Archive:

November 2003, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Saudis Plotting Against Jewish Girls School?  That's certainly what this story suggests.  It is hard to think of another reason for the surveillance of the Baltimore area school.
- 8:39 AM, 8 November 2003   [link]


Job Killing State And Local Governments:  Most discussions of job gains and losses present the issue entirely in national terms, but state and local governments can cause jobs to be lost and gained.  If a state is large enough, the policies will even have significant impact on the national totals.   Policies in New York and California did not damage just the economies of those states but made things noticeably worse for the nation as a whole.  These small examples from New York illustrates the process.  Zoning policies in New York city are driving out Everlast, and state environmental policies are destroying manufacturing jobs without corresponding improvements in the environment.
- 8:24 AM, 8 November 2003   [link]


One Week From Today, Bobby Jindal  may be elected governor of Louisiana.  The polls are showing a close race, with a slight lead for Jindal, as this summary from Real Clear Politics shows.  (I wouldn't wager any large amount on the outcome, since polls in Louisiana have been wildly wrong in the past, and I don't know enough about these polls to know which use good methods and have good track records.)  If Jindal does win, it will be good for the Republican party, for Louisiana, and for the United States.  It will be especially good, obviously, for American immigrants from India and their children.  It will be especially good, less obviously, for blacks.

Jindal's record in both health care and education has been outstanding.  He may be able to bring the reforms in those areas that Louisiana, and the United States, needs.  In both areas, detailed knowledge is essential to bringing reform, and Jindal appears to have that knowledge.

A Jindal win would be good for blacks because he does not fit into either of the traditional Southern racial categories.  He is "colored", as you can see from his picture, but he is also "Caucasian", according to traditional racial classifications.   Being in both camps, he makes it easier for people, especially African-Americans, to vote on the "content of his character", rather than either his skin color, or his race.  And some are doing so; though he is a conservative Republican, he has drawn support from the black mayor of New Orleans and from black activists throughout the state.  (That the author of the second article is confused about Jindal's race is a plus, as far as I am concerned, though I should add that most racial classifications do consider Indians like Jindal, Caucasians.)

Voting by race is bad for both whites and blacks, but is now more of a problem for blacks than for whites, in most of the country.  Race baiting in Philadelphia helped re-elect Mayor Street, in spite of his failures and the corruption of his administration.  It has helped save many other scoundrels through the years.  The election of Jindal, by helping to break down the old categories, would make this tactic less common.
- 8:01 AM, 8 November 2003   [link]


Bill Clinton And Vote Fraud:  Writing about the problems of vote fraud reminded me of some interesting bits of Clinton history.  From them, I think it fair to conclude that he was not, to put it mildly, a vigorous foe of vote fraud.  (The bits are taken from the David Maraniss biography of Clinton, First in His Class.  Both reviewers and ordinary readers seem to think the biography fair, if anything a little too favorable to Clinton)

To begin with, despite the 1992 campaign film, Clinton was more from Hot Springs than Hope.  And Hot Springs, a city with a history of corruption and organized crime influence is a far different place than Hope.  Hot Springs may have been the most corrupt city in Arkansas while Clinton was growing up, but it was not alone in that quality.  Like much of the South, minor electoral fraud was common in many parts of Arkansas, and Clinton would have been familiar with all the practices.  By the time he was 21, Maraniss tells us, Clinton had a remarkable knowledge of Arkansas politics—which must have included, though Maraniss does not mention it, knowledge of the fraud common in some localities.

What kind of fraud?  Many kinds.  For example, voting the elderly in nursing homes.  When Bill Clinton returned to Arkansas from Yale, one of the first things he did was help defend a friend named Steve Smith in a court case.  Smith, Republicans charged, had interfered in the 1972 election by "helping" residents of a nursing home fill out their ballots.  The court agreed and disallowed 25 votes from the home.  For example, "walking around money", the term used for money given precinct workers, supposedly for expenses but actually as a bribe to the worker and his friends.  Walking around money was common in black precincts in Arkansas while Clinton was there, and he did very well among black voters.  For example, actual ballot stuffing in some areas.  Maraniss does not mention any effort by Clinton to cut down on the fraud, and I have never seen a report of one anywhere else.  Clinton began his career in a state where vote fraud was common, and he left the state in the same condition.

This is not to say that Clinton himself, or even people working directly for him, engaged in vote fraud.  He knew about it, and he tolerated is as attorney general and as governor, but, as far as I know, did no more.

There is a story in the Maraniss book from Clinton's first race for public office that illustrates both the knowledge and the toleration.  In 1974, Clinton was running for Congress against a Republican incumbent named Hammerschmidt.  Although Hammerschmidt was strong in the district, 1974 was the year of Watergate and Clinton had a chance against him.  One of Clinton's aides in the campaign was Paul Fray, whom Maraniss delicately calls "rough around the edges", by which he means that Fray was willing to do anything to win, including taking bribes from special interests.  At one late night meeting, Fray proposed buying votes in Fort Smith, the biggest city in the district, using some of the bribe money.  Here's what Maraniss says happened:
At a late night meeting at headquarters, Fray discussed the deal with Clinton and Rodham.   Clinton did not have much to say.  Rodham flatly rejected the proposal.  "She nixed it," according to Fray.  She got adamant.  She said to Bill, 'No!  You don't want to be a party to this.'  I said, , 'Look, you want to win, or you want to lose?'   She said, 'Well, I don't want to win this way.  If we can't earn it, we can't go [to Washington].'" (p. 336)
(I have seen a similar story, though I can't recall where at the moment.  In that version, Clinton was in favor of buying the votes, but was blocked by Hillary and another woman at the meeting.  Note that the Maraniss phrase, "did not have much to say", does not exclude the possibility that Clinton agreed to Fray's idea.)  Whatever happened, we can be sure of two things.  Clinton was aware of the vote fraud in Arkansas, and, at the very least, tolerated it.  Even by Maraniss's account, Clinton did not immediately veto the idea and dismiss Fray from the campaign, as he should have.

