Archive:

January 2013, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Chivalry Is Not Dead in Scotland.

Though I must add that the young girl should find a better way to demonstrate that point.

(If commenter "Vray" of Nottinghamshire is correct, this peculiar way of testing chivalry may be alive in parts of England, too:  "Shocking?  I wish it was!  See it every day doing gate duty at a city comprehensive...")
- 3:56 PM, 16 January 2013   [link]


What Problems Do The American People Think Are Most Important?  Gallup found four main problems when they asked this open-ended question: "What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?"

Here are the four, along with the other answers in 15 categories all together:

Economy in general (21%)
Federal budget deficit (20%)
Dissatisfaction with government (18%)
Unemployment (16%)

President Obama's current most important issues, gun control and immigration, get top mentions from 4 and 3 percent, respectively.  That doesn't mean that people don't think those issues are important — but few think either is the most important issue facing the nation.

(My own answer would probably fall into the federal budget deficit category.

In thinking about those numbers, be careful not to interpret them with too much partisan spin.  For instance, those who are dissatisfied with government are, probably, about equally divided between Obama supporters and opponents.)
- 12:47 PM, 16 January 2013   [link]


The Earth Has Not Warmed In The Last Decade:   Who says so?  Well lots of people, including almost everyone who has taken even a casual look at the data.

But I had not expected that group to include climate alarmist James Hansen, who said this in a recent paper.
The five-year mean global temperature has been flat for the last decade, which we interpret as a combination of natural variability and a slow down in the growth rate of net climate forcing.
. . .
The current stand-still of the 5-year running mean global temperature may be largely a consequence of the facr that the first half of the past 10 years had predominantly El Nino conditions, and the second half had predominantly La Nina conditions.
In short, it hasn't gotten warmer in the last decade and Hansen doesn't know why, though he has a suspect.

By way of Kate McMillan.

There are many more comments on this paper at Watts Up With That.

As Judith Curry notes, David Rose said something similar a few months ago, and got attacked for it.

(Be careful reading that Wikipedia biography, for reasons I mentioned yesterday.

Here's my usual disclaimer, which really does need updating.)
- 9:48 AM, 16 January 2013   [link]


Ruth Marcus Gives Obama A Passing Grade — And Then Describes His Test Failures:  Today's column by the Washington Post columnist provides a perfect example of a "mainstream" journalist refusing to judge President Obama by the same standards she would use on other presidents (assuming they were white males, rather than of mixed race, like Obama).

First, her overall grade:
Still, the gap between thrill and deflation feels particularly yawning this year.  Not because Obama had a failed first term — he didn’t, not in my assessment and not, I think, by any objective measure.
(The only objective measures that she mentions is that he won re-election and has a positive approval rating with Gallup.)

Second, the test results:
What went wrong? Obama is partly to blame.  Initial outreach notwithstanding, he was aloof.  He failed to build relationships — even with fellow Democrats.  Worse, at key moments, he negotiated ineptly; he ducked repeatedly when he should have led.  The candidate whose rhetorical prowess catapulted him to national prominence proved particularly inept in office at summoning public support.

But also: Obama’s animating vision of a transported politics was never realistic.   As a general matter, vows to change Washington are destined for the dustbin of history.
That all sounds like failure to me, and a failure that was all too predictable, for anyone who had looked at his career.
- 7:48 AM, 16 January 2013   [link]


"Mainstream" Journalists Mostly Love President Obama:   But he doesn't even like them.
President Barack Obama had fewer press conferences during his first term than George W. Bush, Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush.

Presidential scholar Martha Joynt Kumar did the math and found that with Monday's conference, Obama has done a total of 79 over four years.

That's 10 fewer than George W. Bush, 54 fewer than Clinton and 63 fewer than George H.W. Bush.
You can see that dislike even more strongly in the numbers for "short question and answer sessions": Barack Obama (107), George W. Bush (354), Bill Clinton (612), George H. W. Bush (313), and Ronald Reagan (158).

