SeaViews: Insights from the Gray Havens 
October 2004

Motto: The surest way to get a reputation for being a trouble maker these days is to go about repeating the very phrases that the Founders used in the struggle for independence.

-- C.A. Beard

Disclaimer: The editor speaks only for himself, and sometimes even he is wrong.


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On last month's Fix;

the answer to last month's Fix,
"Should Debates be a required hoop for Presidential hopefuls to run through?"
 D Gay makes many points below: TV debates favor style over substance, the incumbant is tied somewhat by security as to what he can say, time is too short, and worst of all the best liar often "wins". However, I think rather then give up on the debates, the format should be modified, to whit:

a. 3 debates, each one a single hour on one topic, with 5 minutes for points and rebuttals
b. opponents are permitted any A/V tools they want
c. The moderator is backed up by a squad of researchers using and Lexis/Nexus
d.  Each time a participant makes a factual error, he is penalized 30 seconds from his current point or rebuttal
e. The debate is open to all parties that have gotten on a majority of state ballots

This would have been useful, say, during the endless Kerry chants of, "worst job loss in 70 years..."
Ah, Mr Kerry, today's unemployment rate is less then what it was when Clinton left office.

On vote trading;
Most of you may recall that Al Gore blamed his loss in 2000 on votes "stolen" from him by Ralph Nader. Being the open minded defenders of Democracy that they are, the Dem Natl Comm. has sued to keep Ralph off of 19 state's ballots this time around. But that is not the only trick in the bag of Dem elctioneering - oh no.

 As of Tuesday, VotePair, a vote-swapping website conceived by supporters of Sen. John Kerry, had about 14,300 interested voters sign up on its website. There was something similar in 2000, but it was not widely enough known about to save Algor. How it works is this.
 1. You want to vote for a Green, Libertarian or other 3'rd party, but at all costs you don't want GW Bush to win and you live in a toss-up state

 2. You pair up with a Kerry voter in a safe Dem state.

 3.  You get  him to vote for your 3'rd party person (since he's in a safe Dem state), but you vote for Kerry, assuring  that your  swing state goes for Kerry.

 Yeah Everyone wins! The Greens gain power, Kerry gets in the WhiteHouse and the evil GW is defeated. Only one small problem - this may be illegal. But that has never stopped the dead from voting for the Dalys early and often in Chicago.

Guest Editorial:

Ed: You may recall during the Clinton years this Rag computed the Misery Index every year. The current staff has not done this, but it turns out that has done the work for us.

Kerry's "Misery Index" Accentuates the Negative

Kerry invents a new "Misery Index." The old one makes Bush's tenure look better than most.

April 12, 2004

Kerry's campaign has invented a new "misery index" that makes Bush's economic record look, well, miserable. Why a new index? Perhaps because the classic "misery index" --  which adds together the unemployment rate and the rate of inflation  -- currently is better than it's been in most years since World War II. In fact, it's less than half the miserable level reached in 1980, the last year of the Carter administration, and better than in any of Clinton's first four years:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Annual Average Unemployment Rate + Percentage Change in Annual Average Consumer Price Index)



The original "misery index" is simply the jobless rate added to the inflation rate. The term was coined by economist Arthur Okun, an economic adviser in Lyndon Johnson’s administration. It was widely used during the "stagflation" of the '70s and '80s when stagnant economic growth kept unemployment high and inflation reduced the buying power of wages.

By that classic misery measure the country is faring better than average under Bush: the unemployment rate for March was 5.7% -- which is just 0.1% above the average for all months since 1948. And the inflation rate remains historically low – the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index rose only 1.7% in the 12 months ending in February, the most recent month on record. So the classic “misery index” number is currently 7.4.

That's lower than it's been in all  but 20 of the previous 56 years on record. It never got this low during any of the years under Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan or Bush's father.

And the classic "misery index" was higher in every one of Clinton's first four years than it has been in any of Bush's years. It was not until Clinton's second term that the long economic boom of the 1990's pulled the index down to below its current level.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Annual Average Unemployment Rate + Percentage Change in Annual Average Consumer Price Index)

(Note: Kerry's advisers say presidents should be judged by the change in the index, not its absolute level. Under Clinton the index did improve significantly: it was 10.5 the year before he took office and nearly 30% lower in his final year. It worsened under Bush but currently has settled down to the same level as it was in Clinton's last year. Unemployment is worse but inflation is lower by the same amount.)

Kerry's New "Misery Index"

So it's not surprising that the Kerry campaign has come up with another way of looking at the economy. On April 12 Kerry issued a news release saying "Middle-Class Misery Hits Record Under George Bush," based on a new index put together by former Clinton economic adviser Gene Sperling and former Al Gore adviser Jason Furman.

The Kerry index is, to put it mildly, selective.

Rather than use all consumer prices, the Kerry index cherry-picks three items that have gone up faster than the overall rate of inflation: college tuition (at public four-year universities only), gasoline, and health care.

And rather than use the overall unemployment rate -- which was 5.5% at this point in Clinton's first term, only two-tenths of one percent lower than now -- Kerry has used the number of jobs, which produces a more negative picture.

Other statistical indicators chosen by Kerry are median family income and bankruptcies, which have both worsened under Bush, and home ownership -- the only one of the seven indicators in the Kerry index to show improvement.

