Archive:

October 2010, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Here's A Brutal Attack On San Francisco:  From the San Francisco Chronicle.
Actually, Pelosi has proved the perfect fit for the city, with her combination of progressive ideals and appreciation for pragmatism.
(Progressive = reactionary, pragmatism = machine-style politics.)

Brutal, but unfair?  I'm not sure, not having spent any time in San Francisco in recent years, but even if San Francisco deserves Pelosi, the rest of us don't.
- 6:58 AM, 31 October 2010   [link]


If You Want To Improve Education, Vote Republican:  You won't be right every time, but you will be right most of the time.

To see why I think that, let me bring in someone who would disagree with my conclusion, Seattle Times editorial writer Lynne Varner.  Here's what she says about education in Washington state.

I'm back in Washington state with disquieting news:  The Evergreen state should be renamed the Complacency Belt.  This is the land where inertia, at least when it comes to education reform, rules.

Simplifying greatly, but not unfairly, Washington state has been paying the same people more money to do the same things in our schools — and expecting, somehow, to get different results.

And which party is responsible for that inertia?  Mostly the Democratic party, which has held the governor's office since the 1984 election, and has controlled the legislature since then more often than not.

Why have Washington state Democrats been unwilling to reform education?  Varner has an answer to that question, too.

Charter schools would not be a magic bullet but they have tackled these problems with some success.  But Washington is one of the few states without a charter-school law, an absence that is less about the efficacy of charter schools and more about staying on the right side of education unions, which may have softened on accountability but remain stridently opposed to charters.

And to many other educational reforms.

So Washington state Democrats have failed to bring about educational reforms, and are unlikely to, because they are tied too closely to the education unions, specifically the Washington Education Association.  And, I would add, tied too closely to our education schools, which have done nearly as much to block reforms as the education unions, and to our educational bureaucracies, which, like most bureaucracies, are not great supporters of change.

At this point, some readers, not all of them Democrats, will raise an objection:  Washington state Democrats may have produced mediocre results, but that doesn't, by itself, show that the Republicans would do better.  That's a fair point, but I think I can provide two big reasons to think that Republicans here, and in other states, would do better.

First, Republicans are more willing to take on the education unions, the education schools, and the education bureaucracies, simply because they have less to lose than Democrats.  When Washington state Republicans look for contributions and volunteers, they rarely begin with calls to the WEA.  Almost every reform that you can imagine will offend someone in what former Education secretary William Bennett called the "blob", the "bloated educational bureaucracy".  Since Republicans get little support from the blob, they are more willing to take it on, when necessary.

Second, Republican politicians are more likely to come from organizations in which accountability for performance is taken for granted.  They are more likely to have business experience, more likely to have had to produce measurable results, or even to require others to produce measurable results.  (In general, people who make their living with numbers are more like to be Republican, people who make their living with words, Democrats.)

(In this state, a distressingly high proportion of our Democratic legislators are members of public employee unions.  They may be fine people — many of them are — but they have obvious conflicts of interest, and they are unlikely to think about employee accountability and measurable results in ways that would satisfy someone, for instance, with a Harvard MBA.)

In other words, Republicans are more likely to demand results — and to know how to measure those results.

Our two most recent presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, illustrate those Republican advantages.  Both men worked to improve education before they became president, Bush as Texas governor and Obama as head of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.  Bluntly, Bush succeeded, and Obama failed.  (Bush, as governor of Texas, had far more power than Obama did as head of the CAC, but Bush also had much tighter constraints on what he could do.  Before he could do anything, he had to persuade the Texas legislature to go along with his ideas.)

It is not hard to understand why Bush succeeded and Obama failed.  Bush began, as almost any Harvard MBA would do, by setting up a way to measure the results, and by consulting experts who had produced measurable results.  Obama began, as many graduates of Harvard Law would, by passing out money to people who told the best stories.  (Oddly, many of them happened to be his political allies.)

