Archive:

November 2004, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Even Odds:  That's what I would now give in Washington state's gubernatorial election — assuming there is a complete hand recount of the entire state.   The margin after the first recount, 42 votes, is so small that it is easy to see that it might not survive another recount.  (Those of you who follow my site closely may recall that I originally set the odds at 3 to 1 in Rossi's favor.   But that was before King county discovered so many votes.)

King county, the heart of the Gregoire's strength, did what amounted to a manual recount, and so I would not expect her to gain more than few votes here.  But she could gain more in the rest of the state, even though she lost badly to Dino Rossi in most of Washington's counties.  The votes that she might gain would come from voters who did not fill out their ballots correctly.  Those voters tend to be less educated than the average voter and the less educated tend to be Democrats. (As well as the most educated.  The Republicans have the edge with in between voters, from high school graduates up to those with post graduate educations.)  Kerry had just a 1 point advantage over Bush this year among those with less than a high school education, according to the New York Times exit poll, but in the three previous presidential elections, the Democratic advantage was more than more than 20 percent in that group.

I am sure that there are Democrats who can do this same analysis, so I think a hand recount is almost certain.  (I have heard reports that the Democrats will ask for hand recounts of just a few counties.  If that isn't illegal, it should be.)

And if Gregoire wins this second recount, will I consider her win illegitimate?  Almost certainly yes.  Not because of the glitches in the recounts, which at times almost seemed intended to create Republican suspicions, but because of what I have begun to call "distributed vote fraud", the vote fraud committed by individuals, and made easier by our lax election laws.  (I described the problem here and here.)

Here is my guesstimate again.  If a Democrat wins a statewide election in Washington by fewer than 100 votes, then their margin almost certainly came from fraudulent votes.  If they win by fewer than 1,000 votes, then their margin probably came from fraudulent votes.  I can't prove those numbers are correct, of course, but neither can anyone who disagrees prove that they are incorrect.  We simply don't know how many fraudulent votes are cast in our elections, but we can be almost certain that they benefit Democrats, net.

(Cross posted at Sound Politics.)
- 3:02 PM, 24 November 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  Guenter Lewy considers the charge that white settlers and the American government committed genocide against the American Indians and rejects it.
In the end, the sad fate of America's Indians represents not a crime but a tragedy, involving an irreconcilable collision of cultures and values.  Despite the efforts of well-meaning people in both camps, there existed no good solution to this clash.  The Indians were not prepared to give up the nomadic life of the hunter for the sedentary life of the farmer.  The new Americans, convinced of their cultural and racial superiority, were unwilling to grant the original inhabitants of the continent the vast preserve of land required by the Indians' way of life.  The consequence was a conflict in which there were few heroes, but which was far from a simple tale of hapless victims and merciless aggressors.  To fling the charge of genocide at an entire society serves neither the interests of the Indians nor those of history.
European diseases, especially smallpox, caused a massive die off among American Indians.   Whites are often accused of having deliberately spread smallpox, but Lewy shows that, with one or two possible exceptions, that did not happen.  And the US government began offering smallpox vaccinations to Indians almost as soon as they became available to whites.

Nor was all the slaughter on one side.
A second famous example from the colonial period is King Philip's War (1675-76).  This conflict, proportionately the costliest of all American wars, took the life of one in every sixteen men of military age in the colonies; large numbers of women and children also perished or were carried into captivity.  Fifty-two of New England's 90 towns were attacked, seventeen were razed to the ground, and 25 were pillaged.  Casualties among the Indians were even higher, with many of those captured being executed or sold into slavery abroad.

The war was also merciless, on both sides.  At its outset, a colonial council in Boston had declared "that none be Killed or Wounded that are Willing to surrender themselves into Custody."   But these rules were soon abandoned on the grounds that the Indians themselves, failing to adhere either to the laws of war or to the law of nature, would "skulk" behind trees, rocks, and bushes rather than appear openly to do "civilized" battle.  Similarly creating a desire for retribution were the cruelties perpetrated by Indians when ambushing English troops or overrunning strongholds housing women and children.

Before long, both colonists and Indians were dismembering corpses and displaying body parts and heads on poles.  (Nevertheless, Indians could not be killed with impunity.  In the summer of 1676, four men were tried in Boston for the brutal murder of three squaws and three Indian children; all were found guilty and two were executed.)
If we assume that one third of males are of military age, the equivalent losses for us now would be about 3 million men, and perhaps 4 million all together.

Some settlers — William Penn, for example — behaved well toward the Indians; other settlers — many of the miners in the California gold rush, for example — behaved horribly.  It is a mistake, historically, to take either as typical.  And it is also a mistake, historically, to treat the Indians as helpless victims who had no part in making that tragic history.
- 7:19 AM, 24 November 2004   [link]


APEC Class Photo:  At the annual meetings of the APEC, the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation group, the leaders always pose for their official photo wearing a garment from the host nation.   The garments are usually what we might call peasant garb, the clothes of the poorest in that country.

That's certainly true for this last meeting in Chile, where the leaders posed in "Chamantos", which most Americans would call ponchos.  (I think technically they may be a particular kind of poncho.)  This brief history of the poncho describes its humble origin, while claiming that it is now a classless garment.
The poncho has lowly origins.  The Jesuit missionaries who came to northern Argentina in the 16th century, exasperated by the tendency of the natives to wander about naked, threw ponchos over them to keep them modest.  The poncho is, if you think about it, the sparest and cheapest garment imaginable: a blanket with a slit in the middle.

