October 2006, Part 4
Jim Miller on Politics
John Kerry Is In Trouble Over His Latest Remark: If, by some chance, you have not heard it, here is the remark I mean.
You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.Kerry claims that he meant to say this.
A Kerry aide told CNN that the prepared statement, which had been designed to criticize President Bush, "was mangled in delivery."Many, having heard the first version, concluded that he was insulting the troops. The second, clearly, is intended to insult President Bush. And you know what? I believe Kerry, because that was how I understood the remark when I first heard it. I suppose that I believe it because Kerry despises George W. Bush (and, by the way, Bill Clinton), and because "stuck" fits the second meaning far better than the first.
So I think that Kerry is innocent in this case. But I also think that he is guilty in general. After his service in Vietnam, he joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. That organization slandered the American military, again and again, and John Kerry played a big part in spreading that slander.
It is true that American soldiers did not always behave well in Vietnam, and that a few of them committed what can fairly be called atrocities. But it is also true that this was not national policy, and that when these actions were discovered, the soldiers were almost always punished. Guenter Lewy, in his fine study of the war, America in Vietnam, came to this conclusion;
It is the reasoned conclusion of this study, developed especially in chapters 7-11, that the sense of guilt created by the Vietnam war in the minds of many Americans is not warranted and that the charges of officially condoned illegal and grossly immoral conduct are without substance. Indeed, detailed examination of battlefield practices reveals that the loss of civilian life in Vietnam was less great than in World War II and Korea and that concern with minimizing the ravages of war was strong. (p. vii)That so many, even now, do not know this is due in part to the slanders spread by VVAW and John Kerry. Lewy does not discuss Kerry in the book (unless the index didn't include him), but he has this to say about the VVAW.
Incidents similar to some of those described at the VVAW hearing undoubtedly did occur. We know that hamlets were destroyed, prisoners tortured, and corpses mutilated. Yet these incidents either (as in the case of the destroyed hamlets) did not violate the law of war or took place in breach of regulations. In either case, they were not, as alleged, part of a "criminal policy". The VVAW's use of fake witnesses and the failure to cooperate with military authorities and to provide crucial details of the incidents further cast serious doubt on the professed desire to serve the causes of justice and humanity. (p. 317)Another way to make the general point is this: American soldiers behaved better in Vietnam than they had in the Korean War or in World War II.
But the anti-war groups behaved far worse, and one of the worst of those groups was John Kerry's VVAW. He has never really apologized for his part in their slander of the American military, which continued for years — but he still should.
(For different interpretations of Kerry's comments, see this post by the "Instapundit", or this post by Michelle Malkin. Many people believe his remarks were an attack on the troops — and his record helps explain why they do.)
- 3:26 PM, 31 October 2006
More: Tom Maguire comes to the same conclusion that I did — Kerry's explanation is "probably true" — but then explains why Republicans might have come to a different conclusion.
- 5:41 AM, 1 November 2006 [link]
Are Early Votes A Good Sign For Republicans? Maybe. Here's the story.
Down in the polls and with their majorities in Congress at risk, Republicans say they have some good news in early-voting statistics that suggest their voter-turnout machine is providing an edge in some tight races.And the Republicans have data from Florida and Georgia districts to support this argument. (Democrats dispute the claim that Republicans have an advantage in the New Mexico district.)
Undoubtedly, the Republicans are gaining an edge from early voting in some districts. Very probably, the Democrats are gaining an edge from early voting in at least a few districts. But it is hard to know, without more data, whether this will affect control of the House.
(By the way, Heather Wilson has an impressive record, as you can see from her biography. Here's her campaign site, if you want to give her a little help. She's one of the reasons that I claim that Republican women are much more impressive, as a group, than their Democratic counterparts.)
- 11:07 AM, 31 October 2006 [link]
Halloween Costumes Don't Scare Me: But George Soros does. And this account of how he helped the Nazis during the Holocaust should frighten every decent person.
(By way of the American Thinker.)
- 10:27 AM, 31 October 2006 [link]
Happy Halloween! To all those who celebrate it. I am an agnostic on Halloween myself, but am perfectly willing to join anyone else in celebrating this now almost completely secular holiday. (This column by Tom Purcell is a pretty good summary of my own thinking, if you want an .)
And for those who do celebrate it, the Mazurs have some fearsome pumpkins here and here.
