Wednesday, November 6, 2002
No more for two weeks
What always irritates about TV pundits is that when they're proven wrong, they immediately move on to a very self-assured, knowledgeable discussion of what actually happened. Never any penance for getting something wrong.
Well, not on this blog. My analysis of the election was wrong, wrong, wrong. This is the second election in a row that President Bush did better than the standard economic models of voting predicted. [But Bush wasn't on the ballot this year --ed. Oh, bulls@#%$! Even Joe Conason grants that he took the risk of making a heavy investment in this election, and it paid off]. I was wrong for relying on those models even though the 2000 election discredited them.
For penance, I'm swearing off blogging for two weeks. That's right, I'm going cold turkey. It doesn't matter that my area of expertise is international relations and this was American politics; if anything, I screwed up by minimizing the effect of foreign policy on this election, particularly in the Georgia Senate race. So I'm taking the next two weeks to reflect on my errors and try to come back as a better blogger.
The fact that I have to crash on a paper has nothing to do with this....
While I'm away, click on Barry Rubin's essay on why Anti-Americanism in the Middle East has little to do with U.S. policy and lots to do with domestic frustrations. Then reread the essay, replacing "Middle East" with "Western Europe" and see if it applies there!
UPDATE: A month later, InstaPundit recommends doing the same thing with Rubin's essay.
Tick, tick, tick....
That's the sound of Terry MacAulliffe's tenure slipping away. And also the sound of me admitting that Jacob Levy beat my predictions. D'oh!!
More later. For now, though, the best thing I've seen written about the election this morning is David Brooks' piece over at the Weekly Standard.
Tuesday, November 5, 2002
Early exit plls mean squat, but...
Two years ago I remember being very excited because I got a sneak peak at VNS (Voter News Service) numbers at around 2 PM. Of course, those numbers had Iowa and Pennsylvania going for Bush, so I don't place a ton of faith in these instruments. That said, compare and contrast Drudge's info with Joshua Micah Marshall's skinny on early exit polling for crucial Senate elections. Oh, hell, I'll do it for you:
ARKANSAS -- Drudge has Pryor (D) winning "easily"; Marshall has Pryor up by 18 points.
COLORADO -- A shocker. Drudge also has Strickland (D) winning “easily”; Marshall has him up by 20 points.
GEORGIA -- Both Drudge and Marshall have Chambliss (R) up by 4 points.
LOUISIANA -- Drudge has Landrieu facing a December runoff.
MISSOURI -- Drudge has Talent (R) "leading"; Marshall has him up by 10 points.
NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Drudge has nothing on this race; Marshall has Shaheen (D) up by 6 points.
NORTH CAROLINA -- Very interesting. Drudge has Bowles (D) "leading"; Marshall has Dole up 4-6 points.
TEXAS -- Drudge has Cornyn (R) up 8 points, and Marshall has him up by 10 points.
UPDATE: Both Drudge and Marshall now post that the VNS computer has "has somehow broken down or that they themselves aren't trusting their numbers," so that's it as far as exit polls go.
POSITIVE TRENDS ARE AFOOT: Liberals
POSITIVE TRENDS ARE AFOOT: Liberals are fond of stating that Bush's foreign policy antagonizes other countries so much that it has led to a on-the-ground backlash against American ideas. And, to be sure, this is true of the French. Of course, historically, French identity is so bound up in opposing the United States that it doesn't matter what our foreign policy looks like.
Anyway, to counter this perception, consider the following news items, which suggest that movements on the ground in other countries are not so simple:
1) Abdollah Nouri, Iran's former vice-president and leading reformist dissident, who actually said during his trial that perhaps Iran should moderate it's anti-Israeli position, was just pardoned. One analysts said "(Nouri's)release will strengthen the reform movement and could break the political deadlock''
2) Capitalism appears to be eroding the Chinese Communist Party, according to the New York Times. The money quote: "People both young and old, in this jazzy coastal city and across the nation, say in conversation that the Communist Party, which once insinuated itself into every cranny of society, now seems almost irrelevant to their daily lives."
3) Hugo Chavez's attempt to lurch Venezuela towards the left appear to be failing. This FT story highlights recent grass-roots efforts to move towards early presidential elections in that country.
