June 2012, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

40%  As sometimes (often?) happens, there was an interesting nugget in Peggy Noonan's column.
A great practical question, an informed friend reminds me, will not be answered for years:  How much will an average family's health-insurance premium rise if ObamaCare isn't repealed or significantly revised?  His guess is 40%
That seems high, but not implausibly high, to me.

( I assume you can get to the column in the usual way, with a Google News search, but you might consider buying a copy of the weekend Wall Street Journal as well.   I've found that Saturday/Sunday edition well worth the two bucks.)
- 3:31 PM, 30 June 2012   [link]

Chooo-San Is A Talented Young Painter:  And she displays her talents on unusual canvases.
Creative Chooo-San, aged 19, a first year student at Musashino Art Universityin Tokyo, Japan, paints misplaced mouths, extra eyes and eerie robotic extras to the human body.
The Daily Mail says they are "incredibly realistic" — and I would agree with that assessment.

(Google will show you more pictures, if those weren't enough.)
- 2:30 PM, 30 June 2012   [link]

Nancy Pelosi Says the darnedest things.
The California Democrat said [Ted] Kennedy — who died of brain cancer in August 2009, months before the law passed — provided the inspiration for Democrats to continue fighting for the reforms, which the Supreme Court largely upheld Thursday in the face of constitutional challenges.

"I knew that when he left us he would go to heaven and help pass the bill," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.  "And now he can rest in peace.  His dream for America's families has become a reality."
If a toddler said that, it would be amusing.  But Pelosi is an adult — and a former speaker of the House.

James Taranto thinks that Kennedy is looking up, not down.  Since I am not a Catholic, I will not opine on that question.

But I will say this, even at some risk of being tedious:  Imagine the reaction if George W. Bush had said something similar.
- 1:46 PM, 30 June 2012   [link]

The Best Collection Of Colorado Fire Pictures I've Seen is in the Daily Mail.

(The comments are fun reading,too, as American conservatives try to educate Britons about Obama's neglect of disasters in areas he doesn't like.)
- 4:23 PM, 29 June 2012   [link]

What Has Obama Been Doing While Colorado Was Burning?   Campaigning.  In June, he did 33 fund raisers.

Busy as he was raising money from rich leftists (and a few crony capitalists), it took Obama more than two weeks to even pick up the phone and call Governor Hickenlooper.
Did you know that President Obama has been incommunicado with Colorado’s governor for more than two weeks as the nation’s worst wildfires rage across the state?  Maybe he thought we were all “doing fine.”  After an embarrassing Beltway press briefing revelation about our out-of-touch White House, the administration finally decided to divert the campaigner in chief from his nationwide fundraising frenzy for a quick look-see at our devastated city on Friday.  It’s “leadership from behind” you can count on.
And I think we all understand that today's Obama visit to Colorado was also campaigning, in practice, if not technically.

If Reagan, Bush 1, or Bush 2 had neglected Colorado this long, half of our "mainstream" journalists would be using that to prove that the president just doesn't care about ordinary people.  (Heck, they might even be doing it if Clinton were in the White House.)

(As far as I can tell, all four of the presidents who preceded Obama cared far more about ordinary Americans than he does.)
- 3:54 PM, 29 June 2012   [link]

The Unprecedented Vote To Hold Eric Holder In Contempt Of Congress Was Bipartisan:  Unprecedented?

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to make Eric H. Holder Jr. the first sitting attorney general held in contempt of Congress in U.S. history after he withheld documents that Republican lawmakers demanded as part of an investigation into a flawed gunrunning operation.
The vote wasn't very bipartisan; only 17 Democrats joined 238 Republicans, but it was bipartisan.  And that Democratic support is more impressive when you remember that there are many fewer moderate Democrats in the House than there were just a few years ago.  Some were defeated in primaries by leftists, others by Republicans in the 2010 wave.

The opposition was also bipartisan, though just barely.  Two Republicans voted against the motion.

(The Washington Post has a list of the 17, with links to information about each one.)

Generally, our news organizations are impressed by bipartisan votes, but last night two of the three "mainstream" networks didn't even mention those Democratic votes for the contempt motion.

(The Republicans picked up 4 more Democratic votes on the civil contempt charge.)
- 7:50 AM, 29 June 2012   [link]

For Some, Shera Bechard's "Genius" Qualities will be obvious.

