The Right Coast

October 31, 2004
Yet another entrepreneural scheme
By Tom Smith

Yes, I'm obsessed. The combination of markets and politics is just too much for me. It's a good thing I haven't allowed myself to start following something like the betting markets on college football, or I would just disappear into a black hole.

Oh, let me mention my entrepreneurial idea before I forget. We really need a big, user-friendly play market where people like me could bet play money on political events, sports, movies, national security related events (ok, terrorist attacks). Some academic studies suggest even these play markets do a remarkably good job prognosticating events. Like HSX. And people would dig it.

You could post people's portfolios (or their avatars') so folks could see who the really studly prognosicators were. Everyone would start out with the same amount of play money, as in Monopoly. It's about your forebrain, not your pockets. You'd have to register with your email address and zip code, but we wouldn't spam you. Who knows, it might lead successful players to prominence in the blogosphere, contracts with real investors, or whatever. And, I'm telling you, it would be a valuable information resource for all kinds of people.

And, unlike real money betting, which has to be offshore, it would all be legal, as legal as Monopoly. Once this site was getting a few thousand hits a day, you could sell advertizing. It's not a multi-million dollar idea, but I think a few people could make some money doing it. Oh, yeah, you should be able to bet on weather events too. People love the weather. It's even got its own cable channel. It could be big, I tell you! OK, maybe not. It could be Medium I tell you!

Oh, those chemical weapons
By Tom Smith

Fallujah ITN's (Islamofascist terrorist nutcases) vow to use chemical weapons to resist attack on Fallujah.

How deeply mysterious, when we know there are absolutely no chemical weapons in Iraq, and could not be, as a matter of fundamental faith and doctrine. As has been revealed to us by the MSM, peace be upon its collective heads.

I expect this story will be passed over by the US press, on grounds of being hard to 'splain. If chemical weapons are actually used, expect explanations of how it is Bush's fault.

October 30, 2004
I Don't Really Want to Think about the Electoral College Right Now, But ...
By Gail Heriot

You may have noticed that I haven't been blogging lately. Too much work is the reason. And today is really no different; I have quite a few deadlines staring me in the face. But somehow I have been unable to focus on them. Instead, I've been running to my computer every fifteen minutes or so to check Real Clear Politics.

Up until a few hours ago, the poll averages were suggesting that the outcome would be a split verdict, just like in 2000 but in reverse. Bush would win the popular vote, but Gore ... uh ... I mean Kerry would take the electoral vote and hence the White House. And, of course, it very well might still happen. Although some of the more recent polls are more favorable to Bush in states like Ohio and Wisconsin, it's obvious that this race is going to be tight. I am particularly concerned about Wisconsin going to Kerry, since it allows Election Day registration. In part as a result of the Electoral College system, the incentive to commit voter fraud may be irresistible or at least not be resisted. (As an aside, I'm sure it's true that voter fraud is committed by both Democrats and Republicans, but it is most likely to occur in neighborhoods where the residents are poor and undereducated and those neighborhoods tend to be Democratic. And if this is the first time this has been brought to your attention, you need to get out more.)

If the electoral vote does split, I hope it will make conservatives re-think their recent fondness for the Electoral College. I blogged about this issue several times last month, but I can't link to the items from my home computer, because I'm working with a browser from the 5th century that cannot deal effectively with the Blogger software. Let me summarize: Shortly after the 2000 election, conservative talking heads started taking it upon themselves to argue the virtues of the Electoral College. They evidently thought some defense had to be mounted or else Bush would seem illegitimate. Maybe they were right about the need to make the case. But it seemed a shame to me. Bush was legitimately elected not because the Electoral College is the best method for selecting the President, but because it is the method specified in the Constitution and the method under which the campaign was actually conducted. And whether the Electoral College is the best method or not, it is certainly a legitimate method.

Some of the arguments for Electoral College are perfectly sensible but hardly convincing by themselves. For example, it is probably a virtue of the Electoral College that it tends to magnify a strong popular showing for the winning candidate into an electoral landslide. Mandates like that help make strong leadership possible and on the whole I think that's a good thing.

The argument that one hears over and over again, however, is that the Electoral College forces candidates to pay attention to small states, which they otherwise would ignore. This is false. The real effect of the Electoral College is to focus candidate attention not on small states, but on battleground states, no matter what their size. Bush and Kerry haven't given their attention to voters in Idaho, Vermont and Utah or to voters in New York, Texas and Calfornia. Those electoral votes are already spoken for. It's Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania that get their nearly undivided attention.

That isn't necessarily bad in itself. In the age of television, who cares if Bush and Kerry appear in each state? But in practice it has been a serious problem. It isn't just campaign visits that states are competing for, but the promise of pork. Battleground states get a lot of it. Pennsylvania got its completely indefensible steel tariffs. (The Election gods have a sense of humor, since despite this cheap trick, Bush is behind in Pennsylvania.) Florida's elderly voters were no doubt meant to be impressed with the Medicare expansion. Who knows what promises Kerry has made to state leaders in these states. By its nature, the Electoral College generates a carnival of special interest deals.

But I need to think about this admittedly complex issue later, not today. And if the split vote occurs, I will have that opportunity. Dean Rodriguez has given his okay for a Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues symposium on the Electoral College. It will be my consolation prize in case of a Bush loss. No, I don't expect anything will come of it in the real world even if every academic who considers the issue ends of agreeing that change is warranted. Constitutional amendments must be approved by three quarters of the states, and states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oregon, Missouri, Nevada, and West Virginia are unlikely to give up their gravy train voluntarily. But you never know.

A little Halloween story
By Tom Smith

This isn't the scariest thing that ever happened to me, but it will have to do.

So, anyway, not quite 20 years ago, I was driving my little Montero from Colorado to Idaho. It was summer, and I planned to just sleep rough when I got tired of driving. That happened somewhere in Northwestern Colorado, not far from the Utah border. It was late at night, a full moon was out, and I was in the very middle of nowhere. I was on some highway, not a freeway, and started looking for a dirt road off into the high grassland where I could throw my sleeping bag. Eventually I spotted one.

I turned off the highway to the north, and drove a couple of miles in 4 wheel drive, climbing through brushy, hilly country. Finally, the road petered out at a little, broken down coral. It seemed as good a place as any, so I stopped the jeep and got out.

As soon as I got out of the jeep, I was struck by a feeling that this was a bad place. Hard to say why, though the full moon shining its cold light on forlorn, broken fence rails didn't help. Next to the coral was a little shed. I thought just to careful, I should check it out, and make sure nobody was there.

I walked to the shed and pushed open the door. It was black inside, so I shone my flashlight around. The walls were splattered with something like black paint, and little bits of stuff. I took me a moment to figure out what it was. Then to my horror, I realized it was blood, and the little bits of stuff bits of flesh stuck to the walls. It was extremely unsettling. I quickly looked around to make sure I wasn't be stalked by somebody with a chainsaw, got back in my jeep, and drove a while until a found a little hill with a 360 view to camp on. I wasn't the most restful night.

I realized later what had happened was innocent enough. It's routine in managing cattle that you occassionally have to cut some beef critter out of the herd and slaughter it. It may be sick, or break a leg, or you just need some meat for the cowboys. I had stumbled across a corral and a shack where cattle were slaughtered, in conditions none too sanitary. But I was struck when I first got out of the jeep that it was a bad place. Perhaps the ghosts of sad cows, or perhaps just a faint odor of blood in the air, not enough to recognize consciously, but enough to turn on a little warning light in the old part of the brain.

Bias and (In)Competence
By Mike Rappaport

Many people, including the Economist Magazine, have argued that Bush has been running the Wars on Terror and in Iraq incompetently and support Kerry on that basis. But what about the War in Afghanistan? The Bush Administration has been tremendously successful there, defeating the Taliban, forcing Pakistan to become an ally, and instituting the beginnings of democracy. See here.

If Bush is so incompetent, how has he been able to pull off these feats? Of course, it is sometimes said that Afghanistan was easy, but that is not how it was initially perceived. After all, war in Afghanistan had defeated the Soviets.

The Bush critics are selective in their focus. Here is my explanation for the success in Afghanistan and the relative difficulty in Iraq (I say relative because I am not pessimistic about the prospects of some freedom in Iraq so long as Bush is reelected). Terrorists from other countries have chosen to focus on Iraq, so the job here is much harder. Moreover, the difficulty in fighting such terrorists cannot solely or easily be attributed to the incompetence of the Bush Administration. The Israelis, who are experienced at this and are hardly incompetent, also have a difficult time fighting terrorists (in their own country). If the Israelis have a hard time and cannot easily stop terror, the critics of the Bush Administration expect too much.

