Archive:

November 2011, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Sarkozy Insults Netanyahu, Obama Agrees, And Reporters (Mostly) Cover It Up:  You can see the whole story here, but I'd like to draw your attention to the third item in that list.  Here's what Keith Koffler, an experienced reporter, said:
Precise rules of conduct??  Journalism is supposed to be about NO RULES OF CONDUCT, except in certain cases when national security or the safety or livelihood of individuals is involved.

It’s incredible to me that White House reporters were involved in suppressing information.  They may have had to break the “rules,” but once you have information, you report it, even if it means someone is going to be angry at you.  For journalists to actually sign some kind of agreement to not report, ever, a major news story is a disgrace beyond words.

This is why people don’t trust the media.  It’s why so many conservatives reacted with such disdain to what I think are legitimate reports about alleged sexual harassment by Herman Cain.  I cannot help believing some of the very same reporters who signed the non-disclosure deal about Obama’s remarks would have clung to exalted claims of journalistic integrity and reported the matter had it involved George W. Bush.
I am sorry to say that I don't find this behavior incredible, at all.  But that's because I have seen similar behavior too many times before.
- 10:01 AM, 8 November 2011   [link]


Income Mobility In The United States:  Here are some numbers in neat tables and graphs.

For instance:
Based on the same [IRS] data, the first graph below shows that millionaires don't stick around too long - about half for just one year.  It seems Steve Martin was on to something, although income fluctuations appear to be driven more by capital gains than crazy inventions.
Another way to make the same general point is to say that the top 1%, who are getting so much attention these days, are not the same people from decade to decade, or even from year to year.

(By way of the TaxProf.)
- 8:00 AM, 8 November 2011   [link]


The NFL Makes Billions Showing Football To Their TV Audiences:  But they won't let TV fans watch the whole game.
But for all the footage available, and despite the $4 billion or so the NFL makes every year by selling its broadcast rights, there's some footage the league keeps hidden.

If you ask the league to see the footage that was taken from on high to show the entire field and what all 22 players did on every play, the response will be emphatic.   "NO ONE gets that," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in an email.  This footage, added fellow league spokesman Greg Aiello, "is regarded at this point as proprietary NFL coaching information."
In the early 1980s, I went to a few Seahawks games in the old Kingdome.  The cheap seats, where I sat, gave you a great view of the whole game, essentially the same view that the NFL calls "All 22", and won't show on TV.  (I took along a pair of binoculars so I could also see the views that you typically get on TV.)

I loved that distant view because you could see the opposing strategies, see the plays almost as if you were watching animated diagrams.

Monopolies — and the National Football League is a monopoly — often put the interests of insiders ahead of the interests of consumers.
- 6:48 AM, 8 November 2011   [link]


No, Einstein Didn't Give Us That Snappy Definition Of Insanity:  Though you'll see it attributed to him all the time.

Who did?  Probably someone writing for Narcotics Anonymous.

(I learned this when I was thinking of using the definition in a post, and searched for it and Einstein.  But I should have spotted it long ago because Einstein was a scientist, and one of the things scientists do is replicate experiments, that is, do the same thing over again, just in case they get a different result.)
- 4:47 PM, 7 November 2011   [link]


Not All Venezuelans Are Optimistic:  This morning, this was the "most read" story at El Universal.
- 10:55 AM, 7 November 2011   [link]


If You Think Many Journalists Are "Downright Dishonest", You Aren't Alone:  More than 60 percent of American voters agree with you.

By way of centralcal.

(Technical note:  They should have asked the question without including Herman Cain, and without the "downright" adjective.)
- 10:18 AM, 7 November 2011   [link]


The Instapundit Has A Gift For Quips, Just As Matt Drudge Has A Gift For Visual Juxtapositions:  Here's one of Reynolds' best: "EUROPE: TOO SOCIALIST FOR THE CHINESE:"

(Is there a connection between that post and the apple pickers post, just below?   Maybe.  Here in Washington state we certainly have public policies that discourage hard work.)
- 8:56 AM, 7 November 2011   [link]


Washington State Apple Growers Are Desperate For Pickers:   How desperate?  So desperate that some growers are using prison inmates.
The two men are apple pickers, each with about a day and a half of experience. They are also inmates from the Olympic Corrections Center in Clallam County.

