August 31, 2005


Out of curiosity, I mooked around to see what global reaction has been to the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

Interestingly, the same Germany that produced the noxious commentary of a Minister indicating that the US basically had it coming given our turndown of Kyoto, is also the home of Der Spiegel which had some interesting links.  First, was a set of letters to Der Speigel remarking on German commentary about the Hurricane.  Similarly, Der Spiegel also ran a bit about the same remarks by the German government official who shot his mouth off - in this article they didn't seem to either condone or condemn the statement, but simply related his defense of his argument.

The other interesting articles are these: Disaster 101: Why Europe Hasn't Jumped to Help Katrina's Victims which has a few interesting bits:

"Yet, in Europe, the Web sites of major aid organizations -- including international branches of the Red Cross in Germany, France, England etc. -- don't even mention its existence. Instead, they continue to highlight such worthy causes as hunger in Niger, ongoing aid for victims of December's South Asian tsunami and, in the French case, an airline crash in Venezuela. But the US Gulf Coast is nowhere to be found. It begs the question: Don't the desperate people of Louisiana and Mississippi need the world's help and attention?"

The article does hem and haw about the question, but the fact that it was raised is interesting in and of itself.  But the more warming bit was the article linked at bottom which had links to sites taking donations for Hurricane victims.

At any rate, I got curious and decided to do a quick survey of how folks are mobilizing (if at all) to support Hurricane victims.

First Batch - National Red Cross Organizations:

Folks Who Get Credit:

The British Red Cross mentions the Hurricane on their main page as a feature item.  Likewise, the Germans do a creditable job (but you might miss it if your German is rusty - just look for Wirbelsturm Katrina).  Props to the denizens of the Great White North, as the Canadian Red Cross has a Katrina appeal up. Likewise, the Swedish and Dutch Red Cross Organizations also mention the Hurricane on their home pages.  They don't seem to have made it a marquee item, but then again the water's still rising, so failure to publicize a whole lot isn't really indicative of much of anything.

Folks Who Get Some Credit:
The Danish Red Cross does have an article on its site about Katrina, but nothing is visible on the main page (as far as I can tell), and one has to search the site to find hurricane information.

Folks Who Don't:
Norway, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Ireland. Somewhat disappointingly, Japan's Red Cross doesn't seem to have anything up - but I wonder if that's not a function of some other problem, as it appears that their frequent news updates halted some months ago - they haven't posted anything about the Niger famine, so I suspect this may not be an omission so much as a fail to keep the site current. For what it's worth, Poland, Indonesia, and Latvian Red Cross sites don't seem to have anything, but then again, they also don't seem to be constantly updated, highly dynamic sites, so it might not mean much.  I also poked around some of the Southeast Asian Red Cross sites to see if reciprocity would be forthcoming, and I didn't see any evidence of that, but on the other hand asking Tsunami devastated Indonesia to turn around and send emergency relief aid to the US is a bit much.

Second Batch: 19 Organizations Listed on as organizations to contribute to for Tsunami Victims.

 Folks Who Get Credit:
AmericaCares and the American Red Cross both have a big section up - their American outfits, but it's still nice to see.  Another group that has stepped up is the American Friends Service Committee a very Quaker outfit - has a good hurricane section.  Similarly, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee makes a strong showing and has already started a $2M campaign.  Food for the Hungry places Katrina at the top of it's Crisis update section - not at all flashy, but I find it impressive for an organization who's website is still labeled as "Asia Tsunami World Relief".  World Vision, Habitat for Humanity, MAP International and the World Emergency Relief folks all get props for their Katrina efforts.

Folks Who Get Some Credit:
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency - ADRA (the humanitarian agency of the Seventh-day Adventist church) does have a line item on their main page for the Hurricane, but seems to still be very heavily engaged in it's projects in Niger.  Direct Relief International does have an mention in passing, but doesn't appear to be on the ball quite yet.  Likewise the Church World Service has a slim offering - but then again doesn't seem to be a website built around big flashy front-end marketing, so this may not mean much.  Save the Children seems content to note that, in fact, sponsored children are safe following the hurricane.

Folks Who Don't:
The Christian Children's Fund has nada up front.  The International Rescue Committee (a group focused on refugees) doesn't have squat.  According to their tagline, their focus is on refugees from persecution and war, but if that's why they aren't involved in Katrina, I would like to know exactly what kind of war the Tsunami was that got them involved.  Likewise, Doctors Without Borders evidently doesn't seem to be under the impression that their assistance will be needed - maybe that will change once the Cholera starts to set in.

Third Batch - International Care

 Folks Who Get Credit

 Folks Who Get Some Credit

 Folks Who Don't:
Care Australia is apparently occupied with the notion that 'Adventure that leaves a good impression' and is cycling through Southeast Asia.  Likewise, Care Canada doesn't seem to be following the lead of their pals in the Canadian Red Cross.  Screw this - a quick check of all the international care sites accessible from Care International shows that there has been no hurricane at all, whatsoever.

Oxfam is also right up there following CARE's lead in blowing off Katrina.  Muslim Hands, a self-described 'truly world-wide charity' is under the impression that Hurricane Katrina happened on Mars, and is therefore, not part of their brief.  The British Disasters Emergency Committee - an 'Umbrella organisation which launches and coordinates responses to major disasters overseas' - seems to be taking the lead of Muslim Hands and has consigned New Orleans to Mars.

Summary, Conclusion, and I'm Done With This Post

Well, first off, there appears to be no particularly strong broad-based correlation on Tsunami efforts and Hurricane efforts.  As it turns out, most religious charities that participated in one have done so in the other.  Secular organizations have a much spottier record.  Secular groups in the US (or with strong apparent ties to the US - such as the Red Cross) are generally pretty helpful.  Their more international groups are pretty much a no-show.  Which is no surprise. Of the folks who have lent a hand and those who haven't among the foreign Red Cross groups, I find it more than a bit interesting that of two of the more sympathetic folks, the UK and Germany, one is helping out in Iraq while the other isn't.  Conversely, of the Red Cross outfits that aren't helping, some, like France didn't send anyone, some like Italy did, and others, like Spain, did but changed their minds about it.  I'm not sure exactly what this means, other than not much. Oh yeah, by the way, a quick perusal of Islamic Charities (with websites and whatnot) showed that they were about as likely as Christian Charities to help with the hurricane - in other words, they actually do make an effort practice that which is preached.

(Cross posted to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation, and the Jawa Digest)

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August 30, 2005

VDH on Political Paranoia in the West

From The Paranoid Style:

Such a strange, strange world we live in now of David Duke praising Cindy Sheehan's scapegoating Israel.

George Bush who risked his presidency to free millions of Iraqis is to be the moral equivalent of Jefferson Davis — but perhaps is just as hated by the unhinged Right because he is not enough like their beloved Jefferson Davis.

Forcing imperial Japan to surrender is the same as terrorists blowing up the World Trade Center.

And stopping the genocide of Saddam and promoting constitutional government are warmongering.

And all this nonsense transpires in the midst of a war in which the only way we can lose is to turn on each other and give up.

VDH has identified the common thread that runs through all of these counterfeit pearls.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to The Jawa Report)

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August 29, 2005

Tornado Swarms and the APSA Convention

When Hurricane Ivan came through the Northern Virginia/Washington, DC area awhile ago it spawned a nerve-wracking series of tornados. I'd hear the NOAA weather radio issue a tornado warning with great urgency, and immediately head for the basement. The warning would subside and I'd then hear another warning in about 10 minutes. This went on for an entire afternoon, and eventually I began to get a bit jaded. I just stopped going to the basement. Apparently Ivan set some records for tornados, but what's different about Katrina, at least for the Mid-Atlantic area, is that the current storm is expected to pass by west of the Shenandoah. By and large that means that we'll get fewer tornados even though the mix of dry and moist air at different elevations tends to produce twisters. My impression of tornados when I went through this with Ivan was that they're a bit like a pest infestation: rats or cockroaches. They feed off of pressure differentials, and I'm not disappointed at all that Katrina is expected to spawn fewer tornados than Ivan, especially since the APSA convention will be happening concurrently.

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August 28, 2005

Say Goodbye to "The Big Easy!"

The media are actually underplaying the catastrophic consequences of Katrina. It will change history. The only questions are how much and in what direction? (h/t: Glenn)

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August 26, 2005

Protein Wisdom Emits Small Pearl About APSA

Next week is the annual APSA (American Political Science Association) convention, which will be held this year in Washington, DC. A number of us affiliated with The Jawa Report plan to attend, but we'll probably not be in the majority. The unofficial theme of this conference of PoliSci eggheads is something like: "Dare We Call It Fascism?" And you know what the "it" is.

So, given that situation I found this observation by Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom darn near irresistible, bless his heart:

If it weren’t so very sad and transparent, it might just be amusing how many scholars in today’s progressivist academy purport to be “investigating” questions they are quite clearly begging, only to act “intrigued” by the cumulative “findings” they’ve so clearly predetermined.


