Archive:

October 2004, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Worth Reading:  Dean Esmay's interview with Van Odell, one of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.  Here are two of the interchanges that I found most interesting.
DW: A couple of your group's members claim to have had their statements distorted by papers such as the Boston Globe.  Have you experienced anything like that with any press you've talked to?

VO: The distortion that I have seen is that they say that my claims are unsubstantiated, specifically to the March 13th incident, even though we've got 10 other eyewitnesses who tell the same story I do.

I have also been taken to task as a liar by the New York Times and the Washington Post by journalists who've never talked to me.
. . .
DW: Do you consider the members of Kerry's crew, who have backed his version of the story, to be liars?  If not, why do you believe their perceptions of the events in question differ so widely from your own?

VO: No I don't consider them liars.  I consider them led by Kerry right now.  One of the incidents that I can talk about, why I think their story differs, is that Rassman said he heard gunfire from the bank.  I didn't see any gunfire and I was at the highest point of the field.  I think Rassman just heard our gunfire, and when we realized we weren't under fire we stopped.

You would otherwise have to ask them why they think their memories are different.  So far only Del Sandusky has been allowed to talk to reporters, so we really don't know what the others have to say.
I am fairly sure that Odell is correct when he says that those supporting Kerry, with one exception, have not been allowed to talk to the press.  That suggests that he may be right when he says that Kerry may have gotten them to coordinate their stories with his.

(I should add, as I always do, that conflicting accounts of combat are routine, not unusual.   And, as I have also said before, I think the SwiftVet's account is probably closer to the truth than Kerry's account, but I don't think we will ever know for certain.)
- 9:58 AM, 8 October 2004   [link]


OF Course The Terrorists Want to See Bush Defeated  argues Charles Krauthammer in a column that will enrage Kerry supporters.
Do the bad guys -- the terrorists in their Afghan caves and Iraqi redoubts -- want George Bush defeated in this election?  Bush critics, among them the editors of the New York Times, have worked themselves into a lather over the mere suggestion that this might be so.  A front-page "analysis" in The Post quoted several Republican variations of this theme -- such as Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage saying that the terrorists in Iraq "are trying to influence the election against President Bush" -- then noted that "[s]uch accusations . . . surfaced in the modern era during the McCarthy communist hunt."

Intimations of McCarthyism constitute a serious charge.  But the charge is not remotely serious.  Of course the terrorists want Bush defeated.  How can anyone pretend otherwise?
Bush is, after all, trying, with considerable success, to kill the terrorists, which might put some of them in a bad mood.  I've conceded in the past that a few terrorists may want Bush re-elected because they see him as a useful opponent, just as some European leaders do.   That the vast majority of terrorists have a simpler view and want the man trying to destroy them defeated should not even be in dispute — especially after the Madrid bombings.

That does not mean that anyone who opposes terrorism must vote for Bush.  One can argue that Kerry will be a more effective opponent of terrorism than Bush, in spite of what terrorists believe, and in spite of Kerry's record.  There are serious people who make just that argument.  One can even argue that Kerry is better enough in other ways that the greater risks of terrorism from him becoming president are worth it.   But one should not pretend that the great majority of terrorists — and the great majority of their supporters — do not hope that Bush will be defeated.
- 7:20 AM, 8 October 2004   [link]


A Hard Ash Is Gonna Fall:  Possibly.  So say the geologists watching Mt. St, Helens.
Scientists also have debated whether a future eruption would be a relatively quiet event, with magma simply oozing into the crater, or a more explosive event with the potential to throw ash tens of thousands of feet into the air.
. . .
Yesterday, Larry Mastin, a USGS official, said most scientists now think there will likely be a mix of both kinds of events: "The question is, what size will they be?"

Mastin said a moderate explosive eruption now appears quite possible, and there is a small but significant chance of a larger eruption that could fling ash 15 miles into the sky.  Such an eruption also could cause super-heated rocks to race down the mountain on cushions of gas, a phenomenon known as a pyroclastic flow.
The main reason geologists expect a larger eruption is that part of the crater has risen 250 feet, 100 feet of that in just the last few days.  A rise of two inches two weeks ago was followed by steam eruptions with a little ash, so it appears that something more substantial is coming to the surface.

(If there should be an ash eruption today, it would fall as mud since Western Washington is having one of those rains for which the area is famous.)
- 6:48 AM, 8 October 2004   [link]


Why The Violence Against Republicans In This Campaign?  If you have been listening to conservative talk shows, or reading conservative blogs, you know that there has more violence against Republicans this year than in recent campaigns.   (Though the level now is far below what it was at earlier times, especially around the Civil War.) Many Republicans in this area choose not to have bumper stickers or yard signs for fear of vandalism.  And the Bush state headquarters, in Bellevue, just south of here, had three computers stolen in what may well have been a politically motivated theft.  But the problems here are less than in some other areas, where Republican headquarters have been shot at or even attacked by mobs.

