December 2009, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Democrats Conquer A Rural Town:  With the help of illegal votes.
Nowhere is the battle being more fiercely fought than in New York's Columbia County, a two-hour drive up the Hudson River from New York City.  Local Democrats have encouraged weekend residents to register and vote on the theory that their ballots aren't needed in New York City, where Democrats already hold an overwhelming registration edge.  In a lightly-populated upstate community, however, a few transplant votes can represent the balance of power.

That was certainly the case last month in the town of Taghkanic, which has about 1,500 people.   In a closely contested race for local offices, more than 20% of the ballots were cast by absentees, almost all of them by weekend residents who appeared to have delivered narrow victories to local Democrats.  In response, Republicans have sued, pointing to evidence that many of the absentees were people whose jobs, drivers licenses and primary residences were in New York City and legally should have voted there.  Some may even have voted in both jurisdictions.   Approximately 60 absentee ballots are at issue and could sway the result of some races if disqualified.
(Emphasis added.)

None of this will surprise long-time readers of this site, but it is a little surprising to see how openly the local Democrats were (are?) encouraging fraudulent registrations and votes.  That change doesn't seem hopeful, at least to me.

(A Republican candidate for sheriff in Utah used a similar tactic in a 2006 election.)
- 6:53 AM, 31 December 2009   [link]

Another Obama Nominee Withdraws:  Because of financial "problems".
President Obama's nominee to oversee financial reform at the United Nations has withdrawn his name from consideration for the job, several weeks after revelations that a wireless company he owns in India faced legal and financial troubles, according to U.S. officials.

Jide J. Zeitlin, a former Goldman Sachs executive, informed the White House in a letter this week that he had withdrawn for personal reasons.  His decision comes amid indications that Zeitlin may have understated his company's financial and legal troubles in a Nov. 4 congressional hearing.
(And, perhaps, some personal problems.)

By now, you would think that the Obama administration would have improved their vetting of nominees enough to spot obvious problems.  I can only think of three possible reasons they haven't, sheer incompetence, indifference to anything except political considerations, and a failure to understand that Chicago rules on what is acceptable in a nominee do not work on the national level.  (It could be a mixture of the three.)
- 6:01 AM, 31 December 2009   [link]

So Far, Mostly So Good With The New HP D7560 Printer:  The printer, which I had ordered last week, arrived yesterday.   And so far I am mostly pleased with it.

Positives: The printer handles paper and printable CDs better than the Epson R300.   It has a separate tray for the smaller sizes of photo paper so you can keep 4x6 and 5x7 photo paper in one tray for photos and ordinary printer paper in another.  It handles printable CDs better than the Epson, where I found it often took many tries to get the CD positioned correctly.

I haven't done any tests, but the HP appears to be faster than the Epson.

The little color touch screen is usable for printing pictures directly from flash cards.  The help messages on it are usually genuinely helpful, something that is true of gadgets less often than I would like.  (And I am supposed to know something about these things.)

So far, it has automatically recognized all the paper I have put into it.

Neutrals: The installation process under Windows was tedious, but routine.  The Linux installation process was automatic, but so far I have only been able to get the printer to print on plain paper from the main tray.  The Windows print driver is less confusing than the Epson driver.

The quality of the prints is about equal to those made by the Epson R300.  The test prints I have made appear little more red than the Epson prints, which are a little more blue.  (You could probably correct the output from both with a little judicious work in a photo program.)

Negatives: The HP program which you use to make CDs (and other things) is annoying.  Before you can put a picture on a CD, you have to add the picture to the program's library.  The CD editing controls are weak.  (Many will want to create the pictures for the CD in another program, perhaps even a specialized label program.)  On the first two CDs I printed, the registration was a millimeter or two off, so the picture was printed just a little off center.

The printer can not handle really long photo paper, unlike the Epson.  (Not that I ever used that feature.)

