March 2012, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
President Rutherford B. Hayes Was A Technophile: In particular, he loved the telephone. Someone on the White House staff should explain that to President Obama, who claimed the opposite, in a speech yesterday.
Curator Nan Card corrected the record:
She then read aloud a newspaper article from June 29, 1877, which describes Hayes's delight upon first experiencing the magic of the telephone. The Providence Journal story reported that as Hayes listened on the phone, "a gradually increasing smile wreathe[d] his lips and wonder shone in his eyes more and more.” Hayes took the phone from his ear, "looked at it a moment in surprise and remarked, 'That is wonderful.'"So many things are just the opposite of what President Obama says.
This mistake reminds me of the historical mistakes in Obama's Cairo speech, one of which I noticed, even though I am no historian.
What puzzled me then, and puzzles me again, is why Obama doesn't have better fact checking on his speeches. The simplest explanation for these errors and, I fear, the correct one, is that he doesn't care very much whether what he says is true.
- 8:18 AM, 16 March 2012 [link]
Derek Bok On Our Anti-Scientific Colleges: Last month, I called in a former president of Harvard, Derek Bok, to help me explain to a Seattle Times columnist, Danny Westneat, why we need reform in our colleges and universities.
Summarizing one part of Bok's argument, I concluded that somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent of college graduates learn little from their college courses and experiences.
But there is much more to Bok's argument, and in this post, I want to share a part I consider essential. (As before, I am quoting from Bok's book, Our Underachieving Colleges.)
In short, our professors do not know what teaching methods work best — and are unwilling to use scientific methods to find out.
Again, I didn't say that; Derek Bok did. But almost anyone who is familiar with our college and university faculties can give you evidence to support Bok's conclusion.
And, although Bok doesn't mention this, we spend immense sums on these courses — often without having any idea on whether the students in them are learning anything.
Given this passive — and sometimes active — resistance to improving teaching at our colleges and universities by those who run them, I think it unlikely that we can expect needed reforms to come from within.
Where should outsiders start? By asking our colleges and universities to measure what the students, both those who graduate, and those who do not, learn. For example, The University of Washington Board of Regents could ask the university president, Michael Young, to measure what the undergraduates there learn, and then report back to them, at least once a year.
Some, Westneat included, think that we can improve the teaching at our colleges and universities by throwing more money at them. Anyone who reads that Bok selection that I quoted will understand why that isn't so, will understand that reforms are essential, but more money may not be.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 2:05 PM, 15 March 2012 [link]
The Washington Post Indicts Obama's Handling Of Afghanistan: Most of the criticisms they make in their editorial will be familiar to regular readers of this site, but they put them all together in a way I have not done.
The president came to office pledging a revitalized campaign in Afghanistan. But he began by terminating President Bush's practice of regular personal communications with President Hamid Karzai. Several of his envoys treated Mr. Karzai roughly and disparaged him in public. The U.S. official most able to work with the Afghan leadership, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, was abruptly pushed out of his post because of a hyped magazine article. Mr. Karzai is an erratic personality — but is it any wonder that he has grown increasingly resistant to the Obama administration?(Some of us will take pleasure, maybe more than we should, at seeing Obama compared unfavorably to President Bush. We don't see that very often in our "mainstream" newspapers.)
Those Obama mistakes are not subtle mistakes that the most accomplished diplomat might make. They aren't, for the most part, even understandable beginner's mistakes. They are the diplomatic mistakes of a man who does not understand the basics of diplomacy — or does not care about the end result, as long as it does not hurt him too much, politically.
You should read the whole thing — and share it with others.
(Not so incidentally, Obama also terminated Bush's policy of speaking regularly with Iraqi leaders.)
- 10:25 AM, 15 March 2012 [link]
Does The New York Times Have Double Standards? Some might think the answer to that question is the same as the answer to those two traditional questions: Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear . . . ?
In fact, the answer to the question in the title is no; the Times does not have double standards, it has multiple standards. I won't try to explain them all because I don't follow our newspaper of record closely enough to understand them all.
But I can certainly recognize an instance of those multiple standards when I see one.
Executives at The New York Times have rejected a full-page anti-Islam advertisement that mimicked a controversial anti-Catholic advertisement they published on March 9.You may recall that this is the same newspaper that put the Abu Ghraib scandal on their front page more than fifty times, not worrying about the danger that caused to our troops in Iraq — and Afghanistan.
And, of course, this decision does encourage violence by any group that wants to change what appears in our newspaper of record.
