Archive:

September 2004, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Pollsters And Party ID:  Yesterday, the anti-Bush organization MoveOn took out a full page ad in the New York Times to complain about the Gallup poll.   MoveOn complained that there were too many Republicans in the Gallup's sample, and that its results were biased against Kerry.  (And they had a particularly nasty explanation for Gallup's motive in doing a biased poll, which I will get to at the end of this post.).   These ads are not cheap; yesterday I saw the price of a full page ad given at $68,000, which is expensive even for a wealthy group like MoveOn.

Why did they spend the money on this ad?  Rather than, for instance, using it for scholarships for poor kids?  Presumably because they believe in a bandwagon theory, the idea that the news that one candidate is ahead persuades others to support him.  There may be some truth to bandwagon theories in primaries, but I have seen no evidence that voters decide that way in general elections.  (Although there is a small tendency for voters to claim they voted for the winner after the election, when they hadn't.)

So their money was wasted, almost certainly, but that doesn't mean their criticisms of Gallup were wrong.  Did Gallup's recent results have too many Republicans in them?  Probably not, but to understand that you must know an interesting detail about Gallup's polling procedures and understand something about a long term controversy in political science.  (I'll try to make the discussion of the second as palatable as possible.)

First, the detail, which I learned from David Hogberg
When I asked Frank Newport at Gallup about that [the high number of Democrats in a 2003 poll], he said that they asked the Party ID question at the end of the survey, after all of the other questions, such as ones about Bush's approval rating, who the respondents intend to vote for, etc.   Newport told me that how Bush is doing will effect whether people identify themselves as a Republican or Democrat.  When respondents perceive that Bush isn't doing well, more of them identify themselves as a Democrat.  Gallup treats Party ID this way because it believes that Party ID is relatively fluid.
If Gallup asked the party ID question at the beginning, they would get different results.  I would expect that it would be more stable and less influenced by election choices.  (You can see just how much party ID has varied in Gallup's polls this year here.)

Newport's last statement, that Party ID is "relatively fluid" would have shocked most students of American politics forty years ago.  Here's how a very influential book, The American Voter begins chapter 5, "The Impact of Party Identification".
A general observation about the political behavior of Americans is that their partisan preferences show great stability between elections.
Party ID, the authors thought, changed rarely and even then only under the impact of great events, such as the Great Depression.  There were good reasons for them to think it was stable — at least when they did their work, in the 1950s.  Whether their conclusion was right then, it no longer is.  There is conclusive evidence that party ID can change rapidly and without the impact of great events.
Party identification is not a particularly stable attitude — many people go back and forth on how they regard themselves.  When respondents are surveyed and then re-interviewed at a later date, substantial minorities give different answers.  In November 2000, after the presidential election, Pew re-interviewed 1,113 voters who had participated in a survey in September of that year.  In the period between the surveys, 18% of voters answered the party affiliation question differently than they had just two months earlier.  And not much time needs to pass in order to see this sort of instability.  In the 1988 post-election study, voters were called back less than three weeks after the initial contact, and fully 16% changed party labels in that time.
As you can see from the tables, the voters do not often jump from being a Democrat to being a Republican or vice versa, but they do move, easily, from a party to being independent, or in the other direction.  Every American may, to paraphrase the Gilbert and Sullivan song, be born a Democrat or Republican, but they don't necessarily stay what they were born or even what they were last week.

That said, you can also see that the totals for a party do tend toward long term stability.  Permanent changes generally take time.  The number of Republicans jumped sharply when Saddam was captured, fell during the Democratic nomination struggle, and has risen recently.  My guess, as I have said before, is that its equilibrium level is about one third of the voters.  And I think the equilibrium levels for Democrats and independents are about the same.

Some pollsters, notably Zogby, try to "correct" their polls by weighting them by party.  From what I can tell, it is not certain that this approach will give more accurate answers.  It may smooth out some of the bumps from temporary shifts in party ID, but it may cover up real changes during a campaign.  If a pollster did use weighting by party, they would have to ask the party ID question before they asked the candidate choice question.

There is another objection some have to Gallup — and to nearly every other pollster as well, their methods of weighting for likely voters.  The best test for these methods is the final election predictions, and there Gallup has done very well.  I haven't seen a recent summary, but their error in 2000 was about 2 percent, which is about as good as a pollster can get, given sampling errors and last minute shifts.

(The smear in the MoveOn ad shows something about those running the organization, something unpleasant, I would say.  Here's how the New York Times puts it:
Saying that the polling is biased toward Republicans, the advertisement implies the reason is that George Gallup Jr., the son of the poll's founder, is an evangelical Christian.
By the way, he is not even running the firm day to day.

As I understand it, MoveOn's founders made their fortune selling those "flying toaster" screen savers back in the 1980s.  I think I bought one as a present.  If so, I apologize.

As a practical matter, I would take Gallup's results as being the most likely to be right for the candidate choice, given their long term record of success, but I would not use their results for party ID, because of when they ask that question.)
- 3:57 AM, 30 September 2004   [link]


Shannon Love Versus The NYT:  In this post, I recommended looking at the map created by Shannon Love, which showed that the attacks in Iraq were mostly confined to four provinces.   Yesterday, the New York Times looked at similar data and came to this gloomy conclusion.
Over the past 30 days, more than 2,300 attacks by insurgents have been directed against civilians and military targets in Iraq, in a pattern that sprawls over nearly every major population center outside the Kurdish north, according to comprehensive data compiled by a private security company with access to military intelligence reports and its own network of Iraqi informants.

The sweeping geographical reach of the attacks, from Nineveh and Salahuddin Provinces in the northwest to Babylon and Diyala in the center and Basra in the south, suggests a more widespread resistance than the isolated pockets described by Iraqi government officials.
Who is right?  Shannon Love.

