February 2004, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Happy Valentine's Day!  Unless, of course, you are a resident of Saudi Arabia, where the holiday is banned, or a Hindu extremist, or a radical feminist who "celebrates" this holiday of love between men and women by watching the Vagina Monologues, a play attacking the very idea of romantic love between men and women.

(At least in recent versions, the play no longer contains the statutory rape scene in which a 13 year old girl is seduced by a 24 year old woman, with the help of alcohol.  The girl's age is now 16, still "jail bait" in some places, but not everywhere.)

But Happy Valentine's Day to the rest of you.  And I must say that, though St. Valentine doesn't get much coverage anymore, I still find his story, true or not, romantic.
- 10:35 AM, 14 February 2004   [link]

Married Or "Married"?  Searching through news sites in the last few days, I must have seen dozens of stories about San Francisco gays getting married.  Except, and this is something that all sides should agree on, they didn't get married, because California law forbids it.  Instead, they got "married", staging a ceremony that had no legal basis.  Not one of the articles that I glanced at noted that essential point, or even put the scare quotes around married, as they should have.  Reuters, a news service that has become infamous for its use of scare quotes around "terrorist" saw no need for them on "married" in this story.

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journals makes another, related point about these stories.  Just like Judge Moore in Alabama, the officials in San Francisco are breaking the law.
Gavin Newsom, the new mayor of San Francisco, is defying the California Constitution, which voters amended in 2000 to codify the definition of marriage.  At Newsom's order, the Associated Press reports, "city authorities officiated at the marriage of a lesbian couple Thursday and said they will issue more gay marriage licenses."
Not one of the stories I saw mentioned that Newsom was breaking the law, or that he was defying the will of California's voters.
- 9:57 AM, 14 February 2004
More:  In the last two days, I have seen several news reports that mentioned the illegality.  And Kevin Drum reminds us that the amendment was passed by the voters with 63 percent support.
- 2:57 AM, 16 February 2004   [link]

Mobyed!  Rocker Moby, a supporter of John Kerry, urged people on the left to spread lies among conservatives to discourage them from voting, as I discussed in this post.  Now, Andrew Sullivan has concluded that he was taken, briefly, by an emailer following that advice, who "Mobyed" Sullivan.

In an email published in this post, a person claiming to be a Republican blamed the party for the Kerry intern story.  After some thought, some criticism from Jonah Goldberg and others, and a second email, Sullivan decided that the email was probably a fraud sent by someone on the left.  There is some textual evidence for that in the second email; the writer uses "on offer", a phrase far more common in the United Kingdom than the United States, and almost unknown among Republicans.

To "Moby" is a new term, but not a new tactic.  In The Last Hurrah, Edwin O'Connor uses some unnamed characters in an election crowd to describe some of the ways it was done in Boston, where the struggles were usually between the Catholic Irish and original Protestant English.
"All very tame today," one man was saying.  "Oh, very tame indeed.  I was thinking of the time Frank [Skeffington] had Father Fahey working the wards for him.  Do you remember Father Fahey, I wonder?"

A second man chuckled.  "Father Fahey," he said, "Oh, indeed I do.  I remember the Father well."

"Father Fahey . . . ?" a third man said, more doubtfully.  "I know the name, but I can't place the man.  A priest, was he?"

"You might say he was a priest part time," the first man said.  "Frank ordained him for the campaign only; the rest of the year he worked hauling sacks in the post office.  He was a chubby little lad with round cheeks and a big smile.  It was one time he was running against Festus he got the idea. He put fat little Fahey in the collar and the black suit and sent him around ringing Protestant doorbells . . . " (p. 328)
To make a pitch for Skeffington's opponent, of course, implying that was what the Catholic church wanted.  And, so the men go on to say, Skeffington also sent around a "Reverend Mr. Payne" to Catholic homes.

Mobying is fairly common on talk radio.  Callers to conservative shows who want to attack Bush will often claim that they are or used to be a Republican, before making a criticism from the left.  Not all such callers are misrepresenting themselves, but some are.  I have heard claims that the Democratic party and leftist interest groups encourage this kind of call, but have never seen direct evidence for that.

