December 2008, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

The Seattle PI Should Make Up Their Mind:  There were two editorials in today's PI.  In the first, the PI told us that more jobs are needed.  (I agree.)

Last week's job report was an urgent call for more action by the federal government.  More than a half million jobs evaporated from company rolls in November.  December could be terrible as well.  The list of companies shedding employees seems to grow by the hour.

In the second, the PI told us that gas prices should be higher.

We're concerned about the dropping price of oil.  Sure, it's great for consumers.  We, too, like seeing change after we fill our tank with gas.  Most experts think the price will continue to decline and some are speculating that a barrel of oil will drop to less than $25 and gas at the pump may go below a dollar a gallon.

The problem is inexpensive oil will not help this country kick its addiction.  The fact is high fuel prices help society heal, moving to healthier energy choices.

Except that those high fuel prices destroy jobs.  Which doesn't seem too healthy to me.

So, I think the newspaper should decide which is more important right now, and in the long run, jobs or high energy prices.  (I will give the PI credit for this much.  Unlike almost all the politicians they support, the newspaper is willing to admit that they want higher prices for energy.)

As I have said before, I think that OPEC and high energy prices are principally to blame for the almost world wide slowdowns, which have turned into recessions in many nations.  My argument is not complex.  The surge in oil prices hit consumers hard in all the oil importing nations.  Consequently, they had less to spend on other things, and their nations' economies slowed down.  As the BBC noted, this has happened before; in fact, an anonymous BBC writer attributes four recessions since 1975 to OPEC.

Or, to put it another way, the money that went to Caracas, Dubai, Moscow, Oslo, and Riyadh did not go to Ford, GM, Nordstroms, or Sainsburys.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(For what it is worth, German Chancellor Merkel has come out in favor of jobs, over higher energy prices.)
- 4:57 PM, 8 December 2008   [link]

Worth Reading:  Mary Anastasia O'Grady explains the Canadian crisis.
On Oct. 14 Stephen Harper won re-election as Canada's prime minister.  In most modern liberal democracies that would be interpreted as a voter preference for Mr. Harper's leadership to continue.   But soon after election day, Canada's hard-left New Democratic Party and the separatist Bloc Quebecois Party began plotting to overthrow the PM in Parliament.  And last week, with the help of the Liberal Party, they tried to schedule a vote of no-confidence to carry out their plan.

Mr. Harper fought back by appealing to the governor general for permission to suspend Parliament until Jan. 26, and on Thursday she granted his request.  His survival now depends on whether the anti-Harper coalition holds together over the next seven weeks.
And what united the three oppposition parties:
Americans, however, may be more interested in what brought the three-party, anti-Harper coalition together.  It was an attempt by Mr. Harper to do away with public financing of political parties.

There is a similarity between how Canada's Conservatives finance their campaigns and how U.S. President-elect Barack Obama did it.  Both could afford to forgo public money because, for both, voluntary giving amounts to much more.
But the three main opposition parties in Canada would find it much harder to give up their share of tax money.
- 2:11 PM, 8 December 2008   [link]

Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette!  Barack Obama, it turns out, has been doing just that, as many of us suspected.
But the shocking news concerned the new president's health.  The man who's become a workout fanatic admitted on "Meet the Press" that he has not quit smoking.  At first he said he did, then he confessed he'd fallen off the wagon.
Years ago, Merle Travis predicted problems for those with Obama's habit.

I'm tempted to add a new verse to the song, but will hold off on that until Obama takes office.

(Here are the lyrics, if you want to start thinking about your own new verses.

If I recall correctly, Obama promised his wife that he quit smoking, in return for her agreeing to the presidential campaign.  One cruel wag — I forget who — said that all Obama promises come with expiration dates.  I'm sure that's not literally true, but many of them do.

Bill Clinton smokes an occasional cigar, as we all know — and let's not get into the details.   Walter Mondale is a regular cigar smoker, but managed to almost completely conceal that during the 1984 campaign.  Al Gore must have been a smoker at one time.  I'm not sure about Dukakis or Kerry.)
- 1:33 PM, 8 December 2008
More:  In spite of his smoking habit, Barack Obama says he is doing a "terrific job" taking care of his health.  I doubt that many doctors, or many life insuarance companies, would agree.  This older post, from Beldar, shows how evasive Obama has been on this subject — and how much help he has gotten from "journalists" like Chris Matthews.
- 6:56 AM, 9 December 2008   [link]

Depression Lust:  All too many American journalists have it, says Virginia Postrel
If anyone should fear a Depression, it should be journalists, who are already the equivalent of 1980s steelworkers.  But instead, they seem positively giddy with anticipation at the prospect of a return to '30s-style hardship--without, of course, the real hardship of the 1930s.  (We're all yuppies now.)  The Boston Globe's Drake Bennett asked a bunch of people, including me, what a 21st-century Depression might look like.  The results sounded pretty damned good to some people--a sure sign of an affluent society, or at least affluent commentators.
I'm sure she's right.  I can't count the number of times I read hopeful pieces in the New York Times saying that a recession might be coming soon, so now that one is actually here those people have to be pleased.