(She's the genius on the right.  The article does not name the genius on the left.  And I suppose, in his own way, Hugh Hefner, in the center, is also a genius.)
- 6:42 AM, 29 June 2012   [link]

Why Did The Supreme Court Uphold ObamaCare?   (Besides the political reasons, which I have already mentioned.)  Because the mandate is, or can be seen as, a tax.

And, if it is a tax, the Congress has extensive powers.
So it was upheld on a basis — the taxing power — that the Administration didn’t advance.  In fact, Obama denied that it was a tax.  This just supports what Mike Graetz told me in Tax class years ago:  “The constitution stops where the Internal Revenue Code begins.”
You don't have to know a lot about constitutional law to know that the taxing power has often been used to achieve other objectives than revenue.

(Presumably, Glenn Reynolds means this "Mike" Graetz.)
- 4:20 PM, 28 June 2012   [link]

That Unscrupulous Republican Operative? (6)  That's my joking answer to this Noemie Emery question:
Who on earth thought it was a great idea to urge people to stop giving wedding presents to others, and give donations in their names to the campaign of Barack Obama instead?  Possibly the same people who thought "The Life of Julia" would be irresistible to America's voters.  Or the ones who thought it was a winner to have Vogue "dominatrix" Anna Wintour make a video urging the unwashed to bid for $40,000-a-head tickets to a fundraiser in an ultra-posh townhouse in lower Manhattan, held by a former co-player in "Sex and the City" and her wonderful, ultra-chic self.
As I said, I am joking but I think you will agree that — if there were an unscrupulous Republican operative in the Obama campaign — this is just the kind of stunt they would pull.

That's a fine article, by the way, even if I did introduce it with one of my running jokes.

(Previous coups by that unscrupulous Republican operative here, here, here, here, and here.)
- 1:41 PM, 28 June 2012   [link]

Lord Melbourne On The ObamaCare Decision:  "What all the wise men promised has not happened, and what all the d—d fools said would happen has come to pass."

All right, the 19th century British Prime Minister was not talking about ObamaCare when he made that remark, but it does summarize, nicely, the surprises in the decision.

For instance, I suspect that you, like me, saw any number of articles saying that Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote, that Kennedy would determine which side won.   But he voted in the minority.

Or take the Roberts' justification for upholding most of the law, that the mandate was a tax, or the equivalent of a tax.  Obama rejected that argument more than once, for obvious political reasons.

(What was Melbourne talking about?   Catholic Emancipation.)
- 10:07 AM, 28 June 2012   [link]

If You Don't Like ObamaCare, Then You Should Vote Out Obama And His Supporters:  That, I suspect, is the message that Chief Justice John Roberts decided to send to the voters.

Is that too political?  Perhaps, but I am nearly certain that he was thinking politically (as well as judicially), because what he did gave opponents of the measure — who are a majority — a strong reason to vote against Obama.

And at the same time, Roberts said that it was a tax, or the equivalent of a tax, which makes the Republican arguments against the measure easy to understand.  (For instance: This ObamaCare tax is why the recovery has been so sluggish.)

By killing part of the measure, Roberts said that Obama did overreach, did grab for power, illegitimately.

Finally, he made it harder for Obama's allies in the "mainstream" media to run all those stories about people dying because of the Republican Supreme Court's decision.  They can still run them, but they will have to make the stories hypothetical, for now.

If I were a political strategist working for Romney, I would be — mildly — encouraged.
- 9:53 AM, 28 June 2012
Romney is making exactly the argument I suggested.  But, credit where due, Justice Roberts made it first.
- 12:33 PM, 28 June 2012   [link]

The Power Of Pique?  President Obama has gone out of his way to insult the Supreme Court, when he disagreed with their decisions, notably at the 2010 State of the Union speech.

Supreme Court justices being human, that would make it easier for them, psychologically, to rule against him in the ObamaCare decision.

I'm not saying any of them would do that consciously, but the justices are human, and that public insult might affect their thinking.

(When Obama insulted the Court so publicly, I was surprised because it seemed like such a silly thing to do — unless he was hoping to intimidate them, Chicago style.   But none of them strike me as people who are easy to intimidate.)
- 6:38 AM, 28 June 2012   [link]

Will The Supreme Court Uphold ObamaCare Tomorrow?   I have no strong opinion on the subject, since it is hard to apply statistical thinking to an election with just nine voters.

