Archive:

August 2011, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Senator Al Franken shows us how to bring civility to our policy debates.
- 10:16 AM, 8 August 2011   [link]


Reality Is Nibbling On Professor Drew Westen:  The Emory psychology professor has a nice side business telling Democrats (and leftists generally) how to con the public.  (Or, as he would say, how to get their message across to the public.)   And so he can't help noticing that President Obama has not been notably successful in conning the public.

To his credit, Westen is beginning to understand that Obama has pursued poor policies (although Westen and I would disagree on why they are poor), chosen poor subordinates, and may not be qualified to be president — just as people like me said before the 2008 presidential election.

I'll skip over the poor policies, as far beyond the scope of this post, to give you examples of where Westen has come to agree with judgments that I made before the election.

Poor subordinates:
In contrast, when faced with the greatest economic crisis, the greatest levels of economic inequality, and the greatest levels of corporate influence on politics since the Depression, Barack Obama stared into the eyes of history and chose to avert his gaze.  Instead of indicting the people whose recklessness wrecked the economy, he put them in charge of it.  He never explained that decision to the public — a failure in storytelling as extraordinary as the failure in judgment behind it.
(Emphasis added.  And if you would like some examples, look at this list of Fannie Mae miscreants.)

Obama was a close ally of Tony Rezko and Rod Blagojevich during his Illinois political career.   He chose Valerie Jarrett to be a top White House advisor, in spite of her record.

At best, those choices show that Obama is a poor judge of people.  At best.

It was foolish to expect that he would choose better people in Washington than he had in Chicago.

Unqualified:
A second possibility is that he is simply not up to the task by virtue of his lack of experience and a character defect that might not have been so debilitating at some other time in history.  Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted "present" (instead of "yea" or "nay") 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues.
I like the honesty in that "chose to ignore".)

Reality has not bitten Professor Westen, but it has nibbled on him a bit, enough so that he has had to revise his picture of Obama.  I suppose we should give him a little credit for that revision, but only a little, since everything he has learned was obvious in 2008, obvious, that is, to anyone who did not choose to ignore the defects in Obama's judgment and record.
- 8:29 AM, 8 August 2011   [link]


Glenn Reynolds Thinks That Congress Should Give Hollywood What It Has Been Asking For:   Higher taxes.
Were I a Republican senator or representative, I would be agitating to repeal the "Eisenhower tax cut" on the movie industry and restore the excise tax.  I think I would also look at imposing similar taxes on sales of DVDs, pay-per-view movies, CDs, downloadable music, and related products.

I'd also look at the tax and accounting treatment of these industries to see if they were taking advantage of any special "loopholes" that could be closed as a means of reducing "tax expenditures."  (Answer: Yes, they are.)
That's an excellent idea.  If they want higher taxes — and many Hollywood bigwigs say they do — we should accommodate them.
- 7:31 AM, 8 August 2011   [link]


The King County Prosecutor Wouldn't Take The Case:   Dan Satterberg (or someone in his office) has more common sense than the Renton prosecutor, Shawn Arthur.

New information Friday revealed that the Renton Police Department's initial request for a criminal search warrant seeking the name of an animator who made satirical cartoons about the department was refused by the King County Prosecutor's Office.

The Prosecutor's Office said it refused the request in May.  Spokesman Dan Donahoe said there was "insufficient evidence to proceed" in the case.

It's my impression — and those more familiar with the courts than I am should correct me if I am wrong — that prosecutors ordinarily try hard to cooperate with police departments, that prosecutors usually give the police the benefit of doubt in close cases.

So the King County prosecutor must have thought there was nothing to prosecute — and the Renton police department should have learned from that refusal to take the case, should have dropped the request rather than go prosecutor shopping.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(It's a pleasure to see KIRO's Chris Halsne (or any other journalist) committing journalism.

Previous post here.)
- 6:38 AM, 8 August 2011   [link]


An Apology, And An Odd Claim From Joe Nocera:  First, the apology.
That anger reached its apex on Tuesday, when I wrote a column comparing the Tea Party Republicans to terrorists.  The words I chose were intemperate and offensive to many, and I've been roundly criticized.  I was a hypocrite, the critics said, for using such language when on other occasions I've called for a more civil politics.  In the cool light of day, I agree with them.  I apologize.
This kind of apology, if not unique, is unusual on the left.  (And not all that common on the right.)  Nocera should not have surrounded his apology with excuses.  Still, this is better than no apology at all.

