May 2012, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
Mike Royko On Absentee Ballots: In his biography of the first (and, by far the most important) Mayor Daley, Mike Royko explains many things about machine politics, Chicago style, including why precinct captains liked absentee ballots.
If they prevented the common practices, imaginative precinct captains would merely turn to others. In some wards, politically obligated doctors signs stacks of blank affidavits, attesting to the illness of people they have never seen, thus permitting the precinct captain to vote the people in their homes as absentee voters for reasons of illness. (p. 77)At that time, absentee ballots were much harder to get, in every, or almost every, state. But the precinct captains in Chicago's poorer areas had other ways to violate the secrecy of the ballot. At the time Royko wrote, quite extraordinary numbers of voters — in some wards — would need "assistance" voting, assistance that allowed the precinct captains to go into the voting booth with them.
As practical men — and they were almost all men at that time — the precinct captains understood that voters might well accept a favor, anything from a cheap bottle of wine to a favorable zoning decision, and then go into that voting booth and vote for the "wrong" candidates.
And so the precinct captains tried — when they could get away with it — to see how their voters voted, either by "assisting" them, or by watching them fill out absentee ballots.
Now, in every, or almost every, state, we have made it easy for political operatives to see how people vote.
(Eastern Kentucky has had chronic vote fraud problems. There are two aspects about it that differentiate it from other areas with similar problems. In that area, from what I can tell, Republicans as well as Democrats regularly engage in vote fraud.
And the political operatives there are often willing to pass out bribes without seeing how the person votes. I attribute that to, as odd as this may seem, an old-fashioned sense of honor in the area. A man might agree that it was wrong to accept a bribe for a vote — but think it even more wrong not to keep your word, if you had accepted such a bribe.
If you know more about eastern Kentucky than I do, feel free to correct me on both points.)
- 2:57 PM, 16 May 2012 [link]
Time For A Pie Summit Between Oprah And Michelle? That's what peacemaker John Kass suggests.
(Kass errs, I think, in his pie suggestions. Since this is an election year, they should have that all-American favorite, apple pie.)
- 8:38 AM, 16 May 2012 [link]
Is Bill Clinton Trying To Sabotage Obama's Campaign? First, some background: You have probably heard Edward Klein's claim that Bill Clinton urged Hillary Clinton to challenge Obama for the nomination this year.
Bill Clinton thought so little of President Obama — mocking him as an “amateur” — that he pressed his wife last summer to quit her job as secretary of state and challenge him in the primaries, a new book claims,According to that reported conversation, Hillary Clinton is at least considering a presidential run in 2016. If you were Bill Clinton, you would want to ask whether she would have a better chance if Obama loses this year, or if he wins.
And I suspect, strongly, that Bill Clinton would think she would have a better chance if Obama loses.
Which might explain this latest from Bill Clinton.
Clinton, who discussed a number of economic and political issues at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s third annual Fiscal Summit in Washington, D.C., prefaced his comments with the warning that he was giving his personal view and was “not speaking for the White House.”As you probably know, the Bush tax cuts reduced taxes for everyone who pays income taxes, including many low income families.
Clinton knows the power of the tax issue. In 1992, he ran promising a middle class tax cut, a promise he broke almost immediately on taking office.
Even if he does favor tax increases across the board, Clinton didn't have to say so now, before the November election. And he must know that this will not help the Obama campaign.
(There are complications in the 2016 calculations. If he loses this year, Obama may run again in 2016. On the whole, though, I think that Hillary Clinton would have a better chance of winning the nomination in 2016 if Obama is no longer president, if only because he would lose control of the party machinery and all the rewards a president can pass out to supporters.)
- 7:56 AM, 16 May 2012 [link]
Did Michael Ramirez Go Too Far with this anti-Obama cartoon?
Yes, but that didn't stop me from laughing at it for several minutes.
- 1:08 PM, 15 May 2012 [link]
French President François Hollande Will Support Obama, not the United States.
