November 2002, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
Armistice Day: On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice ended the fighting in World War I. (Though not without difficulty. Some American troops, having spare shells and wanting the glory of having the last shot, competed with each other, for a time, after the official end.) For the European countries, the war was a disaster from which they have never completely recovered. The casualties they suffered were so immense that, even now, they astonish. They were so large that, from the very beginning, the combatants lied about them on a grand scale. This table, which I found on the internet, is probably not far from the most common estimates, since, as you can see, the source is the Britannica Encyclopedia. The roughly 1.375 million French dead are more than all the deaths the United States has suffered in all our wars, combined. About 1 million of them were from France itself, with the rest coming from the French colonies. Since France then had a population of about 40 million, 1 in 40 died in the war; for us, now, the equivalent loss would be about 7 million deaths.
After World War II, we renamed Armistice Day to Veterans Day, to honor the soldiers of all our wars. When we honor, as we should, especially today, the American soldiers who served, and sometimes died in our wars, we should also spare some thought for those who fought at our side and who suffered far more than we.
- 5:10 PM, 11 November 2002 [link]
Nancy Pelosi has never met a payroll. The only jobs she has held are party positions, and her seat in Congress, as you can see on her official web site. This is not unusual, especially for Democratic politicians, but it does show a a troubling gap in experience. There is a funny story from the 1984 convention that illustrates this gap. The San Francisco Democrats running the convention that year offered the delegates competing tours, one to the wine country and one to Silicon Valley. One delegate, a Nevada official hoping to lure companies to his state, signed up for Silicon Valley; all the rest signed up for the wine tour. This separation of so much of the Democratic party from the worlds of those who produce, who meet payrolls, and who pay taxes, is a problem for the party, and the country.
- 4:16 PM, 11 November 2002 [link]
British Publishing Puzzle: I was glancing at the front of a used copy of Clifford Simak's The Goblin Reservation and found this strange bit of British legal boilerplate:
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.I take that to mean that, in Britain, where this £2.50 paperback was printed, I am not allowed to put a different cover on it and rent it out. What I don't understand is why the publisher would care. Is there a big business in book rentals there? Even for cheap paperbacks? Could I rent it out if I didn't change the cover?
- 8:41 AM, 11 November 2002 [link]
Clinton and the Democrats: Margaret Carlson realizes that Bill Clinton damaged the Democratic party, something obvious to most of us after the 1994 election. His ideas are out of fashion, a fatal defect. Don't miss her suggestion to Hillary at the very end.
- 8:16 AM, 10 November 2002 [link]
Alpha Girl Comes Through: Maureen Dowd's latest column has drawn praise from some unusual places, since it is the first in a long time to actually make sense. I agree with the praise, but still think the column illustrates my theory of Dowd. For an alpha girl, clothes choices are a central element of her power, both her own choices and the choices of the girls she dominates. When alpha girl Dowd gets to Saudi Arabia, and finds that power taken from her, she protests, and, for once, is right.
- 7:50 AM, 11 November 2002 [link]
Another Reason you should listen to your mother. Pregnancy may make women faster, as well as smarter, by the way. A study of women sprinters I saw a few years ago found their times improved after bearing a child.
- 7:32 AM, 11 November 2002 [link]
JFK and GWB? Sometimes I think I must be channeling Michael Barone, or, I suppose, he could be channeling me. I had worked out in my head nearly all the similarities between John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush, and the 1962 and 2002 elections, when I saw that Barone had beaten me to it in this column. And, after reading the same column, Andrew Sullivan reminds us that he made a similar point earlier.
I do have one curious fact to add. Like Bush, Kennedy did not have a plurality; he received fewer popular votes than Nixon in 1960, by any reasonable way of counting the vote. I'll have more on this in a later article. If you are wondering what I am referring to, check the strange choice Alabama voters had in 1960.
And, I have an observation about a reassuring character difference. For all the playing around that Bush may have done in his youth, he does not have the Kennedy streak of recklessness. One can not imagine Bush getting involved with either a German spy or a Mafia mistress.
- 9:20 AM, 10 November 2002 [link]
Progress in the Sudan? The long civil war there, with perhaps two million deaths and thousands raped, tortured, and enslaved, may end soon. The UK Telegraph has the good news. Guess which country they credit. Hint: Noam Chomsky and Jesse Jackson won't like the answer.