He dislikes "mainstream" journalists even though they have given him, by far, the most favorable treatment of any recent president.  (And, I would add, the treatment least related to actual performance.)
- 7:31 AM, 16 January 2013   [link]


France Rushes To The Rescue After US Disaster In Mali:  That wasn't the headline that New York Times put on this front page story — but it could have been.
But as insurgents swept through the desert last year, commanders of this nation’s elite army units, the fruit of years of careful American training, defected when they were needed most — taking troops, guns, trucks and their newfound skills to the enemy in the heat of battle, according to senior Malian military officials.

“It was a disaster,” said one of several senior Malian officers to confirm the defections.

Then an American-trained officer overthrew Mali’s elected government, setting the stage for more than half of the country to fall into the hands of Islamic extremists.   American spy planes and surveillance drones have tried to make sense of the mess, but American officials and their allies are still scrambling even to get a detailed picture of who they are up against.
And so now the French are coming in, not with just advisors, though they have them, too, but with troops and even war planes.

Blunders happen in every war, whether you fight the war indirectly, as we were trying to do, or more directly, as the French are now doing.

But that collection of failures should lead the Obama administration to take a hard look at our programs in the area, and the people running those programs.

(It is not clear to me why we, rather than the French, were running these programs to begin with.  Mali is a former French colony with thousands of French residents.  The French have far more knowledge of the country than we do — and more immediate interests there.

What did the Times use for a headline?  In my copy, "FRENCH JETS HIT REBEL OUTPOSTS IN NORTH MALI" and, in another edition, "French Strikes in Mali Supplant Caution of U.S.".)
- 4:19 AM, 15 January 2013   [link]


Kafka In Connecticut:  Roger Kimball recounts his struggles with bureaucracies, as he attempts to repair his Sandy-damaged home.

Here's my favorite part:
Before you could get a building permit, however, you had to be approved by the Zoning Authority.  And Zoning—citing FEMA regulations—would force you to bring the house "up to code," which in many cases meant elevating the house by several feet.   Now, elevating your house is very expensive and time consuming—not because of the actual raising, which takes just a day or two, but because of the required permits.

Kafka would have liked the zoning folks.  There also is a limit on how high in the sky your house can be.  That calculation seems to be a state secret, but it can easily happen that raising your house violates the height requirement.  Which means that you can't raise the house that you must raise if you want to repair it.  Got that?
I suppose in practice that would mean that you would have to trim off the top of your house before you raise it, so it would meet both requirements.  Mostly likely that trim job would require still another permit.

If I recall correctly, President Obama promised us that he would not allow red tape to hold back the recovery efforts from Sandy.  I thought that was pretty funny at the time, but can understand why the Kimballs might find it harder to laugh at than I do.
- 12:40 PM, 15 January 2013   [link]


Some Thoughts On Wikipedia As A Source:  As I'm sure you noticed, I used a Wikipedia article on Carol Browner in the preceding post — and then added material to correct the impression readers of just the article might have gotten.  In my experience, it is often necessary to do this with Wikipedia articles on political subjects.

A person who read just the Wikipedia article might think that Browner's destruction of files was no big deal.  But if you followed that footnote, you learned about the extent, and about the erasure of backup tapes, which suggests that this was, indeed, a serious offense.  (And would leave anyone with normal curiosity wondering what was on those erased hard drives and backup tapes.)

Luckily, I was able to use that footnote to get a more accurate picture of what had happened.  Sometimes, I have to do more extensive searches, and sometimes, given time constraints, I will just warn readers that the Wikipedia article may not be entirely trustworthy.

What about non-political articles in Wikipedia?  As far as I can tell, most scientific articles in Wikipedia are reasonable treatments of their subjects — unless there is a political connection.  So I would (mostly) trust an article on, for example, T. rex, but would be very careful about using any material from an article on global warming.

The historical articles vary considerably, but most seem not too bad, everything considered.

So with political Wikipedia articles, I distrust and try to verify, and with other articles, I usually trust and sometimes try to verify.

(Professor William Jacobson has been following the fight at Wikipedia over the article on America's most famous Indian, Elizabeth Warren.  Here's a recent post of his describing some of the efforts of her supporters to purge unfortunate facts from the record.  That's an extreme example of the kind of problems I often find in their poliical articles, but it isn't a unique example.)
- 9:54 AM, 15 January 2013   [link]


EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, AKA Richard Windsor:   As you probably know, the current head of the EPA established an email under a false name that she could use for private communications within the EPA.