It's not quite a counterintuitive as it might seem.  Since journalists are almost all on the left, they generally prefer government to market solutions, and most recessions make governments larger, and markets less important.

By way of the Instapundit.
- 12:43 PM, 8 December 2008   [link]

Machine Politicians And Public Works:  (Or, if you prefer, machine politicians and infrastructure spending.)  Machine politicians love spending on public works.   Here's an example from one of the most famous bosses, James Michael Curley, who was first elected mayor of Boston in 1913.
Curley's reign as mayor got under way in a cascade of public works programs.  Tunnels were dug under streets, the electric streetcar system was extended, brick-piece city streets were paved by the mile, new parks and playgrounds replaced rat-infested tenements, swamps were filled and beaches came into existence, and hospitals were cleaned and painted.
. . .
At first the Good Government Association liked what it saw of the bustling new city administration that was modernizing the city with what appeared to be great efficiency and at moderate cost.  But the bills proved sky high; tax rates shot up on banks, newspapers and businesses; and secrecy from the mayor's office became the rule. (pp. 149-150)
Here's a description of Barack Obama's plan for public work spending.  (Or, if you prefer, infrastructure spending.)
President-elect Barack Obama promised Saturday to create the largest public works construction program since the inception of the interstate highway system a half century ago as he seeks to put together a plan to resuscitate the reeling economy.
. . .
Mr. Obama's remarks showcased his ambition to expand the definition of traditional work programs for the middle class, like infrastructure projects to repair roads and bridges, to include new-era jobs in technology and so-called green jobs that reduce energy use and global warming emissions.  "We need action — and action now," Mr. Obama said in an address broadcast Saturday morning on radio and YouTube.
. . .
Although Mr. Obama put no price tag on his plan, he said he would invest record amounts of money in the vast infrastructure program, which also includes work on schools, sewer systems, mass transit, electrical grids, dams and other public utilities.  The green jobs would include various categories, including jobs dedicated to creating alternative fuels, windmills and solar panels; building energy efficient appliances, or installing fuel-efficient heating or cooling systems.
Mayor Curley would be delighted by Obama's plan.

But should we be delighted?  Probably not.  As far as I can tell, Obama said nothing about these projects meeting ordinary cost/benefit tests.  In other words, there is no reason to believe that all of them, or even most of them, will be worth what they cost.

But such economic tests are not important to the machine politician.  Instead, a machine politician is concerned with the political benefits.  And it is not hard to see that the political benefits for Obama could be considerable, just as they were for Mayor Curley.  There will be contractors who think they owe their contracts to Obama, workers who think they owe their jobs to Obama, consumers who think they are getting wonderful new things from Obama, and Greens who think that Obama is helping them build their temples.

Politically, this plan for a vast extension of public works may well help Obama, even if it makes the country worse off, on the whole.  But it is the political test that is important to Obama, not the economic test.  As David Freddoso puts it, Barack Obama is the product of the radical left — and machine politics.  This set of proposals shows that he is the heir of Tammany, Curley, Daley and most other machine politicians, as well as being a friend, or at least a onetime political ally, of unrepentant terrorist William Ayers
- 11:04 AM, 8 December 2008   [link]

Holy Cao!  Upsets don't get much larger than this.
The first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress doesn't have a long list of policy beliefs.  Aside from one major issue, Republican moderate Joe Cao says he's open on everything else.

"The only thing I am certain of is that I am anti-abortion," Cao said Sunday morning after defeating Democratic U.S. Rep. William Jefferson in a race that marked a major shift in New Orleans politics by ending a 30-year stand for Jefferson, dogged by corruption allegations.
How Democratic is the district?  John Kerry took 75 percent of the vote there in 2004.  The Cook Partisan Voting Index puts the Democratic edge at 28 percent.

Jefferson's own analysis, that his voters just got tired, is probably as good an explanation as any.   And I would not expect Cao to hold this district in 2010.  But it is a wonderful victory, even with all the special circumstances.  And it is good to know that Jefferson, with all his legal problems, will not be returning to the House.