- 8:16 AM, 10 November 2002 [link]
Eco-Imperialists: That's what James Shikwati calls the people in Europe and the United States who try to impose their environmental policies on the third world, in this sympathetic portrait of one of their victims.
- 7:59 AM, 10 November 2002 [link]
Bush's Mistake: George Bush and Karl Rove did so well in the last election that it is easy to overlook their biggest mistake in this last election, backing the wrong candidate in California. In their defense, I should add that, not only did Bill Jones back John McCain, which would be forgivable, but he did so after promising his support to Bush, which is not. And, on the bright side, it seems likely that, over the next four years, Gray Davis will damage the California Democrats as much as Clinton did the national party in his two terms.
- 3:10 PM, 8 November 2002 [link]
Alan Greenspan is Fallible: Robert Samuelson presents the evidence for this heretical idea, concluding that: "To suppose that the Fed can steer the economy is a fantasy -- pleasing but wrong." Officials in the first Bush administration would agree on Greenspan's fallibility; during the recession that cost Bush the presidency, Greenspan was asserting that the country was growing. Greenspan recognized the recession only as the economy began to pull out of it. (Of course, conspiracy theorists could argue that Greenspan deliberately hurt Bush, so as to insure his reappointment. I think he bungled, but never got the criticism he deserved for the error.)
- 2:50 PM, 8 November 2002 [link]
Katherine Harris Looks Good: During the 2000 Florida recount, there was savage criticism of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who seemed to be trying to follow the law and precedent under difficult circumstances. For some reason, when the target is a woman, the attacks often malign her looks, as well as her actions, something I have always found unfair, whether the target is Nancy Reagan or Hillary Clinton. (This happens with male politicians, too, but not nearly as often.) In particular, Harris was attacked for her makeup, which may show only that she did not know how to prepare for TV. Well, let me note that, not only did she win a seat in Congress, but she looks good, as you can see on the front page of the Wednesday USA Today, or on her campaign site.
- 2:10 PM, 8 November 2002 [link]
Iraq and Anthrax, Again: Here's a disturbing story from Bill Gertz and the Washington Times.
U. S. Intelligence agencies have told U. N. weapons inspectors that Iraq has hidden 7,000 liters of anthrax, but chief inspector Hans Blix never reported the information to the U. N. Security Council, The Washington Times has learned.Two notes: First, 7,000 liters is a very large amount. According to Germs, by Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg, and William Broad, the United States produced about one ton of anthrax per year, while we were building biological weapons. I don't have any idea what 7,000 liters of anthrax spores would weigh, but I'll bet it is more than a ton. (For what it is worth, according to the same source, the Soviets produced enormously larger quantities of most biological weapons than we did, thousands of times larger in some cases.) Second, this leak is intended to put pressure on Blix to pass along this and similar information, or to discredit him if he does not.
- 10:21 AM, 8 November 2002 [link]
Denial is not just a river in Egypt, as the awful pun puts it. After the Republican win on Tuesday, some people on the left are still refusing to admit that it is real, or that Bush may be smarter than they thought. Rebecca Blood gives us an example of the first, claiming that the result was almost a tie, and writer Anne Lamott at Salon gives an example of the second, saying that: "Everyone I know thinks Bush is an evil idiot". The 53-47 margin is a solid win, and the depth is shown by the fact that the Republicans now have, for the first time in decades, an edge in state legislature seats. If some one keeps beating you in a game that requires smarts, they are not an idiot, though you may be one for thinking they are. If you are masochistic enough to want to read more examples of denial, you can find some in this collection at Patrick Nielsen Hayden's site. (Link by way of Matthew Yglesias.)
Finally, best of all, one of the two local alternative papers, the Seattle Weekly, refused to mention the subject at all in the issue after the election! Although not completely novel, it is a bit unusual for an American newspaper to refuse to cover the biggest story of the day. They did have coverage of local results, and a surprisingly good column by editor Knute Berger on failures by Seattle Democrats, which has an obvious connection—though Berger does not make it—to the election results.
- 8:43 AM, 8 November 2002 [link]
Vietnam War Support: I have just added another item to the list of common mistakes on the right. If you think young people were especially likely to oppose the Vietnam war, you should read it.
