The Right Coast

November 30, 2004
 
Law schools get permission to take courageous stand
By Tom Smith

The Third Circuit has apparently ruled that the Solomon Amendment is unconstitutional. That was the law that told law schools that if they would not allow military recruiters on campus, as a protest against the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay soldiers, they could do without federal money as well. Just to review, soldiers are the ones that do things like get their legs blown off by grenades so the rest of us can decide what the best kind of wine is with turkey, and law schools are the places where idealistic solons take brave stands right up until the moment they are threatened with losing some money if they do so. It would be interesting to know by how much one would have to reduce federal largess to get law schools to reluctantly agree that they must courageously decide to postpone their brave protests to a more opportune time. Completely eliminating federal largess always struck me as extreme, when you could probably have gotten schools to about face for much less. Would an amendment that said law schools would be docked, oh, $367,235.21 from their federal subsidies if they did not permit military recruiters on campus, cause the law school administrations to see that discretion was the better part of valor? Or, perhaps a better way to calculate it would be $5000 for each soldiers' limb or eye lost in Iraq, and $10,000 for each soldier's life, but maybe $20,000 per soldier who had the misfortune to be burned alive inside a tank. Oh, except, that would run into the millions. Would anyone dare ask a law school to make so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom?


 
Decline of Culture continues
By Tom Smith

More evidence that Hollywood people need brain therapy. What they name their kids.


 
It's a dangerous world
By Tom Smith

Just when you thought you were safe at home.


November 29, 2004
 
Nature and Nurture
By Mike Rappaport

An interesting post over at Marginal Revolution on the relative contribution of parents by nature and nurture to the future wealth of their children. Interesting, but in a way sad. A few more studies like this one and I may have a harder time staying up late working on my children's homework assignments.


 
Ashcroft v. Raich
By Mike Rappaport

Take a look at Larry Solum's impressive account of today's oral argument at the Supreme Court on medical marijuana. This is a potentially important case concerning the Court's federalism jurisprudence. If the Supreme Court holds that the federal government does not have power to regulate homegrown medical marijuana, then this may suggest that there are real limits on the federal government's power. Even more clearly, if the Supreme Court holds that the feds can impose the regulation, then the federalism cases are just unimportant symbols.


 
Judges Taking Over at the Board of Ed
By Maimon Schwarzschild

"Who needs a bad teacher when you can get a worse judge?", asks the Economist this week, in a very sharp and well-informed article on judicial intrusion into managing American public schools. These school cases are a -- perhaps unusually egregious -- example of what is sometimes called "public law" or "structural litigation": bland phrases that often mean courts intruding deeply into policy-making which would otherwise be (and usually ought to be) up to elected, democratic institutions. The Economist piece points out the sort of problems that judicial over-reach can create.

Read the whole thing.


November 28, 2004
 
Arafat's Soul
By Mike Rappaport

Jeff Jacoby writes:

My correspondent was commenting on a recent column about the death of archterrorist and mass-murderer Yasser Arafat -- and specifically on my criticism of President Bush for having said, on first hearing of Arafat's death, "God bless his soul."

"God bless his soul? What a grotesque idea!" I wrote. "God, I am quite sure, will damn him for eternity."

Jewish tradition holds, with Ecclesiastes, that there is a time to love and a time to hate. The Hebrew Bible enjoins us to love our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18) and to love the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19), but that love has its limits. We are not expected to love savage thugs or to ask God's mercy on them. On the contrary, we loathe the unrepentantly cruel because we believe God loathes them too.

It defies reason and upends morality to claim that God loves both Saddam Hussein and the innocent Kurds he gassed to death -- that He bestows His love on Osama bin Laden no less than on the 3,000 souls he butchered on 9/11. Of course we should pray that an evildoer will repent and atone for his crimes. But to love him even when he hasn't? To bless him when he dies? God forbid! To bless the Hitlers and the Arafats of this world is to betray their victims. That we must never do.

Hatred is dangerous even when justified, Soleveichik cautions, and must be directed only at the truly vicious and depraved. "We who hate must be wary," he writes, "lest we . . . become like those we are taught to despise."

But when hatred is called for, he notes, it serves a vital function. "Hate allows us to keep our guard up, to protect us. When we are facing those who seek nothing but our destruction, our hate reminds us who we are dealing with. When hate is appropriate, then it is not only virtuous, but essential."
The vital function of hatred reminds me of the 1970s view that guilt was a useless emotion. Is there any more damning criticism of the 1970s than this? Could people during that decade really have failed to understand that guilt would deter people from wrongful behavior?


November 25, 2004
 
I hope it wasn't something I said
By Tom Smith

This post indicates somebody threw up in my M and A class the other day. I did not notice that. I hope it was just a virus and not one of my jokes, which do not always come off well.


 
Bush the Guy
ByTom Smith

Of course Bush did the right thing. If the Chileans feel humiliated, they have only themselves to blame. There are about a dozen reasons why POTUS should not allow foreign security to separate him from his own security detail. First, security reasons. In my year in "the White House," which includes the Old Executive Office Building (now called the Reagan building, or something) where I worked (as opposed to the "West Wing," where the upper White House Staff worked, or White House Scum as I sometimes refered to them, since I thought most of them were political hacks, as opposed to the economic or national security professionals on the 3rd floor of the OEOB), security around the President himself was really, really tight. This was obviously before 9/11. You had to go through two or three screenings, with both metal dectectors and ID check (against a database with lots of info about who you were) to get anywhere near him. The agents themselves were very imposing physical specimens, all over 6 feet, very fit, and very vigilant. The idea that some foreign security heavies would interpose themselves between the President's personal detail and the President is very shocking. If you tried this in the US, you'd be lucky to come out of it alive.

This incident has its lighter side, but in fact, it's fortunate it did not lead to something much worse. If the President had not come back as soon as he did, the Secret Service would have started getting much rougher and who knows what would have happened.


 
Holiday movies
By Tom Smith

Here's a list of movies for the holiday season.


 
Ukraine
By Tom Smith

Here's a blog from Ukraine. (Don't say "the Ukraine;" that makes it sound like just a region in greater Russia.) Apparently it's not just a fight over electoral corruption, but between democrats and the oligarchs who took over after the fall of the USSR.


November 24, 2004
 
Family life update
By Tom Smith

I think everybody is suffering from a post-election let down. Enough politics for a while. So let's talk about my one-year old, Mark.

He has graduated from rug rat to explorer dude, unsteadily walking everywhere. I captured some of his first steps on the video camera, but it all happens very fast. He has discovered the out of doors, and loves to locomote under the pine trees. He has not quite figured out leaning back into a slope, and just keeps himself perpendicular to the ground until he slowly topples forward. My theory is to go ahead and let him tumble, as long as the ground is soft, and maybe he'll learn faster that way the way to walk on uneven ground. It's more like life that way. Of course, walking off a cliff and dying is like life too; you don't want to overdo that sort of thing. He found a patch of flowers gone wild, combined with miscellaneous weeds and went to work patting them all down, putting his face into them, putting little bits into his mouth. At a moment like this, I couldn't help but think of all the potentially vicious little creatures that might be infesting that patch of ground. Fire ants. Scorpions. Black widows. Velvet ants. Brown recluse spiders. Rattlesnakes. No. Wrong season for snakes. If was the sort of person who thought, a little boy, exploring flowers for the first time, life is so wonderful, maybe I would have voted for Kerry. Our poor neglected labradors were thrilled to be out on the property as well. Denali, who looks like a minaturized brown steer with floppy ears, ran back and forth, chasing a well chewed plastic Halloween pumpkin. As the poster boy for the tragedy of cannine obesity, he could drop dead at any moment, but in the meantime, let him run. Biscuit is getting a few gray hairs around her muzzle, but still catches balls like a fielder, proof that it's all in the genes. It was one of those gorgeous, perfect San Diego days in November, that almost make you feel guilty for living here. But, given the season, I suppose gratitude would be the more appropriate emotion. There weren't any stinging or biting insects in the batch of flowers, or at least they were beaten down by the preemptive war we have waged against them. Thanks to the Marines and the Navy and the Army and the rest, I get to sit here and look at the twinkly lights of Chula Vista on the horizon, and wonder whether I should have a scotch before I open the merlot. I think we have decided to forgo creationism and knife fighting at the Christian martial arts academcy tonight, and pop a movie in the VCR instead. It's vacation, there's a Republican in the White House, and all boys have made it through the day with no major injuries or other catastrophe. Of course I'm grateful.


 
UN is just what you suspect
By Tom Smith

Does anyone else remember growing up thinking the UN was this cool, sleek place where men in J. Press suits and attractive women of many different nationalites did important things to save the world? Napoleon Solo was a UN functionary, after all.

