Archive:

June 2010, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Saving Private Murray:  This year, Washington's senior senator, Patty Murray, is up for re-election, and if the polls are any indication, she will not win easily.  It is likely to be a Republican year and what is usually one of her strengths, her endless pursuit of pork, is likely to be a weakness.  Likely voters are more interested in how their senators and representatives can cut spending than on what rewards they have grabbed for special interests.

But Murray has had one great advantage in her last two elections, the support of nearly all of our local "mainstream" journalists.  This was not always true; the best thing I have seen on Murray is this fair, but devastating, profile by Seattle Times reporter Robert T. Nelson.

Here's my summary of the article's central messages:

First, Murray cannot think abstractly.   This is not quite the same as saying that she has a low IQ.   Though the ability to handle abstractions and a high IQ are correlated, there are some reasonably smart people who do not think abstractly.   Instead, it means that she can think only in terms of simple, concrete examples.   Rather than being a left wing extremist, she does not think about politics abstractly enough to even have an ideology.   Not having an ideology is uncommon among politicians, but not among voters, especially less educated voters.   Second, Murray is unable to hire and keep staff who can make up for her deficiencies.

People who work with her in Washington, D. C. know about her deficiencies; that's why she has won the "not a rocket scientist" award from anonymous congressional staffers.

But our local "mainstream" journalists prefer that the voters of Washington state not know these things, and so they have worked hard to save Private Murray from her fate.  Some news organizations do this by commission; I can not recall seeing a single TV story on Murray that she could not have used, without editing, as a campaign commercial.  Some do it by omission.  It is nearly certain, for instance, that this year the Seattle Times will not tell its readers about her victories in the hard-fought not-a-rocket-scientist contests.  They may not even say much about her wasteful pork barrel spending, though in past years the newspaper has done some fine reporting on the subject.

Those most determined to save Private Murray may resort to fantasy; for instance, I expect that Joni Balter, editorial page writer for the Times, will tell us that Murray has "grown" in office.

A few, alas, may even try to save Private Murray by mud-slinging attacks on her opponent.  I won't name any of the likely suspects — for now — but those who are familiar with our local journalists will be able to think of some likely smear artists.

It is not clear to me whether our local journalists realize there is a price for their efforts to save Private Murray.  More and more, readers distrust what they see on the TV sets, what they hear on their radios, and what they read in their newspapers.  That distrust is, I believe, entirely rational; again and again, reporters have suppressed negative information about politicians they admire, and voters are, more and more, catching on.

But journalists do not seem, as a whole, to be a self-critical lot, always looking for ways they can make their stories fairer and more comprehensive.  Instead, they seem satisfied with their current efforts, even as their viewers, listeners, and readers give them lower and lower grades.

Let me end with a small challenge for you:  What do you expect our local journalists to do, this time, to save Private Murray?  The more specific your prediction(s), the better, of course.

Ordinarily, I would ask our local journalists not to contribute to this discussion, since they have a bit of an advantage in making these predictions.  But this is a matter of such importance that I would be delighted if, for example, Joni Balter, would give us her predictions.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(It is possible that a few of our local journalists have come to believe their own claims for Murray, having made them so often over the years.  That does happen, as the old joke about the man who started a rumor that there was oil in Hell reminds us.

Missed the joke?  Here it is: The man started the rumor, mostly for amusement.  But some believed him and began lining up for Hell.  Soon, others joined them, and in time there was a long line of people hoping to go to Hell for the oil.  The man who started the rumor looked at the line and said, "You know, maybe there is something in it."  And then joined the line.)
- 4:55 PM, 16 June 2010   [link]


The AP Fact Checks Obama's speech. Here's my favorite:
OBAMA: "From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation's history."