This is, of course, a violation of transparency laws, and the agency has been forced, by a lawsuit, to release those emails.  Which, Mark Tapscott says, they are not doing, at least in the first batch of emails.
After sorting through technical glitches that undermined the agency's first attempt to post the documents ordered released by a federal court, it became obvious that EPA had only made public about 2,100 emails and "Richard Windsor" - Jackson's admitted illegal non de plume on one of her government email accounts - was nowhere to be found among them.

What EPA released was a collection of emails to and from Jackson at what appears to be an legal government email account.  Among the collection were daily news clippings, Washington Post daily news briefs, Google email alerts for Jackson, and assorted other mundane documents.
Curious.

We will have to wait, I suppose, for the next batch before we decide for certain that the EPA is still hiding something.

(Credit where due:  The man who discovered this illegal alias was not a "mainstream" journalist, but Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

This will remind some of a previous Democratic EPA administrator, Carol Browner, who destroyed documents on a EPA computer in "the final days of the Clinton administration".  She says the documents were "not work-related".

If you follow the footnote to the Associated Press article, you'll find details that cast doubt on her story:
The EPA later acknowledged it had wiped clean the computer files from Browner and other top staff despite [Judge] Lamberth's order.

The agency disclosed that in February and March 2001, the computer hard drives of several Clinton-era EPA officials had been reformatted, and between Jan. 19 and late April 2001, the e-mail backup tapes for their work computers — which are normally preserved for 90 days — had been erased and reused.
Ask your favorite systems administrator whether erasing those backup tapes looks suspicious.)
- 9:21 AM, 15 January 2013   [link]


Worth Reading:  Francisco Toro's post recognizing that a majority of Venezuelans want Chávez's strong-man rule.
Specifically, our horrified rejection of the accumulation of unlimited power in a single set of hands is a core value for Western liberalism…it happens to make no sense to most Venezuelans.

The rejection of unified power is, when you think about it, the ultimate WEIRD value.   In the Western world it’s universal, though it takes very different forms.  In the U.S., lefties fret about Wall Street amassing too much power, civil libertarians fret about the Pentagon’s drone strike program giving it too much power, the right frets about the government in general getting too much power by taking people’s guns away or taxing them to oblivion.
But as you read it, you should take into consideration these famous lines from Walter Bagehot's The English Constitution.
The best reason why Monarchy is a strong government is, that it is an intelligible government.  The mass of mankind understand it, and they hardly anywhere in the world understand any other.  It is often said that men are ruled by their imaginations; but it would be truer to say they are governed by the weakness of their imaginations.   The nature of a constitution, the action of an assembly, the play of parties, the unseen formation of a guiding opinion, are complex facts, difficult to know and easy to mistake.  But the action of a single will, the fiat of a single mind, are easy ideas: anybody can make them out, and no one can ever forget them.  When you put before the mass of mankind the question, "Will you be governed by a king, or will you be governed by a constitution?" the inquiry comes out thus—"Will you be governed in a way you understand, or will you be governed in a way you do not understand?"  The issue was put to the French people; they were asked, "Will you be governed by Louis Napoleon, or will you be governed by an assembly?"  The French people said, "We will be governed by the one man we can imagine, and not by the many people we cannot imagine".
We should realize that, while more people may understand limited, depersonalized government than in Bagehot's time, it is still true that a great many, probably a majority in the world, do not.

And while a majority may understand the need for a limited government in the United States, that understanding is nowhere close to "universal" here.

(Understanding this desire for monarchies — whether they are called that or not — will help us understand some otherwise inexplicable facts.  Some examples:  Most stable democracies are constitutional monarchies.  The two best-governed Arab states, Morocco and Jordan, are constitutional monarchies.   Afghanistan was most stable, and progressive in the true sense of the word, when it was governed by a constitutional monarch.

Here's more on Walter Bagehot, if you need a review.)
- 6:40 PM, 14 January 2013   [link]


Obama's Budget Request Will Be Late:  And, yes, technically, his administration is breaking the law, again.
The White House has informed House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that it will miss the legal deadline for sending a budget to Congress.

