Archive:

January 2012, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Time For A Florida Primary Prediction:  Last Friday, I predicted that Mitt Romney would win the Florida primary.  I came to that conclusion because he was leading in the polls, I thought public opinion had stabilized, and that, if anything, Romney was gaining.

Public Policy Polling has seen the stability that I predicted.
PPP's tracking of the Florida Republican primary wraps up with Mitt Romney at 39%, Newt Gingrich at 31%, Rick Santorum at 15%, and Ron Paul at 11%.  Our three days of tracking found very little movement in the race: Romney was at 39-40% every day, Gingrich was at 31-32% every day, Santorum was at 14-15% every day, and Paul was at 9-11% every day.
(In this nomination fight, it seemed safer to predict another wild swing, but that wasn't where my analysis led me.)

So, do I just go with that 8 percent that PPP found?  No, because there is a complication in polling that Mark Blumenthal spotted.
Another round of new polls on the Florida Republican primary race agree on who is comfortably ahead, but disagree on the size of that margin.  Six new polls released late Sunday or Monday found that Mitt Romney's lead over Newt Gingrich ranges from five to 20 percentage points.

Some of the largest margins came from four polls that reached voters over both landline and mobile phones, including three surveys released on Monday:
(Emphasis added.)

Polls that contact both kinds of phones should be more accurate, so I am going to give them a little extra weight.

The current Real Clear Politics poll average margin for Romney is 13.0 percent.  I am going to predict that Romney's margin will be a little higher, 14.5 percent.

(Blumenthal has a graph showing all the polls, if you want to see the changes.)
- 12:58 PM, 31 January 2012
More:  Here's Nate Silver's prediction, which I had not seen when I wrote this post.  It's quite close to mine, though I would say that his error bounds are too large for both Gingrich and Romney.  Silver has an instructive graph showing how support for Gingrich has declined since the South Carolina primary.
- 1:21 PM, 31 January 2012
My prediction was reasonably close; according to this New York Times story, Romney won 46.4 percent of the vote in Florida, and Gingrich 31.9 percent.  All right, it was very close, so close that I have to admit that I was lucky.  You can decide whether it was only luck that let me get that close.
- 5:48 AM, 1 February 2012   [link]


Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus Compared Obama To Captain Schettino:  Democratic National Chairman (or is it Chair?) Debbie Wasserman Schultz complained that the metaphor was unfair.

But Priebus was just copying cartoonists, who have been using the cruise ship in their cartoons, and not always in cartoons directed at Obama.

(Me?  I think using the cruise ship and its captain is fair, in the rough world of American politics.  Saying that Republicans are acting like "terrorists", as Henry Waxman just did, is not.)
- 9:57 AM, 31 January 2012   [link]


Strike Through Corrections:  Occasionally, as I did just below, I make a correction just by crossing out the error, and adding the correct word or words just afterwards.

I think that is better in some cases than making a full correction with a new time stamp.   Mostly I use it for nasty typos, where I wrote something I didn't intend.

As you may or may not have noticed, I make silent corrections on harmless typos like adding a missing word, deleting a duplicate, or correcting a misspelling.

I add formal corrections, with added time stamps, when I got a fact wrong, or when I think some essential part of an argument is wrong.

I will sometimes rewrite an entire paragraph, or more, for clarity, without adding a time stamp, if I do not think the rewrite changes the meaning.

If I think someone I quote is wrong, I will almost always indicate that in the post.

If I catch a mistake within a few minutes of putting it up, then I almost always correct it silently.

If you think these informal correction rules are too easy, or too hard, please let me know.

(Yes, that was a particularly nasty typo — and so I am especially grateful to the friend who caught it.)
- 9:38 AM, 31 January 2012   [link]


"Chief Touchy-Touchy"  Michelle Obama Malkin tries several names for the Obamas, including "Mr. and Mrs. Cranky Pants", but I think her "Chief Touchy-Touchy" come closest to capturing our White House "drama queen".
So, it turns out that the cool cat billed as "No Drama Obama" by his sycophants is actually quite the drama queen.  While the White House publicly pretends to ignore conservative detractors of his administration, Chief Touchy-Touchy seems to be personally consumed by our critiques.  Yes, mine included.
According to the Jodi Kantor's The Obamas, the Obamas and their supporters were annoyed by this from Malkin's book.
"[Obama contributor John] Rogers had just noticed a new book by the conservative columnist Michelle Malkin called 'Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies.'  Among many other allegations, Malkin wrote that Michelle Obama — the president's 'bitter half' — was secretly running the country in Lady Macbeth-like fashion.  Malkin even took a hatchet to long-dead Fraser Robinson (Mrs. Obama's father), arguing with no evidence that his job at a water plant made him part of the 'Chicago political corruptocracy.'  The book debuted at number one on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list and stayed there for weeks."