THE FACTS: Early on, the government established a command center and put Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen in charge of coordinating the overall spill response.  But officials also repeatedly have emphasized that BP was "responsible" and they have relied heavily on BP in making decisions from hiring cleanup workers to what oil dispersing chemicals to use.  Local officials in the Gulf region have complained that often they don't know who's in charge — the government or BP.
Here's what the New York Times said yesterday:
From the beginning, the effort has been bedeviled by a lack of preparation, organization, urgency and clear lines of authority among federal, state and local officials, as well as BP.  As a result, officials and experts say, the damage to the coastline and wildlife has been worse than it might have been if the response had been faster and orchestrated more effectively.
Or, to put it another way, no one was in charge, and, as far as I can tell, no one is in charge.
- 3:29 PM, 16 June 2010   [link]


Party Time for federal workers.
Under the Obama administration, the government is doing such a good job that it's decided to reward itself.  Last year, Uncle Sam paid out $408 million in bonuses to 1.3 million federal workers, according to the Asbury Park Press, which obtained the information through a Freedom of Information Act request.  That's about $80 million more than the previous year.  About one in four federal workers received a bonus, and awards ranged from $25 to, in the case of one lucky State Department worker, $94,500.

That $408 million figure only counts bonuses that were handed out to about 65 percent of the federal work force.  The FOI request didn't cover awards handed out by the Defense and Treasury departments, security agencies, the White House, Congress and various other federal agencies and commissions.   In 2008, the last year information was available, the Department of Defense alone handed out $92 million in bonuses to its 687,000 employees.
We're lucky we have such a frugal administration, especially during an economic downturn.
- 1:21 PM, 16 June 2010   [link]


Spain Is Finding It More Expensive to borrow.
At a closely watched auction for 12- and 18-month bills on Tuesday, the Spanish government raised 5.2 billion euros ($6.4 billion).  The rate of 2.3 percent on the 12-month bills was a sharp rise of 0.7 percentage point from what it paid last month and significantly higher than in other major euro zone economies.

The higher rates spurred fears that Spain's financing costs could soon become too great for the economy to bear.  Reports in the German press have suggested that Spain might become the first country to tap into the European rescue fund that was set up after Greece received its own package of loans from the International Monetary Fund and Europe, a possibility that has been emphatically denied by Spanish and European Union officials.
Because, of course, Spain has been running large deficits, and because some Spanish banks behaved recklessly, during their real estate boom.  (Sound familiar?)

This Daily Mail article passes on European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso's warnings of "apocalyptic" consequences if Spain, with the help of Europe, does not get its financial house in order.  The Daily Mail is a tabloid, and Barroso has good reason to exaggerate, so we should take those warnings with at least a little salt.

But it is true that Spain faces some unpleasant times, and it is certain that the Spanish government(s) will be severely tested.

(Not everything in Spain will seem familiar to Americans.  One of the Spanish banks in trouble, CajaSur, has a surprising origin.
Many of Spain's savings banks, known as cajas, were originally pawnshops started by Catholic charities.  The clergy gradually ceded control of most cajas to regional politicians, who were eager to use them to finance city projects.  But the priests of Córdoba fought hard to maintain the banking powers they had held since 1864, even after a merger with a secular competitor created the current CajaSur 15 years ago.
There may be American equivalents, but I can't say that I have heard of any.

This, on the other hand, sounds only too familiar.
This intertwining of politics and business is a big reason why Spain's government has taken so long to consolidate and clean up the cajas.  Their troubles also largely escaped notice in the early stages of the financial crisis because prominent commercial banks like Santander and BBVA, which were subject to more stringent regulation, did not need government rescues like many banks in Europe and in the United States.
Political control leads to irresponsible loans.  Would someone please pass that thought on to the Democratic majorities in Congress?
- 1:04 PM, 16 June 2010   [link]


Maybe Because Bush Did A Better Job Than Obama Is Doing?  Some find this poll result surprising.
Our new Louisiana poll has a lot of data points to show how unhappy voters in the state are with Barack Obama's handling of the oil spill but one perhaps sums it up better than anything else- a majority of voters there think George W. Bush did a better job with Katrina than Obama's done dealing with the spill.

50% of voters in the state, even including 31% of Democrats, give Bush higher marks on that question compared to 35% who pick Obama.

