February 2007, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Obama's Mythical Father:  During the 1992 campaign (and afterwards), some of the best reporting on Bill Clinton's active social life came from British newspapers.  Unlike "mainstream" American news organizations, they were more interested in what is, after all, quite a story, than in electing, or re-electing a Democrat.

Now the Daily Mail may be doing us a similar favor by reporting on the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.  The Daily Mail has taken a look at what Obama said about his father and found that it didn't match the facts.
It is a classic story of the American dream made real: an impoverished Kenyan goatherd rising to become a brilliant Harvard-educated economist.

On the way he fights racial prejudice at home and corruption at work, survives the heartbreak of a broken relationship and, despite it all, leads the fight to rid Africa of its colonial legacy.

This extraordinary story is told by US Presidential hopeful Barack Obama as he recalls the life of the man who inspired him to political success — his father.
. . .
Yet an investigation by The Mail on Sunday has revealed that, for all Mr Obama's reputation for straight talking and the compelling narrative of his recollections, they are largely myth.

We have discovered that his father was not just a deeply flawed individual but an abusive bigamist and an egomaniac, whose life was ruined not by racism or corruption but his own weaknesses.

And, devastatingly, the testimony has come from Mr Obama's own relatives and family friends.
And it is not just his acount of his father that doesn't match the facts; neither does much in his account of his own life.

Why doesn't Obama's account match the facts?  That's a good question and one some "mainstream" American reporters should ask him.  The two* most likely answers, that Obama believes a myth he created, or that he intentionally deceived his readers, are both troubling.

(*It could, of course, be a mixture of the two; Obama wouldn't be the first person, or even the first politician, to begin believing some of his own stories.)
- 8:44 AM, 28 February 2007   [link]

That Stock Market dip?
But share prices rebounded in Shanghai and Shenzhen, the mainland Chinese stock markets that had been the first to tumble in Tuesday's global sell-off, when they each fell nearly 9 percent.

In the United States, where stocks tumbled Tuesday in their worst performance in nearly four years, the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange at 9:30 brought some modest relief.  Share prices rose initially and continued to climb in early trading.
Probably my fault. As it happened, I was moving some money from one account to another, and while doing so, cashed out some mutual funds.  The move was completed on Monday, and the next day the market crashed.  Coincidence?  You make the call.

(And if I did cause it, I'm sorry.)
- 7:09 AM, 28 February 2007   [link]

Vice President Cheney Was Unhurt in the attack on the Afghanistan base.
A homicide bomber attacked the entrance to the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan on Tuesday during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney, killing up to 23 people and wounding 20.  Cheney was unhurt in the attack, which was claimed by the Taliban and was the closest that militants have come to a top U.S. official visiting Afghanistan.  At least one U.S. soldier, an American contractor and a South Korean solder were among the dead, NATO said.
Are you happy that he was unhurt?  (And sad that others were?)  I am, and I think every decent person is, too.  But some commenters at Huffington Post are disappointed.  You can see some examples in this Michelle Malkin post, but before you go there I should warn you that some of the comments are not sprog friendly.  I'll quote just one: "Better luck next time!"

A. J. Strata has more examples, if those aren't enough to make the point,
- 10:32 AM, 27 February 2007   [link]

Cashing In:  That's what Bill Clinton has been doing since he left the presidency.
No president before him has managed to cash in from his time in office with such shameless abandon.

A Washington Post story by John Solomon and Matthew Mosk is staggering in its revelations of Clinton's greed.  In the six years since he left the presidency, Clinton has taken in nearly $40 million — between nine and 10 million of it last year.  Clinton averaged "almost a speech a day" in 2006.  Twenty percent of his fees reportedly "were for personal income."  The rest of his speeches, says the Post, were for no fee or for donations to Clinton's foundation
Some of those paying for his speeches may have dubious motives.
It ought to be a concern, though, when so much money is paid to a former president by foreign governments, foreign entities and corporations with interests in U.S. foreign and domestic policies.  While Bill Clinton is no longer in a position to determine such policies, his wife, the junior senator from New York and Democratic presidential candidate, is and she may soon be in an even more powerful position.   Given the Clintons' history of questionable political, business and personal relationships, can anyone say with certainty that the providers of this largesse are uninterested in influencing a President Hillary Clinton through her husband?
Or that these providers are foolish to think that they might be buying future favors — given Bill Clinton's history?