- 5:55 PM, 7 November 2002 [link]
53-47: That's the margin Steve Sailer found for the Republicans when he added up the popular votes for the House, the Senate, and the governorships. The Republicans actually did better in the popular vote than they did in victories. In the House races, they received 53.4 per cent of the two party popular vote, but won, at last count, 229 seats, 52.6 per cent of the 435. Ordinarily, in two party systems like ours, the winning party gets proportionately more seats than its share of the vote, a regularity sometimes described with the "cube rule". By that rule, the Republicans should have won about 261 seats in the House, which shows just how effective our gerrymandering has gotten.
I should add one caveat. Because so many Congressmen face no opposition, or only nominal opposition, the popular vote is distorted from what it would be if there were real contests in all 435 districts.
- 9:30 AM, 7 November 2002 [link]
A Lilliputian Confesses: In this post, I argued that other nations see us as the Lilliputians saw Gulliver, so large as to be a menace simply from our size. This leads them, like the Lilliputians, to try to tie us down, using resolutions and treaties, instead of threads. In an interview with the Universal newspaper, Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castenada, speaking about the United States, has just verified my argument.
"I like very much the metaphor of Gulliver, of ensnarling the giant", Castaneda said in an interview with the newspaper. "Tying it up, with nails, with thread, with 20,000 nets that bog it down: these nets being norms, principles, resolutions, agreements, and bilateral, regional and international covenants."So, that's the purpose of the Kyoto agreement, the International Criminal Court, and many other recent treaties.
- 8:45 AM, 7 November 2002 [link]
Washington State Election Update: About 40 per cent of the vote here has yet to be counted, since so many vote by mail, so what I have to say is a bit tentative. There does not seem to have been a Republican surge in Washington. According to the latest reports, Republicans are likely to take control of the state senate, but actually lose a few seats in the house. If the Republicans did lose ground, they lost it at the same time there was a massive vote against a gasoline tax increase and a majority to repeal other taxes on cars. I think these two results complement, rather than contradict, each other. The anti-tax initiatives that watch salesman Tim Eyman keeps bringing before the voters may well hurt the Republicans by depriving them of their best issue. (And, since his initiatives are badly written, and our state Supreme Court is quite political, they nearly all get tossed out.)
Their votes against the resolution to use force against Iraq may have helped both Jim McDermott and Rick Larsen, as I look at the returns. In particular, Larsen's opponent, Norma Smith, seems to have lost ground after the vote. This may show the importance of an intense minority. One poll, which I will have to find, found that opponents of the resolution, though outnumbered by supporters, were much more likely to vote on the issue.
- 3:52 PM, 6 November 2002 [link]
Color Coding? On Stuart Buck's site, Matt Evans wonders why Democrats always get to be blue. Partly it is now a matter of convention; the graphics artists have used red for Republicans and blue for Democrats so long that it would be confusing to switch them around. At one time, there was no consistent color scheme for the parties. Other colors were used and the Republicans sometimes got to be blue, which makes more sense ideologically. There are good graphics reasons for using red and blue, although there are other possibilities. So why did the news organizations converge on red for the Republicans? Evans thinks it has to do with the emotional associations with the colors, but I think there is a more direct explanation. "Red" is a nickname for Communist, as everyone knows. As the Democrats drifted left, after the McGovern takeover in 1972, the news organizations became more sensitive about linking them to the Communists, and so the graphics artists were no longer willing to use red to designate Democrats.
In Britain, Communist or "red" does not have the same negative impact as it does here. The far left mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, is nicknamed "Red Ken", which would appall his American equivalent, but does not bother him. There, the graphics artists use red for Labour and blue for the Conservatives on their maps.
- 3:27 PM, 6 November 2002 [link]
Predictions: My final prediction on Monday was quite close to the result. Depending on the outcome of the South Dakota election, I either got the number of wins right for the Republicans and correctly predicted that they would win the Senate, or I missed only on the late surge in Georgia. I have seen two different numbers for the net House gains for the GOP, 4 and 6; my prediction of a net gain of 5 is right in between those two. I have not seen a better set of national predictions published anywhere. I'm sure Dick Morris, William Kristol, and all the others I beat, will be sending their congratulations soon. (chuckle)
That said, I was too optimistic on the Washington 2nd district race. I should have paid more attention to two obvious points. Published polls done by a campaign are notoriously likely to be optimistic. And, that the national Republican party was not putting money into the campaign probably reflected their judgment that the Norma Smith's chances were not as good as I thought they might be.
