Archive:

August 2008, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Watch Gustav move in here.  (Watts says he will update the animation every half hour.)
- 1:39 PM, 31 August 2008
So far, Gustav has been a minor disaster for the US, but not a catastrophe.
In New Orleans, water was lapping at the tops of the levee walls, though officials at the Army Corps of Engineers said they still did not think the walls would be breached.  By 2 p.m. Central time, the center of the hurricane was more than 100 miles west-northwest of New Orleans, and about 35 miles southeast of Lafayette, the fourth largest city in Louisiana.  As the storm continues to pass to the west of New Orleans, the ongoing rain and winds are likely to pose a challenge to the levee walls.
. . .
Although some towns that had braced for the worst seemed to emerge fairly intact as Gustav moved over the region, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana warned that it would be 24 hours before threats of tornados and tidal surges had subsided.
So far.
- 1:29 PM, 1 September 2008   [link]


Is Joe Biden From A Working-Class Family?  Was his father a blue-collar worker?  Not by the usual definitions.
The facts are there for anyone who wants to look at them.  When Joe Biden Sr. died in 2002, his obituary in the News-Journal of Wilmington reported that when he married in 1941, "he was working as a sales representative for Amoco Oil Co. in Harrisburg."

It went on, "Biden also was an executive in a Boston-based company that supplied waterproof sealant for U.S. merchant marine ships built during World War II.  After the war, he co-owned an airport and crop-dusting service on Long Island."  Upon moving his family to Delaware, the News-Journal said, Biden "worked in the state first as a sales manager for auto dealerships and later in real-estate condominium sales."

Executive, co-owner and manager?  Those titles identify the jobholder as solidly middle class, if not better.  They fall in the category of white-collar occupations, not blue-collar.
Steve Chapman has more, but that's enough to answer the question.

These easy-to-obtain facts haven't prevented reporters from saying that Biden has a working class background, that his father was a blue-collar worker.  Chapman gives a number of examples, and it is not hard to find others, for example, here and here.

Reporters should find these facts easy to get right — but many reporters missed them anyway.

(Biden's father was, judging by the list of jobs, above all a salesman.  An enterprising reporter might find that an interesting avenue to explore.

Biden's father did work, for nearly a year, at one blue-collar job, when times were tough, but so have many others we would not consider working class.)
- 11:00 AM, 31 August 2008   [link]


Sarah Palin, Suburban Mom:  Since Alaska is exotic for most of us, and her town has a strange name, Wasilla, many have assumed that Governor Palin lives in some exotic Alaskan town.  In fact, Wasilla could be called a suburb of Anchorage.
Wasilla is located midway between the Matanuska Valley and the Susitna Valley, on the George Parks Highway.  It lies between Wasilla Lake and Lake Lucille, 43 highway miles (69 km) northeast of Anchorage, about one hour's drive, and about 10 miles (16 km) west of Palmer.  About one third of the people of Wasilla commute to work into Anchorage every day.
Or at least an exurb.

A suburban mom who attended public schools, unlike the other three candidates.  (Quibble: I think I would call the base schools that McCain attended when he was young "public", though he did go to an Episcopal high school.)

A suburban mom whose parents worked most of their lives in public schools, her father as a science teacher and her mother as a secretary. And her parents seem almost perfectly normal — for Alaskans.

Most Americans can identify with that background.

(Incidentally, despite all that space, Alaskans are not mostly rural.  More than half of them live in the Anchorage metropolitan area.)
- 3:47 PM, 30 August 2008   [link]


Mark V Tank:  World War I saw the first use of airplanes in war.  It also saw the first use of tanks, which were invented to solve the problem of trenches, defended with machine guns.   The British were the first to develop tanks, with the French close behind, and the Germans trailing both.

Mark V Tank, 2008

As the name suggest, the Mark V was the fifth in a series.  Most of the surviving earlier tanks are in eastern Europe, but this one, heavily restored, ended up in the Imperial War Museum.

By the middle of 1918, some of the British and French commanders had figured out how to use tanks, and tanks contributed significantly to the allied advances during the second half of the year.

(Winston Churchill backed the development of tanks.  At the time, he was running the British Navy, so the first tanks were manned by British sailors.

Here's a picture showing the six-pounder on the side of the Mark V.  Tanks with big guns on them, such as this one, were called "male"; tanks with only machine guns were called "female".