It is not that the Bush Administration has not made mistakes. Of course it has. But it is important to recognize that this is a new type of war for the US and mistakes were inevitable. It is unrealistic to expect an Administration to display the competence of Kerry's (or Andrew Sullvian's) hindsight.

Cool new hominid
By Tom Smith

Little people.

More electoral college madness!
By Tom Smith

Here's what you can do: open two browser windows, and put one the RCP electoral college projections and the other on the tradesports state lines. (click on any state on the home page.) This gives you a pretty good idea what we are looking at.

Bush still needs 38 electoral votes if you give him NM, 43 if you do not. Let's not: more conservative and NM really is corrupt. Tradesports gives W a 55 percent chance in NM, but let's discount that. If enchanted ballot boxes don't disappear, well and good. Where does W get 43 votes? He has to get FL with 27, and probably will. If he doesn't he's dead. Tradesports gives him about a 60 probability, and has for 2 weeks at least. That leaves 16 votes to get. Where? Ohio is a possibility but I doubt it. Tradesports has him at around 49 there, which seems right to me. I take PA and MN are Kerry as well. What about Iowa and Wisconsin? Barely for Bush, with 17 votes between them. Just enough.

So W is still the favorite. The above is conservative because I leave out NM and OH for Bush. Either could happen. In fact NM is now at about 58 on tradesports. Maybe the market knows something I don't. Hmmmm. And Ohio has jumped up 3 points to right around 50. Thanks, OBL. The overall line for Bush is about 55, which seems about right. IEM is at 57. So call it 56.

UPDATE: Interesting phone call from my brother Steve in HI. He says the island state may really be in play, contrary to the CW. New polls showing an even split are accurate, he believes. What's doing it are the Philippinos, very devout Catholics and a substantial minority of the population. Also, they tend to be closed mouthed about politics to outsiders, so polls may be underrepresenting them. Cheney is on his way to HI, so GOP internals must show it really is in play.

AND Holy Kachina, Batman! NM just jumped on tradesports by 16 points! WTH is that about! Now there's a huge spread. Does somebody know something? New poll just out? Maybe W does have a shot in the land of coyotes and trendy cuisine. Maybe it's some weird, spiritual thing. I'll throw my bones and let you know.

October 29, 2004
Bush's task in Iraq is easier than Kerry's
By Mike Rappaport

Many bloggers, such as Andrew Sullivan, have argued that Kerry could do a better job in Iraq than Bush. I seriously doubt it, but their analysis makes another mistake. It assumes that it will be as easy for Kerry to fight in Iraq as it is for Bush.

The whole world assumes that Kerry is less committed in Iraq than Bush. If Kerry wins, the terrorists are likely to increase their attacks in an effort to test Kerry and to persuade him to withdraw from Iraq. By contrast, Bush's win is, if anything, likely to lead to a reduction in attacks, since some of the attacks appear to have been designed to cause Bush to lose the election.

Thus, if Bush wins, he will have an easier task in Iraq than Kerry will have if he wins.

Steyn On The Line
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Mark Steyn says he will resign from political journalism if Kerry wins; and explains why he doesn't expect to have to resign.
I don’t think it will come to that. This is the 9/11 election, a choice between pushing on or retreating to the polite fictions of September 10. I bet on reality.
Read the whole thing.

Make their day
By Tom Smith

Well put:

But above all, in this oppositional sort of age, when it is often easier to be defined by what one is against rather than what one is for, I have to say it is his enemies who most justify Bush's reelection.

The list of those whose world could be truly rocked on Tuesday is just too long and too rich to be ignored. If you think for a moment about those who would really be upset by a second Bush term, it becomes a lot easier to stomach.

The hordes of the bien-pensant Left in the universities and the media, the sort of liberals who tolerate everything except those who disagree with them. Secularist elites who disdain religiosity except when it comes from Muslim fanatics. Europhile Brits who drip contempt for everything their country has ever done and long for its disappearance into a Greater Europe. Absurd, isolationist conservatives in America and Britain
who think the struggles for freedom are always someone else's fight. Hollywood sybarites and narcissists, self-appointed arbiters of a nation's morals.

Soft-headed Europeans who think engagement and dialogue with mass murderers is the way to achieve lasting peace. French intellectuals for whom nothing has gone right in the world since 1789.

The United Nations, which, if it had its multilateral way, would still be faithfully minding a world in which half the population lived under or in fear of Soviet aggression. Most of Belgium.

Above all, of course, Middle Eastern militants. If your bitterest enemies are the sort of people who hack the heads off unarmed, innocent civilians, then I would say you are probably doing something right.

This may sound petty. It is not. This constellation of individuals, parties and institutions has very little in common other than the fact that it has contrived to be wrong on just about every important issue of my adult lifetime.

And so, perhaps for the wrong reasons, perhaps less because he has been right and more because those who hate him so much have been so wrong, I want this President re-elected.

Go on America. Make Their Day.

History's highest priced phone sex
By Tom Smith

So you can discuss nipples with female subordinates. Just be ready to shell out 2-3 mil. Berrrry eeenteresting link here on the O'Reilly settlement. He's smart to settle. And now what's her name can retire, if she wants to. Everybody's happy, except, presumably Mrs. O'Reilly and kids. Time for O'Reilly to log some hours with old Father O'Shaemehaughnegaghsonie down at Our Lady of Perpetual Tribulation. "Ah, so, an' it's bein' a scumbag, are ya?" Bill, do us all a favor, and keep your impure thoughts to yerself next time. Keep a diary or something. Better yet, take up powerwalking. Fresh air and exercise. I'm glad to be wrong about the end of the career of Bill. It proves I can be wrong, which makes me feel better about the upcoming vote on the fate of freedom. (Please note -- link is source of clever post title.)

Your eyeball on the betting markets
By Tom Smith

So here's the deal. Take a deck of cards. Throw out the jokers. Throw out the black one-eyed jacks. Shuffle thoroughly. Draw a card. If it's red, Bush wins. If it's black, well, hope terrorism isn't the threat it sure as hell looks like. And get ready for some very unpleasant gloating. It won't be Camelot. Sucksalot, more like it. But let's try not to be negative. Time in your remote wilderness location builds strong families, and MREs are really pretty tastey. OK, I'll try again. Clinton people tell me that the national security establishment does a really good job sobering up clueless presidents. Or, maybe the polls and markets are wrong. And there are a few days left. Maybe the polls do a better job of getting out the vote than the voters will.

To me, this looks likes things getting tighter in Ohio. I still don't believe W will get PA or MI. If he does, it means internal polls really are better. Now, Ohio has tightened up before in the wake of Kerry visits. Bizarre, I know. Then the effect seems to wear off. So maybe . . .

Dick Morris, that toe-sucking son of a gun, says it's W all the way, relying on fundamental analysis. Well, OK. We'll just have to wait and see. Zogby calls it for Kerry. Zogby has made some good calls in the past, but he's still a partisan, and past performance is not that good an indicator.

Moments like this really make you think monarchy has its advantages. Not-that-bonnie-Prince Charlie might be available. Or may be Ariana Huffington? She'd have to agree to change her philosophy, but she'd be game. Or how about Emperor Volokh? He's a reasonable guy. Sorry, Brian, you're disqualified. I know! Ah nold! Ah nold! He's been a ruler before. But that is another story.

October 28, 2004
October Surprise, Anyone?
By Mike Rappaport

Tomorrow is the most likely day for an October surprise -- the Friday before the election. I find these surprises -- these last minute revelations that do damage largely because of their timing -- to be outrageous. Without the late release of Bush's DWI conviction four years ago, my guess is that George Bush would have won the electoral college clearly and probably would have won the popular vote. Tweleve years ago, Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh issued an indictment of Caspar Weinberger four days before the election, including in the indictment prejudicial statements about George H. W. Bush that were completely unnecessary. If memory serves, the Department of Justice had guidelines forbidding the indictment of government officials within a month of an election. At that time, George Bush was surging in the polls and was at a statistical tie with Clinton. After the indictment, which was of course played up in the media, Bush's momentum stopped and he started falling back. To my mind, Walsh's action was an impeachable offense and the worst thing any independent counsel ever did. Yet despite all of the complaints about Ken Starr by Democrats, Democrats have rarely criticized or even mentioned this incident.

Last minute hits should be prohibited. The question is how to do it. One possibility is simply to pass a law prohibiting the publication of information about a candidate within the last week before an election, if the information was known prior to that time. No, I don't like this solution either, since it restrains freedom of speech. But it is still worth noting that the Supreme Court already allows restrictions on freedom of speech at election time (they are called campaign finance laws), that the media support these restrictions, that the media are privileged under these restrictions, and that media outlets who plan their stories right before the election -- yes that means you, CBS -- are behaving as political actors. So it would serve the media right to be subjected to the law prohibiting late hits, but I still don't support the law.

