July 2008, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
More Historical Mistakes From Joel Connelly: Hoping, perhaps, to spoil my July 4th celebration, the Seattle PI columnist produced this reminiscence on World War II, and managed to get several facts wrong. Even so, I probably would have not have bothered to do this post except for the general argument he made in this paragraph:
Family letters may say that, but none of those things are true. The country was divided then, though not as openly as now. Here's a significant poll finding from Mueller's War, Presidents, and Public Opinion:
It is true that World War II, as measured by polls, was our most "popular" modern war, but it is also true that 14 percent of the public thought, in early 1944, that entering the war was a mistake. (Another 9 percent were undecided.)
Nor was the war competently run. On the whole, FDR got the grand strategy right, but he and his commanders blundered in many ways, small and large. Here's one famous example from Stephen Ambrose's The Victors:
Anyone familiar with World War II history can add many more blunders to that example. Nor should we be surprised by all those blunders, since we had to create an army almost from scratch, and all through the war had to send partly-trained, and even untrained, men into combat.
Now, for some of the mistakes I noticed in a quick read: In his sixth paragraph, Connelly says that at Midway we "sunk the four Japanese carriers that had attacked Pearl Harbor". In fact, six Japanese carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, Soryu, Shokaku, and Zuikaku, attacked at Pearl Harbor. Four were lost at Midway, but the last two survived until 1944.
In his seventh paragraph, Connelly says:
In fact, the British, under Montgomery, stopped the Afrika Corps at El Alamein before any American forces appeared in North Africa. (We did help Montgomery with supplies.) And the British did most of the fighting in the campaign to drive the Axis forces forces out of North Africa. And, whether we like it or not, it is a fact that the Soviet Union suffered far greater losses, and destroyed a far larger portion of the German army, than we and the British combined.
Connelly ends with three "lessons" for today; all three are dubious. Everyone was not engaged, though it is true that the newspapers were mostly on our side in that war. (FDR considered prosecuting the Chicago Tribune for revealing secrets, but decided that such a prosecution would give even more secrets to the Japanese.) It is also true that the opposition party then, the Republican party, was almost entirely committed to victory, unlike our modern Democratic party. But despite that, there were immense fights over the conduct of the war between the parties, and within FDR's administration. Nor was our objective as clear as Connelly says, especially when we remember that the British started the the war with one objective, to protect Poland from conquest, and that Stalin had rather different objectives from us and from Britain. Nor was politics put aside, as I explained to Connelly in 2003. For instance, FDR asked Eisenhower to speed up the 1942 landings in North Africa, in order to help the Democratic party in the fall elections. (Eisenhower tried to do it, but couldn't make it.)
Connelly wrote the paragraph that I began with to make an indirect argument, to criticize Bush's handling of the current war. But, anyone familiar with the real World War II, not the fantasy war that Connelly wants to use for partisan purposes, will understand that a comparison between the two makes our modern, professional forces, and many of their commanders, including President Bush, look good by contrast. But such a comparison is silly, because the enemies we face today are so different from the enemies we faced then.
But there is one point of similarity that holds a lesson for us — and for Connelly's newspaper, the Seattle PI. The Japanese military understood that we were far stronger than they were, economically, but they thought that they could wear us down over time, and that we would give up the fight. Our terrorist enemies have the same belief. I'll let Connelly decide whether his employer, the Seattle PI, may have encouraged Al Qaeda, and other terrorists, in that belief.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 6:17 PM, 8 July 2008 [link]
Suspicious Minds In Alabama: Have found suspicious vote patterns.
Perry County tends to have remarkably high turnouts and an equally remarkable number of absentee voters. Consider the June 3 primary, which attracted about 16 percent of the state's registered voters to the polls. In Perry County, more than 50 percent of the eligible voters cast ballots in the primary election.And, as everyone should know, vote fraud in the United States, at least most of the detected vote fraud, is committed with absentee ballots.
There are state and federal investigations of these patterns, and investigators have already received some serious allegations.
