their theories, so I am also not convinced that they are wrong.  (I am reasonably certain that the Kyoto agreement is an inappropriate remedy, even if they are right.)  I have explained all this at more length in this disclaimer, which I link to whenever I write a post on global warming.

Since I would rather not be uncertain about a matter of this importance, I look for more information on the subject and found this long interchange between science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle and climatologist Gavin Schmidt, who is a strong believer in man-caused global warming.  It was fascinating but not very helpful.  Schmidt, who is trying to make the case for his theories, ended up increasing my doubts.  He concedes that some part of the warming in the 20th century is caused by the sun and he admits that the models still do not fit climate very well for times before the 20th century.  (That they now fit, as he claims, the 20th century's climate well does not impress me as much as it does him, since with enough parameters, a modeler can fit short parts of any curve.)

And he never even addresses the possibility that global warming might bring more benefits than costs, in spite of the evidence that Europe, at least, was better off when it was slightly warmer in the Middle Ages.  Nor does he address Bjørn Lomborg's argument that money spent to prevent or delay global warming would have a poor return compared to other investments, such as clean water for the world's poor.  He's a climatologist, not a politician, so it might seem unfair to press him on such points.  But I don't think so since he, and some other climatologists, are demanding that other people spend billions now and trillions totally on the belief that their models are correct.  For such an argument to be taken seriously, proponents must discuss costs, benefits, and uncertainties, as well as the most likely predictions from their models.

For now, I continue to believe that we need more data, better theories — and more effort toward increasing our capability to control the climate should that be necessary.  And it may be necessary to control the climate even if there is no human-caused global warming.  This Tuesday's New York Times had this article on a vast change in earth's climate, long before there were any humans on the earth.
Like a chaotic pendulum, earth's climate swings, at uneven intervals, between warm and chilly ages lasting from thousands to millions of years.  New research suggests that about 251 million years ago, one of those swings jolted the world so violently that oxygen became scarce, the planet's thermostat went awry and nearly all life fell into oblivion in the greatest of mass extinctions.

Unlike a later extinction that wiped away dinosaurs, the calamity 251 million years ago appears not to have been set off by an outside force like the impact of a meteor, two teams of researchers said.
Instead, some researchers think it was caused by the break up of the supercontinent, Pangea, and perhaps immense volcanic eruptions.  All this could and probably will happen again, so we should be thinking about ways to control our climate, whether or not any changes come from man.

(One detail not mentioned in the article.  Some scientists think that birds, which evolved after this disaster, are better adapted to altitudes than mammals because of the oxygen shortage way back then.  Similar adaptions might explain some puzzles of dinosaur physiology.

Climate exchange by way of the Instapundit.)
- 10:20 AM, 27 January 2005   [link]


Sources On The Iraqi Elections:  In the next few days, I will be looking at these sites for more information on the elections.  By way of Michael Totten (and others), I learned that he is editing this Friends of Democracy site which is providing election coverage in Arabic and English from all over Iraq.  Today, for instance, I learned that campaign signs were being torn down in some areas.  The reporter feared that this was not the pre-election vandalism found in most countries, but something far worse, since all the signs were being torn down.

The BBC, which is not always a friend of democracy, is sponsoring an Iraqi election log, which has short posts from five Iraqis and three Americans.  In reading the posts from the last four days I was most struck by the changes in the posts from Tariq al-Ani.  A Sunni law student (and father of eight children), he is pessimistic in his earlier posts but then writes this for today's log.
Another quiet day for us here.  Yesterday I stayed at home mostly.  In the afternoon I went and caught some fish, then my family and I went out into the desert.  We found a nice, empty spot where we could all sit and relax.  We searched for some wood, got a fire going then grilled the fish I had caught just before sunset.
. . .
Then, just as sunset broke, we drove back to my relatives across the bridge from our home.  At their home they were having problems with their computer, so I sat and played cards with my brothers.   The electricity supply here is OK compared to some parts of Iraq, we have a local generator which we look after, and my brother helps maintain the machines
Which doesn't sound all that different from an American day, in many places.  (Those in this area may want to look at the posts from Brian Suits, a talk show host on KVI when he is not serving in Iraq.)

