Archive:

November 2014, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



The Democrats Are Losing White Working Class Voters:  That's been going on in much of the country, for decades, and now Harry Enten spots it happening in Iowa, too.
Republican Sen.-elect Joni Ernst easily won her race in Iowa last Tuesday, beating Democrat Bruce Braley by 8.5 percentage points.  Her victory wasn’t shocking, but its size was (to everyone except pollster Ann Selzer, that is).  The final FiveThirtyEight projection had Ernst winning by just 1.5 percentage points.

What the heck happened?

Here’s one explanation:  White voters in Iowa without a college degree have shifted away from the Democratic Party.  And if that shift persists, it could have a big effect on the presidential race in 2016, altering the White House math by eliminating the Democratic edge in the electoral college.
There's more to Enten's analysis, but he doesn't go where I would have, and try to answer this question:  Why were these working class Iowans so slow to understand that the modern Democratic Party — very much including President Obama — doesn't like or respect them, and has been pursuing policies that hurt working class voters, more often than not.

For instance:  There is simply no doubt that allowing millions of illegal aliens to come into the United States has hurt the people in the bottom half of the labor force, making it harder for them to find jobs, and harder for them to get pay raises.

(Do I have an answer to my own question?  No.  But I can offer you this speculation:  Iowa is probably the nicest, least cynical, state in the United States.  That's wonderful in most ways, but it does leave Iowans vulnerable to thinking that others are mostly as nice as they and their neighbors are.

Which, unfortunately, makes them easier to fool.

For years, that very niceness has made me think that we should not choose a secretary of state from Iowa; instead, we should pick one who came from an evil country, or at least spent years living in a bad neighborhood.)
- 8:23 PM, 16 November 2014   [link]


Comets Are Black?!  Somehow, I had missed that fact, all these years.
One of the coolest things about comets is their blackness.

Think of a lump of coal or the briquettes you put on the BBQ - that's what comets would look like if you could stand on their surface.  And 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, currently being observed at close quarters by the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission, is no different.

We've joked in recent months about the shape of 67P resembling those bathtime yellow rubber ducks.

Perhaps we should refer to it as a "black swan" instead.
(To me, it looks something like a lion from an Assyrian sculpture.)

Comets are dark, even though they are mostly ice, because they have a little bit of organic compounds — think soot, and you probably won't be too far wrong — mixed in with the ice, and a little is all it takes to change the albedo from light to dark, from almost 1 to near 0.

(The New Scientist went for the gag in their article on the comet, noting that some of those organic compounds "stink".  Those compounds were also, many scientists believe, some of the building blocks for early life on earth.  And, no, you couldn't smell them if you were standing on the comet, because you can't smell anything in a vacuum.)
- 9:42 AM, 16 November 2014   [link]


Turkish President Recep Erdogan Believes Muslims Beat Columbus to the Americas.
Muslims discovered the Americas more than three centuries before Christopher Columbus, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

He made the claim during a conference of Latin American Muslim leaders in Istanbul, pointing to a diary entry in which Columbus mentioned a mosque on a hill in Cuba.
A diary entry, that almost every non-Muslim historian thinks was metaphorical.  Columbus saw a mountain that looked something like a mosque.

Two questions occur to me:  Why does Erdogan believe this theory?  And what did he and President Obama have in common that made them — for a while — such phone pals?

The answer to the first is easy; Erdogan believes this because he wants to believe this.   And the second?  I've been puzzling over that for years, and have not come up with even a plausible hypothesis.

(This is currently the "most read" story at the BBC site.  Because many agree with Erdogan?  Because many think the belief is absurd?  Or some combination of the two?