Attorney General Troy Kings' office has seized voting records for Perry and Bullock Counties, but it may not stop there.There's a citizen's group, the Democracy Defense League, that is pushing for investigations and stricter controls. Here's what they say about themselves and their goal:
The Democracy Defense League is a nonpartisan, multi-racial organization dedicated to the elimination of voter fraud in Alabama through legal means.It is important that DDL be nonpartisan and multi-racial because the sad fact is that the counties with problems in Alabama are mostly black, and heavily Democratic. And the even sadder fact is that these counties had some of the worst fights over black citizens voting, back in the 1960s. So a group that wants to end voting irregularities in these counties should be nonpartisan, to avoid charges that they are a front for the Republicans, and multi-racial, to avoid opening old wounds. (The group has co-chairs. I suspect one is white and one black, and I think that would be a good idea, in these circumstances.)
Incidentally, if, as it appears, there are significant numbers of fraudulent votes in these counties, the likely losers are — probably — black Democratic candidates, in primaries.
(There's some sad, but interesting, history, in this piece.)
- 1:28 PM, 8 July 2008
Link problem: The first link in the post may not work for you, unless you register. I got to it without registering from a Google news search on "vote + fraud", and you can probably do the same. It was the 21st site in their list when I did the search.
- 3:35 PM, 8 July 2008 [link]
If A High School Newspaper Did This: It would be funny, a sign that the budding journalists still had a lot to learn. But this was the Washington Post. And this is what the Post left out of a front page story on Obama's faith.
And just where and from who "on the South Side of Chicago" did he learn all of this? From his fellow "community organizers" in "struggling neighborhoods"? Must be because totally forgotten is any mention of the South Side church where he was married, the preacher who married him, the church where his children were baptized and the minister who baptized them, the church where he and his wife were faithful 20 year members, regular attendees and often generous contributors.Ethel Fenig's conclusion is harsh, but fair; the Washington Post "undermined its own integrity". Imagine writing a story on Obama's religious beliefs — and never mentioning Reverend Jeremiah Wright or Trinity United!
- 7:29 AM, 8 July 2008 [link]
Democratic Leaders Answer To High Gas Prices? Block a vote on more production.
House Democrats are in a bind on the focal point of their energy plan.If domestic drilling came to a vote, it might win, even in the House.
A senior Democratic leadership aide acknowledged this week that there are plenty of members of the majority caucus "who want to drill and want to drill where Republicans want to drill."And those members are getting worried.
As I have said before, environmental groups, and many Democrats, want higher energy prices. But a majority of the public doesn't, and so Democratic politicians often have to disguise what they are doing, in this example by blocking any vote at all.
- 6:07 AM, 8 July 2008 [link]
Political Moves: Since Barack Obama captured the Democratic nomination, for all practical purposes, he has been, our journalists tell us, making political moves.
Most journalists are less precise in their descriptions of these moves than I would like. Sometimes the same change (or apparent change) is called a "flip-flop", a "shift", or even a "pivot", three very different moves, by different journalists. (And you can probably find many more descriptions of these moves by reading through recent stories.)
The easiest of these three to understand is "flip-flop". A "flip-flop" is a reversal of a previous position. The most famous recent example is John Kerry's change of position on the war in Iraq, which he was for before he was against. If John McCain were to support opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, that, too, would be a flip-flop, since he has opposed that for so long.
A shift is probably the most common change, but is also the hardest to describe, since it can be anything from a small change, in reaction to a change in the facts, to a change that requires a candidate to give up long-held positions, and even principles.
Then there is the "pivot", which I don't recall being used much before this election. Steven Hayes may have popularized it when he described Obama's rhetorical pivots, Obama's habit of appearing to sympathize with conservative concerns, before rejecting conservative ideas. But Hayes' point, which will be obvious to anyone who knows basketball, is that when Obama pivots, he is appealing to conservatives — without changing position. He may face in a different direction briefly, but he doesn't actually move. So, though a pivot is a political move, it is not an actual change in a candidate's position.
