May 2008, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
Letter Of The Day: From, coincidentally, Mercer Island. As I am sure you know, a destructive cyclone has hit the nation long known as Burma. According to news reports, as many as a hundred thousand may have been killed. Many might have been saved if the leftwing military dictatorship had been willing to warn the people. Even now, the military rulers are blocking help from the outside.
Does any of this bother our letter writer? No. But this does:
(Out of courtesy, I have omitted the letter writer's name, though you can find it easily enough at the link.)
I hesitate to point this out, but the preference for Burma over Myanmar is shared by the leftist San Francisco Chronicle and the leftist Washington Post. More important, it is shared by the democratic opposition in Burma. Their broadest organization calls itself the "National Council of the Union of Burma". So, President Bush is on the side of the people of Burma — and the letter writer is on the side of the cruel military dictatorship.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 2:55 PM, 8 May 2008 [link]
Kansas, Or A Seattle Suburb? When Bill Clinton was presenting himself to the American public in 1992, he was described as "The Man from Hope", Hope, Arkansas, that is. His supporters even made a movie with that title. The Clinton campaign called him the Man from Hope for two reasons, to take advantage of the town's name, and to imply that Clinton had the wholesome values many of us associate with small towns.
There is just one thing wrong with calling Clinton the Man from Hope; it isn't completely true. Clinton was born in Hope in 1946 and lived there (in the care of grandparents) until 1950, but he grew up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, a very different place. Hot Springs was famous, or, if you prefer, infamous, for its vices, famous enough to attract visitors like Al Capone and Bugs Moran. Hardly anyone would think those visitors had small town values.
But Clinton got away with it during 1992, though reporters familiar with Arkansas (and Clinton's personal history) must have know that he was being deceptive.
The Obama campaign is pulling a similar trick with his mother.
That leaves out a lot. Stanley Ann Dunham was born in Kansas in 1942, but her family moved to the Seattle area in 1955, and in 1956 settled in a Seattle suburb, Mercer Island, where they moved sharply to the left. There's a good description of their time in Mercer Island in this long Chicago Tribune article. Some excerpts:
(Or as I would say, leftists.)
Sociologically, Mercer Island was already a long way from small town Kansas, especially for those who fell under the influence of teachers like Foubert and Wichterman. But Obama would prefer that we not know about that part of his mother's life, even though it was the formative part.
It is not hard to see why Obama wants to conceal this part of his mother's life, just as it is not hard to see why Clinton wanted to call himself the Man from Hope. In each case, the man wants to claim some connection to small town values, the one directly and the other through his mother. Clinton got away with it in 1992, and Obama may do the same this year.
The deliberate deception tells us something about both men. In particular, it tells us that both men are bold liars, willing to deceive even when they know that their deceptions can be detected by anyone who takes a little time to check. (And both men rely on the forbearance of "mainstream" journalists, some of whom must know the truth.)
Cross posted at Sound Politics.
(The Dunhams didn't go directly from Kansas to Seattle. After World War II, her family moved to Texas, and from there to Seattle. So, with the same lack of accuracy, one could say that Barack's mother grew up in Texas. But I doubt that his campaign will ever make that claim.
Incidentally, I fell for this trick myself, believing for some time that the Dunhams had lived in Kansas most of their lives and then moved to Hawaii to retire.This is the fourth post in my "Strange Obama" series. You can find the earlier posts here, here, and here.)
- 1:41 PM, 8 May 2008
Two corrections: Ann Dunham, Obama's mother, was born in 1942, not 1940, as I originally wrote. And her family also lived in California after leaving Kansas, and before moving to the Seattle area.
- 6:56 PM, 8 May [link]
Barbara Walters, Home Wrecker: Star Jones and Tim Graham point out the obvious.
From Us Magazine through TV Newser: Star Jones lets her old "View" boss Barbara Walters have it on how she's using her tale of adultery with black Republican Sen. Edward Brooke in the Seventies to sell books: "It is a sad day when an icon like Barbara Walters in the sunset of her life is reduced to publicly branding herself as an adulterer, humiliating an innocent family with accounts of her illicit affair and speaking negatively against me all for the sake of selling a book. It speaks to her true character."The obvious that almost all journalists missed. Walters helped destroy a man's marriage and his career. She feels a little sorry about the second, but not at all about the first.
