September 2011, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
Democrats Agree; the race in New York 9th is close.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will spend close to half million dollars to shore up David Weprin's campaign to keep control of the seat opened by the resignation of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D).(Fun fact: The Republican candidate, Bob Turner, was, for years, the producer of the Jerry Springer show. According to the New York Times article where I learned that, he's not entirely proud of that.)
- 1:40 PM, 8 September 2011 [link]
Union Violence At Washington Port: Here's the latest.
Work is at a standstill at the ports in Seattle and Everett as a labor dispute that started Thursday morning turned violent.(There were arrests in an earlier protest.)
I get the impression that the police didn't make arrests this time because they feared that arrests would trigger even more violence.
- 10:37 AM, 8 September 2011 [link]
Green Corruption (1)? I put a question mark in that title because Solyndra's owners and officers have not been formally charged with anything, much less convicted. But the more I learn about the federal guarantees for this failed firm, the worse it looks.
A politically connected solar company that pocketed a half billion dollar government loan, only to shut its doors, fire workers and file for bankruptcy, benefited from a series of breaks in securing the federal funds -- including an interest rate lower than other green energy projects, iWatch News and ABC News found.Read the whole thing for many more troubling details, or just read Ed Morrissey's sensible comments on the story.
Although — as far as I know — no one has been charged, the feds have raided Solyndar headquarters.
(There's a "(1)" in the title for the obvious reason: I expect that we will see many more such stories.)
- 10:08 AM, 8 September 2011 [link]
Rules For The War On Terror: George Friedman begins badly, and ends with a dubious argument on Afghanistan. But in between he makes a key point about the war on terror. We have not figured out the rules that should govern it.
The problem is that international law has simply failed to address the question of how a nation-state deals with forces that wage war through terrorism but are not part of any nation-state. Neither criminal law nor the laws of war apply. One of the real travesties of 9/11 was the manner in which the international legal community -- the United Nations and its legal structures, the professors of international law who discuss such matters and the American legal community -- could not come to grips with the tensions underlying the resulting war. There was an unpleasant and fairly smug view that the United States had violated both the rules of war and domestic legal processes, but very little attempt was made to craft a rule of warfare designed to cope with a group like al Qaeda -- organized, covert, effective -- that attacked a nation-state.In my opinion, the Bush administration missed a chance to write appropriate rules for this kind of war. They might not have succeeded if they had tried right after 9/11, but there was a brief opportunity then.
Instead, we have a mix of two sets of rules, ordinary criminal law (which Obama would prefer to use) and Western rules of war codified by the Geneva Conventions. Neither is appropriate to this kind of war, and so we end up with absurdities like releasing captured terrorists because we can not reveal what we know about them in ordinary courts, or forbidding dunking terrorists in water to get them to talk, even while we celebrate killing them (and sometimes innocent bystanders) with drone attacks.
Positions have hardened so much that I don't expect we will have the rules we need, any time soon. I had hoped that some of our academics would tackle this problem, but I have seen no signs that any have, and I doubt that any would have a receptive audience if they did.
(Friedman errs at the beginning by asserting that President Bush was unclear about seeing this as a war, because Bush sometimes talked about bringing terrorists to justice. Friedman sees that as inappropriate as a war objective, although many successful warriors have had similar motives.
In his discussion of Afghanistan, Friedman errs by considering only one side of the problem. It's certainly true that working with our allies in that country is no fun, but it is also true that our Afghan enemies have their own weaknesses that we can exploit.)
- 9:36 AM, 8 September 2011 [link]
Andrew Malcolm Watched The Republican "Debate" So You Didn't Have To: Here's his summary, which reminds me why I rarely watch these events, and advise others not to, either. There is far more noise than signal at most of them.
Exceptions: I would have enjoyed seeing Newt Gingrich go after "moderator" John Harris. And Ron Paul's comment about the air conditioners sounds entertaining, but not entertaining enough for me to read a transcript so I can figure out what he was trying to say.
Old puzzle: Like John Hinderaker, I can't understand why "Republican candidates agree to be questioned more or less exclusively by Democrats". This is something I have been wondering about for years.