But this week Walker, 31, and Mason, 43, are in Quincy, picking apples with about 100 other low-risk offenders at a meticulously-groomed orchard of small, new-variety apple trees owned by McDougall & Sons, a Wenatchee-based fruit packer.
Some observations:  An experienced, fit picker can make decent pay for semi-skilled work, per day, but there are no benefits, the season is short, and the work is hard, physically.  And so, over my life time, this has become one of those jobs that Americans expect Mexicans to do.  (When I was growing up in that area, many of the pickers were poor whites from the American South.)

That there is a shortage of Mexicans to pick apples tells me that we are beginning to reduce illegal immigration.

As far as I know, no one has even considered asking the "Occupy Seattle" protesters to pick apples, though, judging by the pictures I've seen, many of them are young and fit enough to do the work.  Whatever they want, it isn't temporary jobs, even jobs as essential as this one.

(When I was young, schools in that area had a one week "harvest vacation" so that some high school students, mostly boys, could help with the apple picking.  I suppose there are legal reasons they can't bring that back, at least not quickly, and that's unfortunate.)
- 8:26 AM, 7 November 2011   [link]


There Are Three Or Four Good Candidates For President:   Of Venezuela, that is.

The top three, Henrique Capriles, Leopoldo Lopez, and Pablo Perez, all have solid experience campaigning, and governing, big pluses in my book.

The quality of the top three candidates may explain Miguel Octavio's optimism.

(There's a little more about the front runner, Capriles, here and here.)
- 7:51 AM, 7 November 2011   [link]


Maybe The Pelosi Aide Saw The Light:  Politico believes that former Pelosi aide Brendan Daly is cashing in.
Even by the revolving-door standards of Washington, this one has heads spinning: The Democratic staffer who was Nancy Pelosi’s messaging guru during the health care debate is now working for a group led by the law’s most powerful opponents.

Brendan Daly left his job as Pelosi’s communications director in December and took a job as executive vice president and national director for public affairs at Ogilvy Washington, where he’s now representing a group called the Essential Health Benefits Coalition.
The Politico reporter, Matt Dobias, is certain that Daly is selling out, and that is the most likely explanation, assuming Dobias has the basic facts right.

But it is possible that, having watched the construction of that ghastly creation, ObamaCare, Daly, like a decent lab assistant in a horror movie, has recoiled from what he helped create, and is now trying to reduce the damage.

Unlikely, but not impossible.
- 6:33 AM, 7 November 2011   [link]


Politico Urges Obama To "Punt" On The Keystone Pipeline:   Rather than disappoint unions or environmentalists.
President Barack Obama’s upcoming decision on TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline may split some of his key base support in his reelection effort no matter which way he leans, raising the question of whether he should punt the decision until after next November.

The problem: Obama runs the risk of disappointing either labor unions or environmental groups that went to bat for him in 2008, and he can't really afford to have any of his previous supporters sit on the sidelines next year.
(The "reporter", Darren Goode, doesn't mention Canada, which will be disappointed by any delay — but then Canadians don't vote in American elections, which is all that matters to some people.)

I wouldn't have mentioned this piece, except that Politico is calling it an "article", rather than an opinion piece, and the "reporter" never considers this question:   Would the project be good, net, for the United States?

If it would, then Obama should decide for the project, now; if it wouldn't, then Obama should decide against the project, now.

And if Obama has decided that question, as he should have by now, then Goode is calling for Obama to deceive one set of supporters by leading them to think that he will come down on their side, eventually.