To see that, take a look at this point by point critique of the Times article, from another Chicago Boys contributor, Sylvain Galineau, or at a similar critique from "Wretchard" of Belmont Club, who finishes with this neat summary:
So everything checks out just as the New York Times article reported it.  All the facts are individually true, but Prime Minister Allawie's assertion that most provinces are "completely safe" and that security prospects are bright are also supported by those same facts.  Such is the fog of war.
I should add that the Times reporters, James Glanz and Thom Shanker, may have written their article in good faith, may not have intended to slant it.  But I also think that they would write it differently if a President Kerry was in the White House.
- 10:43 AM, 30 September 2004   [link]


Senate Candidate George Nethercutt Attacks Patty Murray on her weakest point, her dimwitted failure to understand the roots of terrorism.  And he does it with an ad that shows her infamous statement explaining the support for bin Laden in the Muslim world.  Her concluding sentences drew less attention than her claim that bin Laden had been building day care centers, but deserve more.
He's made their lives better.  We have not done that.
Bin Laden was, most of all, a supporter of the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Does Patty Murray really believe that the Taliban made life better for the people of Afghanistan?  We have sent billions in aid to the Muslim world.  For example, Egypt, the largest Arab nation, has been the second largest recipient of our foreign aid for many years.  Does Patty Murray really believe that our aid to Egypt and other Muslim countries has not made their lives better?   If so, why did she vote for it, over and over?

You can see the ad at Nethercutt's site.

(Full disclosure: I've made a modest contribution to Nethercutt's campaign, partly because I like him and partly because I have been embarrassed by Patty Murray for years.  I'm sure she is a a nice lady, and equally sure that she is not fit to be a senator.  You can see more on Murray in this post from January 2003.

The ad must be effective, as you can see from the outraged reactions from Murray supporters here and here.  And I am charmed by the argument that it is unfair to quote what Senator Murray said in a public meeting.)
- 8:01 AM, 30 September 2004   [link]


Small St. Helens Eruption Predicted:  Yesterday, the USGS scientists raised their prediction from maybe to probably.
The rumblings from Mount St. Helens intensified yesterday, leading federal scientists to raise the volcanic alert level and warn that a small-to-moderate eruption is likely within the next several days.

The event could fling rocks up to three miles from the volcano's crater and spew ash thousands of feet into the air, but it wouldn't approach the magnitude of the cataclysmic 1980 eruption that blew out the mountain's north side and killed 57 people, scientists said.
. . .
One explanation for what's happening now is that rainwater percolated into the dome, reacting with hot rock to cause cracking, Moran said.  That cracking may have created pathways to allow some of the magma from 1998 to begin moving again.
Or at least to a "heightened possibility".  (I may be in a minority on this point, but I would prefer betting odds to vague phrases from the experts.)

Political point?  Well, I can't help but note that any explosion would probably break a number of pollution control laws, though not on the scale of the 1980 eruption.  But then St. Helens has been a scofflaw for many years, so that's nothing new.

You can find more here and here.
- 7:11 AM, 30 September 2004
Ask For A Number, get a number.
The flurry of earthquakes at Mount St. Helens intensified further Thursday, and one scientist put the chance of a small eruption happening in the next few days at 70 percent.
Now isn't 70 percent more informative than "heightened possibility"?
- 1:58 PM, 30 September 2004   [link]


Correction On Women's Participation:  In this post, I mentioned that it had taken decades for women's voting levels to catch up to men's, and guessed that it hadn't happened until the 1960s.  Actually, it wasn't until the 1980s, as I learned from this David Hogberg post.   Here are the numbers from the Census Bureau table he points to.

Percent Voting, By Sex, 1964-2002

YearMenWomen
196471.967.0
196658.253.0
196869.866.0
197056.852.7
197264.162.0
197446.243.4
197659.658.8
197846.645.3
198059.159.4
198248.748.4
198459.060.8
198645.846.1
198856.458.3
199044.645.4
199260.262.3
199444.745.3
199652.855.5
199841.442.4
200053.156.2
200241.443.0


(The base is the total population of voting age, not citizens, so the decline in participation is not as great as it seems, since we have many more non-citizens now than in 1964.)

Though a lower percentage of men have voted in every election since 1984, I can't recall seeing any get out the vote drives directed at men.

(As Hogberg notes, you still see articles claiming that women don't vote as often as men, though to be fair, few would consider Vogue magazine, his example, an authoritative source on voting statistics.

Because women live longer than men the total number of women voting probably passed the total number of men voting earlier than 1984.)
- 5:19 PM, 29 September 2004   [link]


Volcano Advisory For St. Helens:  The dome inside the crater has started to swell.
Federal scientists raised the volcano warning at Mount St. Helens to the equivalent of an orange alert this morning, as earthquake intensity increased and preliminary measurements showed magma may be moving into the crater.
. . .
Overnight, the pace of earthquakes beneath the volcano more than doubled, to about four a minute, said USGS seismologist Seth Moran.  The size of the shaking also intensified, with several quakes registering at magnitude 2 to 2.5 - strong enough to be felt by somebody who was standing in the crater.  Previously, most of the earthquakes ranged from magnitude 1 to 1.5.

A monitor installed Monday on the small dome inside the volcano's crater also detected about two inches of upward bulging over the past 12 hours.

That means magma is almost certainly moving into the dome, making an eruption more likely.
So far no gases from any magma have been detected.  By way of comparison, before the 1980 eruption, one side of St. Helens grew by 200 feet.

If you want to watch the mountain, you can do it here, though the camera might not last long in a major eruption.
- 3:55 PM, 29 September 2004   [link]


More On Platform Promises:  In a post at the beginning of this month, I mentioned Gerald Pomper's study of platform promises and summarized his findings as best I could from memory.  I have now found my copy of his book, and can give you some specifics.  (Embarrassingly, the book was in a pile of books next to my desk, which explains why I couldn't find it in a search through my bookshelves.)

