October 2011, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
Meanwhile, Back In Barack Obama's Illinois (9): The state is stiffing its people, routinely.
Drowning in deficits, Illinois has turned to a deliberate policy of not paying billions of dollars in bills for months at a time, creating a cycle of hardship and sacrifice for residents and businesses helping the state carry out some of the most important government tasks.It would be wrong to blame former state senator Barack Obama for all, or even most, of these problems. But it would be foolish not to blame Obama and his Illinois allies for most of them.
(By way of Tom Blumer, who compares Illinois to two nearby states.
Scott Walker, who solved a $3 billion projected deficit in Wisconsin, is a media and leftist (but I repeat myself) arch-villain because much of the balancing was done by adjusting public-sector employee contributions towards health and pension benefits to more closely but still more generously resemble what's seen in the private sector, and by reducing public-sector employees' ability to restore them to their formerly out-of-control levels through collective bargaining. Ditto for John Kasich in Ohio, where the projected deficit was $8 billion.Blumer could have added Indiana, which is doing even better.)
- 3:16 PM, 16 October 2011 [link]
China Versus Wal-Mart? Here's the story.
Wal-Mart has been ordered to temporarily close some stores in the Chinese city of Chongqing and to pay 2.7 million yuan ($421,000) in fines following an investigation into the mislabeling of tons of regular pork as "organic."Some think that the severity of the punishment is political.
[Torsten] Stocker, the consultant, said going after a high-profile company like Wal-Mart and hitting them with a hefty punishment is consistent with Bo's patriotic and also tough-on-crime image and dovetails with his political agenda.(Bo Xilai is the Communist Party secretary of Chongqing.)
In Friday's Wall Street Journal, John Bussey was certain that this was political and described many other problems American businesses have had in China. The problems have become so bad that American businesses are beginning to have second thoughts about operating in China.
Notably, the same U. S. companies in China that previously went to Washington to lobby for normalized trade ties with Beijing now often go to gripe. China has thus lost many of its chief advocates.It is good to see that these companies are beginning to have a more realistic understanding of the Chinese regime, but you can't call them fast learners.
(You can find a Chinese view of the dispute here. Their claim that foreign companies have been treated more leniently seems implausible, to say the least.)
- 2:55 PM, 16 October 2011 [link]
Johnson Or Westmoreland? For many years, as Max Boot explains, discussions of the American defeat in Vietnam were mostly quarrels between those who saw it as inevitable, and those who didn't.
Among historians, the biggest division has pitted those who think that the Vietnam War was immoral and unwinnable against those who think it was a worthy effort that could have been won with different tactics and strategy.Those who thought it could be won have been arguing over how it could have been won, with some arguing that we should have put more resources into a conventional war, or extended the ground war to North Vietnam and Laos — both of which President Johnson refused to do.
Others, including Lewis Sorley, have said that Johnson gave the military enough resources, but that the Army fought the wrong kind of war.
While Mr. Krepinevich was the trailblazer, in recent years his argument has been taken up and extended by Lewis Sorley, a West Point graduate, Vietnam veteran and former CIA official. In his 1999 book, "A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam," he forcefully argued that Gen. Creighton Abrams, who took over as head of Military Assistance Command Vietnam after the 1968 Tet Offensive, changed the course of the conflict for the better by moving away from big-unit sweeps. Mr. Sorley believes that the United States had essentially won the war by 1972. The "final tragedy" of his subtitle refers to the fact that Washington then abandoned South Vietnam, allowing it to fall to an armored invasion by the North in 1975.Boot argues that, in Sorley's latest book, a biography of General Westmoreland, Sorley "makes mincemeat" of the argument that Johnson was to blame, and puts much of the blame on Westmoreland. (Of course, in some sense, Johnson was still to blame since he could have replaced Westmoreland sooner than he did.)
Although the biography sounds like a valuable addition to this argument, I suspect that most readers, especially readers who didn't live through the Vietnam War, might be better off starting with Sorley's earlier A Better War.