That makes sense if you believe that nothing matters more than Obama's re-election, as Obama and Darren Goode appear to believe.

But no one should think that punting would show Obama's courage.
- 3:54 PM, 6 November 2011   [link]


President Obama Shows His Diplomatic Skills:  By pointlessly insulting the president of France.
“I want to make mention that this is our first meeting since the arrival of the newest Sarkozy, and so I want to congratulate Nicolas and Carla on the birth of Giulia,” Mr. Obama told reporters shortly after his arrival at the G-20, with Mr. Sarkozy at his side.  “And I informed Nicolas on the way in that I am confident that Giulia inherited her mother’s looks rather than her father’s, which I think is an excellent thing.”
That's a joke that President Sarkozy — who is said to be sensitive about his looks , especially his height — could tell on himself.  It's a joke that a close friend could tell a new father, in private, but it's not a public joke.

And it should remind all of us of Obama's pointless insults of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which brought no benefits to the United States, or even to Obama.

In contrast, there are those hugs for Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan.
Isn't this whole scene pretty standard for President Obama? The Europeans get a handshake and the Islamist Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gets a hug. And all the president seems to have in mind is campaign politics and his reelection effort.
Incidentally, the New York Times also mentioned Obama's insult, though in the context of a story that claimed, implausibly, that Obama and Sarkozy are trying harder to get along, with a little success.  I would guess, from the public evidence, that Obama has never tried to get along with Sarkozy, and that Sarkozy has mostly given up on Obama.

(I said "pointlessly" because there are times when an American president might want to insult a French president, though almost always in private, and almost never in this personal way.

The New York Times article has an absurd mistake:  Reporters Helene Cooper and Steven Erlanger, who should know a little about France, wrote: "Mr. Sarkozy is a right-leaning (by European standards) law-and-order conservative who is increasingly unpopular in France, which normally leans left".  (Emphasis added.)

The French 5th Republic was established in 1958.  Since then, six men: Charles de Gaulle, Georges Pompidou, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, François Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac, and Nicolas Sarkozy, have been elected president of France.

Of these, only one, Mitterrand, could be considered a man of the left.  During most of this period, conservative and centrist parties controlled both houses of the French parliament.
- 3:14 PM, 6 November 2011   [link]


Permanent Daylight Saving Time?  It's being proposed, again, in Britain, and in the United States.

I'd prefer it to our present system, which, as far as I can tell, gives us no net benefits, annoyance twice a year, and a small spike in accidents in Spring when an hour of sleep is lost.

But I suppose that I would, very slightly, prefer standard time all year — and more flexibility in individual scheduling — to permanent daylight saving time.

(Here's the Wikipedia article on the subject.  It is a little distressing to see how many studies have been refuted, or at least disputed, over the years.

The Scottish National Party is opposing the change.  I hope their opposition is not just because the change is being backed by English proponents.)
- 1:34 PM, 5 November 2011   [link]


The Headline Writer At Huffington Post Has Never Heard the old, old football coach joke, or they wouldn't have written that headline.

(If, by some chance, you have missed the joke, here it is.)
- 12:21 PM, 4 November 2011   [link]


Swing States Swinging Against Obama:  It is easy to forget, with all the national polls, that we vote for the president by states.  A big margin in California will not help a Democratic candidate if they lose all the swing states by narrow margins; similarly, a big margin in Texas will not help a Republican candidate if they lose all the swing states by narrow margins.

So this Gallup poll of twelve swing states — Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania — has modified bad news for Obama.  He is now running one point behind Mitt Romney in the twelve states — among adults.

(Presumably, Gallup does not feel comfortable using a likely-voter screen this far from the election.)

That's a big shift from 2008.
Obama carried all 12 of these swing states in 2008, and he needs to claim about half of their 151 electoral votes to win this time. That means he could lose the three Southern states and Ohio but still win a second term if he carried everything else, sweeping the Mountain West and prevailing in the other Rust Belt states. That combination would put him a bare two electoral votes over what he needs to be re-elected.
Modified bad news because he is still close in those twelve states.

