Archive:

March 2006, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



"Academic Arrogance"  That's the title of this Thomas Lifson post on the new Chancellor of the University of California at Santa Cruz, Denice Denton.  And the title of the post seems entirely appropriate, after you learn some of the details, such as her request that the taxpayers provide her with a $30,000 dog run for her official residence.

Lifson suspects that the University of California may be this generous because Denton is an open lesbian.  (Part of her deal is a job for her partner.)  That might be part of the explanation, but I have seen similar arrogance in university officials who did not fill any diversity slots.   (And similar arrogance is not uncommon among chief executives of large businesses, though at least they are not (usually) spending tax money.)
- 7:06 AM, 31 March 2006   [link]


Michael Barone came to much the same conclusion about this Gallup story as I did.
Americans are about as likely to identify as Republicans as they are Democrats according to a review of recent Gallup polls.  However, once the leanings of independents are taken into account, the Democrats gain an advantage.  Democrats have been on par with, or ahead of, Republicans in party identification since the second quarter of 2005.

I'm not sure why this is treated as news.  Since Gallup pioneered random-sample polling in October 1935, Democrats have always had an advantage over Republicans in party identification.  When I entered the polling business in 1974, Democrats had a huge advantage in party ID, something on the order of 49 percent to 25 percent.

The real news came in 2004, when the NEP exit poll showed party identification of the electorate as 37 percent Democratic and 37 percent Republican—the best showing for Republicans since 1935.  In the release referenced above, Gallup is saying that party ID is now 33 percent Democratic and 32 percent Republican but that self-identified independents tend to lean Democratic.  In any long historical perspective, this represents a big gain for Republicans and a big loss for Democrats
But that's not the way Gallup presented it.

Why not?  Because Gallup officials have, in recent years, often slanted their discussions of poll results against President Bush and the Republicans.  Their numbers are mostly honest; what they say about the numbers is sometimes biased.  (Pew Research has had similar problems; in a few instances, I have found what they said about their own data — contradicted by the data.)
- 5:45 AM, 31 March 2006   [link]


Worth Reading:  The "Fjordman" tells us about the problems caused in Sweden by what the New York Times might call "Malmö youths".
In a new sociological survey (pdf in Swedish, with brief English introduction) entitled "Vi krigar mot svenskarna" ("We're waging a war against the Swedes"), young immigrants in the troubled city of Malmö have been interviewed about why they are involved in crime.
. . .
Almost 90% of all robberies reported to the police were committed by gangs, not individuals.  "When we are in the city and robbing we are waging a war, waging a war against the Swedes."  This argument was repeated several times.  "Power for me means that the Swedes shall look at me, lie down on the ground and kiss my feet."  The boys explain, laughingly, that "there is a thrilling sensation in your body when you're robbing, you feel satisfied and happy, it feels as if you've succeeded, it simply feels good."  "It's so easy to rob Swedes, so easy."  "We rob every single day, as often as we want to, whenever we want to."  The immigrant youth regard the Swedes as stupid and cowardly: "The Swedes don't do anything, they just give us the stuff.  They're so wimpy."  The young robbers do not plan their crimes: "No, we just see some Swedes that look rich or have nice mobile phones and then we rob them."
. . .
It is interesting to note that these Muslim immigrants state quite openly that they are involved in a "war," and see participation in crime and harassment of the native population as such.  This is completely in line with what I have posited before.  The number of rape charges in Sweden has quadrupled in just above twenty years.  Rape cases involving children under the age of 15 are six times as common today as they were a generation ago.  Most other kinds of violent crime have rapidly increased, too.
. . .
One can see the mainstream media are struggling to make sense of all of this.  That is because they cannot, or do not want to, see the obvious: this is exactly how an invading army would behave: rape, pillage and bombing.  If many of the Muslim immigrants see themselves as conquerors in a war, it all makes perfect sense.
And the contempt for those who do not fight back is nearly universal in fierce warrior tribes.   (Though a few Swedes are beginning to talk about forming vigilante groups to protect their children.)
- 4:48 PM, 30 March 2006   [link]