- 9:06 AM, 6 November 2002 [link]
Early Washington Returns: So far, Norma Smith is trailing Rick Larsen 23,90 to 28,718 in the race for the 2nd district. Doesn't look good. If you are partial to moral victories, Carol Cassady is polling 27 per cent of the vote against Jim McDermott in very early returns. R-51 is trailing badly, as predicted. No surprises in other early results, or even close results.
- 8:52 PM, 5 November 2002 [link]
Voting Today: I voted this morning a little after 10. I was just the 17th voter in my precinct and the 100th in the four precincts that vote together at the local school. Authorities seem to be expecting normal turnout for an off year election, which would be about 60 per cent of the eligible voters.
After all the discussion about ballot design after the 2000 election, I was disappointed to see that the ballot was poorly designed in several ways. (I don't know if any of the features I objected to are required by law.) It took a little bit of looking to find the party designations; instead of being right next to the candidate's name like this: John Doe (R), they were pushed to the edge of the field, next to the line dividing the fields. There was no consistency in party listings; sometimes the Republican was listed first and sometimes the Democrat was. As always in marking these optical ballots, I had to stop myself from using my blue pen and use the black one provided. The local issues were on the back of the ballot, making them easy to miss.
- 8:52 PM, 5 November 2002 [link]
Absentee Ballots Late: The absentee ballots from King county (Seattle and most of its suburbs) were mailed late, so late that some voters may not get them in time. So many voters here now vote by mail that this could affect any close races here in King county. Here's the Seattle Times story, with the excuses. Some of them may be genuine. No surprise that Republican chairman Chris Vance is already threatening a law suit. This could make our already late results even later. In Washington, an absentee ballot is valid if it is postmarked by midnight election night.
- 7:07 PM, 5 November 2002 [link]
Grim Network Anchors: Back to posts on Washington state in a moment, but I just had to share this note about one of my favorite indicators on election nights, the emotions of the anchors. The ABC, CBS, and NBC anchors all looked grim as they announced the early results here at 6:00 PM, PST. Looks good for the Republicans. Have to admit I took more pleasure than I should have in watching Peter Jennings and George Stephanopolous discuss those early returns.
- 6:50 PM, 5 November 2002 [link]
Washington State Election Stakes: This is an off year election in Washington, with no race for governor or senate. Of the 9 house seats here, only one, in my opinion, is likely to switch sides. This is not because Washington has gerrymandered the districts, like so many other states. Washington uses a commission much like that in Iowa to draw the districts and has mostly competitive districts. Six of the nine have changed parties in the last ten years, some, like my 1st district, more than once. Rather, it is because of the advantages incumbency gives, especially after two or more terms. The state legislature may change from Democratic to Republican control; currently the Democrats have 50 of the 98 House seats, and 25 of the 49 Senate seats. All the house seats are up, and half of the senate seats are. To show just how close the balance is here in Washington, in the last term, until special elections changed the balance, the House was split 49-49, and had co-speakers. (Yes, it is foolish to have an even number of members in the House. For some reason, the state hasn't done the obvious and added or subtracted a member.) Finally, a large transportation measure, Referendum 51, was sent to the voters by the legislature. It would provide new highways, fix old ones, and give more support to ferries, buses and light rail. It would be paid for by a combination of tax increases, principally a 9 cent/gallon increase on gasoline.
The 2nd district, currently held by Congressman Rick Larsen, is the seat most likely to change hands. Washington has a strange blanket primary system, and holds the primary late, in September. One result is that the primary strengths of the candidates have proved to be even better indicators of success in the general election in Washington than they are elsewhere. As I recall—and don't bet your house on the exact numbers—in 7 of the last 11 cases, a Congressman who failed to get above 50 per cent of the total vote in the primary lost in the general election. Larsen was just below 50 per cent. His challenger, Norma Smith, is almost the ideal Republican candidate for that district, a moderate with strong ties to the district through her work as an aide to the previous Republican Congressman, Jack Metcalfe. Judging only by the ads I have seen on TV, she has run a better campaign than Larsen, trying hard to link him to Congressman McDermott, who is not popular outside his own district. A poll done for her campaign gave her a 3 point edge. The Washington affinity for women candidates will probably help her. She is what some bloggers would call a "bellicose woman", having attacked Larsen over and over for his vote against the use of force against Iraq resolution.