If you are generally opposed to educational reform, if you want to continue sending the same people more money to do the same things, then you can go ahead and vote for Democratic candidates.   If, instead, you want politicians to hold our schools accountable for improvements, and politicians who know how to measure those improvements, then you should vote for Republican candidates.  (There are, of course, exceptions in both parties, and I will try to point them out when I see them.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Full disclosure:  Long, long ago, I was, briefly, a member of an education union, as were many others in my family.)
- 2:56 PM, 30 October 2010   [link]


Last Night I Got Calls From Two Pollsters:  Maybe.

The first was an automated call, supposedly from YouGov.  I answered the first few questions about the Rossi-Murray senate race, and then stopped when they said they said they wanted some information about me.  (I almost never answer questions from pollsters about my age, income, et cetera.)

The second was from (unless I heard her wrong) a woman from Evergreen Research.  Except that Evergreen Research doesn't seem to be a polling firm.  But maybe I just misheard the name.  Since I didn't recognize the firm, I didn't do even part of the interview.

I don't draw any big conclusions from these calls, except that many people are interested in our senate race, for good reason, in my opinion.

(In general, even though I love to analyze polls, I don't answer poll questions, unless they take only a few minutes, or are on a subject that interests me.  Or, of course, they offer to pay me for my time.)
- 1:50 PM, 29 October 2010   [link]


Cheer Up, Paul Krugman Thinks things will get worse.
But we won't get those policies if Republicans control the House.  In fact, if they get their way, we'll get the worst of both worlds:  They'll refuse to do anything to boost the economy now, claiming to be worried about the deficit, while simultaneously increasing long-run deficits with irresponsible tax cuts — cuts they have already announced won't have to be offset with spending cuts.

So if the elections go as expected next week, here's my advice:  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.
And Professor Krugman has been an excellent negative indicator over the years.  Not perfect, the Nobel prize winner hasn't always been wrong.  But he has been wrong often enough so that you could have made money betting against him.

(Note that Krugman is predicting that President Obama will sign those "irresponsible" tax cuts.)
- 1:03 PM, 29 October 2010   [link]


Don't Like All Those Campaign Ads?  Then design your own.

Here, for example, is an anti-Patty Murray ad I would like to see:

Announcer:  In 1992, we gave Patty Murray our credit card.  She's had a lot of fun with it since then.

And on the screen we see a cartoon Patty Murray, racing around charging one item after another, boats that the Navy doesn't want, a closed museum, et cetera, et cetera.  Those who know more about music than I do can probably think of some appropriate background music.

Announcer:  We think it's time we took back that credit card and gave it to someone more responsible.

Usual sponsorship statement at the end.

(That ad could have a follow-up, showing children and grandchildren getting Murray's credit card bills.  And maybe a third ad showing where we are borrowing all that money.)

Now it's your turn.  What ad or ads would you like to see?  (You can put your ad in the comments at Sound Politics, where I will be cross posting this.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 12:39 PM, 29 October 2010   [link]


Keith Richards Schools Bill Gates, Senior:  Or would if the elder Gates, who is the spokesman for an income tax initiative here in Washington state, were listening.
The Stones are famously tax-averse.  I broach the subject with Keith in Camp X-Ray, as he calls his backstage lair.  There is incense in the air and Ronnie Wood drifts in and out--it is, in other words, a perfect venue for such a discussion.  "The whole business thing is predicated a lot on the tax laws," says Keith, Marlboro in one hand, vodka and juice in the other.  "It's why we rehearse in Canada and not in the U.S.  A lot of our astute moves have been basically keeping up with tax laws, where to go, where not to put it.  Whether to sit on it or not.  We left England because we'd be paying 98 cents on the dollar.  We left, and they lost out.  No taxes at all.  I don't want to screw anybody out of anything, least of all the governments that I work with.  We put 30% in holding until we sort it out."  No wonder Keith chooses to live not in London, or even New York City, but in Weston, Conn.

As economics professor Greg Mankiw would say, people react to incentives, including taxes.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 7:52 AM, 29 October 2010   [link]


Racism?  When leading the Pledge of Allegiance on the House floor, Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum omitted "under God".  Most likely, that was just one of those slips we all make from time to time.  (She is just old enough so that she might have first heard the earlier version of the Pledge, which did not include "under God".)

