Archive:

July 2004, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Another Logical Fallacy:  Some types of errors in logic are so common as to have acquired names, often long ago.  Among them is a whole set of false arguments that appeal to extraneous facts.  The ad hominem fallacy is best known, but there are also the ad populum (appeal to popular opinion), ad baculum (appeal to fear), and ad verecundiam (appeal to conventional propriety) fallacies.

The post just below reminds me of a common fallacy that does not, as far as I know, have a name.   In Western culture there is now a strong sympathy for the underdog, the weaker party in any conflict.  Israel had much more sympathy when it was seen as a small state fighting hostile larger nations than now, when it is often depicted as an imperial state oppressing a weaker people.  The United States became suspect for many when the Soviet Union collapsed and our power advantage seemed unchallenged.  Trial lawyers such as John Edwards have known for centuries that presenting their clients as underdogs will help with most juries.

(I don't know whether this sympathy for the underdog is universal.  Osama bin Laden's famous remark about people naturally preferring the stronger horse certainly suggests that he doesn't share it.  And those who know ancient history know that disabled babies were left out to die in many cultures.  (We are more civilized.  If we decide a disabled baby should die, we just don't give it care.)  It may be relevant that the ideals of chivalry, for example, that men should give way to women, are not found in most societies.)

You sometimes even find this fallacy being used to condemn the liberation of Iraq.  I was listening a few days ago to this fill-in talk show host and heard him make just that argument, criticizing the liberation because Saddam was weaker than we are.   It would have been fairer, he thought, if the two sides were more evenly matched.  He isn't the first I have heard or seen make that argument, either.

We need a name for this fallacy, I think.  It often saves time when we can reply to charges by noting that the argument is ad hominem.  The fallacy I describe above is now so common that we need a similar shortcut.  Unfortunately, I know no Latin, so I will need some help in coming up with an appropriate name.  A literal translation of "appeal to the underdog" or "appeal to the weaker" would work.

(I learned from the always interesting Keith Burgess-Jackson that there is another kind of ad hominem argument, a valid one, he says.  (Not that I would argue about such matters with a man who teaches logic.)  In the valid form of the ad hominem argument, you appeal to another person's principles, even if you do not share them.  You might use such an argument with a Muslim, for example, if you thought he was not acting in accordance with the teachings of the Koran.)
- 9:31 AM, 16 July 2004   [link]


How did John Edwards Get Rich?  Partly through junk science.
John Edwards built his career suing doctors and hospitals, claiming that maternity-ward missteps caused newborns to develop cerebral palsy.  The theory that doctor error is a common cause of CP was dubious when Mr. Edwards used it to win his cases, from the 1980s to the mid-1990s, and is universally rejected by experts today.
It is usual, and I think admirable, that we sympathize with babies affected by cerebral palsy.  But we can help them best if we are clear about the causes of their illness — and the costs of such lawsuits.
We should discipline physicians who fall down on the job.  But we can, and should, do so without indulging in an arbitrary redistribution of massive wealth to a few victims and--it should not be forgotten--a large number of lawyers.

What is more, attacks on alleged negligence in the maternity ward may actually have hurt the quality of patient care.  Many CP lawsuits, including one that Mr. Edwards describes in his book, turned on the theory that doctors could have prevented CP by ordering a cesarian section.  Such suits put nonmedical pressure on doctors and hospitals to choose c-sections.  In the past 30 years, the proportion of births by c-section has gone up fivefold.  But a 2003 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that the rate of CP remains constant.
Lest you think this is written by someone with no understanding of the problem, David Robinson adds this:
I have cerebral palsy, and it's not my doctor's fault.  Each of us is dealt a hand in life; mine happens not to include a very limber body.  The minor inconveniences I face each day--an inability to drive a car, difficulty walking long distances--wouldn't be any easier if I kept a chip on my shoulder.  My parents and friends, and later my own conscience, have helped me to resist the festering anger tinged with self-pity that is so often the engine behind personal-injury litigation.
Good advice.  And I doubt that he would have won his Rhodes scholarship with a different attitude.
- 8:42 AM, 16 July 2004   [link]


First Methane, and now ammonia?
Ammonia may have been found in Mars' atmosphere which some scientists say could indicate life on the Red Planet.

Researchers say its spectral signature has been tentatively detected by sensors on board the European Space Agency's orbiting Mars Express craft.

Ammonia survives for only a short time in the Martian atmosphere so it must be getting constantly replenished.

There are two possible sources: either active volcanoes, none of which have been found yet on Mars, or microbes.
Together with the discovery of methane a few months ago, this makes life on Mars — microbial life but life nonetheless — much more probable.  And I believe the British bookies have changed the odds they give to reflect these new findings.

The Martian rovers Spirit and Opportunity can't do much to resolve this question, since they are designed to do geology, not microbiology.
- 8:13 AM, 16 July 2004   [link]


The Things We Do  for love.
Sandu Gurguiatu first sued for money.  Then he sued for love.

The love-struck Romanian took his company to court four years ago for what he said was unfair dismissal.  But after setting eyes on Judge Elena Lala, he sued his employers and others dozens of times -- just to see her.
He never considered sending her flowers?  Oh, and he won some of the cases, "including the right to have two towels and enough soap to wash up at work".
- 7:55 AM, 16 July 2004   [link]


Evan Thomas Confesses:  The managing editor of Newsweek said, during a discussion of Kerry's pick of John Edwards, something both honest and refreshing.
There's one other base here, the media.  Let's talk a little media bias here.  The media, I think, wants Kerry to win and I think they're going to portray Kerry and Edwards I'm talking about the establishment media, not Fox.  They're going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic and there's going to be this glow about them, collective glow, the two of them, that's going to be worth maybe 15 points.
This comment comes from one of those journalist round table programs, specifically Inside Washington, from WUSA 9, a station I am unfamiliar with.  From a quick glance at the bio of the man who usually runs it, Gordon Peterson, and the usual participants, it appears that the show follows the most common pattern, three or four leftwing journalists, and, sometimes, one token conservative, in this case Charles Krauthammer.  The transcript of this show does not fully identify one of the participants (King), and I am not familiar with the political views of Tina Gulland, who filled in as host, but both appear to be on the left.