Some people will wonder whether "Baghdad Jim" McDermott will suffer in the 7th district for his outrageous behavior. Sadly, no. The district is so Democratic and so far left that the Republicans often do not even put up a candidate against him. This time an amateur, Carol Cassady, is making a gallant effort. If she receives more than 25 per cent of the total vote, it will be a moral victory.
Although the Democrats have an edge, overall, in the state, they do not have an edge in the fight for the legislature. Seattle is so Democratic that their votes there are wasted, and in the remainder of the state, the Republicans have an edge. The rural parts of Washington are almost all Republican now, as both cultural and economic issues have driven them away from the Democrats. (One sometimes sees this described as a split between dry Eastern Washington and wet Western Washington, but it is really a split between rural and urban. Some parts of the Olympic peninsula are as wet as anywhere in the world, but they now mostly support Republicans. The long time Washington secretary of state, Ralph Munro, has the best brief political description of the state; it is divided, he often said, into the part that you can see from the Space Needle, and all the rest. I am, as it happens, just able to see it, so I am on the boundary line.) So, the struggle for the legislature will be fought mostly in the suburban districts around Seattle and Tacoma.
The Republicans have a good chance to win control of both houses, but it is not clear that it will be a prize worth having. The state legislature will face a nasty budget gap when it returns to Olympia, in a state that has very high unemployment. On the other hand, they will be able to investigate and might be able to bring up some educational reform measures, which have been blocked by the Democrats and their allies, the Washington Education Association.
Finally, there is Referendum 51. I voted for it with some unhappiness. Long neglect of the roads here and fast population growth has given us a nasty traffic problem. The package in R-51 is not what I would choose, but it is better than nothing. Polls show it losing by a large margin, with opposition coming from both anti-tax people on the right and anti-road people on the left. Many in the Democratic party think that people, or at least other people, should ride on transit, preferably that 19th century invention, light rail. The referendum will probably help the Republicans by bringing out anti-tax voters who might have skipped an off year election.
- 4:21 PM, 5 November 2002 [link]
Final Election Prediction: In my first election prediction, I said that there was a 75 per cent chance that the Republicans would hold the House of Representatives and a 50 per cent chance that they would retake control of the Senate. In my second election prediction, I raised those odds to 80 and 55 per cent, respectively. In this final one, I raise both odds again. I now estimate that the Republicans have a 90 per cent chance of holding the House of Representatives and a 60 per cent chance of taking the Senate. In this, I am relying most on the recent Gallup poll results, particularly the generic party question, where they found that the Republicans have a 6 point edge. That edge comes from two things, a shift toward the Republicans and a greater likelihood that Republicans will vote, as Gallup explains, in their press release. Their state polls on the Senate contests are consistent with a shift toward the Republicans in the last few weeks.
Now for the details. I am now predicting that the Republicans will gain 5 House seats net, up from my previous prediction of 3. One reason I am increasing this estimate is that the Democrats were apparently not as skillful in their Georgia gerrymander, as they thought. It now looks as though the Republicans there will win at least one of the districts intended to be safe for the Democrats. For the Senate, I am predicting that the Republicans will make a net gain of two seats, with four seats changing parties. In decreasing order of certainty, I am predicting the following party changes: Republican Jim Talent will win in Missouri. Democrat Mark Pryor will win in Arkansas. (There is a last minute scandal that could affect that election. Matt Drudge has charged that Pryor hired an illegal alien as a housekeeper, while attorney general of Arkansas. I think Pryor had too large a lead for this to change the result.) Republican John Thune will win in South Dakota. Finally, the closest of all. Republican Norm Coleman will win in Minnesota, after the edge he gained in the debate today.
Republicans may pick up a Louisiana seat in December. Current polls there show Mary Landrieu running just below the 50 per cent she would need to avoid a runoff on December 7th. Under Louisiana's strange election laws, there is no primary. Instead, there is an election, open to all, in November. If any candidate wins 50 per cent then, they are elected. If not, there is a runoff between the top two finishers. Landrieu is now running against three Republicans. If she is held under 50 per cent, presumably the two trailing candidates would unite behind the top Republican. There is even more uncertainty about this election because the polls there do not seem to be very good. The two I saw had small sample sizes and were done by organizations I have never heard of.