- 10:15 AM, 31 October 2006 [link]
Does Senator Cantwell Favor Higher Energy Prices? You won't find the answer to that question at her official web site or her campaign web site. At those sites, we learn that she wants to "stabilize" energy prices, that she is against "price gouging", that she favors energy independence, and that she backs subsidies for what one might call "boutique" sources of energy, small scale, fashionable sources such as biofuels. But most of us know that most politicians, from time to time, say things that they don't believe. And almost every politician sometimes does not lay out their complete ideas, fearing that voters may not appreciate every part. So what she says on these sites, and in public statements, should not be taken as proof that she does, in fact, favor stable prices. And it is interesting to see that she does not claim to favor lower energy prices.
Let's turn then from her web sites to her record. During her one term in the House, she voted for the 1993 Clinton economic package — which included an increase in the federal tax on gasoline. Now, possibly, she rejected that part of the package but felt the rest of it made acceptance of the gasoline tax increase regrettable, but necessary. I don't know of any evidence for that idea, but it is possible. Last year, here in Washington state, there was a great debate over the increase in gasoline taxes that Governor Christine Gregoire pushed through the legislature — and I never heard any objection from Cantwell to this destabilizing action. Maybe I am being crude even to entertain this thought, but I can't help suspecting that Cantwell objects to "price gouging" — unless the taxman is doing the gouging.
And that's not all. While in Congress, Cantwell has opposed almost every effort to expand the production of energy from conventional sources, most notably oil drilling in a small portion of ANWR. Now almost any economist will tell you that, if you restrict the supply of energy, as Cantwell has voted over and over again to do, the price will be higher. It is possible, of course, that Cantwell does not understand this elementary economic principle, though she is said to be intelligent. (Or maybe she is just poorly educated; her college degree is in public administration, not economics.)
In short, if we were to judge Cantwell by the practical effects of the policies she has backed, higher gas taxes and restrictions on supplies, we would have to conclude that she favors higher energy prices.
Finally, and here I am going to be a little speculative, I think that Senator Cantwell — in her heart of hearts — favors higher energy prices. In her 2000 campaign for the Senate she received crucial support from environmental extremists. From what I can tell, that support was deserved; she honestly believes that the ideas of, for instance, the Sierra Club, would be good for the nation. And environmentalists almost all want us to use less energy — and a few of them are honest enough to say that the best way to get us to use less energy to raise prices, preferably through taxes.
There is also this awkward fact. Senator Cantwell says that she favors energy independence. I don't know of any serious energy economist who believes that achieving that would mean stable or lower energy prices. In fact, energy independence would mean much higher energy prices. We import oil from Canada and Mexico and Venezuela and the Middle East, not because we like all those folks, but because their energy is cheaper than our own sources. One can argue that energy independence would be worth those higher prices — but one can not simultaneously claim to favor both energy independence and stable energy prices.
In practice, Senator Cantwell has worked to make our energy prices higher. I believe that, in principle, she favors those higher prices, though she says the opposite in public. That's not unusual behavior for a politician, but it is dishonest.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.
(The analysis in this post would apply, with only a few details changed, to most Democratic senators. There are exceptions from energy producing states, such as Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, but not many.
In contrast, her opponent, Mike McGavick, is in favor of lower energy prices and mostly backs measures that might help bring that about.Just so there is no misunderstanding, I should say that, everything else being equal, I favor lower energy prices, for the same reason I favor lower prices for almost everything else. But things are not always equal and I am willing to listen to those who argue that we would be better off with a tax on imported oil or even a carbon tax, if other taxes were cut at the same time. For more on this subject, you may want to read my objections to the usual arguments for higher gas taxes and my sketchy thoughts on the costs of energy independence. And don't miss this wonderfully funny Debra Saunders column on the perfect California energy plan.)
- 2:51 PM, 30 October 2006 [link]
Re-Design Ideas: I have pretty much settled on a new look for this site, and will begin coding it soon. (Some might say finally.) I am planning to add features — and to make the site a little easier to use.
It is not easy to add features and, at the same time, make the site easier to use , but I think I have figured out a way to do both. I plan to add a small menu bar just below the banner, with links to the archives, the news sites, the references, and so forth. The selected item will be in a light blue, so, for example, when you look at the main page, you will see "main" highlighted. (As some of you have already guessed, I plan to use the same menu bar on other pages — with different items highlighted on each page, so "archives will be highlighted on the archive page, and so on.)
This will let me move a lot of links off the main page that I am sure most of you never use — though I do. The left column will consist entirely of bloggers, and, possibly, the news compiler sites. (By the way, thanks to whoever suggested using "compilers" for that group; I have had too much software experience, where "compiler" means something quite different, to realize that was the right choice for that group.)