Those ideological identifications are important, because no one on the panel disagreed with Evan Thomas!  That conservative Krauthammer agrees is not surprising, but it is surprising that none of the other leftwing journalists bothered to contradict Thomas.  Isn't it fair to conclude that, however often they may deny it, Nina Totenberg and company agree with Thomas?

(Is Thomas right to think that media support is worth 15 points?  Not in this election, where Bush has the money to fight back and allies with their own access to the public.  An example: The newspapers who bit on the fake stories from Joseph Wilson, IV, will not do much to correct them.  But talk radio will.)
- 12:51 PM, 15 July 2004   [link]


Unmaking Whoopi:  Slim-Fast decides Ms. Goldberg is not the best representative it could find.
Slim-Fast yesterday abruptly dumped Whoopi Goldberg as its spokeswoman after a firestorm over her X-rated rant against President Bush at a Radio City fund-raiser for John Kerry last week.

"We are disappointed by the manner in which Ms. Goldberg chose to express herself and sincerely regret that her recent remarks offended some of our consumers," Slim-Fast said in a statement.
For what it's worth, the president of Slim-Fast, F. Daniel Abraham, has been a big supporter of Hillary Clinton and has donated more than a million dollars to groups trying to defeat Bush.

(Admit it.  You would have skipped this story, except for that headline. Well, someone had to say it.)
- 10:34 AM, 15 July 2004
Correction:  Abraham sold the company to Unilever in 2000, as I learned from this AP correction.
- 4:09, 18 July 2004   [link]


Even If You Don't Live In This Area , you may have heard of these horrific murders.
It was past midnight when Antigone Allen and her three small children got into the Lincoln Towncar with Genaro Remigio Garcia for their last ride.

In back were Christine, who was 2 1/2; Christian, 1 1/2; and Adam, 6 months old. Garcia -- Allen's estranged boyfriend and the father of the three children -- was behind the wheel.
. . .
Garcia was snorting cocaine in the car, and the couple began arguing, Allen told her sister, LaVeda Allen, before she died hours later at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Allen demanded that Garcia drive her home.  Instead, he continued driving and stopped at a gas station.  Allen was sleeping and didn't immediately notice that he had filled a can with gasoline and placed it in the back seat.

As he drove, he grabbed the can and began dousing the children and his girlfriend.  He pulled out a lighter and pressed on the plastic lever.
Four murders, one suicide.  But nearly all the early accounts left out this part of the story.
She [Antigone Allen's sister, LaVeda Allen] said Garcia was an illegal immigrant . .
And he had been arrested more than once for other offenses, but the officers never turned him over to the INS.  In this area, some jurisdictions, definitely including Seattle, actually forbid their police officers from coperating with the INS.  And many others don't emphasize cooperation.  It is is possible that, if it were not for those rules and those attitudes, three innocent children and a very young and foolish mother would still be alive.
- 10:10 AM, 15 July 2004   [link]


Kerry's Ad Buys:  Judging by recent changes in ad buys, the Kerry campaign is retreating.
Despite promises to expand the election playing field, John Kerry has reduced his ad spending in Missouri, Arizona and throughout the South in the run-up to the Democratic presidential convention.
. . .
In his new round of advertising, Kerry has significantly increased his spending in several key states while slightly lowering buys for Missouri and Arizona.  Voters in both states will still see plenty of ads, just relatively few compared to other battlegrounds.

In Virginia, the Kerry campaign dramatically reduced its ad buy.  Last month, he pulled his ads out of Louisiana and Arkansas.
He's still running ads here in Washington state, especially one in which he promises to save a zillion dollars by cutting out paper work in medical care.  Be interesting to know how many voters find that plausible.
- 7:52 AM, 15 July 2004   [link]


There's Been A Break In The Weather  and so I am off to Mt. Rainier for another hike.

When I mentioned my destination in June, I got a funny email wondering where "rainiest" is, since I was going to "rainier".  It's a great pun that I had some how missed for all these decades.  Mt. Rainier is rainier than most places, especially on its northwest side, but it is not the rainiest.  (Mt. Rainier could claim, for many years, to be the snowiest, but Mt. Baker, to the north, took that title a few years ago.)

The rainiest national park?  This one, at least in the contiguous 48 states.
The climate is predominantly a marine type with cool summers, mild but rather cloudy winters, moist air, and a small daily range in temperatures. The weather is extremely unpredictable.   Rainfall is quite varied.  Sequim, on the northeast side of the peninsula receives an average of about seventeen inches of precipitation a year.  While forty airline miles to the west, in the rain forest valleys, precipitation can average 140 to 167 inches per year.  Seventy-six percent of the yearly precipitation falls during the six months between 01 Oct and 31 Mar.  There is no definite time for the beginning and ending of the dry or rainy seasons.  The transition is gradual and variable.
I plan to visit that one this summer, too — with a Goretex rain jacket.
- 8:48 AM, 14 July 2004
More:  There were enough clouds in the early evening so I didn't get the big shot of Mt. Rainier from Route 161 that I wanted, but I did get some interesting shots earlier, like this one showing the Nisqually glacier from top to terminal moraine.



Nisqually is one of the smaller glaciers on Mt. Rainier, by the way.