A Dubious "Record"

The Kerry news release proclaimed that the new index under Bush shows "the largest three-year fall on record and the worst record of any president ever." But look closely: their own calculations don't back that up. The "record" only goes  back to 1976, when some of the statistics Kerry uses were first collected. The 13-point drop that the Kerry advisers calculate for Bush is indeed the worst in that relatively brief 28-year period, but they can't call it the worst "ever." What about Herbert Hoover?

In a telephone conference call with reporters Sperling denied that the items in Kerry's index were selected just to make Bush look bad. Asked why the Consumer Price Index wasn't used, Sperling said the prices of gasoline, health-insurance premiums and college tuition were chosen because they are "the major things people see and feel." And Furman pointed out that the index generously includes one statistic that has shown improvement:  home ownership, which has increased to 68.6% of all households since Bush took office, according to the Census Bureau. That's an increase of 1.1 percentage points and is due in part to record low mortgage rates.

But elsewhere the Kerry index selects those figures that look the worst. It includes median family income before taxes, for example. But that doesn't measure the typical family's take-home pay as well as the Census Bureau's measure of after-tax income. Worth noting is that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities -- a liberal group often at odds with Bush's policies -- issued a report April 12 saying that the federal tax burden on the typical middle-income family of four was at its lowest level in decades. The Kerry index reflects none of the benefit of the Bush tax cuts. After-tax income has fallen, but not by as much as income before taxes.

Contributing the most to the gloomy picture presented by Kerry's index is college tuition. Kerry aides used only the figure for four-year public colleges and universities, which has shot up 13% under Bush, even after adjusting for inflation. But they excluded tuition for private colleges and universities, which went up only 5%. (Both figures are from the College Board's annual survey of college costs.)

When it came to measuring the change in employment, however, the Kerry aides focused on the loss of private sector jobs only, not total employment. That ignored gains in hiring of local, state and federal workers. The economy has lost 2.6 million private-sector jobs since Bush took office, but government hiring has kept the total job loss to just 1.8 million. The Kerry index uses the larger figure, making their index look worse.


John Kerry for President, "Record Deterioration in the Middle-Class Misery Index" Press Release 12 April 2004.
US Census Bureau, Housing Vacancy Survey: Fourth Quarter 2003 "
Table 5: Homeownership rates for the United States: 1965 to 2003" 3 Feb 2004.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "Federal Tax Burdens Generally at Lowest Levels in Decades," 12 April 2004.

The College Board, "2003 Trends in College Pricing" Sept 2003.


1.David Gay writes

Date: 10/31/2004

This month's challenge:

   "Should debates be a required part of the Presidential Race?"

you've got until Sunday

I don't think they should be required. The candidates don't have enough time to explain complicated issues. The candidates are judged on style not content.

The incumbent is at a bit of a disadvantage on topics like defense, because there are some things he can't say due to security. Perhaps they need to start putting in lie detectors on the candidates or the press decides it needs to spend as much time validating what the Democrats say as the Republicans.

How do you score a debate? Winning over the Press?

I don't know how you go about having a debate against somebody who does not try to tell the truth, takes both (or more) sides of each issue and can keep a straight face.

Best regards,

Quote(s) of the month:

"Brokaw: Are you aware that according to some psychiatrists, GW Bush's military tests show he has a higher IQ than you?
Kerry: That's great. I don't know how they can know that because my records are not public."

-- Oct 28 Interview, NBC Nightly News,  between Tom Brokaw and JF Kerry

Fix of the month:

"Is vote sharing (ala VotePair) ethical?



Washington D.C.

1. Oct 10: Actor Chris Reeve died yesterday at age 52 from heart failure, a complication ultimately caused by his horse riding injury in 1995 that paralyzed him from the neck down. Today, Dem VP candidate John Edwards lost no time in saying that Reeve's death was due to the Bush White House not permitting more liberal stem cell research. With a Kerry White House, Edwards intoned that Reeve and thousands of ithers like him will get up and walk. Which I guess makes John Kerry an unCOnstitutional President - since clearly if he is the second coming, separation of church and state would require he not hold office.

2. Oct 11, NPR: The UN quietly put out a memo today holding the USA responsible for the loss of several warehouses full of nuclear industry equipment in al-Qaqa Iraq. The IAEA   (International Atomic Energy Association)  monitored Sadaams nuclear sites before the US invasion, says that equipment "that could be used for bomb making" has been missing and some is showing up in other nations. Apparently, the US Army security is not good enough.
Ed: Ah, pardon me? Nuclear weapon tools in Iran? But there were no WMDs - right? Which side of this argument does Kerry stand on? Oh yeah, all of them.

3. Oct. 28: Now the Kerry campaign has kicked in gear the missing "explosives" story from item Two. What they are saying is the Bush screwed up yet again, and lost multi-tons of the explosives cached at al-Qaqa. What they are not saying is what some of  the explosives were for - triggers for nuclear bombs. What neither Bush or Kerry are saying is this: we know the the first National Bank of Bahgdad was looted 24 hours before the USA started the war, now it looks like these explosives were looted before or during the war as well. Why is it therefore so hard for people to consider the chance that all the WMD's were also moved to Siria or elsewhere?

4. Oct 29: A Pentagon report today by the US Army Major Austin Pierson responsible demolition of Iraqi ammunition says he trucked 250 tons of ammo. out of the al-Qaqa facility and destroyed it. The major was not able to confirm is the material was the same as that reported on by the UN IAEA report.