Here's the key quote from a lengthy interview
Je veillerai à affirmer l'indépendance de la France sans compliquer la tâche de Barack Obama.I would translate that as follows: "I will affirm the independence of France without complicating Barack Obama's task." (Erik Svane, who knows French far better than I do, has a different, but roughly equivalent, translation.)
As Svane says, President Hollande is promising to support Obama, not the United States, or, to take him literally, not to cause problems for Obama.
For instance, we should not be surprised if Hollande withdraws French troops from Afghanistan — after our November election.
This loyalty to someone Holland sees, rightly or wrongly, as ideological kin, should not surprise us. Mainstream socialists have always been internationalists; in fact, the Socialist International has had as its official anthem, "The Internationale", for more than a century. (If you haven't read the words, take a minute or two to do so now.)
Hollande knows those words, in French and perhaps some other languages, and probably believes them, at least in part.
That he sees Obama as an ideological ally tells us something about Hollande and, I think, about Obama.
- 12:43 PM, 15 May 2012
Update: An alert reader reminded me that the last two links were switched. That's fixed now.
- 6:26 AM, 16 May 2012 [link]
Who Is Edward Klein? It's a natural question to ask, now that his book on Obama, The Amateur, is causing such a stir.
Here's what Klein says about himself.
And here, in this Wikipedia biography, is what leftist critics are saying about him.
If you are impressed with journalistic credentials, Klein has them. He has a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia, was an editor at Newsweek and The New York Times, and has written for prestigious — I'm not necessarily saying accurate — publications like Vanity Fair and popular publications like Parade (under the Walter Scott pseudonym).
He has written a pile of books on the Kennedys, and one on Hillary Clinton.
My tentative conclusion: He's at least as trustworthy as the average New York Times reporter, so I will check his assertions when I use them, to the extent that I can.
Example: I am nearly certain that Reverend Wright did accuse Eric Whitaker of offering him a $150,000 bribe, since Klein has that on tape — and Wright has not denied what Klein is saying. I think it likely that Whitaker did offer Wright a bribe, but have yet to see conclusive evidence that he did.
- 9:05 AM, 15 May 2012 [link]
More Evidence That Marijuana can be hazardous.
He thought it was a stick, but an Eastern Washington man painfully discovered it was actually a rattlesnake in the gardening aisle of the Wal-Mart in Clarkston when it bit his hand.Marijuana does dull the senses and make it easier to, for example, mistake a rattlesnake for a stick.
- 7:55 AM, 15 May 2012 [link]
Eric Whitaker, Bribe Offerer And Grant Recipient? President Obama's close friend does get around.
"Allahpundit" connects an awful lot of dots in that brief post. What he says will not surprise anyone who knows that President Obama is, in part, a Chicago politician.
You can see video of Edward Klein making some of these sensational charges here.
(For the record: I put a question mark in that headline for the same reason that Allahpundit uses "allegedly": So far we have charges — with some evidence — but we do not have proof that a bribe was offered, or that Whitaker got this grant though favoritism.)
- 7:32 AM, 15 May 2012 [link]
Is Barack Obama Our First "Gay" President? Probably not, in spite of what Newsweek may say — for two reasons.
First, there is a good chance that James Buchanan was gay, or at least bisexual.
For fifteen years in Washington, D.C., before his presidency, Buchanan lived with his close friend, Alabama Senator William Rufus King. King became Vice President under Franklin Pierce. He became ill and died shortly after Pierce's inauguration, four years before Buchanan became President. Buchanan's and King's close relationship prompted Andrew Jackson to call King "Miss Nancy" and "Aunt Fancy", while Aaron V. Brown spoke of the two as "Buchanan and his wife." Some of the contemporary press also speculated about Buchanan's and King's relationship. The two men's nieces destroyed their uncles' correspondence, leaving some questions about their relationship; but the length and intimacy of surviving letters illustrate "the affection of a special friendship", and Buchanan wrote of his "communion" with his housemate. In May 1844, during one of King's absences that resulted from King's appointment as minister to France, Buchanan wrote to a Mrs. Roosevelt, "I am now 'solitary and alone', having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them. I feel that it is not good for man to be alone, and [I] should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection."There is also some evidence against that conclusion, which you can read in the next paragraph in the Wikipedia biography.