The facts? It was a former alderman in Chicago, Leon Depres, who provided evidence that Robinson's job in the city water department was a reward for loyalty to the Daley political faction.

It was Washington Post writer Liza Mundy who reported that the department was "a renowned repository of patronage jobs."
(Like almost every other city department at that time.)

When I learned the basic facts about Fraser Robinson's water plant job, I assumed that he was a patronage worker, hired as a reward for getting votes for the Chicago machine.  At that time, blacks, led by Congressman William Dawson, were an essential part of the machine, so essential that Dawson was able to force out a semi-reform mayor, William Kennelly.  (There's a good account of that struggle in Mike Royko's biography of the first Mayor Daley, Boss.)

And I think that almost anyone else who knows a little about Chicago politics would have come to the same conclusion.  And most of us would not think the worse of Fraser Robinson, a man with a family to support, for making that compromise.

There is a simple way to reconcile the "cool cat" with the "drama queen"; Obama is cool about the nation and the world, but not about himself.  He can be cool when the banking system is collapsing, but not when a governor writes something mildly critical about him.

(That Kantor paragraph deepens my suspicion that the book, and the New York Times reporter who wrote it, Jodi Kantor, simply can't be trusted to give us a fair account of the Obamas.

And, if the press accounts are correct, even that favorable book annoyed the Obamas.)
- 7:52 AM, 31 January 2012   [link]


Dorothea Taylor Is One Tough Lady:  Even at 86
Dorothea Taylor, 86, was largely unknown outside of Alaska before Jan. 20 when she thumped a moose with a shovel while it attacked her dogs and — she later learned — her husband, George.
. . .
She said she harnessed all the strength in her 5-foot-tall, 97-pound frame on the final blow she landed against the moose's rump, which cracked the shovel.

"I hit it with everything I had," Taylor said.
And, along with the rescue workers who got him to a hospital, saved George's life.
- 6:50 AM, 31 January 2012   [link]


Republican Nomination Schedule And Scorecard:  Real Clear Politics has a fine one.

What struck me about it is how varied the rules are for allocating delegates.  And how the states between now and "Super Tuesday" (March 6th) mostly favor Mitt Romney.
- 12:48 PM, 30 January 2012   [link]


Bumper Sticker Seen At Lunch Time:  

Embarrassing My Children
A Full Time Occupation

On the back of a minivan, appropriately.

If I had to guess, I would say that minivan belongs to a mother with at least two teenage daughters — they can be so strict with their mothers at that age — and a fine sense of humor.
- 12:23 PM, 30 January 2012   [link]


Warren Buffett Wouldn't Be Affected by the "Buffett Rule".
This brings us to the Buffett Rule, which at its heart is a way to raise taxes on dividends and capital gains.  Berkshire still doesn't pay a dividend, and as for capital gains taxes, well, Mr. Buffett has already made clear that he'll largely avoid them by transferring his fortune to the Gates Foundation and to charitable trusts controlled by his family.  In fact, at the 2010 Berkshire annual shareholders meeting, according to Dow Jones Newswires, Mr. Buffett urged attendees to "follow my tax dodging example" and give away their wealth.  Democrats in Washington may enjoy using Mr. Buffett as cover to raise taxes, just as long as they understand that he won't necessarily be paying them.
By now, I am no longer surprised at Buffett's tax dodging, while he calls for higher taxes, presumably for other people.  But the combination is becoming more and more annoying.

(According to Berkshire Hathaway's own reports, the company may owe the IRS about $1 billion in back taxes.)
- 8:30 AM, 30 January 2012   [link]


Merkel Will Campaign For Sarkozy:  That may be a tactical error.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will "actively support" French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a fellow conservative, in his spring campaign to win re-election, her Christian Democrat (CDU) party in Berlin said.

A spokesman for the CDU said Merkel, in her capacity as the leader of Germany's conservatives, was planning to make several joint campaign appearances with Sarkozy in the spring, ahead of the two-round French election on April 22 and May 6.
As you know, the French and Germans had a few minor disagreements during the 19th and 20th centuries, which makes it hard for me to believe that her open support will help Sarkozy.