But it is warm and practical, and it soon spread throughout the Andes.  Today, it is worn from Colombia to Patagonia, especially by horsemen, who spread its folds over their mounts for added warmth.
If you want to be fashionable, get a dull one; if you want to be authentic, get a bright one.
In a curious inversion, the indigenous Andeans dye their ponchos all manner of garish colours, while Europeans, imagining that they are being more authentic, demand natural duns and browns, or vegetable tints: eucalyptus, onion root, indigo.
Is it a good idea for powerful leaders to pose this way?  I don't suppose that it hurts and it may help them get a little closer to the people the represent (or rule).

I couldn't find a large copy of the formal photo in a quick search, but this White House picture of Bush and a few of the other leaders will show you what the garments look like.   Australian Prime Minister John Howard is to the left of Bush in the picture, and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark is to his left and down one row.  I am embarrassed to admit that I can't identify most of the other leaders.

(President Clinton appears to have started this custom, more or less accidentally, when he asked the leaders at the 1993 Seattle meeting to dress informally, and showed up in jeans himself.
The next year, Indonesia put the leaders in its traditional batik.  The Philippines paraded the leaders in barong Tagalog in 1996.

In China, which hosted the meeting in 2001, the leaders wore a modified version of the traditional Chinese embroidered silk jacket in royal blue, scarlet, burgundy, olive, or brown.  New Zealand offered the leaders in 1999 black lined marine jackets with a fern, its national symbol.
Those Chinese silk jackets don't strike me as peasant garb, but we have learned to expect such contradictions from leaders of "classless" societies.)
- 6:15 AM, 24 November 2004   [link]


Same Evidence, Opposite Conclusions:  Regular readers may recall that I considered the jump in support for George W. Bush in Palm Beach county this year evidence of Democratic vote fraud (in 2000).  So, I was amused to learn that some academic leftists consider the same jump evidence for Republican vote fraud (in 2004).  Kieran Healy mostly dismisses that argument in this post, but seems entirely unaware that many Republicans (and some Democrats, including President Carter's pollster, Pat Caddell) think there was Democratic vote fraud in Palm Beach in the 2000 election.  More evidence, I suppose, for the argument that our colleges and universities need more political diversity.

(Editor:  I notice that you were the last to comment on Healy's post.  Do you often kill debate threads at Crooked Timber?  Not intentionally, but it has happened more than once.  I raise what I think is an interesting point, and the conversation stops.   Since the academics who frequent the site must be open minded, I'm not sure why that happens.

I suppose that I will have to do a more complete analysis of the evidence for vote fraud in Palm Beach some time.  The analysis isn't hard.  Anyone with a little knowledge of American voting patterns would find much that is suspicious in the 2000 Palm Beach returns.  But presenting the analysis would require a fair amount of work, since I would have to construct a number of charts to illustrate the argument.  A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it often takes far more work than a thousand words.)
- 1:53 PM, 23 November 2004   [link]


Don't Eat That Sardine!  It's saving us from global warming.  
Scientists working off the west coast of Africa have identified sardines as an unexpected factor in global warming.

The fish are not acting like cattle or termites, whose gassy emissions (to put it politely) add heat-trapping methane to the atmosphere.  Sardines improve the situation, the researchers say.   Or they might, if they were not been fished out.

The scientists say that when sardines are plentiful they gobble up ocean phytoplankton, tiny plants that appear in vast numbers when ocean currents produce upwellings of deep water.

But when sardines are scarce, the phytoplankton survive uneaten, only to sink to the bottom, decompose and produce methane and hydrogen sulfide gas that rise to the surface in giant clouds.
. . .
That's bad enough, but methane is arguably worse, at least for world climate.  Pound for pound methane traps 21 times as much heat as carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas.
Is the theory true?  I haven't the slightest idea.  But I'll bet none of the current climate models include sardines.

(I think water vapor also traps heat, which would make carbon dioxide the second most common greenhouse gas.

As always when I mention global warming, let me refer those who have not seen it to my disclaimer on the subject.)
- 1:01 PM, 23 November 2004   [link]


Who Did The Republican Freshman In The House Of Representatives just elect as their class president?  Well, it wasn't a boring old white guy; it was our friend from the 1st district of Louisiana.
U.S. Rep.-elect Bobby Jindal, R-La., was elected president of the Republican freshman class Tuesday, making him part of the party leadership in the House.

Jindal, who represents a district in New Orleans, La., is the first Indian-American to win election to Congress in four decades.
As I recall, Lyndon B. Johnson was elected head of the Democratic freshmen in his first House term.

And here's an interesting tidbit.  Jindal already has more executive experience than John Kerry, and as you can see from the picture at his campaign site, Jindal is a little younger than Kerry.
- 12:46 PM, 23 November 2004   [link]


Discrimination In Seattle:  Matt Rosenberg brought this remarkable post by Scott Cummins to my attention.  Like Matt, I found this part especially striking.

Consider the Seattle political landscape of today. A Republican working in Seattle city government begs a reporter not to "out" him for fear of workplace retaliation. City advisory boards, commissions and volunteer councils are cleansed of Republican involvement by Democratic operatives who, by turn, control nominations, define selection criteria, and vet candidates. City Department Managers meanwhile provide similar access to public employee union bosses. All to ensure the iron-fisted grip of Democrats — concerned by their mere 85% standing among the electorate!

Now, here's what I have to add to the earlier discussion at Sound Politics. Seattle has a very broad anti-discrimination policy which forbids discrimination on the grounds of "political ideology", along with all the other categories. If the City of Seattle is discriminating against Republicans, as Scott says, then the city is probably breaking its own ordinance. I say "probably" because I am not a lawyer, though the ordinance seems clear enough.

Whether one could win a lawsuit based on the ordinance is not as clear to me, since it would, I assume, go before a Seattle jury. Sure would be fun to watch someone try, though.

Other "progressive" cities have similar ordinances, and I would not be surprised to learn that they have similar discrimination against Republicans.