(For what it's worth, Congressman Jefferson has a law degree from Harvard, and a master's degree in law from Georgetown, though I don't think either of those schools will be giving him an honorary degree.   I'm not sure whether either school is as effective at teaching ethics as they should be.)
- 8:13 AM, 8 December 2008
More:  Just for the record, I should say that his last name is pronounced "gow", not "cow".  But I couldn't resist the pun.

Here are the unofficial returns, which will show you just how low the turnout was.  By way of comparison, more than 300,000 voted in my district (Washington's 1st) in 2004 — and it wasn't a competitive race.  And more than 200,000 voted in the primary in the Louisiana second district in that same year.  One reason for the low turnout is that many residents never returned to New Orleans after Katrina.
- 2:48 PM, 9 December 2008   [link]

"A Date Which Will Live In Infamy":  Here's the beginning of Roosevelt's famous speech, with audio for those who want to listen to it.

Randy Barnett put together a wonderful post on the memorials at Pearl Harbor.

Here are three earlier posts on the Pearl Harbor attack:  The first explains who shot first.  The second recommends three books on the Pearl Harbor attack.  And the third explains why the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

(There's a factual error in Roosevelt's speech.  I'll update this post in about 24 hours, explaining the error.)
- 6:46 PM, 7 December 2008
Update:  Here's a link to the whole speech, along with audio of the speech and four replies.  The first three replies, from Martin, Fish, and Rogers, were from Republicans.  Incidentally, Rogers was so popular in Massachusetts that she considered running for Senate against John F. Kennedy in 1958.
- 8:45 AM, 8 December 2008
The FDR Error?  He said: "In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu."  In fact, that hadn't happened — though it had been reported.  The reports were wrong.
- 6:37 PM, 8 December 2008   [link]

Women Not Hardest Hit:  Minority men, probably, but definitely not women.
Men are losing jobs at far greater rates than women as the industries they dominate, such as manufacturing, construction, and investment services, are hardest hit by the downturn.  Some 1.1 million fewer men are working in the United States than there were a year ago, according to the Labor Department.   By contrast, 12,000 more women are working.

This gender gap is the product of both the nature of the current recession and the long-term shift in the US economy from making goods, traditionally the province of men, to providing services, in which women play much larger roles, economists said.  For example, men account for 70 percent of workers in manufacturing, which shed more than 500,000 jobs over the past year.  Healthcare, in which nearly 80 percent of the workers are women, added more than 400,000 jobs.
Men losing jobs does not help women, a point that should be obvious to anyone who is even a little bit politically incorrect.

By way of the American Thinker.

(As I said last month, I think that OPEC is principally to blame for this recession.)
- 1:56 PM, 5 December 2008   [link]

Scientifically Illiterate:  Jeffrey Hart is a retired professor of English.  (He is also, or at least was, a conservative.)  And he is completely misinformed on stem cell research and Bush's policies on stem cell research.  That he is misinformed is not terribly surprising; our "mainstream" journalists get the facts wrong on this subject at least as often as not, and one doesn't expect a retired professor of English to be well-informed on such matters.  (Though Hart could have been, with a little effort.)

What is surprising is that SciTech Daily, a useful site, linked to Hart's piece.   Granted, they put it in their "Analysis and Opinion" section, but, as the saying goes, we have a right to our own opinions, but not to our own facts — even in an opinion piece.  SciTech Daily should apologize for linking to the piece.  And someone should gently suggest to Professor Hart that he needs to spend a little more time in the library before he writes on this subject.

(If you want to review the facts on this subject, look at the comments by "CureMI", "healeyblue", and "johnnym".  And I would agree with CureMI's harsh judgment on Professor Hart, though I prefer "misinformed" to "ignorant".)
- 8:57 AM, 5 December 2008   [link]

Good For These Russians:  Not that they will get what they asked for.
A Saudi offer to build a large mosque in Moscow has prompted Russian Orthodox organisations to ask for permission to build an Orthodox church in Saudi Arabia.  Several western Christian churches have asked for or suggested such reciprocity with Saudi Arabia, which funds mosques abroad but bans any religion but Islam at home.  It's an issue that can only become more pressing if King Abdullah continues to preach interfaith dialogue and tolerance around the globe while not practicing it at home.
But they are right to ask, anyway.
- 2:08 PM, 4 December 2008   [link]

Phone Camera?  That's what David Pogue calls the new Motorola/Kodak Motozine ZN5.  That probably isn't the right name for it, but the phone does have an impressive combination of features.
The ZN5 is more of a proper digital camera than almost any phone before it.

The cleverest part is the design.  When the sliding lens cover is closed, it's a phone.  It has a crisp 2.4-inch screen, the usual Send and End keys, and a brightly lighted number keypad.  (The keys offer a satisfying clickiness, and tiny raised dots help you find your way; however, they are otherwise completely flat and require you to look at them to dial.)
. . .
In short, when you look at the back, where the dialing keys are, you see only a cellphone.

