September 2009, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
Sometimes War Is The Answer: That's what Jackson Diehl concludes about the Israeli operation, Cast Lead.
But today, Operation Cast Lead, as the three-week operation is known in Israel, is generally regarded by the country's military and political elite as a success. The reasons for that are worth examining now that a new and even more hawkish Israeli government is weighing whether to flout Washington's prevailing opposition to a military attack on Iran.Diehl believes that the success of the operation — from the Israeli point of view — makes it more likely that the Israelis will attack Iran.
(Note, by the way, that the Gazans, too, are better off as the result of the Israeli operation.)
- 4:27 PM, 24 September 2009 [link]
Erin Arvedlund Was Suspicious Of Bernie Madoff In 2001: In that year, after an extensive investigation, she wrote this Barron's article. Here are the key paragraphs:
Folks on Wall Street know Bernie Madoff well. His brokerage firm, Madoff Securities, helped kick-start the Nasdaq Stock Market in the early 1970s and is now one of the top three market makers in Nasdaq stocks. Madoff Securities is also the third-largest firm matching buyers and sellers of New York Stock Exchange-listed securities. Charles Schwab, Fidelity Investments and a slew of discount brokerages all send trades through Madoff.(Emphasis added.)
Just in case that last paragraph doesn't make you suspicious, consider two more facts: Madoff refused to explain how he produced such consistent returns — and no other traders were able to duplicate his returns.
That article, by itself, should have been enough to trigger an investigation that would have exposed his fraud. And Arvedlund was not the only one raising red flags early about Madoff's implausible gains.
Did Madoff's insider status prevent regulators from seeing the obvious? I would bet that it played a part, that he would have been detected far sooner if he had been an outsider.
Arvedlund now has a book out on the scandal, titled, appropriately, Too Good to Be True. You can read an excerpt from the book in Barron's. There is some troubling material in the excerpt about JPMorgan Chase's actions during this last year.
- 2:29 PM, 24 September 2009
If you read that excerpt, you may wonder who was running JPMorgan Chase while they were dumping Madoff, but not telling others about their suspicions. The JPM president since 2004 has been Jamie Dimon, a generous donor to ACORN, and Barack Obama's "favorite banker".
- 5:01 PM, 24 September 2009 [link]
Zelaya May Not Be Fit to be president of Honduras.
It's been 89 days since Manuel Zelaya was booted from power. He's sleeping on chairs, and he claims his throat is sore from toxic gases and "Israeli mercenaries" are torturing him with high-frequency radiation.Perhaps Zelaya should seek help from psychiatrists, rather than diplomats.
- 11:10 AM, 24 September 2009 [link]
Barack Obama Insulted Prime Minister Gordon Brown: Again.
Gordon Brown lurched from being hailed as a global statesman to intense embarrassment tonight, after it emerged US President Barack Obama had turned down no fewer than five requests from Downing Street to hold a bilateral meeting at the United Nations in New York or at the G20 summit starting in Pittsburgh today.David Hughes is not pleased.
The juxtaposition on our front page this morning is striking. We carry a photograph of Acting Sgt Michael Lockett — who was killed in Helmand on Monday — receiving the Military Cross from the Queen in June, 2008. He was the 217th British soldier to die in the Afghan conflict. Alongside the picture, we read that the Prime Minister was forced to dash through the kitchens of the UN in New York to secure a few minutes "face time" with President Obama after five requests for a sit-down meeting were rejected by the White House.At best, Obama's behavior toward Brown seems childish. At best. (As I mentioned in June, Ralph Peters thinks that Obama just doesn't like Europeans, so there are much worse explanations for Obama's actions.)
What puzzles me about these continuing insults is that I can't see what Obama expects to gain from them. Granted, Brown will probably be out of office next year, much to the relief of most Britons, but he is still a symbol of his country, and a man who could help Obama in a number of ways. So why won't Obama treat him with ordinary politeness?
- 10:27 AM, 24 September 2009 [link]
First Oil Prices Rise, And Then Oil Discoveries: Even the New York Times can see that relationship.
The oil industry has been on a hot streak this year, thanks to a series of major discoveries that have rekindled a sense of excitement across the petroleum sector, despite falling prices and a tough economy.Will these new discoveries eventually weaken OPEC? We can hope so, but we shouldn't count on it.
(There is even a big new discovery in California, despite the state's political climate.)
- 9:19 AM, 24 September 2009 [link]
The I's Have It: Dan Gainor isn't sure whether this is "humorous or pathetic".
Obama loves to hear himself talk — about himself. In just 41 speeches so this year, not including this week's big speech at the United Nations, Obama has talked about himself nearly 1,200 times — 1,198 to be exact. (That breaks down to 1,121 "I"s and just 77 "me"s.)If Obama weren't president, if he were just a junior senator from Illinois, this would be (mostly) humorous. As it is, it's pathetic.
(Here's Carly Simon's "You're So Vain", in case you need to hear Obama's main theme song, after reading that.)
- 8:48 AM, 24 September 2009 [link]
Chuckle: (Or maybe even laugh out loud, depending on your mood.)
