August 2012, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Where Did Paul Ryan Get His Medicare Reform Ideas?   From, though perhaps not directly, a moderate Democratic economist, Alain Enthoven.
Back then, Mr. Ryan was the only Republican to give a reform agenda definition.   The roadmap earned all of eight cosponsors and never got a committee vote. Mr. Ryan was drawing from a rich intellectual well.  Premium support was first proposed by Stanford economist Alain Enthoven in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1978.  He observed that the pervasive methods of direct economic regulation of health care did not contain costs and suggested that "managed competition" would do a better job.

'The point," Mr. Enthoven wrote, "is that government has certain limitations that are deeply rooted, if not inherent.  Government is good at some things, such as taking money from taxpayers and paying it to social-security beneficiaries, and maintaining competition in many industries; it performs badly at other things."  Premium support's "cumulative effect is intended to alter the system radically, but gradually and voluntarily, in the long run."
By, to put it bluntly, encouraging medical consumers — and their insurance companies — to save their own money.

Such plans require less of medical consumers than medical savings accounts do, but probably would reduce the growth in spending somewhat less, too.  I'm in favor of both.

(Enthoven gave qualified backing to Ryan's plan in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last year.  Enthoven has enough credentials to satisfy most people.)
- 2:31 PM, 16 August 2012   [link]

From The Way They Are Behaving, This Scandal looks more and more real
Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano’s embattled high-ranking immigration aide took a leave of absence following salacious new claims about the agency’s alleged sexually hostile environment toward men, while Napolitano herself indicated she is pondering stepping down.

Suzanne Barr, who has close Arizona ties to Napolitano, took a “voluntary leave,” according to Brian Hale, spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Barr’s leave, which began Tuesday, comes as two more male accusers claimed they personally witnessed Barr engage in lewd and hostile behavior with subordinates.
And more and more serious.

This scandal may turn out to be similar to the Senator Barbara Mikulski scandal, which I wrote about here.

(Caveat:  So far we have heard only one side of the story.  And subordinates sometimes do get together on a fake story to damage a superior.  But, as of now, I would rate the probability that these stories are true at 80 percent, or higher.)
- 2:09 PM, 16 August 2012   [link]

Does Sarah Palin Know Political Judo?  Probably.   Which would explain why she is urging Obama to replace Biden with Hillary Clinton.
Sarah Palin has said that Joe Biden’s controversial ‘put y’all back in chains’ comment should be the ‘nail in the coffin’ for his career and suggested Barack Obama replace him on the 2012 ticket with Hillary Clinton.
As Toby Harden says, Palin was being "clearly mischievous", but I am nearly certain that she also knows that by urging this switch — she made it less likely to happen.
- 8:29 AM, 16 August 2012   [link]

Some Like It Hot:  But not many of those people live in this area, where we are having a three-day heat wave.

Which we are about as well prepared for as the people in Atlanta are for a snowstorm.  Most homes and apartments in this area do not have air conditioning, because we need it for so few days during an ordinary summer.

During the heat wave, I am going to exercise early, drink plenty of fluids — and spend some time in our local (air-conditioned) library.
- 6:48 AM, 16 August 2012   [link]

Mendicants In Million Pound Mansions:  From time to time, I see stories in the British press like this one.
A family of jobless refugees who allegedly wrecked a £1.25million house paid for by the taxpayer claim they are ‘entitled’ to live there.

Manal Mahmoud and her seven children moved into the Victorian end-of-terrace home after it was given a £76,000 facelift.

But yesterday the Palestinian immigrants were branded the ‘family from hell’ by nearby residents as it emerged that they face eviction from the three-bedroom property in Fulham, West London, for their ‘appalling behaviour’.
(Technically, I suppose that's not a mansion, even though it's priced like one.  The alliteration was too much fun for me to resist.)

So far, I haven't seen any explanation for the decisions that put these large welfare families in these expensive houses.  The decision are made by local councils.  The councils may have trouble finding inexpensive homes large enough for large families — in popular areas.
- 10:44 AM, 15 August 2012   [link]

Is Joe Biden Smart Enough To Be President?  Rudy Giuliani wonders.
I mean, there’s a real fear if, God forbid, he ever had to be entrusted with the presidency, whether he really has the mental capacity to handle it.  I mean, this guy just isn’t bright.
And so do many others.