(If you have missed these stories — and the newspapers and TV stations don't give them much attention — there's a brief summary here and more here, here, and here.)

Why are Kerry supporters, or, more accurately, Bush opponents, resorting to violence more often than they did in past elections?  Stanley Kurtz received this explanation from readers of the National Review site.
Why do Kerry supporters feel free to vandalize Bush signs and damage the property of the president's supporters?  Corner readers agree that it's the liberal feeling of moral superiority that "puts them above the law and gives them leave to abridge the rights of others."  Another typical comment was: "There's nothing more intolerant than a tolerant liberal."  One reader called for an amendment to Voltaire's classic statement of liberal tolerance: "I may disagree with what you say, but I'll sneak onto your yard in the middle of the night to steal your sign, you fascist bastard."
The difficulty with that argument is that it does not explain the change.  Liberals felt moral superiority in 1992, 1996, and 2000, but we did not see as many attacks in those elections as we have already seen in this election.

If we look for what is different this year, we must begin with the dispute over the 2000 election.  It is widely believed on the left that Bush "stole" the election, or that he was "selected, not elected".  Thanks to the way Al Gore chose to fight the battle of Florida, Bush could never have a victory that would appear legitimate to many on the left.   Despite that, the anti-Bush feelings were muted until after the 2002 election, when the Republicans took back control of the Senate and appeared poised to continue their control over the Congress and the White House for at least the next six years.

After the 2002 election, the Democrats felt powerless, as they often said.  As the party of government, Democrats took that harder than Republicans would, for reasons I explained here.  Howard Dean promised his supporters not that he would improve the nation, but that he would empower them; for some examples, see this post.  Here's how Dean explained it then:
"People feel horribly disempowered by George Bush," he said. "I'm about trying to give them control back.  This is not just a 'campaign,' it's a movement to empower ordinary people."
Or at least Democrats.

The Iraq war and the Bush tax cuts deepened the feeling among Democrats that they had been "disempowered" by George Bush.  In their view his power was illegitimate.  If he had done little as president, that would be less important to them.  But he has been bold and effective, adding injury to insult — from their point of view.

And it is not just a matter of feelings, since their loss of power has had policy consequences for groups in the Democratic coalition, and may have many more.  It is not, I think, a coincidence that unions have staged some of the worst attacks.  Public employee unions are directly threatened by Bush's plans to replace them with contractors. Trial lawyers are threatened by his proposals for tort reform.  For more examples, see this George Will column.

With this background, the escalation of attacks this year against Bush supporters becomes understandable, though not forgivable.  Suppose that you had worked for many years to attain your current position as a union official, a social welfare bureaucrat, a trial lawyer, or an editorial writer.  (I think we need not pretend that the "mainstream" media is not part of the Democratic coalition.)  Power is important to you and it is now held by an opponent who, you feel, won it illegitimately.   And the loss of power may affect you personally.  Your union may shrink, your budget may be cut, your fees may be capped, and your editorials may be ignored by the governing party.   How would you feel as you visualize the prospect of Bush's re-election?

Bad certainly, bad enough to tempt a few more than usual to vandalize signs, key cars, or worse.   Most Democrats won't cross the line into violence.  Even most Democratic activists won't, but more will than in years past.

(There is another explanation for the rise in violence that you can find here and here, that we are seeing this intensity because we are a more religious people than most.  I don't see any evidence for that argument, which does not explain why we see more violence against Republicans in this election.)
- 2:29 PM, 7 October 2004   [link]


Are Reporters Cowed By The Bush Administration?  That's the throwaway charge at the beginning of this Paul Krugman column.   From there, Krugman goes, as usual, into a tirade about how Bush is "lying".  There's no need to follow him into that swamp, but his first claim about reporters deserves some comment.   Here's the entire line:
Last week President Bush found himself defending his record on national security without his usual protective cocoon of loyalty-tested audiences and cowed reporters.
What's the right word to describe the idea that reporters are "cowed" by the Bush administration?  Delusional is about the weakest that fits.  Reporters are so afraid of the Bush administration that they have run hundreds of stories on whether he showed up for some National Guard meetings in the 1970s.  They are so cowed that White House press conferences sometimes remind me of bear baiting.  They are so cowed that the New York Times, to take an obvious example, ran nearly 200 stories on the minor Abu Ghraib scandal.  They are so cowed that CBS and Dan Rather rushed to run a story based on forged documents.

None of those examples will surprise anyone who follows the news even casually.  But Paul Krugman still wrote — and the New York Times still published — this delusional claim, that reporters are cowed.  Neither Krugman nor the Times provides a single bit of evidence for this even though it slurs both the Bush administration and reporters.   (In a previous column, Krugman did provide an example of how he thought the Bush administration tries to pressure reporters.  And how did they in that example?  They called to complain about errors in a story.)