That apology drew most of the attention in the blogosphere, but I was equally struck by this odd claim, earlier in the column.
In Texas, where I started writing about business, my views evolved further.  Businessmen were not the embodiment of evil, as liberals sometimes seemed to think.  Some regulations made sense, but others did not.  And so on.  I came to see myself as a pragmatist who favored common-sense solutions over ideology.
Nocera may see himself that way, may want to be that way, but much of the column shows that he has not succeeded in becoming a "pragmatist" who favors "common-sense solutions over ideology".  His ideology may be muted, but it is still there.

For example, he rightly puts some blame on Countrywide for the financial collapse, but never even mentions their partner, Fannie Mae, which did far more damage — all the while pretending to uphold values that Nocera cherishes.
- 8:09 PM, 7 August 2011   [link]


Who Is Most To Blame For That Standard & Poor's Credit Downgrade?  If I were to choose the top three, I would name the usual suspects, but in a different order.  Instead of blaming Obama, Pelosi, and Reid, I would blame Pelosi, Obama, and Reid.

Why?  For a number of reasons.  For example, Pelosi has never shown any sign of thinking that Congressman Barney Frank might not be the best person to lead the Democrats on the House banking committee (officially, the Committee on Financial Services).  With a different leader, some House Democrats might have been willing to consider the Bush administration reform proposals.

Similarly, Pelosi was simply unwilling to consider social security reform in 2005, even though Bush had campaigned on the issue, and won.

Either of those reforms would have made the financial crash less likely or at least would have reduced its extent.

In both of those cases, you can argue that the Republicans might have forced the issue in the House, where they had majorities in Bush's first six years.  But, as everyone should know by now, it is almost impossible, politically, to make such reforms, without bipartisan support — or very large majorities.  Bush had neither.

Why did Pelosi oppose reform again and again?  The simplest answers are the most likely; she probably does not understand, even now, how much our fiscal position has deteriorated, and she always puts her interests, and the interests of her party, ahead of the interests of the nation.

If you think this is unfair, take a look at how the deficits surged after she became Speaker, and exploded after Bush was no longer in the White House to check her spending spree.

(Note, please, that I am naming the top three, not the only three.  There is more than enough blame to go around, and it is easy to find Republicans, including George W. Bush, who deserve a share of it.)
- 4:18 PM, 6 August 2011   [link]


"Kit" Murray Began His Military Career In The Cavalry:  And ended it as a hot shot test pilot.
Arthur Warren Murray was born in Cresson, Pa., on Dec. 26, 1918, and joined the Army as a cavalry soldier in 1939.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, he volunteered for flight training.  He flew more than 50 combat missions in a P-40 fighter in World War II, before returning to the United States to be a P-47 flight instructor.  He became a test pilot, the first one assigned to the base that was later named Edwards.  He tested the Bell X-1A, X-1B, X-4 and X-5.
(Married men will love the story that begins and ends the obituary.)

And that kind of career, at that time, was more common than you might think.  Before World War II, there were many American officers who thought that there was still a place for the cavalry, partly because horses, unlike trucks, can feed off the land.

(What those officers missed was the ability of the American economy to supply fuel — and trucks to carry the fuel.   (For instance.)

But those officers weren't entirely wrong; both the German and the Soviet armies used horses on a grand scale during World War II.  Neither had our ability to produce trucks, so they had to rely on horses.  The Soviets even had cavalry divisions; they didn't fight mounted, for the most part, but the horses did make the divisions exceptionally mobile.)
- 12:42 PM, 6 August 2011   [link]


Would Cowboys & Aliens Make A Good Political Parable?  Note, please, that I am not saying that the makers of the movie intended it as a political parable, just asking whether a reasonable person might take it that way.  (And High Noon should show everyone just how easy it is to read a message into a movie, regardless of what the people who made it intended.)

Here's one way you could see it as a parable.  Which party's presidents get tagged as cowboys?  The Republican party's, of course.  (Try Bing searches on "Bush + cowboy" and "Obama + cowboy" if you need some evidence.)  So, if Republicans are the cowboys, then Democrats must be the . . . .  Well, I'll let you fill in that blank yourself.

