April 2009, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Cherry Blossoms:  And some really weird reflections.

Kirkland reflections

You can see these reflections from one of the busiest streets in downtown Kirkland.  But as far as I can tell, almost no one who walks by them, sees them.
- 2:59 PM, 24 April 2009   [link]

Maybe Obama Is Borat:  Charles Krauthammer thinks that Obama plans health care rationing.  I have speculated that Obama may just not be very good with numbers.  And now Frank J. Fleming has come up with a third theory.
There's a conspiracy theory out there that because Obama hasn't released his real birth certificate, that proves he isn't a natural citizen and is thus not eligible to be president.  I was dismissive of that, but now I think it's true.  If we found his real birth certificate, my guess is that it would say that he was born in England and that his name is Sacha Baron Cohen.

That's right; we elected Borat president.

I'm like 95 percent certain about this; it just fits, the more I think about it.  Don't all the weird gaffes and the strange adoration of Obama make sense if it were all some Borat-type gag?  A lot of the humor in Borat's character is that Cohen presented him as a well-meaning foreigner who gets people to dismiss his eccentricities as cultural differences.  He'd keep getting weirder and weirder to see how far he could go before people stopped being polite.
And I have to admit that Fleming's theory explains more than my speculation.  If Obama manages to top that $100 million savings proposal joke — which is not easy to do — we'll have to take a hard look at Fleming's theory.

By way of the Instapundit.
- 2:36 PM, 24 April 2009   [link]

What Would You Have To Do To Bring The Federal Budget Back Into Balance If You Enacted Obama's Programs?  Charles Krauthammer thinks he knows; you would have to cut the growth of future social security payments, and ration health care.
Social Security is relatively easy.  A bipartisan commission (like the 1983 Alan Greenspan commission) recommends some combination of means testing for richer people, increasing the retirement age and a technical change in the inflation measure (indexing benefits to prices instead of wages).  The proposal is brought to Congress for a no-amendment up-or-down vote.  Done.

The hard part is Medicare and Medicaid. In an aging population, how do you keep them from blowing up the budget?  There is only one answer: rationing.

Why do you think the stimulus package pours $1.1 billion into medical "comparative effectiveness research"?  It is the perfect setup for rationing.  Once you establish what is "best practice" for expensive operations, medical tests and aggressive therapies, you've laid the premise for funding some and denying others.
Rationing health care might not be popular with the public.

(There is another explanation; as I mentioned in this post, I am beginning — let me repeat, just beginning — to speculate that Obama is simply not very good with numbers.  That explanation makes Obama more honest, but less competent, than Krauthammer's explanation.

I think Krauthammer switched prices and wages in his parenthetical indexing comment, since we currently index by prices, not wages.)
- 2:15 PM, 24 April 2009   [link]

Did She, Or Didn't She?  Speaker Pelosi has told us that she didn't know.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing back on GOP charges that she knew about waterboarding for years and did nothing.

Pelosi says she was briefed by Bush administration officials on the legal justification for using waterboarding — but that they never followed through on promises to inform her when they actually began using "enhanced" interrogation techniques

"In that or any other briefing . . . we were not, and I repeat, were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation techniques were used.  What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel . . . opinions that they could be used," she told reporters today.
But there is evidence that she did know.
Nancy Pelosi denies knowing U.S. officials used waterboarding — but GOP operatives are pointing to a 2007 Washington Post story which describes an hour-long 2002 briefing in which Pelosi was told about enhanced interrogation techniques in graphic detail.

Two unnamed officials told the paper that Pelosi, then a member of the Democratic minority, didn't raise substantial objections.
Congressman Hoekstra says she did know — if she was paying attention.

Steve Gilbert thinks that Pelosi is not being entirely truthful, and has some evidence from a Pelosi interview.

The common sense interpretation of the Pelosi shifts is that she was fine with waterboarding when she thought it would be popular with her party, and opposed to it when she found that it no longer was.   And, now that she wants to use it against Republicans, she almost has to deny her former position on the subject.

If old-fashioned politics explains these verbal shifts, then we would have to conclude that Pelosi doesn't care whether we waterboard terrorists; she just, like many other politicians, wants to be on the winning side (as she sees it).