Acting Budget Director Jeff Zients told Ryan (R-Wis.) in a letter late Friday that the budget will not be delivered by Feb. 4, as required by law.
Or perhaps I should say as usual, since Obama "has met the deadline only once".

Naturally, the White House is saying their lateness is someone else's fault.
- 4:33 PM, 14 January 2013   [link]


Narcissists, Then And Now:  Last month, a reader sent me this instructive Stalin-era story:
1949 was the 150th anniversary of the birth of Alexander Pushkin, the greatest Russian poet.  Stalin's ministry of culture held a contest for sculptors to design a memorial statue.  There was shock when the winner was announced, an unknown sculptor from Yaroslavl, not Moscow or Leningrad.  [Yaroslavl was considered an industrial backwater, inhabited by yokels]  All became clear when the statue was unveiled in Moscow.  It depicted Stalin, in a chair, reading a book of Puskhin's verse.
(Which he found in a "1969 collection of dissident Soviet jokes".)

Instructive?  Yes.  A narcissist in a high office almost always needs the support of enablers.  And I don't think I have to explain the "And Now" part to you.
- 3:20 PM, 14 January 2013
John Cunningham sent me that story (and some useful links).  I appreciate him giving me permission to identify him.
- 6:10 PM, 14 January 2013   [link]


Different Improvement Strategies for different schools?
Moving a system from fair to good performance calls for different strategies than moving from good to great, concludes a November 2010 McKinsey study, How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better.
Specifically, when a school has fair performance — or poor, I assume — reformers should probably push for tighter controls and clear standards.  When a school is already good, then you may need looser controls and more flexibility.

Sounds plausible to me, though I haven't read the study.

(Incidentally, or perhaps not so incidentally, the first strategy is likely to be favored by working class parents, the second by middle class and upper class parents.)
- 1:22 PM, 14 January 2013   [link]


President Obama's Press Conference Was Briefly Postponed from 11:15 to 11:30 — and he was still late, as he almost always is.

That lateness reminds me of a bit from Tony Hillerman's detective story, The Fly on the Wall.
The clock on the walnut-paneled wall was old and ornate.  Its small hand stood almost exactly on 10.  The large hand clicked two marks past 12.  Governor Paul Roark was two minutes late for his Thursday-morning press conference.  In approximately 180 seconds, John Cotton— senior man among the P. M. reporters— would get down from the window sill where he was slouching and walk out of the Executive Conference Room, and the six other reporters there would follow him.  Tradition gave the Governor five minutes of grace.  The rule had been proclaimed a dozen administrations back by a United Press reporter long since transferred and forgotten.  He had argued that the Governor was—after all—still a public servant.  To wait for him longer than five minutes would be to undermine the relationship between newsmen as watchdog-auditor-guardian-of-the-public-trust and the Chief Executive as politician and feeder-at-the-public-trough.  And while the rule had been born in philosophy, it had lived in practicality.  P. M. reporters, with edition deadlines looming, would ill afford to waste more than five of the crucial sixty minutes between 10 and 11 A. M. (pp. 49-50)
Wouldn't it be wonderful if White House reporters had a similar rule?

(The Fly on the Wall is my favorite Hillerman novel, mostly for Hillerman's description of the values and practices of the working reporters in the story.  I should add that I suspect most Hillerman fans would prefe his Navajo detective stories.)
- 9:54 AM, 14 January 2013   [link]


The Iranian Regime Has Been Supplying Amunition For Civil Conflicts In Africa:  That doesn't seem surprising to me, but it did surprise independent researchers, and it surprised the New York Times enough so that they made that their lead story on Saturday.
The trail of evidence uncovered by the investigation included Iranian cartridges in the possession of rebels in Ivory Coast, federal troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Taliban in Afghanistan and groups affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb in Niger.  The ammunition was linked to spectacular instances of state-sponsored violence and armed groups — all without drawing wide attention or leading back to its manufacturer.
Americans will notice that the ammunition has been used to kill our soldiers and our allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as many in Africa.

Why these Iranian exports to Africa?  Money and influence according to the Times.  To which I would add support for radical Islamists, in some cases.