All in all, it is a good choice for a person who wants to make good prints with little fuss.   Professionals may want to look for a more expensive printer with more options and slightly better print quality.  You won't make big gains in quality, but even small ones can be worthwhile for professionals.

(The closest current Epson equivalent is the Artisan 50.   It has fewer features — no slick touch screen or flash card reader — but it may produce just slightly better quality prints, on the average.)
- 6:49 PM, 30 December 2009   [link]

Just When You Think The Ivies Couldn't Get Any Sillier, they prove you wrong.
That's right — a T-shirt calling Harvard men "sissies" proved too offensive for Yale students and administrators, who seem to have somehow come by the impression that a college football game is an occasion for behavioral civility that the rest of us would reserve for a funeral.  One student, who would clearly be beside himself were he to attend a Philadelphia Flyers game, pointed out that the word "sissies" was "offensive" and "demeaning," and added that he considered the word to be a "thinly veiled anti-gay slur."
The Yale students were quoting a line from F. Scott Fitgerald's This Side of Paradise.

(But not very intelligently.  If you read the whole passage, you can tell that Fitzgerald was putting down both Harvard and Yale students — and complimenting his own alma mater, Princeton.  Not surprisingly, Tigerhawk, another Princeton alumnus, spotted that.

By way of Joanne Jacobs.)
- 4:17 PM, 30 December 2009   [link]

Avoiding Death And Taxes:  The first temporarily, the second permanently.

Today's Wall Street Journal has a front page story explaining why some rich people are putting off their deaths.
Starting Jan. 1, the estate tax — which can erase nearly half of a wealthy person's estate — goes away for a year.  For families facing end-of-life decisions in the immediate future, the change is making one of life's most trying episodes only more complex.

"I have two clients on life support, and the families are struggling with whether to continue heroic measures for a few more days," says Joshua Rubenstein, a lawyer with Katten Muchkin Rosenman LLP in New York.  "Do they want to live for the rest of their lives having made serious medical decisions based on estate-tax law?"
Some of the ailing rich have already made the decision for their heirs, and are determined to live, one way or another, until next year.

This year-long tax vacation is the result of Bush's efforts to cut the estate tax completely, without apparently wrecking the budget long term, and the current Congress's lapse in restoring the estate tax this year.

(I still recall my annoyance when Bush did this; it was too cute for my tastes, and a little irresponsible.)

Congress's lapse is harder to understand.  According to the article, the estate tax hits about 5,500 families a year, so restoring it would not have been wildly unpopular, especially since nearly everyone expected the Pelosi-Reid Congress to restore the tax.  In contrast, Pelosi and Reid found it easy to raise tobacco taxes, which hit millions, most of them poorer than the average person.

And what happens in 2011, when the tax rate on estates soar?  Some of the wealthy are already thinking of timing their exit so as to beat the tax man.  One, for instance, asked his tax advisor if he would beat the tax by going to the Netherlands to take advantage of their assisted suicide law.  (He can, legally.)

(In fiscal year 2008, the estate tax brought in 28.8 billion dollars, about 1 percent of federal receipts that year.

For the record:  Unlike many conservatives, I have no objection, in principle, to an estate tax.  And I admit that I would be pleased if one could be imposed on the third and fourth generations of the Kennedy, Rockefeller, and Sulzberger families.  Whether the current laws make sense is a question I will leave to tax experts, but I suspect they don't.)
- 3:46 PM, 30 December 2009
Possible correction:  Like Paul Krugman, I was under the impression that this odd situation was the result of President Bush trying to hold down the long-term estimates on his tax cuts.  Greg Mankiw, who is more reliable than Krugman, has another explanation.
As I recall, the reason for this peculiar state of affairs was not, as Paul Krugman suggests, an attempt to hold down the official cost of the Bush tax cuts.  Indeed, back in 2001, what would happen in 2011 was outside the 10-year budget window, so rigging the official cost could not have been the motive for the return of the estate tax next year.  Rather, some legislative rule made it harder to pass changes in tax law that applied outside the 10-year window.
(If you happen to know who is right, please let me know.)
- 2:42 PM, 4 January 2010   [link]

Another Failure For The Terrorist Catch-And-Release Program:  You've probably heard this story.
Two of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November, 2007, according to American officials and Department of Defense documents.  Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the Northwest bombing in a Monday statement that vowed more attacks on Americans.
Hilariously, they were released into a Saudi "art therapy rehabilitation program".