Overall only 32% of Louisianans approve of how Obama has handled the spill to 62% who disapprove.   34% of those polled say they approved of how Bush dealt with Katrina to 58% who disapproved.
But I don't find it surprising, because I recall another poll of Louisianans, done shortly after Katrina, which gave Bush better marks than Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin.  (My apologies for not finding a link to that poll; I've spent some time searching, but haven't found it so far.)

I've thought for some time that Bush did better in Louisiana polls about Katrina, than in national polls, because people there often had direct experience with the storm, and Bush's response to it.  People outside Louisiana mostly got their pictures from our "mainstream" news media, who were not inclined, especially by 2005, to treat George W. Bush fairly.
- 10:16 AM, 16 June 2010   [link]


Sleep Inducing:  Last night, I watched part of Obama's speech, and listened to almost all of it.  (I would have watched more, except that I got distracted by his hands, which were, usually, cut off at the wrists in the TV picture.  Their motions often seemed unconnected from the speech, and even, from time to time, from Obama.)

After the speech, I needed a nap.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't mention that, except that others, including some of his most fervent supporters, seem to have had similar reactions.

As you know, I don't think the ability to make a stirring speech tells us much about a president, or any other politician.  But Obama's speechifying has been praised so often, and so highly, that you expect him to do a little better than he did last night, even if you are not a fan.
- 8:48 AM, 16 June 2010   [link]


Democrat Janis Baird Sontany Was Trying To Be Funny:  But just succeeded in being insulting.  (As she admits, now.)

And left me wondering just how observant she is, given the existence of secondary sexual characteristics.  (Maybe Sontany didn't pay attention in her grade school science classes.)
- 2:39 PM, 15 June 2010   [link]


Cheering News From NPR On The Election This November:  If you are a Republican.  (If, like Mara Liasson, you are a Democrat, you won't like this news.)

NPR polled likely voters in 70 "battleground" House districts and found strong reasons to expect big Republican gains this fall.
The results are a wake-up call for Democrats whose loses in the House could well exceed 30 seats.   In the named-congressional ballot in the 60 Democratic districts, Democrats trail their Republican opponent, 42 to 47 percent, with only a third saying they want to vote to-relect their member.  In the top tier of 30 most competitive seats, the Democratic candidate trails by 9 points (39 to 48 percent) and by 2 points in the next tier of 30 seats (45 to 47 percent).  On the other hand, the Republican candidates are running well ahead in their most competitive seats ( 53 to 37 percent).  As we saw in the special election in PA-12, Democrats will have to battle on a seat-by-seat basis — that has shifted these kinds of numbers this year.

The effort by individual campaigns will have to push against walls that seem very hard to move at this point.  We tested Democratic and Republican arguments on the economy, health care, financial reform and the big picture for the 2010 election.  The results consistently favored the Republicans and closely resembled the vote breakdown.  Democrats are hurt by a combined lack of enthusiasm and an anti-incumbent tone.
If there is that big a swing this November, then at least a few Democratic districts, ordinarily safe, are likely to switch, too.  (Former Speaker Tom Foley could tell you how that can happen.)

(You may wonder how there could be this big a swing in the battleground seats, and not have it show up in some of the national polls.  There are two reasons (besides bad polls) that might happen.  NPR is polling likely voters; many national polls are polling registered voters, or even adults.  Second, Barack Obama's support is concentrated in urban areas, but most of the swing districts are in suburbs, or rural areas.  He (and the Democrats) haven't lost much support in inner-city Chicago, but they have lost support in many Chicago suburbs, and in rural Illinois.)
- 1:19 PM, 15 June 2010   [link]


Worth Reading:  This gloomy post from the Oil Drum on the BP spill.

Here's dougr's conclusion:
All the actions and few tid bits of information all lead to one inescapable conclusion.  The well pipes below the sea floor are broken and leaking.  Now you have some real data of how BP's actions are evidence of that, as well as some murky statement from "BP officials" confirming the same.