Here's the first picture in this series, showing a British field howitzer, another weapon for defeating trenches.)
- 3:12 AM, 29 August 2008   [link]


First Findings From The Annenberg Files:  The one sort-of executive experience that Barack Obama has is being chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which spent at least $110 million on the Chicago schools, with no obvious benefits to Chicago children.  Now that the papers have become available, we are learning how Obama and company spent those millions.
He [Stanley Kurtz] reiterated what I've said earlier:  CAC seems to have gone through $110 million to fund an educational program which two assessments — one by the Annenberg Foundation and one by an outside team — both found had accomplished nothing for the public school children of Chicago.  It is still unclear how and why Obama was made chair of the CAC, but so far it seems that former Weathermen bomb-maker and leader Bill Ayers picked him for the slot.

In any event, contrary to Obama's early efforts to brush off his relationship with Ayers through a series of false claims, Ayers applied for and got the CAC grant, was chair of the other collaborative group that closely worked with CAC, was present at board meetings and retreats with Obama, and was considered an "ex officio" member of CAC's board.

The CAC files show the organization funneled money to activist organizations and did so on ideological grounds, favoring applications that focused on ethnic identity and bilingual education and turning down grant proposals which did not.  Thus, CAC funded a Juneteenth effort by the South Shore African Village Collaboration and a peace school but rejected proposals by the Chicago Algebra Project aimed at increasing student achievement and the District 5 Math Science Initiative which was trying to increase the math and science competence of Hispanic youngsters.
You don't need to be an educational expert to see that the money went to the wrong groups — if, that is, Obama wanted to help Chicago kids learn.  The money went to the right groups if Obama was trying to build up leftwing groups that might support him politically.

Clarice Feldman has much more, including this point:  Neither the Obamas nor the Ayers sent their children to a Chicago public school.
- 1:52 PM, 29 August 2008   [link]


The Choice Of Sarah Palin:  When presidential candidates choose running mates, they balance two goals, to have someone who can help them win and to have someone who can be president, should that be necessary.  Very rarely, if ever, the same person is the best choice for both.

In 2000, George Bush leaned more toward the second.  In fact, I had thought for years that Dick Cheney would make a fine president — assuming he could be elected.  In 2000, Al Gore tried to balance the two; Gore thought Lieberman would help reduce the Clinton problem and would be able to be president, if necessary.  In 2004, John Kerry chose John Edwards to help the ticket, without much thought about what kind of president he would make.

This year, Obama tried for a balance, leaning more toward a man who could help the ticket than a man who could be president.  (I don't think he ever really considered any of the women.)  And John McCain did the same thing; Governor Palin is an impressive woman, but she is in her first term as governor and has no significant foreign policy experience.  It is true that she is far more qualified than Barack Obama, but that is setting the bar rather low.

This choice reminds us that John McCain is, among other things, a shrewd politician.  Assuming Palin can perform reasonably well as a campaigner, she'll be fine choice politically, for all sorts of reasons.  There's the obvious appeal, especially to married women, but there is also her solid record as a reformer.  And it doesn't hurt that she is quite attractive, comes from a middle class family, and is married to a union member.

(Incidentally, the frontier states, which Alaska still is in some ways, were the first to grant women suffrage — perhaps because they were more progressive in the true sense of the word, perhaps because they wanted to make women welcome.)
- 9:31 AM, 29 August 2008
More from Beldar, Wikipedia, and Althouse.  Beldar makes this point:
And although it hasn't yet been on a national stage, Palin has been an elected public servant, starting at the local level and rising to her state's highest office, since before Obama himself was ever elected to anything, even though she's two years younger than he is.
To which I would add this: Palin has more experience as an elected executive than the three other candidates combined, and more experience as an executive than both Obama and Biden.
- 12:28 PM, 29 August 2008   [link]


David Brooks Wasn't Invited To Speak At the Democratic Convention:  But, judging by his opening paragraphs, he should have been.
My fellow Americans, it is an honor to address the Democratic National Convention at this defining moment in history.  We stand at a crossroads at a pivot point, near a fork in the road on the edge of a precipice in the midst of the most consequential election since last year's "American Idol."

One path before us leads to the past, and the extinction of the human race.  The other path leads to the future, when we will all be dead.  We must choose wisely.
(He may have been re-reading some of Frank Rich's columns for inspiration.)

