April 2011, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Mt. Rainier And Mt. St. Helens Are Looking Gorgeous This Morning:   And should look pretty most of the day since we are finally getting an officially sunny day.

If you are looking at the pictures from the Rainier web cams, you are going to wonder just how much snow is on the ground at Paradise.  According to their recorded phone message, 239 inches.  So if it looks like there is 20 feet of snow there, that's because there is, almost.   (And they have gotten 770 inches since last July 1st.  Both numbers are above average for this time of year, but nowhere near records.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(According to our local weathermen, a day is officially sunny if the sun is out more than 70 percent of the daylight hours.  We haven't had one for more than 40 days.)
- 8:21 AM, 8 April 2011   [link]

That Wisconsin Vote Count Surprise:  First, the basic facts for those who haven't been following the story obsessively.
In one explosive stroke Thursday, the clerk in a Republican stronghold tilted the tight Supreme Court race in favor of Justice David Prosser by recovering thousands of untallied votes for the incumbent.

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus said Thursday that she failed to save on her computer and then report 14,315 votes in the city of Brookfield, omitting them entirely in an unofficial total she released after Tuesday's election. With other smaller errors in Waukesha County, Prosser gained 7,582 votes over his challenger, JoAnne Kloppenburg, leaving the sitting justice significantly ahead for now amid ongoing official counting.
Nickolaus got backing from the board's Democrat.
But at the news conference with Nickolaus, Ramona Kitzinger, the Democrat on the Waukesha County Board of Canvassers, said: "We went over everything and made sure all the numbers jibed up and they did.  Those numbers jibed up, and we're satisfied they're correct."

As a Democrat, she said, "I'm not going to stand here and tell you something that's not true."
Every large election in the United States has mistakes in the initial tabulations, mistakes that get into the Associated Press reports that everyone watching the returns relies on.  And there were other mistakes found yesterday in Wisconsin, some benefiting Prosser, some benefiting Kloppenburg.  (Incidentally, the local Brookfield paper got the numbers right the first time.)

No one — well, almost no one — would find anything surprising about this mistake if it were smaller and if it had not appeared to have tipped the race to the conservative candidate.  But since it did, we are going to see speculation like this for a while.

In my semi-informed opinion, that speculation is unwarranted, but I am willing to look at any actual evidence to the contrary.  Like Ramona Kitzinger, I don't want to tell you something that isn't true.

(For what it is worth, Democrat Nate Silver appears to agree with me.)
- 7:29 AM, 8 April 2011   [link]

Paul Krugman Demagogues Congressman Ryan's plan.
So the pundits who praised this proposal when it was released were punked.  The G.O.P. budget plan isn't a good-faith effort to put America's fiscal house in order; it's voodoo economics, with an extra dose of fantasy, and a large helping of mean-spiritedness.
Charles Krauthammer refutes him.
Ryan's overall plan tilts at every windmill imaginable, including corporate welfare and agricultural subsidies.  The only thing left out is Social Security.  Which proves only that Ryan is not completely suicidal.

But the blueprint is brave and profoundly forward-looking.  It seeks nothing less than to adapt the currently unsustainable welfare state to the demographic realities of the 21st century.
And the winner, on points, is Krauthammer.

(Incidentally, wouldn't Ludicrous, Cruel, and Krugman be a great name for a law firm?  Not for every law firm, of course, but for one of those law firms you hire when you are guilty as sin.)
- 6:34 AM, 8 April 2011   [link]

Her Parents Wouldn't Let Her Have A Horse:  So Regina Mayer trained Luna the cow to act like a horse.  As much as a cow can, anyway.

As you would expect with a girl that age — Regina is 15 — she's more than a bit gushy over her pet.  But the cow doesn't seem to mind much, so neither should we.

No political point, but sometimes I need a break from politics, and I am sure that most of you do, too.

(Minor confession:  When I saw this on TV, I somehow got the impression that Regina was wearing a fancy English riding outfit.  I suppose I did that because that would have made the story even funnier, which should remind me again — and everyone else — of the importance of checking the facts.)
- 6:45 PM, 7 April 2011   [link]

Lead Switches In Wisconsin:  Here's the story.
The latest vote count in the state Supreme Court race in Winnebago County indicates incumbent David Prosser is leading Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg in votes.

A tally compiled by The Associated Press Wednesday and used by news organizations statewide, including the Journal Sentinel, indicated Kloppenburg was leading the race by 204 votes.   Figures on Winnebago County's website are now different from those collected by the AP.

Winnebago County's numbers say Prosser received 20,701 votes to Kloppenburg's 18,887. The AP has 19,991 for Prosser to Kloppenburg's 18,421.

The new numbers would give Prosser 244 more votes, or a 40-vote lead statewide.
None of these numbers are official, but this does make the race even more exciting.
- 2:48 PM, 7 April 2011
Now this is a much bigger surprise — and may give Prosser a big enough lead to prevent a recount.

