July 2011, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
According To Andrew Goldman Of The New York Times, we have a Republican Congress. In an interview with Cornel West, published today, we find this interchange.
How can Obama be the president you want him to be when he's facing this Republican Congress? I'll put it this way, brother: You've got to be a thermostat rather than a thermometer. A thermostat shapes the climate of public opinion; a thermometer just reflects it. If you're going to reflect it and run by the polls, then you're not going to be a transformative president. Lincoln was a thermostat. Johnson and F. D. R., too.(If they have corrected this on line, let me know. I am using the print edition, and have run into my 20 articles per month limit on line.)
Have they told Harry Reid about this yet? Last I knew, he still thought he was the Senate majority leader.
(West's answer isn't important, except for showing that he didn't correct the interviewer. But I thought you might like to see a sample of his thinking, a sample that supports my claim that he is not even a trailing black intellectual.)
- 4:28 PM, 24 July 2011 [link]
The Scrooge McDuck Solution To Our Budget Problems: A local letter writer — who I won't name because I am feeling nice today — has an easy solution for our federal deficits.
I haven't looked at the details in their plan, but I am pretty sure that the Gang of Six did not propose giving apples (or money) to Scrooge. And I am also pretty sure that Uncle Sam needs four apples this year, not two, but we shouldn't let these petty details distract us from his central argument.
As it happens, we have an authoritative estimate of Scrooge McDuck's net worth. (In dollars, not apples, but those who prefer apples should be able to make the conversion without much trouble.) According to Forbes magazine, he is now worth $44.1 billion.
I will leave it to readers to figure out how many days that $44.1 billion would last, if applied to the federal deficit. (There are some links here that may be useful in your calculations.)Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 3:50 PM, 24 July 2011 [link]
The View From Camp Muir: Should be good almost all this weekend, now that they have the new web cam working.
Here's a sample picture from yesterday, looking south from the shelter.
For those not familiar with this area, that's Mt. Adams on the left and the top of Mt. St. Helens on the right. When the weather is just a little clearer, you can see Oregon's Mt. Hood between the other two volcanoes.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(I haven't seen any information on the camera they are using. I assume it is solar-powered, like almost everything else at Camp Muir. The camera doesn't take new pictures often; there's been at least an hour gap between pictures when I have checked. And the updates don't appear immediately, as you can tell from the time stamps.)
- 1:00 PM, 23 July 2011 [link]
The Guardian Thinks That The Terrorist Attacks In Norway weren't committed by the Amish.
Oslo police have confirmed the source of the blast that damaged the prime minister's offices in Oslo was a bomb. The question now is who is likely to be behind it.Oddly enough, I had come to the same, tentative conclusion.
(And I did so even before I knew about this indictment and threat.)
- 10:24 AM, 22 July 2011
We might both be wrong. The Norwegian authorities have a suspect in custody, and are describing him as a Norwegian. There are, I am sure, some converts in Norway, so we can't rule out our first suspicion, but this does make it less likely.
- 2:26 PM, 22 July 2011
The Guardian — and I — were wrong in our first guess, though I still think that it was an "obvious conclusion", for reasons described here.
The newspaper has much more on the captured man's ideology in this live report.
- 7:11 AM, 23 July 2011 [link]
No, They Aren't Discussing "Cuts" In The Negotiations Over The Debt Limit: Almost all of you know this, but it's worth saying from time to time, because almost all the news stories on this fight (and similar fights) are fundamentally dishonest.
Kurt Brouwer explains this point clearly.
Unfortunately, many Americans are falling for news reports that tell of budget slashing or Draconian cuts or whatever. Of course, the cuts are always going to come next Tuesday or next year or in 10 years, just never today. And, any cuts that are actually put in place are not cuts at all as a real human being would view them. Rather, they are cuts in the rate of spending growth. That is, Congress wanted a 10% increase, but only got a 5% increase, so that's a cut.(Brouwer would be more correct, since the 2010 election, to say that Obama, not Congress, wants the 10% increase.)
Do the talking heads on TV who keep telling us about "cuts" know that their "cuts" are actually slower increases? Most must, but I fear that a few of them actually don't know that, that they just pass on talking points from Democratic politicians, or special interest groups.
(There are, of course, real cuts to some programs in every budget — and there should be, because some programs fail, and some programs succeed well enough so that we don't need them any more. And, occasionally, those are the programs that are cut.)
- 7:47 AM, 22 July 2011 [link]
How Canada Got Out Of Their Hole: By cutting spending, mostly.