For completeness, you have to consider other possible explanations, but I haven't been able to think of one that flatters the Speaker.  (If you can, let me know.)  She might, as Congressman Hoekstra sarcastically suggested, not been paying attention during the briefings.  Or, she might have a really bad memory.  But the common sense explanation seems far more likely than either of those alternatives.  We should not be surprised to see a politician "doing what politicians do", even if that requires the politician to be dishonest about their own record.
- 1:04 PM, 24 April 2009   [link]

Will The Recovery Be Slow?  Probably.  Here's why.
The resilience shown by the oil markets is not because of any improvement in the global economy or rise in oil consumption.  Global demand remains on course for its steepest drop since the early 1980s, and oil inventories are at their highest levels in 19 years.

Instead, analysts said, oil is once again being sought by investors as a refuge against a slumping dollar and rising inflation.  Stabilization of the oil price is also a victory for the OPEC cartel, which has succeeded in cutting output sharply to match lower demand.
. . .
The action of oil producers has been critical in providing a floor for prices.  Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have shown uncharacteristically strong discipline in recent months in sticking with their pledges to reduce output.

Saudi Arabia and other producers have slashed their overall production by about 3.5 million barrels a day since September, according to estimates by the Middle East Economic Survey and others, amounting to 75 percent of their commitments to reduce production.
Victories for the OPEC parasites are defeats for the rest of the world.  We can hope that the cartel's grip on the world's economy loosens, but we should not expect that to happen soon, since the Obama administration is working with them to keep energy prices high.

(One can argue that energy prices should be higher, for environmental reasons, but one should not make that argument without admitting that those higher prices will mean lost jobs and troubled family budgets.

Incidentally, the article is accompanied by a good graph of oil prices over the last 16 months, though they do not say exactly which oil prices they are graphing)
- 7:02 AM, 24 April 2009   [link]

Cheney Was Doing A Better Job:  David Paul Kuhn thinks this is shocking.
Double take.  Joe Biden is less popular than Dick Cheney.  Well, in the first half year of the first term that is.

A slim 51 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Vice President Biden.  Cheney was at 58 percent in July 2001.  Al Gore, 55 percent in April 1993. The veep comparison comes courtesy of the Pew Research Center's latest report.
But Cheney deserved the higher rating, since he was doing a better job than Biden is doing.  The Obama campaign, having picked Biden for reasons that escape me, soon learned what everyone else has known for years, that Biden is a lightweight, with a propensity for making embarrassing remarks, some of them true.   So they muzzled him.  But Biden slips off the muzzle from time to time, and when does, he often says something embarrassing.  And voters are beginning to notice.

In contrast, Cheney had, if anything, earned respect during the 2000 campaign, and went right to work as vice president.

(Kuhn must not know much about political polls.  He is certain that Biden will never rank as low as Cheney did on leaving office.  But the 11 percent loss that Biden has already suffered suggests that Biden may well end up with much lower ratings than Cheney.)
- 5:48 AM, 24 April 2009   [link]

Seniority Rules:  Even if you have to lay off a candidate for teacher of the year.
The Hampton School Board has been making moves that would be a publicity agent's worst nightmare.

In the past week, it has announced a massive restructuring of Hampton Academy, the school's principal announced his resignation and, after she thought her job was intact for next year, an educator who is in the running to be the state's Teacher of the Year was told a mistake had been made and that she would be laid off.

Reportedly, Christina Hamilton got the news via cell phone while on her way home from school.

"It was an oversight by the decision makers, whether it was the SAU office or the board," said Kevin Fleming, grievance chairman of the teachers union.  "Even though she is recognized as a candidate for Teacher of the Year, they have to go on seniority."
Because of a union contract, one would guess, though the editorial does not discuss that point directly.

You must admit that a cellphone message is a classy way to get a layoff notice.

By way of Joanne Jacobs.

(Hampton Academy looks like a sensible place.

This incident will remind some of a famous quote from Mark Twain.  But that might be unfair since the board appears to just be following union rules.)
- 8:32 AM, 23 April 2009   [link]

How Do You Get To America?  Pirate, pirate, pirate!
A crewmember from a U.S. ship attacked by Somali pirates said the sole surviving pirate from the group counted himself lucky to have raided an American vessel and carried himself as the pirates' leader.
. . .
"He told me then when I was with him that it was his dream to come to the USA," said ["Zahid"] Reza, who immigrated to the U.S. from Bangladesh in 1999.
Don't laugh.  Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse is now in New York, on an all-expenses-paid trip.

