Archive:

September 2008, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Today, The Dow Average Was Up 141 Points:  Or more than one percent.   Today, a Russian stock index, Micex, was down.   A lot.
Earlier, trading had been suspended on both the Micex and RTS stock exchanges as investors ignored assurances by Russian officials and a cycle of distrust set in amid liquidity fears.

Margin calls forced domestic traders to liquidate positions and brokers pulled credit lines.  At least one Moscow bank failed to meet payments.

The rouble-denominated Micex Index closed 17.75 per cent down, the sharpest one-day drop since the August 1998 financial crisis, while the dollar-denominated RTS index closed down 11.47 per cent, its lowest lvel since January 2006.
The article attributes the drop to the drop in the price of oil.  No doubt that is part of the explanation, maybe even most of the explanation, but if you look at this chart, you can see that the drop started in May.  And I seem to recall that there was an especially sharp break when Russia attacked Georgia.
- 3:51 PM, 16 September 2008   [link]


Vote Fraud In Britain:  Has become common enough so that their Electoral Commission is proposing reforms.
Voters may have to take some form of photographic ID into the polling station under controversial proposals to reform the electoral system announced today.

The system needs urgently to be overhauled to restore voter confidence, protect against fraud and bring it into the 21st century, the Electoral Commission says.  It calls on the Government to consider a national register with details of every voter to help to eliminate postal vote fraud.

This should be backed by individual registration, as opposed to the present system under which the head of each household registers the names of all voters living at that address.
Judging by news reports, the introduction of easy postal votes, or as Americans would call them, absentee votes, led to an explosion of vote fraud in Britain.  The Labour government chose not to get rid of postal votes, or even to severely limit them, but to impose additional controls.

The proposed reforms will sound familiar to American students of vote fraud.  Even centralizing registrations often happens here, as states take over the task from cities or counties, after scandals.

It is amusing, and more than a little discouraging, to see that British election officials appear not to have learned from American experiences with vote fraud.  And they still haven't grasped this lesson:   You can have widespread voting by mail, or you can have elections that are not subject to vote fraud, but you can not have both.

Finally, though the article does not mention this — perhaps because it is politically incorrect — but much of the vote fraud in Britain is committed by immigrants, or their children and grandchildren, just as it often was in the past, in the United States.  (And still is, though to a lesser extent.)  Vote fraud is especially common among those immigrants who come from from countries where vote fraud is endemic.  No surprise there, when you think about it, but it is not a matter that can be discussed easily in public.
- 3:16 PM, 16 September 2008   [link]


Routine Terrorist Attack:  This time in New Delhi.  It may seem callous to call a terrorist attack "routine", but that's the way the world press treated this latest attack.  Judging by a Gooogle search of news sources, most newspapers ignored the story entirely, and few outside India gave it much space.  The Washington Post, to their credit, ran a solid article:
NEW DELHI, Sept. 13 -- Five small bombs ripped through several crowded markets in the span of 25 minutes Saturday in the Indian capital, killing at least 22 people and injuring more than 90.

The bombs were placed in trash cans and on bicycles in a downtown park and bazaars teeming with weekend shoppers.  The attack was the 12th in India since October 2005.
The death toll has since gone up that article was published; here's a list of 26 fatalities.  One family lost seven members in a blast.  Judging by the description of the family, the victims were poor, even for India.

The terrorists did not strike at military targets, or even at the police; instead they made a point of bombing markets and a park.

Here's a list of fourteen major terrorist attacks in India, in the last five years.   Most, but not all, of them share something with this latest attack; the terrorists appear to have been radical Islamists.

The war on terror is being fought largely in Muslim nations, or in nations that have large Muslim minorities, such as India.  And those nations are where most of the casualties are.  We in the West should not forget that.
- 2:02 PM, 16 September 2008   [link]


The Trend Looks Good For McCain:  As you can see here, here, and here.  (Check the "Super Tracker" on the right.)

I have no opinion on whether the trend will continue to look good, because I haven't looked at the internals of many polls.  But this bit from Rasmussen may be significant.
Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters say John McCain is prepared right now to be president, and 50% say the same thing about Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Biden.  Forty-four percent (44%) say the man at the top of Biden's ticket, Barack Obama, is ready, but 45% say he isn't.

