Archive:

June 2008, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Thirty-two Percent To Go:  According to this Rasmussen survey.  
Just 17% of voters nationwide believe that most reporters try to offer unbiased coverage of election campaigns.  A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that four times as many—68%--believe most reporters try to help the candidate that they want to win.
So, we still have to convince that 17 percent, and the 15 percent who don't know, that most reporters are not objective.  I suppose that we will never convince the last 5 or 10 percent, but we are making progress.

Every journalist in this country should read that brief report — and think about it — but very few will.

(By way of Hot Air.)
- 4:24 PM, 8 June 2008   [link]


Feeling Chilly?  You're not alone.  It's been colder than average in this area.

In the first few days of the month, average high temperatures in Seattle have been almost 6 degrees below the normal highs in the upper 60s, said Johnny Burg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.   Daily temperatures have averaged less than 53 degrees, which is a far cry from the normal average of 61 in June.

Snow in the passes

The weather is so weird, forecasters were even expecting up to 2 feet of snow in the higher elevations of the Olympics and North Cascades Friday night.  Up to 3 inches of snow was forecast for mountain passes above 3,500 feet, like Stevens Pass, Burg said.  That also included Chinook, Washington Pass and roads to Paradise and Hurricane Ridge.  The snowfall was supposed to taper off over the weekend.

It's been colder than average in most of the United States.

And, it's been colder than average in most of the world.

It would be a mistake to make too much of this cold weather.  (To see why, check the graph in the last link, and note the hot spike in 1998.  Many made too much of that event.)  It would also be a mistake to ignore this cold weather, especially if you believe Al Gore.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(As usual when I discuss global warming, I suggest that you read my disclaimer, if you have not already done so.)
- 10:13 AM, 8 June 2008   [link]


Mr. Obama's Neighborhood:  Where a person chooses to live can tell a lot about them, as Andrew Ferguson shows in his description of Barack Obama's neighborhood, Hyde Park.   Here's a sample:
It is the most racially integrated neighborhood in the nation's most racially segregated city.  On three sides it is closed in by some of the most hellish slums in the country, miles of littered streets, acres of abandoned lots, block after block of shuttered storefronts and empty apartment buildings left over from the 19th century.  These terminate abruptly at the edge of Hyde Park and give way to shade trees and lawns and stately brick mansions and huge, tidied-up apartment houses.  Surrounded, Hyde Park is different from any neighborhood in Chicago--different from anywhere in America, for that matter.
That isolation was created by the University of Chicago — with considerable help from the city of Chicago.  The university created an isolated (and integrated) community of wealthy whites and blacks by destroying the apartments and homes where poor blacks lived.

And that community is where Barack Obama has chosen to live.
- 7:12 AM, 8 June 2008   [link]


KUOW's Gang Of Four Gets More Politically Diverse:  By bringing in a supporter of Hillary Clinton, Erica Barnett* from an alternative newspaper, the Stranger, to join the usual four, all of them supporters of the candidate who must not be middle-named, Barack Obama.  One can't say that the host, KUOW's Steve Scher, doesn't have a sense of humor.  No sense of fairness, at least toward Republicans, independents, conservatives, and moderates, but definitely a sense of humor.

But that was as far as the political diversity went.  The program earned a grade of 0.0 for the third straight time.  There was nothing on the program, not even an email from a listener, that was not leftist, nothing that was even mildly critical of the Democratic party.

An example of the bias today:  Knute Berger, the former editor of another alternative newspaper, the Seattle Weekly, spoke darkly about the threats to the candidate who must not be middle-named from the "Republican attack machine.  As a member of the Democratic attack machine, Berger knows something about the subject.  While he was running the Weekly, he published stories quoting a local preacher saying that President Bush is the Antichrist.  That goes beyond the bounds of reasonable criticism, at least for me.

D. Parvaz, an editorial writer for the Seattle PI, gave us another example of that bias when she claimed that the quality of life in the US has "deteriorated" in the last seven years.  As usual, she did not show her work, did not explain how she had come to that conclusion.  Nor did she define "quality of life", so I can't tell for sure whether she committed an enormous factual error.  But by the usual definitions, we are far better off than we were seven years ago.  The air and water are cleaner, family incomes are higher, home ownership is higher, productivity has surged, school test scores are up a little, and so forth.

Erica Barnett showed surprising ignorance for a leftist, when she wondered whether the Communist party still exists.  It does.  (And there are some splinter groups with "Communist" in their names.)  And the party endorsed John Kerry in 2004.  That news may not have made any of the Seattle newspapers, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen.