It's a good time to see the flowers, which should be at their peak for the next few weeks.   A close look at the flowers sometimes surprises.  Nearly every anemone that I saw had a small bee inside, gathering nectar and pollen. They looked much like honey bees, but had perhaps 1/8 the volume.  Hard to see how they could make a living all working the same few flowers.
- 7:26 AM, 15 July 2004   [link]


Troubling:  Our troops overseas may still have difficulties voting.
Problems with military absentee ballots that clouded the 2000 election have not been fixed, jeopardizing the ability of more than 160,000 troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to have their votes counted this fall.
. . .
In 2000, an estimated 29% of military personnel who wanted to vote did not get absentee ballots or received them too late.  The impact was felt particularly in Florida, where hundreds of military absentee ballots weren't counted because they arrived late, lacked postmarks or had problems with signature verification.

A study by the Pentagon at that time found that three-quarters of overseas troops it interviewed reported problems in voting.  In a separate study, the GAO found that instructions from Washington to help troops vote were often given low priority in the field.  The new studies this year suggest that those problems haven't been fully addressed.
The USA Today article is not being entirely candid in its description of the Florida problems.   A Democratic operative circulated a memo explaining how to throw out overseas ballots.  Most of the counties controlled by Democrats responded enthusiastically.  Because Florida has such strict rules (after many examples of fraud) for these ballots, they were able to throw out many of them.

I'll have to check this, but if my memory is correct, Florida usually throws out 30 percent of these ballots.  Counties carried by Bush (and probably controlled by Republicans) threw out 30 percent of them in 2000.  Counties carried by Gore (and probably controlled by Democrats) threw out 70 percent.  (They may have been breaking a federal law, which does not allow such strict standards for military votes, but the matter was never tested in court.)

(To be fair, I should add that a few of the Bush ballots from the military may have been illegal, cast after the official deadline.  After the fuss over the memo, some boards allowed ballots that they perhaps should not have.  Net, however, it seems certain that Bush was robbed of legitimate votes.)
- 8:16 AM, 14 July 2004   [link]


Good Kids:  President Bush's daughters received considerable nasty publicity for some underage drinking.  Now they have come out to campaign and they sound like normal kids who were raised by fine parents.
Jenna said her parents have the "best marriage," citing as proof that "my dad thinks my mom's funny even though she's really not -- she's cute, she has funny quirks."

Jenna said her mother would tell them to clean their bedrooms.  "I call her OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) to her face, but I'm glad now because some of it's rubbed off on me," she said.

Jenna also described how the president interacted with the girls' boyfriends. "He's not the shotgun-dad type, he's the joking-around-to-the-point-where-he-scares-the-heck-out-of-them type.
Their career choices show idealism.  Barbara wants to work with kids suffering from AIDS in Eastern Europe and Africa, and Jenna wants to teach in Harlem.
- 7:23 AM, 14 July 2004   [link]


Labour MP Ann Clywd  and I disagree on many issues.  But she has my complete admiration for her stance on Iraq.  For years, she wanted Saddam Hussein overthrown because of what he was doing to the the Iraqi people, especially the Kurds.  And she continues to put them first, as you can see in this column, which refutes some of the more pernicious nonsense common on the British left, and becoming more common on the American left.
The unwillingness to concede that the interim government might be a popular one shows the continuing frustration of some of those who opposed the war.  They view any progress made towards democracy in Iraq with suspicion — a view more honestly expressed by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown writing in the Evening Standard: "The past months have been challenging for us in the anti-war camp.  I am ashamed to admit that there have been times when I wanted more chaos, more shocks, more disorder ..."

Having known and worked with the opposition to Saddam for over two decades, I find the description of brave individuals as "puppets" deeply offensive.  Allawi was nearly killed in 1978 in the UK when he was attacked by a Ba'athist assassin with an axe.  The deputy prime minister, Barham Salih, was imprisoned at the age of 16 for his political activities.  The deputy foreign minister, Hamid al-Bayati, was imprisoned in Abu Ghraib and had five members of his family killed by Saddam's regime.   Eight thousand members of foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari's family clan disappeared in 1983 and have never been seen since.
Read the whole thing.
- 7:00 PM, 14 July 2004   [link]


When President Bush  said he didn't read the editorials in the New York Times, he drew much criticism.  (This is often reported as "Bush doesn't read newspapers".)   I took that a bit personally, since I often skip the editorials in the New York Times myself, even though I have more free time than the president and am an almost compulsive reader.

This editorial may help explain why why President Bush and I skip many other editorials in the Times.  New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey is suspected, as I have mentioned before, of a very old fashioned form of corruption, trading government favors for campaign contributions.  Here's what the Times thinks McGreevey should have done.
Yet if Mr. McGreevey finds his reputation suffering collateral damage from an indictment that does not charge him personally with any wrongdoing, he has himself partly to blame.  By failing to push through the kind of tough political contributions law he promised three years ago, he has left New Jersey's line between legal fund-raising and the criminal abuse of public office so blurry that the state's politicians themselves sometimes do not even recognize when they stray too close to it.
I find two things extraordinary in this argument.  First, is the idea that McGreevey (and his fund raisers) did not know that trading government favors for contributions was wrong.  That's why they kept this latest scheme secret!  There are gray areas in campaign finance, but this is not one of them, even in New Jersey.

Second, is the easy assumption, against the evidence, that Democrat Jim McGreevey is innocent, that he is unfairly suffering "collateral damage".  What evidence?  Consider this from a New Jersey columnist.
Money is McGreevey's chief political asset.  He has quarterbacked Democrats to unprecedented fund-raising success, largely by using lucrative state contracts to reward past contributions and entice more donations.  Democrats concede the practice loots the public treasury, but protest Republicans have done it as well; just not as well.
. . .
McGreevey's cancer isn't diagnosed with MRIs or CAT scans but with indictments and allegations involving associates.
. . .
McGreevey has had surgery.  A chief of staff, government attorney, homeland security advisor, assistant secretary of state, and a port authority board member have all been removed.
. . .
The fog thickened last week with the indictment of McGreevey fund-raiser David D'Amiano by U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie.  It is alleged that D'Amiano extorted $40,000 in campaign contributions from a farmer while getting the government to more than double its offer for the farmer's land.

