Tuesday, November 30, 2004


I just want to congratulate my very good friend Javed Samuel. He's just won a Rhodes Scholarship. Needless to say, that's quite an accomplishment. Having known Javed for four years, I know he merits this award.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Pepper spray attack

Okay, this story of a pepper spray attack in Times Square is one of those things that make me worry. Hopefully, it was just a prank. On the other hand, it might have a test which will be followed by a more dangerous chemical or biological attack. Then of course, there's the really grim possibility that is was a biological attack, the pepper spray being used as camouflage. The story mentions that "fire officials" "searched the store with equipment to detect toxic material." Did someone take a sample of this stuff to a lab to look for known dangerous pathogens? At this point, I may as well be fatalist about it: those shoppers will either get sick or they won't. So far I haven't heard any news that they have, so I won't be moving to a little survival place in Wyoming just yet. (Yes, that's a movie reference.)

The ad war

John Carlisle gives yet another reason Why Bush Won.
Public Opinion Strategies found that voters in six battleground states were strongly influenced by three ads -- all pro-Bush or anti-Kerry. In addition to the Swift Boat ads, they included the "Wolves," a TV ad produced by the Bush campaign using the image of a wolf pack to symbolize the terrorist threat, and the "Ashley" TV ad produced by the Progress for America Voter Fund.
Despite a huge fundraising advantage, the Democratic 527s never produced an ad that was as emotionally riveting and memorable. Said Kerry campaign advisor David Thorne, "The only three ads remembered by voters were all Republican ads -- and that was after we spent over $100 million on advertising."
I must be a sigma or two away from the mean. I didn't think "Wolves" or "Ashley" was anything special, and I haven't even seen the Swift ad.

More on WA governor's race

John Fund has a good summary of the questionable aspects of the still-contested Washington governor's race. (It's very close: the machine recount produced a 42-vote margin). For a while now, John Fund has been beating the drum about fixing election laws so as to make American elections less subject to doubt. As I said before, check out his City Journal piece if you haven't already.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Bypassing the frenzy

Andrew Sullivan decries the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping madness, and Christmas consumerism in general. This reminded me to thank God for the internet, which allows me to strongly mitigate my exposure to the season's materialist excesses. My online purchases can be made in a relaxed and deliberate manner. I don't even have to see others rushing to take advantage this or that sale. The first outing I made this Thanksgiving weekend was to Church today (the first Sunday of Advent). Sullivan calls himself a Christmas-phobe, but I think a person's Christmas experience is primarily what he makes it. With innovations like e-commerce, it's that much easier to celebrate Christmas the right way.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


I think it appropriate to reproduce George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th. day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Knowing that our soldiers are fighting in a trying struggle this Thanksgiving, I reprint some words of Lincoln from 1863, during our nation's greatest trial.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Julian Sanchez has a great, link-rich piece at Reason about the opacity of federal legislating, particularly the imposingly named omnibus spending bill. Last paragraph:
One measure that could help would be a kind of legislative cooling-off period, some minimum period of time (a week?) that a bill may be debated, or at least read, between the time it leaves committee in final form and the time it can be put to a vote. These days, we wouldn't even need Reagan's legion of 300 at OMB. The same distributed, pajama-clad legions who pounced with such alacrity upon the suspicious kerning of Dan Rather's bogus memos could locate wasteful (or, as in this case, privacy-invading) provisions—and here's the novel part—before they were locked into law. It's a safety measure so simple, obvious, and likely to be effective that there's no need to worry about its ever being implemented.

Saturday, November 20, 2004


Prof. Gregory Chaitin's latest book is currently online. The title derives from his halting probability Omega. The book is about randomness, information theory, and philosophy. Chaitin tries to make his book accessible to non-mathematicians. I'm obviously not the best judge of how well he did this, but I think a layman can certainly enjoy the book if they skip the technical parts as Chaitin suggests.

Getting a bit technical myself, I like Chaitin's way of proving Godel's incompleteness theorem, but I don't quite understand his aversion to Godel's and Turing's approaches. All three approaches use the same essential trick: assume completeness, then use self-reference to derive a contradiction via a diagonal argument. Godel used a formal sentence about arithmetic that refers to itself (indirectly through a numerical encoding). Turing used a program that refers to its own source code. Chaitin uses a program that refers to the length of its source code. There are certainly ways in which Chaitin's method is more powerful and arguably more beautiful (I really like it), but it still relies on the self-reference trick. If one is comfortable with self-reference, then what's not to like about Godel's or Turing's proof?