I'm planning to wear a small "stars and stripes" in my lapel pocket, just for the sheer Saul Alinsky in-your-face irony of it all. Anyone else willing to make the statement link to this post, or to the crosspost on The Jawa Report (or both) and we'll set up a meeting time and place. It'll be fun.

Update: Rusty has a better idea. Either leave a comment here, with your despammed email address or email me or Rusty.

Demosophia: demosophia-at-gmail-dot-com
Rusty: mypetjawa-at-gmail-dot-com

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August 25, 2005

Michael Yon's Latest

Some relevant pragmatic wisdom from Michael Yon's latest dispatch, Gates of Fire:

Although the situation in Mosul is better, our troops still fight here every day. This may not be the war some folks had in mind a few years ago. But once the shooting starts, a plan is just a guess in a party dress.
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About Lance and EPO

OK, I've been commenting on a lot of blogs about the Lance Armstrong/EPO accusations, and figured it's about time to put my thoughts into a blog post. First of all Daily Pundit can get you caught up on the all-important minutiae of the controversy: whether the EPO test is definitive; what a "B sample" is; what the specific accusations are and who's making them; and what kind of things strike people as suspicious about choices made by L’Equipe. Go get caught up.

Now it's my turn.

It seems to me that whether or not EPO was illegal at the time that Lance is supposed to have used it in 1999 is largely irrelevant; and not just because he's protected from prosecution by technicalities. If he had been smoking marajuana we'd be a bit disappointed in him, but it just wouldn't be very relevant to his cycling career. Marajuana isn't generally considered a performance enhancer, except for people on chemotherapy. The basic contention is that he cheated, by using a substance that gave him an unfair advantage. And I submit that the pattern of his career places a much larger burden on the accusers than on Lance. The fact that he won the same race six more times after 1999, often by greater margins, mostly during a period when there were good tests for EPO, suggests that whatever he used in 1999 didn't give him an advantage he didn't also have in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. And that advantage just might have been that he was a better athlete, with a better team and a better trainer.

Compare this to the performance pattern of another great American cyclist, Greg Lemond. Unlike Lance, his performance significantly degraded over time, and it was demonstrably due to the presence of a foreign substance in his system. Not a banned substance, mind you, but one that had a marked hindering effect on his health: lead slowly released into his bloodstream from pellets embedded during a hunting accident. The pattern is clear, and has a rational explanation.

One doesn't use a substance with a documented impact on performance, without having it show up in the performance pattern somewhere. So, where is it L’Equipe?

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to The Jawa Report)

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August 24, 2005

"Little Democracy" Seizes the Day

The current Kos strategy of "divide for the hell of it" reflects the view of a segment of the Democratic Party who believe that the politics of unreason will serve them well. (The link is to Iowahawk's cut and paste of the Kos post, because who in their right mind would give another link to Kos if they didn't have to?  Much better to give the link to Iowahawk.)

In November of 2003 I posted a lengthy piece refuting a similar claim made on Daily Kos that had the adult-children in the Dean Campaign breathless.  I'll reproduce that article below, with a few edits.  The bottom line is that it's not enough to feel secure that the strategy, repeatedly promoted by the "petulant wing of the Democrat Party," wouldn't win elections, or even a nomination (a fact that I accurately predicted back in 2003).  The  point is that win or lose the strategy is simply bad for the country.  Which is to say, in no uncertain terms, that it's pretty much boneheadedly anti-American, or even anti-democracy, for that matter, since it's probably not good for any country.  With good reason Christopher Hitchens calls these folks "domestic masochists."


Centrifugal Politics
by Demosophist
November 17, 2003


Marc Danziger, on the weblog Winds of Change, posted recently about an essay on the Daily Kos, by Chris Bowers that's been grabbing a lot of attention. The thesis outlined by Bowers has really been around for quite awhile, and I encountered it recently in some discussions with people at The Center for Voting and Democracy. It represents what I think is one of the central mythologies of a political orientation that I've been calling "little democracy." "Little" because of its tendency to train a microscope on aspects our own system of governance while consistently missing the broader picture. Chris's version of this political folklore is the most elaborate I've seen in awhile, so I figured I'd take the opportunity to deal with some of his arguments in detail, and then broaden the discussion by looking at some relevant data I happen to have as a result of earlier research. I'm also interested in addressing a question that Chris does not raise: whether such a political program is good for the country, regardless of whether it happens to be good for the Democratic Party.


Chris' essay, with the unabashed title From Dean to Jackson: How to Revitalize the Democratic Party (and save the country in the process!) is divided into four parts: 1. The apparent problem, 2. The real problem; 3. The solution, from Dean; and 4. To Jackson. Since the crux of the matter really rests on Part 2, and since I think you could label the entire essay "The Apparent Problem and Solution," I'm going to focus, in this first section, almost exclusively on "The Real Problem."


Is the "real problem" the real problem?

First, I'll just comment briefly on some statements from the essay that I think are wildly off the mark. In general Chris seems to be proposing a counter to what he feels has been a successful strategy for Republicans. At the point we enter the essay he is beginning to build a circumstantial case for what he feels was the DLC's confusion, their mistaken focus on the "apparent" problem:  

While supporting increasingly freer trade policies may have resulted in some significant campaign contributions from Wall Street, once such policies were enacted they have helped to significantly reduce to size of organized labor.


The problem with this observation is that free trade policies aren't just a ploy of the wealthy to obtain more wealth, or for conservative politicians to get more campaign contributions. They're a way for everyone to obtain more wealth, at least in the minds and hearts of people who believe in Comparative Trade Advantage. There are certainly distributional issues raised by changing the mix of competitive industries to meet trade demands, but these ought to be addressed without undermining the overall advantage of trade to consumers, as much as possible. The DLC, in other words, supports these policies because they are, on balance, good for the country. I could probably just chalk this error up to general ignorance were it not for his assumption that the decline of unions is a result of our trade policies. The principle reason organized labor has declined in influence is that when the AFL and CIO merged in the 1950s individual unions became less competitive with one another, and this made the overall union movement less willing to meet the individual needs and demands of their clients: the workers. The start of decline in union density in the US, as S.M. Lipset has observed, can be dated precisely to the formation of the AFL/CIO which was supposed to fix labor's problems by making it more competitive with management and owners. It did the opposite.



Next Chris moves on, in his exegesis of the DLC's woes, to its anti-drug policy:


Increasing enforcement of the War on Drugs may have made a Democratic nominee look tough on crime to swing voters, but it has also resulted in increasing voter disenfranchisement for drug-related felony convictions among African Americans to over 10% (from less than 2% in 1978).


This is another example of a popularly held myth. The outlook fails to recognize a fairly simple fact: that a reduction in crime rates primarily benefits the minority community. Were this fact slightly more obvious to minority voters they might actually begin to change their voting patterns sharply, but at the moment it simply makes some of them less likely to vote at all. While Chris may be correct that the War on Drugs reduced the size of the voting block slightly, that effect is small in comparison to the impact of having treated this constituency with less respect than it deserves. Until this kind of condescension is corrected (also exemplified in Dean's notorious "confederate flagged pickup" statement) the party is less likely to be nationally competitive.


Next, Chris raises the issue of Christian fundamentalism.


During this same period of time, pro-Republican organizations and demographic groups greatly increased in size and in level or organization. The Christian Coalition, an organization that did not exist during the 1970's, arose to become the most powerful activist organization in the country....


The principle reason for the high appeal of religious organizations is precisely opposite of the reason for the decline of unions. The sectarian nature of religion in the US compels the sects to compete with one another for members and contributors, which sharpens their ability to meet the self-identified needs of their members. (See research by Eli Berman for examples of what constitute "benefits" of membership in a religious community.) The countries with a unified church tradition (the analog of the unification of the labor unions under the umbrella of the AFL/CIO) have church membership and attendance rates that are but a fraction of those in the US. The point is that the resource was there long before it was tapped by the Christian Coalition. They didn't create it; they simply organized it.


The flaw in all of this reasoning is that it assumes Republicans did something deliberate to increase their vote and support base, when what actually happened is that the electorate was simply returning to the ideological consensus it has held since the Founding. This return is documented in polling data from Gallup and from the National Election Survey, as well as the World Values Survey sponsored by the University of Michigan. It is, in a word, non-controversial among political sociologists.  


The "cure" that is recommended in Part 3 of his essay, therefore really has little chance of success because it manages to misidentify the "actual problem." And Bowers compounds this error by assuming that only campaign organization matters. The remedy ought to have something to do with the social problems that have been the traditional focus of the Democrats, but Bowers offers something quite different:


Although his [Dean's] activist organization probably makes him unbeatable in the primaries, win or lose what Dean has revealed is just the tip of the iceberg. Already, almost $10M has been raised online by Democratic candidates other than Dean (Bush hasn't even raised $1.5M online yet), and either activist groups such as MoveOn and even the Democratic Party itself have raised another several million online. If Dean becomes the nominees (sic), I have no reason to doubt that dean (sic) will come close to $100M in online donations--maybe even more. Further, if he becomes the nominee, his new organization could potentially garner him over one billion hours in volunteer help.


