September 2003, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
Stefan Sharkansky is right when he says that this is an "unconscionable example" of federal interference. I blame the Patriot Act.
- 1:53 PM, 15 September 2003 [link]
While I Am Helping Mickey Kaus, I may as well add to his skepticism about the New York Times' coverage of the economy. Kaus thought that this New York Times story was just a trifle gloomy, and wondered why they would say that "most economists predict that unemployment will remain almost unchanged at nearly 6 percent through the elections in November 2004" without quoting more than one economist, former Clinton official Brad DeLong. Later Kaus added a slightly more positive update from an AP story, which described a survey of 35 economists. (Scroll down to the September 13th posts.) On the same day, the Wall Street Journal published its monthly survey of 53 economists, which was the most positive of all. (Not available free on line.)
The Journal panel sharply increased their estimates of economic growth for the second half of this year and predicted significant gains in employment before the next presidential election:
Nearly half of the economists survey said a lack of job creation posed the biggest threat to the nascent economic expansion. Yet most economists now expect payrolls to start rising by the end of the year. Thirty-seven of the 53 economic forecasters surveyed expect payrolls to expand by one million or more over the 12-month period. On average, the group expected the economy to produce almost 1.4 million new jobs between this month and September 2004. This averages to about 115,000 a month, a clear improvement over the past three years, though still not enough to bring down the unemployment rate by much. The jobless rate is expected to remain at 6.1 percent through November and then decline slightly to 5.9 percent by May 2004.If it fell a few more tenths of a per cent before the election as one would expect, it would be close to the level it was at the end of 1996, 5.4 percent. As you may recall, the incumbent president was re-elected that year. It would also be lower than the rate in 1984, 7.5 percent, when, again, an incumbent president was re-elected.
"Most economists predict?" Or the New York Times engages in wishful thinking? You make the call.
- 1:40 PM, 15 September 2003 [link]
Those Conflicting California Polls: The polls on the California recall have been in sharp conflict. For example, the Los Angeles Times poll has had far different results than those from Field, a long established California polling organization. Many, notably Slate contributor Mickey Kaus, have been wondering what could explain these differences. One possibility occurs to me; the different polling organizations may be using different weighting procedures for likely voters.
First, a brief explanation of weighting procedures. Polling organizations begin by taking a sample of the voters and then calling them to ask them their opinions. The pollsters then have to figure out which voters will actually vote. (Just asking them doesn't work, because too many people will say they will do their civic duty even when they won't when the election actually comes around.) The different polling organizations use different procedures, often secret, for weighting the different groups. They adjust these from their experience in past elections. The best pollsters, for example, Gallup, get pretty good at this over time, at least for routine elections.
The recall election is unique. (There was a gubernatorial recall in North Dakota last century, but it was before modern polling.) The polling organizations have to guess which groups are more likely to vote, and they are almost certainly using different guesses. This Peter Schrag article, from the New York Times shows some of the complexity of the problem. Young males are the strongest supporters of Schwarzenegger, but they are, in most elections, the least likely to vote. Schrag provides some evidence that they may be unhappy enough with illegal immigration to vote in much larger numbers than usual. A polling organization that used models of voting from other elections would miss this.
There are, of course, other ways polling organizations can go wrong. For example, in a state like California, which changes so rapidly, a polling organization may have the wrong model of the population, as well as wrong weighting procedures. For now, the best predictions will come from the bookies, as I explained here.
- 9:15 AM, 15 September 2003 [link]
More On The Al Jazeera-Al Qaeda Connection: This MSNBC article has more of the evidence against the al Jazeera reporter who was arrested in Spain because of his connections to the terrorist organization. Judging by the evidence given in the story, it seems clear that he was an al Qaeda agent. Now, how will al Jazeera react to these revelations? A real news organization would apologize and clean house.
- 8:09 AM, 15 September 2003 [link]
Brought To You By The Tourist Board Of Italy? When I read this offensive Washington Post column by Frenchman Dominique Moïse, "a senior adviser at the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (Ifri) in Paris and a professor at the College of Europe in Warsaw", I was tempted to send Monsieur Moïse a nasty, even vulgar, email. But then I started wondering about his motives. Any diplomat can tell you that, if you want to change another nation's policies, it is best not to start with a lecture on just how wrong they are. Surely a "senior adviser" and a "professor" knows that. So it seems likely that he wanted to make Americans angry.