This history explains why Clinton had no problem signing the "Motor Voter" Act in 1993.   Vote fraud was something that he accepted all through his political career.  That the Act would increase vote fraud did not bother him, since the Democrats would benefit from the fraud, in most cases.  I don't think Clinton is the only Democratic politician with this attitude, but I don't expect we'll see many investigations of the subject until there is a massive scandal—which I expect within the next 10 years.
- 5:11 PM, 7 November 2003   [link]


The Ignorance Of Media Figures  continues to amaze me.   This morning I was listening to a local talk show and heard the host, Dave Ross, come up with an astonishing series of statements.  At some point during the first hour of his show, he claimed that he wanted to listen to both sides on issues.  One would have difficulty proving that by the content of the hour.  Ross had plugged a Krugman column in defense of Howard Dean, quoted a Democratic candidate for governor, and mentioned his second hour guest, David Corn, the editor of the far left Nation magazine and author of one of the "Bush lied" books.  Ross also explained to his listeners that the principal function of government was to redistribute income, a view which would astonish any honest historian.  I looked at the Preamble to the United States Constitution and did not find redistribution, though I did find "provide for the common defense", which is fundamental in a way that redistribution is not.

But the best of all was this.  Ross, in arguing that Bush has followed a divisive course, brought up the issue of partial-birth abortion.  That, Ross believes, or at least says, shows that Bush does not want to represent more than a very narrow majority of the nation, that he wants to divide us.  As it happens, Gallup just did this poll on the subject, which has findings that will be familiar to anyone who has looked at public opinion on the subject.
Gallup polling on the subject since 1995 has consistently shown that a majority of Americans support such a ban.  Most recently, in a late-October CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 68% of the public said the procedure should be illegal; only 25% said it should be legal.
So, if you are Dave Ross, siding with the 68 percent is "divisive", but siding with the 25 percent, as all the Democratic candidates are doing, is not.  Really.

The results on partial-birth abortion are consistent, as Gallup explains, with the public views on abortion, generally.  Majorities want some restrictions on abortion, and very large majorities want some restrictions in the third trimester.  If the public had its way on abortion, the United States would be like Europe; abortion would be permitted in every state, or nearly every state, but would be restricted in various ways.  Finally, there has been a noticeable gain in the numbers supporting pro-life views in the last decade; the percentage accepting that label for themselves has risen from 33 percent in 1995 to 45 percent currently.

Is Ross completely unaware of these facts about the public opinion on abortion?  I suspect so.  The country has many pro-life people, and many more in the middle, but you won't find many of either group working in a radio station or at a newspaper.

- 7:42 AM, 7 November 2003
Update:  In an email reply, Ross claimed that the public had been fooled by the name that conservatives gave the procedure, "partial-birth abortion".   Sometimes this is true, on both the left and right.  I would agree, for example, with a claim he made in his email, that those who opposed the estate tax won when they were able to rename it the "death tax".  And one can find similar examples on the left.  But is this true for "partial-birth abortion"?  I don't think so, since the public's desire for restrictions on abortions in the second and third trimesters is even stronger than their desire for restrictions on partial-birth abortions.  Surely "second trimester" and "third trimester", which come from the original Roe decision are neutral phrases.  As Gallup puts it:
American's opposition to partial-birth abortion is consistent with their more general reluctance to endorse abortions conducted after the first trimester.
Perhaps the Gallup experts are wrong about public opinion on this issue, and Ross (who sings Gilbert and Sullivan songs well) is right, but that is not the way I would bet.  And here's a suggestion for him:  Why not question someone from Gallup on his program, since he thinks they have gotten it wrong.  Either he (almost certainly), or they (incredible as that appears) might learn something.

Finally, Ross did not answer my question about his knowledge of these poll results, so I am inclined to think that he was, in fact, unaware of them.  
- 8:57 AM, 14 November 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  This opinion column by former Democratic senator Bob Kerrey on a leaked memo.
The production of a memo by an employee of a Democratic member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is an example of the destructive side of partisan politics.  That it probably emerged as a consequence of an increasingly partisan environment in Washington and may have been provoked by equally destructive Republican acts is neither a comfort nor a defensible rationalization.
And, I think his conclusion is just right.
For the sake of peace and security, Americans should hope and insist that this cynical memorandum be used as a wake-up call to push the partisan politics out of the work of these committees.
So far there is no sign Senator Rockefeller, the senior Democrat on the committee, is going to help "push the partisan politics out".
- 9:22 AM, 7 November 2003
More:  The senate leader, Bill Frist, has now cancelled all committee business.   It's hard to see what else Frist and the committee chairman, Pat Roberts, can do until Senator Rockefeller makes some effort to return to the bipartisan practices intended for this committee.
- 8:51 AM, 8 November 2003   [link]


By Way Of "Lynxx Pherrett", I found this remarkable CBS news screen shot.  As "Lynxx" asks, "What liberal bias?"
- 8:58 AM, 7 November 2003   [link]


A Shortage Of Sand:  That used to be the answer to the question: What would Communist rule in the Sahara produce?  (The answer dates, I suspect, to 1917 or even earlier.)  Now, the Saudis have a shortage of sand, which shows that incompetent and corrupt governments of all kinds can produce shortages.   Though I still think the Communists are the champions at creating shortages, especially of food.
- 8:47 AM, 7 November 2003   [link]


Howard Dean And Those Pickups With Confederate Flags:  Apparently, Howard Dean has using the line about wanting the votes of guys who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flags at least since last February.  It became an issue finally in the usual way; his opponents saw a weakness and attacked him.  The controversy shows several things about Howard Dean and the Democratic party.

