Friday, May 20, 2005


Elections are not idiot-proof

PowerLine has the story on a truly bizarre Congressional Black Caucus press release. Apparently the CBC thinks that because filibusters had to be broken in order to pass civil rights legislation, it would be especially offensive to minorities to not allow judges to be filibustered.
I guess that's what happens when you're pleased to have people like Sheila Jackson Lee as members of your group.

Why I write

Sometimes I feel that I have something to add to a conversation going on on the Web. Then I may write (or I may not, depending on my time constraints). Sometimes (well, most of the time) I feel that others are already saying what I would say. Then hopefully I don't write. I still might, but if all I'll be saying is "Me too", I'm not contributing anything unless few are likely to view the original post.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


To Jim Lampley and Other Clairvoyants

Sports announcer Jim Lampley is a perfect example of how the Huffington Post celebrates celebrity. Arianna herself promotes his latest commentary on the front page of the site.

Unfortunatley for Lampley, he proves himself the Black Knight of political discourse.

It's almost too easy, but here's a Fisking of his latest.

Byron York has treated me fairly and without rancor, and I am grateful for that. Certainly I am more in his wheelhouse than mine, and I'm honored that he saw fit to engage me in this little set-to we've conducted since Monday. I fired a lead right, Rep. John Conyers Oh, you mean the LaRouchie Congressman. shouted encouragement from my corner, then York delivered a hook to the body. I shot back an uppercut, then he loaded up a right hand and attempted to bring an end to the discussion. Why the boxing analogies? Do you think they will convince people you're winning? Because Democrat pollster Mark Blumenthal thinks you've been swinging and missing.

Byron York's most recent refutation of my charge that irregularities in the 2004 Presidential election demand criminal investigation cites quotes from the report of Edison/Mitofsky, the two-company partnership which provided exit polls to the major television networks, on the vast discrepancies between those polls and the official results of the election. The report, which Mr. York has helpfully highlighted in his second post and which runs to about eighty pages, essentially offered the conclusion that an five-and-a-half point gap between final poll numbers and the national popular vote tabulation-- a variance more than four times the statistical margin for error of 1.3%-- can be attributed to shy Republicans. There are dozens of conclusions throughout the Edison/Mitofsky report, including this one on page 39: "Some have suggested that the exit poll data could be used as evidence of voter fraud in the 2004 Election by showing error rates were higher in precincts with touch screen and optical scan voting equipment. Our evaluation does not support this hypothesis." There were factors that were found to have definitely contributed to the errors, including a significant difference in the average error per precinct based on the age of the interviewer! Other factors that had marked impacts included how far from the exit the pollster stood and if there was bad weather. The Washington Post summarized the conclusion: "procedural problems compounded by the refusal of large numbers of Republican voters to be surveyed led to inflated estimates of support for John Kerry." Perhaps focusing on what York actually said or on the source materials he cited rather than how a newspaper article chose to summarize a source would be a better form of argument. With this, in effect, York dismisses the exit poll variance argument.With an 80-page detailed report showing how the errors have no correlation with the voting systems accused of being centers of fraud and showing that errors in some noncompetitive states were greater than in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, how dare York dismiss this argument. After all, the noted social scientist Jim Lampley has spoken!

I could go on at length here about the curious disconnect between the actual data in the report and its guesswork conclusion, how Edison/Mitofsky systematically validate all their sampling choices and their methodology, in effect eliminating any logical underpinnings for their ultimate summation, all the while selectively ignoring the lopsided skewing of pro-Bush discrepancies in the most critical swing states. Please, why don't you? Could it be that Edison and Mitofsky engage in detailed logical statistical analysis that you cannot begin to attempt to rebut except by smearing them under the guise of saying what you won't do? I could spend some time dissecting what I believe is an obvious whitewash, a delicate sidestep away from the potential public relations disaster of being tied forever to the most notorious election theft in history. I'm sorry. Dissecting it would require facts and logical analysis, not namecalling. Perhaps if you had proven yourself able to dissect anything mathematical, you might have some credibility here.

