July 2008, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Have Any Jury Experiences You Want To Share?  Then go to the Jury Experiences site and tell everyone what happened to you.   Or go there just to read some of the strange experiences others have had, such as the prospective juror whose "religion was number one", or the man who was called to serve on a jury — where the judge was his stepfather, or the trial of a person who hadn't shown up for jury duty being postponed because there weren't enough jurors.

And I was pleased, though I shouldn't have been, to learn that Minnesota jurors just got their pay cut to ten dollars a day.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 4:56 AM, 24 July 2008   [link]

Jack Shafer Avoids The Obvious:  In this column, Slate's press critic tries to explain why our "mainstream" news organizations were so fascinated by the Larry Craig story (which involved no actual sex), and so little interested in the John Edwards/Rielle Hunter story.  After much effort, Shafer finally comes to this semi-conclusion:
So why hasn't the press commented on the story yet?  Is it because it broke too late yesterday afternoon, and news organizations want to investigate it for themselves before writing about it?  Or are they observing a double standard that says homo-hypocrisy is indefensible but that hetero-hypocrisy deserves an automatic bye?

That's my sense.
Most commenters at Lucianne had less trouble seeing the obvious:  Larry Craig is a Republican; John Edwards is a Democrat.  Or, to make the point more precisely, Larry Craig is a conservative Republican; John Edwards is a leftist Democrat.

Probably, Shafer could figure this out himself, if he were to look at a few more sex scandals.  For example, the 1983 House Page sex scandal.  A Democrat, Gerry Studds, had regularly approached male pages for sex, sometimes successfully.   A Republican, Dan Crane, had had two sexual encounters with female pages.  (The Wikipedia article says that all the pages were past the age of consent.  I am not sure that is true for all the pages that Studds approached.  And it is certain that he served alcohol to at least one of them when the page was under age.)  The two congressman were treated equally by the House; both were censured, and by most "mainstream" journalists — at the time.

But the two did not react in the same way; Crane was apologetic, Studds defiant.  Nor did their electorates treat them equally; Crane was defeated at the next election, Studds stayed in office for many years.

In 2006, Studds died.  He was treated as a hero by many, including most "mainstream" journalists.   That was the same year journalists were working with Democratic activists to destroy Republican Mark Foley, who had sent creepy emails to male pages, but does not seem to have actually had sex with any of them, at least while they were pages.  But by 2006, for our "mainstream" journalists, Studds was a hero; Foley was a creep.  (I think they are both creeps, with Studds somewhat worse than Foley.)

It would be easy to add examples.  For instance, would the national press have been quite so indifferent to the sex scandals involving the mayors of Los Angeles and Detroit, if the two men were conservative, white Republicans?  Even Jack Shafer might not believe that.  (The scandals involving Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick are quite entertaining, or, rather, they would be, if Detroit were not in such miserable shape.)

But there is no need to add more examples.  The very fact that Shafer did not even consider partisanship as a possible explanation for the differing treatment of these two scandals tells us something about Shafer — and, indirectly, about most of his colleagues in the "mainstream" media.  Sometimes the obvious answer is just too unpleasant for them to face.

(You should not dismiss everything Shafer writes.  He can sometimes be very good, as in this column from 2004, in which he argued that the National Enquirer was better at fact checking than many other news organizations.  He's probably right in that conclusion, which surprised me.

Incidentally, Shafer does not have a link to the National Enquirer story, which is a weird thing to omit.)
- 9:29 AM, 24 July 2008
More:  Here's a comparison of how the AP (and others) treated Studds and Foley in 2006.  The double standard would be funnier, if it weren't so outrageous.
- 3:46 PM, 28 July 2008   [link]

At Least One Other Person shares my addiction, an inability to stop writing about Barack Obama.

On the other hand, what can we do when faced with temptations like this one?
Responding to an Israeli reporter's question Wednesday on his commitment to protect the Jewish state, Barack Obama pointed to a bill "we passed" in the U.S. Senate Banking Committee that tightens sanctions and authorizes divestment from Iran.  "My committee," he called it.

Except that he isn't a member of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
Has Obama spent so little time in committee meetings (where most of the Senate's work gets done) that he doesn't remember which committees he's on?

Maybe I can cut back to only writing one out of four posts on the junior senator from Illinois.  Because there are many other subjects that need coverage — and he is getting a little attention without me.