I would expect other minor adjustments as the counties check their tabulations, but not enough to change this lead — assuming the story is correct.
- 3:16 PM, 7 April 2011   [link]

Distributed Vote Fraud And The Wisconsin Judicial Election:   Leftist JoAnne Kloppenburg has taken a narrow lead in the race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court seat.   With all the votes counted, she has a 204 vote margin over her opponent, Justice David Prosser.  (There will almost certainly be a recount, which is why I say she has a margin, rather than saying that she has won.)

The two candidates received a total of 1,479,976 votes between them,  Let's assume that, in this hotly contested election, 1 vote in 1,000 was illegal.  Then there were a total of 1,480 illegal votes.  (Note, by the way, that some of those illegal votes could be unintentional, cast by people who think they have the right to vote, but don't.)

I think most people will accept, at least for the sake of argument, my first assumption.  Now I am going to make a second assumption that Democrats will find it harder to accept.  (Though I would have accepted it when I was a Democrat.)  I am going to assume that more of those 1,480 illegal votes came from supporters of Kloppenburg than from supporters of Prosser.  If you find that assumption hard to accept, please take a look through my list of fraudulent vote stories in the right hand column.  The vast majority of them describe illegal behavior by Democrats.  And I have made a special effort to find illegal votes by Republicans, with little success.  (Although the election was officially nonpartisan, the fight quickly became partisan since Kloppenburg's supporters hope that she can reverse the results of last November's election, which gave Republicans control of the Wisconsin state government.)

Let's be specific; let's suppose that Kloppenburg supporters cast 60 percent of the illegal votes and Prosser supporters cast 40 percent of the illegal votes.

With that assumption, we can now estimate how many votes Kloppenburg gained from illegal votes, 296 votes, or more than her margin.

(In my semi-informed opinion, that 60 percent is about the lowest plausible number.   I think that the real value is, almost certainly, closer to 65 or even 75 percent.

As usual when I discuss distributed vote fraud, I urge you to read my disclaimer, if you have not already done so.)
- 1:48 PM, 7 April 2011   [link]

A "Paragon Of Fiscal Responsibility"  That's how Time magazine's Michael Grunwald describes President Obama.

You may find that hard to believe, and you will certainly want to see some context, so here's the entire paragraph:
Most of Obama's counterfactual problems can be traced to what his former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel calls the "gift bag" that President Bush left for him.  The gift bag included the worst economy in 80 years, a nightmare on Wall Street, a deficit spiraling out of control, one unnecessary war in Iraq and one intractable war in Afghanistan, a dysfunctional health care system, and an energy policy that was broiling the planet and exposing consumers to violent swings in gas prices.  Obama basically ended the war in Iraq, but attention just shifted to the potential quagmire in Afghanistan.  He's been a paragon of fiscal responsibility compared with Bush, but he's still blamed for the megadeficits primarily created by Bush's tax cuts and the Great Recession.  Obama has jacked up fuel-efficiency standards and his stimulus included the most aggressive clean-energy push in history, but nobody notices when gas costs more than $3 a gallon.
(Emphasis added.)

Grunwald goes on and on in this opinion piece about all the bad things that Obama has prevented but doesn't get credit for.  Social scientists often call those non-events "counterfactuals".

Social scientists don't have as neat a term for things presented as true, even when they aren't; perhaps we can call them "anti-factuals".  And that would be an excellent title for Grunwald's piece, since most of the "facts" that Grunwald presents to support his argument — aren't.   (For example:  The early 1980s recession had higher unemployment than our latest recession and high inflation.)

(In general, though it is unfashionable, I think it best to give most credit (or blame) for our fiscal policies to Congress, since Congress controls the purse strings.  Anyone with an open mind — a group that may not include Grunwald — will find it instructive to compare Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid's budgets to the budgets of their Republican predecessors.)
- 8:16 AM, 7 April 2011   [link]

Working Politicians Almost Always Have Many Friends:  So we shouldn't be surprised when one of those friends embarrasses the politician.
One of President Obama's close friends has been arrested in a prostitution sting operation.

Robert 'Bobby' Titcomb, 49 - a long time friend of the President - was arrested after he allegedly approached an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute in the downtown area of Honolulu.
And it goes without saying that there is no reason to blame Barack Obama for this incident.

But it will be interesting to see how much coverage it gets.
- 7:18 AM, 7 April 2011   [link]

What Congressman Jim McDermott Knows — And Doesn't Know:   This morning, Seattle's own congressman appeared, briefly, on John Carlson's Newsline program.  The result was entertaining and, in its own way, informative.

Carlson and McDermott disagree on an issue or two, but Carlson did not take a tough line with the congressman.