Friday, November 19, 2004

More on moral values

There's been so much speculative commentary about the exit poll results and Why Bush Won; it's nice to finally see some new data. Pew found that moral values are the top issue voters choose from a canned list, but not when they same question is asked free-response style. But don't conclude that Bush has no "moral" mandate. Among Bush voters, Pew found moral values to be the top issue for a clear plurality when chosen from a list, and for free response, almost tied (27%-28%) with Iraq and terrorism combined. They've plenty of other interesting findings, such as what "moral values" means as an election issue to various folk; take a look.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Teaching evolution II

Brian Ulrich responds to my previous post on this topic. Brian thinks "Dave's argument is weak in that he doesn't actually say what he sees as the purpose of a high school biology class." He also says, "Class time dedicated to science should be used for science," which I interpret as a tautology, so there must be some miscommunication here. I shall make my argument more explicit.

I believe that parents should decide the purposes of high school biology classes for their children. If they want to devote time to unscientific theories, then so be it. Brian doesn't have a "constitution-based problem" with putting such theories like intelligent design "somewhere in the curriculum," and to me the most obvious place to put them is in the biology class, though if parents want to put them elsewhere or nowhere, that is their prerogative. There's a lot of hand-wringing about how children don't learn enough science in America, to the point that even a few days can't be spared. However, there's plenty of hand-wringing about how kids don't learn enough civics, enough history, enough math, enough morals, enough writing skills, or enough, period. Parents should have the final say on how to budget classroom time, excepting the wrinkle that for public schools, the voters may override them. If the relevant elected representatives want to budget time for intelligent design in public schools (or not), then so be it. As I wrote in my previous post, the best solution is a diverse menu of privately runned schools, as this can accommodate diverse views on curriculum controversies like this one.

The above paragraph is pretty much libertarian boilerplate, which is not a bad thing; in many situations the libertarian boilerplate is right. However, like much libertarian thought, I find it unsatisfying, in some ways question-begging. Sure, the parents should decide, but which decision is best? I was sorely tempted to end this post with the above paragraph. It would have been a crisp argument about which I'd expect to hear relatively little disagreement. But that would have been taking the easy way out. No, I shall stand on my electronic soapbox a bit longer.

Were the issue on the ballot (likely indirectly through a school board election), I would vote to allocate a few days of a public school time to teaching intelligent design. For most career paths, understanding evolution is not a prerequisite for good citizenship or for high economic productivity. A few days spent on intelligent design will at most marginally detract from the understanding of a theory that most students don't need to understand, while simultaneously sharpening students' philosophical thinking about evolution. In fact, I expect there would be a net increase in understanding of evolution. If you believe intelligent design is a dangerously wrong idea, then I can understand why you might vote differently, but I'm currently agnostic about intelligent design, and think it an idea worthy of consideration.

Influenced by reader request, I might write more about my views on intelligent design in the future; for now, I just want to say that intelligent design is not the same thing as creationism, and that although it's not scientific according to the subjective definition I gave last time, there's a real philosophical debate to be had over whether it's objectively scientific. (What is the objective definition of "scientific"? Is there one? You see why I don't want to open this can of worms at the moment.)

Getting back to my libertarian boilerplate, I still maintain it would be best to replace the public school system with a competitive private system (with something like vouchers to help the poor), so that you don't have to worry about my public vote affecting your children's education in ways you consider harmful. Whether or not such school choice ever becomes a reality, if I someday have children, I will certainly send them to a private Christian school, so I won't have to worry about your public vote harming my children's education.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The thin red tape

I think Tony Blankley had a little too much fun writing this column. I must admit I had a good time reading it. I starting laughing out loud somewhere around here:
These four bureaucracies are manned by the most heartless Beltway warriors and led by veteran, tribal war lords. Each of these bureaucracies have many trophies of prior Washington wars: Either the scalp or the testicles of their nominal political masters.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Teaching evolution

Clayton Cramer has a good post about teaching evolution and/or competing theories in public schools. He gets at the heart of the matter:
FACT: Most animals have blood using hemoglobin, which shares the essential porphyrin ring of chlorophyll (but chlorophyll has a magnesium ion in the middle of the ring, not an iron ion).

FACT: The Republican Party pushed for the abolition of slavery after the Civil War.

The interpretations that you bring to these facts, of course, will be controversial, at least to some people.