If Barry Fell were still alive, he'd be arguing that the Muslims were latecomers..  I don't reject the possibility that others may have crossed the Atlantic before the Norse, but I doubt that there was any regular two-way traffic, because there is no evidence of crop exchanges; there was no wheat in North America or corn (maize) in Europe and Africa in 1491.  Crops are among the very first things to be exchanged when farming peoples first meet.)
- 3:48 PM, 15 November 2014   [link]


ObamaCare Has Been Rough on rural hospitals.
Since the beginning of 2010, 43 rural hospitals — with a total of more than 1,500 beds — have closed, according to data from the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program.  The pace of closures has quickened: from 3 in 2010 to 13 in 2013, and 12 already this year.  Georgia alone has lost five rural hospitals since 2012, and at least six more are teetering on the brink of collapse.  Each of the state's closed hospitals served about 10,000 people — a lot for remaining area hospitals to absorb.

The Affordable Care Act was designed to improve access to health care for all Americans and will give them another chance at getting health insurance during open enrollment starting this Saturday.  But critics say the ACA is also accelerating the demise of rural outposts that cater to many of society's most vulnerable.  These hospitals treat some of the sickest and poorest patients — those least aware of how to stay healthy.  Hospital officials contend that the law's penalties for having to re-admit patients soon after they're released are impossible to avoid and create a crushing burden.
And some people in the areas served by those hospitals will die because they are too far from other hospitals to get emergency help, in time.
There's a "golden hour" after heart attacks, trauma and stroke in which treatment is needed to prevent loss of heart muscle and brain tissue, says Janis Orlowski, chief medical officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges.
I could make some crude remark about how Obama and company don't care about the "bitter clingers" who live in those areas; instead, I'll just ask you to consider this question:  Suppose a Republican administration had designed a program that cut needed emergency services to poor blacks in urban areas.  Do you think most of us would see that as wrong?

I know I would.
- 1:56 PM, 14 November 2014   [link]


Environmentalists Versus Workers, Waxman Versus Dingell, And Now Eshoo Versus Pallone?  When the environment became important in American politics — thanks in part to Republican Richard Nixon — we saw a series of conflicts between environmentalists and workers, between those who worried about air and water pollution and those who produced things in dirty factories and mines.  On the whole, environmentalists won those battles, in the country and — and this is often forgotten now — within the Democratic Party.

In 2008, for example, John Dingell (who had more seniority) lost the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee to Henry Waxman.   (Dingell represented auto workers, Waxman, Hollywood, which made the contest almost too symbolic.)

This bit from the Dingell biography will tell you what the fight was about — and why Speaker Nancy Pelosi supported Waxman.
Dingell lost the chairmanship for the 111th Congress to Congressman Henry Waxman of California in a Democratic caucus meeting on November 20, 2008.  Waxman mounted a challenge against Dingell on grounds that Dingell was stalling certain environmental legislation, which would have tightened vehicle emissions standards—something that could be detrimental to the Big Three automobile manufacturers that constitute a major source of employment in Dingell's district.  Dingell was given the title of Chairman Emeritus in a token of appreciation of his years of service on the committee, and a portrait of him is in the House collection.[35]
The fights for cleaner air and water have, in my opinion, mostly been won in the United States.  (But not in many other nations, notably China.)  Partially as a consequence, environmentalists have turned to "global warming", or, as they now call it, "climate change" as their great issue.

And that may explain why Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is backing Anna Eshoo over Frank Pallone (who has more seniority) for the leadership of that same committee.  Although Pallone has a record on the environment that would make most members of the Sierra Club happy, he has not been a leader on climate change, and he has enough support from industrial unions so that he might at least listen to their thinking on subjects like the Keystone XL pipeline.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is a shoo-in to keep her spot as the top House Democrat in the next Congress.  But another intra-party election this month – the contest for ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee – could be an early gauge of the power she'll wield over her caucus for the next two years.

Pelosi is aggressively endorsing Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) over Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) for the seat, releasing a letter this week – her third of the year – lauding her close ally and fellow Californian as "a driving force" behind the Democrats' innovation and jobs agenda.
(By "innovation and job agenda", you should understand that she means jobs in, for example, (subsidized) solar plants, not jobs in coal mines, or even jobs in clean coal power plants.)

Note, please, that I say "may", because I am speculating.  And I will add, immediately, that I would not be surprised to learn that Pelosi has other motives, for example favoring a woman and a fellow Californian, for her decision.