For a whole set of alternate predictions, besides the sources I've mentioned in the earlier posts, see this Washington Post article from yesterday. One of the most interesting set of predictions was from William Kristol, who was quite pessimistic about his own party's chances. I attribute this to the sour grapes of a McCain supporter in 2000 and Kristol's self interest. If the Bush efforts fail, then Kristol will gain influence in the Republican party. Real Clear Politics, where I have gotten much of my data, has its own set of predictions, with slighter better results for the Republicans than mine.
Sadly I must end with one unpleasant, but almost certain prediction. Since the races are so close, the chance of a nasty legal fight somewhere, after the election, is very high.
- 5:36 PM, 4 November 2002 [link]
Washington Likes Women: I had mentioned earlier that Washington state voters seemed to give an edge to women candidates, but forgotten one of the strongest pieces of evidence. Washington elects state Supreme Court judges, but forbids them to campaign, which makes it difficult, to say the least, to decide on the choices. As the Seattle PI's Joel Connelly points out in this column, voters often decide by picking "the more familiar name", and by displaying a "gender bias in favor of women candidates". Chivalrous men, feminist women, or both? Hard to say, on the available evidence. (On the main subject of the column: Connelly attacks candidate Jim Johnson by comparing him to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. That makes it easy for me to give my vote to Jim Johnson.)
- 8:35 AM, 4 November 2002 [link]
The Old Vote, and the Young Don't: That's the pattern in the United States and may be the pattern in Britain soon, according to this column. There are troubling political consequences from this pattern, as retired people more and more vote themselves benefits paid for by taxes on young workers. In the United States, the oldest are also the wealthiest group, collectively, by a large margin. The Democratic proposal to provide prescription drug benefits to all the elderly, regardless of their income or wealth is, to put it crudely, a proposal to tax the order taker at McDonald's to provide free drugs for Warren Buffet. What causes this pattern? No doubt there are many causes, but surely the failure of civics education must be one of them.
- 8:12 AM, 4 November 2002 [link]
Things Could Get Weird: The contest for control of the Senate is so close, there are so many absentee ballots, and there are so many races with legal questions that control may switch back and forth a number of times in the next few months, and may finally be decided by court battles. Fun for political junkies, but bad for the country. Helen Dewar describes the possibilities.
One thing all this makes clear is that the election laws in our states need some fixes. Candidates should not be able to withdraw, after a primary, as Robert Toricelli did, unless they become physically unable to do the job. Candidates chosen by a convention should be allowed to withdraw only if there is time for that convention to meet again to ratify the change. If a candidate dies just days before the election, the election should be postponed for a month or so to allow for a real campaign with the new candidate. According to an article I saw in an Iowa newspaper, Iowa law already provides for this. Primary elections should not be as close to the general election, as they are here in Washington state, which holds them in September. This often gives another advantage to incumbents, who have too many advantages as it is. Finally, the shift toward voting by mail, so popular here in the Northwest, is a mistake. People like it so much that I am not sure that even a big scandal—which will surely happen sometime—would kill it.
- 8:52 AM, 4 November 2002 [link]
explanation of the shift. Voters are less worried about the economy, Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting, and Bush's popularity is helping his party. I would add one more factor. Because most journalists are so far to the left, voters hear the Democratic arguments all the time. Many voters, especially swing voters, do not hear the Republican arguments until election time when the TV ads appear. Consequently, Republicans often make small gains at the end of the campaign, when these voters finally begin to pay attention to politics.
All this assumes that I am right to conclude that the Zogby results are wrong and the other two polls are correct. I think Zogby is wrong for several reasons. Gallup is the most professional of the commercial polling firms. Zogby has been having problems with some of his state polls this year, with implausibly wild swings. Finally, Zogby is strongly opposed to Bush on Iraq, and it is easy for that feeling to creep into your data analyses. Not everyone agrees that Gallup is right and Zogby wrong. Whatever one thinks of Dick Morris, he is a sharp political analyst, and he thinks that Republicans have lost headway, as he explains in this this column.
- 7:03 AM, 4 November 2002 [link]
Dishonest Dowd: As people who have read my posts or articles on Maureen Dowd know, especially this one, I don't take her seriously as a columnist. Still, it is annoying when you see an outright lie, as in this column, where she says that "The only really bad guys that we have caught since 9/11 are the snipers", something that would surprise the people of Afghanistan, the prisoners at Guantanamo, and even the leaders of al Qaeda, who have admitted big losses. And yes, Osama, despite what Ms. Dowd thinks, is almost certainly still dead. By the way, if you remember some Roman history and would like to see a Dowd spoof, much funnier than her recent columns, read this. (Thanks to the Instapundit for the link. And, a warning. There's one bit of crude language in the introduction to the piece.)
