June 2009, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Sure Hope You Aren't Looking For A Job:  Because it is usually wise to bet against Paul Krugman.
The U.S. economy probably will emerge from the recession by September, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman said.

"I would not be surprised if the official end of the U.S. recession ends up being, in retrospect, dated sometime this summer," he said in a lecture today at the London School of Economics.  "Things seem to be getting worse more slowly.  There's some reason to think that we're stabilizing."
Note that Krugman hedges his prediction with "would not be surprised".  He's wise to do that, because he has a terrible prediction record.

(I am no economist, so I won't make a prediction on the economy.  But I will say that recent increases in oil prices are not a positive sign.)
- 4:936 PM, 8 June 2009   [link]

Sirota Begins To Suspect That He May Be The Rube:  Lefty columnist David Sirota notices, with dismay, that Obama is breaking campaign promises.

But, then, behavior by President Obama suggests a more systemic assault on the campaign promise is under way.

It started in December when he was asked why he was making Hillary Rodham Clinton his chief diplomat after criticizing her qualifications and promising Democratic primary voters that his views on international relations were different from hers.
. . .
A few months later, in reversing a 5-year-old commitment to support ending the Cuban embargo, Obama offered no rationale for the U-turn other than saying he was "running for Senate" at a time that "seems just eons ago" — again, as if everyone should know that previous campaign promises mean nothing.

At least that was a response.  After The New York Times recently reported that "the administration has no present plans to reopen negotiations on NAFTA" as "Obama vowed to do during his campaign," there was no explanation offered whatsoever.  We were left to recall Obama previously telling Fortune magazine that his NAFTA promises were too "overheated and amplified" to be taken literally.

For the record, I am pleased that Obama has adopted so many Bush policies in the war on terror, even if that has meant breaking campaign promises and disappointing anti-Americans.

Also for the record, I suspect that, for Obama and his advisors, all of us are rubes.  He said what he needed to say to win the election, and will say what he thinks he needs to say to win the next election.  And if anyone on the left, center, or right was foolish enough to trust him, that just shows that we don't understand the Chicago machine, or machine politics generally.  But I will concede that there is still much about the man that is mysterious, so there may be another explanation for his willingness to discard campaign promises as easily as most of us change clothes.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(There is something unintentionally hilarious in the column, as there often is in Sirota columns: "Historically, Americans generally held campaign promises sacred."  Actually most Americans are cynical about campaign promises, and have been, often with good reason, since before the founding of this republic.)
- 2:12 PM, 8 June 2009   [link]

Bald Eagles:  Yesterday, I heard crows making a fuss, looked up, and saw these bald eagles.

bald eagles, 7 June 2009

By the time I got my camera out, the crows had stopped mobbing the eagles, so I didn't try to get a video of the encounter.

(There are political analogies that I could make, but I think I will skip them and just let you enjoy the eagles.)
- 11:11 AM, 8 June 2009   [link]

"Muzzled"  Sometimes climate alarmist James Hansen says the funniest things.
Hansen, by his own count, has conducted more than 1,400 interviews in recent years.  Yet Hansen would also insist, in a speech just days before the 2004 presidential election, that the Bush administration had "muzzled" him because of his global warming activism.  When asked about this contradiction in 2007, Hansen told Rep. Darrell Issa that "for the sake of the taxpayers, they should be availed of my expertise.  I shouldn't be required to parrot some company line."
They would be even funnier, of course, if fewer journalists took them seriously.
- 10:09 AM, 8 June 2009   [link]

Walter and Gwendolyn Myers, Spies For Fidel:  Clarice Feldman gives us a superb summary of what is known — and what is not known, publicly, about these two spies.

Feldman has an interesting speculation on their motives in joining Castro.
Others are entitled to their views about his motivation for what followed, but to me it was that he was at a low point in his life and his new companions, second wife Gwen, and the Cuban intelligence officers made him feel once again special, above the crowd.  (His later comment to the FBI agent posing as a Cuban spy to the effect that Fidel should not want a lifting of the US travel embargo because too many North Americans would come there, further suggests to me that it was the uniqueness of his position and sense of entitlement and privilege that motivated him, not concern about the politics.  His yacht is no big deal in the slip in Anne Arundel, but if he and Gwen succeeded in getting it to Cuba -- as they dreamed -- it would put them in a nonpareil class on that impoverished wreck of a place.)
What Myers himself said about his decision makes me think that he is similar to the Political Pilgrims Paul Hollander described.  They turned to communism, not because they had made a careful examination of communist societies, but because they were unhappy with their own nations and leaders.

