Archive:

July 2012, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



What's The Most Important Story For BBC Readers Right Now?   As I write, their "most read" story is this one.

Well, I suppose we are all interested in ourselves (and how we might compare to Olympians).

But the second most read story is this one.  (Link fixed now.)
US presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrapped up his overseas tour in Poland, as frustrations between his campaign and journalists boiled over.
. . .
The Republican also praised the Polish trade union movement, Solidarity, which helped topple communist rule.

But Solidarity distanced itself from Mr Romney on Monday, saying he had supported attacks on unions in his own country.
In this article, the BBC fails to mention the endorsement Romney received from Solidarity's most famous member, Lech Walesa.

Do you think readers of the BBC site may be searching for anything bad they can find about Romney?  And that the BBC is doing their best to satisfy them?

(The India power grid failure story was fifth on the most read list, but second in the "most shared" list.)
- 1:33 PM, 31 July 2012   [link]


What's Today's Most Important News Story?  In my opinion, for the world it is the power grid failure in India.
Hundreds of millions of people have been left without electricity in northern and eastern India after a massive power breakdown.

More than half the country was hit by the power cuts after three grids collapsed - one for a second day.

Hundreds of trains have come to a standstill and hospitals are running on backup generators.
The suffering must be immense.

According to the BBC's Delhi correspondent, India's electricity problems are chronic, and have many causes.
India remains perennially energy starved despite 15% or more of federal funds being allocated to the power sector.  Bankrupt state-run electricity boards, an acute shortage of coal, skewed subsidises which end up benefiting rich farmers, power theft, and under-performing private distribution agencies are to blame, say experts.  There is no shortage of money, and the problem, as the Planning Commission admits, is more "in the delivery process [than] in the system".
In Washington state, we are currently having a debate over the export of coal, with the usual sides, Greens against those who see potential jobs.  Perhaps we should pay a little attention to the buyers of our coal, too.

(This Wikipedia article (which may have changed greatly by the time you read it) strikes me as more informative on the failure than any of the news articles I found in a quick search.  The usual caveats apply, of course.)
- 1:11 PM, 31 July 2012   [link]


Think The Press And Obama Operatives Are In Bed Together?   You're right.
Daniel Halper of The Weekly Standard reports that ABC campaign reporter Matthew Jaffe married Obama campaign deputy press secretary Katie Hogan in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin on Saturday.  This would be the second ABC-Obama union, after OMB director Peter Orszag and ABC correspondent Bianna Golodgryga.  These camps are very cozy.
There are, from time to time, marriages between Republican operatives and journalists — but they are much rarer.

(Even some members of the press here thought that former Governor Gary Locke might have gotten better press treatment thanks to his marriage to Mona Lee, who had been a reporter for King 5, the local NBC affiliate.)
- 12:44 PM, 31 July 2012   [link]


First Report From The Chick-fil-A Front:  My source in the Fort Collins, Colorado area tells me that he visited one of their restaurants a few days ago, and that the chicken was good, and the service excellent.

So it appears that you can go to a Chick-fil-A restaurant to support free speech — and have a pleasant dining experience.

If you have similar — or different — experiences, I'd like to hear from you.

(Today, the New York Times decided to support free speech, though with the expected side attacks on the Chick-fil-A CEO, Dan Cathy.  When our newspaper of record's editorial board decides to support free speech, as it does far too seldom, it isn't a close call.)
- 12:27 PM, 31 July 2012   [link]


Massachusetts Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren Says The Darnedest Things:  The Democrat (and Harvard Law professor) makes big claims, absurdly big claims, her opponents would say.

(Aspiring politicians will want to study the way she preserves deniability:  She doesn't say directly that she will save capitalism, she says that others tell her that she will.)
- 7:17 AM, 31 July 2012
Even Elizabeth Warren now realizes that she went too far in her claim, however indirect, that she would save capitalism.  Republicans and jokesters will be disappointed by her back down.
- 6:16 AM, 1 August 2012   [link]


Mitt Romney Sets The Bar higher.
Mitt Romney says that if he paid more taxes than were required, he wouldn’t be qualified to be president.