He offers a method of organizing a political movement, as though the effectiveness of the policies the party recommends have no relation to its political success. I can understand that you don't even have an opportunity to propose policies unless you can win office, but that's hardly a good reason for the failure to consider whether what you're proposing is seen as effective. Whatever organizational innovations Dean has implemented could be, and probably will be, cloned by his opponents, who also have a dedicated grassroots.


Bowers' view is that progressives need to radicalize and polarize their politics in order to energize their base and appeal to voters and supporters. A term that is frequently used in relation to this dynamic is "centrifugal," in the sense that the payoffs in the electoral system impel opposing factions toward the ideological fringe. The opposite dynamic is a centripetal system, which impels opposing factions toward the center. While any experienced political fundraiser could tell you that a "fight rap" is a lot more likely to get a check than an appeal to cooperation, that's not the real issue. The real issues are twofold:



1. Does centrifugal politics win elections?
2. Is centrifugal politics good for the country?


Does centrifugal politics win?

"Little democracy" has been arguing for some time that item 1 is true, and they've pointed to examples where non-centrist candidates have won and centrist candidates have lost. But, as a general rule this sort of analysis simply ignores what the opposition is doing. In other words, it doesn't look at electoral contests or races as the unit of analysis, so doesn't accurately represent elections. Without considering the ideology of a winner's opponent you have no way of knowing whether his ideological stance was a help or a hindrance. If, instead of looking at winning or losing candidates, we look at races where the candidates are paired appropriately, what we find is that there is an interesting relationship between the ideology of the district and the ideological distance between candidates. To illustrate this complexity lets look briefly at the 1996 congressional election, the one originally cited by Rob Richey at the Center for Voting and Democracy, as an example proving that polarizing politics works:  


In Table I, below, the columns represent the partisan bias of the congressional district (low, medium and high) without regard to whether the district is conservative or "liberal." The rows represent the ideological distance between candidates (closer or farther apart). Races have been omitted if an ideological ranking was unavailable for one of the two major candidates, or if the election was uncontested. The top number in each cell represents the average dollar amount spent in that grouping of districts by the combined candidates, while the bottom number is the number of districts in that cell category. The top number is, therefore, one measure of the competitiveness of the district.



For instance, in general the closer the candidates are to one another the more the combined expenditures. (The numbers under "Total" in the far right column.) The average combined expenditures for the candidates who were ideologically closest to one another is $1,030,000. In contrast, the average combined expenditures for the candidates who were ideologically farthest from each other was only $873,000. Likewise, the most money was spent, on average, in districts that were less ideologically polarized ($1,375,000). However, if we look at the effect of both variables, the category of races that had the highest combined expenditures were those where the candidates where the farthest apart ideologically, but who were competing in the least biased districts. It is these races that best exemplify Chris Bowers' thesis, which is that money follows centrifugal politics. We'll return to these special-category districts later.



Table I:


Distance Between Candidates


I. Low Bias


II. Medium Bias


III. High Bias




I. Closer


$1,364K (43)


$713K (23)


$723K (23)


$1,030K (89)


II. Middling


$1,338K (40)


$1,006K (31)


$562K (25)


$1,029K (96)


III. Farther


$1,473K (20)


$912K (28)


$588K (46)


$873K (94)




$1,375K (103)


$892K (82)


$614K (94)


$977K (279)



Before that, lets look at the effect of district polarization on campaign spending, controlling for candidate distance. Looking at the 94 districts that have the highest partisan bias (Column III), one would normally expect to see the opposite of a centrifugal pattern, and that's exactly what we find. A Democratic candidate running in a highly Republican district (or visa versa) simply has to get as close as he can to his rival in order to have a chance. Within Column III the highest combined expenditures occur in those 23 races where the candidates are closest in terms of their ideology (Row I), an indication that only these races are remotely competitive.



Next, what this table tells us about districts with the lowest partisan bias (in Column I, the largest category with 103 districts) is that more money is spent there than in any of the three categories we looked at in Column III, where polarization was the highest. On average, over twice as much is spent in Column I races ($1,375,000) as in Column III races ($614,000). This, in itself, suggests an overall centripetal pattern where "moderate" districts are more competitive, and therefore attract more contributions. But that alone doesn't tell us whether candidates are impelled toward the center, because there's also the matter of how partisan the candidates are.



So far we've considered districts "polarized" if they have a high partisan bias, either toward Democrats or Republicans. But that's actually only one kind of polarization. While it addresses the issue of how polarized a district is relative to a national mean it's still possible that a so-called "moderate" district might be composed of two highly partisan camps, feuding like the Hatfields and the McCoys. Calling such districts "moderate" simply because they're evenly matched, and therefore have a mean close to the national mean, would be a misnomer. Chris Bowers' assumptions presume that there are a lot of these "Hatfield/McCoy" districts. One way to suss this out would be to look at the statistical variance of voter ideology within the district. Even if we had this statistic, however, we'd still have to answer the question "compared to what?" As an alternative, we can simply look at the frequency pattern: comparing the number of districts across columns and rows.



If the 103 "least polarized" (least biased) districts were, in fact, Hatfield/McCoy constituencies one would expect, ironically, to see the most highly charged ideological races, simply because candidates would have to appeal to a highly partisan constituency to maintain voter turnout and contributions. Bowers' conjecture is that the latter represents the true state of politics in the US, and that there is a pool of highly ideological contributors (and ultimately voters) who haven't been tapped for support by Democrats. We can gain at least a little purchase on the truth of this conjecture by observing (as previously noted) that within these low-bias or evenly matched districts the most money is spent where the distance between candidates is the greatest. In fact more money was spent in these races, on average, than anywhere else in the country ($1,473,000). It is this "special category" of races that correspond to the national scenario envisioned by the proponents of the Bowers thesis. At this point it looks like Bowers' contention has some merit.



If Chris Bowers is correct, the candidates who distinguish themselves ideologically in these districts are rewarded with more campaign funds. But because of the nature of fundraising it's nearly impossible to untangle whether or not contributors are inspired by an attraction to the ideology of their candidate, or by a repulsion from the ideology of the opponent. Either way, I suppose it's the same from Bowers' point of view, since whether or not the prescription actually cures the patient is largely irrelevant. But notice that this situation of partisan balance and highly ideological candidates (the Hatfield/McCoy constituency) is typical of the smallest number of races (only 20) in the entire country.



At best Bowers' strategy would work for some sections of the country, but these collectively represent much less than 10% of the national electorate (only 20 out of nearly 300 races). Even within the category of the least biased (and therefore most competitive) districts, these highly charged races are only 20% of the total. And since this is the target at which the Dean campaign is currently aiming it's not entirely surprising that they believe this group is more typical of voters than may actually be the case. One tends to look for the car keys where the light is brightest.



Chris, of course, might argue that this pattern is to be expected, since it was virtually dictated by the DLC centripetal strategy. But remember, we are looking here not at the Presidential race, but at congressional races. If Bowers' general thesis has any merit whatsoever, we ought to see some reflection of it in this table, especially since the Bowers thesis itself usually cites congressional races as their primary evidence for the strategy's potential effectiveness.



The kind of "cross-sum" analysis we've been conducting so far using Table I. can be thought of as a very rudimentary form of statistical regression. A somewhat more direct argument can be mounted by running a multiple regression using the 279 competitive districts in this study, with vote margin as the dependent variable. This gives us a direct measure of the impact of various influences on the outcome of the race. I've done this for the 1996 election utilizing a number of standard explanatory variables in addition to candidate ideology. These variables include incumbency, spending, district liberalism, candidate experience and the percent of money obtained from PACs (which is a surrogate for the percent obtained from individuals, but with a coefficient of opposite sign). What I found was that candidate liberalism had the least impact of all variables, except for the % of contributions from PACs for Democrats. These are precisely the two variables that Chris proposes are critical to "saving the country." Adopting the Bowers strategy would be equivalent to stepping up to the plate to face Mariano Riviera in the 9th inning swinging a matchstick!



The "bottom line" is that voters simply don't pay much attention to how extreme the candidates are, unless they start to sound shrill. For their purposes the rough approximation provided by party affiliation is enough. They're far more likely to cast their vote for the more experienced candidate or the candidate closest to their party affiliation, or the candidate who is already in office (if there is one). I should add that the money spent on campaigns is also important, but no more than district ideology or incumbency.