Perhaps a better solution is to move further in the direction of allowing voting in the two weeks before election day. Since there is no one day when we all vote, it is hard to drop a bombshell that will unduly influence us all. Of course, an election fortnight, instead of an election day, may have other problems.

The Belmont Club on Arafat
By Mike Rappaport

Extremely powerful post by the Belmont Club on Arafat. Here is an excerpt:

Twenty years of European and UN Middle Eastern policy may be lying on the deathbed with Arafat. That they had to fly in doctors to treat him in a makeshift clinic underscores how, after 50 years of UN relief and billions in European investment, there are no Palestinian institutions. Not even decent hospitals for its supreme leader.

Palestine was cursed by the example of Algeria, which after evicting the French, could spend the next three decades cleansing itself of the poisons of terrorism. Arafat forgot that the Jews, unlike the French in Algeria, were as much a part of region as themselves. In place of protracted war, which at all events ends, Arafat embarked upon an eternal war with the eternal Jew. He would enter Algeria's tunnel of terror with no light at the end of it.

The Intifada may have hurt Israel, but it consumed Palestine, leaving it with only the counterfeit of a functioning society. Terrorism leaves nothing but ash. And when Arafat dies, as all men must, his legacy, no less than his corpse will be contested by a swarm of pretenders -- a power struggle, of possibly surpassing savagery among men nurtured -- at the European taxpayer's dime -- for their skill at terror. The Guardian has a piece, really an advance obituary, describing how only America, Israel and England refused to invest in Arafat. They mean it as reproof, unaware even of its irony.

Mad Crowd Disease and the Slate of Endorsements
By Maimon Schwarzschild

As has been widely observed (at least in the blogosphere), the Slate contributors almost all say they are voting for Kerry, although many of them are barely civil about him. (One of the very few pro-Bush exceptions is a brave Slate intern!) The New Republic magazine, which at times in its recent history has printed a wide variety of centre-left to centre-right opinions, this year is stridently pro-Kerry (with the possible exception, slightly weirdly under the circumstances, of the New Republic's owner, Marty Peretz): an almost unanimous chorus, otherwise, in every issue of the magazine. I have noticed the same sort of thing even among some otherwise conservative law professors. And there are well-known right-wing academics who deflect the question by saying they will vote Libertarian this year.

What's the explanation for the even-more-than-usual unanimity -- anti-Bush unanimity, at least -- in these circles? One possibility of course is that G. W. Bush is just as evil and moronic as his adversaries, Old Media and otherwise, have so stridently insisted for four years that he is. The wise pundits see this, even if I don't. But, as I say, I don't. So do I have any alternate explanation?

Accelerating polarization, and tribalization, of politics is the only explanation that makes sense to me. Why else are centre-right intellectuals loudly broadcasting their support of what amounts to a mainstreamed Henry Wallace candidacy? The reality is that the long-standing liberal near-monopolies in academia, journalism, the arts, and the "helping professions" have gotten political religion: there is a pervasive air of political rage and fervour in these quarters. The liberal orthodoxy is not new; but the feverish level of feeling is. To announce for Bush in these surroundings is, quite simply, to incur personal excommunication: an end to friendly feeling from many if not all the people around you. Not many people are eager to be "dis-fellowshipped" to that degree.

Perhaps a few of the apparent-goers-along will quietly vote for Bush in the privacy of the voting booth. (Are there booths anymore? Not at my San Diego polling place...) But most won't. The cognitive dissonance would be too great. It's a lot easier to believe what you've decided to say you believe. The madness of the crowd sweeps you along.

It may be a cliche now, but it really was brilliant when Harold Rosenberg first saw it, and named it, half a century ago: the herd of independent minds.

October 27, 2004
Don't feel sorry for Chairman Arafat
By Tom Smith

Where he's going, there will be a lot of people he can talk to about how much he hates the Jews.

Those darn Russians
By Tom Smith

They're better at this sort of thing than saving children.

More electoral college analysis
By Tom Smith

Real smart analysis over at RCP on the electoral college permutations.

Read it, but bear some things in mind. Bush is not going to win PA, unless the markets are way off. It's possible Rove has some super-secret inside polls, which would explain why POTUS was in PA today, but I doubt it. He also isn't going to win Michigan. But he probably will win at least one of Ohio and Wisconsin, probably will win Iowa and probably will win Florida. New Mexico? Well, he may win the vote, but the count will go to Kerry, or I'm a dad burned fool. New Mexico is like Texas without the law and order, or the wealth. If Bush loses Florida, that tells me the markets were wrong, Dem GOTV was working, blacks are turning out in large numbers for Kerry, and it's hard to see why Bush wouldn't lose Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa as well. Kerry near landslide. But we have no reason to believe that will happen, except Dem chestpounding (or whatever the PC equivalent of chest pounding). I think it's possible Bush could win in theory by picking up NM and NH, if he won Florida and lost all the midwest. But I don't see him winning NM, or losing all the midwest either.

Diplomad gets it right
By Tom Smith

You really do get a different perspective living abroad. Dmad is right on about ferrin elites. He's also right it's going to be rather a disaster if Kerry wins. Ironic that history should throw up such a feather weight when we could really use a leader. I'm not saying Bush is Reagan, but like many ordinary guys at Omaha Beach, he figured out in a hurry what was necessary. Kerry strikes me as a strange man, driven by his ambitions to take on a job he is really not suited for.

While I am worried, I still think Bush is the favorite. The way I see it, Bush has to win Florida and either Ohio or Wisconsin. He is likely to win Florida, and very likely to win either Ohio or Wisconsin. Multiply the probabilities together and you get roughly the scrotum-tightening 55 percent the markets give him (tradesports and IEM have converged on that). That's tighter than a few days ago, but still better than Kerry's 45 percent. Unfortunately, I do think some judicial falderal is likely, but probably not as bad as 2000's perfect political storm. Of course, these are all just subjective probabilities. New information could enter the market. We'll find out in a few days how effective our Homeland Security improvements have been. Unfortunately, I don't think some sort of low tech hostage massacre or the like is out of the question. I am not expecting germs or gamma rays, but who knows.

Tea leaves are hard to read. Bush was in Lancaster, PA today. Why? I don't see how he can win PA, but maybe the internal Bush polls show something different. OTH, Kerry was in Iowa today. Same question. Recent polls from Zogby show Iowa and Michigan tied, and Kerry slightly ahead in Ohio and Wisconsin. If Kerry wins both Ohio and Wisconsin, Bush is done, but I think that's a one-in-four shot for John John at best. I also don't believe Kerry is going to win Iowa, though I grant that's a better shot than PA for Bush. Maybe PA is a Rove feint. I also think MI is solid Kerry, whatever the polls say.

Last minute mudball from the Dems? Completely possible, but if they have something, they've done a good job keeping it secret. Bush love-child, aborted lovechild, some Iraq nastiness, anything's possible. Risky business for the Kerrygators, however, and they may not want to try it. Also, Ms. Cahill seems to be a little bit less of a total scumbag than the Arkansas crowd. But maybe not. So, the election promises to be horribly exciting.

Drezner Reloaded
By Mike Rappaport

Unsurprisingly, the Slate staff is overwhelmingly in favor of Kerry. I remember having an argument with another blogger about where Slate stood, and he claimed they were centrist. I suppose he meant by the standards of the academy.

Daniel Drezner writes that "This is a foreign policy election for me, and I've never been less enthused about my choice of major party candidates—it's like being forced to decide whether The Matrix: Reloaded or The Matrix: Revolutions is the better movie." For once, I agree. Both are flawed movies (as compared to the original Matrix), but Matrix Reloaded is clearly superior, and Bush is clearly the better candidate.

Blog Power
By Mike Rappaport

Instapundit guest blogger Megan McArdle complains about a tech problem with HP printers and gets an unsolicited call from HP attempting to fix the problem. That is what 200,000 visitors a day will get you.

Sullivan on Bush and Kerry
By Mike Rappaport

What a shock! After claiming he supported neither Bush nor Kerry, Andrew Sullivan endorses Kerry after all. For those who have been reading his blog consistently, it is hardly a surprise. Why was it a surprise to Andrew?

Something else that Andrew does not seem to realize. While he denies that the main cause of his endorsement of Kerry is Bush's view on same sex marriage, it seems pretty clear from the pattern of his comments over time that he began to really view Bush negatively only when Bush supported the Federal Marriage Amendment.

There is nothing wrong with Sullivan believing this is an important issue, but Sullivan seems less than fully honest (to himself or to his readers) not to realize or admit how important this issue has been in shaping his view of the election.