That so many journalists, including Howard Kurtz, missed the obvious tells us something about their own morals, and about their willingness to tolerate (and, often, conceal) the moral failings of politicians they like — and something about their hypocrisy when they pretend to care about the moral failings of politicians they dislike.
(Gretchen Wilson wrote a song for Ms. Walters. Maybe some interviewer should play that song for Walters as she goes around on her book tour.)
- 7:10 AM, 8 May 2008 [link]
Nasty Air Pollution In Hawaii: From the Kilauea volcano.
Big Island crops are shriveling as sulfur dioxide from Kilauea wafts over them and envelops them in "vog," or volcanic smog. People are wheezing, and schoolchildren are being kept indoors during recess. High gas levels led Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to close several days last month, forcing the evacuation of thousands of visitors.The vog has gotten much worse since March, when a new vent opened in the volcano.
Of course this vog would be completely illegal if it were coming from a US factory. (Maybe even if it were coming from a Chinese factory.)
- 6:25 AM, 8 May 2008 [link]
More Bad News On The Economy: As usual since the inauguration of President Bush, the news is "better-than-expected".
Worker productivity rose by a better-than-expected amount in the first three months of the year while labor cost pressures eased.Bad news, that is, if you are hoping for a collapse of the US economy — as so many on the left are.
- 2:39 PM, 7 May 2008 [link]
Suspicious Minds: The late reporting of the Lake County results in Indiana made many suspect that Obama supporters were holding back the results until they knew how many votes they needed. Including many Democrats who support Hillary Clinton. For example, take a look through the comments at this election blog. Mixed in with the congratulations to Obama you will find many who think the election was about to be stolen, and some of those who say that are clearly Clinton supporters.
Last night on Fox, Democratic operative Bob Beckel suggested the same thing, that the delay in reporting was to facilitate ballot stuffing.
Regarding Lake County, very suspiscious indeed. The mayor of Hammond, IN was on CNN casting aspersions on Gary, IN. Bob Beckel on Fox last night relayed an anecdote that should send chills down your spine. Was talking about a prior campaign where he called the registrar's office in Gary and asked what was taking so long. The election official told him that he, Beckel, was the cause of the hold up. Something along the line of, "There's no hold up, we're just waiting on you to tell us how many votes you need."(I didn't see the program, so I can't verify the word for word accuracy of that quote. But I have seen essentially the same thing reported in several independent places.)
And, apparently, CNN was unable to get a reasonable explanation for the delay.
For the record, I think that incompetence is a more likely explanations of the delay than attempted vote fraud. But I wouldn't mind it if someone investigated the reasons for the delay.
- 12:57 PM, 7 May 2008 [link]
"I Tried To Acquaint Her With The Facts": John Stossel tries to educate Arianna Huffington — without much success. Oddly enough, Huffington thinks that her opponents on the right "don't believe in facts, and they don't believe in evidence".
If you are like me, you will be both amused and discouraged by the encounter. Amused because Huffington herself is almost impervious to facts and evidence, discouraged because there are so many on the left who think (or perhaps I should say, don't think) like Huffington.
- 7:10 AM, 7 May 2008 [link]
Why Did Obama Beat The Polls? Jay Cost explains.
So, we can conclude that Clinton's narrow victory in Indiana was largely because she didn't do as well with her strong groups as in Ohio and Pennsylvania. However, she did do just as well in the south. It was in metro Indy and in the north that she didn't do as well. On the other hand, Obama's extremely large victory in North Carolina was due to his strength among African Americans, a group with which he has improved over time.To say the least. It's easy to forget that, at the beginning of this campaign, Clinton was doing very well among blacks.
I suspect that there was a surge in voting by blacks in both states, as well as an improvement in Obama's share of the black vote, but I haven't seen any numbers on that yet.
- 6:47 AM, 7 May 2008 [link]
Worth Reading: Fred Siegel explores the Obama contradictions.
The disparity between Obama's rhetoric of transcendence and his conventional Chicago racial and patronage politics is a leitmotiv of his political career. In New York, politicians (Al Sharpton excepted) are usually forced to pay at least passing tribute to universal principles and the ideal of clean government.In other words, like Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama is best understood as a machine politician, or perhaps in Obama's case, as a front man for machine politicians.
- 10:04 AM, 6 May 2008 [link]
Quick Predictions: Clinton will win Indiana by 7 points, Obama North Carolina by 8 points. Clinton will be helped by the continual Jeremiah Wright connection in both states, Obama by a surge of black votes in North Carolina.
