Archive for October, 2004

October 28, 2004

ACCOMMODATING THE VOTERS. According to the Badger Herald, lots of folks from Illinois will be attending the big rally at the Wisconsin State Capitol Square, where Bruce Springsteen will play some songs and appear alongside John Kerry. The crowd, predicted to be 60,000, will be encouraged to go right over to City Hall (a block away) and vote immediately, and City Hall is going to stay open until 8 p.m. tonight to accommodate the crowd. As I’ve written here, no I.D. is required to vote absentee at City Hall. Knowing that people are flowing in from Illinois, I’m feeling especially nervous about voter fraud today. If the election in the end comes down to a fight over Wisconsin’s electoral votes, that pile of absentee ballots here is going to be the subject of a huge fight, don’t you think?

UPDATE: Chris aptly notes:

You should note that, while I was not asked for my ID when I voted, you would need to show ID if you were not registered to vote. ID is required for registration but not for the actual voting. The risk of people from Illinois voting, therefore, doesn’t seem to be the main concern.

Right. They’d have to be impersonating someone in Wisconsin.

By the way, Slate has a piece today about people double voting. Bottom line:

For all the new concern about double voting, … the odds of getting caught remain minuscule. Comparing voter databases county by county and state by state is a needle-in-haystack undertaking, even with the aid of computers. Why not vote twice then? Michael Moore probably shouldn’t do it. But you probably could.

October 28, 2004

WHAT WILLIAM SAFIRE SAID ABOUT THE AL QAQAA STORY last night on the Larry King Show:

Let me … see if I can move the story of this story al Qa Qaa forward a little bit.

We now know from CBS’s admission that CBS planned to broadcast this story, which we call in journalism, a keeper, one that’s kept for its greatest impact. They planned to broadcast it next Sunday night, 36 hours before the polls opened. That is known as a roar back. That’s a last-minute, unanswerable story, and it would have been all over the papers Tuesday morning as people went to the polls. Now, I think that’s scandalous.

What happened, because “The New York Times” was working with CBS on the story, and I don’t work on the news side of the “Times” at all, so I’m speculating, the “Times,” either — probably from a combination of ethical and competitive standards decided, no, we’re not going to hold this story. We’re going to go with it now. And they went with it on Monday. And — but just think for a minute, if the plan had gone ahead, we wouldn’t have had this debate this week where it’s possible we could shoot some holes in this story or focus on the attack on the integrity of the examination by the troops that were there.

And instead, we would have had a last-minute manipulation of the election.

That is to say, the Times deserves credit for specifically rejecting the tactic that CBS going to use. I love the phrase “a combination of ethical and competitive standards.” I wrote about the ethics/competition conundrum here two days ago and said I thought the competition between news outlets “might work better than ethics to protect us from outrageous withholding of stories for the purpose of helping a favored candidate.” It’s an old First Amendment tradition to see the competition among speakers as a way to produce good speech. For a newspaper, adhering to strong journalistic ethics is a good business move, and I’m grateful for that. It would be quite disturbing to have to rely on pure ethics!

UPDATE: WaPo’s Howard Kurtz has a much less NYT-flattering version of the story:

On Sunday night, New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller told Jeff Fager, executive producer of CBS’s “60 Minutes,” that the story they had been jointly pursuing on missing Iraqi ammunition was starting to leak on the Internet.

“You know what? We’re going to have to run it Monday,” Keller said.

I guess a little “blog triumphalism” is in order then! And thanks to Soccer Dad for the tip.

ANOTHER UPDATE: An emailer finds it “disturbing that there’s this special vocabulary of manipulative techniques (‘keeper,’ ‘roar back’).” Yes, doesn’t the existence of special insider jargon suggest the practice is common?

AND YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Jim Miller notes the term is actually roorback not “roar back” and explains the meaning and origin of the term.

AND: Here’s a detailed historical description of the Roorback Hoax of 1844.

October 28, 2004

“BUT BILLY HAS MARRIED A BOY.” That’s a line in a poem written by the teenaged Abe Lincoln. Read the whole poem in this L.A. Weekly article about the forthcoming book “The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln.”

UPDATE: That’s the L.A. Weekly (not the L.A. Times) as I’ve corrected this post to show.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I pulled this link from the email, but I see Andrew Sullivan linked to it before me, so I feel I owe him a link. He’s predicting a “major controversy” when the book comes out. We’ve seen Lincoln-was-gay research before, but Sullivan may still be right, given the recent greater interest in gay marriage and the apparent depth of the research in the new book.

October 28, 2004

BAD PUPPETS: ABC news reports that Iraqi officials may have overstated (if you’ll allow me to understate it) the amount of explosives that went missing from al Qa Qaa. 377 tons of RDX? Try 3.

[T]he confidential IAEA documents obtained by ABC News show that on Jan. 14, 2003, the agency’s inspectors recorded that just over 3 tons of RDX was stored at the facility — a considerable discrepancy from what the Iraqis reported.

Why would Iraqi officials overstate it by more 10,000 percent? Some puppets they’ve turned out to be.

October 27, 2004

NOW WHAT? 60 Minutes can’t break the missing explosives story on election eve as originally planned. What’s a network to do when it needs to find a new angle, and fast? Jeff Goldstein suggests nine last-minute story ideas.

October 27, 2004

THE ULTIMATE ROPE-A-DOPE? If this is true, then Kerry’s killer story just blew up in his face: the Washington Times is reporting that Russian Special Forces helped Iraqis remove the missing explosives in the weeks before the war.

I wouldn’t want to be Kerry’s strategy team trying to explain on the stump how John Kerry’s going to make the war go better by getting the other members of the UN Security Council on board.

October 27, 2004

IF YOU HAD YOUR CHOICE, people of Boston, would you rather see your team win the World Series or your Senator win the Presidency? That’s a question I thought up and posed at a dinner tonight, where the guest of honor was talking about the European Constitution, which is to be signed this Friday. The point was made that the Madison newspapers would probably front-page the story of Kerry and Bruce Springsteen stumping at the Capitol and local shopkeepers steeling themselves for the Halloween festivities over the weekend. Who can explain the mysterious process by which we human beings put things in order of importance?

UPDATE: Alarming News was asking the Red Sox/Kerry question back in September. And also: congratulations, Red Sox!

October 27, 2004

“JUST A ONE-FINGER VICTORY SALUTE.” Megan’s got the link, two posts down. So am I supposed to dislike him for that? So, he still had a bit of the frat-boy spirit, what, ten years ago? Compare that to film clips of Kerry, deeply — morosely — circumspect, even as a very young man. Sorry, I find Bush attractive in that clip. I see optimism and self-possession.

UPDATE: A reader notes that it’s interesting to compare the part of the Bush clip where he fixes his hair to the well known clip of John Edwards fixing his hair. Bush fixes his hair as if he thinks it’s just a funny little thing to have to do.

October 27, 2004

MISTAH ARAFAT, HE DEAD YET? Roger L. Simon put Yasser Arafat on Deathwatch.

October 27, 2004

OCTOBER SURPRISE? Could this be it?

October 27, 2004

YOU’RE GETTING SLEEEEEEPY: A new study shows that tired interns are making mistakes.

D’uh! I have no patience with the way hospitals work their interns and residents. I’ve never heard a good explanation for why we want our junior medicos, who provide a lot of our front-line care, in a state of perpetual exhaustion; most revolve around the utterly unconvincing idea that they somehow need to learn to work under pressure, as if they were all going to be disaster-relief doctors. After a few weeks, older doctors assure me, they learn how to cope.

Hogwash. I’ve worked those kinds of ours as a technology consultant many times, and while you do get better at coping with exhaustion, there are limits. And I don’t care who you are or how many times you’ve done it before, when you’ve been up for 36 hours: you. are. stupid. Your reaction times slow waaaay down (or speed up disastrously, as you short circuit past critical steps), you’re over-emotional, and you’re prone to cut corners as your body and brain cry out desperately, desperately for sleep.

Sure, I’ve done it. But at the end of the day, I was working on a box of bolts. It would be a VERY BAD THING if one of my clients, say, couldn’t trade on Monday morning — but they’d all still be breathing when they came in on Tuesday. Also, I rarely had to make split-second, irreversible decisions about caring for my boxes; they were unlikely to flatline while I took a few minutes to think things over.

The system endangers patients. I recall when a friend of mine, an intern, had to go to work despite the fact that he was suffering from terrible influenza. Why? He had to make his hours. How ridiculous is it to have a system that puts sick doctors out on the floor where they can infect patients? And what kind of decisions do you think a flu-ridden intern makes?

Even worse than that, the doctors know it endangers patients–they don’t want themselves, or their families, in the care of residents. Some of that is because we all naturally want the most experienced doctor for our families, of course. But some of it is because they know that exhausted doctors make for bad care.

(Why can’t they just let them work shorter hours? Say it with me, folks: the reason is green, and it folds. Fewer hours for residents mean more hours for attending physicians, who, unlike residents, would have to be paid for it.)

UPDATE: a fellow alum of the University of Chicago Business school emails

I’m in healthcare, have been for 13 years or so, and know a thing or two about overworked interns. The ACGME, who accredits most residencies, has put new guidelines in place that essentially prohibit working more than 80 hours. This may sound little better than “slaves may only be whipped 20 times per day,” but it’s a start. Many of our hospital clients have been busily hiring more physician faculty and mid-level providers to make up the difference. The downside here, the point you almost seem to be getting to, is that this is awfully expensive, especially at a time when hospitals are being forced by the government to implement scores of new regulations, and forced by private payors and employers to implement lots of good, expensive, ideas like hiring full-time intensivists and converting to electronic medical records. I am fortunate enough to have access to good, expensive health insurance. But anything that raises costs will have the effect of pushing healthcare further out of the reach of tens of millions of Americans. Is a sleepy intern better than no intern? You decide–but let’s not be so naïve as to pretend there is no trade-off.

MORE FROM A LAWYER I KNOW:

Just saw your post on sleepy interns & the 80-hour limit. I’m not sure where
your friend is writing from, but NY state has had the 80-hour limit in place
since the 1980s (the Bell Commission recommended it after the 1984 death of
Libby Zion) and it’s generally regarded as a bad joke amongst doctors. A
massively disproportionate number of my friends are doctors who are doing or
have recently completed their internships, and the 80-hour-limit is widely
regarded as being flouted more often & more flagrantly than the Giuliani
crackdown on jaywalking. (I believe that hospitals would rather pay the
fines for violating the rules than hire more personnel – an eloquent
statement of the inadequacy of the NY sanctions, the expense of hiring more
personnel, or both.)

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jonathan Wilde at Catallarchy has a long, thoughtful piece on the problem.

Unfortunately, none of these explanations stack up against the one that makes the most sense, and the one that Megan mentions. As usual, when in doubt, look at the incentives. The number of practicing physicians in this country is not determined by the market like the number of practicing engineers, architects, or plumbers. Rather, it is strictly limited by law. Who has the incentive to limit the number of practicing physicians? Currently practicing physicians who do not want to face competition. Yet, the work still has to get done. Rather than work harder themselves to make up for the paucity of workers, they shift the burden to residents. Why do the residents have an incentive to put up with difficult working conditions? Because once they finish residency, they will be the ones enjoying monopoly privilege while future residents suffer in their stead. They have an incentive to choose delayed gratification.