I took some time to go into a bit of detail concerning the failure of Top Kill because this was a significant event.  To those of us outside the real inside loop, yet still fairly knowledgeable, it was a major confirmation of what many feared.  That the system below the sea floor has serious failures of varying magnitude in the complicated chain, and it is breaking down and it will continue to.

What does this mean?

It means they will never cap the gusher after the wellhead.  They cannot . . . the more they try and restrict the oil gushing out the bop? . . . the more it will transfer to the leaks below.  Just like a leaky garden hose with a nozzle on it.
Not being an expert on oil wells, I can't evaluate dougr's argument, but it seems plausible.

(By way of commenter "Porchlight".)
- 8:38 AM, 15 June 2010   [link]


Bush Rising:  Though still not in positive territory.
Those [Clinton] numbers are a bit better than the comparable ratings for George W. Bush.  Forty-five percent (45%) offer a favorable opinion of him while 53% say the opposite.

Twenty-two percent (22%) now say Clinton was one of America's best presidents ever, while 15% now say he was one of the worst.  Sixty-two percent (62%) put him somewhere in between the two.

By comparison, just nine percent (9%) now rate George W. Bush as one of the best presidents ever.   Forty percent (40%) say he was one of the worst, and 49% place him somewhere in between.

Two years ago, 30% rated Clinton one of the best presidents, 21% one of the worst and 48% somewhere in between.

The latest numbers, for Bush, bleak as they are, mark a turnaround of sorts for the former president.   Just before he left office in January 2009, Bush was rated one of the five worst presidents in U.S. history by 57% of Americans.
Fearless prediction:  The more Americans see of Barack Obama, the better they will like George W. Bush.  (And maybe even Jimmy Carter.)
- 7:41 AM, 15 June 2010   [link]


He Doesn't Like America, Either:  That's what American commenters are telling British citizens who feel hurt by Obama's attitudes toward Britain.

You can see those kinds of comments after columns from writers who are friendly toward the United States, like Melanie Phillips.
As an American, I'm shocked (but not surprised) by Obama's swinish behavior toward Britain.  Ms. Phillips has got it right: Obama doesn't like Britain because the British (rightly) incarcerated his father, Barack Obama, Sr., after his involvement in the Mau Mau uprisings in 1950's Kenya.  Obama doesn't like America either.  Not once has our president expressed any genuine affection for America, for the American people, nor for the American way of life. What kind of leader is that?

Ms. Phillips wrote an excellent column before the 2008 US elections with the headline, "America, Are You Really Goind to Do This?"  It was a very good question.  For my part, I was shouting from the rooftops to anyone and everyone who would listen: Don't vote for this fraudster!  I might have changed one or two votes. Sigh . . .

Obama is a malignant narcissist who is incapable of accepting responsibility for his many failures.   He's ugly to our allies and cozy with the Free World's sworn enemies.

- John, San Diego USA,
(Emphasis added.)

And after columns from writers who are hostile toward the United States, like Geoffrey Wheatcroft.
America is friendly to England.  Obama is friendly only to himself and his cronies.  It comes as no surprise.  Obama scorns anyone who makes him look bad.  He isn't a friend even to his own nation.  He constantly helps to pass legislation that the majority of the American people do not support.  He name calls.  He tries to silence opposition.  So no, he may not be friendly to England, only because he is "friends" with anyone only when it benefits him.  We, Americans, are friendly to the nation of England.  I apologize for our president.   I am ashamed he was ever elected, but as another poster stated, those of us who didn't vote for him knew what kind of man he was.  But the sheeple who fell for hope and change couldn't see past his BS rhetoric.

- Tatyana, Houston, Tx,
(Emphasis added.)

I don't think these reassurances will make Britons feel better, but they do show a problem for Barack Obama here at home.
- 7:20 AM, 15 June 2010   [link]


Who Should Obama Call About The BP Oil Spill?  (Or, considering the date, who should he have called?)

