Archive:

July 2004, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



DD(X) Ships:  When I saw this Belmont Club post on the new DD(X) ships and their remarkable rail guns, I was tempted to link to it.  Luckily I waited, because former artillery officer Donald Sensing added his thoughts on the guns.

Both "Wretchard" and Reverend Sensing give the speed of the projectiles fired from the rail guns in Mach numbers, Mach 7 to Mach 16.  The first naval rail guns would be built to fire at Mach 7, roughly 5400 miles per hour.  If they were able to reach Mach 16 with later guns, they would be hitting speeds similar to those of intermediate range ballistic missiles.

You can see a picture of a DD(X) ship, with some information on its main features here.  Looks harmless, doesn't it?  There's more on the ships here, including some pictures of the ships as they might look in action.
- 3:25 PM, 8 July 2004   [link]


Columnist Richard Cohen listened to sweet talkin' John Edwards and was impressed.
Back in 2002 I went over to see John and Elizabeth Edwards at their house in Washington.  We had lunch, salads for us all, the pundit sizing up the prodigy with the usual Beltway questions about this or that, when suddenly Edwards set the agenda.  He talked passionately about racial injustice.
Columnist Jim Pinkerton took a more practical approach and looked at John Edwards' investments.
But a look elsewhere in the newspapers shows a different Edwards.  It reveals where Edwards puts his money, as opposed to his mouth.  It shows an Edwards connecting with big multinational companies to create jobs offshore.  It shows an Edwards who divides himself between his political ambitions here at home and his financial ambitions overseas.  It shows that his tongue isn't so much golden as it is forked.
. . .
How do we know this?  We can peruse Edwards' 2003 senatorial disclosure forms, reprinted in yesterday's USA Today.  On page five of the paper is a list of Edwards' assets, including a holding worth between $1 and $5 million — that's the deliberately obscuring style of "full-disclosure" forms — in "American EuroPacific Growth Fund."  Actually, once we look at the prospectus, we learn that it's really the "EuroPacific Growth Fund."  And that's honest billing; on page eight, the prospectus tells readers, "Normally, the fund will invest at least 80 percent of its assets in securities of issuers located in Europe and the Pacific Basin."
(Edwards also invested heavily in defense stocks in the run up to the war to liberate Iraq, by the way.  He is, apparently, a very active investor for a senator.)

Has John Edwards ever done anything about "racial injustice"?  Not as far as I know.   I think Pinkerton is right and Cohen is wrong.  Edwards' investments tell us more about him than a conversation over lunch that apparently never led to any actions.  It is odd to say this about a journalist, but Cohen should be a little more cynical about what politicians say, especially a politician who made millions by sweet talking juries.

(As so often happens with prominent journalists, I must correct an error.  Cohen says that Bill Clinton "felt no obligation to punch the conventional ticket" of a political career.  In fact, Clinton's career was quite conventional, unlike Edwards'.  Clinton worked as a volunteer in many campaigns, including McGovern's and was a senate staffer before he ran for any office.   His first run did not start at the top; he ran for a House seat and lost.  He then served as Arkansas attorney general and governor, both executive offices, before he ran for the presidency.

Here's the USA Today article, which includes a not very detailed list of Edwards' investments.  The largest is his shares of the American EuroPacific Growth Fund.  None of those listed show any desire for racial justice.)
- 2:09 PM, 8 July 2004
More:  Here's a description of some of John Edwards' early clients.   And here's more on his recent stock trades.   Racial justice does not appear to influence his choices of clients or stocks.
- 8:11 AM, 9 July 2004   [link]


London Mayor Ken Livingtone  has an interesting guest.
A RANTING Islamic rabble-rouser who supports suicide bombings by children and brutal punishment of gays was being welcomed to Britain last night.

Hardline Yusuf al-Qaradawi, banned from the US on suspicion of terror links, is to be allowed to preach evil views on issues such as "treacherous" Middle East peace moves.
. . .
The cleric will appear at two events hosted by London mayor Ken Livingstone, now back in the Labour Party fold.

One is to promote the wearing of veils by Muslim women.
It would be fun to eavesdrop on the mayor and his guest when they discuss the proper treatment of women.  The mayor has been, as old-fashioned people might say, living in sin for many years.  The cleric believes that husbands can beat disobedient wives though, showing that humanity so common among radical Islamists, thinks they should not hit sensitive places such as the face.  Is a synthesis possible?  Perhaps al-Qaradawi will tell Livingstone that he can hit his long time mistress even in sensitive places.

Many of the same people who demonstrated against Bush will welcome al-Qaradawi to Britain.   There are decent people on the left in every nation, but fewer than there once were.