The case set forth in his endorsement is, to me at least, not terribly persuasive. Sadly, it is on a par with many of the other "right wing" endorsements of Kerry, such as Dan Drezner's. For example, Sullivan endorses Kerry as to fiscal matters as follows: "Domestically, Kerry is clearly Bush's fiscal superior. At least he acknowledges the existence of a fiscal problem, which this president cannot." That a challenger points out fiscal problems in the government run by the incumbent may be one of Kerry's greatest achievements, but it is hardly an accomplishment worth mentioning.

October 26, 2004
Worrisome thoughts from Morris
By Tom Smith

Polls are unreliable this year and other worries for W. All by the smartest man who has ever been caught barking like a dog for a prostitute. Which gives us another rule for life. If you like to do embarrassing things with prostitutes, make very sure you create no record thereof.

'ave a cuppa tea
By Tom Smith

Tea may improve memory and fight dementia.

Which reminds me:

The Kinks
Have A Cuppa Tea Album Lyrics:
Muswell Hillbillies

Granny's always ravin' and rantin'
And she's always puffin' and pantin',
And she's always screaming and shouting,
And she's always brewing up tea.

Grandpappy's never late for his dinner,
Cos he loves his leg of beef
And he washes it down with a brandy,
And a fresh made cup of tea.

Chorus: Have a cuppa tea, have a cuppa tea,
have a cuppa tea, have a cuppa tea,
Halleluja, halleluja, halleluja, Rosie Lea
Halleluja, halleluja, halleluja Rosie Lea.

If you feel a bit under the weather,
If you feel a little bit peeved,
Take granny's stand-by potion For any old cough or wheeze.
It's a cure for hepatitis it's a cure for chronic insomnia,
It's a cure for tonsilitis and for water on the knee.


Tea in the morning, tea in the evening, tea at supper time,
You get tea when it's raining, tea when it's snowing. Tea when the weather's fine,
You get tea as a mid-day stimulant You get tea with your afternoon tea
For any old ailment or disease
For Christ sake have a cuppa tea.


Whatever the situation whatever the race or creed,
Tea knows no segregation, no class nor pedigree
It knows no motivations, no sect or organisation,
It knows no one religion, Nor political belief.


October 25, 2004
Try this in France
By Tom Smith

Here's the concept. Go to France and say, "I'm gay, and I'm a Jew!" They wouldn't know whether to make criticism of your lifestyle illegal, or beat you up! Those darn French. So chic, they're incoherent.

Now that's what I call a correction
By Tom Smith

You could almost get the impression that the Post has it in for Cheney.

The Atmosphere at Harvard
By Mike Rappaport

Harvard Professor Ruth R. Wisse writes in the Journal on the intolerant political climate at Harvard and the rest of the academy. Here is an excerpt:

One of the most refreshing things about President Bush is his immunity from intellectual intimidation. More than his decision to go to war in Iraq, more than the religious values I share with him (though I do not share his religion), I appreciate that, though he has to struggle for language, he expresses unapologetically his commitment to the strength of our nation. By contrast, through their opposition to the military, my clever colleagues have done everything they could to make America indefensible.

The Teaching Company: Tudor and Stuart England
By Mike Rappaport

I just finished another superb course from the Teaching Company: The History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts. The lecturer, Robert Bucholz, is clear, balanced, and focuses on the significant issues.

I have been quite interested in British history, especially because of my work in constitutional originalism. I have researched particular aspects of the 17th and 18th century British Constitution, such as the King's power over spending or his veto. The course filled in the broader issues.

The story of England during this period is really fascinating, especially for those who love liberty. Without the emergence of liberty in Britain, the modern world would be far different and far worse. The traditional versions of the story -- either Whig history or socialist history -- seem deficient and Bucholz presents a balanced and believable tale.

One especially interesting part of the story involves the role of Catholics during this period. On the one hand, English liberty comes despite the limited persecution of Catholics, with Parliaments refusing to tolerate Catholics. This part is obviously unattractive. Yet, the situation is more complicated, because Catholicism involved international politics and an attempt to impose an unlimited monarchy on England. In this sense, the opposition and at times prejudice against Catholics was similar to the opposition to communists at various points in American history -- communists who sought to use lawful democratic means (as well as unlawful means) to take over the United States. Bucholz does a very good job of describing the morally ambiguous response of England to domestic and international Catholicism.

401k credit cards
By Tom Smith

I think it's a good idea. There will be people who blow their retirement egg at Vegas, but so what? Larry Summers et al. seem right to me. If you make savings more liquid, people will be more likely to save. It's part of that whole ownership of property thing. I wish the Post would tell us how much the inventor is going to make. It's interesting that he and Modigliani patented the idea.

The whole story of the 401(k) is a beautiful thing. I'll link to it someday if I can find an on-line account. It was invented by some executive compensation expert strictly for the use of top executives. Then it sort of got out of control. The IRS wanted to shut the 'loophole' down, but the constinuency in favor of it grew so fast the IRS was stymied. A huge force for the privatization of capital and retirement was born.

401(k) plans continue to grow. They're powerful engines for savings and economic growth because among other things, they create a gigantic risk pool in the form of all the investors out there who bear some risk of market fluctuation, instead of some intermediary, like the backers of defined benefit plans, having to bear it. A beautiful thing. Now, if we can just privatize social security, we'll grow so rich we'll never have to give a damn what Europe thinks about anything again. Maybe that's why Kerry's against it.

Euro-fication of UK warfighting
By Tom Smith

An alert Right Coast reader sends me this interesting link about what's going on behind the scenes in Britain's and the EU's plans to transform its military. Neither simple nor encouraging.

Cool boat
By Tom Smith

Check this out. A former student of mine is crewing on this new high-tech boat which is being developed for the navy.

I like boats. If surfing doesn't work out for me, I may get one. They may not make surfboards big enough for me to stand up on, but I'm sure they make boats that big. There may be a slight problem with my lovely wife Jeanne, who has refused to go sailing with me since certain incidents on the Potomac years ago, which were entirely not my fault. But that was years ago, so maybe . . .

October 24, 2004
Vintage Eurodrivel
By Tom Smith

Here is Timothy Ash, who is apparently now a professor at Oxford, arguing America must elect Kerry or else our 'alliances' will really be in trouble. I have a book Ash wrote while still a graduate student but which I never read. Now I guess I know I don't need to.

I'm not sure I was present at the same Reagan administration as Ash was. I know Gorby came to DC in 1988, but by then he was a whipped puppy. The idea that Ronnie was turning from confrontation to detente because he'd finally caught the peace train is just rubbish.

As to France and Germany, I mean, truly, has there ever been a more apt application for that famous saying about the Vice Presidency? Our alliances with them are not worth a bucket of warm spit. Let's be real: the French were Saddam's allies, bought and paid for. They have no army that isn't more trouble than it's worth. The Germans could have one if they wanted to, but they don't. If the Brits go wobbly they do, but sucking up to the French is hardly the way to reassure our British allies.

As to Ash's warning, you better watch out, or Europe will decide to become a superpower and oppose you! What a joke. We will be lucky if we don't end up bailing Europe out again from economic catastrophe when their underfunded welfare states implode. It's going to be a long time before they're ready to project power anywhere. The biggest threat they present is selling advanced technology to terrorist states, something France at least has proven adept at.
France has no more business on the security council than Greenland. It would be worth getting upset about except that the UN is such a joke. We should just turn the UN building into condos, and give first dibs to people who got bombed out on 9-11. I think the General Assembly hall would make a great health club, or maybe a disco. Among many tragic things about the UN is all that wasted Manhattan real estate.

Unless something very profound changes in Old Europe, it's just done. Brussels is busy packing the arteries of commerce with bureaucratic lard, no one with a university education is reproducing, they don't believe in military force and certainly not paying for one, Muslims who seem largely to revile Europeans traditions are moving north in droves, and Europe's idea of a leader is a bloated hack like Jacques Chirac. I would be the first to agree that Europe was nice while it lasted, but now its destiny seems to be to become an object lesson in how not flourish in the new world.

Canadistan health care
By Tom Smith

Mark Steyn gives us this little nugget:

So this is no time to vote for Europhile delusions. The Continental health and welfare systems John Kerry so admires are, in fact, part of the reason those societies are dying. As for Canada, yes, under socialized health care, prescription drugs are cheaper, medical treatment's cheaper, life is cheaper. After much stonewalling, the Province of Quebec's Health Department announced this week that in the last year some 600 Quebecers had died from C. difficile, a bacterium acquired in hospital. In other words, if, say, Bill Clinton had gone for his heart bypass to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, he would have had the surgery, woken up the next day swimming in diarrhea and then died. It's a bacterium caused by inattention to hygiene -- by unionized, unsackable cleaners who don't clean properly; by harassed overstretched hospital staff who don't bother washing their hands as often as they should. So 600 people have been killed by the filthy squalor of disease-ridden government hospitals. That's the official number. Unofficially, if you're over 65, the hospitals will save face and attribute your death at their hands to "old age" or some such and then "lose" the relevant medical records. Quebec's health system is a lot less healthy than, for example, Iraq's.