If you see another way to interpret the movie, share it.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Here's the movie's site.)
- 2:28 PM, 5 August 2011   [link]


Is The Renton Prosecutor Abusing His Power?  Here's the story.

The Renton City Prosecutor wants to send a cartoonist to jail for mocking the police department in a series of animated Internet videos.

The "South-Park"-style animations parody everything from officers having sex on duty to certain personnel getting promoted without necessary qualifications.  While the city wants to criminalize the cartoons, First Amendment rights advocates say the move is an "extreme abuse of power."

(There's much more here.)

According to the story, the animations — I've watched only one — do not identify the police department or name anyone.  Some might see Renton's reaction as, in effect, a confession that there is some truth to the charges in the animations.

It would seem that the prosecutor, Shawn Arthur, has gone too far, and that the local judge should not have issued a search warrant.  But I would caution everyone that we have seen only one side of the story.  (And you should know that I am close to a 1st amendment absolutist, except on national security issues.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Those not familiar with the Seattle area may want some background on Renton.)
- 9:37 AM, 5 August 2011
Update:  Here's a little more from the Seattle Times, including the name of the judge who signed the search warrant, James Cayce, and here's much more from law professor Eugene Volokh.
- 1:03 PM, 5 August 2011   [link]


Bondholders Win, Retirees Lose:  That's what's happening in Central Falls, Rhode Island.
Central Falls, R.I., a city of 19,000 residents that filed for bankruptcy Monday, is a bondholder's dream.

Thanks to a new state law that places bondholders ahead of other creditors, Central Falls plans to pay investors the entire $635,000 it owes them in October.

Retired city workers might not be so lucky.  Instead of $296,000 in pension checks promised before Central Falls became the second U.S. municipality to seek Chapter 9 protection this year, the retirees could get only $196,000 in payments next month—a 34% cut.
Why did Rhode Island pass this law?  To keep interest rates down for other cities in Rhode Island.

We are, I suspect, going to see more results like this one in the next decade.

As far as I can tell, the retirement benefits for Central Falls employees are not absurdly generous — but they are still more than this poor community can afford.

(Among other problems, Central Falls had a mayor, Charles D. Moreau, who has been accused of massive corruption.

Here's that Carville quote about the bond market.

If the experience of Vallejo, California is any guide, lawyers will do very well out of the Central Falls bankruptcy.)
- 8:53 AM, 5 August 2011   [link]


Richard Bacon Would Not Amuse Queen Victoria:  Or anyone else with standards.

Richard Bacon is a BBC "presenter".  On a recent show Bacon recommended a comedy routine by Doug Stanhope (who is American, and is supposed to be a comedian).

Before you click on a sample of that routine, let me warn you that it is definitely not fit for sprogs, not suitable for most work places, obscene, vile, and hurtful to anyone who knows a disabled child.  But since Stanhope's main target was Sarah Palin, BBC presenter Richard Bacon thinks it's funny.

By way, naturally, of DB at Biased BBC.  DB thinks Bacon's taste in humor tells us a lot about the BBC — and so do I.
- 7:13 PM, 4 August 2011
Update: Presenter Bacon has apologized (though with the usual weasely if he "has caused offence to anyone" statement); "comedian" Doug Stanhope hasn't, in language that is inappropriate, as usual.
- 12:50 PM, 8 August 2011   [link]


Sensor Sizes And Digital Cameras:  Everything else being equal, the larger the sensor (physically, not in pixels), the better the picture, particularly in low light.  Yet few articles on the various kinds of digital cameras tell you how big those sensors are.  But Wikipedia does, and even gives you two simple diagrams so you can compare them.  I've borrowed the first:

Digital camera sensor sizes

You'll want to use that diagram, and perhaps refer to the Wikipedia article whenever you read an article comparing different digital camera types, such as this one from David Pogue.

It's an interesting article, but it contains this blunder, where Pogue compares an Olympus Pen 3, with a Micro Four Thirds sensor to a Sony NEX-C3, with an APS-C sensor.
The beauty of these camera models is that there's a nice range of lenses in every category.  The downside, though, is that they use a smaller sensor size than real S.L.R'.s. Micro Four Thirds cameras do beautifully in bright light, but in low light, they pretty much just go sulk in the corner.
. . .
This camera takes unbelievably good photos and 720p high-def videos, every time: crisp, vivid, glorious.  That, no doubt, is because the lenses are excellent and because the sensor inside is huge.  It's APS-C sized, the same as what you'll find in most S.L.R.'s.   It's much bigger than the Micro Four Thirds sensors, so it does fantastically in low light.
(Since the diagram doesn't mention it, I will.  The Micro Four Thirds sensors are the same size as the Four Thirds sensors.)