In itself, the lapse doesn't deserve much comment, from me or anyone else.  But her reaction, after video of her lapse was posted, does.  She accused the people who had posted it of being "anti-American" and inciting "hate, racism, and intolerance".

Racism?  (McCollum and the people who posted the video are both white.)

I suppose that, angered by the exposure of her slip, she struck out with the words that she usually uses to attack Republicans, without thinking about what they mean.  Or used to mean for most of us.   Racism hasn't quite become a word like "fascism", which is often used just as a term of abuse, but it is moving in that direction.

(Some will wonder, naturally, about her religious beliefs, if any.  As far as I can tell, from a quick look at the obvious sources, she's a "Pelosi Catholic".  She was raised as a Catholic, graduated from the College of St. Catharine (now a university), and calls herself a Catholic.  But some of her views, especially on abortion, would not find favor with the Pope.)
- 7:19 AM, 29 October 2010   [link]


A Movie For Every State:  Those who know more about movies than I do — a group that includes most of you — will probably find much to argue about here.
- 12:24 PM, 28 October 2010   [link]


A Small Move In The Rossi-Murray Polls:  But in the right direction.

Republican Dino Rossi and incumbent Democrat Patty Murray are separated by a single point in the U.S. Senate race in Washington with less than a week until Election Day.

The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Rossi picking up 48% of the vote, while Murray draws support from 47%.  Three percent (3%) prefer some other candidate, and two percent (2%) are still undecided.

Here's the Real Clear Politics list of recent polls on this race.

Assuming the polls are generally right, then Republicans almost have to win this race to have any chance of winning the ten seats they need to take control of the Senate.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 10:33 AM, 28 October 2010   [link]


The New York Times Tries To Put It Gently:  But there isn't any gentle way to break this news.
Critical parts of the coalition that delivered President Obama to the White House in 2008 and gave Democrats control of Congress in 2006 are switching their allegiance to the Republicans in the final phase of the midterm Congressional elections, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Republicans have wiped out the advantage held by Democrats in recent election cycles among women, Roman Catholics, less affluent Americans and independents.  All of those groups broke for Mr. Obama in 2008 and for Congressional Democrats when they grabbed both chambers from the Republicans four years ago, according to exit polls.

If women choose Republicans over Democrats in House races on Tuesday, it will be the first time they have done so since exit polls began tracking the breakdown in 1982.
(Emphasis added.)

In the 1980 election, men began voting more Republican than women — and have continued to do so ever since.  (This is often described as the "gender gap" and accounted for by changes among women; in fact men shifted and women stayed the same.)  If women are now also voting for Republicans — or, more likely, against Democrats — then there will indeed be a wave election on Tuesday, perhaps even a tsunami election.

If the Times poll is correct, this shift among women is recent.
In the case of women — a traditionally Democratic-leaning group that the White House has been courting actively in recent weeks — the shift toward the Republicans was marked in the latest poll, especially when compared with their stated preferences in the last Times/CBS poll, in mid-September.

In the earlier poll, women favored Democrats over Republicans by seven percentage points.  In the latest poll, women said they were likely to support a Republican over a Democrat by four percentage points, suggesting Republican gains among women who were undecided as of last month.
That shift has come in spite of great efforts by the Obama administration to court women, including two Supreme Court appointments, and in spite of our first woman speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi.   (It is sometimes forgotten, but Ronald Reagan promised in the 1980 campaign to name a woman to the Supreme Court — and kept his promise.)

There's a simple, and probably correct, way to explain the timing of this shift:  As women began paying attention to the campaign arguments, they moved toward the Republicans.

You will not hear this point often from ideologues on the left and right, but in the last twenty years, the party that wins the independents almost always wins the election.  (That wasn't necessarily true earlier when Democrats had a majority of the electorate.)

(I probably should add that the Democratic advantage among women since 1980 has come entirely from single women.  Married women have tended to vote about equally for Republicans and Democrats — and a little more Republican than single men.

In the past, the Times/CBS poll has tended to err in a Democratic direction.)
- 9:39 AM, 28 October 2010
Here's the chart showing those shifts.
- 3:43 PM, 28 October 2010   [link]


There Will Be More Republican Governors Next Year:  Unless a great many polls are wrong.