(You may want to look at the BBC story on the visit, just for contrast.  The BBC does not disagree with the tabloid Sun, but they shield their readers from the telling details of al-Qaradawi's beliefs, such as his support for beating disobedient wives and the execution of homosexuals.)
- 5:56 AM, 8 July 2004
More:  The mayor met his guest and defended him, in spite of this.
Egyptian-born al-Qaradawi said he had been visiting London for 30 years and was baffled by the fuss.

But last night, in a pre-recorded TV interview, the rabble-rouser called for suicide bombers to kill Allied soldiers in Iraq.
Including, of course, British soldiers.

And one more stray thought.  Can you imagine Mayor Livingstone entertaining Billy Graham or some famous rabbi?
- 10:43 AM, 8 July 2004   [link]


Bush Told The Truth - Lord Butler:  The British government is examining their pre-war intelligence from Iraq and, so far, is upholding Bush's claims, including one the of the most controversial, that Saddam had sought to buy uranium from Africa.
A UK government inquiry into the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq is expected to conclude that Britain's spies were correct to say that Saddam Hussein's regime sought to buy uranium from Niger.

The inquiry by Lord Butler, which was delivered to the printers on Wednesday and is expected to be released on July 14, has examined the intelligence that underpinned the UK government's claims about the threat from Iraq.
. . .
The Financial Times revealed last week that a key part of the UK's intelligence on the uranium came from a European intelligence service that undertook a three-year surveillance of an alleged clandestine uranium-smuggling operation of which Iraq was a part.
The inquiry does not appear to be a whitewash, since Butler has found that some claims made by Tony Blair were not justified.

When this report comes out on July 14, will all those who loudly proclaimed that Bush lied admit that they were wrong?  Will any of them?  I doubt it, given their carelessness about what Bush actually said.  Almost always the critics have claimed that Bush said that Saddam bought or tried to buy uranium from Niger.  In fact, Bush said that Britain had learned that Saddam had tried to buy uranium in Africa.  Will former ambassador Joseph Wilson, IV, who was the loudest critic, apologize?  It would hurt his book sales and income from speeches, but would be the right thing to do.

(Ambassador Wilson concluded, after a farcical visit, that the Niger was not selling uranium to Saddam.  After someone foolishly (or accidentally) revealed that Wilson's wife was a CIA agent, Wilson got enormous publicity and undeserved credibility for his conclusion.)
- 5:16 AM, 8 July 2004   [link]


New Jersey For Bush?  In April I argued here and here that Bush had a good chance to win states in the Northeast besides New Hampshire.  In particular, I thought he had a good chance to win New Jersey, a state he lost by 16 points in 2000.
If the issues and candidates were exactly even, this is a state that the Democrats should win by roughly 52-48.  And there is one issue that often more than makes up for that small margin, corruption.  For a variety of reasons, the Democratic party in New Jersey has far more scandals than the Republican party.
You have probably already guessed what kind of news broke today.
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A Democratic fund-raiser linked to Gov. James E. McGreevey extorted $40,000 in campaign donations by promising a farmer that public officials would help him get more money for development rights to his land, federal authorities said Tuesday.

David D'Amiano is charged with extortion, mail fraud and bribery.  According to an indictment released Tuesday, D'Amiano told the owner of a Piscataway farm he would not get premium value for his property unless he made donations to the Democratic Party.
. . .
McGreevey is not named in the indictment.  He has acknowledged discussing the land matter with D'Amiano and [farmer Mark] Halper, but has denied any wrongdoing.
Will this help Bush in New Jersey?  It won't hurt.
- 5:21 PM, 7 July 2004   [link]


Fun Reading:  (For Republicans, anyway.)  Michelle Malkin looks at the big donors to the Democratic party and finds a bunch of miscreants.
So, let us hail the diversity of everyday Democrat donors: The pardon-pushing socialite.  The Communist-coddling corporate sellout.  The reckless Asian-American rainmaker.  And the nicotine-stained heiress/almost-felon who keeps on giving.
Forgotten about the nicotine stained-heiress?  Here's the story.
In the fall of 2000, [Connie] Milstein did what any regular Democrat donor would do: She flew herself to Milwaukee and bribed homeless people to vote for Al Gore in exchange for cigarettes.  Milstein was caught on video by local ABC affiliate WISN-TV toting bags of cancer sticks for vagrants outside the Milwaukee Rescue Mission.
She was fined $5,000, which is chump change in her world.

