July 2012, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
Those Bain Alumni are everywhere!
President Obama's rhetoric would suggest that he's against Bain (both Bain Capital, the investment firm, and Bain Consulting, the consulting firm, as he makes little distinction between the two Bains where Mitt Romney worked in the past). But Obama's own hiring practice suggests something a little different: His own budget director is a Bain guy who married a Bain gal.Jeff Zients is not only a Bain alumni, he's a very wealthy Bain alumni. And he seems to have earned much of his wealth by consulting, just as Mitt Romney did.
- 6:26 PM, 16 July 2012 [link]
Meanwhile, Back In Barack Obama's Illinois (14): Three "teens" killed a disabled man, mostly for fun.
Three teens were playing a game they called "Pick 'Em Out and Knock 'Em Out" when they videotaped a deadly attack on a 62-year-old man last week that was recorded and posted on Facebook, prosecutors said today.Men who try to earn a little extra money by picking out cans from garbage are seldom wealthy. According to this article, Mora was disabled, though they don't say how, and was the father of twelve children.
As I said in June, I ordinarily don't write about these kinds of attacks, but made an exception because there seemed to be a pattern in Chicago.
And this one, like some of the others, deserves more attention because the gang members, by posting the video on Facebook, showed that they were (and may still be) proud of what they had done.
And I add this attack to my list of things happening back in Barack Obama's Illinois because I know of nothing — I repeat, nothing — he did in Illinois to lessen crime there.
- 2:22 PM, 16 July 2012 [link]
What Has Jay Inslee Accomplished As An Elected Official? Very little. Who says so? Jay Inslee (or at least his campaign).
Don't believe me? Then take a look at his first campaign commercial, which you can see at his web site. In that longish political commercial, the former congressman lists two accomplishments, both of them votes, votes on contentious issues, to be sure, but not anything that required any great amount of work from Inslee.
And that's it. He has been in elected office, with one brief interruption, since 1989, and the sum total of his accomplishments is that he voted right twice.
It's possible, of course, that Inslee will tell us about his accomplishments in later commercials. So I looked up his entry in the authoritative Almanac of American Politics 2012.
They gave him less than a page — and list no significant accomplishments, though they do say that he is "telegenic".
Nor could I find any in the much less authoritative Wikipedia entry.
Both references say that Inslee has "focused" on this issue, or that issue, but neither mention any significant legislation, or investigations.
Younger voters may want to compare Inslee to the late Warren Magnuson, who did not have the same admirable family life as Inslee appears to have had, but did accomplish a few things, even early in his career.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(For those not familiar with Washington state politics: Inslee is the almost-certain Democratic gubernatorial nominee. He will be running against Republican Rob McKenna, a very smart guy, with many accomplishments (and a very nice family). McKenna is currently a slight favorite. It shows something about the weakness of the Democratic party bench in this very Democratic state that Inslee is the best they could come up with.)
- 10:53 AM, 16 July 2012 [link]
When Obama Explained That Businessmen Don't Make It On Their Own, He Reminded Me Of An Old Joke: Here's what Obama said, just in case you missed it.
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.And now for the old joke:
Farmer Jones has worked long and hard creating a successful farm out of a wilderness tract. His preacher comes out to visit him and admires the work, telling Jones: "You and the Lord have done good work here."
The preacher goes on at some length in this vein and finally, Jones, somewhat irritated, replies: "Yes, but you should have seen it when the Lord had it on his own."
It would be easy to translate that joke to put it in Obama's terms, just changing the preacher to an elected official and the Lord to the government.
But I don't think Obama would like that version.
(Although overstated, and more than a little insulting, Obama is not entirely wrong. We do owe much to others, especially those who came before us. (For example, I am grateful, from time to time, to those homo erectus guys who (probably) figured out how to use fire.)
But we don't owe most of what we have to governments, and we should not forget that governments can often be parasitic.)
- 10:14 AM, 16 July 2012 [link]
What Did Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner Do When He Learned That Libor Was Being Manipulated? Not much.