Pollster Mark Blumenthal has nice summary of the current polling on the races, along with his own estimates of the probabilities of victory for the candidates.   Here's his lead paragraph:
On the basis of the latest public polls, Republicans stand to gain roughly a net half-dozen governorships this year, and possibly more. Right now, 26 of the nation's governors are Democrats and 24 are Republicans. Our trend-estimates based polls in the 37 states holding elections for governor this year now show Republicans on the verge of gaining a net five to nine state houses nationwide, depending on the outcome in a handful of "toss-up" races.
Two examples may make the general trend even clearer:  Democratic candidates are struggling to hold Massachusetts and Oregon.

(And just to show that you still have to look at the individual states, there are some exceptions, including this pair:  A Democrat is favored in Republican New Hampshire, and a Republican is very slightly favored in Democratic Vermont.)

Blumenthal quotes one of the usual suspects on the importance of controlling state houses for the upcoming redistricting.  He's right about that, but there is another reason that governors are important nationally:  Though they seldom get as much publicity as senators, we are more likely to choose a governor when we look for a president.  And when a president staffs his administration, he is likely to look first among his party's governors.  (This often weakens his party in the states by taking the party's best leaders out of them.)

(What do I think about Blumenthal's estimates?  Offhand, I suspect that he may be overestimating Democratic chances, for reasons Sean Trende discussed here and here.  But I haven't gone through all of Blumenthal's work, so you should take my opinion with at least a grain of salt.)
- 6:55 AM, 28 October 2010   [link]


Thanks, But No Thanks:  Colorado Democratic Senator Michael Bennet says he'd just as soon not have President Obama come out to campaign for him.  Though Bennet didn't say it quite that directly, of course.
- 5:09 AM, 28 October 2010   [link]


How Good Was British Intelligence Before World War II?  This good.
The most remarkable charge on which Beria was convicted was that of working for British intelligence.
. . .
Beria thus became, following Yagoda and Yezhov in the 1930s, the third head of the KGB to be executed for crimes that included serving as an imaginary British secret agent. (p. 425)
(That "imaginary", though probably accurate, does kind of spoil the picture for the British spy agencies, I'll admit.)

Turning serious for a moment, here's a general observation that I think most Cold War historians would agree with:  Despite the Soviet regime's habit of executing their own spies for imaginary crimes (and sometimes real ones), their spies had the edge over British and American spies for decades.

We still see, from time to time, consequences from that Soviet advantage:  For example, you can still find, though it takes more looking than it did a couple of decades ago, people who believe malicious stories about the United States — stories that we know were manufactured by the KGB.
- 7:45 PM, 27 October 2010   [link]


Chicago Rules And Tax Bills:  John Kass has an amusing story about a little delay in sending out tax bills.
And now the Democratic Party bosses are adding a twist.  They're slapping you in the face with a Cook County property tax bill you haven't yet received.

That's right.  You haven't received it yet.  But they're slapping you with it just the same. Here's why:

The bill won't come until after the Nov. 2 elections.  And that surely helps the Illinois Democrats and the supreme warlord of Madiganistan, Michael Madigan, the Illinois House speaker from Chicago who also runs the state Democratic Party.
When were the bills supposed to be sent?  August 1st.

This may be less amusing for people who live in Illinois, though most of them are used to such shenanigans by now.
- 1:26 PM, 27 October 2010   [link]


Ford Rising:  The automaker is gaining market share, hiring new workers, making more reliable cars, and most of all, earning profits.

Here's what Consumer Reports is saying about Ford's reliability.
"Ford still dominates, year after year," [David] Champion [senior director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Center] said.  "Most people would never know that the most reliable family car in the midsize segment is the Ford Fusion, followed by the Honda Accord and then the Toyota Camry."

Ford ranked 10th in the overall rankings on predicted reliability.
(As usual, European makes, including Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, did badly in the survey.)

And here's a summary of their latest results.
A surge in third-quarter profit is the best evidence yet that the Ford Motor Company has moved into a period of sustained growth — further distinguishing itself from rivals despite a weak economy and slack overall demand.