(According to the 2008 Almanac of American Politics, Obama is on the Foreign Relations, the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, and the Veterans Affairs committees.

You can find some funny, if rather crude, comments on his statement here)
- 4:43 PM, 23 July 2008
More:  Scott Johnson argues that Obama opposed the bill he now takes credit for passing out of his committee.
- 10:19 AM, 24 July 2008
Still More:  Michael W. at QandO says that a bill just passed did "adopt provisions of a bill sponsored by Barack Obama last year".  That could be true, without meaning very much, if Obama opposed tougher provisions in the bill that did pass.  I suppose that I could sort it out by looking at the bills in detail, but don't think that is worth my time, or yours.
- 1:05 PM, 24 July 2008   [link]

Is It Scurrilous If It Is True?  Joe Klein seems to think so.  Baldilocks refutes him.  And so does Ann Althouse, at more length.
Here's what I see.  Klein is trying to generate a big outrage to distract us from McCain's solid point.  McCain said we had to win the war, he pushed for the surge, the surge worked, and now we will have that victory that he would not give up on.  Obama said the war was hopeless, we'd have to accept loss, and the surge would only waste more lives.

That is a huge, huge difference.  And that is what McCain was referring to.  It could have been put even more sharply.

If Klein wants to get all outraged about something, he should get outraged retrospectively about how Obama and many Democrats were ready and even eager to embrace defeat.  If Klein wants to worry about who is unsuited for the presidency, he ought to recognize that if Obama had been President two years ago, we would have suffered a humiliating defeat in Iraq that would have repercussions for decades.
As he often does, Glenn Reynolds adds some useful links and some comments of his own.
- 3:41 PM, 23 July 2008   [link]

Redwoods Beat Solar Panels:  Remember this controversy?  In that case, solar panels won.  But in the future, redwoods will win, if the redwoods were there first.
More than six months after two Santa Clara residents were convicted under a state nuisance law for letting their redwoods cast shade on a neighbor's solar panels, the governor signed into law a bill that gives trees the right to grow as they please — as long as they predate any solar panels they might be shading.
Is that fair?  Not necessarily, in this case.  Because the couple with the solar panels originally were growing corn in their yard, which they were no longer able to do after the redwoods were planted.   (Greens generally support locally grown food, and you can't get any more local than growing your own.)

But it does suggest a tactic for Californians who want to protect their lots from shade:  Immediately install solar panels, whether or not the panels give you enough power to make them them worth while.   And I will bet that more than one homeowner has already done that.  (In some home locations those solar panels would also protect views — which can be extremely valuable.)

(Although the original article didn't say so, I have suspected from the beginning that the couple with the solar panels installed them as revenge against the couple who ruined their vegetable garden.)
- 3:22 PM, 23 July 2008   [link]

Senator Cantwell Edges Toward Honesty:  In this post, I argued that many of our politicians, definitely including the junior senator from Washington, want higher energy prices in order to force us to use less energy, especially the energy that comes from fossil fuels.  They can't admit that openly, but on Monday night, Cantwell came close to saying that we should pay more at the gas pump, and to heat our homes.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV's "Money and Politics" last night, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., explained Democrats don't want to increase supplies of oil and gasoline because they want to wean Americans off of petroleum products.

Asked point-blank if Democrats in the Senate would consider how increasing the supply of oil would lower the prices that are pinching U.S. consumers, Cantwell replied: "Oh, we definitely want to move beyond petroleum.  And so there will be a supply side offered by the Democrats and it will include everything from battery technology to making sure that we have good home domestic supply, and looking, as I said about moving faster on those kind of things like wind and solar that can help us with our high cost of natural gas."

In other words, no.

(Note that she did not include nuclear power.  Nor did she did mention biofuels, which she has backed strongly for years.)

If wind and solar were already cheaper than fossil fuels, then we would be rushing to use them without any help from the government.  They wouldn't need subsidies.  So Cantwell, as she tacitly admits, does not want prices for gasoline and fuel oil to come down.