So sad it's all a crock. Diplomad is right.


 
Dear ROR, I'm so sorry
By Tom Smith

Just kidding! I'm not sorry at all! But if you are, you can go here and post an apology to the world for W's reelection.

If you're not sorry, you can use the site for some private gloating. But don't do it at work. That might be illegal or at least against your firm's policy. There are some genuinely eeeewwww folks, who may remind you why you became a Republican. Or at least didn't vote for Kerry.

I wonder if Kerry feels relieved. Maybe we are all better off.


 
Artic Global Warming?
By Mike Rappaport

The US and seven other countries have been discussing changes in the Arctic climate, but does the evidence support the concern? For a layperson, like myself, it is hard to know, but there are reasons for skepticism. Consider this article by Ronald Bailey, and the following excerpt:

Furthermore, those same records show that the Arctic warmed twice as fast between 1917 and 1937 as it has in the past 20 years. After 1940, the Arctic saw a big cool-down and climatologists noted sea ice expanding in the northern Atlantic. Christy argues that what he calls the Great Climate Shift occurred in the late 1970s and caused another sudden warming in the Arctic. Since the late 1970s there has not been much additional warming in the region at all. In fact, on page 23, the Arctic Council Assessment offers very similar data for Arctic temperature trends from 60 degrees north latitude—the area that includes most of Alaska and essentially all of Greenland, most of Norway and Sweden, and the bulk of Russia.

But what to make of the report earlier this year in the scientific journal Climate Change by Petr Chylek and his colleagues from the Los Alamos Laboratory, which found that average temperatures in Greenland have been falling at the rather steep rate of 2.2 degrees Celsius since 1987?
Given this type of uncertainty, I tend to agree with the Bush Administration position that voluntary measures (or low cost efforts unlike Kyoto) should be employed.


 
Free Markets
By Mike Rappaport

Two good posts on free markets at Marginal Revolution. One on how New Zealand's experiment in market reform has worked out (with an update here) and another on how free markets would work in health care.


November 23, 2004
 
Rather's Resignation
By Mike Rappaport

I am certainly as happy as the next right wing blogger to hear that Dan Rather is leaving CBS News. And certainly it sends a message that misbehavior may bear consequences. After the Howell Raines exodus, that sounds great.

But mention of Howell Raines should force us to be realistic. His exit from the Times may have improved matters in certain ways, but it did not seem to have much of an effect on the Times's political bias. And my guess is that political bias will continue largely unabated at CBS. Of course, I am hoping that I am wrong.


 
The True of Cycle of Violence
By Mike Rappaport

The killing of two Sunni clerics has raised the possibility of terrorism against the terrorists. One of clerics had called for a boycotting of the January elections in Iraq, and the other was a member of a group associated with that position.

One of the reasons why terrorism is a bad thing is that creates the possibility of a degeneration of civilized behavior. The laws of war, etc, which terrorists violate are designed in part to preserve innocent lives and avoid the worst horrors of war. Terrorists, of course, impose some of those horrors. But they also give the other side the incentive to ignore the laws of war and to engage in similar action. A cycle of terrorism may result.

Nations like the US are unlikely to engage in this behavior, since it would not really be in their interest. (That is true at present. Of course, if terrorists use WMDs in the US, then a response that is "terrorist-like" might be a distinct possibility.) But groups within Iraq have different incentives and it should not be surprising if some of them decide to fight fire with fire.


 
Not A Good Picture For Kim Jong Il
By Maimon Schwarzschild

If pictures of "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il really are coming down in North Korea, it's difficult to imagine that he is still in charge, dictator-wise. The Communist tradition is that leader-icons disappear only when a leader falls.

In one of his books, Arkady Vaksberg tells a story of his mother going to the Central Post Office in Moscow in the early 1950s and seeing a patch of walpaper where Lavrenti Beria's framed photograph had been: she understood immediately that Beria had fallen from power. (Khrushchev and Co. had arranged for Beria to be arrested, "tried", and -- in very short order -- shot.) Subscribers to the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia soon afterward received a package with a covering letter instructing the recipient to cut out pages such-and-such from the Encyclopaedia, and to paste in the enclosed new pages instead. It turned out that the pages to be excised were the Encyclopaedia's fawning entry on Beria; the substitute pages were photographs of the Bering Sea...

The story, apparently being offered by North Korean officials, that Kim's portraits are down so that the frames can be refurbished, would be laughable in just about any context. In the Communist context it is even more laughable.

UPDATE: The New York Times has this interesting background story on possible "cracks" in the North Kroean regime.

And Peter Connolly, of Washington DC, recalls this passage from Milan Kundera's Book of Laughter and Forgetting, on Communists and photos:
In February 1948, Communist leader Klement Gottwald stepped out on the balcony of a Baroque palace in Prague to address hundreds of thousands of his fellow citizens packed into Old Town Square. It was a crucial moment in Czech history - a fateful moment of the kind that occurs once or twice in a millennium.
Gottwald was flanked by his comrades, with Clementis standing next to him. There were snow flurries, it was cold, and Gottwald was bareheaded. The solicitous Clementis took off his own fur cap and set it on Gottwald's head. The Party propaganda section put out hundreds of thousands of copies of a photograph of that balcony with Gottwald, a fur cap on his head and comrades at his side, speaking to the nation. On that balcony the history of Communist Czechoslovakia was born. Every child knew the photograph from posters, schoolbooks, and museums.

Four years later Clementis was charged with treason and hanged. The propaganda section immediately airbrushed him out of history, and obviously, out of all the photographs as well. Ever since, Gottwald has stood on that balcony alone. Where Clementis once stood, there is only bare palace wall. All that remains of Clementis is the cap on Gottwald's head.

It is 1971, and Mirek says that the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.


November 20, 2004
 
Who Is Rooting for Religious Fanaticism?
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Chrisotpher Hitchens on "religious fanatics" and the election:
[A]ll faiths are not equally demented in the same way, or at the same time. Islam, which was once a civilizing and creative force in many societies, is now undergoing a civil war. One faction in this civil war is explicitly totalitarian and wedded to a cult of death.

So here is what I want to say on the absolutely crucial matter of secularism. Only one faction in American politics has found itself able to make excuses for the kind of religious fanaticism that immediately menaces us in the here and now. And that faction, I am sorry and furious to say, is the left. From the first day of the immolation of the World Trade Center, right down to the present moment, a gallery of pseudointellectuals has been willing to represent the worst face of Islam as the voice of the oppressed.

George Bush may subjectively be a Christian, but he—and the U.S. armed forces—have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled. The demolition of the Taliban, the huge damage inflicted on the al-Qaida network, and the confrontation with theocratic saboteurs in Iraq represent huge advances for the non-fundamentalist forces in many countries.
You go, Hitch!

Read the whole thing.


November 19, 2004
 
Neoconservative Inspiration
By Mike Rappaport

Whenever the neoconservative (in foreign policy) in me becomes pessimistic, one of the best cures is to read Victor Davis Hanson. Here is an excerpt from his latest:

Just as the breakdown of a few Communist Eastern European states led to a general collapse of Marxism in the east, or the military humiliation in colonial Africa and the Falklands led to democratic renaissance in Iberia and Argentina, or American military efforts in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Panama City brought consensual government to Central America, a reformed Afghanistan and Iraq may prompt what decades of billions of dollars in wasted aid to Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians, the 1991 Gulf War, and 60 years of appeasement of Gulf petrol-sheiks could not: the end of the old sick calculus of Middle East tyrannies blackmailing the United States through past intrigue with the Soviet Union, then threats of oil embargos and rigged prices, and, most recently, both overt and stealthy support for fundamentalist killers.

Those on the left who are ignorant of history lectured the Bush administration that democracy has never come as a result of the threat of conflict or outright war — apparently the creation of a democratic United States, Germany, Japan, Italy, Israel, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Serbia, and Afghanistan was proof of the power of mere talk. In contrast, the old realist Right warned that strongmen are our best bet to ensure stability — as if Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been loyal allies with content and stable pro-American citizenries. In truth, George Bush's radical efforts to cleanse the world of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, bring democracy to the heart of the Arab world, and isolate Yasser Arafat were the most risky and humane developments in the Middle East in a century — old-fashioned idealism backed with force in a postmodern age of abject cynicism and nihilism.
I am less of a neoconservative than Hanson. I am a skeptic about government, even in foreign affairs. And I think Hanson is somewhat too optimistic about the future. That said, he is on the right track.


 
Academic politics
By Tom Smith

We conservative academics are a minority, and I don't care.


 
Iranian nukes
By Tom Smith

Debka reports, you worry.


 
Powell the hawk
By Tom Smith

Powell is sounding the alarm bell on Iran. We should listen to him.