And, of course, if Sarkozy loses — as he might — the relationship between Merkel and the new French government may be frosty for while.
- 8:04 AM, 30 January 2012   [link]


NBC's Brian Williams Said Last Thursday That It Is Wrong To Point Your Finger At The President:  Unless, of course, you are Brian Williams, and the president is George W. Bush.

That 2006 interview sequence is worth listening to, for what it shows about Brian Williams.  He is obviously skeptical about Bush's claims to be a reader, claims that are quite well documented.  Presumably, those claims don't fit Williams' picture of Bush, and so you can see him rejecting them, rather than correcting that picture, as a good journalist should do.

(I don't watch Brian Williams very often, so I don't know whether he thinks it OK for a male president to grab a woman, when the two are having a disagreement.  I am pretty sure he would think that wrong, if the president were George W. Bush.)
- 7:33 AM, 30 January 2012   [link]


Titillating, But Probably False:  That's my opinion on this story.
Agent Provocateur saw sales jump by more than 12pc, helped by US First Lady Michelle Obama spending $50,000 (£31,794) in one shopping spree.

The First Lady — better known for shopping at more modestly-priced High Street stores — along with the Queen of Qatar, Sheikha Mozah, closed off part of Madison Avenue to spend time in the luxury lingerie shop.  Their purchases contributed to a market-spanking 12.5pc lift in sales.
Why do I say it's probably not true?  Because it sounds implausible, and because there is no source listed for the claim, not even an anonymous source.  The round number, $50,000, also makes me suspect this is gossip, not news.

But it is the kind of story that some people like to believe, and when I went searching for the origin of the story, I found translations into several languages.

(One possibility is that the story is distorted, that the entire group spent about that much, and that a clerk at the store attributed the entire purchase to Michelle Obama.  That amount would not be unprecedented for Gulf royalty.

Inquiring minds will want to know what kinds of clothes Agent Provocateur sells; you can see examples here.)
- 6:21 AM, 30 January 2012   [link]


Climate Change And Accusations Of Scientific Malfeasance:  This open letter, from sixteen prominent scientists, has drawn most attention for its claim that "a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed".

But I was most struck by this part of the letter:
Although the number of publicly dissenting scientists is growing, many young scientists furtively say that while they also have serious doubts about the global-warming message, they are afraid to speak up for fear of not being promoted—or worse.  They have good reason to worry.  In 2003, Dr. Chris de Freitas, the editor of the journal Climate Research, dared to publish a peer-reviewed article with the politically incorrect (but factually correct) conclusion that the recent warming is not unusual in the context of climate changes over the past thousand years.  The international warming establishment quickly mounted a determined campaign to have Dr. de Freitas removed from his editorial job and fired from his university position.  Fortunately, Dr. de Freitas was able to keep his university job.

This is not the way science is supposed to work, but we have seen it before—for example, in the frightening period when Trofim Lysenko hijacked biology in the Soviet Union.   Soviet biologists who revealed that they believed in genes, which Lysenko maintained were a bourgeois fiction, were fired from their jobs.  Many were sent to the gulag and some were condemned to death.
Those are powerful accusations, especially when Lysenko is used in the comparison.  Lysenko's "findings" were consistent with Marxism, and were politically useful, so he received powerful backing form the Soviet state.

The sixteen are implying that some global warming alarmists, and their political supporters, are behaving similarly.  It isn't hard to guess, even if you follow this subject only casually, the names of some of the people they are indicting.
- 7:29 PM, 29 January 2012   [link]


American Movies And The American Image:  Last year, on Christmas Eve, the Wall Street Journal published a long, and somewhat rambling, column by Peggy Noonan.

It was long enough so that I almost missed this gem near the end:
In Iraq this year I asked an Iraqi military officer doing joint training at an American base what was the big thing he had come to believe about Americans in the years they had been there.  He thought.  "You are a better people than your movies say."  He had judged us by our exports.  He had seen the low slag heap of our culture and assumed it was a true expression of who we are.
And some in other countries judge us by our Madonnas, and our rap artists — to even worse effect.
- 4:22 PM, 29 January 2012   [link]


Governor Brewer, Governor Jindal, And Senator Clinton?   Maureen Dowd reminds us that Hillary Clinton had an airport encounter with Barack Obama much like Governor Brewer's.
Hillary had sent word that she wanted to talk to Obama.  Standing in front of her plane, she apologized to him for the comments of her co-chairman in New Hampshire, Billy Shaheen, who had warned that Republicans would pounce on Obama's confessions of cocaine and marijuana use.

