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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Why I don't want to live in the UK

Come on in and shop until you drop!

"In 1994 an English home-owner, armed with a toy gun, managed to detain two burglars who had broken into his house while he called the police. When the officers arrived, they arrested the home-owner for using an imitation gun to threaten or intimidate. In a similar incident the following year, when an elderly woman fired a toy cap pistol to drive off a group of youths who were threatening her, she was arrested for putting someone in fear."

Read the whole article. 53% of English burglaries occur while someone is at home. That, to me, is intimidating and fear-causing. We had a problem with people dropping by and shopping at our place. Somehow they always forgot to leave payment, and I found it quite frightening to walk out to the shed for bugspray and find two men loading up their truck with hoses and tools.

So I taught my dogs, who roam free on the place, to act vicious when people drive up, and now we're no longer the local Wal-Mart. (At the same time I trained them as assistance and search dogs. They aren't vicious or dangerous, but they sure look like it.)

Now people drive up, wait in their trucks with the windows rolled up, and ask plaintively if we have puppies when I come out. The criminal element exists everywhere in the world - it's just a question of the balance of power. People, in my part of the world, don't get robbed while they are at home because over 90% of the homes have guns in them.

Pew says Osama flopped

"The poll, taken over a four-day period, found the recent video tape from Osama bin Laden had no clear impact on voter preferences. Interviews conducted after the tape was released on Oct. 29 generally resembled the polling conducted on the two previous days."

The results of Pew Research's latest survey can be found here. Polling was done the 27th - 30th and the sample size was 1,925 likely voters, 2,408 registered voters. Bush has a 3 point lead overall. Pew thinks remaining undecideds will break slightly for Bush, and is projecting higher turnout than the last two elections. Their guess as to the final result was 51% Bush, 48% Kerry. The likely voter result was 48% Bush, 45% Kerry.

The detailed demographics can be found here. Bush gets 7% of black voters and 47% of Hispanics, 18% of non-whites overall. Bush gets 51% of voters under 30 (thus giving a lie to the myth of the young and angry); this is his strongest age bracket. Bush gets 50% of the voters aged from 30 - 64 versus Kerry's 45%. Bush's lowest support occurs among the 65+ age bracket which he loses 44% to 46%. (I guess the social security allegations did work).

Pew does have more detailed age breakdowns, but the sample sizes are too low to be valid so I didn't include them. You can see that for yourself by the wild swings among the age brackets. Still, it looks as if the Democrats may be dying off. Reagan's legacy lives after him.

Pew has the party ID among likely voters as 37% Rep, 35% Dem, 23% Ind. That contrasts to registered voters which Pew had as 33% Rep, 35% Dem, 26% Ind. (Note that this number alone suggests why different surveys are getting consistently different numbers - if you adjust by party ID based on the last elections, you would have different results in this survey.)

Bush gets 52% of men versus Kerry's 43%. Bush loses women 44% to Kerry's 48%. (Note that I was not called.) The sampling for church attendance shows a beautiful progression - the more you go to church the more likely you are to vote for Bush. Bush only gets 31% of those who attend church seldom or never and he gets 43% of those who attend several times a year; Bush gets at least 51% of those who attend church more than several times a year. (Finally an explanation as to why Democratic Underground foams at the mouth about christians and other unsavory religious types with a belief in God, most especially Southern Baptists.)

The very bad news for Kerry, though, is that those who attended church several times a year or less only add up to 734 people, versus the 1153 who said they went more than that. Someone's lying, in fact, because based on these numbers alone Bush would be more than 3% points ahead of Kerry.

Urban voters decide 34% for Bush, 59% for Kerry.
Suburban voters go 52% for Bush, 42% for Kerry.
Rural voters break 56% for Bush, 37% for Kerry.
It looks like the electoral map in 2004 will be very close to the map in 2000. Note that the very strong urban/rural split is another possible source of error in polling. If you don't get a sample representative of the actual percentage of urban/rural voters, your final results will be skewed.

Pew says in their discussion:
"As in previous polls, Bush's supporters are much more enthusiastic than those backing Kerry. In fact, Bush registers a higher percentage of strong supporters in the final weekend of the campaign than any candidate since former President Ronald Reagan in 1984."

It was only a matter of time.

"October Surprise II: Missing Links to Liberalism Discovered" by Noel�Sheppard
A an obvious conservative claims that the discovery of the small human species on Flores casts light on our current political dilemma. I laughed, but surely Democratic Underground could do just as well or better. Their favorite epithet for Bush is "chimp".

Everything's political these days.


This article in BakuToday reviews Arab/Islamic reaction to the Bin Laden tape:
Mohamed Abdel Moneim Saiid, the head of the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, says Osama bin Laden has taken full responsibility for the September 11th attacks for the first time. Some in the Arab world have theorized that the attacks were carried out by Israel's secret service or by the CIA.
"Here, he is talking about: 'we planned it, we made it, for so and so and so.' And that is a very big, I would say, confession," he said. :And that will be a big blow to many of the conspiracy theorists in the Arab world."

Oops. And what was the message and purpose of the videotape according to Al Ahram center?
Expert on Islamic affairs and columnist for the the al-Ahram newspaper Fahmy Howeidi says Osama bin Laden's statement has two main goals.

"He is hoping for two things," he said. "Number One, he wanted to tell the people that he is still there. He is still challenging [President] Bush and all his allies in the area. Number Two he is trying to convince people that, if they do not vote for [Mr.] Bush they will be more safe, more secure."

But do we believe it? That's the question.

The invaluable MEMRI reports on the elephant in the international living room - the Oil for Food program and those who profited from it:

The most intriguing of all is the case of Benon Sevan, the UN director of the Oil for Food Program. Mr. Sevan, who was identified in the lists with the United Nations but listed under African-Middle East (Panama), has received several vouchers. The last one for 1.5 million barrels appears to coincide with Mr. Sevan's visit to Iraq and his meeting with Iraq's Deputy President Taha Yassin Ramadan in February, 2002.

The Iraqi government daily Al-Thawra compared Sevan to "other honest employees of the United Nations," Dennis Haliday(an Irish national) and Hans von Sponeck (a German national) who served, in succession, as UN Representatives in Iraq for Humanitarian Affairs. [6] Until the fall of Saddam these two UN officials had given numerous interviews on visual and written media denouncing the UN sanctions as harmful to the people of Iraq.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The artifice of the Arte & other European matters

This is an excellent post from the Transatlantic Intelligencer blog, to which I have now linked. If you're interested in international media and why the US is perceived the way it is, this is more than worth a read. It describes the channel Arte, its programming, and what the influence of this coverage is in France.

Just for laughs (and this is a great one), you might also want to click on this link to the same blog. Read the short post that goes along with the cover and reflect on the fact that George Bush has ALWAYS been a cowboy in German eyes, just as Reagan was. So much for squandering goodwill after September of 2001 - the cover dates from April, 2001. The caption says "George Bush Jr against the rest of the world." A familiar theme, eh?

Bild endorsed Bush for reelection (among other things, it he's all grown up now and it will be cheaper for Germany), which caused Hendrik Zoerner of the Deutscher Journalistenverband to issue an impassioned cry for impartial journalism. It seems Herr Zoerner is afraid that the Bild endorsement might throw the election for Bush, because endorsements of Kerry are allowed if not required. The Danes chimed in on the idea that what's really needed is for the whole world to be allowed to vote in the American elections. That would solve the problem of America's pesky liking of blazing guns and cowboy boots, right?

No word on whether anyone in this "count every vote" movement has actually sat down and figured out that with over 2 billion of the world's population living in India and China, the result of a world vote in the US elections would surely favor Asian interests over those of Europe. Goodby Australia. I suspect that such a glaring logical error can only be explained by a type of European provincialism - deep in their hearts they believe they are the world. How do you say "oops" in Danish, anyway?

Oh, and I forgot to mention faith on the list of things that many Europeans dislike about the US. Many Germans are genuinely appalled by the hold America's churches have on a large segment of our population. Perhaps it's because their churches are
tax-supported, and thus have relatively little effect on public opinion. (You have a captive audience which pays for your services with their tax dollars, so the crass type of what-we-live-by religion so common in the States is not required or necessarily respectable. If you want to secularize religion, there is no better way than to make it a subscription service with funds channelled through the government.)