But when you look at the front, you see only camera.  Here's the lens cover, the xenon flash, even an autofocus assist lamp, which briefly illuminates your subject enough for sharp focusing in low light.

To take a photo, you turn the ZN5 horizontal, like a camera, and slide open the lens cover.  Suddenly, the screen becomes a bright, smooth viewfinder.  You can press the four points of the control dial to summon controls like Flash (On, Off, Redeye or Automatic); Low Light mode (On, Off); Focus (Landscape, Macro, Automatic); and White Balance (Tungsten, Fluorescent, Daylight, Cloudy, Automatic).
So it's a good cellphone, with — for cellphones — a much better than average camera.

Oddly enough, buying my Panasonic FZ8 helped remind me how important portability is, and show me why so many people want to combine cellphones with cameras.   Although the Panasonic is better in almost every way than the Olympus C-765 that I was using before, I more and more find myself taking along the Olympus for walks or bicycle rides, because it fits in a jacket pocket.  The Panasonic doesn't fit in a jacket pocket, so when I carry it, I almost always use a camera bag.

(Pogue calls it a phone camera, which would work if we didn't already have "camera phones", a name that puts the camera first, even though almost all these phones have terrible cameras.

More here, and a video demonstration here.)
- 12:32 PM, 4 December 2008   [link]

President Sarkozy And The Voodoo Doll:  Here's the story.
The French are literally poking fun at President Nicolas Sarkozy, but he is not amused.

After appealing a court decision to allow a voodoo doll made in his image to remain on sale, Sarkozy drew a flurry of ridicule from his critics Thursday.  It is his sixth lawsuit this year.

The Nicolas Sarkozy doll, which went on sale Oct. 9 and became a best-selling cult item as soon as the president tried to have it banned, comes with a set of 12 pins and a manual explaining how to put a curse on him.
You can be too indifferent to criticism — I think President Bush has made that mistake — and you can be too sensitive.  Sarkozy would have been better off ignoring the doll, or making a joke about it.

Six lawsuits sounds excessive, especially given the descriptions in the article.

I hope Sarkozy will learn from this, and spend more of his time on serious matters.
- 7:53 AM, 4 December 2008   [link]

More On The Arrest Of Damian Green:  From the Daily Mail, including this bit:
Speaker Michael Martin was under growing pressure to step down over the affair today after his attempt to blame the Serjeant at Arms, Jill Pay, and the police.

His position appeared only to have been weakened by the devastating admission that police only had written consent from Miss Pay for the raid and no search warrant.
No search warrant?!  No sign-off by an elected official?!

And from the Guardian, a detailed Q&A, including this:
Has an arrest of this kind happened before?

Although many MPs have received leaks before, officials contacted by the Guardian could not think of a precedent for an MP being arrested in similar circumstances.

When investigating the cash-for-questions allegations, the Metropolitan Police was accused of being over-zealous in the way it conducted the inquiry, which involved a Downing Street official being arrested at her home early in the morning. Eventually the investigation was dropped without anyone being charged.

Having been criticised for being heavy-handed in pursuing allegations involving Labour politicians, the Met may have felt the need to be just as rigorous when investigating an allegation involving a Tory.
Unprecedented.  That is, I suppose, a bit of a relief.

(The Daily Mail article includes a picture of Martin and Jay in their formal costumes, which Americans may find worth a look.

Here's a Wikipedia article on the "cash-for-questions" allegations, if you are wondering what that phrase refers to.)
- 7:27 AM, 4 December 2008   [link]

Two More Connelly Mistakes:  I haven't corrected the Seattle PI columnist recently, so I suppose that I should catch up a bit.  In this column, Connelly quotes from my favorite political novel, The Last Hurrah, and makes two mistakes.

As Mayor Skeffington lies on his deathbed in Edwin O'Connor's "The Last Hurrah," a longtime flunky intones, "Ah Frank!  You've done great things!  Great things!"

"Among others!" replies Frank Skeffington, realist to the end.

(Skeffington was modeled on James Michael Curley of Boston.)

I have been re-reading the novel recently, so the mistakes jumped out at me.  Others who have not may want explanations.

The first mistake is minor; Connelly doesn't get the quotation right.  Here's the correct version:

Gorman nodded.  "Ah Frank," he said softly.  "You've done grand things.  Grand, grand things."

"Among others," Skeffington said.  "But no regrets.  No regrets at all.  And all my thanks to both of you.  For everything."

The second mistake is more serious, because John Gorman is not a "flunky", but a Skeffington ally, specifically the boss of one of the biggest wards in the city, which Gorman held so strongly that Skeffington had never tried to throw him out, as he had most of the other ward bosses.