If Brooks had spoken, would the delegates have guessed he was joking?  Good question.
- 6:24 AM, 29 August 2008   [link]


Coincidence?  CNET reports, you decide.  (Not suitable for younger sprogs.)
- 2:38 PM, 28 August 2008   [link]


George Orwell Refutes Thomas Friedman:  I have been reading and re-reading Orwell's Essays, and so I was prepared for this Thomas Friedman column.

In a long essay on James Burnham's Managerial Revolution, Orwell discussed why English intellectuals had been so often wrong in their judgements during World War II.
The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it, and if one finds the prospect of a long war intolerable, it is natural to disbelieve in the possibility of victory.  But there was more to it than that.   There was also the disaffection of large numbers of intellectuals, which made it difficult for them not to side with any country hostile to Britain.  And deepest of all, there was admiration — though only in a very few cases conscious admiration — for the power, energy and cruelty of the Nazi régime.
. . .
And if one studied the reactions of the English intelligentsia towards the U.S.S.R., there, too, one would find genuinely progressive impulses mixed up with admiration for power and cruelty.  It would be grossly unfair to suggest that power worship is the only motive for russophile feeling, but it is one motive, and among intellectuals it is probably the strongest one.

Power worship blurs political judgement because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue.  Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible. (pp. 1065-1066)
Now, consider this passage from Friedman's latest column:
After attending the spectacular closing ceremony at the Beijing Olympics and feeling the vibrations from hundreds of Chinese drummers pulsating in my own chest, I was tempted to conclude two things: "Holy mackerel, the energy coming out of this country is unrivaled."  And, two: "We are so cooked.  Start teaching your kids Mandarin."
More cautious than some, Friedman quickly says that a two-week tour doesn't necessarily give one a full understanding of another country, but then continues with this:
China did not build the magnificent $43 billion infrastructure for these games, or put on the unparalleled opening and closing ceremonies, simply by the dumb luck of discovering oil.  No, it was the culmination of seven years of national investment, planning, concentrated state power, national mobilization and hard work.
Admiration for power and cruelty?  Certainly for power.  And Friedman doesn't say anything critical about the cruelty of this regime.  The belief that present trends will continue?  Friedman hedges, but seems to think that they will continue, at least in China.

Orwell has this to say about the motives of many intellectuals:
It is important to bear in mind what I said above: that Burnham's theory is only a variant — an American variant, and interesting because of its comprehensiveness — of the power worship now so prevalent among intellectuals.
. . .
Burnham, although the English russophile intelligentsia would repudiate him, is really voicing their secret wish: the wish to destroy the old, equalitarian version of Socialism and usher in a hierarchical society where the intellectual can at last get his hands on the whip. (pp. 1070-1071)
Those words, written in 1946, are too harsh to apply to Friedman, but a softer version, that Friedman wants to advise those who hold the whip, would not be completely wrong.

(Here's the Wikipedia article on James Burnham, with the usual caveats, and here's the full Orwell essay.)
- 2:08 PM, 28 August 2008   [link]


Bloatware:  Some consumers will pay to get rid of it.
Before they ship PCs to retailers like Best Buy, computer makers load them up with lots of free software.  For $30, Best Buy will get rid of it for you.

That simple cleanup service is threatening the precarious economics of the personal computer industry.

Software companies pay hundreds of millions of dollars to PC makers like Hewlett-Packard to install their photo tools, financial programs and other products, usually with some tie-in to a paid service or upgrade.
The computer companies, which are paid to install this "free" software, don't like what Best Buy is doing, but some users do.

(One of the advantages of building your own computers, as I like to do, is that you don't face this problem.  At least at first.  Many programs come with others in tow.  For instance, when I installed the software for my Panasonic FZ8, I got a program that checks for iTunes on Apple's site.   Since I don't have an iPod, that does nothing for me, except delay the boot process.)
- 1:15 PM, 28 August 2008   [link]


Economy Rebounds:  Second quarter estimates are revised upwards.
The U.S. economy grew at a solid 3.3 percent annual rate in the second quarter, much stronger than first thought, but many economists expect growth to flag as the year progresses.

The U.S. Commerce Department on Thursday said consumer spending and net exports were more robust that initially estimated and that inventories fell less sharply.  A month ago, it had said U.S. Gross Domestic Product had expanded at a 1.9 percent rate in the quarter.
The gain in exports was robust, to say the least.
Consumer spending, which fuels two-thirds of the U.S. economy, grew at an upwardly revised 1.7 percent rate in the second quarter rather than the 1.5 percent pace first reported.