And finally, I link to the Deutsche-Welle online response section to Wim Wender's portrayal of America and this brief and sad news item.

I may be offline for a while, because I'm having trouble with my eyes (which does explain why yesterday Bin Laden looked somewhat unfamiliar - by now I hardly recognize myself when I look in the mirror). But be of good cheer - one thing we can all agree on is that it's almost over. What bliss - no more political ads. No more polling calls. No more get-out-the-vote harassment. 'Tis a prospect devoutly to be desired.

For Bro #1 - be sure to read the comments in the link

Republicans mourn life in SF

Ahem. Life is tough all over:
"FRIEND: I'm so upset! I'm so upset! I'm making plans to leave the country if Bush wins!

ME: Are you INSANE?? That's crazy! Have you spoken to your therapist about this??

FRIEND: Yes. He's thinking of leaving the country too."

Reality check for me

Reality checks can be a bitch to handle. I was looking at Democratic Underground, and quite a few people there felt like they wanted to take Bin Laden up on his offer. Not everyone by a long shot, but quite a few thought we should never interfere with any Muslim states. I'm not sure if they realize that means totally abandoning Israel, because supporting Israel with money or even defending it in the UN is considered interference of the worst kind by these types.

I'm just amazed, though, that anyone would look at a communication from a terrorist and assume that this was said in good faith and was a deliverable promise. My reaction to this sort of thing is probably a Mark Steyn sort of reaction - I believe that responding to these demands is likely to make the violence more intense and continue longer. What would happen, for instance, if an Islamic state wanted to invade Afghanistan? Would we just say "well, we can't interfere or we'll get bombed?"

I'm just overwhelmingly surprised that so many people had that reaction. It doesn't make sense to me. I can't believe it's more than a small minority of the US population who feel this way, but I'm still surprised. The US population has always been pretty isolationist, and I have too. I wasn't even in favor of the first Gulf War (I thought we should just let the Soviets sweat it), but after 9/11 I believed we couldn't end the sanctions and leave Saddam Hussein in unobstructed power. It just wasn't possible.

If we had pulled out the Kurds would have been massacred, and we'd already left them swinging in the wind once. Our intelligence was correct at least in telling us that Saddam was actively pursuing his weapons program, according to the Duelfer Report. What would have happened to Kuwait, a tiny little country with all that yummy oil? We needed to get out of Saudi Arabia, because that regime is unstable. What would we have done when Saddam started moving again? WMD aside, it just seems impossible to me. And then there was a huge threat in the poison gases alone, because the regime was seeking contacts with terrorist groups, and Saddam's regime would have had the materials to give them.

And that brings me to my final reaction - why would anyone believe that Osama Bin Laden can speak for the entire Islamic world? He can't. Even if one assumes that he started the whole movement (which he did not), he can't control it. Every one of these groups is going to see the world on their own terms, with their own interests and goals in mind. About a week after 9/11 I woke up with the dull sense that we had no good options left, only bad ones. I still believe that.

Tightly Wound: It's A Bird! It's A Plane! It's A Giant Radioactive Lizard!

Tightly Wound: It's A Bird! It's A Plane! It's A Giant Radioactive Lizard!

One of the things I love about the internet is that it's empowering for minority groups, who can use it to link up. I thought I was the only person on earth who looked up academic conferences for laughs. One day I laughed for over 10 minutes. But no, there's another person who does this. Actually, compared to some of the ones I've enjoyed, the Godzilla one looks pretty scholarly.

I must see if I have some links for your delectation....

Fred Kaplan skewers the Lancet in Slate

If anyone has any doubt that propaganda plays a good part in what the rest of the world is thinking about the US and the Bush administration, you must read the article linked above. The fact is that the Lancet should not have published an a study that could draw so little conclusions, and the media should not have run it with a title discussing 100,000 deaths in Iraq, because that's not what the study concluded. I will quote one paragraph only and then leave you to read an excellent explanation of this travesty of reporting:

"Imagine reading a poll reporting that George W. Bush will win somewhere between 4 percent and 96 percent of the votes in this Tuesday's election. You would say that this is a useless poll and that something must have gone terribly wrong with the sampling. The same is true of the Lancet article: It's a useless study; something went terribly wrong with the sampling."

Where's the rage?

In general, if I have a customer who is reporting consistent difficulties, I find it better to visit their site and study the matter by sitting with the line users. I want to watch what the people trying to run transactions on the system are experiencing, rather than talk with the managers who normally report problems.

I find this approach works wonders, not because the managers I speak with are incompetent - most of them are extremely competent - but because they report data in a way which is meaningful to them. If the problem is an odd one, all I will hear is what made sense to the manager who speaks to me. Oddly, the more competent the manager, the more likely such a screening will take place. If, for instance, the users are reporting that sometimes something works and then it doesn't, a more competent and technically knowledgeable manager may believe they are hearing reports of user error and not pass these incidents along to me. However, such a pattern may indicate a network or data line problem, in which the system doesn't always have the capacity to complete transactions.

I wrote the above to disclose my own bias, which is to go straight to the lowest level of data whenever possible. Good reporting, in my opinion, has to do the same thing. Instead what I seem to have been reading is a great deal of meta-reporting, in which reporters report on what other reporters are writing. The problem with this is that if one or two original sources are wrong, the entire story can be reported incorrectly to an astonishing degree.

Since 2000 the Democratic party has maintained that in 2000 Jeb Bush stole the election for his brother, George Bush. I suppose during the heat of the recounts this seemed reasonable, but the independent recounts did not show it. Instead, they showed an astonishingly close election in Florida, which was similar to very close elections in other states in 2000. The spoiled ballot rates in various Florida locations were not higher than the spoiled ballot rates in other urban locations, and correlated well with illiteracy rates. In fact, the spoiled ballot rate in Florida was less than the spoiled ballot rate in Georgia. Florida also has a very decentralized voting system in which local Boards of Elections are elected by their counties, design their ballots, and count and report their votes. The counties which were highly controversial had Democratic election boards. Given these conditions, it's extraordinarily difficult to envisage a scenario under which a Republican governor could influence local vote counting..

The 2002 election confirmed my original skepticism. The national Democratic party campaigned intensely on the "rage" that voters felt at being disenfranchised. They said they would target Florida, and that in the 2002 elections voters would be given a chance to express their anger. The result was that Jeb Bush was reelected by a 13 points margin and that a majority of the legislative seats up for grabs were won by Republicans. So my original presumption was confirmed, but then I began to doubt my beliefs again when the same theme came back for this election. My reasoning was that after the devastating result of the 2000 elections naturally they would have checked their facts and confirmed them.

So, as a checkpoint, I looked up the voter registration figures for Florida the other day by party. If voters in Florida were harassed and abused, I assumed that registration should show a shift to the Democratic party. Here are the results taken from the 2000 tables, the 2002 tables, and the 2004 tables:


Registered Dem

Registered Rep


















As you can see, over the last three elections the proportion of all voters registered as Republican vs Democratic has increased slightly instead of decreasing. This is especially significant because I keep hearing about the massive increase in Democratic registrations in the national press, and one of the states that has been cited is Florida. The Horserace blog has had a lot to say about that, if you're interested.

So then I wondered, what about the allegations of suppression of the black vote? Florida keeps statistics on race and registration by party (which frankly skeezed me out a bit, I guess you check a box or something). I looked at the numbers of people listed as "Black" who registered for the Republicans, Democrats, and No Party for 2000, 2002, and 2004:
(There are a lot of different parties in Florida, but 99% of all blacks are registered under three categories)

































As you can see, all the controversy has had very little effect at all. Expressed as a percentage, Democratic and Republican registrations have dropped and no party (Independent) have gained. I'd have to say that this numbers don't support the national news stories I've been reading at all. This sort of thing is why I have lost faith in papers and networks as a source of reliable news.