(Is the University of Washington covered by this ordinance? Again, not being a lawyer, I am not sure, though the ordinance does say "any employer". There is no doubt in my mind that some departments there discriminate against Republicans.

Crossposted at Sound Politics)
- 8:27 AM, 23 November 2004   [link]


Evangelical?  While reading Dean Esmay's site, I came across this link to this post, from "Deborah White", who describes herself as "A Liberal Evangelical with Heart & a Sense of Humor".   There are liberal evangelicals, more than you might think.  Most, I am sure, have hearts, and a few may even have a sense of humor.  But, after I read the post, I am skeptical that whoever wrote it is, in fact, an evangelical.  Let me quote two bits from the post to show you why I have my doubts.
Dr. [James] Dobson [of Focus on the Family] is bitter that he was a campaign insider
. . .
Mormon John Ashcroft
Was Dobson a "campaign insider"?  That was news to me, so I used Google to search news sites for "Bush + Dobson + insider". I got exactly one hit, and Dobson was not the "insider" referred to in the story.

The second, misidentifying Ashcroft's denomination, is startling.  On the secular left, Mormons may blend in with evangelicals, but I can assure you that evangelicals (and Mormons) see vast differences.  (Ashcroft is a member of the Assembly of God, if you are wondering.)  There may be informed evangelicals who do not know Ashcroft's exact denomination, but there must be very few who would mistake him for a Mormon.

The rest of the post is intended to drive a wedge between Bush and evangelicals, to discredit him with people of faith by arguing that he will disappoint them.  Much of the argument is dubious, and some of it is false.  An example?  The claim that evangelical support for Bush was unprecedented.  If you look through the New York Times exit polls, you will see that Bush's support from white Protestants is not unprecedented, and his support among those who attend church at least once a week much is just 2 points higher than it was in 2000.

All this made me skeptical, and so I looked for a way to contact "Deborah White".  I could find none on the site, nor could I, skimming through the past posts, find anything that identified her.

There's a famous New Yorker cartoon that shows a dog sitting at a computer and telling another dog that: "On the Internet, nobody knows you are a dog."  To which I will add, or if you are really an evangelical.  There could be an evangelical this poorly informed, and there could be a secular leftist posing as such a person, and trying to drive a wedge between Bush and evangelicals.  If whoever wrote the posts at the site had a more Christian attitude toward Bush and his family, I would be inclined to the first explanation; as it is, the second seems more likely.

(Haven't seen the dog cartoon?  I try to respect copyrights, so I won't post it here, but you can find it by searching Google's images for "internet + dog".)
- 9:37 AM, 22 November 2004   [link]


Vote Counting Irregularities In King County?  Maybe.  Stefan Sharkansky has the charges from Washington's Republican party chairman, Chris Vance.  Of the four charges in the press release, the first two seem the most serious.
1. Ballots clearly marked for Dino Rossi are not being counted.

In more than one instance this morning, ballots where the bubble was clearly and fully marked for Dino Rossi were spit out of the machine because of other stray marks on the ballot.  King County Elections workers noticed that there were faint marks on or around the bubble next to Christine Gregoire's name.  The workers recommended that these ballots be sent to the King County Canvassing Board to clear up any confusion, but King County Elections Superviser Bill Huennekens, who is a Democrat, ordered the workers to not count the ballots at all, even though they were clearly and fully marked for Dino Rossi.  A Republican observer questioned Huennekens on his decision, but Huennekens was not responsive.

2. A partisan King County Elections employee is engaging in improper behavior.

Ten days ago, a paid temporary employee for King County Elections said aloud that he didn't trust Republican observers.  On a different day, the same employee got confrontational with a Republican observer, to the extent that the employee's supervisor sent the employee home for the rest of the day.  This morning, the same employee was observed running ballots through the machine — some of the ballots were spit out, which is normal.  But instead of running all the spit-out ballots through the machine again, as he should have done, this employee took only some of the ballots and ran them through the machine again.  When he was done, he took the ballots that had run through the machine again and shuffled them into the stack of ballots that he failed to run through the machine.  A Republican observer notified a supervisor of this suspicious activity, and the supervisor has offered to run the entire batch of ballots through the machine again.  Republicans are asking that this employee be removed.
The third and fourth, that ballots are not as secure as they should be and that some ballots are missing, sound like the clerical errors common to most elections.  (In some places, for instance, Philadelphia or parts of south Florida, I would find these more worrisome.)

In the tension of a close recount, it is possible that Republican observers saw something sinister in these incidents when they shouldn't have.  I have not seen any reports that Republicans were making video recordings of the count, or even of these incidents.  If that is allowed by Washington law, I hope they will do so.

I would guess that, if Christine Gregoire wins the recount with King county votes, most Republican activists will not consider her win legitimate.  I am not saying that they will be right in that, because I haven't enough information to make that call.  It would help if the major newspapers, or one of the television stations were to make a real effort to investigate Republican charges — but that's unlikely.

Even if the recount is completely legitimate, any close win for Gregoire will bes suspicious, because of the "distributed vote fraud" problem I described and here. (Vance has already lost a court fight over the procedures being used in the King county recount.  Vance wanted a pure machine recount; King county is using a combination, counting all the ballots that were machine readable by machine and trying to count the rest by hand.  This is the method that I have favored for years, but, if it is used, it should be used in all the counties, and I am not sure that is happening.  The matter is complicated because Washington uses a mix of voting technology; King county uses optical ballots, but many other counties use punch cards, so hand counting does not mean exactly the same thing everywhere.  (I think a few small counties may still use paper ballots, and of course Snohomish has switched to electronic voting machines.)

