December 2008, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Blagojevich Plays The Race Card:  The Illinois governor won't go quietly.
Defying Senate leaders in Washington and a galaxy of political leaders here, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois announced Tuesday that he would fill the Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama, which he has been accused of trying to sell.

Mr. Blagojevich said he would appoint Roland W. Burris, a former state attorney general who was the first African-American elected to statewide office in Illinois.  The decision set off efforts to block the move by state legislators, the secretary of state, and, most significantly, Democratic leaders in the United States Senate who said they would not seat anyone Mr. Blagojevich chose.
. . .
The choice of Mr. Burris immediately injected the issue of race into the appointment process, which may very well have been part of the governor’s calculation.  Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois, who was called to the lectern at the news conference by Mr. Burris, noted that there were no blacks in the Senate and said that he did not believe any senator "wants to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate."
(The New York Times skipped Congressman Rush's most inflammatory statements, no doubt to protect its readers from the harsh realities of Chicago politics.)

When Blagojevich was arrested, some said that prosecutor Fitzgerald chose that time to arrest him in order to prevent Blagojevich from making a Senate appointment.  That didn't make sense to me, because Blagojevich was still in office, and still had the power to make the appointment.  This morning I was pleased to see that law professor Eugene Volokh agrees; Blagojevich does have the power to make the appointment, and Majority Leader Reid and company do not have the power to prevent Burris from taking his seat.  (Barack Obama, who taught law, part time, at the University of Chicago for years, thinks that the Senate can prevent Burris from taking the seat.  Obama may have forgotten Powell v. McCormack.)

As Blagojevich knows, preventing a black man from filling out Obama's term would be politically costly to the Democrats.  Very costly, if there is a big public fight over the issue.

(More here, here, and here.)
- 6:20 AM, 31 December 2008   [link]

The Dave Ross Detroit Bailout Plan:  First, some background:  For years, Republicans have been supporting the United Auto Workers in the most important way possible; Republicans have been buying vehicles built by the UAW.  If Democrats had been as willing as Republicans to support the UAW in this way, Chrysler and GM would probably not have needed government loans, and Ford would be in a much stronger position.

That not-very-well-known fact leads directly to my bailout plan:  Local talk show host (and 2004 Democratic candidate for Congress) Dave Ross should buy a vehicle built by UAW workers.   (He can choose from this handy list of acceptable vehicles.)  Democrat Ross should do what Republicans have been doing and support the UAW.

Of course, Ross can not, by himself, save the UAW and Detroit, but he can set an example, and publicize that example on his talk show.  As it happens, Ross is almost the perfect person, in this area, to set that example.  Like many not-very-well-informed leftists, Ross believes in many Green superstitions.  Naturally, when it came time to buy a car, he chose the Toyota Prius.  (Or, as I like to call it, the Toyota "Pious", since most of the car's owners bought it to demonstrate their religious faith.)  He even advertises the car on his show, and appears to believe his own spiel.   The Toyota Prius is not on the list of vehicles built by the UAW.

There are millions of Democrats like Ross who could buy a car or pickup built by the UAW if they wanted to.  Many of those Democrats may believe that European cars are better than American cars.  As I mentioned in this post, people in the Seattle area are inclined to believe that Europeans are better at almost everything, including sex, than Americans.  Or, in Ross's case, they may believe that Japanese cars are better than American cars.  In fact, in general, American cars have fewer defects than European cars.  In general, Japanese cars still have a small overall lead in quality, but there are many American cars and pickups with fine quality records.

Ross believes that we should help those who have less.  Or at least he says that he believes that.  Here is a fine chance for him to prove that he is willing to do what he says all of us should do.  (And get a fine new car in the bargain.)  If he does help the UAW and enough Democrats follow Ross's example, and, like Republicans, support the UAW by buying cars built by UAW members, American car companies will be able to quickly recover from their problems.  And the UAW will benefit.

There is a second reason that Ross should do this.  When he ran for Congress, he, like most Democratic candidates, received significant union support.  It is time for Ross to pay back his union brothers and sisters, and support a union which very much needs his help.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(For the record, my 2004 Ford Focus was assembled in Mexico, but many of its parts were built — by UAW workers — in the United States.  Before I owned the Focus, I owned a VW GTI, which was assembled in Pennsylvania by UAW workers, and a Dodge Dart that was built by UAW workers.

Also for the record, the Focus is great fun to drive, was inexpensive, and gets fine gas mileage.   (The 2004 ZX5 is rated at 34 mpg on the highway, and gets close to that.)  In the four years that I have owned it, I have had nothing go wrong with the car, though I should add that I drive it about 5,000 miles a year.)
- 7:08 PM, 30 December 2008   [link]

Disproportionate Response In World War II:  As usual, critics of Israel are charging that the Israelis are responding disproportionately in their attacks on the Hamas terrorists in Gaza.  (You can find examples of that criticism in many places, for instance, here.)

Superficially, a proportionate response sounds fair.  But it can be a cruel policy, as it would be in this conflict.  And it is not the policy that the United States chose in World War II.   For excellent reasons.

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States had already become involved in a low level naval conflict with Germany.  American ships were escorting convoys half way across the Atlantic and were sometimes attacked by German submarines.  An American destroyer, the Reuben James, was even sunk during this conflict, with the loss of 115 men.  At Pearl Harbor, we lost, according to Morison, another 2403 men and women.  (Just 68 of the dead were civilians.)