Along the way D'Amiano introduced the farmer to several of his acquaintances.  D'Amiano warned one associate would bury him 20 miles under the Pacific Ocean if crossed.  D'Amiano also introduced the farmer to McGreevey.

During McGreevey's encounter with the farmer — which occurred off to the side of a Democratic fund-raising committee meeting — the governor dropped the code word for the extortion scheme — "Machiavelli."
As the columnist says, that sounds like a script from the Sopranos.

At some point, the New York Times should stop worrying about "collateral damage" to McGreevey's reputation and think, just for a moment, about all those resignations and that threat to the farmer.  To believe that campaign finance reform is the answer here is bizarre.
- 2:54 PM, 13 July 2004
More:  That was quick.
Federal prosecutors have charged Gov. James E. McGreevey's top fund-raiser with hiring a prostitute to try to thwart a federal probe, authorities said Tuesday.

Real estate developer Charles Kushner hired a New York City call girl to have sex with a witness in the investigation, had the sex act videotaped and sent the witness' wife a copy of the tape, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie said.
Governor McGreevey certainly has some interesting fund-raisers.  I wonder what the New York Times will say about this new "collateral damage".
- 3:41 PM, 13 July 2004
Still More:  The New York Times tries to wipe the egg off its face, with this editorial.
The governor claims that he is being smeared by politically minded prosecutors.  But his constituents are entitled to wonder how a governor who ran as a reformer turns out to have so many political friends and associates facing corruption charges.
I can't say I'm up on current slang, but I think this is the right reaction to the editorial: Well, duh.

Oh, and there is more trouble for the governor.
Commerce Secretary William Watley resigned yesterday amid reports that he funneled state money to businesses he owned and to family members.
. . .
Gov. James E. McGreevey accepted the resignation, saying in a statement that Watley "was an integral part of this administration's highly successful economic development strategy."
I'll bet.
- 10:49 AM, 15 July 2004   [link]


Too Many Boys  means, some scholars think, trouble.
In "Bare Branches," Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer, two political scientists, add a new and perhaps profound dimension to this problem.  Both countries [China and India] have many more men than women, the result of a longstanding preference for male children that has led to sex-selective abortions and, in many areas, the neglect and premature death of female children.  A high "sex ratio," in the authors' view, spells trouble.

The sex ratio refers to the number of men and women in a society.  Ordinarily more male than female children are born, so the average sex ratio across nations is about 105 (i.e., 105 men for every 100 women).  China and India have much higher sex ratios; in China it is more than 118 for children under the age of five.
. . .
Citing other scholars, Ms. Hudson and Ms. den Boer speculate that the young-male surplus will translate into higher rates of crime and violence and possibly more political instability.  If the government recruits surplus men into the armed forces to keep them under control, it may become more willing to engage in aggressive military actions.
(If I recall correctly, some clergymen once considered the slight surplus of males evidence for God's design, since it compensated for the inevitable losses in war.  But I digress.)

Others see an offsetting effect.
The authors neglect one offsetting benefit of having more young men than young women.  In the U.S., a high sex ratio is statistically associated with high rates of marriage and low rates of illegitimate births.  This argument, first made by Marcia Guttenberg and Paul Secord and amplified in other studies--and in my book, "The Marriage Problem"--arises from the laws of supply and demand.

If there are a lot of men for young women, then the women will trade sex in exchange for what they value, which for most women is a stable relationship--that is, marriage and two-parent child care.   But if men are scarce and women abundant, then women will lose their bargaining power and exchange sex for whatever is available: one-night stands, illegitimate children or even prostitution.  In the U.S., African-Americans have a very low sex ratio, and the consequences of that fact are obvious.
Both could happen.  China and India may have both higher levels of violence and higher status for women.  Wyoming's history is instructive; it was settled late and had its share of violence, but was the first territory to grant the right to vote to women, in 1869.  And Wyoming held to that principle when it was admitted to the union in 1890, against some pressure from the federal government.

Wilson does not mention it, but polygamy also creates a surplus of single males.  I have long thought that societies that practice it (Saudi Arabia, for example) were far more likely to be warlike than other societies.  Anthropologists have probably done comparative studies of the subject, but I have not seen one.  (And, given the intense politicization of the field, I would be cautious about believing any such study.)
- 2:07 PM, 13 July 2004   [link]


Jihadis Among Us:  Eighteen months ago, I was dismayed, though not surprised, by the results from a poll of Muslims in Britain.  The poll, which I discussed here and here, found that 1 in 5 British Muslims had no loyalty to Britain, that 1 in 10 thought the 9/11 attacks were justified, and that large majorities were unwilling to believe what the American and British governments said.  And I speculated that the true opinions might be even worse, since many respondents would not want to admit to sympathy for Britain's enemies.

Now a PhD student in Britain has come up with similar results, though he did not take a formal poll.  Remarkably, he was able to get them published by the BBC.
For the past year, I've been looking into Islamic identity among young British Muslims and trying to answer that question.
. . .
But for some young Muslims with a growing prejudice against society around them, the events of 9/11 have become a source of inspiration. The majority of Britain's Islamic communities are peace-loving and law-abiding citizens.  But as I walked the streets of East London and Birmingham for a BBC Radio 1Xtra documentary, talking to 120 young Muslims, it became all too apparent there was a tiny minority who were taking their religion to a sinister level.
. . .
It was easier to get answers from people I didn't know.  Two sympathisers of a fringe Islamist group - Abdul and Jalaal - agreed to explain to me what they found in the stance of Islamist groups.

As we sat eating cream doughnuts in a Whitechapel café, days after the Madrid train bombings, we understood each well enough to have been brothers.  But their views showed we were actually polar opposites.