This is a serious mistake because Skeffington has just entertained his flunkies.  He did not tell them he was dying.  Instead, he asked the flunkies, solemnly, for advice about his next election.  But with Gorman (and Skeffington's aide, Sam Weinberg) Skeffington can say his farewells honestly.  Skeffington would never be that honest with his flunkies, even on his death bed.

Any special reason for doing these Connelly corrections?  Why, yes.  The PI columnist always thanks me graciously for spotting his errors, and promptly makes corrections.  Well, now that I think of it, I can't recall him correcting any of the errors I've pointed out, and he is slower than I would like in extending his thanks for my help.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Others may want to read, or re-read the The Last Hurrah.  In 2002, I argued that you can best understand Nancy Pelosi as a machine politician, like her father.  That explains, for example, her tolerance of corrupt associates, such as Alcee Hastings and John Murtha.  This year, I have come to agree with David Freddoso, who argues that to understand Barack Obama, you need to know about his long-time alliance with the corrupt Chicago machine.  So, I am reviewing books on machine politics, including The Last Hurrah, in order to better understand our elected leaders.)
- 5:15 PM, 3 December 2008   [link]

The Arrest Of Damian Green:  And the lessons for the United States.   Here's the basic story, in case you missed it.
Gordon Brown has insisted ministers were not aware of the arrest of Tory immigration spokesman Damian Green.

The MP was arrested, held for nine hours, and his homes and House of Commons office searched by police probing alleged Home Office leaks.
. . .
The leaks thought to be at the centre of the investigation include:
  • The November 2007 revelation that the home secretary knew the Security Industry Authority had granted licences to 5,000 illegal workers, but decided not to publicise it.
  • The February 2008 news that an illegal immigrant had been employed as a cleaner in the House of Commons.
  • A whips' list of potential Labour rebels in the vote on plans to increase the pre-charge terror detention limit to 42 days.
  • A letter from the home secretary warning that a recession could lead to a rise in crime.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed Mr Green was arrested by members of its counter-terrorism command, thought to be Special Branch officers, at his home in Kent and searches were conducted at his homes in London and Kent and at two offices in Kent and London.
The leaker, it is generally agreed, is one Christopher Galley, a civil servant — and a man who hoped for a career in the Conservative party.  If I understand the British law correctly, Galley almost certainly committed a crime when he leaked this information.

What Green did with Galley's leaks, apparently, is send them on to British newspapers.

At this point, I want to shift from Britain back to the United States, and try to imagine this happening here.  Our political systems are so different that it is hard to make an exact parallel, but I will do the best I can.  Suppose a Democratic civil servant had leaked embarrassing information to Janet Napolitano, Barack Obama's choice to head the Department of Homeland Security.  Suppose Napolitano, in turn, leaked that information to newspapers like the New York Times.

Now then for the biggest part of the shift.  If the FBI arrested Napolitano and searched her office and her home, then we would have something here like what just happened in Britain.

Hard to imagine, isn't it?  (Unless, of course, you suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome.)   Partly this is because our laws against leaks are less clear than their British equivalents.  (Assuming I understand those British laws correctly.)  And partly because we have become so accustomed to accepting leaks that end up in newspapers — even if the leakers, and the recipients of the leaks have broken our laws.  Even more accustomed than our British cousins are.

Although a corresponding American case is hard to imagine, we can still learn lessons from this British arrest.  But the lessons that I see in the arrest are more complex than those seen by, for instance, Roger Kimball.  I can agree that the raid — especially when done by counter-terrorism police — was extraordinarily heavy handed.  I can agree that some of the information in that list above ought to be known to the public, however much it embarrasses the Labour government.  But at the same time, I think that, in this country, we have become a little too accepting of illegal leaks, as long as they result in newspaper articles.

And American journalists have become a little too aristocratic in their belief that laws that apply to others should not apply to them.  It would be almost impossible, for instance, to find a "mainstream" journalist who thought that our restrictive campaign finance laws should apply to newspapers.

I don't pretend to know where the exact balance should be, but I do think that, if a foreign agent could be prosecuted for receiving stolen information, then perhaps an American journalist, who receives the same information, and publishes it, should also be subject to prosecution.  Having said that, I must add that I also favor freedom of information acts that make it harder for bureaucracies to hide blunders, as well as secrets.