But none of that is necessary, because the entire Edison/Mitofsky report is irrelevant to the argument, given that it is based on the assumption the final official vote tally is accurate. No, it's not. There are systematically greater error rates associated with characteristics such as the age of the interviewer. This FACT is inconsistent with the hypothesis of fraud. To argue that there was less fraud going on in precincts with older interviewers is downright silly. It's part of the scientific method that if the facts do not fit a hypothesis, it's time to discard the hypothesis. You are not supposed to disregard the facts. Make no mistake: my argument is that the final official vote tally is anything but accurate, that it is the product of massive vote fraud carried out through the programing of Diebold voting machines and various other machinations aimed at suppressing, destroying or losing Kerry votes. Do you actually understand what you are saying? Among the things you're saying is that "suppressed" Kerry votes - meaning people who DID NOT show up to vote - were still counted in the exit polls. My argument is that what were accurate were the exit polls. Your argument has been debunked by professionals, including Democrat partisans. As one Ivy League research methodologist has noted, "Apparently the pollsters at Mitofsky and Edison have found it more expedient to provide an explanation unsupported by theory, data or precedent than to impugn the machinery of American democracy." So because one unnamed "research methodologist" at an unnamed "Ivy League" school says it, it must be true. Never mind that their explanation is based in detail on the actual data, that there is precedent, because there have been significant errors in the past, especially in the 1992 election, which was not conducted using computerized vote-counting equipment, and that the explanation is itself a theory. Surely you must be able to hire researchers who could do a better job for you than this.

Various statisticians have reported that the odds on the occurrence of variances from exit polls to actual results such as were produced in this election range up to 959 000 to 1. That assumes that the samples were random. Now ask the statisticians what they have to say about differential error rates based on the age or education of the interviewer. Sounds like DNA. You obviously don't know much about DNA either. DNA testing doesn't have to worry about differential response rates or interviewer bias. As US Count Votes notes in a statistical abstract, "No matter how one calculates it, the discrepancy cannot be attributed to chance." Who has attributed anything to chance?

So let me put it in Foxspeak. Let me put it in Lampley-speak. Lampley takes a right to the jaw from the facts. He goes down. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. It's over. The winner by a knockout: the facts. If all the circumstantial evidence related to potential vote fraud in this election were gathered up into one big file for the Scott Peterson jury, they'd convict. If all the "evidence" you have were gathered together, no prosecutor would file charges. You've worked around boxing for decades. You should have a long experience with counting things that are rigged. Of courese, we've never heard you say that a fight was fixed. Instead of seeing it where it does occur and you have some clue of what you speak, you're fighting phantoms. The jury that might look at all this and acquit? O.J. Simpson. What does your friend and ally, Mr. Conyers, say about this comparison? Politics make strange bedfellows. Really? Who is in bed with you again? We have John Conyers and the Lyndon LaRouche movement. We also have Keith Olbermann and half the posters on Daily Kos, democratic Underground, and a couple other blogs. Who am I missing? Oh yes. Political professionals, polling experts, and serious commentators, even on the left.

Who is Joseph Bataillon

For starters, he is the judge who struck down Nebraska's constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage or marriage-like arrangements from being recognized on a variety of federal constitutional grounds today. Plenty of other people have already started blogging about the decision, and I will simply state that I concur with Eugene Volokh's arguments.

I have not, however, yet seen anything blogged about Judge Bataillon's history.

He was nominated and confirmed by President Clinton in 1997 (on a unanimous vote). His legal career, according to the Federal Judicial Center, consisted of being a deputy public defender in Douglas County, NE, from 1974 to 1980 and in private practice in Omaha, NE from 1980 to 1997. He received his B.A. in 1971 and his J.D. in 1974, both from Creighton.

During the brief Senate floor discussion of his confirmation, Senator Bob Kerrey said that Bataillon had served in the Judge Advocate General's Corps. Why that would not be mentioned in Bataillon's official biography is unexplained.

Bataillon has had a few notable cases previous to this case.

He gained some measure of infamy for issuing a midnight restraining order against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in a case where he sided with a meatpacking plant that was going to be shut down for repeated food safety violations, including fecal contamination.