- 6:03 PM, 23 September 2009 [link]
Worth Reading: Michael Gerson's column on human rights and the Obama administration. Here's his conclusion:
This split is now evident within the Obama administration. It includes some very principled, liberal defenders of human rights such as U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security Council staffer Samantha Power. But it seems dominated, for the moment, by those who consider the human rights enterprise as morally arrogant and an obstacle to mature diplomacy.There have always been people — on the left and the right — who view human rights as a sometimes useful weapon to use against their enemies. And there have also always been people, again on both the left and the right, who are honest in their support of freedom for everyone. (For example, I think that both George McGovern and George W. Bush are sincere in their support of human rights for everyone.)
And then there has been a smaller group, which was once mostly on the right, but is now almost entirely on the left, that thinks that human rights is a Western concept that doesn't apply to other societies. In my opinion, Barack Obama fits in that group, but as is so often true, I would be happy to be proved wrong.
(An example of why I have come to that tentative conclusion: Obama has, more than once, praised Western societies for tolerating openly Muslim garb on women, but I have not heard him praise Islamic societies for tolerating Western garb on Muslim women. Those who believe in the universal value of freedom would praise both.)
- 1:26 PM, 23 September 2009 [link]
Salt On Saltines?! Unless you live in New York, this story isn't important, but I couldn't resist sharing that first sentence.
He dumps salt on almost everything, even saltine crackers. He devours burnt bacon and peanut butter sandwiches. He has a weakness for hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and fried chicken, washing them down with a glass of merlot.That's Mayor Bloomberg, well-known food nanny, they are describing. He doesn't always follow his own advice, it would seem.
I've been fond of salt all my life, too fond, probably, but I never thought of putting salt on saltines.
- 12:48 PM, 23 September 2009 [link]
Obama CO2 Claims, And The Record: Yesterday, President Obama claimed:
"It is true that for too many years, mankind has been slow to respond to or even recognize the magnitude of the climate threat. It is true of my own country as well," Mr. Obama said at a climate change forum hosted by United Nation Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. "But this is a new day. It is a new era. And I am proud to say that the United States has done more to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution in the last eight months than at any other time in our history."(Some might say that claiming credit for legislation that has not even been discussed in the Senate is premature. And one has to wonder whether Obama knows just how much this nation has invested in nuclear energy over the years.)
Obama's claims offended offended the Anchoress, who replied rather sharply, noting that CO2 emissions had fallen in some of the Bush years, and reminding us about this fine 2005 article from James Glassman.
In a surprise move that caught Europe's smug moralists and the environmental movement's noisy extremists flatfooted, the United States announced in Vientiane, Laos, last week that it was joining five other nations - China, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia -- in a new pact that offers a refreshing and effective alternative route to tackling the problem of climate change.All this made me wonder just what had happened to CO2 emissions while George W. Bush was president, so I looked for the answer at the Energy Information Administration.
(Caveats: The 2008 number is a "flash estimate", and may be revised. And I have no idea how accurate these numbers are, though they are probably the best available.)
Some thoughts: Recessions are exceptionally good ways to reduce CO2 emissions. Higher gas prices work, too. Warmer winters also reduce CO2 emissions.
But when we allow for all those things, it still appears that the Bush-Cheney administration was making some progress in reducing CO2 emissions, unlike the Clinton-Gore administration before it.
(Are there any "mainstream" journalists who know that Bush may have reduced CO2 emissions, or at least slowed their growth? Probably not.)
- 9:35 AM, 23 September 2009 [link]
When Is A Delivery Van Not A Delivery Van? When it has rear windows and back seats. Which can be removed before it is delivered to a customer.
Several times a month, Transit Connect vans from a Ford Motor Co. factory in Turkey roll off a ship here shiny and new, rear side windows gleaming, back seats firmly bolted to the floor.Why? In order to evade — legally — a 25 percent tariff. And the whole thing was started back in the 1960s when American chicken farmers got too productive for their European counterparts.
- 8:11 AM, 23 September 2009 [link]
Is The Conventional Wisdom Wrong On Afghanistan? Victor Davis Hanson suspects it might be.
Something is not quite right about the conventional wisdom about the Afghanistan war. For nearly eight years, yearly casualties in Afghanistan sometimes were less than a month's losses in the dire days in Iraq (e.g., 98 Americans killed in 2006 in Afghanistan, 112 killed in Iraq during December 2006). And while many argue that we took our eye off the ball, to quote the president, by going into Iraq to fight the optional war and shorting the essential one, it remains true that while Iraq was hottest, Afghanistan was weirdly sometimes quietest.Or perhaps not so weirdly, as he goes on to explain.
(I am passing his argument on because I found it interesting — and because conventional wisdom is often wrong — not because I am ready to endorse it.)
- 7:36 AM, 23 September 2009 [link]
Is China Helping Iran? Yes.
Chinese state companies began supplying gasoline to Iran earlier in September and now provide up to one-third of its imports, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.Why would China do this? To make a little money, and to cause problems for us.
(Some strategists have argued that the lack of refining capacity is Iran's Achilles heel, and have even claimed that we could shut down their economy by knocking out the few refineries they have, and blocking the imports of gasoline and other refined products.)