That balanced, or nuanced, or moderate, or muddled, or whatever you want to call it, position is not as fun as a simple denunciation of Green's arrest.  But I try to give you my best analysis, not the one that is the easiest to write.
- 1:37 PM, 3 December 2008   [link]

A Scientific Explanation For Obama Mania?   Possibly.  Though Emily Yoffe's argument would be more plausible if she were not so obviously suffering from the disease.
- 10:31 AM, 3 December 2008   [link]

Does The Constitution Disqualify Hillary Clinton From Being Secretary Of State?   The problem is in the emoluments clause (Article I, Section 6):
No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a member of either House during his Continuance in Office.
The second part, after the semicolon, is clear enough.  You can't be a congressman and a member of the Cabinet, or even a low-level civil servant.  I don't know of any violations of that part.

But can you, for example, join the Cabinet, if the pay received by members of the Cabinet has increased while you were in the Congress?  (As it did, last January, through a cost of living increase.)   It has happened, more than once, but constitutional authorities disagree on whether it should have happened.  For contrasting views on the question, see this post, which quotes Michael Stokes Paulsen extensively.  Paulsen is certain that the Constitution does not allow Clinton to be Secretary of State.  Or this post, by Eugene Volokh, who is not so certain.

By way of Mickey Kaus, I learned that the Clinton camp had already responded on this issue:
Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, said she and Mr. Obama had anticipated the issue and were prepared to resolve it.  "This is a Harvard Law grad nominating a Yale Law grad here, so all parties involved have been cognizant of this issue from the outset," he said.  "But putting frivolous lawsuits by fringe groups aside, this issue has been resolved many times over the past century involving both Democratic and Republican appointments and we're confident it will be here too."
Like Kaus, I find the argument — a Harvard Law grad and a Yale Law grad say it's so — unpersuasive. Volokh's suggestion, that a cost of living increase might not be a real increase, seems more plausible, though I would want to know if there are any legal precedents supporting that idea.  Volokh also mentions the "Saxbe fix", cutting the pay back to where it was when Clinton entered the Senate.  Again, legal authorities disagree on whether that fix solves the problem.

(One historical detail I can't recall hearing before:  The clause is one of the reasons that the Reagan administration nominated Robert Bork, rather than Senator Orrin Hatch, to the Supreme Court.)
- 9:25 AM, 3 December 2008
More:  The Wall Street Journal is sure that Clinton is unqualified.  I guess the Journal isn't willing to take the word of a "Harvard Law grad" and a "Yale Law grad" on this question.
- 6:31 AM, 4 December 2008   [link]

Transportation Spending:  It isn't a quick economic stimulus.  As I noted in this post.  And as the Washington Post explains, in more detail, in this article.
With the nation's economy in recession, Obama has pledged to create or preserve 2.5 million jobs over the next two years, primarily by dedicating federal dollars to rebuilding the nation's roads, bridges, schools and airports and to expanding sources of alternative energy.  Democrats hope to send a spending package that could exceed $500 billion to the White House by Jan. 20, when Obama takes office.

In a recession that lasts only a few months, economists say spending on infrastructure would do little to revive the economy; public works projects typically take years to get underway.  Even with projects that are ready to go -- meaning they have been designed, engineered and have cleared environmental and other bureaucratic hurdles -- only about a quarter of the overall cost is spent within the first year, according to the Transportation Department.
Does Obama know this?  Hard to say.  People keep claiming that he is "well-informed" — but I can't find much evidence for that claim.

(And, of course, there is the seasonal problem.  Many projects simply can't be done in the winter, especially in our northern states.

Historical note:  After the first Gulf War, the first President Bush proposed a significant increase in spending on transportation.  As I recall, his proposal went nowhere with the Democratic congress, and received little support from our news organizations.)
- 6:34 AM, 3 December 2008   [link]

41:  Saxby Chambliss wins in Georgia.
ATLANTA, Dec. 2 -- Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) easily won reelection Tuesday night, trouncing his Democratic challenger in a runoff and thereby ensuring that the GOP will retain the ability to filibuster bills in the Senate.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Chambliss held 58 percent of the vote to Jim Martin's 42 percent.

The result prevents Democrats from controlling the 60 seats in the Senate needed to override Republican filibuster efforts.  Democrats have 56 seats, while two independents typically caucus with them.  Republicans now have 41 seats and hope to hold one more, in Minnesota, where a recount between Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken remains to be decided.
A win's a win, but it shows how far Republican fortunes have fallen that having 41 or 42 seats is viewed as a significant victory.

But this win does make a difference.  For instance, it will probably allow Republicans to protect the secret ballot in union elections.  (Democrats have promised the unions that they would institute a "card check" system in which potential union members could sign union cards publicly.  If you don't see why that it is a problem, just imagine that two Teamster organizers came around, and, in front of the other workers, ask you to sign a card supporting a union in your work place.  Most of us would find it harder to refuse in that situation, than to vote against the union in a secret ballot.)
- 6:09 AM, 3 December 2008   [link]

Nice Ring:  So nice that you would almost think that Barack Obama was apologizing to his wife.
Michelle Obama is to receive this £20,000 thank you from her husband for her support during the election.