The U.S. presidential candidate tells ABC News that American voters expect candidates to pay ‘‘only what the tax code requires.’’  He says he hasn’t calculated what percentage of his income was paid in taxes but says that he’s been audited.
I think I understand his argument — he's saying that if you can't get your taxes right, you aren't competent to be president — but I'm not sure most voters would agree with him.

And I am absolutely certain that many presidential candidates would flunk his test, especially if they have complex finances.

It's fun to see a presidential candidate who, sometimes, says what he thinks.

(Some political figures deliberately err on the side of paying too much when they are doing their taxes, just to provide a little margin for error.)
- 6:14 AM, 31 July 2012   [link]


Majority Leader Harry Reid let's loose.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, the Nevada Democrat savaged Bill Magwood, a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, when asked if he thought the Democrat had a chance to become NRC chairman.

You know, when you're in this government, this business of politics, the only thing that you have is your word," said Reid, seated in his Capitol office.  "I can be as partisan as I have to be, but I always try to be nice.  I try never to say bad things about people. Bill Magwood is one of the" -- Reid paused, deciding which adjective to reach for, before picking them all -- "most unethical, prevaricating" -- he paused again, this time for 10 full seconds -- "incompetent people I've ever dealt with.  The man sat in that chair -- right there -- and lied to me.  I've never, ever in my life had anyone do that. Never."
. . .
Reid said that Magwood's behind-the-scenes maneuvering was unforgivable.  "He's a first-class rat.  He lied to Rouse, he lied to me, and he had a plan.   He is a tool of the nuclear industry.  A tool," Reid said.  "Magwood was a shit-stirrer.  He did everything he could do to embarrass Greg Jaczko."  Reid has donated $10,000 to help Jaczko pay the considerable legal bills he racked up defending against Magwood's allegations.
(Greg Jaczko, a former Reid aide, was put on the commission in order to kill the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.)

I'm charmed by the thought that no one sitting in his office has ever lied to Reid.  I have the impression — correct me if I am wrong — that political figures sometimes do not tell each other the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

But I could be wrong about that.

If you are wondering what this is all about, this is another Democratic attack on science.   A series of science panels approved the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, but anti-nuclear people — and Nevada politicians — have never stopped fighting it.  Reid finally won — at least in the short term — when Obama defunded the site in 2011.

(For the record:  I suspect that those who favored reprocessing nuclear wastes and using them for nuclear power had the better plan, though they lost out, in the Carter administration, if I recall correctly.  There are additional risks, but I believe we have both the technology and experience to control them.  The French have been reprocessing their wastes for decades, with no serious problems, as far as I know.

If we had gone that route, we would have far fewer tons of nuclear waste that needed long-term storage.)
- 1:24 PM, 30 July 2012   [link]


Mirth & Girth:  The attacks on Chick-fil-A reminded me of an extraordinary attack on free speech, more than two decades ago, in Chicago.
Mirth & Girth is a portrait painting by School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) student David K. Nelson, Jr, in response to what the artist described as the deification of the popular African-American mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington, after his sudden death on November 25, 1987 due to a heart attack.[2][3]  The painting depicted Washington wearing only a bra, G-string, garter belt and stockings.  After a brief showing at a May 11, 1988 private student exhibition in the Art Institute, angry African-American aldermen arrived with Chicago Police Department officers and confiscated the painting, triggering a First Amendment and race relations crisis.
Fans of the 1st Amendment will be pleased to learn that Nelson eventually got his painting back, and a $95,000 settlement, and that the ACLU was on the side of freedom, as they sometimes are.

Fans of the 1st Amendment will be disturbed to learn that it took a court fight before he got his painting back and the settlement.

And all of us will wonder about how well those aldermen (some of whom may still be in office) understand — and agree with — the thinking behind the 1st Amendment.

(Here's the Wikipedia article on Harold Washington.)
- 10:42 AM, 30 July 2012   [link]


Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, And Bill Clinton should avoid visiting Aguelhok, Mali — for their own safety.
- 10:08 AM, 30 July 2012   [link]


The Venezuelan Air Corridor For Drugs:  The New York Times published a map from the Joint Interagency Task Force South showing flights from a drug-producing area on the border between Venezuela and Colombia.  Venezuelan bloggers found that map fascinating, and for good reason.