Some administrations have tried to cow reporters; certainly the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton adminstrations did, with a variety of pressures.  I have seen no evidence at all that the Bush administration has done any of the unethical and sometimes illegal things those adminstrations did.  None.

That an Ivy League professor would write delusional nonsense attacking Bush and journalists is not surprising.  That our most influential newspaper would publish this delusional nonsense no longer surprises, but still dismays.
- 7:50 AM, 7 October 2004   [link]


Hockey Stick Busted:  The "hockey stick" is the name given a sensational graph that appeared to show centuries of stable climate (the shaft of the "hockey stick"), followed by global warming (the blade of the stick).  A new study has shown that the methods used to construct the graph would have missed many past changes in climate.  The shaft of the stick, the long period of apparently stable climate, is an artifact of the methods used, not reality.  Here's the New York Times article discussing the new study.
A new analysis has challenged the accuracy of a climate timeline showing that recent global warming is unmatched for a thousand years.

That timeline, generated by stitching together hints of past temperatures embedded in tree rings, corals, ice layers and other sources, is one strut supporting the widely accepted view that the current warm spell is being caused mainly by accumulating heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe emissions.
. . .
The new study essentially says the shaft of the stick could well be profoundly warped and the old statistical method would not notice.
. . .
But many climate sleuths acknowledged that while the broad climate trends were clear, much remained uncertain.
Which is what I have been arguing for some time.  The more uncertainty, the weaker the case for making enormously expensive changes now to prevent global warming.

(You can see the "hockey stick" in the graphic accompanying the article.  If you haven't read it, you may want to look at my disclaimer on global warming for more on the uncertainties.)
- 6:52 AM, 7 October 2004   [link]


Want To Know More About What's Happening In Iraq?  If you are in this area, you may want to attend Karl Zinsmeister's talk at the Meydenbauer center this evening.  The price is ten dollars (five, you happen to be a member of the World Affairs Council).  You can register by phone at: 206-441-5910, or at the door if there are still tickets available.  I'll be there to cover it for you if I can.

For a sample of his thinking, see this Seattle PI guest column.
- 8:57 AM, 6 October 2004   [link]


Yesterday's Eruption:  I caught it just as it began:



Twenty minutes later, the eruption was big enough to shade most of the area between the mountain and the volcano cam.



Two hours later, the eruption was over, though ash was still in the air.



For more, see here, here, and here.   (The New York Times story has a graphic showing a satellite view of the mountain, which may help make sense of the other stories.)  The most interesting video I saw yesterday was taken from a private airplane taken looking down into the crater, which showed the new vents and the pond formed by the melting of part the glacier south of the dome.  You may be able to see it at the KOMO site, though I haven't checked.  There are more video clips and some slides at the KIRO site.

(One local news anchor claimed yesterday that the glacier inside the crater has more volume than all the glaciers on the old mountain put together.  That's probably true.  Another anchor made one of those mistakes that make you skeptical about everything else you hear from these anchors.  He said that the temperature of the pond inside the crater was about 200 degrees Centigrade, which should surprise anyone who learned the Fahrenheit and Centigrade scales in school, or anyone who understands the principle behind pressure cookers, for that matter.)
- 8:30 AM, 6 October 2004   [link]


Brain Surgeons Are Backing Bush, as I noted here, but the porn industry is backing Kerry.
Over the last six months a range of adult performers - from performance art-oriented burlesque dancers at Emo's to harder-core strip clubs to online pornographers - have conducted voter-registration drives.
. . .
Other parts of the $15 billion adult entertainment industry have followed suit.  Several adult film actors have made a DVD, for sale on the Internet, entitled "Porn for Kerry." In the film, which features porn stars, "Jorge Bush" canoodles in a hot tub with the king of an imaginary Middle Eastern oil state.  The filmmakers say they will donate the proceeds to Senator John Kerry's campaign.
The brain surgeons are backing Bush because they hope he will rein in the trial lawyers.  The porn industry is backing Kerry because they are afraid of John Ashcroft.  (I can't say that I can see much reason for them to be afraid of Ashcroft.  Aside from child pornography, court decisions have almost completely legalized pornography.  The one Ashcroft prosecution mentioned in the article was not for pornography but for racketeering.)

As you can imagine, the Kerry campaign is not entirely happy with this open support, but as far as I know they are not returning the contributions from the porn industry.
- 7:18 AM, 5 October 2004   [link]


VP Debate:  Rather than finish the Mt. St. Helens picture sequence, I listened to most of the Vice Presidential debate.  Cheney won easily, I thought, but you should remember that I listened to the debate, rather than watching it.   Edwards may well have looked better on TV.  This discussion from "Hindrocket" of Power Line notes the two points where Cheney was most effective, the Kerry-Edwards omission of Iraqi casualties in their counts and Edwards' lackluster career in the Senate, something I discussed at length here, when Edwards declared his candidacy.  And I would agree with "Deacon", also of Power Line, that Gwen Ifill's questions were better than Jim Lehrer's questions in the first presidential debate.  That surprised me, pleasantly, since Ifill is more openly partisan and leftist than Lehrer.

