Archive:

October 2003, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Just Months After The Taliban fell, there was a marriage boom in liberated Afghanistan.  Now, the same thing is happening in Iraq.   The new freedom from controls, from army obligations, and from discrimination against Kurds and others has allowed couples to wed who could not before the fall of Saddam.  The weddings have some extra touches, since Iraq is not as poor or primitive as Afghanistan.
And so the couples flock to the hallway outside the office of whichever judge is assigned to weddings.  One recent day, it was a courtly, silver-haired jurist named Abdul Bari Aziz, who signaled his readiness by pressing a button on his desk.  From a box above the door, a chime played, "Theme From Love Story."
  After the civil ceremony, the couple goes, if they can afford it, to a hotel, the fancier the better.
- 2:33 PM, 24 October 2003   [link]


If You Need A Project for gloomy weather this weekend or this winter, why not build your own computer?  If you use one of the new mini-ITX motherboards, you can install it in a breadbox, an ET doll, Lincoln logs, a gasoline can, a model of Han Solo's ship, a toaster, or a sewing box.  Or you can think of something original.  The new small computers are not just for the amusement of the hobbyists; they draw much less power and are quieter than standard machines, as well as being smaller.  They wouldn't be the right choice for some applications, like 3-D games, but they are fine for email, web surfing, and writing.   Here's a site with many more examples, if you want some ideas.
- 9:47 AM, 24 October 2003   [link]


My Apologies for not getting out the post on McDermottism yesterday.  After the record deluge we had on Monday, I couldn't resist the sunshine in the last few days.  Especially since it may not last.  Though we get much less total rain than places like New York and Atlanta, we can go weeks without sun in the winter.   It's not a good place for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, even with the coffee.   The best months to visit are July and August, when the weather is usually warm and dry,
- 9:24 AM, 24 October 2003   [link]


Cities With Foreign Policies Have Dirty Streets:  That's the conclusion I came to years ago, after visits to San Francisco, Seattle, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.  I am sure there are exceptions, but I have yet to see one.   It does not seem to be a matter of ideology.  Miami, which has an anti-Castro foreign policy, has had severe problems in recent years.  The reason for the dirty streets is obvious; if local officials are spending their time denouncing ills they can not control, they will ignore the problems that they can control.

Seattle still has a foreign policy and still has dirty streets.  This article from The Stranger, an alternative Seattle newspaper, shows just how bad conditions have become in one Seattle neighborhood.
Before the rainy season began in earnest earlier this month, Capitol Hill's Cal Anderson Park was literally awash in human crap.  And used needles.  And beer bottles, condoms, and tiny drug baggies.  While the park is currently disguised as a playground for small kids, a soccer field for big kids, and a construction site--the city is currently working on capping the reservoir--neighbors know what the park is really being used for.
The neighborhood is, not surprisingly, a hotbed of political activism which gives strong support to the very politicians who have helped create these conditions.

There's some small hope for improvement in Seattle politics.  This November the voters there will vote on a change from city wide to district elections for the city council.   If enacted, that would probably help to shift the attention of Seattle politicians back to Seattle's own problems.  Naturally, Seattle Times editorial writer Joni Balter is opposed.   The more sensible Matt Rosenberg, a "guest columnist", is in favor, as is blogger Stefan Sharkansky, who demolishes Balter's arguments.  I think problems like those in Cal Anderson park show an urgent need for reform.  It would be interesting to know why Balter disagrees with that.

(I was disappointed that Balter, who is being paid well for these columns, did so little research on the subject.  Political scientists have studied the effects of district versus at-large elections for decades.  If Balter had picked up her phone and made a few calls to the University of Washington, she could have learned a great deal, and contributed to the debate.)
- 8:20 AM, 24 October 2003   [link]


College Students For Bush:  A Harvard poll found that college students aren't paying much attention to their professors.
College students are more likely to register as Republicans and support President Bush than the general public, according to a survey released yesterday by Harvard's Institute of Politics (IOP).

The nationwide poll of 1,202 undergraduates revealed that 61 percent approve of Bush's performance as president, compared to 53 percent of all voters.
National polls usually put the Republican and Democratic parties about equal in identifiers; if anything, the Democrats are still likely to have a point or two lead.  In this latest survey of college students, the Republicans lead 31 to 27 percent in identifiers.  That's a reversal from just three and a half years ago.  In April 2000, the Democrats led by 34 to 28 percent.