Tim Geithner had evidence of a financial crime of epic proportion — so he wrote a memo.Over time, regulators are often "captured" by those they are supposed to regulate, so we shouldn't be surprised that Geithner saw his job as protecting those banks, not making them operate honestly.
But we can wonder whether Geithner deserved a promotion for his efforts, or lack of them.
(Here's the Wikipedia description of Libor, if you need a quick review.)
- 7:22 AM, 16 July 2012 [link]
Mrs. Dennis Kucinich May Not Know All The Facts Of Life: At the Barney Frank-Jim Ready wedding reception (or, if you prefer, "wedding"), she made this prediction:
Later, at an outdoor cocktail reception, Ms. Kucinich ran up to a reporter, and gestured toward a nearby meadow.I have tried hard, but I can't think of an adequate reply to that thought.
You may be reassured to learn that she and Dennis do not have any children, though he does have a daughter by his first marriage.
The former Elizbeth Harper is a lovely woman — which may explain why she can get away with saying things like that.
(Don't feel bad if you weren't invited to the wedding — neither was I. And Wesley Pruden probably wasn't either, judging by this quip: "Nancy Pelosi, fresh from Barney Frank’s wedding reception where she scandalized the guests by dancing with a man, . . . "
You can find the article in last Tuesday's New York Times.)
- 6:40 PM, 15 July 2012 [link]
Hume Versus Zeleny: There was an instructive interchange between host Brit Hume and New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny on Fox News Sunday. The group was discussing that non-issue, how much Mitt Romney was in charge of Bain Capital after he left in 1999.
ZELENY: Every time he's run for office -- when he ran for governor in 2002 and then for president in 2008, these Bain questions are out there. But of course the volume in which they're coming now in a presidential campaign are very intense. And he still cannot do a simple answer the question.(Emphasis added in the last paragraph.)
Note what happened: Zeleny repeated the bogus Obama campaign claim that Romney was running Bain Capital after he left in 1999. Hume called him on it, Zeleny backed down most of the way, and then went back to arguing about tactics.
I have seen at least half a dozen "mainstream" journalists do the first part, but this is the first time I have seen someone call them on that falsehood. (Sometimes they will say that the Romney campaign disputes the charges, sometimes they don't even do that.)
Like Zeleny, many of these journalists must know that the charges are, almost certainly, false, but they also must know that, by repeating them, they may be damaging the Romney campaign.
(There is another, more general, point that should be made about some reporters from the Times, theBBC, and PBS. Although reporters, they are sometimes asked to be on these shows as representatives of left wing politics, or even the Democratic party. There are examples of journalists who have successfully been straight journalists and partisan commentators at the same time, but it isn't easy to do.)
- 3:20 PM, 15 July 2012 [link]
Do You Have Anything To Say Besides Your Talking Points? Last Sunday, I made the mistake of watching several Sunday talk shows. In the parts that I watched, I usually saw Democratic spokesmen, not answering questions, but just reciting the standard party talking points. (The Republican spokesmen that I saw weren't quite as bad, but I can't say they provided models for political discussion, either.)
Those parts of the shows were boring (and annoying), which can't be what the networks want them to be.
And so I have a modest suggestion for the talk show hosts: Begin each interview with the question in this post's title. And then give the spokesman a minute or two to recite those talking points. If, after that, they have nothing more that they are willing to say, if they are unwilling to engage in a conversation, then cut that interview short.
(Here's the lineup for today's shows. I like to check out Andrew Malcolm's list, rather than some of the others, because he tells you which guests might be worth your time.)
- 7:32 AM, 15 July 2012 [link]
For The French, On Their National Day, La Marseillaise. (With English sub-titles.)
The song has been mildly controversial, even in France.
The Convention accepted it as the French national anthem in a decree passed on 14 July 1795, making it France's first anthem. It later lost this status under Napoleon I, and the song was banned outright by Louis XVIII and Charles X, only being re-instated briefly after the July Revolution of 1830. During Napoleon I's reign, Veillons au Salut de l'Empire was the unofficial anthem of the regime, and in Napoleon III's reign, it was Partant pour la Syrie. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, "La Marseillaise" was recognised as the anthem of the international revolutionary movement; as such, it was adopted by the Paris Commune in 1871. Eight years later, in 1879, it was restored as France's national anthem, and has remained so ever since.It is a lively tune, though some might quibble with the lyrics.
