Archive:

February 2010, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Do The Democrats Have The House Votes To Pass ObamaCare Through Reconciliation?  Byron York says probably, no.
The original House health care bill passed last November by a 220 to 215 margin.  But supporters have lost four votes since then.  Democrat Rep. Robert Wexler has left the House, and Rep. Neil Abercrombie is expected to leave this week. Rep. John Murtha died, and Republican Rep. Joseph Cao, the only GOP lawmaker to vote for the bill, now says he will vote against the measure.  That leaves Democrats with 216 votes, one short of the 217 it will take to pass.  (That number is one less than the usual 218 because of the vacancies in the House.)

In addition, it's thought that some number of Democrats who voted for the original bill will likely vote against the Senate version because it lacks the House bill's language on the subject of abortion (the president's proposed compromise doesn't help on that subject, either).  Republicans estimate there may be 11 such Democrats.  If there are, that takes the number down to 205, which means Speaker Nancy Pelosi will need to find a dozen "yes" votes to make up the difference.  It is widely thought that she had some possible yes votes in reserve last November, to be used if they were absolutely essential to passage.  Are there 12?  No one knows.
Sean Trende isn't sure, because he thinks that some Democrats might behave irrationally.
The bill passed the House 220-215. Jack Murtha has died, Robert Wexler has left Congress, and Anh Cao has changed his vote.  That puts the vote at 217-216.  The "X" factor here is the Stupak caucus.  There are purportedly ten Democrats that only came on board in November with the addition of Stupak.  Let's assume half of those are sincere -- and I think "they've added federal funding of abortion" would inoculate most of these members from the "flip-flopper" argument.  That puts the bill in a four-to-five vote hole.  Given the decline in the fortunes of the bill since November, and the fact that Pelosi almost certainly wouldn't have accommodated Stupak if she had many votes to play with in the first place, that should be the end of the bill (note also that few commentators who argue that it would be deadly to flip from "yea" to "nay" on the bill acknowledge that a few members will probably have to flip from "nay" to "yea" to pass the bill).

But that analysis assumes that we're proceeding on a rational level.  The history of this bill, however, has potentially singlehandedly ruined the careers of political scientists who have insisted that politicians are rational actors whose number one priority is re-election.  There's no way that Ben Nelson or Blanche Lincoln should have voted for this bill.  It was what lawyers in my old law firm used to affectionately call a "CLM," or "career-limiting move."  But for whatever reason, be it a genuine belief in the bill or a decision that voting nay would result in worse reprisals than would voting yea, they voted yes.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer sounds dubious.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says he hopes Congress can pass comprehensive health overhaul legislation like President Barack Obama wants -- but it may not be possible.

At his weekly media briefing, Hoyer said in such a scenario, doing something smaller would also be good.

A day after Obama unveiled a sweeping health bill, the comments from the Maryland Democrat amounted to an acknowledgment of reality: in a sour political environment, majority Democrats may not have the votes.
Hoyer is closer to the vote counting than York and Trende.

(There are also significant procedural hurdles in the Senate, which I may have more to say about later.)
- 8:08 AM, 24 February 2010   [link]


Another Mailed Ballot Goes Astray:  No surprise there you might say, if you have paid any attention to the many problems with mailed ballots, here and in Britain.

But this lost ballot shows that even sophisticated voters, even the mayor of Seattle, can err.  And that there is no immediate check, as there is when you vote in person, to prevent those errors.

Mayor Mike McGinn was an outspoken supporter of Seattle's school levies, which passed after Tuesday's special election.  But his own ballot didn't get counted, because it arrived late and through King County interoffice mail.

McGinn spokesman Mark Matassa said Thursday that the mayor dropped his ballot in an outgoing mail pile in City Hall last Friday, intending to send it through the U.S. mail.  For some reason, the envelope ended up at King County Elections headquarters in Tukwila via the county's interoffice mail system.

Since it arrived too late, and was not postmarked, it was not counted.

If Mayor McGinn has trouble getting the procedures right, then we should expect that less sophisticated voters will get them wrong even more often.  From time to time, those errors will add up, and will change the results of an election.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 5:46 AM, 24 February 2010   [link]


Is Too Much Salt Bad For Us?  At some level, sure.  (But that doesn't tell us much, since eating too much of anything is bad for us.)

So let's look at a policy question.  What would happen if food companies were forced to use less salt in prepared foods?  John Tierney looks at the evidence on that question — and doesn't come to a conclusion.
Don't worry, there's no wrong answer, at least not yet.  That's the beauty of the salt debate: there's so little reliable evidence that you can imagine just about any outcome.  For all the talk about the growing menace of sodium in packaged foods, experts aren't even sure that Americans today are eating more salt than they used to.
(Though he suspects that we would gain a little more weight than we would have, without the change.)