- 6:31 AM, 23 September 2009 [link]
Need Another Reason To Hate Fidel Castro? Here's one.
In the early 1980s, according to newly released documents, Fidel Castro was suggesting a Soviet nuclear strike against the United States, until Moscow dissuaded him by patiently explaining how the radioactive cloud resulting from such a strike would also devastate Cuba.If I recall correctly, Castro was also urging a Soviet nuclear strike on the US during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
- 6:31 PM, 22 September 2009 [link]
Health Care ≠ Longevity: So says Samuel Preston.
But a prominent researcher, Samuel H. Preston, has taken a closer look at the growing body of international data, and he finds no evidence that America's health care system is to blame for the longevity gap between it and other industrialized countries. In fact, he concludes, the American system in many ways provides superior treatment even when uninsured Americans are included in the analysis.In other words, the United States may have better health care than most industrialized nations, but still have slightly lower longevity, for other reasons.
This is no surprise to me, since I have been saying similar things for years, for example, here and here. There is nothing original in my argument; Leonard Sagan was making a similar argument in this 1987 book.
Evidence reviewed strongly suggests that the availability of medical care in general has played little role in reducing death rates from their historically high levels to those found in modern societies. I do not mean to minimize the important contributions to health provided by modern and postmodern medicine and surgery in the treatment of certain diseases, but the effects of these therapeutics has contributed little to the overall decline in mortality rates.If our goal is to increase longevity, then we should probably look outside organized medicine for the biggest gains.
- 4:06 PM, 22 September 2009 [link]
Prince Charles Thought We all needed a good laugh.
The Prince of Wales is urging people to give up their cars in favour of walking and public transport to try to reduce carbon emissions.It's possible, I suppose, that the Prince doesn't realize that this is funny — coming from him — possible, but unlikely.
(The commenters seem to be taking him seriously, and are none too happy with the heir to the throne.)
- 3:16 PM, 22 September 2009 [link]
Examples Of Civility From Democrats: The National Republican Congressional Committee has some fun with this ad.
(More examples would have made it even better, in my sometimes humble opinion.)
- 1:14 PM, 22 September 2009 [link]
Poul Anderson, Barack Obama, And The United Nations: Barack Obama's appearance at the UN today, makes this a good time to recycle what science fiction writer Poul Anderson concluded about the international body, way back in 1981. Writing in an afterword to this collection of some of his early stories, Anderson explained why he had stopped writing stories in that "future universe". As part of his explanation, he said:
People and institutions had also changed profoundly, as had my view of them. Once I was a flaming liberal, a fact that is probably most obvious in "Un-Man." Nowadays I consider the United Nations a dangerous farce on which we ought to ring down the curtain. (In justice to it and myself, though, please remember that when I wrote this novella the U.N. had a quite different character from that it has since acquired, and looked improvable.)I would not describe the UN as a "dangerous farce", but I would say that it is an open question whether it does more good than bad. And I would strongly support building an alternative organization that was limited to free nations, since most of the UN's defects are caused by the dictatorships that make up such a large proportion of its membership.
President Obama would not, I am almost certain, agree with Anderson. But what I wonder is whether he would even understand Anderson's critique. I have seen nothing from him that would suggest that he does.
(Those who are not science fiction fans may need an explanation of "future universe". A science fiction writer often spends considerable time in constructing a future society, building everything from planets to morés, for a single story. Once he has done all that work, it is natural for him to use it in other stories. Taken together these stories describe a future universe.
Oh, and that Anderson collection is just so-so, though it includes one very good story, "Marius".)
- 9:30 AM, 22 September 2009 [link]
Cynical Or Sycophantic? In this column, Jack Shafer gives a standard description of newspaper reporters.
When President Barack Obama told the Toledo Blade last week that he hoped that the faltering newspaper industry would recover because "fact-based" and "investigative reporting" are "absolutely critical to the health of our democracy," even some of the cynical bastards who staff the nation's dailies swooned.(The "cynical" is standard, but most don't add the illegitimate part.)
But anyone who doesn't regularly put on a Barack Obama cheerleader uniform will wonder just how "cynical" our newspaper reporters are. In fact, many of us think that "sycophantic" would be a better description of much of the coverage of our current president. (For instance: In only one of his five "infomercials" last Sunday was he even asked about his scandal-plagued ally, ACORN.)
On the other hand, most of these same reporters were cynical, and sometimes beyond cynical, in their coverage of President Bush. So, perhaps the best answer to my question is: cynical and sycophantic. Which one depends on who they are covering.
(Shafer argues in the column against federal subsidies for newspapers. He's right, and you shouldn't let that "cynical" line keep you from reading the rest of the column.)
- 6:38 AM, 22 September 2009 [link]
Hassan Nemazee Update: The prosecutors are revealing more of their case.
Hassan Nemazee, a fund-raiser for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, has been indicted for defrauding Bank of America, HSBC and Citigroup Inc out of more than $290 million in loan proceeds, U.S. prosecutors said on Monday.But mostly to support his "lavish lifestyle".