A glance at the diagram will show you that the Four Thirds sensors are smaller than APS-C sensors, but not that much smaller.  (Those with a mathematical turn of mind may want to calculate just how much difference the sensor size makes for those two, using the equation given in the article.)

So the difference in performance that Pogue found between the two cameras can not be caused only by the difference in sensor sizes.  Or even mostly by them.  (I may look for more professional reviews to find out what did cause those differences.)
- 1:29 PM, 4 August 2011   [link]


Is The "New Normal" Barack Obama's Old Normal?  We are told — mostly by Obama supporters in our "mainstream" media — that the "new normal" is continued high unemployment for years.

But that same persistent high unemployment doesn't seem to bother President Obama much, even as much as one would expect if he were worried about his re-election.

During his first two years, he made his top objective the passage of ObamaCare, and appears to have paid little attention to just how inefficient the Obama-Pelosi-Reid stimulus package was, measured by job creation.

And he keeps having to "pivot back" to job creation — which is, of course, a confession that he has pivoted away from job creation, a confession that he just doesn't find the subject very interesting.

All that makes me wonder whether Obama is judging our current economy by the standards of his old state senate district.  In the years that he represented the 13th state senate district in Illinois, I would guess that unemployment in the district never fell below 10 percent.  (I come to that conclusion based on the demographics of the area, and the current rate of black unemployment in Illinois, about 18 percent.)

So what looks devastating to much of the country may look normal to him.

(I don't agree with the "new normal" people, but I do think that to get back to a high rate of job creation, we will have to repeal many regulations, at every level of government.   And I am sorry to say that I don't think that will happen in many states and localities.)
- 10:59 AM, 4 August 2011   [link]


For Leftwing Journalists, It Was An Almost Perfect Rape Scandal:   Which might explain why they accepted it as true, so easily, even though it almost certainly wasn't.
A front-page story by James Risen in The New York Times on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008, reported on a "troubling trend" of sexual assaults committed by American employees of military contractors in Iraq.  The centerpiece of his story was Jamie Leigh Jones, who claimed to have been brutally gang-raped in 2005 while working in the Green Zone.

(Risen also interviewed other women claiming to have been sexually assaulted in Iraq and -- for journalistic balance -- their attorneys.)

Jones famously claimed that days after arriving in Iraq with KBR, then a subsidiary of Halliburton, she had been drugged and gang-raped by fellow employees and then held at machine-gunpoint in a tiny shipping container by KBR managers, with no food or water for 24 hours, as retaliation for reporting the rape.
Were any of Jones' claims true?  A jury didn't think so (and neither do I).  The Times buried that story in a single paragraph on page 13.
- 8:06 AM, 4 August 2011   [link]


I Hope President Obama Doesn't Do Any Negotiating With Arab Leaders In The Oval Office:  Because, if he does, he might make this mistake.

Which, the BBC tells us, would be horribly insulting.

Not that many Arab leaders don't deserve to be insulted, but it is almost always a mistake to insult a leader of another country, accidentally.

Come to think of it, I'd find that mildly insulting if I were engaged in a serious negotiation with the man.  And, you'll notice that no one else in those pictures is copying Obama.

By way of commenter Janet.

(All of those pictures appear to come from the White House.  In other words, they are pictures Obama wants us to see.)
- 7:19 AM, 4 August 2011   [link]


What A Great Plug for these mints!
Breath mints packaged in a tin can poking fun at President Barack Obama have been pulled from the shelves at the University of Tennessee bookstore after local legislator Joe Armstrong told store officials he was offended by the mints.
It's hard to think of a better way to increase the sales of Disappointmints than to have them banned by some humorless politician.  (FWIW, the bookstore had carried similar mints attacking President Bush, with no problems.)

(I'm not sure who makes them, but a quick search will give you several places to buy them on line, including Nation magazine.