(If you want to learn more of the slang terms common in blogging, here's the Samizdata glossary.  "Moby" isn't in there yet, but soon will be, I expect.)
- 9:16 AM, 14 February 2004   [link]

Actual Vote Fraud In El Paso:  As I have mentioned before, I find it strange that journalists give so much attention to potential vote fraud through electronic voting (which I oppose), while almost ignoring actual vote fraud.  This arrest of an El Paso Democrat illustrates one of the two main problems, the insecurity of mail ballots.
Sheriff's Detective Neil Baker, in his affidavits to obtain three arrest warrants, said [Patricia "Pattie" Lee] Piñon admitted in an interview with him that a year ago she had voters sign numerous blank applications for mail-in ballots that would be used in future elections.
She got caught because she made an old mistake, apparently.  Some of the voters died after signing the applications, but she sent their applications in, anyway.
- 10:58 AM, 13 February 2004   [link]

This Is Just Speculation:  But I have been wondering about the murder of Somali born cab driver Hassan Farah.
A cab driver on weekends and a full-time aide to bilingual students the rest of the week, Farah, 39, was out before dawn on Saturday [March 31], picking up passengers along with a little extra money.

It may have cost him his life. Farah was in his Yellow Cab car near Boeing Field when he was shot several times by an unknown assailant for unknown reasons, Seattle police and Farah's co-workers said.
. . .
A small light-colored car and a small dark car were seen leaving the scene, but they might have no connection to the shooting.

Other than that, police have no clue about suspects, [police spokesman Scott] Moss said.
A robbery that went wrong is the most likely explanation, but I can think of another.   Terrorist organizations often extort contributions from members of their own community.   If Farah refused to pay, he might have been killed as an example to others in Seattle's Somali community.  I repeat, this is just speculation, but I do hope the Seattle police will include this possible motive in their investigation.
- 7:33 AM, 13 February 2004   [link]

"Big Jim" Folsom And Personal Morality:  The career of the populist governor of Alabama, "Big Jim" Folsom, illustrates why the simplest rules about politicians and personal morality don't work very well.  (What do I mean by the simplest rules?  You can find them on both sides.  Clinton defenders claimed continually that it was all about his "private" life, even though he was trying to cheat a young working class woman in a lawsuit and his administration had given a job to Monica Lewinsky to keep her quiet.   You can find, though not often in newspapers, people who have equally simple but opposite rules.)

Folsom was elected governor in 1946 after a folksy campaign, and then again in 1954.  He succeeded in getting some of his reforms through the legislature, like increased support for trade schools and old age pensions, but failed in others, like better roads for farmers.  One reason he failed, as this sketch explains, is that he had a personal failing or two.
He also suffered from what one historian called "too much whiskey, too many women, too few honest friends."
When the issue of his womanizing was raised, Folsom would claim that he had been set up and then confess his weakness.
Folsom's campaign band leader, Roland Johnson, remembers how Folsom would good-humoredly respond to queries about his character: "Anytime you bait a trap with a good-looking blond, redhead or brunette, you're going to catch old Jim everytime."
In spite of all these weaknesses, and some spectacular collapses during the campaign (among other things, he was so drunk at one speech that he couldn't remember his children's names), had I been in Alabama in 1962, I would have voted for Folsom.  Why?  He was running against George Wallace, who had most of Folsom's personal faults, though not so openly, but had decided to exploit race, something Folsom had never done.

Folsom sometimes said, when the issue of womanizing was raised, that he pled guilty, that he always pled guilty, and then asked to get back to the issues.  As I said two posts down, questions of personal morality are not irrelevant in judging candidates and can even be determinative.  Usually, however, they are not the most important part of my decisions when I am choosing between candidates.  And so, despite the temptations to say more about the controversy over Bush's service in the National Guard (silly), or Kerry's possible infidelity (not as important as other matters), I plan to devote most of the space here to more important issues, just as Big Jim would have wished.

(Here's a brief summary of his career and his two terms as governor.)
- 7:14 AM, 13 February 2004   [link]

Sun Break:  The last three days were beautifully sunny, something less common than one would like in this area during the winters.  I took some time to go out and enjoy the weather and take a picture or two, which is why some long promised posts have been delayed.

(This supports a theory I heard from my department chairman when I was in graduate school in upstate New York.  He argued that the lousy weather there during winters was one cause of the area's creativity.  According to his thinking, we owe companies like Kodak and Xerox to the fact that you couldn't go outside during much of the winter.  If his theory is true, think tanks should be located in places with lousy climates.)
- 6:09 AM, 13 February 2004   [link]

Matt Drudge  is reporting that Senator Kerry had an affair with an intern.  Since I don't move in circles where one abandons an heiress worth $300 million and later marries one worth more than $500 million, I have no idea whether this is true.