He was an important figure in many high profile Democratic campaigns. For example:
But the Nemazees' personal generosity -- allegedly with other people's money -- hardly tells the whole story. In 2006, a landmark year for Dem fundraising, Nemazee served as national finance chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee under Chuck Schumer. That's the cycle when the Dems won six seats and took control of the Senate.(By the way, kudos to TPM for covering this Democratic scandal.)
What is still unclear is what Nemazee was hoping to get in return for all that fund raising. Was he trying to buy protection? Building a network of contacts for scams? Or, what? (The most sinister possibility is that he was trying to buy influence for the Iranian regime. So far, I haven't seen direct evidence for that, but he does have some troubling connections.)
And we can't exclude the possibility that he did all that fund raising because he believes in the Democratic party. Even fraudsters can have political opinions, sometimes very strong ones.
Should the Democrats who took his money have known that he is, almost certainly, a fraudster? Perhaps not. He did, after all, fool some very large banks. But there were "warning flags" in his past business dealings, enough warning flags so that the Senate did not confirm him, after Bill Clinton nominated him to be ambassador to Argentina.
(Previous Nemazee posts here and here.)
- 5:36 AM, 22 September 2009 [link]
Mutual Incomprehension: Mickey Kaus says that Obama is an "enigma" to many voters.
Tom Maguire agrees, and says that it's "mutual"
To which I would add, the enigma is mutual. It's not just that Obama is a mystery to the Great Unwashed (and even some of the well scrubbed). It's that it is perfectly obvious to all and sundry that the rest of us are an enigma to this guy born in Hawaii, raised in Indonesia, educated at Columbia and Harvard and employed as a street organizer in a hybrid rich-yuppie/poor black Chicago neighborhood.There is, I believe, one important difference. Most voters recognize that there is much about Obama that they do not know, but I don't believe that Obama realizes how much he does not know about most Americans.
- 4:45 AM, 22 September 2009 [link]
Obama Is More Popular Than George W. Bush Outside The United States, Especially In Europe: So, is the United States getting any tangible benefits from that popularity? Not according to the Washington Post.
As he takes the stage to address the United Nations for the first time Wednesday, Obama will face world leaders -- adversaries and allies alike -- whose rebukes of the new American president serve as reminders that the world's differences with the United States transcend who is in the White House.Or the New York Times.
As President Obama welcomes world leaders to the United States this week, he has gone a long way toward meeting his goal of restoring the country's international standing. Foreign counterparts flock to meet with him, and polls show that people in many countries feel much better about the United States.Even worse for Obama, a few are beginning to ask whether he is "out of his depth".
Regimes in Moscow, Pyongyang and Tehran simply pocket his concessions and carry on as before. The picture emerging from the White House is a disturbing one, of timidity, clumsiness and short-term calculation. Some say he is the weakest president since Jimmy Carter.(Emphasis added.)
In January, I predicted these failures. So far, Obama has been about as bad as I expected him to be. I take no pleasure in seeing my predictions coming true. I would far rather have been collecting evidence over these last nine months that I was wrong when I predicted that he would fail.
- 4:03 PM, 21 September 2009 [link]
Urban Imperialism Hits The San Joaquin Valley: There's a brief summary in this Wall Street Journal editorial.
California has a new endangered species on its hands in the San Joaquin Valley—farmers. Thanks to environmental regulations designed to protect the likes of the three-inch long delta smelt, one of America's premier agricultural regions is suffering in a drought made worse by federal regulations.In some farming communities in the valley, unemployment has passed 40 percent.
- 3:23 PM, 21 September 2009
Senator DeMint is trying to help the area.
Sen. Jim DeMint said he wants to end the drought in California's Central Valley by blocking government funds that have been used to divert water from the area to protect a 3-inch fish called the delta smelt.I have no idea whether the amendment will pass, or whether it would solve the problem if it did pass, but it is good to see a senator tackling the problem.
- 7:07 AM, 23 September 2009 [link]
We're Doing Something Right In Health Care: US life expectancy hit a new record, in a long series of new records.
The preliminary estimate of life expectancy at birth for the total population in 2007 reached a record high of 77.9 years. This represents an increase of 0.2 years relative to 2006 (see Tables A and 6). Life expectancy for males and females reached record levels in 2007. In 2007, both male and female life expectancies increased from 2006 by 0.2 years, from 75.1 to 75.3 years for males, and from 80.2 years to 80.4 years for females.We are reducing inequality in life expectancies.
Record-high life expectancies were reached for white males (75.8 years) and black males (70.2 years), as well as for white females (80.7 years) and black females (77.0 years). For black males and black females, life expectancies rose by 0.5 years, from 69.7 to 70.2 years for black males and from 76.5 to 77.0 years for black females. For thefirst time, life expectancy for black males reached 70 years. The gap between white and black life expectancy narrowed by 0.4 years, from 78.2 years (white population) and 73.2 years (black population) in 2006 to 78.3 years (white population) and 73.7 years (black population) in 2007. White females have the highest life expectancy (Figure 2), followed by, in order, black females, white males, and black males. Figure 2 also shows that this pattern has not changed from 1976 through 2007, even though life expectancy for all groups increased over this time period.
Note that black females were gaining, relative to white males, all through the Bush presidency. (Does Bush deserve any credit for that? Perhaps a little, though he will never get any from our "mainstream" journalists.)