(Could someone find embarrassing donors to the Republicans?  I am sure they could, though fewer, I would guess.)
- 4:41 PM, 7 July 2004   [link]


The Washington Post, which is not a conservative newspaper, agrees with me that John Edwards lacks experience.
. . ., we must also assess Mr. Edwards on his own and by the grave question that has to be asked of any vice presidential nominee: Is he ready to assume the presidency?  This is a question that, since Sept. 11, 2001, has become both more thinkable and more important -- and it's one that, when it comes to Mr. Edwards, we can't yet answer with a resounding affirmative.
. . .
Yet his experience in public life is confined to the single Senate term that is now ending; his few years on the intelligence committee represent scant training in foreign policy and military affairs, far less than would be optimal for a potential president in this dangerous time.
Another way to put it is that he makes Dan Quayle look over-qualified.

The Post does think Edwards is a quick study, though the example they give is not encouraging.  During the presidential campaign Edwards became a better campaigner — by becoming more of a demagogue.
- 4:18 PM, 7 July 2004   [link]


Bush Gains Support Among Hispanics (And Blacks):  My headline may seem to contradict this Gallup headline, but neither of us is wrong.  Gallup is measuring from Bush's post 9/11 peak, and I am measuring from the election results in 2000.  For thinking about this year's election, I think my standard is more meaningful.  (This is not the first time I have seen a misleading, anti-Bush headline from Gallup, by the way.)

CNN, using the Gallup poll results, makes the same comparison that I would.
Among black voters, Kerry led Bush 81 percent to 12 percent, and among Latinos, the Massachusetts senator led 57 percent to 38 percent.

Exit polls from the 2000 election showed that Bush received only 9 percent of the black vote, compared to 90 percent for Democrat Al Gore, and 35 percent of the Latino vote, compared to 62 percent for Gore.

So Kerry's lead over Bush among black voters in the new poll was about 12 points smaller than Gore's gap in 2000; among Latinos, it was 8 points smaller.
(The results CNN gives for 2000 are somewhat different from those found in the New York Times of November 12, 2000.  In that exit poll, Bush won 8 percent of the black vote, Gore 90 percent.  Bush won 31 percent of the Hispanic vote, Gore 67 percent.  Using those numbers would strengthen my argument.)

And the poll results are for a two-way race, among registered voters.  In a three-way race, Nader hurts Kerry more than Bush with both groups.  Among likely voters, one would expect Bush to do even better, if the usual patterns hold.

How much would these shifts help Bush?  They might move roughly 1 percent of all voters toward Bush, for a net gain of perhaps 2 percent.

(According to this Wall Street Journal item, blogger Josh Marshall takes it "as a given that virtually no Gore voters from 2000 will pull the lever for Bush".  Maybe Marshall needs to talk with some Hispanic and black voters.

Regular readers may recall that, in this post, I predicted that Bush would win 12-15 percent of the black vote this fall.)
- 3:53 PM, 7 July 2004   [link]


How Far Do You Take Your Politics?  Near where I live there is a small exercise club just for women, part of the Curves chain.  Although they won't let me join, I approve entirely of the chain.  They make it easier, as I understand it, for many women to exercise by providing more comfortable settings.  As the women exercise, they will generally become healthier and happier.  What's not to like about that?

But there are some who find something terribly sinister about the clubs, notably Susan Paynter of the Seattle PI.  In two columns, here and here, she attacked the chain for what she sees as its fatal flaw.  Its founder is Gary Heavin, who has some politically incorrect views.
The born-again Christian from Waco, Texas, did give many hundreds of thousands of dollars to clinics and centers that offer health care to women while working to dissuade them from terminating unwanted pregnancies.  He writes generous checks to centers stressing abstinence-only programs for teens.  And he withdrew his funding of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and its Race for the Cure because the foundation supports Planned Parenthood, which he strongly opposes.

"I'm not afraid to tell the truth," Heavin told Today's Christian magazine.  "There's nothing healthy about abortion."
Now what is the appropriate action?  Paynter makes that clear at the end of her second column.
For a caller [to Paynter] named Louise, it's about dang time that women woke up, snapped out of it and informed themselves about the people who pocket their money.

Years ago Louise supported Amway products until she learned company founders supported anti-women's-rights advocate Phyllis Schlafly: "You know, that one who balked at women doing anything but staying home and bowing down to their husbands?"

Louise went to Curves once but she's not going back.  "Women need to know what the hell is going on," she said. "Gloria Steinem can't do it all alone!"
Now as far as I know, the Curves chain makes no political test when it selects its franchisees.   Many of the clubs must be owned by men and women who disagree with Heavin on abortion.  But Paynter wants to punish them anyway.