But in the end, patients do suffer as a result as these studies and others in the past have shown.

October 27, 2004

TAKING FALLUJAH: The New York Times reports that the U.S. military is preparing a massive assault on Fallujah. It is time.

I’m tempted to say it is long past time. Terrorists have lorded it over that town with impunity for months. It cannot stand. There’s an upshot to this, however. A recent article in the Washington Post suggests we are winning at least some hearts and minds by letting the thugs show the locals what they are made of.

Adnan, the taxi driver who moved his panicked wife and four children to another town, said attitudes toward the foreign fighters have changed dramatically since they poured into Fallujah after the Marines’ siege ended in April. “We were deceived by them,” he said. “We welcomed them first because we thought they came to support us, but now everything is clear.”

Among the tensions dividing the locals and the foreigners is religion. People in Fallujah, known as the city of mosques, have chafed at the stern brand of Islam that the newcomers brought with them. The non-Iraqi Arabs berated women who did not cover themselves head-to-toe in black — very rare in Iraq — and violently opposed local customs rooted in the town’s more mystical religious tradition…

Residents said the overwhelming majority of Fallujah’s people also have been repulsed by the atrocities that Zarqawi and other extremists have made commonplace in Iraq.

Fallujah is ripe for the picking. Even if it weren’t, the so-called Iraqi “resistance” there has gone unopposed long enough.

The U.S. cannot be defeated on any battlefield. I can only hope the Bush Administration and the interim Iraqi government don’t pause in the middle to talk. They need to remember who we are fighting. The enemy has no demands we can give in to. As Christopher Hitchens recently put it, terrorism “is the tactic of demanding the impossible, and demanding it at gunpoint.”

Remember Napoleon’s words to the wise: “If you start to take Vienna – take Vienna.”

October 27, 2004

Yasser Arafat is ailing. The man’s 75, and he probably didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about proper diet and excercise in his younger days. If he dies, it will mean big, and unpredictable, changes in the middle east.

October 27, 2004

ARE EX-PATS REALLY GOING OVERWHELMINGLY FOR KERRY? You’d think so, from all the stories the media has run on the subject. But of course, when journalists look to do such stories, they’re likely to ask around among the people they know, adn the people they know are likely other liberals who have moved to Europe for cultural, rather than commercial reasons. I’ve no doubt that art students at the Sorbonne are almost all pro-Kerry, but I’m no so sure about petroleum engineers in Saudi Arabia.

October 27, 2004

WHY DON’T THEY JUST . . . Many people ask “Why can’t they just . . . ” followed by some eminently sensible solution to a common problem. The answer to most such questions is green, and folds. “Why can’t they just give us more legroom (or derriere-room) on airlines?” Because it would make each ticket much more expensive. “Why don’t they just make people cut down on the amount of energy they use?” Because Carbon = Energy = Economic activity. Why don’t companies give me the lavish customer service, stellar product performance, and elegant design I want? Generally, because I’m only willing to pay $14.95 plus tax for whatever they’re selling me. Americans pretty much shop on one thing, price, and then bitch like hell about what we get for our money.

(that said, American customer service is, in my experience, about the best in the world anyway. That competition stuff — and the danger of actually getting fired — is a wonderful motivator.)

A correspondant in the hardware industry emails to say that this is also the reason that companies don’t want to ship CDs:

First off, the profit on a printer is very slim. The printer business is razor/razor blade. All the profit is made on consumables ( paper/ink) Since the profit is slim the product marketing folks will take every measure to lower unpredicatable costs.. costs like returns and tech support.

When a product first ships it might make sense to have driver CDs to ship customers.. the CD costs about 30-50cents and then you have the cost of the mailing, and the cost of holding the CDs and the cost of handling. For example, it might cost 5 bucks or so when you consider all the factors involved in doing a CD fulfillment.

That’s why those of us in the industry like downloads… No mail room, no overstocking the wrong driver CDs etc etc. For example, if I ship 1 million printers a month how many spare CDs should I have in stock to ship to customers who call and ask for one? 5000? 10,000? and what happens to these excess CDs when the driver changes mid production? I have to grind them. Thats like shredding money. Pennies matter. Now, you may argue that pissing off customers costs too. It does. But it is not as trackable. Since most product marketing folks are judged on P&L issues any cost that is trackable needs to be controlled.

So the cost associated with shipping replacement CDs on out of warrenty products is tracked while the cost of losing customers who couldnt get a disk is not tracked.

This highlights another interesting problem for companies: how to get information. Costs can easily be tracked, in the modern world, but outside of mom-and-pop shops in small towns, customer satisfaction can’t. It’s natural to focus on what you can measure, over what you can’t, which is why I think customer service is getting worse across the technology industry: computers are a mature product that customers don’t need hand-holding to persuade them to buy, so it’s natural to shift the focus from reassuring technophobes to controlling costs.

This problem is hardly limited to corporations; think about why your politicians spend so much time passing laws, even though things basically seem to be running okay already. Politicians can’t just go back to the voters and say “We weren’t attacked by terrorists or roving wolf packs, so re-elect me”. They need the Trent Lott Memorial Hogback Research Project at the University of Mississippi to show their constituents that they’re really working for their money. Needless to say, 50 states, each of which has two senators, each trying to increase their wealth through federal largesse, is like trying to get rich by picking your own pocket. But it goes on, because we don’t measure good government; we measure results.

Incidentally, the people at HP have contacted me and been very helpful about fixing the problem. If only Chuck Schumer would get back to me so quickly about that idea I have for a solar-powered steamship to run up and down the Hudson . . .

October 27, 2004

JIHAD IN PARADISE: Here’s something that isn’t getting enough attention. Mary at Exit Zero notes that Wahhabi Hate Radio is playing loud and clear in Thailand.

October 27, 2004

FRENCH PERFIDY WATCH: Saudi Arabia’s Arab News isn’t the most trustworthy news source around, so I suggest taking this story with a shaker of salt. But it’s worth keeping an eye out for anyone else who might cover it.

JEDDAH/PARIS, 27 October 2004 — France’s attempts at creating a coalition of Iraqis opposed to the interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi collapsed yesterday as Paris announced it had abandoned its opposition to an international conference to be held on the future of the newly-liberated country. [Emphasis added.]

[...]

France and US were at loggerheads about who should attend the conference. Washington insisted that only governments should be invited. Paris, however, wanted what it calls “Iraqi resistance groups” to also attend.

[…]

“We understand France’s desire to revive part of its influence in Iraq,” says an aide to interim Prime Minister Allawi. “But this does not mean that we can let Baathist criminals and their jihadist allies to gain a foothold thanks to French support.”

Hey, look at the bright side. If Kerry is elected and France is able to pull off something like this, our “alliance” will become so deep and so broad it will even include our own enemies.

(Hat tip: Robin Burk at Winds of Change.)

October 27, 2004

WE MAY NOT BE MORE DIVIDED, BUT SOME OF US SURE ARE CRAZIER: A Florida Democrat apparently tried to play chicken with Katherine Harris and several campaign supporters. Unfortunately, he was the only one with a car.

October 27, 2004

HOW DIVIDED ARE WE REALLY? I’ve heard a fair amount of overblown rhetoric on this election, along the lines of “this is the most divided electorate ever! Really? Ever looked at an electoral map of 1860?

Actually, the striking thing is how settled the electorate is. The last election where one party got less than 35% of the vote was 1912, when Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party split the Republicans in two. Even during Reconstruction, when the Republican Party had basically disenfranchised the Democratic states, the popular vote totals were very close. Almost never does one party get more than 60%, or less than 40% of the vote.

We’ve had elections as close as the last one before, and we’ll have it again (although not since the 1880s have two elections in a row been so closely contested.) The real issue is not that the popular vote totals are close, but that states are so closely balanced — another situation that hasn’t prevailed since the 1880s.

Why so close? Presumably it’s because people are more mobile than ever before, which breaks down the regional affiliations that hauled solid electoral vote tallies out of close elections. So while some places are more solidly partisan than ever before . . . like, ahem, the places where all the media headquarters are . . . the real trouble is that key states are becoming less divided. I assume it makes people more tolerant, having members of the other party for neighbours, but I wouldn’t know, having lived my whole life within one overwhelmingly liberal community or another.

October 27, 2004

PRESIDENT BUSH HAS GOTTEN AROUND TO addressing the missing explosives issue, I’m glad to see. Yesterday, I fretted that Bush’s failure to respond to Kerry on this issue “makes me suspect that the loss either did not pre-date the war or that it isn’t clear whether it did or not.” According to the NYT, Bush had this to say at a campaign stop today in Lancaster, Pennsylvania:

“Our military is now investigating a number of possible scenarios, including that the explosives may have been moved before our troops even arrived at the site … This investigation is important and it’s ongoing, and a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief. After repeatedly calling Iraq the ‘wrong war’ and a ‘diversion,’ Senator Kerry this week seemed shocked to learn that Iraq was a dangerous place full of dangerous weapons.”

Hmmm … well, then my suspicion yesterday was correct. He can’t come out and say clearly that the loss pre-dated the war. The facts we have, as the Times puts it, are:

The stockpile was found to be intact in March 2003, when United Nations weapons inspectors checked it just days before the American-led invasion. On April 10, one day after Saddam Hussein was toppled, American troops visited the Al Qaqaa depot, not finding any big cache of explosives but apparently not looking very closely either.

How close do you have to look to see something that big?

Bush’s line “a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief” interplays nicely with Kerry’s usual criticism of Bush for rushing to war without knowing all the facts.

October 27, 2004

THE LATEST FROM “ASSAM THE AMERICAN.” Drudge is running his rotating siren effect over this news:

In the last week before the election, ABCNEWS is holding a videotaped message from a purported al Qaeda terrorist warning of a new attack on America, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

The terrorist claims on tape the next attack will dwarf 9/11. “The streets will run with blood,” and “America will mourn in silence” because they will be unable to count the number of the dead. Further claims: America has brought this on itself for electing George Bush who has made war on Islam by destroying the Taliban and making war on Al Qaeda. …

The terrorist’s face is concealed by a head dress, and he speaks in an American accent, making it difficult to identify the individual. … The disturbing tape runs an hour — the man simply identifies himself as ‘Assam the American.’

Maybe ABC is holding this story because it’s a piece of junk that it shouldn’t air under any circumstances. I wrote yesterday about the problem of news organizations unethically timing their stories in an attempt to affect the election. There is some reason to speculate that the New York Times and CBS/”60 Minutes” were doing something like that with the al-QaQaa story (though I don’t think it’s at all clear that they did). I think it’s good that bloggers are standing by, monitoring the ethics of MSM. But we bloggers need to be careful not to cry wolf here. Not every withheld story is an outrage. Drudge notes a claim that ABC is holding the tape until Monday night. Does that mean Drudge thinks this tape would help Kerry? As if “Assam the American” would relent if only the nuanced newcomer took office! It seems to me that a more vivid terrorist threat would help Bush.