Buchanan was, as almost everyone knows, not a great success as president.
Second, though I have seen some of the same rumors that you may have seen, I haven't see any real evidence that Obama himself is gay. Nor would it matter much to me, if he were.
(Fun fact: King County, where I live, was originally named after William Rufus King. When it was renamed after Martin Luther King, Jr., there were some very quiet protests from a few in the gay community in this area.)
- 4:25 PM, 14 May 2012 [link]
In 2003, When John Edwards Announced For President, I immediately said that he was unqualified.
At that time, I did not know how much of a sleaze he was, though I did know that he was careless with the truth, and had no significant political experience or accomplishments.
Now, if I could see that way back in 2003, why couldn't Democratic leaders and activists see the same thing? Why couldn't the "reality-based community", as they like to call themselves, see at least some of the reality of John Edwards?
As it turns out, some of them, John Kerry included, did, but thought they could make use of Edwards anyway. Paul Mirengoff thinks that Democratic romance with Edwards tells us something about the Democratic Party, especially its dominant left wing.
It should also be remembered that John Kerry perceived what was obvious to many of us all along – Edwards is a phony. Kerry shared that assessment with his campaign manager Robert Shrum. Nonetheless, Kerry selected Edwards as his running mate. Keep this in mind the next time John Kerry tries to pass himself off as a statesman.Those who supported Edwards should study why they were so easily conned, why they mistook a pleasant surface (as they saw it) for reality.
- 10:54 AM, 14 May 2012 [link]
Was Jeremiah Wright Offered A $150,000 Bribe? That's what he told Edward Klein. A bribe to stop preaching until after the November 2008 election.
“Who sent the e-mail?” I asked Wright.(Connoisseurs of bribe etiquette will admire the indirect way the money was offered. Offering the money to the church would preserve plausible deniability on both sides)
Which reminds me that, shortly before he ran for president, Obama made a very substantial contribution to Wright's church, $20,000 or $25,000 one year, as I recall. When I first read about that, the large amount seemed to show a real devotion to Wright's religious teachings, but I now see that there is another possible explanation for the size, and timing, of that contribution.
(The contribution came after the Obamas had a big jump in income from book sales, but, as far as I know, they didn't make any other big charitable contributions at the same time.)
- 6:57 AM, 14 May 2012 [link]
Unexpectedly Good Job Report: In Canada.
For the second consecutive month, Canada's economy has put a forecast-busting number of people to work. A whopping 58,200 jobs were created in April, Statistics Canada said Friday, adding to the momentum from a month earlier, when an even a greater number - 82,300 - were created.No one expects those job gains to continue, but they are good to see, anyway — if you are a Canadian. (And, to some extent, if you are an American, since we prosper when our neighbors do.)
Here's one comparison to the US. Or you can multiply those Canadian job numbers by, roughly, nine or ten to get the US equivalent.
It would be wrong to give Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper all the credit, or even most of the credit, for these good numbers.
But it would also be wrong not to give him any credit. And I think that almost all of us will suspect that his Masters degree in economics, and his private business experience, may help him determine better economic policies. (President Obama has a law degree, and almost no business experience.)
- 6:26 AM, 14 May 2012 [link]
More Details On The Open Greek Border: This weekend's Wall Street Journal has some numbers on just how leaky the Greek border with Turkey is.
Greece's border with Turkey, which runs through the verdant Evros River valley, has become the preferred passage for smugglers and migrants seeking to avoid more perilous sea routes, European officials say.According to the article, unnamed academic experts think that there are somewhere between 400,000 and 700,000 "undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers" now living in Greece.
(Greece's population is about 11 million.)
This vast inflow has caused all the problems that you would expect, problems that are worse now because of Greece's financial crisis.
The article does not mention something that puzzles me: how the migrants first get into Turkey. Apparently, Turkey's borders are porous, too, because the illegals do not, in general, come from Turkey, originally.