Finally, I should add that of course the recount should be governed by Washington's laws, and that I do not know what the laws require in recounts.)
- 7:32 AM, 22 November 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  Mat Bai's account of how the Bush campaign defeated the Democratic party and their 527 allies in the Ohio get out the vote efforts.  (Worth reading if, like me, you find the nuts and bolts of political campaigns fascinating.)
By Election Day, ACT claimed to have registered 85,000 new voters in Ohio, while the rest of the America Votes coalition -- groups as large as the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and MoveOn.org and as small as Music for America -- had registered another 215,000. If you were an Ohioan registered by ACT or one of its partners, Bouchard told me, you were contacted as many as a dozen times after you registered, by phone or by mail or by a live canvasser at your front door. ACT claimed to have knocked on 3.7 million doors and held more than 1.1 million doorstep conversations in the state; in contrast, the Kerry-Edwards campaign, which had its own significant turnout effort under way, had arrived in Ohio months after ACT and reported having knocked on about 595,000 doors.
. . .
What was clear was that ACT had exceeded the goals it had set for the total Kerry vote in each of its target counties in Ohio.  In Cuyahoga County, where ACT had set a target of 350,540 votes for Kerry, he received 433,262.  In Franklin County, where the goal was 262,895 votes, Kerry had garnered 275,573. In fact, Kerry's 2.66 million votes were the most ever for a Democrat in Ohio.
And many, perhaps most, of those registered were even legal voters.

That wasn't enough because the Republicans had an even better plan.
Why wasn't it enough?  In the days that followed, theories circulated claiming that Republicans had stolen votes from Kerry by messing with the results from electronic voting machines.   But the truth was that the Bush campaign had created an entirely new math in Ohio.  It wouldn't have been possible eight years ago, or even four.  But with so many white, conservative and religious voters now living in the brand-new town houses and McMansions in Ohio's growing ring counties, Republicans were able to mobilize a stunning turnout in areas where their support was more concentrated than it was in the past.  Bush's operatives did precisely what they told me seven months ago they would do in these communities: they tapped into a volunteer network using local party organizations, union rolls, gun clubs and churches.
. . .
For Democrats, this new phenomenon on Election Day felt like some kind of horror movie, with conservative voters rising up out of the hills and condo communities in numbers the Kerry forces never knew existed.
Bai concludes with this:
"I can't think of a thing in Ohio that we could have done more to boost our vote," [ACT's chief executive officer] Steve Rosenthal told me three days after the election, as the trauma of the defeat began to subside.  "The shortcoming in some ways is that the national Democratic Party has built this values wall between itself and a lot of voters out there, and the Republicans took advantage of it.  The rude awakening here is that I always thought there were more of us out there.  And this time there were more of them."
If he had been reading this site regularly, he would have know that the Republicans have caught up with the Democrats in numbers.

Michael Barone makes a similar argument, with national numbers, in this column.
The Bush organization literally reshaped the electorate.  The 2000 exit poll showed an electorate that was 39 percent Democratic and 35 percent Republican.  The 2004 exit poll, which was tilted toward Democrats, found a dead heat: 37 percent to 37 percent.  That means that Republican turnout was up 19 percent and Democratic turnout up only 7 percent.  This is the most Republican electorate America has had since random-sample polling was invented.
The left has thought for decades — not always wrongly — that they could win most elections if they got the Democrats to register and vote, regardless of what the Republicans did.  That may no longer be true, nationally.

(I am not the first to say this, but I have to add that there is something ironic about the names of the principal anti-Bush 527 organizations, MoveOn and ACT (Americans Coming Together).  Will the first ever move on?  It seems unlikely.  And the second did much to tear the nation apart with their remarkably nasty campaign.)
- 11:04 AM, 21 November 2004   [link]


Europeans, Especially The French, have great contempt for the American political system, we are told.  It is hard to see why when you glance over some of the French scandals, for instance, this one.
The new European Commission was embroiled in a fresh crisis yesterday within hours of being approved by the European Parliament for a five-year term.

Euro-MPs demanded to know why they had not been told that Jacques Barrot, France's commissioner, had been given a suspended prison sentence four years ago when he was caught up in a party funding scandal.
Now it is only fair to add that Barrot says he was innocent and was only convicted because of his ties to others in his party.

But here's the part that I like best.
Mr Barrot, the Commission vice-president in charge of transport, was pardoned in a general amnesty passed by the French Assembly, making it illegal to mention the case in the French media.
If a French newspaper were to print this very post, it could be prosecuted.  Americans seldom realize just how strong our free speech protections are, compared to those in most other nations.

Editor: So, did you put on a Gallic sneer when you read this story?  No, but I did chuckle a little.  I really do wish the French well — in spite of their efforts to change my mind on that point.

(Via Iain Murray.)
- 10:09 AM, 21 November 2004   [link]


In Ten Years, Mt. St. Helens could be back to its former size.
In 1980, many Northwesterners watched Mount St. Helens blow its top.

Now, they may have the rare opportunity to see it rebuilt during their lifetime.

If lava continues to pour out at the current rate, geologists say the new dome will be tall enough to be visible from Portland in less than two years.  And in little more than a decade, the volcano would be back to the size it was before the cataclysmic blast that turned a snow-covered peak to a blackened shell and shaved 1,313 feet off its peak.
. . .
Since lava first broke the surface in early October, Mount St. Helens has been pumping it out at a prodigious rate: up to a dump truck load per second.
The old summit was 9,677 feet, and the dome is not yet as high as the highest point on the rim, so St. Helens has many feet to go.

I often take a look at St. Helens through the official volcano cam.  Which, I must add immediately, has not been working for the past few days.  The site notes that the "webmaster will be on Thanksgiving leave" all this week, so I wouldn't expect any new views until a week from tomorrow.  But there are some new movies to look at there, including two taken at night.  The best times to look at the mountain are usually at sunrise and sunset (about 7:30 AM and 4:30 PM, PST).  The nearly constant steam plume is often a pretty pink or yellow at those times.