Just 26% say McCain is not ready, and 34% feel that way about Biden, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.  Over half of voters (52%) say McCain's running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, is not prepared to be president, but 33% disagree . . .
I'm with the 45 percent who say that Obama is not prepared to be president.
- 10:30 AM, 16 September 2008   [link]


Obama Goes Back to using a teleprompter.  Possibly because he just committed another gaffe.   (Ed Morrissey thinks this may be a "Kinsley gaffe", though Morrissey doesn't use that term.  Obama may have accidentally told the truth; his campaign has been dirtier than McCain's campaign.)
- 9:47 AM, 16 September 2008   [link]


Suitably Flip grades Obama's essay on the economy.  Barack's work needs improvement — a lot of improvement.
- 7:43 AM, 16 September 2008   [link]


Senator Joe Biden Is A Catholic:  I won't discuss whether he is a sincere Catholic, or even whether he has orthodox views.  Those are questions for Biden and the Catholic Church, not me.

But I will say that he does not appear to be a generous Catholic.   (Unless he does not report contributions to the church.)  A Catholic who gave ten dollars a week to to his church would have contributed more than Biden did every year since 1998, except 2007.

And I will agree with Professor Mankiw, who finds Biden's low level of charity surprising, politically.  Just for practical political reasons, one would expect Biden to give more.  (In 2004, I was similarly surprised by Senator John Kerry's low level of charitable contributions.)
- 3:33 PM, 15 September 2008   [link]


Worth Reading:  This comparison of the questions Charles Gibson asked Barack Obama:
How does it feel to break a glass ceiling?
How does it feel to "win"?
How does your family feel about your "winning" breaking a glass ceiling?
Who will be your VP?
Should you choose Hillary Clinton as VP?
Will you accept public finance?
What issues is your campaign about?
Will you visit Iraq?
Will you debate McCain at a town hall?
What did you think of your competitor's [Clinton] speech?
And Sarah Palin:
Do you have enough qualifications for the job you're seeking? Specifically have you visited foreign countries and met foreign leaders?
Aren't you conceited to be seeking this high level job?
Questions about foreign policy
-territorial integrity of Georgia
-allowing Georgia and Ukraine to be members of NATO
-NATO treaty
-Iranian nuclear threat
-what to do if Israel attacks Iran
-Al Qaeda motivations
-the Bush Doctrine
-attacking terrorists harbored by Pakistan
Is America fighting a holy war? [misquoted Palin]
Caveat:  This comparison comes from Nancy Kalltechnis at the Hillary Clinton forum.  I know nothing about Kalltechnis, and I have not checked all the questions myself.  But I did check some of them, for both candidates, and found no mistakes.

The different tone in the two interviews is astonishing; as Kalltechnis says, Gibson "showed extreme prejudice against Palin and extreme favoritism towards Obama."

Gibson threw a mixture of fastballs and deceptive curves at Palin.  Gibson placed the ball on a tee for Obama.

By way of the Anchoress.
- 3:02 PM, 15 September 2008   [link]


Washington State Contrarians:  In 1960, Washington state voted for Richard Nixon for president.  In 1968, Hubert Humphrey.  In 1976, Gerald Ford.  In 1988, Michael Dukakis.  In 2000, Al Gore.  In 2004, John Kerry.  You may have noticed a pattern; all of those men lost.  (Though Gore received a plurality of the popular vote in 2000, and Nixon probably did in 1960.)

In every close presidential election in the last half century, my home state voted for the loser.  And in one not-so-close election, 1988.

Are voters here perverse?  Do Washington voters automatically prefer the candidate less liked by the rest of the country?  Or is there another explanation?

I think that there is another explanation, though I will admit that there is some evidence that voters here are perverse.  (For example, our senior senator, Patty Murray.  But the state has been sensible enough to reject Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott for statewide office, so the voters here are not hopeless.)  Specifically, I think that those Washington votes from 1960 to 2004 may show regional prejudice.

Washingtonians tend to feel contempt for the South, to dislike the Northeast, and to feel neutral toward the Midwest.  To me, that suggests that Washington voters would prefer candidates by region in this order: West, Midwest, Northeast, and South.  That rule would explain every close election in my list, except 1968*.  And the rule helps explain one of the odder results, 1988.  George H. W. Bush was, on the whole, more moderate than Ronald Reagan, but he lost Washington, which Reagan had carried twice, easily.  I think that one reason that Bush lost here in 1988 is that he was seen as the candidate of both the Northeast and the South.  (Interestingly, Bush carried most of the Northeast states that year, as well as all of the South.)