Pomper studied the Democratic and Republican party platforms from 1944 through 1964, extracting the 2,243 "future pledges" from the 12 platforms.  How many did the parties keep?  It depended very much on who won the presidency, as it should.
Winning the Presidency, however, does make a considerable difference in platform fulfillment.   In all categories, the in-party achieves about four-fifths of its program, half again as much as the losers. (p. 187)
Although Pomper does not put it this way, many of the promises that were not kept were promises that required super majorities.  At that time, for example, nearly every civil rights bill required a two-thirds vote in the Senate, to break the inevitable filibuster.  Promises that require passing constitutional amendments face even higher barriers to fulfillment, which is why the president does not have an item veto, though it has been in more than one platform.

(You may wonder why the out party is able to fulfill some of its pledges.  That's because most of the pledges do not directly conflict with pledges in the other party's platform.   Many are are bipartisan, and many more are found only in one party's platform.)

So the parties are not perfect, but their promises do mean something.  That's why I will have more to say about the platforms before the election.  And more about Pomper's study of the platforms, which has other surprises that I have not mentioned.
- 8:30 AM, 29 September 2004   [link]


Cop Killer For Kerry:  America's most famous cop killer, Mumia Abu-Jamal, has endorsed John Kerry.  Like the Communist party, he did so negatively.
"For millions of people, there exists in their minds, in their hearts a hunger for change," Abu-Jamal writes in the latest issue of Workers World.  "That hunger is becoming a driving force in the upcoming elections, and is being expressed in a way that can best be summed up: 'Anybody But Bush.'"
That should solidify the pro-Kerry vote at Washington's Evergreen College, where Mumia was an honored speaker just a few years ago.

(For what it is worth, Mumia shares my skepticism about the support that a President Kerry would be able to get from the French.

I am sure that there are people who, unlike Mumia, are enthusiastically for Kerry, rather than just gloomily against Bush.  I just haven't seen any, outside his immediate family — and I am not entirely sure about Teresa.)
- 7:09 AM, 29 September 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  Two great columns from David Brooks.  In the first, Brooks eviscerates the UN for its failure in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Confronted with the murder of 50,000 in Sudan, we eschewed all that nasty old unilateralism, all that hegemonic, imperialist, go-it-alone, neocon, empire, coalition-of-the-coerced stuff.   Our response to this crisis would be so exquisitely multilateral, meticulously consultative, collegially cooperative and ally-friendly that it would make John Kerry swoon and a million editorialists nod in sage approval.

And so we Americans mustered our outrage at the massacres in Darfur and went to the United Nations.  And calls were issued and exhortations were made and platitudes spread like béarnaise.  The great hum of diplomacy signaled that the global community was whirring into action.
. . .
The [UN] resolution passed, and it was a good day for alliance-nurturing and burden-sharing - for the burden of doing nothing was shared equally by all.  And we are by now used to the pattern.   Every time there is an ongoing atrocity, we watch the world community go through the same series of stages: (1) shock and concern (2) gathering resolve (3) fruitless negotiation (4) pathetic inaction (5) shame and humiliation (6) steadfast vows to never let this happen again.

The "never again" always comes.  But still, we have all agreed, this sad cycle is better than having some impromptu coalition of nations actually go in "unilaterally" and do something.   That would lack legitimacy!  Strain alliances!  Menace international law!  Threaten the multilateral ideal!

It's a pity about the poor dead people in Darfur.  Their numbers are still rising, at 6,000 to 10,000 a month.
And it's a pity that Mary Mapes and Dan Rather care less about these deaths than whether President Bush attended every meeting of the National Guard three decades ago.

That the UN is ineffectual in stopping most massacres is undeniable.  That so many still do not accept that fact is dismaying.

In the second column, Brooks describes the success of the 1982 election in San Salvador, which did not occur in the best of circumstances.
Conditions were horrible when Salvadorans went to the polls on March 28, 1982.  The country was in the midst of a civil war that would take 75,000 lives.  An insurgent army controlled about a third of the nation's territory.  Just before election day, the insurgents stepped up their terror campaign.  They attacked the National Palace, staged highway assaults that cut the nation in two and blew up schools that were to be polling places.
Despite such problems, the voters there went to the polls and went again two years later.   The success of those two elections undermined both the Marxist rebels and the right wing death squads.  Now, in part because San Salvador held these elections, the nation is at peace and everyone in this hemisphere is better off for it.

Brooks uses this example to argue that imperfect elections in Afghanistan and Iraq — and they will be imperfect — may be a big step forward for both of those nations.
- 6:43 AM, 29 September 2004   [link]


It Was Sheer Accident, I am sure, that led the New York Times to bury this story on page C4.
Sales of new homes jumped 9.4 percent in August, higher than economists had expected and the biggest gain since the end of 2000, the Commerce Department said yesterday.

Single-family home sales increased to a 1.184 million annual pace last month, led by surging sales in the West and South, from a July rate of 1.082 million units, which was slower than first estimated.
Just rich people buying those houses?  No.
The median selling price in the United States dropped to $208,900 in August from $214,400 in July, reflecting a greater percentage of homes built for less than $125,000, the Commerce Department said.
Will Dan Rather make this one of his main stories?  Of course — if he is as unbiased as he says he is.
- 2:40 PM, 28 September 2004   [link]


European Leaders Prefer Bush:  That most European voters would prefer John Kerry as president is no secret.  (Possible exception: Poland.)  That European leaders may prefer Bush, quietly, is less well known.  And I don't mean just the leaders of the nations that backed Bush on the Iraq war, Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi, and the others.   No, I am also saying that French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerard Schröder would prefer that Bush win in November.  Why?  Two reasons.  First, John Kerry has made it quite clear that he will be asking them to do more in Iraq if he is elected.  And they don't look forward to that idea.
A participant on the sidelines of talks in Berlin between Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Richard Holbrooke, a would-be secretary of state in a John Kerry presidency, told a story about the meeting and the theme of how a Kerry-friendly Europe would leap to America's aid in bringing stability to Iraq. (Or maybe hide under the bed.)