Some will be reminded of how Harry Reichenbach claimed to have promoted September Morn.)
- 6:57 AM, 4 August 2011   [link]


Alinskyite Leadership Style?  That's what Stanley Kurtz thinks Obama is using.
Here's my take on the puzzle of Obama's leadership style.  Obama is still every inch the Alinskyite organizer.  He talks about uniting, even as he deliberately polarizes.  He moves incrementally toward radical left goals, but never owns up to his ideology.  Instead, he tries to work indirectly, by way of the constituencies he seeks to manipulate.
Even though the style is wildly inappropriate for the presidency.

(Here's Kurtz's Radical in Chief, a book I would recommend, with one or two reservations.)
- 2:19 PM, 3 August 2011   [link]


Taranto Corrects A Mistake:  Without noting that the original version was funnier.
"When Hillary Clinton ran naked through the White House" was the low point of the Clinton presidency, not the Obama presidency as we said in an item Monday.
Visualize the two and you'll see my point.  All right, don't visualize them, but try to think of a situation in which she was running naked through the Obama White House.
- 1:48 PM, 3 August 2011   [link]


Chávez's Horrible Prisons:  One of my (admittedly perverse) pleasures is finding examples of horrible governing in other nations, especially nations whose leaders are hostile to the United States.

Hugo Chávez's Venezuela gives me far more of those examples than I have time to post about, but from time to time one comes along that deserves some space here.

Venezuela's prisons are in horrible condition, over-crowded and partly run by gangs.  So horrible that inmates took over one prison for 27 days.  That finally got the attention of the Chávez regime and they brought in a new minister to reform the prisons.

Iris Varela has no experience managing anything, much less prisons.  But she immediately declared that many Venezuelan prisoners should not be in prison.
Today she says very nonchalantly that 20,000 of the 45,000 prisoners in the country "have all the legal conditions to be out of jail".  She talks as if she was an extra-terrestrial who just landed in Venezuela to solve the prison problem, not an integral part of the Government which has allowed this "small" illegality to exist.  I mean, the same people who have ignored for twelve years the crime problem, all of a sudden realize there are 20,000 people in jail who should legally be free.
Whether she is right or not, she is indicting her own administration.  If those 20,000 prisoners should not be there, because they have served their sentences or because they are innocent, then her regime has been treating them unfairly.  If she is wrong, then she is threatening to release tens of thousands of possibly dangerous criminals.

And she has, if I may say so, a rather light attitude toward an independent judiciary.

It deserves some space, whether or not you share my (admittedly perverse) pleasure, because we can find lessons in other nations' failures.  Again and again, Chávez has chosen subordinates who are loyal to him — but are unqualified for their positions.  And again and again, ordinary Venezuelans have paid the price for his choices.

(Incidentally, even if you were to accept Chávez's rather odd ideas about economics, you could run a prison efficiently, as more than one police regime has shown us.)
- 1:08 PM, 3 August 2011   [link]


Did The Debt-Limit Negotations Succeed Only After Pelosi And Obama Were Excluded?  That's the (tentative) conclusion I draw from this article in The Hill.
On July 23, they [Republican sources] claim, the White House called Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), telling her not to participate on a call with Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).  Pelosi informed Reid, who declined to participate, and the call was canceled, the Republican sources said.  (A Pelosi spokesman could not be reached for comment.)

Later that day, the four leaders met with Obama at the White House.  At one point, GOP officials said, the Democratic and Republican leaders asked Obama and his aides to leave the room to let them negotiate.

A tentative deal was subsequently struck, but Obama privately threatened to veto it, the sources said.
(Emphasis added.)

But aides to Boehner, Cantor, and Reid kept negotiating and eventually came up with a deal.  Vice President Biden came in on the negotiations at some point.

Note, please, the people who are not included in those negotiations, President Obama and Minority Leader Pelosi.  And there is that hint that even the White House thought that Pelosi would not be helpful in these negotiations.

(Caveat:  The article is based, as far as I can tell, almost entirely on Republican sources.  I don't have any reason to distrust them, but it would be good to hear the other side of the story.)
- 9:12 AM, 3 August 2011   [link]


More Evidence That Rare Earths aren't actually rare.
Elk Creek, Neb. (population 112), may not be so tiny much longer. Reports suggest that the southeastern Nebraska hamlet may be sitting on the world's largest untapped deposit of "rare earth" minerals, which have proved to be indispensable to a slew of high-tech and military applications such as laser pointers, stadium lighting, electric car batteries and sophisticated missile-guidance systems.