David Brooks understands mainstream American psychology in a way that whoever made the "Bin Laden" tape aired yesterday does not. In this column in the NY Times he sums up what many of us see:
"But politics has shaped Kerry's approach to this whole issue. Back in December 2001, when bin Laden was apparently hiding in Tora Bora, Kerry supported the strategy of using Afghans to hunt him down. He told Larry King that our strategy "is having its impact, and it is the best way to protect our troops and sort of minimalize the proximity, if you will. I think we have been doing this pretty effectively, and we should continue to do it that way."

"But then the political wind shifted, and Kerry recalculated. Now Kerry calls the strategy he supported "outsourcing." When we rely on allies everywhere else around the world, that's multilateral cooperation, but when Bush does it in Afghanistan, it's "outsourcing." In Iraq, Kerry supports using local troops to chase insurgents, but in Afghanistan he is in post hoc opposition.

"This is why Kerry is not cleaning Bush's clock in this election. Many people are not sure that he gets the fundamental moral confrontation. Many people are not sure he feels it, or feels anything. Since he joined the Senate, what cause has he taken a political risk for? Has he devoted himself selflessly and passionately to any movement larger than himself? "

Kerry is first and foremost a politician, and that is what his career has been about - politics. Being a career politican requires the cornering ability of a Sedgeway, but that is not what most Americans are looking for in a president, not in this election. Furthermore, Kerry's appallingly bare record in the Senate speaks for itself.

I don't watch terror tapes, and I have been ignoring them almost entirely since 9/11, so I'm not qualified to write much that is meaningful about yesterday's. I have read the reports in the media about each one and what was said, and I have seen clips of the various videos on the news. To my eyes, there have been at least two different "Bin Ladens" in these tapes. I don't think the man I saw yesterday is the same man as the one shown in videos of him in Afghanistan. I could certainly be wrong about that. The Afghanistan Bin Laden had striking, large eyes and high eyebrows, and an extremely distinctive nose and nostrils, and the pictures I've seen of yesterday's character don't. Maybe it's puffiness, but the rest of the face doesn't seem to bear that out. Our intelligence agencies haven't had much time to analyze the tape, so I'm suspicious of it.

There seems to be a contradiction between the "Bin Laden" tape aired yesterday and the ABC tape of a few days ago. In the Bin Laden tape we're told to get our butts totally out of the middle east to be safe, and the other talks about blood on the streets and such a massive loss of life that we will "mourn in silence". Bin Laden's tape starts and ends with what is essentially an offer of a truce. The other is strikingly militant, unless there is something else on it that wasn't disclosed. So regardless of who made each tape, there seems to be a contradiction present.

This contradiction doesn't surprise me, because terrorism is by its nature a diffused movement. It's no surprise that there should be disagreements and perhaps battles for leadership inside these groups. I have read comments on the internet fearing that this "Bin Laden" tape is a signal for a new attack; my guess is that if it is any kind of a signal it is a signal not to act now. I read reports that there was a warning broadcast earlier this year to the Europeans giving them six months to pull out of any entanglements in the middle east. That warning seems to be in line with the strategy and message of yesterday's tape.

Finally, whoever created yesterday's tape of "Bin Laden" is obviously either trying to influence our election OR gambling on the chance that Kerry is elected in order to gain prestige from the claim that he did influence our election. This, it seems to me, is a confession of weakness. Someone wants to gain the appearance of power and influence. That's good news. To their credit, the European governments did not respond to the six month deadline given to them. We should likewise ignore this tape and ABC's tape.

Finally, let me say that a Bin Laden reduced to parroting Michael Moore's stupidities is more a figure of fun to me than a threat. I've read several different translations of excerpts from yesterday's tapes, and the bit about George Bush Sr passing the Patriot Act down to his sons and installing them in governorships is flat-out hilarious. What next? The Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck theory of American politics? Yesterday I was angry at such a blatant attempt to swing the election to Kerry by using threats. I felt infuriated that the jerk would believe it could work. Today I suppose I'm still angry, but I woke up with the phrase "What a dingbat" rolling around my mind.

Finally, we should all remind ourselves that 9/11 was just as much an economic attack as anything else. Various "Bin Laden" tapes have boasted about the economic damage the attack inflicted on the US. If you, like me, are an American citizen, and you, like me, want to help our country out in this struggle, and you, like me, are unfortunately physically unqualified to be in the Armed Forces, take comfort in this.

By working hard and not being intimidated by these tapes you are helping to defeat this ideology. Every time you put in a hard and productive day's work you are undercutting their strategy. Every time you invest in our economy or contribute to it you are supporting and strengthening our country. Their plan is to fight a war of attrition against our nation. Our plan must be to engage in preemptive but strategic actions to deprive them of their bases and their support, and to engage in absolutely determined efforts not to let ourselves be worn down psychologically or economically.

Friday, October 29, 2004

DU on the same topic as my last post

Democratic Underground Forums - NYT: Many in Europe See U.S. Vote as a Lose-Lose Affair

Note that even the Democratic Underground sees the same issues, but read the entire thread:
"It is INSANE to think that just because a Dem is President, that nations that had NOTHING to do with the clusterfuck in Iraq should take ANY of the load for fixing it. It just will not happen.

So what happens when Kerry asks for troops and is denied?

And more importantly, who is to blame for leading the American people to believe that they would help?

That is why Iraq is one of Kerry's weakest points - not because Bush is better, but because Kerry has set himself an impossible goal."

And another DU weighs in:
"Watch German and French leaders change their tune if there's a clear timetable and commitments to open up the reconstruction process to European companies.

That's what it will take, along with a new appeal to the UN to provide a large multinational peacekeeping force until genuinely fair elections take place."

Beldar & Krauthammer & Me

Beldar flags Krauthammer's setdown of Kerry's "retroactive genius" regarding the Afghanistan adventure. One thing I don't question is that there are two valid opinions on what we're doing in Iraq. I can't, because one of my brothers is something of a military historian and he has concerns about Iraq. (He's voting for Bush, though.)

But what I liked so much about both Beldar's and Krauthammer's comments is that they're true. Bush's decisions on the War On Terror have been radical and courageous, and the US (or its media) does suffer from a lack of historical perspective and an incredibly short attention span.

The question is really whether the US public has an incredibly short attention span, or whether that syndrome is largely confined to the media. I suspect the media is far worse off in this respect than the American public. The citzenry of the US liked it when Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as an evil empire and said that the Berlin wall must come down; the media responded by designating Reagan as a cowboy. The citizenry reelected Reagan when media coverage of his policies was overwhelmingly negative.

What, IMO, the American citizenry intuitively grasps about that mindset (which Kerry shares) is that behind the rhetoric of terrorism being a nuisance lies the philosophy that it's a foe that can't be destroyed, only endured. What Bush grasps about the mindset of the American public is that the American citizenry has no intention of enduring it - it wants that foe destroyed, in the same way the genocidal European regimes of the second World War were destroyed and gave birth to genuinely democratic regimes that don't murder their own populations.

The IMF is projecting growth in the Iraq economy of over 50% in 2004, 17% in 2005, and 10% annually for 2006 through 2009. Arabs and Arabists will take note of this. There is a good reason why the attacks on the pipelines in Iraq have been unremitting - the terrorists are fighting desperately to prevent Iraq from prospering. They fear the effect on their cause, and rightfully so.

Bush may be something of a riverboat gambler, but at least he's planning to win most the hands and walk away with the heaviest pockets at the end of the night. Kerry's plan is to whine around the European capitals and the UN bemoaning our plight and earnestly asking for assistance. Why should these other countries care more for our welfare than their own?

If we are too afraid to show that this war can be won, why should these other countries attempt to prove it on our behalf? We're the country with the target painted on its back, and that is a very, very good thing for France and Germany, who are suffering economically. It's worth repeating - the IMF's numbers show the best world economy in 30 years, but the European Union is lagging. Scroll down and read the numbers here. Sub-Saharan Africa is growing at a rate more than 2% above the EU. China's big problem is winching its 9% growth rate down to something more sustainable, although it's my guess that rate is sustainable. Asia's doing well. Now Bush wants to take Iraq and make it a modern democratic state that produces instead of being a client consumer for France and Germany.