The debate raised two questions that some reporter should put to the Kerry-Edwards campaign, one moderately important and one crucial to our foreign affairs.

First, the moderately important question:  What was John Edwards doing in his almost six years as a senator?  We know that he was not attending the Senate, which does not matter most of the time, and that he was not attending committee meetings, which does matter most of the time.  We know from his financial disclosures that he was a very active investor during at least part of that time.  It appears that, at least for the first part of his term, he slacked off and enjoyed himself, not bothering much with the work of the Senate.   After that, he began full time campaigning for the presidency.  If you were hiring someone, would you be impressed by a candidate who did almost nothing in his previous job?

The crucial question is how much Kerry is handicapping himself with allies and potential allies, should he be elected president.  His description, during the primaries, of our allies as "bribed" and "coerced" will not win him any friends among those who support now.  His open desire to send German and French troops to replace ours has already drawn rebuffs.   (Kudos to Ifill for pointing out that Germany and France have said they will not participate, a point that Edwards was unable to answer.)  His consistent omission of Iraqis in his body counts of those who have died will not help in his relationships with the Iraqi provisional government.  And his campaign's insult of Allawi as a puppet of the Bush administration would make it very difficult for the two to work together.  Finally, his campaign has begun to use Michael Moore's claim that Bush is too close to the Saudis.   Does he think the Saudis won't notice or resent that?

If Kerry were to win this November, he would face serious diplomatic problems in January, after his inauguration, because of the heavy handed way he has criticized and insulted so many of the nations he would have to negotiate with.  It is strange that a man who is said to be intelligent, and is reputed to favor nuanced approaches, has created so many problems for himself, should he be elected.  And it was all unnecessary politically.  It is not hard to think of effective lines of attack on the Bush administration that did not include these insults to our friends and allies.
- 5:55 AM, 6 October 2004   [link]


Continuous Coverage:  I've decided to postpone a vacation until after the election, so that you should be able to find posts here nearly every day through November 2, and for a week or so afterward.

And I should apologize for the many times postponed "Green Republicans" post.  I have a long (for a post, anyway) essay already written on the subject that needs much more work before I post it.  (It will be long enough so that I will probably post a link to a PDF file with the essay, rather than the entire essay.)  And I can almost guarantee that you will find some surprises in it.  On one subject, I even surprised myself and changed a long held position as I thought through my arguments. Right now, I hope to have it available to you by this weekend but will make no more promises.

Here's a hint, just to get you thinking.  In the essay, I argue that environmentalists can be divided into conservationists and preservationists; the first want to improve nature for man's use and the second want to protect nature from man.  These ideal types explain, I think, much about the debate on environmental issues in the last century, particularly why the disputants often seem to be talking past each other.
- 2:15 PM, 5 October 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  Won Joon Choe's analysis of South Korean anti-Americanism.  
Indeed, South Korea today views the North as something of a wayward brother, quirky rather than malevolent.  Kim Jong Il, the North's "Teflon dictator," has been transmogrified into a lovable, avuncular figure.  Though nonchalant about the gulags of the most horrific regime on Earth, more than 100,000 South Koreans a day flood the streets to condemn the accidental deaths of two teenage girls by an American military vehicle, culminating in an orgy of hate that one American expat called "scary."
. . .
The most common explanation for the recent mania of anti-Americanism in South Korea is the Bush administration's hawkish policy toward North Korea.  Under this theory, South Koreans blame Bush for scuttling former President Kim Dae Jung's "sunshine policy" with his "axis of evil" rhetoric toward the North before engagement had time to take effect.

Others emphasize South Korea's domestic politics.  Some claim that anti-Americanism in South Korea is an outgrowth of the nation's recent democratization and reflects its desire to chart an independent course.  Others argue that anti-Americanism in South Korea typifies a small country's penchant to blame the big powers for its pain; and the pain of Korea in modern times has indeed been great.

But all these explanations are anachronistic.  America had already begun to lose favor among South Koreans before Bush became president.  While Bush may have exacerbated anti-Americanism in Korea, he certainly did not create it.
Who did?  Former President Kim Dae Jung.  Elected as a reformer, he ran a corrupt and dictatorial regime.  To save his reputation with historians, Kim worked for reunification with North Korea and pushed his "sunshine policy" of engagement.
But before the "sunshine policy" could be implemented, Kim had to first sell it to his skeptical electorate, and therein lay the problem.  South Korea had suffered a horrific fratricidal war through the Northern aggression.  Pyongyang's provocations since the end of that war had also been unremitting, including large-scale terrorist acts and border incursions.

Kim found his solution in that old communist reliable: propaganda.  He would try to transform the South Korean image of the North away from the reality of a totalitarian, potentially nuclear-armed menace to the chimera of a normal sibling country deserving empathy.  In particular, he would target the impressionable young.