So, we've looked carefully at the impact of ideology on campaign spending (and therefore indirectly on contributions); and we've also looked at the impact of candidate ideology on votes. There is some evidence to suggest that more radical candidate ideology influences contributions, but only in a small number of districts, and there is no evidence that even this advantage is carried over to the voters. So ultimately there is little evidence that a "centrifugal" strategy would work nationally, either to obtain a congressional majority or to elect a President. It's just bad politics. And I think we're about to get an object lesson in just how bad it is, provided by the Dean campaign.


Is centrifugal politics good for the nation?


The political scientist Mattei Dogan has written a great deal on this topic of partisanship and how it impacts political regimes. He observes:


Among open party systems, the most fundamental distinction involves the degree to which power is centrifugalized (polarizing) or centripetalized (centring). In the context of this distinction, we can better understand the two-party/multiparty contrast. I believe that the survival of presidentialism is promoted by an open centripetal party system and undermined by one that is centrifugal or closed (emphasis added). 

Centripetal forces arise when different parties compete mainly for centre votes; that is, the support of regular, mainstream voters who think of themselves as 'independents', willing to support candidates of any party or even willing to split their tickets, as current interests, policy issues or political personalities suggest. By contrast, centrifugal forces prevail when more extreme positions are taken by parties seeking to attract the support of non-voters. This typically involves proposing dramatic, populist, costly and controversial policies likely to win the support of apathetic or alienated citizens who normally cannot or will not vote. 

Unfortunately, most presidentialist regimes [though not the United States] have developed centrifugal party systems, thereby creating self-destructive spirals based on circular causation. -- (Dogan, Comparing Nations, p. 89)


In general what Dogan and most political scientists who study this phenomenon have to say follows Madisonian logic pretty closely. As one ought to expect, factionalism is bad and cooperation good. The success of the American political system, which is one of the very few successful presidentialist systems in the world, is largely due to the capacity for "crosscutting alliances" to undermine the factional and divisive distinctions between voting blocks. So, in answer to the two issues raised by Chris Bowers' "little democracy" conjecture:


1. Centrifugal politics does not win national elections in the US, nor does it win a large number of local congressional elections; and


2. Centrifugal politics is probably not good for the country.


If the Democrats have come to believe the opposite for some reason, I submit that this puts them even farther from the main stream of American politics than they were before the Dean candidacy.


Update: Armed Liberal seems incredulous:
But Kos is about to take on the Hillary wing of the party head-on. He's about to launch his super-secret plan to nuke the DLC. Good freaking grief.
Posted by Demosophist at 07:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Roll Over Gutenberg

This post, by Jeff Jarvis, describes the parameters of the "Information Reformation" that's taking place:

The war is over and the army that wasn't even fighting - the army of all of us, the ones who weren't in charge, the ones without the arms - won. The big guys who owned the big guns still don't know it. But they lost.

In our media 2.0, web 2.0, post-media, post-scarcity, small-is-the-new-big, open-source, gift-economy world of the empowered and connected individual, the value is no longer in maintaining an exclusive hold on things. The value is no longer in owning content or distribution.

The value is in relationships. The value is in trust.

And this post, by Donald Sensing, lays out the case for a wartime Civilian Intelligence System, although he doesn't actually use that term:

Yet a scandal can race around the world while good news and success stories are still tying their shoes. The Bush administration has allowed the information status quo of the war to be maintained too long in the public eye. The information agenda has been set by the mainstream media (MSM), attenuated to a significant but not large degree by bloggers. I think the administration should begin immediately a vigorous domestic-information program to do these things:

-remind the American people "why we fight."

-inform the public of successes achieved.

-educate the public of the national objectives being sought, and how.

I have no grand plan on exactly how such a program should be carried out, but its success would depend on sidestepping the mainstream media. None of this information has been unavailable in the public arena. The MSM could have been reporting such stories objectively all along but have deliberately avoided doing so.

What I've had trouble understanding is why, if Jeff is right, we need to await a government lead-out in order to establish this new Civilian Intelligence System? (h/t: Winds of Change)

Contrary to the universal presumption of MSM at this point, as it relys on people like Chuck Hagel and Bill O'Riley for its authoritative insights, we aren't actually losing in Iraq. In fact, in most areas of the country IED attacks are down as is the "success rate" of those attacks that do occur. Only about 25% of IED attacks produce any casualties at all, and the reason why that's the case was incisively covered by Michael Yon some time ago. If you don't see the brushstrokes you don't get the message.

So, what is there about this alternative Civilian Intelligence System that requires a governmental patron? Is it simply that we assume, because it ought to exist but doesn't, that the missing ingredient is patronage? "Trust" is a subjective experience that may or may not be justified. To say that "the value is in trust" is simply to reiterate the concept of the "legitimation of belief," which has been around for a long time in the social sciences. The German people "trusted" Adolf Hitler. I think Donald would probably agree that he's talking about a Civilian Intelligence System even though he doesn't use the term, but the concept was originally projected by The Belmont Club over a year ago:

Although the news media functions as the civilian intelligence system, collecting raw data, processing it and distributing it to the public, for historical reasons it lacks many of the features which professional intelligence systems have evolved over the years: namely a system of grading information by reliability and existence of [an] analytic cell whose function is to follow the developments and update the results.

As always the value is in reliability and validity, and what has changed involves the method by which the public at large arrives at its assessment of those conditions. Every time MSM provides an assessment that turns out later to have been imprecise and even wildly erroneous the public downgrades their determination of the reliability and validity of their information and explanations. But the cycle by which this process unfolds, while nearly instantaneous in some instances, can take up to a year depending on the kind of information involved. And some things, like the brushstrokes of the counterinsurgency in Iraq, are making it through in dibs and dabs. But this is the very nature of brushstrokes. When the entire masterpiece becomes fully visible things may change very quickly, because it will be universally recognized that the critical detail was largely, if not completely, invisible to MSM.

Posted by Demosophist at 02:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 23, 2005

It's Little League Time Again

OK, this is pretty far from my normal topic area, but I really look forward to the Little League World Series every year, because it has lots of attributes that make it better than the "big leagues." For one thing, the players play for free, so you know they're motivated by love of the game. They also often cry when they lose, which is something you just don't see the Dodgers or the Yanks doing very often, in public anyway. (Though you know they want to.) Finally, it's pretty darn good baseball. Check the schedule for ESPN game time details.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to The Jawa Report)

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August 21, 2005

Brushstrokes in Mosul

Rusty wrote about something I neglected, because I wasn't sure how to frame the issue. I considered posting something using precisely the same quote from Michael Yon that Dr. Shackleford used here. While folks like Chuck Hagel suggest we're losing in Iraq, based on the train wreck of incompetent reporting and distorted information provided by MSM, genuinely astonishing things are happening that point to precisely the opposite conclusion. Does anyone understand how difficult a global war against stateless totalitarianism actually is? And does anyone appreciate the almost-miraculous fact that we're not just holding our own, but beating them at their own game one small victory at a time?

By way of analogy, suppose the military had decided to suppress the information that Sherman had taken and burnt Atlanta in 1864 (ignoring the fact that suppression of such an overt event would have been almost impossible)? Well, McClellan would have won the election backed by the anti-war Copperheads; the Union probably would have withdrawn troops from the South; and slavery would have continued another 20 to 30 years in the US, almost into the 20th Century. In addition, the US might well have not entered WWI and the Allies might have lost that war, leading to German domination of the European subcontinent, extermination of most of European Jewry in the mid-20th Century, and precipitating a maelstrom of social and political consequences that are so unlike what we know now that we'd be living on a virtually alien planet, if we were living at all.

Because it really was rather close. The only thing that prevented a defeat of Lincoln in 1864 was the Union victory in Atlanta, and a few other skirmishes. That gave the population enough confidence to stick with it even after the loss of nearly a million men. Yes, that's right, we're balking after less than 2,000 US deaths, and the American Civil War killed almost a million soldiers and severely wounded several million more. That's millions, not thousands.

I don't know what it takes to get the military to recognize the significance of this propaganda dimension of the war, but they have to learn it somehow, and pretty quickly. And we need another two-dozen Michael Yons, if possible. Any millionaires out there mulling over what to do with your well-earned gains?

Does anyone in a position to run for President in 2008 understand this?

I once saw the original Picasso painting, Woman With Guitar, (depicted below) on display in the museum at San Simeon. Looking at a print or reproduction gives absolutely no idea what the painting is about, because the meaning is revealed only in the brushstrokes and can be seen only if you're standing three feet from the original and looking very carefully. I suppose the broad cubist patterns have some significance to esoteric students of art, but what none of these reproductions reveal is the horrific vision that emerges from the brushstrokes themselves. It's Picasso's image of the Apocalypse, with demons, Satanic figures, and other hellish characters emerging on foot and horseback from the gates of hell, prepared to submerge the Earth in unconstrained destruction. There isn't even a hint of this image conveyed in a reproduction it's so subtle, and seeing the original convinces the observer that Picasso must have painted such images in an altered state of consciousness. He must have been like a machine, sculpting subtle 3D structures out of paint to produce a breathtaking landscape that's all but invisible from six feet away.