New puzzle: Does no one at MSNBC realize that using Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Lawrence O'Donnell, Eugene Robinson, Ed Schultz, and Al Sharpton — and only them — to comment on a Republican debate is not just biased, but is so biased as to be laughable? Or that the audience for a Republican "debate" is likely to be mostly Republican?
- 7:33 AM, 8 September 2011 [link]
It's Hard To Please Minority Leader Pelosi: If you are a Republican. Now she is unhappy because the Republicans won't be making a speech attacking President Obama.
Republicans have decided they're not going to give a rebuttal to President Obama's jobs speech later this week, a decision House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi took as a high affront to the White House.I can't be the only one who suspects that Pelosi wouldn't be happy with any likely Republican rebuttal, either.
(I've never quite seen the point of these instant replies, since they are made by someone who has no time to study what the first speaker said, and no opportunity to confront them directly.
More thoughts from Steven Hayward here.)
- 5:39 AM, 8 September 2011 [link]
President Obama Earns Four Pinocchios from Glenn Kessler.
Obama's claim of having passed the "biggest middle-class tax cut in history" is ridiculous. He might have been on more solid ground if he had claimed the "broadest" tax cut, but that doesn't sound very historic.Kessler concludes, from other evidence, that Obama knew what he was saying wasn't true.
(The tax cut that Obama is claiming was a tax credit for most families; it is broadly similar to the tax credit in the 2008 Bush-Pelosi-Reid Economic Stimulus Act.)
- 10:26 AM, 7 September 2011 [link]
What's The Average Swing In New York Special Elections? Would you believe 30 percent?
A Smart Politics review of the 18 U.S. House special elections held in New York State over the last 50 years finds that the vacated incumbent's party has averaged a 30.3-point average drop in margin of victory during this span.Surprised? I was.
There is a special election next Tuesday in New York's 9th district, thanks to Anthony Weiner's resignation. Weiner won the district over Republican Robert Turner in 2010 by 21.6 percent.
Robert Turner is running again, this time against a Democratic legislator, David Weprin. I have been saying all along that a Turner upset is possible, though unlikely. Now, I'll go a little further and say that he has at least 1 chance in 5 of winning.
There will be a third party candidate on the ballot, Chris Hoeppner of the Socialist Workers Party.
(During the last special election in New York, I saw an argument — I'm sorry, but I have forgotten where — that Republicans were making a mistake by trying to hold their seats in these elections by running incumbent legislators — because almost everyone in New York hates the legislature.)
- 2:28 PM, 6 September 2011
More: A poll done by a Republican polling firm found Turner leading by 4 points, more than the margin of error. Turner has picked up some significant endorsements. Michael Barone says that a Republican win would have "limited national significance" because few districts have as many Orthodox Jews as the 9th does. He's right, but it is also true that Americans are broadly supportive of Israel, so the Obama administration's anti-Israel policies will be a small, net minus in many other districts in the 2012 elections.
- 6:29 AM, 7 September 2011 [link]
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Is Unhappy With Our Elected Officials: So he is going to stop his donations to candidates, and is urging that others stop, too.
Naturally, that made me wonder which candidates had disappointed him, so I searched for his donations to the 2008, 2010, and 2012 campaigns at Open Secrets.
In those three election cycles, Schultz contributed to Max Baucus (D), Maria Cantwell (D), Hillary Clinton (D), John Edwards (D, Patty Murray (D), Barack Obama (D), Terri Sewell (D), and Ron Wyden (D).
There is, I would say, a pattern to his donations.
It would be instructive if he were to tell us, specifically, how the candidates he has supported disappointed him.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 9:15 AM, 6 September 2011 [link]
Vote Fraud In A Republican Primary? It's been a while since I did one of my routine searches for vote fraud stories, and this time I found one with a twist. (Along with some of the usual stories, such as this one and this one.)
Ordinarily, vote fraud — at least the vote fraud that is reported by our "mainstream" news organizations — is committed by Democrats, often minorities, and usually with absentee ballots.
And, as far as I can tell, vote fraud is most likely to affect the results in primaries, not general elections.
First some background, and then the twist: Morris County, New Jersey is governed by a board of "Freeholders". One of the Freeholders is Republican Margaret Nordstrom. She was challenged in a primary by William "Hank" Lyon, and lost by just six votes.