Finally, there is the fake, the apparent change in position intended to fool the voters. For instance, a presidential candidate can claim to be for a particular Supreme Court decision, while promising to nominate justices to the court like those who opposed the decision. That, in my opinion, is not flip-flop, a shift, or a pivot; it is a fake. The candidate is trying to make voters think he is about to move in one direction, when he actually plans to go the other way. (Democratic candidates often do this with judges on social issues.)
All of these moves make it harder for voters to figure out exactly what the candidate will do, if elected. In a day or two, I'll have some thoughts on how we can figure out what they will do, in spite of their efforts to fool us with these flip-flops, shifts, pivots, and fakes.
(The reasons for these candidate moves are obvious enough. Candidates are trying to win base voters in primaries and swing voters in the general election. And voters change their minds about desirable policies. When crime rose in the 1960s and 1970s, the voters wanted tougher measures, and the candidates (even many Democrats) promised to provide them. Famously, Bill Clinton made a point of signing a death warrant during the 1992 campaign, hoping to neutralize the issue of crime, which had hurt Michael Dukakis in 1988.
Obama has used a different metaphor to describe a possible change in his position on Iraq. He said that he might "refine" his position. That's an odd word to use, since "refine" means to purify, especially a metal. By saying "refine", Obama was suggesting that his current position might contain waste material.)
- 4:50 PM, 7 July 2008
More metaphorical moves: Rich Lowry says that Obama is making a "dash" to the center. (Lowry believes that Obama is a familiar type, an "audacious salesman with an eye on the main chance".)
Bob Herbert says that Obama has been "lurching" right.
But Senator Obama is not just tacking gently toward the center. He's lurching right when it suits him, and he's zigging with the kind of reckless abandon that's guaranteed to cause disillusion, if not whiplash.Only if you believed Obama to begin with, Mr. Herbert. Those of us who began as skeptics — as one should with any politician — are not disillusioned.
- 5:14 AM, 8 July 2008
Cartoonist Scott Stantis, like me, thinks most of these Obama "moves" are actually fakes.
- 12:43 PM, 9 July 2008
Correction: See this post for a correction on the meanings of "refine".
- 1:06 PM, 14 July 2007 [link]
$2.50 To $10.00: On Mondays, I often have lunch at a local teriyaki shop. A few weeks ago, the proprietor sat down while I was eating my lunch and quizzed me on energy prices. I wasn't quite prepared for the quiz, but his questions made me think about the range of possibilities.
The title of this post gives one of the ranges. With one set of policies, gasoline will cost $2.50 a gallon in the United States ten years from now; with another set of policies, gasoline will cost $10.00 a gallon. (Even lower prices are possible, if we were to institute World War II style rationing. But I think that quite unlikely.) The higher estimate is easy to understand; some European nations are already paying almost that much, last I looked, mostly because of extremely high taxes on gasoline.
The lower end of the range is less obvious, but $2.50/gallon gasoline is possible if we do a little bit of everything, including increasing drilling here in the United States, improving fuel economy in our cars, converting coal to gasoline, constructing new refineries, and so on. (A world wide recession would also bring down energy prices, as it did in early the 1980s.) That price might not be desirable, given the risks of depending too much on imported oil, but I do believe it is possible.
(What do I expect will happen to energy prices in the United States? I think they will rise a little more in the near future, but not much more over the next ten years, simply because the political costs to high energy prices will be too high for the governing party.)
- 1:00 PM, 7 July 2008 [link]
Worth Reading: Mary Anastasia O'Grady explains how the Colombia was able to trick the FARC narco-terrorists and free their most prominent hostages. The Colombian operatives claimed the helicopter was provided by an international human rights organization.
As we learn more about the Colombian military's daring hostage rescue last week, one detail stands out: In tricking FARC rebels into putting the hostages aboard a helicopter, undercover special forces simply told the comandantes that the aircraft was being loaned to them by a fictitious nongovernmental organization sympathetic to their cause called the International Humanitarian Mission.Because the FARC narco-terrorists have gotten so much help from these organizations over the years.