But, whatever her motives, this suggests that the Democratic Party is likely to pay even less attention to the white working class than they have in recent years.
- 9:23 AM, 14 November 2014   [link]


Two Gallup Findings That Will Cheer Republicans:  First, we don't like either party very much, but we dislike Republicans a little less than Democrats, for the first time since 2011.
  • Democrats' favorable rating at a record-low 36%

  • Democratic Party lost support among Democrats, independents

  • Republican Party's favorable rating remains steady at 42%
Winning makes a party more popular among its partisans; losing has the opposite effect.

Second, we want the Republicans in Congress, rather than President Obama, to lead us.

Gallup: Gop leaders vs. Obama

It is too bad Gallup hasn't asked that question more often, so we could better understand the trend.

(If, like me, you haven't updated your browser recently, you may have trouble viewing the Gallup site, which has acquired a fancier format.)
- 8:05 AM, 14 November 2014   [link]


244-186, With 5 Still Undecided:  That's the current score in the House elections, according to Politico.

Republicans should win the two run-off elections in Louisiana; Republican Martha McSally is leading by 161 votes in Arizona's 2nd district, with all the votes counted (and she has claimed victory); Republicans are leading in California's 7th and 16th districts, according to Politico, but not according to this more recent article in the Sacramento Bee.

There are enough votes to be counted in the two California races so that I won't try to guess who will win there — though I believe the Democrats have been gaining in the counts since election night.

Setting those aside, I think we can say that the Republicans will win two more seats, almost for certain, and are likely to win a third.
- 4:50 PM, 13 November 2014   [link]


Claire McCaskill has company.
Harry Reid was elected by Senate Democrats as minority leader on Thursday but faced several “no” votes from red staters who took deep Democratic losses last week as a stamp of public disapproval in the Senate’s leadership.

Defectors included Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who faces a Republican challenger in a runoff race to keep her seat in December. McCaskill was the first Democratic senator to publicly announce her opposition to Reid; Heitkamp and Manchin had refused to say how they would vote going into the elections.

The dissenting Democrats did not propose another Democratic leader for the caucus but instead asked for a weeklong delay to talk about fallout from the party’s disastrous midterm elections.
Reid is speaking softly, but then you would expect him to, after that big a loss of seats.

What's more than a little disturbing is that no Democratic senator ran against him.
- 4:04 PM, 13 November 2014   [link]


Philae Did not land well.
A series of four Go/NoGo checks were performed 11–12 November 2014.  One of the final tests before detachment from Rosetta showed that the lander's cold-gas thruster was not working correctly, but the "Go" was given anyway, as it could not be repaired.[18][19]  Philae detached from Rosetta on 12 November 2014 at 08:35 UTC, landing seven hours later at 15:35.[20][21] A confirmed landing signal was received at 16:03 UTC.[1][22]

An analysis of telemetry indicated that the landing was softer than expected, but that the harpoons had not deployed upon landing, and that the thruster had not fired.[23][24]  The harpoons contained 0.3 grams nitrocellulose which were shown by Copenhagen Suborbitals in 2013 to be unreliable in a vacuum.[25]  Further analysis indicated that the lander had bounced twice and landed three times; the first bounce lasted two hours and may have been one km high; the second lasted seven minutes.[26][27]  Philae sits askew on two legs, leaning on a rock in partial darkness as much as a kilometer from the first landing spot.[28][29]  The limited sunlight will constrain Philae's activities, at least in this region of the comet's orbit, since the battery cannot power the instruments for long without illumination of the solar panels.[28][29]
(That section of the Wikipedia article is likely to change soon, but I thought it gave a better description of the problems than I have seen elsewhere.)

This BBC article says that the battery might die as early as Saturday, or even Friday.

Objections to nuclear power from superstitious Greens have made it difficult, politically, to launch space probes with nuclear power systems, especially from Europe.  The only alternative, solar power, has been shown to be subject to accidents like this one.  (There are weight considerations, but I would at least look at having both in a space probe.)