And if I had ever known, I had forgotten that the Beatles borrowed a bit of it for, of all songs, "All You Need Is Love".
- 4:57 PM, 14 July 2012 [link]
Governor Jerry Brown Managed To Get High-Speed Rail Through The California Legislature: Alyssia Finley explains how he did it. (It isn't pretty.)
"The whole thing was carefully staged to allow [dissenting Democrats like Mr. Simitian] to speak about their no votes just before their vote was taken. But Brown knew he had his 21 votes in his pocket," says Bay Area economic analyst Bill Warren. Democrats gave their OK, he says, because they wanted money for local rail projects and construction jobs. "I doubt if any of them actually believe in their hearts that the rail system will ever be completed."Is Warren being cynical, or realistic? I am sorry to say that I have to go with realistic.
- 4:35 PM, 14 July 2012 [link]
Nile Gardiner Thinks That Obama's Attempt To Appease Russia has failed, badly.
And what has Obama received in return for his kowtowing to Moscow? Increasing Russian aggression abroad and mounting repression at home.What's most worrisome about this failure is that, as I said on Wednesday, Obama doesn't seem to realize that his policy toward Russia has failed. Certainly, he doesn't seem to going through a reappraisal, much less an "agonizing reappraisal". (As John Foster Dulles once said we might do, when dealing with a difficult nation.)
- 2:28 PM, 14 July 2012 [link]
Obama Says He Erred By Not Telling Enough Stories: In fact, he implies that was his biggest mistake in his first term.
Mr. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama sat down Thursday with "CBS This Morning" anchor Charlie Rose in the White House Blue Room, where they discussed the failures and successes of his administration as he heads into another election, among other things.His policies are fine, he just needs to sell them better. What worries me is that he appears to believe that. (I am mildly disappointed that he didn't say his biggest mistake was that he was too modest.)
So, for example, if Solyndra and similar companies go bankrupt after receiving loans from the taxpayers, that doesn't suggest to President Obama that anything was wrong with the policy behind those loans, just that he needs to tell better stories about it.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank agrees with Obama and says that Obama needs to unleash his inner demagogue, and suggests Huey Long as a model.
So if the wealthy are going to accuse Obama of class warfare, he might as well do something to merit the charge. “Always take the offensive,” the legendary populist Huey Long said. “The defensive ain’t worth a damn.”And that's a good idea because? Milbank never answers that question, though I assume he thinks more Obama demagoguery on this subject would help him win re-election.
(Here's a four minute video where Long explains his Share the Wealth ideas, and here's another, in which he shows just how good a storyteller he could be.
Obama has his own style of demagoguery, as Charles Krauthammer explained last year.
And, yes, Milbank was making an entirely different argument last month.)
- 8:55 AM, 13 July 2012 [link]
The New Discovery That's Only Sort Of New: Yesterday, both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times had articles on the study confirming the three-wave theory of immigration from Asia to the Americas. (Briefly, the theory, which is most closely associated with anthropologist and linguist Joseph Greenberg, says that native Americans arrived here in three separate waves, Na-Dene (for example, Apaches and Navajo), Eskimos and Aleuts, and every other tribe.)
The articles puzzled me because I knew, from a book published in 1996, that there have been studies supporting the theory for decades. So it wasn't clear to me what was new about this study. (Since it was published in Nature, I knew that I couldn't read the study for free, without visiting a university library.)
Fortunately, I was able to find this article, which explains what's actually new in the study (besides its size).
The analysis was not straightforward, because the researchers had to find a way to rule out genes from the European and African populations that arrived in the Americas from the late 15th century onwards.Explains may be too strong a word, without more on what he means by "peel back", but I think that's enough to give us an idea of how this study is new.