It's no wonder the Western Europeans are feeling a bit jaundiced at these developments. Bush could not let the UN in to run Iraq after we invaded, because we would simply have seen a repetition of the Oil For Food scandal, in which vested monetary interests made highly profitable deals with top echelon of the government in Iraq. The net result would have to suppress the economic development in Iraq. We need that economic explosion as an example to the world. The reason why Kerry said in his nomination speech that he would not pull American troops out of Europe (mostly Germany) is that the Europeans desperately want those troops to stay because they contribute to their economy. This is an economic issue - there is no pressing military reason for our troops to be there any more.

Bush's policies favor the developing world. Kerry's policies favor Western Europe, and all Chirac's proclamations of "destabilizing the world" essentially add up to a protest against this fact. It's not the world Chirac is worrying about - it's France. Bush is worrying about the US, but in order to protect the US he has to have functional economies and governments that can't be bribed by the terrorists.


TP: Pathology of Commerce

TP: Pathology of Commerce

This is from a sort of German site, and this is a review of a film claiming that corporations rule America - the film, of course, is Canadian. Being Canadian, it has the infinite wisdom to determine the essential cause of the problem with America, which is the Supreme Court having ruled that corporations have due process rights under the 14th amendment.

It's all so simple when you're Canadian! Michael Moore, of course, is lurking in there, although it's hard to lurk when you're the size of Michael Moore.

A situation in which corporations have no due process rights under law would of course be rather disadvantageous for their investors. Said investors being more than half of the American public, it appears unlikely that this thesis will ever gain much credibility among the voters. My guess is that it's quite popular among college professors among the progressively Marxist sort, though, and so I serve it up as a warning and an example.

In the forums on both Howard Dean's website and Democratic Underground I have seen multiple references to the above theory, so it does have currency and credibility of a sort.

Thomas Sowell flares up

on the media. Mr. Sowell is disdainful and indignant about the main stream media; the "story" regarding the missing weaponry at the ammunitions dump.
"How much can we trust anything reported by a biased media with its own political axes to grind? Thank heaven there are some alternative sources of news, such as talk radio, Fox News and the Internet. "

"There have been numerous other examples of similar double standards. When integrity is missing, that is far more dangerous than "missing" explosives."

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Finally, an explanation

why smoking feels so good. Sure, it's unhealthy, but so is being bitchy and twitchy all the time. Gee, I think I'll go outside and have one now.

GA Turnout estimated at 72%

I don't know if this will hold true nationwide, but Georgia's Secretary of State has estimated 72% of registered voters in GA will actually cast a vote. That's high, although our highest turnout was in 1992, when over 73% of the voters turned out. There are lines just for early voting at the county election boards.

Daly Thoughts and Dales' Electoral College Breakdown 2004

Daly Thoughts and Dales' Electoral College Breakdown 2004

Right now, the ECB 2004 is showing Bush able to win with 276 electoral votes without taking either Ohio or Pennsylvania. Florida is slightly for Bush.

Aljazeera.Net - Poll results

Aljazeera.Net - Poll results

I've never read Aljazeera before, but I was searching for more information on the Flores fossils, and a link to Aljazeera popped up. Then on the sidebar I noticed a "Polls" category, and well... curiosity took over.

Most interesting to me is that there's a fifty/fifty split on the question of whether Iraqi fighters should lay down their weapons and participate in a US-backed peace process. I'd say that's progress.

Sadly, only 8% of the respondents thought that the Sudanese government would comply with the UN resolutions. 55% felt another UN resolution is in the offing.

Where's the beef

...in Mark Westin's (ABC President) speech at the Institute of Politics? He said:
“The more time we express our opinions, the less time we have to talk about the facts,” Westin said. “Unfortunately, opinion is driving out facts too often in most of what we see on television today.”

I agree with that. And Mark Westin said:
“It can be very entertaining to have two very spirited people discussing heath care in this country, but I for one would be better benefited by someone coming on and telling me exactly what the state of health care is before we talk about what ought to be done and telling mewhat my real options are,” Westin said.

I certainly agree with that. It's one of the reasons I stopped watching much TV news years ago. It seemed to be a waste of time. But how do I square this with Mark Halperin's (ABC News Political Director) memo during the debates? Mark said that:
"Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win.

"We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides "equally" accountable when the facts don't warrant that."

To me, facts are facts, and facts are important. It follows that the facts on both sides of any issue are likewise important. One thing I really don't want to see is Mark Halperin's version of news, in which one side's facts are important and the facts on the other side don't matter. And which facts did Mark Halperin think were not germane? If Kerry's numbers don't add up, how is that not relevant to the decision that the public must make?

I wish I could feel certain that Mark Westin was arguing for factual news content unbiased for one side or another, but I don't. I think he should be asked the question.

The R's have it

JS Online: Republicans challenge 5,600 addresses that may not exist

It's amazing what a difference one "r" makes. Some want each voter to be counted, and some want each vote to be counted. The rhetoric is getting old, and unless it's a landslide there are going to be challenges and recounts.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Wyllowish � 4th Graders and their history lesson

Wyllowish � 4th Graders and their history lesson

Click on the link - it's one of the funniest political jokes I've read in my lifetime.

The Aussies speak

This particular story may be a hoax (I haven't found confirmation yet), and it's probably a misrepresentation of the fundamental findings anyway. I doubt they've really found a whole new and recent species of hominid. But scientists have been working in Liang Bua on Flores, as this AAA abstract shows.

The archeological record on Flores has long posed quite a few questions, because there is a very early record of hominids there, and Flores has been isolated. In any case, the second link above has one very interesting abstract. Scroll down to number 28, in which Ian Gilligan discusses the evidence for adaptation to climate of human populations. Aussie archeology has been startlingly innovative, probably because of the environment. The natural question, of course, is if Neanderthalid types developed all by themselves in Australia from a "human stock", where does that leave the categorization of European Neanderthals? Why would they not be an ethnic variant rather than a different species?

It's disputed, but there has also been some work on mitochondrial DNA taken from Australian fossils that seems to blow away the conclusions derived from mitochondrial DNA analysis of Neanderthals. We'll see, but my guess is the Aussies are going to revolutionize human history all by themselves. I suppose that one of the reasons scientists are reluctant to classify Neanderthals as human is that creationists are adamant about the fact they're human. (I'm not one, but that doesn't mean everything they say is wrong, either.)

The Aussies were the ones that proved that a strain of bacteria caused a lot of stomach ulcers, when in this country the medical consensus had long been that stomach problems were idiosyncratic. Their science seems to be innovative in general. In the US the Clovis wars are still going on.

INDC Journal: Bush Up in New Poll

INDC Journal: Bush Up in New Poll

In case you missed it - Bush cups are selling over Kerry cups at 7-Eleven. They say it was accurate in 2000, but no one gives the results. So far this year it's Bush 51, Kerry 49.

DU brooding - Are some people afraid to admit they'll be voting for Kerry when polled?

Democratic Underground Forums - Are some people afraid to admit they'll be voting for Kerry when polled?

I don't understand this one, but maybe there's been so much talk about Nazis that they've convinced themselves. On the other hand, according to ABC early voting has gone for Bush 51-47.

If Bush wins, I wonder if they'll start claiming that people were afraid to vote for Kerry for fear that the electronic machines would report them to the police? It would, after all, be the ultimate claim of voter intimidation, and it would also have the merit of being supremely unrebuttable.

Scientists Debunk 'Global Warming' Effect on Hurricanes -- 09/15/2004

Scientists Debunk 'Global Warming' Effect on Hurricanes -- 09/15/2004

Just in case you were wondering after my last post, no, Bush is not causing hurricanes. There are natural cycles in weather and storms.

Bush Brews Hurricanes

Those Wacky Dems

Sighs. Stretches. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Nagged was joking yesterday that now that the Florida race looked so close, the Democrats would start claiming that the hurricanes in Florida were Bush's fault. I laughed quite merrily.

Today I find this.
"Because President George W. Bush has "ignored the threat of global warming," Floridians can expect to be hit by increasingly destructive hurricanes, a new billboard campaign says."

