May 2012, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

The Real World And Obama:  President Obama has drawn attention, and considerable amusement from people on the right, for his claim that he had (unlike Mitt Romney) spent time in the "real world".

Jim Geraghty, for instance, thought that Michelle Obama's job at the University of Chicago was not the best example of a "real world" job.

And I was struck by something else:  This is a man, who, after all, has written two fictionalized autobiographies.  That doesn't suggest to me that he has a strong attachment to the real world.
- 5:15 PM, 24 May 2012   [link]

So Far My Cold Shows No Signs Of Going Away:  Which may bore you almost as much as it is beginning to bore me.

I probably would have written a post or two anyway this morning, except that I made the mistake of working on a critique of a column that reminded me of Friedrich Schiller's famous line: "Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens."

The more I worked on the post, the more I feared I might be contending in vain.

(Yeah, I could have provided the usual English translation, which you can find here, but the original German version is way more fun.)
- 3:24 PM, 24 May 2012   [link]

Conor Friedersdorf Thinks That Chris Matthews is a journalist, and should behave like one.

What a curious idea!  Not that Matthews should behave like a journalist, but that Matthews has ever been a journalist.

Does this sound like a typical journalist's career?
When Matthews first arrived in Washington, D.C., he worked as a police officer with the United States Capitol Police.[6]  Subsequently, he served on the staffs of four Democratic members of Congress, including Senators Frank Moss and Edmund Muskie.  In 1974, he mounted an unsuccessful campaign for Pennsylvania's 4th congressional district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, in which he received about 24% of the vote in the primary.[7]  Matthews was a presidential speechwriter during the Carter administration, and later worked for six years as a top aide to long-time Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O'Neill, playing a direct role in many key political battles with the Reagan administration.
It's true that Matthews later had positions as a journalist, but he has never actually behaved like a journalist in those positions.

I agree with Friedersdorf that, in an ideal world, Matthews would act like a journalist and try to tell his audience the truth from time to time.  And I think that Friedersdorf is right to remind us that Matthews has just told us all that he puts party loyalty above truth telling.

But if Matthews did decide to act like a journalist, did decide to tell his viewers some truths from time to time, I suspect he would lose MSNBC viewers, and maybe even his show.

- 11:07 AM, 23 May 2012   [link]

Many Insiders Loved Joe Biden In 2008:  In my earlier post on insider and outsider choices for vice president, I mentioned Joe Biden as an example of a poor choice by an insider.

Now William McGurn reminds us that many insiders loved Joe Biden in 2008.   For example:
Then, these remarks [or, I would say, these many gaffes] were hailed as an endearing sign of a genuineness sadly lacking in Washington.  That was the argument advanced by David Brooks in the New York Times in August 2008 that ran under the headline "Hoping It's Biden."  American voters, he said, were "smart enough to forgive the genuine flaws of genuine people."

When the Washington Post two days later asked a group of "political experts" for their thoughts on Mr. Biden, the superlatives were flowing.  These descriptions included "unassailable foreign policy credentials," "good-natured, serious, and truly qualified," "the political maturity and foreign policy gravitas [Obama] lacks," and so on.
Me, I thought that Biden was a gaffe-prone lightweight, who had been wrong on most of the important foreign policy issues of the last forty years.  I was partly amused, and partly distressed, when Obama chose him for the ticket.  Amused because I knew Biden would entertain us, distressed because of what that choice showed us about Obama's judgment.

(2008 wasn't David Brooks's best year, was it?)
- 10:40 AM, 23 May 2012   [link]

Facebook's Failed IPO:  Rich Karlgaard has seven reasons the initial public offering did not go well.  Without endorsing his arguments, I must say that I found the second and third worth passing on.
Zuckerberg’s view of shareholders is like President Obama’s view of blue collar workers.  He needs them but secretly laughs at them.
. . .
Facebook left nothing for the common investor.  The insider pig pile of PE firms and celebrity Silicon Valley angels took it all.  This is a rather new, post-Sarbanes-Oxley fact and it should make Americans very, very angry.
If they are active investors, or just want everyone to have a fair chance to join the 1 per cent.

I love that comparison to Obama, but can't say whether Karlgaard is right about Zuckerberg.