When Jean Chretien became prime minister in 1993, Canada faced a fiscal and economic breakdown. The government's share of the economy had climbed to 53% in 1992, from 28% in 1960. Deficits had tripled as a percentage of gross domestic product over the prior two decades. Government debt was nearly 70% of GDP and growing rapidly. Interest payments on the debt took up 35 cents of every tax dollar.With mostly good results.
Though Canadian voters were not permanently grateful, as Paul Martin could tell you.
Martin's private-sector experience may have been a key to this Canadian turnaround. He had balanced more than one budget before he became finance minister.
What they did shows what we could do — with the right kind of leadership.
- 4:57 PM, 21 July 2011 [link]
Jay Cost Draws Four Lessons From Past Conflicts Between A Democratic President And A Republican Congress: If you wanted to summarize those four lessons in a single sentence, you might say this: Republicans, don't get cocky.
Because, among other things, President Obama can block almost everything that the Republican House majority might want to do.
Article II of the Constitution spells out the powers of the president, which when it comes to advancing a domestic agenda, are really quite pathetic. The only power given the president on that front is an annual opportunity to shape the domestic agenda with the State of the Union. However, when it comes to stopping an agenda, nobody has as much power as the president, in the form of the veto.These lessons seem obvious enough to me, though unpleasant, but I suspect from what I hear on talk radio that many Republicans have not grasped them.
And that's unfortunate because we should be concentrating on winning the 2012 presidential election, not this debt fight.
- 2:00 PM, 21 July 2011 [link]
Canada Plans To Revoke The Citizenship Of 1,800 Illegal Immigrants: Here's the story.
The federal government believes some 1,800 people have obtained their Canadian citizenship through fraudulent means and it intends to revoke their status, Postmedia News has learned.Although the article says this is happening after a "lengthy" investigation, I suspect that the Canadian government began with the strongest cases. I suspect, in other words, that they went after the stupid and careless cheaters first.
Canada has, proportionately, even more legal immigrants than the United States. Canada also has somewhat more rational immigration laws — they ask many immigrants what they can do for Canada, rather than the other way around. If we put those two together, we can guess that the United States has at least as large a problem, proportionately.
So we might have at least 20,000 American citizens who obtained their citizenship illegally. At least.
- 7:50 AM, 21 July 2011 [link]
President Obama Is A "Fiscal Conservative" Or at least will be able to pose as one, according to New York Times columnist David Leonhardt.
[Obama's] attempt at a big deficit-reduction package — which seemed to come back from the dead on Tuesday — allows him to project a different image. He takes on the moderate role of fiscal conservative, looking to cut spending and increase taxes on the affluent.Have you stopped laughing yet? If not, take a moment or two to catch your breath.
Ready? Okay, here's the sad truth: Obama may indeed be able to pose as a "fiscal conservative", with the help of "mainstream" journalists like Leonhardt.
After all, Obama did the same thing in 2008, and some people believed him. And he doesn't have to fool everyone, just enough to give him a majority in the electoral college.
(For those who didn't laugh, a reminder: In January, Obama presented his budget, with the usual long-term projections. Here's how the Congressional Budget Office scored it. As you can see, this "fiscal conservative" asked Congress to approve immense — and, after 2014 — growing deficits, forever. His budget was voted down, 97-0, by the Democrat-controlled Senate. In April, Obama suggested that he might be willing to accept a plan that did not bankrupt the country, but his speech was not specific enough to be scored by the CBO. And this "fiscal conservative" still hasn't bothered to put a specific deficit plan on the table, where all can see it.
Leonhardt's amazing column is best understood as a strategy memo for the Obama campaign, or, to put it another way, as an in-kind contribution to that campaign from the New York Times.
Incidentally, Leonhardt has made this amazing claim before. He may even believe it, which is scary.)
- 7:32 AM, 21 July 2011 [link]
If You Are Going To Pie Someone, Make The Right Pie, says Xanthe Clay
Thank you, Jonnie Marbles. When you tried to splat Rupert Murdoch while he was being questioned by MPs, with one fell (pie-laden) swoop, you provided us food writers with a way in from the wilderness. At last, a culinary angle on the phone hacking saga.Not that either of us is encouraging you to pie anyone, but if you are going to do it, you ought to do it right. And using Clay's pie recipe wouldn't be a bad start.
And Ms. Clay is right when she says, with that traditional English sense of fair play, that attacking "an apparently fragile man in his eighties is indefensible". Or anyone else who can't fight back, with a good chance of winning.
