December 2011, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Karl Rove Makes His 2012 Political Predictions:  I agree with most of them, including this one:
Republicans will take the U.S. Senate. Of the 23 Democratic seats up in 2012, there are at least five vulnerable incumbents (Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania): The GOP takes two or three of these.  With the announcement on Tuesday that Nebraska's Ben Nelson will retire, there are now seven open Democratic seats (Connecticut, Hawaii, North Dakota, New Mexico, Virginia, Wisconsin): The GOP takes three or four.  Even if Republicans lose one of the 10 seats they have up, they will have a net pickup of four to six seats, for a majority of 51 to 53.
I am dubious about his prediction that Pelosi and Reid with both leave their leadership positions — but I hope that he is right.
- 4:22 PM, 31 December 2011   [link]

Kim Jong-un Says no more Mr. Nice Guy.
Kim Jong-un, who was declared Supreme Leader of North Korea yesterday, issued his first terrifying threat of war today.

North Korea may "smash the stronghold of the puppet forces" in the South in retaliation for "hideous crimes" committed during the mourning period for Kim Jong-il.
Among those "hideous crimes" would be some smiles by exiles, I imagine.
- 2:14 PM, 31 December 2011   [link]

As Althouse says, "Don't tease the frog".

(It's OK to do it once or twice, as an experiment in frog perception, but it's wrong to keep doing it.)
- 10:55 AM, 30 December 2011   [link]

Michael Ramirez Explains the Obama economic plan — give the bills to the kids.

Who, after all, can't vote.
- 10:37 AM, 30 December 2011   [link]

Many Of Us Don't Like Friday, anyway.
The weekend came sooner than usual for the tiny South Pacific island nation of Samoa.

When the clock struck midnight Thursday, the country skipped over Friday and moved 24 hours ahead — straight into Saturday, Dec. 31.
Because, if you are wondering, they wanted to be on the other side of the International Date Line, along with their principal economic partners in Australia and New Zealand.
- 10:23 AM, 30 December 2011   [link]

2 Percent Attendance At Iranian Mosques?!  Inside David Goldman's post explaining the connections between Ron Paul and Iran's rulers was this extraordinary statistic:
Iranian resentment is understandable.  They recall the Brontosaurus in an old Far Side cartoon, standing at the dais addressing an auditorium full of dinosaurs:  "The climate is changing, our food supply is dwindling, and we have a brain the size of a peanut.  I'd say we're in trouble."  Islam is a religion of traditional society, of iron constraints and unquestioned hierarchies.  By teaching Iranian girls to read, the late Shah set off a cultural chain-reaction: fertility has fallen from 7 children per female a generation ago to just 1.5 today, a catastrophic decline unparalleled in demographic history.  And mosque attendance is down to only 2% by some estimates.  Creative destruction has burst in upon Iran and turned its society inside-out.  The mullahs still have all the money in Iran's hydrocarbon monoculture, and almost all the guns, and they will do anything necessary to turn the clock back.  Their world is disappearing in front of their eyes.   They have nothing to lose.
(Emphasis added.)

People who have nothing to lose may not be the best custodians for nuclear weapons.

(Caveat:  Those estimates may come from enemies of the regime.)
- 7:30 AM, 30 December 2011   [link]

Soap Opera Or Political Campaign?  It's hard to tell which Michelle Bachmann is running.  Here's the latest episode:
The story of how Rep. Michele Bachmann's top man in Iowa somehow ended up defecting to the Rep. Ron Paul camp several hours after attending a Bachmann campaign rally is still a work in process, slowly evolving out of a he-said, she-said that now includes rebuttal from the candidate herself.  Rep. Bachmann and campaign manager Susan Geddes spoke to Eric Bolling today on Your World and once again insisted that she had personally heard from Sorenson that he was paid to defect, the same claim Geddes subsequently made to Bolling.
All this may be entertaining — depending on your tastes — but it does not inspire confidence in Bachmann's executive ability.
- 6:23 AM, 30 December 2011   [link]

Michelle Bachmann And Barack Obama, Extremists:  According to the American public, anyway.
Americans perceive Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul as closest to themselves ideologically, and Michele Bachmann and Barack Obama as furthest away.