Canada-based Quantum Rare Earths Developments Corp. last week received preliminary results from test drilling in the area, showing "significant" proportions of "rare earth" minerals and niobium.
We can break the Chinese near-monopoly on rare earths — if we want to, or, some would say, if mining here isn't blocked by Green superstition.  (So far, according to the article, the usual suspects, the EPA, the Sierra Club, et cetera, haven't done anything to block this project.  But their policies come pretty close to opposing mining anywhere, any time, so they might well try to veto this project.)

(Here's the company's web site, which is a little too enthusiastic for my tastes, though I suppose that's common in the mining business.

And here's the Wikipedia article on rare earths, in case you want a quick review.)
- 7:54 AM, 3 August 2011   [link]


Michael Ramirez Satirizes Obama's spending addiction.

(If you are like me, you may need a hint on the pop culture reference.)
- 1:27 PM, 2 August 2011   [link]


Civility For Thee, But Not For Me:  Jonah Goldberg rants about the double standards in our "mainstream" media.

Sample:
So flashforward to this week. Tom Friedman — who knows a bit about Hezbollah — calls the tea partiers the "Hezbollah faction" of the GOP bent on taking the country on a "suicide mission."  All over the place, conservative Republicans are "hostage takers" and "terrorists," "terrorists" and "traitors."  They want to "end life as we know it on this planet," says Nancy Pelosi.  They are betraying the Founders, too.  Chris Matthews all but signs up for the "Make an Ass of Yourself" contest at the State Fair.  Joe Nocera writes today that "the Tea Party Republicans can put aside their suicide vests."  Lord knows what Krugman and Olbermann have said.
And all of this is acceptable to our "mainstream" journalists, all of whom would be outraged if Republicans and conservative journalists used the same language about Democrats.  (And are when that sometimes happens, or even when they are sure that it happened.)

Sometimes rants are appropriate — and this is one of those times.
- 9:40 AM, 2 August 2011   [link]


Did Barack Obama's Lust For Higher Taxes Kill The Grand Bargain?   As almost everyone knows, the debt-limit deal just "kicked the can down the road", just postponed the decisions that will have to be made to prevent national bankruptcy.

But, as most know, President Obama negotiated for weeks with Republican leaders in an effort to make a grand bargain that might actually have taken a big step toward solving our fiscal problems.

Why did that negotiation break down?  Because, Keith Hennessey says, Obama upped his demands for higher taxes in the middle of the negotiations.
The President backtracked in private negotiations this week, demanding bigger tax increases after the Gang of Six, including three conservative Republican Senators, released a plan that raised taxes more than the President had previously demanded.

Today's press stories treat this as a detail.  It is instead the key to understanding why the talks fell apart.
(Our "mainstream" journalists want higher taxes at least as much as Democratic leaders.  Both groups see higher taxes, eventually, as inevitable, so they find it hard to understand how important this issue is to Republicans.)

If you are a Democrat, you might discount Hennessey's argument after you noticed that he worked for President George W. Bush.   But William Galston, who worked for President Bill Clinton, came to the same conclusion.
But there are two other less-discussed forks in the road, the first of which occurred just two weeks ago.  If news accounts are accurate, the Obama/Boehner talks broke down when the president proposed increasing the revenue component of the grand bargain from $800 billion to $1.2 trillion.  Given what he ultimately accepted, $800 billion looks pretty good. (How likely is it that the new congressional committee will be able to agree on anything approaching that figure?)  To be sure, we'd have to know more than we do about the other components of the proposed deal, especially the changes in entitlement programs, to reach a solid all-things-considered judgment.  And it's not at all clear that Boehner's fellow Republicans in the House would have gone along with him on such a bargain, either.  But it has been widely reported that the White House shifted its stance only after the Gang of Six made its framework public.  If the bipartisan G6 was proposing $1.2 trillion in revenue increases, how could the White House accept less?  At the time, that must have seemed like a slam-dunk argument.  But it was too clever by half, and the White House ended up throwing away a chance to promote the president's "balanced" approach to deficit reduction . . . and, by the way, to drive a wedge into the massed ranks of the opposition.
The whole Galston piece is worth reading, especially for his conclusion that the Obama administration (and the Democrats in Congress) hurt themselves, again and again, by going for short-term political gains, instead of trying to govern responsibly.