Danny Westneat, the Seattle Times columnist, discussed a recent column of his on Obama's experience as a community organizer.  (Questions: Was the community better organized after Obama was there?   Was it better off for being better organized?)  Westneat seems to think that experience more important to understanding Obama than Obama's bizarre church, or his ties to a convicted fixer, Tony Rezko.  (I missed a minute or two of the program, but I did not hear them mention Rezko — who has been in the news recently.)  I suspect that Obama's experience with the Chicago machine is far more important, but that subject was not even raised by the gang.

Last week, I gave some hints to the gang.  Today, I would like to add just one more:  If they want to be taken seriously by serious people, they should not rely entirely on sources such as Glenn Greenwald and Jon Stewart.  (If you don't know why Greenwald is not universally respected, try this search string in your favorite search engine: "Glenn Greenwald + sock puppet".)

At the end of the program, Scher apologized for not having time to discuss the public display of affection at the Mariners game.  Let me be the first to say that the program was frivolous enough, without discussing two affectionate lesbians.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(*In an earlier program, Barnett told us that she hoped that the taxpayers would build a train to make her commute easier.  A heavily subsidized train.  We should be grateful, I suppose, that she does not want the taxpayers to provide her with a chauffeured limousine — though that might be cheaper than the train.

Is there anything that would make the program more open to ideas from people not on the left?  Maybe this, though of course I don't think we should go that far.   But I can't think, offhand, of anything less that would do the trick.)
- 1:50 PM, 6 June 2008   [link]


The British 9.2 Inch Howitzer:  When World War I degenerated into siege warfare on the Western Front, field artillery, like the French 75, became less important, and siege weapons, such as this one, became essential.

British 7.2-inch howitzer

(Note the incongruous nickname on the barrel.)

(Here's the Wikipedia article on the howitzer, for the curious.

My apologies for the quality of the picture.  For some reason — wrong mode, moisture on the lens, low light, whatever — most of the pictures I took in the Imperial War Museum were out of focus.  I've sharpened this one, but there are limits to what that can do for a picture.)
- 12:41 PM, 6 June 2008
Sometimes, the answer is obvious.  The pictures were blurred because there wasn't enough light in that main room of the museum.  The image stabilization on my Panasonic FZ8 works well down to about one-eighth of a second — but that shot was taken at one-fourth of a second.  (Flash would not have helped for many of the pictures I took, because I was too far away from my subjects.)
- 3:46 PM, 9 June 2008   [link]


When I Read this story.  
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said Thursday that he would welcome the death penalty for his confessed role as mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Yes, this is what I wish, to be a martyr for a long time," Mohammed told a military judge who warned that he faces execution if convicted of organizing the attacks on America.  "I will, God willing, have this, by you."
I immediately thought of the classic sadist-masochist joke:
Masochist: "Beat me."

Sadist: "No."
So, if we want him to suffer — and I do — we should not sentence him to death.  Instead, we should do what we can to ensure that he lives a long and miserable life.

(What should we do?  Hard to say, but presenting him with caricatures might be a start.)
- 9:49 AM, 6 June 2008   [link]


Gianna Jessen Won't Be Voting For Barack Obama:  Daniel Allott explains why.  Here's the concluding paragraph:
In "The Audacity of Hope," Mr. Obama denounces abortion absolutism on both ends of the ideological spectrum.  That is audacious indeed considering Obama's record, which epitomizes the very radicalism and extremism he denounces.
Don't expect to see much coverage of this issue by "mainstream" news organizations.
- 9:02 AM, 6 June 2008   [link]


Humility In A President:  Is generally a good thing.  Which is why President Bush promised to be humble in the 2000 campaign, and why Senator Obama is promising to be humble this year.

A family's choice of a home tells us something about how humble they are.  Here's a picture of George and Laura Bush's home in Crawford.  (And here's a picture of the inside, with a well-known visitor.)   As I am sure you know, the Bushes could have afforded a much larger, fancier home.

And here's a picture of Barack and Michelle Obama's home in Chicago.   The Obamas bought this home with help from convicted fixer Tony Rezko.

You can decide for yourself which home shows more humility.
- 8:14 AM, 6 June 2008   [link]


Europe And Abortion:  Abortion is legal everywhere in Europe.  (Unless you consider Malta a part of Europe.)  Abortion is limited everywhere in Europe.  This BBC piece is a useful guide to the differences among European nations.  Two examples.  First, France:
Availability: On request

Gestational limit: 12 weeks

Conditions: The woman must claim to be in a "state of distress" because of her pregnancy.  After 12 weeks, abortions are allowed only if the pregnancy poses a grave danger to the woman's health or there is a risk the child will suffer from a severe illness recognised as incurable.  If this is the case, two doctors must confirm the risk to the health of the woman or foetus.