By way of David Foster.

(Disclosure:  I know almost nothing about Facebook, not even why it displaced MySpace.)
- 10:10 AM, 22 May 2012   [link]

Ambassador To Afghanistan To Resign?  We may lose Ryan Crocker, and soon.
Veteran U.S. diplomat Ryan Crocker is expected to step down soon from his post as President Barack Obama's envoy to Afghanistan, departing the U.S. mission in Kabul as the United States negotiates a host of challenges on its course out of the long, costly war.

The Obama administration is considering Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham to replace Crocker when he leaves the post as early as this month, sources familiar with the matter said.
Reuters doesn't even speculate on why Crocker is leaving now.

I will speculate, just a little bit.  Military officers sometimes resign when they do not think they can carry out the commands they have been given.  According to published reports, General David Petraeus has doubts about Obama's strategy in Afghanistan.  It is certainly possible that Crocker has doubts now, too, enough doubts to make him leave the post he took in July 2011.

(Here's Crocker's brief Wikipedia biography.  It impressed me, and, I think, will impress you, too.)
- 7:40 AM, 22 May 2012
The State Department says Crocker is leaving because of "health reasons" — which may be true.  Or it may be an excuse he is using to escape an impossible situation.

This new version of the Reuters story makes a point of quoting anonymous sources saying Crocker was not forced out.  So someone else was also speculating, but in the opposite direction from me.
- 3:32 PM, 22 May 2012   [link]

Did You Know Duct Tape comes in hot pink?
A half-naked woman wearing hot pink duct tape attacked and injured three police officers in a bizarre incident Saturday night outside a lower Queen Anne bar, police said.

The outlandish drama began at about 8 p.m., when the woman began stripping off her clothes inside the bar and sticking hot pink duct tape on her upper body area, said Seattle police spokeswoman Renee Witt.
I didn't, though I have seen other examples of duct tape being used as clothes, including as prom wear, and even wedding dresses.

(It's unlikely that any of our local news organizations will take the time to find out exactly what the suspect was thinking, but if they do, I'll pass it on to you.)
- 7:33 AM, 22 May 2012   [link]

Insider And Outsider Choices For Vice President:  In recent presidential elections — recent by my standards anyway — I've seen a strange pattern in vice-presidential choices, a pattern I was reminded of by the recent fuss over keeping Vice President Biden on the Democratic ticket.

Here's list of recent presidential candidates and their running mates.  Before each presidential candidate's name, I've put an "O" or "I", depending on whether I consider him an outsider or an insider.  The hardest to classify was Barack Obama, but I think insider is closest in his case, given his time in the Senate and the Illinois senate.  It may seem strange to see Carter still classified as an outsider after four years as president, but I think that fits the man — and the way he was seen in Washington.

(O) Jimmy Carter/Walter Mondale
(I) Gerald Ford/Bob Dole
(O) Jimmy Carter/Walter Mondale
(O) Ronald Reagan/George H. W. Bush
(I) Walter Mondale/Geraldine Ferraro
(O) Ronald Reagan/George H. W. Bush
(O) Michael Dukakis/Lloyd Bentsen
(I) George H. W. Bush/Dan Quayle
(O) Bill Clinton/Al Gore
(I) George H. W. Bush/Dan Quayle
(O) Bill Clinton/Al Gore
(I) Bob Dole/Jack Kemp
(I) Al Gore/Joe Lieberman
(O) George W. Bush/Dick Cheney
(I) John Kerry/John Edwards
(O) George W. Bush/Dick Cheney
(I) Barack Obama/Joe Biden
(I) John McCain/Sarah Palin

On the whole, outsiders seem to make better choices than insiders.  They are more likely, in my opinion, to pick a candidate who is ready to be president — should he (or she) have to be.  They are less likely, it seems to me, to make choices on almost purely political grounds.

And the very worst choice in that list, John Edwards, was made by the "most inside" insider of all, John Kerry.

(For the record:  I still think that Biden would be a better president than Barack Obama, as well as much more amusing president.)
- 3:26 PM, 21 May 2012   [link]

"Violence Erupted"  This morning, I learned from one of the local news programs that "violence erupted" at the NATO protests in Chicago.  That is, as you can see if you think about it for a minute or two, a very strange thing to say.