(That was one of the reasons I was surprised to see Obama pick Biden for a running mate in 2008.  I've read off-the-record claims that Obama's campaign quickly realized that they had to keep a lid on Biden.  What still amazes me is that they didn't know that before they chose Biden.)
- 9:33 AM, 15 August 2012   [link]

Which Issues Do Voters Think Are Most Important?   Gallup asked that question (though not in the same way I would have asked it), and found, not surprisingly, that jobs was the most important issue.
Creating good jobs, reducing corruption in the federal government, and reducing the federal budget deficit score highest when Americans rate 12 issues as priorities for the next president to address.  Americans assign much less importance to increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and dealing with environmental concerns.
The second most important issue, reducing corruption in the federal government, did surprise me, slightly, because our "mainstream" journalists have been so reluctant to cover Obama administration scandals.  But then I remembered that the same journalists are eager to do stories about the influence of money in politics, some of the stories justified, others not.

The seventh most important issue, setting high moral standards for the nation, may be a holdover from the Clinton era.  I say that not because I don't think it important, but because it hasn't been discussed much in recent years.

The Obama campaign will not be pleased by the issues that come in last in that list, the environment and raising taxes on the rich.

(Gallup gave voters a set of twelve issues and asked the voters to rate each for importance on a five point scale.  That approach isn't wrong, and it may allow Gallup to do historical comparisons, if they have used some of those issues before, but when evaluating the answers you should remember that those issues might not be the ones that the voters would choose, if they were given an open-ended questions, if they were just asked what issues are most important to them.)
- 7:50 AM, 15 August 2012   [link]

Bulwer-Lytton Winners:  The Daily Mail has a few of them, including the grand champion from England.  (Which I would rewrite, since I think it has an error.)

Or you can see all of them at the contest site.

My two favorites were winners in the Crime and Western categories:
She slinked through my door wearing a dress that looked like it had been painted on . . . not with good paint, like Behr or Sherwin-Williams, but with that watered-down stuff that bubbles up right away if you don’t prime the surface before you slap it on, and – just like that cheap paint – the dress needed two more coats to cover her. — Sue Fondrie, Appleton, WI

They still talk about that fateful afternoon in Abilene, when Dancing Dan DuPre moonwalked through the doors of Fat Suzy’s saloon, made a passable reverse-turn, pirouetted twice followed by a double box-step, somersaulted onto the bar, drew his twin silver-plated Colt-45s and put twelve bullets through the eyes of the McLuskey sextuplets, on account of them varmints burning down his ranch and lynching his prize steer. — Ted Downes, Cardiff, U.K.
(Since I am feeling generous this morning, I won't name any of the columnists who, I suspect, construct their columns partly from rejected Bulwer-Lytton entries.)
- 7:22 AM, 15 August 2012   [link]

For Another Look At How The Presidential Race is Going, here's the latest Karl Rove map.

It's the third in a series and shows — probably — small net gains for Romney.
Arizona moved to "safe Romney" from its position at "lean Romney;" Colorado shifted from "lean Obama" to "toss up;" and Connecticut moved out of the "safe Obama" column to "lean Obama."

Georgia and Missouri moved just out of "safe Romney" zone to "lean Romney," but this may not be an accurate representation of the situation in these two reliably Republican states, considering they have not been polled as frequently as many of the other states.
The surprise in that bunch is Connecticut, which Obama carried 61-38 in 2008.   (John Kerry carried the state 54-44 in 2004.)

(Here are the Connecticut polls at Real Clear Politics.)
- 10:44 AM, 14 August 2012   [link]

Guido Fawkes Is Not Entirely Positive About the London Olympics.

And if he is correct that it cost an average of £200 for each British taxpayer, one can see why.
- 6:58 PM, 13 August 2012   [link]

Does The DNC Chair Know Who Is In Her Party?  You would think that, whatever else the chair of the Democratic National Committee knows, or doesn't know, she would know who the important people are in her own party.

But Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz claims not to know which party is running a Democratic super-PAC.

A Democratic super-PAC that has been running an exceptionally nasty ad against Mitt Romney.  So you can understand why she might want to claim that she doesn't know them — but you can't understand why she would expect anyone to believe that she doesn't know them.
- 3:30 PM, 13 August 2012   [link]

Who Will Win This November?  I was asked that question twice in the last few days, so I imagine it is on many minds.  Unfortunately, it is too soon for me to give you a prediction on the vote shares, as I plan to do after the conventions, too early to even give you estimates of the probabilities.

But you can learn something from the betting markets, if only what many others are thinking.