And, as always, I'll be looking at Arthur Chrenkoff's site.
- 9:12 AM, 27 January 2005   [link]


How Much Does The Guardian Hate President Bush?  Enough to publish two articles today, here and here, arguing that he comes from bad stock.
It is perhaps not the best omen for US foreign affairs. Local historians in Wexford have discovered that George Bush is a descendant of Strongbow, the power-hungry warlord who led the Norman invasion of Ireland thus heralding 800 years of mutual misery.
. . .
The genetic line can also be traced to Dermot MacMurrough, the Gaelic king of Leinster reviled in history books as the man who sold Ireland for personal gain.

Even before MacMurrough earned the title of Ireland's worst traitor by inviting Strongbow's invasion to save himself from a local feud, the Irish chieftain had a reputation for gore.  One English chronicler told how MacMurrough, recognising the features of a personal enemy poking from a pile of severed heads after a battle, snatched up the rotting flesh and tore it with his teeth in a "hideous frenzy".
And just in case you don't grasp the point, Angelique Chrisafis adds this:
The jury is out on whether Strongbow had a "conquering" gene that drove him to invade.  Michael Staunton, a lecturer in history at University College Dublin, felt Strongbow was simply desperate.   "It was a typical colonial situation, the people who don't have much going for them decided to hop off to another country."
That's even handed.  You can believe either that Bush has "conquering" genes, or that he is desperate, or, though the Guardian doesn't mention it, both, I suppose.

That this is nuts should be obvious to any reasonable person.  That it is published in one of the most influential leftist newspapers in the world illustrates, once more, how intellectually bankrupt much of the left is.  Does Ms. Chrisafis have any idea just how many ancestors all of us have if we go back to 800 AD?  I am absolutely certain that, were we able to trace her ancestors that far back, we would find many rogues — and that discovering them would show nothing about her.   Unless, perhaps, we could show an unbroken line of nasty gossips.

(Since this is the Guardian, I expected factual errors and spotted one immediately.  Chrisafis writes that "John Kerry had to deny rumours he was Irish" during last year's campaign.   Actually, Kerry had for many years encouraged voters to think he was of Irish descent, an advantage in Massachusetts.  When someone finally bothered to check, Kerry claimed that he had not been posing as Irish.  But all that happened years before the 2004 election.)
- 5:32 AM, 27 January 2005
More:  Two other bloggers made good points on the same article.   Scott Burgess was alert enough to quote the awful headline on the article, "Scion of traitors and warlords", and judges the story worthy of the North Korean Press Agency.   Betsy Newmark pointed out that Bush had some good ancestors, too, including William Marshal, partly responsible for the Magna Carta, and Anne Hutchinson, a religious leader in Puritan Massachusetts often considered America's first feminist.

And Doug Sundseth, who has sent me more than one thoughtful email, did some quick calculations using world population estimates from the US Census Bureau and information from a site that discusses the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) problem to show that George W. Bush is not the only one with dubious ancestors:
For 800 AD, we have approximately 48 generations.  If there were no crossover (same ancestor in multiple places in a family tree), this would imply 2.815 x10E14 ancestors.  The total world population at that time was about 2.2 x10E8 people.  In other words, assuming a random distribution, every person in the world of 800 AD would show up 1.28 million times in the family tree of every person now alive.  This is, of course, the crudest sort of analysis, neglecting the issue of people with no living descendant, strong inbreeding at every level of society, limited opportunities for cross-class breeding, and very limited geographical interbreeding.

The MRCA website mentioned above takes a much closer look at the above, but I note these statements:

1. The MRCA of the West is in historical times, quite possibly as recent as 1000 AD.

2. Quite likely everyone in the West descends from Charlemagne, c. 800 AD.

While I'm sure this is a blow to genealogy snobs (of which I know at least one), it should not surprise any mathematically literate person who has thought about the issue.