He left one prominent criminal law blogger gobsmacked with an opinion last year on a sentencing issue where he stated that stare decisis bound him to NOT follow an opinion of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which sits above him, that had not yet become final.

He declared the electric chair to be an unconstitutional method of execution in dicta while vacating a death sentence because eligibility for that sentence was decided by a judge, rather than a jury (holding that the U.S. Supreme Court's Ring v. Arizona decision was retroactive). The Supreme Court later ruled that Ring was not retroactive.

He was also one of two judges (and the other was an Iowan) speaking along with Senator John Edwards at the kickoff event for the Iowa chapter of the American Constitution Society.

In short, there is a strong case to be made that Judge Bataillon is a liberal activist on the bench.

Right now, with filibusters about to be launched on several Bush nominees for the Court of Appeal, this decision shows the American public in a very graphic way the importance of who is nominated and confirmed for the federal courts. The "extremist" charges from Senators Leahy, Schumer, Reid, Boxer, et al. may be about to be turned back on them in a pronounced way - after all, this is the sort of ruling that "non-extremist" judges render.

Harry Reid: Attack Dachshund

Sean Rushton of National Review Online's new feature Bench Memos catches Harry Reid engaging in character assassination of Henry Saad, nominated to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bush.

Reid said:


Well now. I think I recall someone else engaging in that sort of character assassination in 1978 (or maybe it was 1962, depending on whether you use our date or theirs).

"And most recently of all, a "Roman Toga Party" was held from which we have received more than two dozen reports of individual acts of perversion SO profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here."

"Doug Niedermeyer", in Animal House (quotation not from memory but from

44 Democrat Senators (plus Jeffords), and this is the best they could do?

CBS: The C stands for Complete

Thanks go out to Ramesh Ponnuru for talking to the Hon. Ken Starr and finding out just how badly CBS distorted his comments to make him seem opposed to changing the Senate rules to end judicial filibusters. Here's the story.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


The New York Times: Making you long for the days of Jayson Blair

Today's New York Times carries this op-ed by University of Surrey (London) clinical psychologist Belinda Board. It's eminently Fiskable.

[Why the Times chose to cross the Atlantic to find someone to write such tripe is worth of separate inquiry.]

The Tipping Point

Published: May 11, 2005

JOHN BOLTON, President Bush's nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations, has been described as dogmatic, abusive to his subordinates and a bully. These are descriptions given by opponents. Supporters have given vastly different descriptions. Yet Mr. Bush has said that John Bolton is the right man at the right time. Can these seemingly contradictory statements both be accurate? Yes. The reality is that sometimes the characteristics that make someone successful in business or government can render them unpleasant personally. Did we need an expert to tell us this? What's more astonishing is that those characteristics when exaggerated are the same ones often found in criminals. Perhaps it would be better if your results actually supported your thesis. This will be shown below.

There has been anecdotal and case-study evidence suggesting that successful business executives share personality characteristics with psychopaths. The question is, are the characteristics that make up personality disorders fundamentally different from the characteristics of extreme personalities we see in everyday life, or do they differ only in degree? That would depend on who you see in everyday life, now wouldn't it? And what makes someone's personality extreme?

In 2001, I compared the personality traits of 39 high-ranking business executives in Britain with psychiatric patients and criminals with a history of mental health problems. The business managers completed a standard clinical personality-disorder diagnostic questionnaire and then were interviewed. The information on personality disorders among criminals and psychiatric patients had been gathered by local clinics.

Our sample was small, but the results were definitive. If personality and its pathology are distinct from each other, we should have found different levels of personality disorders in these diverse populations. We didn't. Actually, you did. The character disorders of the business managers blended together with those of the criminals and mental patients.