Just so there is no misunderstanding, I will add that I thought that both President Reagan and President Bush stepped over an ethical line when they left office, by accepting speech engagements that they should not have.  But they went just a foot or two, and Clinton has gone many yards past that line.

(Here's the Post article Calvin Thomas was referring to, and here's another, by the same reporters, describing how the Clintons have used a foundation to avoid taxes.)
- 8:28 AM, 27 February 2007   [link]

Al Gore Has A Very Nice House:  And, judging by its energy use, it is warming the earth all by itself.
Last night, Al Gore's global-warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, collected an Oscar for best documentary feature, but the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has found that Gore deserves a gold statue for hypocrisy.

Gore's mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES).

In his documentary, the former Vice President calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home.

The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy.  In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh — more than 20 times the national average.
. . .
Gore's extravagant energy use does not stop at his electric bill.  Natural gas bills for Gore's mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year.
No wonder Hollywood loves him.  That's just how many Hollywood activists behave, preaching conservation, but not practicing it.

(Some will be reminded of John Edwards, another Democratic politician who preaches conservation, but does not practice it.)
- 6:38 PM, 26 February 2007
Almost as funny as Gore's energy use is his reply to the story, and the reactions to this story from lefty bloggers.  You can see examples of that reaction here, here, here, and here.  All defend Gore; all think the revelation of his high energy use — which Gore does not dispute — is a "smear".   Fans of vitriol will be especially pleased by the "Peking Duck" post.

I'm still wondering how he and his wife (and occasional guests) manage to use that much energy.  Is the house not insulated?  Do they keep all the lights on all the time?  Do they run a furnace and an air conditioner simultaneously?  Or what?
- 5:44 AM, 27 February 2007   [link]

Obsession, the documentary on radical Islam I wrote about here, is beginning to be shown on college campuses.
When "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West," a documentary that shows Muslims urging attacks on the United States and Europe, was screened recently at the University of California, Los Angeles, it drew an audience of more than 300 — and also dozens of protesters.

At Pace University in New York, administrators pressured the Jewish student organization Hillel to cancel a showing in November, arguing it could spur hate crimes against Muslim students.  A Jewish group at the State University of New York at Stony Brook also canceled the film last semester.

The documentary has become the latest flashpoint in the bitter campus debate over the Middle East, not just because of its clips from Arab television rarely shown in the West, including scenes of suicide bombers being recruited and inducted, but also because of its pro-Israel distribution network.
The article continues to follow that line; what interests the reporter is not whether radical Islamists wish us ill, or whether the movie gives a fair account of them, but how the movie plays into old, old campus debates.  Those interest me, too, but I don't find them central.  To be blunt, I think mass murder more important than mass showings of a film, or even mass demonstrations against a film.

As you would expect, radical Islamists and their sympathizers on the left don't care at all for the movie.  But it is being shown — on some campuses.

(By the way, though I linked to the movie web site in my first post, I did not mention that you can order a DVD copy of the movie there — which I intend to do.)
- 4:51 PM, 26 February 2007   [link]

Worth Reading:  Linda Seebach describes the strange fate of Direct Instruction
I've been reading one of the most important education books you'll likely never have a chance to read.  It's by Siegfried Engelmann, and it's about Direct Instruction, the structured curriculum he began to develop in the early 1960s, how DI participated in a federal study called Project Follow Through, and how the results of that study — which demonstrated that DI produced superior outcomes for at-risk children — were essentially disappeared from the educational landscape by hostile educators and bureaucrats.
Read the whole thing.

For years I have been reading claims that Direct Instruction had better results than other common teaching methods.  I have not taken on the immense task of reading the research, but I am reasonably certain that the claims have substance, that we have been shortchanging our children, especially our children from less educated homes, by not using Direct Instruction more extensively.

Seebach suggests reading the chapters that Englemann has put on line, temporarily.  Having done that, I would suggest instead starting with this somewhat negative Wikipedia article and then looking at this positive summary with many links, before you tackle the somewhat disorganized Engelmann chapters.