The President has been criticized for his admission that he had not talked to the president of BP, which does seem like an obvious thing to do.  Obama has talked, apparently, to Secretary Chu, who, as far as I can tell, would be a good person to talk to if you need to know how to trap atoms with lasers.  (And who doesn't need to trap atoms from time to time?)  But with all respect to Dr. Chu, he does not have much experience with fossil fuels, and — so far — has not shown any sign of being a good learner on those difficult subjects.

So his Energy Secretary is not the right person to call.  But who is?

Obama needs to call someone with extensive experience in the oil industry, preferably someone who has worked with many different oil companies.  He needs to call someone who understands what the federal government can do — and what it can't.  He needs to call someone whose patriotism is unquestioned.

In short, he needs to call Dick Cheney.

Those who think of Cheney as a modern Darth Vader should relax.  Obama will not take my advice.  But he should, for the good of the country.
- 7:42 PM, 14 June 2010
Eugene Robinson agrees with me that Secretary Chu is not the right person to call.  (It's good to see Robinson being a journalist again, if only for one post.)
- 8:54 AM, 17 June 2010   [link]


The Latest On Shane McClellan:  As you may recall, McClellan was the Seattle boy who was (apparently) beaten very badly by attackers who (he says) had racial motives.

The Seattle Times — which obviously does not want to cover this story — has done a follow-up story, with no new details on the attack, except for a somewhat mysterious statement from the police.
"We just can't understand why there haven't been any arrests," said Shane's father, Tim McClellan.  "It doesn't seem right. I mean, the guys had my son's blood on their hands."

Seattle police confirmed that detectives had interviewed Shane McClellan on June 4 and that no arrests have been made in connection with the May 25 assault, which occurred near 14th Avenue Southwest and Southwest Holden Street.  The assault is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

"It's unfortunate this incident occurred," Seattle police spokeswoman Renee Witt said Sunday. "We take all crimes against people very seriously.  However, there is more to this story than we can share with the public."
(Emphasis added.)

The Seattle police, who certainly understand how politically correct their elected officials are, might say something like that if they thought it really was a hate crime — and they might say something like that if they thought that Shane McClellan was not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the attack.

I have no strong opinion on what actually happened — but I am absolutely certain that the coverage would be far different if the victim had been black or Hispanic.  Or a follower of Islam.

(To their credit, the Seattle Times does add descriptions of two other reported attacks, each with some similarities to McClellan's story.)
- 3:19 PM, 14 June 2010   [link]


Long Live The Queen!  That may seem an odd thing for a republican to say, but I wish our British friends well, and I have long had doubts about Prince Charles' suitability for the British throne.

So has Christopher Hitchens, and a speech Charles gave at Oxford inspired Hitchens to say so, probably not for the first time.
We have known for a long time that Prince Charles' empty sails are so rigged as to be swelled by any passing waft or breeze of crankiness and cant.  He fell for the fake anthropologist Laurens van der Post.   He was bowled over by the charms of homeopathic medicine.  He has been believably reported as saying that plants do better if you talk to them in a soothing and encouraging way.  But this latest departure promotes him from an advocate of harmless nonsense to positively sinister nonsense.
Though, inexplicably, Hitchens omitted the most interesting part of Charles' speech .
Prince Charles drew ridicule from some British pundits this week when he said that environmentalists should "follow the Islamic way to save the world."

The Prince of Wales, who is next in line to be the English monarch and head and the Church of England, said Wednesday in a speech at the Oxford Centre for World Studies that people needed an ecological mindset based on "sacred traditions," especially those from the Koran.
(Some have wondered for years whether Charles is not just tolerant of Islam, but positively attracted to the religion of peace (and the environment).)

My wishes for a long life to Queen Elizabeth are not original, but I can't recall where I first saw them.   (My apologies for the uncredited borrowing, but the line was too good not to share.)
- 2:37 PM, 14 June 2010   [link]


Afghanistan Has Many Mountains:  So we shouldn't be surprised to learn that some of them contain valuable minerals.
The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.
If you read the article, you will learn that many of the deposits are not "previously unknown", though much of the knowledge has been buried by wars.