Why he would want to anger us is a mystery to me since I know nothing about him, but I can speculate. American tourism to France is way down since Chirac led the opposition to Bush on Iraq. So, too, are sales of French wine in the United States. Could one of the countries that compete with France for tourist dollars, Italy, for example, have hired Moïse to write this column? Or maybe his patron is an Australian wine company, since they have gained sales here, partly at the expense of the French? (The high levels of corruption in French politics make such explanations all too plausible.) Or perhaps he is an agent of some extremist group; the Trotskyites have planted other agents in positions of power in France. This column may be intended to undermine NATO, a long time goal of the far left. Whatever the explanation, it is clear that he does not favor better relations between France and the United States.
(I suppose I should add a bit about his argument, even though I very much doubt that he believes it himself. The situation is, on the whole, improving in Iraq, not deteriorating. The United States does not need France, despite what some American diplomat (conveniently unnamed) may have told him. In fact, given the obstruction and, in one case, the outright treachery, of the French in our joint operations in the Balkans, we are better off without them. At most, France can help us by not obstructing things at the UN, but otherwise, they simply don't matter. We need—and are rapidly training—Iraqi policemen and administrators, not their French equivalents. In brief, there is little practical that France can do for us, but they can stop being less of an adolescent nuisance. Months ago, I argued that it was time for the French to grow up a little; this column illustrates my point.)
- 7:33 AM, 15 September 2003 [link]
Computer Hygiene: Most of you, I am sure, are familiar with the advice that follows, but some people clearly are not, which is why I saw so many fake emails at the height of the Sobig.F virus. I have been using personal computers for two decades now, and for most of that time I have been on line. To my knowledge, I have had just one virus infection, and it came from a commercial program. I am not a security expert, but I follow some common sense precautions which I recommend to others. (I do one thing which I don't recommend to most others, which is run Linux (Red Hat 9) as my main operating system. It is somehat more secure than the "home" versions of Windows by design and much less likely to be the target of an attack.)
- 10:03 AM, 14 September 2003
Update: I corrected the recommendation on Linux; most users, and certainly most unsophisticated users, should avoid it, but there are some who can benefit from it. It is a good tool, for example, for learning about operating systems. And, yesterday I saw an offer at CompUSA which shows just how easily and cheaply your computer problems can be fixed. They will scan your computer and remove any viruses they find for just 20 dollars.
- 7:56 AM, 15 September 2003 [link]
- 7:02 PM, 14 September 2003 [link]
Some Mourned On The Anniversary, Some Added To Their Grit, and some staged fund raisers. Washington state's Senator Murray chose the exact time of the 9/11 attacks to hold a fund raiser in a fancy Washington, D. C. restaurant. More evidence that she is simply not up to being a senator, as I explained here last January. The timing of the fund raiser also illustrates something the devastating 1996 Seattle Times profile discussed at length; Murray is unable to work well with able staff members. Any half way competent staffer would have noticed the political problem in the timing of the fund raiser; any sensible senator would listen to their staff to avoid problems like this. Murray is not up to being a senator by herself, and is unwilling to let her staff make up for her deficiencies. Despite all this, both Seattle newspapers will probably endorse this winner of the "not a rocket scientist" award next year, for the reasons I explained in the January post.
- 8:22 AM, 13 September 2003 [link]
Worth Reading: Christopher Hitchens was right when he argued that we should use the anniversary of the 9/11 attack, not to mourn but to add to our grit, to strengthen our resolve in the war that has been forced upon us. That is why I have had less to say about the victims and more to say about our progress in this war, which I expect to last decades. Still, though we should look ahead, we should not forget why we fight. This Margaret Wente column on three Candians widowed by the 9/11 attack is one of the best pieces on the victims that I have seen, anywhere. Read the whole thing, and don't miss the contrast between Prime Minister Chrétien and President Bush.
- 8:02 AM, 13 September 2003 [link]
Bill Clinton Is Coming To Seattle for a speech. The organization sponsoring his speech will follow him with appearances by Molly Ivins and Al Franken, and Michael Moore. All four have reputations for not telling the truth, well deserved reputations. The name of the organization sponsoring these events? Foolproof Performing Arts.