(There are more interesting details in the survey.   Students are more positive about the direction of the country than other voters, and were in earlier polls, as well.  That's not to say that they are raving optimists, since just 46 percent say the nation is headed in the right direction, while 43 percent say it is headed in the wrong direction.  There's some tentative evidence for the the growth of pro-life sentiments seen in national polls.  Four percent of the students said that an important issue to them was being pro-life, while just two percent said pro-choice on the same open ended question.   On the other hand there were another four percent who said "abortion", who could be on either side.  Like the Democratic primary voters, few students now see terrorism as an important issue.  In October 2001, 53 percent saw it as an important issue, but just 4 percent do now.

Most of the students say they are very patriotic (39 percent) or patriotic (50 percent).   Just 9 percent said they were not very patriotic and 2 percent said they were not patriotic at all.  Many do not, however, have a traditional view of patriotism.  Forty-six percent said they would avoid the draft if it were re-instated.)
- 7:41 AM, 24 October 2003   [link]


Goodbye George Galloway:  The Labour MP who makes Seattle Congressman McDermott look moderate and thoughtful is no longer an official member of the Labour party.  He has been tossed out after a committee found him guilty of four of five charges of bringing the party into disrepute.
The charges faced by Mr Galloway were that:
  • he incited Arabs to fight British troops

  • he incited British troops to defy orders

  • he incited Plymouth voters to reject Labour MPs,

  • he threatened to stand against Labour

  • he backed an anti-war candidate in Preston.
They convicted him on all except the third, so they did find him guilty on the first and second charges, which are by far the most important.  They did not consider the charges from the Telegraph newspaper that Galloway had accepted bribes from Saddam Hussein, charges that may end up in a libel case.

(If you wonder about precedents, here's an article on earlier expulsions of Labour MPs from the party.  The party has, from time to time, problems with its far left.)
- 3:46 PM, 23 October 2003   [link]


The "Reasoning" in this Editor & Publisher opinion piece leaves me stunned.  First, Joe Strupp admits that the last minute Los Angeles stories on Arnold Schwarzenegger do not pass the usual tests most newspapers use.
On its face, the newspaper's actions could be seen as questionable at best, biased at worst.   Reporting a story based mostly on unnamed sources, days before an election, regarding the sensitive issue of sexual harassment, is obviously going to spark criticism.
But then he calls a number of editors, all of whom tell him that the Los Angeles Times has a fine reputation, and must have had a reason for what they did.  (I think it honestly did not occur to Strupp that editors, mostly on the left, and all in the same position as James Carroll of the Los Angeles Times, might not be unbiased judges in the matter.)

He then concludes that, since the LA Times has fine reputation, the stories must be OK, and that no journalistic rules were broken.  By identical reasoning, one could show that the Jayson Blair stories at the New York Times were fine.  People at the New York Times didn't follow the usual rules, but the newspaper has a high reputation (at other newspapers, anyway), so there was no scandal.  You can think of more parallels on your own, I am sure.

Just as astonishing as the reasoning is Strupp's deafness to more than half of the political argument.  For years, I have been reading criticisms of the Los Angeles Times from the right and center, some quite justified.  For those in the center and on the right, the newspaper now has a dismal reputation.  Talk show host Hugh Hewitt, for example, often attacks the newspaper on his show and in articles, and is even more contemptuous of them than he is of the New York Times.  As far as I can tell from this opinion piece, such critics don't even exist.  Strupp doesn't mention any of them, not even Jill Stewart, a reporter who once worked on the Los Angeles Times.  
- 10:45 AM, 23 October 2003   [link]


How Important Is Left Wing Advertising To The New York Times?   More than you might think, I decided, after seeing another example this morning while glancing through a stack of newspapers.  I have heard that the Times charges $50,000 for a full page ad.  I would guess that I see at least two pages of left wing issue ads a week in the Times, though I have not made an effort to count them.  If my estimate is roughly correct, then the Times takes in about $5,000,000 a year from left wing issue groups.   Even for a newspaper as large as the New York Times, that isn't a small amount.  (There are also ads from conservative groups, of course, but many fewer.)