Alternatively, we could enter a treaty with Iran, brokered peut-etre by la belle France, to the effect that Iran can go ahead and develop nukes and delivery systems, but they have to promise to keep it secret. And we have to promise that if Tel-Aviv or Pittsburgh suddenly turns into a big lake of molten glass, we will look everywhere, except Iran, to figure out where the bomb came from.


November 18, 2004
 
Wolfowitz's Vision
By Mike Rappaport

The Belmont Club reports on Paul Wolfowitz's vision:

Radek Sikorski, at one time a deputy minister of defense in Poland,put a rhetorical question to Wolfowitz: "The US president used to be seen as the leader of the free world rather than just president of one country and America used to be seen as a benign global empire. Now, after 9/11, understandably, this is a more patriotic, perhaps even a more nationalistic country. But won't the price of running a nationalistic American empire be much higher than managing a co-operative one?" Wolfowitz responded:

The premise of your question is that we're out to run an empire, but there is no American empire. Look at Japan and Korea. They were part of this so-called empire in the cold war. After the second world war and the Korean war, we invested heavily in the defence and economic systems of countries like Japan and Korea - hardly an imperial undertaking. I would submit that we have benefited enormously from their strength and their ability to stand on their own feet. They're now contributing to the rest of the world. We're so much better off with a Japan as a strong trading partner than a Japan as a basket case. If people want to redefine the word "empire" to mean this as an empire, then it's just semantics. We are not trying to control these countries so we can exploit their resources. We're trying to enable these countries to stand on their own feet and our experience says that when they do so, we're better off. It's back to the absurdity of saying we're trying to impose our ideas on other people when we want to help them become democracies. There's more legitimacy to the question of whether we are really prepared to live with what they produce when they become democratic. There's an uncertainty about the democratic process and there's always a danger that bad people will get elected. But it's a funny empire that relies on releasing basic human desires to be free and prosperous and live in peace. One of the things about this moment in history is that nobody really thinks they can produce an army, a navy or an air force that can take on the US. That should channel human competitiveness into more productive and peaceful pursuits.


November 17, 2004
 
Peace in the Middle East?
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Richard Baehr, unfortunately, has it right about Arafat, and about the (forlorn) chances of peace between Israel and the Arabs:
The overwhelming political sentiment of the Palestinian community remains the same as it has been for a century - that no Jewish-majority Israeli state can exist, that Israel’s creation was an original sin, and that in the end, it must disappear.

There was not in 2000, and still is not today, an intersecting set of concessions Israel can make and still be Israel (and not another Arab-majority state), and what the Palestinians expect from a final deal with Israel. The Palestinians proved in 2000, when they chose war over peace, that the concessions they demand from Israel mean the end of Israel. The most significant concession is a right of return for 4 million or more Palestinian “refugees” to Israel, rather than to a new Palestinian state. Arafat made clear at Camp David and thereafter, that he would not give up the right of return for the refugees. For this demand is at the heart of the conflict - the historical grievance that Palestinians have held close to their hearts for over half a century.

The refugees and their descendants have been systematically told they were all run out of Israel by the Zionists. In their new countries or lands they were housed in camps (except in some cases by Jordan), and in a few cases (e.g. Lebanon) never allowed to travel or leave the camps. They have been fed a steady diet of hatred of Israel, and the Jews. Their jailers have been other Arabs, and the United Nations relief organization UNWRA, anxious to keep alive a determined, angry and violent loathing of Israel. In no other place in the world are refugees from a conflict a half century old still called refugees and not resettled.

The frenzy at Yasser Arafat’s funeral was revealing. Arafat would have been pleased. No cries of “peace with Israel” or “we want a state” were to be heard. Rather the screams were for jihad, and death to the Jews and to Israel. Arafat was the ultimate rejectionist, or resister. His cause was the struggle to reverse 1948 - to bring the Palestinians back to Israel proper, and kill the Jews or at best bid them farewell.
Not very cheerful. But it is delusional to pretend that facts aren't facts.


 
What Are Hybrid Cars Good For?
By Mike Rappaport

This piece argues that hybrid cars are not the answer to our environmental problems. But they may make us feel good (until we realize that they are not the answer). Here is an excerpt:

Of course, if gas mileage is the ultimate goal, all of these strategies [used by hybrid cars] could be applied to a “standard” car. A non-hybrid model with the equivalent modifications would significantly narrow the mileage gap with its hybrid sibling. In fact, in normal use, the margin between truly comparable hybrid and non-hybrid cars could be less than 10%-- hardly enough to justify the extra purchase price. And, lest we forget, the hybrid’s gas-saving advantage is not without its own particular environmental costs.

Gas - electric hybrid engines use several large batteries. Creating these power cells requires a couple of hundred pounds of heavy metals-- not to mention the copper used in the large electric drive motors and the heavy wires they require. Mining and smelting lead, copper and other heavy metals is an energy intensive process that generates both air pollution and deforestation. Disposing of the batteries when they outlive their usefulness also raises environmental challenges.

So, if the hybrid’s mileage advantage is minimal, and the technology has its own set of negative environmental side effects, why is hybrid technology so popular, both in the marketplace and in the glossy pages of the car mags?

Americans are fond of turning to simple silver bullets to solve complicated problems. The hybrid solution seems ideal. Want to be environmentally responsible? Buy a hybrid. A hybrid car offers instant gratification, PC-style. It relieves consumers of both guilt and personal responsibility for the broader impact of their daily energy consumption habits. Heaven forbid that a hybrid owner should switch off their central air, or buy less disposable products, or use their car less, to help protect the environment.
Hat tip: Orin Kerr at the Conspiracy.


 
Belmont Club on the CIA shakeup
By Tom Smith

Worth reading.


 
The Middle East after Herr Arafat
By Tom Smith

Now that Arafat is chatting with Goebbles inbetween sessions on the grill, we may ask, what next for Middle East? Diplomad, as usual, has some astute observations.

Which reminds me, as there is an old Europe and a new Europe, isn't there also an old America and a new America. The old America is the blue counties on the coasts, and the new America is the rest, which was settled later and is still growing fastest.


 
So you'd like to help kill a terrorist . . .
By Tom Smith

Is it tax deductible? I'm not sure, but where else can you buy a gun or a knife for our boys on the pointy end? Via instapundit.


November 16, 2004
 
Nanny state redux
By Tom Smith

So now after you've spent 8 hours squatting down pit, hewing out coal with sweat and sinew, you can't have a fag with your pint because it's bad for you. What rot. Why not just let pubs designate themselves as smoking or non-smoking, or smoking only in the smoking area, or whatever. You just don't need a universal no-smoking policy in pubs. According to the story,

The aim, according to the government, is to reverse a trend toward an increasingly unhealthy society in which people take too little exercise, eat too much fattening food, engage in unprotected casual sex and smoke.

And what else are you supposed to do to while away your life on that rainy isle? In the nation where you could spend your whole life and never encounter the state except at the post office, it is now going to tell you fish and chips and a Woodbines are bad for you, and instead of a pint, you need to go to jazzercize. Poor Britannia.


 
Powell's mixed record
By Tom Smith

IMHO W is well rid of him. He's not a wartime SOS. Diplomad is interesting on this.


 
Home ownership hell
By Tom Smith

There is some deep lesson in all this, I just don't know what it is. A couple of weeks ago I heard a strange dripping noise in the family room. Investigation revealed my water heater was emitting water, which travelled along some pipes and into a little interior space under the furnace. Well, I thought, with utter naivite, I'm going to have to get in there with a mop and clean it up. Silly me. Instead, plumbers had to come and remove the furnace and the water heater, take apart the little structure on which they sat, erect fans for a week or so, tear out carpet padding, put in a new hot water heater, put back the furnace, and oh yes, somewhere in there dry up all that water. Four large at least. At least.

But it's covered by insurance, right? Oh, you would have to ask. In fact, it might be covered, and it might not be, but now, having already made my claim, I read that insurance companies in CA are cancelling people at record rates for having the temerity to make water damage claims. Because of the burgeoning mold claim phenomenon. OTH in 2003 only 1200 policies were cancelled in this reason in CA, so maybe I will be fine. Whether that counts non-renewals, I don't know. My lovely wife Jeanne is telling me to chill, and I should. If I could take back the claim, I would. At least after 2 weeks of no hot water, I can stop bathing in the ice cold pool. Invigorating, but conducive to grumpiness.

Things got so bad, I actually had to go to a Home Depot. Which led me to compose the following somewhat blasphemous prayer:

O Home Depot Clerk,
I do most humbly prostrate myself before thee
and beg thee, in thy mercy, to vouchsafe to me
where the water softener units are to be sought.
Not the little units to which I have been directed twice,
but, lo, the large units, such as one finds next to water heater,
in mine garage.
Then, in thy wisdom, if thou wouldst get such great thing down
from its high perch, great would be my praises of thee,
O Great Clerk!