First, and most obvious, it shows Dean's tendency to overreach in his rhetoric, again.   Dean could have easily made the same point with a slightly different phrase; for example, either "pickup trucks with gun racks" or "pickup trucks with flag decals" would have made the point he wanted to make, especially if included in a long list of similar working class people.  (The gun racks would work especially well, since Dean has been against further regulation of guns, and drew the support of the NRA while he was governor.)  That he didn't make this obvious change suggests to me that he has no one in his campaign that could see the political dangers in the phrase—or, more likely, that Dean does not listen well, a disturbing trait in an executive.  Although we judge our politicians more on their speaking ability, I think their listening ability is more important, especially in executive positions.

Second, it shows the condescension that Dean, and some other Democratic leaders, feel toward the South and toward working class Americans.  If the guys in pickup trucks were voting for Republicans, it was because they had been fooled, Dean explained during the controversy.   John Edwards, who has some reason to think he was one of those being condescended to, reacted effectively, as Charles Krauthammer notes in this entertaining column.   Very few voters, it is safe to say, will be won over by condescension.

Third, it shows the trap that the Democratic party is caught in.  If I were a cartoonist, I would draw a picture of the Democratic donkey with one leg in trap labeled Sharpton.   The leaders of the party worry, rightly, that if they do not pander to this disgraceful race baiter, they will lose some of the black vote in 2004.  But when they do pander and make Sharpton a moral arbiter, they become absurd.  Even more absurd, given Sharpton's history, than the Republicans making David Duke their moral arbiter.  Try to imagine, if you can, a group of Republican presidential candidates listening respectfully to David Duke tell them about race relations.  Absurd?  Of course, but Sharpton is far worse than Duke.  (For some of the highlights, or, I should say, lowlights of Sharpton's career, see this post, which is not, I should add, a comprehensive list of his misdeeds.)  To let a man, who has some complicity in a race riot which killed eight people and an anti-Semitic riot which killed another, be your moral arbiter, is crazy.

There is no simple way for the Democrats to escape this trap.  In the long run, they will need the assistance of liberal journalists, and even bloggers, to make it clear to the public that Sharpton is unacceptable for moral reasons.  I see no sign that will happen soon.

There is much that is hilarious about this trap, but I can not take much pleasure in it, even as a Republican.  Some time the Democrats will return to power.  It will be far better for us all if they are not compromised by their catering to men like Sharpton.   (On the other hand, Dean's claim a week ago to be a metrosexual is purely hilarious.)
- 7:38 AM, 7 November 2003
More:  David Broder says, in this column, that Dean did originally use the "gun rack" line, but changed because that annoyed the people in the Democratic party who hate the NRA.
- 7:00 AM, 9 November 2003   [link]


One Last Comment On Zell Miller's Endorsement Of Bush:  As I first mentioned in this post, some major newspapers have not carried a single story on Democratic Senator Zell Miller's endorsement of President Bush last week.  As I mentioned then, cross-party endorsements by sitting senators are highly unusual; I can't remember another in at least 20 years.  To date, if their internal search functions work correctly, the following newspapers have yet to even mention the endorsement: the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Seattle PI, and the Seattle Times.

The Washington Post has mentioned it three times, first burying it at the end of a Howard Kurtz column, and then putting it in the middle of a column of political tidbits, and then burying it in an article on Howard Dean.   When I sent a note about this to the ombudsman at the Post, I received this reply:
here is the response i got from national:

it was prominent in the sunday politics column. which is where it belonged. the guy has been supproting bush all year
Well, at least they didn't claim that cross-party endorsements by sitting senators happen in every election.  The Post may be embarrassed because they were scooped by the Washington Times.  They should be, and for not picking up on the story after it came out.

And there's a telling detail about Zell Miller's shift that those brief mentions in the Post didn't include.  Zell Miller, I learned from an interview on a conservative talk show, was a supporter of Washington senator Henry Jackson.  Jackson, who is almost forgotten now, was a tough-minded idealist on foreign policy, a friend of Israel and a foe of every kind of tyranny.  He was moderate on domestic policy and traditional in his personal views.  Jackson lost the 1972 nomination to George McGovern and the 1976 nomination to Jimmy Carter.  Ever since, his supporters have been moving to the Republican party, some even serving in Republican administrations.  If the Post, or the other newspapers, would take the time to investigate these shifts of Jackson supporters, they would have a better understanding of the Republican gains over the last two decades.
- 11:45 AM, 6 November 2003   [link]


Seattle Voters Had Every Reason To Be Angry  and they showed it in the election on Tuesday.  The Seattle city council had become a national joke, spending time on resolutions about circus animals rather than Seattle's real problems.  They were so intent on adopting the politically correct posture that they were unable to pass a routine resolution supporting the troops in Iraq until after the major fighting had ended.  The Seattle school board had missed significant financial shortfalls for several years, shortfalls that have forced them to cut back in the past few years.  When they tried to find a new superintendent for the system, they interviewed a number of candidates, nearly all unqualified, and then gave the job to the man who had been holding it temporarily.  So, the voters rose up in anger and threw the incumbents out.  Three members of the city council appear to have lost their jobs, as did three members of the school board.   All in all, it would seem that Seattle citizens finally became aroused and took action.