We have learned again and again — usually the hard way — that it is terribly difficult to get people to change what they eat and drink.  (For an extreme example, consider the case of Mrs. Beauchaine, who ate a hot dog, even though she knew it might kill her.)
- 5:05 PM, 23 February 2010   [link]


We Get By With A Little Help From Our Friends:  And sometimes with enormous help from many complete strangers, as Abayneh Adefris could tell you.

Abayneh arrived in October weighing only 60 pounds and carrying little more than the clothing he wore.  He's returning home 20 pounds heavier, loaded with 142 pounds of luggage (including clothing for his brothers), an iPod, a bike, and most important, a prosthetic arm and the skills to use it.  Those skills will make it possible for him to have an independent life — even at home in Ethiopia, say those who have cared for him during his stay.

Abayneh was brought to the U.S. by the regional chapter of Healing the Children, which is headquartered in Mukilteo.  The nonprofit matches children needing medical care with agencies, doctors and hospitals willing to donate it.

(Emphasis added.)

Abayneh was referred to Healing the Children by another charity with a similar name, Blessing the Children.  While he was here getting his new arm, he was cared for by a foster mother, Traci Grant.  All the people who helped him deserve his thanks; all deserve our respect and, perhaps, our support.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 3:00 PM, 23 February 2010   [link]


Much More On Bush's Bipartisan Successes:  From Keith Hennessey.  (Who may have reason to be biased, but is exceptionally well informed.)

At the end of this post, I mentioned that President Bush had a number of bipartisan successes.  Today, Hennessey expands my brief list, and adds many details (and some simple, but nifty, graphs) to the examples.

For example:
It should be fairly easy to see that the 2001 tax cuts were enacted by a center-right coalition.   Almost all Republicans supported the final product, and about 1 in 4 (Senate) or 1 in 6 (House) Democrats voted aye.

This bill was bipartisan largely because the Bush White House, Senate Majority Leader Lott and Senator Grassley worked closely with Democratic Senators Breaux and Baucus to craft a bill and keep moderate Democratic Senators onboard.  We used the reconciliation process, and therefore had 58 votes when we needed only 51 for final passage in the Senate.
Hennessey ends with advice for President Obama — which I am nearly certain Obama will not take.
- 1:25 PM, 23 February 2010   [link]


Taking Out Iran's Nuclear Capability Would Not Be Easy:  That's what Anne Applebaum says, and, as far as I know, she is right.  After putting in an excuse for Barack Obama, she continues with this summary:
The president will not bomb Iran's nuclear installations for precisely the same reasons that George W. Bush did not bomb Iran's nuclear installations: Because we don't know exactly where they all are, because we don't know whether such a raid could stop the Iranian nuclear program for more than a few months, and because Iran's threatened response — against Israelis and U.S. troops, via Iranian allies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Lebanon — isn't one we want to cope with at this moment.  Nor do we want the higher oil prices that would instantly follow.  No American president doing a sober calculation would start a war of choice now, while U.S. troops are actively engaged on two other fronts, and no American president could expect public support for more than a nanosecond.
She's wrong about public support, but she is, as far as I know, right in most of the rest of her argument.  You would have to know more secrets than either of us know — perhaps more than any American knows — to evaluate her entire argument.  But I am nearly certain that we "don't know exactly" where all of their programs are hidden, and that's the critical point.

(In the newspaper discussions I have seen about possible US strikes against the Iranian programs, military planners seemed to think that it would take a campaign to destroy their facilities, that we couldn't get them in a single strike.)

After making that argument about the difficulty of the operation, Applebaum then goes on the say — correctly, in my opinion — that we should be prepared for an Israeli strike, which would have many negative consequences for us — in the short term.

(Applebaum begins by saying that Obama will not bomb Iran, "not because he is a liberal, or because he is a peacenik, or because he doesn't have the guts to try and 'save his presidency' in this time-honored manner", but because of the strategic difficulty.  Actually, the two are not exclusive, and there is nothing in Obama's career to make us think that he would be willing to act even if the strategic problem were simple.)
- 12:43 PM, 23 February 2010   [link]


Norton's Plastic Money:  Yesterday, I received a rebate from Symantec for purchasing a copy of Norton Internet Security 2010.  It did not come, as you might expect, in a paper check, but in a prepaid debit card.

Why did Symantec choose to send me a plastic rebate?  (I'm assuming that the card must have cost a little more than a check to send out.)

I can think, offhand, of three reasons they sent me plastic money instead of a check.  First, they get a little bit of advertising from the card every time I use it.  Second, they may benefit from float, since I am unlikely to use it all right away.  (And may even forget to use it.)   Third, and I suspect that this is the most important, they may get information on my buying habits.