Just so you know, 600 people dying of infections contracted in the hospitals of a single province, especially when the real number is probably a lot higher, is a lot.

Let's put it this way. If you are an American, and traveling to Canada, you should get medical evacuation insurance, just like you should if you are traveling to Liberia. When I took my young 'uns and pregnant wife to Peru summer before last to commune with the rainforest critters, I bought a gold-plated medical evacuation policy that would have covered private jet ambulance and the whole bit. Two hundred bucks for a month and every penny worth it. While we were there, my then 9 year old fell off a fence in the Cathedral Square in Lima, cracked his head on a cobblestone and bled like crazy. My lovely physician wife Jeanne elected to apply pressure and forgoe stitches at the local infirmary, which she didn't want to see, let alone take her child into. Yes, I'm sure there are good doctors in Peru and Canada as well and that with the right combination of contacts and cash you can actually get good medical care. Or you can wrap your kerchief tight and head for Americuh.

I'm not to worried about US medical care. Maybe I should be. In the unfortunate event M. Kerry is elected, there is no way his stupid medical plan will get through Congress. The insurance companies and the drug companies will kill it like the baccilus it is. Like we need our chemo therapy being rationed by the same sort of people that run the DMV. You'd having a better shot bringing back prohibition.

I'm sure rural Arkansas is no bargain, but in any decent sized American city, you can get medical care of amazingly high quality. It helps to have insurance, but you can also just show up at an emergency room. Health care financing in this country is very messed up, but the quality of care in your average American town, is, I would bet, better than all but the quite wealthy get in France or Germany. In Canada, you probably just drive south. So why don't Americans live longer? Because we are so fat and get so little exercise. Take away our health care, and we'd really be in trouble.

Interesting but scary
By Tom Smith

New voters. Do they know what they're doing?

Fodor, Not on Travel
By Maimon Schwarzschild

If you're at all interested in philosophy, or even if you aren't really, you'll enjoy Jerry Fodor's very funny review, in the London Review of Books, of a new book about Saul Kripke. Kripke was a leading figure in recent Anglo-American philosophy. Fodor explains the issues. He will also make you laugh.

October 23, 2004
Just another terrorist
By Tom Smith

Time to add another name to the no-fly list. Charlie Booker wouldn't want to come to an awful country like the USA anyway. Better to hang out with Cat Stevens bin Laden or whatever his name is.

A scary dream
By Tom Smith

I was walking my dog, when suddenly I was attacked by swarms of nannites, all armed with assault rifles. Fortunately, there were cats around, so I was able to grab one by the tail and use it to beat off the nannites. None of this would happen, I thought, if we had sensible regulations on nannites and assault rifles. Cats are useful, however. Some guy was standing there recording the whole thing with his digital camera.

Sorry. Hits have been down lately and I am suffering from pangs of envy.

Professor Tom the Oracle speaks
By Tom Smith

Since I know you're dying to know, here's what I think is going to happen in the election. I concede it is based mostly on watching the betting markets, that do show signs of manipulation. But I'm guessing no one has bothered to manipulate the state lines, which have been pretty consistent over the past few weeks.

First, I think Bush will win Florida. Jeb has been good on hurricanes, and the line has not dipped below 60 percent for the GOP. The Dems may pull off wonders with the get out the prisoner vote, but I doubt it. If Bush wins the swamp state, it will be very hard for the Dems to win.

I doubt Bush will win Ohio. It is possible, but it requires optimism, never my strong suit, to say he'll win. Bush was above 60 in the line a few weeks ago, but has been hovering just above 50 for awhile. Anything's possible, but with corruption and GOTV (closely related phenomena), I would bet on the Dems in Ohio.

Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Minnesota going for the GOP? Dream on. If that happens, polls are seriously flawed in ways markets can't see. Possible but unlikely. New Mexico? I don't think so. NM is, how to put this delicately?, a stinking cesspool of political corruption. The land of the enchanted, disappearing ballot box. I love NM. Georgeous state. But politically hygenic, it is not. They probably already have Kerry ballots printed up and ready to go if necessary. Maybe they should just declare Kerry the winner in NM and get it over with.

So, if Bush wins Florida, and everywhere else where he should win, he will probably win the election. Not surprisingly, when they're not in the throes of manipulation, that's pretty much what the bookies say. The lines on Bush winning the election, and Bush winning Florida have been pretty much in lockstep, now, both a little above 60. Whatever creepoid has been making runs on tradesports will probably try it again before 11/2, so watch for that.

Of course, anything could happen. Terrorist attack. Last minute Dem mudball. A Bush lovechild is a sobering thought, I grant you. Maybe both Bush daughters are lesbians? There is no theory that says there's always a last minute momentum shift--that's just superstition.

Another possibility is that the polls are systematically skewed left, as it turned out they were in Australia. Or skewed GOP because of all the young and restless who are going to stop watching MTV long enough to vote, assuming they can find the polls while stoned. And they don't show up in surveys because they only use cellphones. Which is also sobering. How often can you say "it was like so totally cute!" I don't think they should be allowed to watch TV unsupervised, lot alone vote, except perhaps in New Mexico, where they could do little harm. Voter registration drives are like so totally irresponsible.

So, I think it's about 60-40 Bush, odds wise. It's like being on a flight, and pilot says you have a 60 percent chance of landing safely.

"Sharedholder activism" as blackmail
By Tom Smith

So here, apparently, is what happened with "Stolen Honor." Bill Lerach, strike suit entrepreneur, threatened Sinclair with a shareholder suit if it ran the movie. Then the controller of the state of New York, in charge of a public employee pension funds, threatened Sinclair with legal action as well. Sinclair caved, but who can blame them. Running the movie probably would have been good business, but standing up to political thuggery is not.

This may be the most outrageous thing Bill Lerach has done since he vowed, with respect to legal economist Dan Fischel, to "put that little fucker out of business." A remark that cost him $50 million or so when Fischel sued him, and won. Does anyone need to ask if trial lawyers have too much power when they use it to muzzle the free press? Why is it, someone remind me, that we call these people "liberals"? The only thing liberal about them is the liberal way they use their money to keep themselves in power. It is time everyone with a libertarian bone in their bodies realize the Democrats are as hostile to liberty as the most benighted, snake handling, bible thumping fundamentalist nutcase. At least those nutcases don't call themselves liberals. It would be giving Lerach to much credit to say he is just trying to do the public the good of sparing them a movie that would be bad for them. If Bush wins, the odds of tort reform go up. Shutting down a movie critical of Kerry is good business for the tort kings of the world. Of course, the liberal thing to do would be to congratulate yourself on the good you've done for the public, that just happens to be so good for business, preferably at a charity event where 5 percent goes to charity organizations, who in turn spend a little on your favorite group of victims. Make sure they're registered to vote.

As to the New York state pension fund, well, some of us in the corporate law world said a long time ago that shareholder activism was a bad idea. Pension funds are run by bureaucrats, who are no more immune to the temptations of power than anybody else. The idea that a New York pension fund has an economic stake in whether Sinclair shows a movie, which probably would have garnered many viewers, is beyond absurd. The political hack who made that call should be tossed out of her job, but who's going to launch the hostile tender offer on the pension fund and the state of New York? Oh, I forgot, nobody monitors the Solons at the pension funds.

You can read Roger Simon's review of the movie here. It sounds like a right wing Farenheit 9-11, except with more facts.

If you don't want Bill Lerach deciding what you see, you can see the movie here.

Krauthammer on Kerry and Israel
By Mike Rappaport

Charles Krauthammer has this analysis predicting that Kerry will sacrifice Israel to the Europeans. (Hat tip: Instapundit, whose editing of the quote I borrow.) Very scary, because it seems so insightful:

The centerpiece of John Kerry's foreign policy is to rebuild our alliances so the world will come to our aid, especially in Iraq. He repeats this endlessly because it is the only foreign policy idea he has to offer. The problem for Kerry is that he cannot explain just how he proposes to do this. . . .

He really does want to end America's isolation. And he has an idea how to do it. For understandable reasons, however, he will not explain how on the eve of an election.

Think about it: What do the Europeans and the Arab states endlessly rail about in the Middle East? What (outside of Iraq) is the area of most friction with U.S. policy? What single issue most isolates America from the overwhelming majority of countries at the United Nations?

The answer is obvious: Israel.