A USA Today/Gallup poll asked Americans to rate their own ideology -- and the ideology of the eight major presidential candidates -- on a 5-point scale with 1 being very liberal and 5 being very conservative.  Americans' mean score on this scale is 3.3, meaning the average American is slightly to the right of center ideologically.  Huntsman's score matches that at 3.3, but that mean rating excludes the 45% of Americans who did not have an opinion of Huntsman.  Of the better known candidates, Romney's and Paul's 3.5 scores are closest to the average American's ideology.
And Obama is slightly farther away from the center than Bachmann (1.0 versus 0.7).

As for Ron Paul, I suppose that makes a weird kind of sense, since some of his positions are on the far right and some on the far left, so for voters they average out to the center.  (Offhand, I can't think of any centrist positions held by Congressman Paul.)
- 1:20 PM, 29 December 2011   [link]

Police Work And Fire Fighting Is Tough In Central Falls:  The small Rhode Island city is bankrupt and is no longer able to pay promised pensions to retired employees.

One reason for the bankruptcy is the high level of disability among retired police and firefighters.
Until now, 60 percent of Central Falls police officers and firefighters have retired on full disability pensions, drawing the inflation-protected and tax-free payments even when they embarked on new careers.  One of them, at 43, has become a prominent personal-injury lawyer and can be seen in television ads shooting baskets and pretending to fall down a manhole.  That retiree, Robert Levine, a former police officer, said his disability was the result of an on-duty car crash where he was not at fault, and that his pension had been granted lawfully after his condition was certified by three different doctors.
The New York Times reporter, Mary Walsh, sounds skeptical about Mr. Levine's disability.

Police work and fire fighting can be rough work, but a 60 percent disability rate does seem a trifle high, even for those occupations.
- 8:29 AM, 29 December 2011   [link]

Q13's Brien Blakely Thinks That Republicans Will Gain At Least Two House Seats From Washington State's Redistricting:  This morning I heard him say, during the six o'clock news hour, that Republicans would go from their "current two" to four or five seats.  This surprised me so much that I listened to the seven o'clock news to see if he would repeat the mistake.

He did.

What makes this mistake especially strange is that Q13's own in-depth story gets the numbers right; Republicans currently control four of the nine Washington seats.  The state is gaining a seat, and so all the district lines are being redrawn.   Republicans have a chance to pick a seat in the redrawn 1st district, which is, not coincidentally, the only district without an incumbent running for re-election.

Blakely is new to this area, and is substituting as a host, so you might want to cut him some slack.  But, you really have to wonder why no one else at the station caught the mistake, and told him about it after he first made it.

Q13 should correct this mistake — and should put up the correction on their web page.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Washington state uses a bipartisan commission to draw district lines.)
- 7:59 AM, 29 December 2011   [link]

Ford Probably Doesn't Want this endorsement.
The coffin of Mr. Kim, the cultish North Korean leader, sat atop the roof of a polished masterpiece of American automotive grandeur: a mid-1970s armored black Lincoln Continental, which wended through the snowy streets of Pyongyang on Wednesday in a rigorously choreographed funeral.  Mr. Kim's gigantic, smiling portrait was balanced atop a second Lincoln limousine.  A third, slightly smaller Lincoln brought up the rear, its roof bearing an immense wreath.
But Ford can always say that they didn't sell the cars to North Korea.  (The Times doesn't know how the cars got to North Korea, and doesn't even speculate on why the Kims preferred them to Soviet imitations like the Zil limousine.)

It seems ironic that a car named after the Great Emancipator should be used to carry great slave owners.
- 6:06 AM, 29 December 2011   [link]

Too Bad They Both Can't Lose.
The drama surrounding Dennis Kucinich's 2012 reelection bid is finally over.