"Suburban Youths"  are causing a few problems in France.
The images are unnerving: hooded, swift-footed youths infiltrating protest rallies in the heart of tourist Paris, smashing shop windows, setting cars on fire, beating and robbing passers-by and throwing all sorts of objects at the riot police.
The New York Times begins by giving them a French name, "casseurs", or smashers.  But then it tries to give us a few hints about these "casseurs".  They are, the Times tells us, "young men, largely immigrants or the children of immigrants, from tough, underprivileged suburbs".   But the Times does not want to go any farther than that, and so takes to calling them "suburban youths".

Is it possible that some of these "suburban youths" come from M_____ families?  Best to follow the lead of the New York Times and not even get into such questions.  One never knows who might take offense.
- 1:29 PM, 30 March 2006   [link]


Moves like this one will decrease the credibility of CNN.
Lucia Newman, CNN's first and only correspondent based in Havana, has jumped to the new Al-Jazeera International network, which plans to begin operations later this spring.
You may not be able to tell from the article why I object to Al Jazeera.  Let me put it this way: The network is the favorite outlet of Osama bin Laden, and many other terrorists.
- 1:00 PM, 30 March 2006   [link]


Drug Deaths In King County Are Increasing:  At least according to the latest available report, which covers 2004. On page 20, you'll find an overall chart that shows that deaths from drugs and alcohol hit 253 in 2004, up from just 146 in 2001.  I am skeptical* about the exact numbers, but I do think that there was a real increase in deaths from drugs during this period.

(Could drug use be part of the explanation for the Capitol Hill murders?   Possibly.  Some common illegal drugs are known to cause psychotic episodes in a few of the people who take them.  But we may never know, because the autopsy on Kyle Huff may never be released.)

When I first wrote about the drug deaths in King County it was to make this point:

The number of deaths by drug overdoses, 195 in 2002, almost makes my second point by itself.   Though, as I said, this is about the same as the number of combat deaths in Iraq (and sharply higher in 2002 than 2001), the deaths do not seem to concern many people.  Rarely do these deaths make the front pages of the newspapers.  There are few, if any, protests over the rising toll.  Most of all, almost no one seems to think that any public official might bear some responsibility for the deaths.  Why not? Perhaps the answer can be found in this list: Seattle mayor Greg Nickels (Democrat), Seattle city council (all Democrats), King County executive Ron Sims (Democrat), King County Council (Democratic majority), and Governor Gary Locke (Democrat).  (Though the Republicans control one house of the state legislature, the Democrats control the other.)  Are journalists, who are overwhelmingly Democrats, reluctant to blame Democratic officials for their failures on crime and drugs?  I don't see how to avoid that conclusion.

And I still don't.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(*Why the skepticism?  Because I would expect that many drug deaths would be missed.  Autopsies are not done after most deaths, so some deaths would be missed simply because no tests were done.   And the numbers in the chart vary in ways that seem implausible to me.  For example, I would expect that deaths from alcohol would be close to constant, but instead they bounce up and down between 50 and 103 in just 8 years.  The high year, 1998, also is the second highest year for drug deaths.   Was the Medical Examiner's office using different criteria that year?  Possibly.

But despite my skepticism on the exact numbers, it does seem much more likely that drug deaths and drug use have increased in the last few years, than that they have decreased.)
- 10:33 AM, 30 March 2006   [link]