The Daily News has some details not included in the post; for example:
Prosecutors said in the year prior to his 2007 retirement, Myers downloaded the crown jewels on Cuba - 200 "sensitive or classified intelligence reports."

"He had access to everything on the computers," the flabbergasted U.S. official told the Daily News, adding that the scope of what he passed to Cuba's spy service is unknown.
But we probably should assume that he passed on everything that the State Department had on Cuba.

(The Gateway Pundit thinks that Myers contributed to the Obama campaign.

Toby Harnden met Myers when Myers was working to undermine our alliance with Britain.  He gives this description of the man.
A tall, imposing figure, I found him to be an erudite and well-read fellow.  He was a genial and interesting conversationalist and was much less discreet than most State Department officials.  He was clearly no fan of President George W. Bush and seemed to be fit the caricature of the pro-European, soft-Left type that is often levelled at the State Department by conservatives.
One hopes there are no more like him still working in the government, but there may be.)
- 9:07 AM, 8 June 2009   [link]

Who Should Get The Credit For Improvements in Iraq?  Fareed Zakaria knows.
There is much going on in Iraq that is admirable. Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis are beginning to work out their differences through negotiation, not violence.  Freedom of speech abounds.  A new economy is taking shape, in which entrepreneurs are creating jobs and a civil society.  Elections are punishing thugs and theocrats who cannot deliver services and rewarding more-pragmatic forces.  The appeal of radical Islam is waning.  But without active American involvement, assistance and pressure, Iraq could well follow the trajectory of so many Third World democracies, where initial promise is overwhelmed by chaos and corruption.

This was not Barack Obama's war.  But it might well turn out to be his greatest legacy to the Arab world.
And the president who did all these things?  Zakaria does not even mention his name.  But I will; it was George W. Bush, often acting against Zakaria's advice.

If Obama continues the Bush policies he criticized, he may deserve a little credit, but those improvements will hardly be his legacy.
- 6:50 AM, 8 June 2009   [link]

Evan Thomas Did Add Qualifiers:  Sort of.  But it is still an amazing thing for a journalist to say.
Newsweek editor Evan Thomas brought adulation over President Obama's Cairo speech to a whole new level on Friday, declaring on MSNBC:  "I mean in a way Obama's standing above the country, above — above the world, he's sort of God."
Even if Thomas did add the "in a way" and the "sort of".

There are many historical precedents for such beliefs.  Ancient Persian kings were treated as gods, as were some Roman emperors.  And you can add examples to those two without much effort.   Even so, it is a surprise to see these beliefs revived at this late date.

Remember when most journalists were hard-bitten cynics — or at least pretended to be?

(He was talking to Chris Matthews, who saw nothing strange in what Thomas said.

The Anchoress has much more, in a link-filled post.)
- 1:45 PM, 7 June 2009
That was Bush, this is Obama:  Tim Graham reminds us that Evan Thomas had a different attitude toward President Bush.
- 3:24 PM, 8 June 2009   [link]

Wipeout:  Yesterday, England held local elections.  There isn't much doubt about which party won — and which party lost.

Even the BBC has to admit the obvious, grudgingly.
So far the Tories have taken councils from Labour and the Lib Dems including Derbyshire, run by Labour since 1981.

The Lib Dems have won control in Bristol while Labour has lost control of all of its four councils.
. . .
With results in from 33 out of 34 councils which held elections, the Tories had gained 230 councillors while Labour had lost 272 seats and the Lib Dems four.

According to the BBC's estimated projected national vote share - the Conservatives are on 38%, Labour on 23% - a historic low - the Lib Dems on 28% and other parties on 11%.
What has the the Labour Party done to annoy the voters?  Very roughly speaking, what the Pelosi-Reid-Obama Democrats are now doing in the United States.
- 5:25 PM, 5 June 2009   [link]

Playful:  Benjamin Sarlin gives us a "step-by-step guide" to writing an Obama speech.  (The speeches do seem to follow a certain pattern.)