As I said, this should not be surprising.  Nor should it surprise us to see a new wave of conspiracy theories to explain our struggle to block the Taliban from controlling Afghanistan.  Minerals are often found in mountains; conspiracy fans seldom need much evidence for their theories.

(Afghanistan has a land area of about 250,000 square miles.  By way of comparison, the United States has a land area of about 3,500,000 square miles.  But a much larger proportion of Afghanistan is mountainous.)
- 10:02 AM, 14 June 2010   [link]


Losses Somewhere Between $160 Billion And $1 Trillion:  That's what we can expect from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
The cost of fixing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage companies that last year bought or guaranteed three-quarters of all U.S. home loans, will be at least $160 billion and could grow to as much as $1 trillion after the biggest bailout in American history.

Fannie and Freddie, now 80 percent owned by U.S. taxpayers, already have drawn $145 billion from an unlimited line of government credit granted to ensure that home buyers can get loans while the private housing-finance industry is moribund.  That surpasses the amount spent on rescues of American International Group Inc., General Motors Co. or Citigroup Inc., which have begun repaying their debts.
Granted, the $1 trillion is a worst-case estimate, but the losses are already staggering.  And the uncertainty in the estimates is not reassuring.

The Bush administration called, again and again, for reform of the two "government-sponsored enterprises", but was unable to get Congress to act.  Members of both parties blocked reform, but most of the obstructionists were Democrats.

Probably the worst obstructionist was Barney Frank — who is now chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.  That's about as sensible as putting a counterfeiter in charge of the mint.

(Barney Franks' former "partner", Herb Moses, was a Fannie Mae executive for many years.  They were lving together while Frank helped blocked reform of Fannie Mae.)
- 9:06 AM, 14 June 2010   [link]


Does President Obama Want To Increase Palestinian Terrorism?  Probably not, but this new aid package may do just that.
President Barack Obama said today the US would send $400m of aid to the Palestinian territories following 10 days of international focus on Gaza, which Israel has blockaded for more than three years.

The announcement came as Obama met the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Washington to discuss the progress of proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as the dire situation in Gaza.   Most US aid currently goes to the West Bank.  The international community has largely focused on building up Abbas's authority over recent years, and Gaza, whose de facto Hamas government is not recognised by the US or the UK, has been marginalised.
(There's something wonderful about that last sentence, especially the passive "has been marginalised", as if the beliefs and behavior of Hamas had nothing to do with them receiving less aid.)

If you give money to an enemy, you strengthen that enemy.  Is that idea too complicated for the Obama administration?  Apparently, though it is not clear whether they do not grasp that concept, or do not understand that Hamas is our enemy — though Hamas is clear enough on that point.

If this common sense argument is not good enough for the sophisticates, Obama could look at some of the academic research on the subject.  For example, this article in the Middle East Quarterly.
Infusions of foreign funds into the Palestinian Authority budget from late 2000 through 2002 correlated with increased violence.  Increased aid in 2005 and 2006 corresponded to increasing internal violence, which is consistent with the fact that money was still finding its way to militant groups to purchase weapons and pay the salaries of the expanding militias.

Although the correlation does not prove cause and effect or provide irrefutable evidence of a direct link, it seems likely that increased aid helps sustain Palestinian violence in several ways: by creating the opportunity to divert funds for militant activities; by insulating the Palestinian leadership from the fiscal consequences of the economic fallout from terrorism; and by creating a revenue surplus that allows the Palestinian government both to pay for salaries and programs and to funnel money to terrorists.  As Western donors prepare to pour unprecedented amounts of money into the PA, more discussion is needed to explain what controls will be imposed to ensure that the aid is not diverted to terrorists or used to fund a broader conflict with Israel.
I am nearly certain that Obama does not want an increase in violence — and completely certain that this aid package, if approved by Congress, will have that result.