But others have.  For an extended, and knowledgeable, analysis read Sean Trende's article, which ends with this conclusion:
At the end of the day, this really is like Kremlinology -- trying to deduce the inner workings of a hermetically sealed institution.  There’s substantial uncertainty here.  I do think the most likely course of action for the court is striking down the mandate and related insurance provisions, simply because of the tendency to presume severability and the closeness of the question.  But it is a close question.
Libertarian law professor Ilya Somin, who opposed the legislation and has worked in support of those who think it unconstitutional, thinks the odds are "50-50".

(You can find some other predictions from legal authorities here.)

The very well-informed author of the Scotusblog, Tom Goldstein, is predicting that the Court will uphold the law.

And the InTrade bettors?  As I write, they say that there is a 70% chance that the Supreme Court will hold the law unconstitutional, before the end of the year.

(They need that very last qualifier because the Court does, occasionally, put off a decision until the next session.)
- 7:08 PM, 27 June 2012
Update:  Nate Silver thinks that the InTrade probability, which was at 74 percent when he wrote, is too high.  He believes the bettors are putting too much weight on the oral arguments, which have only a little predictive ability.

As I write, the InTrade probaility is at 71.5 percent, though it was lower, briefly, earlier this morning.
- 6:13 AM 28 June 2012   [link]

Worth Reading:  Ross Douthat's Sunday NYT column.

The majority of Democrats, polls suggest, have followed roughly the same path as the former Yale Law School dean, Harold Koh, a staunch critic of Bush's wartime policies who now serves as a legal advisor to the State Department, supplying constitutional justifications for Obama's drone campaigns.  What was outrageous under a Republican has become executive branch business-as-usual under a Democrat.
. . .
But these turns are not always a bad thing.  Sometimes it was the original partisan critique that was overdrawn, and sometimes power educates rather than corrupts.  If the view from the State department looks different from the view from Yale Law School, it isn't necessarily the State Department that's wrong.
And don't miss his intriguing argument at the end.
- 1:08 PM, 27 June 2012   [link]

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has checked her schedule and realized that she will be washing her hair every night of the national Democratic convention.
Turns out she didn’t go to the convention in 2004 either when she was running for governor, but c’mon.  McCaskill’s no ordinary Democrat when it comes to Obama: She was among the first senators to endorse him over presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton in 2008, doing so just five days after Hillary’s big win in New Hampshire.  That was a major vote of confidence in him coming from a key swing-state senator and prominent woman pol; Team Clinton “aggressively sought” her endorsement at the time but McCaskill stuck with Hopenchange.  As recently as last October, notes National Journal, she was defiant in standing by her buddy O:
Cynics will suspect that recent polls might have influenced her decision not to go to Charlotte.

And, perhaps, the recent series of fumbles by the Obama administration/campaign.

Naturally, McCaskill has said that she would really like to have Obama come and campaign in Missouri.  Which is the polite thing to say, though not entirely believable.

(That he isn't planning to come shows something about how public opinion has shifted since 2008.  Obama lost Missouri by just 3,903 votes.  This year, he may already have written the state off.)
- 9:29 AM, 27 June 2012   [link]

When I Read About this gruesome crime.
A respected Swedish professor who sliced off and ate his wife's lip after she asked him for a divorce did it 'so she would never kiss again'.
I immediately suspected that the professor might not be from Sweden, originally.

And I was right, though the newspapers are not putting that fact in their lead paragraphs.
Prosecutors said the professor, believed to be from Iran, flew into a jealous rage because she 'repeatedly' asked him for a divorce.
(Emphasis added.)

Although the newspaper articles lacked some details, I did learn, from this one, that he had divorced his first wife to marry this woman.
- 8:10 AM, 27 June 2012   [link]

Even Our Sports Look Weird:  From Britain (and the rest of Europe).
The games Americans play are the sporting equivalent of Australia’s wildlife – kangaroos, koalas, the emu and the duck-billed platypus.  It is as if the country developed in isolation from the rest of the world, unaffected by what was happening beyond its shores – which in a way, of course, is true.
But Walter Ellis ends on what is, for him, a bright note.
We should probably be grateful.  If Americans really did take to football [soccer], what would happen?  They would eventually create a team so strong that the only way to beat it would be via the equivalent of the Ryder Cup – ie Europe versus America. Is that what we want?  I doubt it.
I'm not sure he realizes just how far baseball and basketball have spread, but he has a point, otherwise.
- 6:52 PM, 26 June 2012   [link]

Many Americans Don't Know What Barack Obama's Religious Faith Is:  I'm one of them.