There's much more, including this fascinating bit at the end.
One plan involved Ms. [Piedad] Cordoba [a Colombian senator], who is currently under investigation by the Colombian attorney general for ties to the FARC. She figures prominently in the captured rebel documents, and is notoriously close to Mr. Chávez.Cordoba may just have been boasting, but I do think Speaker Pelosi and Congressman McGovern have some questions to answer.
- 9:25 AM, 7 July 2008 [link]
Tax Increases Under Clinton, Tax Cuts Under Bush: J. T. Bush has a useful, but somewhat confusing, summary of the changes in tax policy.
Here are the main points:
By way of Gregory Mankiw.
- 6:30 AM, 7 July 2008 [link]
From Criminal To Terrorist: It's a common career change.
In the six-and-a-half years that the U.S. government has been fingerprinting insurgents, detainees and ordinary people in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa, hundreds have turned out to share an unexpected background, FBI and military officials said. They have criminal arrest records in the United States.Hundreds. Hundreds more must have committed crimes in the United States, and never gotten caught. (And the number isn't that high simply because we have been fingerprinting so many people. An FBI team that went to Afghanistan found that one of every hundred men they checked was already in their database.)
How did they get into the United States? Many of them were students. Did exposure to American colleges and universities turn them into petty criminals and terrorists? The article hints at that.
- 5:04 AM, 7 July 2008 [link]
Will Americans Vote For A Black Candidate? It depends on the candidate. Michael Barone has the poll numbers.
In any case, Obama's candidacy by itself is not a test of whether Americans are unwilling to vote for a black candidate; to determine that, you would have to take into account whether those unwilling to vote for him would be willing to vote for a different kind of black candidate. And as it happens, there is such a test case. In the fall of 1995, Colin Powell, fresh from a boffo book tour, was (or was widely thought to be) contemplating running for president. There were plenty of polls matching him as the Republican nominee against incumbent Democrat Bill Clinton. And running well: A typical Gallup poll had him leading Clinton 54 to 39 percent.It would be wrong — mostly — to say that the Democrats who would not vote for Powell were motivated by his race. It would be even more wrong to think that the Republicans who reject Obama would not reject a white candidate who was equally extreme. Even more wrong because Powell, unlike Obama, is a moderate.
- 6:11 PM, 6 July 2008 [link]
People In Central And Southeastern Europe Are More Prosperous: So the French have to pay more for snails.
Gourmets will have to dig deeper into their pockets if they want to be served snails after an insufficient 2008 harvest, the French canning and preservation industry federation said Friday.Seems fair to me. (And I didn't know that the French were exploiting impoverished snail gatherers.)
(I have never been impressed by the arguments for eating snails. As I understand it, the French eat them dipped in garlic butter — and almost anything will taste good dipped in garlic butter.)
- 12:34 PM, 6 July 2008 [link]
Remember The Good Old Days When Gas Was Cheap? Then you may be surprised by the chart accompanying this column. Last quarter, gasoline accounted for about 4.1 percent of Americans' personal consumption expenditures. That's a lower share than gasoline took in almost every quarter from 1960 through 1985. In 1986, the share dropped to about 3 percent or below and stayed there until the last few years.
But there's more in the chart. Spending on automobiles and gas prices tend to move in opposite directions — no surprise there. But there is a surprise in the trend since the mid 1980s. Expenditures on cars (again, as a percentage of all personal consumption expenditures) have tended to decline. In spite of all those luxury vehicles that you can see on our roads. So the total share of consumer spending on cars and gas has declined from about 11 percent in the 1960s and 1970s to a little more than 8 percent now.
What this reflects, of course, is how much richer we have become over these past five decades. We are spending far more dollars on cars and gasoline than we once did, but our pile of dollars has grown even faster than our spending on personal transportation.
(I suspect that we are now spending less on cars, in part because modern cars are more durable, so there is less reason to replace them.)