Ford said Tuesday that it earned a better-than-expected $1.7 billion in the quarter, and was gaining market share at the same time that it took steps to further shrink its debt.  It was the automaker's sixth consecutive profitable quarter, and its best third-quarter performance in more than 20 years.
Why did I say that earning profits was the most important part of Ford's revival?  Because, without profits, none of the other improvements can continue for long.  (I'm not sure everyone in the Obama administration understands that point.)

(More about the Ford Fusion here and here.

For the record:  In 2004, I bought a Ford Focus.  So far I have had zero problems with the car, though I should add that I have driven it less than 30,000 miles.)
- 1:05 PM, 27 October 2010   [link]


A Reminder For Political Junkies:  From today's New Yorker cartoon.

The carton shows two pollsters facing woman at the door of her home.  She is saying, "Is 'oblivious' the same as 'undecided'?"

Political junkies like myself need to remember, from time to time, that many voters (or potential voters) don't know much about political events — and may not even care.
- 12:29 PM, 27 October 2010   [link]


What Do The Political Futures Markets Say About Control Of The House Of Representatives?  As I write, both InTrade and the Iowa Election Market are giving the Republicans around a 90 percent chance to take control of the House.

Which side of that bet would I take?  As of now, the Republican side, though I am still thinking about how much higher the odds would have to be before I would take the Democratic side.  (Nate Silver currently puts the odds at 80 percent.  I'd take the Republican side at those odds in an second.)

(If you would actually like to place a small bet, here's a piece from Slate on the legalities.

And I can't help but note that InTrade has many other political bets this year.)
- 10:55 AM, 27 October 2010
Irish bookie Paddy Power has already paid off bettors who backed Republicans to control the House.  But you can still put a bet with them on the control of the Senate.
- 3:30 PM, 27 October 2010   [link]


Kudos To Bruce Ramsey:  In an excellent column, the Seattle Times editorial writer destroys those Democratic ads charging Republicans with "shipping jobs overseas".

Here's his conclusion:

There are plenty of vile ads this year, and the Democrats have no monopoly of them.  But in this state, which lives by international trade, their ads on "shipping jobs overseas" stand out as some of the worst.

Read the whole thing.  And share it with your family, friends, and even casual acquaintances.

This is exactly the kind of response that we need to false and misleading ads.  Instead of whining about annoying political ads, journalists should tell us which ones they agree with, which ones they disagree with, and why.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Quibble:  North Dakota is a big exporter for its population (about 650,000), and not just of agricultural products.)
- 10:06 AM, 27 October 2010   [link]


If You Like Snow, you'll love Mt. Rainier this morning.

Mt. Rainier, morning of 27 October 2010

No promises, but there is a good chance that web cam views of Mt. Rainier (and Mt. St. Helens) will be especially beautiful around sunset today.  (You can find links to the web cams, on the right for Mt. Rainier and on the left for Mt. St. Helens.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 8:46 AM, 27 October 2010   [link]


Hope For Change:  If the Democrats lose their House majority next Tuesday, as almost everyone expects, Nancy Pelosi may, I repeat, may, step down from her leadership position.
Democrats on Capitol Hill and K Street are increasingly convinced that Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have little interest in being Minority Leader -- and may start preparing to leave Congress altogether -- if Republicans win the House next week.

Pelosi and her allies adamantly refuse to entertain questions about a possible Democratic minority.   But Democratic sources say they have a hard time imagining the 70-year-old, independently wealthy California Democrat would want to return to the less-powerful post that she held for four years before becoming Speaker in 2007, particularly after having spent the past four years driving the Congressional agenda.
(Many Republicans think she had more than a little to do with driving the nation into Obama's ditch — and recently a few Democrats have started to hold that view, too.)

Her departure would be good for the country, would even be good for the Democratic party.
- 7:59 AM, 27 October 2010   [link]


The European Nanny State Imposes More Regulations On The World's Oldest Profession:   No, not for the risks inherent in that way of making a living, but to make the workers less of a traffic hazard.