I mention this, not only because the study is interesting in itself, but because it is an example of a kind of error I often see in science reporting: Reporters, even the better reporters, often do not tell us what is actually new in a study.
(The late Joseph Greenberg was one of the greatest scientific "lumpers" ever. He combined hundreds of languages into a few groups, and even super groups. Among the more intriguing claims he made in his long career is that the Basque language spoken in northern Spain may be related to the Navajo language, which is not spoken anywhere near northern Spain.)
- 6:50 AM, 13 July 2012 [link]
Half Of The House Financial Disclosure Statements Are Wrong? Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan has been cleared of one set of charges, and in clearing him, the committee leaders said something mildly disturbing.
“The Committee found no evidence that the errors were knowing or willful and unanimously determined that the errors were not substantively different from the hundreds or thousands of errors corrected by amendment at the requirement of the Committee every year,” said Reps. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), the chairman and ranking member of the Ethics Committee, in a joint statement.And they usually fix them with amendments.
I can think of several ways to explain that 50 percent error rate. The statements are hard to fill out correctly, the congressmen don't have the financial ability or take the time to fill them out correctly, some congressmen conceal or distort parts of their financial records, and so forth. It's worth noting that 50 percent is a higher error rate than that I've seen reported for individual income tax returns, although to be fair, most congressmen have more complicated financial lives than the average person.
Those statements are mined constantly by opponents looking conflicts of interest, so some congressmen have an incentive to not be completely candid when they fill them out. Despite that, I suspect most of those errors can attributed to incompetence and laziness. But it would be interesting to know for certain.
(The Committee is still investigating another, more serious, charge against Buchanan.)
- 5:49 AM, 13 July 2012 [link]
Some Stories Are So Implausible That Only the Associated Press and the Obama Department of Justice could take them seriously.
- 9:21 AM, 12 July 2012 [link]
Glassman On Presidential Spending Scores: Let me start by saying that I think the game of attributing economic statistics, even budget statistics, solely to presidents is silly. Congresses control the budgets at least as much as presidents do, and few presidents have congresses that will simply rubber stamp their proposals, on budgets, or anything else. (And, if the presidents do briefly have such congresses, those congresses soon become more skeptical.)
That said, here are the scores for recent presidents.
As for spending itself, during the George W. Bush years (2001-08), federal outlays averaged 19.6 percent of GDP, a little less than during the Clinton years (1993-2000), at 19.8% and far below Reagan, whose outlays never dropped below 21 percent of GDP in any year and averaged 22.4%. Even factoring in the TARP year (2009), Bush’s average outlays as a proportion of the economy was 20.3 percent – far below Reagan and only a half-point below Clinton. As for Obama, even excluding 2009, his spending has averaged 24.1 percent of GDP – the highest level for any three years since World War II.(As he explains, you have to treat the TARP years specially, because we got much of that money back.)
If we had not been attacked on 9/11, those Bush numbers would be better, since we would have spent less on our military, and our economy would have done better. (I've seen claims that the attack cost our economy somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 trillion.) And that reminds us that presidents are controlled by events, more than they control them.
Similarly, the Reagan and Bush 41 years would be better if the Soviet Union had collapsed earlier than it did.
The Clinton years illustrate my point about the importance of Congress. As anyone who was following politics during those years can tell you, spending was brought under control after Republicans took control of the House and Senate in the 1994 elections — and after protracted struggles between President Clinton and the Republican leaders, Speaker Gingrich and Majority Leader Dole.
Nonetheless, we do have to give Clinton some credit for being willing, in the end, to compromise with those leaders.
- 8:58 AM, 12 July 2012 [link]
Count Robert De La Rochefoucauld Did Not Live A Quiet Life: In fact, if you were to see all his adventures in a movie, you might find the total implausible.
For example, after escaping from Occupied France with two British airmen, he took a up a dangerous trade.
La Rochefoucauld began his training early in 1943, learning to parachute and use small arms and explosives, as well as how to kill a man with the flat of his hand. Experienced safe-crackers were brought out of jail to show the recruits the art of breaking and entering. In June he was ready for his first mission.There's more, much much more. And he didn't stop his adventures just because World War II ended.