The right column will include links to material that I have written, a little better organized than at present.
For group divisions in both columns, I plan to use pictures; I have put a live picture of Mt. St. Helens above the "Northwest Bloggers" group to show you how those will look. (Thanks to Kate McMillan, who did this long before I did, and whose code I copied. I should add that I read her site, Small dead animals, almost every day.)
The pictures will all be live links. For example, if you click on that picture of St. Helens, you will go to the official web cam. For my own photos on the right, you will go to a larger version of the picture. (And I may add a link from the larger version to a full size version that you can download, in case you want a picture suitable for printing.)
If you have suggestions — especially ways to simplify the design further — I would be interested in hearing from you.
(I have set the St. Helens picture to refresh every 15 minutes. The actual web cam refreshes every 5 minutes, so you might miss something, but 15 minutes seems like a reasonable compromise. Let me know if the refreshes cause you any problems. If you would like to know more about the web cam, you might want to start here.)
- 9:27 AM, 30 October 2006 [link]
Organization Might Save Two Republican Seats: If you follow American politics closely, you know that the Republicans have additional problems in the 16th district in Florida, and in the 22nd district in Texas.
In ordinary elections, you would expect the Republican candidate to win easily in both districts; in 2004, President Bush carried the Florida district with 54 percent of the vote and the Texas district with 64 percent of the vote. But in each district, the Republican candidate faces an additional hurdle: they are not on the ballot. The Florida district was Mark Foley's, and he did not resign in time for his name to be taken off the ballot. The Texas district was Tom DeLay's and he did not withdraw from the race in time for his name to be taken off the ballot.
The election rules in the two states are different, and pose different problems for the two Republican candidates. In Florida, votes for Foley will actually count for the current Republican candidate, Joe Negron. His campaign has come up with a snappy way to explain that to voters, with their slogan: "Punch Foley for Joe". Do they have enough time to get that message across? Yes, barely. And they are getting some help from a court decision that allows election officials to post signs explaining that a vote for Foley is actually a vote for Negron.
The Republican candidate in the Texas district, Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, has the opposite problem; she has to explain to voters that, to vote Republican, they have to ignore DeLay's name on the ballot and write her name in. Sekula-Gibbs has had more time to make that argument, and a recent poll shows that she may be succeeding in getting that message across.
So two House districts once thought irretrievably lost to the Republicans may stay in their hands, which reduces, somewhat, the chances that the Democrats will control the House after this election. In both districts, organization may make the difference.
(Because the mechanics of write-in voting can be complex, at least for some voters, Sekula-Gibbs should distribute post cards with simple directions explaining exactly how to do it — and with her name spelled out in very large letters.)
- 5:29 AM, 30 October 2006 [link]
Are The Polls Systematically Wrong? Michael Barone has a "hunch" that they are.
Fewer people vote in off-year elections than in presidential years. In 2002, 75 million people voted. In 2004, 122 million did. My hunch is that people who identify themselves as independents are substantially less likely to vote this year than people who identify as Republicans or Democrats -- which would be good news for Republicans, since independents give Bush low job ratings. Another hunch is that the Republican turnout apparatus, with which the Democrats haven't yet caught up, will boost Republican turnout as it did in 2004, and that the resulting electorate will be more evenly divided in party identification than the electorates shown in most of the public polls.Barone is imprecise in the first part of that paragraph. He has more than a "hunch" that independents are less likely to vote, especially in low turnout, off-year elections; he has decades of data to support that generalization.
But the more important "hunch" is the second one, his belief that the Democrats have not made the big gains shown in party identification in most national polls. He mentions several reasons that might be so, the Republican edge in organization, problems of interviewer bias, the time it usually takes for people to switch from one party to another, and so on. I'll add one more to his list: Most of the polls are done for media companies, the New York Times, CBS, USA Today, et cetera. Those companies have become so partisan — at least in the eyes of Republicans — that I suspect that Republican voters are now somewhat more likely to refuse to be interviewed by their pollsters. (And I will happily admit I have no evidence for that hunch.)
All that said, I would add that, in the past, Barone has sometimes let his hopes that the good guys win tint his analyses. He may be doing so here. My own "hunch" is that he is right in the direction — the polls are systematically biased toward Democrats — but I suspect he may be overestimating the amount of the bias.
(For what it is worth, here are my own rules for participating in polls. If the interviewer does not ask my permission to begin the interview, I just end the conversation. If they ask my permission, I ask them how long it will take and what it is about. If it is a consumer poll and takes more than a few minutes, I turn them down. If it is a political poll, I answer their questions, taking mental notes as I do.)