(For an example of a nuclear power system on a probe, see this Wikipedia article on Voyager 1.  Of course, solar power wouldn't have been practical for a probe going that far away from the sun, unless it had enormous arrays of solar cells.)
- 1:15 PM, 13 November 2014   [link]


It Was Nice Of The Communist Chinese To Allow President Obama To Keep His Watch And His Wallet:  Because it is obvious that they could have had those, too, judging by the terms of the climate agreement he just signed.
As usual with Obama's international agreements, the United States gives away far more than does the other side.  Obama committed the U.S. to reduce such emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels in the next 11 years.  That's up considerably from Obama's 2009 goal of 17%.

China agrees to stop the growth of its emissions within the next 16 years, maybe a little sooner.  No reductions.  Just stop its increases.  Such a deal!
The restrictions that Obama wants on our emissions will put additional burdens on American manufacturers — many of which compete with Chinese manufacturers.  This seems like an obvious reason for American negotiators to reject the agreement — for anyone who cares about American jobs.

There are many more obvious objections to this agreement — even for those who fear global warming, and I plan to come back to them in future posts.

(Journalists as different as Piers Morgan and Megan McArdle have concluded that President Obama doesn't know how to negotiate.

They're right.

(After that, you may need a laugh, or at least a chuckle, and you can find one here.)
- 12:39 PM, 13 November 2014   [link]


Senator McCaskill Decides To Make A Wave, Rather Than Back a loser.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has taken her party's rout at the polls to heart, announcing that she will not support Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as Senate minority leader.

“Yesterday, I met with Harry Reid and told him I would not be supporting him for Minority Leader," McCaskill said in a Thursday statement.  "I heard the voters of Missouri loud and clear.  They want change in Washington.  Common sense tells me that begins with changes in leadership.”
By preventing senators from presenting amendments, and by protecting vulnerable Democrats from having to vote on issues like gun control, Reid probably made some short-term gains for his party.   But he probably hurt vulnerable Democrats in the long run, by depriving them of chances to separate themselves from the Obama administration.

(Here's what I am referring to in that title.

Senator McCaskill is part of a marriage partnership like Nancy Pelosi's, where the husband earns the money, and the wife runs for office.  I am nearly certain that we will see many more such partnerships — and that we have not figured out how to handle the very serious conflicts of interests that they almost always present.)
- 9:11 AM, 13 November 2014   [link]


Touchdown On Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko:  Here's an artist's depiction:

Touchdown on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

And here's the main BBC article on the touchdown.
European robot probe Philae has made the first, historic landing on a comet, after descending from its mothership.

The landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was confirmed at about 1605 GMT.

There were cheers and hugs at the control room in Darmstadt, Germany, after the signal was confirmed.

It was designed to shine a light on some of the mysteries of these icy relics from the formation of the Solar System.
It's been a long trip for the Rosetta mothership and the lander, 6.4 billion kilometers, or about 4 billion miles.  (By way of comparison, the sun is about 93 million miles from earth.)

Congratulations to the European Space Agency for the success of this difficult mission.

The comet is irregularly shaped, as you would expect with any low-gravity natural object, in space.

Comet_67P

It's named after its discoverers, Klim Ivanovych Churyumov and Svetlana Ivanovna Gerasimenko.

(You may be puzzled, as I was, by the name for the lander.  The mothership was named after the Rosetta stone, which helped decode an ancient language; Philae was named after an Egyptian island where a similar stone was found.)
- 4:20 PM, 12 November 2014   [link]


53, With 54 Likely:  Mark Begich has not conceded, but news organizations are beginning to call the Alaska Senate race for Dan Sullivan.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan defeated Sen. Mark Begich, the Democratic incumbent, in Alaska’s U.S. Senate race Wednesday – a win that gives the GOP eight Senate pickups in the midterm elections.

The Republican Party also is seeking a ninth seat in Louisiana’s runoff in December.
And is likely to get it.