As an aside, one of my great-grandmothers (born to a peasant family in East Prussia) came to the US in 1913.  This quite probably means that I'm descended from Genghis Khan.  You have my permission to be afraid -- very afraid.
But I won't be afraid because some of my ancestors came from Eastern Europe, too.  And my maternal grandmother was Danish so I am certain I could find some Vikings in my family tree if I looked back a thousand years.
- 2:47 PM, 28 January 2005   [link]


Gains . . . And Losses:  In 2000, George W. Bush ran better than Bob Dole had in 1996 almost everywhere.  (The exceptions were interesting; Patrick Ruffini created a map in 2000 that showed the gains for each candidate by county.  Gore did better than Clinton had in 1996 in a few cities and in some university districts.)  Last November Bush improved his share of the two party vote by about 3 percent, but his gains were not uniform.

The map below shows how much that was true, even at the state level.  States in blue are states in which Bush improved his margin from 2000, either winning by more, or losing by less.  States in red are states in which Kerry improved his margin over Gore's.  For each candidate, the deeper the shade, the bigger the improvement.  For example, Kerry improved over Gore most in Vermont; Gore had won the state by 9.94 percent but Kerry won it by 20.14 percent, so Vermont has the deepest shade of red.  In Virginia, Bush's margin went from 8.04 to 8.20 percent, so Virginia is colored the lightest shade of blue.*



I can explain some of the puzzles in the map.  Kerry did very slightly better (0.4 percent) in North Carolina than Gore, and much worse in Tennessee (10.41 percent).  Edwards probably explains the first and the absence of Gore the second.  Some of the changes reflect, I suspect, the efforts of the two campaigns.  I think that explains Bush's gains in Iowa, Michigan, and New Mexico; I think that also explains Kerry's gains in Nevada, Colorado, and Ohio.  The effects of the campaigns may also explain Kerry's gain in Wisconsin, but there is a less pleasant explanation, vote fraud, that looks more plausible all the time.

I am inclined to explain Bush's gains in the Northeast and the lower New England states (even Massachusetts) as a return to normal.  Many in the Northeast did not see Bush as a plausible candidate in 2000; after 4 years as president, some changed their minds and backed a Republican as they usually would. That meant, for example, that he lost Connecticut by 17.47 percent in 2000, but just 10.37 percent in 2004.

The most interesting puzzle in the map is the contrary movements of the upper New England states and others across the northern tier, Minnesota, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska (where Kerry made his second biggest gain).  These states, with the possible exception of Alaska, drew many settlers from the Puritans of the Bay colony, and that has long influenced their politics.  They respond more to charges that Americans are not as virtuous as they ought to be — just as the Puritans did — even though they are now less religious than most other parts of the country.  I would need more data before I could decide whether the influence of the Puritans explained why states such as Washington and Oregon moved against the national current, but the Puritan explanation seems plausible to me.

(*For each candidate, I used 5 categories for the margin improvements, 0-1 percent, 1-3 percent, 3-5 percent, 5-7 percent, and >7 percent. The outline used in making the map comes from a Corel collection and does not include the District of Columbia.  If it did, it would be colored a medium shade of red, since Bush lost the District by 76.20 percent in 2000 and 79.84 percent in 2004.  I searched for more than an hour on the net for an outline map of the United States in the public domain without success.  I am still puzzled by my failure since an outline map of the United States is not what I would consider an unusual item.

If I were to start from scratch, I would vary the shades over a larger range.  I hope to do more maps in the next year.  If you have suggestions for other improvements, let me know.)
- 2:09 PM, 26 January 2005   [link]


Just As A Matter Of Political Tactics, shouldn't the Democrats have chosen someone other than West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd to take the lead in opposing Condoleezza Rice?  After all, though it won't be part of most stories on the nomination fight, Senator Byrd does have an interesting personal history.
This ex-Klansman wasn't just a passive member of the nation's most notorious hate group.   According to news accounts and biographical information, Sen. Byrd was a "Kleagle" -- an official recruiter who signed up members for $10 a head.  He said he joined because it "offered excitement" and because the Klan was an "effective force" in "promoting traditional American values."
And he seems to have held to the traditional values of the Klan for quite some time, as Malkin reminds us.  He even voted, in 1964, against the Civil Rights Act, one of the very few outside the South to do so.