(After St. Helens didn't explode as some geologists had feared, I realized that dome building is what we should have been expecting.  The mountain builds itself slowly, but destroys itself quickly.  Since there is a mountain there, periods of building must be far more common than periods of destruction.)
- 5:18 AM, 21 November 2004   [link]


No Need To Worry About Participation in these precincts.
In four precincts in Snohomish County, more people may have voted than were registered to vote on Nov. 2, meaning that voter turnout totaled more than 100 percent in those precincts, state Democrats charged Friday.
. . .
The overreporting in Snohomish County came to light when the state Democratic Party began pulling number's from the county auditor's Web site to prepare for a recount, said Kirstin Brost, communications director for the state Democrats, late Friday night.

The four precincts in question are in Edmonds, Everett, Mill Creek and Marysville.
There is a way that this could happen legally, since Washington allows voters to cast provisional ballots in any precinct.  I don't know if that's the explanation for the rates in these four precincts.

More worrisome is this complaint from Republican chairman Chris Vance.
Unmarked ballots [in King county] are kept in the same location as the marked ballots in case a marked ballot is damaged or it cannot be read by vote-counting machines and a new ballot needs to be cast in its place.

State GOP Chairman Chris Vance said at a news conference last night that Republicans were concerned that the blank ballots could be tampered with. "It's obviously a dangerous situation," he said.
I don't see either of these as evidence of fraud, but that's mostly because Washington's elections have been relatively clean for years.

(For those not familiar with Washington state, Snohomish county is just north of King county, which contains Seattle.)
- 2:54 PM, 20 November 2004   [link]


In World War II, Hollywood was on our side.  So much so that one of Hollywood's most famous directors, Frank Capra, spent the war making a series of propaganda films, called Why We Fight.  Last Tuesday, I bought a DVD with the third and fourth of the films, Divide and Conquer and The Battle of Britain.  I watched Divide and Conquer, which covers the period from the invasion of Denmark and Norway through the defeat of France, and judge it to be reasonably accurate historically — and very effective propaganda.  Capra uses pre-war speeches from Hitler to show, again and again, how Hitler had promised peace to the very nations he attacked.  And his narrator says bluntly that Hitler, like American gangsters, has an advantage because he does not follow the rules.  For those Americans who had not followed Europeans affairs closely, most of us I am sure, Capra's films must have been enlightening.

And I think the films were much needed.  Now we tend to think that Americans were unanimous in their opposition to Hitler.  That was certainly not true before the Pearl Harbor attack — the draft bill passed the House of Representatives in 1940 by a single vote — and it was not true even after the attack, though opponents of the war were less open about it.

Now, Hollywood is, at best, on the fence in the war on terror.  Many have remarked on Hollywood's unwillingness to make films about the war on terror, in spite of the big audiences that they would draw.  What I find most remarkable is that Hollywood has not even made a film, at least not a major film, about the overthrow of the Taliban.  That campaign is a natural for the kind of action films that have earned billions for Hollywood over the years.  It is easy to think of the broad outlines of a script; a few special forces guys come in at night, make contact with the Northern Alliance, and together defeat a cruel enemy.  There are even natural romantic angles.  The Taliban had a nasty habit of kidnapping young women, sometimes girls, for wives.  A Hollywood scriptwriter could easily use that as a motive for one of the Afghan characters.  (And I suspect it was a motive for some of those who resisted the Taliban.)

In World War II, Frank Capra (and many others in Hollywood) gave up large sums of money to serve his country.  In the war on terror, Hollywood is giving up large sums of money to avoid serving their country.

(This willingness of Hollywood, a place known for money grubbing, to give up large sums of money, is not confined to the war on terror.  In Hollywood vs. America, Michael Medved argued that film makers are making less money than they could by producing trash, rather than films for families.  His argument was controversial when he made it, but has been supported since by a number of academic studies, and by the success of many movies with positive themes.   This is not to say that trash never sells, but that in general you can make more money producing positive movies for families.  Anti-religious films, in particular, are death at the box office, but Hollywood continues to make them.

Though the numbers support Medved, most critics have not accepted his argument; you can see examples of that blindness here and here.  Their unwillingness to see the obvious has led me to begin thinking of them as part of the "surreality community".

You can buy the whole Why We Fight series for just fifteen dollars, or one of the volumes for just five.  You can find more about Capra's remarkable film career here.)
- 2:05 PM, 20 November 2004   [link]


Still Wondering About Those Exit Polls?  Today, I came across two posts which should help demystify them.  First, the "Mystery Pollster" debunks, at length, the conspiracy theory floating around that says that the exit polls were correct and that Kerry really did win the election.  While doing that, he provides this helpful explanation of how exit polls are conducted.
It is true that exit polls have no problem identifying "likely voters," but they trade that problem for a huge set of logistical challenges.  The national exit polls hire 1500 interviewers for just one day of work every two years and deploy them to randomly chosen precincts nationwide.   Telephone surveys can train and supervise interviewers in a central facility.  No such luck for exit polls.  They depend on interviewers with relatively little prior experience or training.   The year, in fact, NEP conducted most of its interviewer training by telephone.  Yes, exit pollsters can easily draw a statistically valid sample of precincts, but some interviewers will inevitably fail to show up for work on Election Day.  NEP tries to deploy substitutes to fill the gaps, but some precincts inevitably go uncovered.  In 2000, 16 percent of sampled precincts were uncovered (Konner, 2004; although this statistic may have applied to those covering both the exit poll and sampled "key precincts").
(Actually, he is not quite right about "likely voters", since the exit polls do not reach those who vote by mail.  At one time, that group was mostly Republican and may still be in states where few vote by mail.)