But given the opening, Obama dived in, telling Clinton that she should intervene to stop the pattern of insinuations and attacks by her supporters, including one by a volunteer in Iowa who had forwarded an e-mail claiming Obama was a Muslim.

That's when Hillary got upset and began gesticulating, giving Obama a piece of her mind about what she saw as unfair attacks on his side.  Obama gently put his hand on her arm "to chill her out," as an aide later told me.
Which upset Clinton even more, I am nearly certain.

Dowd misses Obama's airport tiff with Governor Jindal, which I think is even more telling.

It's almost as if Obama has trouble getting along with independent women and visible minorities.  Or perhaps it's just people who don't idolize him.

(Does Obama know that a man putting his hand on a woman's arm when they are quarreling is almost certain to make her even more angry?  If so, then he was deliberately trying to provoke both women.  If he doesn't know that controlling gesture is offensive in those situations, he is even more ignorant than I thought.

Dowd adds a bunch of politically correct nonsense about Brewer and Arizona's immigration enforcement, but you can ignore that.)
- 7:41 AM, 29 January 2012   [link]


President Obama Tries To Cheer Us Up:  And in my case, succeeds.  As you know, he set records in 2008 for campaign spending, and has been raising more money for his campaigns ever since.

For instance, yesterday he raised a cool $1 million (or more) from Native Americans.

But he can still say, as he did in today's broadcast: "We should also stem the corrosive influence of money in politics."

That contrast between words and deeds is pretty funny — unless Obama believes what he said in that broadcast, in which case we should be nervous about the man's connection to reality.
- 4:04 PM, 28 January 2012   [link]


The "Boyfriend Fit"  Fashion reporter Teri Agins explains what that is — women's clothes that look as if they were borrowed from a boyfriend — and ends with this:
For years, I've been mad about wearing men's Shetland sweaters, pea coats and raincoats.   And there's something way cool about wearing your guy's frayed, long-sleeved dress shirt to lounge around the house.
The differences between men and women continue to intrigue me.  There is no "girlfriend fit", and I hope there never will be one, but I have given up clothes to girlfriends, and can imagine doing so again.

Her first and last paragraphs made me wonder:  Do the best "boyfriend fit" clothes come, literally, off the backs of boyfriends?  Could, perhaps, the scent of the boyfriend on those clothes be one of the pluses?
- 12:04 PM, 28 January 2012   [link]


Gillard Staffer Starts Near Riot In Australia:  You may have seen those pictures of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, being hustled away from a disruptive crowd.  But you may not know that one of her staffers triggered the near riot with a false claim about what the opposition leader, Tony Abbot, had said.

The staffer, Tony Hodges, has resigned.

This incident should remind us that almost all modern protests are staged events, though usually staged with more skill than this one was.

And our TV reporters usually cooperate in the staging, if they sympathize with the protesters.  This time, we got a glimpse, behind the scenes, of how these protests can be triggered.

(My favorite example is still the protest shown by Channel 13 in this area, with a grand total of two protesters.  The two were treated seriously by the station, perhaps because they didn't want to waste the time of their crew, even though it was clear to anyone that this was not a significant news story.)
- 9:55 AM, 27 January 2012
More: Tim Blair gives us a step-by-step account of how the near riot was started.  Australian journalists appear to have been responsible, or perhaps I should say, irresponsible, from the beginning to the end, and afterwards.  Spectacularly irresponsible.
- 10:22 AM, 30 January 2012   [link]


Mitt Romney Will Win The Florida Primary Next Tuesday:   Assuming, of course, that there is no big bombshell event between now and then.  And I don't anticipate any, since there are no debates scheduled (for which we may be grateful) before then, and his lead looks solid.