(Was the Vietnam War winnable? In one sense, it certainly was. When military thinkers discuss such questions, they typically add up the military resources on each side; if the two sums are very different, say by more than two to one, they will, unless there are some special circumstances, assign victory to the side with the larger sum.
But there are two complications in wars like Vietnam. Winning may be more important to one side than the other and the leaders of one side may be far more constrained by public opinion than the other. So, for such wars, you may want to ask whether the dominant side can win before its people and leaders tire of the war.
Boot believes that, even with those constraints, the US could have won in Vietnam. I am inclined to believe he is right, but think that it is one of those questions that can never be completely settled.
Note, please, that I was not discussing here the separate, and difficult, question of whether it would be advantageous, in the long run, for the US to have won the Vietnam War. Maybe I will discuss that in a future post, though it isn't high on my list of things to do.)
- 3:28 PM, 15 October 2011 [link]
2008 Indiana Primary Scandal: Not a headline that makes you rush to read the rest, is it?
But the names are interesting.
Minus suspected fakes, then Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama likely fell short of the number of signatures needed to appear on the 2008 Indiana primary ballot, and it's possible his opponent, Hillary Clinton, did as well, according to information obtained by The Tribune as part of an investigation into suspected ballot petition fraud.Obama lost to Clinton in the primary, narrowly (51-49), but may not have deserved to even be on the ballot.
No one alleges that either Obama or Clinton knew about the forged signatures, so I don't think this scandal says much about them. But it does show us, again, how vulnerable our elections are to fraud.
(The 2nd district is a rural district, with many small manufacturers. The largest city is South Bend.
- 10:43 AM, 14 October 2011 [link]
T. Rex Was Even Bigger than had been thought. And grew faster.
"We estimate they [Tyrannosaurs] grew as fast as 3,950 pounds per year (1790 kg) during the teenage period of growth, which is more than twice the previous estimate," said John R. Hutchinson of The Royal Veterinary College, London in a press release.Little boys will be pleased to learn about this increase in size.
(I had to search a little bit before I found a version of this story that didn't call them lizards. Yes, that's what dinosaur means, but paleontologists have known for a long time that dinosaurs are not lizards, not even very closely related to them.)
- 8:24 AM, 14 October 2011 [link]
Best Drudge Juxtaposition Ever? You've almost certainly seen it, but I want to give some credit where credit is definitely due.
As I write, Drudge is showing Iranian President Ahmadinejad, President Obama, and Minority Leader Pelosi in a row across the top of his site. All are shown lecturing an audience, with their right hands up, and their index finger extended.
Brilliant. Unfair, perhaps, but brilliant.
- 8:01 AM, 14 October 2011 [link]
Do People Who Write For The New York Times Know That It Is A Corporation? Not all of them.
The New York Times Co., the corporation that employs Herr Doktor Professor General Krugman to help sell newspapers, has invited one of those eye-opening professors to expound on the ideas that animate the college know-it-all hippies. His name is Gary Gutting, he teaches philosophy at Notre Dame, and he makes the following claim:Not only is the Times a corporation, it is a news corporation which gives it the right to influence public policy in ways that other corporations can not. The Times can, for instance, give in-kind contributions to political candidates that are worth millions of dollars.Corporations are a particular threat to truth, a value essential in a democracy, which places a premium on the informed decisions of individual citizens. The corporate threat is most apparent in advertising, which explicitly aims at convincing us to prefer a product regardless of its actual merit.Gutting goes on to argue that it is even more insidious for corporations to try to influence "debates over public policy," apparently oblivious to the irony that, under the aegis of the New York Times Co., he is doing just that.
It's not surprising that a professor would be confused about something this simple; it is a little surprising that a philosophy professor would.
(Not so incidentally, I've seen the editorial writers at the Times forget that they are working for a corporation.
For the record: I don't think that news organizations should have special free speech rights. Perhaps the Supreme Court will come around to that position, eventually.)