And that's enough about the Cairo speech, at least for a day or two.
- 2:13 PM, 5 June 2009   [link]

Thoughtful:  David Brooks' assessment of Obama's Cairo speech.

Here are the first and last paragraphs:
All smart analyses of the Obama administration begin with Chicago.  That's where the top members of the administration were tested and formed.  The Chicago mentality is the one they take with them wherever they go.
. . .
This speech builds an idealistic facade on a realist structure.  And this gets to the core Obama foreign-policy perplexity.  The president wants to be an inspiring leader who rallies the masses.  He also wants be a top-down realist who cuts deals in the palaces.  There is a tension between these two impulses that even a sharp Chicago pol is having trouble managing.
Brooks gives Obama more credit than I would, but — credit where due — Brooks does seem to be moving toward a more realistic view of the president.

(Like most other serious commenters, Brooks notes that Obama had some of the facts wrong in the speech, though he is kind enough to call the mistakes "distortions".)
- 2:05 PM, 5 June 2009   [link]

Pelosi Down, Cheney Up:  According to Gallup.
Pelosi's current image rating is more negative than positive by a 16 percentage point margin: 34% favorable and 50% unfavorable.  Six months ago about equal percentages held favorable and unfavorable views of her.

While still negative, Cheney's image today (with 37% viewing him favorably and 54% unfavorably) is improved compared with his ratings in March of this year.  At that time, only 30% viewed him favorably and 63% unfavorably, his worst ratings on balance since he was nominated as George W. Bush's vice presidential candidate in July 2000 (although his ratings were nearly as bad when previously measured in 2007).
Producing, roughly, a tie in their popularity ratings, or, if you prefer, their unpopularity ratings.

Will Cheney take a clear lead over Pelosi in the next month or so?  I certainly hope so.   (Partly, I must confess, because I will enjoy the reactions from the left if that happens.)
- 1:39 PM, 5 June 2009   [link]

Heinlein Versus Obama:  In the Cairo speech, Obama called on Palestinians to abandon violence, as other presidents have before him.  He was right to do so, but in an attempt to make his argument stronger, he distorted the lessons of history.

Here's his paragraph on the subject, with emphasis added to two sentences.
Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed.  For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation.  But it was not violence that won full and equal rights.  It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding.  This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia.   It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end.  It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.  That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.
The first and last two sentences of that paragraph are admirable.  What is in between would appall anyone who knows even a little history.

Here's what Heinlein had to say about those beliefs in Starship Troopers.
But on the last day [of the class in History and Moral Philosophy] he seemed to be trying to find out what we had learned.  One girl told him bluntly, "My mother says that violence never settles anything."

"So?"  Mr. Dubois looked at her bleakly.  "I'm sure the city fathers of Carthage would be glad to know that.  Why doesn't your mother tell them so?  Or why don't you?"

They had tangled before — since you couldn't flunk the course it wasn't necessary to keep Mr. Dubois buttered up.  She said shrilly, "You're making fun of me!  Everyone knows that Carthage was destroyed.!"

"You seem to be unaware of it," he said grimly.  "Since you do know it, wouldn't you say that violence settled their destinies rather thoroughly?  However, I was not making fun of you personally; I was heaping scorn on an inexcusably silly idea — a practice I shall always follow.  Anyone who clings to the historically untrue — and thoroughly immoral — doctrine that 'violence never settles anything' I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and then let them debate it.  The ghost of Hitler could referee and the jury might be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon.  Violence, naked force, has settle more issues in history than any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst." (pp. 25-26)
Obama's examples support Heinlein's reading of history more than his own.  Slavery was not ended in the United States by peaceful protests but by our bloody Civil War.  And for years after that war, American troops stayed in the South to insure that slavery did not return.  It was only after they were withdrawn, and after racist southerners concluded that the troops would not return, that blacks were disenfranchised in much of the South.  (Even then, the racists tried to hide what they were doing with laws that appeared to be race neutral.  One consequence was that many poor whites were also disenfranchised.)