There's more in the article, which I'll leave to you — but I'll definitely come back to these swing-state surveys, from time to time, during this next year.

(There's another state, Oregon, that the right Republican candidate might win even though Obama carried it by a 17 point margin in 2008.  Republicans actually won the popular vote (50-48) for the state House in the 2010 election, as they were winning 30 of the 60 seats.)
- 8:29 AM, 4 November 2011   [link]


Today's Jobs Report Was Worse than "expected".
The U.S. monthly jobs report said the economy added, 80,000 jobs in October. The unemployment rate came in at 9%.  According to Thompson Reuters, economists had expected to see 95,000 jobs added and an unemployment rate of 9.1%.
. . .
"We take (Friday's) report with a grain of salt," writes Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist with BTIG.  "No matter what number prints, it won’t be enough," he adds, explaining that the drop in people looking for work means the unemployment rate should actually be higher than it is.
Oddly enough, many of us have come to expect that these jobless reports will be worse than expected.  (And I suppose that a few people have come to expect that we will expect that the jobs reports will be worse than expected — and I think it's time to bring this train of thought to a stop.)

It is odd that these economists haven't adjusted their models, odd that, month after month of being too high with their job predictions, they haven't brought those predictions closer to the actual results.

For the record:  I see some small signs of improvement in this area — but with employers here like Boeing, Google, and Microsoft, that is only what we should, well, expect.
- 6:50 AM, 4 November 2011   [link]


If You Wanted A Picture To Illustrate Conflict Of Interest, You Might Choose One Showing Paul And Nancy Pelosi:  (If you want evidence for that conclusion, see the Pelosi chapter of Peter Schweizer's Do As I Say.)

Now, it looks as if even 60 Minutes may have noticed one of their many conflicts of interest.
- 4:32 PM, 3 November 2011   [link]


What Are The Chances That Obama Will Be Re-Elected?   Democrat Nate Silver puts them at a little less than 50 percent.
Obama has gone from a modest favorite to win re-election to, probably, a slight underdog.  Let’s not oversell this.  A couple of months of solid jobs reports, or the selection of a poor Republican opponent, would suffice to make him the favorite again.
Which is about where this Republican would put them, though I think his ability to recover is lower, because I don't think that Obama is a political tactician on the level of a Bill Clinton or a Karl Rove.

I'll have more to say about this analysis in a later post or two, but for now I want to quote this warning about trying to predict the election using only a few economic variables.
Some political scientists have tried to explain these exceptions by resorting to an alphabet soup of economic indicators, conjuring obscure variables like R.D.P.I.P.C. (real disposable-personal-income per capita), which they claim can predict elections with remarkable accuracy.  From the standpoint of responsible forecasting, this is a mistake.  The government tracks literally 39,000 economic indicators each year.  Although many (say, privately owned housing starts in Alabama) are obscure or redundant, perhaps two or three dozen of them are looked at regularly by economists.

When you have this much data to sort through but only 17 elections since 1944 to test them upon, some indicators will perform superficially better based on chance alone, the statistical equivalent of the lucky monkey from a group of millions who banged out a few Shakespearean phrases on his typewriter.  Conversely, indicators like the unemployment rate have historically had almost no correlation with election results despite their self-evident importance.  The advantage of looking at G.D.P. is that it represents the broadest overall evaluation of economic activity in the United States.