(With apologies to all those who have practiced hard to get to Carnegie Hall.)
- 2:45 PM, 22 April 2009   [link]

The New York Times War On Science:  All right, that's too strong a title, but I couldn't resist the temptation.  Let me restate it, with a little more accuracy:  The New York Times skirmishes against a social science finding they don't like.

First, the finding — as reported by the Times.
But studies have found indications that liberal nominees do better in the process than conservative ones.  The latest, to be presented next month at the Midwest Political Science Association, found evidence consistent with ideological bias.

"Holding all other factors constant," the study found, "those nominations submitted by a Democratic president were significantly more likely to receive higher A.B.A. ratings than nominations submitted by a Republican president."

The differences matter, said Amy Steigerwalt, a political scientist at Georgia State and an author of the study, along with Richard L. Vining Jr. of the University of Georgia and Susan Navarro Smelcer of Emory.
(I have skimmed through the paper, which you can download here.  It seems quite well done, certainly better than any of the previous papers they discuss.  And the conclusion seems plausible.  Most people would be surprised to find that a group of leftist lawyers treated conservative nominees as well as leftist nominees.)

And here's what the editorial writers said about the study:
As the A.B.A. resumes this role, a new study suggests that it may have a liberal bias.  There is little support for this claim.  Indeed, there are signs that the group has been cowed by conservative critics in recent years into approving less-than-qualified nominees.  The A.B.A. needs to ensure that its evaluators make assessments based on the nominees' merits, not on political pressure.
. . .
A study by a University of Georgia professor and two other political scientists reviewed those ratings from 1985 to 2008 and found that President Clinton's nominees were 14 percent more likely than the Republican presidents' choices to receive a "well qualified" rating.

Rather than being a result of bias, this disparity may reflect the degree to which recent Republican presidents put ideology ahead of excellence in selecting judges.  Based on the last eight years, it is especially hard to argue that the A.B.A. has been a liberal force on judicial selection.
If you aren't familiar with academics, you may not realize just how nasty that second sentence is.  By saying that there is "little support for this claim" the Times is implying that the three political scientists' study is worthless.  That's like saying that a doctor doesn't help his patients, or a restaurant is selling food that isn't nutritious.

I doubt very much whether anyone on the Times editorial board is qualified to review this paper.   To understand it, you would need to know, among other things, what a "logit" model is.  Such knowledge is not common among journalists.

But the Times was willing to condemn the paper anyway (and come close to slandering the authors) — because they didn't like the principal finding.  One would almost think that they are anti-science.

(The Times did print a letter in reply to the editorial.  The Times doesn't say whether the letter came in as an attachment to a letter from a law firm.)
- 2:14 PM, 22 April 2009   [link]

GM Is Doing Very Well:  In China.
Ford may be standing taller than General Motors in Detroit these days — flush with cash while its rival is forced to go repeatedly to Washington, hat in hand, seeking government bailouts.  But in China the tables are turned.

G.M. is a powerful presence here with 8 to 10 percent of the market for cars, minivans and sport utility vehicles, making it the second-largest automaker in China for such vehicles, passed only by Volkswagen.   One of G.M.'s local joint ventures, Wuling, dominates the sale of bare-bones pickups and vans, hugely popular in rural areas, with nearly half the market.
Unfortunately the Chinese market is not as large as the American market.  But this does show what GM can do — in places where it does not have to negotiate with the UAW, or satisfy the EPA.
- 1:04 PM, 22 April 2009   [link]

What Is The CIA Doing About Terrorism These Days?  Not much, according to David Ignatius.
At the Central Intelligence Agency, it's known as "slow rolling."  That's what agency officers sometimes do on politically sensitive assignments.  They go through the motions; they pass cables back and forth; they take other jobs out of the danger zone; they cover their backsides.

Sad to say, it's slow roll time at Langley after the release of interrogation memos that, in the words of one veteran officer, "hit the agency like a car bomb in the driveway."  President Obama promised CIA officers that they won't be prosecuted for carrying out lawful orders, but the people on the firing line don't believe him.  They think the memos have opened a new season of investigation and retribution.

The lesson for younger officers is obvious: Keep your head down.  Duck the assignments that carry political risk.  Stay away from a counterterrorism program that has become a career hazard.
I can't verify what Ignatius says about the CIA.  (And wouldn't tell you, if I could.)  But anyone familiar with bureaucrats will find his conclusions all too plausible.

Sadly, I have to say that I can understand why those officers might not believe Obama.  (Some might, for instance, have heard about his promise to renegotiate NAFTA.)