Minor correction: According to the article, Greece is building only 6.4 miles of fence along its 126 mile border with Turkey. I had said in my April post that they were building a wall along the entire border. As you would expect, even that partial fence has drawn criticism from human rights organizations.
- 7:31 PM, 13 May 2012 [link]
Some People Don't Seem To Understand The Mother's Day Idea: For example, KOMO 4 TV, which has been running "Mommie Dearest" on its sub-channel yesterday and today. (I haven't read the book, or seen the movie, but I know that neither is exactly a celebration of motherhood.)
And then there is Planned Parenthood, which thinks today is a great day to run a fund raiser.
- 6:00 PM, 13 May 2012 [link]
Happy Mother's Day! To all the mothers out there.
(This mother duck has six more ducklings, besides the three you see in the picture, to look after. But she still has time to take a brief break to preen her feathers, as she was doing just before I snapped this picture.)
- 7:24 AM, 13 May 2012 [link]
Who Would I Bet On Today, Obama Or Romney? It would depends on the odds. Right now, InTrade bettors are saying that Obama has a 59.0 per cent chance to win re-election.
At those odds, I'd bet on Romney.
And I would bet on Romney even if Obama's odds were 55.0 per cent. I'm not sure, as of now, whether I would go much lower.
My reasoning is relatively simple. Take a look at this chart of the Obama odds since 6 December 2010.
What I notice about that diagram is two things, the decline in Obama's odds, after the death of bin Laden, and then the recovery of those odds beginning in January 2012.
The simplest explanations of those two trends is most likely to be true. Or, to put it another way, most of the truth is likely to be in the simplest explanations: Obama's odds fell as more and more voters became unhappy with his performance, and then rose again, as Romney's rivals cut him up during the contest for the Republican nomination.
In most elections, the eventual nominee is able to rally the party around him, after the nomination fight, and that is already happening in the Republican Party.
Romney also took some damage to his personal standing with the voters, and that can be harder to repair. But I think it is possible, and that we will begin to see that happening over the next few months, if only because Romney is a genuine good guy, rare as that may be in modern American politics.
(I suspect the frantic attempt to make an issue over an involuntary haircut — which may or may not have happened — shows us that our "mainstream" journalists really, really want to re-define Romney before the general election campaign gets into high gear.)
Here, for comparison, is the Romney chart:
- 2:17 PM, 12 May 2012 [link]
Were You Wondering How We Know That We Are Re-Using Caesar's Air Molecules? Thanks to a sharp reader, I have an answer for you that doesn't require a lot of math.
Here's the conclusion:
Thus there is a 1.8% chance that none of the molecules you are (still) holding in your lungs came from Caesar's last breath. And there is a 98.2% chance that at least one of the molecules in your lungs came from Caesar's last breath.That's just his last breath, so the chance that you are not recycling air molecules from all of Caesar's breaths is much, much smaller. Similarly, Cher can not escape breathing some of the same air that Mitt Romney breathes, whether she likes it or not. (You can work out those probabilities, roughly, with some simple assumptions and the information given in the post.)
(Professor Brad DeLong went farther than I would in posting that long selection, so I'll try to make it up to Professor John Paulos, by giving his book, Innumeracy, a plug. I think almost any high school graduate could benefit from reading the book, but that it would be most helpful to those who did not study math past high school.)
- 1:22 PM, 11 May 2012 [link]
This Cell Phone Story Is So Disturbing That I Have To Pass It On, though only after warning you that it may not be suitable for younger children.
(I'm not sure that the story is accurate, although there aren't enough details in the press release for me to check for obvious flaws.)
- 8:28 AM, 11 May 2012 [link]
Romney Stories You Hear, And Romney Stories You Don't: If your local TV stations are anything like mine, yesterday you heard a story about how Mitt Romney, in high school, picked on another kid by giving him an unwanted haircut.
And, again, if your stations are anything like mine, you probably didn't hear this story about how the Romneys helped the Nixons. No, not those Nixons, these Nixons.