- 9:43 AM, 3 November 2002 [link]
Anthrax and Iraq? Shortly after experts decide that the anthrax used in the attack on the United States last year was too sophisticated for a loner, we have this disturbing column about an outbreak of anthrax in Iraq. Those familiar with the history of biological warfare will remember that one of the clues to the Soviet programs was a 1979 outbreak of anthrax in Sverdlovsk. An accident there caused a leak of the spores which killed more than 70 people. Disturbingly, Harvard professor Matthew Meselson, who had convinced President Nixon to unilaterally drop research into biological weapons, gave the Soviets a clean bill of health at the time. He believed them innocent because he wanted to believe them innocent.
- 9:16 AM, 3 November 2002 [link]
Worth Reading: Theodore Dalrymple's description of the Muslim slums surrounding Paris. Dalrymple almost always writes in stark black and white, so I would not be surprised if there were some patches of gray that he leaves out of this dismaying picture, but I fear that, on the whole, he is correct. Kimberly Strassel's column on reactions to the discovery of academic fraud by Michael Bellesisles. Sadly, many who supported his work as valuable evidence for the gun control side have yet to admit he (and they) were wrong. And, for chuckles, Lowell Ponte's speculation that, just maybe, voodoo is causing some of our political problems.
- 3:53 PM, 1 November 2002 [link]
More on Inspector Blix (Clouseau?): Here's a description of the head UN inspector by a man who has known him for years. Doesn't sound like the man for the job.
- 10:39 AM, 1 November 2002 [link]
Wellstone Memorial: I was less distressed than some by the way the Wellstone memorial turned into a partisan rally for several reasons. First, it seems to have backfired on the Democrats and so is self punishing as these things often are. It might have worked in some places, but not Minnesota. Second, as a political sin, it seems far less injurious to the country than many others, notably the growing problem of vote fraud. It is tasteless to turn a memorial into a rally, but it is illegal to register non-existent voters or try to steal absentee ballots. Finally, I could not help but be reminded of scenes from my favorite political novel, The Last Hurrah. In it, the mayor, Frank Skeffington, an old style Irish political boss, goes to wakes and memorials during the campaign, and uses both as campaign events. At one, a memorial, we see the tasteless side, as Skeffington turns a memorial speech into a campaign speech. Later, at a wake, we see a better side, as Skeffington convinces the widow to accept some money from him (which he disguises), and forces a greedy undertaker to cut his fee to almost nothing.
There are other similarities in the novel, which is set in the 1950s, to modern campaigns. Skeffington's speech at a memorial reminds him that he "often observed to intimates that in these eulogies he accorded the departed their last and greatest favor: he rendered them totally unrecognizable to their relicts". The memorial speeches to Wellstone did not render him unrecognizable, but they did leave out his politically incorrect views on homosexuality as described here. Another ploy in the book, the rental or purchase of a dog, is still used by many candidates, according to this item in the Wall Street Journal.
- 10:12 AM, 1 November 2002 [link]
Sniper News From Seattle, Part 5: Investigators now think that Muhammad made some of the cash that he flashed while living in the homeless shelter from making fake passports, selling stolen credit cards, and smuggling illegal immigrants. Here's the Seattle Times story. They also think that the weapon that he used may have been stolen, by an insider, from the gunshop, as the Seattle PI tells us. None of these facts show that he was not connected to a terrorist organization, since terrorists often engage in just such activities to support their terrorism, but they do offer an alternative explanation for the puzzle of a homeless man with lots of cash.
- 9:23 AM, 1 November 2002 [link]
The Ground Game: If you are a Democrat or Republican, don't be surprised if you get a call in the next few days from a party worker. Republicans have concluded that, in the last few elections, they failed badly in the "ground game" part of the campaign, the efforts to get their voters to the polls. This time they hope to match the Democrats and their union allies. The Washington Post's Dan Balz and David Broder have the full story. Increased turnout is another benefit of strong political parties
- 8:52 AM, 1 November 2002 [link]