As I write, the InTrade bettors give Obama a 56.6 percent chance of winning re-election.  (As I said in May, and repeated in June, at those odds, I would bet on Romney.  And I still don't know how much lower I would go before I would switch my bet to Obama.)

The bettors at InTrade are also predicting that the Republicans will keep control of the House, and have about an even chance of winning control of the Senate.

If all those things happen that the bettors are predicting, we may have the worst of all possible worlds; we may have a crippled President Obama opposed by a Congress that has no reason to trust him — after the dirty campaign he is waging.

Even worse, the Republicans are unlikely to have the majorities they would need, especially in the Senate, to make policy in spite of Obama.
- 10:47 AM, 13 August 2012   [link]

Obama Knew Almost Nothing About Foreign Policy When He Became President:  Who says so?  Well, many people, including me.

But one of the people who says that is Leslie Gelb.
Indeed, Obama was much more of a foreign policy tabula rasa than any of his subordinates.  Sure, he briefly sat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.   But essentially he has learned what he knows in the Oval Office.
(Emphasis added.)

Gelb is not a conservative.   In fact, he is so far on the left that he describes the Obama team as "centrists" in that review.

(For the record:  I don't see much evidence that Obama has learned while in the Oval Office.)
- 7:25 AM, 13 August 2012   [link]

Usually, The Associated Press Gets The Names Right:  But not always, as Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Bob Carr could tell you.

By way, naturally, of Tim Blair.
- 6:51 AM, 13 August 2012   [link]

Time For A Change In Olympia:  No, really, it is time for a change in Olympia.

It has been 32 years since voters in Washington State elected a Republican governor - the longest GOP dry spell in any state.
. . .
The 32-year GOP drought in Washington is second only to the Democratic Party dry spell in South Dakota for the longest losing streak by either major party across the country.

(Ostermeier means current dry spells, since there are a number of Southern states that went longer without electing a governor from the Grand Old Party.)

As Washingtonians know, this dry spell coincides with the decline in the quality of the Democratic candidates for most offices here.  That is particularly true of our Democratic governors in that period, none of whom rise above mere mediocrity.  All, for instance, said they support education; none achieved any significant improvements in our mediocre public schools.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(There is, however, no reason for party change in the secretary of state's office, which Republicans have held since the 1964 election.   And many reasons not to change parties — for those opposed to vote fraud.

I considered linking to the Brunner article in today's Seattle Times, since he reminded me of the Ostermeier post, but decided not to because Brunner didn't link to Ostermeier, although he did give him credit, as he should have.)
- 1:01 PM, 12 August 2012   [link]

Then Comes Baby In A Baby Carriage?  As a child, I learned some of the facts of life (as they were then understood) from this rhyme:
First comes love, then comes marriage,
Then comes baby in a baby carriage.
Apparently I wasn't the only one who absorbed those lessons.

In a front-page article in Friday's New York Times, reporter Rachel Swarns explored the pressure on gay couples to "Fill Cradles", as the headline puts it.
Washington — When the jubilant couple [Tom Lotito and Matt Hay] were wed in June, they exchanged personalized vows and titanium rings, cheered the heartfelt toasts and danced themselves breathless.  Then, as the evening was winding down, unexpected questions started popping up.

One after another, their guests began asking:  Are you going to have kids?  When are you going to have kids?
Swarns notes rather primly that gays having kids can be "dauntingly logistically and financially", without giving us much in the way of details.

As I am sure most of you have already guessed, she does not even mention that "breeder" is still a common insult in some gay communities.

It would be funny if the spread of gay marriage makes that insult unfashionable, in those communities.

(Naturally, some of those asking about kids are hoping for grandchildren.  As any evolutionist can tell you, children are a parent's way of creating grandchildren, so we should not be surprised to find parents hoping for grandchildren.  It's the most natural thing in the world.)
- 11:00 AM, 12 August 2012   [link]

Two Candidates In One:  Voters in Paul Ryan's 1st district will, almost certainly, be able to vote for him twice.
If Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) doesn't become vice president of the United States, he has a backup option: his old House seat.

Under Wisconsin law, Ryan can run simultaneously for both offices.
. . . .
The law specifically states that once a candidate is nominated, his or her name has to remain on the ballot except in the case of death.
The primary is Tuesday, and he is the only Republican running, so his name will be on the general election ballot.

