Monday, November 29, 2004

Why Americans Feel Safe with Bush

Another one, also via Yglesias:
Even those Americans who now know that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction or deep ties to al-Qaeda remember he was a monster who brutalised his people and defied the international community for years. Overthrowing him may have been a mistake. But it was no sin. The main alternative -- containment policy -- was no picnic. It required the US and UK to keep forces in the Saudi holy lands. It also led to an increasingly leaky sanctions regime, which itself hurt the Iraqi people. In retrospect, it might have been better not to initiate war in Iraq. But the argument often heard in Europe -- that it was a hegemonic adventure to satisfy cowboys in the White House and help US oil companies -- was never serious.

The U.S. After Bush's Reelection

Good piece on Euro-American relations, via Yglesias.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Baby Gap

Via Sullivan, this piece says you can tell if a state is Republican or Democrat by the number of white women having children.

This is obvious. Many white women leave their hometowns for the big city in pursuit of education and career. Or, they try to escape constraining social structures and narrow-minded people. The women who stay are more likely to get married and have children.

Friday, November 26, 2004

How Mainstream Media helped Bush Win

What would have happened if the MSM had done its job (journalism) properly between September 2002 and June 2003? I believe the pro-war movement would have had less wind in its sails. Fewer people would have equated critisism of Bush with treason. And a hundred thousand moderate Ohioans would not have been scared into voting for Bush even though they agreed with Kerry more.

I will try to support this argument in later posts. In the meantime, you can start by reading this from

In my mind this is the most important story in the world today, along with American ignorance about foreign (and especially Arab) anti-Americanism which prompted the 9/11 surprise attacks.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Intimidation by Israeli Lobbyists

This thread from Juan Cole shows how Israelis use strong-arm tactics to silence critics. It's well worth a read (as is his blog, Informed Comment), especially if you're a concerned citizen who wants to understand why Americans were (and still are) so ignorant of the hatred that motivates terrorists.

James Wolcott makes a related point:
Juan Cole, who kindly mentions me today, had a post yesterday rounding up the international protests against the U.S.'s Fallujah campaign. Clicking through the cable news channels, I've seen nothing about this, though they seem to have endless clock to replay the "basketbrawl," explore the ramifications of Dan Rather's retirement announcement, and flash the eBay auction listing for grilled-cheese Virgin Mother. So once again Americans are kept blinkered to how more and more of the world is rallying against us in condemnation. Anything, anything, to preserve our "innocence." Until the next time we lose it.
Here's a link to the post he talks about.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Lexington on Bush and Growth

From Economist:
Mr Bush's optimistic message gave him a commanding advantage in pro-growth America. Joel Kotkin, a Los Angeles-based writer who knows as much about the grassroots economy as anyone, points to the close relationship between growth, both demographic and economic, and a propensity to vote Republican. Most of Mr Kerry's base was in stagnant America. Democratic strongholds such as Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco and Mr Kerry's Boston have been losing people and jobs.
Not sure if I agree with all of that. I know Boston and San Fran fairly well and "stagnant" is not the first word that comes to my mind. Event the post Internet-bubble problems have looked more like "adjustments" than "stagnation".

But Lexington does make some good points that challenged many of my views on the election. Read the whole thing.

Brooks on Republicans

A good column from David Brooks:
Forget the Democrats. Bush's biggest problem over the next few years will be keeping his Republican majority together.


My friends in the commentariat are worried about the rise of the conformist yes-men allegedly surrounding the president. But the real challenge will be disunity, not mind-numbing conformity. The Republicans will be acting more like a normal majority party - with long periods of fractious disagreement interrupted by short bursts of emotional party unity (the fights for Supreme Court nominations, for example).

Bush Joke

George Bush and Dick Cheney are enjoying a quiet lunch at a very fancy Washington restaurant. Their waitress approaches the table to take their order. She is young and very attractive.

She asks Cheney what he wants, and he replies, 'I'll have the
heart-healthy salad.' 'Very good, sir,' she replies, and turning to Bush she asks, 'And what do you want, Mr. President?' Bush answers, 'How about a quickie?'

Taken aback, the waitress slaps him and says, 'I'm shocked and
disappointed in you. I thought your administration was committed to high principles and morality. I'm sorry I voted for you.' With that, the waitress departed in a huff.