(Incidentally, after revealing the damage that Obama has done to the CIA, Ignatius says that he still favors Obama's release of those memos.  He didn't persuade me, but you may want to look at his argument, such as it is, yourself)
- 10:31 AM, 22 April 2009   [link]

Happy Earth Day?  In general, I am more than willing to wish people well when they are celebrating religious holidays, even when I don't share their beliefs or traditions.   That may be irrational theologically, but I think that attitude helps us get along in a country that has always had a wide variety of religious beliefs.

But I can not wish most of the participants in today's religious celebration well.  If they were satisfied just to plant new trees, or dance around and worship old trees, or something similar, then I would have no trouble wishing them well.  (And, admittedly, enjoying a private chuckle at their expense.)  But they are not content to just hold their own worship services; instead, they want to force all the rest of us into following their religious beliefs.  And some of those beliefs are destructive.

At this point, I should probably say, wearily, that of course I favor cleaner air and water, and have for years.  (And on the whole have supported politicians who worked to bring those good things to us.)  And I suppose that I should mention that I love hiking, would like to do some backpacking again, and love to see our natural wonders — not that that will surprise regular readers of this site.

But I value cleaner air and water, and seeing natural wonders, because those things make human lives better, not because I think the earth is sacred.  And that is where I differ from many of those who will celebrate Earth Day.  I haven't bothered to search, but I will confidently predict that many speakers at the celebrations today will use religious language to justify their positions.  That's a safe prediction, because some of them always do.

And many of them will ignore the most basic, and obvious, scientific facts.  For instance, the world's population of polar bears has been growing for decades, mostly because we have cut back on hunting the carnivores.  Everyone who has taken an even casual glance at the matter knows that — but you will still hear, if you attend the religious festivities today, warnings that polar bears are endangered.  Oddly, the speakers will rarely follow that up by saying that we should stop hunting the bears entirely.

(I say in general, because there are some religions that I would prefer not to see celebrated, for example, that of the Thuggees, assuming the traditional description of them is roughly correct.)
- 9:55 AM, 22 April 2009   [link]

Good Question:  From Andrea Tantaros:
I didn't hear the outrage when Joe Biden said that he and Barack Obama are against gay marriage.  No incendiary language, no insults, no four letter obscenities.

Why is it acceptable for Obama and Biden to have this opinion but not a conservative female?
(In particular, Miss California, Carrie Prejean.)

The answer is obvious.  Many on the cultural left believe — perhaps correctly — that Obama and Biden don't really believe what they say about gay marriage.

(By way of HotAir.

And I can't help adding that it seems strange to bring in a man like Perez Hilton, who would not watch a woman's beauty contest for the same reasons that I would, to judge such a contest.)
- 6:14 AM, 22 April 2009
Update:  The Instapundit used similar language to make the same point I did.  His post was put up last night, but I had not seen it when I wrote mine.
- 6:42 AM, 22 April 2009   [link]

Remember Obama's Promise To Renegotiate NAFTA?   Never mind.
The administration has no present plans to reopen negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement to add labor and environmental protections, as President Obama vowed to do during his campaign, the top trade official said on Monday.

"The president has said we will look at all of our options, but I think they can be addressed without having to reopen the agreement," said the official, Ronald Kirk, the United States trade representative.  It was perhaps the clearest indication yet of the administration's thinking on whether to reopen the core agreement to add labor and environmental rules.
. . .
Not only Mr. Obama but also one of his rivals for the presidency, Hillary Rodham Clinton, had promised during their campaigns to renegotiate the accord — a politically popular position in some electorally important Midwestern states that have lost thousands of manufacturing jobs.
Maybe the New York Times will send a reporter out to talk to some of the voters who believed Obama's promise.  Just kidding.  Of course the Times won't do that.

(One important question is still open.  When Austan Goolsbee reassured the Canadians last year, did Goolsbee have inside knowledge?  Did Obama tell Goolsbee, or even hint to Goolsbee, that his promise to renegotiate the treaty was just campaign talk?)
- 2:55 PM, 21 April 2009   [link]

Obama And That $100 Million Savings:  When politicians make obvious mistakes, like Joe Biden's stingy charitable contributions, it often tells us something about how they think.

Obama asking his Cabinet to find $100 million in savings was an obvious flub.  When even the Associated Press and the New York Times find the action of a Democratic president funny, then that president has almost certainly goofed.  Big time.