On the whole, I am pleased by her reply, not because I agree with her, but because she is edging toward honesty.  I don't expect to see her admit that she has been working for years to raise the prices of petroleum products — as she has — but even this small step toward honesty is welcome.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Note to local reporters:  Why not ask Cantwell directly whether she wants gas prices to stay high?  Assuming you want to be reporters, rather than Democratic operatives, that is.)
- 9:50 AM, 23 July 2008   [link]

Mickey Kaus Does A Little Victory Dance:  Over, of course, the John Edwards/Rielle Hunter story that was just published in the National Enquirer.  Kaus asks this question:
Will this be the first presidential-contender level scandal to occur completely in the undernews, without ever being reported in the cautious, respectable MSM?
And ends — for now — with this comment:
Update:  Nothing yet.  You'd think MSM reporters would resent being played for chumps by Mudcat Sanders, et. al.
To which Instapundit Glenn Reynolds replies:
Being played for chumps by Dem operatives seems their preferred role this year.
Is the story true?  Hard to say; it was, after all, published in the National Enquirer, which, like the New York Times, sometimes prints false stories.  But I haven't seen a denial yet from the hotel, or from Edwards.

(It's easy to forget, at this point, just how strong Edwards looked at the beginning of the primary season.  You'd think that this story, which has been floating around for some time, would have drawn some serious attention from other newspapers when he was a contender.)
- 9:01 AM, 23 July 2008
More:  Byron York, who is a fine reporter, thinks the story "seems extremely strong" and "appears to be the real story".  York notes that the Enquirer might have gotten the story by laying out some cash, which many news organizations won't do.  But that doesn't excuse our "mainstream" news organizations from refusing to even look at the evidence.
- 3:55 PM, 23 July 2008   [link]

What, Never?  Here's the final exchange in Lara Logan's July 20th interview with Barack Obama.
Logan: Is this trip partly aimed at overcoming that perception that, you know, there is doubt among some Americans that you could lead a country at war as commander in chief from day one?

Obama: You know, the interesting thing is that the people who are very experienced in foreign affairs I don't think have those doubts.  The troops that I've been meeting with over the last several days, they don't seem to have those doubts.

So the objective of this trip was to have substantive discussions with people like President Karzai or Prime Minister Maliki or President Sarkozy or others who I expect to be dealing with over the next eight to 10 years.  And it's important for me to have a relationship with them early, that I start listening to them now, getting a sense of what their interests and concerns are.

Because one of the shifts in foreign policy that I want to execute as president is giving the world a clear message that America intends to continue to show leadership but our style of leadership is going to be less unilateral, that we're going to see our role as building partnerships around the world that are of mutual interest to the parties involved.

And I think this gives me a head start in that process.

Logan: Do you have any doubts?

Obama: Never.
Well, there you are.  According to Obama, people who are experienced in foreign affairs (a group that does not include Barack Obama) don't have doubts.  The troops he's met don't seem to have doubts.  And, most of all, the candidate himself never has doubts about his ability to do something he has never done, never come close to doing.

What Obama says in that exchange is completely dishonest, delusional, or some combination of the two.   I hope that he was being completely dishonest, but fear that he was partly delusional, fear that he may believe some of that nonsense.  And I am terribly afraid that he may be telling the truth in that last word, that he thinks so much of himself that he never has doubts about his ability to do one of the hardest jobs in the world.

By way of the American Thinker, where James Lewis has more to say about the candidate who never has any doubts.

(Obama should listen to this song from Gilbert and Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore".)
- 4:10 PM, 22 July 2008   [link]

Worth Reading:  Shelby Steele explains how Jesse Jackson succeeded — and failed.
Their faith was in the easy moral leverage over white America that the civil rights victories of the 1960s had suddenly bestowed on them.  So Mr. Jackson and his generation of black leaders made keeping whites "on the hook" the most sacred article of the post-'60s black identity.

They ushered in an extortionist era of civil rights, in which they said to American institutions: Your shame must now become our advantage.  To argue differently -- that black development, for example, might be a more enduring road to black equality -- took whites "off the hook" and was therefore an unpardonable heresy.  For this generation, an Uncle Tom was not a black who betrayed his race; it was a black who betrayed the group's bounty of moral leverage over whites.
Jackson's strategy made him famous, and at least well off, if not rich.  Even in the short run his strategy did little for ordinary blacks, and in the long run it encouraged too many people — not all of them black — to think that gains for blacks could only be achieved by confrontation with whites.