October 27, 2004

CAN SOMEONE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME? I just talked to Hewlett Packard, the makers of my mother’s printer. My mother, who is somewhat technologically challenged, threw out the driver CD for her printer by accident, and the drivers that you download from the internet don’t work. This is apparently a known problem, at least with the Officejet 5510, or so I was told by the technician I called a few months ago to work on the problem. He promised to send a CD, but it never arrived.

When I called back today, I was told that the printer shows up in their database as out of warranty, and moreover, that even if it was in warranty, they couldn’t send me a CD unless it was within 90 days of purchase. I argued, to no avail, that they had promised me a CD when it was within the specified period. Unfortunately, they have somehow lost the record of that call. I argued, also to no avail, that the fact that I was aware of an internally known problem with their online drivers would indicate that I had, in fact, spoken to someone at HP, but got nowhere. They will not send me a CD unless I can provide them a proof of purchase, but neither my mother nor myself remembers where we bought it, and the boxes have long been thrown away. Apparently as far as the HP folks are concerned, my mother’s printer can sit lifeless on her desk until the end of time, rather than sending her a CD which costs a few cents to make and mail, and which has absolutely no economic value to people who have not already given HP several hundred dollars for a printer.

Can someone explain this policy to me? I can understand not wanting to send parts, which cost money to make and ship, but a CD? This would seem guaranteed to alienate customers, at pretty much no economic gain to the company. Is there a black market in driver CDs for the HP Officejet line of which I am unaware? I’m emailable at janegalt -at- janegalt dot net if you have any ideas.

UPDATE: A number of readers have suggested that it’s so I’ll have to buy another printer. But I find it hard to believe that this policy would encourage more people to buy from them; what benefit do they get from generating more sales from Canon?

FURTHER UPDATE: A number of readers suggest that this problem is widespread in the industry.

MY OWN THOUGHT: Like abortion and Israel, posts about tech support problems generate A LOT of email. Thanks for everyone who’s suggested web sites to try — though I suspect that they’ll have the same bad driver that doesn’t work on my Mom’s printer; the supervisor I talked to this time, while denying the problem, let it slip that the driver pack is somehow incomplete. But all suggestions are very welcome, as I can’t quite face telling my mother she’s the proud owner of a $200 paperweight.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Another reader suggests that HP released a new driver set last week that may take care of the installation problem. Why on earth didn’t the technicians at HP mention this? Heartfelt thanks, anyway; I’ll try it tonight.

ALL RIGHT, ONE MORE UPDATE: A reader emails to suggest, with some rather strenuous critcism of yours truly thrown in for good measure, that the problem may lie with their legal agreements with Microsoft, which limit what they can do with the software. This strikes me as extremely unlikely, given that they make a version available on their web site to download for free, but I suppose it’s possible.

HP RESPONDS: Someone from HP has contacted me to try to fix the problem. The power of Instapundit is truly frightening. I’ve suggested that they consider changing their policy on CD shipment, as I simply can’t imagine how the money it saves is worth the aggravation of their customers, or the salaries of the guys I kept on the phone trying to bully a CD out of them. But Lord knows, the folks at HP probably have better places to get business advice than from me.

October 27, 2004

BANANAS: Fidel Castro announced yesterday that all Cubans must now wear their underwear outside their clothes. Sort of. Marc Cooper explains.

October 27, 2004

MERYL YOURISH, another liberal for Bush, says the Democrats forced her hand.

October 27, 2004

“I AM DISAPPOINTED TO SEE YOUR HYPER-PARTISAN RAVING ON THE INSTAPUNDIT WEBSITE,” so read the first email I opened after returning from my Civil Procedure class this morning (where I really did rave … about joinder). The second email I opened said “Nice to see an actual moderate coming out of the UW.”

October 27, 2004

HITCHENS FOR KERRY: Christopher Hitchens, along with most of the staff at Slate, endorsed John Kerry for president. That’s odd. Just last week in The Nation he said he was (slightly) in favor of George W. Bush.

He is not at all happy with either Kerry or the Democratic Party right now, and his “support” is the kind I am entirely sympathetic with. He breaks it down into two parts.

Objectively, his election would compel mainstream and liberal Democrats to get real about Iraq.

And:

I do think that Bush deserves praise for his implacability, and that Kerry should get his worst private nightmare and have to report for duty.

I made similar points in a Tech Central Station column last month, so I know where Hitchens is coming from. I tried to talk myself and other hawks into voting for Kerry. The problem is I couldn’t convince even myself. I doubt Hitchens really convinced himself either. And I doubt Kerry could find a colder endorsement from anyone.

October 27, 2004

THE GENETIC BASIS OF RACE: Are there genetic differences between the races? As you’d expect of any subgroup breeding mostly within the group, the answer is of course there is. Scientists seem to be converging on the view that there is more genetic basis than one side of the argument had hoped, although less than the other side had averred. But the really good news is that as we get better data, it won’t really matter:

“We don’t have to use race as a surrogate for the biology when we can identify the underlying biology,” said Dr. Georgia M. Dunston, founding director of the Howard genome center. “By removing the barriers implied by the racial classifications we can more effectively study population differences in disease distribution.”

In the short term, though, race may make a good proxy for analysing things like disease distribution until genomic sequencing becomes widespread, as I think it eventually will.

October 27, 2004

A CLOSER LOOK AT CULPABILITY: The New York Sun reports that the US asked the IAEA to destroy the looted explosives in 1995

Nine years ago, U.N. weapons inspectors urgently called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to demolish powerful plastic explosives in a facility that Iraq’s interim government said this month was looted due to poor security.

The chief American weapons inspector, Charles Duelfer, told The New York Sun yesterday that in 1995, when he was a member of the U.N. inspections team in Iraq, he urged the United Nations’ atomic watchdog to remove tons of explosives that have since been declared missing.

Mr. Duelfer said he was rebuffed at the time by the Vienna-based agency because its officials were not convinced the presence of the HMX, RDX, and PETN explosives was directly related to Saddam Hussein’s programs to amass weapons of mass destruction.

Instead of accepting recommendations to destroy the stocks, Mr. Duelfer said, the atomic-energy agency opted to continue to monitor them.

By e-mail, Mr. Duelfer wrote the Sun, “The policy was if acquired for the WMD program and used for it, it should be subject for destruction. The HMX was just that. Nevertheless the IAEA decided to let Iraq keep the stuff, like they needed more explosives.”

UPDATE: Roger Simon has more.

October 27, 2004

HOW TO CAMPAIGN IN WISCONSIN — EXPLOIT SCHOOLKIDS? Slate takes a close look at campaigning in Wisconsin — especially the way the Republican Party is organized throughout the rural counties and the way the get-out-the-vote effort for Kerry is dominated by independent groups. Don’t I know! Every day I get at least one phone call trying not just to get me to vote but also to get me to join the get-out-the-vote effort. This morning I heard a story on Wisconsin Public Radio about how schoolkids in Milwaukee have been assigned get-out-the-vote work. (The story isn’t up on the WPR website yet, but it will at some point be here.) The Milwaukee Journal is also covering the story. Here’s an excerpt:

Hundreds of public schoolchildren, some as young as 11, are taking time out of regular classes to canvass neighborhoods in Milwaukee, Madison and Racine in a get-out-the-vote effort organized by Wisconsin Citizen Action Fund – a group whose umbrella organization has endorsed John Kerry for president.

The coalition says the effort is non-partisan, but because the group is targeting minority neighborhoods and those with historically low voter turnout – overwhelmingly Democratic areas – Republican operatives are crying foul amid the highly charged political atmosphere in the state.

Kerry and George Bush are virtually tied in recent polls; in 2000, the state’s 10 electoral votes went to the Democrats by 5,708 votes – a margin of two-tenths of one percent of all votes cast.

“They are exploiting schoolchildren on the taxpayers’ dime to conduct what is clearly a Democratic, partisan get-out-the-vote effort,” said Chris Lato, communications director for the Republican Party of Wisconsin. “To spend this time on a clearly partisan effort when these kids should be in school learning is shocking. It’s a disgraceful use of taxpayer money.”

MPS spokeswoman Roseann St. Aubin said the school administration approves of the program as long as children or teachers are not conducting partisan politics on school time and that the curriculum meets the state standards for teaching. The program involves 33 schools in Milwaukee, three high schools in Madison and one high school in Racine.

I firmly believe that once the state compels young people to attend school, deprives them of their freedom, it owes the highest duty to them to use their time only in ways that benefit them. To see them as a source of free labor or to exploit them for any purpose that is not itself a good reason for depriving the young of their freedom is a great wrong.

The various people who promoted and approved of the idea are going with the theory that it is a great “civics lesson.” Well, maybe part of that civics lesson will be kids talking to each other about why the teachers are making them do this, why it’s supposed to be more important than those classroom exercises that the teachers normally think are so worthwhile, whether they are being exploited, and whether the effort is really partisan politics. And why shouldn’t they think such things? They are teenagers, primed to question and rebel against authority. I hope it is a valuable civics lesson that takes on a life of its own in the students’ minds. (Maybe some of them will email me — use my last name followed by @wisc.edu — and give me some inside information.)

UPDATE: An emailer notes the resonance between the program described above and Kerry’s own plan “requiring mandatory [community] service for high school students.” The link is to the Official Kerry-Edwards Blog, which has two links that purport to take you to more information but are, in fact, dead ends. (I note, schoolmarmishly, that “requiring mandatory” is a redundancy. Stay in school and learn some grammar, kids!) Isn’t it interesting that Kerry is the one who tries to scare young people into voting for him by falsely asserting that Bush is inclined to bring back the draft, when he is the one who with a plan — “part of his 100 day plan to change America” — to compel young people into service? Well, I guess if you’re old enough to vote, you’re old enough to escape the compulsion.

UPDATED to correct the name of the newspaper. It’s the Milwaukee Journal, not the Milwaukee State Journal. Milwaukee, I note, is not a state.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Swimming Through the Spin, which blogged the service proposal a few weeks ago, notes that the material the Kerry site seems to have pulled is preserved here:

High School Service Requirement

As President, John Kerry will ensure that every high school student in America performs community service as a requirement for graduation. This service will be a rite of passage for our nation’s youth and will help foster a lifetime of service. States would design service programs that meet their community and educational needs.

The regular Kerry site now has its service proposal here, but it no longer includes mandatory service for high schoolers.

Let me add a lawproffy note: an attempt by the federal government to force states to design and impose these service programs would violate the federalism principle announced by the Supreme Court in Printz v. United States. But maybe Kerry can restock the Supreme Court with new Justices who will do away with all those terrible federalism cases.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader sends this link to Little Green Footballs.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Joanne Jacobs agrees with me that the students are being misused.