(If my claim of multiple standards seems puzzling, think about some examples. For instance, how would the Times treat a story on sexual exploitation of minors by a Catholic priest, a minister at a traditionally black Protestant church, or a mullah at an anti-American mosque?
Similarly, how the Times would treat story on a campaign finance scandal if the candidate was a conservative Republican, a moderate Republican, a moderate Democrat, or a leftist Democrat?)
- 7:02 AM, 15 March 2012 [link]
The Republican Nomination Rules Will Change At End Of March: Specifically, states that hold primaries or caucuses after 31 March can use winner-take-all rules to allocate delegates.
And many states do use those rules.
Looking through the big table (and assuming that the Wikipedia article is correct), I would say that most of the winner-take-all states would vote for Romney — if the election were held now.
Specifically, I would make him the favorite in Maryland (37 delegates), Washington, D. C. (16 delegates), Connecticut (25 delegates), Delaware (17 delegates), New York (72 delegates), California (169 delegates), New Jersey (50 delegates), and Utah (40 delegates).
Those eight will allocate a total of 426 delegates with their primaries. If Romney were to win them all, it is almost certain that he would have a majority (1,144) of committed delegates before the convention.
Currently, Romney has almost 500 delegates (counts differ). With those, with the 426 delegates in those winner-take-all states, and with a share of delegates in the rest, it is hard for me to see how Romney can be prevented from winning a majority of the delegates.
Assuming, that is, that opinions don't change in those states before they vote.
What should Santorum do? Try really, really hard to win California.
(The other states with winner-take-all rules are Wisconsin (42 delegates) and Indiana (27 delegates). Since Romney was able to win Michigan and Ohio, he should have a reasonable chances to win Wisconsin and Indiana. Since he won Michigan and Ohio narrowly, I didn't make him the likely winner in either Wisconsin or Indiana.
Puerto Rico will elect 20 delegates in a winner-take-all race on Sunday. Given Romney's sweep of the territories so far, I would expect him to win those 20, but I don't have enough knowledge of past nomination fights there to be certain. (They get to use a winner-take-all rule early because they are not a state, if you were wondering.))
- 3:41 PM, 14 March 2012
Clarification, update, and correction: I originally wrote winner-take-all rule, as if there were a single rule. In fact, the states have different winner-take-all rules. Some states, California, for instance, have winner-take-all rules at the state level, and at the House district level. That modifies, slightly, my argument, but does not affect my conclusion.
(I've rewritten the post slightly to make it clear that there are multiple winner-take-all rules.)
Update: Dick Morris looks at the same data and rules, and comes to the same conclusion — at almost the same time I did. There are some minor differences in our numbers, mostly because I didn't include the three party-leader delegates from each state in my totals, and he does include them. (I expect Romney will win almost all of those delegates.)
Correction: New York uses proportional representation for its at-large delegates and winner-take-all for its district delegates. I reduced Romney's expected number of delegates from New York by a somewhat arbitrary 20 to allow for that mixed rule.
- 7:26 AM, 15 March 2012 [link]
Florida Democrats And A Cult Of Personality? Sure looks as if some of them are making that mistake.
An American flag with President Obama's image in place of the stars flew over a Florida county's Democrat headquarters long enough to enrage local veterans who called the altered banner "a disgrace."This isn't the first time we have seen Obama supporters making that mistake, though in milder forms than the worst historical examples.
Cults of personality are inappropriate for democracies, where the people should rule, not some idolized leader.
- 2:19 PM, 14 March 2012 [link]
Obama — "I Don't Get It" What didn't President Obama get? Why his "clean energy" investments produced so few jobs, at such high cost.
No one familiar with similar efforts would have been surprised. Anyone who had read, for instance, Pressman and Wildavsky's Implementation would understand how hard it is for the government to create jobs.
As far as I can tell, President Obama is a knowledgeable basketball fan, with a good understanding of the game. Unfortunately, he does not seem to have the same understanding of the basics of economic policy, or the limits of government programs.
(Noam Scheiber, who wrote that devastating bit, is not a conservative.)
- 9:09 AM, 14 March 2012 [link]
The Associated Press Explains Why The Oregonian Couldn't Cover Up The Caldwell Scandal: In this odd article, they bring on Robert Caldwell's widow to testify that, yes, the Oregonian had to publish the unpleasant facts about her husband's demise.
(They do not mention that there was a police report, which means that they couldn't have hid the story from the public, even if they had tried.)