The affinity cards that are used by almost all the supermarket chains in this area show how valuable that information must be.  They cost the chains a little bit extra in overhead since they add a little complication to most purchases.  But the chains apparently consider the information that they get about our buying habits so useful that they are willing to pay for it with those cards.   And they almost force us to use them by tying the best bargains to the cards.

If Norton sees two of three of my purchases, then they would know much more about me, more, for instance, about where they might sell me more products, and more about where advertising might be most effective.  And I think that's the main reason they sent me this plastic money.

(Consumer tip:  In this area, there are regular sales on the Norton products, usually accompanied with rebates that makes the product almost free.  In fact, they often would be free, if it weren't for our sales tax.  I would suppose that is true in the rest of the country, though I haven't seen actual advertisements.

The Norton security suite is worth paying a little for, in my opinion, and in the much better-informed opinion of Walter Mossberg.  Mossberg believes that Symantec listened to critics of earlier versions and fixed most of the problems in earlier versions.  For what it is worth, Michael Reyes of Hardware Geeks agrees with Mossberg.  The suite has, as far as I can tell, worked well for me, though I use Window so little for work that you should not put much weight on my experience.)
- 10:51 AM, 23 February 2010   [link]


From Terrorist Mouthpieces To Department Of Justice Officials:  At least nine lawyers have made that transition.  Iowa Senator Grassley is trying to find out more about them; Attorney General Holder is stonewalling.
A number of lawyers who work on terrorist issues at the Justice Department represented terrorist detainees before joining the Obama administration.  At a hearing three months ago, Sen. Charles Grassley raised the possibility of a conflict with Attorney General Eric Holder.

Grassley, a senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, posed three simple questions: Who are they, who did they represent, and what are their duties at the Justice Department today?
. . .
Finally, last week, Grassley and his colleagues got a response -- they wouldn't really call it an answer -- from the attorney general.  Holder told Grassley that at least nine department officials formerly represented detainees.  (It is "at least" because Holder conceded that he did not make a complete survey of DOJ's political appointees.)  Holder confirmed that Katyal and Daskal worked on detainee issues -- something Grassley already knew -- but did not reveal the names of the other department officials involved.  He did say that they are allowed to work on detainee issues.
There may be conflicts of interest:
Some of the department's critics see things this way: There are lawyers who specialize in defending organized crime figures.  That's fine; mafia dons have a right to legal representation.   But should the attorney general hire a bunch of those lawyers to staff the department's organized crime section?  And if he does, shouldn't we know about it?
Attorney General Holder has assured Senator Grassley that these terrorist lawyers "understand that their client is the United States".  Now.  But at the same time he is unwilling to tell us who these lawyers are, and what they are doing.  It is almost as if he has something to hide.

(The mafia analogy is weaker than it could be.  Most of us would assume that most lawyers for mafia dons are in it for the money, that these lawyers usually don't have much sympathy for their clients.  But the terrorist lawyers volunteered to work for the terrorists, and there is every reason to think that they may have some sympathy for their clients, or at least some dislike for those who pursued the terrorists.)
- 7:00 AM, 23 February 2010
TigerHawk wonders how the Justice Department was able to find so many terrorist attorneys.   The answer, I fear, is simple:  Eric Holder has known many of these lawyers for years — and agrees with their general approach to the law.  (And if he didn't know them, he almost certainly knew someone who knew them.)

We should remember that Holder (and Obama) were civil rights attorneys, and that many civil rights attorneys — perverse as this may seem — saw representing terrorists as another civil rights struggle.
- 6:08 AM, 24 February 2010   [link]


Should We Warn Mrs. Reid?  Majority Leader Reid thinks that men who lose their jobs are dangerous.
Reid, speaking in the midst of a Senate debate over whether to pass a $15 billion package meant to spur job creation, appeared to argue that joblessness would lead to more domestic violence.

"I met with some people while I was home dealing with domestic abuse.  It has gotten out of hand," Reid said on the Senate floor.  "Why? Men don't have jobs."
Reid may be projecting and may be thinking ahead a bit, because right now it looks as if he will lose his job in November.

(Reid may look harmless now, but he was a middleweight boxer in his youth.)
- 5:13 AM, 23 February 2010   [link]


Worth Study:  This long piece from Fodeman and Book of the Heritage Foundation on controlling health care costs.