October 27, 2004

THE FUTURE OF BLOGS: Glenn Reynolds’ second installment on the future of blogs and the blogosphere is up at Tech Central Station.

October 27, 2004

AL QA QAA THOROUGHLY SEARCHED: On April 4, 2003, CBS (of all places) reported that the al Qa Qaa industrial site was thoroughly searched by the 3rd Infantry Division. Suspicious material was found. (Hat tip: Captains Quarters.)

The senior U.S. official, based in Washington and speaking on condition of anonymity, said the material was under further study. The site is enormous and U.S. troops are still investigating it for potential weapons of mass destruction, the official said.

“Initial reports are that the material is probably just explosives, but we’re still going through the place,” the official said.

Peabody said troops found thousands of boxes, each of which contained three vials of white powder, together with documents written in Arabic that dealt with how to engage in chemical warfare.

Captain Ed notes:

From this description, it sounds as if the material left at Al Qaqaa would have only been samples or starter materials, as storing 380 tons of powdered explosive in vials would have taken most of Baghdad to store…The idea that various Army units showed up at the weapons facility and strolled around a few minutes before moving up the road to Baghdad, leaving the lights on and the front door unlocked, looks more and more ridiculous. The Army knew very well what it had found, and it searched the bunkers carefully looking for the most dangerous and high-priority items.

Indeed.

The CBS piece continues:

The senior U.S. official, based in Washington and speaking on condition of anonymity, said the material was under further study. The site is enormous and U.S. troops are still investigating it for potential weapons of mass destruction, the official said.

There is no mention of 380 tons of HDX and RDX that disappeared at some point. It appears increasingly likely that it went missing not only before the 101st Airborne arrived on April 10, but also before the 3rd ID showed up on April 3.

UPDATE: The Belmont Club makes an excellent point.

The contemporaneous CBS report, written before anyone knew al Qa Qaa would be a big deal, establishes two important things. The first is that 3ID knew it was looking through an IAEA inspection site. The second was that the site had shown unmistakable signs of tampering before the arrival of US troops. “Peabody said troops found thousands of boxes, each of which contained three vials of white powder, together with documents written in Arabic that dealt with how to engage in chemical warfare.” Now presumably those thousands of boxes were not all packaged and labeled with chemical warfare instructions under IAEA supervision, so the inescapable conclusion is that a fairly large and organized type of activity had been under way in Al Qa Qaa for some time.

Read the whole thing.

October 26, 2004

COPYCAT: A number of people have emailed this New York Sun story alleging that Kerry committed plagiarism in his books. Oddly enough, I’m reading Past Perfect right now, a book about the recent plagiarism adn fraud scandals among American historians. As I read the section on Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin, I thought that their plagiarism was a rather abstruse crime, the kind that gets professionals outraged but leaves laymen cold, the way journalists get about source confidentiality. I suspect they’ll feel the same way about Kerry’s crime, assuming this story pans out.

October 26, 2004

SIX OF ONE, HALF A DOZEN OF THE OTHER: Will Wilkinson points out that allowing people to vote illegally is effectively the exact same thing as suppressing legal votes:

The strange thing is that the press seems to treat illegitimate votes as a kind of noise, a kind of tolerable if unfortunate democratic static, while intimidated no-shows are a travesty against all that is holy. Yet, and this should be obvious, in terms of the aggregative democratic procedure, an unnoticed illegal vote for one guy (in a two horse race) is EXACTLY EQUIVALENT to scaring off a voter for the other guy.

If somebody’s dog manages to vote for John Kerry, then, in effect, Velma Thompson (or whomever) failed to vote for that nice man, George W. Bush, even though she tried. Whiskers cancels out Velma. Here’s another way to make the same point. Each Bush vote is paired with a Kerry vote and they’re both thrown away. The winner is the one who has votes left on the table after all the other guy’s votes have been chucked. Pairing legitimate voters with voting felons, dogs, corpses, and Frenchmen has precisely the same effect on the outcome as shooting legitimate voters before they can get in the door of the high school gym.

Republican vigilance about keeping illegal voters from voting is democratically equivalent to Democratic vigilance against Republican attempts to suppress the legal vote. Republican vigilance has the semi-intended side-effect of suppressing likely Democratic votes. And huge Democratic registration and GOTV drives have the semi-intended side-effect of canceling out a large number of Republican votes with illegal ballots. I bet I can tell from your party affiliation which you think is worse.

Need I say it? Read the whole thing.

October 26, 2004

DIALOGUE ABOUT “GRAND THEFT AUTO: SAN ANDREAS,” between me and my 21-year old son, Chris:

“The new ‘Grand Theft Auto’ came out.”

“It’s about stealing cars!”

“That’s like saying ‘Super Mario Brothers’ is about collecting coins.”

I’m told to check out Metacritic’s reviews of the game, currently rating the game at 98 out of 100. Too few reviews to make a final call about whether it’s the best rated game ever, but proceed with caution: I’m told the game is “controversial, very violent.”

UPDATE: One of our law students writes:

I have been playing the GTA series since the late 90s, before it went 3-D and became the empire that it is today. I played the last installment, the ultra-violent Vice City, right up until the day I bought San Andreas.

I played San Andreas for about three hours yesterday and I was amazed at how rough it is. Within ten minutes of beginnng the story, I was being assaulted with coarse language, the likes of which are seen only in R-rated films. Shortly there after, I was instructed to kill a crack dealer who was bringing the neighborhood down. I didn’t have a firearm yet, so I beat him to death with a shovel I found behind my house. But the real triumph was when my three buddies and I did a drive-by in rival gang territory. I was the wheelman, and when we got close enough to our target, my buddies leaned out of the car, black bandanas over their faces, and opened fire. The game really captures the gritty life of early-90s Los Angeles (or at least the life that gangsta rap told us existed).

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the game. But even I was surprised at how violent it is. I expect there to be a lot of controversy over this game, even more so than when Vice City came out.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The student emails that he wouldn’t mind being named. It’s Zachary Wyatt.

October 26, 2004

I’VE NEVER READ A CODE OF JOURNALISTIC ETHICS, but it seems to me that this much is clear: it is absolutely intolerable for a news organization to hold onto a story for the purpose of breaking it so close to an election as to prevent a fair investigation and response. This story in the L.A. Times indicates that both the New York Times and CBS News/”60 Minutes” learned of the missing explosives story last Wednesday, and each competed against the other to break the story first. This competition is a safeguard that might work better than ethics to protect us from outrageous withholding of stories for the purpose of helping a favored candidate. I hope the L.A. Times story is correct.

Now, I’m watching “Special Report With Brit Hume,” which presents a lengthy report, indicating that the explosives, in all likelihood, went missing before the invasion of Iraq. Hume then sums up: “So, what has recently been learned by the IAEA, which is that these weapons are missing, was something that U.S. weapons inspectors detected in … May of last year.” It seems to me — correct me if I’m wrong — that the Times and “60 Minutes” aren’t to blame for pro-Kerry complicity here. Both tried to break the story quickly once they got the news. It could have been old news, if only the government had released information to this effect earlier. A choice seems to have been made to keep the information under wraps. Now that it has come out and become another basis for saying the aftermath of the war was handled badly there’s a motivation to release the information that the loss of the explosives pre-dates the war. By sitting on the evidence — assuming it is true that the loss precedes the war — the Bush administration took the risk that the story would come out before the election (and close to the election) and that it would be hard to establish the facts about when the explosives disappeared.

Nevertheless, if becomes clear that the loss pre-dated the war, Kerry ought to drop it from his argument that Bush handled the aftermath of the war badly. Or if he doesn’t, assuming it’s true that the loss pre-dates the invasion, Bush ought to fight back and accuse Kerry of relying on bad information. Yet the fact that we aren’t seeing Bush lash back with an accusation like this makes me suspect that the loss either did not pre-date the war or that it isn’t clear whether it did or not. This is a pesky issue to be dealing with so late in the game, but for those already convinced the war was woefully mismanaged, it may not matter that much. Indeed, those who accept the raggedness of the post-war effort and stand by Bush may also not care that much.

UPDATE: Many readers sent me this link to the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists. While there is nothing specific it in it about attempting to sway elections, readers have suggested that the most relevant general provision is:

Act Independently

Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.

Frankly, I don’t think that’s good enough. “Obligation” to an “interest” is quite different from sharing someone else’s goals and wanting to help him achieve them.

I find this provision more relevant:

Seek Truth and Report It

Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. …

Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.

I still found nothing about the specific strategy of withholding a story and timing its release to affect an election, but it is obviously unethical and implied by the generalities of this code.

October 26, 2004

MAYBE HILARY’S PROFICIENCY WITH CATTLE FUTURES WASN’T SO UNUSUAL: Professor Bainbridge has a nifty piece on the not very suprising fact that our Senators do amazingly well in the stock market, outperforming such investment luminaries as Peter Lynch and Warren Buffet. How do they do it? Innate brilliance or inside information? We report,you decide.

October 26, 2004

JUST HOW EXPLOSIVE ARE THEY? Much has been made of the fact, by opponents of the administration, that the missing explosives are so powerful that only a pound (or half a pound, depending on the source) was capable of taking down Pan Am Flight 103.

I’m under the impression, however, that an airplane requires very little explosive to take it down, because it’s just a thin aluminum skin covering a) a lot of very important wires and b) the open sky, so a little of it is likely to either damage the plane beyond operability, or catastrophically depressurize the plane. Can readers enlighten me?

Update Bill at INDC points to a Baltimore Sun piece which says that the missing explosives are only “slightly more powerful than TNT”. He also points out that it was neither HDX nor RDX, but the much more powerful Semtex (of which RDX is a component) that brought down Pan Am 103. The last points out that the explain did explode into multiple pieces when the bomb went off, so the explosion must have been very powerful.

Further Update Another reader writes

The bomb used in the downing of PA-103 was not very powerful, just powerful enough.

I’ve seen the wreckage of the plane as assembled at the UK’s equivalent of the NTSB. Most of that wreckage is in large pieces. What brought the plane down was that the integrity of the plane’s skin was broken. With even a square-foot’s worth of skin torn open into a 500+ mph wind stream, the plane had to come apart.

There’s a strip of aluminum skin, originating at the place where the explosion breached the hull that “unzipped” up and over the top of the plane, then down the other side, all the way to the bottom of the hull. The hole created by the explosion is no bigger than a softball. The strip of skin that “unzipped” ranges from six inches to 10 feet in width; the entire strip is over 60 feet long.

Once the integrity of the hull was breached, though, that wind simply tore the plane apart. The NTSB website also has good details on the physical aspects of the explosion.

October 26, 2004

EARLIER TODAY I posted a question, first asked by J. Trevino at Red State, about what might have happened after the 3rd ID arrived at the al Qa Qaa weapons site in Iraq and before the 101st Airborne showed up a week later. I still don’t what the 3rd ID found. But it seems unlikely the missing explosives were there at that time.

2Slick left the following in the comments section on my blog.

I understand your questions about the 3rd ID being there 1 week before us, but I think I should offer up a military perspective for you. I was with the 101st when we RIP’d (Relieved in Place) the 3rd ID in that region.