Our news organizations have rather different standards for themselves, than they have for others. Imagine, for instance, how they would have treated this story if the dead man had been a Catholic bishop, rather than the editorial page editor at Oregon's most important newspaper.
(Could Caldwell's behavior have affected the editorials at the newspaper? Sure, especially if others knew about it, as they almost always do.)
- 8:24 AM, 14 March 2012 [link]
Delta Versus The Hills In Mississippi? I wasn't going to blog about the results tonight, but then I noticed a possible pattern in the Mississippi results, a pattern I learned about from V. O. Key's 1949 classic, Southern Politics.
Key found that Mississippi politics — or I should say Mississippi white politics, since blacks were then almost completely disenfranchised — often divided between the "delta", the rich lands along most of the Mississippi River, and the hills, most of the rest of the state. The delta tended to be conservative, economically and in religion, the hills populist in both.
The delta opposed prohibition and candidates like Theodore Bilbo; the hills supported both.
If those patterns still hold, one would expect Romney to do better in the delta, and Santorum better in the hills.
(To be precise, Key's delta includes only the northern three-fourths of the counties along the river.
Incidentally, the "hills" are not very high by western standards, only a few hundred feet above sea level. But they have much poorer soil than the delta.
There was a similar, but much weaker, pattern in Alabama, with conservative counties in a belt separating the top two-thirds of the state from the bottom third.)
- 6:43 PM, 13 March 2012
On the whole, Romney did win the "delta", and Santorum did win the "hills". (The cities of Gulfport and Biloxi typically voted with the delta in the past, as they did this time.)
A map of the vote for Romney looks very much like a map of the 1934 vote against prohibition. (Which, I admit, is amusing, given Romney's own beliefs on alcohol.)
- 8:42 AM, 14 March 2012 [link]
Bruce Springsteen, Farmer: And you thought he was a singer/songwriter. Well, he is that, too, but in order to avoid "hundreds of thousands" in property taxes, he is a New Jersey farmer.
Jon Bon Jovi is also New Jersey farmer, in his case, a bee farmer. (A quick search with Bing failed to turn up any pictures of Bon Jovi in his bee gear.)
Judging by those revelations — and others you can find at that post — Jason Mattera's Hollywood Hypocrites will amuse some, and infuriate others.
(It will probably amuse and infuriate me, but more amuse than infuriate.)
- 5:03 PM, 13 March 2012 [link]
Michael Ramirez Explains The Problem with wind power to Obama.
- 4:45 PM, 13 March 2012 [link]
If You Suspect "Mainstream" Journalists Are A Sleazy Bunch, you won't be surprised by this story.
What I find most interesting about the story is that the Oregonian published a false story, intended, I assume, to protect their editor's reputation, before this story. Did the newspaper know the truth, or were they attempting to cover for him? (They blame a family friend for the false story.)
By way of Orbusmax.
- 9:30 AM, 13 March 2012 [link]
Retired Foreign Service Officer Explains How To Negotiate With Iran: Don Cooke has some experience with that difficult problem.
Mock firing squads. Manacles. Blindfolds. This was not what I signed up for when I joined the Foreign Service in October 1978. But that was what I found when, assigned to Tehran as my first post, I was taken captive for 444 days by Islamic militants, along with 51 of my colleagues. I was 24 years old, and Iran was gripped by revolution.Here's what Cooke thinks we should do:
Iran is coming back to the negotiating table — but not because it has suddenly decided to live up to its international obligations. These talks may provide a face-saving way to halt its nuclear program. The key to the Iranians accepting such a solution is to convince them that we have the capability and the will to end their program ourselves. The irony is that the more clearly we demonstrate that capability and will, the less likely we will need to use them.(Emphasis added.)
In other words, if we want to succeed in the negotiations, we should be building up our forces in the Middle East, and President Obama should do everything to persuade the Iranians that he is determined to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.
Do we have the capability to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons? In an all-out war, of course, in a few, limited air and missile strikes, perhaps not. (You would have to know many of Iran's secrets to give a more definitive answer.)
Can Obama, at this stage, persuade them of his determination? I hope the answer to that question is yes, but I suspect that it is no.
(Game theorists, or realists for that matter, wouldn't find anything ironic about perceived strength and determination being an advantage in negotiations with hostile powers.)
- 8:37 AM, 13 March 2012 [link]
Inconclusive Polls From Alabama And Mississippi: Here's Mark Blumenthal's summary.