Cheney leans over to Bush, and says, Mr. President, I believe that's pronounced "quiche".

(From an e-mail, thanks grandma!)

Election result maps

Most comprehensive set of election result maps I've seen so far (thanks Jay).

Thursday, November 18, 2004

We are all blue Americans now

Garton Ash's latest column:
So the expressions of European solidarity after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks ( "Nous sommes tous Américains" ) should acquire a new meaning and a new context after the November 2 2004 elections. Hands need to be joined across the sea in an old cause: the defence of the Enlightenment. We are all blue Americans now.
So how about it, Europeans? We need a hand over here :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Daniel W. Drezner on Arafat and Gorbie

Daniel W. Drezner on Arafat and Gorbie:
Assuming that Arafat's successor recognizes the futility of the second intifada, one wonders whether, to use a crude analogy, the Palestinians will be to Bush what the Soviets were to Reagan -- an implacable foe that was transformed into a near ally after a display of toughness on the U.S. side and a change in leadership on the other side.

Of course, this requires a Palestinian version of Gorbachev.
And, it requires Bush to be as flexible with him as Reagan was with Gorbie.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Matthew Yglesias: A New Superpower?

Matthew Yglesias: A New Superpower?:
But I think one thing we've clearly seen happening over the past few years is that the United States is putting much more emphasis on raw military force as a policy instrument than it traditionally has. One way to think about this is as a response to the rise of Europe (and, to a lesser extent, the big Asian countries) as economic and diplomatic forces. Increasingly, raw force is where our comparative advantage lies, so we find it increasingly useful to define international politics in terms of force. The trouble is that -- as we're seeing in Iraq -- even with 50 percent of the world's military spending, our overwhelming military preponderance accomplishes rather less than one might think.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Le rouge et le bleu, Part 1

Via Drezner, an extremely insightful post on red vs. blue states from a political scientist. His conclusion (which I wholeheartedly agree with):
This is the effect of life in a major metropolitan center -- diversity is lived in daily dealings, it cannot be escaped, it inspires forms of cooperation and reciprocity grounded on something other than common belief and common tradition.

Now, sharing a common faith is a good thing, and its value cannot be denied. And the pace and rootlessness of life in an urban center can be confusing, frustrating, even overwhelming. But the rural life makes for a different ethos than the urban; each produces, in effect, a different world-view. My point is not to praise the urban life unqualifiedly (With some qualification, I willingly defend it, and would emigrate to red America only to the blue colonies that are college towns.) My point is that there are different value systems clashing in this country, and that the conditions that produce them are enduring and probably insurmountable. I believe we are indeed in the midst of a 'culture war', a religious war, and we should bid the lessons of Westphalia before we find ourselves in a Thirty Years War. No, I don't mean secession, but I do mean a return to federalism, especially when it comes to the collection and use of taxes.
Read the whole thing. It makes you understand how inevitable the values-divide is. And it helps you understand and appreciate the inherent advantages and flaws of both urban and rural life.

Dollar expected to fall amid China's rumoured selling

That's it. I'm calling Putnam to see if I can switch my savings over to Euro-funds:
"The dollar sell-off has resumed amid fears among traders that Mr Bush's victory will bring four more years of widening US budget and current account deficits, heightened geopolitical risks and a policy of 'benign neglect' of the dollar. " More here.

Analyzing Election Results

Kevin Drum with some crude but insightful analysis:
Finally, his [Bush's] support was up by 10 points in urban areas and down by 2 points in rural communities, including a surprising 9 point decrease from residents of small towns. This goes against a whole bunch of conventional wisdom (including mine) about the growing urban/rural divide in America. If anything, it seems to have narrowed in this election.
That is strange indeed. Goes against what I previously thought. On the economy, there were some big surprises also:
Check this out: more people think the economy is doing well today than thought so in 2000. And among people who think the economy is in good shape, a stunning 87% voted for Bush. Among that same group in 2000, only 48% voted for the "incumbent," Al Gore. Bush apparently has done a great job of persuading people who think the economy is doing well that his policies were responsible.
Compared to 2000, fewer people personally think they're doing better but more people believe the economy is in good shape anyway. And Bush was overwhelmingly successful in convincing those people that his policies deserved the credit.
If this is true then one thing is very clear: Republicans are much, much better at understanding and appealing to the voters. I for one could never imagine that anobody would buy the Bush camp's "we saved the economy with our tax cuts" argument. I suspect most other "liberals" thought the same thing (as do economists). Yet Republicans managed to convince lots of voters. Amazing.

