Archive:

May 2012, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Did Stalin Poison Lenin?   Maybe.
Vladamir Lenin, the founder of Russian communism, may have died because of stress, family medical history or of poison given to him by his political successor Joseph Stalin, opposing a popular theory that he died of sexually-transmitted disease syphilis.

Dr. Harry Vinters, a neurologist at the University of California in Los Angeles and Lev Lurie, a Russian historian, re-examined Lenin’s personal and autopsy records and clinical history for an annual conference on famous people's deaths at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where the deaths of figures like King Tut, Christopher Columbus, Simon Bolivar and Abraham Lincoln were re-examined.
What made Vinters suspicious is that, just before he died, Lenin had "series of really, really bad convulsions which is quite unusual for someone who has a stroke".  What made Lurie (along with many other historians) suspicious is that Lenin died at a very convenient time for Stalin, just before, most think, he was about to remove Stalin from his powerful position as General Secretary.

Incidentally, since the Soviets preserved his brain, it would be possible to check for some kinds of poison, even at this late date.
- 8:26 PM, 8 May 2012   [link]


Oxford Student Madeline Grant Was Trying To Be Funny:   And, as anyone can see, take advantage of her assets, but instead she got a £120 fine, and considerable criticism from "humourless lefties".

If they were in the United States, they would be humorless lefties, of course.

(Yes, I still plan to do a serious post some time today.  But I think I'll take a walk along Lake Washington first.)
- 3:10 PM, 8 May 2012   [link]


Cher May Not Want To Breathe the same air as Romney — but if she knew more physics, she would realize she doesn't have any choice.

Years ago, I read that, right now, you and I are breathing a few of the same air molecules that, for example, Julius Caesar breathed.  Or to put it more contemporary terms, I am now breathing some air molecules that a Chinese peasant exhaled just weeks ago.  And a London banker is breathing in some of the air molecules that I exhaled just weeks ago.

So, whether she likes it or not, Cher will have to go on sharing an atmosphere with Romney, and all the rest of us.
- 1:19 PM, 8 May 2012   [link]


Jonah Goldberg Has Some Fun With Joe Biden's Many Bidenisms:  And then asks a serious question at the end.  Why did Obama choose Biden to be vice president?

Goldberg explores some of the common reasons, gravitas, the ability to work with Republicans, a good record on foreign policy, and so on, but rejects them.  Instead he thinks Obama chose Biden because Biden makes Obama look good in their ongoing comedy routines.

(If I were to answer that question seriously, I would say that Obama chose Biden because he believed much of what Biden says about himself.  Presumably, despite his years in the Senate, Obama had never taken the time to get to know Biden.  The choice shows us, again, that Obama is a poor judge of people.)
-8:16 AM, 8 May 2012   [link]


Worth Study:  John Yoo's indictment of the Obama administration's anti-terrorism policies.
Suppose a future president—let's call him Mitt Romney—declares that last fall's killing of al Qaeda leader (and American citizen) Anwar al-Awlaki amounted to an "assassination."  He orders a special prosecutor to pursue everyone from the drone pilot who pulled the trigger all the way to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and CIA Director David Petraeus.  The murder investigation triggers lawsuits by Awlaki's family, litigated gratis by law schools, human-rights groups and their legal allies, whose leaders the president later rewards with plum jobs.

Reverse the political polarities, and you have the counterterrorism policies of President Barack Obama.  And that is the past—and the future—that I hope our nation escaped this week with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Padilla v. Yoo.  That Yoo is me.
This Yoo op-ed is worth study, especially for Yoo's discussion of the effects of those policies on those who are fighting terror, on our behalf.

The Obama administration (and its ally, Nancy Pelosi) have been defeated in many of their partisan attacks against those in the Bush administration, but it would be a mistake to think those attacks have not damaged our security.