- 7:52 PM, 20 July 2011 [link]
ObamaCare Killed Job Creation? Here's a post making that claim.
A new report out yesterday from The Heritage Foundation shows private sector job creation dropped dramatically almost immediately after President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare) into law.(And here's a link to the study, which I have not had time to read.)
I have thought, ever since it was passed, that ObamaCare was a drag on job creation, for all the obvious reasons. But I did not expect to see evidence supporting that opinion this clear, or, since I have not read the report, apparently this clear.
More later, when I know more.
(Incidentally, it is not necessarily illogical to favor ObamaCare, even if you agree that it is currently killing job creation. You could think that — in the long run — it will lead to a fairer, more equal society that is worth those costs.)
- 1:31 PM, 20 July 2011 [link]
Kudos To Cynthia Tucker: For admitting error, and for coming out against race-based districting.
I won't procrastinate. I'll get the most difficult part of this column over right now: I was wrong. I was shortsighted, naïve and narrow-minded to endorse the concept of drawing Congressional districts to take racial demographics into account.I've opposed this kind of districting for years, though not as vigorously as I should have, because I knew that it helped my party, net. But I have always thought that it was wrong, and that it had many bad side effects.
By way of Jay Nordlinger.
(There is talk here in Washington state of creating a "majority-minority" congressional district. We need one, some say, even though we elected Norm Rice mayor of our largest city, Ron Sims head of our largest county, and Gary Locke, governor.
Perhaps those who support that district hope it would give us more "crude racial gamesmanship and left-wing histrionics".)
- 9:03 AM, 20 July 2011 [link]
Wikileaks Versus Hacky Leaks: Bret Stephens says that they are "largely the same story".
In both cases, secret information, initially obtained by illegal means, was disseminated publicly by news organizations that believed the value of the information superseded the letter of the law, as well as the personal interests of those whom it would most directly affect. In both cases, fundamental questions about the lengths to which a news organization should go in pursuit of a scoop have been raised. In both cases, a dreadful human toll has been exacted: The British parents of murdered 13-year-old Milly Dowler, led to the false hope that their child might be alive because some of her voice mails were deleted after her abduction; Afghan citizens, fearful of Taliban reprisals after being exposed by WikiLeaks as U.S. informants.Good question.
But you shouldn't expect anyone at the New York Times or the Guardian to answer it.
- 7:36 AM, 20 July 2011 [link]
Mt. Rainier Has A New Web Cam: This one at Camp Muir.
Naturally, I've added a link to it, over on the right, with the rest of the Rainier links.
So far, I haven't seen any spectacular views, and you won't either — most days. The higher that you go on Mt. Rainier, the more likely you will be in, or under, a cloud.)
(Years and years and years ago when I climbed the mountain, it was sunny on the top, but we were under a cloud cap so that we could see down slope, but not out from the mountain.)
- 1:07 PM, 19 July 2011
But when you can see, the view will be interesting and, very occasionally, spectacular. This morning I can see the top of Mt. Adams and most of Mt. St. Helens. (Adams is on the left, St. Helens on the right.) On the rare clear day, you will be able to see Mt. Hood in Oregon, and perhaps farther.
The camera does not update very often. They are probably using solar power to run the system, since batteries would have to be brought in by backpack, which is tiresome, or by helicopter, which is expensive. And those running the park would not want a diesel generator at Muir, I suspect.
- 7:54 AM, 20 July 2011 [link]
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Is In Trouble with her voters.
Over the past month, [opposition leader] Tony Abbott has opened an 11-point lead as preferred prime minister - the first time he has been ahead of Ms Gillard. The government would be wiped out in a huge landslide if an election were held now.Why? Because, to put in terms most Americans will understand, she believed Al Gore.
And because she didn't tell Australian voters the truth about her plans before the election.
Gillard believes, like Gore, that we are facing a possible climate catastrophe, and that it can be avoided only by reducing our production of carbon dioxide. So she has proposed a complex "carbon tax" in an effort to reduce Australia's contribution to the problem. (Incidentally, many economists would favor something like her plan, because it would be an efficient way to reduce carbon dioxide.)
There are, however, two difficulties with her plan: First, though Australia has a high per person CO2 production, it has a small population (about 23 million), so this policy change would have almost no effect on the world's climate.
Second, during last year's election campaign, Gillard promised not to introduce a carbon tax.