In what currency, therefore, would we pay the rest of the world in exchange for their support in places such as Iraq? The answer is obvious: giving in to them on Israel.

No Democrat will say that openly. But anyone familiar with the code words of Middle East diplomacy can read between the lines.

October 22, 2004
Get a new cat
By Tom Smith

I hadn't heard of Genetic Savings and Clone until my former student now M&A lawyer Ryan Murr mentioned it to me. You can get little Fluffy cloned for a cool 50 large. Love means not having to settle for an old, dead cat.

Arnold is such a stud
By Tom Smith

It helps to have your own fortune, I suppose. I love the way he refuses to toady to the usual suspects.

As to Indian casinos, come on. An unbelievable racket.

New Bush ad
By Tom Smith

Here's a link to the new Bush ad featuring wolves.

My only objection is I like wolves. They are extremely cool animals, even if they do occassionally eat livestock. Wolves are coming back to my native Idaho, which makes the ranchers mad, but makes the forests more attractive to me, at least.

VDH on Bush-Kerry 04
By Maimon Schwarzschild

In a sane world, this election assessment by Victor Davis Hanson would be inescapably correct. We'll see in a few days if the world is sane.

October 21, 2004
Congress should take this in hand
By Tom Smith

Readers of this blog know it takes a lot to get me upset. I am a model of equanimimtyewnh equimimminty calm-mindedness.

But this really ticks me off. If a member of the armed forces is in the field, then anything done that has the effect of disenfranchising him should be taken as a grave violation of law.

Congress should really pass legislation on this one. If they can pass the Voting Rights Act, presumably they have the power. The states should just be told to stop fooling around with the military vote, or else. If it weren't for people in the military, none of us would be voting at all.

Maybe the Democrats should try out a new slogan: "Of course we support our troops; we just don't want to count their votes!"

Or how about: "Democracy: Too important to be left to those who die for it."

interesting analysis by Barone
By Tom Smith

Veteran poll watcher and grown-up Barone opines.

October 20, 2004
Astute analysis at RCP
By Tom Smith

Some smart poll watching at RCP.

How to think like a left wing Brit
By Tom Smith

Buckeyes (note to British people -- that's someone from Ohio) seem to be really offended that Brit lefties of the Guardian sort are presuming to tell them how to vote. Of course, any American, including Kerry's campaign, could have told them that would be the case. But don't worry, these Brits really do know how to handle terrorists. Really. Their apparent lack of insight into other cultures does not extend to the Middle East. That, they really do understand, and deeply. If someone cuts off your head, you have to let them cut off your other head, so to speak.

In defense of the UK, let me just say, Tony Blair. The SAS. That officer who carried the umbrella into Normandy and led with it.

The leftish UK media is like ours. It does not speak for the Brits, who still have a lot of steel in their spines. And same for the Canadians. The elite around Toronto is hopeless, but many in Western Canada are on our side. In the future, we really might want to consider buying large parts of Canada. Many people who live there enjoy practicing their religion, for example, and would like to live in a country where they can do it, even with all the incredibly complicated human rights issues that raises. If we do this, we would have to be prepared for shock to our dental care infrastructure. Canadians in turn can teach us how not to be so fat.

Bainbridge on the ECMH and Behavioral Economics
By Mike Rappaport

Great column by Stephen Bainbridge on the efficient capital markets theory and behavioral economics. The bottom line -- which has been the one I have held since law school during the "decade of greed" -- capital markets in general work well and the possibilities of cognitive biases by regulators are a strong argument against regulating such markets.

Harry Potter Movie Pictures
By Mike Rappaport

Here appear to be some pictures of scenes from the fourth Harry Potter movie, HP and the Goblet of Fire. Finally, a way to get my children to read the blog! (Hat tip: Stephen Bainbridge)

October 19, 2004
Who are you going to vote for?
By Mike Rappaport

Reason magazine interviews a large number of interesting people and asks them who they are going to vote for. Several of my heroes were on the list, but alas they don't agree.

Interesting answers:

Richard Epstein is voting libertarian.
Charles Murray is voting -- reluctantly -- for Bush.
Stephen Pinker is voting for Kerry.

To my mind, the oddest answer came from Jonathan Rauch. His favorite President in the last 40 years: "Bush 41. Beats Reagan and everybody else hands down." Say that again?

Sadly, no one asked me who I was going to vote for. I will cast my ballot for Bush (somewhat reluctantly), in part because I believe his Administration will be far superior to Kerry's in fighting the war on terror, both at home and abroad, and partially for the reason that Eugene Volokh gives:

I almost always vote for the party, not the man, because the administration, its legislative agenda, and its judicial appointments generally reflect the overall shape of the party. I tend to think that Republicans’ views on the war against terrorists, economic policy, taxes, and many though not all civil liberties questions -- such as self-defense rights, school choice, color blindness, and the freedom of speech (at least as to political and religious speech) -- are more sound than the Democrats’ views. I certainly find plenty to disagree with the Republicans even on those topics, but if I waited for a party with which I agreed on everything or even almost everything, I’d be waiting a long time.

The Flu Vaccine Shortage: Another Example of Regulatory Failure
By Mike Rappaport

Kevin Drum has a good post on this. (Hat tip: Instapundit) After reviewing several possible explanations for the shortage, he concludes:

That leaves explanation #5 (the FDA regulations have gotten tighter over the years, and vaccine makers have had an increasingly hard time meeting them because it requires expensive plant upgrades). And at first glance it seems the most likely to be the real deal. The FDA has a famously tight regulatory regime, made even tighter in the late 90s, and as a result the United States has only two approved manufacturers of flu vaccine while Britain has half a dozen. The bottom line is that there are other flu vaccine manufacturers besides Chiron and Aventis, but they don't sell into the U.S. market because the cost of complying with FDA regulations is higher than the narrow profits they could expect to make from selling flu vaccine.

October 18, 2004
Bill O O O'Reilly
By Tom Smith

He is done. He is so done. In fact, if you wanted him to be properly chewy in the middle, you should have taken him out 20 minutes ago. Do you care? I don't care.

As a general rule, when speaking to a female subordinate on the phone, do not discuss nipples. It's sort of an absolute rule. It's not that hard to comply with.

I did a little experiment the other night. I tried watching Bill for a few minutes. It didn't work. He's gone from being obnoxious, overbearing Irish uncle, to obnoxious, overbearing Irish uncle with a dirty sex thing going. Big difference. Big yukky difference. Bye Bill.

I can honestly say I never liked the guy's show, and always found him insufferable. I was sad when Rush's drug problem came to light. The easiest thing in the world is to get addicted to pain pills after a serious, invasive surgery. Then to get in the sights of some ambitious DA. Rush did not deserve that. Marriage down the tubes too. But big bad Bill. It is not that difficult to avoid calling your female subordinates to fill them in on your latest sexual fantasies. I mean, get a hobby or something. Geez.

Yes, I am assuming he did. That's because I think he did, on the grounds of what I consider reliable, semi-plausible rumors. I think it's too late for him to come clean. He'd have to get a whole new personality. Though maybe that would be a good thing. Anyway, enough time wasted on Mr. O. Gone and soon forgotten.

Seen the Light, Lord God, Seen the Light
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Stuart Benjamin, over at the Volokh conspiracy, posts that he is "disenchanted" by the Bush administration, and urges believers in "limited government" to vote for Kerry. Stuart's post implies throughout that he is a small-government conservative disappointed, no, shocked at Bush profligacy.

As someone who knows and loves Stuart -- he is one of those people that, if you know him, you are fond of him -- I never, ever, for a moment doubted that he would support the Democratic nominee. Stuart is well within the academic political orthodoxy when the chips are anywhere near down. He would no more endorse Bush than most of his academic colleagues would. Stuart is very smart and a very good writer, and very good company too, and he was no doubt recruited to the Volokh Conspiracy in large part for those reasons, but he also provides leftish balance at an otherwise mostly rightward-leaning blog. The idea that Stuart is a typical Republican who, after sleepless nights and agonising reappraisal, has decided that supporting Kerry is the conservative thing do -- and, therefore, that patriotic and reflective conservatives should join him and do likewise: well, how shall I put this? there is a spin element here. (The converted rake, or atheist, who is the featured speaker at the revival meeting; not the long-serving church deacon...)

Meantime, RightCoast readers have been besieging us, in your thousands, wanting to know whom we at TheRightCoast will support for President. Will it be Bush, Kerry, Nader, Kim Jong Il? We RightCoasters take our responsibility very seriously: we have cleared our calendars this week, and we will be meeting round the clock to consider this momentous cliff-hanger of a question. It will be close, very close, agonisingly close. So stay tuned. There may be, there surely will be, big surprises in store.