Does this money affect their coverage?  Not consciously, I am sure, but it seems likely that it has some small effect unconsciously.  The Times might, for example, be a bit less likely to do a tough piece on Tom Paine, which advertises there frequently.
- 9:41 AM, 23 October 2003   [link]


Worth Reading:  Stanley Crouch on the Ghettopoly game.
The game has players engage in pimping, whoring, selling drugs and committing acts of violence to move around the board.  But I do not think Ghettopoly is actually the problem.   In actuality, the insulting and debasing of black people has been snatched from the white people and taken over by the black people.  For the first time in show business history, Negroes can literally make millions by acting out every derogatory stereotype - the cruder the better.
- 9:14 AM, 23 October 2003   [link]


Boom In 1645 BC:  The explosion of the Thera volcano in 1645 BC is now thought to have been equal in force to the largest in the last 10,000 years, Tambora's 1816 explosion, and far larger than the 1883 Krakatoa explosion that killed some 36,000 people.  There is still considerable disagreement on how much it affected the civilizations in the area, especially Minoan Crete.  Here's the full story from the New York Times.

And this Guardian analysis argues that we are doing too little to prepare for such natural catastrophes.  Granted, the author, Bill McGuire, has an interest in these preparations, since he is both "director of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre at University College London" and the author of A Guide to the End of the World: Everything You Never Wanted to Know, but I think he has a point.  (I do have trouble accepting his estimate of 50 meter high tsunamis in the Atlantic from a landslide in the Canary islands.)
- 1:15 PM, 22 October 2003   [link]


Why Are There No Liberal Talk Shows?  There are some, of course, but none with as many listeners as Limbaugh and others on the right.  The usual explanation, from the conservative talk show hosts, is that they counterbalance the "mainstream media", which is actually liberal.  If, magically, ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and company became conservative, then shortly after, there would be many liberal talk shows to present the other side.

That's most of the answer, but there's another part, for which you can find some evidence in this column.   National Public Radio is already filling the liberal talk show niche.  Their news stories often have a sharp slant to the left, and their talk shows are almost always biased.   Yesterday there was a neat, and entirely typical, example here in Seattle.  Molly Ivins is touring the country promoting her latest book.  In the morning she was on the local NPR affiliate, KUOW, and in the afternoon, she was on Michael Medved's program which is heard here on a conservative talk station, KTTH.  She was welcomed like an old friend on KUOW and challenged on Medved's program.  The KUOW program, "Weekday" takes questions and comments from emailers as well as callers.  Halfway through the program, I sent them this email:
Just a quick note on two errors in what Ivins has said so far.  First, she botched the LBJ story.  Actually, Johnson was bragging to Speaker Rayburn about how smart the Cabinet and aides were.  Rayburn was the one who said he would be happier if one of them had been sheriff somewhere.  I think that was while Johnson was vice president.

Second, Iowa has five House seats, all of them potentially competitive, not three of four.

And, it is rather much for someone like Molly Ivins, who has used fascist to describe Republicans, and otherwise insults them constantly, to expect them to pay much attention to her ideas.

Finally, it would be interesting to know her explanation for why a search on "Molly Ivins" + plagiarism turns up so many hits.
Did any of this make it on the air?  Perhaps.  They did note that she had been wrong about the number of House seats in Iowa, without any attribution.  And, they did read one email that challenged Ivins at the beginning of the program, but on the whole it was a love fest.  Finally, as you might expect, the Medved segment with Ivins was far more interesting.
- 11:03 AM, 22 October 2003   [link]


Update On What Dean Said:  By way of Charles Johnson's site, Little Green Fooballs, I learned that the Washington Post gave an entirely different account of Dean's speech than Reuters did.  In the Reuters account, which I discussed here, Dean excluded a list of people from being Americans.  However, in the Washington Post story, Dean is quoted as saying:
Because John Ashcroft touts the Patriot Act around the country does not mean John Ashcroft is a patriot," Dean said to rising cheers.  "That American flag over there belongs to every American -- not only to John Ashcroft, Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
By way of comparison, here's the Reuters quote:
[The American flag] does not belong to General Boykin, or John Ashcroft, or Rush Limbaugh or Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson
So Reuters added General Boykin and leaves out the essential "not only" qualifier.   Which account is correct?  I am not a big fan of Reuters, but I think they may be right on this one, since I have seen similar quotes from Dean in other stories.  Possibly, the Washington Post is working from a printed version of his speech and Reuters is giving what he actually said.
- 10:13 AM, 22 October 2003   [link]


Byron York spotted something I missed in my own comments on the poll of Democratic primary voters.
What Democracy Corps found was that Democrats, at least those who are most active in politics, simply don't care about terrorism.
Here's the evidence:
In one question, pollsters read a list of a dozen topics—education, taxes, big government, the environment, Social Security and Medicare, crime and illegal drugs, moral values, healthcare, the economy and jobs, fighting terrorism, homeland security, and the situation in Iraq—and asked, "Which concern worries you the most?"