Yesterday, pollster Mark Blumenthal noted, rather nervously, that the three most recent polls, all gave Romney leads,
The new polls conducted by Monmouth University and SurveyUSA, Rasmussen Reports and NewMax/Insider Advantage all show Mitt Romney leading Newt Gingrich by margins of 7 to 8 percentage points among likely Republican primary voters in Florida.  All three find Romney with 39 to 40 percent of the vote and Gingrich with 31 to 32 percent.
Today, Quinnipiac University released their latest poll, which shows that, if anything, Romney's lead is increasing.
A new Quinnipiac Poll released on Friday morning showed Mr. Romney with 38 percent of the vote in Florida and Mr. Gingrich with 29 percent.  The previous survey, released on Wednesday, showed the top candidates in a virtual tie.
(There's another recent poll, from Sunshine State News/VSS, that gives Romney an identical lead.)

Why do I think that Romney's lead is solid now, when we have had these wild swings before?   Because I believe we are returning to where we were before the wild swing that gave Gingrich his win in South Carolina.  Take a look at this RealClearPolitics graph to see what I mean.

In contrast, Romney had the lead in South Carolina for a relatively short period of time.  Oddly enough, you can see his vote there — though not Gingrich's — as also being a return to equilibrium.

Finally, the bettors at InTrade also think Romney will win, giving him a 91.4 percent chance of victory, as I write.  In my opinion, those odds are about right.
- 9:24 AM, 27 January 2012   [link]


"36 Obama Aides Owe $833,000 In Back Taxes"  Andrew Malcolm has the best account I've seen of this White House tax compliance problem.
A new report just out from the Internal Revenue Service reveals that 36 of President Obama's executive office staff owe the country $833,970 in back taxes.  These people working for Mr. Fair Share apparently haven't paid any share, let alone their fair share.

Previous reports have shown how well-paid Obama's White House staff is, with 457 aides pulling down more than $37 million last year.  That's up seven workers and nearly $4 million from the Bush administration's last year.
To be fair, the aides may have have paid too little in taxes, rather than none at all.  But that proportion of delinquents, more than 1 in 12, does seem rather high, as does the average owed, more than $23 thousand.

It's not just White House aides who have this problem, so do many who work for Congress — and for the Treasury Department.
The tax offenders include employees of the U.S. Senate who help write the laws imposed on everyone else.  They owe $2.1 million.  Workers in the House of Representatives owe $8.5 million, Department of Education employees owe $4.3 million and over at Homeland Security, 4,697 workers owe about $37 million.  Active duty military members owe more than $100 million.

The Treasury Department, where Obama nominee Tim Geithner had to pay up $42,000 in his own back taxes before being confirmed as secretary, has 1,181 other employees with delinquent taxes totaling $9.3 million.
Wouldn't you love to know which congressmen and senators these tax delinquents work for?

(You can find the IRS report here, if you want to browse through it.)
- 8:11 AM, 27 January 2012   [link]


Politics, Not Personal Pique:  That's how Democrats are explaining (rationalizing?) President Obama's attack on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.
Democrats see the chance that President Obama's heated exchange with Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona on the airport tarmac in Phoenix could help him with the Hispanic voters he came West to court this week.
If you believe this explanation, then you see the quarrel as the deliberate act of a cunning and unscrupulous politician, who will play the race card any time he needs to.

You see, in short, a man who is a divider, not a uniter.

The other explanation, that Obama picked the quarrel because his feelings were hurt seems more plausible to me.  And, of course, it could be a mixture of the two.
- 7:15 AM, 27 January 2012   [link]


If You Are Wondering How Much Money Warren Buffett's Secretary Earns, Tom Maguire tries, again, to guess how much that might be.

It's a mildly interesting tax problem, but I don't believe Buffett has given us enough information to get an accurate answer.  And, after considerable effort, Maguire appears to agree.

(In Finland and Norway income tax returns are public information.  And they were public information in the United States during part of the 19th century.  I recall reading several years ago that, in Norway, you can go to a web site to look up every Norwegian's income tax return.  Since I don't read Norwegian, I didn't look for the site to try it out.)
- 1:14 PM, 26 January 2012
Megan McArdle tackles the question and finally concludes that Buffett's comparison is "beyond bizarre".
Update: apparently, she makes $60K. So I gather what Buffet is talking about is comparing her federal marginal tax rate, including both sides of the employer tax, to what must be his effective tax rate, since there is no marginal rate of 17.4%. That comparison is beyond bizarre.
(Emphasis added.)

Earlier, McArdle had shown that Buffett's effective tax rate might be 40 percent, or higher.