"Schröder," the American said, "asked Holbrooke what would Kerry do if he were elected.   Holbrooke replied one of the first things would be to get on the phone and invite him and President Jacques Chirac to the White House.  The chancellor laughed out loud.  Then he said, 'That's what I was afraid of.'"
Because, after all, what's in it for him?  The Chancellor must be diplomatic, but the anti-Bush newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, can be more blunt.
So, suggesting that with Kerry's big Iraq statement under their belts it was now a good time for the Allies to ask themselves who would be a better American president for them, Süddeutsche pointed the question rhetorically at Gerhard Schröder, and then responded in his stead.

"The answer: Bush," the newspaper, a constant critic of the president, wrote.

As for the Democrat, Süddeutsche said Kerry "is suggesting that he can produce a little miracle and seduce America's battered friends into high-yield performances along the lines of Washington's wishes."  For all of Kerry's opportunity to create a foreign policy with greater credibility and legitimacy, that was not realistic, it said. Schöder couldn't send Bundeswehr troops to Iraq, and there would be "no morning-after special gift for a President Kerry."
Similar, though not identical, arguments apply for President Chirac.

Second, Bush is useful to them as a rhetorical target.
The unpopularity of President Bush, and Chirac's and Schröeder's aggressive stand against him, is the only thing that gives the French and German leaders any sort of credibility in the eyes of their own people.  Both head otherwise unpopular governments pursuing largely failed economic policies at home.  In particular, anti-Bush sentiment keeps alive the French dream of uniting Europe in opposition to the United States--Chirac's famous counterweight to the superpower.

They need Bush.

In any case, the French governing elite would surely miss having someone to scorn in Washington.   It feeds their innate self-belief and superiority complex.
In other words, attacking Bush allows them to distract voters from their failed policies.   (That's also a popular strategy in much of the Muslim world, which is filled with governments that have failed, often for decades.)  There is one problem with the strategy for European governments.  Blaming Bush may allow you to win an election or two, but it just postpones the dealing with the real problems.  The collapse of support for Schröder and his party in Germany since his narrow victory illustrates that point convincingly.

(There is one European government that might feel it would gain from Bush's defeat — Tony Blair's Labour government in Britain.  Although Blair himself may prefer Bush, it is no secret that many in his government feel they would be stronger if they could sever the connection.  And, as a matter of practical politics, I would have to agree that a Bush defeat might help Blair politically.

I have been unable to decide whether Kerry really believes that he will be able to get substantial support from other nations, as he continues to say on the campaign trail.  It is an implausible claim, but he shows no sign of realism on the subject.)
- 11:58 AM, 28 September 2004   [link]


Step Up To The Line and get it right.  I often see "toe the line" replaced by "tow the line", which is understandable, because of the homonym, but incorrect.  My American Heritage dictionary gives these definitions for toe the line:
1. To adhere to rules or doctrine conscientiously; conform.  2. Sports & Games. To touch a mark or line with the toe or hands in readiness for the start of a race or competition
I think the first meaning may have come from the practice of requiring students to line up on a physical line for order, but I may be wrong about that.

As is often the case, visualizing the metaphor helps avoid errors.  When I try to picture someone towing the line, I don't get anything.

Visualizing can also help you avoid disastrous metaphors, such as this one.
Is it me, or have the feminists in this country completely gone off their rockers?

Jane Fonda was recently in New York at a star-studded event designed to increase voter registration for women.  The occasion? The "Vaginas Vote, Chicks Rock" gala at the Apollo Theater, which was billed as "a night of entertainment and political empowerment."

Are you kidding? "Vaginas vote"?
I'll leave it up to you to decide whether you want to visualize that one.  Though I must note that it would require different voting technology.
- 8:53 AM, 28 September 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  This forum post on what happened when a graduate student in math education came up with the wrong result in his research.
The truth was that constructivism was proven to be a worthless pathetic failure.  Of course, nobody ever gets a thesis accepted and published by bucking established theory, so I watered down my conclusion to a much weaker (but still true) statement: "No evidence was found that the constructivist methods are better than the traditional method."  Professor read my first draft and turned it down outright.  He told me to re-analzye my data so that I could state the constructivism was better or I would never graduate.  So I walked out of his office, got an incomplete on my thesis (which eventually became an F) and never graduated.
If you are not up with fads in education, you may need an explanation of "constructivism".   Briefly, it is the idea that students should not learn mathematics from the teachers, but should construct their own mathematics, under the guidance of the instructor.  Think I am making that up?  Here's a semi-official definition:
Students need to construct their own understanding of each mathematical concept, so that the primary role of teaching is not to lecture, explain, or otherwise attempt to 'transfer' mathematical knowledge, but to create situations for students that will foster their making the necessary mental constructions.  A critical aspect of the approach is a decomposition of each mathematical concept into developmental steps following a Piagetian theory of knowledge based on observation of, and interviews with, students as they attempt to learn a concept
Although we must treat a post on an open forum, written under a pseudonym, with some skepticism, the story sounds entirely plausible to me.  (And if you scroll up and down, you will find similar horror stories.)  Mere facts often can not compete with a beautiful theory, especially in education schools.

(For more on the debate between proponents of "constructivist" and traditional methods of math instruction, see this informative UPI article.  Note that computational skills began to decline when constructivist approaches were introduced.