And then Steele goes on to explain how Barack Obama challenged Jackson, and what Obama's success might mean for all of us.
- 12:34 PM, 22 July 2008   [link]

Immigration Extremists At The New York Times:  Here are some selections from yesterday's editorial on immigration and businesses.
There is nothing good about the country's ever more merciless campaign of immigration enforcement.
. . .
Arizona, home to some of the most rabidly anti-immigrant politicians . . .
. . .
Like immigrants, good employers need a path to get right and stay right with the law.  Current immigration law — with far too few visas and no path to legalization for the undocumented — does not provide one, and misguided state and local enforcement efforts simply layer on the confusion.
Let's take those in order.

"Nothing good."  What about our strengthened efforts to deport criminals?  Efforts that might have saved three lives in this much publicized case — if San Francisco had not been a "sanctuary" city.

"Rabidly anti-immigrant."  There are two things to note about that.  First, there is the nasty slur in "rabidly".  Second, the New York Times implies that those who oppose illegal immigration are opposed to immigrants in general, rather than being opposed to illegal immigrants, or just to illegal immigration.  No doubt there are a few Americans who who are opposed to all immigrants, but many more Americans accept legal immigrants, especially legal immigrants who share our values.  And, though I can't recall polls on this question, I think there are many who feel sympathy toward most of the illegal immigrants as people — even while we think they should be sent home.

"Far too few visas and no path to legalization."  In fact, illegal immigrants generally have the same paths to legalization that everyone else does.  They can go back home and get in one of the legal lines.

The New York Times does not say how many visas we should issue, or to whom we should issue them.  Nor do they admit the obvious, that giving amnesty to illegals would encourage more illegal immigration.   Total immigration to the United States is at record levels, and our proportion of foreign born is as high as it has been for more than a century.  But that record level of immigration is still far too low for the New York Times.  They ought to tell us just how high immigration should be, how many visas we should issue.
- 8:02 AM, 22 July 2008   [link]

Chuckle:  Ralph Peters, who know something about war, takes on a candidate who doesn't.
From the late 18th through the 19th century, young men of means went on a "grand tour" abroad to finish their educations.  Some returned with fond memories, others with artifacts pried from temple walls - and the remainder with syphilis.

Sen. Barack Obama's grand tour offers fewer opportunities for mischief and misfortune, but we all must hope that he learned from his travels and wasn't just checking the blocks.
Like Peters, I hope that Obama learns something on his grand tour, but am less hopeful that he actually will.  Narcissists rarely make good students.
- 5:44 AM, 22 July 2008   [link]

People Versus Planners In California:  (And elsewhere.)  In his essay, "The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening" (which you can find in his collection, Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine), Tom Wolfe describes the goals of planners more than a half century ago.

I can remember what brave plans visionary architects at Yale and Harvard still had for the common man in the early 1950's.  (They actually used the term "the common man.")  They had brought the utopian socialist dream into the twentieth century.  They had things figured out for the working man down to truly minute details, such as lamp switches.  The new liberated workingman would live as the Cultivated Ascetic.  He would be modeled on the B.A.-degree Greenwich Village bohemian of the late 1940's—dark wool Hudson Bay shirts, tweed jackets, flannel trousers, briarwood pipes, good books, sandals and simplicity—except that he would live in a Worker Housing project.
. . .
But somehow the workers, incurable slobs that they were, avoided Worker Housing, better known as "the projects," as if it had a smell.  They were heading out instead to the suburbs—the suburbs!—to places like Islip, Long Island, and the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles—and buying houses with clapboard siding and pitched roofs and shingles and gaslight-style front-porch lamps and mailboxes set up on top of lengths of stiffened chain that seemed to defy gravity, and all sorts of other unbelievably cute or antiquey touches, and they loaded these houses with "drapes" such as baffled all description and wall-to-wall carpet you could lose a shoe in, and they put barbecue pits and fish ponds with concrete cherubs urinating into them on the lawn out back, and they parked twenty-five-foot-long cars out front and Evinrude cruisers up on tow trailers in the carport just beyond the breezeway. (pp. 137-138)

The details have changed since then, but the planners still want the rest of us to live in apartments or condominiums in big cities, and most of us still have other ideas, as Joel Kotkin explains.

In the meantime, [California Attorney General] Mr. [Jerry] Brown is taking aim at the suburbs, concerned about the alleged environmental damage they cause.  He sees suburban houses as inefficient users of energy.  He sees suburban commuters clogging the roads as wasting precious fossil fuel.  And, mostly, he sees wisdom in an intricately thought-out plan to compel residents to move to city centers or, at least, to high-density developments clustered near mass transit lines.
. . .
The problem is, that's not what Californians want.  For two generations, residents have been moving to the suburbs.  They are attracted to the prospect, although not always the reality, of good schools, low crime rates and the chance to buy a home.  A 2002 Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 80% of Californians prefer single-family homes over apartment living.