In fact, the business population was as likely as the prison and psychiatric populations to demonstrate the traits associated with narcissistic personality disorder: grandiosity, lack of empathy, exploitativeness and independence. Narcissistic personality disorder? No. This is a fabricated disorder by a pseudoscience. It's a name given to "medicalize" and assert a right and duty to treat egotism. Grandiosity, exploitativeness, and independence are basic traits of leadership. They do not combine to form a disorder. It causes no adverse effect on a person to seek to promote himself. They were also as likely to have traits associated with compulsive personality disorder: stubbornness, dictatorial tendencies, perfectionism and an excessive devotion to work. Another fake disorder rears its ugly head here. Compulsive personality disorder is not the same as the real disorder obsessive-compulsive personality disorder ("OCD"). How can one be a boss without a significant degree of these traits? Even the one trait that tries to qualify itself as inherently abnormal ("excessive devotion to work") is a purely subjective determination being made by members of a group (clinical psychologists) which is not noted for its long work hours or its subjection to competitive pressures. If your labor is physically taxing, working longer hours may be bad for you, but in the white collar world, many of us have external deadlines and quantities of work such that simply working 9 to 5 Monday-Friday will not get the job done. People choose fields like clinical psychology, where you don't direct the work of others, and where your hours are standardized and often short, in part because their personality characteristics lead them to find such conditions more desirable. That's fine; but converting their traits into normalcy and criticizing as disordered those whose traits are different is an abuse of their prestige.

But there were some significant differences.

The executives were significantly more likely to demonstrate characteristics associated with histrionic personality disorder, like superficial charm, insincerity, egocentricity and manipulativeness. More silly "disorders" are upon us. I should well hope that your average business executive is a lot more superficially charming than your average criminal or psychiatric patient.

They were also significantly less likely to demonstrate physical aggression, irresponsibility with work and finances, lack of remorse and impulsiveness. Facts, they are a funny thing. Here's a little hint for clinical psychologists anywhere: physical violence is the best predictor of criminality. You see, the traits that real people, who haven't had their brains turned to mush by academic theories trying to name a disorder for every personality, regard as actually being dangerous or disordering are found significantly more often among criminals and psychiatric patients. Even if you grant that narcissistic, compulsive, or histrionic personality disorders are real, people do not end up in prison for them. On the contrary, people end up in prison for physical aggression and serious irresponsibility with finances (usually coupled with impulsiveness and a lack of remorse). It's not egotism or stubbornness that makes a man shoot his wife.

What does this tell us? It tells us very little that common sense would not have told us. It tells us that the characteristics we would imagine to be present frequently in mental patients and criminals as compared to the general population are in fact, significantly more frequent among those groups. It tells us that if reports of Mr. Bolton's behavior are accurate then both his supporters and critics could be right. Not only is the entire conclusion qualified by an "if", it's something so stultifyingly obvious that we needed a British expert to tell us so. It also tells us that characteristics of personality disorders can be found throughout society and are not just concentrated in psychiatric or prison hospitals. Wrong. It tells you that the characteristics associated with serious real personality disorders are concentrated in psychiatric and prison hospitals. Each characteristic by itself isn't necessarily a bad thing. Oh good. For a moment I thought independence was considered a bad thing.

Take a basic characteristic like influence and it's an asset in business. What would we do without experts to tell us this? Add to that a smattering of egocentricity, a soup├žon of grandiosity, a smidgen of manipulativeness and lack of empathy, and you have someone who can climb the corporate ladder and stay on the right side of the law, but still be a horror to work with. What if we add a spoonful of sugar? Add a bit more of those characteristics plus lack of remorse and physical aggression, and you have someone who ends up behind bars. Forget the other characteristics. Have physical aggression and lack of remorse, and you have someone who ends up behind bars.

As we all know, public figures can exhibit extreme characteristics. Often it is these characteristics that have propelled them to prominence, yet these same behaviors can cause untold human wreckage. Untold human wreckage? Some people are claiming that John Bolton hurt their feelings and made them upset. Pol Pot caused untold human wreckage. Hitler, Stalin, Mao - they caused untold human wreckage. For shame. What's important is the degree to which a person has each ingredient or characteristic and in what configuration. Uh, no. We can do without the physical aggression, irresponsibility toward work or finances, impulsiveness, or lack of remorse. Everything else mentioned is just fine for a policymaker. Congress will try to decide whether Mr. Bolton has the right combination. Senator Kennedy, do you have any opinion on Mr. Bolton's psychiatric fitness?

[edited to acknowledge a hat tip to Rich Lowry of NRO]

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Torquemada would have been proud

Hugh Hewitt may be the cruelest man alive.

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