(Some readers may want to review "lawfare", the use of our legal system to conduct war against us.)
- 5:27 PM, 7 May 2012   [link]


The Seattle Times Takes One Small Step Toward Fiscal Sanity:  In this timid editorial, they begin by recognizing that we have a problem.

Here is the problem. For four years the federal government has run a deficit of at least $1.3 trillion.  The federal debt is now $15.7 trillion, one-third of it borrowed in Obama's time.

Having gone that far, our local monopoly newspaper then goes on to criticize both President Obama and Mitt Romney for not providing specifics on their plans.

To some extent, that criticism is fair, but it is more even-handed than it ought to be.  And it leaves out two of those most responsible for this fiscal mess, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Mitt Romney has not had the formal responsibility to present a sensible, long-term budget plan.  Nonetheless, he has told us enough so that we know that he would support something like the Ryan plan.  And we also know that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner admitted that the Obama administration has not presented its own plan.  The administration doesn't like the Ryan plan, but is unwilling to submit one of its own.

Pelosi and Reid have been, if anything, even more irresponsible than the Obama administration.  They helped blocked the entitlement reforms proposed by former President George W. Bush, and the spending spree began when they took control of Congress in January 2007.  (One detail about those reforms has fascinated me for years.  The Bush administration floated a proposal to pay for the transition costs to private retirement accounts for the less wealthy, with higher taxes on the better off.  As far as I can tell, no one in the Democratic leadership found that idea interesting enough to even discuss.)

And, as everyone should know, the Democratically-controlled Senate has refused to even pass a budget for more than three years now, refused because passing a budget would force some Democratic senators to take politically risky votes.

(As far as I can tell these Pelosi-Reid failures have not much bothered the Seattle Times.  I don't know why not, since they must know that Congress controls the purse strings, but it is not a matter that has drawn their attention to any great extent.  I sometimes wonder whether the editorial board's fondness for our senior senator, Patty Murray, has kept them from criticizing Reid and company.  Murray is a member of the Democratic leadership in the Senate and thus partly responsible for the majority's failures.)

The Seattle Times should be commended for taking this small step forward — and sharply criticized for being years late in doing so.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(For those unfamiliar with the Seattle Times:  Their editorial board has been good on local and state budgets, which makes their years-long failure on the national budgets that much harder to understand.

To those thinking that I was going to put in a "giant leap" paragraph, I apologize.  But there are no giant leaps possible on the paths away from national bankruptcy, only long, unpleasant slogs, with many small steps.)
- 3:39 PM, 7 May 2012   [link]


Another Attack On The Bill Of Rights From The Left:  One of the broadest in recent years.

George Will summarizes the attack.
Now comes Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) with a comparable contribution to another debate, the one concerning government regulation of political speech.  Joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), 26 other Democrats and one Republican, he proposes a constitutional amendment to radically contract First Amendment protections.  His purpose is to vastly expand government’s power — i.e., the power of incumbent legislators — to write laws regulating, rationing or even proscribing speech in elections that determine the composition of the legislature and the rest of the government.  McGovern’s proposal vindicates those who say that most campaign-finance “reforms” are incompatible with the First Amendment.
Will has much more, including this:
Newspapers, magazines, broadcasting entities, online journalism operations — and most religious institutions — are corporate entities.  McGovern’s amendment would strip them of all constitutional rights.  By doing so, the amendment would empower the government to do much more than proscribe speech.  Ilya Somin of George Mason University Law School, writing for the Volokh Conspiracy blog, notes that government, unleashed by McGovern’s amendment, could regulate religious practices at most houses of worship, conduct whatever searches it wants, reasonable or not, of corporate entities, and seize corporate-owned property for whatever it deems public uses — without paying compensation.  Yes, McGovern’s scythe would mow down the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, as well as the First.
As you may have guessed, the amendment is an attempt to overturn the Citizens United decision.  It is possible, I suppose, that McGovern does not realize just how broad his amendment is.  If so, he can confess that he erred, and try to re-write it.