Or did they?  It is true that incumbents were defeated, and that a majority of those who voted were dissatisfied.  But the turnout, in spite of the obvious failures at the city council and the school board, was terrible.  It was terrible even though Seattle voters also had an opportunity to change the city government by moving from at-large to district elections for city council.  How terrible?  As of yesterday, the number of votes counted was less than one quarter of the registered voters in Seattle.  This number will rise, as they finish counting the absentee ballots, but not by much if the estimate in this table is correct.  (Seattle is in King county, and the turnout rates in other parts of King county were about the same as those in Seattle.)  It looks like the final turnout rate for Seattle, in this very important election, will be less than 30 percent.  The typical Seattle response to their failed city council and school board was not "Throw the bums out!", but "Who cares?".

I don't know why a city with such a strong tradition of political activism didn't bother to go to the polls on Tuesday, or fill out an absentee ballot in the weeks before the election.   Perhaps, and I am just guessing, many Seattle citizens use demonstrations as a substitute for more effective kinds of political action, like voting.
- 8:50 AM, 6 November 2003
Correction:  The estimate of uncounted votes in King county was much too low.  As you can see by clicking on the link, participation in Seattle is now at 35 percent.  That's still terrible, and a bit below the state average, even though most of the state had far less to vote on than Seattle did.  (I have no idea why King county's estimates were so poor.)
-7:07 AM, 8 November 2003   [link]


Here's A Small, but typical example of vote fraud from New Jersey.
Election officials are investigating a case of possible voter fraud in Passaic County.   Authorities say a large number of Hispanic residents went to the polls on Tuesday, even though voter rolls indicated that they filled out absentee ballot requests.
. . .
For several years, there were allegations of corruption, irregularities and intimidation of Hispanic voters in Passaic County.  This year, some residents said people knocked on their doors in the days leading up to the election asking them to sign documents, verifying that they were going to vote.
As I said yesterday, absentee ballots make vote fraud and intimidation easy.  The story does not mention any involvement of candidates, which is fine from their standpoint.   Although the article does not say so, we can safely infer that these were Democratic workers who were committing the fraud.  (Wonder why the newspaper didn't mention that detail?)   And we can be almost certain that some of the Hispanic voters were not citizens.  Finally, if the article is correct, it seems likely that the fraud was detected only because the people committing it were incredibly clumsy.  Most of those who commit fraud will not be this stupid.
- 7:06 AM, 6 November 2003   [link]


Why Is Dennis Kucinich Running For President?  In part, to find a wife, or at least a girlfriend.
Wanted: A single, funny and dynamic woman who likes underdogs, politicians, peace in the world and universal single-payer health care.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich is looking for you.

"If you're out there call me!" the Democratic presidential candidate said at a campaign forum Wednesday night after outlining the traits he's looking for in the nation's next first lady.   Kucinich is a bachelor.
- 6:44 AM, 6 November 2003   [link]


There Are So Many  interesting things to read, besides election stories, that I will just have to give you a list, rather than write individual posts for each.
  • David Kay, uh, differs with the Washington Post on a story about the search for Saddam's weapons.  Kenneth Timmerman summarizes the argument, and gives you links so that you can check for yourself.

  • John Podhoretz spots the New York Times and the Washington Post's fixation on politics.   They framed (a word I hate in this context, but no other seems to do) the shooting down of the US helicopter in Iraq in terms of its effect on Bush's political fortunes.

  • Israel is presenting a resolution to the UN.   The Israelis are asking the UN, which has passed so many resolutions attacking Israel, to pass one advocating "the protection of Israeli children victimized by Palestinian terrorism".   The resolution uses similar language to an Egyptian resolution on Palestinian children proposed earlier.

  • Norwegian cabinet minister Erna Solberg is telling Muslims in Norway that on our playground, you'll have to play by our rules—although she didn't put it that plainly, naturally.  She has been criticized harshly, which is no suprise.  She has also received death threats, which is a mild surprise.

  • Peter Cannellos at the Boston Globe whines about the Republican's secret weapon, Barbara Bush.   He's right about her effectiveness, and the examples he gives are amusing.

  • Byron York makes his nomination for America's most important Democrat, billionaire George Soros.  Soros, who has never been elected to anything, can have such influence largely because of the side effects of campaign finance "reform".

  • Walter Slocombe, who knows something about the subject, explains why we can not just reconstitute the old Iraqi army.  

  • Stuart Taylor tells us some politically incorrect things about educating black kids.   Part of the problem is cultural.  Values will have to change before there can be substantial progress.

  • And, just for fun, read the Sun's explanation for some mysterious signals at a British spy base. 
- 2:06 PM, 5 November 2003   [link]


Vote Fraud Is Growing In The United States , in my opinion.   Although Philadelphia has far worse problems than most of the United States, it is not unique, and the problem is increasing almost everywhere.  Vote fraud has become easy, with the widespread use of mail ballots and the repeal of many traditional safeguards.

