From the monthly archives:

October 2004

In Pittsburgh, on the border

by BillG on October 31, 2004

I drove from Columbus to Pittsburgh yesterday. For non-US readers: Pittsburgh is the major city in western Pennsylvania (PA). Kerry probably needs PA to win, and he must do well in Pittsburgh to carry PA.

We used to live right on the border between the largely Jewish Point Breeze neighborhood and Homewood, the African-American neighborhood that John Edgar Wideman writes about. I mean literally on the border: every family south of us was white, and my next door neighbor and most other families to the north were black. A terrific place to live. I once saw August Wilson walking down the street. Our neighbor Sarah is Henry Aaron’s sister-in-law, and my son played chess with him when he visited. Well-kept secret: there are American cities where blacks and whites get along just fine.

Anyway, John Kerry signs are dense on both sides of the border. No surprise: If he can’t carry the East End of Pittsburgh, I want my contributions refunded. However, when you cross in to Homewood, there are suddenly multiple signs on each block saying “Protect your vote. If you have a problem, call {number redacted}.” People are ready.

Redskins Lose!

by Kieran Healy on October 31, 2004

“In every Presidential election-year since 1936”:, if the Washington Redskins lost their last game before the election, the “incumbent lost as well”: In “today’s game”:, the Packers beat Washington 28 – 14. A late rally by the Redskins in the 4th Quarter couldn’t save them. This is the strongest spurious evidence yet that Kerry’s going to win on Tuesday.

Bin Laden and Palestine

by Henry Farrell on October 30, 2004

I’d gone along with the popular wisdom that Bin Laden had only recently expressed interest in the Palestinian cause in order to broaden his appeal – “Juan Cole”: tells us that this conventional view is flat-out wrong.

bq. Bin Laden has repeatedly said that one of the reasons he hit the US was over the Israeli attacks on the Palestinians. Bin Laden has cared deeply about Palestine since his youth. His partner in Peshawar at the Office of Services for 6 years when he was funding the Mujahidin was Abdullah Azzam, a prominent Palestinian Muslim fundamentalist. When he came back to Jiddah from Pakistan after the Soviets withdrew, Bin Laden gave a guest sermon at the local mosque in which he bitterly criticized Israeli actions during the first Intifadah. He declared war on the Zionists and the Crusaders, and has constantly complained about the Occupation of the Three Holy Cities, which are Mecca, Medinah and Jerusalem. Because he did not use traditional Palestianian nationalist language, it has been possible for some to miss his commitment to the Palestine issue.

NB – threads on CT and elsewhere that even mention Palestine or Israel in passing tend to descend swiftly into a repugnant back-and-forth of slurs against Israelis and Palestinians – I’ll be ruthless in deleting comments to this post that even hint at going down that path.

A revelation about the EU

by John Q on October 30, 2004

When I used to read the eschatological works of Hal Lindsey and others, one of the favorite themes was numerological analysis of Revelation, in which the EU figured prominently.

And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

At the time the then EEC had six members, so an expansion to seven or ten (which seemed likely) would fulfil the prophecy and signal the impending arrival of the end times. The Whore of Babylon also fitted in, but I can’t remember how. The EU did have ten members between 1981 and 1986, and I remember speculating that Reagan might be the Antichrist – surviving an assassination attempt was supposed to be a crucial sign (Revelation 13:1-2). But the world did not end after all.

Now, thanks to the Economist, I discover that Lindsey was right, except for a reversal of alignment. Arsene Heitz, the designer of the EU Flag advises that it was inspired by Revelation 12:1

A great sign was seen in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

normally taken to refer to the Virgin Mary. I’d be fascinated to see an apocalyptic Protestant response to this revelation.

Captain Josh Rushing

by Ted on October 30, 2004

In the terrific documentary Control Room about the Al-Jazeera network, one of the most appealing figures was Marines spokesman Captain Josh Rushing. With the possible exception of Ken Pollack’s The Threatening Storm, I don’t think that I saw or read a more persuasive spokesman for the war in Iraq. He engaged often-critical Al Jazeera journalists in a fair-minded way, without giving up a point. He simultaneously radiated candor and a deeply-felt belief in the righteousness of the cause. My fiancee said that she wished she could hire him.

He’s recently left the Marines, and he’s given his first interview to Fresh Air today on NPR. You can listen to it online. I haven’t heard it yet, but I suspect that most people who saw Control Room would be interested in what he has to say.