I can say something about the timing of this disclosure.  This does not look like an attack by Republicans, because it is too early.  It might be an attack by one of Kerry's Democratic rivals that came out later than they expected.  Some of what Drudge is saying supports that view.  But it could also be a matter of personal pique, a loser (or some one on his staff) attacking the winner out of anger at losing.  And some of the rumors flying around support that idea, too.

And I can say something about my general thinking on these matters.  I do not think that an affair, by itself, disqualifies a person from office.  The "by itself" is an essential qualifier, since there are circumstances where the affair does disqualify the politician.

In my opinion, if the politician is involved with someone underage, then they should leave office.  That's not hypothetical.  Former Democratic Congressman Gerry Studds, who represented a Massachusetts district, had a practice of trying to pick up the page boys in Congress.  Some that he targeted, according to reports I have seen, were underage for Washington, D. C.  The Democratic party never asked him to leave, as they should have.   In contrast, when a Republican congressman from Ohio was caught having sex with an underage prostitute, the Republican party forced him out.  He had not known she was underage, for what that's worth.

If the politician trades public jobs for sex or silence, as Clinton did more than once, then they should leave office.  I still think that he should repay the public for Monica Lewinsky's Pentagon salary.  Whatever she was being paid for, most likely her silence, it was not her work for the taxpayers.

Then there are the gray areas.  Former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura made a point I agree with when he said that he objected to Clinton and Lewinsky carrying on in a public office, rather than running off to a motel.  And I think it likely that Ventura would object to affairs on company time, as well.

Another gray area is the effect that an affair can have on a politician's staff.  There's an example from Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski's career, which received very little attention at the time.  While a senator, Mikulski became involved with an Australian feminist.   The affair was so disruptive that half of Mikulski's staff resigned while it was going on.

Finally, and still in the gray areas, I think that adultery does say something about a politician's character, especially when it is as extensive and compulsive as it was for politicians such as John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton.
- 11:05 AM, 12 February 2004   [link]

Troubling If True:  A former FBI translator has charged that her office celebrated 9/11.
When linguist Sibel Dinez Edmonds showed up for her first day of work at the FBI, a week after the 9-11 attacks, she expected to find a somber atmosphere.  Instead, she was offered cookies filled with dates from party bowls set out in the room where other Middle Eastern linguists with top-secret security clearance translate terror-related communications.

She knew the dessert is customarily served in the Middle East at weddings, births and other celebrations, and asked what the happy occasion was.  To her shock, she was told the Arab linguists were celebrating the terrorist attacks on America, as if they were some joyous event.   Right in front of her supervisor, one translator cheered:

"It's about time they got a taste of what they've been giving the Middle East."
She also claims that her supervisor sabotaged the work in various ways, for the usual bureaucratic reason, to get a bigger budget from Congress.  Of course the delays also handicapped the fight with terrorists, which may have been intended.

I must add that Edmonds was fired "without specified cause".  It is possible that she is a disgruntled employee, telling a tale to get back at those who fired her.
- 9:17 AM, 12 February 2004   [link]

Nearly All The Trends In Iraq Are Positive:  To its credit, the New York Times has been running this chart, once every three months, summarizing the progress in Iraq.  (You can see the chart itself by clicking on the graphic to the right of the article.)

Some of the numbers suggest, as have some news reports, that Islamic extremists began their campaign about August, since it is in the third quarter that suicide bombings began.  The same numbers suggest that we are winning that campaign.  Bombings fell from the third to the fourth quarter, as intelligence got better and the number of Iraqis in the security forces grew.

I should mention that one of the authors, Michael O'Hanlon, often described as an expert on terrorism, is not a supporter of the Bush administration.  Few at that liberal think tank, the Brookings Institute, are.

If the trends are good, why is the television news almost unrelievedly bad?  Mostly because television naturally focuses on the unusual rather than the routine.  They show us the one traffic accident, rather than the millions who drove safely.  There is also some reason to believe that ideology has something to do with it, too, as the example of former NBC correspondent Bob Arnot shows.   When he was forced to leave Baghdad, he had a minor criticism or two.
In a 1,300-word e-mail to NBC News president Neal Shapiro, written in December 2003 and obtained by NYTV, Dr. Arnot called NBC News' coverage of Iraq biased.
. . .
In his letter to Mr. Shapiro, he wondered why the network wasn't reporting stories of progress in Iraq, a frequently heard complaint of the Bush administration.
. . .
"What happens if NBC is wrong[?]" he wrote. "What happens if this is a historical mission that does succeed . . . that transforms the Middle East . . . that brings peace and security to America.   What if NBC's role was like that of much of the media in general . . . allowing the terrorists to fight their war on the American television screen, where their stories of death and destruction dominate rather than that of American heroes?"
Arnot also made the argument, which is supported by trends in viewers, that these policies were hurting NBC and allowing Fox to gain.
- 7:26 AM, 12 February 2004   [link]