This example, though from Canada, shows how easily intimidation and fraud can affect mail ballots.  Here's the story from 80 year old Barbara Noseworthy:
Noseworthy says when a campaign worker knocked on her door, she asked whether there was a way she could vote from home.  Several days later, an unidentified man arrived at her home.

"A very rude man came to my door, and I asked my home care worker not to let him in, but he pushed his way in, came into the kitchen, put a special ballot in front of me, and told me to mark my X for Joan Marie Aylward [the Liberal party candidate]." Noseworthy says she was too upset by the incident to cast her vote, so the man left with the uncompleted ballot.
Which apparently was cast by the "very rude man".  Damian Penny, where I found this story, tells the rest:
The Tories won the election in a landslide, but during the first 15 minutes or so after the polls closed, the very early results put the Liberals ahead 10 seats to one.  The CBC announcers indicated that these results were based largely on the special ballots.
Ballots gained, we have every reason to suspect, by fraud and intimidation.

The problems of fraud and intimidation may be quite widespread.  In New Jersey, in the 2000 election, Democratic operatives were able to obtain dubious votes from nursing homes and an insane asylum.  A survey done in Oregon after the 2000 election found that a significant percentage of voters admitted that intimidation had played a part in their vote choices.  (Somewhere between 5 and 10 percent, as I recall.)  And that is just those who were willing to admit to a stranger they had been intimidated.

At the same time that we have made it easier to steal elections with mail ballots, we have dropped traditional safeguards at registration and at the polls.  The 1993 passage of the "Motor Voter" Act (better called the "Motor Cheater" Act) made it easy for non-citizens to register when they obtained drivers licenses.  The act actually prohibited any check for citizenship.  No one has a good estimate of just how many non-citizens vote in our elections; you can see my guesstimates for the 2000 election here.   And some states actually prohibit asking voters for identification at the polls.   Cashing a check for a few dollars requires identification everywhere, but choosing our leaders does not, in some jurisdictions.  I can't recall being asked for identification when voting for years; I would be far more comfortable if I were.

Why is vote fraud spreading in the United States?  Because, in most cases, it helps the Democratic party, and the parties are so closely matched that the Democrats need the votes.  The Motor Voter Act was passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by Bill Clinton.  I believe that most of those who voted for it knew that it would increase vote fraud, including Maria Cantwell, now a Washington senator.  (In this piece, I give my reasons for thinking that illegal votes may—I repeat, may—have provided her winning margin in 2000.  It is not hard to find other elected Democrats who may owe their victories to fraudulent votes.)  And that it would be the very best kind of vote fraud, committed by individuals with no connection to their campaigns.

Why have Republicans not been able to make more of an issue of vote fraud?  Because the Democrats counter by playing the race card.  If the Republicans call for requirements that insure that only citizens vote, the Democrats say they are hostile to Hispanics.  If the Republicans send poll watchers to inner city neighborhoods with histories of vote fraud, the Democrats say that they are trying to intimidate blacks.  (Which party is actually trying to intimidate the other party can be seen in the accounts of the Philadelphia election.  Getting whacked by a two by four when you are putting up a campaign poster would intimidate many of us, I think.)  Playing the race card prevents news organizations, which are incredibly sensitive to these charges, from pointing our the obvious, that the Democrats are committing fraud.

For an example of a news organization ignoring and excusing fraud and intimidation, see this New York Times account of the Philadelphia election, which minimizes the violence by Democrats and doesn't even mention the possible vote fraud.  And don't miss the adverb they use to describe the Democrats' blatant demagoguery on the FBI bug.
The mayor and his allies deftly turned the incident to their advantage by suggesting that the investigation was engineered by the Republican Party in an effort to discredit a black Democrat.
"Deftly", even though, as the reporter admits, this "fueled widespread racial and partisan rancor".  As long as they do it "deftly", it's all right, I guess.  Will the New York Times condemn the intimidation, violence, and racial demagoguery in the Philadelphia election?  I wouldn't bet on it.  And don't expect to see these scandals on any of the major network news programs, either.
- 8:44 AM, 5 November 2003   [link]


The Philadelphia Story:  Scandal helped the Democrat lose in Kentucky; scandal helped the Democrat win in Philadelphia.  The race between Republican Sam Katz and Democrat John Street was a rematch of their very close race four years ago.   Polls showed this one close, too, until an FBI bug was discovered in Street's office early in October.  (The bug was placed legally, with the permission of a judge.  Although the FBI would not say why it was placed, it was most likely part of an investigation into corruption.)  After the finding of the bug, Street gained sharply in the polls, as two groups moved toward him.  African-American voters rallied to him, as one would expect in a contest already partly defined by race, but so did white liberals, who thought the corruption investigation was a Bush administration plot.

There is a technical term political advisors sometimes use for such voters—suckers.   Confronted with more evidence of corruption in the Philadelphia government, evidence strong enough to convince a judge and civil service FBI employees, these voters allowed their dislike of the current national administration to make this all into a plot, helped along by demagogic charges from Democratic campaigners.  Democratic governor Rendell, Street's predecessor as Philadelphia mayor, now admits that those charges are, almost certainly, baseless.
"I think that the bug and the unfortunate leaking created the impression - whether it was right or wrong - that there was a political intent to smear Mayor Street," Gov. Rendell said Monday.   "I don't think that the bug was deliberately political - but then after the bug was uncovered, the five straight days of leaking when the TV cameras were there, when the FBI actually served the subpoenas, that type of stuff made people thing it was political."
I don't know whether he was saying that before the election; if so, he was one of the few Democratic leaders who did not try to exploit the issue.