(Our intelligence agencies have apparently known about this traffic for years.)
- 7:47 AM, 14 January 2013   [link]


Two Movies On Fracking, One Con, One Pro:  Can you guess which movie got backing from foreign oil industry sources?

If you think about the competition that American natural gas is already giving Middle East oil producers, the answer will be easy to figure out.

(I plan to see FrackNation myself.  I met Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney and found them likable idealists.  You can learn what motivated them to make the movie in this McAleer op-ed.)
- 7:19 AM, 14 January 2013   [link]


Trumpeter Swans On Lake Washington:  On the day after Chistmas, we got a late gift, a visit from three trumpeter swans.

trumpeter swans on Lake Washington, 26 December 2011

According to Wikipedia, trumpeter swans are, on the average, the "largest extant species of waterfowl".  I didn't know that when I saw them, but I did realize they were the largest waterfowl I can recall seeing.

Happily, we are likely to see them more often in the future, since, according to the same article, the populations have grown considerably since we stopped hunting them.
- 4:04 PM, 13 January 2013   [link]


Well, That Was An Exciting Finish To The Seahawks Game:  Though not one that will please Seahawks fans.

The Seahawks led the game for less than thirty seconds, but still almost won.

(For those who watched end of the game, this observation:  As you saw, the officials decided, after some deliberation, that Marshawn Lynch had fumbled after the ball broke the plane of the goal line.  Now suppose the officials had ruled the other way — and it was a close call.

Then the Seahawks would have had the ball at about the six inch line, and would almost certainly have scored on the next play — and would have used up valuable seconds.)
- 3:44 PM, 13 January 2013   [link]


Austerity And Savage Cuts In Britain:  If you read Paul Krugman at all — and it is hard to avoid the man — you'll know that he thinks the current coalition government in Britain has imposed "austerity" on that nation.

If you read British newspapers at all, you'll know that the opposition Labour Party has accused the coalition of imposing "savage cuts".

Richard Littlejohn presents one of those homely family comparisons that will help you decide whether the cuts have been "savage", and whether Britain is actually facing "austerity".
UK tax revenues £550,600,000,000
Spending £694,890,000,000
New borrowing £117,500,000,000
Outstanding debt £1,312,100,000,000
Spending cuts £11,000,000,000

Now take off seven zeros and pretend it’s a household budget.

Annual family income £55,060
Annual family spending £69,489
New debt on credit card £11,750
Outstanding credit card balance £131,210
Family spending cuts £1,100
Is 2 percent a "savage" cut?  Has it produced "austerity"?

Not by ordinary dictionary definitions of those two words.

(Those who don't follow British politics may need to know that taxing and spending soared under Prime Minister Cameron's predecessor, Gordon Brown.)
- 8:53 AM, 13 January 2013   [link]


Symbolic?  President Obama's inauguration has a spending problem.
So, Obama's big second term inauguration is a little more than a week away, and apparently they're really behind on financing.  Like, $10 million behind.

You would think coming up with a measly $50 million for a second-term inauguration would be easy after raising $1 billion for his campaign.  But nope!  That's not the case.  The New York Times' Nicholas Confessore reports Obama's team are $10 million short of their $50 million goal.  Obama's team denied rumors that they're even shorter of meeting their expectations.
Perhaps those hoping to be crony capitalists have realized that contributions to Obama will not be a plus with the Republican-controlled House.
- 8:18 AM, 13 January 2013   [link]


You'll Be Shocked To Learn that former president Bill Clinton got his facts wrong in his recent speech on gun control.

(Unless, of course, you were paying attention during his presidency.  Then you won't be shocked.)

In a January 9th speech in Las Vegas, Clinton claimed:
Half of all mass killings in the United States have occurred since the assault weapons ban expired in 2005, half of all of them in the history of the country.
After mentioning the definitional problems, Glenn Kessler looks at the data, which is more limited than you might think, and comes to this conclusion:
In the highly charged debate over guns, it is important for politicians on both sides to get their facts straight.  In this case, the available data show that Clinton was way off base in his assertion, making an exaggerated claim — which his office would not even defend.
Kessler gives Clinton three Pinocchios for that statement; I would give Clinton the maximum of four, since I think that any informed person who thought about that claim for a few minutes would realize it was almost certainly wrong.
- 8:51 AM, 12 January 2013   [link]


Ever Wonder Why Our Top Bankers Make So Many Mistakes?  I have a hypothesis for those failures that I think deserves investigation.