But even reversing Citizens United would pose serious problems for free speech.  In the argument for the campaign finance law, the Justice Department agreed that the law, as written, would allow the government to ban books:
During the original oral argument, then-Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm L. Stewart (representing the FEC) argued that under Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the government would have the power to ban books if those books contained even one sentence expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate and were published or distributed by a corporation or union.[13]  In response to this line of questioning, Stewart further argued that under Austin the government could ban the digital distribution of political books over the Amazon Kindle or prevent a union from hiring a writer to author a political book.[14]
A half century ago, liberals would have opposed almost any attempt to ban books, especially books on politics.  Now, liberals have been displaced by leftists who argue in favor of banning books, and limiting almost every other kind of of political speech.

(Some background on Congressman Jim McGovern:  He's on the far left, and is a partisan Democrat, partisan enough to win a seat on the House Rules Committee.  As far as I can tell, as an adult he has held only government jobs, as an aide to South Dakota Senator George McGovern (no relation) and then the late Massachusetts Congressman Joe Moakley, and now as a congressman.  He has a degree in public administration.

There's more here and here from the Volokh conspirators.)
- 10:43 AM, 7 May 2012   [link]


Was The Greek Election A "Market-Negative Surprise"?   That's what Deutsche Bank said.
In a note out tonight, Deutsche Bank's George Saravelos explains why the outcome in Greece is, in his words, "a significant market-negative surprise."

Basically, the two big pro-austerity parties got a stunningly low 32% of the vote, meaning that the overwhelming intention of voters was "anti-programme" (against the existing austerity deal).  That makes it extremely unlikely that the current cuts-for-bailouts deal can go ahead easily.
Market-negative, certainly.

But it shouldn't have been a surprise, even to German bankers.  The polls were predicting big losses for the two major parties.  I am no expert on Greek politics, but I have been expecting those losses, ever since the bailout deal was announced.

Nations will often accept austerity measures when threatened by a foreign power, but they find it harder to do so when their own policies are at fault, and much harder when foreigners are urging them to do with less.

(The bailout deal is unpopular in both Greece and Germany, with citizens in both countries feeling cheated by the other country.  It protected German bankers from even larger losses, which may be why they don't understand why others dislike it so intensely.)
- 8:19 AM, 7 May 2012   [link]


Are There Too Many Foreigners In France?  Newly-elected French president François Hollande refused to answer that question.
Evasive?  Think of this: Here is a self-described Man of the Left who, with a pol’s calculation, refuses to say on national television that no, France doesn’t have too many foreigners.  Sarkozy, at least, has risked claiming the opposite.
This evasiveness did not prevent Hollande from defeating Sarkozy — but it does leave some wondering just what he will do in power.

(Much more on the French election and Hollande later, but I thought you might like this appetizer.)
- 7:32 AM, 7 May 2012   [link]


Today's Bill Keller Column In The New York Times Attacks Fox News:  But the former executive editor of the Times ends up revealing more about attitudes at the Times than about Rupert Murdoch's network.

Keller tells us that: "My gripe against Fox is not that it is conservative."  And: "Partisan journalism, while not my thing, has a long tradition."

(Traditionalists will be disappointed to learn that he did not follow the first statement with a claim that some of his best friends are conservatives.)

Keller attacks Fox for not having the same code that the Times does, in particular for not giving both sides or correcting mistakes.  He's probably right — I don't watch Fox, since I don't have cable — but I can tell him that the networks that compete with Fox have the same faults, as a Times reporter, David Carr, reminded us, just a few weeks ago.

So, you could argue that almost all broadcast news organizations need improvement, even more than our major newspapers.  Or, you could say that Fox was much like its direct competitors at ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC.

But you can't attack just Fox without leading some to suspect that your gripe with that network is, in fact, that it is conservative.  And you would find it hard to find a prominent conservative who does not think that the Times practices partisan journalism, though often subtly.