Peaceful protests did help end segregation in the United States, but they often did so by enlisting the power of the national government.

Similar things could be said about all of his other historical examples.

We can wish that violence will settle fewer issues, we can work for a world in which violence is less important than it has been, but we can not honestly say that "violence never settles anything" or that "violence is a dead end".  Sometimes it is; often it isn't.
- 8:45 AM, 5 June 2009   [link]

"10 Mistakes In Cairo"  Toby Harnden was not impressed by Obama's speech.
Barack Obama's speech in Cairo was quite a moment.  I say moment, but it lasted some 56 minutes and contained more than 6,000 words.  Too long.  Yes, he said a lot, ensuring to some extent that it could be all things to all people - almost everyone can take something away from it to feel good about.

That doesn't mean, however, that it was an effective speech.  It was, of course, very well-delivered and contained many fine phrases.  But we know that Obama can do this and he's subject to the law of diminishing returns.  The more I think about it, the more potentially problematic I find the speech.  Here, for starters, are 10 mistakes he made:
. . .
7. "No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point." No single speech - but perhaps a series of speeches, Obama implied.  He later said that "words alone cannot meet the needs of our people" but Obama's preference for words rather than actions is clear.  For all its grand vision, this speech contained no concrete proposals.
Harnden gives the speech a mixed grade (as would I).  But I do think that 7th mistake summarizes the essential flaw of the speech.  If Harnden is right — and I think he is — we will hear a many more speeches from Obama, on this subject and others, but we may not see much in the way of effective foreign policy actions.

(Quibble:  Obama did mention increased scholarships for students from Muslim countries, and a number of similar outreach programs.)
- 7:36 AM, 5 June 2009   [link]

Hate Speech?  Here's how a prominent "mainstream" journalist described a minority group:
hysterical howling . . . profoundly destructive force . . . foaming-in-the-mouth crazies . . . crazy perspective . . . hideously pompous and self-righteous . . . outraged by it to the point of apoplexy . . . rose to power on the filthy waves of racial demagoguery
The journalist who wrote these slurs is Bob Herbert of the New York Times, and the minority group he is criticizing is those conservatives with the temerity to criticize Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

(In the column, Herbert recycles an exceptionally nasty story about Lee Atwater, who was, as Atwater himself would have told you, no saint.  But Atwater was an exceptionally smart technician, which makes me dubious about the story.  That Atwater might have had feelings like those expressed in the article would not terribly surprise me; they were common in the South when he grew up.  But it seems unlikely that Atwater would have said them to anyone in 1981, and especially unlikely that he would have said them to a college professor, even if promised anonymity.

Herbert's source for the story?  According to this Wikipedia article, Herbert got the story from Professor Alexander P. Lamis.  Oddly, Lamis does not mention Atwater on his site.)
- 2:17 PM, 4 June 2009   [link]

"Seven Million American Muslims?"  Barack Obama didn't say, in his Cairo speech, that the United States was one of the "largest Muslim countries in the world", as he had promised.  (Perhaps someone on his staff told him that was silly.)  But he did say this:
Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President.  But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores — that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.
(Quibble:  Something is either unique, or it is not unique.  Obama should have omitted that qualifying "so".)

First, a clarification.  Many of the Muslims living in America are not American citizens.  But even including them, no unbiased expert would agree with an estimate that high.  No one really knows the exact number, but two to three million (not all of them Americans) would probably be close.

(Confession:  I didn't write any posts this morning because I knew that I would have to say something about the speech, and I was not looking forward to that task.  The speech isn't quite as bad as I expected, though it includes some offensive passages.)
- 1:43 PM, 4 June 2009   [link]

"Underfished":  That's not an adjective I see very often.  (A Google search on it returned about 33 thousand hits.)  But that's how the Seattle Times described a local lake.

Just about anywhere in this 20-mile-long lake is worth a try, but high-percentage catch spots are on both sides of the I-90 and Highway 520 floating bridges; all sides of Mercer Island; the south end between Rainier Beach and the Cedar River mouth; near Juanita Bay; and right in front of Bill Gates' mansion.
. . .
Facts: This huge underfished watershed covers more than 22,138 acres and is more than 209 feet in the deepest places.  It hosts a big population of 40 fish species.