(By way of Joanne Jacobs.)
- 10:17 AM, 26 February 2007   [link]

Two More Pictures:  Down in the left hand column is a live picture showing the Mexican volcano, Popocatépetl, for the Latin America section and another showing worldwide earthquake reports for the Overseas section.  Both are linked, so clicking on them will give you larger versions of the pictures.  The first I will probably keep, but the second is just a placeholder until I find a live picture (or pictures) I like better.

I'm still looking for pictures for the other sections, and a picture for a forthcoming "Milbloggers" section.  So far, I don't have even a idea for a picture for the R-Rated section.  Something crude, such as a live picture of a sewer, might be appropriate, but all the ideas I have had in that line seem a little heavy handed.

The Weather Service weather map that I added earlier is, I have found, quite useful, though not as easy to use as some similar maps from commercial sources
- 8:56 AM, 26 February 2007   [link]

Vilsack Quits:  And at least a few of you are echoing the sentiments in this Daily News headline: "Vilsack (who?) is out".  The New York Times gave us the straight news, instead of tabloid cuteness.
Former Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa ended his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on Friday, saying the crowded field had made it impossible for him to raise enough money to remain competitive in an accelerated coast-to-coast campaign.

After making his announcement, Mr. Vilsack spent the afternoon taking calls from former rivals.   They sent their best wishes, even as they began seeking his endorsement in Iowa, where the caucus early next year will kick off the process of selecting a nominee.
No doubt about it, the former Iowa governor was not well known nationally.  But that doesn't mean that he doesn't have accomplishments.  And his accomplishments would appeal to most Democratic voters.  Some examples from the 2006 Almanac of American Politics:
The legislature remained in Republican hands [after he was first elected in 1998], so Vilsack did not achieve some of his goals—such as an increase in the minimum wage.  But he got increases in teacher pay and greatly increased the number of children in the children's health insurance program.  In April 2000, the legislature repealed Vilsack's order banning discrimination in state employment against gays lesbians, and transexuals; Vilsack vetoed that and in the fall 22 legislators sued, charging he exceeded his powers—a state judge declared Vilsack's order invalid.  Vilsack vetoed a waiting period for abortions and signed a health insurance regulation law without the right to sue he had sought.
There's more, but you get the idea.  Whether you agree with what he accomplished or not — I mostly don't — you have to admit that he accomplished things, and did so in spite of a legislature controlled by the other party.  And anyone who knows even a little about the Democratic party can see that his accomplishments as governor would please most Democrats.

On top of that, he has an appealing life story.  An orphan, he was adopted into a Pittsburgh family that went broke.  Despite that rough start, he went to college and then law school.  While in school, he met his wife, who is from Iowa.  He married her, moved there, and joined her father's law firm.  And did pretty well as an attorney, from what I can tell.

And, best of all, from a Democratic activist's point of view, Vilsack has shown that he can beat Republicans in a very competitive state.

But somehow, Vilsack never got taken seriously.  And this is especially strange, when you compare him to the two leading Democratic contenders, senators Clinton and Obama.  Neither has any executive experience, and neither has accomplished much as a legislator.  (Although both are ahead of another contender, former senator John Edwards, who literally accomplished nothing in his six years in the Senate.)

It is not hard to understand why Vilsack was ignored while Clinton and Obama are not.  Suppose that Clinton was a white man, without a spouse who had been president, but with the same accomplishments.  Would anyone take him seriously as a contender?  Not many.  And the same is true of Obama.  If he weren't of mixed race (though raised mostly, as I understand it, by his white grandparents), no one would take him seriously as a candidate.  For Democratic activists and fundraisers, it is who you are, not what you have done, that matters.

Their Republican counterparts are, I think, a little more responsible, a little more willing to try to choose a candidate who can do the job, not just one that fills some affirmative action slot.

(There's another Democratic candidate with an impressive resume, Bill Richardson.  Again, one need not agree with all that he has done to recognize that he has been an effective governor for New Mexico, and has experience as a Cabinet member (Energy), and as an ambassador (UN).  But he, too, has gotten little press attention, and little support from Democratic activists.

From the Nation comes a, let's say, more suspicious explanation of Vilsack's withdrawal.

Thanks to Alien Corn for many good tips on Vilsack.)
- 1:41 PM, 25 February 2007   [link]