So, the exit poll — there is only one big national exit poll — is not conducted very professionally.  And the poorly trained interviewers have a much more difficult task than the trained interviewers who do telephone polls.
Next, consider the challenges facing each interviewer as they attempt to randomly select voters emerging from the polling place (some of which I learned about in recent emails from NEP interviewers): Interviewers typically work each precinct alone, soliciting participation from every "nth" voter to exit the polling place (the "n" interval is typically between 3 and 5).  But these interviewers must also break away to tabulate responses and call in results three separate times during the day.   They make their last call about an hour before the polls close and then stop interviewing altogether.
It doesn't take much thought to imagine what kinds of problems might result.

Kevin Drum has a table showing the results of recent exit polls.  You'll want to look at the table yourself, but here's his conclusion.
As you can see, the raw exit poll results always overstate the Democratic vote, sometimes by as much as eight percentage points.  So the fact that the raw results this year overstated Kerry's actual vote tally is hardly cause for alarm.
In fact, it is what we would expect, if we were familiar with the results from earlier elections.   I was amused to learn that exit polls gave Michael Dukakis a tiny lead in 1988.  You may recall that he did not actually win the election, or even come very close.

Some think that exit polls overstate Democratic strength because Republicans are less willing to answer the questions, possibly because many Republicans don't like "mainstream" news organizations.

Exit polls are still useful tools, but it is wise to remember what they should be used for, not predicting elections in the middle of election day, but analyzing why voters made choices, after the election.  The "Mystery Pollster" has it about right.
All of these real world factors make it hard, not easy, for an exit poll to get a "statistically valid sample."  That's why Warren Mitofsky, the NEP official who helped invent the exit poll, describes them as "blunt instruments" and why Joan Konner, dean of the Columbia School of Journalism concluded in a review last year for Public Opinion Quarterly that "exit polls do not always reflect the final margin" (Konner, 2000, p. 10).
In this partisan age, I should add that the "Mystery Pollster" and Kevin Drum both supported John Kerry.
- 2:03 PM, 19 November 2004
More:  The Washington Post's polling expert, Richard Morin, has more details, including evidence for the theory that Republicans don't like to talk to pollsters.
Perhaps the Democratic skew this year was the result of picking the wrong precincts to sample?   An easy explanation, but not true.  A post-election review of these precincts showed that they matched the overall returns.  Whatever produced the pro-Kerry tilt was a consequence of something happening within these precincts.  This year, it seems that Bush voters were underrepresented in the samples.  The question is, why were they missed?

Mitofsky, the veteran pollster who co-directed this year's exit surveys, fears that Republican voters refused to be interviewed in disproportionately higher numbers, thus skewing the results.  Perhaps they were busier than Democrats and didn't have time to be interviewed.  Perhaps they disliked the media's coverage of Bush, and showed it by snubbing poll interviewers.  Whatever the reason, Mitofsky warned the networks about the apparent Democratic bias mid-afternoon on Election Day -- a caution "they chose to ignore," he told Terence Smith on PBS.
It is also possible, even likely, that the interviewers are mostly Democrats.  There are a number of ways that could produce biased results, even if the interviewers were trying hard to be unbiased.
- 7:31 AM, 21 November 2004   [link]


What Is A Moderate?  In this post, I criticized the Seattle PI for not having any full time moderates or conservatives writing on politics.  The editorial page editor, Mark Trahant, sent me an email asking what I meant by moderates.  What follows is my answer to his question, expanded, and with the addition of a section with examples of how I think the lack of moderates and conservatives affects the PI.

Since I (almost always) write about politics, I usually use "moderate" in a political sense, and my standard is the American public as a whole.  If a person generally holds views that are close to the center of the American public on most issues, then I consider that person a moderate.  Some examples: A moderate in the United States opposes gay marriage, but favors civil unions.  A moderate wants more restrictions on abortion, but does not want it banned.  A moderate opposes racial preferences, but favors what was once known as affirmative action -- efforts to reach out to blacks and other minorities, without setting different standards for different groups.  A moderate favored welfare reform when it was proposed and does so now. A moderate wants a strong US military -- and strong efforts to work with international organizations such as the UN.  Note please, that I said on "most" issues.  A person can hold some of those views — as I do — without being a moderate.

I sometimes define moderates by their voting behavior, and expect them to be between conservatives and liberals.  Looking at the New York Times exit poll, we can see that 45 percent of self identified moderates voted for George W. Bush, which does put them squarely between liberals (13 percent for Bush) and conservatives (84 percent for Bush).  If the full time PI employees who write on politics were moderates, almost half of them would have voted for Bush, and none of them would have voted for Jim McDermott.

The standard that I have chosen determines who is a moderate, and a different standard would identify different people as moderates.  For example, if I were judging by the standard of Seattle's voters, rather than the nation's, then many of those who write on politics for the PI would be moderates.

Finally, I should add that I do not use moderate to mean a good person, though it is often used that way when it is paired with extremist.  I can think of historical examples in which moderates were right and extremists were wrong, and examples in which extremists were right and moderates were wrong.

All that said, why do I want the PI to employ moderates to write on politics?  For the most practical of reasons.  Our news organizations, especially our newspapers, are, in part, referees in our political system.  If everyone who writes on politics at the PI is a fan of the Democrats or the left, they will not criticize the Democrats and the left as often as they should.

Let me give you three examples where I think that the lack of moderates and conservatives makes a difference.  First, as I have documented at considerable length, most vote fraud in the United States is committed by Democrats (often against other Democrats) with absentee ballots.   To say the least, very few newspapers have shown any interest in this kind of vote fraud.   Major newspapers did not even investigate the strange voting patterns in Palm Beach county in the 2000 election, where I believe that Democratic operatives almost stole a presidential election.  (For some of the evidence, see here and here.)