In last weekend's "Off Duty" section of the Wall Street Journal, the lead article by J. L. Martin described how fanatic some financiers are about their clothes.
Still, however much they lampoon the unrealism of menswear on the runways, the Alpha males of finance can't help but harbor certain obsessions—not surprisingly, often number-related—when it comes to their own wardrobes.  While one gentleman secretly dotes on the inner pocket of a bespoke suit that has been measured to fit the exact dimensions of his smartphone, another is consumed with the three-sided crow's foot stitch anchoring the buttons on his Kiton shirt.  One businessman recounted to me his fascination at seeing a Loro Piana salesman dump a bucket of water over a jacket to verify its waterproof claim. (It worked.)

The finer points of sartorialism, it turns out, prove to be catnip to the most serious professionals, who convert the insider knowledge into a flawless look.  Despite their protests, don't be fooled: These men are deeply invested in the way they dress and in the aura of power that a well-made suit can create—and increasingly so.
And there are many more examples in the article.

I have no idea how common this obsession with clothes is, especially outside New York and London.  But, given the importance of those financial capitals, I am willing to believe that many of our top bankers are obsessed with clothes.

And, it seems to me, that those obsessed bankers must, necessarily, be paying less attention to their financial decisions than they otherwise would, since there are only 24 hours in a day.  If they spend their time worrying about thread counts in their clothes, they will have less time to worry about trivial things like profits (and losses).

(Unfortunately, I know so little about fashion that I can't give you any investing suggestions, other than the very general thought that you should be wary of companies with fashion plate CEOs.)
- 1:01 PM, 11 January 2013   [link]


President Obama Was Very Much Opposed To Deficit Spending:  Or at least he said he was while George W. Bush was president.  (His votes in the Senate did not match his speeches; in 2005 and 2006, the National Taxpayers Union gave him ratings of 6 and 16 on a 100 point scale.  Again and again, Obama voted for the very deficits he condemned.)

In fact, as Victor Davis Hanson reminds us, Obama was opposed to deficit spending even at the very beginning of his presidency.
In 2008, Obama further blasted Bush's continued Keynesian borrowing: "The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children ... so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back — $30,000 for every man, woman and child.  That's irresponsible.  It's unpatriotic."

Strong words.  But so worried was Obama about the debt that just two weeks after he took office, he promised still more: "And that's why today I'm pledging to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office. ... I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay."
We haven't heard much talk like that from him in recent years.

(If the Bush deficits were "irresponsible" and "unpatriotic", what are the Obama deficits?  Trick question.  As any Obama supporter or "mainstream" journalist can tell you, they are the consequences of Bush's mistaken policies, and can not, in any way, be blamed on Obama or the Democrats who controlled the House after the 2006 election and the Senate ever since the 2006 election.)
- 8:55 AM, 11 January 2013   [link]


Former Death Row Inmate Murders Again:  These cases are rare, but they do happen.
A California man once sentenced to death for killing two people in the 1960s was under arrest Thursday after police said he led officers to the body of his 89-year-old mother.
And I expect them to happen more often as the legal attacks on the death penalty result in the release of more and more men from death row.

The Chronicle article doesn't name his original victims, but it does tell us a little about their murders.
Stanworth was sentenced to death in 1966 after being convicted of two counts of murder for kidnapping, sexually assaulting and shooting two teenage girls in Contra Costa County.
A quick search reveals that they were Caree Lee Collison and Susan Muriel Box, and that they were, respectively, 14 and 15 when Stanworth murdered them.

That same search tells us that the murders "occurred amid a string of violent sexual assaults committed by Stanworth".
- 8:09 AM, 11 January 2013   [link]


Do You Think The Issue Of A Pardon For Tony Rezko might have come up during this golf outing?
While on vacation in Hawaii this month, President Obama played golf with Allison Davis, a former business partner of Tony Rezko who also helped give Obama his start in the legal profession.