By know we pretty much know what will happen in Iraq: There will be more violence, then gradual stabilization leading to a western-friendly, semi-autocratic regime headed by Allawi or somebody like him. We know what will happen with terrorism: No more "lucky breaks" for the terrorists like 9/11, some minor attacks, hopefully nobody smuggles in a nuclear bomb, we'll learn to "live with it" just like the Spanish live with the ETA, and it will look more like law enforcement and less like "war". Those Bush supporters who think he's "the man" when it comes to fighting terrorists will continue to think so. They already defy reality and you really can't argue it one way or the other (since the terrorist threat is unprecedented and we have nothing to compare it to).

What we DON'T know is what will happen with the economy. House prices may collapse. The dollar will most certainly go down, question is how fast and how far. Growth/productivity may stall or decline. This is what will decide Bush's re-election in 2008. I'm sticking with my original guess: Something bad will happen to the economy or the financial markets.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Elitist and Arrogant

Am I Blue?:
There's just one little request I have. If it's not too much trouble, of course. Call me profoundly misguided if you want. Call me immoral if you must. But could you please stop calling me arrogant and elitist?

I mean, look at it this way. (If you don't mind, that is.) It's true that people on my side of the divide want to live in a society where women are free to choose abortion and where gay relationships have full civil equality with straight ones. And you want to live in a society where the opposite is true. These are some of those conflicting values everyone is talking about. But at least my values -- as deplorable as I'm sure they are -- don't involve any direct imposition on you. We don't want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same gender, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. Which is more arrogant?

We on my side of the great divide don't, for the most part, believe that our values are direct orders from God. We don't claim that they are immutable and beyond argument. We are, if anything, crippled by reason and open-mindedness, by a desire to persuade rather than insist. Which philosophy is more elitist? Which is more contemptuous of people who disagree?

The Fall of the Dollar

It is only a matter of time.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The Anti-Gay Vote, Revisited

A reader of the Daily Dish presents a convincing argument against the notion that the FMA brought Bush over the top:
Now how did he do in the states which had anti-marriage ballot initiatives? .. Only in two states (Utah and Oklahoma) did he gain a significantly higher vote share than he did nationwide.
I buy that. The problem (for Democrats) is far more complex (or simple, depending on how you look at it): Outside of the big cities, white male voters think Democrats are spineless pussies.

Towards a Parliamentary System

A very important and insightful post from Josh Marshall:
... one thing that occurs to me is that President Bush is remaking the government into something that is looking more and more like a parliamentary democracy. I don't mean in every specific, of course; the key feature of the Bush presidency is an extremely powerful executive that to a great degree coopts and controls his own congressional majorities.

But the similarities are important and worth understanding. The key elements are extremely tight party discipline (something political scientists have lamented the absence of for years) and a sharp diminishment of rivalries between the branches of government which used to cut against unified party control.

But Democrats also need to learn how to live with it, at least for the next four years. And that means realizing that for at least the next two years, the President can get passed almost anything he wants to. His congressional majorities are now sufficiently padded that he can even afford a few Republican defections. He simply doesn't need Democrats for anything.

And that means approaching most legislative battles not with an eye toward preventing passage or significantly altering legislation, but placing alternatives on the table that the party will be able use as contrasts to frame the next two elections. In other words, their only remaining viable alternative is to be an actual party of opposition.
So Bush's America is basically a parliamentary democracy except parliament gets its power from the executive, not the other way around. This is a new constitutional construct, as far as I know.

Although, now that I think about it, this is not terribly different from what happens in Europe. Yes, the Prime Minister governs "at the will" of parliament. But in the era of mass media the people either vote for the Prime Ministeral candidate (Tony Blair) or for the political party they most closely identify with (Labor).

The risk of being removed by a majority in parliament is low. When a head of government is removed in-between elections it is usually because of a major screw-up, similar to, although typically less serious than, a US impeachement.