He began by asking McDermott about the political consequences of a government shutdown.   McDermott said that the effects would be like those after the 1995 shutdown.  In the next election, the Republicans, McDermott said, lost about 25 seats and in the following election, another 25 seats or so.

According to McDermott, the shutdown was an unmitigated disaster for Republicans.  (For the record, I think the shutdown — and the way it was explained by Speaker Gingrich — did hurt the Republicans, mostly by taking the initiative away from them, putting them back, too much of the time, on defense.)

Carlson then asked McDermott a trick question about the size of the federal budget.   It's a trick question because we don't actually have a formal budget.  Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid decided that passing a budget would be too risky in an election year.  And then saw no reason to pass one after the big Republican gains last November.

But we do have a sort of budget from a series of continuing resolutions and, though this may be unfair, I got the impression that Congressman McDermott had no idea how large it is.   (About 3.8 trillion.)

But Congressman McDermott was sure that the latest Republican proposals would "cut everything to the bone".  That seems a little strange, considering how fast spending has grown since Pelosi and Reid took over Congress after the 2006 election.  Perhaps all those increases have been bone.

Congressman McDermott has been in Congress since the 1988 election.  It's good to see that he has not wasted his time there.  Few congressmen, I suspect, are as well informed as he is.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 12:32 PM, 6 April 2011   [link]

Germany Has Switched From Nuclear Power To Nuclear Power:   From German nuclear power to French and Czech nuclear power.
Germany has been importing nuclear power from France and the Czech Republic since it switched off its seven oldest nuclear power stations last month in the wake of the Fukushima accident, power company RWE said on Monday.

A spokesman for RWE confirmed a report in Bild newspaper that Germany had become a net importer of power since March 16.  Previously, Germany had been a net electricity exporter because of its rising output of power from renewable energy sources.

RWE said the country's power imports from France and Czech have been amounting up to 3,000 megawatts and up to 2,000 megawatts respectively.  Three quarters of France's power supply comes from nuclear energy while the Czech Republic relies on reactors for 34 percent of its energy needs.
You don't have to know much history to appreciate the irony in this switch.

But putting the humor aside, we have to recognize that this is an unhappy development, for Germany and its neighbors.  The electricity that the older reactors were producing has been replaced, most likely with more expensive and dirtier forms of electric generation.

(I have often wondered why the superstitious fear of nuclear power was so strong in Germany, a nation with a strong scientific tradition.  David Crossland, a journalist who knows the country well, has some speculations on the subject.  I can't say I found them persuasive, but offer them to you in case you see something in them that I don't.)
- 7:33 AM, 6 April 2011   [link]

New York Persecutes Another Entrepeneur:  Nothing new about that you may say, but this one is selling cigarettes, illegally.  In ones and twos.
By 8:30 a.m., amid the procession of sleepy-eyed office workers and addicts from the nearby methadone clinic, Lonnie Loosie plants himself in the middle of the sidewalk on Eighth Avenue in Midtown.  Addressing no one in particular, he calls out his one-size-fits-all greeting: "Newports, Newports, packs and loosies."

Rarely does a minute go by without a customer stopping just long enough to pass a dollar bill to Lonnie Loosie, known to the police by his given name, Lonnie Warner, 50.  They clench the two "loosies" — as single cigarettes are called — that he thrusts back in return.
The business is successful enough so that Warner has two partners working the same area.   Like any good businessman, he tries hard to please his customers.  For instance, he takes orders over his cell phone and will deliver the cigarettes inside buildings.  (Many of his women customers prefer to meet him in lobbies, rather than on the street.)

Like most other small businessmen, he is unhappy with crime in his area; he and his partners claim to keep away the drug dealers.

And he is doing well enough — despite an occasional stay in jail — so that he is thinking of buying an expensive extra.
For the moment, business is good enough that Mr. Warner said he intended to buy health insurance for the first time.  He currently relies on his periodic stays on Rikers Island — an occupational hazard — for medical attention.  "When they screen me, I ask for all the blood tests," he said.
For the record, I wish no one smoked.  Also for the record, I think we have become too hard on smokers, who do little harm to anyone other than themselves, while paying very high taxes.
- 6:11 PM, 5 April 2011   [link]

Ryan Versus Obama:  Here's the graph that Congressman Paul Ryan is using to illustrate his argument for a change from our current path.

Ryan's deficit paths

And here's the Ryan op-ed with his supporting argument.

(Why do I say this is "Ryan Versus Obama"?  Because President Obama has not presented a long-term plan of his own to reduce our deficits, much less our debt.  And that means that he is, in effect, proposing that we continue our reckless fiscal policies.

In fact, Obama has even been proposing large increases in spending, in a number of areas.  If you were to add those in, then there would have to be a third line in the graph, above the Status Quo line.)
- 1:48 PM, 5 April 2011   [link]

James Taranto Has The Best Reaction to Reverend Jones burning the Koran that I've seen.
Jones seems to have two goals: to stoke conflict between the Western and Islamic worlds, and to make himself the center of attention.  He has less in common with a rape victim than with a woman playing "Let's You and Him Fight."
That sounds about right to me.