And so on. Fortunately, the Scots have invented a useful tonic.


 
Oh, Canada
By Mike Rappaport

The Canadian Coalition for Democracies gets it right:

Today, Prime Minister Paul Martin said that Yasser Arafat "personified the Palestinian people's struggle" and that "I offer on behalf of Canada, my condolences and sympathy to the family of Chairman Arafat, as well as all Palestinians."

"Perhaps rather than offering condolences to the Palestinians for the death of Chairman Arafat, Prime Minister Martin should offer condolences to the Palestinians for the life of Chairman Arafat," said Alastair Gordon, Director of Communications for the Canadian Coalition for Democracies (CCD). "Without Arafat’s leadership, the Palestinians could today have a democratic homeland..."
Celebrating Arafat is like celebrating the Haj Amin al-Husseini, who led the Palestinians to reject the original two state solution in 1947. (Of course, while al-Husseini was indicted for war crimes in Yugoslavia, Arafat won a Nobel Prize.)


 
Florida in San Diego II: The Write-In Lawsuit
By Mike Rappaport

The lawsuit challenging the write-in candidacy of Donna Frye for mayor has failed, largely on the ground that the challengers waited too long to litigate. In a previous post, I had wondered whether equity should not have prevented this after the election lawsuit and it turns out the judge agreed.

That said, the write-in candidacy does seem illegal. Mayoral elections invove a primary that selects the top two candidates and then the general election is a run-off between them. Allowing Donna Frye to bypass the primary seems absurd. Moreover, it allows Frye, a Democrat, to win the election by having the two Republicans split the vote.

Still, it is likely that we will only face one illegal election on these grounds. If a write-in candidate emerges in the next mayoral election, the issue will no doubt be litigated before the election. And hopefully the judge will conclude that write-in candidates are illegal.


November 15, 2004
 
Why the Democrats Lost
By Mike Rappaport

Over at Opinion Journal, Brendan Miniter has a pretty good column offering another reason why the Democrats lost:

It's time to let Democrats in on a little secret. America is a land of perpetual rebirth and reform--always has been. That's why George W. Bush gets a pass on whatever he did before he found Jesus and swore off drinking. And it's why Bill Clinton received the benefit of the doubt over his "youthful indiscretions" in 1992. As Democrats search for an American value they can embrace, they also might want to consider that voters tend believe in American exceptionalism--that this nation is a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world. Put these two ideas together and what Donna Brazile will discover as she mixes with the common folk at Denny's and Applebee's is while Americans may complain about the daily struggle of their lives, they expect hardship on the path to a better life.

What Americans will not tolerate is pessimism, defeatism and stagnation. It's not for nothing that Jimmy Carter's presidency ended amid an era of "stagflation." When Mr. Carter put a sweater on in the Oval Office and told Americans to get ready to start accepting less, he might as well have resigned.

What all this means for Democrats now, is that if they want to start winning elections again they need a reform agenda. Fighting the war on terror, bringing democracy to the Middle East, protecting Social Security, ending an era in education dominated by the soft bigotry of low expectations--it's hard to find a contentious political issue that is devoid of fundamental moral judgments. And on each one of these issues, it is the Republican Party that has been offering fresh ideas, a chance for a new beginning. Democrats need to get a reform agenda and start thinking about ways to be born again.


November 14, 2004
 
Possible Justices
By Mike Rappaport

The Wall Street Journal lists 8 possible nominees for the Supreme Court. I know a couple of these people, and believe that at least several people on the list would be be good justices. Unfortunately, though, Michael McConnell is not on the list.


 
Teenagers
By Mike Rappaport

An extremely interesting column on teenagers by Glenn Reynolds from a while back. I am not sure I agree with all of it, but I must admit the point was new to me.


 
Fallujah war story
By Tom Smith

These guys are heros.


 
Consent -- to Sex and Otherwise
By Maimon Schwarzschild

I'm in snowy Colorado Springs for a law-and-philosophy conference on consent: consent to sex, mostly; but also consent to things like euthanasia, and even to bad commercial deals (when the alternatives, for instance, are even worse). The texts for the conference are two very good books on the subject: Alan Wertheimer's "Consent to Sexual Relations", and Peter Westen's "The Logic of Consent". The subject, like a lot of subjects, is more and more difficult the more you think about it. When is your "consent" to sex, say, legally or morally valid? Not, surely, if you are being threatened with a gun. But suppose the man says he will break up with you if you don't sleep with him? Suppose he says he really cares for you, when it's not true? Suppose your husband wants to have sex, you don't really feel like it, but you go along? Suppose you go to a fraternity party and get drunk? Suppose you are mildly retarded? Suppose you are not-so-mildly retarded? Suppose your child is ill and needs expensive treatment: you ask a rich acquaintance for help and he says he will give you money if you will sleep with him?

The conferees, including Westen and Wertheimer themselves, are mostly philosophers or law teachers with philosophical interests. You would expect philosophers to put forth general, abstract principles for assessing something like consent. (You might expect much the same from legal scholars.) And I think there is something of a consensus among the group at this symposium -- a very smart group, present company excluded -- that consent is usually valid if it is motivated by an offer, not a threat; and a threat is what would put you in a position that it would not be just (or legal) to put you in. But, perhaps not surprisingly, what people think about consent in all these cases turns out to depend a lot on the specific facts of the case. There are a million stories in the naked city. Not so easy to lay down principles for dealing with all of them.

PS Alan Wertheimer's book is published by Cambridge University Press, and is offered at a reasonable price, especially in paperback. Peter Westen's book is published by Ashgate, an academic publisher, and the price is very high indeed. This isn't Westen's fault in any way: these are the prices that academic publishers charge. This is TheRightCoast, and far be it from me to cavil at the market. (And it's very true: the alternatives to free markets are far worse.) Still, did I mention that academic publishers charge very high prices for their books?


November 13, 2004
 
CIA hubris
By Tom Smith

The CIA seems to be a problem. It does have a history of being anti-GOP, but why it would invest so heavily in defeating Bush is unclear to me. They certainly have a tradition of being WASP, Yalie, and perhaps even just ever so slightly anti-Hebraic. If you want a snootful of CIA Yalie snobbery, you can read this book until you heave. It begins with a long and dead serious discussion of exactly where a professor at Yale ranks on the social ladder. But that is history. This book is a much more contemporary look at the CIA, and quite accurate seeming, based on my tangential dealings with the Firm. Not to be too subtle about it, it seems to me the CIA isn't that different from Arab Studies departments at universities. It hard to study and understand something and loathe it at the same time. Few experts on the Soviet Union saw it as an evil empire. My guess is the CIA sorts essentially agree with the European critique of US policy in the Middle East. We're too pro-Israel, and we do too many things to offend the Arabs and their various sensitivities, which oddly enough, do not extend to blowing children into little hunks of meat. Yes, intelligence reform seems an opportunity to get the CIA on board in the war against terror. But how do you do that without crippling our intelligence capabilities, such as they are, during the transition? I don't know.


 
Cheney should resign
By Tom Smith

Maybe not right this minute, but pretty soon, Dick Cheney should resign and Bush should nominate a VP who would be a live prospect in 2008. This is not the way Bushes think, of course, but there's no harm wishing. Cheney is a good man, even if he does have ice water for blood and a metaphorical metal pump for a heart. Even his admirers think he is a scary guy. But you can't have a guy a heartbeat away when his own heartbeat is not that reliable. If somebody told him W had been shot dead, he'd probably have a heart attack and die. Then who would be President? Hasert? It just won't do.

So who should be VP? I like Condie Rice. It would be amusing to watch the Democrats explain that appearances notwithstanding, she was in fact both white and male. But Bushes are loyal to a fault, part of the fault being that family comes before party or national political future. Ask Dan Quayle.


 
The Desertion of the Liberal Hawks
By Mike Rappaport

A powerful article at Reason Online by Tim Cavanaugh:

One of the most dramatic and least surprising developments of Election 2004's final period has been President Bush's abandonment by the "liberal hawks," the collection of left-leaning thinkers, commentators, and pundits who approved of the invasion of Iraq as a progressive operation, offered well reasoned and often enthusiastic support for Bush in the prelude to the war, were granted their wish by the White House, and have now paid the president back with withering criticism and endorsements for John Kerry.