UPDATE: Steven Sturm, at ThoughtsOnline, posts a detailed -- and very cogent -- rebuttal to Stuart Benjamin's endorsement of Kerry.

October 17, 2004
Is a Beslan style attrocity in the US possible?
By Tom Smith

This is disturbing. Put it together with the al-Qaeda laptop in Baghdad with the San Diego school disaster preparedness documents on it, and one gets worried. Between now and the election would be a good time for school officials to be alert. (via Belmont Club)

Geniuses at NYT psychoanalyze Bush
By Tom Smith

If, like the average Times reader, you spend a lot of time worrying whether your analyst likes you/finds you attractive/meant by saying "well, times up (as if he were relieved!)/goes when you can't reach him/managed to get a rent-controlled apartment so close to the park, well, you might swallow this kind of thing.

If you don't want to read the whole thing, and who could blame you, I will sum it up for you. Bush is a kind of faith-based robot, who hears voices from Jesus telling him what to do in Iraq. It's disturbing, it's eerie, it's frightening, it's very, very not you. Could you pass the fresh-squeezed orange juice? When did this place get so popular? I get the magazine! Now, to continue. Jesus talks to Bush because, not to put too fine a point on it, Bush is a religio-fundamentalo-quasi-fascistico-snake-handlerific nutball who talks to Jesus. How do we know this? Well, it says so in the Times, doesn't it? Some things you just have to take on faith.

Actually, I am a person of faith, and I must admit I am impressed by the deep insight the Times has into how the brain activity of the faithful goes. Yup, that's what it's like. You have these intuitions, and you just know, heck! That's Jesus talkin'! This morning, for example. I get on the scale and think "oh fuck! That can't be right! I can't have gained four pounds in one day! That's when Jesus speaks up "Tom, it is possible." He calls me Tom. I usually stick to "Lord." "But, Lord, I didn't eat that much! I've been making an effort to be moderate . . ." Jesus points out, kindly, but firmly, "Well, there was the coconut lime cake that your lovely wife Jeanne made for Mark's first birthday . . ." "But I only had one piece of that!" I protest. "Well, three actually, and if you count all the 'slivers' and 'tastes' . . ."

Perhaps it's like that for Bush, too.

When I see how objective the Times is, I just get outraged all over again that Sinclair broadcasting would dare to show an anti-Kerry movie right before the election. Where are their journalist ethics? Where are their analysts? Where is their magazine section? Have they no fresh squeezed orange juice? It is all very shocking.

And before somebody else tries to make something of it, my female labrador Biscuit is usually the one to try to "mount" my male labrador Denali. What is that about? Why is Biscuit so interested in my birkenstocks? I don't know, but I love her just the same.

What the blogosphere needs now . . .
By Tom Smith

. . . is a market capitalization weighted index of all the political betting markets on the 2004 election. Realclearpolitics has this very useful site. But look: on tradesports Bush is at 53 or so, while on the IEM he is more like 58. What gives? I suspect tradesports is being manipulated, but who knows? Then there are all the other sites with their lines. Can you do the probabilities in your head from the x/y odds? I can't. Some industrious techonologically gifted person needs to set something up that would give us a moving average (or something) of all these lines together, in percentage form. That would give you a market indicator that would be much more difficult to manipulate, easier to understand, and a better indicator of what was going to happen.

Radicalism at a Distance
By Maimon Schwarzschild

The Future For Philosophy, edited by Brian Leiter, just arrived in the mail from Oxford University Press: a book of essays by a dozen leading philosophers on where professional philosophy is and where it seems to be going. The essays I've read are very good, and I'm looking forward to the rest. Brian's own introduction is extremely interesting, sketching the trends in professional philosophy over recent years, explaining how the long-standing gulf (apparent or real) between "continental" and "Anglo-American" philosophy is diminishing if not disappearing.

How can someone like Brian be so good a philosopher, yet hold political views that are -- I'm groping for a gentle way to put this -- not entirely in harmony with those that prevail at TheRightCoast? (About politics, Brian's tendencies are strongly toward the Noam Chomsky worldview, as is pretty clear even from Brian's essay on Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud in this book. And see Brian's blog, the Leiter Report, passim.)

I have a tentative Schwarzschild Theorem to explain this sort of thing: that capable people tend to be conservative about what they know best and do most, even when they are theoretically radical about things that are further removed from their immediate knowledge and their primary concerns. Brian is a good example: he may be a Chomsky-an, or a quasi-Marxist, but as the author of the best-informed and shrewdest rankings of philosophy departments and law schools, he is light-years away from being an "egalitarian" or a leveller. There are lots of people like this: people who have no utopian illusions whatsoever about their work, or about rearing their children, but who hold utopian, or at least silly views (from TheRightCoast point of view, of course) about politics.

If I were mathematically minded -- but then I'd be doing something more useful in life than being a law professor -- perhaps I could calculate the distance that an issue has to be from a capable person's core concerns before that person will start entertaining radical ideas about it. We could call this the Schwarzschild Radius. Oh, wait...

Environmental and Antiterrorism Legislation
By Mike Rappaport

Critics of the Patriot Act are forced to acknowledge that it was passed by wide margins in the Congress, including by Democrats. Their explanation is that it was passed in the wake of 9-11, which undermined Congress's judgement. The antiterrorism legislation passed during the Clinton Administration is also explained as having been passed as a response to Oklahoma City. In both cases, the claim appears to be that Congress enacts improper legislation when overreacting to a visible public event or problem.

What is interesting is that this is the same explanation often given for the passage of environmental legislation. CERCLA is passed after Love Canal, the Clean Water Act is enacted after the Cuyahoga River bursts into flames, etc.

Interestingly, although the same phenomonon is at work, liberals and conservatives tend to view these cases differently. Liberals think that the environmental emergency teaches the public about the problem, but believe the terrorist act undermines their judgment. And visa versa as to conservatives.

October 16, 2004
check this out -- offshore info havens
By Tom Smith

Private offshore data banks assessing people for terrorism risk. Private companies doing things you couldn't do in the US because to be a terrorist, it helps to be (gasp!) a 23 year old Saudi national. Story here.

Canadians on drugs
By Tom Smith

AA is correct about drugs from Canada. I have known this for some time, but have been too busy to write about it. Our plucky neighbors in the great white North free ride off American drug companies and we who buy drugs at market prices. If everybody paid Canadian prices, there wouldn't be any new drugs to buy, because the Canadians are paying prices that don't include the costs of R&D. If everyone tries to free ride, the ride sinks.

Maybe we should pass some law to prevent the rest of the world from free riding on Americans who are paying for this pharmeceutical gravy train. Not very good metaphor, but you see what I mean.

If you meet a socialist, he will say, "so let's regulate the prices in the US and Canada, and put it at a level that will provide for adequate R and D!" How much is adequate? Well, we'll have to set up a bureau of medical research to decide that, and how to allocate it among the various companies. What about new entrants to the market? You can't have everything. Competition is overrated. It's just one of the many beautiful things about regulation. The more you do, the more you need to do.

On a related point -- Not to be mean about it, but, if the Canadian health care system is so great, what's with all the bad teeth? Does the toothpaste freeze or something? I'm not saying everyone should have teeth like John Kerry, but come on.

Victor Hanson and the tragic view of things
By Tom Smith

Hanson is on in this piece. I hope he's right about the upcoming election.

Maybe conservatives do take a more tragic view of the world.

October 15, 2004
This is encouraging
By Tom Smith

Powerline thinks Bush is going to win and it has a point. Bush is campaigning in Blue states, and so is Kerry.

A lot to look forward to
By Tom Smith

This is pretty good:

You also have to ask yourself, who is going to carry out Kerry's multilateral approach? And on that score, things simply get worse. A Kerry White House would mean the Madeleine Albright B Team moving into senior foreign policy positions. And, with the notable exception of Richard Holbrooke (his hair may be on fire, but he gets things done), this would be disastrous. These are the same folks who fiddled for 8 years on counter terror, negotiated a terrifyingly naive nuke deal with North Korea, and generally treat foreign policy as a rhetorical exercise. This is a team who has demonstrated, in past position of influence, an alarming propensity to get rolled by their foreign counterparts. Let's pick just two: Susan Rice? Jamie Rubin?! Are you serious?? During her sojourn as assistant secretary for Africa in Albright's State Department, Rice had to be consistently bailed out of trouble by career diplomats. As for Rubin, he is anti-gravitas. He's Edwards-lite.

It comes from a response to DD, who is going to vote for Kerry for pretty unpersuasive reasons. It would be interesting to try to articulate how it is that smart people go wrong on political issues. When smart, young people go wrong, it often seem to me a sort of naivite, as if there is some workable way to fight terrorism that does not involve many, large bombs and lots of scary guys. For older people, I think more often it's that they've ossified into some ideological view of the world.