Does Buffett know all these things?  He must, which suggests to me that he is deliberately deceiving the public.
- 2:45 PM, 26 January 2012
Glenn Reynolds says that Buffett is a "cheapskate", as well as deceptive.
- 7:28 AM, 27 January 2012   [link]


Is Nothing Sacred?  The small Texas town of Premont is dropping football, in order to improve academics.
In sports-mad Texas, where Friday-night football is nearly as sacred as Sunday morning church services, one rural school district is taking the once-unthinkable step of shutting down its high-school sports program.

Officials in Premont, about 150 miles south of San Antonio, hope that eliminating sports this spring and next fall will save enough money to keep its struggling schools open and help keep the small ranching town alive.
(If you are a cynic, you might suspect that the officials are making this threat in order to get the attention of students and voters.  It wouldn't be the first time something like that had happened.)
- 12:33 PM, 26 January 2012   [link]


Walker's Reforms Are Working:  And Wisconsin is already seeing benefits.
The unions' battle against Walker's reforms has rested on the argument that the changes would damage public services beyond repair.  The truth, however, is that the reforms not only are saving money already; they're doing so with little disruption to services.  In early August, noticing the trend, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Milwaukee would save more in health-care and pension costs than it would lose in state aid, leaving the city $11 million ahead in 2012—despite Mayor Tom Barrett's prediction in March that Walker's budget "makes our structural deficit explode."

The collective-bargaining component of Walker's plan has yielded especially large financial dividends for school districts.  Before the reform, many districts' annual union contracts required them to buy health insurance from WEA Trust, a nonprofit affiliated with the state's largest teachers' union.  Once the reform limited collective bargaining to wage negotiations, districts could eliminate that requirement from their contracts and start bidding for health care on the open market.  When the Appleton School District put its health-insurance contract up for bid, for instance, WEA Trust suddenly lowered its rates and promised to match any competitor's price.  Appleton will save $3 million during the current school year.
Other school districts are seeing similar savings.

What the unions most objected to, says Christian Schneider, was the end to the state's mandatory collection of union dues.  (Their supporters, most of them Democrats, then received a portion of those dues in campaign contributions.)  State employees can now opt out of public employee unions, and many will.

(Walker currently leads all likely opponents in a recall election, though not by large margins.)
- 10:33 AM, 26 January 2012   [link]


The Daily Mail Gets More Web Visitors Than The New York Times:   Maybe.
Data suggests the UK's Daily Mail had 45.35 million unique visitors during December, inching the site ahead of the New York Times with 44.8 million.

But a spokeswoman for the US paper suggested the Mail won by including visitors to a sister site.
But there is no doubt that traffic has been rising rapidly at the British newspaper, in part because it is appealing to American visitors, as I mentioned in this post.

This must be driving the people running the New York Times nuts.  To be beaten, or almost beaten, is bad enough, but to be beaten by a mid-market British newspaper, a conservative mid-market British newspaper, must really annoy those who run our newspaper of record.

And I will predict, with some confidence, that they won't learn anything from their competitor's success.

(For the record: As I have mentioned from time to time, I don't trust either newspaper, though for somewhat different reasons.  But I use both, and will continue to do so, while passing on any caveats about their stories that seem appropriate.)
- 9:20 AM, 26 January 2012   [link]


If You Thought Obama's Lincoln Quote Didn't Sound Quite Right, you were correct.

Here's the original from Lincoln, which is worth some study.
The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves in their separate and individual capacities.
Why didn't Obama, or one of his speechwriters, use the correct quotation?  I don't know, but he does seem rather careless about such details for a man who was once on the faculty of the University of Chicago.

(To be fair, Obama did not say that he was using Lincoln's exact words.  But I do think that in such a formal speech, he ought to.)
- 7:31 AM, 26 January 2012   [link]


President Obama Calls For Us To Work Together:  And then goes out to Arizona and picks a fight with Governor Jan Brewer.
He stepped off Air Force One at 3:28 pm and was greeted by Gov. Jan Brewer.  She handed him a handwritten letter in an envelope and they spoke intensely for a few minutes.  At one point, she pointed her finger at him.

Afterwards, (I) spoke with the governor.

"He was a little disturbed about my book, Scorpions for Breakfast," Brewer said.   "I said to him that I have all the respect in the world for the office of the president.  The book is what the book is.  I asked him if he read the book.   He said he read the excerpt.  So."
What was in the letter?  She says an invitation to sit down for lunch — she offered to buy — and talk about Arizona's problems.