The pattern in the flights is obvious.
You have to like this map in an article today in the New York Times showing flights between Central America and the Caribbean that go to the neverland between Apure State in Venezuela and Colombia.  Note how clearly the flights are planned to be in international waters and Venezuelan airspace, avoiding Colombian one, where they may be intercepted or tracked.
The destinations are interesting, too.  Note, for instance, that there are a significant number of flights to Haiti, but almost none to the Dominican Republic, just next door.

Our enemies have often helped the drug trade, sometimes by producing the drugs themselves, more usually by providing havens for drug traffickers.  From their point of view, it's a win-win; they get some cash, and they undermine us.
- 9:12 AM, 30 July 2012   [link]


Charles Lane Notes A Certain Inconsistency In European Attitudes Toward Guns In America:  Europeans are happy to sell guns to the United States, but then attack us when those guns are used.
Christoph Prantner of Austria’s Der Standard bemoans American insistence on Second Amendment rights, “even when this freedom occasionally has a very high price and, in a bloody perversion, fatally impairs the freedom of others.”

I can’t disagree.  I just wish Prantner had pointed out that James Holmes was allegedly wielding Austrian weaponry when he barged into that darkened theater: specifically, a .40-caliber semiautomatic Glock pistol.
The Glock, Lane goes on to say, is a favorite weapon of those who those who run amok with guns.

The Austrians sold us more than 400,000 guns in 2010, most of them Glocks.

(Judging by this Wikipedia article, Der Standard is roughly equivalent to our New York Times.)
- 7:13 AM, 30 July 2012   [link]


How Do Chick-fil-A Sandwiches Taste?  I have to confess that, when the political storm first broke over their president, Dan Cathy, favoring traditional marriage (just like President Obama until a few months ago), my first question was about their product, since I've never had one of their sandwiches.

And won't soon, since the closest one is in Boise, Idaho.  (There was one at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, but it closed.)

If you are going to be boycotting (or, in my case patronizing) a restaurant for the political views of its CEO, you'd like to know how much you will be giving up (or, in my case, gaining).

If that sounds frivolous, I'm sorry, but in spite of the legal threats, the whole affair seems incredibly silly to me.  It does show us just how absurd some politicians in very Democratic cities can be, but even Boston Mayor Menino, Chicago Alderman Moreno, and Chicago Mayor Emanuel seem to understand, now, that they went too far.

Fortunately, Mark Steyn takes this less frivolously than I did — perhaps because of his own legal clashes with Canadian enemies of free speech — and has written a summary of all this absurdity, including this.
Mayor Menino subsequently backed down and claimed the severed rooster’s head left in Mr. Cathy’s bed was all just a misunderstanding.  Yet, when it comes to fighting homophobia on Boston’s Freedom Trail, His Honor is highly selective.  As the Boston Herald’s Michael Graham pointed out, Menino is happy to hand out municipal licenses to groups whose most prominent figures call for gays to be put to death.  The mayor couldn’t have been more accommodating (including giving them $1.8 million of municipal land) of the new mosque of the Islamic Society of Boston, whose IRS returns listed as one of their seven trustees Yusuf al-Qaradawi.  Like President Obama, Imam Qaradawi’s position on gays is in a state of “evolution”: He can’t decide whether to burn them or toss ’em off a cliff.  “Some say we should throw them from a high place,” he told Al Jazeera.  “Some say we should burn them, and so on.  There is disagreement. . . . The important thing is to treat this act as a crime.”
Mayor Emanuel has similar double standards, if you were wondering.

(Years and years ago, Chicago's 1st Ward, now represented by Alderman Moreno, was the Mafia-controlled ward.  I wondered whether Moreno was representing the same area (and perhaps some of the same interests) that, for example, Fred Roti represented, but a look at the maps of Chicago wards showed me that the current 1st Ward is north and west of where the more infamous 1st Ward used to be.  The current one is, however, a fine example of gerrymandering.)
- 10:48 AM, 29 July 2012   [link]


A Pragmatic Liberal?  In this opinion piece, David Maraniss takes on critics of Obama, and of Maraniss's partial biography.
There are Obama doubters and haters out there who claim with righteous anger that they are “vetting” the president, something they say the mainstream media never did.  Some of them have said that my new biography — unwittingly, they argue, for I am too dumb to understand what my research has unearthed — proves that Barack Obama’s defining memoir is phony and that his entire life is a fraud.  My intent is not to defend Obama or his book; he can take care of himself, and I have my own questions about “Dreams From My Father,” which I make clear in my book.  But when comparing the liberties Obama took with composite characters and compressed chronology — which he acknowledged in the introduction to his memoir — to the stretches his most virulent detractors have taken in building their various conspiracies, I believe that they are the frauds and fabricators.
Maraniss goes way too far here, for my tastes.  I particularly dislike his unwillingness to name names, and to be specific.  If, for instance, he thinks that Jack Cashill, a sometime Maraniss critic, has erred, he should tell us that, and be specific enough so that, at least in principle, we can decide who is correct.