A pregnant girl under the age of 16 may ask for an abortion without consulting her parents first.  But she has to be accompanied by an adult of her choice.
Conscientious objection allows professionals to decline involvement in procedures, but they must inform the patient without delay.
Second, Britain:
Availability: Under certain conditions

Gestational limit: 24 weeks

Conditions: Abortion is allowed in England, Wales and Scotland to save a woman's life, for health, economic or social reasons.  Two registered medical practitioners must certify that the required medical grounds have been met.

The procedure must be carried out, except in emergency, in a National Health Service hospital or in a nursing home, private hospital or other approved place.  The consent of the spouse is not a prerequisite of the medical termination.
(The British parliament recently voted on whether to lower that gestational limit.  The measure did not pass, but it may in the next parliament.)

If Roe versus Wade were reversed — as it should be — I would expect that the United States would soon have a mix of rules like those in Europe, with almost every state putting limits on abortion, but with the limits varying widely.

Only Ireland has rules as strict as those proposed by national Republican platforms since 1980.  (All abortions would be banned, except to save the life of the mother, or in case of rape or incest.)   No European nation has abortion on demand, as the United States does.  For these restrictions to exist in Europe, the parties that govern European nations must all be less extreme than our Democratic party, which supports abortion on demand.

And it is worth mentioning that the likely Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, is even more extreme on this issue than most of his party.  He has consistently opposed laws that would protect the few, rare babies that are born alive during an abortion.  That position is so ghastly that it is hard to believe that he holds it — but he does.

(Thanks to commenter "Porchlight" at Just One Minute for the link to the BBC article.)
- 4:46 PM, 5 June 2008
Clarification and correction:  I said that no European nation has abortion on demand.  That was, at best incomplete, for two reasons:  It would have been more accurate to say that no European nation has abortion on demand, with no time limits.  And I should have noted that the BBC survey does not include all European nations, though I am not aware that any of the nations they skipped have abortion on demand.

A more accurate way to put it might have been to say this:  Every European nation in the BBC survey limits abortion in some way, if only by imposing time limits.  Those time limits often look like viability limits; that is, European nations generally do not permit abortions after the baby is developed enough to live outside the womb.  And some European nations have much more severe restrictions.

Thanks to an astute emailer for making me realize that my original formulation was incorrect in at least two ways.
- 3:32 PM, 9 June 2008   [link]


Dismaying:  The mistrial in the Naveed Haq trial.

Women with scars on their bodies and indelible memories of gunfire struggled to grasp an incongruous truth: After six weeks of testimony, thousands of pages of evidence and eight days of deliberation, a jury couldn't decide on the guilt or innocence of their attacker, Naveed Haq.

Yet even as the victims and prosecutors grappled Wednesday with the mistrial declared in Haq's case, momentum was quickly mounting for a second trial.
. . .
The mistrial was a bitter disappointment for victims, who said they supported prosecutors and a retrial.

"There is no argument Haq killed [federation employee] Pam [Waechter].  There is no argument he viciously shot five others.  There is no argument that he made anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements.  Somehow, all this was not enough," federation President and CEO Richard Fruchter said.

I don't know whether the jurors followed Washington state law, whether, in Dickens' phrase, "the law is a ass—a idiot".   Or whether one or more jurors merits that label.  But I do know this mistrial should not have happened.

My sympathies to the surviving victims, and to the families of all the victims.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 3:38 PM, 5 June 2008   [link]


Republicans And Rezko:  John Kass points out an embarrassing fact:   Some of the people associated with Tony Rezko were Republicans.  
It's a big Rezko problem.  A big fat one known as Big Bob Kjellander and Big Bill Cellini.

That's at least 500 pounds of angry Republican boss hog, being pestered by the idea that Rezko could cut a deal and talk not only of Democrats but Republicans, too.  Republicans like them, I mean.
Maybe not Republicans many people have heard of, outside of Illinois, but Republicans nonetheless.

And it is no secret — after all, the last Republican governor of Illinois, George Ryan, is now in jail — that the Republican party in Illinois has its own problems with corruption.  So it would not surprise me if some Illinois Republicans were closer to Tony Rezko than anyone should be.

Nor will it surprise anyone familiar with political machines to learn that people in the two parties might have been working together (and against the public).  Tammany leader George Plunkitt explained that long ago.
Me and the Republicans are enemies just one day in the year—election day.  Then we fight tooth and nail.  The rest of the time it's live and let live with us.

On election day I try to pile up as big a majority as I can against George Wanmaker, the Republican leader of the Fifteenth.  Any other day George and I are the best of friends.  I can go to him and say: "George, I want you to place this friend of mine."  He says: "All right, Senator."  Or vice versa.