Something like that is going on with this War on Totalitarianism 3.x, because the strokes that reveal the real story are nearly invisible to us... and totally invisible to most of the world. The troops on the ground know the details, as do their superiors, but except for a few hints that squeak through with witnesses like Yon they've chosen to keep the real story from us. This, not because it's damning, but out of some misguided sense of clandestine caution.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 11:46 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 19, 2005

Newt in Iowa and Liberalism 3.x

I just heard Newt on CSPAN giving a speech that sounded to me like a dry run of his Presidential campaign. He was asked, on a scale of 0 to 10, what the odds are that he'll run for President. He responded that it was somewhere between 1 and 10, which got a laugh. But... it's not zero! To my practiced political ear he seems closer to 10 than 1. For all practical purposes he's running for President now, and the only issue is whether he'll withdraw at some point before November, 2008.

He expressed his thoughts on a number of critical topics, from health care to the "Long War Against Irreconcilable Islam." To me, this sounds like the much awaited Liberalism 3.x. In this view Iraq is just a "campaign," although a clearly important one to us and to the Jihad. I'd also say that if Iowans are getting the idea that we're losing in Iraq that's understandable if their source of information is Mainstream Media. But the odds that Mainstream Media has it right this time are demonstrably zero. (See Michael Yon's thoughts on the inept way media covers the war.) That doesn't mean we're winning "The Long War," though. In fact, I don't think we are. We're essentially attempting to fight Totalitarianism 3.x with the institutions and attitudes typical of Liberalism 2.x. But our military is rapidly making the transition to Liberalism 3.x, and if Newt gets his say the rest of the country may soon follow. I'd vote for him. I thought his presentation was excellent, and I think he has an answer for those discouraged about Iraq, immigration, the economy, etc..

A Newt candidacy also counters what Democrats feel are their main strengths. He's a conservative intellectual, which flies directly in the face of the standard characterization of Republican candidates. Also, if his recent appearances have helped Hillary harden her foreign policy and defense credentials they've probably helped Newt soften his image even more. He now occupies a policy area that's not really fixed in the liberal-conservative domain. He has new formulae that resolve the primary socio-economic problems that Democrats feel are their proprietary market share. He has the Clintons' wonkishness, but unlike Clinton (either one) he also has a coherent vision and is serious about realizing it.

A friend of mine who is a farmer in Iowa and teaches at a small college there (Luther) has been observing Newt's appearances in the state over the summer, and has some thoughts. I'll post his comments as is, but hasten to add that they aren't my insights or opinions. If credit and/or blame are due, give it to him not me. So without further ado here's what "The Wise Agrarian" has to say about Newt in Iowa:

Newt Gingrich has been in Iowa almost two weeks now, and furthermore, it is State Fair time. Yikes! That means he wants to run for President. I have been to one of his events, and have been following his little Iowa trip closely, making notes of the positions he mentions. In general, he's making inroads with Republicans and Independents, and is seen as doing "OK" but it varies quite a bit by issue. I thought maybe you might be interested in one observer's (me!) quick and dirty laundry list of how Newt's positions are playing to the Iowa audience

Playing well to Iowans:

1. Better control of, or close the borders
2. We're in a "50-70 year war against the irreconcilable wing of Islam"
3. Immigrants to speak English and adopt American culture
4. More science and math education
5. Music idols and sports stars as Dopers and Losers
6. Must reverse Court rulings that remove God from public life
7. His generally positive attitude about future and "we can fix problems"
8. He comes off as a thinker, and in command of many complicated issues

Playing poorly with Iowans:

1. "Real change requires real change" --- Just needs to ditch the line
2. Extraordinary danger of terrorism and dirty bombs daily -- seems a bit overblown out here
3. Any privatization or tinkering with Social Security (definitely still a Third Rail of Politics out here)
4. Any mention of the war in Iraq (other than "we support the troops") -- I don't think he knows what to say about this, sometimes he has appeared stumped when trying to offer realistic policy options without offending Pres. Bush's people. Even half of Iowa Republicans think we should phase out our involvement sooner rather than later, so he's in a tough spot on this one. Among all Iowa voters, only 35% support Bush's handling of the war. This is kind of a Republican's Achilles Heel in Iowa, I think. [Note: My thoughts on the possible meaning of this "disapproval." Not everyone thinks the President is too aggressive. Some think he's not aggressive enough.]
5. Criticizing Bill Clinton; many see this as kind of irrelevant to todays problems, though the radio talk show clowns keep criticizing him and many people like that. But from what Newt has said the past couple days, it looks like he has stopped mentioning Clinton at all, it didn't get him any traction.
6. CAFTA, he has stopped mentioning this after finding out that it was very unpopular with average people, other than with the big corporate-dominated commodity lobbying groups in DC
7. He has also stopped mentioning anything about gay marriage, it is a losing issue for him in Iowa either way

I can't tell:

1. Competitive threat from China and India, military threat from China
2. Lower taxes ( Iowans are not clamoring for lower taxes, since this year, our state government, 3 state universities, and many local governments all went broke, with some very real, visible, local consequences, so the tax-cutting issue is pretty dormant or quiescent now)
3. Farm subsidies; he is having a little difficult time because farm subsidies are immensely popular here, particularly with large corporate producers who are mostly Republican, yet Newt's own economics thinking seems to be anti-subsidy, so he is moving around on this and hasn't landed on a position that I can detect
4. Reduce regulations on business (it doesn't seem to whip 'em up like it did in the '80s and '90s)

It is clear to me that these guys use Iowa as a sounding board to see how things work oratorically and politically. It has been interesting to watch Newt, who is most certainly a sharp fellow, craft his statements out here.

Any thoughts? Keep watching Iowa...

After some consideration, he goes on to clarify:

I am just trying to call them as I see them. The President has not been in Iowa in over a year, and his popularity is running in the 35% to 45% range, depending on the issue. So in part, the key economic and foreign policy issues of Pres. Bush are not real hot for either Bush or Newt right now. I think Newt is figuring that out.

But an interesting flip side is that ALL of the culture-wars kinds of things Newt pushes, which are almost all in line with Pres. Bush (illegal immigrants an exception) are playing very well here.

Another way to look at it is, Newt is pretty smart and focused; he's not terribly worried about votes of Bush Republicans; he figures he'll get them (I know they could defect, but they usually don't in Iowa). He's trying to craft positions that will get the next 10% -15% on top of those Bush Republicans.


My intuition says that he'll get a lot of resistance from the Idiotarian Left and slightly less from Reactionary Conservatives. (It's really the Left who has become reactionary at this point, which is swinging the door wide open for a "progressive" Republican who thinks outside the box.) He ought to be able to overcome the resistance, especially within his own party, by connecting directly with the electorate, a skill he has been developing since leaving Congress and one that will catch the Democrats off guard. But even if a Presidential campaign is ultimately unsuccessful he'll still infuse the policy debate with some much needed new ideas and energy.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 03:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Rusty's Blogger Military Service Survey

Regarding Rusty's military service survey of the blogosphere, a commenter objects:

Its disgusting that you legitimize this fraudulent meme of the Left, Rusty.

The meme SPQR is talking about is the often-repeated phrase "chickenhawk" tossed at war supporters who haven't served in the military, or (since G.W. Bush is a veteran, and therefore passes the test) haven't served in combat. Yes, it is a meme, but Rusty isn't legitimizing it. In fact, quite the opposite.

I'm certainly willing to stipulate that anyone who has been in combat has more "moral authority" than I to comment on the war, and I imagine Rusty is as well. But that's only one kind of authority, and it doesn't beatify any single veteran, which is apparently what the Left believes. Though Max Cleland has more moral authority than I, I have more intellectual authority. And to the extent that my intellect is consistent with what is right, and what has the greatest chance of saving the most lives and preserving civilization, I also have more moral clarity than Max does. That ought to count for something. Heck, it ought to count for quite a lot.

But the "chickenhawk" concept is fraudulent because it presumes:

1. That everyone who hasn't been in combat is assumed to be a coward; and

2. That, therefore, only those who have been in combat can legitimately support the war.

Which, of course, doesn't mean that assumed cowards can't oppose the war. According to the meme this is entirely consistent and morally non-problematic. What they can't do is support it; because, well... that'd be hypocritical. By such logic it's hypocritical to support criminal convictions and sentencing if you're not willing to apprehend the criminals yourself. And only those who are demonstrably willing to serve as policemen can cast a jury vote with any validity, or far that matter deserve protection from crime. So the options for an "assumed coward" (anyone who hasn't been in combat) are either to oppose the war, or shut the heck up.

And it isn't lost on these folks that combat veterans are vastly outnumbered by assumed cowards in our society, which guarantees the result they seek.