What Kind Of Person  gets hired to design election software and help count votes in King county?   Felons.   Washington state's largest county, containing Seattle and most of its suburbs, hired two rather dubious men.
County election officials were unaware of convicted embezzler Jeffrey W. Dean's criminal background when he was named in 1999 to lead an outside team that would design a computer system for managing elections.  The county abandoned the system almost three years later, saying the computer software didn't do what it was supposed to.

Dean, who used his computer savvy to cover up his embezzlement of $465,341 from a Seattle law firm in the 1980s, was given keys to the election offices on the fifth floor of the King County Administration Building.  And he had unrestricted access to the elections office's high-security computer room where votes are tallied.

Dean, 60, has not been involved in King County elections since 2002, but John L. Elder, 48, a convicted drug dealer who was imprisoned with Dean at the Cedar Creek Corrections Center and worked with Dean on county contracts, supervises the printing of ballots and the sorting and mailing of absentee ballots.
One good aspect of the furor over electronic voting machines is that we are getting more public attention on the many other weaknesses in our election systems.  I oppose electronic voting for a number of reasons, but I think there are far greater dangers to election security, as this example shows.

The two worst dangers. in my opinion, are the lack of checks on voter registration, and voting by mail.  There have already been a number of scandals associated with both, but neither has drawn much criticism from the media.  In fact, as far as I can tell, most journalists favor both.  I am sure that has nothing to do with the fact that any fraud through registration or mailed ballots is likely to favor Democratic candidates.
- 2:21 PM, 11 February 2004   [link]

Some Fences Make Good Neighbors:  That, at least, is the opinion of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia, one of the most vocal critics in the Arab world of Israel's "security fence" in the West Bank, is quietly emulating the Israeli example by erecting a barrier along its porous border with Yemen.

The barrier is part of a plan to erect what will be an electronic surveillance system along the length of the kingdom's frontiers - land, air and sea.  The project, involving fencing and electronic detection equipment, has been in the planning stages for several years. It may cost up to $8.57bn (£4.58bn).  Behind the plan is a deep-seated lack of trust in the Yemeni authorities' ability to arrest infiltrators before they make it into Saudi territory.
Saudi Arabia, and much of the European left, believe that Israeli fences are outrageous.  No one other than Yemen will condemn this Saudi fence.  I won't, since I think the Saudis, like every other nation, including Israel, have the right to protect themselves.
- 1:54 PM, 11 February 2004   [link]

Lackluster Turnout Again:  The latest results from Tennessee and Virginia again show lackluster turnout, as you can see in the table below.

Total Votes in Presidential Primaries, 2000 and 2004

stateRep 2000Dem 2000Dem 2004
*Democrats did not hold a presidential primary in Virginia in 2000.

The 2000 Tennessee primaries were held after the nominations had been decided in both parties, which explains the lower turnout there.  Virginia has 4,233,240 registered voters, and Tennessee has 3,118,316.
- 9:02 AM, 11 February 2004   [link]

In Political Campaigns, Supporters can be bigger problems than opponents.
One of Sen. John Kerry's celebrity supporters is ready to pull out all the stops to get him elected.  Republicans are shrieking over a suggestion by rocker Moby that Democrats spread gossip about President Bush on the Internet.

"No one's talking about how to keep the other side home on Election Day," Moby tells us.   "It's a lot easier than you think and it doesn't cost that much.  This election can be won by 200,000 votes."

Moby suggests that it's possible to seed doubt among Bush's far-right supporters on the Web.

"You target his natural constituencies," says the Grammy-nominated techno-wizard.  "For example, you can go on all the pro-life chat rooms and say you're an outraged right-wing voter and that you know that George Bush drove an ex-girlfriend to an abortion clinic and paid for her to get an abortion.

"Then you go to an anti-immigration Web site chat room and ask, 'What's all this about George Bush proposing amnesty for illegal aliens?'"
Now Senator Kerry, who is a, shall we say, flexible, politician, might not mind if his supporters engage in these dirty tricks, but he certainly doesn't want them discussed publicly.   (Supporters of Howard Dean have claimed that Kerry, or his supporters, used many dirty tactics in Iowa and New Hampshire.  I haven't checked the truth of the claims.)