Meanwhile, exports grew at a 13.2 percent annual rate instead of the 9.2 percent pace initially estimated.
The simplest reading of the data is most likely correct.  The United States came close to a mild recession in the last quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of this year, but is now rebounding.

(The Reuters story adds some negative comments, not all of them illegitimate.  But those who want to measure bias may want to compare the BEA press release with the AP story.)
- 10:51 AM, 28 August 2008   [link]


Barack Obama Is Trying To Suppress This Ad:  



There is only one claim in that ad that seems questionable.  They say that Obama "launched" his political career at Ayers' home.  In a sense that is true; Obama did begin his campaign for a state senate seat at Ayers' home.  But I think that it would be better if they had limited their claim to that, since Obama had launched his political career years before he first ran for the state senate.

Here's the story on Obama's efforts to suppress the ad.   His general counsel, Bob Bauer, is asking the Justice Department to prosecute those who produced the ad. And this is not the first time Bauer has asked that Obama's political opponents be prosecuted

For many years I have used "leftist" where most would use "liberal".  One of the reasons I do that is that a defining part of classical liberalism is support for freedom of speech.  A century ago, even a half century ago, you could not be a liberal and favor suppressing your opponents' speech.  But many modern leftists, including Obama, are all too willing to suppress political speech that they dislike.

John Hinderacker asks some good questions:
Obama's suggestion that it is illegal for a 501(c)(4) entity to fund issue ads that are negative toward him appears ludicrous.  Here's the real question, though: if Obama is elected President, will he appoint an Attorney General who will carry out politically-motivated prosecutions like the one he is now demanding?  I suppose we can't know for sure, but why wouldn't he?  If he demands criminal prosecution of free speech that opposes his political interests when he's a candidate, why wouldn't he order it as President?
One of the greatest defects in John McCain's career is his support for limits on political speech.   But this incident, and others like it, show that McCain, for all his faults, is better on freedom of speech than Barack Obama.  Not great, perhaps not even good as American politicians go, but far better than Obama.
- 9:09 AM, 28 August 2008   [link]


Friend Of Tony Rezko:  That's Barack Obama.  Friend of a friend of Tony Rezko.  That's Joe Biden.
No matter what help Barack Obama might get from Sen. Joseph Biden, his newly named vice presidential running mate won't give Obama much cover on the Tony Rezko front.

Biden has described himself as a 30-year friend of a key figure in the Rezko trial who's pleaded guilty to a federal extortion charge in Chicago and is awaiting sentencing.

When the Delaware senator began contemplating his own 2008 presidential run, he initially was helped by Chicago lawyer Joseph Cari Jr., who also served as Biden's Midwest field director in his failed 1988 bid for president.

In 2005, Cari admitted to taking part in an $850,000 kickback scheme that prosecutors say was part of a larger political fund-raising operation for Gov. Blagojevich overseen by Rezko, who was convicted in June of wide-ranging corruption involving state deals.
It's good to see that the running mates are compatible in this way, as well as other ways.
- 3:01 PM, 27 August 2008   [link]


Worth Reading:  Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat interviews Democratic Congressman Brian Baird, who committed an unpardonable sin.  He was right about the surge.

Brian Baird was lonely enough back when all his Democratic friends thought he was wrong.

But now that it appears he was right — that the Iraq war was going better, as he claimed, and President Bush's troop surge was working — the Southwest Washington congressman is even more of an outcast.

Read the whole thing, even though Westneat does not understand why many in the Democratic party opposed the surge — not because they expected it to fail, but because they feared that it might succeed.

It is odd that Westneat does not know this because every Friday he meets with three members of the Defeat Now! caucus, three journalists who fear that the United States (and President Bush) might win a victory in Iraq.

Still, credit where credit is due, to Congressman Baird for taking this stand, and to Westneat for admitting that Baird and Bush were right.  Westneat does not go all the way and note which presidential candidate was right about the surge, and which was wrong, but one can't have everything.   (Here's a hint for those still in the dark on that question:  Oddly enough it was the candidate with military experience who was right about the surge, and the candidate who knows almost nothing about the military who was wrong.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(And a debit, where a debit is due:  David Postman discusses the column at length, but is interested only in the political effects of what Baird said, how what he said will affect the Democratic party.  Postman never confronts the main point, that Baird was right.  As were Senator McCain and President Bush.