Californians, and almost everyone else.

I see no chance of persuading Jerry Brown, or very many planners, that their ideas might be wrong, in spite of the fact that very large majorities reject them.  (Most of the planners, despite what they want for the rest of us, live in single family homes.  Even their own choices don't change their minds on what is good for other people.)  What will happen is that people will leave the places controlled by planners, and will move to places where they have more freedom.

Ironically, those moves will often produce more "sprawl" than would have occurred if the planners had not tried to force the rest of us to live in "Worker Housing", or its modern equivalents.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(For those who wonder about my own choices:  I grew up on a farm and have lived in a very large city, a medium-sized city, small towns, and a suburb.  I have been reasonably comfortable in all those places.  Right now I live in an apartment, but would almost certainly prefer a house, if I were married.  Not so much for the house itself, but for space for a garage and a garden.)
- 1:57 PM, 21 July 2008   [link]

A Man's Home Is His Castle:  Even in this peaceful Seattle suburb, Kirkland.

Kirkland castle, 2008

(As far as I know, the Saxons in this area were pacified long ago, and there haven't been any Viking raids from Ballard in many years.  But perhaps the owner just doesn't believe in taking any chances.)
- 10:53 AM, 21 July 2008   [link]

Here's A Novel Reason To Elect Obama:  John Rentoul wants us to elect Obama in order to disillusion Obama's supporters around the world.
There was a moment last month — it was when Susan Sarandon, the actress, said she might emigrate to Italy or Canada if McCain won — when it seemed essential to the sanity of America that Obama should lose.

But, no, it is more important that the daydream should be broken.  The idea that there is some kind of clean, different, painless, perfect alternative to politics as usual is a distraction from taking difficult, compromised decisions in an imperfect world.  If Obama lost, too many people around the world could continue to believe that if only America got out of whatever it is in, everything would be better.

I think McCain is right about Iraq — that the surge has been a success, and that eventual troop withdrawal should depend on that success continuing.  But I think it is more important, for America and the world, that Obama should be the one who learns the truth of this the hard way.
In other words, Obama and his supporters were wrong, and we should elect him president in order to prove that to them.

Perhaps I am unsophisticated, but I plan to vote for the man who I think will be the better president, even if McCain's election will allow some to keep their illusions.

By way of Oliver Kamm, who agrees with Rentoul.

(I'm not familiar with Rentoul, but the newpaper he works for, the Independent, is on the far left.)
- 8:09 AM, 21 July 2008   [link]

Eight To Ten Years:  Barack Obama has a flexible idea on how long a president serves.
Today on CBS's Face the Nation, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in Afghanistan, told the paparazzi-pursued correspondent Lara Logan that "the objective of this trip was to have substantive discussions with people like President Karzai or Prime Minister Maliki or President Sarkozy or others who I expect to be dealing with over the next eight to 10 years.
. . .
The notion that Obama will be dealing with world leaders for eighjt-to-ten years, possibly up through July 2018, suggests that either (a) he believes that not only will he be elected and re-elected, but the 22nd amendment will be repealed and he will be elected for a third term, OR (b) he was speaking casually and just meant two terms.
There's a third possiblity.  He may plan to be a public nuisance as an ex-president, like Jimmy Carter.  And there's a fourth possibility.  He may, even now, be thinking of a career at the United Nations, after being president.

(More Obama gaffes here and here.)
- 6:42 AM, 21 July 2008   [link]

Plug-In Hybrids, Again:  Since at least 2005, I have been arguing that the correct near-term solution for raising our gas mileage was the plug-in hybrid, a car that could be charged at home, or by a gasoline engine on long trips.  Yesterday, Joe Nocera of the New York Times endorsed that solution:
So where should we pin our short-term electric car hopes? Andrew Grove, the former chief executive of Intel, has lately been pounding the table on behalf of something called a plug-in hybrid — which uses a far more energy efficient design than the Prius, Toyota's popular hybrid.  The Prius is powered both by batteries and an internal combustion engine, but essentially they are both working at the same time, so it is always consuming gas.