The propaganda had two essential components.  First, Kim stifled all criticism of the North from the opposition press or non-governmental organizations; the mind-boggling $400 million fines levied against the conservative newspapers were the most egregious example.

Second, Kim unleashed hitherto-outlawed pro-North Korean voices throughout society.   Foremost among these voices is the communist Korean Teachers and Educational Workers' Union, which has been recently excoriated by American media and diplomats for teaching blatant anti-American propaganda to Korean students and is even suspected by many to be under the direct control of the North.

The propaganda begot the anti-American eruption.
And for all that, the Koreas are no closer to reunion and Kim's reputation will never be rehabilitated.

There's a general lesson here worth our attention.  Many in America, especially on the left, think that changes in other countries must be somehow caused by American policies or personalities.  Often, as the growth in anti-Americanism in South Korea illustrates, that's not the case.  Biologists have a saying with some parallels.  Roughly, it goes like this: "Under carefully controlled experimental conditions, the organism will do what it pleases."  We have much less control over the actions or beliefs of other nations than biologists do over their experimental organisms, and we should remember that when they do what they please.
- 1:26 PM, 5 October 2004   [link]


More Than A Poof  from Mt. St. Helens this time.
Mount St. Helens is blowing off ash and steam in what scientists say is the latest indication that a larger eruption may be in the works.

Observers watching the explosion say it appears a bit larger and has more volume than Monday's steam blast, KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reported.

Volcanologist Jake Lowenstern at the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver says there appears to be a significant amount of ash in the billowing cloud.  It's drifting north-northeast.
The cloud is big enough to shade almost all the view from the webcam at Johnston Ridge, when I could last access it about 50 minutes ago.  There's aren't many people in the path of the ash, if you are wondering.

You can find more coverage from KOMO TV here and from King 5 here, though you'll have to register to access stories at the King site.  King does has a live "Seismo-Cam", if you want to look at the record of the earthquakes, as they are recorded.

I have some of the early pictures of this eruption from the official webcam and plan to post them as part of a series later today.
- 10:32 AM, 5 October 2004   [link]


Jay Nordlinger Passes On the best explanation for Jimmy Carter that I've seen.  A reader sent him a letter with this diagnosis:
I was golfing with my brother once and the starter was a nasty old retired man.  Just a real jerk.  Anyway, as we walked away from him my brother offered true words of wisdom.   He said, "You know, everyone reaches a point in their life when they know they're old.  They know they don't have that much time left.  And at that point, they face a decision.  I've seen it time and time again.  Some seem to make a conscious decision to be happy for the rest of their lives, and the rest become increasingly bitter.  That guy chose to be bitter."
As Carter did, at least politically.  That partisan bitterness shows in Carter's recent ties with Michael Moore, which have reached this extraordinary point: Carter now rates Fahrenheit 9/11 with Casablanca as one of his two favorite movies.  That judgment should make his family ask his doctor to test Carter for Alzheimer's and similar diseases.  Most likely, he is bitter, not senile, but he should be checked.

The standard interpretation of Carter is that he was a failure as president, but has done well as an ex-president.  I give him more credit as president than most, though I had no trouble voting against him in 1980, and much less credit as an ex-president.  His continual meddling in foreign policy, notably his underhanded attempts to sabotage the first President Bush's efforts to put together a coalition against Saddam and his interference in Korea during the Clinton administration, may well be illegal and are certainly unethical.  If the nation had wanted Carter to conduct foreign policy, we would have retained him in office.

(Yes, he has done some commendable charity work as an ex-president, notably his work for Habitat for Humanity.  But that doesn't give him the right to meddle in foreign affairs.)
- 10:01 AM, 5 October 2004   [link]


Kerry's Dilemma:  Michael Barone notes a poll finding that would surprise most Democrats, and uses it to explain why Kerry can not afford to be clear on his Iraq policy.
Scott Rasmussen asked an ingenious question that makes the point.  Should we be using more military force in Iraq, about the same amount of military force or less military force?  The answers may be surprising.  A plurality of 39 percent said more military force, 26 percent said the same amount, and only 22 percent said less military force.

Republicans and Democrats, as you might expect, take very different stands -- which provide a good backdrop for assessing Kerry's and George W. Bush's performance in the first presidential debate.  Bush voters are overwhelmingly for more force (51 percent) or the current level (37 percent).  In other words, when Bush called for using as much force as it takes to prevail, 88 percent of his voters are with him.

Kerry voters, in contrast, are polarized. Some 40 percent say we should be using less force -- presumably, most of these want us out altogether.  But 28 percent say they want more military force, with 15 percent saying the same level.  If Kerry wants to rally his supporters, he must appeal to both those who want to win and those who want to get out.
This poll result will not surprise those who are familiar with academic studies of public opinion on the Korean and Vietnamese wars, such as John Mueller's War, Presidents and Public Opinion.   In both those wars, especially early in the conflicts, there was significant public support for using more force.  And especially during the middle of the war in Vietnam, there were many who wanted to "win or get out", which does not really fit into the Hawk-Dove continuum so beloved of journalists.