When Baird first took this stand, I commended his courage.)
- 2:24 PM, 27 August 2008   [link]


Personae Non Gratae In Denver:  The last two Democratic vice presidential candidates.   (Lieberman, who was pushed out of the party, would be even less welcome than John Edwards, whose transgressions we need not discuss here.)
- 1:50 PM, 27 August 2008   [link]


Not From The Onion:  But it could be.  Barack Obama is going to give his acceptance speech on a stage that looks like a Greek temple.

Luckily, no one thinks that Barack "Arugula" Obama is snobbish or pretentious.

(Details here.

I am no expert in such matters, but I would think that the most effective background would be patriotic, without being distracting.)
- 10:20 AM, 27 August 2008
More:  Classicist Victor Davis Hanson is not amused.
- 3:50 PM, 27 August 2008   [link]


Recession Still On Hold:  In fact, if anything, the economy seems to be improving.
The dollar amount of the durable goods orders — products that have a life expectancy of at least three years, like cars, computers and aircraft — increased 1.3 percent in July, matching a revised increase of 1.3 percent for June.  Analysts had predicted that orders would remain flat in July, citing the recent Institute for Supply Management survey that showed overall manufacturing to be stagnating, as well as concerns that a slowdown in consumer spending would begin to hit the sector.

Stripping out transportation, durable goods orders grew 0.7 percent, slightly better than expectations.   Shipments of overall manufactured durable goods rose 2.5 percent in July after a 0.9 increase in June.
The companies ordering all that transportation equipment must not expect fuel costs to keep rising as they have over the last few years.  (Though I suppose some of them are switching to more fuel-efficient vehicles.)

Consumers are more positive about the economy, too.  Or, more accurately, less negative.

(If the economy continues to improve, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and many others afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome, are going to be very, very disappointed.)
- 9:28 AM, 27 August 2008
More:  There were some interesting details in the report, which you can find here.  For instance:
Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods in July, up twenty-nine of the last thirty months, increased $6.6 billion or 0.8 percent to $824.4 billion.  This was also at the highest level since the series was first stated on a NAICS basis in 1992 and followed a 0.9 percent June increase.

Machinery, up thirteen of the last fourteen months, had the largest increase, $3.9 billion or 3.8 percent to $105.5 billion.  This increase was both the largest monthly percent change and was also at the highest level since the series was first stated on a NAICS basis in 1992.
Those both sound like good news for the economy in the next year.  Manufacturers have a record level of unfilled orders, and are ordering even more machinery to, I imagine, increase the capacity of their factories.  Unfilled orders are up almost 14 percent since a year ago.  You should probably knock off about 5 percent from that number for inflation, but that is still a healthy gain.
- 3:37 PM, 27 August 2008   [link]


Wishful Thinking?  The Seattle newspapers both praised Obama's choice of Joe Biden as his running mate.  First, the Seattle Times.

Joe Biden adds heft to the Democratic ticket and brings few liabilities.  The senior senator from Delaware gives Barack Obama some things he does not have: long experience in the nation's capital and a deep knowledge of foreign policy.

Next, the Seattle PI.

Obama's new partner is a solid choice, and a decent political figure, and, ironically, one of McCain's best friends in the Senate.  We like that because American democracy is well served when there is a healthy, spirited debate among friends about the direction of the country.

Especially when that friend is no damn fool.

And both newspapers excused Biden's plagiarism in much the same way.

Seattle Times:

Biden's name is often associated with two negatives: slips of the tongue and the plagiarism of a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock.  The plagiarism was long ago and nobody cares about it.   The slips of the tongue have had to do with propriety, not substance, and are a fault that for many Americans make the man more likable.

Seattle PI:

One rap against Biden -- that of plagiarism -- isn't quite fair.  It's true that in one 1988 stump speech, Biden, then a presidential candidate, stole the words of British Labor leader Neil Kinnock without attribution.  But, as The Washington Post reported at the time, "John Quinlan, a reporter for the Sioux City Journal, said his notes showed Biden said he was quoting Kinnock when he used the same passage in a speech Aug. 14."  This is a storyline that should be retired.

Both newspapers are wrong.  Here's what David Greenberg says in Slate.  (Which is not a conservative publication.)