There is, however, another problem: economic forecasts are not very good.
And, note something he said that is correct, but misleading.
Ford and Humphrey (serving as Johnson’s surrogate) may have lost their elections, but not by much — Ford by just 2 points, and Humphrey by 1.
What's misleading is that the race in 1968 was a three-way race, and was close only because George Wallace drew so many votes.   Polls at the time showed that Wallace voters preferred Nixon to Humphrey by about two to one.  If Wallace had not been in the race, Nixon would probably have defeated Humphrey by three or four percent.
- 2:14 PM, 3 November 2011   [link]


Larry Elder Compares The Herman Cain Coverage to the coverage of another presidential candidate, Jesse Jackson.
Whether the media feared being accused of racism or whether it feared Jackie, there were no "establishment media" stories on Jackson's alleged sexcapades.  That is, until years later, when Jackson admitted fathering a child with a staffer to whom he paid money for a house and who received monthly payments.
Or perhaps we should say, the non-coverage.

And that, I hope, will be my last post on the allegations against Herman Cain for some time.  We still don't have a good idea of what the charges are against him, which makes it hard to say anything sensible, not that that has stopped our journalists from saying as much about it as they can.
- 12:26 PM, 3 November 2011   [link]


Do Those "Occupy Seattle" Protesters Know About Jamie Dimon's Campaign Donations?  Last night, the Seattle protesters targeted JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

I saw several stories on the protest this morning, but none of them asked the demonstrators what they knew about Dimon.  Which is unfortunate, because Dimon has been a long-time supporter of one particular political party.

Jamie Dimon happens to be a long-time Democratic donor.

Dimon and his wife, Judy, have donated more than a half-million dollars to Democratic candidates and committees since 1989, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of his donations.  That is nearly 12 times what the couple has given the GOP.
. . .
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was scheduled to attend JPMorgan board meeting this week.  He declined to attend after the New York Times profiled Dimon and mentioned the invitation prominently.

According to the article, Dimon enjoys deep connections with Emanuel and President Barack Obama.  Dimon was an executive at Bank One -- which later became part of JPMorgan -- at the same time that Emanuel was representing a nearby district in Congress, and the president was serving Illinois in the U.S. Senate.  Dimon has donated $6,000 to Emanuel over time, including $4,000 for his first House race in 2002.  He gave Obama $2,000 during his 2004 Senate campaign, but did not contribute to his presidential run.

Dimon has even been mentioned as a possible Treasury Secretary — assuming Obama is re-elected.

It's only fair to add that Dimon could be having second thoughts about his party and President Obama.  (Or he could just be buying a little insurance, as he has done before.)

It's unfortunate that none of our local "mainstream" reporters, an enterprising bunch if I ever saw one, asked the demonstrators about Dimon's connections to the Democratic Party and President Obama.  These journalists missed a chance to commit some interesting journalism.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(As far as I can tell from the news stories, the demonstrations had no effect on Dimon, but they probably hurt many small businesses, and they certainly cost the city of Seattle thousands of dollars.

Full disclosure:  I have a checking account with Chase, mostly because they offered me a $100 bribe to open one there.)
- 7:37 AM, 3 November 2011   [link]


India Is Worried About Its Border With China:   Worried enough so that the Indian government is planning to increase the size of its army, and send substantial reinforcements to the border.
Faced with growing Chinese military presence along the border and other complex security challenges in the region, the government is planning to increase the strength of the Indian Army by almost one lakh soldiers over the next five years.

Authoritative sources told TOI that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has approved a Rs 64,000-crore (approximately $13 billion) military modernization plan that would include raising four new divisions along the India-China border.  Two of these would be part of a Mountain Strike Corps dedicated to offensive operations.  The plan also includes raising two independent brigades, one in Ladakh and the other in Uttarakhand.
(One lakh = 100,000.)

If this Wikipedia article is correct, the Indian government is planning to increase the size of the Indian Army by about eight percent.

It would be interesting to know why India feels threatened on its northern border.

(India fought a border war with China in 1962.  Before and since, there have been many military "incidents" between the two countries.)
- 12:28 PM, 2 November 2011   [link]


Why Do Goldman Sachs Alumni So Often Fail When The Leave The Firm?  Why do men like Robert Rubin, John Thain, and now Jon Corzine, make millions at Goldman Sachs, and then lose millions when they go elsewhere?