Despite these gains, Michelle Obama can still say:
For two years on the campaign trail, this was what I heard from women, that they were being crushed, crushed by the current structure of our health care. Crushed. But these stories that we've heard today, and all of us -- if we're not experiencing it, we know someone who is. These are the stories that remind us about what's at stake in this debate. This is really all that matters. This is why we are fighting so hard for health insurance reform. This is it. This is the face of the fight.A fight that, judging by life expectancies, they are winning — but apparently don't know they are winning.
(Similar thoughts here, and an analysis of last year's graph here, an analysis that would apply to this year's graph as well.
Incidentally, there is much more in that National Vital Statistics Report. For instance, if you would like to know your own life expectancy, look at Table 6. One surprise in the table: The very oldest blacks (more than 80 years old) have slightly greater life expectancies than the very oldest whites.)
- 3:06 PM, 21 September 2009 [link]
The Honduran Supreme Court Followed The Honduran Constitution When They Removed President Zelaya: The Obama administration says they shouldn't have, and keeps calling their actions a "coup", and pressuring the court to reverse its decision.
Now a report filed at the Library of Congress by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides what the administration has not offered, a serious legal review of the facts. "Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system," writes CRS senior foreign law specialist Norma C. Gutierrez in her report.Do Obama and Clinton even know that the Honduran court was following the Honduran constitution? Would they care if they did know?
Even setting aside the legalities, as nations often do in foreign policy, you have to ask this question: Do Obama and Clinton think their actions are good for Honduras — or the United States? I can't see how either we or the Hondurans gain from this attempted interference with another country's independent judiciary.
- 10:36 AM, 21 September 2009 [link]
Who Are You Going To Believe, Obama Or That Old Dictionary? The individual mandates are a tax increase, says George Stephanopoulos, appealing to a dictionary. President Obama tells him that using a dictionary shows that Stephanopoulos is "stretching", that using a dictionary to check a definition shows the weakness of his argument.
Ingenious. Perhaps not entirely honest, but ingenious. I must admit that I would never have thought to argue that using a dictionary to resolve an argument over a definition would, in itself, show a weakness in my argument.
- 9:45 AM, 21 September 2009
The Baucus bill calls it a tax. Would citing the text of the bill weaken the argument that individual mandates are a tax? If you accept Obama's reasoning, it would.
There's more on this subject in this Wall Street Journal editorial.
- 11:15 AM, 21 September 2009 [link]
Matt Bai Understands That Government Bureaucracies Often Fail: But he doesn't know whether Barack Obama understands that sad fact.
Obama himself has lobbied for hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending to stimulate economic growth, but apart from submitting a modest list of programs he wouldn't mind cutting (which drew howls of protest inside his own party), he has been reluctant to acknowledge the blatant bureaucratic failures of an earlier era: crumbling housing projects, misguided farm aid, highways plowed thoughtlessly through neighborhoods. Democrats have been resolute in rejecting the tired conservative mantra of limited government, but they've shown less interest in confronting the lingering image of liberal activism as invasive and chronically mismanaged.Unlike Bai, I am nearly certain that Obama does not understand it. (And I am not sure Obama even cares about the question. If he is like a typical machine politician — and he is, in many ways — he would not care about the efficiency of government programs, just whether he can use them to win elections.)
- 3:59 PM, 20 September 2009 [link]
Too Few Babies In China? That's what some Chinese are beginning to say. Here's why.
It is a harbinger of change that will come as a shock to some commentators who portray China as a youthful country that is destined to rule the world. In fact, the one-child policy means China is "greying" fast. On present trends it will grow old before it has a chance to get rich.Without those girls, they are going to find it hard to have enough babies to take care of their elderly.
- 9:33 AM, 20 September 2009 [link]
Barack Obama Wants To Reduce Our Freedom: Who says so? Barack Obama.
To NBC News, Obama put it this way: "It's an argument that's gone on for the history of this republic, and that is, What's the right role of government? How do we balance freedom with our need to look out for one another? . . . This is not a new argument, and it always evokes passions."In short, Obama, like almost everyone else on the left, wants to reduce our economic freedom in order to achieve more economic equality.
Let me commend him for his candor on this point, though I disagree with him on where the balance point should be.
(One of the reasons I disagree with him is that I have come to believe that many attempts to reduce economic inequality are bad for the supposed beneficiaries. For example, I supported welfare reform mostly because welfare is bad for the people who get it. I wouldn't say that every program that tries to reduce inequality is bad for its supposed beneficiaries, but many of them are.)
- 6:59 AM, 20 September 2009 [link]
Even Congressional Democrats Don't Know What Obama Wants In His Health Insurance Reform Plan: For example:
"I do believe we're at the point of the legislative process now, or we're quickly going to arrive there, where the president of the United States is going to have to come down to Capitol Hill and say to individual members 'Here's why we need an element like a public option in the plan,'" said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.).An inkblot test! That's the sharpest criticism of the speech I've seen.
We can understand why the Democrats are puzzled, because you can't find his plan in any detailed document, which is why I often refer to it as his "plan".