The bottom line is, as Josh points out: Democrats have to get used to making alternative policy proposals and trying to sell them to the American people, as opposed to having any real say in anything.

Here's my suggestion for topic number one: To whom should we move the responsibilities of executive oversight previously held by Congress?

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias elaborates on Marshall's post.

More on Crossfire-style Partisan Hackery

From Fareed Zakaria:
"Crossfire" is now a metaphor for politics in Washington. There are two teams, each with its own politicians, think tanks, special-interest groups, media outfits and TV personalities. The requirement of this world is that you must always be reliably left or right. If you are an analyst "on the right" you must always support what the team does. If President Bush invades Iraq, you support it. If he increases the deficit, you support that. If he opposes stem-cell research, you support that, too. There's no ideological coherence or consistency to these positions. Republicans are now fervent nation-builders, but only two years ago scornfully opposed the whole concept. You must support your team. If you don't, it screws up the TV show.
How to change this? Not a clue. Should it be changed? Yes, I hate this ridiculous partisan hackery as much as Jon Stewart does.

Does it matter in elections though? Apparently not much. Republican voters apparently vote on "moral values" (code for anti-abortion, anti-gay) and 42% of them think Saddam attacked the World Trade Center. Unless Americans become more politically aware (and less partisan) it's a lost cause.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Election Results by County

Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a nice map. Click image for big PDF version.

Dowd: The Red Zone

Great column.


George F. Will's column put it well:
But Democrats cannot disguise from the people their bewilderment about how to appeal to a country that is so backward, they think, that it finds Bush appealing.
It really is a true catch-22. How do you appeal to people for whom you have no respect? In the good old days the "great masses" would concede politics to an elite. Today, the masses are so empowered by media outlets not controlled by the elite (cable news, internet) that they no longer accept "fancy" leaders whose message is too "complicated".

Another prediction: I don't think the Democrats are going to get it together anytime soon. The logical response would be to emulate the Republicans and select a "simple" candidate. But I don't think they will be able to unite behind such a strategy. It's just too dumb and cynical for the average blue-state liberal to get excited about. More likely, they will introspect and debate amongst themselves like Kevin Drum does already:
"What are we going to do now?"

Well, I don't know. The lefties will say we need to stop trying to be Republican Lites, the DNCers will say we need to move to the center, the New Republic will say we need to get serious about national security, Amy Sullivan will say we need to pay more attention to religion, George Lakoff will say we need better issue framing, the Washington Monthly editors will say we need a more potent vision, etc. etc. I'm not sure who's right, but we'll figure it out.
My best guess: Once Bush realizes that big policy initiatives won't fly anymore (constrained by defecit and military over-reach) he will become increasingly disinterested in the mechanics of governing. That will create a free-for-all for corrupt Republicans which will lead to scandals and bad press. The Democrats will take 2008 simply because the electorate will be fed up. If they put forward a strong candidate like Obama or Spitzer they will think otherwise, but in reality it will be Bush's own undoing.

Views from the Right

Have been reading some right-wing responses to the election such as Robert Novak and Hugh Hewitt. The common thread seems to be that liberals "don't understand" America. Novak says:
The electorate is simply too conservative for the Democrats, as shown by the defeat of Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota. The formula of taking the straight liberal line in Washington and talking conservative at home does not work when a Democrat's every move becomes visible as a member of the leadership.
It is a Republican country, but it is very hard for the left to see this because they believe so deeply in their agenda.
I think they have a good point. When I lived in a blue state (MA) I did not realize how conservative most Americans are. Those who grew up in a a red state would try to tell me but I could never quite comprehend it. The jokes about "flyover country" and "square states" did help.

Now, living in Atlanta I've realized that white Americans consider Democrats to be spineless, if not traitors. That's why Kerry lost.

Gotta love those Republicans..

From a letter to Andrew Sullivan:
"I wonder if you noticed that yesterday all eleven states that considered the question of gay marriage voted to ban it. ALL ELEVEN. I think this sends a very clear message -- true Americans do not like your kind of homosexual deviants in our country, and we will not tolerate your radical pro-gay agenda trying to force our children to adopt your homosexual lifestyle. You should be EXTREMELY GRATEFUL that we even let you write a very public and influential blog, instead of suppressing your treasonous views (as I would prefer)."
Expect a lot more of this over the next four years. Bush himself would not agree but his use of the gay marriage issue for political gains will embolden the bigots.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Where to go?