- 7:47 AM, 14 October 2011 [link]
How About Three Years Ago? TigerHawk notes Chris Christie's rise in New Jersey polls, and asks this question:
So, in other words, the fat frumpy Republican [Christie] is running ten points ahead of the thin stylish Democrat [Obama] in one of the darkest "blue" states in the country. Is there anybody who would have predicted that a couple of years ago?Not that specifically, but that generally, and not two years ago, but three.
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.And for years, I have been saying that I thought that Republicans had opportunities in New Jersey, for example, in this post, so Christie's win in 2009 was no surprise to me.
(If I were to summarize the party balance there in a single sentence, it would be something like this: New Jersey leans Democratic, but is not hopelessly Democratic. And I really do believe, as I said on Monday, that, if Mitt Romney is the Republican candidate next year, he would have a chance to win New Jersey.)
- 1:59 PM, 13 October 2011 [link]
George Soros And The "Occupy Wall Street" Demonstrations? There are indirect connections between the billionaire and the protesters.
Soros and the protesters deny any connection. But Reuters did find indirect financial links between Soros and Adbusters, an anti-capitalist group in Canada which started the protests with an inventive marketing campaign aimed at sparking an Arab Spring type uprising against Wall Street. Moreover, Soros and the protesters share some ideological ground.In principle, the protesters should see Soros as an especially objectionable member of the 1 percent, given the way way he has earned much of his fortune, currency speculation; in practice, they seem to give him a pass.
- 10:59 AM, 13 October 2011
More Soros connections here.
- 7:19 AM, 14 October 2011 [link]
The Obamas Are Playing The Race Card: "Ever so subtly".
Do the Obamas believe what they are saying? Probably, at least in part.
Presumably the Obamas are doing this in order to bolster their support among Hispanics and blacks, who have been hit hard by unemployment, and among the group Michael Barone calls "gentry liberals", who are susceptible to this kind of appeal.
- 10:17 AM, 13 October 2011 [link]
That Wacky Iranian Plot: David Ignatius presents a semi-official explanation for the strange assasination plot.
The puzzle is why the Iranians would undertake such a risky operation, and with such embarrassingly poor tradecraft. Soleimani and his group are some of the savviest clandestine operators in the world. In past columns, I’ve likened him to “Karla,” the diabolically clever Russian spymaster in John le Carre’s novels. Why would the Iranian Karla turn to such a bunch of screwballs?The explanation seems plausible, especially if you add this thought: The Iranian regime may not be afraid of Barack Obama, may see him, to use an old Chinese Communist line, as a "paper tiger".
If he is right, this is not good news, since it implies that we can expect more risky attacks from the Iranians, and soon.
- 9:34 AM, 13 October 2011 [link]
Obama Sits Down For A Beer With Four Out-Of-Work Laborers: They have Budweisers; he has an imported Guinness stout.
And then heads off to a fund-raising event with millionaires.
- 2:26 PM, 12 October 2011 [link]
Think "Mainstream" Journalists Are Backing The "Occupy Wall Street" Protests? You are probably right; the Newspaper Guild certainly is.
(By way of Dan Gainor, who says that the Newspaper Guild is violating its own constitution. I'm not so sure about that, but they have given us another reason to distrust their members.
You can find some basic information on the Guild here.)
- 10:22 AM, 12 October 2011 [link]
Skepticism About The Iranian Assassination Plot: Not from me, since I have been observing the actions of the Iranian regime for years, and find the evidence that has been released persuasive though not conclusive.
But it isn't hard to find skepticism in other places. You can find some, for instance, in this Guardian column:
The alleged plot involving Iranian agents planning to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States in Washington, DC, potentially killing scores of Americans at the same time, is on the face of it so fantastic that it begs a disclaimer. There may be more to this, or less to this, than meets the eye. At this point, we simply don't know.And a lot in the comments following the column. Here, for example, is part of what "benad361" had to say:
This is most likely a provocation. It comes at a VERY convenient time for the Saudis and Americans - when Iran is losing a powerful ally in Syria, when the nuclear programme is going well (with NO evidence it is to develop a nuclear weapon, which is conveniently always left out of our media's news reports).(Actually, there is considerable evidence that they are developing a nuclear weapon, along with ballistic missiles, and other goodies.)