BUT if moral authority is a valid concept, and I think it is, even though I'm not willing to stipulate that it's everything, then only the votes of combat veterans carry significant weight one way or the other in that personal moral dimension. Robert Heinlein's SciFi classic Starship Troopers exemplifies this concept, by differentiating between "civilians," who haven't volunteered to serve in combat, and "citizens" who have.

So, the bottom line is that Rusty's project has merit, because intuitively its premise is that veterans have more moral weight in the debate, reflecting greater moral authority. And if that's the criterion, then our side almost certainly wins.

The thing that's fraudulent about the "chickenhawk" concept, is that it disenfranchises only the opposition, based not on some uniform criterion, but on their prospective vote.

Which, of course, is not only dumb but immoral.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia)

Posted by Demosophist at 10:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 18, 2005

Chuck Hagel's Fretful Vision

My frickin' satellite TV is out, so I'm relying an a backup that has only CNN. Today, on the Wolfe Blitzer Show (or whatever it's called) Chuck Hagel was allowed, or encouraged, to pontificate in an especially headstrong manner. I'm going to have to paraphrase his remarks, because I just don't have access to the transcript yet, but essentially he responded to a question about crafting an "informed opinion" on Iraq with something like:

"Well, all I can do is rely on the same information available to the public, all of which seems to suggest that we're losing, rather than winning, in Iraq." [There were some references suggesting that electricity production is down, etc..]

Admittedly the statement is a paraphrase, but the gist of it is accurate. Daily Kos quotes Chuck as saying "Iraq could be worse than Vietnam." And Time Magazine quotes him as saying: "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel tells U.S. News. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

Really? Well, what I'd like to know is whether you've determined that nearly all of the milbloggers posting on the internet, as well as other on-the-ground "citizen journalists" like Michael Yon, are misinformed? Because, almost to a man, they're pretty clear that not only are we winning, but that as a factual matter we can't lose, unless we defeat ourselves. And if that's the case, then how can one characterize what you're saying as anything other than spectacularly stupid, or a tantalizing peek at schadenfreude?

Hagel is a conservative Republican, so it's not clear what interest he has in schadenfreude, unless he's in that paleo hot tub with Pat Buchanan. Now, I guess I can understand the idea that "sunny" depictions of the war are unrealistic and irritating, but I just don't see anyone who falls into the category of providing only sunny predictions. Granted, Cheney was off the reservation when he said that the insurgency is "in its last throes," but that could be the case for all we know. However, most people who know something seem to be saying, as one might expect, that Terror is a formidable enemy and that things are likely to get worse before they get better. Yes, they might well get worse. But that simply isn't the same as saying that we're "losing." The Battle of the Bulge in Europe, and Okinawa in the Pacific were both worse than anything that came before. Yet no one with the benefit of hindsight would say we were losing at that point, nor did anyone with sense say that at the time. The only doubts any of us ought to have about the ultimate outcome in Iraq are those resting uncomfortably on the assessments of folks like Chuck Hagel, who, in spite of having better access to information than the rest of us, seems to reap less actual understanding.

For what it's worth I think we're paying a higher price for winning than we ought to be, and part of that responsibility rests with the Bush administration, but I'm certainly not going to support someone whose first impulse is to whine that we're losing.

By the way, this might be a good time to check out Al Qaeda's Easy Seven Stage Master Plan; as long as you recognize that the further they wander from the present the greater the real uncertainty. "Chuck" apparently advocates just handing them Phase II without a fight. (h/t: Protein Wisdom)

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

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The "Vacation" of Harry S.

A regular commenter on The Jawa Report, Oyster, observes in response to an ersatz post on Cindy Sheehan:

What I find very irritating about this too is how the press keeps calling his stay at the ranch a "vacation" (or a "monthlong" vacation to make it sound like he's just fishing and taking naps for a whole month). They're trying to equate it with how we take vacations. How we go to some destination and are free of work and responsibility for a period of time. He is simply working from the ranch rather than the White House.

Most people know about Ike's golfing "vacations" and JFK's trips to Hyannisport to play touch football, but not many know that the concept and details of the Cold War strategy of "containment" were worked out by the Truman Administration during a long "vacation" in Key West. Truman and his advisors spend 175 days there during the course of his Presidency. Eisenhower established the Department of Defense while "vacationing" there, and Kennedy visited during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The location has been so seminal to the history of that half-century-long conflict with Empirialist Marxism that it has come to be known as the Little White House. But that was a different era.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to The Jawa Report)

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Sounding Brass and Tinkling Cymbals

Phase II of the three-way war has begun in earnest. As Wretchard observes, the media are currently engaged in a discussion about how to dramatically portray the Iraq War with a sense of realism, without signalling their hidden agenda. But, of course, they call that deliberation something else:

"It seems to me that if we make an overt political statement in 'Over There' about the war ... then immediately the debate becomes not only about policy, but it becomes about our politics, Chris' and mine, as opposed to a discussion or a provocation about the human consequences of war," Bochco said. "The moment we become overtly political, half the audience dismisses us and doesn't pay attention to us because they disagree with our politics. And the other half discuss us ... in the context of our political leanings. And that's just not what my goal is with this show."

So, they make a covert political statement instead, and couch it as artistic professionalism. This is a game that the "news" branch of media have been playing since the first APC rolled across the Kuwait border, couching the news as objective and balanced while determining the conclusion as surely as any Pravda article. And the heavy hand of propaganda has now made its way into the overtly "fictional" branch of media, who have apparently decided that the reportrayal of Iraq as a dessicated Vietnam will just have to do.

But, of course, the problem is that now, when they strike this bell, what emerges is much less like a ringing peal than a shallow tinkle, and the reverberations barely violate the boundaries of their echo chamber. For the first time the strategically opaque dramaturge of the entertainment industry is met by the naively transparent counterbalance of authoritative witnesses from the field, posting their contemporaneous experiences of the war in real time. The discourse is losing its constraints, and the memes no longer live forever.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

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August 17, 2005

The Most Salient Question About Cindy Sheehan

Reflective Me Asks: Why am I writing another blog post about Cindy Sheehan?

Practical Me Responds: Uhh, good point.

Posted by Demosophist at 06:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 16, 2005

"Ventriloquizing the Dead"

James Joyner points to a critical article about the Sheehan phenomenon by Christopher Hitchens. In the article he coins an astonishingly powerful concept describing what Sheehan and others on the Left (and some on the Right) are attempting to do: "ventrilquizing the dead." I slightly disagree with The Hitch's point that Cindy has no more moral authority than anyone else, however. I don't think it outrageous to claim that Cindy Sheehan does have some moral authority that I, for instance, lack. But it seems to me that if there's such a thing as "moral standing" to comment on a war, it resides a great deal more with those who are actually serving, and especially those soldiers who have also lost friends and comrades in the fight. And it does make sense that those who pay the costs have greater moral authority that those of us who are shielded from sacrifice (by an administration that for some inexplicable reason refuses to ask very much of its citizenry). Let's be realistic.

But Cindy's moral authority hardly cancels that of everyone else, especially those with similar or greater authority, who disagree with her. Nor does it constitute "expertise," as many on the Left insist. Her expertise is singularly, even spectacularly, unimpressive. In that sense The Hitch has vastly greater authority than Cindy. And someone like Michael Yon has both moral and expert authority, as well as that special form of "expert" authority that comes directly from being on the scene: experiencial. Neither of which means that you can't disagree, but you do have a steeper hill to climb, let's face it.

Finally, there is a sense in which we probably should eschew the opinions of mothers, especially those who would almost certainly feel compelled to prevent their children from maturing into adulthood if they could manage to arrest their development. Ancient societies recognized, in ritual and institution, this wise limitation on motherhood when they separated boys from mothers as they entered puberty, and compelled them to undergo an intense initiation into manhood. Young men who failed to make this transition were simply not trusted around children.

It is extremely misguided, especially for a society at war, to institutionalize the extension of childhood beyond puberty, and even to seek to instill childish sentiments in its responsible and authoritative adults. This is the primary problem I have with Cindy Sheehan, and those who exploit her.

Update: From Michelle Malkin: "The Cindy Sheehan Bandwagon just lost its wheels." (h/t: TTLB)

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to The Jawa Report)

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August 15, 2005

Violence Is Relative

Donald Sensing, on Winds of Change points to the implications of some counterintuitive (for idiotarians at least) statistics documented by Strategy Page. Turns out the annual death rate in Iraq, so far in 2005, is less than half what it was under Saddam Hussein. It has dropped from over 100 deaths per 100K (not counting those who died in the Iran/Iraq war) to about 45. This is also lower than the death rate in South Africa, the only African country that keeps good statistics on the figure, and probably far less than some place like Darfur, which doesn't even figure on the idiotarian radar.

So next time someone brings up "the terrible cost of the war for Iraqis" you can say that the coalition not only brought democracy to the country, but cut the death rate in half!