A plug-in hybrid would drive completely on electricity until the battery runs down — after about 40 miles or so — and only then would the car switch to internal combustion.  Such a solution has the potential to cut the nation's gasoline bill in half.
Nocera even endorses the car that I liked back in 2007, the Chevrolet Volt.

Buy a Toyota Prius (which I like to call the Pious) if you need to pose for green audiences; wait for the Chevrolet Volt (or some similar car) if you are serious about cutting back on gasoline.

(Does this piece in the Times make me rethink my support for plug-in hybrids?  No, an idea can be right even if it is backed by the New York Times.  And the reporters who cover automobiles for the newspaper are more sensible than their columnists and editorial writers.

Confession:  Though I don't think that an all-electric car is the correct solution, with current technology, I wouldn't turn down a Tesla if one were offered to me.)
- 3:20 PM, 20 July 2008   [link]

The Case Of The Five Feet gets more sinister.
One of the five disembodied human feet found over the past year along the shorelines of British Columbia has been matched to a depressed man who went missing a year ago.

Canadian police used DNA testing to link the foot to the man after receiving a tip last week, Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Saturday.  Police are not identifying the Vancouver-area man out of respect for his family, who want time to notify loved ones, Lemaitre said.
. . .
Since last August, five feet have washed ashore within a few miles of each other on islands in the Strait of Georgia.
The Mounties may not find this suspicious, but I do.  Until now, I had thought that these feet were a macabre joke by someone with regular access to corpses, a medical student, perhaps.  But if the man committed suicide (and the article does say he "suffered from emotional distress"), then where is the rest of him?
- 2:56 PM, 20 July 2008   [link]

Because They Were Wrong?  History professor Russell Jacoby asks this question:
How is it that Freud is not taught in psychology departments, Marx is not taught in economics, and Hegel is hardly taught in philosophy?
I am not familiar with Hegel, even after struggling through an encyclopedia article on his thought last night, but I can assure Jacoby that most of the ideas of Freud and Marx are nonsense, and destructive nonsense, at that.  Chemistry classes don't include material from the men who came up with phlogiston; economics classes should not include material from Marx, nor should psychology classes include material from Freud.

If Jacoby is right — and he might be — this is extremely encouraging.  These two higher superstitions have less hold on the academy than I would have thought.  (Though he admits that Freud and Marx have adherents outside the economics and psychology departments.)

(Anyone who wanted to test Marx's predictions about capitalist economies against the facts could have known that he was wrong more than a century ago.  I am less certain about Freud, but I suspect that he was pretty completely discredited at least a half century ago.)
- 9:11 AM, 20 July 2008
Similar thoughts here, expressed more mildly.  And Mick Hartley has this insightful comment on Hegel:
He was maybe the first of those philosophers where such an effort's required to comprehend what's being said that when you do glimpse some understanding through the tangles and thickets of dense prose, you're so pleased with yourself that you mistake that understanding for agreement.  You take your insight into the man's thinking to be an insight into the way things really are.  It's a trick that plenty of philosophers have used since.
And not just philosophers.
- 10:50 AM, 22 July 2008   [link]

Machine Politics On A National Scale?  Barack Obama needs those donations for his organization.
Behind the headlines about the unprecedented success of Democrat Barack Obama's fund-raising machine lies a more prosaic truth - his campaign will need every penny of its $300 million goal to bankroll an unprecedented 50-state general election campaign with a massive army on the ground.

His campaign already has by far the largest full-time paid staff in presidential campaign history, and unlike Republican rival John McCain's, continues to grow by the day.
. . .
Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show that in May the campaign had a payroll of about 900, not counting nearly 500 part-time workers who were paid stipends.  As of May 31, the Obama campaign staff was well over twice the size of the Bush reelection campaign staff in 2004 and nearly three times the size of McCain's current staff, and has expanded significantly since.
And his campaign hopes to have an unprecedented number of volunteers this November — which is one reason they need that many on their paid staff.

Those familiar with traditional machine politics, as practiced in Chicago and many other places, will not be surprised.  Machines have always wanted as large an army as possible, and have preferred to win voters by personal contact, rather than stands on issues.