After months of agonizing that included with a flirtation with a bid in Washington, Kucinich announced Wednesday he had filed to run for reelection in Ohio's new 9th District — a decision that sets him up for a primary with his longtime Democratic colleague, Rep. Marcy Kaptur.
(And if I had to choose, which of the two extreme leftists would I pick?  Kucinich, I suppose, since he's funnier than Kaptur.  Unintentionally, of course.)
- 7:21 PM, 28 December 2011   [link]

What Do Economists Think Of Obama Administration Economic Policies?  Not much.
Half of the 36 economists who responded to the Dec. 14-20 AP survey rated Obama's economic policies "fair."  And 13 called them "poor."   Just five of the economists gave the president "good" marks.  None rated him as "excellent."
Though to be fair, their reasons for giving him low grades varied.  Some, for instance, thought his "stimulus" too large, others thought it too small.

And who do they like among Republican presidential candidates?  It's Mitt, by a landslide.

(Caveat:  I don't know how representative the panel is.  I assume they were picked for prominence, not by some random process.)
- 4:53 PM, 28 December 2011   [link]

Did Putin's Party Commit Massive Vote Fraud In The December 4th Election?  Yes, as this Wall Street Journal $analysis shows.
A comprehensive examination of the full results from Russia's nearly 100,000 voting precincts reveals statistical anomalies that experts say are consistent with widespread vote-rigging.  These irregularities could cast doubt, by one rough measure, over as many as 14 million of the 65.7 million votes reportedly cast.
The Journal found two different patterns that suggest vote rigging, exceptionally high turnout in precinct's where Putin's party, United Russia, did well, and way too many round numbers in precincts where United Russia did well.

Did the vote fraud affect the results?  Maybe.  If you subtract those 14 million votes, then United Russia would still have been in first place, but "well short of a majority".   (I would have to know much more about the results, and Russia's election laws, before I could tell you whether United Russia would have gotten a parliamentary majority without vote fraud.)

I suppose that I should add that vote fraud is one of those tributes that vice pays to virtue, that cheating in an election shows that you understand that others see elections as important.

(The article is definitely worth reading, though you may have to find it in a library, if you don't subscribe.  I was impressed by their techniques, and the evidence they found.)
- 4:26 PM, 28 December 2011   [link]

Bye, Bye, Ben:  Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson has announced his retirement.

That's Democratic Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, and political observers were immediately recalculating the chances that the Republicans will take control of the Senate
Fully 23 of the 33 Senate seats up in 2012 are held by Democrats, which is a lot of seats to defend.

The GOP would have to nominate a large number of Elmer Fudds to blow this one. Holding their own and grabbing four seats gives Republicans a majority in that body, which means the country could have a federal budget for the first time in nearly three years.

With Nebraska and North Dakota's open seat virtually in the bag, they'd only need two gains, say, Ohio, Missouri, Virginia or Montana, where GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg looks strong in his challenge.
Republicans should not count on holding all their own seats.  Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has been trailing his almost-certain opponent Elizabeth Warren, in recent polls.  (Right now, I think he has about a 50 percent chance of winning.  InTrade bettors currently give him much less of a chance than I do.)

And, of course, if the fight for Senate control is close, it will also depend on which party wins the vice presidency.

(Republicans would have a much better chance of winning control of the Senate if they had picked up the Delaware and Nevada seats last year, which they could have, in my opinion, with the right candidates.  Yes, I'm still bitter about those losses.)
- 8:41 AM, 28 December 2011   [link]

The 25 Poorest Congressmen:  You can see them in this slide show.

All 25 have negative net worths, and the champion is our old friend Alcee Hastings at -$4,732,002.

That's right, the poorest congressman is also the one who was impeached and removed from his judgeship back in 1988-1989, for accepting a bribe.

It would be interesting to know who lent Hastings almost $5 million, since he does not appear, at first glance, to be a good credit risk.

(Currently, members of Congress receive a salary of $174,000 a year.  If there is a way for Hastings to repay that debt, on that salary, I don't see it.

According to news reports, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi was willing to make Hastings the chairman of the Intelligence committee, but not willing to have Jane Harman head it.  Harman is qualified for the position, Hastings is not.)
- 7:06 AM, 28 December 2011   [link]

David Sirota Gives Us An Example Of Bad Writing:   Again.

When I glance at one of his columns, I often find myself wondering — briefly — whether he writes that badly on purpose, whether he is trying to damage the newspapers that carry his column, or discourage criticism by hiding his argument in a jungle of verbiage.