If anything, Galston is harder on Obama than Hennessey is, perhaps because Galston's side lost.
- 8:24 AM, 2 August 2011   [link]


Democrats Want Higher Taxes:  Nothing new about that, as the architects of the New Deal could have told you.  But Democratic leaders have seldom been so honest about their lust for higher taxes.

Ann Althouse thinks that honesty is a mistake, politically, as do I.
I would think the Democrats would want to own some of the spending cuts, to pose as reasonably frugal, mature, and realistic.  Why cede all that to the Republicans?  I understand the preference for taxing over cutting spending, but this giddy enthusiasm?  Shouldn't you hide that?
Ordinarily, politicians who want higher taxes disguise that by talking about "enhanced revenues", or saving the children from evil tobacco, or making the country "fairer", or something similar.   At worst, they will concede that higher taxes might be a regrettable necessity in order to provide necessary services for the children, the elderly, and the poor.

But Althouse is right; many Democrats are openly unhappy because the debt-limit deal did not include higher taxes.

I suppose that we ought to give them some credit for honesty, even as we enjoy the advantage they are giving to Republicans.

(Bill Clinton, who does understand politics, gave us an example of how to talk about taxes, and still win.  During the 1992 campaign, he promised a middle-class tax cut.  After he was elected, he signed on to a package that increased taxes, including on the middle class.

But he was smart enough to say that he had really, really tried to give the middle class that tax cut, but the budget problems were worse than he had known before he was elected.  Some people believed him, and others forgave him as the economy recovered.)
- 7:29 AM, 2 August 2011   [link]


An Old Joke With A Current Point:  
A woman stomps up to the complaints desk in a large department store.  She goes into a long rant about the defective product the store sold her and ends by demanding a refund.  The clerk offers her a refund, but that just inspires her to continue her rant.

Finally, she stops for a moment, and the clerk asks her again if she would like a refund.

She stomps away, saying, "I'd rather have my complaint!"

And we've all seen people act like that, people who would rather have a grievance than satisfaction.

And the current point?  Some on the right would rather have their grievance than the gains from the debt-limit compromise.

That doesn't seem conservative to me, or even very sensible.

(If you need some examples of conservatives who would rather have grievances, you can find them here, and in many other places.)
- 2:51 PM, 1 August 2011   [link]


Vice President Biden Could Be a little more civil.
Vice President Joe Biden joined House Democrats in lashing tea party Republicans Monday, accusing them of having "acted like terrorists" in the fight over raising the nation's debt limit.

Biden was agreeing with a line of argument made by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) at a two-hour, closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting.
. . .
Earlier in the day, Biden told Senate Democrats that Republican leaders have "guns to their heads" in trying to negotiate deals.
And should be, in my opinion.

Why did Biden make those comments?  Partly, he was just echoing the party line, but I think he also may recognize that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner out-played Barack Obama in the debt-limit negotiations.
- 2:13 PM, 1 August 2011
For the record, Biden is now denying having said that, but his denial doesn't actually contradict what Politico wrote.  In fact, they agree that he was accepting what Doyle said, not originating, or even using "terrorist" himself.
- 3:57 PM, 1 August 2011   [link]


How Did Europe End Up With All Those Muslims?  In many ways, but in part as a consequence of deliberate "manpower export" from badly-governed nations.

V. S. Naipaul describes how it worked in Pakistan.  (And probably still works, with some variations.)
The business was organized.  Like accountants studying tax laws,, the manpower-export experts of Pakistan studied the world's immigration laws and competitively gambled with their emigrant battalions: visitor's visas overstayable here (most European countries), dependents shippable there (England), student visas convertible there (Canada and the United States), political asylum to be asked for there (Austria and West Berlin), still no visas needed here, just below the Arctic Circle (Finland).  They went by the planeload.  Karachi airport was equipped for this emigrant traffic.  Some got through; some were turned back.   Germans shoot 4 Pakistanis; Illegal entry.  This was an item in Dawn, sent from Turkey, on the emigrant route, and it was the delayed story of the humane disabling (men shot in the leg) and capture of one batch.

Abroad, the emigrants threw themselves on the mercies of the civil-liberties organizations.   They sought the protection of the laws of countries where the planes had brought them.   They or their representatives spoke correct words about the difference between poor countries and rich, South and North.  They spoke of the crime of racial discrimination and the brotherhood of man.  They appealed to the ideals of the alien civilizations they denied at home.