Chief No-Nag is astonishingly accurate about elections and politics. For instance, in late 1996 he told me that George Bush would be the next president of the United States. He's also predicted the outcome of every close election I've asked him about for 8 years more than six months in advance. In case you're wondering, he told me in the spring that Bush would win this one, and that it wouldn't even be close.

It's good to be home again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

I. Mad dogs and absolutism and biting insects

...should be avoided at all costs. I've just finished reading Ronald Bailey's article Mandatory Health Insurance Now! on Reason's website. Ronald Baily is a science writer, and a good one, but I have two criticisms of his article.

First, Ronald Baily doesn't properly establish his fundamental tenet - that the US should avoid a socialized health care system at all costs. He treats this as a given, but the reason why so many people want to move towards socialized health care is that it seems like a good, safe, and ethical idea. Without explaining why it isn't, he can never win the public policy debate. I'll help him out on this one in a later article, just to celebrate being alive.

My second criticism of his article is that his solution, which is to have the government require that people purchase private health insurance, is fatally flawed. There is no small "tweak" to his proposal that can rehabilitate it. It can't work, and in order to defend my right to live I will show why in yet another article. You may be reading the last sentence as meaning "my right to live the way I want to"; if so, you're wrong. I'm going to be defending my right to live at all. Believe me, in a prison I'm not going to be getting the medical treatment I need to live.

I'm an incurably optimistic and compulsively analytical person, so I will conclude this series with some articles about what will work, and why it will. There are always solutions if you take time to understand the underlying problem. I believe Ronald Baily is both well-intentioned and sincere. He quotes many statistics in his article, and I believe those statistics are valid. But there is an epistemological problem here, and its very existence serves to show the perils of allowing scientists to determine public policy. Scientists believe in statistics and numbers, correctly so. However, probability and statistics can't be used to understand a poorly-understood problem. They can only be used to quantify a well-understood problem. Ronald Baily doesn't understand the entire problem, and therefore his honest statistics present a false picture. Before pontificating he should spend a year or so in doctors' offices talking to both the doctors and the persons who work for them, and then he should spend another year talking to their patients.

Unfortunately I have a degree of hard-earned personal knowledge about this topic. I have an incurable but treatable disease, and no private insurance company will write coverage on me. I've been trying to get coverage for several years now without luck. Several sympathetic independent insurance agents have helpfully sat me down and explained how to establish a false identity under which to get insurance, but I'm not going to do it. Fraud is stealing, and it's wrong.

Unfortunately the only way to support my right to live is to disclose rather personal information about myself, but I'm warning you now not to pity me. I consider myself about the luckiest person alive. I'm doing well, and I expect to be doing better a year from now. I have a happy life and probably more security than most of you. The fact that I am living happily is a good incentive for me to defend my right to continue my life without being made a criminal. If anything about my argument inspires you to compassion, invest it in someone more needy than I. If you look around your community I can guarantee you'll find someone who needs your help. I don't. I just need you to prevent the government from forcibly assisting me into an early grave, prison, or Social Security Disability. Any assistance you can give me in that would be welcome.

I'm astonished that Baily would advance such an inane and almost vicious proposal, and I'm even more astonished that it would appear in a journal that believes itself to be somewhat libertarian. If this is libertarianism, God save me from it. What is the difference between taxing individuals to establish a socialized health care system and legally requiring people to support such a system? In both cases those who evade the arm of the state will be imprisoned, although the charges might vary. In one case, after all, one would be evading taxes, and in another one would have failed to spend one's own money in the way the government required. I don't see the difference.

I suspect there isn't one, especially since Bailey's proposal requires government to establish new controls over a broad sector of the economy. The reason that no company will write insurance on me is that the expected cost of covering me far outweighs the premiums they can reasonably expect to get from me. Nor are they unethical at all in refusing to cover me. The only way they could write insurance on individuals like me without running the risk of going in the hole and being unable to pay claims would be to charge premiums so high that no individual could pay them for long. This would also be a form of fraud, because they would be taking money in the knowledge that almost certainly I would have to let my coverage lapse before I made a claim. Insurance is a statistical game, but ethics play a part in it as well.

So the only way that private companies can underwrite insurance for individuals like me is if the government will essentially agree to insure them for the additional risk. If the government must do this, the government must, of course, establish controls. And thus my medical treatment will, by some mechanism, be limited to that of which the government approves. It is not a good prospect at all for people like me.

I had private insurance, and once I knew of my eventual fate I was willing to sacrifice everything but my life to maintain it. The plan I had purchased had prescription drug coverage, but I had never used it. Eventually the day came when my doctor had to prescribe some pretty expensive drugs. My condition was degenerating rapidly and I would have died without those drugs. I had a form of meningitis, among other things. For the first few months I paid for them myself, but later, when my condition improved, I returned home and applied to my insurance to cover the next few months of treatment.

It was an off-label treatment prescribed by an out-of-state doctor. They denied coverage (a pretty routine practice among insurance companies), and I would have had to go to court to get them to pay for the drugs. I believe I would have won, but I would have had to pay my own legal expenses, because the insurance company had protections under law. So I had to make a very hard choice, and in the end I let my insurance lapse and used the premium money to buy the drugs. That was over seven years ago, and I have to say it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. The essence of Ronald Baily's proposal is to make it illegal for an individual like me to make that decision.

In his article, Ronald Bailey compares such a requirement to the requirement for house insurance and for car insurance:
"But the increasingly successful campaigns to privatize Social Security and expand school vouchers suggest a way out: mandatory private health insurance. Under this system, in effect, purchasing health insurance would be not much different from buying car or homeowner’s insurance today. As a result, we could preserve and extend the advantages of a free market with a minimal amount of coercion."

This is a terribly bad analogy. Flood insurance is required for improved real estate (buildings) in flood zones. One can always buy a house outside of a flood zone in order to evade the requirement. Car insurance is required, but one is not legally forced to own an automobile. Further, car insurance is only required up to a certain point, and it's a pretty low one. I believe it's $15,000/30,000 in the state where I live, whereas medical insurance covers much higher liabilities and is therefore far more expensive. Ronald Baily's proposal would require an individual to have health insurance as a condition of living as an adult. This seems, well, just a touch unfree to me, and as I say, it would have prevented me from making the choice that eventually saved my life. Is that a "minimal amount of coercion"?

That's all for tonight.

The world complains about unfair elections policy in the US

European Press Review: Europe's Favorite | Press Reviews & Opinion | Deutsche Welle |

A consensus is forming that citizens of other nations should be able to cast their votes in the US election. The reason given is that the result of the election will affect the world, therefore fairness requires that the world should vote.

The net effect, of course, would be to cede our sovereignty to China and India, given that these two countries contain over 2 billion people. I wonder if the UK, Denmark and France would be happy with this result?

Also I wonder if the citizens of these countries would be willing to reciprocally enfranchise us in their elections? I, for one, would not vote for Chirac.

What's good for GM is good for Germany?

Is the End Nigh for Opel? | Business & Economics | Deutsche Welle |

Ayiyi. Opel is saying now that it might have to cut a third of its workforce! I think it's a threat floated to obtain easy passage of GM's move to create a new GM subsidiary based in Brussels, into which all their European companies would be folded. By labor rules, I believe that this would change the legal protections for the workers in Germany. There has got to be more to this story.

The German growth rate for this year was updated to 1.8, but for 2005 is now projected to be 1.7. Obviously all this news does not promise a reduction in Germany's 10.5% unemployment rate.

Comic relief

I'd never run into this before, and I laughed so hard I almost choked.

It reminded me of this DU thread I've been pondering, about a couple that's fallen on very tough times in the wake of 9/11 and yet is voting for Bush. One of the posters asked darkly (in part):
"How can these people, who have been so negatively affected during *'s term, even remotely consider voting for him? Is it racism? Homophobia? Xenophobia? Influence of Rovian fear tactics?"

Another person's opinion:
"My guess as to why

1. They see the cause of their woes as being the terrorists for carrying out the acts (analogy - murder victim's family blaming the killer and not the mayor) and the IT job lost due to the dot com boom which was mismanaged and went out of control.