The evolutionist would say that the shared porphyrin ring is because of a common ancestry, or perhaps that this particular structure is so well-suited to the processes of distributing oxygen and dividing carbon dioxide back to oxygen and carbon, that random processes caused the same structure to be used in both cases. This is certainly a plausible explanation, if you buy the idea that this could have happened at random. The creationist would insist that God liked the design so much, that he re-used it. This is certainly a plausible explanation, if you buy the idea that there is a God who created life. Trying to prove that either is certainly correct is going to be rather difficult!

The Republican Party's involvement in the abolition of slavery is also subject to differing controversial interpretations. Some would argue that Republican interest in abolishing slavery was because a significant faction of the party, the abolitionists, had done an effective job of appealing to the moral revulsion of Americans about slavery. A Marxian interpretation might argue that Republican opposition to slavery was because it was interfering with capitalist development of the South, preventing capitalists from fully exploiting the black workforce. Trying to "prove" either of these theories clearly right or wrong is going to be somewhat difficult.
What's really being fought over is more philosophy than science. However, many scientists and like-minded advocates don't look at the issue this way. They think teaching anything other than evolution is a disservice to students, at best wasting their time on unscientific theories. To avoid a lengthy digression, let us use what scientists do as a working definition of science. If the purpose of the high school biology class is to train the next generation of biologists, then they have a point. Theories like intelligent design aren't going to help anyone actually do biology (in the sense of our working definition). However, only a small proportion of high school biology students become biologists or even scientists. When you keep that fact in mind, teaching evolution and giving a little time to ideas like intelligent design seems like a reasonable compromise respecting differing desires about cirricula within a community.

Of course, the best way to resolve this controversy is with more school choice.

Monday, November 15, 2004

The undercurrent

Tom Bevan at RealClearPolitics joins the chorus debunking the inflated importance "Moral values" voters were given by the exit polls. He quotes Krauthammer:
If you pit group against group, moral values comes in dead last: war issues at 34%, economic issues at 33% and moral values at 22%,
and then concludes,
That doesn't mean "values" issues weren't part of the mix in this election, but they were an undercurrent at best and simply do not account for President Bush's country-wide demographic and geographic gains.
I think "undercurrent" is right word to use. The culture war goes on - see for example this anecdotal evidence from the Oklahoma senate race - but in this presidential election national security was the issue. If, God willing, 9/11 is not repeated and Iraq settles down, then I predict values will take center stage in the mid-term elections.

Lengthy but worth it

The Economist has a great survey on outsourcing. Among other gems, I found that
McKinsey calculates that for every dollar American firms spend on service work from India, the American economy receives $1.14 in return. This calculation depends in large part on the ability of America's economy to create new jobs for displaced workers. America's labour market is a miracle of flexibility: it creates and destroys nearly 30m jobs a year.
Also in the lengthy-but-worth-it department: the latest issue of City Jounal. Theodore Dalrymple and Kay Hymowitz wrote powerful pieces on the on tragedy of the broken family in the underclass respecively among the British and inner-city blacks. Also check out Heather Mac Donald's and John Fund's pieces.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Doubles: a new game of cards and dice

While at MIT, I was introduced to a wonderful game called liar's dice. There are many versions, so I decided I'd reproduce the version I learned here. Since coming to Madison, I've taught the game to folks in my apartment, and had quite a good time playing it with them.

Recently I've been looking for another dice game. What I require is a good mix of chance and strategic interaction between players. Liar's dice meets this requirement, but my (relatively perfunctory) googling was unable to find any other such games besides variations on liar's dice. It occurred to me that a game using cards and dice might be able to give me the mix of chance and strategy I wanted, with cards providing the strategy and dice the chance. Again, googling didin't find what I was looking for. For a lesser nerd, this would have been a problem.

I resolved to create my own game of cards and dice. After a few days of false starts, I stumbled upon a general way to incorporate dice into any trick-taking card game in a manner that adds to the game not only more chance, but also an entirely new and interactive strategic dimension. To keep the rules simple, instead of "dicing" an actual trick-taking game, I concocted and then diced a simple special-purpose trick-taking game where suit is irrelevant and the highest ranking card always wins a trick. The result was Doubles, so named because rolling doubles is very bad for you in this game. (Exercise for the reader who is so inclined: using Doubles as a template, dice your favorite trick-taking game.)