And in the eyes of the faithful there was no contradiction. (p. 101)
(Emphasis added.)

They appealed to our universal ideals, without seeing them as universal, as ideals that ought to apply to the Muslim countries they were leaving.

And though these emigrants recognized that economic opportunity was far greater in the West, few were willing to take the next step and admit that Western values may, in part, explain Western advantages.

(As you probably guessed, Dawn is a Pakistani newspaper.)
- 1:46 PM, 1 August 2011   [link]


What Should You Do If Your City Has A Problem With Corruption?   East Chicago is thinking of buying insurance against possible losses.
The city is shopping around for a so-called "crime insurance policy" to cover the behavior of employees, commissioners and other workers.
. . .
Eleven East Chicago officials have been convicted of financial crimes over the past decade. Two, former Mayor George Pabey and former City Controller Edward Maldonado, are serving federal prison sentences, and a third -- former City Councilman Frank Kollintzas -- is believed to have fled the country to avoid a similar punishment.
Since they don't mention party affiliations, one would guess, probably correctly, given the city's demographics, that all of those corrupt officials are Democrats.

Since the victims of this corruption are mostly poor minorities, it probably has not drawn much attention from our "mainstream" journalists.

(Despite the name, East Chicago is in Indiana, not Illinois, so Obama and his allies can't be blamed for this small city's persistent corruption.)
- 9:44 AM, 1 August 2011   [link]


NYT Versus WSJ On Debt Limit Compromise:  Our newspaper of record says that Democrats will just have to eat that Satan sandwich.
There is little to like about the tentative agreement between Congressional leaders and the White House except that it happened at all.  The deal would avert a catastrophic government default, immediately and probably through the end of 2012.  The rest of it is a nearly complete capitulation to the hostage-taking demands of Republican extremists.  It will hurt programs for the middle class and poor, and hinder an economic recovery.

It is not yet set in stone, and there may still be time to make it better.  But in the end, most Democrats will have no choice but to swallow their fury, accept the deal and, we hope, fight harder the next time.
The more rational editorial writers at the Journal say that the debt-limit compromise is about as good as can be expected, in these circumstances.
If a good political compromise is one that has something for everyone to hate, then last night's bipartisan debt-ceiling deal is a triumph.  The bargain is nonetheless better than what seemed achievable in recent days, especially given the revolt of some GOP conservatives that gave the White House and Democrats more political leverage.

***
The big picture is that the deal is a victory for the cause of smaller government, arguably the biggest since welfare reform in 1996.  Most bipartisan budget deals trade tax increases that are immediate for spending cuts that turn out to be fictional.  This one includes no immediate tax increases, despite President Obama's demand as recently as last Monday.  The immediate spending cuts are real, if smaller than we'd prefer, and the longer-term cuts could be real if Republicans hold Congress and continue to enforce the deal's spending caps.
Here's a tactical point, with a serious lesson:  The Democrats, particularly President Obama, came into this with a disadvantage because they had no detailed plan of their own.  A compromise between something and nothing is always like to favor the something side.

The political calculation behind their failure to present a plan is obvious enough; the Democrats hoped to force Republicans to accept responsibility for the tax increases that Democrats want.  That this was, to say the least, irresponsible, did not bother them.

They probably expected — correctly — that most "mainstream" journalists would not mention their irresponsibility, much less make an issue of it.  But they did not realize that their calculation was obvious to Speaker Boehner and to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In short, the political tacticians in the permanent Obama campaign underestimated their opponents, and are now paying a price for their irresponsibility.
- 9:19 AM, 1 August 2011   [link]


Satan Sandwich:  Emmanuel Cleaver, chairman of the House Black Caucus, does not approve of the debt-limit compromise.
And until we see the details, we're going to be extremely non-committed, but on the surface it looks like a Satan sandwich.
I've never had a Satan sandwich, am not even sure what would be in one (hot peppers?), but I gather that Congressman Cleaver does not think that they are good to eat.

As far as I can tell, the congressman has not given us a recipe for his own sandwich, has not presented a plan for solving our deficit problems.

(Congressman Cleaver is a Methodist minister, so he should know more about Satan than the average congressman.)
- 6:28 AM, 1 August 2011   [link]