So why did Obama make that mistake?  I can only speculate, and over the last two days I have come up with a nasty speculation.  As of now, I lean against thinking that it is true, and I certainly hope that it is not true.  But it makes just enough sense so that I will share it with you anyway.

Perhaps, to Obama, that $100 million is big money, even in the context of the federal budget.  Until he became president, the largest budget that Obama ever had to administer was the budget for the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which spent less than $200 million totally.  Obama was not on either of the two big money committees in the Senate, Appropriations and Finance.

Much about his academic career is obscure, but from what is known publicly, there is no reason to think that Obama took any courses in mathematics or statistics after, perhaps, his first year at Occidental.

Perhaps — and as I said, I would prefer not to believe this — Obama is so unused to thinking with large numbers that he did not see that his $100 million would be laughable.  (And none of his aides were willing to tell him.)

Let me repeat that I am just speculating.  But I will be looking for more evidence on Obama's skill, or lack of it, with numbers.  (And if you see some evidence, on either side, I would appreciate hearing about it.)
- 1:58 PM, 21 April 2009   [link]

"Patently False"  Mark Thiessen calls President Obama a liar.  Or, if you want to be kind, badly misinformed.
In releasing highly classified documents on the CIA interrogation program last week, President Obama declared that the techniques used to question captured terrorists "did not make us safer."  This is patently false.  The proof is in the memos Obama made public -- in sections that have gone virtually unreported in the media.

Consider the Justice Department memo of May 30, 2005.  It notes that "the CIA believes 'the intelligence acquired from these interrogations has been a key reason why al Qaeda has failed to launch a spectacular attack in the West since 11 September 2001.' . . . In particular, the CIA believes that it would have been unable to obtain critical information from numerous detainees, including [Khalid Sheik Mohammed] and Abu Zubaydah, without these enhanced techniques."  The memo continues: "Before the CIA used enhanced techniques . . . KSM resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, simply noting, 'Soon you will find out.'"  Once the techniques were applied, "interrogations have led to specific, actionable intelligence, as well as a general increase in the amount of intelligence regarding al Qaeda and its affiliates."
News accounts over the years have generally supported Thiessen's conclusion, not Obama's.

(My own opinion?  Obama did not care whether what he said was true or false.  He needed to say that the techniques did not make us safer for political reasons, and so he did.)
- 9:58 AM, 21 April 2009
Even Obama's own intelligence chief says the techniques made us safer.
President Obama's national intelligence director told colleagues in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists.

"High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa'ida organization that was attacking this country," Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote in a memo to his staff last Thursday.
Time for some enterprising reporter — Jake Tapper perhaps — to ask the Obama administration about this apparent disagreement between Obama and Blair.

Logically, high value information must have made us safer, or it wouldn't have been of high value.   Unless Blair and Obama have non-standard definitions of the words that they have been using.
- 10:10 AM, 22 April 2009   [link]

Juan Williams Is Not Happy:  The Obama administration, working with Democrats in Congress, has killed the DC voucher program.
As I watch Washington politics I am not easily given to rage.

Washington politics is a game and selfishness, out-sized egos and corruption are predictable.

But over the last week I find myself in a fury.

The cause of my upset is watching the key civil rights issue of this generation — improving big city public school education — get tossed overboard by political gamesmanship.  If there is one goal that deserves to be held above day-to-day partisanship and pettiness of ordinary politics it is the effort to end the scandalous poor level of academic achievement and abysmally high drop-out rates for America's black and Hispanic students.
. . .
By going along with Secretary Duncan's plan to hollow out the D.C. voucher program this president, who has spoken so passionately about the importance of education, is playing rank politics with the education of poor children.  It is an outrage.
Read the whole thing.

Williams voted for Obama — and may be beginning to regret that.

You can find reactions to Williams column from teacher Betsy Newmark here and from educational reformer Jay P. Greene here.

(I wrote about the DC vouchers here, and have been planning to write about the cynical way the Democrats are disbanding Armey's Army, but I have not been able not been able to bring myself to do so.  Now Juan Williams has said what I wanted to say, with far more passion.)
- 9:35 AM, 21 April 2009   [link]

Ironic And Dismaying:  David Carr thinks that the cable networks generated the tea parties.
Cable news stations have been criticized for "event-izing" all manner of minor news occurrences — President Obama's first news conference comes to mind.  But the Tax Day Tea Party was all but conceived, executed and deconstructed in the hothouse of cable news wars.
Carr is being a little coy here, but if you read the whole piece you can figure out what he means.  Fox is creating this movement for ratings, and MSNBC and CNN are responding.