"Whether it be through a bomb on a train or a natural disaster, Muslims are always happy to see the enemies of Allah being killed," said Jalaal.
. . .
And so, there is this growing minority who see violence as valid and segregation as the only option.

For all of the people I have spoken to - the radicals and the trendsetters - Islam offers a culture of resistance against western values.
The results from the poll show that Aminul Hoque (and some of the commenters) are wrong to call this a "tiny minority".  Enough Muslims in Britain now support violence against non-Muslims as to be a serious problem.

Hoque sees this trend among the young as partly a matter of fashion, striking another blow against the Patty Murray theory of terrorism, that it is caused by oppression and the lack of day care centers.

Americans sometimes worry that other Americans have "dual loyalties".  We can only wish that were true of these British Muslims, who have lived in Britain all their lives, gone to British schools from an early age, and have no loyalty at all to Britain.  I haven't seen a similar poll for American Muslims but see no reason not to think that we don't don't have our own share of jihadis and their supporters here.

(These American and British jihadis make fighting the war on terror much more difficult, as we have already seen.  They can, with their passports, travel almost anywhere in the world.  They can not be deported, even if we have good evidence of their support for terror.  And they find it far easier to mingle with us undetected.)
- 9:38 AM, 13 July 2004   [link]


NASCAR Iraqis:  And new playgrounds for kids, and a return of Bingo.  This Knight Ridder report is tentative, but positive.
Yet there are signs, subtle and tentative, that Baghdad residents are cautiously emerging to reclaim normal lives.

A new playground has been attracting children and their parents.  A new auto-racing club has been holding weekly drag races.  Bingo games have returned to the exclusive Alwiyah Club near Fardos Square, where Saddam Hussein's statue fell 15 months ago.
Perhaps wisely, the reporter, Dogen Hannah, does not credit these improvements to any political leader.  If things were getting worse, though, we know who would be to blame.
- 8:45 AM, 13 July 2004   [link]


Where Do They Know John Edwards Best?  Right.  North Carolina.  And what do they think of him there? Not much.
Democratic hopes that Edwards' selection would broaden the list of battleground states in the South were dented by the survey.  In it, President Bush and Vice President Cheney hold a commanding 54%-39% lead among likely voters in North Carolina.
The poll was taken right after the Edwards pick, which should have given the ticket a "bounce".   Bush beat Gore in North Carolina by 56-43.  If anything, his lead there is now larger, in spite of Edwards.

(North Carolina has leaned Republican in presidential contests for some time, but it is not a state that a Democrat can not win.  In fact, Clinton almost won it in 1992 (44-43) and lost by just 5 points in 1996 (49-44).  Registration still favors the Democrats, 48-34.  The Democrats control the state senate, 28-22 and are tied in the state house, 60-60.  Most recent governors have been Democrats.)
- 7:46 AM, 13 July 2004   [link]


Stop The Sprawl:  Save the farmlands.  Attractive slogans, but how do they work in practice?  Not too well in Pennsylvania, judging by this article.
Two state laws designed to stop sprawl and preserve farmland have become tools for developers and residential landowners to legally escape millions of dollars in property taxes, a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review survey of Allegheny County records has found.

The Trib's analysis of 1,834 properties designated as farmland by county assessors, combined with 696 recipients of Clean & Green property tax write-offs, reveals that nearly a quarter of the county's agricultural parcels are owned by developers, real estate agents, mines or construction companies who collectively saved $5.6 million in county, municipal and school property taxes last year after receiving the special agricultural discounts.

Other "farms" surrounded mansions owned by a who's who of Western Pennsylvania's movers and shakers, including Traco window manufacturer Robert Randall, former Mellon Bank CEO Frank Cahouet, Shenango Furnace heir William P. Snyder III and reputed Mafia boss Michael Anthony Genovese.
In general, and I say this as someone who grew up on a farm, I am opposed to preserving farmland simply to preserve farmland, even in principle.  (If that puzzles you, try this analogy.   In my opinion, there is no more reason to preserve farmland than to preserve old factories.  In each case a few examples may be picturesque enough so that they are worth protecting, but there is no need for a general policy.)  When I see how farmland preservation often (usually?) works in practice, my opposition grows much stronger.

I saved the best example for last.
A 10-building Fox Chapel compound owned by Teresa Heinz Kerry, which includes a Colonial mansion assessed at $658,000 and a handful of steers and chickens, is listed on tax rolls as an 88-acre farm.   Her husband, Sen. John F. Kerry -- the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee for president -- affectionately calls her "the lady of the farm."
Some accounts put her current wealth in excess of a billion dollars.  It's nice to know there is a family farmer doing so well, although I do wonder how she is able to escape the farm chores as often as she does.  Most farmers don't have that much free time.
- 3:12 PM, 12 July 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  Dan Darling read the Senate Committee Intelligence Report and summarized its main points, so you don't have to.  (Though I probably will, anyway.)

Some tidbits from his "bottom line".
Everything Powell said at the UN regarding Iraqi ties to al-Qaeda (which is pretty much the same as what President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and others said going into the war) appears to have reflected the consensus of the broader intelligence community.

Joe Wilson's claims (along with, I suspect, his reputation within Democratic circles) have more or less gone down in flames, as have claims that intelligence analysts were pressured into making certain conclusions.
. . .
In general, this document is a lot better than that Staff Statement No. 15 that was churned out by the 9/11 commission.  One other thing to be mentioned, incidentally, is that this report specifically undercuts some of the 9/11 Commission's key findings with respect to Iraq and al-Qaeda.   It cites post-1999 contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda, which the 9/11 commission claims to possess no information on.
I suspect that Darling is right about the Senate Committee doing better work than the 9/11 commission, and I think the reason may lie in the different leaders.  Senator Pat Roberts is more of a work horse; former governor Tom Kean (and others on the commission) is more of a show horse.  (For what it's worth, I think that the Democratic co-chair of the commission, former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton, did solid work.  Which may be why what he said received so little press attention.)
- 1:56 PM, 12 July 2004   [link]


"Republicans Are People, Too"  So says Ralph Nader.   Glad we cleared that up.  Although it is a little sad that he had to say it.  (Nader was defending the help he has received from some Republicans for getting on the ballot.)