Thus, in late 2002 and early 2003, we found such luminaries as Christopher Hitchens, Paul Berman, Thomas Friedman, Fred Kaplan, Kenneth Pollack, Fareed Zakaria, Jeff Jarvis, Andrew Sullivan, Michael Ignatieff, and many others arguing for the expenditure of American lives and treasure in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

These days, none of those luminaries can summon a kind word for the president who acted in accord with their own arguments. Ignatieff dismisses the humanitarian intervention as a "fantasy." Sullivan has in recent days seized on the nebulous circumstances surrounding the disappearance of explosives at Al Qaqaa as evidence that Bush failed to keep order in postwar Iraq. Friedman declares, "Iraq is a terrible mess because of the criminal incompetence of the Bush national security team, and we are more alone in the world than ever." Zakaria calls the president "strangely out of touch," unaware that his "attitude" is responsible for the problems of postwar Iraq.

This is a neat arrangement of responsibility by the liberal hawks: All the blame falls on the president, none on themselves. Bush's former supporters channel what is now the overwhelming conventional wisdom that the administration (in the person of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld) failed to provide a large enough force to run the country adequately. Leave aside the question about just how large a force would be adequate, given that even under the current deployment the armed services are strained to meet their commitments and relying on callups of the Individual Ready Reserve to fill manpower gaps. Ignore for a moment how 300,000, or 500,000, or a million, non-Arabic-speaking troops would prevent, for example, an insider from helping massacre 50 Iraqi police recruits. Under any conditions, the liberal hawks' brand of armchair generalship is stunningly glib.

On any given week, World War II offered more fuckups and catastrophes than anything that has been seen in postwar Iraq. Anybody who seriously believes Operation Iraqi Freedom is a worthy national effort must explain Roosevelt's incompetence before denouncing Bush's.

So if the liberal hawks honestly thought the war could be conducted without brutality, they were merely naïve. If, however, they are not so much disappointed in the war as tired of Bush, they are something worse.
Although Tim Cavanaugh writes as a critic of the war, he recognizes that his argument can also be used by supporters of the war. In either event, it is a pretty devestating criticism of the liberal hawks. While they believe that George Bush let them down, in reality, it is they who have let him down.


November 12, 2004
 
Now we're cookin'
By Tom Smith

Pentagon anti-missile laser system sees first light.


 
Blair!
By Mike Rappaport

Tony Blair, as usual, gets the US - UK alliance right.

We're not fighting the war against terrorism because we are an ally of the United States. We are an ally of the United States because we believe in fighting this war against terrorism. We share the same objectives. We share the same values.
Blair's view also explains why Kerry's nonsense about getting the help of the French and Germans doesn't make sense. We could get their assistance only by corrupting ourselves and undermining our values.


 
Fouad Ajami on Arafat
By Mike Rappaport

Fouad Ajami writes:

He would be neither a Palestinian David Ben-Gurion leading his people toward practical politics and statehood nor an Anwar Sadat accepting the logic of peace and compromise. It was a pity for the Palestinians that Yasser Arafat was what he was: a juggler, a trimmer, a man who never had it in him to tell his people great historical truths about their condition in the world of nations and their practical possibilities. The void, and the failure, Arafat leaves in his wake were of his own making. He indulged his people's worst fantasies and squandered great opportunities that opened up for them.

Character is destiny. And in the end, character doomed Arafat. The peace of Oslo, concluded in 1993…had rescued Yasser Arafat from political oblivion, brought him back from the wilderness and from exile to give him a political base, a home on the soil of Gaza and the West Bank. Arafat understood the bargain that Labor Zionism made with him: He would have to keep the peace, and he would have to begin to lay the foundations of a moderate Palestinian polity. He would do nothing of the sort. He was good at starting fires. Temperamentally, the man abhorred the hard work of state building…

It is idle to lament the historic opportunities wasted by this man. The fault lies not in a leader whose weaknesses were known the world over but in the illusions and the hopes invested in him by outsiders willing to be deluded.
There is much to be said for Ajami's view. But another possibility is that Arafat was simply scared to be assassinated, like Sadat, if he concluded a peace deal. If that was his motivation, then there is less reason to believe his death will lead to an improvement -- unless a Sadat emerges in his wake.


November 11, 2004
 
Law School Rankings and Job Prospects
By Mike Rappaport

Over at the Conspiracy, guest blogger Rick Sanders is publishing a series of quite interesting posts on affirmative action. Today's post has more general implications. Here is the bottom line:

Analyses of the data show, quite strikingly, that employers care — and care a lot — about how job-seekers did in law school. Law school prestige is important, but for law graduates as a whole, good grades are a much more powerful predictor of getting a higher-paying job than the eliteness of one's school.

My findings about the job market tradeoff between school eliteness and grades have implications for all law students, not just blacks. The implication of my findings is that going to the best law school one gets into - a strategy almost everyone seems to follow - may not be a very good strategy at all. It is important for students to realistically assess how well they will do at the schools that will have them, and to pick a school where they are likely to be at least in the middle of their class. Middle- and low-tier law schools, under this view, deserve a lot more respect than the very hierarchical world of legal education tends to accord them.


 
Florida in San Diego
By Mike Rappaport

While Florida and Ohio may have avoided election litigation this time, San Diego has not. In the mayoral race, a write in candidate received 35 percent of the vote, with the other two candidates receiving 34 and 31. That is pretty astounding. The incumbent mayor, who received 34 percent, was formerly a superior court judge, so "all 124 Superior Court judges" have been recused from the case. A retired judge from another county will here it.

What is the litigation about?

The election is being challenged by a local lawyer, John Howard. His suit targets discrepancies between the City Charter, which seems to prohibit write-ins in general elections, and the city's municipal code, which explicitly allows write-ins in primary and general elections. Howard is seeking a court order to halt the vote count, declare the election invalid and hold another election between only Murphy and Roberts.
For what it is worth, I am not a big fan of the write in candidate (but Tom may like her, since she is the favorite of surfers). But I wonder about the lawsuit. On its face, it seems plausible, but what about the timing?

Asked why he did not sue before the election, Howard said: "I'm a business and corporate litigator. I don't do political and election law . . . I'm apolitical. This isn't something that was high on my radar screen. "During a campaign, what happens is, people come in, you have conversations with your friends and somebody will say, 'Hey, did you hear her candidacy might not be legal?' It's not something I thought I needed to address."
I think we have too much litigation about elections these days. While legality is important, why not require that individuals bring these lawsuits before the election? That is something of a burden, but so is holding a new election. I wonder whether at one time equity required people not to sit on their hands, but to sue before a loss occurred. It doesn't sound like such a bad rule to me.


 
Death of a Kleptocrat
By Mike Rappaport

Do the European Union and other critics of Israel simply hate Israel or care about the Palestinian people? Consider this description, courtesy of Jim Lindgren, of Arafat's wife's living conditions:

Last July, Arafat sent his wife $11 million to cover her living expenses and those of their daughter for six months - $1.8 million per month. The new accord guarantees her the same allowance from the Palestinian Authority as a regular annual remittance, i.e. $22 million per annum, for the rest of her life. Abu Mazen and prime minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) signed on the dotted line, although they have no notion how the penniless Palestinian Authority faced with a people in dire poverty can possibly stump up this kind of money.

DEBKAfile's Paris sources offer an exclusive peek at Suha Arafat's lifestyle in the French capital. She owns a smart villa on one of the most elegantly affluent streets in the world, Rue Fauborg St. Honore, while also maintaining a lavish private suite at the five-star Hotel Le Bristol, which after a multimillion dollar refurbishment claims to outclass the Paris Ritz, the Four Seasons and even George V. The upkeep of the Bristol suite she maintains for "business" was included in her widow's "pension."
So where is the outrage at this theft of Palestinian assets?


 
Bush and Arafat
By Mike Rappaport

Here is an excerpt from the Max Boot piece to which Tom linked. It shows one of George Bush's greatest accomplishments:

Though Arafat, of course, bore ultimate responsibility for his many sins, he could not have been so destructive without so many outside enablers, ranging from the Soviet Union, which supported him from the 1960s to the 1980s, to the European Union and the United States, which stepped into the sugar daddy role in the 1990s. And let us not forget his fan club among the Western intelligentsia, many of whom even now weep for his passing as if he were a great man instead of a criminal with a cause.

George W. Bush, alone among Western leaders, had the courage to stop dealing with the Palestinian thug-in-chief. On June 24, 2002, the president gave an important speech in which he called on the Palestinian people "to elect new leaders … not compromised by terror" and to "build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty." Now that Arafat has gone to the great compound in the sky, there will be pressure on Bush to resume the pointless "peace process," but it will be premature to do so as long as the terrorist kleptocracy spawned by Arafat continues to exist.


 
Off to that great compound in the sky
By Tom Smith

Arafat is in a better place, and so are we. Well, he may not be in a better place, but at least we are. via Instapundito.