UPDATE: That was really something. He’s deeply pro-military, but critical of the way the war has been conducted. If the election wasn’t days away, I suspect that he’d be in for the full-strength “slime and defend” treatment. More below.

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Ohio Vote Challenges: 10/29/04

by BillG on October 30, 2004

I will try to summarize the current state of play in the Ohio voter challenges. If an attorney will read this summary and post about any errors in the comments, he would be doing me and any readers a real service. Thanks to the great commenters on my last post for some of these pointers.

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A Tiny Fraction of the Total

by Kieran Healy on October 29, 2004

I know this is late in Blog Time, but this Pentagon response to the debacle of the “looted high-explosives cache”: is too good to pass up:

bq. The Pentagon also notes that it has destroyed 400,000 tons of munitions from thousands of sites across Iraq, and that the explosives at Al Qaqaa account for “one-tenth of 1 percent” of that amount.

Now let’s say I move house next month, pack everything into a trailer and drive to, oh, Florida. I arrive to discover I have left my 9-month-old daughter behind in Tucson. Not to worry! She weighs less than 20lbs and this is but a tiny fraction of the total weight I successfully shipped across the country. A negligible error!

October surprise

by Daniel on October 29, 2004

About two hours after the Osama video hit the newswires, and the good old Iowa Electronic Markets have marked down the two DEM04 contracts from about 48% to 44%. Ouch.

By the way, there might be a small prize for the first CT reader to find an online use of the “see, Kerry agrees with Bin Laden” talking point that is no doubt being lined up on the Mighty Wurlitzer …

I wanna hold you in parenthesis

by Ted on October 29, 2004

Most liberal blog readers have heard about Tom DeLay’s ludicrous accusation against the Daily Kos blog (also quoted here, here, and here):

“LaRouche is a con felon and all I can tell you is that Mr. Morrison has supported and campaigned with LaRouche followers and Mr. Morrison also has taken money and is working with the Daily Kos, which is an organization that raises money for fighters against the U.S. in Iraq,” said DeLay.

Needless to say, the Daily Kos does not raise money for insurgents or terrorists in Iraq or elsewhere. Unless the House Majority leader would be pleased to describe himself and other House Republicans as “fighters against the U.S. in Bosnia”, this is an absurd charge.

I happened to go back to the original story just now, where I saw…

“LaRouche is a convicted felon and all I can tell you is that Mr. Morrison has supported and campaigned with LaRouche followers and Mr. Morrison also has taken money and is working with the Daily Kos, which is an organization that raises money for fighters of U.S. (policy) in Iraq,” said DeLay. (emphasis added)

How’d that happen?

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Acknowledging Your Limitations

by Kieran Healy on October 29, 2004

While looking up something else, I came across one of the Top 10 Best Things in a Preface ever written by an academic. It’s from Garry Runicman’s “A Treatise on Social Theory, Vol II”:

bq. I have also been faced with a dilemma about the use and transliteration of sociological terms from languages other than English … I have compromised as best I can, and where the language in question is Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian or Spanish I am reasonably confident of my judgement about the nuances carried by vernacular terms for institutions, practices and roles. But in all other languages, I have had to rely entirely on the authorities on whose writings I have drawn …

It’s tough having such a narrow range.

Dirty Pool

by Henry Farrell on October 29, 2004

Some fascinating new evidence on US Supreme Court decision making and (perhaps) on _Bush v. Gore_ from my colleagues Forrest Maltzman, Lee Sigelman and Paul Wahlbeck in the latest issue of “PS”: (the complete paper is “here”: They’ve uncovered smoking-gun quality evidence that Justice Rehnquist has been running a betting pool on US presidential elections – there’s a copy of the bets (and results) for the 1992 election among Harry Blackmun’s papers (you can see an extract below). In 1992, six members of the Court anted up $1 each for each of the 50 states and for the District of Columbia. Thus, there was a pool of $6 for each state, which was divvied up evenly among those Justices who correctly predicted the winner for that state. As the Chief Justice described the results of the pool in his cover note:

bq. The net result is that Sandra has won $18.30, Harry has won $1.70, John and I have lost $6.30, Tony has lost $2.30, and Clarence has lost $5.10.