Take this as a warning.  I have no doubt that some will follow Moby's advice.   Republicans, independents, and fair-minded Democrats should be on the alert.
- 7:31 AM, 11 February 2004   [link]

Germans May Have Helped Pakistan's Proliferation:  The German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that Germans may have helped spread nuclear weapons technology to rogue states through Pakistan.  The Pakistani foreign minister, Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, named three Germans, and says that "lots of Europeans" may be involved.

This is not the first time that individual Germans, or even German firms, have helped spread WMD technology to rogue states.  The newspaper notes some other cases at the bottom of the article, and I can recall two others that I still find disturbing.

During the Reagan administration, American intelligence learned that a German firm was building a chemical facility for Libya that could be used to make chemical weapons.  The administration objected privately to the German government (which was then controlled by the relatively conservative Christian Democrats), but did not get any action.  So, the Reagan administration went public and finally got the rogue firm reined in.

The second example I learned about after the first Gulf War.  Investigators looking into Iraq's nuclear program learned that Iraq had bought machines from Germany for making the centrifuges used to enrich uranium for weapons.

These two examples share two troubling things.  Both Libya and Iraq wanted these weapons for possible use against Israel.  And neither scandal seemed to make much impact on the German public.
- 6:48 AM, 11 February 2004
Correction:  An emailer reminded me that Deutsche Welle is not a newspaper, but a broadcasting organization, more or less equivalent to the BBC.  I've corrected the text above.  He also tells me that you can listen to Deutsche Welle on short wave, although I believe they broadcast only in German.
-5:54 AM, 12 February 2004   [link]

"Zoot-suited FBI Missionaries":  That's how the Guardian referred to the American agents who some think persuaded Britain to set up its own national crime agency.  Which shows that you should be careful when borrowing other countries' slang.  There are many adjectives that can be applied to the FBI, but "zoot-suited" has never been one of them.

The Guardian constantly hectors the United States, but does not know enough about us to avoid mistakes like this one.

(Wonder who did wear zoot suits and, unlike the Guardian, are willing to take a minute to check?  Then you might start here, the site of a PBS film describing the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles.  Who wore the zoot suits?  FBI agents?  No, mostly Mexican-American teenagers.)
- 1:57 PM, 10 February 2004   [link]

Sandbagged!  A week ago, I mentioned that President Bush had been a fine poker player while at Harvard, with a reputation for "sandbagging" opponents, pretending that he had a weak hand to draw them in.  Now, he seems to have done the same thing with the controversy over his National Guard service.  Opponents in the Democratic party and the news media have been demanding that he release records of his service.  Bush delayed, perhaps to pull in more suckers.  He has now released them, and even the Boston Globe, a rabidly anti-Bush newspaper, has to admit that the record supports Bush's story.
President Bush received credit for attending Air National Guard drills in the fall of 1972 and spring of 1973 -- a period when his commanders have said he did not appear for duty at bases in Montgomery, Ala., and Houston -- according to two new documents obtained by the Globe.
Actually, his commander says that he can't remember seeing Bush and admits that he was not at the base much himself.  And the Globe should know that.

The Globe received these documents from Bob Fertig, a cofounder of the rabidly anti-Bush web site,  They could have waited a bit and gotten the same documents, and more, from the White House.
The papers [White House Press Secretary Scott] McClellan showed the press corps included annual retirement point summaries and pay records to show that Bush served.

The pay information documented the dates when Bush showed up for Guard duty, the spokesman said.

"When you serve, you are paid for that service. These documents outline the days on which he was paid.  That means he served.  And these documents also show he met his requirements," McClellan said.  "And it's just really a shame that people are continuing to bring this up.
According to the accounts I have read, the reporters were terribly angry when they got the information they had been demanding.  So, I suppose they understand, at some level, that they have been sandbagged—again.  Senator Kerry caught on immediately.
Kerry, who is regularly accompanied by a "band of brothers" of military veterans who served with him in Vietnam, said Tuesday he has said all he is going to say about Bush's record.

"I just don't have any comment on it," Kerry told reporters between campaign stops in Tennessee and Virginia, which were holding their primaries Tuesday night.  "It's not an issue that I chose to create.  It's not my record that's at issue and I don't have any questions about it."
Which is not what he was saying over the weekend.  Now the story line has changed from "Bush didn't serve" to "Democrats smeared Bush".  No wonder Kerry wants to drop it.