Whack-a-Pol?  This Washington Post article describes a curious experiment:
We designed this study to examine the question of party polarization within the electorate.  We asked people to play a modified version of the whack-a-mole arcade game.  Participants were randomly assigned to whack either celebrities, politicians, or foreign dictators, an exercise that produced intriguing results.  We also surveyed participants' attitudes towards the Republican and Democratic parties and key political figures.  Half the participants were randomly assigned to complete the survey before they played the game, the other half answered the questions after playing.  The goal: to determine whether those who whacked away at Hillary Clinton, Condi Rice, Saddam Hussein, or Michael Jackson became more or less favorably disposed to Republicans or Democrats than they were at the outset.  The answer: mostly no effects, but with a notable exception that suggests why playing the foreign threat card and perhaps even real-world whacking -- think Iraq and Saddam Hussein -- may help the party in power.
I'm not sure what to make of this experiment, though the fact that many of us think this way says something disturbing about our politics.  For the record, though I am a Republican, I have no desire to "whack" a Hillary Clinton figure.

Maybe I'll be able to say more if I can get a copy of the paper — assuming there is one.  The article links to several annoying figures (perhaps done with Power Point?), but not to a research paper.  The article does not even explain where they got their participants, who were much more Democratic than the population as a whole.
- 7:47 AM, 30 March 2006   [link]


Some Immigration Numbers:  The World Mapper site has some interesting, if not very detailed, maps.  Americans will find this map, showing net world immigration especially interesting.
Regions experiencing the highest net immigration are North America, Western Europe and the Middle East.  Together these three regions account for 79.5% of world net immigration.  The United States alone receives 37.1% of the world net total.
Some Americans might think that's more than our share.

That number made me take a look at some of the numbers available from our Census Bureau.  Their latest estimate is that 11.1 percent of the residents of the United States are foreign born.  But they are not at all evenly distributed; 26.2 percent of the residents of California are foreign born, but only 1.9 percent of the residents of North Dakota are.

(This BBC article has similar data for Britain, along with a map.  Immigrants in Britain are concentrated in a few areas, just as they are in the United States.  One in four of the residents of London is now foreign born.)
- 4:33 PM, 29 March 2006   [link]


The New York Times Leaves Something Out:  Here's their current article on the defeat Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott just suffered in court.
A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Representative Jim McDermott violated federal law by giving reporters an illegally taped telephone call nearly a decade ago.

In a 2-to-1 opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that Mr. McDermott, Democrat of Washington, had violated the rights of Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio in a case involving a 1996 phone conversation with Representative Newt Gingrich of Georgia, when Mr. Gingrich was speaker of the House.

The court ordered Mr. McDermott to pay Mr. Boehner more than $700,000, which included $60,000 in damages.
What did they leave out?  The Seattle Times has it, in their article.
McDermott leaked a tape of a 1996 cell phone call involving former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to The New York Times and other news organizations.
Shouldn't the New York Times have mentioned their central part in this affair?

(By the way, I read the original article in the New York Times, and can remember how amazed I was that both McDermott and the Times thought that there was was something terrible about what the Republicans leaders said at that meeting.  Gingrich has accepted a reprimand from the House ethics committee, and as part of the agreement he made with the committee, had promised not to organize a campaign against the reprimand.  Gingrich reminded the others of that in the meeting.  Then another of the leaders, Dick Armey, I think, said that the Democrats would attack Gingrich and then the press would ask for replies, and so that would give the Republicans a chance to get their side out.  That was it.

Yet, somehow both McDermott and the Times were sure that this showed that Gingrich had broken his agreement, even though the leader had simply made a prediction about how the press would behave, an accurate prediction.  I suppose that, if, like McDermott (and the New York Times), you know that Gingrich is guilty, then almost anything may appear to be evidence for that fixed idea.)
- 12:55 PM, 29 March 2006   [link]


Primer On Avian Flu:  Yesterday's New York Times science section was devoted entirely to avian flu.  The first page of the section had a pair of articles, one based on an interview with an alarmist, and one based on an interview with a skeptic.

The alarmist, Dr. David Nabarro, is the chief avian flu coordinator for the United Nations.  He describes himself as "quite scared", which is understandable given his dire prediction:
On avian flu, he notes, he predicted 5 million to 150 million deaths — the same range the World Bank was using — but headline writers quoted only the higher figure.