But Biden's exit from the 1988 race is worth recalling in detail, because his transgressions far exceeded Obama's own relatively innocent lifting of rhetorical set pieces from his friend Deval Patrick, which occasioned a brief flap last February.  Biden's misdeeds encompassed numerous self-aggrandizing thefts, misstatements, and exaggerations that seemed to point to a serious character defect.

So there was more than one instance of plagiarism; there were "numerous" instances, going all the way back to law school.  And borrowing from Kinnock wasn't a harmless slip, because in some speeches Biden also borrowed Kinnock's biography, claiming, for instance, that he was the first one in his family to go to college, which was true for Kinnock, but not Biden.  Greenberg has more examples of falsehoods from Biden during that campaign.  Individually each falsehood might not seem serious, but together they raise serious doubts about his character.

I'm not sure why the Seattle papers made this mistake.  But both newspapers should run corrections.  And they might want to take a hint from my title.  Are they failing to get basic facts right because they are too committed to Obama, because too many people at both papers have stopped being journalists and have become Obama boys and girls?

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(For what it is worth, a far left British newspaper, the Independent, also likes Biden, but doesn't mention his plagiarism in their editorial.  They do say he has "straight-talking charm", which may cause some to chuckle.

There's some interesting background on Biden's plagiarism in this Jack Shafer column.)
- 3:50 PM, 26 August 2008   [link]


No Biden Bounce:  In fact, if anything a Biden slump.
It's official: Barack Obama has received no bounce in voter support out of his selection of Sen. Joe Biden to be his vice presidential running mate.

Gallup Poll Daily tracking from Aug. 23-25, the first three-day period falling entirely after Obama's Saturday morning vice presidential announcement, shows 46% of national registered voters backing John McCain and 44% supporting Obama, not appreciably different from the previous week's standing for both candidates.   This is the first time since Obama clinched the nomination in early June, though, that McCain has held any kind of advantage over Obama in Gallup Poll Daily tracking.
Rasmussen has a similar result.
Obama's support has declined in each of the last three individual nights of polling.  This may be either statistical noise or a reaction to the selection of Biden.  If it's the latter, it probably has less to do with Biden than Hillary Clinton.
As they say, it could just be "statistical noise", but I think it more likely that we are seeing something real, though perhaps temporary.
- 2:27 PM, 26 August 2008   [link]


Need A Quick Briefing On The Annenberg/Ayers/Obama Controversy?  Here's the best short explanation I've seen.
Although the press has been notably lax about pursuing the matter, the full story of the Obama-Ayers relationship calls the truth of Obama's account seriously into question.  When Obama made his first run for political office, articles in both the Chicago Defender and the Hyde Park Herald featured among his qualifications his position as chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a foundation where Ayers was a founder and guiding force.  Obama assumed the Annenberg board chairmanship only months before his first run for office, and almost certainly received the job at the behest of Bill Ayers.  During Obama's time as Annenberg board chairman, Ayers's own education projects received substantial funding.  Indeed, during its first year, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge struggled with significant concerns about possible conflicts of interest.  With a writ to aid Chicago's public schools, the Annenberg challenge played a deeply political role in Chicago's education wars, and as Annenberg board chairman, Obama clearly aligned himself with Ayers's radical views on education issues.  With Obama heading up the board and Ayers heading up the other key operating body of the Annenberg Challenge, the two would necessarily have had a close working relationship for years (therefore "exchanging ideas on a regular basis").  So when Ayers and Dorhn hosted that kickoff for the first Obama campaign, it was not a random happenstance, but merely further evidence of a close and ongoing political partnership.  Of course, all of this clearly contradicts Obama's dismissal of the significance of his relationship with Ayers.
(That paragraph might be better if it were broken up.)

We need to know more about this story, not just to see whether Obama has been telling the truth about his relationship with Ayers (almost certainly not), but because it will tell us much about Obama, his executive ability and his understanding of educational issues.  Being chairman of the board for the project is the only executive position Obama has ever held.  It would be good to know what he did, and how effective he was.  Bill Ayers's theories on education are extremist, and unsupported by evidence.   It would be good to know whether Obama shares those theories.

There's much more, but that will do for a start.

(Most of this Stanley Kurtz column is devoted to explaining how he was blocked from seeing documents from the project.  That has now been corrected, but not before many wondered who was hiding what.)
- 1:28 PM, 26 August 2008   [link]


The New York Times Gets Income Changes Wrong:  Again, or perhaps I should say, as usual.  Here's their story, but you should skip over that and first read Engram's correction, instead.  Here's how "Engram" begins:
The story is incomplete (and somewhat misleading) mainly because the reporter chooses to analyze the wrong set of data.  The data used for the story come from the Internal Revenue Service.  The problem with using those numbers is that you can only compute averages, whereas what you want are medians.
Read the rest of the post to see why, if it isn't obvious.