In March, 1968, for example, a full 27 percent supported going all out to win in Vietnam — including using nuclear weapons.  Even more accepted using nuclear weapons in a three-way questions asked by Gallup in October, 1967, given these three alternatives:
  • Let the heads of the army run the war as they see fit, giving them all the men they say they need.  Increase the pressures on the enemy troops and step up the bombing of North Vietnam.  Add new targets that have not been bombed thus far, such as the harbor of Haiphong.  Go all out and use atomic weapons and bombs if the army believes we should.

  • Stop bombing for a fairly long period of time even if North Vietnam does not make any promise as to what they will do in return.  See if this action on our part will bring the North Vietnamese to the peace table.  Try to win support from Communists in South Vietnam for a peace solution by offering long range economic aid and benefits.

  • The war in Vietnam is not worth the cost in lives and money.  We should withdraw our troops now. Even if we win, the South Vietnamese will start fighting among themselves as soon as the war is over.  And if we don't get out now we may get involved in World War III.
Forty-two percent supported the first alternative — even with the possible use of nuclear weapons.  (Even more might have supported it had Gallup not included the possible use of nuclear weapons.  As far as I know, few American military leaders even considered using nuclear weapons to fight a guerrilla war, so Gallup's inclusion of them in the question is dubious.)  Twenty-four percent supported the second alternative, and 35 percent the third.  As I'm sure you know, after he was elected Nixon followed the first alternative, without the nuclear weapons.  But Nixon combined that escalation with Vietnamization, the withdrawal of American forces and their replacement by South Vietnamese.

Kerry, like Hubert Humphrey in 1968, was nominated by a party badly split on war policy.  If Kerry is clear, he will offend part of his followers, so he conceals his plans, if he has any.   That's why, for instance, Kerry said that the liberation of Iraq was a colossal mistake, but that he would keep the troops there and that they would not be dying for a mistake, as he said those in Vietnam did.

Those who want to know what Kerry would do in Iraq may learn more from his career and his worldview than from his campaign statements.

(What strategy does make the most sense in Iraq?  Turning the liberation of Iraq over to the Iraqis, as soon as it can be done safely.  The successful operation in Samarra shows me reason for hope, even in the short term, that is, within the next year.  I favor that strategy, partly for military reasons, and partly for political reasons.  Iraqis, though not trained to our standards, will have great advantages in fighting a guerrilla war in their own country.   And, as the conflict goes on, it will be harder to rally support here for the effort, especially with the near unanimous opposition of the "mainstream" media.

As a amateur student of military history, I thought that Nixon's plan could have succeeded, had we continued to support South Vietnam.  The greatest problem was the uneven quality of the South Vietnamese officers, but that might have been corrected in time.

In contrast, the military problems in Iraq are much smaller, and I am certain that we can succeed, if we persist.)
- 8:05 AM, 5 October 2004   [link]


Just In Case you had any doubts, Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times clears them up.
The loudest cackles among the reporters covering the first presidential debate broke out at about 9:55 on Thursday night in a vast, mirrored filing center at the University of Miami, where important impressions of the candidates' performance were just beginning to gel.  And President Bush was on the receiving end.
Why did the reporters cackle?  Because Bush made many factual errors?  No, actually Kerry made most of the factual errors, and not all of his errors were trivial.  No, the reporters cackled because they are fans of Kerry, or, more exactly, will root for whoever is playing George W. Bush.  Or almost whoever.  Most still prefer Bush to Saddam, though there are a few who do not.

Rutenberg mentions that Bush appeared tired, but does not give the most likely reason for that.  While Kerry was getting a massage and a manicure, Bush was out comforting the victims of hurricanes,  Despite that lapse, I think we can be grateful that Rutenberg was so candid in his lead sentence.  When you watch TV news, or you read an article in most newspapers, just imagine that the person reading the news or writing the article is wearing a jacket with a big "Kerry" on it.  For some — Dan Rather comes to mind — you may want to imagine them wearing a complete cheerleader's outfit.
- 4:32 PM, 4 October 2004   [link]


So Why Won't He Release His Medical Records?  The New York Times worried about Kerry's health earlier this year.  Now, after what they say were extensive interviews with Kerry and three of his physicians, they say he is in fine health.  
Senator John Kerry, a lean athlete who is the picture of health as he skis, skates, cycles and windsurfs, is in robust condition, he and his doctors said in their first extended interviews discussing his medical history.
If all that is true, we must wonder why Kerry refuses to release his medical records, as most recent presidential candidates have done.  When Clinton refused to release his records, people reasonably assumed he was hiding something.  I think we can assume the same about Kerry.