November 10, 2004
 
Andrew Sullivan's Move to the Left
By Mike Rappaport

Now Andrew Sullivan is scared about capitalism's introduction into the blogosphere. Oh no, Microsoft might host or enable blogs. God forbid. Of course, Slate hasn't been too harmed by Microsoft -- it has the same liberal bias as most of the MSM magazines.

I remember Sullivan in the days of the New Republic. I thought he was a liberal. When he claimed to be a conservative, I doubted it. Then, when his blog emerged, he genuinely seemed to be somewhat conservative, mainly about the war, but also about other matters. I was persuaded. But it seems that he has changed again.


 
Revenge of the Sith
By Mike Rappaport

Here is the trailer for the next Star Wars movie -- Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith. Pretty cool.


 
Scramjet. Cool.
By Tom Smith

New hypersonic jet to be tested by NASA.

Of course, there may be other very fast jets in the air already we don't know about.

There were some difficult to explain sonic booms here in San Diego a few years back . . .


November 09, 2004
 
A Filibuster is Unlikely to Stop Michael McConnell
By Mike Rappaport

My recommendation that President Bush nominate Michael McConnell of the 10th Circuit to be Chief Justice when William Rehnquist resigns has received some support in the Blogosphere from Eugene Volokh, Stephen Bainbridge, and Glenn Reynolds (although the latter prefers Eugene Volokh). [Update: Stuart Buck also endorses McConnell.]

Stephen Bainbridge would like McConnell, but fears that he would not be confirmed:

I agree with much of what Mike says, except possibly about McConnell's confirmability. McConnell's only been on the bench for a couple of years, which will give people a reason to argue that he lacks experience. When he went up for the 10th Circuit, he had the strong support of then-Judiciary chair Orrin Hatch, who will no longer be in as strong a position to help out. Finally, I'm not convinced that the liberal law profs who backed McConnell for the appeals court would be willing to do so for the Supreme Court. But let's hope I'm wrong; we certainly could do a lot worse.
Bainbridge, however, is overly pessimistic. Given McConnell’s credentials and views, he would certainly receive the support of Senate Republicans, who now have a majority. Thus, the only way his nomination could be defeated is through a Democratic filibuster. While Senate Democrats have shown that they can effectively filibuster Court of Appeals nominees, they are unlikely to be able to filibuster strong nominees to the Supreme Court like McConnell.

A filibuster is only possible if 40 Democratic Senators are willing to support it, but this is much less likely than it was for Court of Appeal nominees for several reasons. First, the general public does not like partisan delaying tactics that impair the operation of the government. While the Courts of Appeals functioned perfectly well with vacancies, the Supreme Court is widely regarded as not being fully functional without 9 sitting justices. As a result, a filibuster that prevents the Senate from voting on a nominee is much more likely to be seen, like a filibuster that would deprive the government of funds to operate, as a harmful partisan act. Moreover, the Republicans will be able to continually remind the country of the Democrats’ delaying tactics. They can repeatedly require votes on cloture, forcing the Democrats to take heat on the issue over and over again.

Second, Supreme Court nominations also differ from Court of Appeals nominations because the public pays much more attention to Supreme Court nominations. While the Democrats could avoid public scrutiny from Court of Appeals filibusters (and in fact gain support from more extreme Democratic activists), Supreme Court filibusters would receive the attention of most voters, including moderate voters who the Democrats need (and now appear to recognize that they need) to win elections. And of course Tom Daschle’s defeat, in part for his role concerning the Court of Appeals filibusters, will remind the more moderate Democratic Senators that there are consequences for taking unpopular actions.

Third, it will also be harder to filibuster Supreme Court nominations than ordinary legislation. Since a particular person is being nominated, this will personalize the issue. It may seem unfair to deprive a nominee of a vote on his candidacy. While this was also true of Court of Appeals nominees, the public was much less aware of these nominations.

Of course, if the President were to nominate an extreme or weak candidate, then the Democrats might be able to argue that a filibuster was appropriate. Perhaps the country would believe that the President had abused his prerogative and it was appropriate to block his nominee. But where the President nominates someone with excellent credentials and nonextreme views, this is a much harder argument to make. While left-wing Democrats with safe seats such as Schumer and Boxer would no doubt be willing to filibuster McConnell, more moderate Democrats would be much less willing to take the heat.


 
It's The Longitude, Stupid!
By Maimon Schwarzschild

"It's the longitude, stupid!", says Bill Stuntz.

Also, there is this retrospective history of the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton-Bush era from a 22nd century French historian.

(Britons of a certain age will be reminded of the Heath-Wilson-Heath-Wilson era...)


November 08, 2004
 
Liberal Paranoia
By Tom Smith

If you think about it, American liberals today resemble Puritans, of the Cromwellian stripe. They seem to be unable to tolerate the idea that in large swaths of America, evangelical Christians are out there, doing the things they do. Reading the bible and taking it literally is a kind of intellectual sodomy, that simply cannot be suffered to exist.

Here is Brad DeLong, not getting it. Do you see what is wrong with his picture? He quotes with horror the story of a bunch of evangelicals, on a trip down the Grand Canyon. They look at geology and see creation. They make fun of Carl Sagan and imagine him roasting in hell fire. They listen to a preacher about the bible. But here's the thing. It's a private trip, isn't it? A bunch of co-religionists go out to the wilds. Where is the problem, exactly? Are they thinking unlicensed thoughts? Is the Grand Canyon a violation of the Establishment Clause? The Clean Air Act, perhaps, because such people are allowed to breathe? Brad DeLong seems unable to bear the idea that not everybody thinks he is as smart as he thinks he is. He wrings his hands and exclaims "the intolerance! I just can't stand it!"

Liberals give themselves way too much credit. If they knew more evangelicals of the strict, biblical sort, they would appreciate what an embattled minority they are. Yes, they played an influential role in the last election, but I am talking about the lives they actually lead. Blacks are sometimes important in elections, but that does not mean a lot of them do not have tough lives. Strict Christians have to put up with the contempt of main stream culture, villification in the media, and policies in public institutions that border on official persecution. Most of them do not have a lot of money and can't send their kids to the private schools their betters send their kids to, so they won't have to suffer the consequences of liberal educational theories in practice. And all this while listening to the elites congratulate themselves for being so tolerant and superior. In the meantime, without the Catholics in the police and fire departments, and the born-agains in the Marines, they'd be asking some guy in a bathrobe to tell them again which way Mecca was.


 
Jui-jitsu video
By Tom Smith

A student of mine who's into Brazilian jui-jitsu sent me this cool link to a a video of two of the Gracies sparring, showing their techniques. They are so good, they make it look smooth, clean and easy.


 
More on exit polls
By Tom Smith

Pollster Frank Luntz said on the Dennis Praeger show this morning that when he first saw the exit polls, he thought Kerry had won it. This from a guy who called Ohio for W the morning of Nov. 2 based on polling. Luntz also said that Karl Rove told him that when he first got the exit poll numbers he was "sick to his stomach" and only figured out they were wrong when he looked at the internals. If the exit polls fooled savy professionals such as these, it's no big surprize that they fooled the betting market. It seems pretty clear that the exit polls were more wrong than anyone had reason to expect they would be. The market figured it out when real numbers started out of Florida, however.

Luntz said he thought the exit polls were not biased, just incomptetent. He said they relied too much on phone polling of people who claimed to have voted, but did not. He said Americans traditionally underestimate their age and weight, and overestimate the frequency with which they vote and have sex.


 
Red and blue America
By Tom Smith

We are the red cube in the southwest most corner. Via Diplomad, who has interesting posts about how they're taking W's re-electo-selection in the Far Abroad.


November 06, 2004
 
Final word on tradesports
By Tom Smith

Yes, tradesports and the other bookies had W down at around 30 percent for most of election day. Does this suggest markets aren't so efficient or rational after all, or at least betting markets?

Not really. The betting markets were reacting to the exit polls, just like everyone else was. The exit polls were way off, further off, I strongly suspect, than anyone had reason to think they would be. Why were they so far off?

Both Dems and the GOP made a huge effort to get out the vote, including getting out many new voters. The GOP effort in particular relied on an extraordinary, risky, and unprecedented effort to use informal networks of contacts to get out the rural vote. Republicans called friends, relatives and associates and reminded them to get out the vote. In my republican part of San Diego county, "Be sure to vote!" became the temporary replacement of "Have a nice day!"

Exit pollers have to make assumptions about turnout to allocate their boots on the ground. They apparently allocated their interviewers, rationally enough, in some way that did not anticipate the big increase in rural voters. Thus they oversampled suburban and urban voters, catching the big Dem turnout, but not the even bigger GOP turnout.