Here are the Real Clear Politics survey summaries for Indiana and North Carolina. Indiana is about 9 percent black, North Carolina about 22 percent black. One would expect, from those numbers, that blacks would make up about 18 percent of the Democratic primary vote in Indiana, and about 45 percent in North Carolina. I would not be surprised if the black vote in the North Carolina primary approaches 50 percent.
- 9:43 AM, 6 May 2008
Other Predictions: FWIW (not much, in my opinion), Zogby is predicting a close race in Indiana, and a big win for Obama in North Carolina. Meanwhile, Drudge says that the Clinton campaign told him that they may lose by 15 points in North Carolina. But then you don't have to be too cynical to think that's what the Clinton campaign would say if they expect to lose by 8 points.
- 12:45 PM, 6 May 2008
Update: It is clear that I was wrong about Obama's strength in both states, though how wrong, I don't know yet. (And it may be a very good night for Zogby, something that hasn't happened very often in this series of primaries.)
You may be wondering why CNN has not called Indiana for Clinton, given that 83 percent of the vote has been counted. That's because the places that have not reported are almost all places where one would expect a strong vote for Obama, notably Lake County, which is about 26 percent black.
- 7:21 PM, 6 May 2008
Deliberately Late? Suspicious people may be beginning to wonder whether Lake County is holding back reporting until they see how many votes Obama needs. That's unlikely, but not impossible, since vote fraud is not unknown there. However, incompetence is a much more likely explanation, at this point. But if I were running the Clinton campaign, I would send a few lawyers to the county, just in case.
- 7:49 PM, 6 May 2008
Unimportant, but amusing: Obama easily carried Buncombe County in North Carolina.
- 8:42 PM, 6 May 2008
CNN projects Clinton as the winner, with a mere 99 percent of the precincts counted. That was close. More tomorrow, after I get some sleep.
- 10:22 PM, 6 May 2008 [link]
Think Our Broadcasters Are Awful? Then take a look at this election analysis video from the BBC. The Telegraph blogger says it "will have you cowering behind the sofa in embarrassment". My reaction wasn't that strong, since my taxes don't support the BBC*, but I do understand why he would say that.
(For those not familiar with the minor parties in Britain: The Liberal Democrats are the third party in Britain. They have attracted surprisingly strong support since they were founded twenty years ago, and have won control of many local governments — but never had much influence on national policy.
For more on the party, you might want to start with this Wikipedia article, or the party's site.
*Except for a tiny fraction that goes through PBS.)
- 7:47 PM, 5 May 2008 [link]
Maybe They Should Stick To Ethnic Foods: Clinton and Obama are trying to prove that they are just regular folks by drinking like the guys, Clinton by (famously) downing a shot and a beer and Obama by trying a strange new drink.
Barack Obama is going to get down if it kills him.(Does anyone think that Obama regularly drinks Budweiser? It's not a bad beer, though not one of my favorites, but drinking it wouldn't do anything for the status of Barack "Arugula" Obama.)
For a number of very practical reasons, I think the candidates should skip the drinks during campaign appearances. If they have the digestion, they might want to follow Nelson Rockefeller's example and try to eat their way to higher office.
In 1958 Nelson Rockefeller ran for Governor. To prove that this scion of privilege was a regular Joe, Rockefeller proceeded to eat his way through the tribes of New York. There he was, his picture in the paper day after day with a hot dog, a knish, a slice of pizza, an egg roll. He won--and political tradition turned into a required ritual.(1958 was a lousy year for Republicans, making his success even more impressive.)
Candidates could also try head wear, though few can carry it off as well as Calvin Coolidge did.
(This legislation may have been the reason Coolidge was named an honorary chief of the Sioux.)
- 2:36 PM, 5 May 2008 [link]
Would You Choose These Interviewers? On Sunday, Clinton and Obama were interviewed by ABC and NBC, respectively. To interview Barack Obama, NBC chose partisan Democrat and former aide to Mario Cuomo and Patrick Moynihan, Tim Russert. To interview Hillary Clinton, ABC chose partisan Democrat and former aide to Bill Clinton, George Stephanopoulos.
This happens so often that it is easy to forget just how bizarre these choices are — if that, that is, you think an interviewer should challenge a politician who is seeking the highest office in the land.