But not 55; Maine Senator Angus King won't be joining them.
On November 6, 2012, King won the Senate race with 53%[23] of the vote, beating Democrat Cynthia Dill and Republican Charlie Summers.[24][25]  The following week, King announced that he would caucus with Senate Democrats, explaining not only that it made more sense to affiliate with the party that has a clear majority, but that he would have been largely excluded from the committee process had he not caucused with a party.[26][27]  King said he had not ruled out caucusing with the Republicans if they take control of the Senate in 2014[28] but after the election, which the Democratic Party lost control of the Senate, he remained within the Democratic caucus.[29]
(I fixed an obvious mistake, replacing "did" with "had" in the last sentence.)

For what it is worth, King did endorse candidates from both parties in this last election, including his Maine Senate colleague, Republican Susan Collins.  I haven't been able to decide whether he is essentially a Democrat posing as an independent, or is really an independent.
- 9:24 AM, 12 November 2014   [link]


Armistice Day:  On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice ended the fighting in World War I.  (Though not without difficulty.   Some American troops, having spare shells and wanting the glory of having the last shot, competed with each other, for a time, after the official end.)

For many European countries, the war was a disaster from which they have never completely recovered.  The casualties they suffered were so immense that, even now, they astonish.  They were so large that, from the very beginning, the combatants lied about them on a grand scale, and even now historians argue about the numbers, especially the numbers in eastern Europe.  This Wikipedia article gives some of the common estimates of the casualties.  The almost 1.4 million French military dead are more than all the deaths the United States has suffered in all our wars, combined.  More than 1 million of them were from France itself, with the rest coming mostly from the French colonies.  Since France then had a population of about 40 million, more than 1 in 40 died in the war; for us, now, the equivalent loss would be about 8 million deaths.

After World War II, we renamed Armistice Day to Veterans Day, to honor the soldiers of all our wars.  When we honor, as we should, especially today, the American soldiers who served, and sometimes died in our wars, we should also spare some thought for those who fought at our side and who suffered far more than we did.

(This is an edited version of a post I first put up in 2002.)
- 6:44 AM, 11 November 2014   [link]


Today's Michael Ramirez cartoon will make many of you chuckle, even if you have to look up his song reference, as I did.
- 1:33 PM, 10 November 2014   [link]


In September 2008, I Predicted The 2010 And 2014 Republican Victories:  If Barack Obama was elected president.
In the last half century, voters have given control over the government to the left three times.    Each time, the voters repented almost immediately.   (Though not always in time to repair all the damages.)

It is not hard to see reasons why we have had this pattern.   Voters who are unhappy with Republican candidates often will choose leftists because they want change, gambling that the change will be an improvement.   When it isn't, voters go back to conservatives.    Over time, some older voters forget the lessons they learned, and new voters, who never had those hard lessons, come into the electorate.    And, of course, our "mainstream" media judges conservatives far more harshly than it does leftists, and over time those judgments have an effect on moderates, and even some conservatives.

There are enough older voters whose memories of 1994 have lapsed, and new voters who know nothing about the issues in that election, much less the elections of 1968 and 1980, so that Barack Obama could win this November.   If he does, the result will not be pretty, since he is even more out of touch with reality than Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter.   If he does win, the voters will catch on — in spite of our "mainstream" news organizations — but it may take us decades to repair all the damages.
If you accept this theory, then what requires explaining is the Obama re-election in 2012, not the 2010 and 2014 Republican wins.  I think that he won because his failures were not as dramatic as the failures of Johnson and Carter, because our "mainstream" reporters have given him almost slavish support, and because he had some luck with the timing of Hurricane Sandy.

(After the 2010 election, I said pretty much the same thing, for the same reasons.

Here's an essentially similar, and much more recent, article by journalist Robert Merry.)
- 12:51 PM, 10 November 2014   [link]


It's Not A Big Deal, And It Mostly Isn't Her Fault, but doesn't it bother you just a little bit to learn that the United States has a prosecutor with the last name of Lynch?

I'll have something more substantial to say about her in time, of course.  But I'll bet that headline writers love her last name, and are hoping that she gets confirmed.

(Why mostly?  Because, since 2007, she could have used her married name, Hargrove, professionally, just as she does in "her personal life".)
- 9:56 AM, 10 November 2014   [link]


What If They Gave An Election, And Democrats Didn't Come?   That appears to be what happened in Washington state's 4th House district.