Now if we can get film maker Michael Moore and Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott to agree to the idea, we'll be making some progress.
- 1:36 PM, 12 July 2004   [link]


Two Nations?  John Edwards received considerable applause from Democratic activists and the news media for his "Two Nations" speech during the primaries.   As Fred Barnes notes, Edwards used its message in his advertisements.
An Edwards TV ad was broadcast repeatedly: "It seems today we have two Americas. With two health-care systems, one for the privileged, the other rationed by insurance companies.  With two public-school systems, one for the haves, one for everybody else.  Two governments, one for powerful interests and lobbyists, the other for the rest of us.  Two tax systems, where the wealthy corporations pay less, working families pay more."
There are three problems with Edwards' argument.  First, it is not a very good description of the United States.  Mobility is high.  Two of the most interesting conclusions in The Millionaire Next Door were that most of the millionaires came from modest backgrounds, and that few of them expected their children to have the same success (often with good reason).

Every health care system rations care, and must do so.  It is not the fault of insurance companies that we have chosen to make them the gate keepers, rather than, for example, the sensitive and caring bureaucrats used by many other nations.  The many problems with our public schools are caused more by inflexible bureaucracies and the teachers unions than by differences in wealth.  Most economists who have studied the question agree that corporations do not pay taxes; they simply pass them on in the form of higher prices for consumers, lower wages for workers, or lower profits for investors.

Second, it is contradicted by Edwards own story.
Last week, I heard an admiring TV pundit explain, to general agreement from his fellows, that Edwards' "two Americas speech" is his No. 1 asset, followed closely by his self-made-man, up-from-the-working-class life story. The problem is, they cancel each other out.
. . .
More important to the campaign: Edwards' life story shows that his message is false.  If your story is "poor boy makes good," your message can't possibly be "this is a two-part nation where poor boys are prevented from making good."  Exactly how dumb are the voters supposed to be?
And not just Edwards' story.  Dick Cheney did not come from a privileged background, and George W. Bush spent the first 10 years or so of his life in fairly modest surroundings.  As I've mentioned before, his first home was a student apartment in New Haven, and his first house was half of a very humble "shotgun" house, probably worse than the one that Edwards lived in — for all of a year — and likes to use as proof of his humble origins.  Of the four, only John Kerry appears to have led a generally privileged life.  And even he was not wealthy, until he made two fortunate marriages.

Third, it didn't work well, even in the primaries.  As Barnes notes, Edwards won a single primary, South Carolina where he was born.  Wesley Clark did just as well, winning Oklahoma, and no one considers him a great draw.  Barnes has an explanation:
Whenever Mr. Edwards delivered his "two Americas" speech to groups of upscale Democratic activists, party leaders or labor union members, he received a wildly enthusiastic reception.  At a New Hampshire dinner where all the Democratic candidates spoke, he brought even officials of rivals' campaigns to their feet with strong applause.  These Democrats assumed the Edwards pitch would appeal to downscale voters.

But when Mr. Edwards appeared before less liberal and less partisan audiences, the response was quite different--far more polite than passionate.  My interpretation was that for independents and swing voters and casual voters, the Edwards message was hard to swallow.  These nonideological voters don't see America as a nation in which an economic elite oppresses everyone else.  They see a country in which opportunity abounds.  Besides, Mr. Edwards didn't have much of a solution other than his own election to the White House.  His chief reform idea was a weak curb on lobbyists in Washington.
(He hasn't offered to share his investing tips with the public, which might be of more help.)

There has been little "bounce" in the polls from the Edwards pick.  The reason may be simple; though he is an attractive man (at least on the surface), his main idea has little appeal outside the Democratic party and the media.
- 9:18 AM, 12 July 2004   [link]


Second Blogiversary:  One day late.  Probably.  Roughly two years ago, I put up my first posts.  In that first partial month of posting, there were 296 page views.  In July 2003, there were 10,849, and this month I expect nearly 25,000.   Excluding "Instalanches" and similar phenomena, almost every month has higher traffic than the previous month, which is most flattering.  Thanks to all who visit.

During that time, I have received many thoughtful emails, and just one that I would call hate mail.  (It struck me as more funny than anything else, but I might feel differently if I received them regularly.)  I hope that preponderance of thoughtful emails is because I have been civilized in the way I have made my arguments.  I have said more than once that someone who tells me about an error in one of my posts does me a favor.  The same is true for someone who tells me I have gone too far — which has happened.

Some time in the next week or so, I'll list some of my best posts for this last year.  (After I reduce my email backlog and catch up on some promises.)  Meanwhile, here's the list for the first year of the site.
- 8:24 AM, 12 July 2004   [link]


Expect More Vote Fraud This November:  Why do I say that?   Three reasons.  First, it has been growing (in my opinion) because changes in our laws have made it easier to commit vote fraud.  Voting (and even registering) by mail has made vote fraud almost risk free.  When I see stories about vote fraud, those caught have almost always been exceptionally foolish; it is impossible not to conclude that slicker operators are getting away with fraud.  The provisions of 1993 Motor Voter Act made it easier for non-citizens to vote — as some of the sponsors intended.  And some jurisdictions have compounded that by refusing to check voter identifications.