- 1:32 PM, 5 May 2008 [link]
Reverend Wright And Senator Obama? No big deal, says the New York Times. (The print copy I picked up at noon actually headlines the story: "Issue of Pastor No Threat yet, Poll Suggests".)
A majority of American voters say that the furor over the relationship between Senator Barack Obama and his former pastor has not affected their opinion of Mr. Obama, but a substantial number say that it could influence voters this fall should he be the Democratic presidential nominee, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.The relationship has pulled Obama down, says the USA Today, citing their own poll.
Barack Obama's national standing has been significantly damaged by the controversy over his former pastor, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, raising questions for some voters about the Illinois senator's values, credibility and electability.USA Today is closer to the truth on this question, as you can see if you read both articles. The details in the polls support their conclusions, not the more optimistic conclusions in the New York Times.
By fall, the issue may be less important — although I wouldn't bet on that — but it also might be more important. And any attempt by Obama to further shift away from Wright might lead to another outburst from his former pastor.
(I would guess that the print version of the NYT article has the original headline and that some editor realized that headline was far too optimistic.
Adam Nagourney's lead sentence in that New York Times article is confusing. Majorities almost never say any event has changed their minds. What matters is whether a minority large enough to affect the results has changed their minds. And if I were Obama, I would not be happy to learn that 24 percent of the respondents say the issue will affect their vote decision, and 44 percent say that it will affect the vote decisions of most of the people you know. Those answers would make Wright one of the top issues in the campaign.)
- 12:58 PM, 5 May 2008 [link]
Nancy Who? Some graduates of Miami Dade College watched Speaker Nancy Pelosi give their commencement speech — without knowing who she is. When I read that, I couldn't help wondering why these students hadn't asked someone before the ceremony who she was. Or even during the ceremony.
(Miami Dade may not have the best informed students in the nation, but it claims to have the most.
I am fairly sure that most of the graduates last year knew who the commencement speaker was. Fairly sure.)
- 5:55 AM, 4 May 2008 [link]
Obama wins Guam by seven votes. Maybe. It was close enough so that Guam Democrats will be doing a recount — and looking for "missing ballots".
- 5:33 AM, 4 May 2008 [link]
How Are They Counting The Votes For Mayor In London? In two stages.
If there are only two candidates standing for Mayor of London, then the First Past the Post, system is used. The candidate with the most first choice votes will win.The preliminary returns make it likely that Boris Johnson did not quite get 50 percent of the First Choice votes, so they are having to count all the votes a second time
- 4:00 PM, 2 May 2008
Boris Johnson has won the race to become the next mayor of London - ending Ken Livingstone's eight-year reign at City Hall.I'll bet that at least a few people at Paddy Power are breathing sighs of relief.
- 4:15 PM, 2 May 2008
Here's a table showing first and second preference votes for the two candidates. You'll note that Livingstone received about ten thousand more second preference votes, so he gained slightly in the second stage of counting.
- 7:23 AM, 3 May 2008 [link]
Britain Has Been Experimenting With Voting By Mail: With familiar results.
Ministers have failed to act decisively against postal ballot fraud because they fear stirring up controversy in ethnic minority communities where most cases of abuse have been uncovered, senior Labour MPs admit.If only Democratic leaders would be as honest, even anonymously.
The Guardian, which is at least as far left as the New York Times, is more honest than our newspaper of record about this problem.
The expansion of postal voting can be traced back to the early days of the Blair administration and a laudable desire for better ways of voting and greater democratic engagement. The idea itself had few critics, but those who understood how it works knew that, without other reforms, it would be easy to cheat. And so it has proved. Because people register to vote through their household and not as individuals, "stuffing" the electoral rolls with made-up voters can be done at the stroke of a pen.Familiar results, but with this difference. In Britain, many on the left are not automatically defending the system, even though the fraud may benefit their parties.
- 3:30 PM, 2 May 2008 [link]
One Betting Firm is sure who will be the next mayor of London. Paddy Power is paying off those who bet on Boris Johnson. Even though the official results won't be out for hours.
1930 BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson says that the London mayoral result declaration has been put back to midnight.Which would be 4 this afternoon, my time, I think. (There is usually an eight hour time difference between Seattle and London, but not always, because the daylight savings time rules are different in the different countries.)
