June 2009, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
Obama Asked For Better Relationships With Iran: The Supreme Leader said No.
Prior to this month's disputed presidential election in Iran, the Obama administration sent a letter to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling for an improvement in relations, according to interviews and the leader himself.Doesn't sound as if he really wants to be friends with Obama.
- 3:06 PM, 24 June 2009 [link]
You Can't Assume Governments Are Competent: Shannon Love gives three recent examples.
To which I will add a very big one. The state auditor (a Democrat) just got done auditing King County (Seattle and most Seattle suburbs). The county administration is a mess, as even our local newspapers have had to admit. I am not an accountant, but I am pretty sure that no publicly-held company would have been able to get away with what King County has been doing for years.
This example has national implications; the county executive here since
(Sims' predecessor? Democrat Gary Locke, now Secretary of Commerce.)
- 2:33 PM, 24 June 2009 [link]
Another Argentine Firecracker? Apparently.
S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford admitted today that his secret trip to Argentina over the Father's Day weekend was to visit a woman he has been having an affair with for the past year.Note to elected Republicans: You aren't Democrats, so you can't get away with these affairs, if they become public.
And a question for the Instapundit: You say, and I agree, that "we should be glad he didn't get any closer to the White House". Should John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton have been disqualified for similar recklessness?
What makes this especially annoying is that, from what I can tell, Sanford has been a good governor of South Carolina. And that "mainstream" reporters will be delighted by this story, just as they were beginning to ask a few hard questions of the Obama administration.
(Much more on this story, including many links, from the Anchoress.
Here's the story of the original Argentine firecracker, for those who haven't been following the news since 1974.)
- 1:36 PM, 24 June 2009 [link]
Obama Arranges A Little Show: Here's the story from a properly cynical Dana Milbank.
In his first daytime news conference yesterday, President Obama preempted "All My Children," "Days of Our Lives" and "The Young and the Restless." But the soap viewers shouldn't have been disappointed: The president had arranged some prepackaged entertainment for them.As it happens, Pitney asked a fairly good question:
Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad, and if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there isn't that a betrayal of what the demonstrators there are working for?(Though it could have been phrased more clearly.)
But the incident should remind us that almost all of what we see in political events is staged. And the more that we want government to be open, the more we should expect that events like press conferences will be staged, at least in part.
In Yes, Minister, the minister, Jim Hacker, explains this paradox:
There are still numerous other matters concerning me, about which I have also had a little time to reflect this weekend. I realized early on (in my first week as Minister, in fact) that Open Government presents real problems. It was made clear to me that if people stop having secrets they stop having power.We can not escape these shows — especially with this administration — but we can recognize that we are seeing shows, even soap operas, as Milbank would have it. And we can recognize that, if we want to understand policy, we should seek knowledge in other places.
- 10:38 AM, 24 June 2009 [link]
"Adolescent Angst" Michael Barone thinks President Obama needs to grow up.
There is a tendency for newly installed presidents, like adolescents suddenly liberated from adult supervision, to do the exact opposite of what their predecessors did. Presidents of both parties indulge in this behavior, though Democrats who campaign as candidates of hope and change are more likely to do so.Here's a terrifying thought: Some people — and we can all think of examples — never grow up.
- 8:58 AM, 24 June 2009 [link]
Communist Regimes Have Been Doing Something Similar For Years: But, if I recall correctly, they usually charge less.
The family of an Iranian man killed in a demonstration against the country's contested presidential election has been ordered to pay the equivalent of $3,000 for the bullets that took his life, according to The Wall Street Journal.Are the mullahs taking lesson from the commissars? Could be.
- 4:43 PM, 23 June 2009 [link]
Worth Reading: Tom Maguire's dissection of a New York Times editorial. Here's his lead sentence:
The NY Times editors are so vexed by what they see as the latest blatant injustice from the Roberts Court that they can't be bothered to read the court's opinion or their own coverage of the case (Matt Yglesias keeps them company).(The Times was troubled because the court did not order the states to supply DNA tests to those convicted. As it happens, I think that the states should be willing to take a second look at many of these cases — but I also think that there is nothing in the Constitution that requires them to do so.)
Warning: The crimes committed were horrific. (The crimes got no attention from the editorial writers, perhaps because the victim was a prostitute, perhaps because the criminal is black.)
It would be nice if the editorial writers at the Times were more constrained by facts, but I don't think we can expect that any time soon, even if those facts are recounted in their own news pages.