So, if I were in the Democratic leadership, I would have picked someone other than Senator Byrd to take the lead in opposing the nomination of the first black woman to be Secretary of State.  It may be that they tried and failed; Senator Byrd was born November 20, 1917, so he may be just a little set in his ways.

It may have been luck, but I don't think Karl Rove was displeased to see this meeting take place on the same day the Democrats were attacking Rice.

(Fox News noted one explanation for the attacks on Rice, fund raising.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, turned the debate against the Democrats, whose senatorial campaign committee sent a fund-raising e-mail signed by Sen. Barbara Boxer (search) of California.  She quoted from her sharp questioning of Rice in last week's confirmation hearings. Cornyn characterized the e-mail as part of a disinformation campaign that "crossed the line" of politics.
Well, at least the Democrats were smart enough not to have Byrd sign the letter.)
- 7:30 AM, 26 January 2005
More:  And I would have thought it would be obvious just where the Democratic attacks would do the most damage.
The Dem attack on Rice was "very foolish" and "potentially costly" because it could backfire among blacks, said Democratic pollster Ron Lester, an expert on the African-American vote.

"A lot of African-Americans are watching this and they're wondering why [Democrats] are going after her so hard.  She has an exemplary record.  She's probably better qualified than most secretaries of state that we have had."

Rice, who was confirmed yesterday as the first black female secretary of state, has a very favorable rating among blacks — 55 percent positive and only 15 percent negative, Lester said.
And the Senate Democrats let a former official of the KKK take the lead in attacking Rice.   Democrats used to be good at political tactics, really they did.
-5:58 AM, 27 January 2005   [link]


Do You Believe In Democracy?  By working for elections in Iraq, President Bush has presented his critics on the left with a choice.  Is it more important to oppose Bush or to favor free elections?  (Most of his critics on the right are not faced with the same dilemma, since they do not think that Iraqis are ready for elections.)   I expected — and still expect — many "mainstream" journalists to decide that opposing Bush is more important to them than favoring democracy.

So I was delighted when I saw this Danny Westneat column which comes out forthrightly for elections — even if that means giving credit to President Bush, however indirectly.  (You'll note that Bush's name does not appear in the column.)
Those of us who opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq may be forced in the coming days to make an uncomfortable admission: That we were wrong.

Not wrong that the war was sold under false pretenses.  Or that the occupation would be botched.  Or that the costs, in lives and dollars, would be staggeringly high.  But wrong when we said, as I did, that it's folly to try to force democracy to flower at gunpoint.

Because there democracy is, poking up amid the rubble and the gun-toting Marines on the eve of Iraq's first national election in decades.
. . .
But the fact that Iraq is holding an election at all — that millions who were oppressed are now free to vote — is cause for unabashed celebration.

By all of us.  Including those who think it was a mistake to go there in the first place.
That's a classy admission.  But I don't think the joy will be widespread in America's newsrooms if Sunday's elections in Iraq are a success.  And I am almost certain that there will be gloom in some of them — CBS and the New York Times come to mind.  And many journalists will try to escape the dilemma by avoiding the subject, just as many avoided discussing the success of the elections in Afghanistan.  So I expect this column to be an exception, but for that very reason Westneat deserves even more credit.

Westneat would not have been so surprised by these developments if he had read my site regularly.   In March of 2003, just before the war, I argued, citing a variety of evidence, that a majority of Iraqis favored war to overthrow Saddam.  (Polls since have shown that my rough estimate was fairly close.)  And, in the same month, I linked to political scientist Dan Drezner's positive assessment of the prospects for democracy in Iraq, adding a thought of my own from studies of comparative politics.

So I am not surprised by these developments — but I am delighted that a journalist on the left has recognized them.