(The column by the PI's Joel Connelly is a neat capsule of his strength, an extensive knowledge of Washington state politics—though like most reporters he is quite weak on assessing policy—and his weakness, an unbridled partisanship. He is simply unable to write candidly about the many Clinton scandals, like the disgraceful last minute pardons, exchanged for cash and votes. Speaking of journalists, or perhaps I should say "journalists", here's some fun you can have with Molly Ivins. Just do a Google search on this phrase: "Molly Ivins" + plagiarism. How she gets away with it, I do not know.)
- 7:10 AM, 12 September 2003 [link]
What Kind Of Reporter Works For Al Jazeera? At least in one case, an agent for al Qaeda, apparently. (I say apparently because this Spanish judge is what we Americans might call a publicity seeking hot dog.) Earlier reports provided strong evidence that Saddam Hussein had been able to buy favorable coverage at al Jazeera. And where did the founders of al Jazeera get the training that makes them accept agents of al Qaeda and bribes from Saddam? At least some of them worked at the BBC.
- 6:43 AM, 12 September 2003 [link]
Some Don't Want the United States to succeed in the war on terror. That seems to be the position of the Guardian, judging by this editorial, which pretends a fake sympathy for a man they despise, President Bush. (It is an interesting and difficult question whether the Guardian would hope for us to succeed if we had a president more to their liking. Perhaps.) I say it is fake sympathy because they take such pleasure in our difficulties, and are so dismissive of our successes. They have not, apparently, even read the progress report just issued, but they find al Qaeda claims credible. They dabble in the absurd, judging a war by opinion polls in Europe. (Since the Guardian has worked so hard at poisoning opinion in Europe and elsewhere, this is something like an arsonist bemoaning the damage done by fires.) They outright lie, when they say that: "Mr Bush has broken alliances with the same abandon that he has broken lives, causing permanent damage." In fact, none of our alliances are broken. And the damage done to NATO was done, not by Bush, but by Chirac and Schroeder.
The Guardian relies on a report by one Paul Rogers, professor of "Peace Studies" at Bradford University, for their argument about the lack of progress in the war on terrorism, both in the editorial, and in this article. Since I have seen Professor Rogers cited before, I looked for his report. The full report does not seem to be openly available, but this briefing report, which I would call a press release, is. It is not, let me put this gently, a seminal work. Instead, it is just another example from the Patty Murray theory of terrorism, though Professor Rogers lacks the senator's gifts for a memorable phrase. She claimed that we could stop terrorism by building more day care facilities; Professor Rogers would seem to agree but is less explicit. Here's his list of recommendations for Britain:
These are not serious suggestions. If they are typical of Professor Roger's work, then it is hard to see him as a serious scholar. You will, I am sure, see him cited many times on terrorism by journalists. You should chuckle every time, I suspect.
(Technical points: There is not enough in the press release for me to determine exactly how Professor Rogers does his "research". He seems, in this latest case, to have simply made a list from newspaper articles, which exposes him to all sorts of methodological problems. For example, it should be obvious to anyone that newspapers are now more likely to print news of terrorist attacks than they once were, so simple counts will not work to assess changes in terrorism. And I can find nothing in the press release that shows that he has even considered the data available from the British government, much less the United States government.)
- 11:37 AM, 11 September 2003 [link]
Not Everyone Agrees with me that we are making progress in the war on terrorism. For example, this USA Today summary claims that "there is no clear way to gauge whether the United States is winning". Although they then contradict themselves in their articles on the different fronts of the war. On the intelligence front, information from captives and seized computers "has helped security forces break up plots by groups around the world". On the military front, we have expanded our special forces. (For reasons that escape me, USA Today does not include either the Afghanistan or Iraq campaigns in the military front.) On the diplomatic front, "the Bush administration can point to growing diplomatic cooperation in the war against al-Qaeda and its sympathizers". On the financial front:
The Treasury Department says that since Sept. 11, more than 170 nations have joined the hunt for terrorist money; 315 people and groups have been designated terrorists or supporters and are subject to having their assets taken; $200 million in assets has been seized or frozen, with 1,400 accounts closed down. The global dragnet is generating a steady stream of captured terrorists and blocked assets from Texas to Thailand.Which they immediately follow with: "Even so, it remains unclear how big a dent the effort has really made in terrorist funding." Uh, at least $200 million, just at a guess? On the homeland security front, even Michael O'Hanlon of the liberal Brookings Institution gives Ridge's department credit for improving security, though much remains to be done. USA Today does not seem to have a separate article on the law enforcement front, but this Washington Times article has some numbers:
Domestically, the Justice Department has charged 260 persons in terrorism investigations, including 140 who have pleaded guilty or been convicted.(The Washington Times article is the best summary of the progress report that I have seen, and well worth reading, especially if you still have doubts about our progress.)