Second, many Democrats feel, against the evidence, that they were cheated in the last presidential election.    Columnist Doug MacEachern has it about right.
You can only imagine the grimaces shared among New York Times editors on April 3, 2001, as they stared at the headline to appear in the first editions of the next day's paper:

"Analysis of Florida ballots proves favorable to Bush."
. . .
A month later, the Times, employing recount methods that even Al Gore's toadies on the Florida Supreme Court hadn't dreamed of, called the election results inconclusive.  Using most recount methods, Bush wins.  Standing on our heads and counting backward, Gore wins.  Fine.  But, as we all know so well, the Florida debacle evolved into the most ardently held article of liberal religious faith: The firm, incontrovertible belief that George W. Bush stole Florida, and so the presidency.
There is nothing that will encourage one side to cheat more than the belief that the other side got away with it last time.

Third, according to most accounts, the intensity of the dislike for President Bush is very high on the left.  If you think, or even halfway think, that Bush has much in common with Hitler, then vote fraud becomes not just permissible but the moral thing to do.

Vote fraud will be most likely in swing states, such as Nevada.
Nevada's position as a battleground state in the presidential election has sparked a surge in fake voter registrations, Clark County's top election official said.

"We've never seen anything close to this," said Larry Lomax, registrar of voters.

So far, the office has flagged several hundred suspicious registration forms, but Lomax believes many more escaped detection among the 5,000 forms coming through his office every week.
. . .
However, some groups are illegally paying for each registration form submitted instead of paying workers by the hour.  The practice is against both state and federal law.  The state attorney general's office is looking at whether charges should be filed.
Which groups have been breaking the law?  The article doesn't say.  But I would give long odds that those groups are trying to register Democrats, not Republicans.  (And were I in Nevada, I might even be able to do that legally.)

There is some hope.  Attorney General Ashcroft is from Missouri, where fraud is endemic, at least in the largest city, St. Louis.  Ashcroft knows the tricks and is likely to deploy some of the resources of the Justice Department to stop them this November.  (Democrats will complain bitterly about intimidation of minorities.)
- 11:09 AM, 11 July 2004   [link]


I Don't Plan To  see Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, but this spoof might be worth watching.
TITLE: FAHRENHEIT 2/2 HOT

THE TEMPERATURE AT WHICH WORKING-CLASS HEROES SELF-IMMOLATE

A Documentary

Audience hears restaurant sounds as text appears on a blank screen:

I like Whoppers.  Flame-broiled juicy, chock-full of onions and lettuce and loads of secret ingredients.  They're big, too; bigger than a Big Mac.  You don't even need to say "biggie size it, please" because it's already so damn BIG.  But I know Whoppers are bad for me, so I've given them up.

-- "Dude, Where's My Country?"

By Michael Moore, pp. 42-43
The script then cuts to the inside of a Burger King . . .
- 7:54 AM, 11 July 2004   [link]


Who Should You Bribe?  Two economists have an answer.
It's tough being corrupt.  You know you probably need to bribe lots of people to achieve your ignoble goals.  But where, exactly, do you put your money?  Do you invest more heavily in payoffs to politicians, to the police or to judges?  Or would it be more effective to bribe the news media to ignore scandals and produce monotonously favorable coverage?

The answer is to invest in the news media, claim economist John McMillan of the Stanford University's Graduate School of Business and graduate student Pablo Zoido in a paper to be published in the fall by the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

They based their conclusion on a detailed study of an unusual data set: Records of bribes kept by Vladimiro Montesinos, the former head of Peru's secret service.  Montesinos's goal was to protect his patron, then-President Alberto Fujimori.  At the height of the spy chief's dirty dealing in the 1990s, he was dishing out payoffs totaling more than $3 million a month to police officials, key judges, opposition political leaders and the owners of the country's major television stations, according to records.
. . .
That [the records kept by Montesinos] allowed McMillan and Zoido to tally up the bribes by institution and then compare them to see where Montesinos, in his "expert" opinion, thought it most effective to spend the most money.

It wasn't even close.  "One single television channel's bribe was four times larger than the total of the opposition politicians' bribes," they found.  "By revealed preference, the strongest check on the government's power was the news media."
This was not an original idea.  There is a long history of bribes to newspapers.  At one time France was famous for its corrupt newspapers, and there are examples in American history, too.

Saddam bribed newspapers and television networks all through the Middle East.  It would be naive to think that he did not succeed in bribing some western journalists.  Anyone familiar with his apologists can think of likely suspects.

(Intimidation works, too.  It is no secret that the coverage of Middle East issues is warped by the fact that writing the wrong story can lead to death.  Reuters once confessed that its stories were misleading because otherwise its Arab stringers would be killed.  And Reuters is not alone in that problem.)
- 7:39 AM, 11 July 2004   [link]


Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, IV  is a liar, maybe even a compulsive liar.  The Washington Post story is not that blunt, but it could be, given the facts in the story.
Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, dispatched by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq sought to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program with uranium from Africa, was specifically recommended for the mission by his wife, a CIA employee, contrary to what he has said publicly.
. . .
Wilson's assertions -- both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information -- were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report.

The panel found that Wilson's report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts.  And contrary to Wilson's assertions and even the government's previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address.
. . .
The report also said Wilson provided misleading information to The Washington Post last June.   He said then that he concluded the Niger intelligence was based on documents that had clearly been forged because "the dates were wrong and the names were wrong."

"Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the 'dates were wrong and the names were wrong' when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports," the Senate panel said.
. . .
According to the former Niger mining minister, Wilson told his CIA contacts, Iraq tried to buy 400 tons of uranium in 1998.
Many who opposed the Bush administration believed Wilson's story.  In fact, my own Congressman, Jay Inslee of Washington's 1st district, brought Wilson into the district to help publicize what we now know to be blatant lies.  Congressman Inslee should, now that it is clear that Wilson has been lying, apologize and call on Wilson to confess and apologize.  If you are in the 1st district and would like to write to Congressman Inslee and urge him to do the right thing, you can contact him here through email, phone, or, best of all, regular mail.  I plan to email him today and write a longer letter in the next few days.   (As I am sure you know, the most effective letters to congressmen are the civil ones from constituents.)
- 4:34 PM, 10 July 2004
More:  The "Ombudsgod" includes, at the end of this post, some useful links to Wilson's ideas.  Hint: It's all Israel's fault.