(Westneat's column may illustrate something I have mentioned before: Journalists, even honest and decent ones, may be handicapped in their understanding of the world by their positions inside news organizations.  It must be very awkward for any journalist who works for a "mainstream" news organization to recognize the distortions in so much of the coverage.  Those who see those distortions would be in constant conflict with the people that they work with every day, which is difficult for anyone.)
- 6:05 AM, 26 January 2005   [link]


Do Journalists Have Trouble With Numbers?  The public editor of the New York Times, Daniel Okrent, thinks they do, at least the journalists who work for the New York Times.
If all these numbers make your eyes roll, then you're finding yourself in the same position as a lot of readers, and apparently a lot of reporters and editors as well.
. . .
Although everyone who writes for The Times is presumably comfortable with words, every sentence nonetheless goes through the hands of copy editors, highly trained specialists who can bring life to a dead paragraph or clarity to a tortured clause with a tap-tap here and a delete-insert there.  But numbers, so alien to so many, don't get nearly this respect.  The paper requires no specific training to enhance numeracy, and no specialists whose sole job is to foster it.
Which is why I and many others so often catch them in numerical mistakes.  For example, I have seen the "ecological fallacy" so often in the New York Times that I have almost given up correcting it.  Strangely, I often see it in Paul Krugman's columns.  One would think that an economist at a major university would either know about that class of errors, or would have a methodologist friend who would tell him about the fallacy.

(This column shows why Okrent, with whom I sometimes disagree, is one of the best newspaper ombudsmen in the nation.  In fact, he may be the best, but I can't say that, not having read them all.  He takes a substantial topic, admits problems, and then tells us what the Times is doing about them.)
- 11:12 AM, 25 January 2005   [link]


First In The Seattle Times?  This morning, KVI's Kirby Wilbur quoted a letter from the Seattle Times executive editor, Michael Fancher, claiming that his newspaper was first with the big stories on Washingtons's disputed gubernatorial election.  If by that Fancher means that the Times has beaten the Seattle PI on most stories, I wouldn't quarrel with him.

In the bigger picture, Fancher's claim is laughable.  The Seattle Times has been beaten to most of the big stories by the Seattle talk radio stations (and probably those in the rest of the state), by the BIAW, by the Republican party, and most of all by Sound Politics' own Stefan Sharkansky.

What makes Fancher's claim especially aggravating is that not only has the Times been beaten to most of the big stories, but their reporters have sometimes copied findings from the BIAW and Stefan (and probably others) without giving them credit.  Does Fancher know that?  I don't know, though I did complain about that practice in an email to him.

Both Seattle newspapers have done a poor job of covering the election dispute, on the whole, with some reporters and editors clearly reluctant to even consider the possibility that the victory by pro-abortion Democrat Chris Gregoire might be illegitimate.  Trying to get the Times to cover the dispute reminds me of trying to move a stubborn cow; prodding annoys the animal without getting it to move.

If Mr. Fancher is serious about covering the story, he can look at these tips for some suggestions.   To my knowledge, the Seattle Times has only covered two of the possibilities in the list, dead voters and felon voters.  The newspaper wasn't first on either subject.  I'll even go farther and tell Fancher which story in the list is most promising:  If the Seattle Times investigates how many non-citizens voted in Washington state's election for governor, they will find that far more than 129 did.  How sure am I of that?  I would estimate that the odds are at least 100-1 that I am right in that estimate.  And I would give 10-1 odds that the Seattle Times will never do an investigation of the question.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 8:54 AM, 25 January 2005   [link]


Prom Gown?!  If I were to see a girl in this, I would not think she was going to a prom but to a street where she could make some, let's say, business contacts.

Here are the two details that I found most interesting.
This prom dress is so skimpy, even the designer's CEO wouldn't let his teenage daughter wear it.   But the dangerously revealing gown, prominently advertised in Seventeen Prom, YM Prom and Teen Prom, and on sale in a Midtown shop, is a top seller for the company this season.
. . .
In fact, some shops in smaller cities require girls to bring in parental permission slips to buy the dress, [Nick] Yeh [the CEO of Xcite] told The Post.
And some parents sign those slips, even though Yeh wouldn't.

(By way of Joanne Jacobs and Michelle Malkin, two worried mothers of daughters.)
- 6:14 AM, 25 January 2005   [link]