The Harmony ring is made of rhodium — the world's most expensive metal — and encrusted with diamonds.  It is being hastily made by Italian designer Giovanni Bosco in time for January's inauguration ceremony.
(I have no reason to think that he owes her an apology, but this is the kind of gift that often accompanies an apology.)

That's a $30,000 ring.  Which is, if I recall correctly, about the total amount that the Obamas have contributed to charity over the last five years.

And it is unfortunate that there are no American jewelry designers who can do this kind of work.
- 6:02 PM, 2 December 2008   [link]

The Future Lies Ahead:  I haven't given up on the idea of building a new site, though I did decide not to work on it until after the election.  And now I am catching up with some of the other things I postponed during the months before the election.

I hope to have those mostly under control by next week, and will then begin working, seriously, on the new site.  You probably won't see much difference in this site while I am developing the new one, though I will be revising the blog roll here.

At the very earliest, the new site might be done some time in January.  Might.

Meanwhile, I plan to do a few more evening and weekend posts, often on non-political subjects.  It may seem odd, but I think sprinkling more non-political posts into the mix will help you understand the political posts — if only to put them in the right proportion.
- 4:26 PM, 2 December 2008   [link]

What Usually Happens In Political Rematches?  The same thing that happened the first time.
Losing an election by just a little can create a lot of temptation for a candidate to try again, figuring that an earlier start, a change in strategy or some other campaign tweak will produce a victory on the second try.  That is why there typically are several rematch contests in each congressional election cycle.

But the second time, it turns out, is rarely the charm for challenging candidates, and their track record in this year's round of rematches was no exception.  Eighteen races in which the same major-party candidates faced off for the second consecutive election were rated as at least somewhat competitive by CQ Politics.  And in 15 of those 18 contests, the same candidate won both elections.

In fact, the defeated challenger candidates in a dozen of those races actually lost ground, with the incumbents winning more handily in the second round.
And often a little more so.
- 12:31 PM, 2 December 2008   [link]

The Mayor Of Birmingham, Alabama Has Been Arrested On Corruption Charges:   This blog post at the Birmingham News gives the basics, but omits Langford's party.  By which, we can infer, correctly, that Langford is a Democrat.
- 10:24 AM, 2 December 2008
More:  This New York Times article has more details on the corruption charges, including this:
Mr. Langford, 60, was charged in the 101-count indictment with taking over $230,000 in cash, clothing and jewelry in exchange for ensuring that a widely known Alabama investment banker, William B. Blount, took part in lucrative bond deals related to the financing of improvements to Jefferson County's failing sewer system.  Those deals have led the county, which includes Birmingham, to the brink of bankruptcy.
It appears that the taxpayers of Jefferson County got the worst of the deal.
- 12:52 PM, 2 November 2008   [link]

What Actually Happened In Mumbai?  This Wall Street Journal article is the best overall account I have found.
- 10:13 AM, 2 December 2008   [link]

Bigotry Against Mormons:  Jonah Goldberg describes three TV ads.
Did you catch the political ad in which two Jews ring the doorbell of a nice, working-class family?   They barge in and rifle through the wife's purse and then the man's wallet for any cash.  Cackling, they smash the daughter's piggy bank and pinch every penny.  "We need it for the Wall Street bailout!" they exclaim.

No?  Maybe you saw the one with the two swarthy Muslims who knock on the door of a nice Jewish family and then blow themselves up?

No?  Well, then surely you saw the TV ad in which two smarmy Mormon missionaries knock on the door of an attractive lesbian couple.  "Hi, we're from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!" says the blond one with a toothy smile.  "We're here to take away your rights."  The Mormon zealots yank the couple's wedding rings from their fingers and then tear up their marriage license.

As the thugs leave, one says to the other, "That was too easy." His smirking comrade replies, "Yeah, what should we ban next?"  The voice-over implores viewers: "Say no to a church taking over your government."
The first two ads are, of course, fictional; the third ran in California, in opposition to Proposition 8, which overturned the gay marriage established by the California supreme court.  (By a one vote margin.)  Our "mainstream" journalists would be outraged by the first two ads, but, from what I can tell, our "mainstream" journalists mostly approved of the third ad.
This newspaper [the Los Angeles Times], a principled opponent of Proposition 8, ran an editorial saying that the "hard-hitting ad" was too little, too late.