But that wasn't my biggest objection to this ill-tempered piece.  What disappointed me most was Maraniss's description of Obama as "a pragmatic liberal politician", and, of course, Maraniss's playing of the race card at the end.

Maraniss claims that "every move" of Obama over sixteen years shows that he is a pragmatic liberal.  To disprove that, all we have to do is find one move that is not what a pragmatic liberal would do.  And that's easy.  For example, would a pragmatic liberal pick a fight with the Catholic church?  And you can probably think of many more examples, yourself, without much effort.

I don't doubt that Maraniss knows far more details about Obama than I ever will (and there are some interesting ones in the piece that were new to me).  He sees many trees, but is unable to see the forest — and he doesn't give his critics the respect he expects from them.
- 5:04 PM, 28 July 2012
Jack Cashill has replied, as I was expecting him to do.  On the whole, I think Cashill has the better of the exchange — which is not the same thing as saying that Cashill is right and Maraniss wrong on every disputed point.
- 6:47 AM, 30 July 2012   [link]


Tim Blair Watched The Opening Olympic Ceremonies so we didn't have to.

After reading his account, and watching a few minutes while flipping channels, I can only say that I appreciate his sacrifice.

This BBC sports reporter claims to have liked it, but then he would say that, wouldn't he?

(Will I watch any of the Olympics?  A little, I suppose, in spite of the International Olympics Committee.)
- 8:31 AM, 28 July 2012   [link]


This Song Goes Out To Congressional Candidate Suzan DelBene:  Who, in one of her TV commercials, is boasting about her service as Washington state's director of the Department of Revenue.

So she wasn't just the taxman (or woman, if you prefer), she was the head taxman for the entire state.

This is the first time I have seen a candidate boast about being the taxman.   It's a perfectly respectable job, and DelBene may have learned something in it, but voters seldom feel positively about taxmen (and women).

But I suppose if you have a thin resumé of public service, you have to go with what you have.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(I would be happier if she would use that tax experience to talk seriously about our impending national bankruptcy, but I'll concede that honesty about our fiscal problems might not be the best way to be the Democrat who survives our top-two primary, even in the new 1st district.)
- 9:09 AM, 27 July 2012   [link]


Peter Schweizer Calls For A Special Prosecutor To Investigate Jon Corzine:  Schweizer believes that the ties between the former Democratic governor and senator (and current Obama bundler) are too close for the investigation to be left to people working directly for Holder.
The tangle of relationships between Mr. Holder, Mr. Freeh, Mr. West, Mr. Corzine, MF Global, Covington & Burling, and Morrison & Foerster create, at minimum, the appearance of potential conflicts of interest.  As the late Lloyd Cutler, a former White House counsel, stated, “Integrity is not enough.”  Conflicts often arise “when a private lawyer enters government service and a matter comes before him affecting his former law firm or its clients.”   Therefore, said Cutler, lawyers at firms like Covington & Burling or Morrison & Foerster must “operate at somewhat more distance, their friendships and loyalties — not to mention their financial interests — tie them closely to the corporate officers.  The appearance of conflict is as dangerous to public confidence in the administration of justice as true conflict itself.  Justice must not only be done; justice must also be seen to be done.”

That can mean but one solution: Mr. Holder must appoint a special counsel to investigate the role of Mr. Corzine and MF Global in the disappearance of $1.6 billion of customers’ money.
That last point deserves emphasis:  Corzine's company didn't just lose their own money; they lost money entrusted to them by customers.  (Much of the money lost belongs to farmers, who use commodity markets for insurance against big price drops.)