You see, we differ on tariffs and currencies and all them things, but we agree on the main proposition that when a man works in politics, he should get something out of it,
And there are a great many Illinois politicians, in both parties, who would agree with that last point entirely.

There is one glimmer of hope for Republicans in all this — long run.  Republicans in Illinois, and in every other state, will be more attractive to voters if they are honest.  (That isn't true for Democrats in a few states, or many cities.)  If Rezko talks — and I hope he does — he may help clean up the Republican party in Illinois.

(George Ryan isn't the only Illinois governor to go to jail; so did Democrat Otto Kerner.

Kass attempts to link Karl Rove with Rezko, but has no real evidence for that, other than what Rezko himself has said.)
- 3:13 PM, 5 June 2008   [link]


I Didn't Even Know They Liked To Smoke:  From the "Police Blotter" section of my very local newspaper, the Kirkland Reporter.  (The story doesn't appear to be on line, at least not yet, but you can read an earlier Police Blotter section here.)
Tuesday, May 27
8:42 a.m:
 A resident of the first block of Lakeshore Plaza contacted authorities after the top of a nearby tree began to smoke.  He said the fire was the result of a crow taking a cigarette butt into the tree.
Or maybe the crow is an arsonist, though no arrest was made.

No political point, but too weird not to pass on.
- 3:00 PM, 4 June 2008   [link]


Worth Reading:  Authors of biographies of Mao and Stalin compare those two monsters.  (Jung Chang and Jon Halliday wrote Mao: The Unknown Story; Simon Sebag Montefiore wrote Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar.  I wrote about the Mao biography here and about the Stalin biography here.)

Here's a sample:
JC: In 1927, when Mao was 33, he came into contact with Stalinism, and that was also the year he began to engage in violence.  And I think before Stalinism sank into him, Mao's attitude to violence had been more a traditional Chinese one.  There were lots of atrocities and acts of violence committed, but people didn't think these things were right.  Stalinism gave violence an ideological justification: suddenly Mao and the other Chinese communists got instructions from Moscow: "Terror is what we want".  You know, "kill, kill, kill, burn, burn, burn" — those were the actual slogans.   You can't be communist without being brutal.  So I think that was a revelation for Mao — you can be brutal, you can be violent, and you can feel fully justified.

SSM: Stalin started much younger.  When I started Young Stalin I thought there would be no killing in the book.  But then I found out that at a very young age — 22 or so — he was already having supposed traitors wiped out.  Obviously he later moved on to millions as Mao did, but at the time it was just one person here and there.  With Stalin it was a combination of personality, Georgian traditions, and also studying violence in history: studying the Terror, the Paris Commune, Robespierre.
But you will want to read the whole thing.

(Reading this discussion may give us some perspective on our choices this November.)
- 1:57 PM, 4 June 2008   [link]


Orders For Manufactured Goods Surge In April:  The New York Times is suprised.
Orders for manufactured goods posted a surprisingly strong increase in April as demand rose across a number of industries.

The Commerce Department report on Tuesday said that orders were up 1.1 percent in April after a 1.5 percent increase in March. Orders fell in January and March as a spreading slowdown in the overall economy depressed manufacturing activity.

The April increase came as a surprise.  Analysts had been forecasting a small decline.
But then they are always surprised by good economic news, when a Republican is president.

According to the Commerce Department, that's a record high.
New orders for manufactured goods in April, up two consecutive months, increased $5.0 billion or 1.1 percent to $445.2 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today.  This followed a 1.5 percent March increase.  Shipments, up three of the last four months, increased $9.6 billion or 2.2 percent to $443.9 billion.  This was at the highest level since the series was first stated on a NAICS basis in 1992 and followed a 1.1 percent March increase.  Unfilled orders, up twenty-six of the last twenty-seven months, increased $7.3 billion or 0.9 percent to $804.4 billion.  This was also at the highest level since the series was first stated on a NAICS basis in 1992 and followed a 1.3 percent March increase.
Eyeballing the New York Times chart, it looks like new orders for manufactured goods are up about five percent since April 2007.

(More good news here, also unexpected.)
- 12:54 PM, 4 June 2008   [link]


What Is Obama's Position On Nuclear Energy?  He's for it in principle, but against it in practice.