People in this area will recognize the lake immediately; those who have never visited the Seattle area may need to know that it is Lake Washington, which is between Seattle and the eastside suburbs, and roughly in the middle of King County, which has a population of about 1.8 million.  And the lake is still "underfished".  Not, obviously, from a lack of potential fishermen.

There's a large lesson here.  We can manage our natural resources, and we have been getting better at doing that.  The cutthroat trout and rainbow trout that populate the lake do not tolerate pollution well.  Their presence shows just how far we have come in cleaning up this very urban lake.

And there's a smaller lesson in the story that is worth noting:  The fish tend to congregate near the bridges, showing that human structures can sometimes improve natural habitats.  Of course barn owls have known that fact for centuries.  (And we so improved the habitat for Canada Geese in this area that they became, for a time, a major pest.)  But it is not hard to find followers of the Green religion who have not figured that out.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 5:42, 3 June 2009
Correction:  The pests are "Canada Geese", not "Canadian Geese", as I wrote originally.  Thanks to a Sound Politics commenter for catching my mistake.
- 2:44 PM, 4 June 2009   [link]

Ask The Computer:  This afternoon I took my car in for an emissions test.  This is the first test* for my 2004 Focus, so I was not prepared for the way they did the test, not with a probe in the exhaust pipe, but with a connection to the car's computer.  The car's computer said the emissions were OK, so I took the form and went off to buy my car tabs for the next year.

It's a simple process, though the man running the test told me that he sometimes has trouble finding the connector.  But I did wonder whether it might be possible to spoof the test with a replacement car computer.

(*Washington state doesn't check new cars in their first four years, which shows, I suppose, just how reliable most new cars are.)
- 3:09 PM, 3 June 2009   [link]

Generic Vote Trends, Update 1:  Four weeks ago, the Republicans had taken a rare lead in Rasmussen's generic congressional vote.  In May, the Republicans lost that lead, narrowly.

Trends in generic Congressional vote, 8 June 2008 - 31 May 2009

(Note that I am using the traditional — and logical — colors for the two parties, rather than the colors inflicted on us by the "mainstream" media.)

But both parties ended the month on a down note.
Support for Democrats is down three points from last week, while support for the GOP has dropped one point.  The latest results tie the lowest level of support for Democrats over the past year and the lowest level of support for the GOP since February 22.
The changes were small enough during May so that they may be nothing more than sampling error.  It is possible that we have reached a period of relative stability, with the Democrats having a very slight edge over the Republicans.

It is also possible that in May we are seeing one long-term trend, losses for the Democrats, and the end of another long-term trend, gains for Republicans.  In other words, the Democrats are continuing to lose voters, but the Republicans are no longer gaining voters.

(Caveat:  As I mentioned in the original post, some pollsters do not care for Rasmussen's methods.  You should know that he samples likely voters and weights his samples by party.  Other pollsters often sample voters, or even adults, and are less likely to weight their samples as Rasmussen does.  Those differences explain, at least partly, why Rasmussen's polls are almost always more favorable to Republicans than other polls.)
- 9:13 AM, 3 June 2009   [link]

"What's Keeping Obama Up?"  Dick Morris thinks he knows; it's George W. Bush.
The Rasmussen Poll conducted over the weekend of May 30-31 asks the key question, designed to give us perspective on Barack Obama's current popularity.  The question asked was whether the current problems "are due to the recession that began under the Bush administration or to the policies Obama has put in place since taking office."  In other words, who's to blame, George W. Bush or Obama?

By 62 percent to 27 percent, voters say Bush is still the culprit.

As long as this opinion remains prevalent, Obama will continue his high popularity.  But when it changes, as it inevitably must, we will see him begin a long, long fall.
If unemployment hits 10 percent — and it might — and stays there for some time, you are going to hear Obama talk about the mess he inherited even more than he does now.  That will work — for a while.

(For the record, I blame OPEC more than either president.  And I think the evidence supports my view.  But Rasmussen's question does tell us something about political prospects.