What might Kerry be hiding?  I can think of three general possibilities, information that would embarrass him, such as treatment for a venereal disease, information that suggests that he may be at risk for physical problems that would make the presidency difficult, or information about treatment for mental disorders.  (Or perhaps some combination of the three.)   The first would not bother me, but the second and third would.

(Those who look for bias at the New York Times will not be surprised that the article does not even mention Kerry's refusal to release his medical records.  In fact, I would go farther and say that the article is an effort to cover up that refusal and those missing records.)
- 6:59 AM, 3 October 2004   [link]


Biased BBC, Example 5:  This morning, listening to the BBC, I heard a report that combined bias against President Bush, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and evangelicals in both nations.  The report began with a standard trick, often used by journalists who want to spread a nasty smear:  The announcer claimed that it is "often said" that the "Christian right" has a "disproportionate influence" on the American politics, especially in the Bush administration.  The announcer gave no names of anyone who says that, nor any evidence of that "disproportionate influence", but the casual listener will get the idea that those nasty people on the Christian right run the Bush administration.

The purpose of this was to lead into a similar smear of the Howard government in Australia.  It turns out that — I hope you will not be too shocked by this — some candidates in Australia mention that they are Christians (in a nation that, at least formally, is 70 percent Christian), and some candidates have even spoken to church groups, including some Pentecostal groups.  The BBC was shocked by this and was able to find some Muslims who do not like it &mdash again, I hope you are not too shocked by that revelation.

Now let's try the obvious substitution.  As it happens, some say that Muslims have "disproportionate influence" in United States politics, and I would not be surprised to learn that there are Australians who have the same opinion of their Muslim minority.  But can you imagine the BBC doing that story?  Or seeing the Muslim faith of a politician as a problem?  Or objecting to a politician speaking to a Muslim group?  I certainly can't.  For the BBC, some groups are more equal than others.

(Does the "Christian right" have "disproportionate influence" in the United States?  That's a much more difficult question to answer than you might think.  To begin with, it is hard to say just who belongs to the Christian right.  Some mean evangelicals by the term, but not all of them are on the right.  Others would include the Catholic church, or at least some factions in it.  I won't try to answer to answer the question of influence or even try to define the Christian right, but I will give you an example that suggests that, if anything, the Christian right has less than proportionate influence on American politics.

The Christian right is not united on many policy questions, but there is one issue on which they agree.  Nearly all want more restrictions on abortion than we have currently — as do large majorities of the population as a whole.  Despite years of campaigning for those restrictions, they have made almost no gains in moving toward the kind of restrictions on abortion found in every European country.  For a group that may be as large as 25 percent of the population (or more) and has the support of a majority on this issue, this failure suggests not "disproportionate influence", but the reverse.)
- 6:01 AM, 3 October 2004   [link]


My Internet Provider was down again, starting some time last night, but is back up as I write this.  I'm not sure what the problem is; since they don't have people there full time, I am guessing that one of their scripts has a bug in it.
- 2:38 PM, 2 October 2004   [link]


Celsius 41.11, a reply to Fahrenheit 9/11, has been released.  You may be able to see it before the election, although movie theaters are not racing to show it.  Unlike Moore's movie, Celsius 41.11 makes a rational appeal.  
After its premiere in Georgetown on Tuesday night, there seemed to be two prevailing sentiments among the solidly Republican crowd of 300.  One was that the film is a lot more thoughtful and accurate than "Fahrenheit 9/11."  The other was that it is not going to gross $100 million.
Was being rational a political error?  I don't think so, not in the long run, anyway.

One special viewer agrees.
Debra Burlingame, whose brother was the pilot of the airplane that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, said she found the film's sober tone a welcome contrast to Mr. Moore's approach.

"Michael Moore actually used footage of the Pentagon in flames as a sight gag," said Ms. Burlingame, a founder of a group of relatives of Sept. 11 victims who are supporting Mr. Bush.  "It was really hard to sit there in the theater listening to people laugh at that scene knowing my brother was on that plane.  I wish more people would see this film instead."
If she is right in her description of the scene from Fahrenheit 9/11 and the crowd's reaction — and I have no reason to doubt her — that says something terrible about both Moore and the people who flocked to his movie.

(Wondering about the title?  The subtitle of the movie is: "The Temperature at Which the Brain Begins to Die".  From overheating, since that's 106 degrees Fahrenheit.)
- 7:38 AM, 2 October 2004   [link]


Mt. St. Helens Goes Poof:  The predicted steam eruption occurred today about noon.  You can see pictures and video clips of the small eruption here and here.   I just missed seeing it on the webcam, but can show you the picture that I captured yesterday.



I watched some of the coverage on the local stations and was amused, as I always am, to see how much the anchors and reporters stumble when they are live.  Great pictures, though.
- 2:35 PM, 1 October 2004
Today's View, after the poof.