("Allahpundit" thinks that Corzine is safe as long as he is raising money for the Obama campaign.  I wish I could reject that theory, but I can't, given Holder's history, especially his part in the last-minute Clinton pardons.)
- 8:00 AM, 27 July 2012   [link]


Pioneer 10 And Pioneer 11 Anomalies Solved:  By a Russian scientist, Slava G. Turyshev, working at the Jet Propulsion Lab.

If you have been reading this site for a very long time — and have a very good memory — you may recall that I mentioned that these two spacecraft, launched in 1972 and 1972 respectively, had paths that were just a little off from what Einsteinian theory predicted.

And that excited the theorists to no end, because proving Einstein wrong would get you a Nobel Prize, and dates with all the prettiest coeds on campus.  (Okay, maybe not the latter.)

Turyshev, who did an immense amount of data archaeology, believes he has found a conventional explanation for those paths.
They saw that what was happening to Pioneer wasn’t happening to other spacecraft, mostly because of the way the spacecraft were built.  For example, the Voyager spacecraft are less sensitive to the effect seen on Pioneer, because its thrusters align it along three axes, whereas the Pioneer spacecraft rely on spinning to stay stable.

Turyshev and his colleagues were able to calculate the heat put out by the electrical subsystems and the decay of plutonium in the Pioneer power sources, which matched the anomalous acceleration seen on both Pioneers.
And who figured out that photons, in this case from heat radiation, could accelerate or decelerate an object?  Einstein.

The theorists should not give up because Turyshev did not explain another set of gravitational anomalies, which have persuaded most physicists of the existence of dark matter, for which they have "no direct observational evidence".

(An American physicist, Louis K. Sheffer, made the same argument in a paper published in 2001, but got little attention for his work.

Here's the Wikipedia article on Pioneer 10.

And sometime soon, I suppose I will have to update a couple of very old posts, with pointers to this one.)
- 7:55 PM, 26 July 2012   [link]


Romney 1, Brian Williams, 0.
Wrapping up an interview with Mitt Romney in London on Wednesday, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams asked about a potential vice presidential pick in the most obnoxious way possible: "So here's a Republican official familiar with your campaign selection process, told the folks at Politico you are looking for a, quote, 'incredibly boring white guy' for your vice presidential nominee.  Can you confirm or deny?"  Romney quipped back: "You told me you were not available."  Williams replied: "Touche, Governor."
What else could he say?

(I suspect that Romney was prepared for that question, perhaps because Williams has a habit of treating Republicans badly.)
- 3:44 PM, 26 July 2012   [link]


Need A Good Juicy Scandal To Round Out Your Day?  Here's one from Australia.  It's a little dated — but it concerns their current prime minister, Julia Gillard.

Caveat:  I don't, of course, have any direct knowledge about the truth of these charges.  The Australian bloggers that I read regularly appear to believe them, but, perhaps because of differences in attitudes and libel laws, have been reluctant to be as blunt as that post.

By way of small dead animals.

(Prime Minister Gillard would be a good character in a soap opera, because she is an attractive redhead, and for some other reasons, as I explained here.)
- 2:42 PM, 26 July 2012   [link]


If Presidents Don't Go Up With The Public, They Go Out?   That's what Michael Medved argues in his latest column, where he concludes that President Obama is in trouble.
A "closer election" means that one of the few iron rules of U.S. politics indicates he'll lose his bid for a second term.  History offers not one example of a chief executive whose popular appeal declined during his first term of office but nonetheless managed to eke out a re-election victory, as Obama proposes to do.  Among the 24 elected presidents who sought second terms, all 15 who earned back-to-back victories drew more support in bids for re-election than they did in their previous campaigns.
I can't think of any exceptions to that rule, except, possibly, the 1916 election.  It's true that Wilson went from 41.84 percent of the vote in 1912 to 49.24 percent in 1916, but it is also true that his winning popular vote margin went down from 14.44 percent to 3.12 percent.  (And he won the electoral college vote thanks to a very narrow (3,773 votes) margin in California.)

Nor is it easy to see how to fit FDR's third and fourth wins into this pattern.

(It would be interesting to see if there are similar patterns in other nations, and in our own gubernatorial races.

I've tried to think of some general explanation for this pattern, other than the simplest one, that politicians who lose support are less likely to win, but so far have not succeeded.)
- 12:36 PM, 26 July 2012   [link]


We're Not Greece:  European leaders, whatever the faults of their own countries. are close to unanimous in saying that their country is not Greece.