In Iowa, 1 percent of those polled—1 percent!—said they worried about fighting terrorism.  It was dead last on the list.

Two percent said they worried about homeland security—next to last.

In New Hampshire, 2 percent worried about fighting terrorism and 2 percent worried about homeland security.

In South Carolina—somewhat surprising because of its military heritage—the results were the same.

Democrats in each state were then given the same list of topics and asked to name their second-most concern.  Fighting terrorism and homeland security still placed near the bottom of the list.
What issues do they care about?  

Jobs and the economy (about half), the situation in Iraq (about a third), health care (about a fourth), social security and medicare (about one fifth), and education (about one fifth), all but Iraq traditional Democratic issues.  It is hard not to conclude that the Democratic primary voters simply don't want to think about the war on terrorism.  No wonder the candidates have had so little criticism to make of Bush administration policies.  The voters they are courting simply don't want to hear about the subject.

Here's the entire column.
- 7:41 AM, 22 October 2003   [link]


Howard Dean's Wife, judging by some of her comments, thinks that his run for the presidency is just something he has to get out of his system, or as a therapist might say, part of his mid-life crisis.  This strange stunt does seem to indicate a certain lack of seriousness.  I knew that jumping on moving vehicles was a dumb idea when I was 12.
- 8:37 AM, 21 October 2003   [link]


The French Don't Understand Us:  So says André Kaspi, "a professor of U.S. history at the University of Paris I (Sorbonne), where he directs the center for North American history".
Quite a few among the French think they know everything about the United States.  Some have traveled there, visiting New York or the marvelous national parks of the West.  More often they've seen television reports, scanned the press or listened to the tales of a friend or cousin.  In short, they know for sure that Americans are remarkable, infantile, obese, imperialist, lacking in culture, generally insufferable and always hostile toward France.

It's true that every country has its stereotypes.  But is it not in the best interest of the French to make a better effort to understand others, including the Americans?  Is it acceptable, for example, that there are only a dozen historians in France who research the United States, while on the other side of the Atlantic about 2,000 historians patiently and skillfully dissect French history?
And then he proves that they don't understand us with this:
Among all the sources of anti-Americanism, the death penalty ranks at the top.
Except that they don't have similar feelings toward Japan, China, and the Arab countries, all of which also have the death penalty.  Or toward their fellow Europeans, who favor the death penalty in large numbers.  Polls have shown that there are majorities in some European countries favoring the death penalty, and large numbers favor it in all, or nearly all of them.  So, Professor Kaspi should look elsewhere for the sources of anti-Americanism.  (He's the author of a book on the death penalty in the United States, which makes his ignorance on this point even more remarkable.)
- 8:27 AM, 21 October 2003   [link]


Modern Slavery:  Americans would like to believe that slavery has been abolished, that it ended with our Civil War.  That is not, sadly, the truth.   Our own State Department estimates that almost one million people are sold as slaves every year.  Under President Bush, the United States is taking a more active role in fighting slavery than we have for some time.  This Joel Connelly interview with the man coordinating our effort, former Congressman John Miller, will give you some sense of the extent and variety of modern slavery, from sex slaves in the Seattle area to child workers in a Nigerian quarry.  (Miller once represented my own 1st district, and though we have the same last name, is not a relative.)

Nowhere is the modern slave trade worse than in the Sudan.  Here's the heartbreaking account of Francis Bok, who escaped from slavery there.  In 1986, at the age of 10, Bok was captured.
That day, the Catholic boy nicknamed Piol, for rain, lost his childhood and world to the murahaliin.  After torching the nearby villages and slaying their inhabitants, 20 light-skinned Juur horsemen charged into Nyamlell.  They severed the heads of all Dinka men with single sword strokes, left them rolling in the blood-soaked market dust and stole off Piol's older friends Abuk, Kwol and Nyabol in different directions.  A rifleman permanently silenced a crying girl with a bullet to her head.  A swordsman more "mercifully" sliced off her sister's leg at the thigh like the branch of a small tree.  Francis tried to flee.  Terror squelched his cries.  He was halted at gunpoint, grabbed and slung astride a small saddle, crafted specifically to carry abducted children, and ridden far north.
As the author goes on to say, this was entirely consistent with centuries of Muslim tradition.  The accumulation of stories like this one finally led the Congress to pass the Sudan Peace Act a year ago, in an effort to end the slavery and genocide.  (For a description of the act, see this Nat Hentoff column.)