- 11:42 AM, 6 July 2008 [link]
Happy Fourth Of July! And thank you to all those who made it possible.
(Picture taken at the beginning of the Kirkland 4th of July parade.)
- 2:55 PM, 4 July 2008 [link]
Did Barack Obama Work His Way Through College And Law School? That's what he claims in his latest national ad. FactCheck fact-checked his claim, and found . . . discrepancies.
The ad begins with the announcer telling us that Obama "worked his way through college and Harvard Law." Actually, Obama took out loans to get himself through college, as we heard in a 60-second ad his campaign began running last month. We don't know how much assistance his family provided.I had many more jobs when I was in college and graduate school than Obama did in college and law school, but I would not claim that I worked my way through either.
And that's just one of the "discrepancies" in the ad.
What's strangest about this discrepancy, along with all the other discrepancies, is that there is no need for Obama to tell us these fibs. Would many of us think much less of him if we learned that his grandparents paid much of his way through school? And then there is the risk of being caught. At some point, even our "mainstream" reporters are going to notice just how many of these discrepancies there are, how many times what Obama says about his past turns out to be not exactly true.
(I hope to get time to analyze fully the two ads he has put out, looking for discrepancies — unless I find that someone else has already done that.)
- 12:51 PM, 3 July 2008 [link]
A Break In The Thunderstorms: So I can put up this brief post. We have had about twelve hours of off-and-on thunderstorms here, with lightning sometimes close enough so that I twice thought it prudent to shut down my main computer.
Though not always in time. This morning a close strike bounced the power and shut down the computer. As far as I can tell, no damage was done, except, possibly, to a Firefox temporary file. The Linux distribution that I use, Ubuntu, defaults to a "journaling" file system, which is very good at recovering from unexpected power outages, and other disasters.
- 9:14 AM, 3 July 2008
More: Here's a general description of journaling files systems, if the idea is new to you. By using them, you make your file operations slower, but much more secure.
- 1:40 PM, 3 July 2008 [link]
Sometimes A Really Stupid Comment: Such as the one by "bigdaddyvike" in this post. Inspires a truly brilliant reply, such as the one in this post. Read the whole thing to learn a little about that extraordinary warrior, Colonel Bud Day.
- 2:29 PM, 2 July 2008 [link]
"A Shortage Of Sand": That's the well-known punch line to a joke about Communism. You can find many more jokes about Communism here. Even if you are a fan of jokes about Communism, as I have been for many years, you will probably find a few that are new to you.
By way of ¡No-Pasarán!, where you can see a not-too-bad cartoon joke about Communism. (Though maybe not a joke you want to show the youngest kids.)
(Young enough so that you haven't heard the joke? Here's the rest of it: What would you have after five years if Communists ran the Sahara?)
- 8:30 AM, 2 July 2008 [link]
One Cute Puppy — And A Few Outraged Muslims: In Scotland. Here's the story.
A postcard featuring a cute puppy sitting in a policeman's hat advertising a Scottish police force's new telephone number has sparked outrage from Muslims.Or at least a few who say they are outraged.
My guess is that most Muslims in the area don't care about the puppy (and that some, especially the kids, think the puppy is cute), but that a few are using this innocent picture to divide Muslims from their Scottish neighbors. The outraged minority trick often works, which is why it is so often used.
(The Tayside police used the picture of Rebel because he is a police dog in training — and stories about his training had attracted favorable attention, and many visitors to their web site. Here's a sample with a picture of the puppy, looking cute.)
- 7:31 AM, 2 July 2008
More: Maybe just one outraged Muslim.
Dundee councillor Mohammed Asif claimed the postcard, advertising Tayside Police's new non-emergency telephone number, could offend some Muslims because it features a black German shepherd dog sitting in a police officer's hat.Who may not be all that outraged, but saw a chance to pose, and took it, as politicians often do.
(Incidentally, if the article is correct, Muslims accept dogs for hunting and guard duties; they just reject them as pets. Which I don't agree with, but find more reasonable than an absolute prohibition.)