Recently, Gallup asked Americans this open-ended question:  "Do you happen to know the religious faith of Barack Obama?"

Here's what Gallup found:
Just 34% of Americans correctly say U.S. President Barack Obama is a Christian, while 44% say they don't know Obama's religion and 11% say he is a Muslim.
Why am I in the 44 percent?  Because, though I am familiar with Obama's religious history, and the fact that he has called himself a Christian for decades, I don't know what he actually believes.

And that's still true after re-reading this fascinating 2004 interview, where he talked at length about his religious beliefs.  There is the usual problem — I don't know whether Obama is telling the truth in the interview.

But, even if he is (which seems unlikely), I am not sure whether I would classify his beliefs as Christian.  Or whether most Christian leaders would.

You can read the interview and make up your own mind on the question, but I did want to highlight this now-famous exchange between the reporter and Obama:
FALSANI: Do you believe in sin?


FALSANI: What is sin?

OBAMA: Being out of alignment with my values.
If you think he mis-spoke, and corrected himself later, read the question and answer that follows, and you'll see that he elaborates his answer.

There is probably a technical term in theology to describe that belief — and if you happen to know what it is, please let me know — but it doesn't strike me as Christian.  (Or Muslim or Jewish, for that matter.)

And of course we can judge his beliefs in part by his actions.  He joined a church partly for political reasons, as he has admitted, and he has found no need to join one since leaving Trinity United.  Or even to attend church services very often.  But neither did Lincoln, and most would consider Lincoln a Christian, though few would consider him entirely orthodox.

(Just so there is no misunderstanding, I should add that I wrote this post, not to inquire into his beliefs, but to defend my 44 percent.  We are, I think, legitimately confused about Obama's religious beliefs.

That odd "happen to know" phrase is often used by pollsters when they suspect that many don't know an answer to the question.  It makes it easier for respondents to say they don't know, instead of guessing.)
- 4:36 PM, 26 June 2012   [link]

James Taranto Goes Too Far:  When he saw this headline:  " 'Gentlemen, Take Tips:' Obama Offers Tips to Win a Woman Like Michelle"

He couldn't resist this quip:  "Second Prize Is Two Women Like Michelle "

Which is going too far, I'll admit — even though I laughed when I read it.  (It would be OK as a private joke, among friends.)
- 3:34 PM, 26 June 2012   [link]

That Russia "Reset" May Not Have Worked As Well As Obama And Clinton hoped it would.
Russian strategic nuclear bombers threatened U.S. airspace near Alaska earlier this month and F-15 jets responded by intercepting the aircraft taking part in large-scale arctic war games, according to defense officials.

The Russian war games began the same day President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a frosty summit meeting in Mexico June 18.
The Obama administration gave the Russians a series of concessions without, as far as I can tell, getting much in return.  Not surprisingly, those concessions annoyed some of our allies; somewhat surprisingly, the concessions seemed, if anything, to make our relations worse with Russia, too.

We've all heard of win/win; this looks more like lose/lose.

(Oddly, Hillary Clinton, who led the "reset" effort, doesn't seem to have suffered, politically, from its failure.)
- 8:05 AM, 26 June 2012   [link]

Neural Network Watches Cat Videos?  This story is too good to check.
Google has created an 'artificial brain' from 16,000 computer processors, and sat it down with an internet connection.

There's a certain grim inevitability to the fact that the YouTube company's creation began watching stills from cat videos.
So I didn't check it, for now.  But if I see a good description of the experiment, I may link to that, because the experiment does sound interesting.

(Cat lovers will see this as evidence of artificial intelligence; dog lovers will have doubts.)
- 7:25 AM, 26 June 2012   [link]

Did You Suspect That The NYT Might Change Its Mind On Contempt Charges Now That Obama Is President?  You were right.

But don't get big-headed, because that wasn't a difficult call, though we can be grateful that Doug Mataconis went to the trouble of finding that 2007 editorial.

(I often wonder whether the Times realizes that these partisan switches are, among other things, funny.  Oh, I am sure that there are some people there who understand that, but I doubt that any of them are on the editorial board.)
- 3:51 PM, 25 June 2012   [link]

Who Does Eric Holder Protect, And Who Does He Pursue?   Debra Saunders has an answer to her question.
The answer to my question seems pretty clear.  Holder protects Democratic administrations.  He helped free well-connected FALN terrorists who didn't even submit presidential-pardon applications and a gazillionaire fugitive.  He protected any administration aides who might have leaked national-security information to make Obama look good.