If the latter is his intent — and I doubt very much that it is — then he has succeeded from time to time with me.  I'll take a look at one of his columns, think about criticizing it, and then remember that I don't have a machete handy to hack through this kind of underbrush.

Like a narcissist's souped-up 4-by-4, this turbocharged colossus of self-righteous indignation makes a lot of noise and leaves a mess in its wake — but ultimately says a lot more about its drivers' pitiable insecurities than anything else.

This year has been particularly illustrative, as the fake outrage machine has caricatured itself like a Bigfoot-esque monster truck in a desperate bid for attention. In just the last few weeks, the Heritage Foundation billed an Agriculture Department initiative to raise revenue for tree farmers as a "Christmas Tree Tax"; Fox News said that standard federal safety warnings were proof that the government wants to "tell you how to decorate your Christmas tree"; and conservative activists criticized Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an Independent, for daring to consecrate a "holiday tree" — rather than a "Christmas Tree" — at the Statehouse.

After he polishes it a little, Sirota should submit that first sentence to next year's Bulwer-Lytton contest.  It might not be a winner, but it will be strong contender.

Having hacked away at that jungle to find his argument, I suppose that I should say something about it, though there isn't much to say.

Sirota thinks that people who attack the "war on Christmas" are dishonest, that their anger over attacks on the holiday is "fake".  But he never bothers to tell us how he knows that, how he knows that all those people are pretending to believe something they don't.

I won't respond in kind, won't accuse Sirota of lying about the war on Christmas, since I have no idea what Sirota actually believes.  (He may have been so pleased by his awful sentences that he didn't stop to think about whether or not his charge was true.)

But I do think that it is wrong to casually imply that others are lying, without presenting any evidence.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(And the war on Christmas?  I think that most of what is said, on both sides, is silly.  It is, for instance, silly to call a Christmas tree a "holiday tree", and it is also silly to create, as Kirkland does every year, a "holiday tree" that looks almost exactly like a Christmas tree.

I wouldn't mind if the city allowed local churches to put a Christmas tree up in the same place.  But then I am not bothered by most public displays of religious belief, even when I don't share those beliefs, as long as no tax money is spent on them.)
- 1:14 PM, 27 December 2011   [link]

North Korean Magpies Join Jimmy Carter in mourning the death of the great leader.
KRT showed footage of dozens of magpies perched in trees almost motionless, near a memorial tower for Kim Il-sung, founder of North Korea and father of Kim Jong-il, in Unsan county in eastern North Pyongan province.

Coal miners in Unsan said flocks of magpies began to fly to their village on December 18, the day after Kim passed away after reportedly suffering a heart attack on-board a train.
The Telegraph seems awfully skeptical about this miraculous event.
- 10:22 AM, 27 December 2011   [link]

Ron Paul, RINO:  I don't much use that term of abuse, since I think that it is rarely accurate.  Most of those who are called RINOs turn out to be loyal Republicans who have offended a few activists on an issue or two.

But there is one interesting exception, Republican-in-name-only Ron Paul.

In 1988, Paul ran for president on the Libertarian ticket — against, of course, the official Republican nominee.  At the time, Paul had many harsh things to say about then-President Reagan, who has become something of a secular saint in the Republican party since his death.

In 2008, Paul ran for president as a Republican, but did not endorse the Republican nominee, John McCain; instead, Paul endorsed the odd quartet of Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney, and Ralph Nader.

(Yes, that Cynthia McKinney, a woman too far left for her very Democratic Georgia district.)

Many of Ron Paul's supporters understand that he is not a Republican.
In an analysis accompanying his most recent survey in Iowa, pollster Scott Rasmussen noted, "Romney leads, with Gingrich in second, among those who consider themselves Republicans.  Paul has a wide lead among non-Republicans who are likely to participate in the caucus."

The same is true in New Hampshire.  A poll released Monday by the Boston Globe and the University of New Hampshire shows Paul leading among Democrats and independents who plan to vote in the January 10 primary.  But among Republicans, Paul is a distant third -- 33 points behind leader Mitt Romney.
(A few may even be Democrats, hoping to cause trouble for the Republican Party.)