- 2:02 PM, 23 June 2009 [link]
Meanwhile, Back In Barack Obama's Chicago: Corruption continues, as usual.
The city of Chicago spends more than $22 million a year leasing property, usually from clout-heavy landlords and often at higher rents than other tenants pay, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.Is it fair to tie this to Obama? I think so, for two reasons. As far as I can tell, Obama did nothing about corruption during his political career in Chicago. Nothing.
And he supported politicians he must have known were corrupt, and was supported by corrupt men, most notably Tony Rezko.
Like the first Mayor Daley, Obama may not be corrupt himself, but he tolerated corruption in Chicago. (The second Mayor Daley probably follows the same pattern, but I am less familiar with his career.)
- 8:57 AM, 23 June 2009 [link]
More Royalist Than The King? Back when European monarchies had real power, some of their strongest supporters were often said to be more royalist than the king. I was reminded of that old line when I watched this exchange. CBS's Harry Smith says that Bush described Obama as "treacherous". Obama just laughs at Smith, in the way the old monarchs must have laughed when one of their strongest supporters said something absurd, in trying to support the monarch.
One wonders whether Smith actually read Bush's remarks, or even a good newspaper account of them, before that interview. As I mentioned in this post, Bush defended his own policies — and deliberately avoided mentioning Obama.
(Haven't figured out a good modern version of that phrase. "More Obama loving than Obama" catches the thought, but doesn't have much of a ring to it. We may need a good modern version, so if you think of one, let me know.)
- 8:26 AM, 23 June 2009
More on what Bush actually said, from Paul Kengor, who was there. Sample:
As president, George W. Bush was, of course, widely disregarded for his oratorical shortcomings. His failure to communicate his core message, especially regarding his Middle East vision, was central to his record disapproval.Bush should have done more such events after the 2004 election.
- 1:56 PM, 24 June 2009 [link]
In 1993, Mindy Cameron Did Something Brilliant: At that time, Cameron was the editorial page editor of the Seattle Times, and a good one, in my opinion, though she and I did not always agree on issues.
Here's how Cameron explained her decision.
In other words, Cameron thought that domination by one party (and one side of the ideological spectrum) made it more important for a news organization to give opposing views.
The Times did not keep talk show host (and later, gubernatorial candidate) John Carlson for reasons that Cameron explains in her column. But in the same column, she made this promise:
And kept that promise, by hiring Michelle Malkin. Though Malkin eventually went on to other things, including a web site you may have heard of, she did fine work at the Times. Even though she was an editorial writer, she was willing to go out and do serious digging. (Probably her most important work was digging up fund raising — let's call them irregularities — by "squeaky clean" Gary Locke.) While Malkin was at the Times she was, by a considerable margin, the most interesting writer there.
That bit of local history led me to write this email to Cameron's successor, Jim Vesely:
Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 3:58 PM, 22 June 2009 [link]
The New York Times Can Keep A Secret: If keeping that secret helps protect one of their reporters.
Scott Johnson contrasts.
The Times's concern for the safety of its reporter, however, provides a macabre contrast with the Times's illegal exposure of the NSA terrorist eavesdropping program in December 2005, as well as its exposure of the Treasury Department's terrorist-finance tracking program in June 2006. Whereas the reporting of Rohde's apprehension may have endangered his life, the disclosure of the NSA terrorist eavesdropping and terrorist finance tracking programs only threatened the security of the United States.Which is a matter of less importance to the New York Times. At least when a Republican is in the White House.
Ed Morrissey knew about the captive reporter, but didn't publish. The Times should — but won't — learn from his discretion.
(Even Howard Kurtz wonders whether journalists gave "special treatment to one of their own". Actually, I suspect he knows, but prefers not to say, directly.)
- 10:16 AM, 22 June 2009 [link]
No More Kodachrome? It's true.
The Eastman Kodak Co. announced Monday it's retiring its most senior film because of declining customer demand in an increasingly digital age.(Actually, it was "immortalized" by photographers long before Paul Simon wrote his song.)
I still use it for outdoor shots occasionally, but not enough others do. I like it because it has a good balance between realism and saturated colors.
To celebrate the film, Kodak has a gallery of great Kodachrome pictures. The gallery is run by an annoying Adobe Flash program, but the pictures are so good that you may not mind it.
(Paul Simon's song will get a few more replays in the next week or so.)