If Paynter's rule is no business dealings with any organization that includes people who want to see abortion limited, she will find that her choices are rather restricted.  In general, large majorities of Americans want abortion restricted but not forbidden.  (You can see a whole set of poll results on the subject here.)  Nearly every large business contains some pro-life people, often in positions of influence.  Paynter would find it almost impossible to avoid doing business with them.

There are times when I avoid businesses for political reasons.  I dropped my subscription to the PI because its editorials were silly and its political coverage unbalanced.  The editorials have improved somewhat under Mark Trahant, but the paper has brought in some of the worst of the British journalists, such as Robert Fisk, so there has been a net loss.)  I won't see Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.  But that's about as far as I would go.  I don't care much for most of Peter Lewis's causes, but I still might buy insurance from his company, Progressive.

Even if it were not almost impossible, it would be foolish to put political tests on every buying decision, especially tests that go as far as the founder of an organization.

(Some may wonder whether Paynter would be willing to see others, with whom she disagrees, follow the same general rule.  For example, would she approve of boycotts of business that are founded by Muslims?  Even though their theology is not exactly feminist?  I doubt that very much.   Those boycotts, I suspect, she would see as evidence of bigotry.)
- 9:27 AM, 7 July 2004   [link]


Troubling:  Diana West claims that soldiers in Iraq fought for a useless hulk of a Humvee — to keep the press from writing or broadcasting another "failure in Iraq" story.
Ever hear about the Battle of the Humvee?  That's what I'm calling a May skirmish fought by soldiers of the 37th Armored Regiment's 2nd Battalion in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf.  In what became a six-hour firefight, Americans battled followers of Moktada al-Sadir to secure the hulk of a burning Humvee.  It's not that our soldiers fought because the flaming wreck amounted to a tin can's worth of military value.  They fought, as Capt. Ty Wilson of Fairfax, Va., explained to The Washington Post, because "We weren't going to let them dance on it for the news.  Even (with) all the guys they lost that day, that still would have given them victory."

Chalk one up for our side, a small win on the way to an underreported triumph over the followers of Moktada al-Sadir in the spring.  Iraq is sovereign, life goes on ... but I can't get over the chilling description of American soldiers risking their necks to keep the media from awarding a phony victory to the enemy.
Military actions done for propaganda rather than results are as old as warfare. But this is the first war in which American soldiers assume that the press, including American reporters, are on the other side.  Even in Vietnam, the press reports were mixed, until near the end.
- 7:17 AM, 7 July 2004   [link]


Fourth Election Prediction:  In March, I made my first formal election prediction, that President Bush would win with 59 percent of the popular vote.  I updated it in April and then again in May, that time lowering it to 58 percent of the popular vote.

As always, I must stress that these predictions are conditional on two assumptions:
First, my assumptions.  I am going to assume that the consensus among economists is correct and that the next 8 months will show solid economic growth and gains in employment.  I am also going to assume that there will not be anything dramatic like another massive terrorist attack on the United States or a war somewhere that involves the United States.  To some extent these two assumptions balance each other.  If the economy does not perform well, Bush will be hurt; if something dramatic happens, Bush will probably be helped.  (Almost all dramatic foreign events, even disasters like the Bay of Pigs invasion, help the president at least in the short term.)
I think those are reasonable assumptions, but will not quarrel with anyone who says that life is full of surprises.

Last month, I would not have changed my prediction.  This month, I had been intending to lower the predicted vote share to 57 percent — until John Kerry chose John Edwards as his running mate.  I believe that will cost the Democratic ticket about 1 percent of the vote, as Edwards' record, or rather lack of record, becomes known to the public.  The rest of my analysis, which you can find in the March post, is unchanged

I was planning to change the prediction because I have been unimpressed by most of the advertisements that the Bush campaign has been running.  (I have also been unimpressed by the Kerry advertisements, but was expecting less from him.)  Many of them provide no real reason to vote for Bush, or against Kerry.  Until the Edwards choice, I was expecting them to cost Bush about 1 percent of the vote.

(As before, let me review some of the other predictions.  Ray Fair has not changed his economic model and is still predicting that Bush will win 58.74 percent of the two party vote, up from 58.68.  The Tradesports betters gave Bush a 54.8 percent chance of winning, when I checked this afternoon, down from 59 percent two months ago.  Ron Faucheux of Campaigns and Elections has lowered his prediction again, and now gives Bush a 51.7 percent chance to win, down from 52.9.  The options market run by the University of Iowa has worsened slightly for Bush; as of this afternoon, Kerry has a 47.4 percent chance to win, up 1 percent from last time.