2. They blame themselves for what they did not do in the good years - get a cheaper house with lower mortage, better cars (ie lower mileage and cost, lower insurance, et al) and they could have saved more by living cheaper which would help them get through the bad times.

And if you think those two things sound like a RW talking point memo - keep in mind they are RW and one could probablyt guess if that you asked them if they agreed with those two things they would agree."

I really don't know what RW means.

Never nominate an author

Betsy's Page on plagarized passages in Kerry's book.

Al Gore, "Earth In The Balance". John Kerry, "The New War". It's not a good day for Kerry, between the fallout on the missing explosives story and now this. I have to put it this way, but when you write a book a strict standard of plagarism should apply. It's not the same as a stump speech.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Plugging Lancelot Finn

Every once in a while you come across something so good you want to spread the news, and I want to spread the news about Lancelot Finn. You can visit his home page here, and he also has a blog here, entitled Towards A Good Samaritan World.

His header on his home page is "For open borders, freedom from tyranny, solidarity with the world's less fortunate, and humble but incorruptible devotion to truth." You'll find a number of articles explaining what are generally considered conservative positions. But then conservative is a word which may have many definitions. Lancelot on Europe:
Americans see Europe like a retired grandmother. It’s fun to visit her; her hospitality is excellent. We’re happy to look through her old photo albums, and feel a twinge of nostalgia. We like to listen to stories of her youth. But when it comes to important business, or our dirty little secrets, we don’t consult with her—her ideas are a little too conservative and out of touch.

Lancelot Finn seems to be a libertarianish Christian, which is a far more common breed than conceived of by current political rhetoric. In fact there's a very good theological justification for his positions. His writing is better than I describe and I heartily recommend both his page and his blog. People who are really thinking and at least observing always end up being really impossible to characterize in a few words. So I'll quote from a post:
"Some people think that homosexuality is a cause of cultural decline. It seemed to me last night (is this a confirmation of the claim?) that the romantic had bled out of heterosexual culture into the gay community. I lived in Russia for a while (a more homophobic culture) and sensed that it was a much more romantic culture than ours. More passionate. More in love with beauty. I love Russia for that. I almost wonder if, as homosexuality becomes more acceptable, straight guys get scared of showing affection for each other, and the strong masculine friendships that are an important element of chivalric culture are weakened. In which case homosexuality is an indirect cause of cultural decline, though it's the straights' fault. This is just speculation, of course.

As a Christian, I believe that homosexuals are sinners... just like the rest of us. That realization diminishes the urgency of the question, is homosexuality a sin. I don't feel called upon to answer it. But I think Jesus, were he to come today, would choose the gays (among others) over upstanding bourgeois Protestants, as he once chose tax collectors and a woman taken in adultery over the Pharisees, and would cure the AIDS victims, and comfort the lonely."

Kerry & Fantasy

New England Republican summarizes a few incidents.

It did occur to me when reading this post that this explains why Kerry is so sure he has a plan, and the plan will work, and the Europeans, for instance, will be willing to ignore their own interests and help him with the plan, because they will be much more willing to work with him, because they didn't like Bush, and Bush didn't really have a plan and pissed off everybody, whereas everybody likes John Kerry, because John Kerry is a guy who knows how to talk to our allies.

The evidence is mounting that Kerry is lost in his own mental world and has been for some time. NE Republican did not list the story about Kerry having made up his meeting with the UN Security Council. I suppose one could argue that the UN Security Council is part of the vast rightwing conspiracy and is denying the meeting in order to make Kerry look bad, but I won't make the attempt.

It says something about the American public's view of Kerry that the mythical UN Security Council meeting is not considered all that newsworthy.

Supply and demand

In the German health care system, or so it seems to me. Germany imposed a small fee for going to the doctor, and visits to the doctor dropped.

A major discovery about Alzheimer's?

This is a summary at Science Net Daily describing a basically accidental discovery of a brain protein that prevents Alzheimer's from developing.

"Alzheimer’s disease progresses when a toxic protein, known as “beta-amyloid,” attacks the brain’s nerve cells involved in learning and memory. The beta-amyloid creates sticky plaques and tangles that gradually disable nerve cells, producing memory loss. Transthyretin appears to protect brain cells by intercepting the beta-amyloid and preventing it from interacting with the brain tissue."

Weekly Reader Landslide

If the historical trends hold true, Bush will be elected by a surprisingly large majority. The Weekly Reader poll results have been released, and the kids cast over 60% of their votes for Bush.

The only grade won by Kerry was the tenth, but grades eleven and twelve went for Bush.

WSJ editorial on economics

OpinionJournal - Extra

What I found most interesting was the point at the end about the results of the Spanish tax cut. Evidence (as in Ireland) is building about the merits of pro-growth tax structures.

An Australian writes to influence Clark County

and I wrote back. Both her letter and mine are listed in the comments section, plus her reply. I'd like to point out that she did not have to approve my comment for posting. She did, and responded to it very politely. Compare that to the DU thread below, and I think it's clear why I'm concerned about factionalism in this country.

Same judges, same result

FOXNews.com - You Decide 2004 - Dems Lose Michigan Ballots Ruling

The same panel of judges that struck down the ruling saying that provisional ballots should be counted at any precinct in Ohio ruled the same way for Michigan. Big surprise.

I'm all in favor of voter access, but there have to be some controls on fraud as well. At some point a voter must assume the responsibility for getting to the poll or requesting an absentee ballot, IMO. Voter fraud has a long and honorable tradition in this country.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Death of the Bill of Rights in America - PRAVDA.Ru

The Death of the Bill of Rights in America - PRAVDA.Ru

I'll have a comment later on what I think this is a fascinating article.

A clue to my reaction: Can you say blogosphere? Until people are literally blocked from exercising their rights to free speech, the bill of rights won't be dead. It's definitely ailing a bit, though.

Finally something we can all agree on:

Althouse: 10/24/2004 - 10/30/2004

Oh, please, oh please, let the election be over no later than 11/3. Please.

DU thread of the day

This thread starts out with an appeal to DU'rs not to humiliate freepers (hardcore conservatives?) after the Kerry victory. The advocates of gentility fight hard, but can't convince all their opponents.

One individual takes an historical perspective:
Defeated Armies were sodomized in Rome. I think Rome had it right". (smiley face omitted).

Another argues for tactical necessity:
"Perhaps you are the one who should think with your head. Heaping scorn on the freepers is the best way to ensure the soft middle is ashamed to be associated with them.

"You claim the enemy will be "more determined" next time -- how so? This time they called the candidate a spineless war criminal and have tried to fix the vote. Are you suggesting they've been holding back?

"'...and more numerous...' Oooh, that's ominous. But what is it based on? You sound like you're modelling the election on Fallujah or something. But we're not talking about bombing them, we're talking about using social pressure to keep people from identifying with them."

Yet another advocates kindness combined with dedication to the agenda:
"They will be bitter enough with the loss, we need not rub it in. Also, that wheel may turn some day, and they might be back in the winners seat. Karma can be a bitch.

"But we should not think that a loss will some how snap them out of their delusional behavior. Have we learned nothing in the past 12 years? These people are 100% sold into their group mindthink.

"Still, we must take advantage of every bit of power that Kerry's win affords us. We need to make changes that will last a generation, like supreme court and federal judges appointed. Employment and tax programs that work together to create good jobs in America and to link employment to patriotism.

"Most of all (and I think this point deserves its own thread) we need to come up with an alternative to the corporation as a business model.

"Co-ops? Collectives? ...I really dont know, but corporations are anti-democratic by nature. You wonder why so many people do not vote? My guess is that there is a direct link to corporatism. Corporations divide people into classes and teach workers that they live in a social order where power does NOT depend on the consent of the governed."

This last reminds me of some threads on Howard Dean's forums at the beginning of the year. I have to confess I was looking for an alternative to Bush. I had hopes for Dean, which endured about to that incident where he said he'd be interested to know if the Bush administration had had a hand in crashing the planes into the World Trade Center. It was one of theose "some people say" things.