Second, in this area, anti-Bush demonstrations are almost always accompanied with signs that call him a fascist or link him to Hitler.  This is even more absurd and unfair than demonstrations against John Kerry calling him a Communist or linking him to Stalin would be.  These demonstrations do not draw just kooks, either.  They are often attended by Democratic officials and even elected Democrats.  This smear deserves condemnation from every decent person, not the tacit approval of one party.

Third, at most universities, conservatives and Republicans are severely under represented on the faculties.  (For some numbers, see this John Tierney article.)   Nearly all conservatives and Republicans who have studied this problem think that part of the reason for this under representation is bias, though not always conscious bias.  And they have accumulated considerable evidence to support that argument, enough to persuade me that it is true.  This bias is unfair to those who lose jobs because of it, and to the college students who get unbalanced ideological fare in their classrooms.  These political tests for employment in our universities have drawn almost no attention from our newspapers.

Now one could say — and I would not disagree — that one need not be a moderate, or a conservative, or even a Republican, to condemn vote fraud by Democrats, smears against Republicans, or bias against Republicans in employment.  No doubt there are, somewhere in this nation, liberal Democratic journalists who have condemned all three, though I can't think of any examples.  (I have seen a few journalists criticize smears by Democrats and leftists because the smears were not effective, but not because they were wrong.)  Such journalists are rare, since all of us, including me, find it easier to see the mote in another's eye than the beam in our own.

If the PI were to add moderates and conservatives to its staff, it would see more of those beams in the Democrats's eyes.  It is, I think, no accident, that John Tierney is not just a fine reporter, but is also a conservative, or perhaps a libertarian.  It is hard to think of another journalist at the New York Times (besides its two moderately conservative columnists) who would have done that story on bias in academia.
- 11:00 AM, 19 November 2004   [link]


Ted Rall, whose cartoons are poorly drawn, rarely funny, and sometimes despicable, has been dropped by the Washington Post.   The Post did not drop Rall because he has no talent, or because he routinely depicts George Bush as a fascist, but because he slandered the handicapped.
WashingtonPost.com is no longer running the cartoons of hard-hitting liberal Ted Rall.

Rall said he thinks the site dropped his work because of a Nov. 4 cartoon he did showing a drooling, mentally handicapped student taking over a classroom.  "The idea was to draw an analogy to the electorate -- in essence, the idiots are now running the country," he told E&P.
(Here's the cartoon, if you want to see for yourself.)

Rall is not a "hard-hitting liberal".  He is a leftwing extremist, with a taste for conspiracy theories.  His leftwing extremism is why many newspapers carry him, not his "talent", such as it is.  And, yes he is carried by the Seattle PI, though only on Saturdays, the day with the fewest readers.  I hope they will follow the lead of the New York Times and the Washington Post and drop Rall.

(Via Ed Morrisey.)
- 6:42 AM, 19 November 2004   [link]


Criminals And Would Be Terrorists:  Federal authorities have arrested 14 men in this area who appear to be both.
Federal agents with the Joint Terrorism Task Force raided roughly a dozen locations in the Seattle area yesterday and arrested 14 people.

Now investigators must determine whether the 14 are suspects in a purely criminal case or one that has ties to international terrorism.  Court documents make mentions that might indicate terrorist connections, but one federal criminal justice source said investigators have no evidence of any link to al-Qaida or any other terrorist group.

The men -- most African immigrants from the Islamic country of Gambia or African Americans who are Muslim -- face a mix of charges including immigration fraud, bank fraud and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
As I have argued before, Muslims in Western countries are more likely to be criminals and more likely to be terrorists.  Those at war with society as terrorists have no compunction about using crime to finance their war.  Those at war with society as criminals often find in radical Islam a faith that excuses their criminal behavior.

If the news accounts are accurate, we appear to have caught a group of criminals hoping to become terrorists, since a convicted felon was giving lessons in shooting and they had manuals on urban warfare.  At the very least, some hoped to give financial aid to terrorists overseas.

It's politically incorrect, but I think that the United States and other Western nations should discourage Islamic immigrants.  And we must monitor the Islamic chaplains in our prisons more closely, since some of them have been recruiters for terrorist groups.

(Wonder where Gambia is?  I had to check myself.  It is in West Africa, embedded in the country of Senegal.  This strange division is a result of a series of compromises between France and Britain beginning in 1783.  The British got the river; the French got everything else.)
- 6:15 AM, 19 November 2004   [link]


Some Towns Take Elections Less Seriously:  For example, Helix, Oregon.
Umatilla County officials released write-in results from the Nov. 2 election showing that Jack Bascomb has won two City Council seats, Position Nos. 1 and 2.

He also finished second in the races for Position No. 3 and mayor.

"Good, I can vote twice," Bascomb said Wednesday after learning of the results. "They must really like me then."

Bascomb won the Position No. 1 seat with 3 write-in votes and the Position No. 2 seat with 8 write-in votes. He was the incumbent in the Position No. 2 race.

Voters here traditionally select city leaders based solely on write-in candidacies. They learn who is running from a list hanging in the town post office.
They'll work it out at the next city council meeting, as soon as they figure out when to hold it. The date is uncertain because the customary date conflicts with a basketball game — something far more important in most small towns.
- 10:21 AM, 17 November 2004   [link]


48.87196 Percent To 48.87097 Percent:  That's the lead Democrat Christine Gregoire has over Republican Dino Rossi, as I write. (It should change in the next hour, probably putting Rossi slightly ahead.) It isn't often that you need five places to identify the leader in an election race. The raw numbers — oops, the numbers just changed, making them even closer. The raw vote is now 1,369,801 for Gregoire to 1,369,805 for Rossi. That puts the lead in the sixth place, 48.87132 percent for Gregoire to 48.87146 percent for Rossi. This close a result makes it rather hard on those of us who try to predict elections. Here's the Secretary of State's unofficial tally, if want to check the votes yourself.
- 5:30 PM, 17 November 2004
Rossi Wins, Probably:  His final margin was 261 votes, which is enough to avoid a manual recount, but not enough to avoid a machine recount.