Strange, but telling, because the reporter, by putting it that way, absolves every human present at the protests, police, protesters, bystanders, or whoever, of any responsibility for the violence.  Come to think of it, that even absolves the police dogs, if there were any there, and there probably were.

And since both the police and the protesters were planning on violence, it makes about as much sense as saying that "violence erupted" at a prize fight.

(Almost obligatory ice hockey joke:  Joe was obviously unhappy after he came back from a hockey match.  His friend Sam asked him what was wrong, and Joe said:   "I went to see fights, and a hockey match broke out.")

Who was responsible for the violence?  Probably a minority of the protesters, though, this being Chicago, one can never be sure.  Either they started the violence, or they did something that forced the police to respond violently, like trying to get into a protected area.

(Here's a sample with the phrase from a Chicago newspaper.)
- 12:28 PM, 21 May 2012   [link]

Back From The Bug:  Over the weekend, I was fighting off some kind of bug, nothing very serious, but I didn't feel up to writing any posts for a couple of days.

Saturday and Sunday were the first days in more than a year that I haven't put up at least one post.

(It was an odd little bug.  I had four degrees of fever at the peak, and almost no other symptoms, other than an occasional dry cough.  I'm up to about 80 per cent of normal now, or maybe 75 per cent when I contemplate the cleaning up I have to do.)
- 6:10 AM, 21 May 2012
Not quite:  After one day's respite, it returned as an ordinary cold.  Oh well, I suppose someone who has been as healthy as I have been all my life shouldn't complain about a little cold from time to time.

Fun fact:  There are more than 200 different viruses known to cause the common cold, which is, therefore, not a single disease, but hundreds.  That's why, of course, you aren't immune to colds after you have had just one, and also why kids have so many more than adults.  Their immune systems haven't seen what we might call the "more common" common colds.
- 12:29 PM, 22 May 2012   [link]

Because He Thought It Would Help Him Sell Books?  I've seen a lot of speculation on that claim that Obama was born in Kenya in his literary agents' biography.  (You can see some of the more thoughtful speculation here, from Roger Simon, who is, after all a published mystery writer.)

I'm inclined to think that the story came from Obama himself, and that he told it to the agents because he thought it would help book sales, if he pumped up his father's position in Kenya, and claimed a foreign birth for himself.

(Here's the original story from Breitbart.  Note that Obama's father is given a far higher position than he ever held in Kenya.)
- 4:23 PM, 18 May 2012   [link]

Need A Feel-Good Story For This Weekend?  Try this longish piece on Jamie Moyer, who made himself into a fine major league pitcher with years of intelligent work.

By then Moyer had already pitched in the majors for 10 years and was a known quantity.  Or, as he puts it, "I wasn't a prospect, I was a suspect—someone they didn't trust."  Yet that time spent as a journeyman had also given him the chance to do something he does as well as anyone in the league: collect data.  "When you're in the big leagues, you have access to all the knowledge and all the info in the world," says Aaron Sele, a good friend who pitched with Moyer in Boston and Seattle.   "That doesn't mean people are going to digest it. But Jamie devours it."
Oh, and from everything I've seen, Moyer is a genuinely decent man, too.
Around [his wife] Karen are more than a dozen people who have flown out for the game, all part of Team Moyer.  There's Larry Platt, editor of the Philadelphia Daily News and co-author of Moyer's upcoming memoir; Moyer's parents; his sister, Jill; and two members of the Moyer Foundation, the philanthropic group that Jamie and Karen founded in 2000 that funds camps around the country for children dealing with the loss of a parent or one with substance-abuse problems.  Also present are six of his kids, including the two daughters he and Karen recently adopted from Guatemala, and the family's realtor, who helped the Moyers find the $1.8 million home in Cherry Creek that they're renting while he pursues this last chance with the Rockies.
On Wednesday, working hard as always, Moyer got a win — and two RBIs.
- 3:43 PM, 18 May 2012   [link]

A Labour Party Councillor Has Had An Unusual Political Evolution:  She is now a member of the Labour Party, and represents a district in Milton Keynes.  Before that, she was an active member of the Animal Liberation Front.