Or in the comments after this Telegraph post. Con Coughlin may have no trouble believing in the plot, but many of his commenters are skeptical, to say the least.
Here, for example, is a comment from "alb_einstein":
I want 'real' evidence before I believe a word of this - sounds like a load of made of rubbish to try and set the scene for a forth-coming war - designed to distract people from the mess the politicians have made.Note that the two commenters I quoted did not confront the evidence in the case; they just rejected the story on general grounds. And neither mentioned the Iran regime's history of terrorism, and support for terrorism, which makes these charges more plausible.
Obviously, you can't measure the extent of the skepticism just by looking at comments in British newspapers. But we know from many polls that this kind of skepticism, this willingness to believe the worst of the United States, is widespread, so we shouldn't assume that this kind of thinking is rare.
(Here's more on Iranian terrorist plots.)
- 9:41 AM, 12 October 2011 [link]
President Obama Again Forgot To Mention his great modesty.
Obama told a crowd of campaign donors, including a mix of past and present NBA stars, in Florida tonight that “this is like the second quarter, maybe the third. And we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”He was probably feeling too modest to mention his great modesty.
(A conventional politician would have said that he could win — if they give him enough help.)
- 7:18 AM, 12 October 2011 [link]
Good New From Hawaii: If you are a Republican.
Linda Lingle, a former two-term governor of Hawaii, announced Tuesday that she is entering the state's Senate race, giving Republicans hope of capturing the seat being vacated by Democrat Daniel Akaka, who is retiring.Lingle's ability to win votes in Hawaii is remarkable, especially considering that she is a Republican Jewish divorcee from St. Louis.
She was a pretty good governor, as far as I can tell, and would probably make a fine senator.
(Vote fraud may have kept her from winning the 1998 gubernatorial election; for some of the evidence, see the first edition of John Fund's Stealing Elections.)
- 6:21 AM, 12 October 2011 [link]
Why Are Our Presidential Campaigns So Long? Blame Jimmy Carter, says Larry Sabato.
What is novel, though, is the growing length of the overt public campaign for party nominations. For that we can largely thank Jimmy Carter.(Tim Pawlenty may have copied it too faithfully. He put so much emphasis on an early win in Iowa that he used up resources that could have financed a longer campaign. To be fair, he might have gotten the bump he wanted, if Michelle Bachmann had not entered the race.)
But not just Jimmy Carter. Florida started the leap-frogging process in 1972 that has led to earlier and earlier primaries. And other states have followed their bad example.
- 7:10 AM, 11 October 2011 [link]
Hollywood's Limited Selection Of Villains: A good villain, or set of villains, can make a movie. (Or an epic poem, for that matter.)
A combination of pressure groups, foreign sales, and cowardice has reduced the possible Hollywood villains, as Edward Jay Epstein explains:
Yet for reality-based politico-thrillers, the safest remaining characters are lily-white, impeccably dressed American corporate executives. They are especially useful as evildoers in films set abroad since their demonization does not risk gratuitously offending officials in countries either hosting the filming or supplying tax or production subsidies.There is just a little bit of irony in this, since the people who are choosing these villains are, almost entirely, "lily-white, impeccably dressed American corporate executives".
Epstein thinks that this tendency to cast corporate executives, and only corporate executives, as villains may explain part of the anti-corporation rhetoric we hear from those "Occupy Wall Street" protesters.
He's probably right. And what makes it even worse is that most of the movies made with these villains aren't very good.
- 6:40 AM, 11 October 2011 [link]
Obama Versus Romney In Connecticut: It's closer than I would have guessed, according to Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm.
Barack Obama is in trouble right now even in Connecticut, a state he won by over 22 points in 2008. His approval rating is under water, and he leads his strongest challenger by only two points. But if he faces anyone else, he is headed for another double-digit victory. Such is the gap in electability between Mitt Romney and the other Republican contenders, particularly in Romney’s adopted New England.Just 2 points; that's not quite amazing, but it is extremely surprising.