I got curious about that question after reading the New York Times account of his false claim to have passed legislation on nuclear leaks, which I wrote about in this post.  Given Obama's close ties to a utility that operates nuclear facilities, Exelon, it occurred to me that Obama might be a supporter of nuclear power.  And he is, in principle, though he doesn't say so on his main campaign site.  Or on his Senate site, where he summarizes his positions on energy, as follows:
Senator Obama believes that America must commit to a new national energy policy focused on improvements in technology, investments in renewable fuels such as wind and solar power, and greater efforts in conservation, efficiency, and waste reduction.  Shifting from our current investment and consumption practices to this new direction will be one of the great leadership challenges in the coming decade.
But if you download his energy plan from his campaign site and read through it, you can find a section on nuclear energy.
Safe and Secure Nuclear Energy:  Nuclear power represents more than 70 percent of our non-carbon generated electricity.  It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power from the table.  However, there is no future for expanded nuclear without first addressing four key issues: public right-to-know, security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage, and proliferation.  Barack Obama introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate to establish guidelines for tracking, controlling and accounting for spent fuel at nuclear power plants.

To prevent international nuclear material from falling into terrorist hands abroad, Obama worked closely with Sen. Dick Lugar (R — IN) to strengthen international efforts to identify and stop the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction.  As president, Obama will make safeguarding nuclear material both abroad and in the U.S. a top anti-terrorism priority.

Obama will also lead federal efforts to look for a safe, long-term disposal solution based on objective, scientific analysis.  In the meantime, Obama will develop requirements to ensure that the waste stored at current reactor sites is contained using the most advanced dry-cask storage technology available.  Barack Obama believes that Yucca Mountain is not an option.  Our government has spent billions of dollars on Yucca Mountain, and yet there are still significant questions about whether nuclear waste can be safely stored there.
Once we have taken his proposals out of the closet where he has hidden them, we can see that they are not all bad.  It is good to see that he gives at least token support to Senator Lugar's efforts to control proliferation — efforts that began before Barack Obama was elected to the Illinois senate.   (Whether Obama actually did much work with Lugar is open to doubt.)

And Obama is correct to say that we may not be able to meet "aggressive climate goals" without nuclear power.  (Assuming, of course, that global warming is a serious threat.)  And in this admission, he is ahead of former vice president Al Gore.  But having said that nuclear power may be essential, he then raises the old objection of nuclear waste.  It has had great success politically, and is almost entirely bogus, scientifically.  It is true that nuclear waste is dangerous, but no more than many other things we use daily, with far fewer safeguards.  (For instance, chlorine, which is used in many household products — and was used as a poison gas in World War I.  Chlorine is routinely transported around the United States in railroad tank cars.)

When a political candidate uses nuclear waste to object to nuclear power, they reveal one of two things about themselves:  Either the candidate does not understand the science — which is not that difficult to grasp — or the candidate is a demagogue who does not care about the scientific facts.  But the position is enormously convenient for a candidate who wants to appear reasonable about nuclear power, while blocking it in practice.  (But not, and this is important, closing any current nuclear power plants.)

I do not know whether Obama does not understand the science — though he has no significant training in the sciences — or whether he is just being a demagogue.  But his position is, on this issue, profoundly anti-scientific.

His position on nuclear power, favoring it in principle but opposing it in practice, is excellent politically, perfect for a Democratic primary contest.  But it is wrong on the science, and wrong for the best interests of the nation.

(This Wikipedia article on Yucca Mountain looks like a reasonable summary of the facts.  I should add that, since nuclear wastes decay, the time requirements for the safety of the wastes are absurd.  At one time, the Swedes were thinking of storing nuclear wastes in lead containers, but they realized that the lead would be more dangerous than the wastes in just a few hundred years.)
- 10:43 AM, 4 June 2008   [link]


Embarrassing Obama:  Can you read this without blushing?
Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.
I couldn't.

What worries me most is that Obama may believe some, or all, of that nonsense.

And he certainly expects us to believe it.

He expects us to believe, for example, that we have not begun "to provide care for the sick".  (Even though his wife works for a very large hospital.)

And note that this passage comes from a prepared speech, a speech he and his campaign staff have probably been working on for days, if not weeks.

There is a telling flaw in the last phrase.  Ordinarily in a list like this one, the speaker saves the most important point for last.  Obama's last promise is that he will restore "our image".  What's most important to Obama is not what we do, but what others (some of them enemies) think of us.
- 5:28 AM, 4 June 2008   [link]


Free Speech In France?  Not for Brigitte Bardot.
Brigitte Bardot was convicted Tuesday of provoking discrimination and racial hatred for writing that Muslims are destroying France.

A Paris court also handed down a $23,325 fine against the former screen siren and animal rights campaigner.  The court also ordered Bardot to pay $1,555 in damages to MRAP.
At least not on that subject.

Don Surber says that we should offer Bardot asylum.  Good idea.   (Surber may not know it, but he is echoing an idea of Bob Dylan's from years ago.)