What are the chances that a recount will reverse the result? Looking over these previous recounts, I would say about 1 in 4. It hasn't happened before, but there have been swings big enough to tip this election. If the changes were identical to those in the 2000 Gorton-Cantwell race, for example, Christine Gregoire would win by 15 votes. So it isn't over. And Republicans should worry a little because the last three partisan statewide recounts all found more votes for the Democratic candidate and fewer for the Republican. I have heard claims that the count was more careful this year, but have seen no evidence for that.
-5:51 AM, 18 November 2004   [link]


Susan Paynter Of The Seattle PI wants moderate Christians to speak up on political issues.  The Seattle PI employs no moderates, full time, to write on politics.  There are none on the editorial board, no political columnists (Joel Connelly calls himself moderate, but is not one, at least not in his partisanship), and no moderate political writers.  The newspaper does not even employ a token moderate or conservative columnist.   (There is one conservative, or libertarian, on the staff, Bill Virgin, but he almost always covers business, not politics.  And does it quite well, I should add.)

Not only are there no moderates writing on politics at the PI, there are no Republicans, no independents, and no conservatives.  The vast majority of the American public could not pass the PI's political tests.

I guess we can say that Paynter has only a moderate desire to hear from moderates, and no desire at all to hear from Republicans or conservatives.
- 11:01 PM, 17 November 2004
More:  This brief post caused distress to both Susan Paynter and the PI's editorial page editor, Mark Trahant.  They mentioned two points that I should have been clearer about originally.  I should have said that the PI has no "full time" employees who are moderate or conservatives, since they do have a part time columnist, Julia Youngs, whom I would describe as a conservative.  (Here's a sample of her work.)  And I was careless in the way I wrote about Bill Virgin.  I should have added that he did write an endorsement of Bush for the newspaper, and it was too strong to say that he was "not allowed" to write about politics.   In fact, I don't know why this talented reporter almost always covers business stories.  I have corrected the text above on both points.  I did not mention the conservative syndicated columnists they carry because I assumed that was understood when I said "employs".

That said, I think the main point I made, that the PI does not employ, full time, any moderates or conservatives to write on politics, is correct.  Five posts up, I explain that at more length, drawing on an email I sent to Mr. Trahant, in answer to a question from him.

(There is another group that may be missing at the PI, evangelicals.  Self described evangelicals are about 30 or 40 percent of the population, but columnist Nicholas Kristoff said he knew of none at the New York Times, and from everything I know, that newspaper is typical.   It is sometimes forgotten that religion is just as much a protected category as race in our civil rights laws.  I fully expect, within the next ten years, to see a major news organization lose a lawsuit to an evangelical because of discrimination in employment.)
- 9:13 AM, 19 November 2004   [link]


What Kind Of People Are We Fighting In Falluja?  You saw my answer here. We are fighting people who murder and mutilate civilian women, and have murdered hundreds of Iraqi civilians, people who routinely torture captives. Whatever else they may be, they are, in my opinion, "bad guys". Journalist (and one time aide to House Speaker Tip O'Neill) Chris Matthews disagrees. In a discussion on the Marine who shot an Iraqi terrorist who had been captured earlier, Matthews said this:
Well, let me ask you about this. If this were the other side, and we were watching an enemy soldier, a rival—I mean, they're not bad guys, especially—just people that disagree with it. They're in fact the insurgents fighting us in their country.
When I first heard this on several talk shows, including Hugh Hewitt's, I wondered about the context, wondered if that was really Matthews' opinion, so I read the whole segment and found even more.
Let me ask you about what the rules of engagement are. Watching the battlefield casualties, you don't read a lot about wounded Iraqi prisoners. Do we take prisoners? Do we take wounded prisoners? Obviously we're sending our troops up to Germany to get fixed up, if we can. They're getting the best medical treatment in the world, and they deserve it. What kind of treatment normally goes to the losers? To the other side, the wounded?

ALLARD: One of the things that we do with our kids, is they are trained—yes, indeed, we do take prisoners. Yes, indeed, we are responsible for evacuating them and making sure they receive competent medical care.
. . .
So what—it's not one of those things when on the offensive, you take no prisoners? It's not? There are times when that does occur, though, right?
Matthews accuses US forces of not taking prisoners, is contradicted by retired Colonel Ken Allard, the NBC expert, and repeats the accusation. Note also his question on the rules of engagement. He is indirectly accusing the commanders of ordering their men not to take prisoners.

The whole exchange is outrageous. Matthews casually accuses US forces of routinely committing war crimes, implies that the troops have been ordered to do so, and ignores the correction from Colonel Allard. He either does not know or does not care about the brutal behavior of the terrorists we are fighting. It would be going too far to say that Matthews is on the side of the terrorists; it would not be going too far to say that he sympathizes with them, as you can see in his concern about whether they are receiving the very best possible medical treatment.

Matthews' ignorance should disqualify him as journalist. Anyone who has read a major newspaper would know that the terrorists are, by any reasonable definition, "bad guys". Anyone who has read a major newspaper would know that our forces take prisoners all the time, and that commanders want prisoners for practical reasons, to reduce the fighting and to provide intelligence for future operations. Despite his ignorance on these fundamental points, Matthews has been a columnist for a major newspaper (the San Francisco Examiner) and now has his own news program. It isn't clear to me what led news executives to give him those posts, but we can be certain that it was not Matthews' fairness, or his knowledge. (Those who have watched his program seem to think it isn't his listening ability, either.)
- 7:05 AM, 17 November 2004   [link]