No clear way to gauge? I beg to differ with the USA Today, and point to their own articles for much of the evidence.
- 10:12 AM, 11 September 2003 [link]
More Progress: A year ago, I summarized the war on terror by saying we had made some progress. In the year since we have made still more. Strategic analyst Edward Luttwak agrees, and points to the absence of al Qaeda attacks on American soil as proof.
It was widely expected that Sept. 11 would be followed at intervals by further spectacular attacks, with nuclear power stations being only the most important of a long series of plausible targets in the United States and Europe. But instead there were only misdirected blows, which did little to attract funds and recruits to Al Qaeda.But that didn't happen either. Instead, we now see Muslim countries like Indonesia beginning to resist al Qaeda and its allies. Even Saudi Arabia—and here I disagree somewhat with Luttwak—has moved toward some control of the radical Islamists.
Amir Taheri gives more details, reminding us that, of the top seven leaders of al Qaeda, only Osama bin Laden is not "fully accounted for". One is in Iran, two are dead, and three are our prisoners. (Like most experts, Taheri believes that bin Laden is dead, though we have yet to locate his body.) Jim Hoagland agrees with Luttwak and Taheri and says that it is now time "for the Bush administration to consolidate the gains it has achieved", particularly the diplomatic gains.
All in all, I see more reason for hope now than I did last year at this time.
- 8:48 AM, 11 September 2003 [link]
Think You Have Good Bass In Your Home Theater System? It can't handle this note. On the other hand, even a blue whale can't hear a note "57 octaves below a piano's middle C", so that shouldn't be a practical problem. The note comes from a "supermassive black hole", which would not fit in most homes, now that I think about it.
- 1:50 PM, 10 September 2003 [link]
Compared To What? In this post, I explained why Bush was the favorite to win the 2004 election, but not the prohibitive favorite. This analysis from Roll Call shows why Bush is the favorite. At this point, he is doing better in the polls than Bill Clinton was, at the same time before the 1996 election.
Perhaps the easiest way to get some perspective on Bush's job approval, however, is to compare his numbers to President Bill Clinton's during roughly the same time frame—the first 32 months in office. Using Bush's job approval numbers in major media surveys for just August, we find he averaged a 56 percent approve/38 percent disapprove. Contrast those numbers with Clinton's in August 1995, his third year in office, and we see Clinton's job approval average was 46 percent approve/43 percent disapprove.Clinton was helped greatly by the good economic news in the year before the election. If, as most economists expect, the economic news is good in the coming year, then Bush should beat his Democratic opponent by a larger margin than Clinton beat Dole. (Larger, because he is unlikely to go into the election with the same cloud of scandal as Clinton did.) It is the uncertainty, especially about the economy, that keeps Bush from being a prohibitive favorite now.
- 10:11 AM, 10 September 2003 [link]
What Kind Of Person straps explosives to themselves and goes out to find innocents to kill and maim? You and I might follow common sense and say "terrorists". For those in the Arab press, they are "activists". And the British Guardian uses the same term, "activists". (The two accounts are similar in other ways as well, although the Guardian does have some small sympathy for the victims of the terrorists. Both present the terrorist attacks as responses to Israeli actions. The Guardian's headline says that the terrorists "hit back" at Israel, and the Arab News says that the attacks were in "apparent retaliation" for Israeli attacks. Neither account bothers to mention the endless campaign of terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel. Only Israeli attacks, it seems, require "revenge".)
The European Union, as the Guardian knows, has agreed to classify Hamas as a terrorist organization. So why can't the newspaper do the same? Those who truly want peace in the Middle East recognize that it can only be gained through the defeat of Hamas and similar terrorist organizations. Those who refuse to face this admittedly unpleasant fact, like most of the writers and editors at the Guardian, are making peace harder to achieve.