Ah well, such is the life of MaxedOutMama. I still maintain that Howard Dean's record on the ground was pretty good. Hey, I was *****passionately***** for Tsongas. My support of a Democratic candidate during the primaries ensures doom.

Deferring medical treatment in London


Read it and weep. In Britain, a woman with a lump in her breast may have to wait 6 months to a year to even get it tested. Mind you, there is already a waiting time of months, and now those waits are being extended.

This is the reason I think we should be very cautious about throwing everyone in Medicare or Medicaid. I know in New Jersey it's very hard to find a doctor to treat you if you're on Medicaid, for example.

Update (I'm dyslexic, okay? I meant to write New Jersey. Agghhhhhh)

Blogging is cheaper, but

you have to respect this guy's commitment. According to Polipundit, he paid $100,000.00 to run this ad in the Washington Post.

UK Anecdote about National Health Service

An Englishman's Castle: Welcome to the NHS

Unfortunately the problem here sounds like it was no beds. I've known firsthand several Brits who came to the US specifically to get medical care. Their system operates on rationing by limiting resources sharply.

I got this blog link from Kingfish - he's building up a nice varied list.

Jay at Horserace Blog looks at state poll numbers

The Horserace Blog: What The State Polls Tell Us (Updated 3:18 CST)

Really good. Don't miss it. I checked a few and his numbers look right. The caveat, of course, is that a few percentage points of shift could change this analysis dramatically.

Also scroll down to the bottom and read Jay's explanation of why he regards Rasmussen's polling as flawed. I won't steal his thunder.

Those Thai women....

are frightening.

Note that the article states that Thai hospitals have achieved some fame for their high rate of success with penis reattachment operations. This is ominous to say the least. Warning to all men - stay away from Thai mail-order brides!

Dave Barry Blog/Division of Labor

Herald.com | 10/24/2004 | In defense of a man's-eye view

You know, I think he's right about the Barbies. I favor the large toy chest, chuck-it-all-in strategy. You know how most kids go through that stage where they take off all their clothes, preferably in the middle of the supermarket? Maybe the child is using her Barbies to express her deep resentment against the clothing Nazis. I would take the position that putting the clothes back on all the time might cause lasting psychological harm.

But then, I'm a philistine on housework. As a teenager I rebelled against ironing the sheets, and argued my case with such fervor and passion that I convinced my mother that the world wouldn't end it they were not ironed. You know what? No one ever complained. On the other hand, I do prefer to scrub floors on my hands and knees. They never get really, really clean if you just mop them.

About Factionalism and Emotion

One thing that we should all safeguard is our own rationality, or so I firmly believe. Right now people are ranting away against both Bush and Kerry. Plenty of people are also advancing reasoned arguments for their positions, but the public tone of political debate is trending downwards. I have linked to a number of different sources in posts below because I thought they illustrated this trend. The single causative difference I can detect is the change in news coverage, which has become both more partisan and far less factual. An additional factor may be that radio coverage didn't evoke the same emotions as TV, with its pictorial evocation of emotions.

When people are debating issues their minds are engaged and emotions are somewhat suppressed. If we simply toss allegations back and forth, inevitably emotions dominate the discussion. I would prefer not to end up in a society populated by 60-somethings with the emotional age of two. When a senator comes out with a quote like "Bush is brain-dead", we are falling into the pit of daycare debate. It doesn't help anyone or anything. There is no excuse for people busting into campaign headquarters, tearing up voter registrations, and harassing each other in polling lines.

I'm 43. When I was a kid, election coverage tended to be a lot more substantive and far less emotional. For instance, even my local newspapers would print the party platforms and long speeches by the candidate in their entirety. I discovered the blogosphere by googling for real news coverage of this election, and it so happened that many of the most interesting, thoughtful and substantive search results turned out to be blogs, and I was hooked.

In my lifetime there have been several crises, and when I was in elementary school the fear of nuclear war was a continuous presence. So although there are very urgent issues at stake in this election, those issues are not more urgent than those of my childhood.

Here Dr. Sanity discusses her reaction to a Krugman editorial.

I'm linking to her on this topic because she is analyzing her own reaction, and trying to explain what so upsets her as a psychiatrist about Krugman. You should also scroll down and read the comments, IMO. She writes:

"While granting that there is certainly a lot of hate in individuals of both sides (hate, after all, is a HUMAN emotion and all of us are human), the interesting thing about the hate that Krugman generates is that it is disguised and self-righteous. It is then "projected" onto Bush and the Republicans, so that he (Krugman) does not have to take any responsibiity for feeling that way. In Krugman's opinion, his way of viewing the world is the only correct way, so why should he have to provide any evidence?"

"The three psychological mechanisms (projection, denial, and displacement) that Krugman routinely displays in his writings are the source of almost all human misery, genocide, racism, anti-semitism, sexism, and now terrorism that we see all over the world."

USNews.com: Mortimer B. Zuckerman: The real truth about Iraq (11/1/04)

On the Duelfer report

The Duelfer report is very long, and while I can download it at Fox News, I really need to get back to a DSL connection before doing so. So I've been searching for summaries, and the above popped up. In a lot of ways it's unfortunate that the report was released so late in the election cycle, because coverage of the report was spun like a gyroscope.

Mr. Zuckerman points out key findings about Iraq's intent to restart its poison gas program and its vastly increased spending on weapons programs before 2002. I have to sympathize with the CIA after reading this editorial. I'm still going to read the actual report this week, though.

UK Oddschecker

Odds - Betting

The Brits sure do love to bet.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

But really, folks

I found an article by Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian from September 22, 2004 entitled "Still No Votes In Leipzig", in which he argues very seriously that Britons should have the right to vote in our elections. Evidently the project to affect the vote in Ohio was an attempt to accomplish this goal in a slightly different manner.

I'm thinking his argument over quite seriously. I think the prerequisite, of course, should be that British voters would have to pay the US income tax. Of course, there would be cheating, so first we would demand a binding extradition treaty with the UK which allowed us to seize their property if they didn't cough up. Also we would need to have the UK government agree to report all UK income to the US, so we'd know if the US taxes were being paid.

Seriously though, doesn't the man understand that his argument parses out to:
- What one state does affects the citizens of another state,
- Therefore all citizens of every state should have the right to vote in another state's elections,
- We are really all one nation,
- All these individual nations should be abolished - the only just situation is one world government.

An Old David Brooks column

Op-Ed Columnist: The Mysterious Stranger

This is a column from December 9, 2003 about Howard Dean. I reread it on a whim today, and was struck by the fact that if I changed the name....

"But Dean runs less on biography than any other candidate in recent years. When he began running for president, he left his past behind, along with the encumbrances that go with it."

"He'll make a string of outspoken comments over a period of weeks — on "re-regulating" the economy or gay marriage — but none of them have any relation to the others. When you actually try to pin him down on a policy, you often find there is nothing there."

"For example, asked how we should proceed in Iraq, he says hawkishly, "We can't pull out responsibly." Then on another occasion he says dovishly, "Our troops need to come home," and explains, fantastically, that we need to recruit 110,000 foreign troops to take the place of our reserves. Then he says we should not be spending billions more dollars there."

"At each moment, he appears outspoken, blunt and honest. But over time he is incoherent and contradictory."

Democratic Underground reports on Missouri

Democratic Underground Forums - I see the Undecideds and soft republicans breaking for Kerry.

I thought this guy was interesting. He sounded very genuine, and I always rely on first-person reporting instead of punditry. I went to check on the polls, and it is pretty close in Missouri. Recent polling has Bush up by 5%. But Kerry's overall favorability rating is 40% compared to Bush's of 51%. We'll see.

Democratic Underground on Hawaii poll

Democratic View it here

A couple of people really don't understand polls. What interested me were several posters commenting that there were more "rightwing" or "hate" programs on radio stations.

(Aside. The only reason I ever listened to Rush Limbaugh was that I had read so many frenzied critiques of him. Many of them were by feminists. I was quite surprised to find that he is definitely not a person who hates, although he really, really didn't like Clinton. Also he had some very funny tapes and songs that made me laugh.)