I've now tested Doubles for two, four, and five players. In all cases the game got rave reviews. Between the randomness of what people roll and which cards they are dealt, there is plenty of chance. Yet, the strategic aspects are anything but trivial. As each game progressed, players spent more and more time deciding what to do on their turns. Testing thus far has revealed some moves as bad that weren't obviously bad a priori, but no one has even come close to producing a general strategy to handle all situations. I suspect that after some thoughtful gaming and theorizing, one could write down a very-near-optimal strategy for two-player Doubles, though it would be a lengthy piece of writing. However, for three or more players, the complexity is daunting (at least to this theorist), to the point that the best I'd expect are some general heuristics for human players and (successful?) essentially brute-force attacks by computer players.

Still untested are three-player games, games with six or more players, and team games. However, I'm certain the strategic aspects are qualitatively the same for any number of players from three to seven. Trivial modifications of the rules could accomodate eight or more players, but I suspect such games would be rather long and cumbersome; even seven might be pushing it. As for team games, I can't say more than the obvious: I expect the strategic aspects are some sort of hybrid between those of two-player and more-than-two-player Doubles. I plan to test team Doubles next weekend and blog about the results. Also, if you try out Doubles, then I encourage you to email me any ideas you have about Doubles strategy and/or beneficial modifications to the rules of Doubles.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Meanwhile, out west

Back home in Washington State (it's the closest thing I have to a home state), the governor's race is still too close too call. This isn't in the national news, but this Google news search will give you the latest info. If Rossi wins, he'll be the first Republican Washington governor in twenty years. Don't forget the "if": the lawsuits have already begun, over - you guessed it - provisional ballots.

Iatrogenic affirmative action

Guest blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy, Rick Sander has run the numbers, and found that affirmative action in law schools does more harm than good to blacks in the legal field.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Climate Futures

I just read Ronald's Bailey's latest piece on climate change. Towards the end Bailey mentions that MIT prof "Richard Lindzen says he's willing to take bets that global average temperatures in 20 years will in fact be lower than they are now." This prompted me to ask the obvious question: why isn't there a Tradesports contract on this yet? The contracts would be around for a while, but Tradesports already has contracts on the 2008 Presidential elections, so it's not that much of a stretch.

So you want an electoral map?

Go here. Red, blue, purple, state, county, map, cartogram - they've got it all.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Save this link for 2006

RealClearPolitics has a well-done comparison of the various pollsters' performances at the national and state level of the presidential race.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Which moral values?

The meme seems to be that "moral values" voters reelected Bush. Moreover, many are going as far to blame the Goodridge decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Court for creating an election-swinging backlash which also manifested itself in those eleven state initiatives against gay marriage. I can believe the former with some reservations, but I'm very skeptical that the issue of gay marriage swung the election.

First of all, the very use of the term "moral values" here refers to a category from those exit polls that did such a great job predicting the election. I haven't found any explanation of why we should trust these exit polls when at least the early exit polls were so far off. (Perhaps one of my readers has a link they'd like to put in the comments?) That said, I don't know enough to safely ignore the exit polls either.

Second, isn't there a war on? The exit poll categories of Iraq and terrorism combined add up to plenty more than the moral values category. I'm very much a social conservative, but if an exit poller had interviewed me, I would have truthfully said that Iraq was my top issue. Of course, it could be that my focus on the war and my focus of reading internet commentary about the war is unrepresentative. I remember talking to a high school student in Boston last year who thought we should focus on the "war" at home, by which he meant urban violence. Also, I suspect the rest of my family would have fallen into the moral values category if exit pollster had talked to them. So the exit polls could be right, just counterintuitive to me.

Third, there are other moral values besides traditional marriage. Does "pro-life" ring a bell? Admittedly, the abortion issue seems stale compared to gay marriage and all the recent activism it has inspired. But the abortion front hasn't exactly been quiet. Think of the partial birth abortion ban and the Unborn Victims of Violence Protection Act. Or think of those Catholic bishops commanding their flock not to vote for pro-choice politicians, and of some Catholic churches refusing communion to pro-choice politicians. Then contemplate the that according to the exit polls (whose reliability I've just questioned) Bush won 51% of the traditionally Democratic Catholic vote.