- 6:38 AM, 20 September 2009 [link]
John Hinderaker Fisks the NYT's Adam Nagourney. From the first paragraph:
He attended (or maybe sent someone else to attend, it isn't clear) the Values Voter Summit in Washington, and offers observations on conservatism, much as an amateur apiarist might try to interpret a beehive:Except that an amateur apiarist might be more sympathetic.
- 5:43 AM, 20 September 2009 [link]
It's Talk Like A Pirate Day: So it's a good day to read this article on the ongoing historical debate about pirates. For example:.
A brisk, clever new book, "The Invisible Hook" (Princeton; $24.95), by Peter T. Leeson, an economist who claims to have owned a pirate skull ring as a child and to have had supply-and-demand curves tattooed on his right biceps when he was seventeen, offers a different approach. Rather than directly challenging pirates' leftist credentials, Leeson says that their apparent espousal of liberty, equality, and fraternity derived not from idealism but from a desire for profit. "Ignoble pirate motives generated 'enlightened' outcomes," Leeson writes. Whether this should comfort politicians on the left or on the right turns out to be a subtle question.I must admit that I had not realized that pirates could show us one good way to escape from the principal-agent problem. (And I wish that some of our big financial firms would learn from their example.)
(Oh, and if you want to talk like a pirate today, here's a semi-official site for that activity.)
- 1:50 PM, 19 September 2009 [link]
Tiny T. Rex Ancestor? Maybe, but the time gap between the two is long enough so that we should be cautious about coming to that conclusion.
According to co-author Stephen Brusatte of the American Museum of Natural History in New York: "Raptorex, the new species, really throws a wrench into this observed pattern."Tiny" is relative; the researchers estimate that it weighed 65 kilograms, about the same as an average human being.
(Irrelevant, but interesting fact: The Raptorex is almost as far away in time from last Tyrannosaurus Rex as we are.)
- 3:51 PM, 18 September 2009 [link]
Eugene Robinson Says That Some Of Obama's Opponents Are Racists: He's right. In a country as large and diverse as ours is, there will always be at least a few opponents — of any president — who oppose him for racist reasons.
And it is also true, by the same reasoning, that every president will have supporters who support him for racist reasons. I am not sure whether Robinson is familiar with the New Black Panthers' efforts to intimidate Philadelphia voters last November, but I think that even Robinson might agree that those men support Obama for racist reasons. Whether race is one of the reasons that Robinson — who has a generally good record as a journalist — is supporting Obama so vociferously is a question I will leave to Robinson and his conscience.
Robinson is right in his conclusion, but is wrong in much of his discussion. He argues, for instance, that many critics deny Obama's legitimacy. Robinson believes that only Obama's race can explain that denial. Has Robinson forgotten how many critics denied George W. Bush's legitimacy after the 2000 election? (And even after the 2004 election, though the deniers, as we might call them, were fewer then, and got less attention.)
Robinson goes on, at great length, about Joe Wilson's outburst, but does not mention Pete Stark's attack on Bush, which came in a prepared speech (though he may have ad-libbed that part) on the House floor. What Stark said, and eventually apologized for, was far more offensive than what Wilson said. Nor does Robinson mention that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Bush a liar — and has never apologized for that.
Robinson seems to think that the signs in the tea party demonstrations are especially nasty. That only shows that Robinson never looked at the signs in the anti-Bush demonstrations, which were far worse. (And often included anti-Semitic signs.)
Finally, though it doesn't bear on my main point, I must mention this sentence: "I'm talking about the idiots who toss around words like "socialism" to make Obama seem alien and even dangerous -- who deny the fact that he, too, is as American as apple pie." Whether you like Obama or not, you should be able to admit that his background is a little unusual for an American, in fact, a little unusual for anyone. That's not necessarily a defect, but Robinson should admit that Obama' background isn't even as American as arugula, if by American we mean typical.
- 2:47 PM, 18 September 2009 [link]
Obama Has Another Solution For Insuring Illegals: Legalize them.
President Obama said this week that his health care plan won't cover illegal immigrants, but argued that's all the more reason to legalize them and ensure they eventually do get coverage.Whatever else you may think of that solution, I think we can agree that this proposal won't help cut health care costs.
- 2:06 PM, 18 September 2009 [link]
When Did Obama Switch On Individual Mandates For Health Insurance? And why?
During the primary campaign, Hillary Clinton favored individual mandates for health insurance, favored requiring people to buy insurance. Barack Obama opposed those mandates. Now, he favors them.
When did he switch, and why? The second question I think I can answer; he switched because it is hard to pay for the costs of his plan (or, perhaps I should say, "plan") without forcing young people to buy insurance at community rates, forcing, in other words, healthy young people to subsidize the rest of us.
But when? That I am not so sure about. Did he just gradually accept the individual mandates in most of the congressional plans, or did he formally, at some point, change his mind? If you have an answer to that question, let me know.
(For the record, I oppose individual mandates, seeing them as an unwarranted restriction on our freedoms.)
- 11:12 AM, 18 September 2009
Much more: David Rivkin and Lee Casey fill out the argument that I made to explain why Obama switched, and then go on to argue that such mandates are unconstitutional. Constitutional scholars differ on that question, as you can see here.