380 tons of explosives would require about 40 truckloads to haul it away. It would have taken more than 1 week (and an unbelievable amount of man-hours and heavy-moving equipment) simply to load the trucks. To imply that those trucks could have been loaded and then driven away unnoticed, under the watchful eye of the 3rd ID is absolutely ludicrous.

October 26, 2004

WHY NOT USE ‘EM? N.Z. Bear asks a good question about the supposedly missing explosives from al Qa Qaa. If they were looted by terrorists a year and a half ago, why have they never been used?

October 26, 2004

CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES: Don’t miss the latest Carnival of the Vanities, hosted on Overtaken by Events.

October 26, 2004

THE NEW YORK TIMES WOULD BE FUN TO READ AGAIN. Thomas Maguire, guestblogging over at GlennReynolds.com, shows Bush supporters the upside of a Kerry victory.

October 26, 2004

I too read Andrew Sullivan’s entirely unsurprising endorsement of Kerry, and while he advances an argument I’m sympathetic to–that while the decision to go to Iraq was right, the administration screwed up in major ways once it got there–he also advances some of the most oft-seen, and to my mind unconvincing, reasons to trust Kerry with national security:

Does Kerry believe in this war? Skeptics say he doesn’t. They don’t believe he has understood the significance of September 11. They rightly point to the antiwar and anti-Western attitudes of some in his base–the Michael Moores and Noam Chomskys who will celebrate a Kerry victory. I understand their worries. But they should listen to what Kerry has said. The convention was a remarkable event in that it pivoted the Democratic Party toward an uncomplicated embrace of the war on terror. Kerry has said again and again that he will not hesitate to defend this country and go on the offensive against Al Qaeda. I see no reason whatsoever why he shouldn’t. What is there to gain from failure in this task? He knows that if he lets his guard down and if terrorists strike or succeed anywhere, he runs the risk of discrediting the Democrats as a party of national security for a generation. He has said quite clearly that he will not “cut and run” in Iraq. And the truth is: He cannot. There is no alternative to seeing the war through in Iraq. And Kerry’s new mandate and fresh administration will increase the options available to us for winning. He has every incentive to be tough enough but far more leeway to be flexible than the incumbent.

Besides, the Democratic Party needs to be forced to take responsibility for the security of the country that is as much theirs as anyone’s. The greatest weakness of the war effort so far has been the way it has become a partisan affair. This is the fault of both sides: the Rove-like opportunists on the right and the Moore-like haters on the left. But in wartime, a president bears the greater responsibility for keeping the country united. And this president has fundamentally failed in this respect. I want this war to be as bipartisan as the cold war, to bring both parties to the supreme task in front of us, to offer differing tactics and arguments and personnel in pursuit of the same cause. This is not, should not be, and one day cannot be, Bush’s war. And the more it is, the more America loses, and our enemies gain.

The idea that we should trust Kerry, even if we think his previous foriegn policy instincts have all been bad, because he has nothing to gain from failing to pursue Al Qaeda, makes little sense. Surely George Bush had nothing to gain from failing to suppress the insurgency in Iraq, and yet his administration still hasn’t done so. This argument seems to fall into the partisan assumption that if Kerry fails it will be out of malice. But most people who think that Kerry isn’t the right man for the job think he will fail not because he wants to, but because he’s fundamentally wrong in some way in his national security strategy.

Similarly, it doesn’t strike me as very logical to imply that Democrats have abandoned national security issues, and then suggest electing them anyway as a way to force them to “take responsibility” for national security, any more than I would employ a drug addict in a pharmacy on the theory that this would force him to “take responsibility” for enforcing our nation’s drug laws.

One may believe, as many do, that Kerry will be better on national security for other reasons. Andrew Sullivan offers several of them in his peice. But neither of these two strikes me as very compelling.

October 26, 2004

PLEASE, GOD, LET THEM BE WRONG: 6 in 10 voters think it’s unlikely we’ll have a clear winner on November 3rd. If there’s one thing I most fervently hope for this election, it’s that whoever wins, wins big. I’m not sure the country can take another four years of “He stole it!” Although I confess that I would enjoy seeing John Kerry win the electoral college while losing the popular vote, if only so that I could measure how quickly & seamlessly partisans on both sides can switch positions on the “validity” of an electoral college victory, and the moral obligation it imposes on the candidate to govern as if he were a member of the other party.

October 26, 2004

ANDREW SULLIVAN HASN’T DECLARED HIS SUPPORT FOR KERRY YET? I asked with some surprise fifteen days ago. It sure seemed obvious already that he was for Kerry. Today, he’s made the official declaration. Of course, he’s for Kerry. His key question about Kerry, back when I expressed surprise that he was still claiming to be undecided was:

[C]an John Kerry be trusted to fight the war on terror? Worrying about this is what keeps me from making the jump to supporting him.

So how well does he answer his own question today?

[Kerry's] record is undistinguished, and where it stands out, mainly regrettable. He intuitively believes that if a problem exists, it is the government’s job to fix it. He has far too much faith in international institutions, like the corrupt and feckless United Nations, in the tasks of global management. He got the Cold War wrong. He got the first Gulf War wrong. His campaign’s constant and excruciating repositioning on the war against Saddam have been disconcerting, to say the least. I completely understand those who look at this man’s record and deduce that he is simply unfit to fight a war for our survival.

Exactly. So how does Sullivan dig himself back out of that hole? His argument with regard to Iraq is mostly: “There is no alternative to seeing the war through in Iraq.” And he contends that the Democrats ought to have to take responsibility for national security. The notion is that it would be good for everyone if the Democrats had their President so that those who now sit on the sidelines and criticize would have a partisan motivation to support the war. That’s not enough to convince me to abandon my mistrust of Kerry’s commitment to national security. But give Sullivan his due and read the whole thing.

October 26, 2004

J. TREVINO AT RED STATE points out that NBC’s Milkaszewski story doesn’t quite debunk the New York Times article that says the Iraqi explosives at al Qa Qaa were lost under American watch. NBC reports that when the 101st Airborne arrived at the site the explosives were already gone. But the Third Infantry Division was there a week earlier.

There are still at least two things we don’t know.

Was the Third Infantry Division the first to arrive at the site? If so, what did they find?

Trevino issues an appeal, which I’m happy to post:

If you are military, or know how to navigate the maze of PAO personnel, lend a hand. The logical person to track down is COL John Peabody, cited as 3ID EN BDE CDR, and quoted in the relevant press reports. Any other avenues of inquiry that present themselves should be pursued — respectfully and professionally.

October 26, 2004

BLOOD FOR OIL: William F Buckley says it’s a fair trade

If you are willing to die in order to protect your local hospital, then you must be willing to die for oil, because without electricity, your hospital won’t take you beyond a surgeon’s scalpel, and a surgeon is helpless without illumination, which is provided (in many places) by oil.

To say that we must not fight for oil is utter cant. To fight for oil is to fight in order to maintain such sovereignty as we exercise over the natural world. Socialism plus electricity, Lenin said at the outset of the Soviet revolution, would usher in the ideal state. He was wrong about socialism but not about electricity. Electricity gives us whatever leverage we have over nature.

To flit on airily about an unwillingness to fight for oil suggests an indifference to the alleviation of poverty at the next level after bread and water. Throw in, perhaps, the wheel. That too is an indispensable scaffolding of human power over nature. But then comes all the power not generated by the muscles of human beings and beasts of burden.

Oddly, those who speak so lightly about oil are often the most reluctant to explore seriously alternatives to it. In the history of discovery, only one such has materialized, which is nuclear power. Although nuclear power proceeds inconspicuously to light most of the lamps in France and promises to do as much in China, a mix of superstition and Luddism stands in the way of developing the nuclear alternative here.

Meanwhile, we must get on with oil, and the reserves of it are diminishing, and such great storehouses of oil as exist are mostly in the Middle East. The idea that our effort in Iraq is motivated by lust for its oil fields is easily dispelled by asking who is today profiting from such oil as is being produced in Iraq? The answer is: the Iraqis. The great need now is for increased security forces deployed to protect the oil from the nihilists and from those who reduce any consideration of oil to politics. What is achieved, that any sober judgment will approve of, by the destruction of oil fields, the kind of thing that Saddam Hussein tried to do in Kuwait in 1991?

October 26, 2004

PILOT ERROR: The FAA says that the November 2001 airliner crash, which caused natural fears that it was another terrorist attack, was the result of pilot error.

Update A reader emails to say that since the story says the co-pilot did what his airline had trained him to do, it wasn’t pilot error. Let’s say that the pilot seems to have done the wrong thing, but where the culpability for his action lies is unclear.

Update IIAnother reader, a pilot, emails to say everything’s pilot error:

Nearly every thing is pilot error, at least anything the pilot could have prevented. It’s a broad category, but that’s what you get for being in charge! As my instructor told me once, if the steering doesn’t work when you take off it’s not the guy who switched cable’s fault, it’s the pilots for not making sure the ailerons moved in the right direction before he started going fast.

October 26, 2004

CARNIVAL OF THE LIBERATED: Dean’s World hosts the latest Carnival of the Liberated, the best of the Iraqi blogs.

October 26, 2004

IDEOLOGUE APPRECIATION FOR THE NON-IDEOLOGUE. Somehow I find myself heartily approving.

October 26, 2004

YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE: Drudge reports that 60 Minutes hoped to sit on the explosives story until the very last minute.

News of missing explosives in Iraq — first reported in April 2003 — was being resurrected for a 60 MINUTES election eve broadcast designed to knock the Bush administration into a crises mode.

Jeff Fager, executive producer of the Sunday edition of 60 MINUTES, said in a statement that “our plan was to run the story on October 31, but it became clear that it wouldn’t hold…”

It doesn’t hold, all right. It doesn’t hold water.

So they lost their story. And there was time enough to debunk it. That’s what they get for playing partisan games.

October 26, 2004

BUSH ON CIVIL UNIONS: President Bush said today that he favors civil unions for gays, or at least that he doesn’t agree with the Republican Party platform that opposes them. This is news to me. How can he be in favor of civil unions and also back the Federal Marriage Amendment? He can’t, at least not consistently. The FMA would ban civil unions as well as gay marriage. This is a flip I’ll take, as long as he doesn’t flop back on it.

UPDATE: Okay, so this isn’t the first time Bush has mentioned this. Carl Fenley emails a link to this CNN article from February 2004 which quotes Bush as saying the states should be allowed to define “legal arrangements other than marriage.” Bush has tried to have it both ways, even so. The FMA states “Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.” [Emphasis added.]

SECOND UPDATE: Eugene Volokh thinks Bush is being consistent. Perhaps so. Read his whole argument, but here is his conclusion:

So if the FMA is enacted (and note that, as I’ve blogged before, I do not support its enactment), the result will be almost exactly what Bush suggests: A state could still “choose to” recognize “a civil union” as “a legal arrangement.” It would have to do so via a statute — just as most family law is defined by statute — not via a court decision or (probably) a constitutional amendment. But it would indeed be free to make such a choice.