Finally, here's Scott Elliot's current election projection, which is not a prediction but a measurement of where we are currently. His latest now puts Bush behind in both the electoral college and the popular vote.)
- 2:10 PM, 6 July 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  Michael Barone's column on the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
It seems that there will be far less commemoration of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 40 years ago yesterday than there was of the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education in May.

This is not as it should be.  Brown was certainly a milestone in the nation's history, a declaration that separate could not be equal and that racial discrimination is wrong.  But Brown was much less effective in ending segregation than the Civil Rights Act.  This was partly because the court--in its follow-up decision to Brown a year later--said that desegregation should proceed "with all deliberate speed," words that were taken as an invitation to delay and resistance.
. . .
It was widely expected that there would be massive resistance to the act, as there had been to school desegregation.  But that proved not to be the case. Within a few years, public accommodations were largely integrated in the South, and workplace discrimination, widespread throughout the nation, was vastly diminished.  I remember traveling in the South not long after the Civil Rights Act was passed and noticing that black diners were treated with courtesy by white waitresses: an astonishing contrast with the anger and violence that greeted the lunch-counter sit-ins and freedom rides only a few years before.  The law was the law, and Southern manners took over.   Integration was achieved about as rapidly as it had been in the 1950s in the military, where it was based on the president's command authority.
Read the whole thing, even if you have to register to do it.

(By the way, when were most schools in the deep South finally desegregated?  In Nixon's first term, 1969-1973.  Partly because of Nixon, I might add.)  
- 1:23 PM, 6 July 2004   [link]


Local Blogger Greg Piper  gets published in the New York Times.  (Unless someone else with the same name is writing from Seattle.)  Since he hasn't mentioned it, I will.
Your explanation of the June 17 headline "Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie; Describes a Wider Plot for 9/11" falls short.

The 9/11 commission's staff report was just too complicated to summarize precisely in a headline.   While you can't fit "collaborative relationship" in that space, and "tie" as a replacement helps the headline writer, the two are not synonymous.

As the article reported, the staff report said that contacts between Al Qaeda and Iraq did not appear to have resulted in a "collaborative relationship" and that "we have no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States." A better headline might have been "No Iraq-Qaeda 9/11 Tie," so that the commission's focus was clear to readers.

GREG PIPER

Seattle, June 28, 2004
Greg is looking for a job, and the New York Times needs someone who can write better headlines; the solution should be obvious.  (Okrent, in his column, which I criticized here, said that headlines are routinely unfair.  Perhaps, but that doesn't mean that the New York Times could not do better.)

(One of the worst — and most effective — headlines ever was this one from the New York Daily News, before the 1976 election: "Ford to City: Drop Dead", after President Ford had blocked more aid to New York without reforms.  Ford was right on the issue, by the way.)
- 8:39 AM, 6 July 2004   [link]


Oops!  The New York Post trusted a source and got burned.
John Kerry has chosen Rep. Richard Gephardt, the veteran congressman from Missouri, to be his running mate, The Post has learned.
You can see a picture of the mistaken cover story at Drudge.

Did the Kerry campaign deliberately deceive the Post?  Just possibly, but I think it more likely it was a Democratic operative unconnected to the Kerry campaign.  Since the Post is one of the few major newspapers that supports Republicans, you can see why a Democratic operative might want to fool them — even at the cost of losing credibility in the future.
- 8:20 AM, 6 July 2004
More:  Tim Blair says that the person fooled was the owner of the Post, media mogul Rupert Murdoch.   That supports the idea that some Democrat deliberately planted a false story, since there are many Democrats who don't care for Murdoch.
- 1:20 PM, 8 July 2004   [link]


It's The "Sweet Talkin' Guy":  In his first major decision as (presumptive) Democratic nominee, John Kerry chose a man unqualified to be president, or even vice president as his running mate, John Edwards.
Some Democrats were concerned that Edwards, whose only political credential was a single term in the Senate, lacked the experience in international affairs, particularly in wartime, to be a credible candidate to assume the presidency in the case of death, resignation or removal.

Indeed, Kerry privately complained to associates during the campaign that Edwards hadn't served long enough in the Senate — or politics for that matter — to deserve a shot at the presidency.  Aides said he was won over by his private meetings with Edwards, his performance as a campaign surrogate since the primary fight ended and pressure from Democratic leaders who pushed Edwards as a vice presidential pick.
Over a year ago, I explained here why Edwards is unqualified, and he has done nothing since to improve his resume.  Think I am being unfair?  Here is Edwards own biography.  Look through it and you will find zero executive experience, and zero legislative accomplishments.