Everyone knows it. "There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead," the Prime Minister said, just days before the last election.Since she stayed prime minister by the narrowest of margins, it is reasonable to conclude that she would have lost the election if she had been honest about her plans.
Why wasn't she honest? Why did she propose this tax, after promising not to? It is hard to say without knowing more about her than I do, but I would guess that she thought she could pass it and have enough time to placate voters before the next election.
And that — and here is where I think she may have been listening to too much Al Gore — this is so important that she should take this step, in spite of the political risks. Voters should be saved from this catastrophe, she may think, in spite of themselves.
- 10:09 AM, 19 July 2011 [link]
Obama's "Curious" Foreign Policy: Jackson Diehl is puzzled. (Or says he is, for the sake of an effective lead paragraph.)
One of the most curious features of the Obama administration's foreign policy is the contrast between the silky, non-confrontational public diplomacy it employs when dealing with dictatorships and adversaries, such as Russia, China and Venezuela — and the brusqueness with which it often addresses U.S. clients and allies.Others are less puzzled.
For the unhappy details of the foreign-policy outlook Obama is advancing, consult Feith-Cropsey yourself. There you will find material, not only from the writings of Samantha Power, but from other key Obama aides like Anne-Marie Slaughter and Harold Koh. Feith and Cropsey summarize by claiming that Obama's goals amount to a fundamental break with seven decades of American foreign policy, Republican and Democrat, realist and idealist. That divide, after all, is what the many presidential apologies for our past policies are meant to signal. In sum, say Feith and Cropsey, Obama "cares more about restraining America than about accomplishing any particular result in Libya. . . . The critics who accuse Obama of being adrift in foreign policy are mistaken. He has clear ideas of where he wants to go. The problem for him is that, if his strategy is set forth plainly, most Americans will not want to follow him."If Obama "cares more about restraining America" than traditional foreign policy goals, we have an explanation for the language that puzzles Diehl, and much else about Obama's foreign policy, including his odd halfway policy toward Libya.
That goal, restraining America, has been popular on the far left in this country for decades. (And even more popular in Europe.)
But it has never been popular with the American people, who alternate between reluctant engagement and isolationism. And so Obama is forced to conceal his long-term foreign policy goals from us, and even to take actions, from time to time, that conflict with those goals.
- 8:02 AM, 19 July 2011 [link]
Are Death Wishes Routine On The Jon Stewart Show? You have probably heard about Dan Savage's obscene wish that all Republicans would die — if, that is, you don't get all your news from "mainstream" journalists.
He has since apologized, but not everyone is ready to accept his apology. (And I may have more to say about that apology later this week.)
But here's what amazed me most about Savage's comment: He didn't seem to think his death wish was a big deal, and neither did anyone else there. The audience didn't gasp or boo, Stewart didn't interrupt to ask Savage whether he really wanted to say that, and the other two panelists ignored what he had said.
Amazing. Imagine, just for fun, how all of those present would have reacted if Savage had wished that everyone in some politically-correct minority would die. Republicans are a minority in America (as are Democrats), but are almost as politically incorrect as evangelical Protestants and traditional Catholics.
(Savage is often described as a sex-advice columnist. That's true, but incomplete, since he is more than an obscene 21st century version of Ann Landers. He was the editor of the Stranger, one of the Seattle's two alternative weeklies, for years. Under his leadership, their circulation and their political influence grew.
From what I can tell, most of the "mainstream" journalists in this area admire Jon Stewart, and some even copy his ideas and attitudes.)
- 3:03 PM, 18 July 2011 [link]
Did Prosecutors In The Roger Clemens Case Deliberately Lose It? I wondered about that at the time because the error seemed so obvious. But I have, thankfully, little courtroom experience, so I didn't write about it.
Now I see that some legal experts share my suspicion.
The prosecutors might have — I repeat might have — lost it because they wanted to start over with a new trial, or, I suppose, because they didn't want to spend any more time and money trying to put Clemens in jail.
(Here's an explanation of the legal issues. It is likely that there will be another trial, which is unfortunate, because the Justice Department should be spending its limited resources on more important cases.
According to his attorney, Clemens has never tested positive for steroids.)
- 10:02 AM, 18 July 2011 [link]
How Criminal Are Rupert Murdoch's British Newspapers? If you read a major newspaper or watch television news, you must have heard of some of the sins they committed. And you may even have noticed the glee with which Murdoch's competitors have been reporting this story.
But I doubt very much that you have read or seen this.