- 1:54 PM, 18 September 2009
According to CBS, Obama switched in June, when he accepted plans written by the congressional Democrats. (It's one of five health care promises CBS says Obama won't keep.) For what it is worth, Obama's criticisms of Hillary Clinton for her support of individual mandates sound quite sensible to me.
- 12:59 PM, 22 September 2009 [link]
Liberal Jim Sleeper Replies To Jimmy Carter: And tries to warn other liberals.
Jimmy Carter is a southerner who grew up witnessing Jim Crow segregation in all its forms, so when he told NBC News that he believes "an overwhelming portion" of the public animosity directed at President Obama recently is "based on the fact that he is a black man," many Americans listened. But pointing at racism as the chief source of rage is a trap into which liberals have fallen too often, for reasons we'd better face quickly.I would add a few things to Sleeper's list, like out-of-control spending, but I think his basic point is right. And I will add this point, which he didn't mention: Many of those unhappy with Obama's spending were also unhappy with George W. Bush's spending, and said so while he was president.
- 9:30 AM, 18 September 2009 [link]
Michelle Obama Goes Grocery Shopping: Dana Milbank has a little fun describing the expedition.
Let's say you're preparing dinner and you realize with dismay that you don't have any certified organic Tuscan kale. What to do?(As a farm boy, and someone who knows a little about science, I mostly laugh at people who buy "organic" produce. I suppose sometimes "organic" food may taste better, but there is approximately zero evidence that it is better for you, nutritionally.)
There's much more in the Milbank article, all of it evidence that Mark Steyn was right when he said (in a 21 April 2008 National Review cover story) that Michelle Obama has a "tin ear" for American politics.
- 9:01 AM, 18 September 2009 [link]
Thank You For Your Service, Specialist Tim James: Specialist Tim James and former NBA player Tim James.
After three seasons in the N.B.A. and a few more overseas, in Turkey, Japan and Israel, James enlisted in the Army last September. He was three months away from his 32nd birthday.Soldiers like James make me feel humble. He enlisted, not because he needed the money, or didn't have other choices, but because he wanted to defend our freedoms.
Read the whole thing if you want to feel better about our young people, some of them anyway.
- 6:12 PM, 17 September 2009 [link]
Here's A Novel Idea: Keith Hennessey is asking you to nominate people you disagree with, but respect.
What thought leader most clearly and effectively presents points of view with which you frequently strongly disagree?I'll have to think about that one for a while.
- 4:54 PM, 17 September 2009 [link]
Urban Imperialism And The Washington State Legislature: In July, I met Washington state representative Shelly Short at the Washington Policy Center's annual conference on the environment. Short has an unenviable position, for a Republican. She's the ranking minority member on the House Ecology and Parks Committee. (It is unenviable, because the position makes her a natural target for religious groups like the Sierra Club and Greenpeace.)
I had a chance to talk to Representative Short briefly, and so I asked her if she understood what I meant by this term: urban imperialist. She thought a few seconds, and said that she did. That she recognized the term is not surprising because her district has a good claim to be the most rural district in Washington state. That she recognized it so quickly probably tells us something about how smart she is.
(For those who haven't Short's background, a brief definition: By urban imperialist, I mean someone who treats rural areas as conquered provinces, as places to be managed and exploited — regardless of the desires of the inhabitants. Many urban and suburban Democrats are urban imperialists, as are many journalists. In this area one of the most prominent urban imperialists was former King County executive Ron Sims, who now has a position in the Obama administration. One of the loudest is Seattle PI columnist Joel Connelly.)
Some in urban areas with very long memories may see the rise of urban imperialists as an example of turnabout being fair play. A century ago, most of our legislatures were dominated by rural interests, who often treated urban minorities unfairly. A half century ago, when the United States had become a predominately urban and suburban nation, rural areas often had unfair amounts of power in our legislatures, because of gerrymandering and population shifts, shifts that were not reflected in new district lines.
Now, in almost every state, that era has passed and urban and suburban areas control the state's government. And there has been a change in the experiences most Americans have, too. Fifty years ago, most Americans still had some connection to rural areas; they might live in a city or suburb, but they had relatives who were farmers, miners, loggers, or otherwise earned their living away from cities. Now, many, perhaps most, Americans have no such connections, have not even an indirect understanding of how people live — and make a living — in rural areas. (An amusing example: Several years ago, the Seattle Times sent an urban reporter on a tour of rural areas. The reporter seemed genuinely surprised at how well he was treated, everywhere he went. The way he was treated would not have surprised anyone familiar with those areas.)
Because voters in urban and suburban areas often know little about rural areas, the politicians representing them can propose policies that damage rural areas, without much fear of objections from their voters. They can, for example, propose immense wind farms, without understanding the damage they do to rural areas. They can — and often do — propose gas tax increases, without realizing what a disproportionate burden that puts on rural areas. (Last year, there was a sensitive article in the New York Times about the problems caused in rural areas by high gas prices. As far as I can tell, almost no one paid any attention to it, at the Times, or elsewhere.)