- 8:38 AM, 22 June 2009 [link]
The Financial Crisis Has Been Very, Very Good To Goldman Sachs: Those who work for the company have reason to celebrate.
Staff at Goldman Sachs staff can look forward to the biggest bonus payouts in the firm's 140-year history after a spectacular first half of the year, sparking concern that the big investment banks which survived the credit crunch will derail financial regulation reforms.Mo doubt some of them will recycle part of those bonuses back to the politicians they credit for their financial success.
Obama's borrowing will mean hundreds of millions for the company.
"These banks are intermediaries in the bond markets where governments and companies are raising billions of pounds of new money. There is also a lack of competition that means they can charge huge sums for doing business."These immense profits would trouble me less if Goldman Sachs weren't so very well connected, politically, to both Democrats and Republicans. (Henry Paulson, Bush's last Treasury Secretary, came directly from Goldman Sachs. His predecessor at the firm, Jon Corzine, is the Democratic governor of New Jersey.)
(Did Henry Paulson do too much for Goldman Sachs, as Treasury Secretary? That's a fair question, but not one I can answer at present. But I will be looking for a good study of that question.
Paulson demanded, and received, considerable independence when Bush named him to the position, but Bush was still, formally, responsible for Paulson's actions.)
- 8:10 AM, 22 June 2009 [link]
Don't Believe What Obama Says: Many people have been giving us that advice, but it is a bit of a surprise to hear it from "White House officials".
The Associated Press puts it delicately.
White House officials suggest the president's rhetoric shouldn't be taken literally: What Obama really means is that government isn't about to barge in and force people to change insurance.The offiicals were almost forced to say that because some of the promises Obama made in his speech to the American Medical Association are impossible to reconcile with what we know about his plan.
Jim Lindgren puts it more forcefully.
In other words, if you believed something closer to the opposite of what Obama promised, that would be closer to the truth. When Obama said he "will keep this promise":A little bit of thought would show you that Obama's promises are incompatible. For example, he is promising both to cut costs and to let everyone keep the doctors they like. But what if the doctor you like charges more than other doctors?If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period.he actually meant:If you like your doctor, many of you will NOT be able to keep your doctor. Period.And when Obama said he "will keep this promise":If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.Obama really meant:If you like your health care plan, many — perhaps most — of you will NOT be able to keep your health care plan. Period. Someone — perhaps your employer — may take it away. It all depends on how things work out.
Proposals to reform, or perhaps I should say "reform", medical insurance in the United States always run into a fundamental political difficulty: Most people like their doctors and hospitals, and don't want to change. Obama tried to evade that problem in his speech to the AMA by promising that none of us would be forced to change. He may believe that, or he may have believed it when he said it, but no serious person believes it, as White House officials had to admit.
- 7:12 AM, 22 June 2009 [link]
Solid Evidence For Vote Fraud In Iran? Sure looks like it. First, some evidence citing a regime source.
Iran's Guardian Council has admitted that the number of votes collected in 50 cities surpass the number of those eligible to cast ballot in those areas.(Caveat: I have not been able to find this story anywhere else.)
If this story is correct, then we can conclude that vote fraud was widespread in the Iranian election. (Assuming, of course, that the statistics on eligible voters are reasonably accurate.)
And that it was committed by clumsy, or very frightened, crooks. Smarter, or calmer, crooks would not have produced results with such glaring flaws.
Second, a quick study done by researchers at a respected British think tank, Chatham House, found a number of anomalies, including this one:
In two Conservative provinces, Mazandaran and Yazd, a turnout of more than 100% was recorded.(By "Conservative", they mean supporting the regime.)
I may have more to say about that study, after I have had time to read it carefully.
(Although the BBC has nothing as direct as the the other two sources, they do provide some information on how some of the vote fraud might have been committed. Those "mobile polling stations" do look suspicious. If I recall correctly, similar stations have been used to commit vote fraud in Ukraine.)
- 8:07 PM, 21 June 2009
Much More: the New York Times, along many other news organizations, has now published an article mentioning the fifty cities in which there were more votes than voters. Political scientist Walter Mebane has updated his analysis, which is similar to that done by the Chatham House researchers. (Credit where due: Mebane "published" before they did.) Political scientists Bernd Beber and Alexandra Scacco did a neat analysis using only the last two digits of the provincial returns.
Joe Lenski adds some context from another disputed election, this one in Azerbaijan, Iran's northern neighbor.
All of these new links by way of Mark Blumenthal.