Froggy Ruminations: Usama bin Laden is Dead

Froggy Ruminations: Usama bin Laden is Dead

A very interesting blogger who is a Navy seal thinks that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Dr.Sanity does too, based on her analysis of his character, which is likely to be a whole lot more authoritative than mine. Dr. Sanity is a psychiatrist.

According to Froggy Ruminations, Bush knows Osama is dead but won't release the information because it would make him a martyr, and "it is important to recognize that the President's committment to killing terrorists supercedes his committment to his own re-election."

On the Hawaii poll

Helpful links to Dales Electoral College Hawaii
and to the Honolulu Advertiser, which contracted for this poll with Ward Research. Gerry notes that Ward's results have not favored either party.

But something is truly odd. Go to the Honolulu Advertiser and scroll down to the bottom, which lists responses on various issues. Hardly looks like it favors Bush, does it?

This is derived from the same sample, so it's not a sampling problem. 54% of the respondents said Bush misled the American people about the reasons for going into the war in Iraq, and only 39% think the war in Iraq made America safer. The write-up is confusing in its references to registered voters, because I thought the results reported were for likely voters.. 31 % of those planning to vote for Bush described themselves as Democrats.

"Ward also said many voters of Japanese descent who typically vote for Democrats seem to be undecided. She said she found a similar trend during the 2002 governor's campaign, when Linda Lingle became the first Republican to win in 40 years."

Could this be more evidence of an underlying shift in preference from the Democratic party to Republican? In 2000, Hawaii voted 55% Gore, 37% Bush.

Good summary of the decison-making process

Asymmetrical Information: Who? Who? Who?

I'm going to link to Jane Galt's blog. This post is followed by a lot of comments which show how people are making their electoral decision. I found it very interesting.

Just look at this article

American Prospect Online - ViewWeb

I'm upset on several counts. If anyone would care to comment about your view, please leave your comments here or a link to them if they are posted at your blog or web page.

I need to calm down before saying what I think.

Beldar Humor

BeldarBlog: The real dirt on John Kerry and his family

A rework of an old joke, but it's very well done and certainly appropriate given the overall tone of this election.

A Vast Right-wing Conspiracy Entry

Everyone fears voter fraud. Robert Kuttner warns of the Republican attempts to steal the election in this American Prospect article. I blinked a bit at:

"Here is a flat prediction: If neither candidate wins decisively, the Bush campaign will contrive enough court challenges in enough states so that we won't know the winner election night.

The right stumbled on a gambit in 2000, which could become standard operating procedure in close elections: If the election ends up in the courts, all courts eventually lead to the Supreme Court, which, as we learned, can overrule state courts -- and pick the president."

My recollection is that Al Gore's campaign started the court challenges. He was not willing to accept the legal process in Florida, which demands that the results be accredited and then challenged, so he went to court to prevent the Secretary of State from certifying the count. Mr. Kuttner does concede that in the past the Democrats were known to engage in voter fraud.

"It was Richard Nixon, that scoundrel's scoundrel, who resisted the temptation to mount a court challenge to the Illinois result because he felt the country couldn't take it. Imagine longing for the days when we had Republican leadership as principled as Nixon's."

Again, the implication here is that Bush was the one who started the legal brouhaha in the last election. I've asked three people, and they all have the same belief that Al Gore's campaign was the one that started it. Please comment below if I'm wrong.

The split electorate.

Lately I've found David Brooks to be the most interesting political columnist. His latest article in the NY Time asks a good question - why, given all of the momentous changes in circumstance, does the political map look so similar to the 2000 map right now?

"The only possible conclusion is that there is some deep, tectonic fissure that shapes the electorate, a fissure so fundamental that it is unaffected by the enormous shocks we've felt over the past four years. Remember, it is very unusual to have two close presidential elections in a row. This hasn't occurred for about 120 years."

His guess:

"In this campaign the two candidates do not just describe different policies. They describe different realities. In short, the partisan rivalry fuels itself. Once an electorate becomes tied, there is a built-in emotional pressure that keeps things that way. Even people who claim to be independents find themselves sucked into the vortex."

I'm thinking about this, because I don't think you can attribute the current situation to partisanship. Something deeper is at work, and my guess is that it's more a sociological phenomenon than the workings of mass hysteria.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Spiegel Interview with Ben Bradlee

I found this interview very interesting. As you know, I've been trying to give a little taste of German concerns and press coverage here. I couldn't find this Spiegel Online article in English, so I translated it quickly. This isn't polished but it is accurate:

From Der Spiegel, October 21st

Interview With Watergate Legend Bradlee

As Head Editor of the Washington Post, Ben Bradlee revealed Richard Nixon's lies about Watergate and forced the American president to step down. In an interview with Spiegel Online, Bradlee invites his colleagues to likewise unrelentingly pursue George W. Bush. (literally, pursue should be harry or encircle)

Spiegel Online:
In 1974 you hunted the liar Nixon out of the White House. Was that a lesson for politicians to stay closer to the truth?

Unfortunately, politicians are still lying. Basically, I believe no statement from Washington. Take the proposition that one can not talk of this or that due to national security; in 90 percent of the cases politicians use this as camouflage to cloak the genuine story. I have often asked myself why politicians lie so much. The most important reason always seems to be that they want to spin, they want to whitewash their mistakes. Happily it doesn't necessarily work - sometimes the truth comes out anyway.

Spiegel Online:
But mostly it takes a while.

Unfortunately often with horrible consequences. Think about Lyndon B. Johnson and his dramatic speech about the alleged Vietnamese attack on the US battleship in the Gulf of Tonkin. Over that he got war powers from Congress in 1964. If the voters had known then that the attack had never taken place, so many men could still be alive. And our country would never have lost its trust in politicians so completely.

Spiegel Online:
Isn't the press also guilty? Almost all of the American media, even the Washington Post, recoiled from calling Bush a liar on account of the Iraqi war.

Oh, I felt they should call him a liar very clearly in headline stories. There were in the meantime editorials regarding weapons of mass destruction that went nearly that far. But as journalists we are reluctant to call someone a liar. During Watergate we knew that the Nixon administration was lying to our faces. We could therefore write: "Richard Nixon explained today he could not discuss Watergate because of national security concerns. This is a lie." Nonetheless it made me uneasy. US reporters want to report objectively, not to judge. We rely on the the truth coming out piece by piece.

Spiegel Online:
But certainly the Washington Post and the New York Times seem to feel a bit guilty. Both papers have apologized for being too uncritical in the reporting of the Iraqi war.

Certainly they were too slow. They relied on the explanations of the administration for too long. And naturally the Republicans were skillful at burying every critical news report under a wave of patriotism.

Spiegel Online:
In such a climate it requires more courage and support to call a lie a lie.

If you, as a US journalist, tangle with the well-connected religious right, you have real problems. And you also have a research problem. It was simple to call Bill Clinton a liar about the Lewinsky scandal, because it was obvious. For Bush one had to research the matter. There are thousands of newspapers in the USA, but most publishers provide no money for in-depth reporting. At the Washington Post Katherine Graham, the publisher, still supported Watergate reporters Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and me, even as the White House threatened to destroy our publisher.

Spiegel Online:
Will politicians continue to come out with lies?

It has to be more difficult for them. Society has become far more mistrustful in the last decades - due to Vietnam and Watergate. Also due to equal rights; women who now work in leading positions in business or the media won't cooperate with the secretiveness and lies of men.

Spiegel Online:
But how will that be reflected in critical reporting?

Above all, because of Watergate many more shrewd, critical people went into journalism. They have to pull themselves together and do their homework: Why is he telling me this? Is it actually true? How will I find independent sources to check it out?

Minor Technical Difficulty

Telegraph | News | Guardian calls it quits in Clark County fiasco

Maybe folks like Kingfish got through to them?

Mr Katz acknowledged that an ever-growing number of Democrats, among them Sharon Manitta, the spokesman in Britain for Democrats Abroad, tried warning The Guardian: "This will certainly garner more votes for George Bush."

Mr Katz wrote yesterday that the paper had considered the possibility, but "we didn't believe it". He insisted: "Folks in Clark County itself have best recognised the spirit of the enterprise. Local media coverage has been consistently fair and good humoured."

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