It might be just coincidence; perhaps these same men would have lost money on the big bets they were making had they stayed at Goldman Sachs.  But, in yesterday's New York Times, Andrew Ross Sorkin suggests that Goldman Sachs has something that the firms these men went to didn't have.
"The one thing Goldman really does well — better than anyone else — is the internal accounting and compliance function.  They give those people a lot of power," Mr. [William] Cohan said.  At MF Global, Mr. Cohan asked: "Who was going to stand up to Jon Corzine?  They didn't have the compliance or the culture."
In other words, Goldman Sachs has a good set of brakes and people who are willing to step on them, along with their powerful engine, and sometimes reckless drivers.

Sorkin isn't sure that's the reason for Goldman Sachs' success over the years, but he thinks it's a plausible explanation, as do I.

(William Cohan is the author of Money and Power, a book about Goldman Sachs.)
- 7:55 AM, 2 November 2011   [link]


Michael Tomasky's Sex Scandal Joke:  Tomasky, who supports the party of John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and John Kennedy, argues that conservatives will probably support Herman Cain, in spite of the sexual harassment accusations, which Tomasky describes as "serious", without telling us exactly what those allegations are.

As evidence for his argument, Tomasky lists a whole series of conservatives (or at least Republicans) who were involved in sex scandals.  And here's what convinced me that he was joking:  With one exception, Louisiana Senator David Vitter, every one of the elected officials was driven from office.

Tomasky could have made a general point, that both parties are more likely to excuse bad behavior by one of their own.  That's certainly true, but it is also true that Democrats are more accepting of sexual misdeeds than Republicans.

We had, in 1983, an almost perfect example of those differing standards.  Two congressmen, Democrat Gerry Studds of Massachusetts and Republican Dan Crane of Illinois, admitted to sexual encounters with pages, a boy in Studds case and a girl in Crane's case.

Crane admitted his guilt and was repentant; he was defeated by his Republican district in the next election.  Studds admitted his actions and was defiant; he was re-elected again and again, and was honored by his Democratic colleagues when he finally left the House.

(The Wikipedia article omits some of the details that make Studds' behavior worse than Crane's.  According to accounts I read at the time, Crane had a one-time fling, after a party; Studds had been pursuing male pages for years, and may have had sexual contact with some who were under age; in other words, he may have committed statutory rape.   Studds certainly supplied minor boys with liquor, but was never prosecuted for that.

Tomasky also mentions Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and is certain that Anita Hill was telling the truth, though he does not share any of the evidence that makes him certain.  Even if you believe everything that Hill said, the accusations against Thomas come to a molehill, compared to Bill Clinton's mountains of misdeeds.  Or Ted Kennedy's for that matter.)
- 7:21 AM, 2 November 2011   [link]


Costs Rise For California's "Bullet Train"  By now, this isn't even "unexpected".
California's bullet train will cost an estimated $98.5 billion to build over the next 22 years, a price nearly double any previous projection and one likely to trigger political sticker shock, according to a business plan scheduled to be unveiled Tuesday.

In a key change, the state has decided to stretch out the construction schedule by 13 years, completing the Southern California-to-Bay Area high speed rail in 2033 rather than 2020.
Or shouldn't be, for anyone who has followed these projects.

Professor Althouse sees this as more evidence that Scott Walker was the right choice for Wisconsin governor.  (I agree.)

(The Los Angeles Times article on this change calls it a new "realism".  I think the reporters need to add three letters, "sur", to get a more descriptive adjective for the old plan, and the revised plan.)
- 3:12 PM, 1 November 2011   [link]


What Did Bill Clinton Have To Do With Fannie Mae And The Financial Collapse?  In this June post, I noted that Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner put former President Clinton fourth on their "Fannie and Friends" list, but I didn't explain why they gave him so much of the blame.