Carr thinks this is a bad thing.
The tea references are not the problem.  When a media company sets itself as the party of opposition, it can have unforeseen consequences.  The theatrics make it hard to tell where talk of secession — the governor of Texas made a veiled threat — states' rights and stringing up public officials transforms from hyperbole to reality.

The president was likened to Hitler on various posters at rallies, and a sign in Lafayette Park read, "Stand Idle While Some Kenyan Destroys America? I Don't Think So."
That's David Carr of the New York Times saying that a media company setting itself as the "party of opposition" can have "unforeseen consequences".  (He means bad things will happen.)  And it is simply bizarre to see Carr criticize others for likening Obama to Hitler — without mentioning how many on the left have made similar comparisons to President Bush, for years.  (For the record, I think both comparisons are absurd.)

As it happens, I agree that we would be better off if our larger media companies did not set themselves up as parties of opposition — and I have been criticizing Carr's newspaper for years for doing just that.

Carr's column illustrates how a media company set up as a party of opposition damages itself.  To get estimates of the number attending the "tea parties", Carr uses a partisan source,   If he had checked a partisan source on the other side, he would have found a much higher number.  Judging by the column, Carr did not bother to call any of the people who organized the tea parties to ask them for their views.  That the protesters might have decided to act even without Fox is not an idea Carr wants to consider.

It is ironic to see the media critic for the New York Times criticizing other news organizations for setting themselves up as parties of opposition.  And it is dismaying to see a reporter ascribe motives to protesters — without ever bothering to talk to them.
- 2:21 PM, 20 April 2009   [link]

Who Pays How Much?  That depends on which federal tax you are considering.

Federal taxes by quintiles, 2006

The federal income tax is quite progressive; federal excise taxes are quite regressive.  The corporate income tax is probably quite progressive, though it is not trivial to figure out how to allocate it to households.  (You have to figure out whether imposing it results in lower pay for the workers, higher prices for consumers, or lower returns for investors, or, most likely, some combination of the three.)   Note, by the way, that the lowest quintile pays about minus seven percent of their income in federal income taxes.  In other words, they get about that much from the government.  And the second lowest quintile also gets a little income tax money.  So, very roughly, about forty percent of our tax filers are enjoying the benefits of a negative income tax.

The social security tax is moderately regressive, but that does not tell the whole story, since the social security payouts are moderately progressive, perhaps even more than moderately progressive.

You can find more Congressional Budget Office charts here, along with much data.

(You are right; this really should have been posted on April 15th, as Greg Mankiw did.

Oh, and the Pelosi Democrats just raised tobacco taxes, making federal excise taxes even more regressive.)
- 11:13 AM, 20 April 2009   [link]

Was Bush Hitler Or The Antichrist?  Professor Jim Lindgren reminds us just how many people on the left, some of them supposedly serious people, have called Bush a "fascist" or worse.  (Lindgren has, so far, done three posts on on the subject, which you can read here, here, and here.

Lindgren's point is not new; John Leo, whom he quotes extensively, made the same observation in 2003.
The hard left decided long ago that George W. Bush is Hitler.  In maddened corners of the Internet and at swastika-choked antiwar marches, Bush is shown with a Nazi uniform or a Hitler mustache.  But does everyone on the far left believe this?  Not at all.  Some think that Dick Cheney is the real Hitler (he commands America's "storm-trooper legions," said former right-wing crackpot and current left-wing crackpot Lyndon LaRouche).  Others think Don Rumsfeld is Hitler (both men favored mountaintop retreats, the Action Coalition of Taos points out).  These comparisons are still being argued.  Air Force veteran Douglas Herman, writing an op-ed piece in Florida, says Rumsfeld is more like Goering, since both men were fighter pilots, while LaRouche decided that Cheney isn't just Hitler -- he's Lady Macbeth as well.

Many on the left believe that either Ari Fleischer or Karl Rove is Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.   Or maybe Richard Perle is related to Goebbels.  The September issue of Vanity Fair suggested that Perle could be Goebbels's twin (side by side photos, headlined "Separated at birth?").
There's more, but you have probably seen much of it before.

As it happens, I can top this, slightly.  A Seattle Methodist minister speculated that Bush might be the Antichrist.  A prominent local editor, Knute Berger, though he has no religious beliefs to speak of, was happy to spread that story.  (Earlier, Berger had urged the left not to run a "noble" campaign.)