I've thought for some time that we were releasing too many jihadis from Guantanamo, and that we did not have the right criteria for choosing which ones to release.

Some argue that there have been few such cases, but that argument has always seemed thin to me, since we don't know what most of those released have been doing after they were released, unless we capture them again, or kill them.

(It's not as important as the policy failure, but I have been mildly surprised by the corresponding political failure.  Few Democrats have used these failures for another line of attack against Bush.  I suppose that most Democratic politicians don't want to annoy Democratic activists, who almost all see Guantanamo as evil.)
- 11:14 AM, 29 December 2009   [link]

Mark Whitaker Is In Love With Barack Obama:  That's the conclusion almost anyone would come to after reading this Washington Post op-ed.

For example:
As a candidate for president, that disciplined, linear, conciliatory approach to life helped Barack Obama defeat the fractious campaigns of Hillary Clinton and John McCain.  It was exactly the right temperament to help Americans avert a fiscal and emotional meltdown in the early days of the financial crisis.
(Actually it was the Bush adminstration which acted during the "early days of the financial crisis", but mentioning details like that makes me feel as if I were mocking a man who has just told me how wonderful his new girlfriend is.)

So what, you may say.  Many political activists fell in love with Obama during the campaign, and some still are.  True enough, but the best part of this op-ed was at the very end:   "The writer is Washington bureau chief for NBC News."

Would it be rude to suggest that Whitaker may not be skeptical enough to cover Obama?

(By way of Hot Air.)
- 6:47 AM, 29 December 2009   [link]

While Resting In Hawaii, Barack Obama said this:
President Obama declared Monday that his administration "will not rest" until it tracks down everyone involved in the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas, and pledged to do "everything in our power" to ensure security in the thick of the holiday travel season.
Even in the Obama administration, there are probably a few people who can see the humor in that combination.  But I doubt that any of them are close to Obama.

(Unfortunately, we may be better off if he rests, and leaves the running of the government, and the immediate responses to terrorist attacks, to the permanent bureaucracy.  I don't like to say that, but we have to recognize that he has almost no executive experience — and judging some of his comments, no understanding of what he lacks.)
- 1:24 PM, 28 December 2009   [link]

Is This Percy Sutton story true?
However, one of Sutton's most notable moments is absent from the media hagiographies I have seen: he stated on television that he knew that an Islamic supremacist, Dr. Khalid al-Mansour, and advisor to a wealthy Saudi, had paid for Barack Obama's education at Harvard Law School.
We don't know for certain, and now that Sutton has passed away, we may never know.

But the video is detailed enough to be persuasive, if not conclusive, and the story comes from an Obama supporter.

You might think that this story would interest the inquiring minds of our "mainstream" journalists; if you did, you would be wrong.  So many mysteries in Obama's life, so little curiosity about them among those who are paid to be curious.
- 6:43 AM, 28 December 2009   [link]

Why Did Abdulmutallab Use PETN To Try To Blow Up Flight 253?  Mostly because the explosive has a very high bang per ounce.
Introduced after World War I, PETN is in the same chemical family as nitroglycerin and among the most powerful of explosives.  It was the same explosive that Richard C. Reid tried to detonate in his shoes during an American Airlines flight in December 2001.
Luckily, PETM is not easy to detonate.  And the al Qaeda explosives experts are still learning their trade.
- 6:15 AM, 28 December 2009   [link]

Dave Barry Reviews 2009:  (Even though it isn't quite over yet.)