As far as I can tell from this column, Keller believes what he is saying.  And there is good reason to think that his beliefs are common at our newspaper of record.  Which is unfortunate, because the Times needs to look harder at its own work, even if that means spending less time criticizing competitors.

(For examples of that partisan journalism, take a look at this column by libertarian law professor Glenn Reynolds.)
- 8:13 PM, 6 May 2012   [link]


Chomsky And Bin Laden, Again:  In January 2004, I described the remarkable similarity of the two men's views of the world.  The MIT linguist and the terrorist leader were critical of the United States for similar reasons, and had surprisingly similar views of the world.  (Granted, the Bin Laden piece that I used for that post was published in the Guardian, and was almost certainly written to appeal to the prejudices of the leftist newspaper's readers, prejudices that often come from Chomsky and others like him on the far left.  Even so, there is good reason to think that Bin Laden held similar prejudices, and it tells us something that he would choose the Guardian — and that they would publish his piece.)

Now I see that Peter Bergen has come to a similar conclusion in his new book, Manhunt.  In a review published in last Friday's New York Times, Michiko Kakutani writes:
Of a 2007 videotape in which Bin Laden condemned the extermination of American Indians, the toxic influence of American corporations and the United States' poor record on climate change, Mr. Bergen acerbically writes, "these seemed more the musings of an elderly reader of The Nation than the leader of global jihad."
Kakutani seems surprised by this similarity, but long-time readers of this site won't be.

Bin Laden found the Chomsky critique of the United States useful — and almost certainly believed most of it.
- 8:11 AM, 6 May 2012   [link]


Is Playing In The Dirt Good For Kids?  Here's another study that supports that conclusion.
Amish children raised on rural farms in northern Indiana suffer from asthma and allergies less often even than Swiss farm kids, a group known to be relatively free from allergies, according to a new study.
. . .
Researchers have long observed the so-called "farm effect" -- the low allergy and asthma rates found among kids raised on farms -- in central Europe, but less is known about the influence of growing up on North American farms.
The Amish kids would have an advantage, many researchers think, because they don't live in sterile environments.
In other words, individuals living in too sterile an environment are not exposed to enough pathogens to keep the immune system busy.  Since our bodies evolved to deal with a certain level of such pathogens, when they are not exposed to this level, the immune system will attack harmless antigens and thus normally benign microbial objects — like pollen — will trigger an immune response.[30]
So, yes, playing in the dirt can be good for kids.

It won't always be, of course.  You want to keep kids away from dirt that has, for example, hookworms.  As is so often the case, it's a matter of balance.  Little kids should get some colds. but not too many, or, if the "hygiene hypothesis" is correct, too few.

(You can make this argument more general, at the risk of distancing yourself from the best evidence.  Children need some challenges as they grow up, and modern parents may, as many suspect, be providing environments that are too protective, as well as too sterile.  It is politically incorrect to say this, but I sometimes think that the "anti-bullying" campaigns have gone too far, that children need to learn how to cope with bullying, rather than be completely protected from it.)
- 7:23 AM, 6 May 2012   [link]


Yesterday's New Yorker cartoon showed two robots, one seated in a restaurant with a menu in his hands, the other a waiter taking his order.

The customer is telling the waiter: "Nothing organic!"
- 5:02 PM, 5 May 2012   [link]


Will Obama Policies Keep "Julia" From Getting Married?   You may have heard about the Obama latest invention, "Julia", a single woman who benefits from all his programs.

(The slide show does not mention the people who pay for these programs.)

Conservatives and libertarians had much fun with this celebration of dependency, or, even, some might say, parasitism.