As far as I can tell, none of the people who called Bush a fascist, or Hitler, or even the Antichrist, have been discredited.  But all of them should have been.
- 9:23 AM, 20 April 2009   [link]

The Kid With Chocolate Frosting All Over His Face:  Occasionally, because I appreciate low humor, as well as high, I watch America's Funniest Home Videos.   Some time ago I saw a video of a kid who had been eating a chocolate cake, messily, so that the chocolate frosting was smeared all over his face.  When his parent asked him whether he had eaten the cake, he denied it with a straight, but chocolate-smeared, face.  And he stuck to his story, in spite of the evidence on his face.

When Obama tells us how he is going to cut the deficit in two (after quadrupling it) or when he tells us he will be asking his Cabinet to cut spending, I am reminded of that little kid.
President Obama plans to convene his Cabinet for the first time today, where he will order members to identify a combined $100 million in budget cuts over the next 90 days, according to a senior administration official.

Although the cuts would account to a minuscule portion of the federal budget, they are intended to signal the president's determination to trim spending and reform government, the official said.
. . .
Still, Obama said he is serious about reining in deficits over the long term, and some agencies are already moving in that direction, the administration said.
And maybe that little kid actually thought that he hadn't been eating the cake.

All this would be even funnier if we were talking about mere billions in waste, rather than trillions.
- 8:25 AM, 20 April 2009
More:  Even the Associated Press finds that $100 million laughable, as you can read here, and see here.  Actually, now that I think of it, Jennifer Loven seems more annoyed than amused in that video.
- 4:35 PM, 20 April 2009
Even the New York Times is amused by that $100 million.
- 1:24 PM, 21 April 2009   [link]

It Didn't Start In 2000:  This New York Times editorial recycles many leftist myths about the 2000 election.
Since 2000, Florida has been synonymous with badly run and undemocratic elections.  This distinction has not come to it by chance.  Many of the state's election officials and legislators work hard to keep eligible voters from casting ballots.

Another provision would require election officials to purge voting rolls more frequently, a sore point in Florida, where an improper purge of the rolls before the 2000 election removed many eligible voters.
In fact, Florida has a long history of election fraud, which explains why legislators and governors of both parties have tried to tighten the election laws.  John Fund's Stealing Elections has a few samples from many.

Here, for example, is the story behind that "improper purge":
A mandate for the list was passed into law in 1998, sponsored by two Democratic legislators and signed by a Democratic governor, Lawton Chiles, Jeb Bush's predecessor.  The law came about in is response to the Miami mayoral election in 1997 that was overturned by a court due to widespread voter fraud, with votes from disqualified felons and dead people. (pp. 100-101)
Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris is often accused of removing voters from the polls, but she had no legal authority to do so.  All she did was send a lists of possible illegal voters to the county officials for them to check.  Some counties, most of them controlled by Democrats, simply ignored the list — in spite of the legal requirement that they check for illegal voters.

And there is more, much more:
Both the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post found that, if anything, county officials were too permissive in who they allowed to vote, and this largely benefitted Al Gore.  An analysis in the Post found that 5,600 people whose names matched the names of convicted felons who should have been disqualified were permitted to cast ballots.  "These illegal voters almost certainly influenced the down-to-the-wire presidential election," the Post reported.  "It's likely they benefitted Democratic candidate Al Gore.  Of the likely felons identified by the Post, 68 percent were registered Democrats." (p. 101)
Both newspapers endorsed Al Gore.

The New York Times is right about one thing; many of the state's elected officials worked "hard to keep eligible voters from casting ballots".
In fact, during all the various lawsuits against Florida, only two people testified that they were not allowed to vote because their names were mistakenly on the ["purge"] list.  But in contrast to this trivial number, Bill Sammon, now with the Washington Examiner, points out that some 1,420 military ballots, some clearly received on or before Election Day, were disqualified at the behest of Democratic lawyers because they didn't technically comply with Florida's law requiring a foreign postmark. (p. 101)
(There is a federal law that might have overruled the Florida law, but the Republicans did not react quickly enough to use it to protect these military votes.)  In some counties, Democratic officials disqualified every single overseas vote.

To the best of my knowledge, the New York Times has never published a story on those 5,600 almost certainly illegal felon votes.  And the Times appears to have forgotten about the disqualified military votes, though it was such a scandal at the time that even vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman objected to the disqualifications.  (And earned the undying hatred of a few on the left for wanting to have an honest election.)