(Incidentally, it is simply disgraceful for the Associated Press to use that nasty picture to illustrate the article.  It is not hard to find better pictures of the actress, even better recent pictures.)
- 3:15 PM, 3 June 2008   [link]


Predictions For Montana And South Dakota:  Ordinarily, to make election predictions, I look carefully at all the polls available, check to see whether they seem plausible considering past election results, and look for any trends.

Today, I can't do that because there is only a single current poll in each state, both done by the same company, the American Research Group.  For Montana, they predict that Obama will defeat Clinton by 4 points.
Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton 56% to 35% among men (45% of likely Democratic primary voters).   Among women, Clinton leads 52% to 41%.

Obama leads 49% to 45% among voters age 18 to 49 (44% of likely Democratic primary voters) and Obama leads 48% to 43% among voters age 50 and older.
For South Dakota, they predict that Clinton will defeat Obama by 26 points.
Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama 56% to 39% among men (46% of likely Democratic primary voters).   Among women, Clinton leads 63% to 29%.

Clinton leads 57% to 38% among voters age 18 to 49 (46% of likely Democratic primary voters) and Clinton leads 63% to 30% among voters age 50 and older.
And because, though each ARG poll might be plausible on its own, the two are implausible taken together.   Montana and South Dakota are neighboring states, but ARG is telling us that Clinton will lose the first by 4 points, and win the second by 26 points!  There is one difference between the two states that explains part of that immense gap.  Montana's primary is "open"; independents as well as Democrats can vote, and the independents in ARG's sample provide Obama's margin.  South Dakota's primary is closed.

There are, of course, many other differences between the two states, but not enough — in my opinion — to explain a gap that large.  So I will make one firm prediction:  The gap between the results in the two states will be smaller than 30 points.

But who will win each state?  South Dakota is easy; unless ARG completely botched their poll, Clinton will win the state by at least 10 points.  A solid victory for Clinton there is plausible because South Dakota is one of the nation's most culturally conservative states, with many citizens who would be offended by what we have learned about Obama's friends, Reverend Wright and Father Pfleger.

Montana is more difficult, because the internals — at least those they show us — of the ARG poll look wrong.  Clinton has consistently done better among older voters, but the poll shows her doing about as well among younger and older voters.  And her advantage among women seems too small in a time when many white women are bitter about her treatment by the Democratic party.

So I look for more data, and there is one more poll, done by Mason-Dixon, two weeks ago.  That poll, which had a small sample, showed Obama winning by 17 points.   Could he have lost 13 points from his margin in just two weeks?  Sure.  In fact, given Father Pfleger's performance, and Obama's decision to leave Trinity, I would have expected him to lose some ground over the last two weeks.

If we were to take that trend seriously, then I would have to rate the Montana contest as a toss-up.  But, as I said, the ARG internals look wrong to me.  And so I am not going to make a prediction in this race.  But I will say this much:  I would not give 10-1 odds against a Clinton upset.

(How good have ARG's polls been this year?  So, so.  Their final poll in Wisconsin showed Obama winning by 10 points; he actually won by 17 points.  Their final poll in Oregon showed Obama winning by 5 points; he actually won by 16 points.  On the other hand, they were almost exactly right in Kentucky.  And they predicted that Clinton would win Ohio, but underestimated her margin.

But then none of the pollsters have had great records in these primaries.  As usual.)
- 2:13 PM, 3 June 2008
Much more on ARG's record this year here.
- 4:59 PM, 3 June 2008
Split Decision?  That's what CNN is hinting that it sees in the exit polls, with Obama winning Montana and Clinton winning South Dakota.   If the exit polls showed close results in either state, CNN would probably be more tentative than they are in those two pieces.
- 5:39 PM, 3 June 2008
Fox projects Clinton as the winner in South Dakota.   But early returns don't suggest that she will get anything like a 26 point margin.  With 17 percent of the vote in, Clinton is leading 56-44.
- 6:22 PM, 3 June 2008
Split:  With 0(!) votes in, CNN is predicting an Obama victory in Montana.
- 7:10 PM, 3 June 2008
Morning Update:  Clinton won South Dakota by 10 points; Obama won Montana by 16 points.  So both of my predictions were correct, but I don't take much pride in them, because I was expecting Clinton to do much better in both states.  And I was expecting the results in the two states to be closer.

ARG's predictions were off by about the same amount, and in the same direction, in both states (and, earlier, in Oregon), so I suspect there is something wrong with their model.
- 6:17 AM, 4 June 2008   [link]


Want Government Benefits?  Then you have to follow government rules.
A city magistrate has ruled that Oslo's so-called "cave man," who once lived in a pile of garbage near the city's university campus, must agree to wash himself since he's now living in a publicly funded nursing home.  He objects, and vows to take his case to Norway's supreme court.
Probably.  He won the first legal round, even though he lost the second, so I hesitate to predict what their supreme court will do.
- 8:09 AM, 3 June 2008   [link]


Who Pays The Corporate Income Tax?  If you raise the tax on, for instance, General Motors, do consumers pay higher prices for cars, auto workers get lower wages, investors get less in dividends, or some mix?