Today, Paul Perry explains why.
Rewind to 1994. That year, the federal government declared war on an enemy — the racist lender — who officials claimed was to blame for differences in homeownership rate, and launched what would prove the costliest social crusade in U.S. history.

At President Clinton's direction, no fewer than 10 federal agencies issued a chilling ultimatum to banks and mortgage lenders to ease credit for lower-income minorities or face investigations for lending discrimination and suffer the related adverse publicity.  They also were threatened with denial of access to the all-important secondary mortgage market and stiff fines, along with other penalties.
. . .
Confronted with the combined force of 10 federal regulators, lenders naturally toed the line, and were soon aggressively marketing subprime mortgages in urban areas.  The marching orders threw such a scare into the industry that the American Bankers Association issued a "fair-lending tool kit" to every member.  The Mortgage Bankers Association of America signed a "fair-lending" contract with HUD. So did Countrywide.

HUD also pushed Fannie and Freddie, which in effect set industry underwriting standards, to buy subprime mortgages, freeing lenders to originate even more high-risk loans.
The pair of graphs illustrating the article will show you the result.

Those with a taste for irony will like this detail:  The 1994 demand was based on (justified by?) a study that was soon discredited, according to both Perry and Morgenson and Rosner.  But that didn't affect the regulators, not even a little bit.

(New York Mayor Bloomberg blames Congress, not Wall Street, or the regulators, for this disaster.  In some sense he's right, because Congress could have pulled the regulators back from their blunder, though at some political cost.)
- 2:48 PM, 1 November 2011   [link]


Bye-Bye MF Global Holdings (And Jon Corzine):  Another bankrupt financial firm.
The European debt crisis has claimed its first big casualty on Wall Street, a securities firm run by former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine.

MF Global Holdings Ltd., which Corzine has led since early last year, filed for bankruptcy protection Monday.  Concerns about the company's holdings of European debt caused its business partners to pull back last week, which led to a severe cash crunch, the company said in its filing.

Corzine, the former head of investment banking giant Goldman Sachs Group Inc., oversaw MF Global as it amassed $6 billion in debt issued by financially strapped European countries such as Italy, Spain and Portugal.  Their bonds paid bigger returns than U.S. Treasury debt because bond investors believed that they were more likely to default.
Corzine doesn't have many fans, so many are celebrating this downfall, even though it will be bad for the markets, short term.  Henry Blodget accuses Corzine, very bluntly, of putting his own interests ahead of his firm's.  Megan McArdle notes that the company has been accused of "mingling" its own funds with clients' funds.  At best, that would be sloppy bookkeeping.

Corzine did (does?) have fans in the Obama re-election campaign, since he has been one of their top bundlers.  (As I understand it, Corzine will not get the big payout, since his firm filed for bankruptcy, instead of being bought out.)

This is not the first time Corzine has had problems; if you look through his Wikipedia biography, you'll find professional and personal ethical lapses, and some, like his relationship with Carla Katz, that combined the two.

(I haven't seen anyone else say this, so I will:  "MF" is a really stupid name for a company that wants to be taken seriously.)
- 11:10 AM, 1 November 2011
We have a confession:
MF Global, the failed securities firm led by Jon Corzine, admitted using clients' money as its financial troubles mounted, a federal official says.

An MF Global executive admitted that to federal regulators in a phone call early Monday after regulators discovered money missing from clients' accounts, according to an official familiar with the conversation.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss an investigation by federal regulators.
Anonymously sourced, but still a confession.  Consult your local securities lawyer for what this may mean for employees of the firm.  Nothing good, I'm sure.
- 12:47 PM, 1 November 2011   [link]


Why Did The Negotiations With Iraq Fail?  Because the Obama administration didn't put a serious effort into making them succeed.
The popular explanation is that the Iraqis refused to provide legal immunity for U.S. troops if they are accused of breaking Iraq's laws.  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki himself said: "When the Americans asked for immunity, the Iraqi side answered that it was not possible.  The discussions over the number of trainers and the place of training stopped.  Now that the issue of immunity was decided and that no immunity to be given, the withdrawal has started."