The market isn't magic. It only works with the information it has. It looked for a while like a Democratic rout because the information wasn't available that across Red Amuricah, pappy had fired up the truck and taken all the kin into vote. If exit pollers had more samplers in rural areas, or if we had a media that actually reported the news, we and the market would have been spared a panic. When did the market fix itself? As soon as real numbers started coming in in Florida. When the real numbers started coming in, tradesports showed Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico going to W well before the networks called any of them. Good information drove out bad.

So, I think the betting markets did fine this election day. I think what the selling off of W contracts before the polls closed showed was simply that the turnout the GOP organized across the country was an utter surprize to all but a few GOP insiders, such as Herr Professor Rove.

I have been told that the Realclearpolitics moving average of state polls called every single state correctly, perhaps because aggregating poll numbers has the effect of increasing sample size. Also, if you select randomly from a database that includes rural voters, laws of probability should assure they get adequately represented in your sample. So the likely voter screens ended up working well enough so that exit pollers had no particular advantage just because they were talking to real voters. The fact that the polls did as well as they did does not mean anybody knew there would be such a big rural turn out. Moreover, polls must have been using some likely voter screen beyond, "did you vote in the last election" to do as well as they did.

BTW the only pollster I know who foresaw the Dem's problem was Pat Cadell, the rotund, very sad looking fellow seen rarely these days on TV. He said months ago he was getting numbers like 80 percent opposed to gay marriage, even in traditionally Democratic rural areas. He said the Dems were in deep trouble if they stuck to that issue, and it looks like he was right.


 
Busy times
By Tom Smith

Some fans may wonder why I have been silent since the election. Well, these are very busy times. I'm one of the many volunteers gathering snakes for the great snake-handle-athon we Bush voters are having to celebrate W's election. Thousands of snakes will be necessary, not to mention the Bibles, which need to be thumped upon while we handle the snakes. And not just any snakes, but large, venomous monsters are very much preferred, for their spiritual benefits. Emergency physicians also need to be recruits for those Democrats who crash the party and try to handle snakes, even though they are impure. Put that together with the hundreds of barrels of moonshine that have to be distilled, and well, I'm so busy I don't know whether to sh$% or go blind. The location isn't final yet, but somewhere around here, probably. This guy's going to provide some of the entertainment.


 
Those darn terrorists
By Tom Smith

Marines discover Iraqi youth center rigged to blow up and kill the kids. Trigger was in the local mosque. You can't make this stuff up.


November 05, 2004
 
Chief Justice McConnell
By Mike Rappaport

It does not seem too early to discuss who would be a good replacement for Chief Justice William Rehnquist. My recommendation is Tenth Circuit Judge Michael McConnell.

McConnell was a first rate constitutional scholar, who had a reputation for integrity and excellent scholarship. His nomination to the Tenth Circuit was supported by a bipartisan group of law professors.

McConnell would also make sense since he would be acceptable to the evangelicals who seemed to be so important to President Bush's reelection as well as to other Americans. McConnell is a religious man who devoted much of his scholarly career to pursuing a view of constitutional religious liberties that is both respectful of evangelical concerns and well grounded in history.

Finally, McConnell would be likely to be confirmed. Democrats could do far worse, from their perspective, than a nominee who has integrity, is collegial, and respects those who disagree with him. In fact, McConnell's personality seems to be a perfect fit with the job of Chief Justice.


November 04, 2004
 
The Election Surprise
By Mike Rappaport

What a difference a few days make.


 
Democrat Reflections
By Mike Rappaport

Tim Noah of the increasingly left-wing Slate (it used to be somewhat moderate, but it doesn't really seem to be anymore) explains why the Democrats should not respond to Bush's reelection by moving right. It is this type of argument that will keep the Democrats losing elections:

The DLC [which wants the Democrats to move right] is a victim of its own success. Having already moved the Democratic Party rightward—these days, there isn't much point in distinguishing between a "new Democrat" and a plain old "Democrat"—it now risks taking the party too far rightward. If the Democrats continue down this path, then pretty soon it will be impossible to distinguish the Democrats from today's Republicans. (Some folks on the left, including Ralph Nader, think that's already happened.)
Not exactly a good argument. Just because "New Democrats" are more conservative than "Old Democrats" does not say anything about what is necessary to win elections (or even what is right). And relying on Ralph Nader's views -- that is surely not the way to win elections.


 
Cycles of Fashion
By Mike Rappaport

According to the New York Times:

"In 1970, the same year that Felicia and Leonard Bernstein held their party for the Black Panthers, which popularized the term "radical chic," Paramount released "The Out-of-Towners." The picture starred Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis as George and Gwen Kellerman, a nice couple from Twin Oaks, Ohio, who come to New York on a business trip. Everything that can possibly happen to the Kellermans in the space of 12 hours does. They are mugged, kidnapped, forced to sleep in Central Park, and Mrs. Kellerman breaks a heel and loses a false eyelash.

But a closer look at Ms. Dennis's wardrobe — her low-heeled shoes, her strap-handle bag, her loose white coat with its spreading collar and large covered buttons — reveals that it is exactly what's in fashion now. You can find almost the identical coat from Martin Grant, the Paris-based designer, or from Moschino. Even Ms. Dennis's soft waves and pale unmade-up face are the height of chic. As for Mr. Lemmon's slim suit, it looks a lot like those by Prada and Raf Simons."


November 03, 2004
 
Corruption in America
By Mike Rappaport

That is the name of a paper by two Harvard Economists, who claim that corruption is largely combatted by education. Here is the abstract of their paper:

We use a data set of federal corruption convictions in the U.S.
to investigate the causes and consequences of corruption. More
educated states, and to a less degree richer states, have less
corruption. This relationship holds even when we use historical
factors like education in 1928 or Congregationalism in 1890, as
instruments for the level of schooling today. The level of
corruption is weakly correlated with the level of income
inequality and racial fractionalization, and uncorrelated with
the size of government. There is a weak negative relationship
between corruption and employment and income growth. These
results echo the cross-country findings, and support the view
that the correlation between development and good political
outcomes occurs because more education improves political
institutions.


 
The Election and Same-Sex Marriage
By Mike Rappaport

My guess is that George Bush's position on same-sex marriage turned out to be an important factor in his victory yesterday. Three reasons supporting this conclusion. First, the large number of people stating that moral issues were important to them. What moral issues? Same sex marriage. Second, the large turnout of evangelicals in various states. Third, the fact that all 11 anti-same-sex marriage initatives won.

Certain courts have pushed the same-sex marriage issue, but it appears that at least a significant portion of the electorate was resisting it.


 
Tradesports Revisited
By Gail Heriot

Tom, your statement that “[a]fter a panic brought on by the leaked exit polls, tradesports settled down and became a valuable guide for the night” is kinder than I would have been. I don’t usually find myself in the position of pooh-poohing markets, but tradesports didn’t exactly cover itself in glory yesterday. From about 11:00 a.m. to about 5:00 p.m., it showed Kerry as the 2 to 1 and sometimes nearly 3 to 1 favorite. If Dan Rather had been calling Kerry the 2 to 1 favorite all afternoon on CBS, we’d be calling him an idiot now. I therefore think it’s fair to say that at least from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the market in presidential politics was an ass and an idiot too; participants gave far too much credence to early exit poll results that were really no different from the early exit poll results back in 2000. They goofed. It may be that these markets are usually pretty accurate, but you sure can’t prove it by yesterday.


 
Today
By Mike Rappaport

I don't normally watch the Today Show, but I must admit some shameful joy in seeing how unhappy Katie Couric and Matt Lauer were this morning. While I feel sorry for some Democrats, not for them.


 
This Is It, Isn't It?
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Bush's lead in the Ohio count is just over 145,000, with 99% of the precincts in. It seems that a generous estimate of outstanding Ohio "provisional ballots" is 175,000. Call it 200,000. In Illinois four years ago, only about 20% of the provisional ballots were later upheld as valid. But suppose 80% of the Ohio provisionals are valid. Kerry would then need to win these provisionals by considerably more than an 80% margin to beat his current shortfall. And that is assuming there are more provisionals than anyone now thinks, and that an unrealistic proportion of them, probably a vastly unrealistic proportion of them, are valid.

I don't see how it can be done, however many lawyers there are ready to be launched.

And will Kerry-Edwards really launch the lawyers, given these numbers, when Bush has what appears to be a clear popular vote majority?


November 02, 2004
 
Ohio!
By Mike Rappaport

Fox News just called Ohio for Bush, which appears to give him the reelection. If this stands up -- a big if -- it suggests that the exit polls were extremely problematic. Perhaps fraudulent. A talking head said that some of the exit polls predicted double digits leads for Kerry in states where he leads now only by a single point.