(I still think this was never an important issue.  But I do think this glimpse of Bush's tactical skills in politics is interesting.  And so is the willingness of the news media push a smear as far as they have without checking its truth.  Finally, if you are still interested in the story, here's a post that should clarify it for anyone interested in the facts.)
- 1:26 PM, 10 February 2004
Correction:  The latest account that I have seen says that Bob Fertig obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information request, so I would be wrong to call him, as I did, a thief.  I have changed the text above, though I should add that I have seen no evidence of the FOIA request.
- 10:49 AM, 16 February 2004   [link]

What Liberal Media?  This liberal media.
Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections.

They include, but are not limited to, a near-universal shared sense that liberal political positions on social issues like gun control, homosexuality, abortion, and religion are the default, while more conservative positions are "conservative positions."

They include a belief that government is a mechanism to solve the nation's problems; that more taxes on corporations and the wealthy are good ways to cut the deficit and raise money for social spending and don't have a negative affect on economic growth; and that emotional examples of suffering (provided by unions or consumer groups) are good ways to illustrate economic statistic stories.
What a confession from ABC News!  And note the similarities to the views found in the BBC.

The worst part about these "biases and predilections" is that they are nearly impervious to new information.  Which is not what one wants in a news organization.
- 11:18 AM, 10 February 2004   [link]

More On Caucus Turnout:  In this post yesterday, I expressed my skepticism about the claims that the Washington Democratic caucuses had produced an exceptionally high turnout.  Now, I have some more numbers, but still no official count, and am still skeptical.

I should start by noting this column from the Seattle PI's Joel Connelly, a fierce Democratic partisan.  He mentions turnouts of "75 to 80 people per precinct" in parts of Seattle, though his description of the results is incomplete.  I suspect those were, not the average, but the peak turnouts.  Seattle, however, is not typical of the state, nor is it large enough, with less than 10 percent of the state's population, to determine the results by itself.  (In 2000, Seattle's population was 563,374, Washington's, 5,894,121.)

Three newspapers from other areas suggest that Seattle was atypical.  The Everett Herald is the largest newspaper in Snohomish county, just north of Seattle.  The caucus attendance was high there, but not extraordinarily so.  For example:
About 300 voters from 44 precincts met in four large rooms at the Labor Temple in downtown Everett. Officials said 80 percent of those voters were first-timers.
That's 7 voters per precinct for those with a "pervasive lack of math skills".

The Tacoma New Tribune is the largest newspaper in Pierce county, south of Seattle.  Their reports on caucus attendance here, here, and here suggest there were a few precincts with very high turnout, but most were just above average.
Some caucus sites reported heavy turnout.  Nearly 500 people signed in for six precinct caucuses at Mason Middle School in Tacoma.

About 50 people from seven precincts attended a caucus at a Parkland church.
The Spokesman Review is the largest newspaper in Spokane, on the east side of the state.  Their report is vague on caucus attendance, but I was able to find numbers for three precincts, 47, 12, and 2.

Putting these bits together with the single most important fact—the Democratic party has yet to release an official count—I would guess that the total attendance at the Democratic caucuses was somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000.  The previous record attendance, about 40,000, was in 1984 when the state had about 70 percent of its current population.
- 8:29 AM, 10 February 2004   [link]

Saddam May Have Bribed The UN:  Here's the latest on the document listing Saddam's bribes.  One of the recipients was a United Nations official living in Panama.
One of the most eye-catching names on the list is easy to miss as it's the sole entry under a country one would not normally associate with Iraq--Panama.  The entry says: "Mr. Sevan." That's the same name as that of the U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Benon V. Sevan, a Cyprus-born, New York-educated career U.N. officer who was tapped by Kofi Annan in October 1997 to run the oil-for-food program.
The perfect man to bribe, obviously.

The Journal piece has a little more detail on the list.  It is a single document, something I was uncertain about before.
The list, a copy of which has been seen by the Journal's editorial page, is in spreadsheet format and details (in Arabic) individuals, companies and organizations, grouped by country, who oil ministry and Governing Council officials believe received vouchers from the Iraqi regime for the purchase of oil under the oil-for-food program.  Mr. Hankes-Drielsma said the recipients would have been given allocations at below-market prices and then been able to pocket the difference when a middleman sold the oil on to a refinery; 13 time periods are designated and with indications of how much crude, in millions of barrels, each recipient allegedly received.
(Hankes-Drielsma is "U.K. Chairman of Roland Berger Strategy Consultants" and an adviser to the Iraqi Governing Council.)