In 2008, Obama beat McCain in Connecticut 61-38. Democrats had a big registration edge in 2008 over Republicans, 37.2 percent to 20.4 percent, though "other" outnumbered both, with 42.5 percent.
If that result is correct, I would say that Romney would be almost certain to win New Hampshire and would be favored in Pennsylvania and, possibly, New Jersey.
(For the record: An earlier Quinnipiac poll found a much larger Obama advantage, 13 points.)
- 6:49 PM, 10 October 2011 [link]
Is Barack Obama Popular? No. He was when he began his presidency, but is no longer. Gallup has this useful comparison to go with their daily ratings. At roughly this time in their presidencies, our modern presidents had the following approval ratings, Eisenhower: 71 percent, George H. W. Bush: 68 percent, John F. Kennedy: 56 percent, George W. Bush: 51 percent, Ronald Reagan: 47 percent, Bill Clinton: 46 percent, and Jimmy Carter: 32 percent.
President Obama's latest approval rating? 40 percent.
But you still find journalists who think that Obama is popular, for example, Scott Wilson in this much-cited Washington Post article.
Which raises an odd question: Is it possible to be America’s most popular politician and not be very good at American politics?That's an even odder question than it might seem to Mr. Wilson. He uses a comparative, "most", so you might think that Obama may be most popular, but would be better described as the least unpopular.
But that isn't right, either, since to take a prominent example, Hillary Clinton has a much higher approval rating than Barack Obama.
And it isn't hard to find governors who are more popular — in their states — than Obama is in those same states. (You can find a couple of examples here, and many more with a little searching.)
Why doesn't Scott Wilson know these things? Beats me. Perhaps because in Wilson's journalistic circles Obama is still the "most popular"?
- 3:25 PM, 10 October 2011 [link]
Morison On Columbus: This morning, the Instapundit recommended Samuel Eliot Morison's biography of Columbus, as he does every year.
But Professor Reynolds didn't say which version he was recommending, and the differences between the two are great enough so that some will prefer the two-volume version, and others the one-volume version.
I own the second (in hardback), and it is plenty for me, but a professional historian would prefer the two-volume version because it includes the notes, "pages of navigational data", and two extra chapters on "Ships and Sailing" and syphilis. (p. xx) (And I was pleased to see from the sticker on the front, which I just got around to removing, that I bought it for the bargain price of $12.98. You might find it, as I did, in the bargain section at Barnes and Noble.)
The biography, like nearly everything else I have read by Morison, is scholarly and lively, an unusual and gratifying combination. Morison did the digging in the library stacks — and sailed some of Columbus's routes — but he writes with a light touch, never forgetting the people on board the ships. He tells us what they wore — not much — what they ate — better than you might have expected — and what they were paid, little enough, but enough to attract competent crews.
And he also tells us why Columbus is still so controversial, even among historians. His voyages were followed by many legal proceedings, and many of the documents from those legal proceedings have survived. Naturally the documents give very different views of Columbus and his crew, depending on which side of the cases they were prepared for.
Morison, mostly but not entirely, comes down on Columbus's side in these controversies, and is careful to tell you why he does, in each.
It's a little unfair to suggest something like this to another blogger, especially one who contributes as much as Professor Reynolds does, but it would be fun if he, or another law professor, gave us their thoughts on some of those centuries-old legal quarrels.
(There's more in the Amazon reviews.)
- 1:19 PM, 10 October 2011 [link]
Subsidized Marijuana Growing: Here's the story from northern California.
No matter how you feel about marijuana grow houses, you're likely helping to finance one.According to the local sheriff, most of the grow houses he's busted recently have been getting this subsidy.
And, as the article goes on to say, the subsidy is easy to get, especially for people with illegal incomes. The utility doesn't check the incomes of most who apply, and it has no way of checking illegal incomes.
- 10:20 AM, 10 October 2011 [link]
You Don't Have To Be A Scientist To Be A Member Of The Union Of Concerned Scientists: In fact, you don't even have to be human.