- 4:30 AM, 30 October 2006 [link]
Need A Dress For This Weekend, Ladies? Then why not make one from aluminum foil and, of course, duct tape? Don't laugh at the idea until you look at an entry in a "fashion duel" between Erin Isakov and Laurel Wells.
As the stars of the party, they were asked to make a dress entirely from foil and neon duct tape, suitable for a first lady to wear, within an hour. Most of the guests, meanwhile, used the scraps to create accessories, like one woman who formed a hat into a fan-tailed swan, as if she were carrying leftovers on her head, or a young man who made a giant foil clock and foil rings, Flavor Flav style.I've seen many less attractive dresses than the one Isakov made.
Note that time limit. No doubt designers, especially those who would accept this kind of challenge, work faster than the average dress maker, but that still shows you what can be done.
(Isn't it fun to live in a country that can afford silly extravagances such as this one?)
- 10:54 AM, 27 October 2006 [link]
How Many Voters Are Still Undecided? More than nineteen percent, says Zogby.
The poll found more than 19 percent of voters are still undecided about their congressional vote. That gives Republicans an opportunity for improvement, but time is running out to change the prevailing public mood.Sometimes undecided voters break evenly; often they don't. Nineteen percent is higher than one would find at the same time in most presidential races, but I don't know whether the same is true of off-year congressional races.
If you read the whole article, you will find that Zogby's Republicans are much less loyal this year than his Democrats, which is not the usual pattern. On the other hand, Karl Rove and company have been telling journalists that the core of the base is solid; see, for instance, point 6 in this article. That's a big question since, given the low turnout expected in off-year elections (and the lower participation by independents) the usual levels of party loyalty could same many seats for the Republicans.
- 4:12 PM, 26 October 2006 [link]
Should Sports Writers Cover Barack Obama? The junior senator from Illinois is visiting this area and getting the star treatment from local reporters. The coverage might be more sensible if the newspapers and TV stations sent different reporters to cover his appearances.
I suggest sports writers because they would be more likely to recognize a rookie when they see one. In time, Obama may be a significant politician, but as yet he has done little. That explains why, for instance, you find this item in the Wikipedia biography, mentioning one of his achievements in the Illinois legislature.
He also pushed through legislation that would force insurance companies to cover routine mammograms.That's not much. (And it is probably not even a good idea. Mandates such as these force up the cost of insurance, making it less affordable. And, for what it is worth, I just saw an article on a study that found that routine mammograms harm more women than they help.)
Think of Obama as a rookie who had a brief college career as a running back, and is now being touted as the next great pro quarterback. (I switch the positions in my metaphor because Obama has no executive experience, a significant defect in anyone who wants to be president.) How many such rookies succeed? Not many, as any sports writer can tell you.
- 10:21 AM, 26 October 2006 [link]
The BBC Is Biased: Who says so? Some of the stars of the BBC.
At the secret meeting in London last month, which was hosted by veteran broadcaster Sue Lawley, BBC executives admitted the corporation is dominated by homosexuals and people from ethnic minorities, deliberately promotes multiculturalism, is anti-American, anti-countryside and more sensitive to the feelings of Muslims than Christians.None of this will surprise regular readers of the Biased BBC, where this story is cause for celebration. Nor will it surprise those who have read this site for some time, or even those who are familiar with similar biases at ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, and PBS.
But will these admissions lead to any changes? I am sorry to say that I expect no long term improvement. Will the BBC even release a full account of this meeting? Probably not. Nor do I expect much improvement from the American "mainstream" networks — though it is possible that their shareholders will revolt, eventually.
(By the way, both this article, and a similar one, published in the Evening Standard, have some interesting comments from readers.)
- 9:39 AM, 26 October 2006 [link]
Michael J. Fox Has Parkinson's Disease: For that he deserves our sympathy. But he does not deserve to be treated as an expert on the disease and potential cures, especially when he does not tell the truth.
Mr. Fox and his ads' sponsors are guilty of conflating embryonic stem cell research, which the GOP candidates and many Americans oppose for destroying a human life in the name of curing other people's diseases, with stem cell research in general, which includes adult stem cell research and umbilical cord blood stem cell research.(And it is worth mentioning that President Bush is the first to authorize federal funds for research on old lines of embryonic stem cells.)
I think it unlikely that Fox knows that he is not telling the truth. Most likely, he is a dupe, not a liar. But some of those sponsoring these ads know the truth — and their cynicism on this issue is simply breath taking.