Economist Gregory Mankiw says that it's a mix, but that workers pay most of the corporate tax, and cites two studies in support of his view.
In a 2006 study, the economist William C. Randolph of the Congressional Budget Office estimated who wins and who loses from this tax.  He concluded that "domestic labor bears slightly more than 70 percent of the burden."

Mr. Randolph's analysis stresses the role of international capital mobility.  With savings sloshing around the world in search of the highest returns, he says, "the domestic owners of capital can escape most of the corporate income tax burden when capital is reallocated abroad in response to the tax."   When capital leaves a country, the workers left behind suffer.  (According to Mr. Randolph, however, some workers do benefit from the American corporate tax: those abroad who earn higher wages from the inflow of capital.)

A similar result was found in a recent Oxford University study by Wiji Arulampalam, Michael P. Devereux and Giorgia Maffini.  After examining data on more than 50,000 companies in nine European countries, they concluded that "a substantial part of the corporation income tax is passed on to the labor force in the form of lower wages," adding that "in the long-run a $1 increase in the tax bill tends to reduce real wages at the median by 92 cents."
Sounds plausible, though I would like to see more on these studies (and on any studies that come to radically different conclusions).

How easy is it to move capital from one country to another?  This easy.  I am a very small investor, but I could move almost all my savings out of the United States in a couple of days, just by switching into the right mutual funds, for instance funds that invest in developing countries.  Restrictions on such moves were once common, but most nations seem to have given up on them.

(Professor Mankiw was an advisor to President Bush and Mitt Romney.  That may be why his piece drew an immediate attack from Professor Brad DeLong, who worked in the Clinton administration.   You can see a devastating reply to the attack here.)


Another Obama Story, Another Discrepancy:  While sorting through a stack of old newspapers from earlier this year, I found this New York Times article.   First, the Obama claims:
When residents in Illinois voiced outrage two years ago upon learning that the Exelon Corporation had not disclosed radioactive leaks at one of its nuclear plants, the state's freshman senator, Barack Obama, took up their cause.

Mr. Obama scolded Exelon and federal regulators for inaction and introduced a bill to require all plant owners to notify state and local authorities immediately of even small leaks.  He has boasted of it on the campaign trail, telling a crowd in Iowa in December that it was "the only nuclear legislation that I've passed."

"I just did that last year," he said, to murmurs of approval.
And now the facts:
A close look at the path his legislation took tells a very different story.  While he initially fought to advance his bill, even holding up a presidential nomination to try to force a hearing on it, Mr. Obama eventually rewrote it to reflect changes sought by Senate Republicans, Exelon and nuclear regulators.   The new bill removed language mandating prompt reporting and simply offered guidance to regulators, whom it charged with addressing the issue of unreported leaks.

Those revisions propelled the bill through a crucial committee.  But, contrary to Mr. Obama's comments in Iowa, it ultimately died amid parliamentary wrangling in the full Senate.
So, other than the fact that the bill wasn't really his, after it had been amended, and the fact that it didn't pass, the story Obama told Iowa voters was true.

But there is more.  Obama has been campaigning against those wicked lobbyists and their special interest groups.  (The bad special interest groups, that is.  Like almost every American politician, Obama thinks some groups are deserving, are special.  Confusingly, those groups are never called special interest groups.)  Exelon is a special interest, and Obama has close ties to the company.
Since 2003, executives and employees of Exelon, which is based in Illinois, have contributed at least $227,000 to Mr. Obama's campaigns for the United States Senate and for president.  Two top Exelon officials, Frank M. Clark, executive vice president, and John W. Rogers Jr., a director, are among his largest fund-raisers.
. . .
In addition, Mr. Obama's chief political strategist, David Axelrod, has worked as a consultant to Exelon.  A spokeswoman for Exelon said Mr. Axelrod's company had helped an Exelon subsidiary, Commonwealth Edison, with communications strategy periodically since 2002, but had no involvement in the leak controversy or other nuclear issues.
Of course.

Why has Exelon been contributing to Obama?  The article doesn't say, and I haven't seen an explanation anywhere else.

(One possible clue:  Commonwealth Edison is a subsidiary of Exelon, and Commonwealth Edison was headed for many years by Thomas Ayers, who is the father of Weatherman William Ayers, a long time supporter of Barack Obama.)
- 4:18 PM, 2 June 2008   [link]


Think 2008 Has Been Cooler Than 2007?  You're right.