The upshot seemed to be that if the pro-gay-marriage forces had just flooded the airwaves with more religious slander, things would have turned out better.
You don't have to be a Mormon — I'm not — to find that third ad a disgraceful appeal to religious bigotry.  But for many of our "mainstream" journalists, some kinds of religious bigotry are not just acceptable, but laudable.

(There was a similar, though more subtle, appeal to religious bigotry here in Washington state.   Supporters of an assisted suicide initiative ran ads attacking "outside" religious groups.  The outside group they were talking about was the Catholic church, which has one or two adherents in this state.  Meanwhile, the proponents received heavy contributions from those outside the state, even outside the United States.)
- 6:37 AM, 2 December 2008   [link]

Politically Incorrect:  But accurate.
Unless the one-drop rule still applies, our president-elect is not black.

We call him that -- he calls himself that -- because we use dated language and logic.  After more than 300 years and much difficult history, we hew to the old racist rule: Part-black is all black.   Fifty percent equals a hundred.  There's no in-between.
Marie Arana has more to say about Obama — and others of mixed race, including herself.

That something this obvious is so difficult to say shows the power of political correctness.
- 1:04 PM, 1 December 2008   [link]

The Attack Was In Mumbai:  But the excuses, this time from Deepak Chopra, are familiar.
If the Mumbai terror assault seemed exceptional, and shocking in its targets, it was clear from the Thanksgiving Day reports that we weren't going to be deprived of the familiar, either.  Namely, ruminations, hints, charges of American culpability that regularly accompany catastrophes of this kind.

Soon enough, there was Deepak Chopra, healer, New Age philosopher and digestion guru, advocate of aromatherapy and regular enemas, holding forth on CNN on the meaning of the attacks.

. . . In his CNN interview, he was no less clear. What happened in Mumbai, he told the interviewer, was a product of the U.S. war on terrorism, that "our policies, our foreign policies" had alienated the Muslim population, that we had "gone after the wrong people" and inflamed moderates. And "that inflammation then gets organized and appears as this disaster in Bombay."
Now, we might laugh at Chopra's opinions on terrorism, except that CNN didn't.  The network brought him on as some sort of expert on the subject.  (To his credit, the CNN interviewer, Jonathan Mann, did not accept Chopra's nonsense without some disagreement, and managed to get Chopra to admit that there might be a few other issues behind the attack.)

And we might laugh at Chopra's opinions on terrorism, except that they are shared by many in the world, even many in the United States.  It is not hard to understand why his opinions are so common.   Anti-Americanism is widespread, so, for many, blaming America is almost automatic.   (Anti-Americanism is found in the United States, as well.  George Canning's quip, though not meant to describe Americans, describes all too many of my fellow citizens.
A steady patriot of the world alone,
The friend of every country but his own.
If you have spent any time in academia, or even in one of our more leftist cities, you have met such "patriots".)

And they are shared for another reason; if Chopra were right, then we could end the conflict by following the right policies.  And that's a very agreeable conclusion.  Frankly, it would be nice if it were true.  But it isn't, as anyone who knows even a little history should know.  The conflict between Muslims and Hindus in the India subcontinent is more than a thousand years old.   It started long before there even was an America, with the Arab raids on what is now Pakistan.

(I know little about Chopra, though he often appears on the local PBS station.)
- 12:37 PM, 1 December 2008   [link]

What Organization Was Behind The Attacks In Mumbai?  (The most recent attacks, that is.)  Probably Lashkar-e-Taiba.  Bill Roggio has some background.
Lashkar-e-Taiba has an extensive network in southern and Southeast Asia.  A senior US military intelligence official described the group as "al Qaeda junior," as it has vast resources, an extensive network, and is able to carry out complex attacks throughout its area of operations.  "If by some stroke of luck al Qaeda collapsed, LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) could step in and essentially take its place.
. . .
Founded by Hafiz Mohammed Saeed in Afghanistan in 1990, the organization quickly expanded its reach.   The Lashkar-e-Taiba has received direct support by Pakistan's notorious Inter-Service Intelligence agency as they serve to destabilize India and wage war in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

Like al Qaeda, the Lashkar-e-Taiba seeks to establish a Muslim caliphate in southern and central Asia.   Lashkar-e-Taiba "consistently advocated the use of force and vowed that it would plant the 'flag of Islam' in Washington, Tel Aviv and New Delhi," the Southeast Asia Terrorism Portal reported.  Also, like al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba practices Wahabism, the radical Islamist school of thought born in Saudi Arabia.
They are certainly plausible suspects, though we will need more evidence before we can be certain.

Note, by the way, that list of target capitals.  We may not have heard much about Lashkar-e-Taiba in this country, but they have certainly heard of us.
- 6:34 AM, 1 December 2008   [link]