Meanwhile, Holder takes no prisoners when it comes to CIA officials guilty of trying to protect national security, states that apply their death-penalty laws or try to uphold their medical marijuana laws.
If her answer is a bit obscure, here are two explanations:  The gazillionaire fugitive is Marc Rich, and the FALN are a group of very violent, and unrepentant, Puerto Rican terrorists.

The Rich pardon and the FALN commutations came at the end of the Clinton administration and, in my opinion, should have disqualified Holder for any further high government jobs.

Rich's wife had given substantial contributions to the Democratic party, and to Bill Clinton's presidential library before he pardon.  Some observers thought that the FALN commutations would help Hillary Clinton win votes in her first senate race.   (She was on both sides of the issue, first favoring the commutations, then criticizing them.) (Saunders also mentioned the sad case of Clarence Aaron, who would seem to deserve a pardon, by now.)
- 3:19 PM, 25 June 2012   [link]

Would The Castro Regime Collapse Without Hugo Chávez's Support?  Maybe.

The loss would certainly be a heavy blow.
In more than a decade of friendship between Mr. Chávez and Cuba's rulers, Venezuela has sent cash and oil subsidies worth billions of dollars a year.  Those handouts could come under threat without Mr. Chávez in power to back them—showing how the flip side of Venezuelan largesse is a deep potential Cuban vulnerability.
. . .
Overall, Venezuelan assistance and trade with Cuba accounted for up to 22% of Cuba's annual economic output in 2010, according to Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh and an economist who is writing a book about the Cuban economy.
As you know, Chávez is not in good health.  As you may not know, he has no obvious successor among his supporters.

So the Castro brothers must be making plans, just in case he passes away soon.   (I hope that our government is, too.)

(It continues to puzzle me that Venezuelan public tolerates these immense subsidies to Cuba.  I assume the opposition has raised the issue, but I have no idea why the issue hasn't, by itself, forced Chávez from power, or at least to cut back on the subsidies.)
- 10:18 AM, 25 June 2012   [link]

Obama's Year At Business International:  There are, I think, two broad points to be made about it.  First, as I've said before, Obama did not tell the truth about his time there.  He made the year into a sort of parable, teaching a story about a young man tempted by wealth — but rejecting that temptation.

As always, these fibs about his past give us reason to doubt what he says now.

But there is a second point, which has gotten less attention.  As Byron York reminds us, Obama saw his time there as "working for the enemy".
Obama was a low-level editor in Reference Services, working on reports describing economic conditions in various foreign countries.  By all accounts, he disliked the work, not just because it was pedestrian and boring, but because it was in business.

"He calls it working for the enemy," Obama's mother, Ann, wrote after a phone conversation with her son, "because some of the reports are written for commercial firms that want to invest in [Third World] countries."
Michelle Obama, as most of you know, has the same attitude toward business.
"We left corporate America, which is a lot of what we're asking young people to do," Mrs. Obama said at a campaign stop in Ohio in February 2008.  "Don't go into corporate America.  You know, become teachers.  Work for the community.  Be social workers.  Be a nurse.  Those are the careers that we need. . . . "

The first lady still says that sort of thing.  In a commencement speech at Oregon State University last week, she described how she once had a "corporate" job with "all the traditional markers of success: the fat paycheck, the fancy office," but it left her unfulfilled.  So she fled the business world -- as did her husband -- and she now urges others to leave as well.
Which will make some wonder who will produce the products we need and want, if all the young people leave the business world.

Is it fair to describe the Obamas as "anti-business"?  I think so, and would add that their attitudes are nearly universal on the left.  (With some exceptions often made for Green businesses, and others that pass their ideological tests.)

(Here's a list of some of the errors in Obama's description of his time at Business International.)
- 6:26 AM, 25 June 2012   [link]

ObamaCare Supporters Didn't See The Constitutional Objections:  Hugh Hewitt (who may be celebrating a little early) explains why.
Now we have the great pipe organ of the left [the New York Times] wheezing out a dirge about how the left and its party never saw it coming.  And why were Democrats taken by surprise?  Because, the paper tells us, they relied on the brilliant Pelosi and the Chicago gang who said there was nothing to worry about in this crazy talk about enumerated powers and the limits of the Commerce Clause.
Which, most observers now think, was a mistake.
- 4:59 AM, 25 June 2012   [link]