(Or so the police claim, anyway.)
- 5:10 PM, 26 October 2010   [link]


David Brooks Gets Snarky About The Democrats:  Since this is David Brooks, even the snark is mild, but that just makes it more enjoyable for someone with my tastes.

Lead paragraph:
When times get tough, it's really important to believe in yourself.  This is something the Democrats have done splendidly this year.  The polls have been terrible, and the party may be heading for a historic defeat, but Democrats have done a magnificent job of maintaining their own self-esteem.   This is vital, because even if the public doesn't approve of you, it is important to approve of yourself.
- 2:31 PM, 26 October 2010   [link]


The Seattle Times Is Unhappy About All That Free Speech Going On Out There:   In an editorial that will not win them any support from fans of the 1st amendment, our local monopoly newspaper attacks people and organizations making political arguments this election year.

Countdown to Election Day: Another week or so and it will be safe to turn on the TV again.  For a month or more, the airwaves have been the electronic equivalent of a sewage-treatment plant — without the treatment.

Oddly, nowhere in this page-long editorial do they criticize a specific ad.  Cynics will suspect that's because the worst ads have (mostly) come from candidates they endorsed — for example, Senator Patty Murray and House candidate Suzan DelBene — but there may be a more benign explanation.

The Times is especially unhappy because they don't know who is paying for some of the ads.

The difference this year is voluminous spending by outside groups that do not have to say who they are.  So the uninitiated viewer watches in horror as the two Senate candidates are portrayed as Darth Vader and the Wicked Witch of the West.  How appropriate that Halloween is next week.

(Have I offered to help our local reporters with metaphors?  Why, yes I have — and more than once.  I wish some of them would take me up on that offer.)

Actually, the groups do have to say who they are; they just don't have to say who gave them donations.

There are two separate arguments in the editorial, mingled indiscriminately.  The editorial writer(s) thinks that many of the ads are unpleasant and even dishonest, and the editorial writer(s) wants everyone who contributes to a political argument to be exposed.

The first argument can be disposed of simply.  If you believe in freedom of speech, then you have to accept that you may hear and see many political arguments you find unpleasant, even dishonest.  It's that simple.

Now, that doesn't mean that we can't encourage political figures to be more honest in their arguments, just that we should do that by making arguments of our own.  For instance, I contributed a little toward that goal by comparing what local House candidate Suzan DelBene says in one of her TV ads with what she says in her economic plan.   And — credit where due — the news side of the Seattle Times has done a fairly good series rating the truth of various ads.

The second argument is not as simple; everything else being equal, I would prefer to be able to know who is paying for a political ad.  But everything else isn't always equal, and supporters of free speech almost all believe that even anonymous free speech deserves our support.

We are told that at least one member of the Times editorial board is a student of history, but even a journalist who has not studied history should know that the Federalist papers were written under a pseudonym, "Publius".  And in more recent years, courts have often protected the anonymity of those who might be subject to reprisals, in particular, those who contributed to civil rights organizations or far left political parties.

Those who think that such reprisals are in the past should study the politics in Chicago, where Obama and some of his closest aides learned their political lessons.  Or just take a look at what happened in California during the fight over Proposition 8.

One last mildly ironic point:  The Times editorial attacking unpleasant ads and anonymous donations is filled with unpleasant language and is — unsigned.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(At one time — and younger readers may find this hard to believe — most American newspapers were fairly good at supporting freedom of speech.  And you can still find a few journalists, for example, Steve Chapman, who support freedom of speech even for those who do not work for large corporate news organizations.  But there are fewer of them than there once were, and those few deserve some credit from time to time.)
- 1:48 PM, 26 October 2010   [link]


RIP, Paul:  Paul the soccer-match-predicting octopus, that is.

(Paul's life span was about average, perhaps even a little more than average, for an octopus vulgaris.

Incidentally, octopuses are — from our point of view — really strange creatures.  For instance, they have some of their central nervous system in each of their arms, and their sex life is rather sad, since both male and female die after mating.)
- 9:27 AM, 26 October 2010   [link]


It's Not Business, It's Personal:  That's how I would explain what puzzles Toby Harnden, Obama's "political ineptitude" in Rhode Island.