And for similar reasons, machines want to have as many people as possible working in government jobs, or directly dependent on the government in some other way.  Expect Obama to promise even more bureaucracies and more benefits than he has already — without much regard to the cost of either.
- 8:36 AM, 20 July 2008   [link]

Lessons On Backing Up From Heinlein And Laumer:  On Friday mornings, I do routine backups.  This morning, while I was waiting for the data to be written to a DVD, I realized that the plots of two science fiction novels I had read recently depended on the failures of very advanced civilizations to make backups.  If you have ever managed even a small computer facility, that makes about as much sense as a starship pilot running out of fuel because he forgot to look at the gas gauge.  An advanced civilization would do backups, automatically.

(If you are curious, the two science fiction novels are Robert Heinlein's Glory Road, and A Trace of Memory by Keith Laumer.  Both authors have done better work.  The books were first published in 1963 and 1962, respectively, which may help explain the plots.)
- 3:50 PM, 18 July 2008   [link]

Just As I thought.  The best part of snails dipped in garlic butter is the garlic butter.
As much as my sister and I hated the idea of the poor critters [snails] starving to death on our patio, we did relish dipping nuggets of crusty baguette into the molten, garlicky, green-flecked snail butter, which we vastly preferred to the chewy snail bodies themselves.

Years later, I feel the same, and am convinced that the only reason to order snails à la bourguignonne is to sop up the butter surrounding them, then unload the snails on your tablemates, selling them as delicacies.
(Here's the link to her recipe, if you want to try the snail butter yourself.)
- 3:29 PM, 18 July 2008   [link]

Another View On Obama As President:  On Monday, I concluded:
Briefly, I think that Obama will govern as close to his leftist ideas and values as he can get away with.
Today, Tom Maguire concludes:
I think Obama has about one core belief, which is that he can talk his way past any audience and any problem.  My guess/hope is that he will be a huge disappointment to those hoping for an earnest and committed lefty.
I think the evidence is better for my conclusion, but you should read both posts and make up your own mind.
- 2:38 PM, 18 July 2008   [link]

Three Hundred:  And none of them are Spartans.  But all three hundred belong to Barack Obama's foreign policy bureaucracy.
"It is unwieldy, no question," said Denis McDonough, 38, Mr. Obama's top foreign policy aide, speaking of an infrastructure that has been divided into 20 teams based on regions and issues, and that has recently absorbed, with some tensions, the top foreign policy advisers from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign.  "But an administration is unwieldy, too.  We also know that it's messier when you don't get as much information as you can."
A little bit of thought will show you that Obama can not possibly spend significant time with all of them, and he isn't.
Out in the netherworld of the 300, advisers often say they are unclear about what happens to all the policy paragraphs they churn out on request.  "It's all mysterious what we send him and what gets to him," said Michael A. McFaul, a Russia scholar at Stanford University who leads the Russia and Eurasia team for the Obama campaign.
Nor does Obama have time, in the middle of a campaign, to get the tutoring on foreign policy he so obviously needs.  (George W. Bush brought in Condoleezza Rice for foreign policy advice — but he did that long before the 2000 campaign began.)

So, what is this bureaucracy for?  Two things, as far as I can tell from the article.  They are, as many of them may realize, another campaign group suppporting Obama, "Foreign Policy Notables for Obama", or something like that.  And, they are there to provide sound bites for the junior senator from Illinois.  (He needs that help, gaffe-prone as he is when isn't using a teleprompter.)
- 1:12 PM, 18 July 2008   [link]

Is Al Gore Trying To Protect Barack Obama From Comedians?  Because his transportation choices for his big speech on using less energy and saving the planet are pretty darn funny.
Of course, we saw plenty of hypocrisy -- especially the fact that Gore didn't ride his bike or take public transportation to the event.  He didn't even take his Prius!  Instead, he brought a fleet of two Lincoln Town Cars and a Chevy Suburban SUV!  Even worse, the driver of the Town Car that eventually whisked away Gore's wife and daughter left the engine idling and the AC cranking for 20 minutes before they finally left!
(They have video, in case you want to check for yourself.)  You don't have to be a professional joke writer to make something out of those choices.  And by doing this, Gore may distract attention from Obama, just when the joke writers are thinking that they have to say something about Barack "Arugula" Obama.

(John Tierney works for the New York Times, so, even though he is a libertarian (and a smart guy), he has to act as if he takes Al Gore's ideas seriously.  He has three questions for Gore, one of which I have raised myself:  "Why is Mr. Gore still afraid of discussing nuclear power?"  The other two questions are good, too.)
- 10:11 AM, 18 July 2008   [link]

If You Like To Play In The Snow:  Now is a good time to visit Mt. Rainier.  (Not the best time — that was earlier in the year — but a good time.)