October 26, 2004

STICKER SHOCK The article I linked below contains some cost comparisons:

Yale University economist William D. Nordhaus estimated that in inflation-adjusted terms, World War I cost just under $200 billion for the United States. The Vietnam War cost about $500 billion from 1964 to 1972, Nordhaus said. The cost of the Iraq war could reach nearly half that number by next fall, 2 1/2 years after it began.

How could that be? World War I and Vietnam were both much, much larger efforts than the current conflict, so how come this one costs so much? The answer is that we’re substituting capital for labor: we use a lot more equipment, and a lot fewer men. Since destroyed equipment is a lot easier to replace than destroyed people, it’s a price I’m very glad to pay.

Update A reader emails the following:

Sorry, but your theory isn’t the answer. It’s much simpler: Nordhaus isn’t being straight with the American people. The missing element is that the American economy is much larger today than it was in 1918. Inflation doesn’t account for real economic growth. That’s why it’s real economic growth. Working backwards, $200 billion in 2003 dollars is $20.4 billion in 1918 dollars. But the GDP in 1918 in 1918 dollars was $69.35 billion. That means the cost of WWI was over 29% of GDP at the time, spread out over only about 18 months. By comparison, the cost of the Iraq war will be less than 3% of GDP. We budget about 3.5% a year on defense. The cost of the Iraq war, then, spread out over three years, represents about a 30% excess per year over peacetime spending. That seems trifling in comparion, doesn’t it?

I agree that in GDP terms, the cost of the current war looks trivial compared to earlier wars. But absolute figures matter too, and it’s striking that our ancestors managed to fight much larger conflicts–there were over 2 million men in the American Expeditionary Force that was sent to fight World War I–with so little money.

The reason they could is that back then, life was cheaper, so they used more of it, and less of everything else. The typical soldier’s kit of World War I would hardly do the modern military man for an overnight camping trip with his buddies.

October 26, 2004

A HEARTENING SIGN FOR HAWKS The administration is apparently planning to ask for $70 billion more for the war in Iraq, which will bring the total price tag to about $225 billion. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but on the other hand, remember when folks like Eric Alterman were telling us it was going to cost trillions?

The war has cost more than I think I thought it would (I don’t remember ever assigning it an exact price tag), but if it succeeds in building a democracy in the middle east, it will be well worth the cost. And the administration’s willingness to throw around a big figure like this the week before the election shows me that they’re taking it seriously–and compares very favourably to John Kerry’s political opportunism on the issue.

October 26, 2004

THEY WON’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER! The Democratic get-out-the-vote effort seems to have kicked it up a notch: when I walked out of the house this morning, I saw the neighborhood festooned with signs reading “Vote or Die!” This on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which is so reliably Democratic that the Republicans often don’t bother to run candidates for local elections. It makes me wonder what they’re up to in the swing states–”Vote or we’ll not only kill you, we’ll torture your family!”

October 26, 2004

BUT WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? If you’re a born-and-bred political junkie like me (my father’s the head of a trade association), you’re checking the polls with a frequency to shame those lab rats they train to push levers so they can dose themselves up with crack. Polling Report, <a href=”http://www.electoral-vote.comthe electoral vote map, Real Clear Politics, Slate’s Election Scorecard . . . it’s a wonder I get any sleep at all.

But what does it mean for the election when Hawaii suddenly, and astonishingly, trends Bush? How come none of the polls agree? And why can’t they invent a really good fat free ice cream so I won’t gain thirty pounds waiting for the results to come in? A good place to start is this handy list of electoral votes from the Federal Elections Commission. And Mystery Pollster has lengthy explanations of all the Big Questions in polling, like “Aren’t there, maybe, please God, a lot of extra Democratic voters the polls are missing because they only have cell phones?” (Answer: Probably not.)

If you’re a Republican and want to tweak your Democratic friends, send them the FEC list and point out that, contrary to the arguments of Ruy Teixera and John Judis in The Emerging Democratic Majority, states that went for Bush in 2000 had a net gain of electoral votes (and thus population) after the last census, while states that went for Gore lost population and seats in the electoral college.

Update Doctor Weevil has more on political vices:

All in all, I feel a bit like the friend of a friend, who tried to cure his alcholism by taking up cocaine. He thought he could use the drug to wean him from liquor and then quit it, too, but ended up as a cocaine-addicted alcoholic. (I wrote a bit more about him here.) I want my blogs and my polls! Now! Please? A drink would be nice, too, but not for a few hours.

October 26, 2004

CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST’S CANCER TREATMENT provokes some thoughts by Dahlia Lithwick over on Slate. She predicts that the Chief Justice “will hang around as long as he possibly can.” Her theory is that he sees his work as unfinished, in part because the “federalism revolution” that “[h]e framed and launched” has “stalled out in recent years.” Court commentators have put a lot of effort into selling the story that the Court is in the midst of “federalism revolution,” an absurd overstatement, considering the handful of cases that recognize some small measure of judicially enforceable reserved power for the states. If you think Chief Justice Rehnquist is fired up about states’ rights, please tell me why he wrote the majority opinion in Nevada v. Hibbs, making the states suable for violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act. He may have “framed and launched” whatever it is the Court has been doing with federalism over the last three decades – surely not a revolution – but if this federalism you envision as some sort of moving vehicle has “stalled,” the Chief Justice himself seems to have been driving when that happened too.

October 26, 2004

HE WAS FOR IT BEFORE HE WAS AGAINST IT Mickey Kaus points out that a McLaughlin group transcript from October of ’01 shows Kerry saying:

I have no doubt, I’ve never had any doubt — and I’ve said this publicly — about our ability to be successful in Afghanistan. We are and we will be. The larger issue, John, is what happens afterwards. How do we now turn attention ultimately to Saddam Hussein? How do we deal with the larger Muslim world? What is our foreign policy going to be to drain the swamp of terrorism on a global basis?

But wait, there’s more! This transcript is actually being pushed by the Kerry campaign, as proof that he called for more troops in Afghanistan. But if you look at the section where he’s supposedly calling for more troops, you’ll find that it’s been rather creatively trimmed by the Kerry team. The good senator was actually referring to his past calls for more “boots on the ground”, but reported himself satisfied with troop levels by the time of the interview, on October 16th, 2001.

Don’t Kerry’s people know about the internet yet?

October 26, 2004

CLOSING IN ON ZARQAWI? The U.S. military reports that one of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s aides was killed by an airstrike in Fallujah.

October 26, 2004

HIDEOUS HOMES: James Lileks was too modest to bleat about it, but his new book Interior Desecrations: Hideous Homes from the Horrible 70s was released by Crown Books today. If it’s half as good as his hilarious Gallery of Regrettable Food it will be worth every penny and then some. I bought several copies of Regrettable Food as gifts (you’re welcome, James!) and it’s always a smash hit.

October 25, 2004

QUESTION BUSH DECLINES TO ANSWER in his interview with Sean Hannity (on “Hannity and Colmes” tonight): “If John Kerry were President, would he make this country more vulnerable, more susceptible to terror attacks?” Bush, perhaps not wanting to have any Cheneyesque harsh words come from his own mouth, says: “That’s ultimately the decision that the people are going to have to decide in this campaign.” To be fair to Bush — and note that I support Bush! — he does go on to list many reasons why Kerry would do a worse job with the war on terrorism, and he does have to be hyper-aware that any given phrase of his might be turned against him, but really, how are we supposed to know the answer to this question better than he does?

UPDATE: Here‘s the transcript.

October 25, 2004

IRAQ’S MISSING EXPLOSIVES: According to an MSNBC TV news report the Pentagon says the hundreds of tons of explosives that disappeared from Iraq went missing before U.S. troops entered the country. The story is not yet posted online. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Saddam is worried.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall points to this AP article in the Jerusalem Post:

At the Pentagon, an official who monitors developments in Iraq said US-led coalition troops had searched Al-Qaqaa in the immediate aftermath of the March 2003 invasion and confirmed that the explosives, which had been under IAEA seal since 1991, were intact. Thereafter the site was not secured by U.S. forces, the official said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

But this is flatly contradicted by NBC. (Hat tip: Robbie Port.)

NBC News: Miklaszewski: “April 10, 2003, only three weeks into the war, NBC News was embedded with troops from the Army’s 101st Airborne as they temporarily take over the Al Qakaa weapons installation south of Baghdad. But these troops never found the nearly 380 tons of some of the most powerful conventional explosives, called HMX and RDX, which is now missing. The U.S. troops did find large stockpiles of more conventional weapons, but no HMX or RDX, so powerful less than a pound brought down Pan Am 103 in 1988, and can be used to trigger a nuclear weapon. In a letter this month, the Iraqi interim government told the International Atomic Energy Agency the high explosives were lost to theft and looting due to lack of security. Critics claim there were simply not enough U.S. troops to guard hundreds of weapons stockpiles, weapons now being used by insurgents and terrorists to wage a guerrilla war in Iraq.” (NBC’s “Nightly News,” 10/25/04)

If the NBC report is wrong and the unnamed Pentagon official is right, it’s still not that big a story. The Belmont Club notes that 600,000 tons of munitions were dispersed by Saddam throughout Iraq and says worrying about a few hundred tons of RDX “is similar to worrying about a toothache after being diagnosed with AIDS and Ebola.”

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger L. Simon thinks this story might damage the New York Times worse than Jayson Blair.

October 25, 2004

SOUTH KOREA IS ON THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE ALERT after a hole was discovered in the fence separating it from the North.

October 25, 2004

THE BALKANIZATION OF THAILAND: Dave Rodrigues has the latest on Muslim-Buddhist clashes in the south of the country.

October 25, 2004

AN INSIDE JOB? The AP reports that the massacre of 50 unarmed Iraqi soldiers may have been an inside job. Omar at Iraq the Model said so first.

(Hat tip: Patrick Lasswell)

October 25, 2004

THIS WEEKEND’S ELECTION IN KOSOVO, after five years of U.N. rule, didn’t go over so well. It isn’t all the U.N.’s fault; Kosovo is a tough neighborhood. But it’s Belize compared with Iraq – something worth considering if you think the U.N. might ride to the rescue in Baghdad.

October 25, 2004

Wanting to get a feel of THE POLITICAL CLIMATE IN MADISON TODAY, I took a walk down Bascom Hill and up State Street. (You can see the assorted signs of political life in this photo essay on my regular blog.) There’s one poster store on State Street that has long had a near-life-size cardboard cutout photo image of President Bush in its front window, but I noticed today that they now had a matching cutout of John Kerry. Both were selling for $31, and I wondered which one was more popular. I decided to do some direct reporting for Instapundit readers. I went in and asked the young man at the front cash register which one they were selling more of.

“Well, we’ve had the Bush one a lot longer. And you know, this is Madison, so a lot of people are buying the Bush one so they can … you know …”

“What? Do things to it?”

“Umm …”

“But, so, since you’ve gotten the Kerry one, which one is selling more?”