Harnden wonders why Obama refused to endorse the Democratic candidate for governor, Frank Caprio, and did so in an exceptionally clumsy way.

I think the answer is simple: Obama knows and likes Lincoln Chafee, the former Republican who is now running for governor as an independent.  (And who has a good chance to win.)  So Obama didn't endorse Chafee's Democratic opponent.

Silly politically, understandable personally.  (Though the way Caprio learned about Obama's decision was silly either way.)

(Would Chafee make a good governor?  Probably not.  There's nothing in his record to suggest that he is anywhere near the man his father was.)
- 7:57 AM, 26 October 2010   [link]


How To Deceive With Charts:  Keith Hennessey takes an Austan Goolsbee presentation and shows, chart by chart, how Goolsbee is misleading the viewers.

It's fourteen minutes long, but well worth watching.
- 7:21 AM, 26 October 2010   [link]


How Accurate Have Gallup's Generic Vote Polls Been?  Very accurate in off-year elections, as Jay Cost reminds us.
Only once in 60 years has the Gallup generic ballot underestimated Democratic strength by a significant amount — by 2% in 2006.  On average, it slightly overestimates the Democrats, by 0.7%.

Right now, the Gallup traditional model is showing the Democrats at 41% of the vote, and gives the Republicans an advantage of 14 points.  That would point to a final result along the lines of 57-43.
Recall, again, that the Republicans won a sweeping victory in 1994 with a 7 point margin.

Cost has more to say, as he argues with himself over whether to believe what the Gallup generic poll is telling us.  (I find it hard to believe myself.)
- 6:45 AM, 26 October 2010   [link]


President Obama Says Republicans Can Come Along For The Ride:   But they will have to sit in back.
He said Republicans had driven the economy into a ditch and then stood by and criticized while Democrats pulled it out.  Now that progress has been made, he said, "we can't have special interests sitting shotgun.  We gotta have middle class families up in front.  We don't mind the Republicans joining us.  They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back."
Actually, unless all the polls are wrong, or there is an enormous shift in public opinion in the next week, Speaker Boehner will be riding shotgun starting next January.   Obama had better get used to the idea.

This shows, I suppose, the danger of over-using a metaphor.  Obama has been so pleased by his car-in-the-ditch metaphor that he hasn't noticed that we all, Democrats, Republicans, independents, and everyone else, have to come along for the ride with him, whether we want to or not.

(Just for fun, imagine the rage if Bush had said the same thing about Democrats.)
- 7:47 PM, 25 October 2010   [link]


Does Early Voting Depress Turnout?  That seems paradoxical, but that's what three political scientists found in a study of the 2008 election:

Our research, conducted with our colleagues David Canon and Donald Moynihan at the University of Wisconsin, is based on a three-part statistical analysis of the 2008 presidential election.  First, we analyzed voting patterns in each of the nation's 3,100 counties to estimate the effect of early voting laws on turnout.  We controlled for a wide range of demographic, geographic and political variables, like whether a county was in a battleground state.

Controlling for all of the other factors thought to shape voter participation, our model showed that the availability of early voting reduced turnout in the typical county by three percentage points.  Consider, as an example, a county in Kentucky, which lacks early voting.  If we compared this to a similar county in neighboring Tennessee, which permits early voting, we would observe, other things being equal, turnout that was 3 points lower.

Here's why they think it happens:

When Election Day is merely the end of a long voting period, it lacks the sort of civic stimulation that used to be provided by local news media coverage and discussion around the water cooler.  Fewer co-workers will be sporting "I voted" stickers on their lapels on Election Day.  Studies have shown that these informal interactions have a strong effect on turnout, as they generate social pressure.   With significant early voting, Election Day can become a kind of afterthought, simply the last day of a drawn-out slog.

(The description of the study in the op-ed looks sound; I especially like the fact that they got the same result with three distinct approaches.  But I haven't read the original paper.)