Some will think of an apparently different explanation for those election results:  While the nation as a whole has been becoming more Republican in presidential elections, Washington state has been becoming more Democratic.  And so Republicans lost close elections here early in the period and Democrats since then.  But that doesn't explain why there have been those two trends, while regional prejudice does.  As the Republican party gained in the South, it became less attractive to voters outside the South, especially in the Northeast, and places settled mainly from the Northeast.

If this idea of regional prejudice — I hesitate to call it a theory — is correct, then we can expect that John McCain, who adopted the West for his home, after living all over, and Sarah Palin, who was born in Idaho and lived almost all her life in Alaska, will do well in Washington state this year, better than George W. Bush did in 2004.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(*In 1968, Nixon was living in New York, so Washington voters may have seen him as less of a Westerner than in 1960.

Washington state did vote for the winner in one close presidential election, 1916.

If you want to look at the election results yourself, I suggest Dave Leip's atlas)
- 1:47 PM, 15 September 2008   [link]


Serious Charges:  From a man who knows more about the Middle East than most, Amir Taheri.
While campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.
As the Instapundit says, this is "pretty bad" if it is true.  And we should note, as Ed Morrissey does, that Taheri has not always been correct, and has sometimes been careless about his sources.

That said, this does sound like the politician Obama, though not, of course, like the speechmaker Obama.
- 11:09 AM, 15 September 2008
Update:  For the record, the Obama campaign is disputing the Taheri column.  Sort of.  They say that Obama was interfering in a different negotiation, the Strategic Framework Agreement, rather than the Status of Forces agreement.
- 6:58 PM, 15 September 2008
Taheri replies to Obama in this follow-up column.  Taheri presents much more evidence for his orginal charges, and argues that the two agreements are linked.  Here's Taheri's key point again:
Obama preferred to have no agreement on US troop withdrawals until a new administration took office in Washington.
And was encouraging the Iraqis to block an agreement before then.  Obama's interference in these negotiations makes sense politically; he wants there to be as little evidence of progress in Iraq as possible before the election.  But his interference is against the best interests of the United States and Iraq.

(Just for fun, imagine what our "mainstream" press would be saying if a Republican candidate had interfered in negotiations by a Democratic president, in the same way.)
- 6:46 AM, 17 September 2008   [link]


Love Isn't All You Need:  Sometimes you need bodyguards.
An Islamic militant leader warned that former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney could be the target of suicide bombers unless he cancels his first concert in Israel, reported the British Sunday Express.

The celebrated rock star plans to arrive in Israel as part of a world tour, and give a single concert at Tel Aviv's Park Hayarkon on September 25.

Omar Bakri, an Islamic preacher, said McCartney's decision to perform as part of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations made him the enemy of Muslims worldwide.

"If he values his life, Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel," Bakri was quoted as saying. "He will not be safe there.  The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him."
Or maybe even soldiers.

(More on the threat here; more on Bakri here.)
- 9:29 AM, 15 September 2008   [link]


George Orwell On Newspapers:  He didn't expect accuracy from them.
On more than one occasion I have known a newspaper to print a piece of news — and news unfavorable to Britain — on no other authority than the German radio, because it was "newsy" and made a good "par."

If you see something obviously untruthful in a newspaper and ring up to ask "Where did you get that from?" you are usually put off with the formula:  "I'm afraid Mr. So-and-So is not in the office."  If you persist, you generally find that the story has no basis whatever but that it looked like a good bit of news, so in it went.  Except where libel is involved, the average journalist is astonished and even contemptuous if anyone bothers about accuracy with regard to names, dates, figures, and other details.  And any daily journalist will tell you that one of the most important secrets of his trade is the trick of making it appear that there is news when there is no news. (p. 590)
Except for names — American journalists now make an effort to spell them correctly — all the rest sounds sadly familiar.