And how many does he now say could die? "I don't know," he said. "Nobody knows."

But he repeatedly said that he is more scared than he was when he took the job in September.  In October, he predicted that the virus would reach Africa, where surveillance is so poor that deaths of chickens or humans could easily go undiagnosed for weeks.  Last month, he was proved right.
The skeptic, Dr. Jeremy Farrar, has been treating people with avian flu for some years.
Having observed A(H5N1) for many years in Asia, he thinks it is unlikely that the virus is poised to jump species, becoming readily transmissible to humans or among them.  Nor does he believe the mantra that a horrific influenza pandemic is inevitable or long overdue.  He points out that the only prior pandemic with a devastating death toll was in 1918, and he says that may have been "a unique biological event."

"For years, they have been telling us it's going to happen — and it hasn't," said Dr. Farrar, director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit at the hospital in Vietnam.  "Billions of chickens in Asia have been infected and millions of people lived with them — we in Asia are intimate with our poultry — and less than 200 people have gotten infected.
And in between these two experts, they have a Q&A.

As far as I can tell, the views of most experts are closer to Dr. Farrar's than to Dr. Nabarro's.   As someone who has no claim to expertise, I have no opinion on which expert is most likely to be right.  But I can add a poltical point to the history that the New York Times provides.  As both experts say, it is the horrific 1918 flu epidemic, which killed more people than World War I, that causes them to worry about extreme danger.  But it is also true that the 1976 swine flu fiasco has made many politicians shy of getting too far out in front of the public on avian flu.

(The Times has more here, here, here, here, here, and here.)
- 9:13 AM, 29 March 2006   [link]


No Jury Duty:  Along with perhaps fifty other people, I waited most of yesterday to be called for a jury, but was not.  (They called some jurors in the morning, but I don't recall any being called after lunch.)  If I understood the announcements correctly, one judge kept us waiting for nearly an hour at the end of the afternoon while he determined whether he needed a few extra jurors.

I can't say that the two days were any great loss for me, though they were for some of the jurors.  Some appeared to be genuine hardship cases, because of family or business responsibilities or, in few cases, because of poverty.

If I had to guess at the reason for the surplus of jurors, I would say that it is because the courthouse is run by the judges, for the judges.  It would be inconvenient for them (and for those they work with) if they did not have enough jurors for a trial, so they summon many more citizens than they are likely to need.

How wasteful is this?  There were, as I said, about fifty extras in my original group.  Since we were there for two days, that's one hundred days wasted.  At a guess, allowing for the commute, the average juror lost eight hours each day.  If jurors value their time at twenty dollars an hour, on the average, then the total waste would be sixteen thousand dollars, not including the compensation and other expenses.
- 7:20 AM, 29 March 2006   [link]


Joy Jones has a great line.
But as a black woman, I have witnessed the outrage of girlfriends when the ex failed to show up for his weekend with the kids, and I've seen the disappointment of children who missed having a dad around.   Having enjoyed a close relationship with my own father, I made a conscious decision that I wanted a husband, not a live-in boyfriend and not a "baby's daddy," when it came my time to mate and marry.

My time never came.

For years, I wondered why not.  And then some 12-year-olds enlightened me.

"Marriage is for white people."
Kay Hymowitz has the numbers
As the massive social upheaval following the 1960s—what Francis Fukuyama has termed "the Great Disruption"—has settled into the new normal, social scientists are finding out that when it comes to the family, America really has become two nations.  The old-fashioned married-couple-with-children model is doing quite well among college-educated women.  It is primarily among lower-income women with only a high school education that it is in poor health.
Or, to put it in the 12-year-olds' terms, marriage is for educated women.  As Hymowitz goes on to argue, this imposes a terrible disadvantage on the children of those less educated women, for many, many reasons.