But I thought the most interesting comment came from James Taranto.
The most shocking bit of the Obama story is that Julia apparently never marries.  She simply "decides" to have a baby, and Obama uses other people's money to help her take care of it.  Julia doesn't appear to be poor; at various points the story refers to her glamorous career as a Web designer, and it makes no mention of her benefiting from poverty programs like Medicaid or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

In 1999 Lionel Tiger coined the word "bureaugamy" to refer to the relationship between officially impoverished mothers of illegitimate children and the government.  "The Life of Julia" is an insidious attack on the institution of the family, an endorsement of bureaugamy even for middle-class women.
Bureaugamy has been a disaster for those women, their children, and the missing men who should be supporting the children.  Obama apparently wants to extend it to even more people.

And Julia?  If she is like most young women, she wants to get married, but her reliance on those programs allows her — and the young men she knows — to postpone that step until she is no longer very marriageable.

(Fans of demography and social security will note that Julia's son, Zachary, will have to support her and his father in their old ages.  Which will require a fairly high tax rate.)
- 7:39 AM, 4 May 2012   [link]


An Official Chinese Newspaper Has Nice Things to say about Ambassador Locke.
One of China's main official newspapers accused blind dissident Chen Guangcheng on Friday of serving as a "tool" for American subversion of Communist Party power and called the U.S. ambassador a backpack-wearing, Starbucks-sipping troublemaker.
I was not pleased when Gary Locke was given the post, fearing that he would turn into a Chinese ambassador to the United States, rather than the other way round.   But this kind of praise makes me think that I might have been wrong about Locke.

(Locke was an unimpressive and scandal-plagued governor of Washington state.   He didn't do much, for which we probably should be grateful, and he was involved in a series of scandals, which somehow failed to affect his clean reputation.

Locke's casual attire and behavior are routine for politicians in this area, but caused quite a stir in China, because of the contrast to the behavior of the Chinese leaders.)
- 7:07 AM, 4 May 2012   [link]


Those Inconsistent Polls:  Gallup has been finding that the national race between Romney and Obama is essentially tied.
At this point I would say our tracking, initiated on April 11, shows a quite close race.  In fact, if we put together all of the 8,059 interviews we conducted April 11-29, we find that Obama has 46% of the vote of registered voters, and Romney has 46%.  In other words, a close race.  But there have been shifts over that time period.  Obama was ahead in the first several nights of interviewing after April 11, but then Romney moved ahead.  Obama regained the lead in our Gallup Daily tracking through last week, but now Romney is moving back out ahead again.
So, one would expect Romney to be leading in North Carolina, which McCain lost in 2008 by just 18,177 votes.  But that isn't what SurveyUSA found.  Instead, they found a 4 point Obama lead.

Similarly, McCain lost Virginia in 2008 by 7 points, so we would expect Romney and Obama to be tied, or close to tied, there now.  But that isn't what Public Policy Polling found.  Instead, they found an 8 point Obama lead.

Now, I can construct scenarios in which that Gallup poll is consistent with those two state polls — but it isn't easy, so I won't inflict them on you.

So I have to admit that — for now — I have no plausible explanation of that inconsistency.

But I will add this reminder, which will cheer up Romney supporters:  All three are polls of registered voters, which typically over-estimate the Democratic vote by 2 or 3 points.
- 4:14 PM, 3 May 2012   [link]


Barnes & Noble's Day And Night E-Reader:   It has a long name, but the NOOK Simple Touchtm with GlowLighttm may be worth checking out because it's the first e-reader that works well in broad daylight — and at night, in bed.

It probably won't be the last, but for now it has an edge on many of its competitors, as you can see from the glowing (sorry) reviews here, here, and here.

I'm not planning to get one immediately, since I have enough books to last me for some time — but it is the first one I have really started thinking about.  One thing that holds me back is that, as far as I can tell, you don't exactly buy most of the books that you might read on one of these gadgets; instead, you buy licenses to read them.

(There's some background on E ink here and here if, like me, you were wondering how it works.)
- 2:57 PM, 3 May 2012   [link]


The Obama Campaign Is Enabling Illegal Donations:   Again.