(The Miami 1987 mayoral election drew the most attention, but there were other serious cases of vote fraud in Florida in the ten years before the 2000 election.  There were scandals in both Broward and Palm Beach counties, just to the north of Miami.  All three counties are controlled by Democrats.)
- 5:55 PM, 19 April 2009   [link]

Why Are These Men Smiling?  In January, President Obama criticized Hugo Chavez, and Chavez replied with an insult.  So when they get together both men are all smiles; Obama even has what is crudely known as a sh*t-eating grin on his face.

Similarly, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega makes a long speech blaming the United States for everything from the common cold to bad breath, and Obama greets him with that same grin.

That's not a rhetorical question.  As with Obama's bow to the Saudi king, I suspect that Obama's grins to these two men tells us something, but I have no idea what they tell us.

It is easy to speculate.  But we have so little data that all we can do is speculate.   For all I know, Obama may be thinking something like this in those two encounters: "Sucker, when I am done with you, I am going to cut your heart out and eat it."  That seems unlikely, but it is hard to know what this strange man, Obama, is thinking.  (The thoughts of the other two seem obvious enough; both hope, for whatever reasons, that they can use Obama.)

We might get some idea of what Obama means by those grins if we could find more examples.  I don't recall Obama giving those grins to his Democratic primary rivals, or to John McCain.  Or to Prime Minister Brown, or to President Sarkozy.  If you have seen that Obama grin before, let me know, so I can share the clue.

(An obvious point, but one you may not see in every news story on these encounters:  There are few things that would help Venezuela more than to have Chavez replaced by a moderate, competent president.   And no serious person would choose Ortega as the best man to lead Nicaragua.)
- 8:16 AM, 19 April 2009   [link]

Worth Studying:  Professor MacKay's book on sustainable energy — without the hot air.  Professor MacKay explains why he wrote the book in the preface:
I'm concerned about cutting UK emissions of twaddle — twaddle about sustainable energy.  Everyone says getting off fossil fuels is important, and we're all encouraged to "make a difference," but many of the things that allegedly make a difference don't add up.

Twaddle emissions are high at the moment because people get emotional (for example about wind farms or nuclear power) and no-one talks about numbers.  Or if they do mention numbers, they select them to sound big, to make an impression, and to score points in arguments, rather than to aid thoughtful discussion.

This is a straight-talking book about the numbers.  The aim is to guide the reader around the claptrap to actions that really make a difference and to policies that add up.
Though written for Britain, the analyses in the book will be helpful almost everywhere in the developed world.

You can buy the book from several different sources.  Or, you can download a copy of the book for free.  MacKay explains his generosity:
I didn't write this book to make money.  I wrote it because sustainable energy is important.  If you would like to have the book for free for your own use, please help yourself: it's on the internet at

This is a free book in a second sense: you are free to use all the material in this book, except for the cartoons and the photos with a named photographer, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales Licence.  (The cartoons and photos are excepted because the authors have generally given me permission only to include their work, not to share it under a Creative Commons license.)  You are especially welcome to use my materials for educational purposes.  My website includes separate high-quality files for each of the figures in the book.
Suppose that you don't feel up to reading the whole thing.  Then you can read portions of it on line, or just download this ten page synopsis.   (Everyone interested in energy problems should do at least that much.)

This is probably obvious, but I'll say it anyway:  If you know someone who thinks it will be easy to switch to sustainable energy sources, you may want to share this book with them.
- 3:49 PM, 17 April 2009   [link]

Stingy, And Not Very Bright:  Vice President Biden is not a generous man.  With his own money, anyway.  With the taxpayer's money, well . . .

But what surprises me even more about Biden's unwillingness to contribute significantly to charities is that it isn't very smart — for a politician.

One of the simplest and most effective ways for a politician to build support is by contributing to charities.  That's not a new idea; in fact, it dates back to at least 500 BC, and probably to long before then.

But now Biden, like John Kerry and Al Gore before him, has turned out to be the very opposite of a cheerful giver.  He didn't even learn from Bill Clinton's example.  The Clintons, whatever else one may say about them, were smart enough (perhaps even generous enough) to contribute significantly to charities before he ran for the presidency.

(More here, and some quite funny attempts to defend Biden in the comments here.)
- 12:07 PM, 17 April 2009   [link]