(Of course, Jones would have had no impact at all without the cooperation of Islamic extremists.)
- 1:16 PM, 5 April 2011   [link]

Michael Ramirez Explains The Federal Budget Fight with a pie chart.
- 7:40 AM, 5 April 2011   [link]

Why Did Obama Announce His Re-Election Campaign On Monday?   Andrew Malcolm thinks it's all about money.  After going through a number of reasons why this is not a good time for the announcement, Malcolm comes to the reason that trumps all those.
Obama can't know what the economy will look like come late summer or fall.  He can't know the casualty rate when warm weather returns to the Afghanistan war, which has claimed slightly more than one American life every day of Obama's presidency.  These and other events can make him look stronger or weaker.  Donors prefer stronger.

But Obama does know that if he already has a couple hundred million in the bank, it's not only earning interest.  It's a material sign of seeming wide support that gives serious pause to any challenger(s).  In Chicago, that's called clout.
So we should expect Obama to spend even more time fund raising, and less time being president.   Which is probably a net benefit to the nation.
- 7:02 AM, 5 April 2011   [link]

Connecticut 53, Butler 41:  I made the mistake of watching most of the second half of the NCAA championship game yesterday, but it finally got too painful and I went back to wars, unemployment, and other more cheerful subjects.

Two statistics that sports fans have almost certainly heard, already:  Butler shot 18.8 percent for the game, and in one stretch during the second half missed 22 of 23 shots.

Yes, Connecticut played good defense, but not that good.  Butler didn't even make 60 percent of their free throws.

And the final score tells you that Connecticut was not shooting the lights out, either.

- 6:40 AM, 5 April 2011   [link]

Roger Simon Confesses:  And what an amazing confession it is.  Here's the interchange from Sunday's Reliable Sources.
[Howard] KURTZ: So is the press starting to sour on the stalemate in Libya?

Joining us now here in Washington, Roger Simon, chief political columnist for Politico; Dana Milbank, columnist for "The Washington Post," and in San Francisco, Debra Saunders, a columnist for "The San Francisco Chronicle."

Roger Simon, are the journalists and the anchors we just saw now aggressively challenging and acting openly skeptical about the Obama policy in Libya?

ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, POLITICO:  Yes, and that's a good thing. We're supposed to be openly skeptical.

The bloom isn't entirely off the rose between Obama and the press, but reporters are starting to concentrate more than ever on what he says rather than how he says it.  We will stipulate that he's the greatest orator of modern times, but now we're looking beyond that in every speech for what he's actually telling us.
(Emphasis added.)

Simon confessed that he, and other reporters, have not been covering Obama skeptically, that they are just now starting to pay attention to what he says.

So, should we disregard almost all "mainstream" coverage of Obama, up to this point?

No, but Simon has told us that we should treat it very skeptically, which is what I have been saying all along.

(To be fair, Simon has already given us one example of that necessary skepticism; he reported that the Obama administration has no idea who the rebels in Libya are, or what they want.)

Although Simon has taken a first step, he still has much farther to go, as Debra Saunders reminds him:
DEBRA SAUNDERS, "THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE":  Well, I think, by the way, it's important to judge the president not so much for what he says, as for what he does.
We need Debra Saunders because she is willing to say the obvious.  She might even have been willing to say that the emperor has no clothes.

By way of Newsbusters, where they provide a few alternate candidates for the "greatest orator of modern times".

(For the record:  It is far too early, even for a journalist, to declare a "stalemate" in Libya.)
- 8:17 AM, 4 April 2011   [link]

No April Fools Jokes This Year:  Not because I don't like them, but because I couldn't think of any that would top stories like this one from the Obama administration.
It's as if the president were to thank environmentalists for an award by serving lunch with paper plates and plastic forks that weren't recyclable: After a two-week delay, President Obama this week received an award from transparency and good-government advocates in a closed-door Oval Office meeting that wasn't on his public schedule — a snub that's angering the folks who met with him.
Or this one from Argentina:
Hugo Chavez is getting a journalism award in Argentina.

The Venezuelan leader regularly threatens opposition media, but the University of La Plata is giving him an award for what it describes as his work giving people without a voice access to the airwaves and newspapers.
Or this one from China:
China has assured its neighbours it will never play the bully.  The government released a key defense policy document on Thursday promising to build trust with neighbouring countries in the military sphere.
Any of those would be great April Fools jokes — but I fear that not everyone (Obama, for instance) will see just how funny they are.

(Obama's new energy policy would fit nicely into this list, but I plan to treat that in a separate post.)
- 9:58 AM, 1 April 2011   [link]