(Similar thoughts here, a more general argument on aid and terrorism here, and some plausible demographic arguments here.)
- 9:52 AM, 11 June 2010   [link]


CAIR Lobbyist, NYT Reporter:  Sharaf Mowjood just made that transition.
A journalist hired by The New York Times to report on a controversial mosque at 9/11's Ground Zero and the failed Christmas Day bomb plot previously held a government lobbying position at the Council on American Islamic Relations.
Apparently the New York Times does not agree with Senators Durbin and Schumer, who both believe CAIR is linked to terrorists.  Or maybe the newspaper sees those links as a plus.

(Here's what he says about himself.)
- 5:15 PM, 10 June 2010   [link]


A Leader In The White House:  Unfortunately, it's Bo. Who may be a fine dog, but is not really up to some of the presidential duties.  On the other hand, Bo is probably smart enough to be friendly toward friends, a skill that Barack Obama has yet to master.

(Okay, I admit that's a cheap shot, but the first picture was so funny that I couldn't resist.  I won't promise never to take another cheap shot, but I will try to keep them rare.  Unless I see something really funny.)
- 8:40 AM, 10 June 2010   [link]


Some Of Them Shouldn't Work So Hard:  That was my first reaction on reading this list of the 25 hardest working lawmakers.

And I think nearly everyone would agree with that sentiment, though different people would have different opinions on which lawmakers really need to take more vacations.  I would prefer that Congressman Barney Frank would spend more time at the beach; leftists might wish that Senator Charles Grassley spent more time on his farm.  And so on.
- 8:16 AM, 10 June 2010   [link]


Who, What, When, Where, And Why:   Most news organizations are having to cut back, but I was still surprised to see a local columnist eliminate one of the standard five (or often six) questions.

First, some background.  The South Park Bridge, which carries about 20,000 vehicles a day, is scheduled to close at the end of this month.

South Park Bridge, 2010

According to Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat, this will be a serious hardship for the South Park community.   (Which is not especially wealthy.  Or powerful.)

To this point, Westneat and I are in agreement.  If what he is saying is correct, then it is wrong not to replace the bridge.  And I would agree with the two people he talked to for the column, one living in the neighborhood, and the other visiting, who also think that closing the bridge will blight the neighborhood.

After reading the column and sharing a little of Westneat's outrage, I began wondering who, if anyone, was responsible for the failure to replace the bridge.  I began to wonder who is to blame.

But Westneat, perhaps responding to cost controls at the Seattle Times, never goes beyond "King County", never names a single elected official who we might blame for this failure.  That first "W" never made it into his column.

I understand, of course, that times are tough in the news business, and that news organizations have had to make all kinds of painful cutbacks.  But I hope that Westneat and the Seattle Times will reconsider and restore the first "W" to their stories, columns, and editorials.  They may not realize this, but many readers are more interested in the "Who" than in anything else.

Is it possible for those of us not in the news business to fill in for Westneat, and supply that first "W"?  Perhaps, if we work together on the problem.

We can start with the one clue that Westneat provides.  King County is officially responsible for the bridge.  The current King County executive is Dow Constantine (D), who served on the county council beginning in 2002, until he became the executive in 2009.  His predecessor was Ron Sims (D), who was a terrible manager, as even Westneat's newspaper has admitted occasionally.  (Those not familiar with the politics in this area may want to know that Sims has taken his managerial skills to the Obama administration.)   Although the county council is now formally nonpartisan, the members still vote along partisan lines.   The Democratic party has controlled the council for many years.

Our state's senior senator is Patty "not-a-rocket-scientist" Murray (D).   She is famous — some would say infamous — for her pursuit of pork projects, but this one never seems to have gotten much attention from her.  (On the other hand, South Park probably hasn't contributed much to her campaigns, either.)

Our governor is Christine Gregoire (D).  Since her disputed election in 2004, state spending has soared, but she has never found the money to replace this bridge.

In 2009, the Congress, led by Speaker Pelosi (D) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), passed an immense "stimulus" bill.  In principle, the bill could have provided for infrastructure projects such as a replacement bridge, but it was reshaped in Congress, after a campaign by feminists, to provide fewer jobs for men, and more for women.  That meant, among other things, that there were fewer construction projects, since most construction workers are men.  (In the latest unemployment report, the unemployment rate for adult men was substantially higher than for adult women.)  Despite this, President Obama (D) signed the bill.