Does this show something about Kerry's decision making?  I think so.
- 6:05 AM, 6 July 2004   [link]


Kirkland's 4th of July was traditional in two senses, following the pattern Kirkland has used in the past, and having elements that would not surprise people in the 19th century.  Or perhaps I should say traditional elements with variations.  The Kirkland parade began with the toddlers, a Kirkland tradition (though they had to wait for a fly over from an Air Force C5), and had the usual mix of participants afterwards, kids groups, businesses (Best was a decorated Kenworth truck, I think.), activist groups including a local peace group, cheerleaders for local teams including the Seahawks and the Kirkland High School Kangaroos, the local DeLorean car club, with their gull wings up, and the Jazzercise group, doing their routines behind a truck playing music for them.

I did notice one interesting pattern; the businesses almost all had flags and other patriotic symbols, but many of the others did not.  The peace group was carrying a number of signs, but no flag that I noticed.

The parade always attracts local politicians; this year Christine Gregoire, the leading Democratic candidate for governor, marched, showing, I suppose, how important the suburban vote is for her.

And there was the traditional disappointment, not enough marching bands.  July 4th comes at just the wrong time for school bands and there are few others that might fill in.  There was the "Rainbow" band from Seattle and an all Seattle school band, neither very good.  I didn't hear a single Sousa march from either.  There was a fine bagpipe and drum corps.

Those who like diversity would love both the participants and the watchers.  I saw at least ten different nationalities, without making any effort.  Most of the time while I was watching I stood next to a family speaking French and heard several other languages in the crowd at other times.  Many of the new immigrants seemed to see the parade as an opportunity to show their patriotism, and they may, if anything have been over represented, for that reason.

After the parade, there was a community picnic, or, perhaps I should say, many picnics, since the crowd broke up into small groups of family and friends.



Following one tradition, I had a hot dog after the parade.  Following another, I bought it from the local Kiwanis, which was selling them to raise money for their services to the community.
- 8:43 AM, 5 July 2004   [link]


Happy 4th of July!



(Ever wonder who painted this standard work?  Archibald Willard, who did several versions of it.  The one above is from 1891.  You can learn a bit more about Willard and see some of his other paintings here.  Although Willard served in the Civil War, none show scenes from that great conflict, and I didn't find any with that subject elsewhere in my brief search.

If you look at the second of the three images, you'll see his first idea for the "Spirit" painting, not patriotic history, but three contemporary musicians clowning around.)
- 5:45 AM, 4 July 2004   [link]


Save That Refinery!  States and localities have made it more and more difficult to build new oil refineries in the United States.  And they have gotten more and more picky about the gasoline that can be sold in their jurisdictions, limiting the formulas sharply.   Inevitably, that has meant some shortages.  Naturally, the problem has hit California first; refineries there have been operating close to capacity and prices have been high.  Now, Shell wants to close a refinery in an area where the oil fields are drying up.  Naturally the same legislature that has made it hard to build new refineries and hard to import gasoline from outside the state objects.
The Assembly urged Shell Oil Corp. Friday to keep open a Bakersfield refinery that's scheduled to close in October.

The resolution, by Assemblywoman Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, urged the company to keep producing diesel and gasoline until the end of this year to allow a buyer to be found for the aging plant.

Shell officials say the refinery is being closed because the crude oil from the Kern County oil fields is drying up.
What should California do?  Take another look at their stringent rules on gas mixes and make it easier for companies to build new refineries.

(There have been charges that oil companies have been manipulating their refineries to keep the supplies tight.  I have not seen persuasive evidence that has happened, though it is possible.  When a government limits supply as California has done, it tempts suppliers to game the system.  The best solution is to get rid of the artificial limits.)
- 4:50 PM, 3 July 2004   [link]


Civility For Some:  On Monday, Seattle PI columnist Joel Connelly called for more civility in politics, arguing, somewhat implausibly, that most of the fault is on the right, and, bizarrely, that the loss of civility was the fault of Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News.
But the bulk of invective comes from the other side.  What's doubly infuriating is the sanctimonious face put on by the political right.
. . .
What has caused today's relentlessly rancid political climate?  A pair of factors stand out.

The first was the go-for-the-groin politics of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
. . .
The second cause of America's civility loss is the rise of right-wing media, and concurrently cable TV.
Today, Connelly demonstrates his support for civility with this:
Yet, in Washington, D.C., U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is demonstrating just how scary politicized justice can be in a free society.

Ashcroft is a dour, partisan theocrat with scant respect for the scales of justice.
Does Connelly provide any evidence that Ashcroft is a "theocrat", anything to justify that smear?   No.  Some, perhaps even some at the Seattle PI, would not consider that entirely civil.   Some might even say that Connelly should not make such a serious charge, unless he is willing to provide some evidence for it.