Tuesday's Republican primaries in Alabama and Mississippi may be the most suspenseful so far, because the few public polls available have produced inconsistent results that collectively point to close finishes in both states.(And in case that isn't confusing enough, primary polls in those states have a lousy track record.)
So I'm not going to venture in with predictions on either state.
But I will make this overall, qualified prediction: Today there are caucuses in American Samoa and Hawaii, as well as primaries in the two southern states. Judging by past results, Mitt Romney should win almost all of the 29 delegates at stake in those caucuses. If he splits the 90 delegates in Alabama and Mississippi, as the polls suggest he will, today will be another win for him.
(I'm qualifying that prediction, because of the lousy track record of those polls.)
- 7:57 AM, 13 March 2012
Not quite a win for Romney: To win a majority of delegates, Romney has to win just less than half of the delegates remaining (about 48 percent, according to my very quick calculation), and though he won the most delegates yesterday, he did not win half of them.
By a parallel argument, yesterday was even a farther from a win for Santorum or Gingrich, since they must win far more than half of the remaining delegates.
- 7:34 AM, 14 March 2012 [link]
Getting Fired At The New York Times Can Be Worth millions.
Former New York Times Co (NYT.N) Chief Executive Janet Robinson received a total payout of nearly $24 million after she left the newspaper publisher at the end of last year, according to a regulatory filing on Friday.If you are a member of the 1 per cent, that is.
The Times could have hired a lot of reporters for that $4.5 million, which they didn't have to pay her.
(Yes, I know, technically she didn't get fired, but the result was the same.
Here's a brief Wikipedia biography, which may or may not explain why she received those millions, and why she had the job in the first place.)
- 2:39 PM, 12 March 2012 [link]
Cameron And Obama Will Make A Joint Campaign Appearance In Dayton: Robert Winnett explains, briskly, why the British Prime Minister, who has shown no great interest in the game as far as I know, will be watching basketball with Barack Obama.
Obama is thought to be keen to portray himself as an international statesman, but not too "international" — so an English-speaking foreign leader is a safe bet. A quick hot dog followed by a joint television interview, then it will be back on the jet to Washington DC.Right.
Cameron is taking a big chance, given recent polls, and the likelihood that Republicans will control one or both houses of Congress next year. He should, at least, have asked for brief meetings with the top two or three Republican presidential candidates.
(As a matter of ordinary courtesy, shouldn't Obama choose entertainment to please his guest, rather than himself?
Example: When Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi visited the United States, President Bush took him to visit Graceland.)
- 10:40 AM, 12 March 2012 [link]
Andrew Malcolm Has Some Fun with his headline: "Chicago Democrat Obama congratulates Russia's Putin on fraudulent election".
As I've said before, even fraudulent elections are a kind of tribute to free elections, so perhaps congratulations, of a sort, are in order.
(From what I can tell, Putin would have won a free and fair election, but the old KGB agent probably doesn't know how to put one on, and certainly doesn't intend to risk one.)
- 9:27 AM, 12 March 2012 [link]
Back Stabbers: To get yourself in the right mood for John Podhoretz's brief article on the disloyalty of McCain's 2008 campaign aides, you may want to recall, or even find, the O'Jay's hit, "Back Stabbers".
Yes, if ever you wanted circumstantial evidence that the sources within the McCain campaign who spent October 2008 dumping on Palin anonymously might have included Wallace and Schmidt, you need look no further than HBO’s Game Change. The movie presents a moral case for the disreputable conduct of aides who, we can presume, fearlessly drop dirty dimes anonymously to save their own standing in the liberal culture from which they desperately wish not to be excluded.After reading the piece, I reminded myself that I should never let Niccole Wallace or Steve Schmidt get behind me, or any political leader I liked.
Wallace was the genius who suggested that Sarah Palin do her first substantial campaign interview with Wallace's friend, Katie Couric. After learning that, I wondered whether Wallace had done other damage, in her role as a Bush media advisor.
(Wallace hasn't stopped her back stabbing, as you can see here.)
- 9:05 AM, 12 March 2012 [link]
Molly Ball Says That Mitt Romney can be very funny.