 
That's what I'm talking about
By Tom Smith

Well, it looks like a win for W and a good thing too. It came down to FL and OH, as I said it would, just following the betting lines. After a panic brought on by the leaked exit polls, tradesports settled down and became a valuable guide for the night. I found it consistently ahead of the networks. (The best of which was Fox, largely because of the amazing Michael Barone. He actually knows the layout of key counties in Ohio. How sick is that? )

Except for the panic, the lines did a good job revealing that PA was never really in play, and that MI and MN were long shots for W at best. They also foretold W's apparent victory in NM.

NOW it looks like Iowa might go W. It also looks like it might end up in the automatic recount range. Very close. Nevada and NM look pretty safe.


 
The Perfect Manhattan
By Tom Smith

KLJ, over at the Corner, allows as she does not know how to make a Manhattan. An appalling admission, but OK. Better late than never. My father in law, who took the train from New Canaan to Grand Central for 40 years and worked his way from the mail room to the very top of a giant advertising firm, had at least one Manhattan every day of his life and still does. My courtship of his cute daughter prospered in the golden glow of many such. Anyway . . .

The perfect Manhattan

Take a crystal old-fashioned glass.
Bestow unto it two large jiggers of the best Canadian whiskey you can find. Chivas does nicely.
Now add the sweet vermouth. And do this very carefully. How much? I suggest taking the cap of the Martini & Ross sweet vermouth bottle, and filling it approximately 65% full. Not more. Then add that to the Chivas.
Now, and this is key, add a 3/4 cap full of pure spring water. NYC water is fine. Other places, use bottled water. (The water "opens up" the rye.) Now stir briefly.
Then add ice. Crushed ice is good. Cubes are OK. Stir. Stir a lot. Stir at least 100 times, until the outside of your crystal Manhattan glass starts to dew up.
Finally, add a sliver of orange rind. Now say, thank you, Jesus. Because a perfect Manhattan is one of many evidences that God is good.

So that, my dear, is a Manhattan. A rye martini. A bullet directed at that spot in your forebrain that does nothing but make you unhappy just now. You are permitted to say, yum yum.

MORE . . . Cherry juice?! Do not add cherry juice! My G-d, it's a martini, not a Shirley Temple! It is the drink of sophisticated Manhattanites, not some maiden Tennessee auntie's tipple! KJL, tell me you will not sully your libation with cherry juice. That would be like putting licorice into a gin martini. By all that is holy! And making Manhattans in a jar? Why not make them out in the shed, while your at it, if you can bet Old Rusty to clear out? If you put in cherries, it will be too sweet. You don't like things to be too sweet do you? Sweet is for babies, not tough, old Republicans. This is too upsetting. I need a drink.

HOW EMBARASSING: I meant to say Crown Royal not Chivas. Yes, Chivas is a scotch, not a Canadian whiskey. Just use a good Canadian whiskey. A fellow former MacKinnon clerk tells me that a "Perfect Manhattan" is made with dry vermouth and bitters. But I meant perfect with a lower case P. I've never had a Perfect Manhattan, actually, but I don't like bitters. A regular Manhattan is a relatively sweet martini, yummy rather than bracing. Yes, I like plain old gin martinis too. As to watering the whiskey, well, I'm talking about a teaspoon of water, an innovation introduced by my father-in-law, who noticed the taste improved after the ice melted a little. Please note that my recipe calls for two large jiggers, roughly a triple sized drink. If you put away a couple of these, you need not prove your manhood in any other way. And you will feel much more favorably disposed to all mankind.


 
It ain't over until . . .
By Mike Rappaport

There are reports that the exit polls are indicating results that don't look good for Bush. Before you abandon the farm, remember just how poor the information from exit polls can be. For an informed discussion, take a look at this.


 
Don't Panic
By Tom Smith

It could be we are looking at a classic market panic among the betting crowd. The exit poll numbers do not look good, but they did not look good in 2000 either. Given the closeness of the race, they only have to be off by 2 or 3 percent to turn a winner into a loser. The guys on the Corner suggest it may be that women are being over-sampled. Seems plausible, since moms are the ones you are more likely to run into by the time most reporters and pollsters get up. Working men and women are more likely to vote before or after work. I recall that exit polling methodology has been written off as useless before. Would the MSM play up bad exit poll numbers just to discourage Bush voters?! Haaaa!

So, you can fairly say, without being Pollyanna-ish about it, that exit poll results are consistent with (1) Kerry kicking Bush's butt in both FL and OH and winning the White House, in which case I am glad I didn't buy those dinars, and also (2) a very close race in both places.


 
Will the Jurors Make Eye Contact When They File Back?
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Trial lawyers know the feeling -- waiting for the jury to return.

(Murder defendants know it too, I suppose...)


 
Kerry landslide?
By Tom Smith

I hope tradesports is wrong. In response apparently to early exit polls, Bush contracts have fallen like a stone. Bush lines in some states, Iowa, Minnesota, for example, have effectively stopped trading, with no orders on the buy side. If this were a specialist market, like the NYSE, those contracts would be in free fall. This could be a panic, but it does not seem to be manipulation. If it is, it is very well coordinated. So, tradesports, as of now, is calling the election for Kerry by an electoral vote landslide.

Exit poll data has been wrong before, but bettors should know that. It may be they are seeing the data as indicating that new Democratic voters are out in force, that polls undercounted them, and so on.

It's possible the market will come back as fast as it sunk. It's not just tradesports, BTW. Other off shore bookies are reacting in a similar vein.


 
Should I Really Trust Tradesports?
By Gail Heriot

Tradesports.com has Bush as the clear favorite (57.0). But I wonder if I should trust it. This is a market that attracts hedgers, particularly at this late date. There are lots of folks out there who have bet on Bush even though they plan to vote for Kerry and believe that Kerry will win, just as there are many who bet on Kerry despite the fact that they voted for Bush and anticipate that Bush will be re-elected. It's just they fear that if they are wrong, it will spell disaster for them and their country, so they want to have a hedge. I guess I'll have my answer soon enough.


 
Spy on your neighbors
By Tom Smith

This is scary. Find out to whom your neighbors made political contributions, and in many cases their jobs. I have a neighbor who is a supervising agent in the Department of Homeland Security (and gave to the RNC, of course) and some professors (take a wild guess). And before Kerry, Dean.


 
Thank you for not voting
By Tom Smith

As I sat in my new Starbucks lair yesterday, I overheard the following conversation.

Dudette 1: So, like, are you voting for Kerry?!
Dudette 2: No, duh!
Dudette 1: Then why do you like have a Kerry sign in your car?!
Dudette 2: It says "Don't buy the lies" and Kerry is crossed out!
Dudette 1: Oh.

There was a certain amount of lap sitting going on with boys, who did not speak, perhaps because they found words difficult, or perhaps because, with the knit caps pulled down over their eyes, they were disoriented. Now, these were apparently Bush voters, but my point is non-partisan. Lots of people who can vote, should not.

It might be a good idea to bring back some sort of exam you have to pass to vote. The questions need not be difficult. For example:

Something important happened in the United States between 1861 and 1865. What was it?
a. Dude.
b. It was, like, I mean, it was so totally, like, cute!
c. Death to America!
d. (chew; spit) Yep.
e. World War II
f. Vietnam
g. the Civil War, you idiot

Many people would be disqualified by this question, and that would be a good thing. If you are reading this blog, you are probably not one of these people. If by chance you are, however, please don't vote. Just go back to bed, turn on the TV, and don't worry. Everything will be fine.


November 01, 2004
 
Bernstein on the Election
By Mike Rappaport

David Bernstein is sad about the choice in the election. In my darker moments, I hold something like this view, but normally I believe Bush is much better at battling terror and significantly better concerning the economy despite his obvious willingness to embrace big government. Here is a taste of David's analysis:

This year, the Libertarian candidate is embarassing. And Ralph Nader has become a parody of the man who once supported some forms of deregulation because it benefitted consumers. I find virtually nothing to admire about John Kerry. W. deserves credit for a certain steadfastness in the War on Terror, but his administration is suffused with the sort of hubris, sense of entitlement to power, and belief in the ameliorative powers of government action (in both the foreign and domestic realms) that one normally associates with the worst types of statists. And let's not forget the Administration's blatant lies about the cost of the Medicare law, and Karl Rove's apparent plan to drive all well-educated, secular folks out of the party in exchange for the votes of the most ignorant elements of the fundamentalist community, a traditional Democratic stronghold. I am concerned about the future of the Supreme Court, but I expect that Bush would most likely appoint a "moderate" and easily confirmable Latino who could help woo voters to the GOP side than appoint a principled believer in the American constitution.