(Is Connelly's history of the loss of civility accurate?  Not even close.  The time he describes as civilized, the 1950s, was the time of Joseph McCarthy.  Race baiting was still common in the South.  Eisenhower won in 1952 partly because of the effectiveness of the Republican slogan, "Communism, corruption and Korea".  And just a little earlier, President Truman had won re-election in 1948 with a nasty campaign.  If I recall correctly, one of his charges was that the "Republicans had plunged a pitchfork into the back of the American farmer", which should give you an idea of the level of much of his campaign.)
- 2:00 PM, 2 July 2004   [link]


Sweet Talkin' Guy:  When Senator John Edwards declared his candidacy for president, I pointed out that he was unqualified.   Picky fellow that I am, I thought that having no "relevant education, experience, or accomplishments" should disqualify Edwards from the highest executive office in the land.  Not only has Edwards never held an executive position, he has no significant legislative accomplishments after more than five years in the Senate.

Though I think my case against Edwards is irrefutable, it was not hard to find those who disagreed during the primaries.  Now he is being considered for vice president, where the principal duty is to be ready to be president.  He is unqualified for that position too, for the same reasons — though perhaps not with the same force.

But he is still being taken seriously by people who should know better, such as political science professor Dan Drezner.
Policy is not the only thing that matters in making political choices.  There is such a thing as political skill.  For example, the most important gift in campaigning is the ability to say something a voter disagrees with while making that voter think you're still a good guy.

Reagan had it.  Clinton had it.  Edwards has it.
Or, in the words of the song, he's a "sweet talkin' guy".  Now would Drezner accept as president of the University of Chicago a person who had been a scholar for less than six years, had no publications, and had never held an executive position?  Of course he wouldn't, even if the applicant was a "sweet talkin' guy".  So why does Drezner, a usually serious person, have so much lower qualifications for the presidency (or vice presidency)?  I honestly don't know.

(Does Edwards have political skill?  Long term, it is hard to say.  I find it significant that polls suggested that he would lose if he were to run for re-election in North Carolina.   And is being able to convince those who disagree with you really the most important gift?  Probably not, though it might be in some situations.

Finally, what Reagan and Clinton did have, and Edwards does not, is executive experience.   Reagan was president of his union, and both were governors of their states.)
- 1:21 PM, 2 July 2004   [link]


186,000 Miles Per Second.  It's Not Just A Good Idea.  It's The Law:   We may have to retire one of my favorite bumper stickers, if these findings hold up.
The speed of light, one of the most sacrosanct of the universal physical constants, may have been lower as recently as two billion years ago — and not in some far corner of the universe, but right here on Earth.
. . .
A varying speed of light contradicts Einstein's theory of relativity, and would undermine much of traditional physics.  But some physicists believe it would elegantly explain puzzling cosmological phenomena such as the nearly uniform temperature of the universe.  It might also support string theories that predict extra spatial dimensions.
There's more, but you will need to understand what the "fine structure constant" is to follow most of it.

John Horgan's 1998 book, The End of Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age, may have been a little premature.  
- 5:55 PM, 1 July 2004   [link]


Our Allies, The Norwegians, have been helping the Iraqis rebuild.  Now, with the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty, their troops are headed home.
Three Norwegian soldiers represented their scores of colleagues in ceremonies marking the handover of power to the new Iraqi government this week.  Now they're packing up and ready to head for home.
. . .
"It was a very special day," one of the soldiers, identified only as "Corporal Erlend," told newspaper VG.  "It was a fine ceremony, everyone behaved honorably and showed the respect due the Iraqi people."
. . .
"Most of the soldiers think it's sad that no fresh troops from Norway are coming down to take over," Lt Thor Helge Moen told VG.  "We've done a lot of good work here."
Thanks to Norway for the contribution.

(I'm not sure whether John Kerry considers the Norwegians bribed, coerced, bought, or extorted.   His famous description of the coalition, or as he called it, the "trumped-up, so-called coalition", does not seem to leave room for genuine allies.  The hypercritical might find Kerry's description of our allies just a little undiplomatic.

And to end on a light note, isn't "Thor" a great first name for a soldier?)
- 4:59 PM, 1 July 2004   [link]


John Kerry Is A So-So Campaigner:  Here's an example.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said that if he's elected, he'd no longer support special regional dairy pricing programs that some Wisconsin and Minnesota farm leaders have opposed.

Sen. Kerry had supported the Northeast Dairy Compact, which Upper Midwest dairy leaders said unfairly benefited Northeast dairy producers.