Michael Barone explains.
It has been reported that the Obama campaign this year, as in 2008, has disabled or chosen not to use AVS [Address Verification System] in screening contributions made by credit card.
. . .
If a campaign doesn't use AVS, it can wind up accepting contributions from phony names or accepting contributions from foreigners, both of which are illegal.

The 2008 Obama campaign pocketed money from "John Galt, 1957 Ayn Rand Lane, Galts Gulch CO 99999" and $174,000 from a woman in Missouri who told reporters she had given nothing and had never been billed.  Presumably she would have noticed an extra charge of $174,000.
In 2008, some donations were traced to foreign sources, including some from the area controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

As Barone goes on to say, Obama is just practicing politics, Chicago style.

(In 2008, I wrote that Obama was encouraging distributed campaign finance fraud.  Since it worked then, his campaign is doing it again — and we should not expect to see many objections from "mainstream" journalists.)
- 10:38 AM, 3 May 2012   [link]


Composite Or Imaginary?  Barack Obama's New York girlfriend has been described both ways.

By Obama as "composite".
But Obama has now told biographer David Maraniss that the 'New York girlfriend' was actually a composite character, based off of multiple girlfriends he had both in New York City and in Chicago.

"During an interview in the Oval Office, Obama acknowledged that, while Genevieve was his New York girlfriend, the description in his memoir was a “compression” of girlfriends, including one who followed Genevieve [Cook] when he lived in Chicago," Maraniss writes in his new biography, an excerpt of which was published online today by Vanity Fair.
By John Hinderaker as imaginary.
There actually was a New York girlfriend.  Her name is Genevieve Cook, and Maraniss interviewed her for his book.  Not only that, she kept a journal that included the time when she dated Obama, from which Maraniss quotes.  She is by no means hostile to Obama, but her account of their relationship diverges from his, in Dreams From My Father, in a number of ways.

For example, in his book Obama says that he broke up with the New York girlfriend.  Not so, replies Ms. Cook: actually, she chose to end the relationship as a result of what she saw as Obama’s remoteness.  But the one who writes the autobiography gets to tell it his way.
I think imaginary is probably the better term for his "New York girlfriend".  Obama may have used Genevieve Cook, and perhaps others, when he constructed her, but parts of his description are pure invention.

That would be consistent with, for example, the way Obama described his job at Business International, which is where he worked when he had the relationship — one can't really call it a love affair — with Cook.  There, too, Obama's description differs from what others remember, and in the same politically useful ways.

(And we shouldn't forget his 2008 claims that his mother was from Kansas.  It's true that she was born there; it's also true that her mother and father moved from Kansas very soon after she was born, and were not at all typical Kansans, even when they lived there.)
- 7:40 AM, 3 May 2012   [link]


Native Americans Have All The Best Parties:   Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren's explanation for checking that "Native American" box year after year is, well, entertaining.
Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, fending off questions about whether she used her Native American heritage to advance her career, said today she enrolled herself as a minority in law school directories for nearly a decade because she hoped to meet other people with tribal roots.

“I listed myself in the directory in the hopes that it might mean that I would be invited to a luncheon, a group something that might happen with people who are like I am.  Nothing like that ever happened, that was clearly not the use for it and so I stopped checking it off,” said Warren.
So, if she had been invited to the right parties, she would have kept checking it off?  Apparently.

(By people who are "like I am", does she mean people with 1/32 Native American ancestry?  There are a lot of them, though few are enrolled members of a tribe.)
- 5:30 AM, 3 May 2012   [link]


Cliff Kincaid Did What A lot Of Us Would Like To Do:   He bought shares of stock in the New York Times so that he could go to their annual shareholder meeting — and complain directly to the publisher.
Representing Accuracy in Media, a shareholder in the company for the purpose of getting access to the annual meetings, I told Sulzberger, his executives and other Times shareholders, “You’re willing to offend the Catholics because they’re not going to come and kill you.”