Three samples:
For overall health spending, [David] Cutler traces 51 percent of the increase to quantifiable factors, such as demographics, income, insurance, relative price increase, administrative expenses, and increases in capital and labor costs.  He attributes the remaining 49 percent to technology.[27]   Other prominent economists and health policy analysts, including Joseph Newhouse,[28] Paul Ginsburg,[29] and the Congressional Budget Office,[30] have also attributed about half the increase to technological change.
. . .
To look at it another way, in 1992, the referral regions of San Francisco and eastern Long Island had similar per capita Medicare spending, but their subsequent average annual growth rates were 2.4 percent and 4 percent, respectively.  Over time, these seemingly small differences add up.   By 2006, Medicare spent almost $2,500 more per person in eastern Long Island than in San Francisco.   This difference alone accounts for $1 billion in annual Medicare spending.  Overall, if the national average annual growth rate (3.5 percent) could be reduced to the growth rate in the San Francisco referral region, cumulative Medicare spending would be reduced by more than $1.4 trillion over 15 years.
. . .
It is entirely possible that all four proposed causes--increased prevalence of disease, the third-party payment system, technological improvements, and waste and fraud--are contributing to increased health care spending.  Indeed, they may be interconnected.  Today's health care system is fraught with perverse economic incentives that generate artificially high and rapidly increasing spending.
The Democratic bills, Fodeman and Book believe, would make those incentives even more perverse.
- 5:20 PM, 22 February 2010   [link]


Barack Obama Is Paying Off His Union Supporters:  With tax money.
As the Senate debates a jobs bill, it is worth knowing what Mr Obama's most powerful backers want.  Unions spent hundreds of millions of dollars on electing Democrats in 2008, and provided an army of campaign volunteers.  They expect something back, and Mr Obama is keen to oblige—up to a point.  Union leaders such as Mr Trumka and Andy Stern, the leader of the more moderate Service Employees International Union, are regular guests at the White House.  Mr Obama has revoked some Bush-era executive orders that unions hate and issued a few they adore.  He has appointed union insiders to top jobs, allowed Congress to add "buy American" provisions to the stimulus bill, risked a trade war with China to please tyre-workers, let other trade deals wither and brazenly favoured unions when bailing out car firms.

But his biggest favour has been green, foldable and borrowed.  For example, he encourages the use of "Project Labour Agreements" on big federal construction projects, whereby contractors must recruit through a union hiring hall.  Such agreements inflate costs by 12-18%, according to David Tuerck of Suffolk University, and were banned under Mr Bush.  Even where PLAs are not in force, federal contractors are obliged to pay "prevailing" wages.  That actually means something close to the union rates, which is nice for the workers in question but means that taxpayers get fewer roads and schools for their money.
And that fewer jobs are created for the money.

(The Economist begins with Richard Trumka, but does not mention his violent past.

By way of Greg Mankiw.)
- 10:15 AM, 22 February 2010   [link]


Barack Obama Should Have Paid More Attention To Rahm Emanuel:  So says Rahm Emanuel, speaking through Dana Milbank.
Obama's problem is that his other confidants -- particularly Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs, and, to a lesser extent, David Axelrod -- are part of the Cult of Obama.  In love with the president, they believe he is a transformational figure who needn't dirty his hands in politics.

The president would have been better off heeding Emanuel's counsel.  For example, Emanuel bitterly opposed former White House counsel Greg Craig's effort to close the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year, arguing that it wasn't politically feasible.  Obama overruled Emanuel, the deadline wasn't met, and Republicans pounced on the president and the Democrats for trying to bring terrorists to U.S. prisons.  Likewise, Emanuel fought fiercely against Attorney General Eric Holder's plan to send Khalid Sheik Mohammed to New York for a trial. Emanuel lost, and the result was another political fiasco.

Obama's greatest mistake was failing to listen to Emanuel on health care.  Early on, Emanuel argued for a smaller bill with popular items, such as expanding health coverage for children and young adults, that could win some Republican support. He opposed the public option as a needless distraction.
Is Emanuel right?  As a matter of pure politics, yes.  But not if Obama wants to govern as as close to his "leftist ideas and values as he can get away with".   Obama may have miscalculated on what he can get away with, but it is nearly certain that he believes in all of those choices that Emanuel opposed, unsuccessfully.

(Jarrett and Axelrod, and probably Obama, have another problem; they do not understand that what works in Chicago, or even Illinois, will often not work in national politics.)
- 9:44 AM, 22 February 2010
For the record: Emanuel is denying that he was the source of Milbank's story.  I suspect that Emanuel isn't the direct source of the story, and suspect that he is almost certainly the indirect souce.  Others, as you will learn if you read the article, share my suspicions.
- 12:40 PM, 22 February 2010   [link]


We Like Obama Less Now:  This Washington Examiner article tipped me to an interesting finding in the most recent CBS/New York Times poll.   The poll found that 46 percent of the respondents approve of how Obama is "handling his job as president" (45 percent disapprove), but only 39 percent have a "favorable opinion" of Obama (34 percent have an unfavorable opinion, 19 percent are undecided, and 6 percent say they haven't heard enough to have an opinion).