You don't often come across an obituary as lively as that one.
- 8:01 PM, 11 July 2012 [link]
Putin Thinks The West is in decline.
President Vladimir Putin said on Monday the West's influence was waning as its economy declines but warned Russian diplomats to be on their guard against a backlash from Moscow's former Cold War enemies.Could Putin be saying that, in part, because he has contempt for President Obama? I think so. As does Paul Mirengoff.
When President Obama and Secretary Clinton announced the "reset" policy toward Russia, I thought that it was a peculiar combination of arrogance and naiveté.  (Odd how often those two go together.) I expected it to fail, as it has.
Team Obama’s hope over the last three-plus years has been that Russia would become a partner of the United States on a range of international issues if ties could only be “reset,” pruning away thorny tensions that have grown in the relationship.But neither Obama nor Clinton seem to have learned much from that failure, or even from Putin's more and more open contempt for our president. Apparently, Obama hopes to try for another "reset", if he is re-elected.
That combination, Putin's contempt and Obama's arrogance/naiveté, will make the world a more dangerous place as long as Obama is president.
- 10:47 AM, 11 July 2012 [link]
Promises, Promises: I'd like to believe this one.
"This will be my last political campaign no matter what," President Obama said at a campaign event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa today.But, given Obama's record of promise breaking, I can't.
If Obama is defeated in November, I can easily imagine him running again in 2016. In the modern era, many candidates have had more than try at their party's nomination, and Nixon not only won his second nomination in 1968, but went on to win two presidential elections.
(Adlai Stevenson lost twice, William Jennings Bryan lost three times, and, of course, Grover Cleveland was nominated by the Democrats three times, winning the first and third.)
- 7:51 AM, 11 July 2012 [link]
Is Bob Beckel Being racist in his attacks on Congressman Allen West?
On Tuesday’s edition of Fox News’ The Five, the panel debated whether Americans have become too dependent on government assistance today — with liberal co-host Bob Beckel being the lone dissenter on the notion. When the rest of the hosts played a clip from Rep. Allen West (R-FL) reinforcing their point, calling Social Security “modern 21st-century slavery,” Beckel went on a tirade, telling the congressman to “shut up” while calling him a “blowhard.”Probably not, but you know that if the parties were reversed, Democratic leaders would be charging racism.
- 7:25 AM, 11 July 2012 [link]
Andrea Mitchell Versus John Sununu: It's an unfair contest, so unfair that it's more than a little funny, like watching a little girl try to box with a professional heavyweight.
And, no I don't feel sorry for Mitchell. She ran that selectively-edited Romney video just a few weeks ago, and never frankly admitted her error and apologized for it.
And in this interview, it is obvious that she knows that outsourcing attacks on Romney are bogus, or at least dubious — but she is hoping they will work, anyway.
(Yes, Sununu is really, really smart, even though he did some foolish things when he was working for Bush 41.)
- 7:43 PM, 10 July 2012 [link]
The Long-Term Decline In Public Confidence In Our News Organizations Continues: Here's the latest from Gallup.
Americans' confidence in television news is at a new low by one percentage point, with 21% of adults expressing a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in it. This marks a decline from 27% last year and from 46% when Gallup started tracking confidence in television news in 1993.The better educated people are, the less likely they are to trust TV news.
Confidence in newspapers is close to the all-time low it hit in 2007 (25% versus 22%).
The press release spends too much time, in my opinion, discussing the changes from last year. Read it if you like, but I urge you to first glance through their graphs, which show the trends since 1993, trends that should disturb every news organization.
(Interestingly, this year liberals and moderates joined conservatives in that decline in confidence. Democrats are the best group for both TV news (34%) and newspapers (37%). If I had to guess why confidence in the news organizations has declined less for Democrats, I would say it's because our "mainstream" news organizations have become even more openly partisan in this last year.)
- 1:57 PM, 10 July 2012 [link]
Dollar-Sniffing Dogs? Argentina has them.