4) NATO is such an attractive club that the lure of membership has led to substantive political reforms across Central and Eastern Europe. According to the Washington Post, "The desire to join the club has already had a big impact on Eastern Europe. Romania and Hungary negotiated a treaty settling ancient territorial disputes and promising peaceful coexistence. The people of Slovakia voted the way NATO made clear it wanted them to, reelecting a center-right, pro-NATO government in September. Czech policy toward the Roma, also known as Gypsies, and Polish environmental policy have changed to please the West."
Monday, November 4, 2002
THOUGHTS FOR ELECTION DAY: My
THOUGHTS FOR ELECTION DAY: My wife is very fond of an old New Yorker cartoon in which an elderly woman, sitting next to her grumpy husband, tells her son, “Even after all these years, I still get a thrill out of canceling your father’s vote!” This pretty much describes my household. We have an Election Day tradition. We walk to the voting place, fill out our ballots, cancel out each other’s votes, and then go for brunch.
Why bother? Three reasons. The first is that we both enjoy the playful antagonisms created by our different politics. My wife, God bless her, is a social worker. She counsels children and young parents on welfare. To do this well requires a tremendous deal of empathy, which she has in spades. She’s a liberal in the modern sense of the word; I’m not. We take different positions on issues, but most of the time, after we’ve talked about it, both of us have usually given some ground. This phenomenon is not unique to politics. Over the years, I’ve found myself more open to the possibility that societal forces can impinge on individual psychologies. My wife, in contrast, increasingly recognizes the need for individuals to take responsibility for their actions, no matter what the societal pressures. We will always disagree, but allowing for the possibility of changing one’s mind is the essence of a healthy relationship.
Second, we enjoy our disagreements about politics because they matter so little to our daily lives. How to raise children, how to manage a household, which video to rent on a Friday night; these are the crucial issues of a relationship. I don’t mean to trivialize politics. Thorny debates over reforming Social Security or attacking Iraq matter – they just don’t matter on a day-to-day basis to most people. We both know and are bemused by people who would never date or marry someone on the other side of the political fence (yes, most of them are liberals, but I’m sure there are a few conservatives that are like this). Those who put the political before the personal usually lack a sense of humor and any recognition of their potential to be fallible. On the other hand, my wife and I take great delight in getting the other person to say, “I was wrong” about anything.
Third, even for a libertarian such as myself, part of the fun of voting is the sense of community it helps to create. Voting is a voluntary, secret activity that nevertheless encourages you to mingle with equally civic-minded neighbors. I love the minivans driving around exhorting people to vote; I love the pollsters and hard-core campaigners outside the polling station; and I especially love the kindly old women that give you your ballot (yes, a stereotype, but a true one).
Would these things be true if I was voting in Russia, Turkey, France, or Brazil? Probably not. Lots of pundits bitch about the Democrats and Republican resembling each other; I take great comfort in it. It means that, no matter what happens tomorrow, or in 2004, or 2040, that ninety percent of what makes this country great will remain unchanged after a transfer of power from one party to another.
If you're an American, go and vote tomorrow. Take pride if your party or your candidate wins. But take solace that you are a citizen in a country where losing is not the same as Götterdammerung. The world is a better place when politics is not a matter of life or death.
Sunday, November 3, 2002
WHEN ACADEMICS ATTACK: Marc Herold
WHEN ACADEMICS ATTACK: Marc Herold is an associate professor of economic development and women's studies at the University of New Hampshire. According to UNH's web page, Herold has only published one refereed journal article in either economics or women's studies – ever [So how come he’s got tenure and you don’t?—ed. Oh, don’t be a smart-ass]. Last year, however, he issued a press release claiming to have developed a comprehensive list of close to 4,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan during last year’s campaign. This list garnered a lot of foreign and some American media attention. Multiple stories (click here and here) -- by neocons, to be sure -- demonstrate Herold's analysis to be a not-so-subtle exaggeration of press reports. To quote one assessment, "the problem is not the national origin of the source so much as the fact that most of them are third- or fourth-hand overlapping hearsay interviews with Afghans in Pakistani refugee camps some days' journey from Kabul and Kandahar who heard various stories along the way with no precise dates attached." Most estimates place the civilian casualties at approximately 1,000.
Reading this exchange of e-mails between Herold and a blogger (link via InstaPundit) is like rubbernecking at a traffic accident or a coming across a Madonna movie while flipping channels – you know you shouldn’t watch, but you can’t help it. I don’t think either of them is exhibiting the kind of decorum approved by Miss Manners. It also, perhaps, demonstrates why Herold’s methodology should be challenged – he writes without thinking.