That 5 point edge is the worst score ever for Obama in CBS/NYT polls of adults.  (It was equaled in April 2008 in a poll of registered voters.)  By way of contrast, Obama had a 15 point edge (50-35) among registered voters in the last poll before the presidential election.

During the time that Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency had lost its popularity, he asked Averell Harriman why people didn't like him.  Harriman was old enough so that he could be blunt.  If I recall correctly, he told Johnson: "Mr. President, you're just not a very likable man."

More and more Americans are coming to the same conclusion about Barack Obama.  That doesn't doom his presidency, but it will make it harder for him to find support for his policies.

(I suspect that many in that 19 percent prefer not to say that they don't like Obama.)
- 8:32 AM, 22 February 2010   [link]


The More We Learn About Amy Bishop:  The crazier she seems.

For example:
Not long after Amy Bishop was identified as the professor who had been arrested in the shooting of six faculty members at the University of Alabama in Huntsville on Feb. 12, the campus police received a series of reports even stranger than the shooting itself.

Several people with connections to the university's biology department warned that Dr. Bishop, a neuroscientist with a Harvard Ph.D., might have booby-trapped the science building with some sort of "herpes bomb," police officials said, designed to spread the dangerous virus.
Even though the New York Times does leave out her leftist political views, which also seem to have been strange.
Considering the politics of Bishop's ressentiment might have helped fill out the Times' portrait of a psychopathic time bomb who had already gone off several times in her disordered life on her way to the Big Explosion on February 12 in Huntsville.  There is no doubt, as the blogosphere has already noted, that the paper would have pursued even the vaguest hint that Bishop had been a fan of Glenn Beck or was a Tea Party fellow traveler as a major story line.  For the Grey Lady, only the politics of the Right is personal.
I agree with Peter Collier that the Times would have found her political views of interest if she could be connected to conservative candidates or causes.

(For the record:  I don't think that Bishop's support of leftist causes tell us anything about the validity of those causes.  In a nation with tens of millions of voters, every significant cause will have at least a few embarrassing supporters.

And every significant candidate.  A little bit of thought will show you that, in 2008, John McCain had the support of a few murderers, rapists, thieves, and other low lives — and so did Barack Obama.  Finding one of these criminals shows us almost nothing about either man, or their causes.)
- 5:37 AM, 22 February 2010   [link]


Toyota Is Unlikely To Be Hiring Soon — In The US:  For some reason, the company thinks our majority party is not friendly to industry.
Internal Toyota documents derided the Obama administration and Democratic Congress as "activist" and "not industry friendly," a revelation that comes days before the giant automaker's top executives testify on Capitol Hill amid a giant recall.

According to a presentation obtained under subpoena by the House Oversight and Government Relations committee, Toyota referred to the "changing political environment" as one of its main challenges and anticipated a "more challenging regulatory" environment under the Obama administration's purview.
I can't imagine where Toyota could have gotten such an idea.

(More than one person has been wondering whether the Obama administration sees Toyota as a competitor to their own "Government Motors", to GM and Chrysler.  I haven't come to that conclusion, mostly because incompetence explanations are so much more likely to be true than conspiracy explanations.   Especially with this administration.)
- 5:05 AM, 22 February 2010   [link]


Was Joseph Stack Right About Section 1706?  Before Stack flew his airplane into an IRS office, he posted a long complaint on the internet.  A central part of that complaint was his anger at the way "Section 1706" of the tax code had affected him.

It should go without saying — but I will say it anyway:  Even if that section of the tax code is evil, you still should not kill an innocent IRS agent over it.  That said, let's turn to the section.

In this New York Times article, reporter David Cay Johnston makes a strong argument that the section is unfair.
The law, known as Section 1706 of the 1986 Tax Reform Act, made it extremely difficult for information technology professionals to work as self-employed individuals, forcing most to become company employees.

Many software engineers and other such professionals say that the law denies them the opportunity to become wealthy entrepreneurs and that it makes it harder to increase and refine their skills, eventually diminishing their income.
One of the authorities Johnston cites, Harvey Shulman, follows that up with a vigorous attack on the section.
The story of Section 1706 is a curious one.  Most American workers perform jobs as either employees or "self-employed" workers of a company — that is, independent contractors.  Yet the common-law test used by the I.R.S. to determine who is an actual employee is vague and unpredictable.  The determination is often made years after a worker is hired, during an audit of the company.

If the I.R.S. determines that a self-employed worker should have been an employee, it imposes substantial back taxes, penalties and interest on the hiring company — even if the self-employed worker fully paid his taxes.