He has dry, factual analyses like this:
In government news, top Washington thinkers, looking for a way to goose the economy along, come up with the "Cash for Clunkers" program, under which the federal government provides a financial inducement for people to take functional cars, which are mostly American-made, to car dealers, who deliberately destroy these cars and sell the people new replacement cars, which are mostly foreign-made.  This program, which was budgeted for $1 billion, ends up costing $3 billion and is halted after a month.  The administration declares that it has been a huge success, which everybody understands to mean that it will never, ever be repeated.  With this mission accomplished, the top Washington thinkers are free to train all of their brainpower on the nation's health-care system.
And a joke or two.
- 6:00 AM, 28 December 2009   [link]

Keep Talking, Valerie:  That's what a Republican strategist would say — to himself — after reading this post.
One of President Barack Obama's closest advisers Saturday said claims that the White House is engaging in "seedy Chicago politics" are "completely unwarranted."

Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett pushed back against the Republican refrain in a year-end interview with Politics Daily.
. . .
GOPers have lobbed the "Chicago politics" accusation at the White House for deals it has struck with lawmakers and interest groups on high-profile legislative efforts such as healthcare and cap-and-trade. The claim is taken to imply a certain dirtiness about the deals that riffs on Chicago's well-known political machines.
Every time the subject is brought up — even in a denial — Republicans gain a few votes.

And, who knows?  Perhaps this denial will lead a "mainstream" reporter or two to become curious about what exactly Valerie Jarrett did for the Chicago machine, what they did for her, and what her company did to some of Chicago's poor.
- 6:27 PM, 27 December 2009   [link]

As Usual, The Terrorist Belongs To A Well-Off Family:  Very well off.
With his wealth, privilege and education at one of Britain's leading universities, Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab had the world at his feet — able to choose from a range of futures in which to make his mark on the world.

Instead, the son of one of Nigeria's most important figures opted to make his impact in a very different way — by detonating 80g of explosives sewn into his underpants, and trying to destroy a passenger jet as it came in to land at Detroit Airport on Christmas Day.
. . .
Abdulmutallab's father, Umaru, is the former economics minister of Nigeria.  He retired earlier this month as the chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria but is still on the boards of several of Nigeria's biggest firms, including Jaiz International, a holding company for the Islamic Bank.   The 70-year-old, who was also educated in London, holds the Commander of the Order of the Niger as well as the Italian Order of Merit.
As usual, some find his background surprising.

We shouldn't, for two reasons.  First, we now have enough of these terror attacks to recognize that the terrorists who attack Western targets are almost all well educated and well off.  There have been enough of these attacks so that anyone who wants to can see the pattern.

Second, a minute or two of thought will show you that a terrorist attacking a Western target will have to have enough money to get here, and enough education to function in our environment.  An impoverished farmer in Yemen may wish us ill, but he can't reach us.  He doesn't have the money for a visa and a ticket, and he doesn't know how to act if he could get here.

What's more interesting — at least to me — is how many of these men were educated in European and American universities.  And who are reported to have become radicalized by that experience.

One would like to think that someone in authority at our universities would inquire into the reasons for that pattern, would want to know why Western universities turn some Muslims into terrorists.  If there has been such an inquiry, anywhere in the West, I have missed it.
- 5:08 PM, 27 December 2009   [link]

"Preliminary Observations" On The Christmas Terror Attack from Thomas Joscelyn.

Most look like they will hold up as we learn more about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempt to blow up Northwest Flight 253 over Detroit.

(As usual, Arabic names cause problems when translated into English.  I am using the New York Times version of his name; there are two alternatives in the post, and probably many others.)
- 4:32 PM, 27 December 2009   [link]

Merry Christmas!

To all those who are celebrating it today.
- 2:01 PM, 25 December 2009   [link]