(One other detail of interest:  Assuming Republicans keep control of the House, as seems likely, Ryan would have to step down as Budget Committee chair even if he does not become vice president, since he is term limited.  The Republican rules allow for waivers, but one seems unlikely since giving Ryan one would encourage every other term-limited chairman to ask for one, too.)
- 9:34 AM, 12 August 2012   [link]

The Serious Versus The Silly:  Now that Mitt Romney has picked Paul Ryan to be his running mate, we can compare the two tickets — and my very first reaction was that this was the serious — Romney and Ryan — versus the silly — Obama and Biden.

I suppose that I don't have to explain why I think that Romney and Ryan are serious men; their lives show us that both men are serious.

And anyone who has followed Vice President Biden's career will understand why I think him silly.  (Consider, for example, his absurd plagiarism of a Neil Kinnock speech in the 1988 presidential campaign.   It wasn't so much that Biden didn't give Kinnock credit, something he had done before, as that Biden had to distort his own middle-class background to use the speech.)

But Obama does not strike almost everyone as silly, so I suppose that I should say a little bit about why he often strikes me that way.

There is, of course, his choice of Biden.  There were serious possibilities for his running mate in the Democratic party (though fewer than there once were), but Biden was not one of them.

And then there is the constant over reaching with symbols, his use of a quasi-presidential seal while campaigning in 2008, the pompous 2008 speech in Berlin, those fake Greek pillars at the convention in Denver, and so on and so on.

We think it amusing and charming when a little kid tries to emulate a grown up, but it is dismaying to see a man of no particular accomplishments pretend that he deserves the symbols that belong to a great statesman.  Or, to change the metaphor, it's like seeing a pro basketball player put a championship trophy in his study, before he even plays a game in the NBA.

Finally, a serious man would, by now, have presented a serious long range plan to stave off our looming national bankruptcy.  It's dismaying that he hasn't — but it is also amusing to see him asking for another four years, without telling us what, if anything, he intends to do about our most important problem.
- 1:20 PM, 11 August 2012
Two others (at least) saw the same comparison.   John Hinderaker says:  "So Romney wants to contrast the serious guys who are out to save the country with the buffoonish and dishonest political hacks, Obama and Biden."

George Will is even harsher:  " . . . Romney may have concluded: There is nothing Obama won’t say about me, because he has nothing to say for himself, so I will chose a running mate whose seriousness about large problems and ideas underscores what the president has become — silly and small."

Don't expect many of our "mainstream" journalists to make, or even transmit, this same point.  Most see Obama, and many see Biden, as serious men.
- 8:15 AM, 13 August 2012   [link]

Worth Reading:  Walter Russell Mead on Obama's view of the press.
Moreover, some of President Obama’s complaints are unsettling.  As he sees it, the liberal narrative is “the truth”, competing narratives are “factually incorrect”, and the press has a duty not to treat truth on an equal basis with falsehood.  By this standard, any article that doesn’t heap scorn and disdain on those who disagree with him is biased; “balance” is an illusion when it comes to subjects about which liberals are passionately convinced that they are right.

It just isn’t that simple.  Political disagreements are often about values and context—about which facts are important and should move policy rather than about whether side A or side B is right about some specific point.
For example, we often debate policies that would increase economic equality — and decrease economic freedom.  (I favor some of those policies, and oppose others.)  It is supremely arrogant to believe that you have found the correct balance between those two desirable objectives.  But Obama seems to believe that he has.

Let me add one observation to Mead's post:  In the New York Times article that he is discussing, Obama's news sources are listed, although not in a systematic way.   None of them, let me repeat, none of them, are conservative sources.  President Obama avoids reading what his critics have to say.

And that is disturbing, since we are more likely to learn that we are wrong from our political opponents, than from our allies.

(The list of columnists that he sits down with explains some puzzles — and gives us another reason to distrust anything about Obama from E. J. Dionne, David Brooks, and Ruth Marcus.)
- 1:59 PM, 10 August 2012   [link]

Is this cartoon unfair to pigs?

In my opinion, yes.  At times, pigs have to wallow in the mud to control their temperatures; Reid, Pelosi, and company don't.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(There is another objection to comparing Reid and Pelosi to pigs.  I was told by an Democratic informant — who must remain confidential — that Reid and Pelosi are actually alien reptiles, so they couldn't be pigs, which are mammals.