The election was marred—and this too is typical of Philadelphia—by threats of violence, violence, and illegal electioneering.  Republicans made many serious complaints during the election.
From the cutting slap a Democratic ward leader dealt to the face of a Penn doctor, to the brawl inside a South Philadelphia polling place, yesterday's mayoral election was one of the most violent and chaotic in recent Philadelphia history.

At the end of an edgy and tense campaign, forces for Mayor Street and Sam Katz faced off through the day in bitter and at times painful confrontations. Though more incidents were reported at the polls than during the contest between the two four years ago, the result was the same: a Street victory.

Allies of Republican Katz alleged that supporters of Street, a Democrat, beat up, shoved or otherwise confronted voters or Katz campaign workers perhaps a half-dozen times during the day.   The Katz campaign also complained that the Street workers had tampered with voting machines.
Democrats had their own complaints; Republicans had been asking voters for identification.   (I'm not sure whether that is illegal in Philadelphia, though it is, amazingly, in a few states.)

Read the whole article and, if you are used to tamer elections, you will be shocked.   Since I know something of Philadelphia's history, I am not shocked, but I am disgusted by the Democratic leaders who are so willing to use demagoguery, violence, and, perhaps, vote fraud, to win this election.
- 7:16 AM, 5 November 2003   [link]


Congratulations  to Real Clear Politics for their successful election predictions.   They correctly predicted the three biggest races, and were close on the margins in all three.  Republican Ernie Fletcher will be the new Republican governor of Kentucky, the first in 32 years.  Republican Haley Barbour defeated incumbent Democratic governor Ronnie Musgrove in Mississippi.  And, Democrat John Street was easily re-elected mayor of Philadelphia, after a scandal-plagued campaign.  (I'll have more to say about that election in a separate post.)

It would be a mistake to read too much of national significance into these results.  Take a look at this map of governors by party and you'll see that each party has won governorships in states that will almost certainly go for the other party next year.  President Bush is unlikely to lose in Wyoming or Kansas, even though both have Democratic governors, and he is unlikely to win in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, even though both have Republican governors.  I do think that the results provide some evidence for growing Republican strength in the South and border states, and perhaps growing Democratic strength in New Jersey, where they took complete control of the legislature.

Republican senator Mitch McConnell had some insightful comments on how the Republicans have been making those gains in Kentucky:
McConnell said the election completed a GOP wave that "began 10 years ago with the election of Ron Lewis," a little-known Republican, in a special election for Congress in the 2nd District.

The GOP captured the 1st District that fall, the 3rd District in 1996, the other Senate seat in 1998 and the state Senate, first from party switches in 1999 and keeping it in elections in 2000 and 2002. (Fletcher's 6th District seat will be filled in a special election.)

The state House remains Democratic, but McConnell said, "Almost everybody in Kentucky now is represented by a Republican that they like.  They're becoming increasingly comfortable with voting for Republicans," and that is leading them to think of themselves as Republicans and even register that way.
Issues lead voters to vote against their parties, and after they have done so several times, they will often begin to identify with the other party.  As McConnell says, it is usually a gradual process.
- 5:21 AM, 5 November 2003   [link]


Happy Second Blogiversary to Natalie Solent, two days late.

To show my respect, I'll answer a question she posed months and months ago.  She had wondered about the contents of King Acqua's letter to Queen Victoria.  Acqua, along with other rulers of what is now the Cameroon, had written to the British queen about 1880, asking to be included in the British empire.

Here's the letter from Thomas Pakenham's The Scramble for Africa:
Dearest Madam,
We your servants have join together and thoughts its better to write you a nice loving letter which will tell you all about our wishes.  We wish to have your laws in our towns.  We want to have every fashion altered, also we will do according to your Consul's word.  Plenty wars here in our country.   Plenty murder and plenty idol worshipers.  Perhaps these lines of our writing will look to you as an idle tale.

We have spoken to the English consul plenty times about having an English government here.  We never have answer from you, so we wish to write you ourselves.

When we heard about the Calabar River, how they have all English laws in their towns and how they have put away all their superstitions; oh, we shall be very glad to be like Calabar now.

We are, etc.
King Acqua
Prince Dido Acqua
Prince Black
Prince Jo Garner
etc.  (pp. 182-183.)
King Acqua does not mention one of his motives, to avoid being included in the German empire, which was reaching out to control the Cameroon.  He was right to be concerned; later in the book Pakenham describes the cruelty of the German rule under governor Jesco von Puttkamer:
There were three well documented charges against Puttkamer: atrocities against the natives, financial corruption and moral laxity.  Excessive flogging, even flogging men to death was quite commonplace.  So was the crudest abuse of power by German officials.   For example, the leaders of the judiciary —Councillor von Brauschisch and Supreme Judge Dr. Meyer—forcibly bought two young native girls to use as concubines, although the girls were already betrothed.

Other German officials did not shrink from mutilation and murder.  For example, the station officer at Jaune, Lieutenant Schenneman, who had taken a black mistress, heard rumours of her affairs with three Africans.  He told his black servant to castrate the three men.  The servant mistook his instructions, marched off with a party of soldiers and castrated the first three men he met in a nearby village.  On another occasion, a Lieutenant Dominik was sent on an expedition to negotiate a treaty with the Bahoro.   Instead, he shot down all the men and women in the village, and the fifty-four children that survived were put in baskets and drowned like kittens.  (p. 623)
King Acqua went with other chiefs to Germany to protest Puttkamer's rule.  They were told in Germany that they would get redress, but were thrown into jail when they returned to Cameroon.