So I think it fair to say that Paul — and many of his supporters — are, in fact, Republicans in name only.  I won't quarrel with anyone who wants to call them RINOs.

But there is another name that describes his relationship to the Republican Party even better: parasite.  Paul feeds off the party from time to time, but never contributes to it, which is the very definition of a parasite.

And that's the term that I will be using for him, from time to time.  The alliteration in "Parasite Paul" will make it easier to remember.
- 7:19 AM, 27 December 2011   [link]

Obama Energy Programs Are "Infused" With Politics:  So says the Washington Post, using the Solyndra scandal to illustrate that point.

The Obama administration ignored warnings that the company was in financial trouble, including private warnings from political supporters.  But they were obsessed with making the campaign events look right.  For example:
Like most presidential appearances, Obama's May 2010 stop at Solyndra's headquarters was closely managed political theater.

Obama's handlers had lengthy e-mail discussions about how solar panels should be displayed (from a robotic arm, it was decided).  They cautioned the company's chief executive against wearing a suit (he opted for an open-neck shirt and black slacks) and asked another executive to wear a hard hat and white smock.  They instructed blue-collar employees to wear everyday work clothes, to preserve what they called "the construction-worker feel."

White House e-mails suggest that the original idea for "POTUS involvement" originated with then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.  Emanuel, now mayor of Chicago, did not respond to a request for comment from The Post.
Those workers, so carefully dressed for this show, lost their jobs. As far as I can tell, none of the political figures who used them for props, not President Obama, not Vice President Biden, not Energy Secretary Chu, is much bothered by those losses.

But Obama, Biden and Chu did want to keep the company going until after the November2010 election, in order to hide this disaster from the voters.

(The Post story has a link to an Obama "clean tech road show", if you want to see what we taxpayers got for our money.)
- 6:44 AM, 27 December 2011   [link]

Jimmy Carter Sent Condolences To North Korea (2)?  If you are wondering why I was willing to believe that the former president really did send condolences to North Korea on the death of the world's worst dictator, read this post.

As Michael Weiss explains, Carter has praised evil men many times before.  Sample:
Here is what Carter said upon the state visit of Nicolae Ceausescu to Washington in 1978:
Our goals are the same, to have a just system of economics and politics, to let the people of the world share in growth, in peace, in personal freedom, and in the benefits to be derived from the proper utilization of natural resources.   We believe in enhancing human rights.  We believe that we should enhance, as independent nations, the freedom of our own people.
Many Romanians might have chosen to forget this harmful intervention on behalf of a man they considered a vampire, but North Koreans will remember Carter's interest in their affairs, an interest which predates the death of their demiurge slave-master.
The people of Romania had a different view of Ceausescu.

(Weiss includes a useful overview of Carter's meddling in North, meddling that annoyed a series of presidents, including Bill Clinton.)
- 6:11 PM, 26 December 2011   [link]

Governor Of The Year:   Scott Walker.  
Nearly every governor, regardless of party, began the year saying the current path of expensive pension and benefit packages for public employees is unsustainable.  The way the issue exploded in Wisconsin is as much a function of the legal and legislative tools at Walker's disposal as it is about the specific route he chose to take.

This is why Governors Journal has selected Scott Walker as the 2011 Governor of the Year.
As the Governor's Journal goes on to say, similar reforms in other states"slipped in under the radar" because of all the attention devoted to the Wisconsin fight.

(The Governors Journal doesn't emphasize a crucial fact about Walker's reforms:  The legal changes cut back the powers and resources of the public service unions in Wisconsin.  Those who think the unions had become too powerful will applaud that change; those who disagree are invited to consider the current state of California's finances.)
- 4:04 PM, 26 December 2011   [link]

The Mattress Fell Off The SUV:  And then things got weird.

I don't envy the police officer who had to write this one up.

(Is the story true?  Probably, since it is hard to imagine anyone making it up, though parts of it are hard to believe.

I could devise a political point to go with the story, but don't see any need to.)
- 2:06 PM, 26 December 2011   [link]

Merry Christmas!

To all those who are celebrating it today.
- 6:51 PM, 25 December 2011   [link]