That hazy situation led Congress in 1978 to adopt an alternative test — the so-called "safe haven" rule codified under Section 530. Under this rule, if a company has a "reasonable basis" to treat a worker as self-employed, has filed I.R.S. Form 1099 to report its payment to the worker, and has consistently treated similar workers the same way, then the company would not be required to pay more taxes or withhold taxes from the worker's paychecks.
Except that 530 did not apply to many technology professionals, who were explicitly excluded, just as Stack said in his suicide note.

Since this change, the author of Section 1706, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, came to believe it was a mistake, as did many other senators.  But it has stayed on the books, more through inertia than anything else, as far as I can tell.

So, yes, Stack probably was right about Section 1706.

(How should Stack have made his protest?  Since tax bills must originate in the House, he should have directed his protest to the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, currently Charles Rangel.  It is true that Rangel has not always paid as close attention as one would like to his own taxes, but his current difficulties might make him more receptive to other peoples' problems.

If Stack had asked me how to protest, I would have suggested that he borrow techniques from the civil rights movement, perhaps sitting in at Rangel's office, or something similar.

For some reason, Mickey Kaus, who often criticizes Moynihan, missed this one, at least so far.)
- 6:13 PM, 21 February 2010   [link]


Some Trees In This Area Think It's Spring:  

February blossoms

The same warm weather that has caused so many problems for the Vancouver Olympics is giving people in the Seattle area a chance to get out and enjoy an early (and possibly false) spring.

To my friends who are not enjoying similar weather, I can only offer this consolation:  Sunny weather is less common in this area than we would like, especially in winter.

(There may be losses to the farmers in this area from this burst of warm weather.  Some berries have started growing earlier than they should have, and the tulips to the north are getting started too soon for the famous festival.)
- 12:45 PM, 19 February 2010   [link]


Should Mothers Of Young Children Be Sent Off To War?  Mary Eberstadt doesn't think so.   (Nor do I.)
In November 2009, one of the uglier fruits of the current practice of seeding mothers into the American military burst briefly onto the national stage.  Ordered to Afghanistan from Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia, an Army cook named Alexis Hutchinson refused to go.  A 21-year-old single mother, she explained that there was no one to care for her infant son because initial plans to leave him with her own mother had fallen through.

What happened next should disturb anyone who has so far succeeded in ignoring the fact that the United States now sends soldier-mothers off to war.  Specialist Hutchinson was arrested and threatened with court martial and her son was temporarily placed in foster care — because, as the Fort Stewart spokesman explained, the 30-day extension that she had been granted was "plenty of time" to find some other babysitter for that ten-month-old while the only parent seemingly present in his life went off to Afghanistan.
In the early part of World War II, the United States exempted fathers from the draft because we thought they were too important to their children.  During the Kennedy administration, fathers were again exempted from the draft, for similar reasons.  (And because, thanks to the baby boom, we had so many young men available for the draft.)

Now, we send mothers of young children off to war.  Sometimes young, single mothers.

In my view — and you can call me a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal for holding this opinion, if you wish — we should not send young mothers off to war.  (With a few exceptions for those who volunteer.)

Any elected official who says that Alexis Hutchison should not be sent to war, anyone who says something that sensible, would be attacked by feminists for being anti-woman, though I suspect most women would agree with Eberstadt on this question.

(Eberstadt is probably best known for her politically incorrect book, Home-Alone America, in which she argues that kids are better off when parents spend more time with them.)
- 9:59 AM, 19 February 2010   [link]


British Fireman Breaks Rules, Saves Dog:  And gets investigated.

Remember the British policemen who stood on the bank of a river, rather than attempting to rescue a five-year-old girl trapped in a car?  Well, now we know what would have happened to those policemen if they had broken the rules.
A fireman who saved a pet dog from a frozen pond is now facing disciplinary action for allegedly breaching healthy and safety rules.

Stevie Logan rescued a cocker spaniel called Matt who ran on to ice and then become trapped in the water.

The 42-year-old jumped into a nearby canoe and paddled out to the distressed animal, encouraging it to swim towards a ladder other firemen had laid across the ice.
Nothing in that description and picture suggests that Logan risked his own life, or even the dog's life.