World temperatures 2007 and 2008

The graph shows satellite data for the two years from the University of Alabama at Huntsville.  (The lighter line shows the atmospheric temperatures for 2007, the darker for 2008.)
According to the UAH data For 2008, we are averaging about .4 to .5 degrees C cooler than last year.
Which may not sound like much, but the total amount of global warming for the last century is about 1 degree Centigrade.

By way of Anthony Watts, who has more to say about this data, along with a link to original graph.  (Which is interactive, so you can draw your own graphs.)

(As usual when I mention global warming, I urge you to read my disclaimer, if you have not already done so.)
- 1:13 PM, 2 June 2008   [link]


Obama Leaves Trinity United:  As I am sure you have heard, Barack Obama has resigned from the church he had belonged to since 1992.

In his brief press conference on this decision, Obama claimed — again — that his church was not that unusual.
Q: We talk about some of the sacrifices running for president. Are you surprised how deep this has cut into your personal life and family? Obviously it's under a lot of scrutiny now you are giving up a church.

BO: I have to say this was one I didn't see coming.  We knew there were going to be some things we didn't see coming.  This was one.  I didn't anticipate my fairly conventional Christian faith being subject to such challenge and such scrutiny.
There are many ways to describe the black liberation theology taught at Trinity United, but "fairly conventional" is not among them.  Kyle-Anne Shiver visited the church and found an altogether unconventional church.
Having been a practicing Christian for more than 40 years now, and a practicing Catholic for 26 of those years, I have visited perhaps 100 various Christian bookstores, both Protestant and Catholic.  In all of those places, one thing tied together the books for sale: Christianity. Not so in Obama's church bookstore.

I spent more than an hour perusing available books, and found as many claiming to represent Muslim thought as those representing Christian thought.  Black Muslim thought, to be specific.

And the books claiming to support Christianity were surprisingly of a more political than religious nature.  The books by James H. Cone, Wright's own mentor, were prominent and numerous.

Now that I have read a number of the books that presumably Wright's congregants (including Barack Obama) have also read, I can only conclude that the thing tying these volumes together is not Christianity, nor any real religion, but the political philosophy of Karl Marx.
(If you have forgotten just how unconventional James Cone's doctrines are, you can find a reminder here.  Most people, regardless of their religious views, do not think of white churches as the "Antichrist".)

Despite belonging to Trinity United for more than two decades, Barack Obama may, indeed, have "fairly conventional" religious beliefs.  But, if he does have fairly conventional beliefs, then his membership in Trinity United requires some explanation.

Some, taking a hint from what Obama himself has written, have concluded that Obama does not have much in the way of religious beliefs and joined Trinity because the church could help him in his political career.  One reporter even asked Obama about that in the press conference.
Q: That as you were starting out as community organizer, this was a crucial church in the community and it afforded you a lot of contacts with important people in the community.

BO: There are a lot of big churches on the south side of Chicago.  Come to the south side sometime.  There are a whole bunch of churches that were better connected politically so I reject that notion which I think is a very cynical one that I would join a church simply to maneuver politically.
Obama goes on to say that, if that were true, he would have resigned from the church as soon as the Wright issue popped up.

I would go somewhat farther than that.  If Obama were that cynical, one would have expected him to leave the church at least as soon as he was elected to the Senate.  Unless Obama is so out of touch with much of America that he honestly did not understand just how unconventional Trinity United is.  If that explanation is correct, then Obama is cynical, but inexperienced in mainstream politics, too inexperienced to realize just how offensive many would find the doctrines preached in his church.  (And he may not have guessed that, first Reverend Wright, and now Father Pfleger, would almost go out of their way to embarrass him.)  Or perhaps Obama did not expect that those videos, with their powerful emotional impact, would be broadcast by "mainstream" news organizations.

My own tentative opinion is that Obama believes some of what is taught in that most unconventional church, Trinity United.  (And that, despite what he says, he knows that it is unconventional.)   But what part he believes is still a mystery to me.
- 11:20 AM, 2 June 2008   [link]


The Campaign Coverage Has Been Terrible This Year:  So says David Broder, though not in those words.
As in 2004, horse-race coverage totally dominates, with policy stories making up only 7 percent of the filings and examinations of the candidates' records only 2 percent.  That is probably the greatest indictment of the media.
. . .
You can't read that list [of heavily covered stories] without thinking that we in the media have not only accepted many myths in this campaign but have done our best to dumb down the process.
(Both Clinton and Obama can be grateful that "mainstream" journalists have not said much about their records.)

Those numbers are slightly worse than I would have guessed — and I don't have a very high opinion of our "mainstream" journalists.  (With a few exceptions.)
- 1:33 PM, 1 June 2008   [link]