Imagine the reactions if George W. Bush had gotten into a similar argument with a female Democratic governor.

(Here's the book.  The distribution of ratings is almost perfectly bimodal, 14 five-star reviews, 1 two-star review, and 11 one-star reviews.  Not all of those who wrote the negative reviews show familiarity with the book, and some resort to childish insults.)
- 4:48 PM, 25 January 2012
More: I glanced through all the negative reviews (16 as I write this update).  None had the "Amazon verified purchase" tag, and several negative reviewers admitted not having read the book.  (Some of the positive reviews did have the tag.)

I read the description of Governor Brewer in the 2012 Almanac of American Politics and found that she has had rocky relationships with her Democratic predecessor, Janet Napolitano, and some Republican legislators, after she called for a tax increase.  But I found nothing in the description to indicate that Obama couldn't get along with her — if he tried.   (And Napolitano may have started the quarrel with Brewer, not the other way around.)

Obama had a similar tiff with Bobby Jindal, who is about as polite and rational as American politicians get.
- 7:07 AM, 26 January 2012   [link]


Worth Reading:  Nina Shapiro's story on the "systemic bias against men in King County family court".  (For those not from this area: This particular King County includes Seattle and most of Seattle's suburbs.)

Samples:

Rhea Rolfe, an attorney who once taught a "women and the law" class at the University of Washington, recalls sitting with a male client in a commissioner's courtroom one day.  There were maybe seven or eight cases heard.  "She ruled against every single man," Rolfe recalls, "and two of them were unopposed."
. . .
By far, though, the most damaging allegation—the one that can change everything in an instant—is domestic violence.  That's why, Rolfe says, "there are attorneys who will advise a client to accuse the other party of domestic violence in order to gain an advantage."

(Question for attorneys: Would such advice be ethical?)

It is hard to believe that this "systemic bias" is good for anyone, in the long run, but I especially worry about any children who may be caught in the middle of these fights.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

More here and here.

(Caveat:  The article is based mostly on testimony from anonymous men and their representatives.  I don't doubt that most of what Shapiro writes in the story is true, since she strikes me as a careful reporter, but we should recognize that we are not getting all sides of the story.)
- 3:46 PM, 25 January 2012   [link]


Two Views On Newt Gingrich's Ethical Problems:  (And an example.)

Conservative journalist Byron York goes into detail, almost tedious detail, on the charges against Gingrich aired by the House Ethics Committee.  York concludes — and I think most fair-minded people would agree — that those charges were not significant.  (Fans of "The Dukes of Hazzard" will want to read the whole thing, for the large part played by "Cooter".)

Conservative journalist R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. compares Gingrich to another prominent politician, William Jefferson Clinton.
How long have I been saying it?  At least for 15 years, but in private I have been aware of it longer.  Newt Gingrich is conservatism's Bill Clinton, but without the charm.  He has acquired wit but he has all the charm of barbed wire.

Newt and Bill are 1960s generation narcissists, and they share the same problems: waywardness and deviancy.  Newt, like Bill, has a proclivity for girl hopping.  It is not as egregious as Bill's, but then Newt is not as drop-dead beautiful.  His public record is already besmeared with tawdry divorces, and there are private encounters with the fair sex that doubtless will come out.
So Gingrich may not be the right person to run on a family-values platform.  And Tyrrell is right to call attention to the difference in congressional endorsements, 72 for Romney and just 11 for Gingrich.

Which conservative journalist is right?  In my opinion, both are.  Gingrich did get slimed by unfair ethics attacks, as York says, and he does have other ethical problems, as Tyrrell says.

For supporting evidence for the argument that Gingrich has other ethical problems, consider his relationship with Freddie Mac.
New details from Newt Gingrich's contracts worth $1.6 million with Freddie Mac show that the Republican hopeful wasn't just a boardroom consultant, but served as a high-profile booster for the beleaguered organization. He even gave a rallying speech to dozens of the group's political action committee donors in the spring of 2007.

Shortly after the "rah, rah" speech, as one source described it, Gingrich gave an interview for the Freddie Mac website, where he supported the group's model at length. The interview is no longer on Freddie's site.
Gingrich has not been as frank as he should be about his relationship to Freddie Mac.  He may have been careful not to meet the legal requirements to be a lobbyist for them, but he was, effectively, their lobbyist, and he and his company did quite well out of the relationship.