David Cay Johnston, the New York Times reporter, and Engram do not mention another factor: the effects of immigration.  We have had, as almost everyone knows, a flood of immigrants in the last twenty years, most of them poor and unskilled.  Inevitably, those immigrants make our income statistics look worse — even if everyone is better off.  (They also almost certainly reduce wages for other unskilled people by their competition for jobs.)

(There are some interesting bits in the New York Times story, but the piece is so badly written that it is hard to make sense of them.  I can't help wondering whether an editor did some of the damage by trying to compress the article more than possible.)
- 12:57 PM, 26 August 2008   [link]


Is Natural Gas A Fossil Fuel?  Not according to Nancy Pelosi.
MR. BROKAW: Well, I think most people understand that, but at the same time, if we work our way off carbon-based fuels, in the meantime, this is not going to happen overnight.

REP. PELOSI: No, it isn't, but you could--again, you could reduce the price at the pump immediately with...(unintelligible).  You can have a transition with natural gas.  You can have a transition with natural gas.  That, that is cheap, abundant and clean compared to fossil fuels.
I thought that might just be the kind of slip that everyone makes from time to time, but she repeated the claim a bit later.
I believe in natural gas as a clean, cheap alternative to fossil fuels.
And again after that.

Most authorities do think that natural gas is a fossil fuel, just like oil and coal.  (Hint:  Natural gas and oil are often found together.)  But some authorities think that some portion of both natural gas and and oil are not fossil fuels, but are abiogenic, at least in part.   I don't think that Pelosi was referring to this controversy; I think she doesn't know much about natural gas.  (If she did know about the controversy, one would expect her to mention it when she said that natural gas was not a fossil fuel.)

Partly I think that because Pelosi says so many silly things.

In any case, since natural gas is mostly methane, CH4, you get water and carbon dioxide when you burn it, less carbon dioxide for a given amount of heat than when you burn oil or coal, but still carbon dioxide.

(The Wikipedia article on abiogenic oil and gas confuses the two, in my opinion.  I think it plausible, given how ubiquitous methane is in the solar system, that a significant portion of the methane here on earth does not have a biological origin.  But it is harder to see how oil could have the same origin, though there are ways that methane and similar compounds could be converted to oil.)
- 4:02 PM, 25 August 2008   [link]


Maybe I'll Watch Tonight:  Usually, I avoid watching politicians give speeches, thinking it better to read the speeches later.  But I may watch tonight, because I am so curious about what Michelle Obama will say.

As you almost certainly know, she said some bitter things during the campaign, bitter things that seem strange, considering how she has prospered.  If I were running the Obama campaign, I would want to balance what she has said in the past with something more positive.  But I can't quite see how to do that, plausibly.  Be interesting, if you are fascinated by political tactics, to see what they come up with.  Perhaps they will just keep it personal, limited to her family.

(There may be some hints in this email interview.  Which I suspect she had some help with.)
- 3:21 PM, 25 August 2008
Update:  Didn't watch the speech after all, but it does seem to have been pretty much what I expected.  The speech might be effective for those who haven't heard her earlier comments, but would be implausible for those who have.

More here and here from Michelle Malkin.  And Paul Mirengoff makes an interesting point:  The speech was "pre-feminist".
- 8:41 AM, 26 August 2008   [link]


Jacob Weisberg Expects Obama To Lose:  We can be sure of that because Weisberg is already playing the race card.
If it makes you feel better, you can rationalize Obama's missing 10-point lead on the basis of Clintonite sulkiness, his slowness in responding to attacks, or the concern that Obama may be too handsome, brilliant, and cool to be elected.  But let's be honest: If you break the numbers down, the reason Obama isn't ahead right now is that he trails badly among one group, older white voters.  He does so for a simple reason: the color of his skin.
You can look at Weisberg's explanation, or you can save time by looking at James Taranto's refutation.  Or you can look at this matchup.
It's a good thing for Republicans that Colin Powell is still one of them.

Powell, the popular former secretary of state and chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, handily beats Republican presidential candidate John McCain in a one-on-one match-up.  This comes at a time when Barack Obama holds a very slight lead over McCain in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll.