A reader at Wonkette presents a true dilemma:
"Where are all the hip young intellectuals heading? I'd hate to end up in France if all the cool kids are going to Canada, and vice versa."

On a Lighter Note

Man, that last post was depressing. I guess I had to vent my frustrations. Now I'm feeling rather goodly.

I had been waiting for somebody to start joking about the blue states separating from the red, then I found this on Matt Yglesias's site:

Not a bad idea. Wonder what the Canadians would think?

Bush Won: So what does it mean?

In the next few days the media and the blogosphere will be full of opinions on why he won and what it means for the future. I will be reading and learning. Some of it will be valuable; some of it will be completely misleading and probably a waste of time (like all the pre-election stuff I read about the “youth vote” and how voters always “break for the challenger”).

Before my mind becomes tainted and confused again I wanted to write down my own thoughts on this election and what it means. I’ve long thought that pundits and commentators should be evaluated on their ability to predict the future. Now somebody else (if anybody cares) has something to criticize me for.

I (and many others) have been complaining about the state of democracy in the U.S. Partisan redistricting, the Electoral College, and low participation rates are all aspects of U.S. democracy that favor cynical manipulation and polarizing views over intelligent and constructive discussion about things that matter. Since re-election is not an option Bush himself may not care that much but I fully expect other Republican leaders to fight tooth and nail to consolidate and increase their gains. Except for a few Senators who are becoming increasingly marginalized I don’t think there is anybody in the party leadership who has any concern on this issue outside of their own narrow self interest and self preservation. I will be very, very surprised if any of the inevitable post-election calls for electoral reform gain any traction at all within the one-party machinery of government. If anything, things are likely to get worse as Bush himself starts thinking about his legacy and retreats from the minutia of government even more while his minions feel they have free rains to exploit issues, consolidate power and push limits of decency even further.

Congress will become even more corrupt, just like the Democrats did in the seventies when they held all branches of government. By the end of Bush’s term the whole Republican Party will be deeply unpopular, with the possible exception of a moderate and fiscally conservative wing led by somebody like John McCain. I fully expect the Democratic candidate to win in 2008. If he is somebody who can unite and inspire the country (Kennedy, Bill Clinton) then he may be able to reverse the decline set in motion by Bush. If he is another polarizing figure (such as Hillary Clinton, possibly a John Kerry look-a-like) then conservatives will go back to the attack mode of the 90’s and the fall will continue.

Civil Liberties
Ditto for civil liberties. I fully expect fear-mongering Republicans to use “terror” as an excuse to strengthen the Patriot Act, especially if America suffers from another attack on its soil. For the time being the Supreme Court will act as a constraining influence and roll back the most outrageous violations (as it has done in the past year or so) but the Bush appointment of two or three new justices will make them more agreeable. A more Republican Congress will completely bend over backwards as usual, at least while Bush is still popular. One caveat; whomever occupies the State department may convince Bush to soften some of the most glaring civil rights violations, especially those that affect citizens of other rich countries (such as Guantanamo Bay). The military may speak out as well.

The situation will get a lot worse before it gets any better. As I see it, there is no way Iraq will become a well-functioning democracy with independent courts, free elections, a free press and a working market economy with all the institutions required to support it. That would take a decade-long international effort. The best we can hope for is a stable regime led by a strongman friendly to the west who doesn’t abuse his people too much (someone like Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak). Then Bush may be able to declare yet another fake “mission accomplished” and significantly reduce the troop deployments. Or it may just disintegrate into a full civil war. Either way I don’t expect any major international support until the security situation has improved dramatically.

Al Qaeda / Terrorism
The infamous Al Qaeda is probably beyond Bush’s control. I really don’t know what their deal is right now. I suspect Peter Bergen is right in his assumption that Al Qaeda would have hit US soil a second time if they could. The most recent Osama tape where speaks of “bankrupting” the United States seems a bit desperate. He won’t bankrupt anybody, sooner or later law enforcement and other officials will have enough data points to figure out what works and what doesn’t so they won’t have to spend such ridiculous amounts of money on pointless anti-terror measures. Maybe he’ll manage to turn Al Q into a political movement but being world’s most hunted man must complicate things.