By way of Damian Penny.)
- 1:02 PM, 2 July 2008 [link]
Happy Birthday! To our Canadian friends, who are celebrating Canada Day.
Since Canada was founded in 1867, this is their 141st birthday. The man most responsible for that founding was Canada's first Prime Minister, John Macdonald.
Today is a good day to thank Candians for their contributions in the war in Afghanistan, and for being, on the whole, such fine neighbors. (And for those who know a little about World War II, it's a good day to admire their contribution* to victory in that war.)
(Picture notes: This flag appears every Canada Day, a few blocks from where I live, along with the American flag, which you can just see behind it. Today, I finally met the couple that own the flags. He's American; she's Canadian. And the two seem to be getting along very well, which may be a lesson for our two nations.
*Example: The Canadians landed on one of the five D-Day beaches, Juno, and advanced the farthest inland that day.)
- 2:54 PM, 1 July 2008 [link]
Basic Facts On Washington State's 2004 Gubernatorial Election: Stefan Sharkansky, who did heroic work in digging up those facts, has them in two posts. It is impossible to read the first without concluding that laws were broken by election officials. It is impossible to read the second without concluding that the US attorney, John McKay, ignored evidence of crimes.
It is my considered opinion — which I have held since about December, 2004 — that illegal votes gave Christine Gregoire her narrow win. It is my considered opinion — which I came to more recently — that John McKay could have proved that, had he been willing to look at the evidence, and act on it.
For this dereliction of duty, McKay was fired by the Bush administration. The firing made him a hero to most of our local journalists.
(This is the latest vote fraud post, a category I have been neglecting. I hope to have at least one post in the category every month, and, if possible, every week. There is, so far, no shortage of material. If you see a story on vote fraud, anywhere in the United States, I would appreciate you telling me about it.)
- 1:29 PM, 1 July 2008 [link]
Democratic Congresswoman Laura Richardson has a very nice car. And you are paying for it.
When she arrived in Congress last fall, Rep. Laura Richardson sought out a vehicle that would match her newfound status.As you would expect, a Lincoln Town Car does not get good gas mileage.
Incidentally, she's a protégé of Maxine Waters, so Richardson is probably a leftwing extremist — as well as a fan of Lincoln Town Cars.
If her name sounds familiar, that's probably because you have heard about her adventures in real estate.
(I have to admit that, in some ways, I like politicians who don't even pretend to be working for the public. I don't think that they should be in office, but their open grabs for goodies are more honest than the sneakier methods many other politicians use.)
- 10:05 AM, 1 July 2008 [link]
Who Is Financing Obama? David Brooks has some lists, including this one:
When you break it out by individual companies, you find that employees of Goldman Sachs gave more to Obama than workers of any other employer. The Goldman Sachs geniuses are followed by employees of the University of California, UBS, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, National Amusements, Lehman Brothers, Harvard and Google. At many of these workplaces, Obama has a three- or four-to-one fund-raising advantage over McCain.So Obama is getting strong support from big money, and from radical leftists including William Ayers and Tom Hayden. That's a pretty good trick.
If Obama is elected president, at least one of these groups is going to be disappointed by what he does in office. (Brooks thinks the Goldman Sachs crowd will be happy; I think both groups will be disappointed, but for different reasons.)
- 7:27 AM, 1 July 2008 [link]
Democratic Party Officials are "horrified".
DURHAM -- Allegations that a local Democratic official and her husband were involved in satanic rituals that included shackling people to beds, caging them and depriving them of food and water have horrified county party leaders.As they should be.
Johnson was "interested in trying to attract more young Democrats" to the party. Satanic rituals will attract some young Democrats, but probably not a majority, at least in North Carolina.
- 5:58 AM, 1 July 2008
More: Here's the web site for their company, Indigo Dawn, a "resource for spiritual growth". The company offers "products and services to promote enlightenment and to assist in the development of self-empowerment and divine potential". Those don't sound compatible with satanic rituals.
- 10:17 AM, 1 July 2008 [link]