Whether it was the act, or other kinds of pressure, Sudan's government has changed its position, and there is hope for an end to the civil war in the Sudan and the slavery that has accompanied it.  Negotiators for the two sides are optimistic, and Secretary of State Colin Powell is flying to Kenya to help push the negotiations the last few steps.  Soon Francis Bok may be able to go back to his village and live in peace.
- 7:49 AM, 21 October 2003   [link]


1500 Posts:  And to celebrate, here are some of my favorites from the last 500.
  • An extended speculation on crime's long term fall and recent rise.

  • My take on what happened to Saddam's WMDs.   They could easily be hidden, given their small volume, but I did not (and do not) exclude other possibilities.

  • A discussion of how the press almost universally misinterpreted the Pew International Survey.  World opinion of the United States fell from Summer of 2002 to March, just before the liberation of Iraq, but had already begun to recover by May 2003.

  • An account of Strom Thurmond's career with a twist.  Early in his life, he was, for his time and place, a liberal.

  • The many new ways of making babies.  Some are going to cause society serious problems in the future.

  • Dr. Dean's failure to improve medical outcomes in Vermont, while governor.

  • One great cause for education failure may be, I think, fatherless children, especially fatherless boys.

  • What Bush really said about salmon recovery.  No, he didn't claim credit for it.

  • What motivates supporters of Howard Dean.  They feel disempowered, and he promises to give them power.
- 5:1 PM, 20 October 2003   [link]


What Do Democrats Want?  There are some answers in this survey of primary voters in three states, Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.  The survey was conducted for the Democracy Corps, a non-profit organization "dedicated to making the government of the United States more responsive to the American people".  We can guess what they mean by that from the founders, James Carville, Stanley Greenberg, and Bob Shrum, all strong Clinton supporters.  The government will be "more responsive", I am sure they believe, if it is controlled by Democrats.

A large part of the survey consisted of paired statements, in which the voters were asked which of the two was closest to their own views.  The pair that drew most press attention is in question 53.
I want a Democratic nominee who opposed the Iraq war from the beginning.

I want a Democratic nominee who supported military action against Saddam Hussein but was critical of Bush for failing to win international support for the war.
The second statement drew more support in all three states, with very similar percentages in the three states.  For example, in New Hampshire, 42 percent gave the second statement strong agreement and 16 percent weak agreement.  The first statement got strong agreement from 29 percent and weak agreement from 9 percent.  In other words, a majority of Democratic voters in these three states wanted Saddam removed by force—but with the sanction of the United Nations, or some other international body.

A later series of questions, starting with number 56, which ask about the importance of issues, suggests that, despite all the press attention, the war with Iraq is less important than other issues to the Democrats.  In the three states, 30 percent (New Hampshire), 36 percent (Iowa), and 47 percent (South Carolina) of the voters say that it is very important that the Democratic nominee opposed the war from the beginning.  That's less than the importance they give to most of the issues, and far less than the importance they give to repealing tax cuts for corporations and the top one percent, which is very important to 79 percent (Iowa), 72 percent (New Hampshire), and 64 percent (South Carolina).  The Democrats are almost as much in favor of repealing all the Bush tax cuts, though they do not feel as strongly about that.  (Whether they feel this way because they are government employees, or recipients of government support, is not clear from the survey, since there are no questions that touch on those subjects.)

There are other interesting tidbits in the survey.  The personal characteristic that drew the most support was "has experience in foreign affairs, intelligence, and national security", which makes Senator Graham's early exit look peculiar.  And, in all of the three states, self identified "liberals" are a minority of their party.  There are more "moderates" in all three states, and more "conservatives" than you might think, 14 percent (Iowa), 12 Percent (New Hampshire), and 28 percent (South Carolina).  And, about a quarter of the Democrats show libertarian leanings in question 43, preferring less governmental regulation.

I should add one last point, a caveat.  Extrapolating from poll results to election outcomes is even more difficult for primary elections than general elections.  Levels of voting can vary greatly.  When they are low, the results can be dominated by those who are more extreme than party voters as a whole.  And, just to complicate things even more, some states allow independents and Republicans to vote in Democratic primaries.  Since there is no contest on the Republican side this year, some Democratic primaries may have large numbers of voters that are not Democrats.  Those who followed the 2000 election will remember that it was Democrats and independents that gave John McCain his winning margin in the Michigan primary.