Like Paul Mirengoff, I think that Nixon story tells us more about Mitt and Ann Romney than the unwanted haircut story. But I don't expect to hear that story on our local TV stations.
Are there any similar examples of charity in Obama's life? Not that I know of. He has not, for example, done anything to help his half brother in Kenya, who was last reported to living in a cardboard shack. (Obama did campaign in Kenya for one of the parties, which strikes me as an extraordinary interference in another country's politics.)
- 6:44 AM, 11 May 2012 [link]
Why Does France Have So Many Companies With 49 Workers? For pretty much the reasons you would guess.
Here’s a curious fact about the French economy: The country has 2.4 times as many companies with 49 employees as with 50. What difference does one employee make? Plenty, according to the French labor code. Once a company has at least 50 employees inside France, management must create three worker councils, introduce profit sharing, and submit restructuring plans to the councils if the company decides to fire workers for economic reasons.Naturally, French businessmen have found ways around the code, often by forming new companies — which also have fewer than 50 workers. And by moving part of the work to other countries.
(Shortly before he died, Steve Jobs tried to explain to Barack Obama how regulations can discourage companies from adding jobs here in the United States, with no success, according to Jobs' biographer, Walter Isaacson.)
- 7:52 AM, 10 May 2012 [link]
Obama Has Evolved, Devolved, And Evolved Again: The Weekly Standard brings us up to date on Obama's switches on one of the less important issues of our time, gay marriage.
In fact, Obama has not “evolved”—he has changed his position whenever his political fortunes required him to do so. Running for the Illinois state senate from a trendy area of Chicago in 1996, he was for gay marriage. “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages,” he wrote in answer to a questionnaire back then. In 2004, he was running for the U.S. Senate and needed to appeal to voters statewide. So he evolved, and favored civil unions but opposed homosexual “marriage.” In 2008, running for president, he said, “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage.” Now in 2012, facing a tough reelection campaign where he needs energized supporters of gay “marriage” and has disappointed them with his refusal to give them his support, he is for it. To paraphrase John Kerry, he was for it before he was against it before he was for it again.Tim Stanley sounds as if he doesn't believe Obama's explanation for this latest evolution.
The day after North Carolina voted 60-40 to ban gay marriage, Barack Obama did what any sane politician would do and . . . endorsed gay marriage. He told ABC that he felt compelled to by the gay interns he knew, his wife, his children and Jesus. Why did he really do it? Sheer, naked opportunism. Like the contraception issue before it, this is an attempt to distract from how bad the economy is. What will Obama do next in his desperate bid for re-election? Make a claim on the Falklands?And there are even some people who think that the grubby business of campaign fund raising might have had something to do with his most recent evolution.
Incidentally, Obama hasn't completely evolved back to his position in 1996, since he thinks a states rights exception to gay marriage is fine.
(Evolution does not always work in straight lines, though many of our journalists think so. Parasites, for example, often evolve to become simpler organisms.)
- 6:46 AM, 10 May 2012 [link]
Why Do People In The Obama Administration Keep Giving Us Details About Secret Operations? That was my second reaction to the latest scoop, telling us all about the double agent who foiled another underwear bombing attack.
(My first reaction was unprintable, but something like this one. After a minute or two, when I calmed down, I recalled that, as usual, incompetence is a more likely explanation than malice.)
Andrew Malcolm, who does not lack for cool, makes the argument that I was, temporarily, too angry to make.
Tuesday those familiar "sources familiar with the operation" briefed members of Congress. Fact: Capitol Hill is leakier than a collander. In fact, you can often get much wider exposure on a story if you brief Congress, stressing its secrecy, than if you hold an actual news conference. Every White House plays those goober guys like a symphonic string section.This seems obvious to me — but it must not be obvious to some officials in the Obama administration.
(There's another, far worse, possibility: Whoever ensured this story would get to the public may have been willing to trade our security for, as they saw it, a temporary political advantage. I don't think that's what happened, but I can't completely exclude it.)