Orwell wrote that in April 1944, so he was accusing some British newspapers of printing enemy propaganda in war time; that too sounds sadly familiar.
- 7:14 PM, 14 September 2008
Tim Blair has an example of this kind of behavior from Australia.  An amazing example.
- 9:49 AM, 15 September 2008   [link]


Worth Reading:  Gerard Baker explains to Europeans why Americans may be right not to vote for the European favorite, Barack Obama.  Obama's speeches don't match his record.
The essential problem coming to light is a profound disconnect between the Barack Obama of the candidate's speeches, and the Barack Obama who has actually been in politics for the past decade or so.

Speechmaker Obama has built his campaign on the promise of reform, the need to change the culture of American political life, to take on the special interests that undermine government's effectiveness and erode trust in the system itself,

Politician Obama rose through a Chicago machine that is notoriously the most corrupt in the country.   As David Freddoso writes in a brilliantly cogent and measured book, The Case Against Barack Obama, the angel of deliverance from the old politics functioned like an old-time Democratic pol in Illinois.  He refused repeatedly to side with those lonely voices that sought to challenge the old corrupt ways of the ruling party.
And Baker has more examples of the chasm between Obama's speeches, and his record.

Don't miss this closing paragraph:
The fact is that a vote for Mr Obama demands uncritical subservience to the irrational, anti-empirical proposition that the past holds no clues about the future, that promise is wholly detached from experience.  The second-greatest story ever told, perhaps.
Obama's supporters are almost all unwilling to discuss his record.  Understandably.  But we voters don't have to go along with them.
- 3:38 PM, 14 September 2008   [link]


The Bush Doctrine:  Has at least four meanings.  ABC's Charlie Gibson doesn't know that.  Sarah Palin may.  Charles Krauthammer explains.
There is no single meaning of the Bush doctrine.  In fact, there have been four distinct meanings, each one succeeding another over the eight years of this administration -- and the one Charlie Gibson cited is not the one in common usage today.  It is utterly different.
(Krauthammer is not Palin's biggest fan, but he is an honest man — and far better informed than Gibson.)

Incidentally, the answer that Palin gave to Gibson's question about the Bush doctrine was the same answer given by Anne-Marie Slaughter, who is Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.  Slaughter probably knows more about foreign policy and the Bush doctrines than Gibson does.
- 1:40 PM, 14 September 2008   [link]


Unprofessional:  This "article" by Seattle Pi reporter Levi Pulkkinen.  He begins with this:

Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott wants to see George Bush impeached, whether or not, he says, Bush is still in office.

He ends with this quote from McDermott:

"There's nothing that requires that impeachment be done when someone is in office," he said.  "The time has come for this guy to pay for what he's done."

And in between adds everything he can find to support McDermott's position.

But nothing, not a single thing, giving the other side.   Pulkkinen did not even bother to get a quote from McDermott's opponent this November, Steven Beren.   (As the Seattle Times did.)  Pulkkinen may not have met any, but there are people who disagree with McDermott on this issue.  A professional, even a biased professional, would have given one or two of those people a chance to speak.

This article is not just biased, it is absurdly biased, so biased that it would make a great example of what not to do in a junior high journalism class.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(As for McDermott, I can't recall him ever finding an enemy of America that he didn't like.  He's had a long career, so there may have been an exception or two, but there haven't been many.)
- 1:13 PM, 12 September 2008   [link]


Worth Reading:  USA Today commits journalism and looks at what Sarah Palin actually did as governor.   Sample:
But in her 21 months as governor, Palin has taken few steps to advance culturally conservative causes.   Instead, after she knocked off an incumbent amid an influence-peddling scandal linked to the oil industry, Palin pursued a populist agenda that toughened ethics rules and raised taxes on oil and gas companies.

And she did so while relying on Democratic votes in the Legislature.

"She has governed from the center," says Rebecca Braun, author of Alaska Budget Report, a non-partisan political newsletter.  "She has in some small ways supported her religious views — for example, proposing money to continue the office of faith-based and community initiatives — but she has actually been conspicuously absent on social issues.  She came in with a big oil and gas agenda, which really required Democratic allies to get through."
Having defeated opponents who had been corrupted by oil money, it was only natural that she should take these stands — which made her a centrist in Alaska politics.
- 12:25 PM, 12 September 2008   [link]


Come Down:  Yesterday, I went hiking on Mt. Rainier.  The weather was beautiful, the flowers are spectacular, especially for a September, and I met any number of interesting people as I hiked up from Paradise, and then back down.  (Germans, English, Australians, Japanese, people from all over the United States, and a few I couldn't place.)