Not much change, as you can see.
- 4:23 PM, 1 October 2004   [link]


Politics Gets Nastier Here:  I wish I could say I found this surprising, but I did't.
The Washington state headquarters for the president's re-election campaign was broken into last night, and police are investigating the theft of three computers from the Bellevue office.

Missing are the computers used by the campaign's executive director, the head of the get-out-the-vote effort and one that had been set for delivery to the campaign's Southwest Washington field director, said Jon Seaton, executive director of the state's George W. Bush campaign.
It may have been just a burglary with no political motives, but given the target and what was taken, I think that unlikely.

When you compare Bush to Hitler (or even the anti-Christ), as so many on the left in this area do, then measures like burglary look not just acceptable, but admirable.  Some, perhaps most, of those who talk this way are just talking, but there are always a few who are not,
- 2:04 PM, 1 October 2004   [link]


Where Has Bush Been Gaining?  The polls vary, but Bush has a lead of about six points or so in most of them.   Some months ago, a commentator on the left (Josh Marshall, perhaps?) said he knew no Gore voters who had switched to Bush, but he did know Bush voters who had switched to Kerry.   With Bush's current lead, we can be reasonably sure that at least three percent of the voters have switched from Gore to Bush, although there are complications* in that number.

When I ran across this summary of voting groups from Richard Morin, I realized I could give some hints for those who want to look for Gore-to-Bush switchers.  Here's his list of groups that show gains for Bush: Democrats, independents, men, women, blacks, the young (under 30), and the mature (50-64).  (Interestingly, Morin says that Bush is winning one in seven black votes; earlier this year I predicted that Bush would win 12-15 percent of the black vote.)  State polls show that Bush is doing better in the Northeast and the Midwest than he did in 2000.

There is one Democratic group that has resisted Bush's appeal.
It was an awful summer for John Kerry -- except among America's best-educated voters.   Currently five in nine registered voters -- 54 percent -- who finished graduate or professional school plan to vote for Kerry compared to 40 percent who support Bush, according to the latest Post-ABC News poll. In fact, Kerry's standing among these voters improved between the end of the Democratic convention and the beginning of autumn -- one of the few groups in which the Democrat apparently gained support in August.

Kerry is about as popular with the grad-school crowd now as Al Gore was four years ago.   In 2000, the Democrat got 52 percent of their vote while Bush received 44 percent, according to network exit polls.
Meanwhile, Bush has a 21 percent lead among those with some college.

How would I summarize Bush's gains?  Bush is reaching out from his base and winning votes from groups that tend to be Democratic.  And the grad-school exception is not unusual either; generally, a politician trying to expand from his base reaches out to some groups in the opposing coalition, but not all of them.

(*The complications are mostly obvious.  The electorate does not consist of the same people this year as in 2000.  Some voters passed on, others came of age.  Many immigrants became citizens; a few people lost their right to vote through legal processes.   Even if we could exclude those changes, we can be sure that voters went both ways, even though Bush gained more than he lost.  In 2000, 15 percent of Bush's vote came from people who had voted for Clinton in the previous election.  Obviously many others went the other way, or the election would not have been as close as it was.)
- 11:47 AM, 1 October 2004   [link]


Later Today, after I have studied the transcript, I'll have some extended comments on last night's debate.  I'll have to study the study the transcript because, though I listened to most of the debate, I watched only a few minutes of it.

Since I am a political junkie, I probably should explain why I missed much of this debate.  As I have mentioned before, I prefer reading speeches by politicians to watching them — unless I am trying to judge how good the politician is at delivering a speech.  Public speaking skills are useful to a politician, but not very important, usually, to their performance in office.   (One can think of exceptions, such as Churchill's speeches rallying Britain in World War II, but they are exceptions.)

And I have a particular distaste for these presidential "debates", which do not allow the candidates time to make sustained arguments for their programs and do not allow a sustained examination of their records.  They are not a good way to judge the candidates.  For example, the nation can be grateful for the first President Bush's skill in managing the end of the Cold War.   Was there anything in his debates with Michael Dukakis that showed that skill?  All I remember from those debates is Dukakis's bureaucratic reply about how he would feel if his wife was raped and murdered.  (Though I must admit that, for entertainment, I would like to see the same question asked of John Kerry, who also opposes capital punishment, though recently he decided that terrorists might deserve it.)

I am not the only one who feels that way; Ed Morrisey makes a similar argument here, and adds some examples of his own.  Like him, I am a little taken aback to find that Teresa Heinz Kerry, to use her campaign name, agrees.

Having said that I don't care for the presidential debates, I must admit that I do not see a good alternative to the present format.  Getting rid of the journalists would be a good start, but beyond that I am not sure how else I would change them.
- 7:34 AM, 1 October 2004
Not Today, but soon.  The weather here is just too nice to stay indoors any longer.
- 4:30 PM, 1 October 2004   [link]