The two explanations are not entirely incompatible, since black women are less likely to have college degrees than white women.  But they do lead Jones and Hymowitz toward opposite conclusions.   Jones believes that the collapse of the black family must be accepted.  Hymowitz believes that the collapse of the family among the less educated is a disaster that must be reversed — for, of course, the children.

If we think raising children well is more important than providing ideal lives for adults, then we will want to listen to Hymowitz, not Jones.

(And I will add a bit of advice for younger versions of Joy Jones.  A white woman can increase her chances of getting married slightly by accepting black and Asian men as potential suitors.  A black woman can increase her chances of getting married greatly by accepting white and Asian men as potential suitors.)
- 7:20 AM, 28 March 2006
More:  Hymowitz has a another article, in which she addresses Jones' arguments more directly.  She ends with this small positive note:
And finally, in the ghetto itself there is a growing feeling that mother-only families don't work.   That's why people are lining up to see an aging comedian as he voices some not-very-funny opinions about their own parenting.  That's why so many young men are vowing to be the fathers they never had.   That's why there has been an uptick, albeit small, in the number of black children living with their married parents.
(Her brief history of how we got into this terrible mess is worth reading, especially if you are younger than I am and did not see it happen.)
- 8:17 AM, 30 March 2006   [link]


Worth A Look:  "Zombietime" has, among other things, a collection of pictures from the March 18th ANSWER rally in San Francisco.  You need to see these pictures, because, as he says:
But the media, predictably, steered clear of anyone who wasn't camera-friendly for a mainstream audience; this NBC camera crew, for example, purposely plucked out of the crowd a nice young woman with a tight shirt who looked like she might say something to make the event appear palatable.
Which has been exactly my experience with similar events in this area.
- 6:04 AM, 28 March 2006   [link]


King County Is Consistent:  Democratic politicians, especially here in King County, generally resist requiring voters to show photo identification before they vote.  So, when I received my jury summons, I wondered if the same would be true of jury duty.  I studied the summons carefully, but nowhere did it say that I should bring identification to the courthouse.  Even so, I was surprised to see that no one asked to see my identification, or that of any other potential juror.

The summons, if you have not seen one, does not come in a sealed envelope, but in folded mailing, which announces on the outside in large letters that it is a jury summons.  You don't need a criminal mind to guess how someone with a few resources could acquire them, illegally.  And, as far as I can tell, there is no follow up after they send out the summons.  If one is sent to you and stolen, you may never know since, unlike a voter registration card, you have no reason to expect a summons at any given time.

In a county with a small population, Ferry, for example, this would not matter, because people know each other personally.  But I did not know any of the roughly 150 potential jurors in the waiting room yesterday; in fact none of them even looked familiar.  And I doubt whether any of those running the room knew any of them, either.  So I would say that it is not just practical, but easy, for an imposter to get on a jury in King County.  Putting an imposter on a particular jury would be harder, but by no means impossible.  (And, of course, some who do not want to serve might hire a replacement, without much risk to either person.)

In the small cases that make up the bulk of the trials in King County, omitting a check for juror identities may not matter very often.  A petty criminal will generally not have the resources to subvert the jury system.  And in larger criminal cases, the prosecution would have a strong incentive to do at least a little bit of background checking.  Whether they do or not, I have no idea.  I certainly hope they do.

In rejecting the use of photo identification for both voting and jury duty, King County is consistent, consistently wrong.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 5:08 AM, 28 March 2006   [link]


And Now Off To Jury Duty:  For at least two days, according to the notice I received, but possibly many weeks.  I do plan to write about the experience here and at Sound Politics. And I will be posting here in the mornings and evenings, on other subjects.

(Here's my first post, which drew some interesting replies.)
- 6:12 AM, 27 March 2006
Update:  Many are called and many are unchosen.  For each jury, large numbers were called, between 35 and 45.  I was called for a jury on a car prowl case and then, after two rounds of questioning by the prosecutor and defense attorney, dismissed by the defense.  Not sure why, but I will give you my guess after the trial is over.  Tomorrow I report for another round of selections.