Economist John Lott thinks that Obama's policies have made the recession worse, just as FDR's policies made the Great Depression worse, net.)
- 8:00 AM, 3 June 2009   [link]

Hot Air calls this the "feelgood story of the day", and they are right, especially if you like Justice Clarence Thomas.  (And if you don't like Justice Thomas, you should watch the video, anyway, to see a side of him you may not know about.)
- 7:40 AM, 3 June 2009   [link]

Is Barack Obama Innumerate?  That was my first question when I heard about this interview, where he told a French reporter this:
Now, the flip side is I think that the United States and the West generally, we have to educate ourselves more effectively on Islam.  And one of the points I want to make is, is that if you actually took the number of Muslims Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.
(Obama was discussing what he planned to say in his big speech in Cairo.)

One of the largest Muslim countries, only if you count barely being in the top forty.  And even that rank would require using the highest estimates of Muslims, estimates that are, almost certainly, exaggerated.

Speakers often look for ways to identify with their audiences, but this is absurd.

As so often happens with Obama, I am left hoping that he does not believe what he said.
- 7:26 AM, 3 June 2009   [link]

Howard Dean Can be entertaining.
Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean told yesterday that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's comment that "a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life" has been taken out of context by critics.

Then he immediately conceded that he himself had not actually read the full context of the speech in which Sotomayor made the comment.
(Here's the full transcript, if you want to read the quote in context.  In my opinion, adding the context makes the quote somewhat worse, rather than excusing it.)
- 4:02 PM, 2 June 2009   [link]

Nancy And John, BFF?  Criminal investigators may be getting closer to Congressman John Murtha, but he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi appear to be just as strong allies as ever.
Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had served in the House for only six months when she first caught the attention of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.)

It was December 1987, and then-Rep. Austin Murphy (D), whose Pittsburgh-area district neighbored Murtha's, was facing an ethics reprimand on an array of charges that he had violated House rules.  Despite Murphy's pleas of innocence, a vast majority in the chamber voted for the wrist-slap.  Pelosi stood with Murtha and 65 other lawmakers in opposing it.

Over the two decades since, the unlikely bond between the polished San Francisco liberal and the gruff, conservative retired Marine has proved among the most critical to Pelosi's ascent to Speaker.
(Murtha is not a conservative, though he is not nearly as far to the left as Pelosi is.)

Pelosi helped Murtha with Murphy; Murtha then turned around and helped Pelosi get some pork for her district, as you can learn later on in the article.  The two have been strong allies ever since.

There is nothing surprising about this relationship — though it seems to surprise the Roll Call reporter.  Murtha and Pelosi are acting like machine politicians, trading favors, without much concern for ethics, or even legality, just as I predicted Pelosi would do, back in 2002.

(Did Congressman Murphy deserve the reprimand he received from a Democratically-controlled House?   Certainly, and probably prosecution.   He was prosecuted later for vote fraud, vote fraud of a particularly nasty kind, taking advantage of residents of nursing homes.)
- 3:37 PM, 2 June 2009   [link]

First Murtha Dominoes Falling?  Maybe.  Murtha ally Pete Visclosky just lost his top aide.
Chuck Brimmer has resigned as chief of staff to Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) after being served with a subpoena as part of the federal grand jury probe of the PMA Group, a now-defunct lobbying firm.
As the article goes on to say, it is not clear whether Brimmer resigned "voluntarily".

And Visclosky is temporarily giving up his subcommittee chairmanship.
Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), who announced last week that his office had been subpoenaed as part of the Justice Department's criminal investigation in the PMA Group, will temporarily relinquish control over a powerful appropriations committee while he's under investigation.

Viscclosky, in a statement Tuesday afternoon, said he will let Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.) assume control of the energy and water appropriations bill as it makes it's way through the House.  Visclosky is chairman of that subcommittee on the House Appropriations Committee, controlling more than $30 billion in sewer, water, and infrastructure projects, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers budget.
I don't know whether Visclosky has lawyered up yet — but he wouldn't necessarily announce that, if he had.