Forum post via Joanne Jacobs, who got it from "Generic Confusion".)
- 8:18 AM, 28 September 2004   [link]


What Kind Of Intellectual Standards Do Leftist Professors Have?  You can get a sample here, in which a poster at Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell, proposes this for the quote of the day: `
Relying on Free Republic losers to "fact-check" the media is like relying on the proverbial roomful of typing monkeys, except with somewhat more feral howling and feces-flinging.
Who can not be impressed by an argument at that intellectual level?  (Although it might have been even better if the author had used the traditional "poopy head", instead of the monkeys metaphor.)

Since you may not know him, I will add that it is "Professor" Henry Farrell who found that quotation so wonderful.  Professor Farrell teaches political science to college kids at George Washington University.  I hope he will not take it amiss if I say that Washington had higher standards than he does.

(Not familiar with Free Republic?  It is a free wheeling conservative site with endless discussions of political subjects.  You can find nearly every opinion there, some sound, some not.   Their standards are higher than those in many academic departments.
Free Republic expects users to follow a few simple posting guidelines (described below) and by posting to the forum you and others agree to abide by them.  While Free Republic is not edited or censored, it does reserve the right to remove any postings that are considered inappropriate.   Examples of inappropriate posts are those that are off-subject or contain advertising, pornography, obscene material, racist material, Nazi (or other hate group) material, materials promoting violence, threats or illegal acts, etc.
Can we find pornography, obscene material, racist material, hate group material, and materials promoting violence in many academic departments?  Yes, to all.

And if you are wondering why Free Republic was being attacked, it is simple.  A poster there was the first to note the problems with the forged documents used by Dan Rather.  If you hate "freepers", the people who post at Free Republic, that can be hard to take.)
- 2:18 PM, 27 September 2004   [link]


Kudos To Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times for this article on a Patty Murray commercial.  
In her latest television ads, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray talks as though she's got a plan to lower health-insurance costs.

Call it the Costco solution.  The 30-second spots open with Murray standing in a warehouse full of boxes.  She says she favors allowing small businesses and individuals to "join together" to create insurance-buying pools with "combined purchasing power" that would cut insurance premiums.

It sounds nice.  But Murray opposes major legislation before Congress that would promote insurance pools similar to those her ad describes.  And though she serves on a Senate health-care panel, Murray has not proposed any alternative plan.
The ad is typical of Murray's campaign.  It looks and sounds good, but is detached from Murray's dismal record.

I have been impressed by the political skill behind her commercials — and depressed by just how far they wander from the facts.  Another Murray ad, for example, attacks her opponent, Congressman George Nethercutt, as a professional politician.  (His first elected office was the House seat he won in 1994.  Before that, he had been a lawyer in private practice for almost two decades.)  And the ad claims that Nethercutt "moved" to Bellevue.  (He rented an apartment there for a few months to make it easier to campaign in this area.)  The ad ends with a smear, saying that Nethercutt will do anything to be elected.  Her other ads, at least those I have seen, show similar disregard for mere facts.

(If you would like to see the ad discussed in the article, you can find it at Patty Murray's site.  Hilariously, the site includes a quotation from Bob Seward of Spokane, who says he is voting for Murray because of her "wisdom".   At present, the site does not seem to have the attack ad against Nethercutt.)
- 1:41 PM, 27 September 2004   [link]


Are Democrats Unpatriotic?  Democratic leaders, notably Howard Dean, have been attacking Republicans as unpatriotic — while claiming that Republicans were calling them unpatriotic.  I don't know of any important Republican leader who has called Democrats unpatriotic, though it is easy to find talk show hosts who have.

But are Democrats unpatriotic?  Most aren't, but some are, especially in — no surprise here — Seattle.
The same week Penny L. Ratliff bought the Cat's Eye Cafe in West Seattle last October she put an American flag out front.

It meant what it has meant to her ever since the 56-year-old learned to recite the Pledge of Allegiance watching the Seattle kiddie show "Romper Room."  It meant freedom.
. . .
For most of the ensuing year, the former Sears parts and repair manager has been busy getting the little hole-in-the-wall cafe under control and helping her daughter, Dorothy Young, run the kitchen.  She's been much too busy to ponder what conclusions customers and passers-by may be drawing from the Stars and Stripes in the window.

But last Sunday, after she seated two newcomers near the window, she got a shock that still rattles her.  Clearing the table, she found their comment card saying that the food was great and the service was, too.  But they found the flag in the window offensive.

"If I'd seen the card before they left we would definitely have had a discussion," Penny said.

A day later, another customer told her that Democrats may find the flag offensive because it's become such a "politicized symbol."
It has always been a "politicized symbol", of course, with different meanings for different people.  Many on the left, including some Democrats, do not see the flag as a symbol of freedom and don't like this nation enough to be patriotic.

(I have to wonder about Susan Paynter's motivation for writing this column.  The Seattle PI columnist is so stalwart in her defense of leftist causes that she may not see the American flag as a symbol of freedom.  But she does not want Democrats to say that, at least until after the election is over.

And I should add that West Seattle is one of the more reasonable parts of the city, though much less so than it was before busing drove out so many working class and middle class families.)
- 9:34 AM, 27 September 2004   [link]


Commies For Kerry:  They don't like Kerry much, but they have endorsed him, since they like Bush even less.
John Kerry's numbers are down across the board.  He's hurting in some of the swing states, he's hurting with veterans and with soccer moms - now called "security moms."

Even some of the wind-surfers have their doubts about the guy.

I'm looking at all this, and I'm thinking that he's bottomed out and it can't get any worse.

Then I heard that the head of the Communist Party of the United States of America was coming to town [Des Moines] to endorse the liberal senator from Massachusetts.
Not that the "mainstream" news media will give this endorsement much attention.