After Doc Hastings, who had represented the district since the 1994 election, announced that he was retiring, 8 Republicans, 2 Democrats, and 2 independents signed up for the August primary.

The top three in the primary were Republican Clint Didier (31,369 votes, 31.31%), Republican Dan Newhouse (26,164 votes, 26.11%), and Democrat Estakio Beltran (11,984 votes, 11.96%).   Under Washington state's top-two rules, that meant that voters would choose between Didier and Newhouse in the general election.

Which left me wondering what Democrats in the district, about 40 percent of the district, judging by past elections, would do.  Would they vote for Didier, the more extreme candidate, in order to cause problems for the Republican Party, vote for Newhouse, because his views were closer to theirs, or skip the race entirely?

Mostly, judging by the current count, Democrats skipped the race.  Here are the current vote totals for the ten Washington House districts, in order: 200,376, 180,694, 198,485, 144,262, 199,532, 217,473, 206,136, 180,059, 141,674, and 173,329.

Only the 9th district, which is not competitive, had a lower total than the 4th.  The Democratic incumbent in that district, Adam Smith, did not spend a lot of money on TV ads, unlike some of the other safe incumbents.

(In the previous off-year election, 2010, Doc Hastings defeated his Democratic opponent, Jay Clough, 156,726-74,973, so turnout was down from that election by roughly 87,000 votes.)

Mostly, but not entirely.  Although Newhouse trailed Didier in the primary, he is now leading him, 73,638-70,624, and is expected to hold that lead in the final count.  I think that one of the reasons that Newhouse is winning is that he attracted more Democrats than Didier.  (Fans of the median voter theorem will not be surprised.)

Which, no doubt, supporters of Didier will consider unfair.

(You may wonder why the Democratic Party didn't recruit a candidate with a better chance of coming in second in the primary.  Most likely, they didn't see any reason to do so, because the district is so Republican.  On the other hand, there were exactly two Democrats in the primary and it was possible, though not likely, that those two would have finished first and second, and gone on to the general election, in this very Republican district.  If some Democrat was thinking along those lines, they would be wise to be quiet about it, of course.)
- 8:16 AM, 10 November 2014   [link]


To Pass ObamaCare, Democrats Had To Hide The Facts About Its Costs From The CBO — And The Voters:  That's what its principal architect, Jonathan Gruber, says.

That won't surprise the critics — or even those with a little common sense about economics — but it is interesting to hear this from Gruber.  Perhaps the man's conscience is bothering him, just a little.

(Gaming the Congressional Budget Office:  This wasn't the first time the CBO has been gamed, and it won't be the last.  The nonpartisan budget office often produces estimates that the analysts there know are misleading.  One of the standard tricks is to ask for an estimate — with unrealistic assumptions.  Those who play that game understand that, although the assumptions will be given in the report, they won't be in the headlines, or even in the shorter newspaper articles and TV stories about the report.

This brief Wikipedia biography doesn't clarify matters, but Gruber apparently had a conflict of interest with ObamaCare; he was promoting it while under contract with the Department of Health and Human Services.  At the very least, he should have been more transparent.)
- 7:01 AM, 10 November 2014   [link]


Chinese Science Fiction?  I suppose that, if I had ever thought about that question, I would have guessed that there must be some — but that it wasn't very good.

Well, there is some, and some of it just might be good.

For example:
Aliens are invading Earth, and there are two Chinese camps: one that welcomes the alien invasion and one that wants to fight it.

That is the story line of “The Three-Body Problem,” a science-fiction trilogy written by China’s Cixin Liu, the first book of which will hit American bookstores Nov. 11 in English translation.

The trilogy, which was awarded the Galaxy Award, China’s top honor for science fiction, has already sold more than a million copies in its original Chinese, making it the best-selling work in this genre in China in decades.  It tells the story of a civilization in another solar system that is facing extinction and chooses to invade the Earth to save itself.
Now that sounds interesting, though not interesting enough for me to consider buying the first book, until all three are available.  I like to know the final destination before I hop on a boat.