Criminal investigations commonly begin with the little guys, and work up, as I am sure you know.   Don't be too surprised if aides to Jack Murtha, and his PMA allies, also get subpoenas.
- 2:44 PM, 2 June 2009   [link]

Bad Terrorists, Good Terrorists:  The Left was outraged (or, in some cases, secretly delighted) when abortionist George Tiller was murdered, apparently by a man with connections to pro-life groups.  But they tolerate, and sometimes even celebrate, other terrorists, including Obama's political ally, Bill Ayers.

(The right is not completely immune to dual standards on terrorism.  A few anti-Castro Cubans have committed acts of terrorism, and have received less condemnation than they should have from conservatives.)
- 7:34 AM, 2 June 2009   [link]

Scavenger Trap?  Paleontologists sometimes find fabulous sites, with many fossils from extinct animals in a small site.  Sometimes, these are "predator traps", places where a series of predators have been attracted, and then trapped, by one or more trapped prey animals.   In the United States, the most famous is the La Brea tar pits.  And there are others, probably including the Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry.

Today, while out on a bicycle ride, I spotted what may have been a scavenger trap.  At first, I thought it was just another squirrel, squished by a car or truck.

squirrel and crow, squished

But then I took a closer look and saw a crow, also squished, on top of the squirrel.  What I think happened was that the squirrel guessed wrong on a car, as squirrels sometimes do.  The crow came along to scavenge and, as crows sometimes do, also guessed wrong on a car.
- 7:20 PM, 1 June 2009   [link]

The Gang Of Four Ignore The Obama Deficits — Again:  Last Friday, KUOW's Gang of Four had their usual discussion of the week's news.  And, as they have done again and again on previous Fridays, they ignored Obama's immense deficits, which you can see many places, including here.

You might think that an almost two trillion dollar deficit this year, and endless deficits in years to come, deficits that begin to grow in the out years according to Obama's own numbers, would attract the attention of our local journalists.  (Specifically last Friday, KUOW's Steve Scher, the Seattle Times' Joni Balter, Publicola's Josh Feit, and the Seattle Weekly's Nina Shapiro.)  But if you did think so, you would be at least 95 percent wrong.  (There are a few exceptions, who I won't name, in order to protect the innocent.)

Instead, they began with another long discussion of the political developments in that reactionary city, Seattle.  These discussions of the mayor's race or the defects of Seattle's contingent in the state legislature would be more interesting, if the Gang were ever to generalize about them.  The Gang agrees that Seattle politicians are, almost all, leftist Democrats; they also agree that Seattle politicians are not entirely satisfactory as public servants.  And they have said both things, again and again.  An open-minded person would want to explore the possibility that those two conclusions are connected, that there is something about the ideology of Seattle politicians that makes them, generally, poor public servants.

An example:  They had kind words for Cheryl Chow, who is leaving the Seattle school board.   I don't know much about Ms. Chow, but I suspect that I would like her — as a person.  But it is a fact that Chow provided one of the four votes that imposed Discovery math textbooks on Seattle students, in spite of the opposition of many parents.  Open-minded journalists would want to explore that decision.  But the Gang, like most local journalists, is almost blind to the need for reform in our schools.

The discussion of Seattle schools was saved by a call from Melissa Westbrook, who runs the Save Seattle Schools blog.  As she explains in her post on the call, she had a disagreement or two with the Gang, specifically over Superintendent Marie Goodloe-Johnston.

I also mentioned that the Superintendent is not trusted by a lot of parents and much of it is due to her style.  I also mentioned that she had said that she doesn't always listen at Board meetings because if it is an opinion she's heard, she doesn't need to hear it again (this is true).

One or two other callers chimed in with more criticisms of Seattle schools, criticisms that real journalists would have wanted to explore.  For instance, one caller claimed that Goodloe-Johnston didn't care about north end schools.  I have no idea whether that is true, but I do know that I would have wanted to find out why the caller thought that, had I been on the program.  But the Gang was not much interested in her criticism of Goodloe-Johnston.

Parents, especially activist parents like Westbrook, may eventually turn the Gang's attention to the problems in the Seattle schools.  I certainly hope so.

It is hard to imagine what might make the Gang discuss Obama's budget disaster, but this may help:   If the deficits continue as Obama has projected, the federal government may have to end subsidies for NPR, including KUOW.  The loss of that subsidy might result in layoffs at KUOW.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(The Gang's grade was 0.07, thanks mainly to some of the callers.