Slowly but surely the anti-terrorism efforts will start looking more like law enforcement and less like a “war” (although Bush will keep calling it a “war”). It just doesn’t make any sense to run a war when you don’t know who the enemy is. Bush will continue to talk tough with various Middle Eastern states (Syria, Iran, etc.) and I actually think he’ll make some progress on that front. As Ghadaffi of Libya has shown, the old Soviet-era logic of tough talk and power “posturing” is a proven way to make foreign leaders do what you want. That, in fact, is why Bush could have gotten a lot further with Saddam if he had waited a bit longer (assuming Saddam was capable of perceiving the reality of the threat at all, which I guess we’ll never know). You can count on powerful people to care about their own self-preservation. Random terrorists and suicide bombers is a completely different matter.

The whole conflict with Islamic Jihadists will, in the long-term, reach one of two states: We’ll learn to live with it just like the Spanish have learned to live with ETA, or some world leader (by necessity an American one) will force Israel and the Palestinians to reach a peaceful agreement, at which point the Jihadists whole reason for being will disappear. Bush will definitely not be that world leader, hence we’ll just slowly move closer towards co-existence.

The other issue inspiring the Jihadists – foreign support for Arab dictatorships – is not likely to change under Bush either. He won’t do much, if anything at all, to reduce US dependency on foreign oil because that would go against the interests of his oil-business friends. Besides, this would be a long-term project whose benefit would come long after Bush so I can’t possibly see why he would even bother. I can’t think of a single thing he has done for simply ideological reasons. If it doesn’t fire up the base, bring short-term benefits or allow him to talk about lofty feel-good ideas (such as “freedom” or “American values”) then it’s not worth doing.

Expect even more anti-environment and business-friendly initiatives thinly disguised as pro-environment plans (such as the Clear Skies initiative).

America’s standing in the World
Foreign leaders will try to be polite for a while and profess their support for the Office of the President, but after a while they’ll criticize him more openly. After all the big carrot (that he won’t be re-elected so they can deal with more understanding president) is gone. Other foreigners will reflect on the fact that the Bush presidency was not a one-time mistake committed by a people who are really, deep down, quite sympathetic towards them, and their antipathy towards Bush will increasingly translate into antipathy towards all Americans. Expect fewer au-pairs, foreign students, tourists and global American pop stars. Europeans may put more of their faith and energies into the European Union, which in the short run may give Europe a boost. In the long term I fear its military could become more independent and strong, although this will depend a lot on the British. Fewer Americans will travel to destinations outside Mexico and the Caribbean thus further contribution to their isolation and ignorance.

Bottom line, I guess I’m not very optimistic about America’s future. Almost all the things I admire (civil liberty, respect for the law, equality, sense of responsibility, diversity, optimism, decency) seem to have declined under Bush and I see no reason for change now that he’s been re-elected. Many of the things I despise (nepotism, prejudice, corruption, dishonesty, moral decay, self-righteousness, isolationism, ignorance, materialism) are on the rise.

I may just be suffering from post-election depression but I can’t help but think that the country has reached a critical turning point in its history. I just don’t see America acting as a Great Nation anymore. My neighbor greeted me this morning with the following statement: “Anybody who could vote for Kerry after he endorsed Osama Bin Laden, and being endorsed by Bin Laden on TV, is a fool”. A good number of Bush supporters would probably agree with him. Just like they think Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and Saddam was behind the 9/11 attacks. Can you blame me for being a little pessimistic??

Bush Will Win

Ohio is not looking good. At 1am Kerry is trailing by 130,000 votes after 83% has been counted. There are apparently about 400,000 provisional ballots (according to Bjarte in Norway). They have apparently counted the absentee ballots already.

Thus it's pretty clear: Bush will win Ohio and the election. He'll have to find his own way out of the mess he created. Maybe that's for the best. Who knows. I'm going to bed.