Puttkamer did get recalled finally, partly for corruption and partly because he had insulted the Imperial German navy by inviting a captain to a dinner with himself and the German prostitute he had installed in his official residence.  He was recalled, tried, and fined for giving his mistress a false passport but never punished for his treatment of the people of the Cameroon.

And what happened to Acqua's letter to the queen?  It seems to have been lost for years by the British bureaucracy.
- 2:45 PM, 4 November 2003   [link]


Postponement:  As you can see to the right, I have put off two posts for a week.  I had forgotten that this is election day, and I want to spend some time covering them.  And, though I won't make any promises, I hope to be caught up on my email by tomorrow.
- 1:14 PM, 4 November 2003   [link]


Election Day:  There were no state or national contests here, but I did get to vote on a state initiative to repeal ergonomic rules, a technical amendment to the state's constitution, the King county assessor, an amendment to the King county charter, two commissioners for the Port of Seattle, a judge, three Kirkland city council positions, and two seats on the local school board.  I voted at about 10 this morning and was the 33rd voter in the 6 precincts.  More than half of Washington state voters now vote by mail.

As usual, I enjoyed voting; also as usual, I thought that King county could do better in designing the ballots and providing places to vote.  Although there were not many contests, the ballot put some of them on the back.  I'll have to look at the results, but I wouldn't be surprised if there is a drop off between the contests on the front and those on the back.  The voting stands are flimsy and provide no privacy.  The election judge did not stand back as I placed my optical ballot in the counting machine, so he could easily have looked at some of my votes.
- 1:03 PM, 4 November 2003   [link]


In September, I expressed my skepticism that "Foolproof Performing Arts" was the best name for an organization sponsoring speeches by Bill Clinton, Al Franken, Molly Ivins, and Michael Moore.  As this article shows, I was right to be skeptical; Clinton's visit lost money.  Even in Seattle, Foolproof was unable to sell all the tickets to the Clinton speech.  Sadly, the event sponsors included the Seattle Hebrew Academy, which is trying to raise money to repair earthquake damage to their building.

(This result is not, I might add, unusual for supporters of Bill Clinton.  Over the years, most of them have lost by supporting him.  The damage he did to the Democratic party, for example, may take a generation to repair.)
- 8:29 AM, 4 November 2003   [link]


Arab Double Standards:  I don't usually criticize articles in the Arab News, for many reasons, among them the fact that it is often just too easy.   However dangerous Arab terrorists may be, the thinking of their elites is often so primitive that criticizing them feels like bullying small children.  But in this article, the author goes too far (just as children sometimes can), and so I have to make the obvious point.   It is absurd for Arabs, especially Saudis, to criticize anyone else for restrictions on religion.  Saudi Arabia makes it a capital offense to convert anyone from Islam, and continually persecutes, in the most cruel way, Christian foreigners who try to practice their faith while in the kingdom.  They broadcast and publish religious bigotry continually, and try to spread their own intolerant views and practices to other nations.  They even worry—I am not making this up—about contamination from the letter X, which looks too much like a cross for some officials.

Given all this, it is just a little much to hear this kind of lecture from a Saudi:
In the state of Oklahoma, a Muslim student was forbidden to attend the Franklin Science Academy because of her insistence on wearing the hijab.  The same thing happened at a school in France.  These two incidents are a blatant violation of personal freedoms.

Consequently the question is: Is an individual's apparel a personal matter related to his personal freedom?  Or is the Muslim dress the only one considered criminal in Western society?
Of course, as anyone familiar with schools in the United States and other Western nations knows, schools routinely regulate the dress of the students.  Some even use uniforms to reduce the problems that dress can cause.

How can one have an honest discussion with men who make arguments like these?  Or who, writing in a Saudi publication, tell us that "Muslims are tolerant" and "respect Christianity"?  Beheadings, torture, and jail sentences are a strange way to exercise tolerance and show respect.
- 7:48 AM, 4 November 2003   [link]


On A Day Of Bad News, here's some good.  Afghanistan now has three women's radio stations.   When you read about the problems they face, you can only admire their bravery.  When you read about how they are making the case for modernization, you can only admire their cleverness.  They have very far to go, but they are moving in the right direction, now that they have been freed from the Taliban.  
- 7:42 PM, 3 November 2003   [link]


We Still Have  some Iraqi files from Saddam's intelligence service to analyze.  Specifically:
The records would stretch 9 1/2 miles if laid end to end, the officials said.  They contain not only the names of nearly every Iraqi intelligence officer, but also the names of their paid foreign agents, written agent reports, evaluations of agent credentials, and documentary evidence of payments made to buy influence in the Arab world and elsewhere, the officials said.

The officials declined to name individuals who they believe received funds or to name the home countries of the alleged recipients.  One official said the recipients held high-ranking positions and worked both in Arab countries and in other regions.  A second official said the payments were the subjects of "active investigations" by U.S. government agencies.
This will take years, especially considering how short we are of trustworthy people who can read Arabic.
- 3:49 PM, 3 November 2003   [link]


Tariq Aziz Talks:  And Saddam's deputy prime minister has much to say.   He claims that the French and Russians convinced Saddam they would protect him from American attack.  (Those who wanted serious UN inspections should send their complaints to the ambassadors of those countries.  We don't know whether Saddam would have allowed serious inspections under any conditions, but we can be sure that he wouldn't unless he feared being overthrown.)  Saddam also thought that the initial coalition attack was a ruse, showing the military genius for which he is famous.