As I got near the end of that list, I was foolishly hoping that at least one Greek leader had claimed that Greece was not Greece, just to make it unanimous.  (One did claim that Greece was not Ireland.)
- 10:29 AM, 26 July 2012   [link]


A Leftist Newspaper Supports Freedom Of Speech:  And not just for themselves.
The president of Chick-fil-A opposes gay marriage.  While this view goes against the grain in a state that made history by embracing it, it’s no reason for Mayor Thomas M. Menino to oppose a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Boston.
It's a pleasant surprise to see the Boston Globe, a very left-wing newspaper, supporting freedom of speech — for other people.

Younger readers may be surprised to learn that our newspapers were once pretty good at supporting freedom of speech.  I can't help but suspect that their shift in recent decades is partly a result of a desire to suppress their ideological competition.  You'll see, for instance, shocked stories about the influence of the libertarian Koch brothers, but you won't see many about the influence of the leftist George Soros.

(As you may recall, the state of Massachusetts acquired gay marriage when a bare majority of their state's highest court decided that their centuries-old state constitution required it.  Whether the state now embraces this peculiar institution is hard to tell, without good survey data.)
- 9:25 AM, 26 July 2012   [link]


Perfectible?  Barack Obama is making big promises, again.
And I confess the progress didn't come quickly, and it did not come easily," President Obama said about his time as a community organizer in Chicago.  "Sometimes it didn't come at all.  There were times where I thought about giving up and moving on.  But what kept me going day in and day out was the same thing that has sustained the Urban League all these years.  The same thing that sustains all of you.  And that is the belief that in America, change is always possible.  That our union may not be perfect, but it is perfectible.
(Emphasis added.)

It is?

The debate over the perfectibility of human institutions is ancient — and to my mind was settled long ago.  The philosopher Immanuel Kant was right, I think, when he said: "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made."  Those who wish to disprove that conclusion are invited to submit an example of a perfect human institution.

(To be fair, Obama immediately follows that with a paragraph making the goal one from the Preamble to the Constitution, a "more perfect union".  But that only emphasizes my point, since the Constitution was written by men who understood that we are not angels, not capable of perfection.

If you feeling ambitious, you may want to look at this study of the question of human perfectibility.)
- 8:06 AM, 26 July 2012   [link]


Two Out Of Five CEOs Fail In Their First 18 Months:  So says Steven Davidoff in an article in today's New York Times.  (He cites the Harvard Business Review, but doesn't give details.)

Why?

Because the boards choosing them are not very good at their most important duty.  They tend to choose people like themselves, but don't appear to put much rational thought into the selection.  (Davidoff is skeptical about the common use of recruitment consultants, too.)

Does he have any advice for boards?  Just this:
Academic research is not particularly helpful either, and often looks at youth versus maturity and experience.  (Maturity typically wins.)
That's not much to go on, I must admit.

(Does Davidoff say anything about our board's choice of Obama in 2008?  No, but you might make some vague connections, if you looked at some of the research he mentions in passing.  As regular readers know, I was not surprised by Obama's failures, given his inexperience and lack of accomplishments.  I doubt whether any large company would have considered hiring him as a CEO in 2008 — but a majority of American voters, including some high-powered board members, didn't see that obvious point.)
- 7:00 PM, 25 July 2012   [link]


Need To Fill Up And Looking For The Best Price?  Try Venezuela, where a gas station was recently offering free gasoline with a car wash.

How much would you pay there, if you don't need a car wash?  According to this recent Washington Post article, about 11 cents per gallon.

As you probably guessed, that price has led to an active informal export business.
As home to the world’s cheapest gasoline, Venezuela has long had to contend with the hemorrhaging of supplies as smugglers haul gas across the border to cash in where the fuel costs far more.

In neighboring Colombia, drivers pay 40 times as much as Venezuelans to tank up — $1.25 a liter ($4.73 a gallon), compared to 3 U.S. cents a liter (11 cents a gallon).
Naturally, Hugo Chávez is trying to crack down on these enterprising small businessmen.  And, if you are at all familiar with his record, you will have guessed that he is not planning to change market incentives.