- 12:43 PM, 23 June 2009 [link]
Happy Father's Day! To all the fathers out there.
- 9:26 AM, 21 June 2009 [link]
Going To Serve Wine Tonight? Then you may want to review this classic Thurber cartoon.
- 5:05 PM, 19 June 2009 [link]
Senator Roland Burris Does Some Catching Up: Ever wonder how much our elected officials know about government? You'll wonder even more after you read this post on Obama's replacement.
(The exchange was so hard to believe that I had to follow the link to verify that Burris really is that ignorant.)
- 1:03 PM, 19 June 2009 [link]
Higher Taxes Coming? They will, if Obama gets his way on the federal takeover of health insurance.
House Democrats have lots of potential targets for higher taxes as they aim to expand health care coverage to reach the roughly 50 million that experts say are uninsured.This shouldn't surprise anyone — except those who believed Obama's promise that he would cut taxes for 95 percent of us.
It was always obvious that Obama's spending promises would require much higher taxes and obvious, to anyone who can do arithmetic, that the top 5 percent didn't have enough money to pay all of those higher taxes.
- 8:40 AM, 19 June 2009 [link]
Money And Hearts: The two do tend to go together.
As indignation turned to outrage Thursday among critics of an ABC News prime-time special on President Obama's health care policy, The Washington Times has learned that ABC employees gave 80 times as much money to Mr. Obama's 2008 campaign for president than to his rival's.Ordinarily, news organizations do far more negative stories than positive stories.
What that 80-1 ratio suggests to me is that many ABC employees do not know any McCain supporters. So they don't have any friends to tell them when they are losing credibility. (Not that they had much credibility left to lose.)
(Here's the verse, if, like me, you were trying to remember the exact words.)
- 7:20 AM, 19 June 2009 [link]
Actually, Bush Didn't: You have probably seen the headline: "Bush takes swipes at Obama policies"
But if you read the article, you will see that Bush did not "take swipes" at Obama's policies; instead, Bush defended his own policies. That may seem like a meaningless difference, but as the article makes clear, Bush made a point of not criticizing Obama directly.
- 3:53 PM, 18 June 2009 [link]
PETA Tries To Cheer Us Up: And succeeds, at least in my case.
The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants the flyswatter in chief to try taking a more humane attitude the next time he's bedeviled by a fly in the White House.And I must admit that I find it weirdly charming that a few people are trying hard to treat house flies humanely. (My apologies to any Buddhists I may have offended.)
- 2:50 PM, 18 June 2009 [link]
Half Empty, Or Empty? You often hear that the drug war has been lost. For example, Nicholas Kristof made just that argument on Sunday.
Somewhat to my surprise, the letters editor at the New York Times printed this reply.
Drugs have not "won the war." With a comprehensive anti-drug strategy in place, involving foreign policy, enforcement, education, treatment, prevention and media, America's overall drug use has declined almost by half in the past three decades — from 14.1 percent of the population in 1979 to 8.3 percent now who used drugs in the past month. In addition, cocaine use, including crack — the source of much of the former record-high violent crime numbers — is down 70 percent. Want to go back?Those who argue for drug legalization often make Kristof's mistake, and claim that we can not reduce drug use. But we have, which should prove that it is possible.
One can argue that we have paid too much, in many ways, for that reduction, and I will listen with respect to anyone who makes that kind of argument, as long as they provide reasonable support for their conclusions.
I should warn you, however, that the dispute has become so politicized over the years that I do not rush to look at any new argument on the subject. There is so much chaff, and so little wheat, that it often seems unprofitable to try to separate the two.
(The late Milton Friedman once argued that legalizing drugs would reduce drug use. That just shows that a man can be a great economist, and a wonderful man — and still make silly arguments. An economist should know that reducing the price of drugs — and legalizing drugs would reduce their prices — would lead to increased consumption, not decreased.)
- 2:30 PM, 18 June 2009 [link]
Best Obama Speech Yet: Written for him by Iowahawk. It will inspire the people of Iran.
- 7:57 AM, 18 June 2009 [link]
Morning Chuckle: President Obama says he wants to govern with a "light touch".
"I think the irony . . . is that I actually would like to see a relatively light touch when it comes to the government," he said Tuesday in a White House interview.The key word may be "relatively".
Which will lead almost everyone to ask: Relatively to whom? Certainly not any of our recent presidents.
(Does Obama believe this? He might, which would be frightening.)
- 8:42 AM, 17 June 2009 [link]