The full-page, anti-Catholic ad ran on March 9 under the title “It’s time to quit the Catholic Church” and was sponsored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.   It showed a cartoon of a Catholic Bishop going berserk over a birth control pill and urged Catholics to leave the church.
The Times, as you probably know, rejected a similar ad attacking Islam.

At one point, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. claimed that they hadn't run the anti-Islam ad because the Times want to protect our soldiers — which sounds rather strange coming from a newspaper that has done so much to endanger our soldiers, and civilians.

(There's a good summary of some the newspaper's sins in the piece from Pamela Geller, though, as she often does, she ruins some of the effect for me by overstating her case.  I particularly dislike her "treasonous" adjective.)
- 4:44 PM, 2 May 2012   [link]


NBC's Chuck Todd Is Often Very Funny:   Usually unintentionally, as far as I can tell.

For example:
NBC's Chuck Todd on Tuesday, moments before President Obama addressed the nation from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, compared the assassination of Osama bin Laden one year ago to VE and VJ Days marking the end of World War II.
Right.  Although I must watch NBC more often, because I missed the story on the formal al Qaeda surrender.

(I haven't checked, but I suspect that Todd didn't make a similar comparison when Saddam was captured.)
- 10:18 AM, 2 May 2012   [link]


Another Obama Speech, another four Pinocchio award.

Obama keeps telling us that Republicans are blocking bridge repair; Obama keeps being wrong in his examples.

George Will has seen enough of Obama's indifference to the truth to come to this harsh judgment.
Barack Obama’s intellectual sociopathy — his often breezy and sometimes loutish indifference to truth — should no longer startle.
. . .
Obama’s defense of reactionary liberalism — whatever is must ever be, only increased — is not weighed down by the ballast of scruples.
For months, I was puzzled (and sometimes startled) by Obama's Pinocchio problem, by his "loutish indifference to truth".  It seemed to me that his lies were counter-productive, that he used them when a deceptive but true statement would have worked as well, or even when he could have told the truth, if he had taken a little more time on his speeches.

And I am afraid that I got a little fanciful in trying to figure out why he so often lied, when it didn't seem that he needed to.  (I'll have to go back and look at some of those posts, but won't promise to do so any time soon.)

But now, I think that Obama doesn't care whether what he says is true, because he thinks that almost all of us are fools, that we will accept what he says without thinking about it.  (He seems to be just as contemptuous of "mainstream" journalists as he is of ordinary citizens, and so far that seems justified.  Few "mainstream" journalists have come to the same conclusion that Will has, though the evidence for Will's conclusion is easy enough to find — if you look for it.)

If you know someone who still believes what Obama says, you might want to show them this latest Glenn Kessler piece.

(Ed Lasky has come to somewhat similar conclusions, and documents them with many examples.)
- 9:57 AM, 2 May 2012   [link]


Another Leftist Protest In Seattle:  With the usual result.
May Day demonstrators who marched through Seattle turned violent Tuesday, as a group of black-clad protesters used sticks to smash downtown store windows and ran through the streets disrupting traffic.
And cars whose owners mistakenly parked them in front of the main targets for the demonstrators.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn issued an emergency order allowing police to confiscate anything that looked like a weapon, and the police collected a fair number of those sticks, and some incendiaries.

These demonstrations/riots have a typical pattern in Seattle.  Before they begin, our news organizations encourage people to join in, telling us about the fine causes we will be supporting — and sometimes in the same broadcast tell us that the police expect violence.

After the violence begins, the journalists tells us that it is all caused by a minority (true enough) and that most of the demonstrators oppose the violence (possibly true), even though they did little or nothing to stop it.

And most of the reporters seem genuinely surprised by the violence, which, by now, is about as surprising as rain here in the winter months.

(There was a second demonstration, in favor of illegal immigrants, later in the day.   That one was peaceful, perhaps because the leaders have figured out that violence will not help their cause.  They haven't figured out that associating with leftist organizations discredits them with many Americans, but maybe they will, in time.)
- 9:24 PM, 1 May 2012   [link]


Yesterday Was Breezy Here:  Breezy enough so that the geese decided to rest up on shore.