Rezko is the former Obama associate and fundraiser who was convicted of corruption and fraud and currently sits in prison.
Probably not directly, but it wouldn't surprise me if Rezko's name came up, and Davis told Obama that Rezko wasn't doing well in prison.  (Both would understand, without saying, that Obama might be willing to pardon Rezko in, say, December of 2016 or January of 2017, but couldn't just now.)
- 3:50 PM, 10 January 2013   [link]


Meanwhile, Back In Barack Obama's Illinois (20):   The legislature has been sworn in, but three members have reason to be nervous about their long-term prospects
As members of Illinois' newest General Assembly took the oath of office Wednesday, the state that's still struggling to rebuild its image after two consecutive governors went to prison set yet another precedent of sorts: three sitting lawmakers facing criminal charges.
. . .
The allegations against the three officials vary widely: bribery, bank fraud and trying to bring a gun onto a plane.  But experts say that while the charges differ, the accumulation and timing is damaging to Illinois as it struggles to address some of the most serious financial problems in its history.
(The Associated Press seems to see this as mostly an image problem, not evidence that Illinois needs better elected officials.)

Do those three have anything in common?  Well, yes.
The three legislators, Rep. Derrick Smith, Rep. La Shawn Ford and Sen. Donne Trotter, are Chicago Democrats who were all sworn into office Wednesday in Springfield.
The AP story goes on to say that's all they have in common, but I'll bet we could find other similarities.  For instance, I think we can reasonably infer that they all voted for Obama last November>

By way of the Instapundit and Iowahawk.
- 3:39 PM, 10 January 2013   [link]


Not From The Onion:  Bill Clinton has been named Father of the Year.

By — and really, I'm not making this up — an organization which in 2007 gave the same award to John Edwards.

I suppose we can be grateful that they didn't give the award to that new star of the Carbon Monoxide channel, Shawty Lo Walker.
- 1:09 PM, 10 January 2013   [link]


Ruth Marcus Changes Her Mind:  In today's column, the Washington Post columnist writes:
And there is something distasteful and fundamentally demeaning about judging a Cabinet solely by the color of its skin or the composition of its chromosomes.
Earlier, she had written:
About all those white guys:  What a shame.

Not an outrage, but a shame.  The face of power that President Obama has chosen to present to the country and the world with his second-term Cabinet picks is striking — except for the African American president at the top of the pyramid — for its retro look, white and male.  It’s “Mad Men” Goes to Washington, except Peggy’s leaving.
How much earlier?  Those are the first two paragraphs of the same column.

A woman has a right to change her mind, but it is probably not a good idea for her to do so in the middle of a column.

It's true that Marcus adds that qualifying "solely", but there is little in the rest of the column to make us think that the qualifier is important to her.  She asserts, without evidence, that Susan Rice and Michelle Flournoy are qualified to be secretary of state and defense, respectively.  (Respectively, certainly not, and possibly.)

And, of course, "solely" doesn't eliminate "almost entirely" (which I take to be Marcus's position), or "mostly" (which I take to be Obama's position), or "partly" (which was George W. Bush's position).

Unfortunately, all this emphasis on identity politics blinds Marcus — and many others — to the poor quality of all of Obama's second-term Cabinet picks, so far.  Susan Rice would be a poor choice to be secretary of state, but so is John Kerry.  And neither of them is quite as bad as the choice of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense.

Marcus has fallen for an old trick, one that the Chicago machine can claim to have perfected; she is ignoring questions of policy and competence in order to focus on ethnicity and sex.  We can understand why illiterate immigrants fell for that trick, as they often did, but Marcus should know better.

(Undoubtedly, Obama will find some women and minorities to fill other Cabinet slots.  There's a good chance, for instance, that he will find a place for Washington's Christine Gregoire.  If he does, that will please Marcus, who will ignore Gregoire's record as governor, which is, at best, mediocre.

I must admit that I was charmed to see the way Marcus put a new twist on a favorite line of anti-Semites and racists:  "Some of my best husbands are white guys.")
- 9:17 AM, 10 January 2013   [link]


Jack Lew's Signature:  You can see it here, along with some other famous signatures.

It looks more like a doodle than an actual signature.
- 7:00 AM, 10 January 2013   [link]


The New York Times And The Washington Post Complained That Obama Wasn't Appointing Women To Cabinet Posts:  So the administration quickly responded — by releasing a picture showing Obama posing with a group of advisors, some of them women.