Sometimes the unfair treatment of rural areas is inescapable. For example: There would be no damage to the health of the people in Miles City, Montana, if their cars and trucks had no pollution controls at all. But there would be damage to the people of Chicago if their vehicles had no controls. Since we have one national car market, and since Chicago is somewhat larger than Miles City, the people of Miles City must pay for those pollution controls, even though they don't need them.
But usually it isn't. Regulations, especially land use regulations, can be written so that they take into consideration population densities. Or not written at all; often the rural areas just need to be left alone.
But many of our urban imperialists are unwilling to leave them alone, preferring to see rural areas converted into parks, and even the exclusionary parks we call "Wilderness Areas". Urban politicians, who would be outraged if rural legislators proposed destroying urban interstates — to improve the environment — will happily propose demolishing dams in rural areas, regardless of the damage that does to transportation and power generation in those areas.
This is shortsighted, as well as unfair. Almost all our food comes from rural areas. When urban imperialists make it more difficult for our farmers, food prices rise. When they make it more difficult for our loggers, home prices rise. When they make it more difficult for our miners, the prices of energy and machines rise.
All of this is obvious to anyone who thinks about it for even a few minutes. But it is not obvious to some of our urban special interest groups, especially "Green" religious groups. Those belonging to those groups often feel for the trees, or the polar bears, or the salmon, or whatever — but don't feel for the people who live and, even worse, make a living in rural areas. And they are almost never interested in understanding those who live in rural areas, preferring, if they think about them at all, to see them as cartoon villains, rather than people who (mostly) are good stewards of the lands they live on.
I don't expect our urban imperialists to change their ways any time soon, but I do hope that at least a few of their voters will criticize them when they treat rural areas as conquered provinces, and I hope that at least of few of their voters will tell them just how unfairly they are behaving.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 2:37 PM, 17 September 2009 [link]
President Obama Drops President Bush's Missile Defense Plan: But promises a better one. Here's a key part of his statement
One of those threats is the danger posed by ballistic missiles. As I said during the campaign, President Bush was right that Iran's ballistic missile program poses a significant threat. And that's why I'm committed to deploying strong missile defense systems which are adaptable to the threats of the 21st century.(It's weird to see that phrase in the second sentence: "President Bush was right". And I have become so suspicious of Obama that I wonder whether he really did say that during the campaign.)
Every politician should be judged more by his actions than his words, and that is especially true of this politician, because his words are so often in conflict with his actions.
But this time even his words give us some hint about what is actually happening. In the statement, Obama says that his plan and Bush's plan were aimed only at Iran. And he goes on to say that "we welcome Russians' cooperation", though everyone knows that the Russians have not been giving us much cooperation in recent years.
The missile defenses that Bush proposed may have been mostly aimed at protecting Europe from Iranian threats, but, as everyone knows, they could also protect against a limited Russian attack, or even an accidental Russian launch. No one wanted to say that, because no one wanted to annoy the Russians even more, but it is one of the biggest reasons the Poles and the Czechs accepted the systems.
So Obama is trying to appease the Russians with this move, as nearly everyone recognizes. Will he succeed? It's unlikely. As far as we know, Putin gave us nothing in return for this enormous concession. As a smart negotiator, he will probably wait to see if he can get still more concessions from us, for nothing. And, though I am sorry to say this, I think he will get some more concessions from Obama, and we will, again, get nothing in return, at least nothing concrete.
One of the reasons that President Reagan was successful in negotiations with the Russians is that he was an experienced negotiator. Reagan had negotiated with the Hollywood studios, as a union president, and with many people as governor of California. Obama simply doesn't have those experiences. And that may — partly — explain why he starts negotiations with an enormous concession.
(The New York Times gives us a fairly sophisticated defense of Obama's plan in this article, but doesn't answer one key question: Has Turkey, which is named in the article as a potential site for part of the new missile defense system, agreed to allow us to put still more bases there? And given the increasing anti-Americanism in that country, is it really a good place to locate such bases?
The timing of this announcement will not please the Poles.)
- 9:19 AM, 17 September 2009
More: Here's an analysis from Tony Halpin, writing in the Times of London. First and last paragraphs:
Vladimir Putin could be forgiven for having a celebratory shot of vodka with breakfast this morning at news that President Obama plans to abandon America's missile defence shield in Eastern Europe.If Putin thinks that intransigience pays off, then we will get more intransigience. Apparently, that idea is too complicated for the Obama administration to grasp.
And here's a sketchy description of the new plan, from the White House.
- 11:17 AM, 17 September 2009 [link]
Maureen Dowd Calls Congressman Wilson A "Chucklehead", in a column in which she is arguing for more civility in our public life. We certainly could use more civility, but name calling may not be the best way to work toward that goal.
(Some of us, remembering how she treated the Bush administration, suspect that Dowd is not the best person to make an argument for civility.)
- 6:19 AM, 17 September 2009 [link]
Suppose They Gave An Election And Nobody Came: New York Democrats didn't quite do that, but they came close.
Though official records are incomplete, it appears that the turnout in Tuesday's Democratic primary was the lowest in modern New York City history.Doesn't sound like Democratic voters, even in New York, are very enthusiastic these days. (And many of them are planning to vote against their party and for Mayor Bloomberg in the general election.)
- 5:36 AM, 17 September 2009 [link]