Or did she?
Nordstrom filed a court challenge to the results in which she focused solely on what she and strategist Alan Zakin believe was fraud or irregularities in the vote-by-mail ballots cast by Parsippany voters. Of all the vote-by-mail ballots cast in the county's GOP primary, 676 or 54.12 percent came from Parsippany.The twist, of course, is that the vote fraud — if there was vote fraud — was committed by one or more Republicans, but everything else about this story sounds sadly familiar.
Since Morris County is heavily Republican, the winner of the primary is the likely winner in the general election.
(Whenever I do these simple searches, I find two things: stories of vote fraud, usually committed by Democrats, and opinion pieces, usually by Democrats, asserting that vote fraud is mythical, or almost so. You don't have to take my word for that; you can do the same simple search that I do, by going to Google News and using this search string: "vote + fraud".)
- 8:13 AM, 6 September 2011 [link]
What Jane Fonda Wanted To Do With Che Guevara Has Drawn The Most Attention: But I found this long article, taken from a biography, more sad than salacious. Somehow this incident seems typical:
One day, at the height of her fame in the mid-Seventies, Jane Fonda turned up on the doorstep of her ex-husband, Roger Vadim. She was lugging a bulging sack.Yes, almost everything Fonda has done politically has been destructive — but I still can't help feeling a little sorry for her.
But you should feel free to ignore my opinion, since I have long thought that she peaked with Barbarella. If that doesn't cast doubt on the rest of my thoughts about Fonda, I don't know what would.
(There is a glaring error in the article; Ted Turner is many things, but he is not "Right-wing".)
- 6:57 AM, 6 September 2011 [link]
President Obama And His Supporters Think He Is Owed Respect: And that they owe no respect to President Bush.
I agree with some of Professor Jacobson's commenters, who say that Bush was (and sometimes still is) treated with much less respect by his political opponents than Obama is.
(And I also agree with "Ringo", who urges conservatives to "avoid the adolescent behavior displayed by anti-Bush activists over the previous eight years", not just because that's the right thing to do — though that should be enough — but also because it is the best strategy for winning the undecideds.)
- 6:17 AM, 6 September 2011 [link]
Border Guards In Bulgaria And Romania Are Getting Rich: The old-fashioned way.
"It is nice to have a machine to check if there is an illegal person in the back of a truck," said Karel van Kesteren, the Dutch ambassador to Bulgaria. "But if you can pay 500 euros to someone to look the other way, it makes no sense at all.One of the persistent problems in European integration is the different levels of corruption accepted in the different countries. Laws that might work where almost all of the people are basically honest often fail in countries where many aren't, where it is hard, for example, to hire border guards who don't think of bribes as a regular supplement to their income.
There is another lesson in the article, a lesson that technophiles (a group that often includes me) should take to heart: The two nations have spent immense sums on technology to protect their borders. In principle, the infrared cameras and all the rest could help them control their borders; in practice, corrupt border guards make the systems useless.
By way of Presseurop.
- 5:20 AM, 6 September 2011 [link]
Labor Day, And Labor Union Leaders are unhappy.
You'd think the labor leaders gathering in Detroit would want to hoist President Barack Obama onto their shoulders and carry him down Woodward Avenue as a hero.Those union leaders (and many of their followers) had, and may still have, unrealistic expectations.
And, being human, they are unlikely to spend much time considering whether their own actions may be part of the problem.
- 4:57 PM, 5 September 2011 [link]
What's Causing The Shortage Of Drugs? When I heard that there were shortages of many drugs, most of them old enough so that they had become cheap generics, I guessed that regulations were to blame, that our government had somehow made these drugs unprofitable, or so close to it, that most drug companies had stopped making them.
I didn't come to this conclusion because I have some deep understanding of the drug industry, or the immense body of regulations that govern it; instead I was applying an insight of Milton Friedman's, who said that economists may not know much, but they know how to create shortages and surpluses, the first by setting a price too low, the second by setting a price too high.
And so I guessed that had happened in parts of the drug industry. If not enough manufacturers were making these drugs, it must be, I thought, because the government was, in effect, setting their prices too low.