And then I came down from about 7,000 feet to about 500 feet and read some of the latest stories, and found that many journalists were behaving even worse than usual, at the Washington Post, ABC, the Seattle papers, and elsewhere.  I suppose that I will have to comment on some of the blunders later, but it isn't nearly as much fun as hiking among the flowers.
- 10:22 AM, 12 September 2008   [link]


9/11 Jumper:  The New York Times will not show you this picture today, so I will.

9/11 jumper

This man jumped from one of the World Trade Center towers, rather than burn to death.  From the picture we can see that he was a young black man, probably American though he might have been an immigrant, and that he worked in a kitchen.

We can not know whether he knew why he was about to die, though I think it unlikely.  Few Americans then understood how much the fanatics who planned the 9/11 attack hated us, and how little they cared for innocent life.  Whether this victim knew or not, I hope that he rests in peace.

He, and nearly three thousand others, died in order to create a propaganda poster for Al Qaeda.

(I scanned the picture from a New York Times book, Nation Challenged.  I believe this to be fair use because I am criticizing the Times, and most other "mainstream" news organizations, for suppressing this picture, and similar pictures, in the years since 9/11.)
- 5:19 AM, 11 September 2008   [link]


But Would He Favor Censorship?  In an interview with John McCain, Bob Schieffer suggested that we should all sacrifice more in this war.
Let me ask you about this.  You and I both know that the all-volunteer army is about the best army in the world.  I don't think there's any question about that.  But we have one half of one percent of the American people who are making all of the sacrifice in this war.  If the rest of us didn't watch television or looked at the newspaper, we might not know there's a war going on.  Our taxes didn't go up, there's no rationing.  If you didn't look for it, you wouldn't know the war was going on.  Shouldn't there be some way, in a democracy, that we share this burden?
In low intensity conflicts such as this one, higher taxes and rationing are usually mistakes.  But one could make a strong argument that we should all sacrifice by accepting a moderate amount of censorship.  Conflicts of this kind are, above all, intelligence and propaganda wars.  Controls on our press would help with both.  But I am reasonably sure that Schieffer did not have censorship in mind when he suggested more sacrifice.

For the record:  Although I do think that some censorship would help in this war, I am not in favor of it at this time.  But I will continue to do what little I can to shame our "mainstream" journalists into better behavior.

(McCain's answer is sensible.  He knows that this kind of uneven sacrifice is typical of most of American history.  Big wars, with censorship, conscription, rationing, and higher taxes are the exception, not the rule.)
- 3:15 PM, 10 September 2008   [link]


Wasilla?!  The New York Times sent Maureen Dowd to Wasilla so that she could recycle Palin rumors, rumors that have already been disproved.  Examples:
Does she really think Adam, Eve, Satan and the dinosaurs mingled on the earth 5,000 years ago?
. . .
Does she want a federal ban on trans fat in restaurants and a ban on abortion and Harry Potter?  And which books exactly would have landed on the literature bonfire if she had had her way with that Wasilla librarian?
And ace reporter Dowd missed one group in this list:
Wasilla will be crawling with four groups — ABC staffers, frantically getting ready for the big showdown; McCain staffers, frantically tutoring Palin for the big showdown; McCain vetters, who are belatedly doing their job checking to see if Palin is a qualified White House contender and doing their best to shut down Troopergate and assembling a "truth squad" posse of Palinistas to rebut any criticism and push back any prying reporters; and journalists — from Sydney to Washington — who are here to draw back the curtain on the shiny reformer image that the McCain camp has conjured for their political ingénue and see what's behind it.
As everyone who has been following this knows, there is another group crawling all over Wasilla, opposition researchers from the Democratic party, many working with their allies in the "mainstream" media.

Is this the worst Dowd column ever?  It's a contender for that title.