Credit where due:  Nina Shapiro made a number of intelligent comments.  One wonders how much more she could have said if Scher chose better topics.)
- 5:02 PM, 1 June 2009   [link]

Worth Reading:  The Wall Street Journal's summary of the GM deal.

Every decision the feds have made since December suggests that nonpolitical management will be impossible.  First they replaced Mr. Wagoner -- whom they are nonetheless still paying -- with the more pliable Fritz Henderson as CEO and Kent Kresa as Chairman.  The latter are good at playing Washington but unproven in making popular cars.  Then Treasury bludgeoned the bond holders in both Chrysler and GM to take pennies on the dollar, which will not make creditors eager to lend to the companies in the future.

There's also the labor agreement that the UAW approved last week, which goes some way toward reducing costs but probably not enough to make the new, smaller GM competitive.  The new agreement simplifies some work rules and job descriptions but makes no reductions in hourly pay, pensions or health care for active workers.  The agreement must also be renegotiated in two years by an Obama Administration running for re-election and weighing the need to keep Big Labor happy against the risks to taxpayer-shareholders.  Who do you think wins that White House debate?
- 1:45 PM, 1 June 2009   [link]

Not Intended As A Joke:  And he may not turn out to be a joke.  But he sure sounds like a joke.
It is not every 31-year-old who, in a first government job, finds himself dismantling General Motors and rewriting the rules of American capitalism.

But that, in short, is the job description for Brian Deese, a not-quite graduate of Yale Law School who had never set foot in an automotive assembly plant until he took on his nearly unseen role in remaking the American automotive industry.
. . .
Mr. Deese's role is unusual for someone who is neither a formally trained economist nor a business school graduate, and who never spent much time flipping through the endless studies about the future of the American and Japanese auto industries.
Well, yes, it is unusual.  To put it gently.

For the sake of those who work for GM, directly or indirectly, I wish Mr. Deese well in this effort.   But I fear that this presidential aide will become, shortly, the punch line to more than one bitter joke.
- 1:07 PM, 1 June 2009   [link]

Obama Passes On An Urban Legend:  In last Friday's speech on cyber security, Obama said:
Yet we know that cyber intruders have probed our electrical grid and that in other countries cyber attacks have plunged entire cities into darkness.
The first part of the sentence is true; cyber intruders have probed our electrical grid.  Computer security expert Rob Rosenberger says the second part is an urban legend.
I and other experts bashed this urban legend more than a year ago.  Now I've got President 2.0 spouting it as if it's a fact.

It's an urban legend because no one knows any details whatsoever.
For instance, no one, including Obama, knows the names of any of those cities.  If it had actually happened, we would know a name or two.

(More reactions to Obama's cyber security plan from Bruce Schneier and other cyber security experts here.  If the commenters are correct, there are other errors in that speech, besides the claim that cities have been "plunged into darkness" by cyber attacks.

By way of Kate McMillan.)
- 9:07 AM, 1 June 2009   [link]

Selling Government Motors To The Voters:  I'll have more to say about the GM bankruptcy later, but, for now, I want to draw your attention to this Mark Ambinder post.

Ambinder, who has close connections to the Obama political operation, is interested only in whether Obama and company can sell the restructured GM to the voters.  He starts — no surprise here — by saying that Obama will attempt to blame this decision on Bush.

That the charge is false does not bother, or, as far as I can tell, even interest Ambinder.  He thinks that the public now believes it, and can be kept believing it for some time.

In fact, Bush argued last fall that an immediate bankruptcy would have been better for the auto companies, and the evidence is accumulating that Bush was right, and Obama was wrong, that both GM and the taxpayers would have been better off if the company had faced the inevitable months ago.

But the UAW would have been worse off in the short run, and that explains the Obama decision to keep GM stumbling along for months, at great cost to the taxpayers.

(Ambinder considers four other "political questions".  All deserve study if you want to understand how the Obama administration will try to sell this unpopular takeover.)
- 8:24 AM, 1 June 2009   [link]

"Gravely Wicked":  Robert George says what needs to be said about the murder of abortionist George Tiller.
- 7:48 AM, 1 June 2009   [link]