Finally, a values voter mildly knowledgable about politics would know that the chances of, say, the FMA passing, are slim, while we can expect at least two Supreme Court vacancies over the next four years. Even if Democrats use the filibuster to force relatively moderate appointments, the result will still be better for social conservatives than that of a compromise between a President Kerry and a Republican Senate, for presidents have a structural advantage when it comes to appointments. National Review isn't demanding the FMA be sent to the Congress again (and again fall short of two-thirds support); they're demanding that, regardless of seniority, pro-choice Arlen Specter not get the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee; anything less would be a "betrayal" of social conservatives.

Update: Instapundit has a good round-up of links with additional relevant data, including data that moves me firmly back to thinking as I did before I saw the exit polls: terrorism was the issue that decided the election.

Update II: also check out David's Brook's take.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Kerry > Edwards

During the primaries, I remember thinking Edwards would have been a more formiddable opponent to Bush. I still do, but today Kerry proved himself a better man than Edwards. Reportedly, Edwards wanted the campaign to continue until every Ohioan vote was counted, reality regardless. (Or did Edwards expect an army of lawyers to make a new reality?) Kerry did the honorable thing. Moreover, he gave a beautiful concession speech. Edwards essentially gave a stump speech. He didn't extend a single word of kindness to the other side, and his obvious but unspoken theme was "Edwards in 2008."

Update: The NYT provides confirmation:
Tellingly, associates to Mr. Edwards made a point of informing reporters that Mr. Edwards had urged Mr. Kerry not to give up in Ohio so soon, in what some Democrats described as probably the opening shot of - yes - the 2008 campaign. Mr. Edwards is likely to seek his party's nomination and thus is eager not to do anything in the final days of this campaign that could haunt him in 2008.

"He conveyed his point of view and Kerry made his own decision," one Edwards adviser said, adding that Mr. Edwards "was disappointed but made peace with the result."

Election futures markets

As I described in my post below, the exit polls fooled the futures markets and me. However, as Daniel Gross describes, the futures markets had called the winner correctly beforehand. (My pre-exit-poll prediction was pretty close too.) As Daniel Gross says, these markets aren't "poll-beaters"; if they were, then the exit polls wouldn't have spooked them so badly. However, these markets are the best poll aggregators out there.

Exit polls

I followed the exit poll leaks, as did the election futures markets (both the Iowa and Tradesports ones), and by suppertime Tradesports and I were expecting Kerry to get ~300 EVs. Tradesports went from a 53% chance of Bush victory to a 30% chance in the course of one afternoon. Likewise, Bush sunk from ~50% to ~25% on the Iowa Election Market. Then we all found out that these exit polls had vastly overstated Kerry's strength when Bush pulled ahead in Florida and then Ohio. My anger at being fooled was soothed slightly by hearing Wolf Blitzer on CNN admitting the media was fooled too. I feel especially sorry for the Kerry supporters who took the exit polls seriously. One good thing to come from this fiasco is that no one will pay attention to the exit poll leaks next time around.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Election Prediction

I have no idea who will win. The race is close, the state polls are very much in flux, and no poll knows what turnout will be like, adding an unkown amount to the published margins of error. In this environment, there are just too many different plausible scenarios for who carries which states. Still, I can't resist making a prediction. At half past three this Monday morning, the scenario that to me seems slightly more likely than any of the others is Bush winning 279-259 by carrying the same states he did in 2000 save a New Hampshire-New Mexico swap. I hope I'm wrong though, because if we get a Bush victory that depends on narrow margins in Florida (27 EVs) and Ohio (20 EVs), then things are going to get ugly. (My preferences: clear Bush win > narrow Bush win > clear Kerry win > narrow Kerry win, where "clear" means not worth challenging in court.)


The attack on Fallujah is soon. If Kerry wins by a hair on Tuesday, then I'd go as far as saying that Bush would have won were it not for his vacillation back in April when we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Fallujah. Just like Truman and LBJ, Bush may very well be brought down by half-heartedness in war.

A common complaint about Bush is that he's too stubborn, ignoring the opinions of others. I think the opposite is true. Bush didn't rush to war. The U.S. wasted months giving Saddam one last chance with renewed inspections. What did we gain from this? At best, we gave Blair some more domestic political cover. However, we gave our enemies more time to prepare to undermine us in Iraq, and our extended bickering with France, Germany, et al hardened more minds than it changed. In Fallujah this April, the Bush administration made the same mistake: they slowed down for fear of offending others, this time Iraqis. Again, this just delayed the inevitable, doing much more harm than good in the meanwhile.

Unfortunately for America, the alternative to a sometimes wobbly Bush is a political weathervane.