But rules are rules, and Logan is in trouble.
- 9:28 AM, 19 February 2010   [link]


Obama Is Achieving Bipartisanship:  Though not necessarily in the way most would use the word.  On issue after issue, he is uniting Republicans with dissident Democrats.
If his goal is truly bipartisanship, President Obama should relax.  On his major policy initiatives, he's achieved it.  Democrats have successfully reached across the aisle to work with Republicans to oppose initiatives such as cap-and-trade, health care reform, and now the administration's handling of terror suspects' trials.
This is, as any political scientist could tell you, exactly what one would expect when a Democratic president tries to govern almost entirely from the left.  Which is what I predicted Obama would do in July, 2008:
Briefly, I think that Obama will govern as close to his leftist ideas and values as he can get away with.  Note that I am not saying that Obama will govern as far to the left as he can.  In his Chicago neighborhood, Hyde Park, Obama is a moderate, and it would be easy to find people there who would govern much farther to the left than he would.   But, relative to the country as a whole, Obama is on the left and, on some issues, on the far left.
The phrase "as he can get away with" is the key qualifier.  And it helps explain the narrow margins on so many of the votes on his programs.  Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are going as far left as they think they can get away with — and sometimes miscalculate.  (And if that means sacrificing a few "Blue Dog" Democrats in this year's election, well, that's just the price of progress, as they see it.)

As a clever politician, Obama understands that most swing voters do not like partisanship, so he often praises bipartisanship while pursuing a partisan agenda.  And he appoints token moderate Republicans to his administration, Robert Gates at Defense, Ray LaHood at Transportation, and Army Secretary John McHugh.  (The McHugh appointment had a bonus for Obama; a Democrat managed to win his seat in a special election, thanks to the incompetence of the district Republican party.)

In contrast, President George W. Bush achieved bipartisanship by winning Democratic support for his most important proposals, his tax cuts, "No Child Left Behind", the Medicare drug benefit, and the liberation of Iraq.  Democrats turned against him not because all of them opposed his policies, but because he lost public support.
- 9:03 AM, 19 February 2010   [link]


Thoughts On Sarah Palin:  From George Will and Dorothy Rabinowitz.  Both are generally sympathetic to Palin; neither is sure that she is ready for the presidency.

That, as it happens, is my position, though I am sure that she is readier for the presidency than Barack Obama was (and perhaps is).  (And I said so during the 2008 campaign.)

Will makes a general case:
Yet Sarah Palin, who with 17 months remaining in her single term as Alaska's governor quit the only serious office she has ever held, is obsessively discussed as a possible candidate in 2012.   Why?  She is not going to be president and will not be the Republican nominee unless the party wants to lose at least 44 states.
. . .
The latest Post-ABC News poll shows that 71 percent of Americans — including 52 percent of Republicans — think she is not qualified to be president.

This is not her fault.  She is what she is, and what she is merits no disdain.  She is feisty and public-spirited, and millions of people vibrate like tuning forks to her rhetoric.   When she was suddenly forced to take a walk on the highest wire in America's political circus, she showed grit.

She also showed that grit is no substitute for seasoning.
Rabinowitz argues that Palin has been lucky in her enemies, and then ends with a troubling Palin endorsement:
Though it hasn't attracted wide attention, nothing Mrs. Palin has done recently has been worthier of notice than her endorsement of Rand Paul, now running in Kentucky's GOP senate primary.  Dr. Paul, an opthamologist and radical libertarian, holds views on national security and defense that have much in common with those of the far left.  Not to mention those of the considerable body of conspiracy theorists, antigovernment zealots, 9/11 truthers, and assorted other cadres of the obsessed and deranged who flocked to the presidential candidacy of his father Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas.

Rand Paul has indicated, in interviews on his policies—these so shrouded in ambiguity as to require expertise of the sort that cracked the Enigma code—that some of his views differ from that of his father.  No surprise, that.  Ron Paul, it will be remembered, has said repeatedly that the United States had given Osama bin Laden good cause to attack us, which bin Laden himself had explained.  Bin Laden, Ron Paul opined, was no doubt "bad" but "he's not known to be a liar."

Rand Paul, who offers no opinion on his father's touching faith in bin Laden's devotion to truth, says only that his father's statements have been misunderstood.  On one or two things his own views are clear: He stands opposed to the Patriot Act and he wants to cut defense spending.
(Actually, as every serious person knows, bin Laden is an habitual liar.)

We have now seen what happens when we choose, as president, an inexperienced man who appealed to the more extreme in his party.  (Ed Morrissey has a regular feature at Hot Air, the Obamateurism of the Day.  It's appropriate.)   Barack Obama's failures over the last year should make us less likely to choose Palin for the presidency, since she is an inexperienced woman who appeals to the more extreme in her party.    Though more experienced and less extreme than Obama, Palin still has much to learn before she should run for the presidency.

Who would I prefer?  Someone with more executive experience.  Other than being president, the best preparation is being a successful governor.  Three Republican governors come to mind immediately, Mitt Romney, despite his too-great flexibility on issues, Tim Pawlenty, who has shown he can get elected in Minnesota, and my favorite, Mitch Daniels.