The editorial writers at the New York Times came to the opposite conclusion. In the print edition of an editorial published on August 25th, they said:
The market has failed, so the government needs to step inAnd then followed that conclusion with a description of some of the problems, and proposals for more regulation by the Food and Drug Administration.
Who's right? I am no expert on the subject (and I suspect that no one on the editorial board is, either), so I turned to someone who is, Derek Lowe. He pointed to an Alex Tabarrok post, describing it as the "best short overall look at the problem that I've seen so far". Tabarrok, an economist, comes down on the side of Milton Friedman.
Currently there are about 246 drugs that are in short supply, a record high. These shortages are not just a result of accident, error or unusual circumstance, the number of drugs in short supply has risen steadily since 2006. The shortages arise from a combination of systematic factors, among them the policies of the FDA. The FDA has inadvertently caused drugs long-used in the United States to be withdrawn from the market and its "Good Manufacturing Practice" rules have gummed up the drug production process and raised costs.So the editorial writers at the Times think that the FDA could solve this problem; in contrast, Tabarrok believes that the FDA helped cause it.
(There's more here from Derek Lowe, and more here from Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist. The Emanuel op-ed was published in the Times almost three weeks before the editorial, and describes ways in which laws and regulations have distorted the market, causing these shortages. I'm not sure whether the editorial writers read it; if they did, I am sure they didn't understand it.)
- 3:46 PM, 4 September 2011 [link]
At Least They Get The Game Scores Right: If you are like me, you may sometimes console yourself with that thought after you spot another mistake from a "mainstream" news organization.
And, almost always, they do.
But there are exceptions. The Newark Star-Ledger managed to reverse winner and loser with this headline: College Football Roundup: Oregon downs LSU, while Oklahoma romps
Actually, as almost every college football fan knows, Oregon lost, mostly because the Oregon players were too generous; they kept sharing the football with LSU. And you could kind of figure that out from the brief summary of the game in the roundup.
The newspaper has corrected the headline — but it took them hours to spot the mistake. And they made a "stealth" correction, changing the headline but not noting the error.
- 7:44 AM, 4 September 2011 [link]
Worth Reading: Paul Gigot's review of Dick Cheney's In My Time.
Gigot begins the review with this reminder:
It's hard to believe now, but Dick Cheney was once a favorite of the Washington establishment. As a young chief of staff to President Gerald Ford and then for 10 years a member of Congress, he was deemed by the town's political arbiters to be a sensible conservative, not a Reaganite or Bible-thumping crazy. The media loved him. When George H.W. Bush nominated him to be defense secretary after John Tower was rejected, he was confirmed unanimously in seven days.And worst of all, for Cheney's critics, he does not feel he has much to apologize for.
- 4:20 PM, 3 September 2011 [link]
Osama bin Loggin' Every year, the logging town of Hoquiam celebrates its history with a Loggers PlayDay festival.
This year, Jacknut Apparel contributed a t-shirt, which is being sold to raise money for scholarships.
And the design has at least one Hoquiam resident upset.
"The original shirt is a picture of a really muscular, I assume, logger. He's got red suspenders and he's holding a really confused, scared looking guy, kind of like Osama bin Laden, putting him in the water," Jeane Ward described on 97.3 KIRO FM's Ron & Don Show.So Ward is selling her own t-shirts that say that her Hoquiam is a hate-free zone.
If you can't hate Osama bin Laden, who can you hate? And if you don't hate him, why not?
If I were younger, I might get one of these shirts myself, as a protest against political correctness run amuck. (You can order them directly from the company, if you think they would be just the thing to wear in your neighborhood.)
- 3:52 PM, 3 September 2011 [link]
Time To Take A Stand? Many office workers are beginning to say yes.
Silicon Valley's newest status symbol is a humble piece of furniture.Even better for your health may be adjustable desks that let you sit and stand, depending on how you feel, and what you are doing. Farhad Manjoo tried one, and, after a period of adjustment, liked it.