I like these two jokes he told on himself:
Then there's this passage from Sridhar Pappu's Romney profile in this magazine in 2005, when Romney was a Massachusetts governor with poorly hidden presidential ambitions. At a South Boston Saint Patrick's Day breakfast, "the best one-liners at Romney's expense came from Romney," Pappu reported.I think you have to be a Mormon (or, perhaps, a Muslim) to get away with that second joke.Standing at the podium to begin his remarks, he said, "Well, it's great to be here in Iowa this morning--whoops, wrong speech." He threw down a piece of paper and then continued. "Seriously, it's good to be here in Massachusetts. I'm visiting for a few days." Everybody cracked up, and from that moment the room was his. He kept up a genuinely funny line of patter--much of it self-deprecating and based on his presumptive aspirations to higher office--for eight minutes; in comedy terms he killed. (Sample joke: As a Mormon, he said, "I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman and a woman and a woman.")That's pretty risky stuff, even if somebody else wrote it, and it shows that Romney is rather more self-aware, and less stiffly egotistical, than many people in public life.
- 5:38 PM, 11 March 2012 [link]
Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor Heat Nor Gloom Of Night stayed these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
But other things did. It turns out that cats just aren't very good at delivering mail, as the city of Liege, Belgium discovered in 1879.
- 5:17 PM, 11 March 2012 [link]
Drudge Calls This Rasmussen Poll Result a "Shock".
With the perception growing that he will be the GOP nominee, Romney leads President Obama by five points in a hypothetical 2012 matchup. Today's numbers show Romney at 48%, Obama at 43%. That's Romney's largest lead since December.But it's consistent with the current Gallup tracking poll, where Romney leads by 4 per cent (50-46), so I didn't find it shocking at all.
Rasmussen gives us a hint with that lead; as Romney begins to seem the inevitable nominee, he begins to pick up support from Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.
(Obama may be hurt by high gasoline prices. I think he might be better off not discussing that issue as much as he has, recently.
At this stage of the campaign, Rasmussen is polling likely voters, and Gallup is polling registered voters, which might explain that 1 per cent difference in their results.)
- 3:52 PM, 10 March 2012 [link]
The Republican Nomination Race Is Taking Months — As Intended: Elaine Kamarck explains the changes that have made the race a marathon, rather than a sprint, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, which is, unfortunately, behind their pay wall.
Some key points:
The Republican and Democratic Parties both enacted incentives for states to hold their primaries later in the spring. The Republicans did it by allowing only those primaries held after April to have winner-take-all rules, which make them particularly influential. The Democrats did it by giving bonus delegates to states that held their primaries after April.Although Kamarck doesn't mention this, the parties were motivated, I am certain, by a desire to see more than a few early states have a say in the nomination process.
(Candidates have also been helped, Kamarck says, by the loosening of campaign finance rules that allows one or two rich men — Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess, for example — to fund presidential campaigns.)
- 3:33 PM, 10 March 2012 [link]
Wins For Romney In Guam, Northern Marianas, And Wyoming; Win For Santorum In Kansas: So Romney approximately broke even today, which is all he needs to do.
(Don't miss this picture showing two younger Romneys meeting people of the northern Marianas in tourist garb.
(The pictures illustrating the government sites of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands probably give you a better idea of how most people there dress.)
- 3:08 PM, 10 March 2012 [link]
Thomas Friedman Says The Darnedest Things: Yesterday, for instance, the veteran New York Times columnist said this:
The only question I have when it comes to President Barack Obama and Israel is whether he is the most pro-Israel president in history or just one of the most.There many replies that come to mind, after reading something that silly. Unfortunately, most of them are not suitable for a family site. But I can say this: If so, Obama certainly has fooled most Israelis, who don't see him that way at all.
How does Friedman justify that absurd claim? By referring to Obama's speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — and by ignoring Obama's almost immediate pivot away from that speech.
Charles Krauthammer, a serious man, noticed that pivot.
It's Lucy and the football, Iran-style. After ostensibly tough talk about preventing Iran from going nuclear, the Obama administration acquiesced this week to yet another round of talks with the mullahs.For that matter, cartoonist Michael Ramirez noticed. (As most of you know, Ramirez is quoting what Obama said about Netanyahu to Sarkozy, but changing the target to Ahmadinejad.)
So what explains Friedman's absurd column? He tells us himself:
Republicans have tried to make support for Israel a wedge issue that would enable them to garner a higher percentage of Jewish votes and campaign contributions, which traditionally have swung overwhelmingly Democratic.In other words, Friedman wants Jewish voters and donors to pay no attention to Obama's actual policies toward Israel. And so he tells us that Obama is a great friend of Israel — and may even believe that.
- 2:39 PM, 9 March 2012 [link]
No Wonder Secretary Chu wants higher gas prices.
Chu may not own a car, but he does have a chauffeur, as long as he stays head of the Energy Department.
- 8:40 AM, 9 March 2012 [link]