Those are the names that occur, offhand, to me.  Perhaps, if you are familiar with this area, you can add to that little list.  Together, perhaps we can supply the "W" that Westneat, and the Seattle Times, are too impoverished to give their readers.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(I can't help wondering whether Westneat's elimination of the first "W" is related to another cutback.   As most readers know, many news organizations have decided to economize by eliminating the "(D)" after politicians of a certain party, who have gotten into trouble.  Oddly enough, the same news organizations have not gotten around to eliminating the "(R)" after similar miscreants in another party, but I am sure they will do that soon.)
- 2:11 PM, 9 June 2010   [link]


Congratulations To President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, And Ways And Means Chairman Rangel:  By not acting, they have given a few people a substantial tax cut this year.
A Texas pipeline tycoon who died two months ago may become the first American billionaire allowed to pass his fortune to his children and grandchildren tax-free.

Dan L. Duncan, a soft-spoken farm boy who started with $10,000 and two propane trucks, and built a network of natural gas processing plants and pipelines that made him the richest person in Houston, died in late March of a brain hemorrhage at 77.

Had his life ended three months earlier, Mr. Duncan's riches — Forbes magazine estimated his worth at $9 billion, ranking him as the 74th wealthiest in the world — would have been subject to a federal tax of at least 45 percent.  If he had lived past Jan. 1, 2011, the rate would be even higher — 55 percent.

Instead, because Congress allowed the tax to lapse for one year and gave all estates a free pass in 2010, Mr. Duncan's four children and four grandchildren stand to collect billions that in any other year would have gone to the Treasury.
However, you should not think that President Obama and the Democratic Congress were not concerned about revenue; one of the first bills Congress passed and Obama signed was an increase in the taxes on tobacco products — which are now used, disproportionately, by the poor.

(The article does not explain why the Democrats did not simply extend the previous law for a year, while they argued about changes in the estate tax.

For the record:  I am not opposed to estate taxes — in principle.  And it is not hard to find families, for example, the Kennedys, whose behavior provides strong arguments for effective estate taxes.)
- 7:00 AM, 9 June 2010   [link]


Michael Barone's Quick Take on yesterday's primaries.

I didn't find anything surprising in his hurried analysis, but I did find some interesting tidbits.  For example:
Note also that 3rd district Republican Congressman Gresham Barrett, who also voted for TARP, did not fare well in his race for governor.  He did in fact make it into the runoff, winning 22% of the votes to 49% for state Representative Nikki Haley.  But he carried only 4 counties in his congressional district and lost the other 42 counties in the state to Haley.  I am told that almost all South Carolina Republican politicians detest Haley as a cheap shot artist who takes demagogic stands against all other incumbents (in the mode of outgoing Governor Mark Sanford, last seen on the Appalachian Trail heading to Argentina; Sanford's estranged wife Jenny Sanford as well as Sarah Palin endorsed Haley).  But I suspect that Barrett may decide that extending this contest into a June 22 runoff is a waste of his time and psychic energy.  The insiders-don't-like-her theme doesn't have the timbre of a winner.

Interestingly, Haley is the daughter of Sikh immigrants from India.  If elected governor she would be the second Republican governor of a Southern state, after Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, to be the child of immigrants from South Asia.  Who'd a thunk it? And when you're putting your mind around that, consider that the leader in the Republican primary for the open South Carolina 1 seat relinquished by retiree Henry Brown is Tim Scott, who may be the most conservative and assuredly is the only black Republican in the South Carolina legislature.  He led Paul Thurmond, son of the late Governor and Senator Strom Thurmond, by a 31%-16% margin; in third place with 14% was Carroll Campbell, son of the late Congressman and Governor Carroll Campbell.
The times they have changed.  (Though not all of our "mainstream" journalists recognize that fact.)
- 6:29 AM, 9 June 2010   [link]