After a few days of warming up, I settled into a pleasant sit/stand routine. Because I found it difficult to drink coffee or eat breakfast at my desk while standing, I began most mornings seated. I'd begin to stand about an hour later. If I had to write an article, I'd remain standing for most of the day. But if I was planning to spend a lot of time on tasks that required less creative focus — surfing the Web, making phone calls, watching online videos — I'd usually switch back to sitting at around lunch time.You can find some of the medical arguments against sitting for long periods here.
(Sitting still for long periods is, I would guess, especially bad for you.)
- 1:25 PM, 2 September 2011 [link]
How Bad Was Operation Fast And Furious? So bad that even the New York Times editorial writers attacked it. (In an editorial in yesterday's paper.)
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and explosives is in dire need of strong, fresh leadership. Its benighted Mexican gunrunning sting finally forced the removal this week of its acting director, Kenneth Melson, and the United States attorney in Phoenix, Dennis Burke.Whose fault is this? According to the Times, the "gun lobby", which "blocks any move that would allow the bureau to better do its job".
But, credit where due, the Times does not absolve the man actually in charge, Attorney General Eric Holder. They say that he "should have known" about the operation.
(No link, because I don't want to use up my monthly quota too soon, but you should be able to find it at their site easily enough.)
- 10:07 AM, 2 September 2011 [link]
Bonn Is Trying To Tax Streetwalkers: Automatically.
Since Monday, freelance sex workers on the city streets have been required to pay €6 per night into the machine, which resembles an automated parking ticket distributor. This machine, however, emits nightly permits to practice prostitution.Would this be an example of a Pigovian tax? Probably, though you should ask an economist if you want to be certain.
- 7:33 AM, 2 September 2011 [link]
Zero Net Jobs Growth In August: Unexpectedly, of course.
The economy showed no job growth in August, the first time there has been no increase in net jobs in the United States in 11 months.How many jobs do we need to gain each month in order to cut the employment rate sharply? Somewhere around 272,000.
(Here's the Bureau of Labor Statistics press release, with links to the data tables. Looking at Table A, I learned that labor force participation has actually declined in the last year, from 64.7 to 64.0 percent. Some of that decline might be explained by the aging of the population.)
- 7:02 AM, 2 September 2011 [link]
How Old Is Tommy Christopher? That's the question that occurred to me after I read his heated argument that Speaker Boehner should resign because he had insulted President Obama.
Every American who has an appropriate respect for the office of the presidency should demand that John Boehner resign, and every legislator should amplify that demand. The problems facing this country are too great to be left in the hands of someone with such contempt for its highest office.And what was the insult? Speaker Boehner didn't agree with the day President Obama had proposed for his "jobs" speech. (Or, more likely, anti-jobs speech.)
Anyone who has a basic understanding of the Constitution will understand that Speaker Boehner had every right to propose his own schedule. (Or even to refuse the request entirely.)
Similarly, if I were to propose to use Tommy Christopher's home for a Republican campaign event, he would have every right to object to my proposed date, or even to reject it entirely.
Christopher does not work for me, and Boehner does not work for Obama.
But you can find people who think that congressmen are the president's helpers — if you look in kindergarten and the primary grades. That misunderstanding is common in kids that age. It's cute when a five-year-old tells us that a congressman should be the president's helper; it's appalling when a man who is, apparently, an adult, tells us the same thing.
(Did Christopher make similar arguments when Bush was president and was confronting a Democratic congress? He doesn't mention them, though that would strengthen his case.)
- 6:20 AM, 2 September 2011
For the record, an unnamed "White House source" claims that Boehner agreed to the Wednesday date, and then backed out. Boehner's spokesman denies that.
Others, including his journalist colleagues, have a higher opinion of the Politico reporter, Roger Simon, than I do.
- 9:27 AM, 2 September 2011 [link]
Waffle House Cleans Up After Irene: Researcher Panos Kouvelis found that four good companies for coping with a disaster were Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes, and Waffle House.
The Wall Street Journal explains how the determinedly old-fashioned restaurant chain made that list.
The company fully embraced its post-disaster business strategy after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Seven of its restaurants were destroyed and 100 more shut down, but those that reopened quickly were swamped with customers.If one or more of the local service stations in this area made a practice of being open when the power is out, they'd gain my good will, and, probably, some of my business.<
- 6:13 PM, 1 September 2011 [link]
Swedes Will Just Have To Make Do with guns, I suppose.