(One oddity: The Communist leader, Sam Webb, held his meeting in a Methodist church.  At one time most Methodist leaders would have thought Communism was incompatible with their faith.

And there's an interesting confession in the column, though unintended, I am sure.  Rob Borsellino found Webb a better spokesman for Democratic causes than the Democrats.

Borsellino seems unaware that the Communists have endorsed the Democratic candidate in previous elections.  They once ran their own candidates; now they routinely endorse the Democratic candidates.  I'm not sure just when they changed their strategy.)
- 8:23 AM, 27 September 2004   [link]


Worth A Look:  Shannon Love's map of casualties in Iraq.   What Love shows is that we don't have problems in Iraq; we have problems in the "Sunni triangle", one region of Iraq.
I mapped all 58 U.S. combat fatalities for the month of September to date using data made available at GlobalSecurity.org.  The map color codes the number of U.S. fatalities resulting from enemy action in each of Iraq's 18 provinces.  Only four of the provinces had any U.S. fatalities.   14 of the provinces had zero fatalities.  (The British down in Basra had zero fatalities from combat in September).
That's a much smaller problem than the major media may have led you to think.  This gives us reason for hope, even in the near term.  The regional nature of the conflict also shows who our principal enemies are, the Sunni tribes that ruled Iraq for centuries, even though they are a minority of the population, about 20 percent.

For contrast, see this gloomy Washington Post article and this approving post on the article from history professor Juan Cole.  Both Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Post and Professor Cole are convinced that we have a problem in all of Iraq (except the Kurdish areas).   Love's map refutes both, convincingly.

(For more on the next steps on the pacification of Iraq, see this piece by Lieutenant General David H. Petraeus, who is running the transition from American to Iraqi forces.
In recent months, I have observed thousands of Iraqis in training and then watched as they have conducted numerous operations.  Although there have been reverses -- not to mention horrific terrorist attacks -- there has been progress in the effort to enable Iraqis to shoulder more of the load for their own security, something they are keen to do.
. . .
Nonetheless, there are reasons for optimism. Today approximately 164,000 Iraqi police and soldiers (of which about 100,000 are trained and equipped) and an additional 74,000 facility protection forces are performing a wide variety of security missions.
. . .
Most important, Iraqi security forces are in the fight -- so much so that they are suffering substantial casualties as they take on more and more of the burdens to achieve security in their country.  Since Jan. 1 more than 700 Iraqi security force members have been killed, and hundreds of Iraqis seeking to volunteer for the police and military have been killed as well.
. . .
Numbers alone cannot convey the full story.  The human dimension of this effort is crucial.   The enemies of Iraq recognize how much is at stake as Iraq reestablishes its security forces.   Insurgents and foreign fighters continue to mount barbaric attacks against police stations, recruiting centers and military installations, even though the vast majority of the population deplores such attacks.  Yet despite the sensational attacks, there is no shortage of qualified recruits volunteering to join Iraqi security forces.
If Iraqis thought they were joining a losing cause, would they be volunteering in such numbers?

As I have said all along, in the end, Iraqis must free Iraq.  It looks as though that is beginning to happen.)
- 7:48 AM, 27 September 2004   [link]


There's A Little Shakin' Going On down at Mt. St. Helens.  Here's the story from a Seattle TV station.
Hundreds of tiny earthquakes have been reported at Mount St. Helens, but it is unlikely they pose any hazard to anyone outside of the volcano's crater, state seismologist Tony Qamar said Friday.

Seven hundred to 800 quakes struck by late afternoon on Friday, KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reported.
Since the quakes are shallow, vulcanologists do not expect a big eruption.  More likely would be steam explosions making the crater an interesting place for a time, but no more than that.

If you live near an active volcano and don't like the topography, just wait a while.

(For more, look here for pictures of the mountain, here for the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network, and here for a picture of the earthquakes on a seismograph.)
- 7:41 PM, 26 September 2004
Still More shakin' going on.
Seismic energy releases from Mount St. Helens have been increasing for days now, cranking up to a level not seen since 1986, when the volcano's last dome-building eruption occurred.

"Since this morning, the energy releases have been slowly but steadily ramping up," said Jeff Wynn, chief scientist at the Cascade Volcano Observatory operated by the U.S. Geological Survey in Vancouver, Wash. -- about 50 miles south of the 8,364-foot peak and 140 miles south of Seattle.
This increased activity has led the local TV stations to show us interesting pictures of the mountain, from both the 1980 eruption and the present.  There are links to some video clips on the KIRO site, if you want to see for yourself.
-2:19 PM, 28 September 2004   [link]


15,000 Votes:  That's how many votes John Fund thinks were stolen from George W. Bush in Palm Beach county, in the 2000 election.  Here's the summary, and some of the evidence, from Fund's book, Stealing Elections.
In the confusion and chaos after the 2000 election, an anomaly occurred that many people believe ended up costing George W. Bush thousands of votes in Palm Beach.  It appears that as many as 15,000 votes may have been altered and subtracted in Palm Beach county.
. . .
George W. Bush's 152,969 votes in Palm Beach in 2000 was such a weak showing that the losing Republican candidate for the U. S. Senate, Bill McCollum, won both more votes (154,642) and a higher percentage of the vote in Palm Beach than Bush did, even though statewide McCollum lost by 284,000 votes (four percentage points) and Bush, as we know, came out ahead.
. . .
But what really got some Republicans and outside observers scratching their heads after the recount chaos subsided was the fact that George W. Bush had been outpolled by the combined vote of the four Republicans running for Congress in Palm Beach, an even more unusual occurrence.
. . .
Palm Beach produced 19,120 overvotes that night, a 4.4 percent error rate — almost ten times the error rate of 0.4 percent in the rest of Florida, or indeed of any other large jurisdiction that used punch-card ballots other than Chicago.
. . .
Only in Palm Beach County did Gore gain 750 votes in the initial post-election recount and Bush almost nothing.  In 50 out of the 67 Florida counties the total change was less than seven votes, and in 63 of the 67 counties the total change was less than thirty votes either way.
. . .
In every precinct in Palm Beach where Gore got more votes than there are registered Democrats, Bush received less than 60 percent of the registered Republican votes.  In no precinct in Palm Beach did Bush win more than 80 percent of the registered Republicans overall.
. . .
I was told by two former law enforcement officers and a poll worker that they believe that ballot tampering took place after the polls had closed and the poll watchers had gone home. (pp. 35-37)
The statistical evidence for ballot tampering is overwhelming.  And there is this suggestive point: Palm Beach was nearly the last county in Florida to report.  As I have mentioned before, it is standard practice to hold back results until you know how many votes you need to steal.  And I should add that other Florida counties controlled by Democrats also produced "anomalies" during the voting, the count, the first recount, and the second recount.