As before, I have to add that the document has not been, to my knowledge, authenticated.
- 5:15 PM, 9 February 2004   [link]

Democrats Have Trouble Winning Votes From Married People:  If only those who were married had voted in 2000, Bush would have beaten Gore by about 10 percentage points.  Now, the Michigan Democratic party has found the perfect representative to reverse that.
Now that the weekend presidential voting is over, Michigan Democratic party officials are concentrating on getting homeboy Eminem to perform at a sure-to-sell-out voter registration concert.

Proudly from Detroit, Eminem is the local Dems' first--and obvious--choice to headline such a concert.  Plans call for getting the national party officials to pitch P. Diddy on participating, too, Michigan Democratic party political director Brian Love told me Sunday.
That should get the support of soccer moms and NASCAR dads.  I must admit that I am not entirely familiar with Eminem's work or life, but I seem to recall that he uses an obscenity from time to time and has not had a perfect relationship with his mother.
- 2:26 PM, 9 February 2004   [link]

New Links:  If you look in the left hand column, you will see some new links.  I've added the New Yorker magazine and a number of bloggers.

In no particular order, here are some comments on the new bloggers.  Matt Rosenberg has interesting coverage of local issues; for example, see this discussion of Republican gubernatorial candidate, Dino Rossi.  "David Medienkritk" runs a bilingual German-English blog criticizing the German media.  If you want to know where anti-Americanism comes from in Germany, this is the place to start.   Steve Antler is the "econopundit", with much interesting commentary, aimed a bit higher than the usual newspaper article.  For an example, see this chart of unemployment over the years.  John Ellis is a cousin of George Bush, and a sharp political commentator.  Gregg Easterbrook is invaluable on environmental issues.  For an example, see this post, where Easterbrook points to a study from the National Academy of Science arguing for reducing air pollution by exactly the methods proposed in Bush's Clear Skies initiative.  For some reason, the study didn't get attention from the media.  Oliver Kamm has intelligent and literate commentary from Britain.  Power Line is a group blog run by three Republican activists.

Finally there is David Neiwert, whom I have added for, let's see, what's a nice way to say this?  How about this?  I find his writing wonderfully entertaining.  Why?   Well, consider this lengthy post.   We are engaged in a war with terrorists, after we were attacked on 9/11.  We have just learned that the problem of nuclear proliferation got much worse during the last decade.  The world has serious economic problems.  And so on.  And what concerns Mr. Neiwert?   Whether President Bush did or did not attend some meetings of the National Guard more than thirty years ago.  From one point of view, this is enormously funny; from another, it is, I agree, terribly sad.  As for me, I will continue to worry more about nuclear proliferation than (possibly) missed National Guard meetings.
- 10:34 AM, 9 February 2004   [link]

Bill Clinton Wins A Grammy:  Am I the only one who finds this award a little strange?
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton won a Grammy Award on Sunday, but not for his famed saxophone playing.

Clinton was honored in the spoken word album for children category for a project he worked on with fellow winners, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and Italian screen siren Sophia Loren.
It is rather hard to consider this an award for artistic achievement, especially when Al Franken wins another award for his audiobook version of Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair And Balanced Look At The Right—beating out Hillary Clinton's Living History.

What do real artists think about these kinds of awards?  And should we take Grammys in any of the other categories seriously?
- 8:20 AM, 9 February 2004   [link]

200,000 At Democratic Caucuses in Washington?  That's what Democratic state chairman Paul Berendt estimated on Saturday.  The estimate made the front page of the Sunday Seattle Times and got national attention as more evidence of how motivated Democrats are this year.

The estimate was just a little high, as even the Democrats are now admitting.
Typically, caucuses attract only the most politically active, with perhaps 20,000 people attending.  A state party spokeswoman, Kirstin Brost, estimated the turnout for Saturday's caucuses could top the 100,000 mark for the first time.
Washington state has 6552 precincts.  To get a turnout of 200,000 the Democrats would have to average 30.5 per precinct.  In all the news stories, I have seen only one example with turnout that high; Paul Berendt's home, which was the meeting place for two precincts, drew 86 people.  Did he extrapolate from that meeting?  Possibly.