Socialism: In the latest chapter of Argentina's war on economic reality, President Cristina Fernandez has banned the buying of dollars in a bid to halt capital flight. It's a market verdict on her policies, and it won't stop dollarization.Anyone with an IRA, or a similar plan, will be interested in what the Argentine government did to retirement accounts in that country. And will understand why people might be rushing to move their money out of that country.
What would be a proportionate outflow in the United States? About thirty or forty billion dollars a month. In cash.
(How good are those numbers? Not very, I would guess, since the Argentineans are doing something their government doesn't want them to do. But it is safe to say that the dollar outflows are large.
If you are wondering how the dogs are identifying dollars by smell — I was — it's the ink.)
- 8:15 AM, 10 July 2012 [link]
Did Barack Obama Come From A Privileged Background? He says he didn't.
And then I thought about my single mom -- because my dad left when I was very young -- and how, despite all the struggles, she was able to get a great education because that’s the kind of country this was. And she was able to pass on a great education to me and my sister. (Applause.)This is partly a matter of definition, partly what you consider privileged.
But I think that — although this can be hidden by his mixed race — that Obama himself has had a more privileged life than most Americans.
Both his mother and father earned doctoral degrees. That level of educational achievement would put Obama in the top 1 percent, I would guess.
Although Obama's father appears not to have contributed to his support, Barack Obama, Sr., was a privileged official in Kenya, almost certainly in the top 1 percent in income, and higher than that in political power.
Obama's Indonesian stepfather was another 1 percenter, in his own country.
When Obama returned to Hawaii to live, he stayed with his maternal grandparents. Although his maternal grandfather, Stanley Dunham, was not a great success as a salesman, his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham was a considerable success as a banker. According to the Wikipedia article, she had become a vice president of a bank in the Seattle area before the family moved to Hawaii, and by 1970 worked her way up to a similar position at the Bank of Hawaii, the largest locally-owned bank in the state.  (According to the article, she had to overcome prejudice since women — and whites — were "routinely the target of discrimination" in the Hawaii of that time.)
With the possible exception of a year or so of pre-school, Obama attended private, non-religious, schools all his life.
At a rough guess, I would say that Obama had, even before he got to Harvard, a more privileged life than at least 90 percent of Americans. At least.
- 1:13 PM, 9 July 2012 [link]
If You Were A Journalist, How Would You React To That Poor Jobs Report Last Friday? I think most of us would say that it was bad news for the country, and especially bad news for job seekers.
From there, we could go in different directions, either giving sad examples of people looking for work, or expanding the news by noting that the jobless rate would be even worse if so many people hadn't dropped out of the work force.
How did Greg Hersholt of KOMO radio react to it last Friday? By hopefully asking Ann Compton if there was any way the Obama campaign could put a positive spin on the report. (There isn't.)
Sometimes the bias is so blatant, it's funny.
(For the record, Compton was more professional in her reply than Hersholt was in his question. I didn't listen to Hersholt much after that question — naturally — but I don't think he ever showed much sympathy for the jobless. And I am nearly certain that he has never asked himself whether Obama's policies might be partly responsible for our high jobless rate.)
- 10:37 AM, 9 July 2012 [link]
Why The Higgs Boson Was Discovered This Year In Switzerland instead of a decade ago, in Texas.
(You can find some background here. Probably, Clinton could have saved the project if he had tried hard. I suspect most physicists continued to vote Democratic, even after that cancellation.)
- 10:11 AM, 9 July 2012 [link]
"Politics Ain't Beanbag" But this Democratic stalking tactic goes too far, in my opinion.
While most serious campaigns on both sides use campaign trackers — staffers whose job is to record on video every public appearance and statement by an opponent — House Democrats are taking it to another level. They’re now recording video of the homes of GOP congressmen and candidates and posting the raw footage on the Internet for all to see.Desperate times call for desperate tactics, and times are desperate for the Pelosi Democrats, who fear that they will never be in the majority again.
(That quote I used for the title comes from a Chicagoan, Finley Peter Dunne.)
- 9:39 AM, 9 July 2012 [link]