Will election officials in Washington state, and other states that have been expanding early voting, pay any attention to this study?  Probably not, but one can hope.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 5:03 PM, 25 October 2010   [link]


Latest Generic Vote From Rasmussen:  Here's how Rasmussen describes their latest results.
With Election Day eight days away, Republican candidates hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 24, 2010.   It's the second week in a row the gap between the parties has been that wide.
. . .
The Generic Ballot results were much different during the last two election cycles when Democrats regularly had large leads. The two parties were very close through the spring of 2009, but in June, around the time Democrats began their campaign for health care reform, Republicans pulled ahead for good.
And have been adding to their lead all through this last year.

Trends in generic Congressional vote, 25 October 2010 - 24 October 2010

(Note that I am using the traditional — and logical — colors for the two parties, rather than the colors inflicted on us by the "mainstream" media.)

(Rasmussen's latest result is quite close to those found in other recent polls — except for Newsweek's.

Rasmussen found a much lower Republican lead, 3 points, in their October 3rd poll.  I am inclined, as of now, to think that was just one of the flukes that every pollster gets from time to time.)
- 3:12 PM, 25 October 2010   [link]


Good End, Bad Means:  That's Ross Douthat's verdict on TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
What's true in wartime can be true in economic policy as well, even if the stakes aren't life and death.  TARP may have saved the United States from 15 percent unemployment, but it also implicated our government in the kind of crony capitalism you'd expect from a banana republic.  If it was necessary, it was also un-American.  If it worked, it did so while doing grievous damage to the credibility of Wall Street and Washington alike.
For that combination, we should probably give most of the credit/blame to our former treasury secretary, Henry Paulson.

Unlike many, I have not come to an opinion on whether TARP's end required TARP's means, whether there was a better way to stabilize the financial system.  What is certain is that, for years, we allowed our largest financial firms to gamble in the belief that, if worst came to worst, they would be bailed out by the taxpayers.  If there is anything in the latest "reform" law that would change that, I have missed it.

(I found one interesting tidbit in the Wikipedia article.  Paulson, so the article says — with the usual caveats about Wikipedia — was one of the Wall Street figures who successfully urged the Securities and Exchange Commission to drop the net capital rule for the largest firms.  That may have been a mistake, not necessarily for Paulson, but for the nation.

The Obama administration extended TARP to bail out General Motors and Chrysler, or, to be more precise, the United Auto Workers.  Although one can make an argument for the bailout, it would be hard to defend the package that the Obama administration forced on the two companies — unless your primary goal is to protect the United Auto Workers, the union that did so much to cause the bankruptcies.)
- 2:07 PM, 25 October 2010   [link]


If You Like Snow, you'll like the views through the Mt. Rainier web cams today.  There are links to four of them on the right, but today you might also want to look at this one, showing the visitor's center at Paradise.

They are expecting a "foot or more" of snow up there before the storm ends.

(Those who live in places that get less snow than Mt. Rainier may need to know that some of the poles you see in the picture are guides for the snow plow drivers.)
- 8:04 AM, 25 October 2010   [link]


If You Dislike Barbara Boxer — and who doesn't — you'll like this video.

(I have sometimes engaged in a futile debate with myself over whether Washington's pair of senators is worse than California's pair.  Patty Murray wins the "no rocket scientist" awards, but Barbara Boxer is an exceptionally unpleasant individual.  Dianne Feinstein is the most sensible of the four, but her work in the Senate benefits her husband's businesses too often for my tastes.  Maria Cantwell won in 2000 with an exceptionally dishonest campaign, and has been pushing Green superstition on us ever since.

We could replace any of the four with a citizen chosen at random, and almost certainly improve the Senate.)
- 7:24 AM, 25 October 2010   [link]


WikiLeaks Supports George W. Bush:  As the Instapundit wryly noted, the latest document dump provides some support for Bush on both Iraqi casualty estimates and WMDs.

But, wait, there's more!  The documents also support what the Bush administration was saying about Iran.
The largest unauthorized disclosure of classified government documents in U.S. history confirms a long-standing assertion of President George W. Bush at the start of the 2007 troop surge: Iran was orchestrating one side of the Iraqi insurgency.
- 6:51 AM, 25 October 2010   [link]