Most observers seem to agree with Paddy Power, but it is still a surprise to see a betting firm pay out before the results are official.
- 12:11 PM, 2 May 2008 [link]
Big Gains For The Conservatives: In yesterday's local elections in Britain.
Gordon Brown says it has been a "bad and disappointing" election for Labour, as the party suffers its worst council results in at least 40 years.Note the "So far". They are still counting in some of the local elections, and it is likely that the Conservatives will extend their gains. The chart that accompanies the article says that the Conservatives have gained 252 seats in local councils so far; they will probably add a little to their gains as the day goes on.
Those percents in the second paragraph do not mean what they say. They are not vote totals from yesterday's elections. They are estimates of how many votes each party would win — if all of England and Wales had voted. (There's a slightly longer explanation here.)
There's a map of the results here. Note that the British code the two major parties correctly, instead of reversing them, as most American news organizations do. The Conservatives are shown in blue and Labour in red.
- 9:18 AM, 2 May 2008 [link]
Better Than Expected: Today's job report.
Employers cut far fewer jobs in April than in recent months and the unemployment rate dropped to 5 percent, a better-than-expected showing that nonetheless still revealed strains in the nation's crucial labor market.Incidentally, that 5 percent unemployment rate is much lower than the rates in most other advanced industrialized countries
- 6:19 AM, 2 May 2008 [link]
Expecting Global Warming? Wait another ten years.
After decades of research that sought, and found, evidence of a human influence on the earth's climate, climatologists are beginning to shift to a new and similarly daunting enterprise: creating decade-long forecasts for climate, just as meteorologists routinely generate weeklong forecasts for weather.In fact, these researchers say (in a paper published in Nature) that it is going to get cooler for a while — slightly cooler, but cooler nonetheless.
As it has been doing for the past five years or so.
Some, especially those who went to college when I did, will begin to be reminded of a famous play, Waiting for Godot. That's a little unfair, and you can read the rest of the New York Times article, or this similar BBC article, for reassurance that global warming is indeed coming — eventually.
As those who have read my disclaimer know, I would not say that the scientists who predict that global warming is coming, eventually, are wrong. But I will say that I am beginning to be a little impatient with scientists who keep telling me that their theories are true — but that we will have to wait years and years for a real test of their central prediction.
(Meanwhile, there are still no sunspots.)
- 2:09 PM, 1 May 2008 [link]
Boris Versus Ken: Today, London is electing a mayor, and a Conservative, Boris Johnson, may upset the Labour incumbent, Ken Livingstone. Johnson has a statistically insignificant lead in the latest poll. It's complicated because second choices count in their system, if no single candidate wins a majority. Including second choices, Johnson leads Livingstone, 51-49.
Not everyone loves Boris, as this piece from the Guardian shows:
Be afraid. Be very afraid(Don't miss the picture, showing his "floppy hair".)
As an American, I prefer Boris to "Red Ken", because Boris appears less hostile to Americans, and less friendly to our enemies. I have no strong opinions on which one would be the best mayor for London, though Livingstone's ideology, and his disordered personal life, make me think he is unfit to be mayor of any serious city. (Livingstone has fathered five children on three different mothers, without bothering to marry any of the mothers.)
(More about the race here.)
- 10:40 AM, 1 May 2008
More: The editor of the [London] Times Literary Supplement has more on both candidates' dubious pasts (and Livingstone's dubious present).
The commenters at Harry's Place tell me that we won't know who won the London mayoralty until tomorrow. Meanwhile the Conservatives are making gains in the early returns in other local elections.
- 4:36 PM, 1 May 2008 [link]
Another Good Clinton Story: Spoiled by inconvenient facts. Cynics might begin to think there is a pattern here.
- 6:33 AM, 1 May 2008 [link]
Where Did Reverend Jeremiah Wright Get His Bizarre Ideas? From academic charlatans.
Some in Wright's crew of charlatans have already had their moments in the spotlight; others are less well known. They form part of the tragic academic project of justifying self-defeating underclass behavior as "authentically black." That their ideas have ended up in the pulpit of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ and in Detroit's Cobo Hall, where Wright spoke at the NAACP's Freedom Fund dinner on Sunday, reminds us that bad ideas must be fought at their origins—and at every moment thereafter.Does Barack Obama share these ideas? Who knows? But it would be a good idea to ask him a few questions about them.
- 6:13 AM, 1 May 2008 [link]