(I don't condemn John McCain for choosing her as a running mate.  McCain was behind and took a gamble, which worked out well in the short run.  It might have worked out well in the long run if McCain had prepared the press for his choice, and if some on McCain's staff had not been working so hard, and so disloyally, to undermine Palin.)
- 3:34 PM, 18 February 2010   [link]


Palling Around With Marxist Radicals?  According to political scientist John Drew, that's what Barack Obama did while he was at Occidental.
My most vivid memory of my time visiting with Obama was the way he strongly argued a rather simple-minded version of Marxist theory.  I remember he was passionate about his point of view.  As I remember, he was articulating the same Marxist theory taught by various professors at Occidental College.  Based on my more detailed studies at Cornell, I remember I made a strong argument that his Marxist ideas were not in line with contemporary reality — particularly the practical experience of Western Europe.
And continued to do so after he had established himself in Chicago
Nevertheless, I think my experience with the young Barack Obama is useful evidence of why he was able to win the trust and support of Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn and Alice Palmer.  In 1995, Alice Palmer represented the state of Illinois' 13th District.  After she decided to run for Congress she named Obama as her hand-picked successor.  Palmer's extremist ideology is evident in an article she wrote for the Communist Party USA's newspaper, the People's Daily World, now the People's Weekly World in June, 1986.  Amazingly, it detailed her experience at the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
In short, Obama was able to win their trust and support because he could speak their language.   Did Obama believe what he said?  Almost certainly he did while he was at Occidental.   Later, in Chicago?  To some extent, probably.  Now?  We don't really know.

But I will give you my best guess.  I think that he has changed from his college days, but not completely.  In other words, he is like most of us.  Almost all of us change as we grow older and more experienced, but few of us change completely.  Most likely, Obama still has at least a few of the beliefs he held when he was attending Occidental, and when he was getting established in Chicago.  And if I had to guess which beliefs, I would guess that they are the beliefs currently fashionable in his old neighborhood, Hyde Park.

By way of Rick Moran.

(In October 2008, I described the radical background of Obama's mentor, Alice Palmer.)
- 9:23 AM, 18 February 2010   [link]


Duke University Should Offer Crystal Gale Mangum A Faculty Position:   Who is Crystal Gale Mangum?  Well, she became famous for having a small disagreement with the Duke lacrosse team, and is now in the news again.
Durham police arrested Duke lacrosse accuser Crystal Gale Mangum, 33, late Wednesday after she allegedly assaulted her boyfriend, set his clothes on fire in a bathtub and threatened to stab him.

Authorities charged her with attempted first-degree murder, five counts of arson, assault and battery, communicating threats, three counts of misdemeanor child abuse, injury to personal property, identity theft and resisting a public officer.
Why should Duke hire her?  Because, given her race and sex, we know that she is a victim of oppression, and if you don't believe me, just ask Duke's Gang of 88.

Mangum would bring more "diversity" to the Duke campus, and, as we all know, there is no greater virtue at a modern American university.

(Her minor legal problems?  They are, undoubtedly, a result of oppression.  Duke should hire a team of lawyers to take care of them.)
- 7:56 AM, 18 February 2010   [link]


This Change Isn't Surprising:  But it is mildly surprising to see CBS reporting it.  (If only in a blog post.)
The cheery image of former President George W. Bush appeared on a billboard in Minnesota earlier this month, next to the words, "Miss me yet?" It appears a lot of people think it's a fair question.

The online store CafePress saw a spike in demand for items featuring the same image as the billboard, the New York Daily News reports.  Ten "Miss Me Yet?" items were on the company's list of its top-selling designs, CafePress spokeswoman Jenna Martin told the Daily News.
Yes, I miss him, though I probably won't be ordering any of those items.
- 7:07 AM, 18 February 2010
If you want to order one, here's the web site.  As I said, I won't be ordering any of them, but I was rather taken with this bumper sticker, which makes a general case against Barack Obama rather effectively.  And if I didn't have to drive in Seattle from time to time, I might consider ordering it.  But displaying one in Seattle wouldn't be prudent.
- 12:41 PM, 18 February 2010   [link]


Hope And More Than Spare Change:  It doesn't hurt to have both if you want a position in Obama's administration.
Given this, it's a little surprising to learn that Obama has not only embraced the sordid money-driven culture of DC, but actually outdone his predecessors.  An analysis by the American Foreign Service Association, for example, found that Obama has stuffed the diplomatic corps with more political appointees (i.e., cronies) than any president in the past 40 years.  Only a year into the administration, close of half of the president's biggest donors already have federal jobs.
Actually, it's not surprising — to anyone who takes a moment to remember that Obama is, among other things, a Chicago politician.

(The American Foreign Service Association has its own interests in this, of course.  In general, I am not opposed to ambassadors who are not bureaucrats, even ambassadors who have contributed to political causes.  If, of course, they are qualified.)
- 5:56 AM, 17 February 2010   [link]