If you disagree with that theory, feel free to present evidence contradicting it, but you will also have to explain things like Pelosi's strangely immobile face, and Harry Reid's lack of any human decency.)
- 12:36 PM, 10 August 2012   [link]

French Socialists Don't Like Gypsies, Either:  Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy began evicting gypsies (and other illegal immigrants) from France, and his Socialist successors are following his example.
French police were yesterday breaking up gipsy camps and deporting illegal immigrants found in them.

Dozens of officers in riot gear descended on a settlement near Lille shortly after dawn to oversee the evacuation of some 200 Roma living in mobile homes.

One hundred people were evicted from a site in Lyon, with similar round-ups happening in other major cities including Marseille.   Caravans and huts were destroyed in the Belleville area of central Paris on Wednesday, making another 100 people homeless.
The Socialists will receive less criticism for this policy than Sarkozy did, of course.

(Most of the British commenters would like to see similar policies in Britain.)
- 6:46 AM, 10 August 2012   [link]

The WSJ Gets Tough on President Obama.
The point is that more than any President we can recall, Mr. Obama isn't trying to persuade voters that he deserves to stay in office because of his philosophy, record or positive vision for the country.  Rather, his case is that he deserves re-election because Mr. Romney is worse, and he is so very much worse because of things that were invented in the West Wing but are detached from reality.

The entire theory of the Obama campaign seems to be that the more outrageous the claim the better, because the more you repeat it the more the media will talk about it, and the lie will achieve a kind legendary truth.
Tough, but, in my opinion, fair.

From the very beginning of his presidency, I have been astonished by Obama's indifference to mere facts, by his willingness to say whatever seems expedient at the time.

(Mainstream politicians often try to deceive us, but they tell outright lies less often than most voters think.  And, of course, many times they tell us things that aren't true — but that they believe to be true.)
- 6:21 AM, 10 August 2012   [link]

The UN Discovers What Any Farmer Or Coffee Shop Owner Could Have Told Them:  Suppose a government, realizing that cow manure can be a pollutant, decides to pay farmers a lot of money to destroy cow manure, as it is produced.

What do you think those farmers will do?

Suppose another government, realizing that coffee grounds can be a pollutant, decides to pay coffee shop owners a lot of money to destroy coffee grounds, as they are produced.

What do you think those coffee shop owners will do?

Right you are in both cases.  Not all farmers and not all coffee shop owners will begin producing more of the "pollutants" so they can make more money destroying them, but some will.

And that is exactly what is happening in a UN effort to cut down on global warming gases.
They [some manufacturers] quickly figured out that they could earn one carbon credit by eliminating one ton of carbon dioxide, but could earn more than 11,000 credits by simply destroying a ton of an obscure waste gas normally released in the manufacturing of a widely used coolant gas.  That is because that byproduct has a huge global warming effect.  The credits could be sold on international markets, earning tens of millions of dollars a year.

That incentive has driven plants in the developing world not only to increase production of the coolant gas but also to keep it high — a huge problem because the coolant itself contributes to global warming and depletes the ozone layer.  That coolant gas is being phased out under a global treaty, but the effort has been a struggle.
(The "obscure" waste gas is known in the air-conditioning industry as HFC-23, and to chemists as fluoroform, CHF3.   The coolant gas is known in the industry as HCFC-22, and to chemists as chlorodifluoromethane, CHClF2.)

Perhaps the UN could hire a farmer or a coffee shop owner to explain incentives to them.

Obligatory serious point:  The net result of this program is to transfer money from the taxpayers of developed nations to a few manufacturers in the developing nations, and, if the article is correct, to increase the production and release of greenhouse gases.
- 10:18 AM, 9 August 2012   [link]

Psychiatrists Will Find This Nancy Pelosi story, which she has told a number of times, of interest.

On her first visit to the White House after being elected speaker, Pelosi had unexpected company.
My chair was getting crowded in," said Pelosi.  "I swear this happened, never happened before, it never happened since.

"My chair was getting crowded in and I couldn’t figure out what it was, it was like this," she said.

"And then I realized Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth, you name it, they were all in that chair, they were," said Pelosi.   "More than I named and I could hear them say: 'At last we have a seat at the table.'  And then they were gone."
Ordinarily, sensing the presence of people who aren't actually there is taken as a sign of mental illness.  Not necessarily a serious mental illness, but mental illness nonetheless.

This story would be amusing if Pelosi were an acquaintance, amusing and a little disturbing if she were a back bencher.  Since she was speaker of the House and is still minority leader, it is just disturbing.
- 6:25 AM, 9 August 2012   [link]