If I were interested in Palin's record, I would go, not to Wasilla, but to the state capital, Juneau, and to the state's largest city, Anchorage.  But I don't think that Maureen Dowd is really interested in Palin's record as governor.
- 1:30 PM, 10 September 2008
More:  The trick Dowd uses in the column deserves some comment.  Dowd spreads the rumors by saying that Charles Gibson, who will be interviewing Palin, should ask the governor these questions.  That seems harmless.  But — and I am absolutely certain that Dowd intended this — many readers will come away with the impression that Palin believes, for example, that humans and dinosaurs mingled.  Or at least that Dowd thinks Palin believes such things.  It's a slimy trick that does not belong in a respectable newspaper.  It is so slimy that I will not even suggest a set of comparable questions for Dowd — but will leave those to your imaginations.
- 3:50 PM, 10 September 2008
Still More:  Dowd may have relied, for those questions, on one of those viral emails that do so much to poison our politics.
- 12:33 PM, 12 September2008   [link]


Here's A New Election Indicator:  From Amazon.
Our 2008 election map colors each state according to the book-buying habits of its residents on Amazon.com during the past 60 days.  You can also see how the map has changed over time by using the left and right arrows to choose other two-month periods during 2008, and by clicking the "2004" tab to find maps for the same periods during the last presidential election year.

In recent years, thanks to the color-coded maps the networks use on election night, "red state" has come to represent a state favoring the Republican Party or more conservative beliefs, while "blue state" represents one that favors the Democratic Party or more liberal beliefs.  We know that states are not all red or all blue, and readers aren't either.  And books are often too complex to fit into such neat categories.  But given the high interest we've seen in political books during election years, we thought our customers would like to see what general book buying patterns emerge across the country, and how they change over time.
I would like this even if it did not show, as it currently does, a big win for John McCain.

By the way, if you use the tabs to look at two-month periods during 2008, you will see that the Republicans have gained since the first half of the year.

By way of the Seattle Times

(As usual, I regret the incorrect color coding, even though it is now common.)
- 12:48 PM, 10 September 2008   [link]


Political Machines And Community Organizers:  Michael Barone makes a shrewd point about the relationship between the two.
Community organizing along the lines of Saul Alinsky strikes me as a quintessentially Chicago phenomenon, and Obama, with no previous ties to Chicago, decided to move there when he took up community organizing in the 1980s and returned there to do it again after he finished Harvard Law School.  Alinsky's style of community organizing is premised on the continuing existence of a partially corrupt and deeply incestuous political machine that cannot be dislodged but can be pressured.  I recall one community organizing project launched, I think, by Alinsky:  He wanted some change in public policy, so he had people sit in all the toilet stalls at O'Hare International Airport and remain there for hours.  O'Hare was the favorite project of the late Mayor Daley (and of the current Mayor Daley as well), and the sit-in resulted in a quick capitulation by "Da Mare."
But Alinsky never threatened Daley's power.

This implies — correctly, I think — that communities that have vigorous two-party competition, or even vigorous factional competition, have no great need for Alinsky style community organizers.

Barone also notes that, by the end of his time as a community organizer, Barack Obama had — apparently — given up on the Alinsky model, and was planning to try win public office instead of pressuring a machine.
- 12:27 PM, 10 September 2008   [link]


Is King Kim Sick?  That's what observers of North Korea are beginning to think.
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il may have suffered serious health problems including a stroke in the past month, U.S. officials believe, raising worries about the stability of the U.S. nemesis and negotiations to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.

Word that the reclusive leader may be incapacitated came after North Korea recently hardened its position in the delicate talks among six countries over its nuclear program.  U.S. officials who discussed the situation in recent days expressed concern that they're not sure who is in charge of the country or the negotiations.  Mr. Kim is not known to have taken steps to prepare for a succession, possibly setting the stage for political paralysis or a battle for control.
Since North Korea is a "Communist monarchy", most observers expect one of his sons to succeed him.   But they don't know which son.
Given the deeply rooted patriarchal tradition in North Korean society, the most likely candidate to succeed Kim in theory should be his 37-year-old first son, Jong-nam.  But he has a significant flaw in his background - Song Hye-rim, a top North Korean actress and Kim's longtime concubine, was a married woman when she met Kim.  Such a background could easily tarnish Jong-nam's political platform as a legitimate heir in the deeply feudal society of North Korea, which still emphasizes "pure blood," said Cheong Seong-chang, Inter-Korean Relations Studies Director at the Sejong Institute.  Also, Song spent most of her life overseas until she died in 2002, meaning she laid little groundwork for her son within Pyongyang's political circle.
. . .
Perhaps the strongest candidate at this point is Kim Jong-chul, Kim's 27-year-old second son, who went back to North Korea after a stint at the international school in Bern, Switzerland.  Jong-chul's mother, Koh Young-hee, was a former state dance troupe member before she met Kim, and she played the de facto first lady role for decades before she died in 2004.  Unlike Song, who stayed away from Pyongyang for most of her life, Koh actively took part in the North's political scene and tried hard to cement a political platform for her two sons by Kim, including the younger Jong-woon.
But no outside his inner circle (with the possible exception of the Chinese government) really knows whether Kim is sick, or which son might take power should Kim die, or become incapacitated.