As Dr. Mary Davenport reminds us in this article, adult stem cells, that is cells taken from a person's own body, have been used in many cures, but embryonic stem cells have no successful cures to date. If Fox wants to find cures, he should look first at adult stem cells.
(If embryonic stem cells have so far been of no use in actual cures, why the enormous campaign for them? Two reasons: They can be used to attack the pro-life movement, and they are more interesting theoretically, so scientists who want to pursue hot topics in research have reason to, let's say, exaggerate the likelihood that they will be used in cures soon.)
- 7:37 AM, 26 October 2006 [link]
Calame's Reply Is Embarrassing: Especially coming from the public editor of the New York Times. As you may recall, Calame said that he had wrongly approved still another New York Times story revealing a classified program because of "vicious criticism" from the Bush administration.
So Michelle Malkin asked him for specifics, and Calame replied saying that the the vicious criticism was "amply documented". So amply, apparently, that Calame did not include a single example in his reply.
Calame should either back up his claim of "vicious criticism", or admit that he was wrong about that, too.
(Credit where due: As I mentioned in this post, Calame has been more willing to publish letters sharply critical of the Times that the letters editor, Thomas Feyer. Maybe Calame should do more of that.)
- 7:10 AM, 26 October 2006 [link]
Just Because It's Pretty: Last week, I captured this picture of Mt. St. Helens.
If you want to look for similar pictures, here's the web cam. As I have mentioned before, the mountain usually looks best around sunrise and sunset.
By the way, the streak that you can see on the right of pictures of Mt. St. Helens is a scratch on the glass in front of the camera. They plan to fix it eventually.
- 1:28 PM, 25 October 2006 [link]
Michael Barone Looks At The Competitive House Races: And predicts a tie.
My predictions would produce an almost evenly divided House: 219 Democrats, a net gain of 16, and 216 Republicans. Such a result would raise the question of whether Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor, who declined to vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker in this Congress, would do so again, and whether another Democrat might do so—which could produce a Republican majority for speaker.All right, strictly speaking, there can't be a tie, since the House has 435 members. But Barone is saying that, right now, the odds are even. Which isn't what the "mainstream" media — or the betting markets — are saying.
Barone is telling us what he thinks would happen if the election were being held today. He is not guessing whether there will be shifts in public opinion toward either party in the last two weeks before the election. As for myself, I have yet to do a prediction, because I think it is still too soon to tell. If I had to do a prediction, I would say that I think the betting markets are probably about right — if the election were being held today. But the election is not being held today, and when you look at the shifts in the markets over the last three or four weeks, you see that there is plenty of time for shifts big enough to change the results — in either direction, though I think a shift favoring the Republicans is more likely.
- 8:13 AM, 25 October 2006 [link]
Greenberg Demolishes Krugman: The editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette takes on the New York Times columnist, and gently destroys him. Greenberg begins with Krugman's effect on the stock market, and the economy.
It started out as a gag here on the editorial page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and soon became a superstition:And Krugman has never felt any great compulsion to explain why his predictions have been so consistently wrong.
Greenberg then notes that Krugman's latest column makes a strong argument for electing — Republicans.
There you have it, folks. Give the Democrats control of the House or Senate, or both, and you won't have to worry about any legislation of great import being passed — as Dr. Krugman was honest enough to note. Instead, boy oh boy, the country can spend the next couple of years as tied up in investigations as it was during the Clinton Era of Bad Feelings. Hot dawg!Greenberg finishes by noting a few small problems with Krugman's writing.
Dr. Krugman's politics turn out to be as thoughtful as his prose, samples of which I've begun to save, they're so delicious. My favorite Krugmanism of all time remains this piece of purple-as-a-bad-bruise prose:Greenberg, who has more experience in such matters than most of us, says there is no way an editor could save that sentence. And I must admit that I can't see one.
Let's summarize: For some years, the New York Times has given a column to a Princeton economist, whose predictions about the economy have been wrong, again and again, and who can not (or will not) write clearly. (Krugman is also unwilling to correct factual errors, but in that he is like most journalists.) The publisher owes the readers an explanation for the strange decision to keep Krugman in that position.
(You can find similar thoughts on Krugman's columns here, here, and here. I am especially pleased with the third, in which I amuse myself with the idea that Krugman's columns are actually written by a graduate student — who is deliberately destroying Krugman's reputation.)
- 5:40 AM, 25 October 2006
Update: I have added some qualifications to my claim that most journalists are unwilling to correct factual errors.
- 10:44 AM, 3 November 2006 [link]