Maltzman, Sigelman and Wahlbeck run a series of statistical tests on the Justice’s performance, finding that the justices’ exposure (or lack of same) to mainstream media and first-hand knowledge of the state in question have statistically significant effects. They demonstrate that the level of Supreme Court productivity sags during election years, suggesting that the Justices are “preoccupied with cramming for the office pool.” More pertinently, for recent political events, they suggest that this may have affected the Judges’ incentives in _Bush v. Gore_ – to the extent that the judges had money at stake, they had, to put it mildly, an interest in swinging the result. As the authors remind us:

bq. During an election night party in 2000, Justice O’Connor apparently became upset when CBS anchor Dan Rather called Florida for Vice President Gore, She exclaimed “This is terrible!” and then proceeded, “with an air of obvious disgust,” to walk off to get a plate of food (Thomas and Isikoff 2000). Speculation abounded at the time about why O’Connor was so distraught, but our revelation of the operation of a Supreme Court gambling ring opens up a new possibility: If, as she had done in 1992, O’Connor predicted that Florida would go Republican in 2000 (an outcome she subsequently helped to assure), then her outburst probably stemmed from dismay at the prospect of falling behind in the election pool.

Explains a lot, doesn’t it.

What the…

by Ted on October 29, 2004

Zizka has a great tagline on his blog: “Uncool when uncoolness is necessary.” We’ve reached that point. This is a goddamn outrage. GOP apparatchiks in Ohio may face prosecution for making false claims in their challenges to hundreds of new voter registratrations. Their challenges were thrown out at the initiative of the Republican members of the Board of Elections, proving that not every single thing on Earth is about politics. Completely unacceptable.

And this… I really hope that it’s revealed to be a parody, or a forgery, or something. Even the Kossacks are suspicious. It’s so over the top, it’s like seeing a recruiting poster for COBRA.

The view from here

by BillG on October 29, 2004

Election notes from Columbus, OH. Last week, John Kerry was in Katzinger’s, the deli around the corner from my house. Tonight he and Bruce Springsteen are at Ohio State University (OSU).

10/28/04 2:33 PM EST. I get a robot phone call from Ken Blackwell, the (Republican) Ohio Secretary of State. Big deal: Clinton called last night. If Ohio is Florida 2004, Blackwell will be Katherine Harris. I know you are thinking, “Das eine Malals Tragödie, das andere Mal als Farce,” but Harris nailed farce, so Ken has his work cut out for him. He reminds me that I can only vote in my correct precinct and asks if I know where this is (Me: “Yes.” Ken: “Excellent. Goodbye”). Some Ohioans view this an attempt to suppress the vote by getting people to worry about where they should go. That seems paranoid.

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Hello, world

by BillG on October 29, 2004

Let me intoduce myself. I am Bill Gardner and I live in Columbus, Ohio. I asked the Crooked Timber folks if I could guest blog on the election. I am a new Ohio voter, having just moved to the Ohio State University faculty last year. It’s possible that Ohio could prove to be the Gettysburg of the 2004 vote. If so, Columbus would be Cemetery Ridge. I’ll try to tell you what it looks like from here.

I don’t have any qualifications for this, other than being fascinated by this place and time. I’m a quantitative psychologist doing medical research in the OSU Pediatrics Department. I don’t know anything about philosophy, economics, or political theory (or cold temperature physics, or…). I’m such a dork that when I had the chance as a college freshman to take a class on The theory of justice from Rawls his own self, I passed because I thought his voice would put me to sleep. If only that was the worst educational choice I ever made.

Deaths in Iraq

by Chris Bertram on October 29, 2004

“The Guardian has a story today”:,2763,1338749,00.html about some research led by Les Roberts of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore which claims 100,000 excess Iraqi deaths, many of which it attributes to bombing by coalition forces. “Juan Cole has some comment on this”: (and more links).

I should state plainly that I have no way of judging the accuracy of this figure. It may be way off. Nevertheless I can predict with certainty that there will be numerous posts on weblogs supporting the war attacking the study. However much they criticize such exercises, though, there is some fact of the matter about how many excess Iraqi deaths there have been as a result of the war. My faith in human reason and evidence is such that I must believe that there is some figure which, if verified, would lead the enthusiasts for _this_ war to conclude that it was a mistake. But perhaps I’m wrong about that: perhaps they think that the case for _some_ war to displace Saddam Hussein was just so strong that no facts about the actual war have any bearing on the correctness of the decision to fight?