Not knowing who you are negotiating with does make negotiations more difficult, even for the cleverest diplomat.
- 10:59 AM, 10 September 2008
More Speculation here, along with some entertaining details about the two oldest sons.  The antics of the Kim dynasty would be even funnier if we could forget that they control nuclear weapons and run one of the world's most tyrannical regimes.
- 7:44 AM, 14 September 2008   [link]


Camille Paglia Sarah Palin:  One thing, above all, comes through in this entertaining and sometimes insightful piece.  Paglia, a leftwing atheist professor of humanities, really, really likes Sarah Palin.
Pow!  Wham!  The Republicans unleashed a doozy -- one of the most stunning surprises that I have ever witnessed in my adult life.  By lunchtime, Obama's triumph of the night before had been wiped right off the national radar screen.  In a bold move I would never have thought him capable of, McCain introduced Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his pick for vice president.  I had heard vaguely about Palin but had never heard her speak.  I nearly fell out of my chair.  It was like watching a boxing match or a quarter of hard-hitting football -- or one of the great light-saber duels in "Star Wars."   (Here are the two Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, going at it with Darth Maul in "The Phantom Menace.")  This woman turned out to be a tough, scrappy fighter with a mischievous sense of humor.

Conservative though she may be, I felt that Palin represented an explosion of a brand new style of muscular American feminism.  At her startling debut on that day, she was combining male and female qualities in ways that I have never seen before.  And she was somehow able to seem simultaneously reassuringly traditional and gung-ho futurist.  In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment.
Not that liking Palin will cause Paglia to drop her support for Obama, or even think through the implications of her own arguments*.  But she does provide us an entertaining read, and makes a few sensible points along the way.

(*Two examples:  Paglia knows that McCain was naval aviator, but thought him incapable of making a "bold move".  And she argues that aspiring women politicians should study military history, rather than taking women's studies courses.  That's good advice, but she seems not to notice that her candidate, Obama, hasn't studied military history.

Since she is an Obama supporter, I should note that she does not mention any Obama accomplishments.   She just says that she likes the fact that he is younger than the baby boomers.)
- 7:12 AM, 10 September 2008   [link]


The Big Issue This Morning?  Judging by memeorandum, it's whether Barack Obama called Sarah Palin a "pig".   Victor David Hanson thinks that he did and that Obama also compared John McCain to an "old fish".   Glenn Reynolds isn't sure.   Marc Ambinder is certain that Obama was just using a common metaphor.

I see no way to resolve the question, though it would be interesting to ask people in the crowd what they thought Obama meant.  But I am certain that this is not important.  At worst, this tells us that Obama (or one of his speech writers) will make a nasty crack about his opponents.  You may not want to tell your young children this, but Obama would not be the first politician to make a nasty crack about an opponent.

Now, on to something important.

(Note to aspiring politicians:  If you run against a woman, be very careful with metaphors using pigs, dogs, et cetera.)
- 6:33 AM, 10 September 2008
Update:  It's still the big issue at memeorandum — and it still isn't important.
- 1:09 PM, 10 September 2008   [link]


Chuckle:  Jeffrey Lord draws attention to a gap in Democratic party history.
Literally, the DNC official history, which begins with the creation of the party in 1800, gets to the creation of the DNC itself in 1848 and then--poof!--the next sentence says:  "As the 19th Century came to a close, the American electorate changed more and more rapidly."  It quickly heads into a riff on poor immigrants coming to America.