Back in September 2010 Guido produced, with the help of the Information Commissioner's Office, this "blagging" chart. The idea that this crisis is only about News International is fanciful.Murdoch's newspapers weren't even close to being the worst offenders, as you can see from the chart in the post.
That doesn't excuse those Murdoch employees who broke British laws, but it does add some perspective.
And we should recognize that there are advantages to British-style journalism.
How nice it would be if, like the US, the press would dutifully write "beat sweeteners" to ingratiate themselves, where stories are not written for fear of the journalist falling out of favour, where the political and media elites attend the same cocktail parties and envelope themselves in the same stultifyingly comfortable consensus about what is happening and what should be reported on.Like Toby Harnden, on the whole I prefer grubby, disreputable reporters who tell me unpleasant facts to the pretentious "mainstream" journalists who conceal them.
During the 1992 presidential campaign, I began turning to British newspapers for coverage of scandals — American scandals that our "mainstream" journalists knew about, but refused to share with their readers and viewers.
And I have continued doing that ever since, and often learned something from those grubby British reporters.
There are many, on both sides of the Atlantic, who don't like those kinds of stories, and they are using this scandal to attack the news organizations that dare to tell us what we need to know about our rulers. It's a real scandal, but I fear that the attacks on it, almost all from the left, will do far more damage than the scandal did.
(More thoughts on the subject from Brendan O'Neill.
Mark Steyn notes that, while American news organizations are chasing this British story, they are spending little time covering serious American scandals.)
- 7:27 AM, 18 July 2011 [link]
Has Barack Obama Committed Crimes Against Humanity? A Spanish lawyer says he has.
A Spanish lawyer has formally accused Barack Obama of crimes against humanity for ordering the assassination of Osama bin Laden.You'll note that the lawyer, Daniel Fiol, believes in the law enforcement approach to fighting terrorism. (Or says he does. He may just be on the other side.)
If it weren't for this lawsuit, Attorney General Eric Holder might have been able to find a job for Fiol, since Holder also believes in the law enforcement approach to fighting terrorism.
- 6:25 AM, 18 July 2011 [link]
James Traub Is Sweet On John Kerry: So sweet that, if you are a diabetic, I urge you to skip this New York Times article.
John Kerry is ready, willing and able. And hardworking. And loyal.There's much more, but that's enough to give you an idea of how much Traub loves Kerry.
You can learn even from an obvious "source greaser" like that article. From it, I learned that John Kerry is campaigning hard to be secretary of state in Obama's second term and — here's the scary part — that Kerry may be better qualified for that position than most of the diplomats on Obama's team.
(What does Kerry owe Traub for this piece? A lot. At least two big scoops, I would say, though you should consult a professional journalist, if you want an informed estimate.
Oh, and some Vietnam veterans might disagree with Traub, might think that Kerry is not an entirely honorable man.)
- 7:05 PM, 17 July 2011 [link]
Indiana Government Workers Are Getting Bonuses: Thanks to their own efforts, and the leadership of (Republican) Governor Mitch Daniels.
Gov. Mitch Daniels announced plans Friday to use some of the state's unexpected $1.18 billion cash surplus on bonuses for state employees.It's surprising how much a determined and competent governor — who has the support of his legislature — can do, in just a few years. (I still kind of wish Daniels would run for president, though I know that isn't going to happen.)
Oh, and did you notice that this good news was "unexpected"?
- 12:23 PM, 17 July 2011 [link]
In That Case, The World Had Better Pay Up: That was my first (and admittedly ill-tempered) reaction to this story from Germany.
The mass-circulation Bild writes:Because there isn't a nation in the world that is capable of mounting a hostage rescue mission against the US.
I might not have reacted so sharply to that collection of German reactions to our crisis, if it were not for this fact: Not one of the selections that Der Spiegel published mentioned President Obama's failure to even present a plan to solve our long-term fiscal problems. But it is the Republicans these news organizations blame, mostly.
(Here's a description of Bild, if you are wondering what kind of newspaper it is.)
- 12:10 PM, 17 July 2011 [link]
Moonbows: In Yosemite.
This dazzling arc of colour soaring across the night sky looks unreal.Including your computer screen, if you click on the link. (And if you want to watch them change, run the video at the bottom.)
I've never seen one, never even heard the term until today, although the phenomena is obvious enough once you think about it. (The droplets that refract light into rainbows don't care whether the light comes directly from the sun, or has been reflected off the moon.)
- 10:18 AM, 17 July 2011 [link]