July snow on Mt. Rainier, 2008

According to the park's phone message, there are now 60 inches of snow on the ground at the Paradise Visitor Center.  That's a bit misleading because, though there is that much snow at the weather station where they make the official measurements, there are also bare spots, as you can see in that picture.  And some of the bare spots have flowers.  So, in some places you can ski along, as I did yesterday, enjoying the corn snow — and admiring the spirea, the glacier lilies, and many other flowers.

You can ski, you can snowshoe, you can hike, and you can have snowball fights.  (If you plan to hike, you should know that, as of yesterday, the trails leading up from Paradise were almost entirely covered with snow.  It is warm enough so that, if you are young and agile, you might not mind changing into an old pair of sneakers for a short hike.  But if you have a little gray in your hair, or are going very far on the trails, I would recommend bringing hiking boots.)

What you can't do — officially — is go sliding.  The park does provide a sliding area in winter; in fact, they bring in a contractor to construct it, as considerable expense.  But they close it each winter as quickly as they can.  In fact, it was closed in March this year, when the mountain was accessible, and the snow pack was at its peak.  It is reasonable for it to be closed now, since there is not enough snow to protect the vegetation, but it was not reasonable for it to be closed in March.  The park has excuses for these early closings; I was told there was not enough money in the budget to hire a contractor to maintain the sliding area, but I have my doubts about those excuses.  I fear that Superintendent Uberuaga is, in this case, protecting the park from visitors, rather than for visitors.

As someone who was building sliding areas when he was six years old, I can tell you that it is not a job that requires exceptional knowledge or equipment.  And it certainly doesn't take either to maintain an area once it is constructed.

(Few will be surprised by what happens when the park ends sliding early.  Some visitors accept the order and put their inner tubes and sleds back in their cars.  Other visitors find places out of sight of the visitor's center to slide.  Almost always these are more dangerous places for sliding.)

But there are still many other things you can do there now, whether you like playing in the snow, or admiring flowers, or both, like me.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(There is this much snow on the ground because Paradise received 947 inches between July 1, 2007 and June 30, 2008.  That's not a record, but it is well above average.  And because we have had a cool spring.

Here's what the snow looked like this March, when it was close to its maximum depth this winter.  Here's a more typical July picture, taken in the same general area as the picture above.

Some advice if you plan to visit Rainier in the summer:  (My apologies if some of this seems simplistic, but I see people on almost every visit who don't know some of these things.)  Go early in the day, especially on weekends.  You'll have better light for photographs, you'll be able to hike when it is cooler, and you'll avoid most of the crowds.  (How early?  They start the shuttle bus at 10 in the morning, which will give you an idea.)  Bring sun protection; it is brighter up there because you are above some of the atmosphere, and because you get reflections off the snow.  Bring bottled water, if you plan to hike.  (Note to the mayor of Seattle: I bring mine in a reusable bottle.)  Even after the snow clears away later this summer, consider bringing hiking boots if you plan to go more than a mile or so from the parking lots.  There will be patches of snow on the trails near Paradise until quite late in the summer, most years.  Many times I have had to help people who were wearing running shoes over those patches.

Paradise has the prettiest flowers and most of the facilities; Sunrise has the most dramatic views.

There are four places where you can buy a meal on the mountain.  You'll find the best food, in my experience, at the National Park Inn, in Longmire.   (Though the restaurant in the restored Paradise Inn is certainly worth a look.  In the two years it was closed, they restored it so it looked just like old, just as it did fifty or more years ago.)
- 3:37 PM, 17 July 2008   [link]

Democrats Are Helping The Homeless:  Helping them get out of the way of the Democratic convention.
A highly unusual effort is planned in Denver, site of Barack Obama's nomination next month, to sweep the city's homeless out of view of convention-goers - by giving them free tickets to the movies, museums and the zoo!

A group that helps the city deal with homelessness says it intends to distribute as many as 500 movie tickets and passes to the Denver Zoo, Museum of Nature and Science and other city venues away from the convention center, with transportation provided, according to the Rocky Mountain News.
(I am assuming this group is made up of Democrats, but that seems a reasonable assumption, in the circumstances.)

Cynics (and Republicans) will suspect that this operation will not do much for the long term problems of the homeless.
- 8:46 AM, 17 July 2008   [link]