[OPE-L] Just how corrupt are the Bush Republicans?

From: Allin Cottrell (cottrell@WFU.EDU)
Date: Sun Apr 01 2007 - 11:33:19 EDT

It's hard to tell just how far the Bush Republicans have been
willing to go in terms of domestic malfeasance (I don't speak of

Two questions have prompted a great deal of discussion on the
internet, though not in the mainstream media: 9/11 (Was it staged
by the National Security Agency?) and the 2004 election (Was it
stolen?  Were the exit polls that showed a significant Kerry lead
about right?)

Having spent more time than I should have, reading both sides of
these stories on numerous sites and blogs, here, for what it is
worth, are my "findings".

9/11: I'm not persuaded by the conspiracy theory.  Such a project
would not only have been totally devilish (possible, perhaps) but
also fantastically risky, and the cover-up implausibly clever and
complete. Given the burden of proof, the technical arguments for
the impossibility of the official account seem to me lacking.
I'm no engineer, but I get a sense of spurious certainty in the
claims that the twin towers *could not have collapsed* due to the
aircraft hits, and whatever flew into the Pentagon *could not have
been* a civil airliner.  They seem to rest on textbook physics
applied without due regard to the margin of error in messy
real-world situations.  The rebuttals offered by Popular Mechanics
seem to me reasonable.

The 2004 election: On the face of it this is more plausible.
Given the woeful state of US electoral law, this seems like
something the Republicans could reasonably have expected to get
away with.  Furthermore, it wouldn't have required a tight
centralized conspiracy, just a lot of Republicans "doing the right
thing by their party" at the state and local levels.

Steve Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania has made a very
persuasive case that they did in fact steal the election.  He
argues that there's no way the discrepancy between exit polls and
official tallies could have been due to random sampling error:
either the polls were seriously biased or the results were cooked.

But there's no evidence that the polls were biased.  Most writers
discussing this have said that the polls somehow underrepresented
Republican voters.  The interviewers are asked to question every
Nth person exiting the polling station, but of course people are
free to say No.  If Republicans refused disproportionately that
could account for the discrepancy, but there's no direct evidence
this was the case: the only "evidence" is the very fact that has
to be explained, namely the difference with the official result.
Freeman points out that the details of the polling data actually
suggest a slight discrepancy in the opposite direction, with
Democrats likely to be somewhat underrepresented in the exit poll.

Freeman shows that the biggest discrepancies occurred in strongly
Republican precincts, where Republicans controlled the electoral
machinery and Bush was winning a big majority anyway: on average
in such cases Kerry was credited with about 2/3 of the vote that
the exit polls say he got.

Freeman also makes a good case that the pollsters themselves (who
quickly disclaimed the idea that the discrepancy cast any doubt on
the result) are not interested in "the truth" but simply in
providing their media clients with the most accurate prediction of
the official result.  If the official result factors in Republican
vote-switching, then the exit poll methodology has to be
"corrected" to predict the effects of that!  (This is in the US
context; things are different when they're looking at elections in
Mexico or Ukraine, where they don't have the maintained hypothesis
that the official result is unassailable.)

See http://www.appliedresearch.us/sf/epdiscrep.htm

I've read rebuttals of Freeman, but all the ones I found seem to
be just hand-waving, with no substantive argument at the level of
his investigations.


Allin Cottrell
Department of Economics
Wake Forest University, NC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon Apr 30 2007 - 00:00:16 EDT