(I noticed some technical flaws in the survey.  The most important was the different screen they used to identify Democrats in South Carolina.  Unlike the other two states, South Carolina does not require party registration.  The survey questioned only those who said they always vote in the Democratic primaries, excluding those who said they usually or sometimes do.  The correct procedure would be to include all three groups but weight the groups differently, although determining the exact weights is tricky.  This difference in screens means that comparisons between Democrats in South Carolina to those in the other two states should be done with caution.)
- 10:41 AM, 20 October 2003   [link]


Car Crashes, Train Wrecks, And Other Disasters fascinate me as much as the next guy, so when I saw this Heather Mallick column, in a respectable Canadian newspaper, I had to watch.  The column's argument is unremarkable; she hates Rush Limbaugh, but hopes he gets over his drug addiction.  Her first paragraph, on the other hand, is so disastrous as to be fascinating.
Regular readers will be taken aback to find me defending Rush Limbaugh, American radio's bloated, pig-ignorant, racist, woman-hating blowhard, a man with the brains of a tub of microwaved suet combined with the social graces of a hyena fighting with a vulture over the rotting remains of a leftover meerkat leg.
Just for fun, try to picture a "tub of microwaved suet combined with the social graces of a hyena".   I like to think I have a good imagination, but Mallick defeats me completely with that one.  That's the worst mistake, but not the only one.  I leave the rest for your amusement.

As is often true with disasters, there is a warning here for the rest of us.  Remember, Heather Mallick is a professional journalist.  Do not try this kind of writing at home.
- 7:41 AM, 20 October 2003   [link]


Did You Know That Attorney General Ashcroft Is Not An American?   Not according to Howard Dean, who says that the American "flag belongs to every single American", after saying that: "It does not belong to General Boykin, or John Ashcroft, or Rush Limbaugh or Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson."  So, if the flag doesn't belong to Ashcroft, or the others, they must not be Americans, by simple logic.  You may think I am quibbling, that Dean meant to say that the flag does not belong only to those he named.  Except that this is part of his stock speech, and every time I see him quoted, he leaves out any qualifier.

In this, as in other ways, Dean is similar to George Wallace.  Like Wallace, he has a whole list of people he wants to exclude.  And the contempt that Wallace showed for "pointy-headed professors who can't park a bicycle straight" is matched by Dean's contempt for evangelicals.  (All in the list, except Rush Limbaugh, are evangelicals, at least in the broadest, political sense of the term.  I'm not sure just what Limbaugh's religious beliefs are, though I think it likely he spends more time on Sundays watching pro football than attending religious services.)  Dean's exclusion is more dangerous than Wallace's, since he was speaking to an Arab-American audience that included many Muslims.  Does Howard Dean really think that stirring up religious divisions is good for the nation, or even his candidacy?  What would people think if Dean had made up a similar list of "non-citizens", all but one Jewish?  Or if a Republican candidate made a list of "non-citizens", all but one Muslim?
- 7:51 AM, 18 October 2003
Update:  There's a Washington Post account of the speech, with an entirely different version of the crucial quote.  I explain why I think the Reuters version is more likely to be the right one here.
- 10:19 AM, 22 October 2003   [link]


The Wife Of British Chancellor Gordon Brown, Sarah, just gave birth to a healthy baby boy.  There is even more joy at this birth than most because the Browns lost their first child, Jennifer, who died two years ago, just 10 days after she was born.   Congratulations to the Browns, and I hope they won't mind if I add that I was tickled by these very British predictions about the baby's future, which I found at the end of the Guardian's story.
Bookies are offering 20-1 on him joining the Tories, and 1,000-1 on his chances of becoming prime minister.
- 7:44 AM, 18 October 2003   [link]


Last Week's Picture was of the restored Globe theater in London.   The restoration was done using, as much as possible, the original tools as well as the original tools and materials.  For example, the posts in the balustrades were turned on a foot powered lathe.  One woman did all of them, taking months to complete the work.   Next time I visit London, I hope to see a Shakespeare play at the Globe, just for the experience.

I could not think of a really good hint, in a book title, for this week's picture.  Most browsers will show you which book he is reading if you move your mouse pointer over the picture, and that should be enough to tell you where the picture was taken.  If you would rather try to guess, I'll just say that the picture was taken in a Pacific coast state.
- 7:31 AM, 18 October 2003   [link]


Howard Dean And George Wallace:  Those old enough to remember George Wallace's campaigns for the presidency will probably be surprised that I find similarities between him and Howard Dean.  But the similarities are there, and are even more instructive than the differences between the two men.  (If you need a review of Wallace's career, go to the last paragraphs of this post.)