(You'll be amused to learn where much of the gasoline comes from, if you are an American, and distressed, if you are a Venezuelan.)
- 4:38 PM, 25 July 2012   [link]


Republicans Are More Enthusiastic About Voting, says Gallup.
Democrats are significantly less likely now (39%) than they were in the summers of 2004 and 2008 to say they are "more enthusiastic about voting than usual" in the coming presidential election.  Republicans are more enthusiastic now than in 2008, and the same as in 2004.
This partisan thinks that Republicans have more to be enthusiastic about.  And I suspect that grimly determined would be a better description of the Republican mood.

(Caveat:  As Gallup notes, these levels can change markedly during a campaign.)
- 3:51 PM, 25 July 2012   [link]


Jacob Weisberg Doesn't Like People Calling Barack Obama a "Chicago-style" politician.
If I hear one more person accuse the Obama campaign of practicing “Chicago-style politics,” I'm gonna kick all his nephews off the park-district payroll.  I’m gonna send some precinct captains over to straighten him out.  Mitt Romney and his surrogates don’t understand what Chicago-style politics means.  No one seems to have told them that it’s been gone for 25 years.  And they don’t get that Barack Obama, in his Chicago days, never had anything to do with it.
It's true, as Weisberg says, that the Democratic party organization is not as strong as it was under the first Mayor Daley.  It's also true that the organization was defeated — he would say — or split — I would say — by Harold Washington's successful run for mayor.  But that kind of split often happens in political machines.  In the past, losers in those fights sometimes moved to the Republican party, which then had a decent chance to win offices in Cook County.  Now, the losers have to be "independent" Democrats, and often pose, with varying degrees of accuracy, as reformers.

All that said, Obama has direct ties to the current Democratic organization in Chicago, and often practices a modern version of their politics.

Obama won his first office, state senator, by getting his opponents thrown off the ballot, a very Chicago-style move.  (And one much easier to do in Chicago than most places, thanks to the election laws there.)

As Chicago-style politicians often do, Obama joined a church that could help him politically.   As Chicago-style politicians often do, Obama exploited his ethnicity (and is continuing to do so).

Like the late Mayor Daley, Obama associated with corrupt men, though he may not have been practiced corruption himself.  His close ties to men like Tony Rezko and Alexi Giannoulias show at best poor judgment, and at worst an indifference to their ethics, and connections.

The late Mayor Daley was head of the Democratic machine that controlled Chicago.   Obama never got that high but he does have direct ties to people like former state senator Emil Jones Jr., current Chicago Mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and the former Deputy Chief of Staff to the second Mayor Daley and now the top advisor to Obama, Valerie Jarrett.

And one more connection:  His wife's father was a minor cog in the original Daley machine, enough of a cog to hold a patronage job.

(Oddly enough, Weisberg refers to the same source, Mike Royko's Boss, that I have been using to show the similarities between the first Richard Daley and Obama.  I still recommend the book, but urge you to read it more carefully than Weisberg has.

Chicago-style is not the same as the "Chicago Way".  The first describe a kind of politics; the second — which Obama cited approvingly in 2008 — describes an approach to crime fighting.)
- 1:27 PM, 25 July 2012   [link]


Other Than That, ABC's Coverage of the Colorado massacre was great.
ABC News President Ben Sherwood held a conference call of staffers on July 24 and told them that he felt his network's coverage of the shooting at a Colorado theater was topnotch work, well, except for that whole smearing of the Tea Party indulged by ABC News chief investigative reporter Brian Ross, that is.
And — probably — getting the interview with the shooter's mother wrong.

A great many people will be reminded of that famous line: "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"
- 7:20 AM, 25 July 2012   [link]


A 1000-Page Plan May Not Be the best way to simplify mortgage applications.
House Republicans and the nation's head consumer watchdog sparred Tuesday over an agency proposal to simplify mortgage documents that runs more than 1,000 pages.

Republicans expressed astonishment at the length of the proposed rule and argued the page count is evidence that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is taking the heavy-handed approach to regulation that it has long feared.
I have a little sympathy for the CFPB, since I have learned the hard way that it is far easier to make things more complicated than to make them simpler.  But only a little, since I am nearly certain this new bureaucracy will make things worse for consumers, net.
- 6:12 AM, 25 July 2012   [link]