I'll have more to say about the procedures for handling the jurors after I am done, but, if I had to sum it up now with a single phrase, I would say "cheerful inefficiency".
- 4:28 PM, 27 March 2006   [link]


Worth Reading:  Sebastian Mallaby's column on American business success.
And yet something is going dramatically right inside American corporations.  Despite all the nostalgia for the era when GM dominated the world's car industry, the heyday of American business may actually be now.

The dawn of this heyday came in 1995.  In the two preceding decades, the productivity of American workers had grown more slowly than that of Japanese and European competitors. But in the decade since 1995, U.S. labor productivity growth has outstripped foreign rivals'.  Meanwhile U.S. firms' return on equity -- that is, the efficiency with which they manage the capital entrusted to them -- has pulled away from that of Japan, France and Germany, according to data provided by Standard & Poor's Compustat.
Mallaby isn't sure why American firms are surging ahead of their foreign rivals, though he offers some possible explanations.

The current administration may deserve a little credit.  Productivity has grown rapidly in the last five years, and I suspect Bush's opposition to business hobbling regulations may have helped.  And it can not have hurt that Bush and Cheney both have managed companies, in Bush's case quite successfully, at least on his third try.  (Cheney may also have been a very successful manager; I just don't know enough about his business career to judge that.)
- 5:32 AM, 27 March 2006   [link]


What Can We Say About The Capitol Hill Killings?  As those who live in the Seattle area know, and as others may know, six young people were murdered yesterday, after an all night party in the Seattle Capitol Hill neighborhood.  As always, there is no shortage of theories about the underlying causes for the murders.  Some automatically blamed the availability of guns, others the "Goth" culture, still others drugs and alcohol, and so one.

In my opinion, it is far too soon for us to say any more about this tragedy than these two things:  We are terribly sorry about this tragedy, and we extend our sympathy to the families.  And this shows, once again that it is now harder to raise children, in many ways, than it once was.  (One of those at the party was just fifteen years old.)  Other conclusions will have to wait until we know more.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 9:45 AM, 26 March 2006
Correction:  Six were murdered; one killed himself after murdering the others.  Originally, I had said seven were murdered.
- 12:11 PM, 26 March 2006   [link]


2.3 Trillion In Aid, Much Of It Wasted, Or Worse:  There are, William Easterly argues, two tragedies of the world's poor.
There are two tragedies of the world's poor.  The first is the one we hear about: that so many people suffer so much for lack of inexpensive remedies.

The second, he says, "is the tragedy in which the West spent $2.3 trillion on foreign aid over the last five decades and still had not managed to get 12-cent medicines to children to prevent half of all malaria deaths.  The West spent $2.3 trillion and still had not managed to get $4 bed nets to poor families.  The West spent $2.3 trillion and still had not managed to get $3 to each new mother to prevent five million child deaths."  The West is not stingy.  It is ineffective.
And our aid may worse than ineffective, in many countries.  It may support self-defeating policies that prevent development, but keep elites well fed.  Like welfare payments, the largest problem with much foreign aid is what it does to the recipients.

This is not a new argument; the late Peter Bauer was making much the same argument decades ago.  This is a hard argument to make because aid proponents can charge you with indifference to suffering.  But if we genuinely want to help people, rather than just flatter ourselves, we must look at results, not just intentions.

(Here are Amazon links to this book, an earlier book by Easterly that the reviewer, Virginia Postrel, likes even more, and a book celebrating Peter Bauer.)
- 12:53 PM, 25 March 2006   [link]


"If You Believe Everything You Read In Maureen Dowd, you better get a life."  So says Donald Rumsfeld, as he puts down a reporter behaving badly.  Good advice from our Secretary of Defense, I would say.  With a few exceptions, Dowd's columns have a loose connections to mere facts.

The Gateway Pundit has more here on the long running feud between Rumsfeld and the press
- 8:47 AM, 25 March 2006   [link]