Although Obama's top advisor is a woman, Valerie Jarrett, he does seem to prefer the company of men to the company of women.
- 5:38 AM, 10 January 2013   [link]


Sometimes The Seattle Times Goes Too Far:   As they did with today's front page.

Seattle Times front page, 9 January 2013

Like Drudge, the Times is appealing to emotions, rather reason.  One uses pictures of scary dictators, the other uses a picture of a scary rifle.  Intelligent readers will look elsewhere for rational arguments.

(Credit where due;  Jonathan Martin, who is now an opinion writer for the Times, has a sensible piece noting that an earlier gun buy-back in this area had no effect on gun violence.

Granted, he left me unsure whether he understands Venn diagrams, but even so it is good to see some effort to bring actual data into this argument.)
- 4:05 PM, 9 January 2013   [link]


Sometimes Matt Drudge Goes too far.

But I'll admit that I smiled at that juxtaposition — and remembered that Majority Leader Harry Reid accused John Boehner of acting like a dictator just last month.

(The Stalin picture reminds me of a gun control story from the old Soviet Union.   During one of the many purges, a suspect mistakenly confessed to having had a cache of guns.  As he was expected to do, he named an accomplice and said he had passed on the guns to the accomplice.  That man did the same, and the chain continued through more men.  After a time, the KGB (or whatever they were calling themselves then) got worried because they knew they would have to account for those guns.  So when they called the last man named in, they made it clear to him that they wanted to know that the guns had been destroyed somehow, so they could close the case.  He caught on fairly quickly, and with their help, concocted a story that accounted for those imaginary guns.)
- 1:30 PM, 9 January 2013   [link]


We're On Track for another trillion-dollar deficit.
The federal government ran up a $293 billion deficit in the first quarter of fiscal 2013, which ended Dec. 31, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Tuesday.  The government's fiscal year starts on Oct. 1st.

At this pace, the deficit would be on pace to top $1 trillion for the fifth-straight year in 2013.  All the trillion-dollar deficits have taken place under President Obama.
According to the White House, the deal that took us, briefly, away from the "fiscal cliff" will reduce the yearly deficit by . . . . $4 billion.

Before these Obama deficits, did you ever think that we would look at a yearly defict of a mere $800 billion or $900 billion as a sign of progress?

I can't say I did.

(Here's the CBO report they are summarizing.)
- 9:47 AM, 9 January 2013   [link]


Majority Leader Harry Reid Is One Of The Reasons The Senate Is Dysfunctional:  So says veteran journalist Carl Cannon, who lists some of Reid's many personal insults, and then ends with this summary and advice.
Americans often wonder why Washington is so dysfunctional.  There’s blame to go around, but Harry Reid deserves his fair share.  As she prepared to leave office last year, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine said simply, “The Senate doesn’t work.”  One of the reasons for that is the casual incivility that has replaced congressional courtesy.   One of Reid’s fellow Democrats, Maryland Sen. Benjamin Cardin, explained part of the problem in five words last year: “Civility, cooperation must be priorities.”  It was a succinct observation that civility and compromise are interrelated.  It’s probably too much to ask powerful senators to remember their mothers’ admonition that “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything . . .” Or perhaps not.

Nevada’s first senator was a gruff wheeler and dealer named William Morris Stewart.   In the preface to his memoirs he thanked his mother for providing him “the only preparation I had for the battle of life.”  Stewart added, “If I had always kept in view the rules of conduct which she prescribed, I would have made few mistakes.”   Words to live, by Mr. Majority Leader.
Perhaps, but it is unlikely that a man Reid's age (73), with fixed habits, will change.

Nor is it likely that the Democratic majority will replace him with a leader who will, from time to time, put the needs of the country above immediate partisan advantage.   Democratic senators like my own Patty Murray are, apparently, mostly satisfied with Reid's performance.

(Many wonder why Harry Reid can get away with breaking the law, year after year, by refusing to pass a budget.  It's simple.  As Byron York explains, the law has no enforcement mechanism, no penalties for failing to pass a budget.)
- 9:16 AM, 9 January 2013   [link]