Most important, Aziz provides support for what we might call the Rolf Ekeus theory of the missing chemical and biological weapons.  Ekeus argued that, after 1998, Saddam switched from building up stockpiles of weapons to building the capability to build those weapons quickly, something easier to hide.  At the same time, Saddam was trying to purchase long range missiles, which have no great military use without nuclear, chemical, or biological warheads.  (The missiles he was trying to purchase were too inaccurate to be effective military weapons with conventional warheads.)  I should add that the Post writers do not agree with my reasoning here.  Instead they see Saddam's quest for missiles with longer ranges as irrational, based on a willful misunderstanding of his agreements.

And there is this strange finding from the interviews with Iraqi generals.
American and British interrogators have asked dozens of generals who served in high-ranking command roles in Iraqi army divisions during this year -- some imprisoned, some living freely -- why Hussein did not use chemical weapons to defend Baghdad.  A number of these generals have said that they, too, believed chemical weapons would be deployed by Hussein for the capital's defense.  Yet none of the officers admitted receiving such weapons himself.

"The only consistent pattern we've gotten -- 100 percent consistent -- is that each commander says, 'My unit didn't have WMD, but the one to my right or left did,' " said the senior U.S. official involved.  This has led some American interrogators to theorize that Hussein may have bluffed not only neighboring governments and the United States, but his own restive generals.

"He would not hesitate to deceive even his hand-chosen commanders if he thought that by this he could achieve success," agreed Jubouri, the former general.
But this doesn't explain what happened to the weapons he did have in 1998, at least according to the UN.  We may never know the truth, but for now I think that Rolf Ekeus was right about most of the program, that Saddam built capabilities, rather than weapons.  And I still think that he hid some portion of the actual weapons.

The generals' testimony also explains why all the intelligence services thought that Saddam had weapons; undoubtedly they all had some contacts with the Iraqi military.  (I should add that Tariq Aziz and the Iraqi generals have had some experience in telling lies to those in power, so not everything they now say is necessarily true.)
- 3:38 PM, 3 November 2003   [link]


How Ignorant Are Guardian Writers About American Politics?   They can't even get the jokes right.   Peter Preston begins his column with "And how did you enjoy the show, Mrs Washington?", which confuses our two most famous presidents.  The rather grisly joke is usually told as follows:
"Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"
Referring, of course, to Lincoln's assassination while watching a play at Ford's theater.   President Washington, for the benefit of Mr. Preston, was not assassinated.  I wouldn't mind the ignorance so much if these same writers were not so free with their advice to the United States.
- 7:30 AM, 3 November 2003
Update:  Peter Preston wrote me a polite note, thanking me for the correction.  I was going to say that shows class, but I suspect the term may not be welcome at the Guardian, so I'll say it shows high standards.  This is the fourth correction I have sent to that newspaper which they have printed, but the first thanks I have received.  (In two of the other cases, others may have sent the same correction.)
- 1:20 PM, 4 November 2003   [link]


Still No Stories On Zell Miller's Endorsement  of Bush in the the Seattle PI, the Seattle Times, or the New York Times.  The Washington Post did mention it, in a small item in this Howard Kurtz column, but has yet to run a separate story.
- 6:35 AM, 3 November 2003   [link]


59 Percent Of Europeans Are Nuts:  If, that is, the leaked results of a recent poll are being reported correctly.  If they are, then 59 percent of Europeans think that "Israel now presents the biggest threat to world peace", beating out more rational candidates like North Korea by enormous margins.

I have three rather sour thoughts about this result, assuming, again, that it is correct.  First, it shows that Americans would be right to ignore European public opinion in planning policy in the Middle East.  One should not spend much time listening to the obviously deranged.  Second, it shows just how difficult making a case for more rational thinking will be in Europe.  If a large majority of Europeans believe this idiocy, what else might they believe?  Perhaps American spokesmen will have to begin by explaining, slowly, that the world is not flat.  Third, since the Europeans get these ideas mainly from their news organizations, it shows how biased the BBC, Reuters, and all the rest are.
- 9:09 AM, 1 November 2003
Correction:  The original story was misleading.  When asked to name threats to world peace, 59 percent named Israel, more than for any other nation, but the interviewers did not specifically ask which nation was the "greatest" threat.  Almost as many Europeans in the survey chose North Korea as a threat.  I hope to get a chance to look at the data; for now I will say, again assuming the more recent news stories are correct, that 59 percent of Europeans are nuts, but not quite as nuts as I first thought.
- 6:17 AM, 3 November 2003   [link]


"Front-Runner" Howard Dean gets support from just 7 percent of the Democrats in South Carolina.  That ties him for fourth with Richard Gephardt, and puts him just barely ahead of Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley-Braun.  He may even trail those two, given sample errors in a poll of this size.  As is true of other early polls, the real leader is "undecided", with fully 36 percent of the Democrats not having a preference.  That doesn't show much enthusiasm for the candidates.  As is often true of opposition parties, the Democrats would do best if they could run a "candidate to be named later".
- 8:42 AM, 1 November 2003   [link]


Julie Burchill Disses "Hipocrisy", the hypocrisy of the hip.   In this Guardian column, she has sharp things to say about Justin Timberlake, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Sean Penn, and, of course, Bill Clinton.
- 8:23 AM, 1 November 2003   [link]