Like Dean, Wallace relied on a strong grass roots movement.  Most of the nine million dollars he raised in 1968 came from small donations.  He drew tens of thousands of volunteers to his campaign, far more than Dean has to date.  His successful efforts to get on the ballot in each state often required enormous efforts by large numbers of volunteers.  His volunteers were not the middle class and upper class professionals that populate the Dean campaign, but were mostly working class, steel workers, truck drivers, beauticians, and similar people.  (Considering Dean's urban base, perhaps his movement should be called an Astroturf movement, rather than a grass roots movement.)

Like Dean, Wallace boasted of his expansion of social services in his small state.  Take a look at the claims in this 1968 Wallace brochure.   (If you want to see it in its original form, look at the PDF version.)  Among other things, Wallace claimed that he built schools, raised teachers salaries, provided record high levels of welfare, and increased unemployment benefits.  Like Dean, he also claimed to have run a fiscally prudent government.  (I believe Alabama had higher taxes than most neighboring states while he was governor, just like Dean's Vermont.)

Like Dean, Wallace had a gift for the punchy, crowd pleasing line, often misleading and sometimes untrue.  There is enough similarity in some of their statements that, with some translation, Dean could use some of Wallace's rhetoric.  Although he wouldn't say anything as snappy as Wallace's "not a dimes worth of difference" to describe Bush and his Democratic opponents, he comes close to that view.  And it would not be hard to adapt some of Wallace's suspicion of federal power to Dean's attacks on the Patriot Act and John Ashcroft.  Like Wallace, Dean has his disagreements with the current Attorney General.

Like Dean's supporters, Wallace's supporters were angry with the administration, feeling powerless to affect its actions through ordinary means.  Both men indulge some of the more extreme views held by supporters, without necessarily sharing them.  And each candidate drew support from just a segment of his party.  Dean has, so far, little support among working people, just as Wallace had little support in the middle class, outside the South.  Just like Wallace in 1968 and 1972, Dean has little support from racial minorities.

It would be unfair to both men to attribute their actions entirely to political calculation, but it would be naive not to notice that each man's campaign represented his best strategy for becoming president or influencing the outcome.  Many have noticed that Wallace adapted his stands to improve his political chances.  The same is true of Dean, though few have noticed that.  Dean is running as the angry outsider, attacking both President Bush and his Democratic opponents in Washington.  No doubt he believes much of this, but it is obvious that his strategy is the only plausible one for an ex-governor of a small state, unknown to the nation.

I don't point out these parallels between Dean and Wallace just to tease the Dean supporters—though many of them would benefit from a little kidding—but to draw some lessons from history.  In their anger, Wallace's supporters stopped listening to others, even within their own party.  Although many called them conservatives, a better term would be reactionaries, since they wanted the impossible, to return to the past.   Is the same true of Dean's supporters?  I think so, though I realize that many would disagree with me.  And there's a final point that I hope Dean supporters will think about.  Wallace's supporters lost by backing him, however good it may have felt at the time.  They took themselves away from the table when decisions were being made, often against their own interests.

(Some history for those young enough to have missed Wallace's political career:   Wallace, like Bill Clinton, always wanted to be a politician.  After World War II, he served in the Alabama legislature and then as a circuit judge.  In 1958, he ran for Alabama governor and was defeated by John Patterson who had run a racist campaign.   After this defeat, Wallace vowed that he would never be beaten that way again, and began to look for ways to pose as a defender of segregation.  In 1962, he was elected governor and took office promising resistance to the federal government:
I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.
In June 1963, he physically blocked two black students from registering at the University of Alabama, in defiance of a federal court.  After President Kennedy nationalized the Alabama National Guard, Wallace backed down and the two students were registered.   Similar incidents followed with Wallace posing, the federal government acting, and then him backing down.

In 1964, he entered Democratic primaries in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Maryland.  Although Lyndon Johnson was just about to win his landslide victory, Wallace did surprisingly well in the primaries.  His best finish was in Maryland, where he won 45 percent of the vote.  In 1968, he ran as a third party candidate.  In a remarkable effort, he was able to get his American Independent Party on the ballot in every state.  He carried five southern states, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi.  He won 13 percent of the popular vote and would have done even better had he not chosen retired Air Force General Curtis LeMay as his running mate.  LeMay had a, shall we say, casual, attitude about nuclear weapons that scared the hell out of a lot of people.  As it was, Wallace came close to tipping the election to Humphrey or even throwing it into the House of Representatives.