- 9:26 AM, 10 September 2003 [link]
Robert Fulford observes that the intellectual energy is now on the right. Leftists have little to say, and say it badly.
Political quarterlies are even more lopsided. The conservatives have half a dozen journals, including The National Interest (on world affairs) and The Public Interest (on social policy) for which there are no liberal equivalents. Among writers there's no contest. The United States has many liberal columnists, but not one of them can compete with Charles Krauthammer, George Will, or Andrew Sullivan. The writers contributing to the conservative comment pages of The Wall Street Journal have far more to say, and say it far better, than the liberals on The New York Times.This loss of intellectual energy on the left makes it difficult for the Democrats to formulate or explain their policies. They are reduced to an empty hostility to their political opponents.
Now they have nothing left but enemies: If you believe their rhetoric, the main and perhaps only function of a Democratic politician today is to keep Republicans out of office.Which is why you hear so much vituperation toward George Bush, and so little discussion of policy.
Fulford thinks, and I agree, that the shift in intellectual energy came with the takeover of the Democratic party by the McGovernites. After that, many people, including me, concluded that those on the left, with some honorable exceptions, were simply unable to think realistically about our enemies, at that time the Communists, and now the radical Islamists. I would add that the same lack of realism, the same indifference to results, can be found in many areas of domestic policy. Nearly everyone on the left opposed welfare reform and now opposes educational reform, in spite of the evidence of failure in both areas.
- 7:33 AM, 10 September 2003
Update: As if to illustrate Fulford's point, today the Globe and Mail published two badly written opinion pieces, here and here. There are examples of poor writing all through both pieces, but I especially liked the "hootin' and hollerin'" in the first and the "ruling crusts" in the second. And, just as Orwell told us long ago, the dismal writing in the pieces reveals the failure of the authors to think clearly.
- 7:42 AM, 11 September 2003 [link]
What Do The Iraqis Think? Back in March, before the war started, I argued here that somewhere between 50 and 90 of Iraqis would favor a war to remove Saddam, with much stronger support from Shiites and Kurds than from Sunnis. The American Enterprise Institute has done the first scientific poll in Iraq (though there have been earlier ones in Baghdad), and Karl Zinsmeister has this summary of their results, which both supports my analysis and gives us hope for the future. (I'll see if I can get the entire poll for a more complete analysis later.)
The results show that the Iraqi public is more sensible, stable and moderate than commonly portrayed, and that Iraq is not so fanatical, or resentful of the U.S., after all.Now this does not mean that the reconstruction of Iraq will be easy, but it does show that sensible policies will draw support from most Iraqis.
- 7:02 AM, 10 September 2003 [link]
Howard Dean thinks we shouldn't "take sides" between Israel and her enemies, or to put it in some other ways, between terrorism and its victims, between a nation that wants peace and those who want to destroy it, or between a democracy and dictatorships. I wonder if Dean will issue a correction or an apology? And should we believe him if he does? I'll find it hard to.
- 2:09 PM, 9 September 2003
Update: In the debate yesterday, Dean weaseled away from what he had said earlier about Israel. Lieberman tried to call him on it, but if this account is correct, Dean probably got away with it. And, Dean is trying another weasel move, as mentioned in this clarification. He now claims to support NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, "in principle", but wants to see it renegotiated. (I wonder if he has ever told his wife that he supports their marriage "in principle", but wants to renegotiate the terms.)
- 1:34 PM, 10 September 2003 [link]
In This post, I argued that relations with Canada would not improve while Prime Minister Chrétien was in power. Although he is still in office, he is fading away and relations between the two nations are improving. One reason for the improvement is that Canada has sent a significant force to Afghanistan to battle al Qaeda, including units like this reconnaissance unit. Thanks to our Canadian friends for this support.
There will be many a dry eye south of the border when Chrétien leaves office for good. I expect that many of the problems we have will get settled then. Canadians deserve a better leader, and they soon will have one.
- 1:51 PM, 9 September 2003 [link]
Rebecca Eckler notices something I've noticed myself. During a courtship, a woman often thinks that his food tastes better. And men in love seem to share without much resistance, just as she says. Must be something fundamental, since you can see parallel behavior in many bird species.
- 9:13 AM, 9 September 2003 [link]
So Many Mistakes, So Little Time:
- 8:23 AM, 9 September 2003 [link]