There are three reasons why I give so much coverage to vote fraud here.  I think it is a growing problem, I think it threatens the very foundations of democracy, and I think that we just missed having a presidential election stolen in 2000.  (I should add that I do not think anyone from Gore's campaign had anything to do with the theft in Palm Beach.)

Finally, one bitter point about the media.  Fund and others have tried to interest journalists at "mainstream" news organizations in the Palm Beach vote story.  None have thought it worthwhile to study the near theft of a presidential election.

(How were Bush ballots ruined?  Most likely by a person, or persons, taking a small metal rod, or even a nail, and punching it through the Gore hole in the punch card ballots.  This would not change any Gore ballots, but would convert Bush ballots to overvotes.  It would not take long to spoil even 15,000 ballots that way.

There is one mystery about the spoiled ballots.  If a group with access to the Palm Beach punch cards did spoil Bush ballots, why didn't they spoil enough to tip the election?  I can see two possible answers to that question.  The vote thieves miscalculated, which would be easy to do in the confusion of the Florida election, or they guessed before they had the full results from the rest of the state.

For more on the 200 Florida election, see this Q&A I did early in 2001.)
- 3:55 PM, 26 September 2004   [link]


My Internet Provider was down this morning, or I should say, partly down.  I could get out and could send and receive email, but I couldn't access this site, and I assume you couldn't either.
- 2:46 PM, 26 September 2004   [link]


Another Routine Case Of Vote Fraud:  This story of attempted vote fraud in the Cleveland area is drearily familiar.
More than 1,000 voter registration forms and absentee ballot requests may be fraudulent in Lake and Summit counties, where investigations of irregularities are broadening.

Lake County Sheriff Daniel Dunlap said Thursday that he will investigate an attempt to register a dead person and other possibly fraudulent documents that were submitted to the Lake County Board of Elections.
One of the organizations that turned in the apparently fraudulent registrations and applications for, naturally, absentee ballots is familiar, too.  It is the anti-Bush group, Americans Coming Together, or ACT.  
- 7:49 AM, 26 September 2004
More:  As I should have mentioned, ACT's principal financial backer is George Soros.
In just a few short months in 2003, Soros pledged $5 million to America Coming Together, $4.5 million to the Joint Victory Campaign and $2.5 million to the MoveOn.org Voter Fund.
If Soros has condemned ACT's efforts to register illegal voters or to get illegal absentee ballots, I missed it.  For Soros, any votes against Bush, legal or not, would appear to be acceptable.  Ironically, Soros was a big backer of the McCain-Feingold "campaign finance reform".  Given what has happened since, I think we are entitled to wonder about his motivations.  Was he trying to rig the system to give himself more power?  Sure looks like it.
- 8:51 AM, 27 September 2004   [link]


Douglas Brinkley Has Second Thoughts:  The author of Tour of Duty appears to have changed his mind.
"Every American now knows that there's something really screwy about George Bush and the National Guard, and they know that John Kerry was not the war hero we thought he was," said Douglas Brinkley, the historian and author of a friendly biography of Mr. Kerry's war years, acknowledging that Mr. Kerry's opponents had succeeded in raising questions about his service.
And about Brinkley's book.  I have not seen a full statement from Brinkley on the subject, but it seems clear that he now disbelieves parts of his own book, that he has concluded, to use his own words, that "John Kerry was not the war hero we thought he was".  That isn't an endorsement of every criticism the SwiftVets have made, but it is a concession that they have scored some hits.

(Reports I have seen suggest that reading Brinkley's book inspired the SwifVets to do their first ad.  They had always objected to Kerry's anti-war activities, but they had given him a pass on what he said about his service in Vietnam.  When they saw what he had told Brinkley about his time in Vietnam, they were so annoyed that they began to check that part of his story against their own memories and found conflicts.)
- 9:10 AM, 25 September 2004
Maybe Not:  Brinkley says the New York Times misunderstood him and that he was referring to the public's perceptions, not his own.  Maybe.  Brinkley, a supporter of Kerry, has not been as forthright as he might have been about the controversies over Kerry's record.  And it is understandable, though not necessarily forgivable, that he might not want to admit he erred in his book.

On the other hand, Washington Post columnist Colbert King, who is not as committed to Kerry as Brinkley, now has doubts about Kerry's record, especially as a war protester.  Here's what a classmate of King's at Howard, Rodney Coleman, told him:
I served my 13 months in combat.  Returned in 1972 with the Bronze Star and the Vietnamese Technical Services Honor Medal to a very anti-Vietnam America.  [Harry] "Butch" Robinson, Denny [Dennis] Hightower, and many more that you know did the same.  We endured the pain of separation from our loved ones, were frightened when the rockets came in to camp and lives were lost.  But we were never unfit for command.