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to The Jawa Report)

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August 14, 2005

"Over There" Isn't Anywhere

Michael Fumento has been "over there" and in a review of the series in Tech Central Station doesn't think much of Over There. Excerpt:

If "Over There" has a true military advisor, he deserves the firing squad. In the first episode a squad is pinned down while besieging a terrorist-filled mosque. The unit remains for about 36 hours with no air support, because "Air is dedicated to another area." Never mind that air cover from jets or helicopters is always available within minutes. They also request artillery, again to no avail. There's no armor. Until near the end of the siege the only guys with a mortar are the enemy.

In order to include women, two females from a transportation unit just happen to join the siege. In fact, they just happen to tag along for the rest of the series! Reality is sacrificed to the God of Diversity.

Towards the end of the show a troop transport pulls off to the side of the road, an idiot thing to do since that's where improvised explosive devices (IED) are almost always buried. Naturally they roll over a powerful IED, even though the bad guys have conveniently marked it with little white flags! A horribly wounded soldier is then evacuated in a type of chopper not used in Iraq.

Clearly this is a military that can't even tie its bootlaces and in the immortal words of Pogo: We have met the enemy and he is us.

I wondered about the little white flag thing. Damn nice of the insurgents to put a little "Don't tread on this!" sign up for us, but of course our military were just too dumb to read it. Another thing that bugged me (one of many) concerned the lengthy roadblock sequence in the second episode. The insurgents supposedly sent several suicide vehicles and decoys before getting around to smuggling out their high value target, who was apparently the only guy who knew where the Stinger Missiles were hidden. So why didn't the smugglers just go around the checkpoint? It's pretty much rural unfenced desert so why would they be limitted to the road? Granted, you probably have to use roads or tracks to move material, or to get somewhere really fast... but if there's an obvious checkpoint that you are aware of enough to diddle around for hours sending decoys and stuff you presumably aren't pressed for time.

The whole series is like that. It's not so much that it's biased (although it is that, in spades), as that it's not remotely realistic even as a fantasy war. Harry Potter is more authentic.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

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August 13, 2005

How Poor Are You?

Q: So, just how poor are you?

A: I'm so poor I cut my own hair, with nose-hair scissors.

Pahddum Puhm!

Just an excuse to send a trackback to The Jawa Report's two-millionth-visitor-fest! BRD (of Anticipatory Retaliation and I were the first co-bloggers on Rusty's blog, and it wasn't that long ago. Well actually it was back when Wonkette was somebody. The success is so inspiring that Rusty has become an essayist! Group blogs are The Bomb. Literally!

Posted by Demosophist at 05:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 12, 2005

About Those Approval Polls

Rob on Say Anything makes some valid points about the AP poll that the anti-war movement always cites when they want to make the case that they're now the majority. (h/t: Wizbang) The party affiliation numbers suggest it's not very representative of either the total or the voting population. He might be going a little too far, however, when he states:

The bottom line is, I’m not sure I’m going to be trusting any more of these polls touted by the media. It just doesn’t seem like any of them are really all that representative of the true opinions and feelings of the people.

Well, it's going to be tough knowing the public attitude and values if we stop conducting polls. And you could tell pretty easily that this AP poll wasn't representative... which suggests that one needn't necessarily be skeptical of all polls. Let's try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I've helped design a number of academic surveys using reputable firms (like Angus Reid Group) and don't think it's wise to paint with such a broad brush. The cell phone problem is real, but there are countermeasures. And refusals that might bias the results have been around for a long time, so the same corrective measures would work with "don't call" lists. (Legitimate political surveys aren't included in the national "don't call" list anyway.)

By the way, to point out a problem that Rob didn't discuss: one thing that I rarely see mentioned in MSM coverage concerning polls that identify approval or disapproval of Bush's handling of the war is any attempt to distinguish between those who feel we're not sufficiently invested and those who feel we're too invested. Believe it or not there are quite a few folks who think Bush is "too liberal," and that we ought to be not only pressing the war against Syria and Iran, but that we also ought to engage against perfidious Arab media. MSM and the anti-war Left always assume that disapproval signifies "too conservative" (warmongering), which is simply not the case.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 01:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Instapundit Having Second Thoughts About "Gay" Marrage?

This story has apparently inspired at least a few second thoughts about same-sex marriage from libertarian-minded Megan McArdle, posting for Glenn on Instapundit:

Seriously, I find it difficult to phrase an objection to this that does not basically hew to the anti-gay-marriage line: i.e. marriage in the west has traditionally been between two people who want to have sex with each other. The objection to this argument is the same one that pro-gay-marriage forces employed against those who claimed that marriage was for child-rearing: we allow all sorts of people who cannot have sex with each other (certain classes of parapalegics, for example) to wed, so how can you exclude these people on this grounds? I think it's funny, but if this sort of practice becomes more than a stunt, it seems very likely to me to weaken an already ailing institution.

Well that's the point. Now consider the unspoken consequences of that ailing institution: more family disruption leading to greater social upheaval, crime, and perhaps most importantly an IQ deficit created by poor early childhood parenting. Yes same-sex marriage isn't the whole problem, but it can't help. And it could hurt, quite a bit. (See Institute for Marriage and Public Policy)

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

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Firey Coals

A commenter (Chris Hanson) on Confederate Yankee asks of the supporters of Cindy Sheehan:

"...what happened to your moral compass?"

This is becoming depressing for me. It was fine, for awhile, just to be on the "right side of history," but as these events have progressed and the original issues about the war have receded-- the stakes in Iraq becoming clearer and more obvious with each passing day--the manner in which the Left has chosen to destroy itself for what a friend of mine appropriately calls a "lust for peace" has surpassed any conception of foolishness that I might have thought possible. The spectacle of this mother placing her grief at the feet of such a self-destructive and destructively inclined movement isn't really resolved by any sort of anger I can manage to whip up against her. It's just plain sad, and sad in a way that transcends the sadness anyone must feel about the death of any individual (including a loved one). It's the sadness of discovering that good intentions not only don't equate to good judgment, but can easily transform into very very bad, even vicious, intentions. Why are we pulling apart, instead of together?

I read the other day about James Wolcott complaining that people like Roger L. Simon have "betrayed the Left" in their support for the war, but to me it seems precisely the opposite. For whatever moral legitimacy I had once ceded to the Left for the sake of its intention to support the misfortunate, or to serve as a brake on unfairness and selfishness, has been replaced by moral and political skepticism. And I don't imagine I'm alone. How could any movement that claims to take such ideals seriously, so seriously and wilfully betray them? How could any movement willing not just to argue for, but to insist on, the moral equivalence between Camp X-Ray and Auschwitz, or who reserves any esteem for our own generation's "Lord Haw Haw", or any one of a dozen or so similar travesties I could recall were I so inclined, ever again be entrusted with the public good? As Marc "Armed Liberal" Danziger asked recently: Why do you so hate the poor? This is a cataclysm. If you don't see that, you're not paying attention.

And just to put the final touch on what has to be yet another disillusioned flower child's naked lunch, it seems to me that George Bush's response to this crowd surging to press Mrs. Sheehan's grief in his face like a cream pie (while her own family recoils in shame) has simply and unambiguously canceled a wave of hatred... with generosity, tolerance and understanding. Which, frankly, makes me feel a little more optimistic about the long term.


As a youth I left home and family behind
And joined up with a warrior clan
A rite of passage to becoming a man
The bridge between youth and adult I sought to span
Tempting fate through the rigors of a war's deadly grind

Sojurned across the sea with a band of hardy fellows
Strangers we were in a strange and deadly land
Delivered there by fate's uncompromising hand
Customs and tongues of the country an alien brand
Firey coals of deception fanned by a war's great bellows

A cultural clash putting us in a bind
Who was the foe
Was ever hard to know
Mistrust in our hearts did grow
No clear cut lines left us flying blind

Strangers we were in a strange land
Amidst a culture where life had little value
Where e'en the children were sacrificed on cue
Hatred within the mind was stirred like simmering stew
A culture so alien I couldn't understand

But I did my duty, served my tour
Then hung around for a little more
Not seeing the changes taking place at the core
Tripped on the threshold falling flat on my face upon the floor
Thence came the day I was ushered out the door

Returning home I found the land had changed
'Twas not the simple land of my father's but one of chaos
Strident voices and harsh words honed a keen sense of loss
Nerves now raw, trust was a coin toss
With former friends I was now estranged

Yea though I was home, the homeland was gone
All around I heard the littany of criticism and reprimand
The chanting crowds, their phrases canned
A firey wrath in my soul was fanned
Still a stranger in a strange and unfamiliar land
In my mind, for the homeland, I travel ever on

Roger D. (Hoagie) Hogan

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 01:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 09, 2005

Suicide Bombers Wore What?