(I should add that Romney has not always been fair in the way he has used the House "ethics" scandal against Gingrich.  You could say that Gingrich mishandled the attacks, and that the whole episode shows a failure of leadership, but that's not the same as saying that they show a failure of ethics.)
- 1:18 PM, 25 January 2012   [link]


AP Fact Checks Obama's SOTU Speech:  And finds a few mistakes.  For example:
OBAMA: "The Taliban's momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home."

THE FACTS: Obama is more sanguine about progress in Afghanistan than his own intelligence apparatus.  The latest National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan warns that the Taliban will grow stronger, using fledgling talks with the U.S. to gain credibility and stall until U.S. troops leave, while continuing to fight for more territory.  The classified assessment, described to The Associated Press by officials who have seen it, says the Afghan government hasn't been able to establish credibility with its people, and predicts the Taliban and warlords will largely control the countryside.
Obama could be right on this, and his "intelligence apparatus" could be wrong, so I wouldn't call this an obvious factual error.  But, given Obama's inexperience and lack of appropriate education, I think that Petraeus and company are more likely to be right on this question than Obama.

(There are similar problems with most of the other AP points.  Obama did err, again and again, in the speech, but his mistakes weren't necessarily factual mistakes.

I haven't been able to bring myself to read the whole speech yet, but I will, I will, and I will give you a post.)
- 12:46 PM, 25 January 2012   [link]


Warren Buffett Will Benefit From Obama's Keystone Pipeline Decision:  Just in case you missed it, here's the latest on Obama's favorite crony capitalist.
Warren Buffett's Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC is among U.S. and Canadian railroads that stand to benefit from the Obama administration's decision to reject TransCanada Corp. (TRP)'s Keystone XL oil pipeline permit.

With modest expansion, railroads can handle all new oil produced in western Canada through 2030, according to an analysis of the Keystone proposal by the U.S. State Department.
Moving oil through pipelines is cheaper and safer than moving it on rail cars.

(Do I think that Obama made this decision in order to benefit Buffett?  No, but I don't think that side effect bothers him.)
- 8:39 AM, 25 January 2012   [link]


Last Night, Obama Again Attacked Municipal Bonds:  How so?  By his demand that we follow the "Buffett rule":
Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes.
(Incidentally, that 30 percent is close to what high-income earners currently pay, on the average, in federal taxes.)

Those familiar with municipal bonds can skip to the end of the post.  For others, here is a brief and simplified review.  When a city borrows money, it often issues bonds just as private corporations do, with one great exception.  Usually the income from those bonds is not taxable at the federal level, and, often, at the state level.   This allows cities to borrow more cheaply because the people who purchase their bonds don't have to pay taxes on them.

What kind of people buy those bonds?  Very wealthy people, people in the highest tax brackets, who want a stable, predictable income from the bonds.  (People in lower tax brackets have no reason to buy such bonds, because they can get a higher total return from taxable bonds.)

People like, for example, Teresa Heinz Kerry, who reduces her federal income taxes sharply by getting much of her income from those bonds.

As you would expect, the amount that the cities save on their bonds is almost exactly equal to the taxes that would be collected if the bonds were taxable.

To force all high earners to pay at least 30 percent to the federal government, Obama would have to eliminate that loophole, which would make it more expensive for cities to borrow money, cities mostly governed by his allies.  So I don't think he or Buffett are serious when they call for following the Buffett rule.

(It is unfortunate that Buffett and Obama have chosen to make this demagogic attack on high earners, because there is a good case to be made for eliminating many of the provisions in the tax code that principally benefit high earners.)
- 8:03 AM, 25 January 2012   [link]


Now It's Heather Kiriakou's Turn:  She hasn't been indicted, but she has been fired.
A senior CIA analyst resigned Tuesday amid accounts that she had been pressured to step down after her husband — a former agency employee — was charged with leaking classified information to the press.

Heather Kiriakou had served as a top analyst on some of the most sensitive subjects that the agency tracks, including leadership developments in Iran.  Her husband, John, faces a maximum of 30 years in prison after being accused of disclosing details about secret CIA operations as well as the identities of undercover officers
The article also gives us a big hint on the evidence against John Kiriakou.  Apparently, the investigators have incriminating emails.

(The article does not have a reaction from John Kerry, who hired Kiriakou to work for the Senate Foreign Relations committee.  Some reporter really ought to ask Kerry about that hiring, and soon.)
- 6:34 AM, 25 January 2012   [link]