Kerry still hasn't satisfied me and many others. . . . It's September and I'm still conflicted.   Speaking for myself, it is NOT enough that he served!
Coleman is not a Republican or conservative.  He is a black Democrat who served as assistant secretary of the Air Force under Bill Clinton.  When Kerry has trouble holding the votes of that kind of veteran, he is in serious trouble.

(I have been baffled all through the campaign by Kerry's unwillingness to apologize to veterans for his extreme statements in 1971.  It is such an obvious move for a man who wants to be president so badly.  Is he simply unwilling to admit error?  I don't know.)
- 7:21 AM, 26 September 2004   [link]


Kirkland Kayaking: We have had some good days here recently, as you can seen in this picture, taken about a week ago.



By the way, ocean going kayaks like the one shown in the picture are quite easy to handle, much stabler than the kayaks used in rivers, and much easier to paddle than canoes.  An absolute beginner can go out in one and have fun, after just a few minutes of instruction.

(The large ship in the background puzzles many visitors.  It was a NOAA research vessel.   When NOAA dropped it, no one else wanted it,  It was headed for the scrapyard when it was bought to serve as a breakwater to protect the boats nearby.  It has even been renamed "Protector".  In this area, where views are precious, some objected to its presence, though I rather like its looks.  Once in a while, I see a bald eagle perched at the top of the mast.)
- 11:12 AM, 24 September 2004   [link]


More On "Security Moms":  Yesterday, I argued that Bush's gains among women were similar to his gains among men, that he was gaining support from both sexes, and by about the same amounts.  There may be "security moms", who are supporting Bush because of the war on terror, but there are just as many "security dads", who are doing the same.   The answers to the open ended question posed by Gallup to Bush supporters in their last national poll, "What Are the Most Important One or Two Reasons Why You Would Vote for George W. Bush?", provide some support for my argument, but do not settle the question.  (To access the analysis, you will need to subscribe, but you can, as I did, sign up for a free 30 day trial.)

Five categories drew double digit responses.  The first, "Leadership quality/better candidate for the job", was mentioned more by men (28 percent) than by women (16 percent).  The second, "Doing a good job/satisfied with job performance", was mentioned more by women (30 percent) than by men (25 percent).  The third, "War issues/stance on terrorism/national security", was mentioned by about the same number of times by men (22 percent) as by women (20 percent).  The same was true of the fourth category, "Honesty/integrity/ethics", mentioned by 17 percent of the men and 18 percent of the women.

Now we might say that the fact that almost as many women mentioned security shows that Bush has gained with them on that issue, except for the differences in two other categories.  The fifth category, "Good moral values/religious beliefs" was mentioned twice as often by women (22 percent) as by men (10 percent).  And, if we scan farther down, 7 percent of the women supporting Bush mentioned abortion as a reason, but only 4 percent of the men.  If Bush has gained more among women than men, it may be more because of his open religiosity and his opposition to abortion than because of the war on terror.

(Let me review some points from yesterday, just to be clear.  The current gender gap is about the same size now as it has been since it began in 1980, about 6-8 percent.  I think the much larger gap in 2000 was probably an anomaly caused by the story about Bush's drunk driving conviction.  So, although Bush has gained relatively among women since then, he made most of those gains before 9/11.

The Kerry supporters answers to the parallel question provide an interesting contrast.   They are less likely to mention war and terrorism (13 percent), and almost ignore abortion (1 percent) and Kerry's religious beliefs (less than 1 percent).  What is important to them?   First, of course, they are unhappy with Bush (18 percent); after that come Kerry's agenda (13 percent), economic issues (11 percent), and the Democratic party (11 percent).

It is a little startling to see economic issues so far down on the list for Democrats, and not even among the top issues for Republicans, though the "good job" category must include some supporters of Bush's economic programs.)
- 10:42 AM, 24 September 2004
Still More:  Noam Schieber comes to similar conclusions, though he overstates both the average gender gap and his conclusion.  It is not that there are no "security moms"; it is that polls do not show that women have moved disproportionately to Bush.  (You'll have to register to see the article, and The New Republic makes it painful.)

This AP poll shows the gender gap alive and well.  Bush leads overall by 7 percent, but by 17 percent among men.
- 8:10 AM, 26 September 2004   [link]


John Kerry Believes, or at least says he believes, in the Patty Murray theory of terrorism, that its roots are in poverty, disease, and hunger.  This is remarkable, considering the evidence against it.  Like Senator Murray, Kerry ignores the facts about the best known terrorists; Osama bin Laden and Mohamed Atta may have had problems, but poverty, disease, and hunger were not among them.  And he ignores the formal studies done on terrorists that show that they tend to be better off than those around them.  The leaders of the 9/11 terrorists became fanatics while studying in German universities, and most others have similar backgrounds.  And Kerry ignores what the terrorists say, that they are motivated by extreme Islamic beliefs, not a concern about poverty, disease, and hunger. The Taliban, after all, were responsible for much poverty, disease, and hunger, and the Islamic terrorists never saw anything wrong with their rule, quite the contrary.

For Kerry to believe in the Patty Murray theory of terrorism at this date shows that he has not been paying attention to the evidence, or that he is impervious to it, or that he does not have the mental capacity to understand it, or some combination of the three.  I am inclined to think that the second is the main reason, that Kerry simply will not accept evidence that does not fit into his rather narrow world view.  But I can no longer dismiss the third.  After all, the theory's most famous proponent, Senator Murray, has won the "not a rocket scientist" award, given to the dullest senator, multiple times.  Perhaps, despite all the talk of his intelligence, Senator Kerry is just not that bright.  (Those who have been watching how he has managed his campaign will not find that argument totally implausible.)
- 9:15 AM, 24 September 2004   [link]