In 1972, he came back to the Democratic party.  (Some think he did so because Nixon was blackmailing him by threatening to use the IRS against him.)  He ran well in many of the primaries and was gaining strength when he was shot by a loner named Arthur Bremer.   The shot paralyzed him below the waist, crippling him for the rest of his life.  After that, he got a sympathy vote and won some primaries in the North.  His entrance into the Democratic race probably made it possible for George McGovern to win the nomination, by drawing off voters who might have supported more moderate Democrats like Senator Henry Jackson.

After the 1972 election and his injury, he lost most of his influence nationally, although he kept his base in Alabama.  In his last years as governor, he apologized for his previous segregationist stands and drew considerable support from blacks in the state.

For more on Wallace's life, I recommend the PBS documentary, "Setting the Woods on Fire".   You can see the transcript in two parts, here and here.)
- 12:49 PM, 17 October 2003   [link]


There Are So Many Mistakes in this column by Joel Connelly of the Seattle PI that I am tempted to go over it line by line.  I don't have enough time for that today, so I'll just mention some of the worst.  It is true that Roosevelt had a bipartisan cabinet in World War II, but so does President Bush.  Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, a former Democratic Congressman, has an important part in the war on terror.  Nor would anyone familiar with FDR think that he gave up politics for the duration of the war.  As James MacGregor Burns says, in his biography, Roosevelt:The Lion And The Fox, during the 1944 campaign:
Roosevelt's tactics followed the classic pattern: long inspection trips, patient "nonartisanship" while [Republican candidate Thomas] Dewey lambasted the "tired old men" and then a series of quick thrusts in the last few weeks of the campaign. (p. 468)
Connelly is wrong twice when he claims that:
Roosevelt took no action to move up the Nov. 8, 1942, date of the U.S. landing in North Africa -- although the bloodless triumph might have prevented heavy Democratic losses in off-year elections a week earlier.
Here's how Rick Atkinson describes the decision on the timing of the landings in his fine book, An Army at Dawn:
On September 5, the final decision was made to attempt landings at three sites in Morocco and at half a dozen beaches around Algiers and Oran.  "Please make it before election day," Roosevelt asked Marshall.  In this the president would be disapppointed.  Various delays intruded, and on September 21, Eisenhower fixed the invasion date for Sunday morning, November 8, five days after the U. S. Congressional elections. (p. 29)
Nor was the triumph "bloodless".  In the entire campaign, the Torch landings and the campaign to drive the Germans out of Tunisia that followed, there were 70,000 allied casualties, nearly 20,000 of them American. (p. 316)  In the initial landing, more than 300 American soldiers died, about the same as in the entire Iraq campaign. (p. 150)

Finally, unless Connelly misquoted him, Senator Daschle made an odd and possibly revealing error.  Daschle said that Bush's speech in the National Cathedral was a "transfixing moment".  The first meaning of "transfix" is "to pierce with or as if with a pointed weapon".  Some Republicans might think that describes all too well Daschle's plans for them.  Most likely he just meant "transforming".
- 7:57 AM, 17 October 2003   [link]


One Molecule Transistor:  That's what a Danish scientific team has created.  What could this mean?  Lots.  For example, a supercomputer in a wrist watch.  With the parts for the watch made in a vat by bacteria or yeast, most likely.  Don't expect it next year though, since there are immense amounts of development before anything commercial comes from this creation.  And there may be technical or financial obstacles that prevent it from ever being more than an impressive piece of molecular engineering.
- 6:14 AM, 17 October 2003   [link]


As The Delphic Oracle could have told Fred Kaplan, it can be a mistake to be too specific in your predictions.
Hip, hip, but not hurray.  The U.N. Security Council is expected to approve the Bush administration's revised draft of a resolution designed to legitimize the U.S.-led occupation authority and the U.S.-commanded security force in Iraq.  However, the vote will probably be close and, in any case, the support is certainly tepid.
The vote was unanimous, as you probably already know.  Which means that Powell was able to gain the support of even the usual obstructionists like France and Syria.  He has had surprising success in getting support in the Security Council, everything considered.   Not only was this vote unanimous, but so was the vote to approve resolution 1441, which threatened Iraq with severe consequences before the war to liberate Iraq.  Could it be that Kaplan is, like so many, still "misunderestimating" President Bush and his administration?  The pessimistic titles of Kaplan's previous articles lend support to that idea.

How much does the vote matter?  Some.  It helps politically, though I am not sure that it will make much difference in Iraq, at least not for a while.
- 5:43 AM, 17 October 2003   [link]