I really hope Kerry loses. At this point I would rather have Hillary as President than Kerry. She would be more of a man in foreign policy than he would be. She may be a shrieking socialist, but at least she's genuinely mean. I think once she figured out what is going on in the Middle East, she would be a terror. She scares me, and I'm not even a terrorist. Whether the economy would survive her efforts to ruin it, is another question, however. Bush is no Reagan, but at least he is tested. Kerry, I fear, will do his silly thing with our 'allies,' and not realize what a fool is being made of him. He is too much of a fool, I fear, to realize it. I also fear Kerry will follow a cut and run policy in Iraq, which really will be disastrous. I suppose the upside is that if Kerry is elected, there will be much that is comic, in a dark sort of way.

PC madness at Amherst
By Tom Smith

I'm no con lawyer, but if Eugene says it's unconstitutional, that's good enough for me. If college administrators would just follow the general rule, "don't be an hysterical nutcase," most of these problems would go away.

October 14, 2004
Emerson was a philistine
By Tom Smith

I kind of like all that New England individualism (e.g., I like Walden), but I can't think of Emerson the same way since I read (somewhere) what he said about reading. He said that whenever he found himself getting "absorbed" in a book, he would stop reading until the feeling went away. He said you should only read for a purpose, such as to find stuff to support your theories. That ranks up there as one of the most philistinian remarks about books and reading I have ever heard, along with "Have you read all these books?" (Which is like asking a wine collector if he has drunk all the wines represented in his cellar. No person who cares about books could ask such a question.)

Guilty pleasure
By Tom Smith

I just discovered a big comfy chair in a little used Starbucks which is a hot spot for the wireless network of the office across the parking lot. So I can sit there and actually work on my brilliant article and nobody even knows where I am! O bliss! (I need internet access to work. Most articles are online and it's so nice just to be able to bookmark them. Paper is evil.)

It is wrong to free ride on somebody's wireless network this way? Maybe technically. But it doesn't seem any worse really to me than standing outside Isaac Stern (or some great living musician)'s window and listening to him practice. They really should encrypt their network, but I'm not about to try to get any information from them; I wouldn't know how, anyway. I guess you could apply the Golden Rule and say, would I want somebody free riding on my wireless network? Well, no. But if I knew to the same degree of certainty that that person is as honest as I am, I wouldn't care. Of course, that's impossible to know. You could say I'm just converting what would otherwise be wasted bandwidth into something valuable, and in my case, incredibly valuable. Along these lines, some guy was recently arrested in SoCal for driving around at night without pants, laptop on lap, looking for wireless networks to sponge off of. As to the sort of site he was interested in, I will leave that to you. I'm glad the cops got him. I, on the other hand, am downloading economics articles, which is an entirely different thing. There is nothing remotely prurient about them.

The Colorado Proportional Electoral Vote Initiative
By Mike Rappaport

As many readers know, there is an initiative on the ballot in Colorado that would allocate the electoral votes on a proportional basis rather than on the more usual winner-take-all approach. The initiative purports to affect the existing presidential election. But now law professor Mark Scarberry questions this, arguing that the initiative would not apply to the existing election. Mark writes:

The initiative would add a new section 13 to Article VII of the Colorado Constitution. Section 13 would provide for proportional division of presidential electors. The initiative states explicitly that "This section [i.e., section 13] shall be effective on and after November 3, 2004." See numbered paragraph (9) of the initiative, the text of which may be found at

The initiative does provide that it is intended to have retroactive effect so as to apply to the election held on November 2. But I believe it cannot have that effect. Article II, sec. 1, cl. 4 provides that "The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors ... ." Congress has done so in 3 U.S.C. section 1:

"The electors of President and Vice President shall be appointed, in each State, on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President."

Thus Colorado must "chuse" its electors on November 2. Colorado will do so by vote of its people on November 2. The choice will be made under the existing "winner take all" approach, which will still be in effect on that date even if the initiative passes. The state could only choose electors after November 2 if there was a failure to choose them on November 2 (see 3 U.S.C. section 2) or if an elector position becomes vacant (see 3 U.S.C. section 4).

By its terms, the new section 13 added by the initiative (if it passes)would not go into effect until November 3. The only way it could be given effect for this election would be for it to have the effect of "un-chusing" the electors that were chosen on November 2 and replacing them after that date with new electors. The federal statute, enacted pursuant to Art. II, sec. 1, cl. 4, does not permit that.

Perhaps there is a feature of the Colorado Constitution providing that initiative measures cannot go into effect until the day after an election. Otherwise I don't understand why the initiative drafters would have drafted it with a November 3 effective date. But in any event, that is the effective date, and I do not see how it can be given retroactive effect without violating federal law.
For additional thoughts on this issue, see Rick Hasen's blog.

October 13, 2004
more tradesports
By Tom Smith

Bush is getting hammered again on tradesports, but I'm not sure it means anything. He took a five point drop after the first debate, then bounced back within two days. These markets are small enough to be manipulated, and maybe they are being. I can't tell how the volume is measured, but it looks like it could be as little at 22,000 USD or so for today, which ain't much.

On the debate, I don't have much to say. Fox heads seem to think Bush did well. He always reminds me of a student who knows the right answer, but has an agonizing time of getting it out. Kerry was whiny and dour, but as an academic, I am used to that. It's sort of soothingly familiar. It struck me that he was pretty loose with his facts. But who's counting. I will be interested to see if the polls are as far off as they were in Australia. I doubt they will be. In 2000, they were alarmingly accurate, especially the evil Zogby. OTOH both Reps and Dems are supposedly involved in all kinds of newfangled voter registration and get out the vote activities. In legal circles, this is called vote fraud. Democrats traditionally attempt to extend the franchise to dead people and non-existent people. Republicans try to stop this for racial reasons because these voters were minorities when they were alive, or would be minorities, if they actually existed.

Oh those mass graves
By Tom Smith

I still can't figure out what the all those great moralists and lovers of humanity have to say about them.

Why I don't read mainstream literary fiction
By Tom Smith

Look at all these novelists voting for Kerry. If we can't trust their politics, why should be trust the stories they make up?

I can't read what passes for serious fiction these days. It strikes me as tedious, and anywhere from spiritually empty to misguided. Most fiction usually has some sort of moral content. The problem with most modern fiction of the serious sort is it is just morally off. Updike doesn't seem to realize that most men who cheat on their wives are not interesting souls, but assholes; Frazen is so dazzled by his own writing skill that he thinks it's OK he has nothing to say; Amy Tan, well, would her novels ever have been published if they were about white boys and men instead of Chinese girls and women? Some of these writers I have not heard of. I am very comfortable I am not missing anything. Somebody who doesn't write that well, but has a moral vision and is very funny, Tom Wolfe, is hounded from the club (not that he cares much). Of course nobody should care how these pompous toads vote. But it is reason to look for something else to read.

Was Kerry dishonorably discharged?
By Tom Smith

This is curious. Can't somebody in DOD just leak Kerry's records? Would that be wrong? I thought we had a right to know, and all that. Maybe it will be an October surprise. Then we could get to hear all the moaning and groaning about how Republicans should not do that sort of thing.

Hamas Leader Surrenders
By Mike Rappaport

The head of Hamas's military wing in Hebron surrenders. This is a change. Lately, Hamas's leaders have been surrendering to missles.

October 12, 2004
Prager on the Iraqi War
By Mike Rappaport

The title of Dennis Prager's column says it all:

"Ask Kerry one question: What would Zarqawi be doing if he weren't in Iraq"

A Sympathetic Critique of Libertarianism
By Mike Rappaport

Take a look at this discussion of the work of Jeffrey Friedman, who criticizes libertarian arguments to improve them. I agree with some of Friedman's points.

Memo to Human Rights Watch
By Tom Smith

Human rights watch should relax. They're somewhere safe, trading intel for toilet paper.

Good news is no news
By Tom Smith

Could the MSM be any more upset about the successful election in Afghanistan? They seem to think it's a tragedy on the scale of 9/11.

If you ever are unlucky enough to experience some disaster first hand, you'll see it for yourself. The times when wildfires were bearing down on my neighborhood, the excitement of the local press was palpable. You could almost hear them shouting, "more flames! more houses! more casualties!" I couldn't watch the news without losing it. It terms of information about where the fire was, they were useless.

Anyway, it bears repeating that the election in A-stan was peaceful and to all appearances, fair. Which makes it a non-event.

October 11, 2004
Two on Justice Thomas
By Mike Rappaport

The Washington Post has a two part series on Justice Thomas (here and here). Not really too favorable, as you would expect, but still interesting.