This wouldn't matter if "mainstream" news organizations didn't usually treat the UCS as a scientific organization rather than what it is, a left-wing pressure group.
(Do UCS members believe that it is a scientific organization? I suppose that some do, and that others recognize the value of the name, even though they know it isn't accurate.)
- 7:57 AM, 10 October 2011 [link]
The Crumbling Obama Coalition: Michael Barone begins with some history:
President Barack Obama obviously is scrambling in his attempt to win re-election. He has proclaimed himself the underdog and has given up his pretense of being a pragmatic centrist compromiser in favor of harsh class warfare rhetoric.And then discusses why it will be so hard for Obama to put that 2008 coalition together again.
I don't disagree with Barone's overall analysis, but I do think that he is neglecting some important points. In 2008, Obama had help from our "mainstream" journalists, a lot of help. They will be on his side again, though most are no longer as giddy with love as they were in 2008. Instead, we should expect them to attack Obama's opponents, or perhaps I should say, continue to attack Obama's opponents.
Similarly, I expect that Obama will win strong support from most minorities, not quite as strong, especially among Hispanics, as in 2008, but still stronger than recent Democratic candidates. (One of the reasons Bush won in 2004 was that he improved his vote among both blacks and Hispanics.)
I have not seen any polling data on other minorities, except for Jews. I think that Asian minorities, Chinese, Indians, Japanese, Koreans, and Vietnamese, would be more likely to vote Republican this time around, especially if Republicans asked for their votes in the right ways. But I am not sure that many Republican leaders see the same possibilities there that I do.
Finally, there is the simple fact that Obama can lose part of his coalition and still win. His margin over John McCain was 7.28 percent (52.93 to 45.65 percent), so he could lose more than 3.5 percent of the vote and still have a plurality.
(In recent years, Barone has tended to be too optimistic about Republican chances, in my opinion.)
- 6:58 AM, 10 October 2011 [link]
Nicholas Kristof Doesn't Even Recognize An Old Joke: The New York Times columnist ended last Thursday's column with these two paragraphs:
That's what democracy means: People have the right to vote on the government that controls their lives. Some of my Israeli friends will think I'm unfair and harsh, applying double standards by focusing on Israeli shortcomings while paying less attention to those of other countries in the region. Fair enough: I plead guilty. I apply higher standards to a close American ally like Israel that is a huge recipient of American aid.Some years ago, a realist — I don't recall which one — was told that Israel was its own worst enemy. He replied with something like this: "If so, they've beaten out some pretty tough competition."
Over the years I have observed, with considerable amazement, the persistent claims that Israel could have peace with its enemies — if only it made this concession, or that concession. That this is inconsistent with what the leaders of Fatah, Hamas, and Hezbollah say to their own followers, and inconsistent with their actions, like firing thousands of rockets into Israel and honoring suicide terrorists who succeed in killing Israeli civilians, never seems to have any effect on the Kristofs of the world.
For reasons I do not understand, their friends never prevent the Kristofs from saying and writing these foolish things. (And, I fear, would never stop Kristof from driving drunk or high.)
But they should.
(You're right; that's not a very good definition of democracy, but I gave him some slack for admitting his double standards.
The earliest version of the joke I know about came from Cotton Ed Smith. When told that FDR was his own worst enemy, Senator Smith replied: "Not while I'm alive, he ain't.")
- 6:34 PM, 9 October 2011 [link]
Congressman Jay Inslee Might Want To Review Revelations: The gubernatorial candidate said this at a campaign event:
The literate will recall that Revelations describes the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, not the three horses. The numerate will wonder why Inslee thinks that Karl Rove, Tim Eyman, and two Koch brothers make three all together.
Those who like civil and substantive campaigns will be pleased by how well Congressman Inslee has begun his campaign. He is showing us how much he respects the voters of Washington state.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(Those not familiar with Washington politics may need an introduction to Tim Eyman.)
- 4:00 PM, 9 October 2011 [link]