And an ironical point I had forgotten.  The title of Wilson's book?  The Politics of Truth.
- 6:13 PM, 11 July 2004
Correction:  When I linked to this post, I noticed that the Washington Post article had a significant correction; it was Iran, not Iraq, that tried to buy 400 tons of uranium in 1998.
- 12:16 PM, 11 July 2007   [link]


More On The Edwards Pick:  For more than a year, I have been arguing that John Edwards is unqualified to be president.  More recently, I argued that he was, for the same reasons though with less force, unqualified to be vice president.  My reasons are simple: Edwards has no education for an executive position, no experience in one, and no significant accomplishments, after almost a full term in the Senate.

Political scientist Dan Drezner had an open post on the Edwards pick, which drew many comments, some from supporters of Edwards.  Even his supporters on the thread did not quarrel with my points, though some claimed that experience was not that important in a vice president.  None even took up what I consider the most telling point of all: In almost a full term as senator, Edwards has done nothing significant.  Nothing.  Kerry knows this and picked him anyway.

(Two commenters directed questions to me.  Here are my answers:  First, one asked about Kerry's executive experience.  I have not criticized Kerry for inexperience because he was a naval officer, Massachusetts lieutenant governor, and a committee chairman.  That doesn't come close to Bush's or Cheney's records, but it is not zero.

Second, one asked whether there have been more presidents with law degrees or MBAs.  So far as I know, the only president with an MBA is Bush.  One reason for that is that the MBA is a relatively recent degree.  I doubt if any were even granted before the 20th century, and they were uncommon until the last few decades.

But the poster was trying to make a point with his question, to which I will reply with another question: Do you think the average voter would rather have, everything else being equal, a lawyer or an MBA in an executive position?)
- 11:27 AM, 9 July 2004   [link]


Conspiracy Theorists  on the left will love this story.
Military records that could help establish President Bush's whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.

It said the payroll records of "numerous service members," including former First Lt. Bush, had been ruined in 1996 and 1997 by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service during a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. No back-up paper copies could be found, it added in notices dated June 25.
Is the New York Times deliberately feeding the conpiracy theorists?  Sure, as you can tell by the tone of the story.

Now, if the Times would show the same interest in, for example, John Kerry's claim to be a war criminal as they do Bush's National Guard records, I might see the paper as less hopelessly partisan.
- 10:29 AM, 9 July 2004
Worse Than I Thought:  Today the New York Times issued this correction:
An article yesterday about the destruction of some payroll records of National Guard members, including President Bush, misstated the record of White House acknowledgment of the loss.  The White House indeed took note of the missing information last February when it released hundreds of pages of Mr. Bush's military files.  In a briefing paper for reporters on Feb. 10, summarizing those files, it noted that payroll records for the third quarter of 1972 had been lost when they were transferred to microfiche.
So the White House told the press about this loss in February.  But the New York Times missed that and ran their big "feed the conspiracy mongers" piece yesterday, representing the loss as a new discovery and implying that the White House had been hiding it.  Incompetence, bias, or both?  You make the call.  (Correction via Michelle Malkin.)
- 6:46 AM, 10 July 2004   [link]


Manufacturing Outlook Hits 32 Year High:  Have you heard that the United States doesn't make things any more, just imports them from Mexico and China?  That's not what American manufacturers are saying.
The Manufacturers Alliance reported that its Business Outlook index rose to 80, its highest point since 1972.  An index above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below 50 indicates contraction.
. . .
Executives were asked to compare product orders for April, May and June of this year with the same period in 2003.  Ninety percent of the respondents said new orders were up, compared with only 38% a year earlier.

It's quite a rebound.  Manufacturing led the recession but is now projected to grow faster than the overall economy, said Donald Norman, an economist with Washington, D.C.-based Manufacturers Alliance.
. . .
But even companies in the current revved-up economy face challenges, including record-high raw material prices and steel shortages.  There's even the hint of a labor shortage, said Tim Clark, president of Mayville Engineering Co. in Mayville.
. . .
"I am struggling to fill jobs in skilled positions because the labor market is getting tight," Clark said.  "During the manufacturing slowdown, a lot of people went in different directions with their careers."
I wouldn't expect a lot of new manufacturing jobs, given the spectacular increases in productivity, but the new ones should be mostly good jobs with high pay.
- 9:23 PM, 9 July 2004   [link]


Global Cooling?  The weather in the Pacific Northwest this year has been relatively warm and dry.  Naturally some journalists have interpreted that as more evidence for global warming.  During the same time, the weather in much of Canada has been cold and wet.
It's beginning to look as though much of Canada is going to have one of those storied, two-season years: a long stretch of winter and a few weeks of bad weather.

But Dave Phillips, Environment Canada's senior climatologist (he calls himself a "weather weenie") said yesterday there are signs of change in the stubborn patterns that have kept cold, wet air over much of the country during the first weeks of summer.
To my knowledge, no one has considered those patterns evidence for global cooling, though they are just as strong evidence for that as the Pacific Northwest's weather is for global warming.

(Could the two patterns be related?  I am not a weatherman or climatologist, but I wouldn't be surprised.  The same jet stream that is steering warm and dry weather to Seattle may be steering cold and wet weather to Toronto.)

As always, when I mention the controversy over global warming, I add this disclaimer.  In the disclaimer, I mention natural causes for a warmer climate.  One is a warmer sun, and there is a new analysis that showing that sunspots (which are a sign of increased activity) are at a 1000 year high.
- 6:52 AM, 9 July 2004   [link]