“I hate to say.”

“I’m thinking it might be some indication of who’s going to win the election, don’t you think?”

“I hope not!”

A bit inscrutable, maybe, but I’m thinking the Kerry one isn’t selling well at all. But the poster store guy may have the right interpretation of the sales discrepancy. Don’t we all suspect most of Kerry’s support is antagonism toward Bush? But what are these people doing to those Bush cutouts?

October 25, 2004

A tidbit for bloggers out there: if you’ve ever had the experience of being “instapundited”, you’ll know that your traffic (and your bandwith bills!) go through the roof whenever Glenn links to you. I’ve just had the odd experience of instapunditing myself in my first post here, which feels a little like one of those pictures you see of someone with mirrors both in front and behind them, looking into an infinitely receding series of their face and back . . .

October 25, 2004

IS GRIDLOCK THE ANSWER TO REDUCING DOMESTIC SPENDING? There are a fairish number of people who are steeling themselves to vote for Kerry in the hope that gridlock will hold down government spending. I’ve investigated this myself, as I mulled my vote, and found that, just as conservatives have been claiming, the spending slowdown of the Clinton years seems to have been less a product of gridlock (or Clinton’s much-overhyped committment to deficit reduction) than of Newt Gingrich and the post-Cold-war peace dividend. After the Republicans got their hats handed to them in the ’98 midterms, everyone seems to have decided that the secret to popularity was to spend! spend! spend! — by Clinton’s last budget, domestic discretionary spending (which, other than defense spending, is the only thing the president or the congress has much control over year to year) was growing at 5% per-annum. So I was very sceptical that a Kerry presidency would mean, as some of my friends and correspondants have tried to convince me, a return to fiscal rectitude.

Now The Economist confirms my worries, with an elegantly written article on what we can really expect from gridlock.

October 25, 2004

David Batlle emails a story by Richard Rushfield at Slate. He goes under cover, so to speak, disguised as a Kerry voter in conservative Southern California cities and a Bush supporter in liberal Los Angeles neighborhoods. Guess where he encounters the most intolerance?

I’m voting for a Republican president for the first time ever this year. I wouldn’t dare wear a “Bush/Cheney” T-shirt around town. I’m even less likely to stick a yard sign in my lawn. Like Rushfield (who actually supports Kerry) I live in solid Blue America – in my case Portland, Oregon. And Blue America is getting twitchy this year.

The mainstream here supports John Kerry for president. If the election were held only in my neighborhood and the votes were tallied only by counting the names on yard signs, Kerry would win in a landslide that would impress Syria’s Bashar Assad. (The Assad dynasty traditionally gets only 99 percent of the “vote.”)

The “alternative” point of view around here isn’t in favor of President Bush. Those who dissent (at least publicly) reject both Bush and Kerry.

My neighborhood is a battleground, not between Democrats and Republicans but between liberals and radical leftists. Homemade political posters are stapled everywhere to telephone polls. Here’s what some of them say.

Uncle Sam wants you to kick his ass! Bush or Kerry we’re still screwed!

[…]

Hit the streets. Paint the streets. Quit paying taxes. Refuse service.

[…]

After the election it’s time to take action…Spend the day in the streets and the night writing on walls. Make a commitment to yourself and others: I’m not going to be well-behaved…Let’s be ungovernable!

That’s the kind of “discussion” my neighborhood has. Conservatives and swing-voters like me are sitting it out. Richard Rushfield’s Slate experiment suggests we are wise to do so.

October 25, 2004

This seems, at first glance, like a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea: let people have charge cards on which to borrow against their 401(k) savings. Indeed, after we heard about it on television yesterday afternoon, my ultra-libertarian boyfriend was hopping up and down shouting “there ought to be a law!”

But the article tells me that some very smart, very famous economists, such as the late Franco Modigliani, and the very current Larry Summers, are in favour of it, arguing that allowing people to borrow against their savings will increase their willingness to save in the first place. My instincts cry out against it–I know too many people who are charging their way towards bankruptcy, despite having already tapped their home equity to pay down credit card debt once or twice–but Modigliani and Summers are a lot smarter than I am, and half of the study of economics is learning that your instincts aren’t a very reliable guide to what makes people better off.

October 25, 2004

Anyone who spends any amount of time listening to arguments about political economy will end up getting an earful about the efficient markets hypothesis (briefly, the theory that market prices reflect all available information).

This is not a popular theory with many segments of the commentariat, mostly those who are unhappy with the value the markets have assigned to something–such as their labour. Thus one is always seeing stories about the death of efficient markets; such reports, like those of the death of Mark Twain, are generally greatly exaggerated.

After Vernon Smith and Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for behavioural economics (briefly, the study of ways in which market actors, a.k.a people, behave irrationally), it became the Great White Hope for finally toppling the hated edifice. There are two problems with this. The first is that even though people can be observed behaving irrationally, EMH still has pretty good predictive value. The second is nicely explained by Zimran Ahmed who, like me, is an alumnus of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, the quasi-official Home of the Efficient Markets Theory.

It is true that behaviorists’ ideas have become mainstream (at least at Chicago), but this does not mean what people think it means.

Firstly, the truth is that the Chicago School of Economics was always aware of and looking for explanations for market bubbles — and obvious (in hindsight) demonstration of market irrationality. More obscure phenomena, such as a “equity risk premium” similarly eluded free market explanations. Behavioral experiments shed light on these and so provide answers to key, outstanding economic questions.

Secondly, the truth is that the cognitive biases identified by Thaler et al do not vanish once the decision moves from the market to the committee. Left-wing folks have gravitated towards behavioral economics because they see it as a way to escape the defeatest free-market prescriptions of classical economics. Unfortunately, behavioral economics says that market participants can be irrational because they are human, which is easily extended into committee members can be irrational because they are human. Behavioral economics does not allow for the benevolent central planning that seems to attractive to many.

So what is it good for? According to Thaler and U Chicago law professor, the provocatively titled Libertarian Paternalism.

What a great title.

Libertarian paternalism takes behavioral insights — such as default choices matter — and marries that with the fierce individualism at the heart of libertarianism. So, you let people do what they want, but you work hard to make sure that the defaults are right. This has the benefit of making the default choice (and there must always be a default choice) considered instead of random, but you mitigate the danger of the committee getting it wrong by letting people change the choice if they want.

October 25, 2004

I’m a libertarian who hasn’t yet decided who to vote for, and for the past week or so, I’ve been offering the commenters on my blog the chance to persuade me. Now that Daniel Drezner has gone Kerry, there aren’t many of us undecided libertarians left. The responses have ranged from thoughtful critiques of both candidates’ foreign and domestic policies, to one commenter who implied, at great length, that if I voted for Kerry I would never, ever get laid again.

This does give pause. But I’m inspired by the example of one of my most beloved friends, who has decided to vote for Bush. She was persuaded by the debate in the comments section of my blog, but that isn’t what inspires me. The truly inspirational thing is that she is gay. Does she like Bush’s position on gay marriage? Hell no. But she isn’t voting on gay marriage. She’s voting on national security.

Now, you may or may not think that Bush is the right guy, national-security-wise. You may even think that gay marriage is a more important issue to the nation than the foreign policy questions that the last four years have raised, though you’d get some pushback from me. But my friend decided her vote based on what she thought was most important for the country, even though Bush’s stand on an issue that’s important to her personally is worse than Kerry’s.

That’s why I don’t understand complaints from the left that low-income evangelicals don’t vote their economic interest, or from the right that high-income democrats are funding the party of redistribution. We should rejoice every time we see someone who is voting on ideology, rather than merely supporting the candidate who puts the most money in their pocket.

And so even if it means a lifetime of celibacy, I’ll try to take the high road, and vote my conscience, rather than my . . . er . . . well, you know what I mean. Unfortunately, that just makes the decision all the harder.

October 25, 2004

SO WHAT’S EARLY VOTING LIKE IN MADISON, WISCONSIN? The Badger Herald has this:

The effort to get students to vote early is being promoted by the College Democrats, who have chartered a shuttle to run between the Memorial Union and City Hall every weekday until the election. The van, which runs every half hour between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., is being funded by the Democratic National Committee, who pledged the money after being impressed by the field operation in Madison.

My 21-year-old son, Chris stopped by City Hall to vote, and he had this to say:

“No one ever asked for my ID, and in fact, I asked two different people if they wanted to see my ID, and they said no. So, anyone who wanted to could go in and write down somebody else’s name if they knew their address, and vote for them.”

Wouldn’t want to hassle anybody and make them feel all disenfranchised now, would you?

October 25, 2004

Don’t miss Joel Gaines’ new Iraq briefing at Winds of Change.

October 25, 2004

The Washington Post has come out with the winners of its 2004 BEST BLOGS READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS, and it’s nice to see that Instapundit won “Best Outside the Beltway” and “Most Likely to Last Beyond Election Day.” Congratulations, Glenn. Interesting that The Corner won both “Best Democratic Party Coverage” and “Best Republican Party Coverage” (as well as two other awards).

October 25, 2004

William Kristol notes that John Kerry’s foreign policy advisor Richard Holbrooke told Bill O’Reilly that Kerry would “reach out to the moderate Arab states. He’d put more pressure on Israel, Syria, Saudi Arabia above all.”

Israel is perhaps America’s most loyal ally. Yet Holbrooke lumps it in with Syria and Saudi Arabia “above all.”

Kerry has repeatedly accused President Bush of “pushing our allies away.” This is nonsense on stilts. There is no alternate universe where Bush told Jacques Chirac or Gerhard Schroeder they can take their offers of friendship and stuff it. But that’s exactly what Holbrooke is suggesting Kerry will do to our only genuine ally in the Middle East.

Kerry doesn’t necessarily want a bigger alliance or a stronger alliance. He wants a different alliance.

October 25, 2004

Let me extend good wishes for a SPEEDY RECOVERY TO CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST, who has been hospitalized for treatment of thyroid cancer. I learned the news from a journalist’s phone call, which came the instant I opened the door upon returning from class this morning. The journalist’s question was, not surprisingly, what effect will this have on the presidential election? It strikes me as a bit unseemly to turn from the news of an individual’s illness immediately to the election. Everything must be about the election. Yet I duly offered my big array of speculations about the Court, the delicacy of using this event to focus attention on who Kerry and Bush might nominate, and how voters might tip if this backburner issue is moved to the forefront.

October 25, 2004

WHAT TO WEAR? HOW TO ACT? Gordon Smith has lots of good advice for law professor candidates facing the quickie interviews coming up in Washington, D.C. For example, when they ask you why you want to be a lawprof, don’t say, “Because I hate practicing law” or “Because I wanted more free time.”

October 25, 2004

OUR POLISH-BORN LAWPROF, Nina Camic, has been counting down the days to the American election, in her inimitable, discursive, digressive style. Each day in the countdown is represented by a New York street. You can start at today’s 9th Street and then scroll down into the past for more of her lovely — and passionately pro-Kerry — writings and photographs.