So, did we respond "proportionately" to these German and Japanese attacks?  Not exactly.   Here are the results of just one part of our response, the strategic air offensives, as described in the Oxford Guide to World War II.  In both Germany and Japan, most of those who died in our bombing raids were civilians.   Richard Overy, who wrote the article on the air offensives for the Guide, estimates that the British and American bombing raids "resulted in the death of between 750,000 and one million Germans" and that American bombing raids caused the deaths of 300,000 Japanese.  (A separate article on demography in the Guide estimates the total Japanese civilian losses at 350,000, but then says in a footnote that 350,000 is almost certainly too small.)  More than one million German and Japanese civilians died from British and American bombs, alone.

And that's just the results of the air offensives.  We killed many more Germans and Japanese in other ways.

We did not respond proportionately.  But we, and our allies, ended the war, and ended the evil regimes that had begun the war.  We do not have to defend everything done in those bombing raids — and few now would, with the advantage of hindsight — but we should recognize that a disproportionate response was the right response to the attacks of Hitler and the Japanese imperialists.  Both Germany and Japan knew, at least as early as 1943, that they could not win the war conventionally.   But both hoped to wear us down by absorbing casualties at levels that Britain and the United States would never accept.

There are times when proportionate responses are appropriate, but they were not appropriate in World War II, and they are not appropriate in responding to the Hamas attacks.  In both cases, the ideology of the attacker — and Hamas's ideology is at least as evil as Hitler's — forces those responding to the attacker to respond disproportionately, or to face subjugation or an endless war.  Hamas knows that it can not win a conventional war with Israel, but, like Hitler, the leaders of Hamas hope eventually to wear down their democratic opponent, and win a victory that way.  That leaves Israel no choice but to respond disproportionately.

(A year ago, Daniel Pipes argued that the Palestinians would be better off if they accepted defeat.  He was right then, and he is right now.)
- 4:58 PM, 29 December 2008   [link]

Immigrants Bring Their Own Customs With Them:  Including, sometimes, slavery.
Shyima was 10 when a wealthy Egyptian couple brought her from a poor village in northern Egypt to work in their California home.  She awoke before dawn and often worked past midnight to iron their clothes, mop the marble floors and dust the family's crystal.  She earned $45 a month working up to 20 hours a day.  She had no breaks during the day and no days off.

The trafficking of children for domestic labor in the U.S. is an extension of an illegal but common practice in Africa.  Families in remote villages send their daughters to work in cities for extra money and the opportunity to escape a dead-end life.  Some girls work for free on the understanding that they will at least be better fed in the home of their employer.

The custom has led to the spread of trafficking, as well-to-do Africans accustomed to employing children immigrate to the U.S.  Around one-third of the estimated 10,000 forced laborers in the United States are servants trapped behind the curtains of suburban homes, according to a study by the National Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkeley and Free the Slaves, a nonprofit group.  No one can say how many are children, especially since their work can so easily be masked as chores.
Most Americans would find Shyima's story horrifying.  Many in other countries — and not just African countries — would say that the wealthy couple that abused her gave her a good opportunity.

Examples like this one have led me to conclude that we should look carefully at the values of those we allow into our country, and exclude immigrants with customs that are incompatible with ours, such as slavery.  That examination will be, admittedly, difficult.  But we need to do it if we are to be true to our own values.
- 2:07 PM, 30 December 2008   [link]

Obama Doesn't Like Having Reporters Around:  Which makes you wonder why he ran for president.
The media glare, the constant security appendage and the sheer production that has become a morning jog or a hankering for an ice cream cone — it's been closing in on Barack Obama for some time.

Now the president-elect appears increasingly conscious of the confines of his new position, bristling at the routine demands of press coverage and beginning to chafe at boundaries that are only going to get smaller.

Obama even took the unusual step Friday morning of leaving behind the pool of reporters assigned to follow him, taking his daughters to a nearby water park without them.  It was a breach of longstanding protocol between presidents (or presidents-elect) and the media, that a gaggle of reporters representing television, print and wire services is with his motorcade at all times.
How will Obama feel about the press four years from now, if this is how he feels now?
- 10:37 AM, 29 December 2008   [link]

Ever Wonder What Happened To The Grinch?  He may have gone to work writing Christmas editorials for the New York Times.
This year, you may be wondering about the carbon equation of a Christmas tree.  You may have replaced the old incandescent Christmas lights and their crazed, fragile bulbs with strands of L.E.D.'s that turn from green to blue.  You may have given each other newly planted trees on the edge of the rain forest or traded the promise of future services with your friends.
Or, if you are a normal person, you may have celebrated Christmas by exchanging presents and seeing your family and friends.

The editorial does not improve after that first paragraph.  It ends with these bizarre lines:
Christmas is all the better for being a simple place, nothing more, perhaps, than two red cardinals, male and female, against the backdrop of a snowy field.  They are there every day.  The only difference is that today it feels like Christmas.
(And if you don't have cardinals, would it not feel like Christmas?)

In between, the grinch who wrote the editorial managed to evade any discussion of the religious side of Christmas, or even the secular side, as most of us celebrate it.
- 3:14 PM, 27 December 2008   [link]

Merry Christmas!

(Or belated Happy Hanukkah, if that is what you were celebrating.)
- 3:39 PM, 25 December 2008   [link]