(The reviewer doesn't appear to understand the three-body problem.)
- 8:32 PM, 9 November 2014   [link]


Democratic Activist Chuck Todd's Book, The Stranger, Is Quite Critical Of President Obama:  Or so I concluded from reading two reviews, one by Robert Draper in the Wall Street Journal, and one by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times.

I began by labeling Todd as a Democratic activist, because he was one.
Before coming to the world of political reporting and analysis, Todd earned practical political experience on initiative campaigns in Florida and various national campaigns based in Washington, D.C.[7]  While in college, Todd worked for the 1992 presidential campaign of Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and later started part-time at The Hotline.
And because I don't think he has stopped being one, even though his paychecks now come from a news organization.

Draper's review is vague in places, and I was unable to decide whether it was vague because Todd was vague, or because Draper was not clearly telling us what Todd had written.

For example:
We learn that the administration’s greatest achievement to date, the Affordable Care Act, originated from a throwaway line in a 2007 campaign speech.  There was intense warring both within the White House and with liberal House Democrats over the heavily earmarked stimulus bill—and whether vetoing it would cost the president Democratic votes on the aforementioned health-care bill.
If that first sentence is correct — and I have read the same claim elsewhere — Obama didn't even think about promising to overhaul an immense chunk of our economy, didn't even think about the difficulty of such an effort.  If I understand that second sentence correctly, Obama considered vetoing the stimulus bill because it was loaded with pork.

Draper calls those "fascinating anecdotes".  I would call them policy failures on a grand scale, so important that Draper should explain them, and back up what he (and Todd) say about them with evidence.

In his concluding paragraph, Draper tiptoes right up to the obvious — but then refuses to recognize it, like a man tiptoeing over to a window, looking up at the sky, and refusing to admit that it is blue.
To that nagging question about how someone so intellectually advanced could be so politically stunted, the author’s final answer is that Barack Obama’s “arrogance got the better of him.”
There's nothing in the review to suggest that Draper has even considered the possibility that Obama is not "so intellectually advanced", that Obama's arrogance may be a cause of Obama's intellectual backwardness, or that Obama doesn't know what he should because he is unwilling to listen to others with different opinions, unwilling to examine his own ideas, critically.

Kakutani is clearer than Draper, and tougher:
The overall picture that emerges here is that of a highly insular and centralized White House that is reluctant to listen to outside experts, prone to cutting Cabinet members out of the loop and unable or unwilling to learn from its mistakes.
(Although I do wish Kakutani had re-written that sentence.  That metaphor, a "picture that emerges", makes me think of a picture that becomes visible as it floats upward through murky water; it would be better to say that "Todd draws a picture", or something similar.)

We can understand why Kakutani wrote as she did; she's a professional critic, and wants (usually) to give readers an accurate picture of a book before they buy it.

But why would an activist like Todd write a book like The Stranger, attacking the leader of his own party?

Two reasons, I suspect:  Todd recognizes how much damage Obama has done to the Democratic Party, and he wants to give Democratic leaders some clues on the kinds of leaders to avoid, in the future.
- 7:50 PM, 9 November 2014   [link]


Welcome Back, Kenneth Bae And Matthew Miller:  And, if this AP article is correct, we didn't have to pay a very large ransom for them.
While the details behind the release of the final two Americans held in North Korea - Matthew Miller of Bakersfield, California, and Kenneth Bae of Lynnwood, Washington - are still unclear, here are questions and some answers as to what might have motivated the North to let the two men out.

Q: WHAT DOES NORTH KOREA GET OUT OF IT?

A: Pyongyang apparently got at least one thing it wanted: A senior U.S. official had to come personally to retrieve the two Americans.  James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, was the highest-ranking American to visit Pyongyang in more than a decade.
The timing — right after our elections — does strike me as a little odd.  You would think that the Obama administration would have wanted the two men released, just before the election, but perhaps that's just how long it took.
- 10:46 AM, 9 November 2014   [link]