In a stroke, 52 years of Democratic history vanishes.
It's almost as if the Democrats had something to be ashamed of.
- 5:58 PM, 9 September 2008   [link]


Worth Reading:  Bret Stephens on relations with the Muslim world since 9/11, and within the Muslim world.  Sample:
Remarkably, however, the wars that chiefly roil the Islamic world today are no longer at its periphery.   They are at the center, and they pit Muslims against other Muslims.  The genocide in Darfur is being perpetrated by a regime that is every bit as Muslim—and black—as its victims.  The Palestinians went from intifada to civil war: in 2006 and 2007, nearly as many Palestinians died violently at the hands of other Palestinians as at the hands of Israelis.  In Lebanon, there have been bloody clashes this year among Shiites, Sunnis, and Druze.  Last year, the Lebanese government had to send troops into Palestinian refugee camps to suppress an insurrectionary attempt by a Syrian-sponsored terrorist group.
And there is much, much more.

(Sudan is an instructive example for this part of his argument.  When President Bush came into office, there was a brutal war going on in southern Sudan, with the Muslim north attacking the mostly pagan south.  Thanks in part to pressure from the United States, that war has been suspended for years, and may even be ended.  But at the same time that war was stopping, the war on Darfur was getting worse, far worse.  The Sudanese government seems to have decided that it could get away with brutal attacks on Muslims — but not on non-Muslims.)
- 4:33 PM, 9 September 2008   [link]


Vote Fraud In Daggett County:  Here's a vote fraud case that does not follow the usual patterns.  First the basic facts.
The voters are accused of illegally registering in Daggett County even though they don't live or maintain a primary residence there.  The charge is a class A misdemeanor.

The case involves the 2006 election, when then-Sheriff Alan Campbell complained that the voter rolls were growing in the small county near the Wyoming border.  Campbell, a Democrat, lost the election to Republican Rick Ellsworth by 20 votes.
Daggett County is in Utah, and does not have a history of electoral fraud.  The vote fraud was not committed with absentee ballots.  And the man accused of organizing the fraud is a Republican.  All of these are unusual, in my experience.

It's almost a relief to write about this vote fraud case, simply because it is so different from most of those that I find with my simple searches.

(What Ellsworth did, as I learned from earlier articles on this case, was encourage friends and family to register in Daggett, rather than where they actually lived.)
- 2:40 PM, 9 September 2008   [link]


What Did Sarah Palin Do As Alaska Governor?  Jim Bennett has a partial answer.
The surprise is not that she has been in office for such a short time but that she has succeeded in each of her objectives.  She has exposed corruption; given the state a bigger share in Alaska's energy wealth; and negotiated a deal involving big corporate players, the US and Canadian governments, Canadian provincial governments, and native tribes - the result of which was a £13 billion deal to launch the pipeline and increase the amount of domestic energy available to consumers.  This deal makes the charge of having "no international experience" particularly absurd.

In short, far from being a small-town mayor concerned with little more than traffic signs, she has been a major player in state politics for a decade, one who formulated an ambitious agenda and deftly implemented it against great odds.
Here's a bit of irony:  Palin is the only one of the four candidates to have actually negotiated with another nation, negotiated successfully, as far as I can tell.  But most "mainstream" journalists are absolutely certain that she knows too little about foreign policy to be vice president, much less president.

Many American journalists disagree with me, but I think this kind of information is more important to voters than details about Bristol Palin's personal problems.

(Some interesting comments on the piece here and here.)
- 9:38 AM, 9 September 2008   [link]


Troubling, But Not Surprising:  Radical Islamists are making continuing efforts to infiltrate the West.  Those we have caught so far are a mixed bunch, but a few seem to have been serious threats.  And we can be certain that we have not caught all of them
- 7:23 AM, 9 September 2008   [link]


It's Not Just Your Imagination:  There have been many attempts to slime Sarah Palin in the last week.  Two examples from the FactCheck post:
Palin did not cut funding for special needs education in Alaska by 62 percent.  She didn't cut it at all.  In fact, she tripled per-pupil funding over just three years.
. . .
Palin has not pushed for teaching creationism in Alaska's schools.  She has said that students should be allowed to "debate both sides" of the evolution question, but she also said creationism "doesn't have to be part of the curriculum."
Among others, the Washington Post got the first wrong; I am not sure whether they have corrected their mistake yet.  Many, many news organizations got the second wrong.

By the way, "slime" is FactCheck's verb, not mine.
- 6:28 AM, 9 September 2008
More:  Blogger Charles Martin has begun keeping a list of Palin rumors, most of them false.  As I write, he has 71 items on his list.
- 10:01 AM, 9 September 2008   [link]