Due to higher demands and less raw milk, Sweden's butter shortage is set to reach alarming new lows this year, according to the Swedish Dairy Association.More seriously, I suppose they will have to pay higher prices, or import butter from, for example, Denmark.
(Years ago I read about the great butter surpluses in the European Union. Someone proposed to reduce them by — feeding the butter back to the cows. I don't know whether they ever did that, but, judging by this 2009 article, they did get rid of their butter mountain — temporarily.)
- 4:35 PM, 1 September 2011 [link]
The Solyndra Collapse And Chicago-Style Politics: You have probably heard about the firm's bankruptcy; even some "mainstream" news organizations have noticed this failure.
Solyndra announces it plans to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy, is suspending operations and seeks a reorganization.The NBC affiliate is even connecting the failure to President Obama.
President Obama faces political catastrophe in the form of Solyndra -- a San Francisco Bay area solar company that he touted as a gleaming example of green technology. It has announced it will declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy. More than 1,100 people will lose their jobs.(Actually, I think that Obama will regret the statements more than the loan guarantees. After all, it's not his money, but they are his statements, and will be used against him in our continuing campaign.)
Some, for example, the Instapundit, were struck by how crude the corruption was; I was struck by how crude, and how familiar, the corruption was. This is just another example of Obama practicing Chicago-style politics, practicing the kind of politics that both Mayors Daley, the sachems of Tammany Hall, James Michael Curley, and Nancy Pelosi's father, Thomas D'Alesandro would find familiar.
It's an example of old-style machine politics, which were fading for many years, but are now making something of a comeback in some areas of the United States, including the White House.
- 2:06 PM, 1 September 2011 [link]
Compare And Contrast: Ordinarily, I avoid any discussions of Michelle Obama's fashion sense — or lack of it — since whether she is glamorous or not tells us nothing about how well her husband is fulfilling his duties.
But the contrast between this USA Today piece, and the comments at Lucianne, is just too funny not to pass on.
From the piece:
Three years after her husband was elected president, Mrs. O is still captivating the world with her confidence, support of military families, love of other strong women, and of course, that impeccable sense of style.From commenter GaGardener:
Imagine that! Mooch's mother didn't even go to the hairdresser on a regular basis. Now that's what you call real deprivation, real hardship. Her words about 'investing in yourself' may give a clue (well, another clue) about her boundless sense of self-entitlement (for which taxpayers are now footing the bill). The usual terms to describe Mooch are not forgotten: She's 'captivating' and 'impeccable'. Oh yeah, and 'glam.'We have here what one might call a difference of opinion.
(One reason that I avoid such discussions is that I have little or no fashion sense myself.)
- 9:34 AM, 1 September 2011 [link]
Congresswoman Richardson Gave Constituents a very nice campaign lunch.
A congresswoman who has been investigated by authorities for misuse of public money billed $20,000 to taxpayers for an elaborately catered luncheon this summer, the only one of its size funded by the public.Okay, technically, it wasn't a campaign lunch; it couldn't be since you and I and all the other taxpayers were footing the bill. (I don't know about you, but I wasn't invited.) But it was a campaign event, and a fairly clever one, though not entirely ethical by some people's standards.
(Why would an incumbent congresswoman in a district that gave Obama 80 percent of its vote worry about re-election? Because she has had more scandals than one would expect from a congresswoman who has been there only since 2007, and because the district is becoming more Hispanic.
In 2007, Richardson won the primary for the seat, defeating Jenny Oropeza by fewer than 2,000 votes. Oropeza has since passed away, but there are probably other ambitious Hispanic Democrats in the 37th district.)
- 8:27 AM, 1 September 2011 [link]
Good Question: Rick Perry served in the Air Force as a pilot, which leads Douglas McKinnon to ask this question:
Beyond that obvious truth, another interesting question for the compromised liberal mainstream media to ask would be: "Would Obama have been intelligent enough to get through flight school and become an Air Force pilot?"Obama could have been a successful PR officer for the Air Force (and they do have them, though they don't call them PR officers), but I'm not sure he has the different mental qualities needed to be a pilot.
- 7:14 AM, 1 September 2011 [link]