- 6:25 PM, 9 May 2012 [link]
Vote Harvesting In Tower Hamlets? For years, I have been interested in vote fraud in other nations, partly because the general subject fascinates me, partly because what happens in other nations often sheds light on our own problems.
The accusations of "vote harvesting" in Tower Hamlets meet both criteria; they are interesting in themselves — at least to an election junkie like me — and they tell us something about our own problems.
First, an introduction to Tower Hamlets. It's a part of London that is almost as much Third World as it is English.
Tower Hamlets has one of the smallest indigenous populations of the boroughs of Britain. The majority of the residents in the borough are of White ethnicity, with a large Asian community, Bangladeshis (20.6%) are the largest ethnic minority in the borough. Somalis represent the second largest minority ethnic group. There are also a number of Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, and Black African/Caribbean residents.In recent years, the borough has seen struggles for power between the Labour Party and the more radical Respect Party.
It is, in short, the kind of place where students of voting patterns would expect higher than average levels of vote fraud. And they may have had some vote fraud in the most recent London election.
It was claimed that postal vote harvesting had taken place in a council byelection narrowly won by Gulam Robbani, who was backed by Ken Livingstone supporters.(More here, here, and here.)
If the accusations are true, then unscrupulous political operatives were exploiting voters who are not fully integrated into Britain. And that should trouble every honest person there — and anywhere else where honest elections are valued.
And the lessons for us? They are pretty direct. We should expect "vote harvesting" in areas that are similar to Tower Hamlets. An, in fact, we can find them them in such areas from time to time. For example.
And we should recognize that postal ballots, as the British call them, or absentee ballots, as we call our mailed ballots, are far more vulnerable to vote fraud than votes cast in private booths at precincts.
That conclusion is unavoidable to anyone who takes even a little time to either look for examples of vote fraud, or think about the circumstances that make it more likely — but it is still resisted by many election officials here, who refuse to learn from our experience, or Britain's.
- 2:12 PM, 9 May 2012 [link]
Does Senate Candidate (And Harvard Professor) Elizabeth Warren Have An Impressive Research Record? She's written a lot of papers. (You can see some of the titles here.).
But the Investor's Business Daily charges that her work is not high quality.
Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren insists she's a pre-eminent scholar who didn't need minority status to join Harvard's faculty. But critics have long questioned her research.The IBD argues that her work, though not high quality, is often useful to leftist politicians like Barack Obama, that she is less a scholar than a "radical ideologue posing as a scholar".
Thanks to the 8th Amendment, I can't be forced to read her papers, or even a representative sample of them, so I can't confirm the newspaper's conclusions about her work. But I will say that there is nothing implausible about them.
- 1:02 PM, 9 May 2012 [link]
Yesterday, Obama Urged Congress To Get To Work: Sarcastically, The Hill tells us.
An at-times sarcastic President Obama on Tuesday prodded Congress to take “bold action” to help the economy, arguing an election year is “no excuse for inaction.”So what's Obama been doing lately?
For two weeks in the middle of April, he was mostly campaigning.
And the same is true, so far, for May, as you can see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
So far, in May, he has not had a single, formal meeting with any congressional leader. It's true that Congress was in spring recess last week, but it is also true that the leaders often spend part of that week here in Washington — and are almost always willing to make time to meet with a president.
And it is also true that Obama didn't meet with any of the leaders, formally, for the two weeks I checked in April, when Congress was in session.
- 8:44 AM, 9 May 2012 [link]
Congratulations To Keith Judd: He got more than 40 per cent of the vote against Barack Obama in West Virginia. And Judd did so, even though he was handicapped in campaigning.
Just how unpopular is President Obama in some parts of the country? Enough that a man in prison in Texas received four out of 10 votes in West Virginia's Democratic presidential primary.You can find the current numbers here. As I write, Judd is winning 42.4 per cent of the Democratic vote.
West Virginians may have heard that Obama doesn't much like coal — or people with traditional values.
- 6:51 AM, 9 May 2012 [link]