April waves, 2012

(The big limb from the willow tree came down some weeks ago.  The city just hasn't gotten around to cleaning it up yet.)
- 2:22 PM, 1 May 2012   [link]


Our Anti-Poverty Programs Are Wildly Successful:  If you judge them by how much we spend on the poor.  Robert Samuelson has some numbers.
Recently, Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, testified before the House Budget Committee on the growth of the 10-largest “means tested” federal programs that serve people who qualify by various definitions of poverty.  Here’s what Haskins reported: From 1980 to 2011, annual spending on these programs grew from $126 billion to $626 billion (all figures in inflation-adjusted “2011 dollars”); dividing this by the number of people below the government poverty line, spending went from $4,300 per poor person in 1980 to $13,000 in 2011.  In 1962, spending per person in poverty was $516.

Haskins’s list includes Medicaid, food stamps (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP), the earned-income tax credit (a wage subsidy for some low-income workers), and Pell Grants.  There are other, smaller programs dedicated to the poor.  A report from the Congressional Research Service estimated the total number at 83; Haskins puts the additional spending on programs below the 10 largest at about $210 billion.  The total of all programs for the poor exceeds $800 billion.
But somewhat less successful, if you judge them by the reduction in the official poverty rate.

Samuelson goes on to say that we spend even more money on the middle class, including programs like Social Security and Medicare.  (He's right.)

Samuelson presents all these numbers to make an unfashionable point:  For all the talk about the rich, or the 1 per cent, most federal spending goes to the poor and the middle class.  And so any solution to our budget problems will have to affect more than just a few of us.

(A cynic might say that of course politicians direct most of the money to the poor and the middle class.  Their votes are cheaper than the votes of the rich.  And I can't say that the cynic would be entirely wrong.)
- 1:41 PM, 1 May 2012   [link]


Victims Of Communism Day:  Professor Ilya Somin says we should remember those victims on May 1 every year.

I think he's right, though not all the commenters on his post agree.  (I haven't taken the time to read all of the comments, so I don't know if any of the opponents make a rational argument.)

How many victims?  Somewhere between 85 and 100 million, according to this team of scholars.  (Incidentally, the book was wildly controversial in France, perhaps because so many communists and sympathizers there did not want these crimes discussed.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 12:49 PM, 1 May 2012   [link]


Here's $192 Million:  Now keep quiet until after the November election.  That's how I interpret this story.
Friday night news dump: President Obama has decided to provide $192 million to the Palestinian Authority despite Congress’s freeze on PA funding after its president, Mahmoud Abbas, attempted to declare statehood unilaterally last September, in violation of the PA’s treaty commitments.
The Palestinian Authority has never been very good about keeping treaty commitments, but they might do Obama a favor and keep quiet until after the election.

(Andrew McCarthy thinks that Congress should retaliate by cutting the State Department's budget.  He's probably right.)
- 8:51 AM, 1 May 2012   [link]


Even Dana Milbank Is Complaining about Obama's constant campaigning.
Still, Obama’s acquiescence to an intolerable status quo raises a question: Shouldn’t presidential leadership be about setting an example?

Instead, he is erasing the already blurred lines between campaigning and governing.   During his “official” speech to the union group Monday, he hailed Tim Kaine as “the next United States senator from the great commonwealth of Virginia,” and his partisan speech spurred audience members to shouts of “Vote ’em out!” and “Gotta throw ’em out!”
Machine politicians have never seen any reason to distinguish between campaigning and governing.  Similarly, leftists usually see no reason to separate the two, so we should not be surprised that Obama, who learned his trade from both the Daleys and the Ayers, is behaving as he does.

(For the record:  On the whole, I think the country is better off when he is campaigning than when he is governing — assuming he loses this November.)
- 8:25 AM, 1 May 2012   [link]