UPDATE: Here, Nina answers email generated by this link, including the question, as rephrased by Nina: “how I could possibly be Polish, with a first-hand knowledge of socialism and not be a conservative?”

October 25, 2004

“THERE IS ONE WHO CAN DIVIDE THE RED SEA FOR US.” That would be John Kerry, as campaign rhetoric is laid on extra-thick and extra-shamelessly for black voters.

October 25, 2004

“THROUGH CHAT, Kerry hopes to reduce terror to a ‘nuisance,’”: The Wisconsin State Journal endorses President Bush.

October 25, 2004

WOW, IT LOOKS BIG OVER HERE. Thanks to Glenn — whom I’ve never met, though we both inhabit lawprofdom — for inviting me over. Nonvirtually, I’m in Wisconsin, a battleground state, as daily, nagging phone calls would remind me even if I never read or watched the news. Would you think there was any yet-untapped niche of Wisconsin voters? The Wisconsin State Journal found one.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the WSJ took the article I had linked down. The story was about the Amish, who tend not to vote, for reasons explained in the article. I’ve found brief mentions, such as here, of efforts by Republicans to push the Amish to vote. The linked article was a long piece, which interviewed a number of Amish in Wisconsin, some of whom said they would vote for Kerry if they voted. (The usual assumption is that the Amish would take a conservative political position.)

October 25, 2004

JAY ROSEN has questions, and hopes you’ll help him find the answers. Steven Den Beste makes a rare appearance.

October 25, 2004

PROBLEMS WITH THE HISTORY PROFESSION: Michael Bellesiles is mentioned, but only as one among many.

October 25, 2004

Arthur Chrenkoff says there are two Iraqs. One is dangerous. The other is prosperous and promising.

October 24, 2004

AFGHAN ELECTION UPDATE: Karzai looks like a winner with 55% of the vote.

October 24, 2004

A DIFFERENT KIND OF INSTAPUNDIT: I’ll be travelling for several days and not blogging much if at all. Ordinarily I’d just let the blog lie fallow, or make a superhuman effort to post, but this time I’ve got an all-star team of guestbloggers coming in: Ann Althouse, Megan McArdle, and Michael Totten. You can still reach ‘em by the regular email address. InstaPundit as a female-dominated group blog? Why not? Meanwhile, Tom Maguire will be filling in over at GlennReynolds.com.

October 24, 2004

JIM BENNETT’S NEW BOOK ON THE ANGLOSPHERE rose pretty high in the rankings this weekend after I mentioned it Saturday — from about a quarter-million to about 3,000 on Amazon — so I guess a lot of InstaPundit readers are interested in that stuff. Bennett emails to suggest that one major benefit of blogs is that they can bring obscure books more general attention. He also notes that — despite what it says on the Amazon page — the book is actually out now.

October 24, 2004

BRAZIL has successfully launched a rocket into space. Hey, if Burt Rutan can do it, why not?

October 24, 2004

IF YOU MISSED THIS WEEKEND’S Foresight Conference on Nanotechnology in Washington, well, it’s too late. But hey, they had overcapacity crowds anyway, so you can feel good about not adding to the human density. But you can read Adam Keiper’s liveblog.

And it’s not too late to attend the University of Tennessee’s nanotechnology conference on Tuesday, done in conjunction with Oak Ridge National Lab.

October 24, 2004

BUSH TO HAWAII? Hey, it worked for Elvis.

UPDATE: Tony Blair would vote for Dubya. “‘Tony thinks the world is a very dangerous and precarious place. Bush is the tough guy who keeps the bad guys under their rocks.’”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Joseph Malchow disagrees with Blair: “No! Bush is the tough guy who turns over the rocks and neutralizes what he finds underneath. Isn’t that what we’re seeing in Iraq?”

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Joshua Sharf emails: “I’d even go one better: Bush is the guy who picks up the rock and uses it to smash what’s underneath. Iraq used to be a base for terror, now the population is getting to use its resources to fight it.” This metaphor is getting overstretched.

Meanwhile, Clarence Page wonders if Bush will surprise people by doing well with black voters. If, as Peter Beinart suggests, race is no longer a big political issue in America, then why not?

MORE: In tenuously-related “election” news: Dang, I never did ask people to vote for me in this blog poll at the Post.

October 24, 2004

UNSCAM UPDATE:

Interviews with dozens of former and current Iraqi officials by congressional investigators have produced new evidence that Saddam Hussein micro-managed business deals under the U.N. oil-for-food program to maximize political influence with important foreign governments like Russia and neighboring Arab states.

The Iraqi officials, who were flown outside of Iraq for their own safety during the interviews, provided a list of foreign companies favored by Saddam and his top lieutenants for import contracts under the U.N. program. They also revealed a parallel blacklist of companies that the then-Iraq leader disqualified from getting deals, investigators told The Associated Press.

The precaution of redoubled secrecy comes after an Iraqi official involved in the oil-for-food investigation of corruption died in a car bombing in late June after speaking with investigators.

I’m surprised this hasn’t gotten more attention.

October 24, 2004

DONALD SENSING: “Here is one of the newest US Marines, my son, PFC Stephen Sensing. He graduated yesterday from Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island. It was a fantastic day!” Congratulations: That’s something to be proud of.

October 24, 2004

ANN ALTHOUSE: “My election day prayer is: may whoever wins win by a lot.” Amen.

October 24, 2004

TWO GREAT ITEMS FROM OTHER PEOPLE’S COMMENT SECTIONS. This one from a post of Tom Maguire’s, in which the healthcare problem is solved:

The dirty little secret about healthcare insurance is that you have to maximize participation of young childless males either through coercion (single-payer) or obfuscation (make it free, which means take what would otherwise be salary and put it into the insurance pool). These guys don’t use or need the healthcare system except for accidents, so it’s rational for them not to sign up for insurance until they get married and have kids. Their payments offset the higher healthcare utilization of females, the old, etc.

With HSAs guys can chip in early and build a sizable nest egg tax-free for the day when they have a wife and kids, rational behavior that supports family values too. And if they have good genes and a healthy lifestyle, after a time they can take some of that money and buy a motorcycle! After the accident, the balance of HSA savings goes to their beneficiaries.

Bush should’ve used this argument for health savings accounts at the debate! Or maybe not. . . . And this somewhat more serious take on why the war, and Iraq, is important, from Will Allen over at Asymmetrical Information:

True enough, there are more than a few members of the Bush Administration that likely have failed to grasp how difficult every single thing is in the conduct of war, but since I think this war needed to be fought, I still prefer those who were willing to wage it to those who likely would have refrained.

Why do I think it needed to be waged? I agree with you that the Islamic world does not pose an existential threat to the U.S.. However, if the Islamic world does not rapidly change, we pose an existential threat to them, and although being among a few hundred million slaughtered is about as bad as things get, being among those who do the slaughtering of a few hundred million is pretty damned awful as well, and it is worth taking great, great, risks to avoid such action.

In fact, this prospect is so grim, and in my view, so likely, absent rapid revolutionary change in the Persian Gulf , I see no way that Kerry, who is essentially a reactionary, can be worthy of a vote. A politically, militarily, and economically, and technologically backward people who sit atop of the natural resource greatly desired by far more militarily, economically, and economically powerful people, are going to meet an extraordinarily violent end if they exhibit any proficiency for hostile action against the more powerful people. Obtaining and using the technology of the more powerful people for hostile action merely seals their doom. Neither Bush or Kerry is likely to be the 21st century Andrew Jackson or Phil Sheridan, but he will be found in short order absent the people of the Persian Gulf modernizing rapidly.

I hope he’s wrong about that, but I fear that he’s right.

October 24, 2004

MARK STEYN ON JOHN KERRY: “These are serious times and the senator is not a serious man. And so we have a campaign that has a sharper position on Mary Cheney’s lesbianism and the deficiencies of Laura Bush’s curriculum vitae than on the central question of the age.” Read the whole thing, as they say.

UPDATE: Arthur Chrenkoff on the weakness of Kerry’s Euro-coalition:

European leaders must secretly love the Bush Presidency, as it allows them to do nothing (which is the usual European tactic) and at the same time feel very righteous about it. . . .

The Europeans are like teenage children of a divorce, who prefer to spend time with their Democrat mother rather than a strict Republican dad, not because they like the mother more (dude, parents they like, suck, or what?) but because she won’t force them to take out the trash and clean the dishes. No wonder the father is increasingly thinking that his 59 year old teenager should finally move out of home and start supporting himself.

Indeed.

October 24, 2004

CHARLIE BOOKER’S GUARDIAN COLUMN (noted here earlier), with its shout-out to Lee Harvey Oswald, etc., has drawn this correction from The Guardian:

The final sentence of a column in The Guide on Saturday caused offence to some readers. The Guardian associates itself with the following statement from the writer.

“Charlie Brooker apologises for any offence caused by his comments relating to President Bush in his TV column, Screen Burn. The views expressed in this column are not those of the Guardian. Although flippant and tasteless, his closing comments were intended as an ironic joke, not as a call to action – an intention he believed regular readers of his humorous column would understand. He deplores violence of any kind.”

So there you are. The column has been replaced by the correction, but you can still see it, for the moment at least, here.

UPDATE: James Lileks: “Look, you lackwits: we’re not that stupid. Of course it was an ironic joke, at least if you define “joke” as “mirthless adolescent japery along the order of drawing a Hitler moustache on your teacher’s yearbook picture.” What’s noteworthy is that it got through in the first place. Slid through like mercury down a mirror, probably. No one gave it a second thought. Stands to reason any sensible person would want the tosser done away with, no?”

October 24, 2004

I DON’T THINK I’D BLAME JOHN KERRY FOR THIS:

Rosie O’Donnell addressed a nearly vacant CLUB OVATION Saturday night in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida during a get-out-the-vote rally for Dem presidential hopeful John Kerry. . . .

The debacle came one night after only a couple hundred came out to see Cher rally for Kerry at Miami Beach’s CROBAR disco.

I mean, honestly, how many people can there be who want to hear either of those two talk about politics?

October 24, 2004

SOME OBSERVATIONS ON ANTISEMITISM ON THE LEFT in Australia, with possible application elsewhere.

UPDATE: Some comments, with a Thomas Friedman angle, here.

October 24, 2004

THIS IS INTERESTING:

Somewhere in Florida, 25,000 disembodied rat neurons are thinking about flying an F-22.

These neurons are growing on top of a multi-electrode array and form a living “brain” that’s hooked up to a flight simulator on a desktop computer. When information on the simulated aircraft’s horizontal and vertical movements are fed into the brain by stimulating the electrodes, the neurons fire away in patterns that are then used to control its “body” — the simulated aircraft. . . .

Currently the brain has learned enough to be able to control the pitch and roll of the simulated F-22 fighter jet in weather conditions ranging from blue skies to hurricane-force winds. Initially the aircraft drifted, because the brain hadn’t figured out how to control its “body,” but over time the neurons learned to stabilize the aircraft to a straight, level flight.

Just in case you forgot we were living in the 21st Century. More here.