In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review January 2, 2008 / 24 Teves, 5768

The caucuses are anything but a Norman Rockwell exercise in small-town democracy

By John H. Fund

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The trouble with the Iowa caucuses isn't that there's anything wrong with Iowans. It's the bizarre rules of the process. Caucuses are touted as authentic neighborhood meetings where voters gather in their precincts and make democracy come alive. In truth, they are anything but.

Caucuses occur only at a fixed time at night, so that many people working odd hours can't participate. They can easily exceed two hours. There are no absentee ballots, which means the process disfranchises the sick, shut-ins and people who are out of town on the day of the caucus. The Democratic caucuses require participants to stand in a corner with other supporters of their candidate. That eliminates the secret ballot.

There are reasons for all this. The caucuses are run by the state parties, and unlike primary or general elections aren't regulated by the government. They were designed as an insiders' game to attract party activists, donors and political junkies and give them a disproportionate influence in the process. In other words, they are designed not to be overly democratic. Primaries aren't perfect. but at least they make it fairly easy for everyone to vote, since polls are open all day and it takes only a few minutes to cast a ballot.

Little wonder that voter turnout for the Iowa caucuses is extremely low--in recent years about 6% of registered voters. Many potential voters will proclaim their civic virtue to pollsters and others and say they will show up at the caucus--and then find something else to do Thursday night.

All of which means that the endless polls on the Iowa caucuses are highly suspect. Iowans have been bombarded by well over a million political phone calls in recent days. They range from "robo calls" from interest groups touting one candidate or another to breathless teenage volunteers inviting the voter to a local coffee with some obscure relative of a candidate.

Smart voters tune all this out and screen their calls, making it difficult for pollsters to reach them. Even when they do answer the phone, many people refuse to participate in surveys. Pollsters can't call people who only have cell phones. So you get implausible results like last Friday's Los Angeles Times survey that found Barack Obama in third place on the Democratic side and Mike Huckabee running away with the GOP contest. The Times's pollsters surveyed just 174 likely Republican voters and 389 Democratic one, with a whopping margin of error of plus or minus seven percentage points among Republicans and five points among Democrats.

Iowa voters' allegiances are notoriously volatile. A new Associated Press poll of a large sample of voters estimates that 40% of GOP voters had changed candidate allegiances since November. In 2004, polls a few days before the caucuses suggested suggested Howard Dean would be a shoo-in. He finished a distant third, behind John Kerry and John Edwards.

Then there are the problems of reporting the results on election night. At least the Republican caucus is a one-man, one-vote affair where people write their preferred candidate's name on a slip of paper, and whoever gets the most votes wins.

Democrats have a mind-numbingly complex system in which participants divide up into "candidate preference groups" by standing up. No paper ballots are used. Those candidates who don't get support from 15% or more of those attending a local caucus are deemed not to be "viable," and their supporters have to realign with some other candidate.

"That's when it gets kind of crazy," says Mark Daley, a former spokesman for the Iowa Democratic Party. "There will be people screaming back and forth . . . and senior citizens with calculators trying to do the math." Only after all this are county convention delegates allocated among the candidates and the results phoned in to the state Democratic Party. Delegates aren't actually allocated until the Democratic county conventions in March.

Not all local caucuses are equal. The "entrance" polls of voter preferences that you will see reported Thursday night are likely to be from urban areas, which may shortchange candidates like John Edwards, Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson, who have campaigned more heavily in rural areas. "It's entirely possible that John Edwards could come in a stunning second when all the votes are in, but the country will have gone to bed thinking he only took third place," says Howard Fineman of Newsweek.

Rural Iowa matters for another reason in the Democratic contest. In order to encourage candidates to campaign in farming areas, state Democrats have tilted the delegate allocation so that rural areas are disproportionately represented in the final results. This sometimes can lead to bizarre results. As Roger Simon of Politico.com notes, "the turnout in some precincts is so small that a single family--let's say four people--can determine the winner. In other precincts, only one person will show up and win for his candidate by being the only person in the room." In small-turnout caucus meetings, ties are resolved by a coin toss or drawing lots. In 2004, four precincts saw literally no one show up to vote in the Democratic caucus.

There are other anomalies on the Democratic side. Some precincts use a different threshold level than 15% for the viability of a candidate. "Residency" rules are incredibly elastic. No one checks identification, and anyone who claims to live in the precinct is allowed to vote. In other words, very little prevents the unscrupulous (such as out-of-state campaign workers who have "lived" in Iowa for a few weeks) from having a role in the process. Each caucus also elects a "permanent chair," who can have an outsize role in the process. Ned Chiodo, who has been appointed temporary chair of his local caucus by the state Democratic Party, told Politico.com that a permanent chair "controls the flow of the meeting. You have influence. You may be able to pick up a vote or two here and there for your candidate."

All of these arcane rules, combined with the fixed time and place voters mush show up in order to influence the result, make the Iowa caucus a test of organization as much as actual voter support. "The candidate that provides the most babysitters or literally drives older people to the polls the most can have a real edge," Tom Tauke, a Republican former congressman, once told me.

Thus the Iowa caucuses are far from a Normal Rockwell exercise in small-town democracy. They may not be as bad as the "smoke-filled rooms" of yore, but give me a simple primary election any day. I can't wait for New Hampshire.

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JWR contributor John H. Fund is author, most recently, of "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)

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© 2006, John H. Fund