He said in a June 23 telephone interview with The Country Today that he would seek a "reasonable" dairy policy that would be good for all regions.

"As a senator from the Northeast, I had to support it," Sen. Kerry said of the Northeast Compact.   "But, as president, I have to represent the entire nation."
What's wrong with that?  Two things.  First, it is not true that Kerry had to support the Compact as a Massachusetts senator.  Dairy votes may be important in to Jim Jeffords in Vermont, the senator most responsible for this burden on New England consumers, but they don't matter much to senators from the urban state of Massachusetts.  In fact, Kerry could have easily won votes by promising that getting rid of the Compact would mean cheaper milk for kids.

Second, there is the naked confession that he was changing his position because he was running for a different office.  Politicians do this all the time, of course, but few admit it this crudely.   There are easy ways to explain the switch that don't sound unprincipled.  Kerry could, for example, have said that Wisconsin's Democratic senators, Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold, had convinced him to change his mind.  (He almost says that in the next paragraph, but that's too late.)  This confession can only add to Kerry's reputation for flip-flopping.  

Kerry's history in two-party races is not impressive either.  Some are impressed by his 1996 defeat of William Weld, the popular Republican governor.  But Kerry won just 52 percent of the total vote that year, in one of our most Democratic states, Massachusetts, while Clinton was beating Dole by more than two to one there (61-28 percent).  Nor was Kerry's win in 1990 especially impressive, either.  He defeated one Jim Rappaport (who I can't recall) by just 57-43 percent.   (One interesting detail: In both races he outspent his rivals, though he had to break a campaign promise to do so in 1996.  If the recent reports of his fund raising are correct, he may outspend Bush this year, especially if you count all the money from independent groups.)

(Article by way of Orrin Judd.)
- 4:47 PM, 1 July 2004   [link]


Many Thanks to all who visit this site.  You set a new monthly record in May and then, with the help of an "Instalanche", broke that in June.

I'll be cleaning up the links here in the next few days, and adding a few more.

As for comments, I am still thinking about whether they would add to the site, or not.  Comments at some sites, Joanne Jacobs, for example, add much.  Comments at some other sites have caused so many problems that they have been banned or limited.  From the email I receive, almost all of it quite thoughtful, I think they would be a plus here, but I am not sure they would be a big enough plus to justify the time it would take to implement them.
- 7:34 AM, 1 July 2004   [link]


Why Were The Polls Wrong In Canada?  Because voters made their decisions late.
A funny thing happened on the way to the polls, pollsters say.  People changed their minds at the last minute.

If you were reading newspapers last week, you might have expected the election to be closer than it was, maybe even an upset victory for the Conservatives.  That's what polls and seat projections suggested.

But when the votes were counted Monday, the Liberals did better than the pollsters predicted, keeping enough seats to form a minority government.
. . .
In the last four days of the campaign, the Liberal numbers in Ontario improved by six percentage points, and that swung about 25 to 30 seats, Mr. [Darrel] Bricker [the president of the Ipsos-Reid polling firm] said.
Something similar happened in the United States in the weekend before the 2000 election, with the overblown coverage of George Bush's drunk driving conviction moving voters to Gore.  And in 1980, there was a late shift to Reagan.

Honest pollsters will tell you about the possibility of these last minute shifts, which no poll can catch, but it is easy to forget them if, like most political junkies, you made up your mind months or years ago.

Finally, just a bit of speculation.  The projections may have been one reason for the last minute shift in Canada.  If you thought the Liberals needed to be taught a lesson, but weren't ready to see them removed from office, you might have backed the Conservatives — until you realized they might actually win.
- 6:55 AM, 1 July 2004   [link]


Saddam Doll:  It probably won't replace Barbie, long term, but there is a popular new doll in Iraq.
Toy stores around Baghdad are doing a quick trade in dancing Saddam dolls -- foot-high battery-powered puppets of the former president, kitted out in full insurgent regalia, who swing their hips to cheesy pop music at the flick of a switch.

Decked out with hand-grenades, daggers, a walkie-talkie, binoculars and an AK-47, Saddam dances to the "Hippy Hippy Shake" when turned on.
. . .
"At the beginning we'd hide them under the counter and only sell them to those who specially asked because people were upset to see the former president as a doll," explained Asaad Majid, a salesman in the al-Jelawi toy store in Mansoor.

"Now we're not scared anymore, we display them openly, and people buy them regularly," he said, adding that demand peaked soon after Saddam was captured last December.
It's a good sign, I think, that stores now display the dolls openly.
- 6:15 AM, 1 July 2004   [link]