The Counterterrorism Blog notes that experts are concerned about mall attacks in the US, and suggest we study the Israeli model of profiling and interdiction:

Security guards need more training on that model, and mall customers need to recognize potential terrorists in their midst. Steve especially noted that one of the 7/7 London suicide bombers bought and wore perfume, apparently in preparation to meet his "72 virgins" as promised by jihadist propaganda.

These guys have been watching way too much Queer Eye if you ask me. After all, these 72 virgins are supposed to be a lock, right? I mean, it's not like you've got to win them over. So why wouldn't you just go with your everyday sweaty male musk, mixed with the telltale aphrodisiac of cordite? Perfume? What? Evening in Paris do you think? Or Obsession? (OK, so I don't know squat about perfume. I smell vaguely like Budweiser most of the time.)

Keep your noses peeled. It's your civic duty.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

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August 06, 2005

Phase II of the War Against Liberalism?

Gosh, there are all kinds of new concepts suggesting themselves to me lately, from The First Counterwar to Totalitarianism 3.0. But juxtaposing Jeff Goldstein's observations about the use of the Western Left's rhetoric by the jihadists with the "Perfidious George's" poetic use of jihadist rhetoric (together with his prototypical neo-fascist smirk at the funny way Sharon says "terrorrrrrrize") to incite the "Arab Street," suggests that all three strains of Counter-enlightenment illiberalism (Marxism, Nazism and Islamism) have finally begun to merge. If the rhetoric has become one, will not actions soon follow?

[Note to people who still use the term "liberalism" to refer to the Left, or socialism: Get over it. The US together with the Scots invented liberalism in the 17th and 18th centuries, and it's about time we became its standard-bearers again. It's time we put a stop to the corruption of the term.]

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

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August 05, 2005

Galloway Watch Update

See the video of George Galloway's descent into treason here. Note that at one point he mocks Sharon's Hebrew accent in one of the most blatant and mindless appeals to overt racism that I've ever seen outside the news footage of Neo Nazi retreats. If Blair is serious about expelling people who incite acts of terror it's time to either expel or jail this deranged fool. If the Brits fail to act this sort of thing will become entrenched, and ultimately nearly impossible to dislodge. (h/t: Totten)

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

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August 04, 2005

The Galloway Syndrome: What Am I Missing?

George Galloway, as quoted byMEMRI:

"The real question is, after the evidence of Sykes-Picot 1, are you ready to accept Sykes-Picot 2? What does Sykes-Picot mean to the Arab world? Nothing except division, disunity, weakness, and failure. Two of your beautiful daughters are in the hands of foreigners - Jerusalem and Baghdad. The foreigners are doing to your daughters as they will. The daughters are crying for help, and the Arab world is silent. And some of them are collaborating with the rape of these two beautiful Arab daughters. Why? Because they are too weak and too corrupt to do anything about it. So this is what Sykes-Picot will do to the Arabs. Are you ready to have another hundred years like the hundred years you just had?"

Not only is this jaw-droppingly stupid, but there was a time when incitement against your own country, especially during a war, would have gotten you drawn and quartered. Not that a return to such barbarity is warranted, but there was a reason for it. Thomas Hobbes saw that the primal fear was the fear of violent death at the hands of one's fellow man, and that it is this fear which is the source of the "enlightened self interest" that motivates us to bond together to create and maintain civil order and to defend against external enemies. It is this that made treason the most heinous of all crimes. And he also rightly reasoned that the further we stray from a coherent connection to that primal fear, the more corrupt and vain we may become, and therefore the less likely to maintain those bonds that ensure security from the "state of nature." If Galloway and others are able to easily avoid the consequences of such "speech" (and if it's not seditious, I don't know what is) it will become an entrenched tradition among the disconnected and self-annihilating wishful thinkers of the West. But it still strikes us as more a matter of pathetic mental illness than corruption, because for most of us the assets of civilization are still more tangible than our fantasies.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 08:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Cole Twins and the First Counterwar

It actually took me awhile to figure out that Juan Cole wasn't just the hispanicized identity of John Cole. (There are actually some authors who interchangeably use both forms.) Juan Cole is a highly educated and esteemed idiotarian who has more in common with George Galloway than with his namesake, while John Cole is a pro-war blogger with occasional misgivings about the "how." But they both seem to agree about one thing: our leaders are a little schizophrenic about whether we're at war, and with whom. Read the comments to Michael J. Totten's Fisking Juan Cole and you'll soon see that there isn't even agreement within the Right about who or what we're fighting, so it's not at all surprising that consensus and conviction about the "how" are frequently unimpressive. Are we at war with Islamism? Well, what about the popularly elected Islamist government of Turkey? They're certainly a troublesome ally, but in spite of their frequent obstinacy Turkey continues to have a robust trade and defense relationship with Israel. We aren't at war with them, are we? And the Ba'ath remnants that our media insists on calling "insurgents" in Iraq aren't Islamists, are they? It can get confusing.

It might be more accurate to say that we're at war with "fascism," but so far we aren't even at war with other fascist regimes in the Middle East, including the Syrians. So, although Totten pictorially makes mincemeat of Juan Cole's preposterous claim that we're not really at war, the reality is that we're somewhere between war and a criminal justice enterprise.

And what Juan Cole and the other ivory-towered moonbats don't realize is that the only reason we haven't graduated to full-on war is that we've managed to fragment the enemy where they had coalesced, and to prevent them from coalescing where time was on their side, not ours. The pervasive mindset that we sometimes see erupting in the "Muslim Street" is not so much a consequence of US "aggression" as evidence of a tsunami set in motion some sixty years ago that we've caused to break before its time by deliberately launching a counter-wave. And yes, to that extent it's a lot closer to war than criminal justice, but it still has elements of the latter. It might be best to see this as the first full-scale counter-war. After all, the fact that crime involves the use of force doesn't mean that all force is criminal or there'd be no law-abiding behavior. And if the greatest evil is total war then lesser conflicts undertaken to forestall or control total war (and the Islamofascist war on civilians is, by definition, total war) are are properly viewed as analogous to anti-crime efforts.

For the first time in history we're intervening in those subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle social and cultural movements that would otherwise run their course to all-out total war. Mistakes in such a first-time enterprise ought to be expected, though because of the consequences they deserve low tolerance. There is a role, therefore, for people like John Cole and others who don't blindly accept every rationalization or justification for our actions. Even some of those who have unconditionally supported the Bush administration's strategy in the past now recognize that we're at a turning point. (See Wretchard and Michael Yon.)

It seems to me that what really motivates the idiotarians has a lot less to do with rational analysis than with this observation by Alexander Hamilton: "Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike." But it's still possible to get on board and participate in the enterprise, so there's ultimately nothing honorable about such opposition. It's a purely emotional and self-destructive impulse.

The area of disagreement among those who support the "counter-war" extends to disagreement about whether Islam, itself, is the real enemy. Well, it obviously could be Islam itself, if the jihadists are allowed to define it as they see fit. And those who believe this can hardly be blamed when there's so little principled or vocal opposition to jihadism from within the Ummah. So, if we're too late to prevent Islam's Civil War, as Victor Davis Hanson suggests (actively sought now by the jihadists largely because they're devoid of any better ideas) then at least that would clarify for us, and for the Ummah, exactly who it is we're at war with.

I think the nature of the turning point that some have sensed will be the decisive split within the Islamic world over the choice between Totalitarianism and Liberalism [1].

[1] Obviously I mean Liberalism in the classical rather than the partisan sense. The Liberalism of Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Washington.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 02:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 03, 2005

Steven Vincent, Blog Warrior/Correspondent, Murdered in Basra

Wretchard at The Belmont Club has a short piece on the murder of Steven Vincent in Basra, including some links to other information and stories. Fellow reporter Michael Yon has a short note pointing out that he had just communicated with Vincent and that the translator apparently survived. The National Review Online has Mr. Vincent's final article, dispatched just hours before his death: On Again, Off Again: A Power Problem in Basra.

Posted by Demosophist at 11:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 02, 2005

A Test and a Recommendation

This is the first test of a piece of software that may allow me to publish posts to multiple blogs at the same time, greatly simplifying my life. (In case anyone is interested, the software is called "w.bloggar.")

And just so it's not a complete waste of electrons, watch out for Michael Yon's four-part series The Battle of Mosul, in which he will attempt to provide an unbiased and accurate picture of the struggle, and its potential for success. The first installment begins with Prelude.

Update: Just to update on the results of the test, it seems to work pretty well. You can only post simultaneously to multiple blogs if they're on the same server (account), but it's fairly easy to save the post and then reload it for posting to each account. I also sometimes get a message to the effect that posting has failed, when it hasn't, resulting in double posts. It also doesn't handle updates of previously posted material very well (like this one, for instance, which had to be done "the old fashioned way").

I'm probably going to drop the reference to crossposting at the bottom from now on, because there are just too many of them. I'm currently posting to four blogs, including my own. Slightly dysfunctional, I know. But I'm waiting for my Pajamas Media offer (as is Jeff Goldstein, apparently).

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)

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