But Mr. Maliki and other Iraqi political figures expressed exactly the same reservations about immunity in 2008 during the negotiation of the last Status of Forces Agreement.  Indeed those concerns were more acute at the time because there were so many more U.S. personnel in Iraq—nearly 150,000, compared with fewer than 50,000 today.  So why was it possible for the Bush administration to reach a deal with the Iraqis but not for the Obama administration?

Quite simply it was a matter of will: President Bush really wanted to get a deal done, whereas Mr. Obama did not.  Mr. Bush spoke weekly with Mr. Maliki by video teleconference.  Mr. Obama had not spoken with Mr. Maliki for months before calling him in late October to announce the end of negotiations.  Mr. Obama and his senior aides did not even bother to meet with Iraqi officials at the United Nations General Assembly in September.
(Emphasis added.)

Kate McMillan reminds us of Obama's time as president of the Harvard Law Review, where he often didn't even bother to show up.

I think that's part of the explanation of Obama's failure, but only part.  He has been poor at personal diplomacy with most world leaders, but there are exceptions:  He likes talking with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Has the United States gained from those two contacts?  Not as far as I can tell.

What this combination, neglect of most leaders and close contacts with a few that Obama likes, suggests to me is that Obama is not working hard at being president, that he doesn't care for many of his duties, and so he skips them, just as he did when he was president of the Harvard Law Review.
- 10:09 AM, 1 November 2011   [link]


The Mountain Was Out This Morning:  And I was lucky enough to capture this web cam picture:

Mt. Rainier, 1 November 2011
(Click on the picture to see the larger version.)

(There are six other web cams at Mt. Rainier; you can find links to all of them on the right side of the site.)
- 8:09 AM, 1 November 2011   [link]


Most "Obamacons" Are Coming home.
In contrast to 2008, Democratic President Barack Obama cannot count on a wave of support for his re-election bid next year from well-known moderate Republicans.

Unhappy with Obama's handling of the economy, conservative backers from three years ago are either sitting on the fence or have thrown their lot in with Republican presidential hopefuls like Mitt Romney.
I suppose that I should celebrate them coming to their senses — but I still can't forgive most of them for ignoring Obama's radical past, and his complete lack of executive experience.

(It will be interesting to see whether libertarians who supported Obama in 2008 have similar second thoughts.  In my opinion, the libertarian support for Obama was even sillier than the conservative support he received, since it would be hard to find a politician less libertarian than Obama.

Economist Austan Goolsbee helped Obama among libertarians.  I'm not sure whether Goolsbee has figured out yet how badly he was conned.)
- 7:47 AM, 1 November 2011   [link]


Good Question:  Instapundit Glenn Reynolds repeats his rhetorical question, but it's worth repeating: "Would Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman, Anna Palmer and Kenneth Vogel have put their names on a similar piece, with no named sources, aimed at Barack Obama?"

But they did put their names on a piece attacking conservative Republican Herman Cain, and Politico did run it.

It's a rhetorical question, because anyone familiar with recent presidential campaigns knows the answer.  In 1992, a great many reporters knew about Bill Clinton's reckless sexual behavior, and almost all of them chose not to write about it.

Joe Klein tried to have it both ways; he didn't tell his readers what he knew during the campaign, but he did share it after Clinton was elected in Primary Colors, a thinly-disguised novel of the campaign, which was originally published, not under his own name, but under "Anonymous".

In 2008, some reporters knew about Obama's radical past, but few dug into it, even when it became obvious that there were "discrepancies" between what Obama said about his past, and what actually happened.  (Those interested in that past should read Stanley Kurtz's Radical-in-Chief. It's a fine book, solidly researched, with uncomfortable conclusions.  So, naturally, it has received almost no attention from our "mainstream" journalists.)
- 7:25 AM, 1 November 2011   [link]