Powell, the best-known African-American in the Republican Party, beats McCain more than two-to-one, 54% to 26%, with 21% of voters undecided.
It would be interesting to hear Weisberg try to explain that result.

(Not so paradoxically, some black leaders are worried about an Obama victory
Mr. Obama has received overwhelming support from black voters, many of whom believe he will help bridge the nation's racial divide.  But even as they cheer him on, some black scholars, bloggers and others who closely follow the race worry that Mr. Obama's historic achievements might make it harder to rally support for policies intended to combat racial discrimination, racial inequities and urban poverty.

They fear that growing numbers of white voters and policy makers will decide that eradicating racial discrimination and ensuring equal opportunity have largely been done.
Not so paradoxically, because some of these leaders have used the race card for years, and don't want to give it up.

For the record:  There is no doubt that some voters, of all colors, will decide to vote against Obama because of the color of his skin.  There is also no doubt that some voters, of all colors, will decide to vote for Obama because of the color of his skin.  If I had to guess, I would say that McCain might get a small advantage overall from those choices, but nothing close to ten percent.   Many voters are rejecting Obama for reasons that have nothing to do with his race.)
- 2:46 PM, 25 August 2008   [link]


Barack Obama Has A Half-Brother In Kenya:  Who is not doing well.
The Italian edition of Vanity Fair said that it had found George Hussein Onyango Obama living in a hut in a ramshackle town of Huruma on the outskirts of Nairobi.Mr Obama, 26, the youngest of the presidential candidate's half-brothers, spoke for the first time about his life, which could not be more different than that of the Democratic contender.

"No-one knows who I am," he told the magazine, before claiming: "I live here on less than a dollar a month."
(Possibly through his own fault, but that doesn't necessarily mean that his family shouldn't help him.  And it is simply a fact that opportunities are fewer in Kenya than in the United States.)

Glenn Reynolds suggests that John McCain help out by adopting George.

And, why not.  After all, McCain has already adopted three other children, two in his first marriage, one in his second.  It's one of the things I like about him, his willingness to take responsibility for children who are not blood relatives.  In contrast, Obama doesn't seem to do much even for those directly related to him.  I was genuinely surprised when, for instance, he finally visited his grandmother in Hawaii, with TV cameras — but without Michelle and the great grandchildren.  Every grandmother I have known would really, really have wanted to see the kids.

(I haven't seen a count of Obama's half-siblings, but there are a lot of them.  His father was, shall we say, busy.  And his mother had a daughter by her Indonesian husband.)
- 8:44 AM, 25 August 2008   [link]


Obama Coverage Was Embarrassing:  So says the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell was supposed to give "closing remarks" during this afternoon's Shorenstein Center-sponsored panel discussion with all three Sunday show moderators — NBC's Tom Brokaw, ABC's George Stephanopoulous and CBS's Bob Schieffer — but instead, he opened up a can of worms about bias in 2008 election coverage

"Ladies and gentleman, the coverage of Barack Obama was embarrassing," said Rendell, in the ballroom at Denver's Brown Palace Hotel.  "It was embarrassing."
And much of it still is.  For instance, here's the closing paragraph from a David Ignatius column.
It's a virtue for Obama that he seems to be above the fray -- so long as he shows the toughness and hands-on leadership to steer his party and the country out of what has been a dark, partisan period into something better and brighter.
Ignatius should be embarrassed to write that kind of nonsense.

If Ignatius wants to be serious, he might consider the first part of Obama's career, his time as a community organizer.  There is no secret about the techniques used by community organizers, at least those trained in the Saul Alinsky school.   They find (or create) a grievance and organize by setting one group against another.  In other words, they do everything they can to create a "dark, partisan period".

Or Ignatius might spend a few minutes thinking about the free trade agreement with Columbia.  Every serious person knows that the agreement would be good for the United States, and good for Columbia.   It is being blocked by Democrats for the darkest of reasons — and Barack Obama is one of those Democrats blocking the agreement.

(The Wikipedia article on Alinsky is almost worshipful, but it does include this key admission: "In Rules for Radicals, he [Alinsky] argued that the most effective means are whatever will achieve the desired ends . . ."  There is nothing in Obama's career to suggest that he disagreed with Alinsky then, or disagrees with him now.)
- 6:56 AM, 25 August 2008   [link]