Now then, suppose that the actual number attending the caucuses was 100,000.  Is that high, or low?  It is, of course, high compared to previous caucuses, which usually attract about 20,000.  But that isn't the whole story, since this year there were no presidential primaries.  Voters who wanted to express their opinions could do so only by going to the caucuses.  Compared to the vote in the 2000 primary, 100,000 is pitiful.  In 2000, Al Gore defeated Bill Bradley 310,406 to 162,727, and George Bush defeated John McCain 402,287 to 399,980.  (Including the votes from independents in both contests.)  It is harder attending caucuses than voting in primaries, but I don't think it is five times as hard.

(There is one other possible explanation for Berendt's estimate.  He may have intended to put out a false story to encourage Democrats.  That would explain why there is still no official count in any news story that I have seen, or even on the Democratic party's site.  It is not that difficult, even for people who have a "pervasive lack of math skills", to add up counts from 6552 precincts.

Berendt is experienced enough to know that the press will give any corrections much less attention than the original estimate.  Is he deceitful enough to have done this deliberately?  I don't know enough about him to guess.)
- 7:47 AM, 9 February 2004
More:  I forgot to give credit to talk show host Kirby Wilbur, who tipped me off to this.
- 8:34 AM   [link]

As You May Already Have Noticed, I have been fiddling with the site.  On the right are links to an explanation of my email policy, a start on frequently asked questions (just one answer so far), and a description of the statue's background.

I'd like a fancier banner, but haven't thought of a design that I can do with my almost non-existent artistic skills.
- 5:24 PM, 8 February 2004   [link]

Guantanamo Prisoners  have become the latest cause for "human rights" groups and anti-American activists, especially in Europe.  The prisoners there, they charge, are being treated inhumanely, even tortured.  The prisoners themselves do not, in general, agree.  Some current prisoners have said that their treatment is not that bad, as have some released prisoners.  Now, one of the latest to be released, says he had a good time in Guantanamo.
Mohammed Ismail Agha, 15, who until last week was held at the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, said that he was treated very well and particularly enjoyed learning to speak English.
The description he gives supports that assessment.
"At first I was unhappy . . . For two or three days [after I arrived in Cuba] I was confused but later the Americans were so nice to me.  They gave me good food with fruit and water for ablutions and prayer," he said yesterday in Naw Zad, a remote market town in southern Afghanistan close to his home village and 300 miles south-west of Kabul, the capital.

He said that the American soldiers taught him and his fellow child captives - aged 15 and 13 - to write and speak a little English.  They supplied them with books in their native Pashto language.  When the three boys left last week for Afghanistan, the soldiers looking after them gave them a send-off dinner and urged them to continue their studies.

"They even took photographs of us all together before we left," he said.  Mohammed, however, said he would have to disappoint his captors by not returning to his studies.  "I am too poor for that. I will have to look for work," he said.
Sounds like the soldiers "adopted" the kids, as American (and British, too, I think) soldiers often do with strays and orphans.

The Telegraph says this testimony "will disappoint critics of the US policy".  I think the critics will ignore or dismiss it.
- 7:36 AM, 8 February 2004   [link]

More On Turnout In The Democratic Contests:  Four days ago, in this post, I pointed out that, with the exception of Iowa and New Hampshire (big exceptions, granted), the turnout in the Democratic contests has not been especially high.

Now the Washington Post catches up with me and supplies some more numbers on turnout.
A record number of people went to the polls in Iowa, for example, but in percentage terms, the turnout of eligible voters was about the same as in 1988.  In Oklahoma, twice as many people voted in the primary last week compared with 2000 -- but that was only 12 percent of the eligible population, which represents a 30 percent decline from 1992 and 1988.  Just 9.8 percent of eligible voters showed up in Missouri, again about a third fewer than in 1988.  Arizona and Delaware turned out a dismal 6 percent of eligibles, neither close to a record.

The only solid evidence of a truly energized Democratic base was in New Hampshire, where both the absolute number of voters and the percentage of eligible voters set records on Jan. 27.
Even the New Hampshire result needs qualification.  Independents, who are the largest bloc in New Hamsphire, can vote in either primary.  Since there was no contest on the Republican side, most of them voted in the Democratic primary, inflating the totals.

For some perspective, you will want to recall that the Democratic nominee in 1988 was a man who almost defined charisma—Michael Dukakis.  Amusingly, the article follows these numbers with a claim from leftwing analyst Curtis Gans that, yes, the nation is more "emotionally engaged".  Just six percent of the Democrats in Arizona and Delaware agree, judging by their actions.
- 6:47 AM, 8 February 2004   [link]