UPDATE: My friend Bjarte was way off (perhaps because he stayed up until 7am). They are now saying there are about 175,000 provisional ballots, and Bush leads by 140,000. There is no way Kerry can close that gap.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

US presidential election 2004: quiz

Guardian Unlimited: US presidential election 2004 Quiz: Damn! I got 32. Kevin Drum got 33. How many did you get? (

Bin Laden aims to bankrupt United States

Bin Laden aims to bankrupt United States. Bin Laden's original aim was probably somewhat different but after the American collective post-9/11 panic attack his new strategy makes a lot of sense. He says 9/11 cost them $500,000. With the $200bn Bush has committed for Iraq plus the $70bn he just asked for that's a ratio of 540,000 to 1. For every dollar Bin Laden spends, he can count on Bush to spend $540,000.

Avoiding the Oil Curse

Via a friend in Boston, a flattering report about Norway (my home country) and the way it manages its oil revenues:
In Norway, the sudden increase in oil prices has meant larger inflows to the fund and enhanced long-term welfare for its citizens. That's not how it goes down in other big oil producing countries. In Russia, the oil boom has enriched oligarchs and increased foreign currency reserves. But the quality of life in Russia continues to deteriorate. Saudi Arabia has been pumping far more oil than Norway and for a far longer time. But its oil revenues tend to flow into the bank accounts of the royal family—not into a segregated account to benefit the public at large.
As a Norwegian I am obviously hopelessly biased here, but you'd think the English-speaking media would take an even greater interest in Scandinavia. More US - Scandi comparisons here.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Incompetence: A Myth?

Mickey Kaus raises a good point:
Polls show doubts about President Bush's ability to handle the Iraq war but relative confidence in his approach to the larger war on terror. It seems to me this gets it backwards. On Iraq, I'm highly suspicious of the strident attacks on Bush's prosecution of the war from those who pushed the war (like Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and the editors of New Republic). Arguing that Bush horribly botched the job is one convenient way of avoiding the conclusion that it was a bad idea to take on the job in the first place. (For example, what if we'd kept the Iraqi army--and then it staged a coup in a few years?)
I think Sullivan is the #1 blogger out there but I have to agree with Kaus on this. I have to remind myself that incompetence is not the main problem with Bush's policies, it just happens to be the best way to defeat him given the average American's inability to appreciate the importance of international consensus.

Democracy RIP

I keep critisizing the state of Democracy in the US, yet I think this front page (via samizdata) may be a little too crass:

It showes you how much foreigners respect the United States after four years of Bush rule though. The level of contempt and dislike has probably risen more than the mechanics of Democracy has declined.

Foreign Affairs: The Sources of American Legitimacy

Of the many Bush legacies that would make me pick Kerry (if I could vote), the decline in legitimacy abroad is the most significant:
Throughout its history, the United States has made gaining international legitimacy a top priority of its foreign policy. The 18 months since the launch of the Iraq war, however, have left the country's hard-earned respect and credibility in tatters. In going to war without a legal basis or the backing of traditional U.S. allies, the Bush administration brazenly undermined Washington's long-held commitment to international law, its acceptance of consensual decision-making, its reputation for moderation, and its identification with the preservation of peace. The road back will be a long and hard one.
I believe this is the single most important reason we (i.e. citizens of the West) have been at peace for over 50 years:
Just as civilization itself is distinguished by the insistence that conflicts be settled by means other than brute force, so U.S. postwar leaders insisted that international relations be ordered by the same principle.
I can understand why Bush wants to preemptively strike our enemies -- that's what people under threat have done for tens of thousands of years. But a truly gifted and wise leader with a keen sense of history would know unity and consensus matter more to peace in the long run.

Unfortunately most Americans of all persuasions appear incapable of appreciating this point. I was against the war in Iraq for one very simple reason: The rest of the world was against it. If Bush had managed to bring them around, I would have been for it. To most Americans that sounds like "flip-flopping" which is really too bad.

More on Mandatory Voting in Australia

More details on how it works. I really, really think the US should adopt this idea.

Thomas Friedman endorsing George Herber Walker Bush

Nice twist:
Columnists for this newspaper are not allowed to endorse presidential candidates. But I think this election is so important, I am going to break the rules. I hope I don't get fired. But here goes: I am endorsing George Bush for president. No, no - not George W. Bush. I am endorsing his father - George Herbert Walker Bush.