And before that, she was a neo-Nazi, under a different name.
The Citizen revealed last week how newly-elected Margaret Burke was a co-leader of the city’s November 9th Society in the 1980s.

Then called Margaret Flynn, she and her former husband Terry recruited a 50-strong army of skinheads to daub buildings with swastikas and hand out racist literature.
Without knowing more about her evolution, I won't try to make any connections between those three groups, but I thought the evolution itself interesting enough to deserve a post.

If you read the whole article, you'll find that the Conservatives are using this evolution to attack Labour for hypocrisy, that greatest of all modern sins.

(Here's a brief description of the November 9th Society.)
- 2:29 PM, 18 May 2012   [link]

Romney Rising:  According to Gallup.
Fifty percent of Americans now have a favorable opinion of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, up from 39% in February and his highest by 10 percentage points.  His current 41% unfavorable rating, though, leaves him with a net score of +9, after being at -8 in February.  In roughly half of the 28 measurements Gallup has taken of Romney since 2006, more Americans have viewed him negatively than positively.
As you would expect, most of that increase has come from Republicans, but the Romney campaign must be pleased by the 11 per cent increase in favorability among independents.
- 9:16 AM, 18 May 2012   [link]

The Junior Congressman From California's 8th District Has Resigned:  As far as I can tell, almost none of the voters in that San Francisco district miss Jay Inslee, though I suppose the senior 8th district congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi, may.

In the 111th Congress, Jay inslee voted with his party leadership, that is to say, Nancy Pelosi, 99 per cent of the time.  He had decided, for whatever reasons, to follow her lead, to become a junior congressman representing her district, rather than represent Washington's 1st district.

If any of our local reporters think that Inslee's record is a legitimate issue in the governor's race, they may want to ask him why he spent that session of Congress representing San Francisco, rather than Bainbridge Island, Shoreline, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Bothell, Kirkland, and Redmond.

And if they are really enterprising, they may want to ask him whether he voted for Pelosi in the last leadership contest, and, if so, why.  (The votes in these leadership contests are secret, but we know that Heath Schuler received 43 votes.  Was one of those Inslee's?)

The current Almanac of American Politics has just two brief paragraphs on Inslee's accomplishments, but there is still enough there for reporters to begin asking him questions.  If, that is, they think questions about his record are legitimate.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 8:43 AM, 18 May 2012   [link]

The Newly-Released Trayvon Martin Evidence Supports George Zimmerman's Claim Of Self Defense:  Last night I did something that I rarely do; I watched the beginnings of the ABC, NBC, and CBS national news programs.   All of them featured the newly-released evidence in the Trayvon Martin case; none of them said, explicitly, what any intelligent viewer could have figured out:  This evidence supports what Zimmerman says happened.

It was, to say the least, an odd experience, like watching a series of sports reports where all the scoring shown is by the team the announcer expects to lose.

(Incidentally, I thought the NBC report was the worst of the three.)

Supports, not proves.  But a defendant in a criminal trial does not have to prove his innocence, a legal subtlety that seems to have escaped the news readers and analysts on those programs; he only has to raise reasonable doubts about the prosecution's case.

Alan Dershowitz, who knows a little about the law, thinks that, if this newly-released evidence is valid, then the murder charge should be dropped.
A medical report by George Zimmerman’s doctor has disclosed that Zimmerman had a fractured nose, two black eyes, two lacerations on the back of his head and a back injury on the day after the fatal shooting.  If this evidence turns out to be valid, the prosecutor will have no choice but to drop the second-degree murder charge against Zimmerman — if she wants to act ethically, lawfully and professionally.

There is, of course, no assurance that the special prosecutor handling the case, State Attorney Angela Corey, will do the right thing.  Because until now, her actions have been anything but ethical, lawful and professional.
As you can see, he doesn't think much of the special prosecutor.

(Watching those three stories made me wonder, as I have before, just how smart our news readers are.  They really didn't seem to understand that the evidence they were describing undermined the stories they have been telling us.)
- 7:51 AM, 18 May 2012   [link]

Fajas And False Advertising:  Yesterday's New York Times had an article (and a front-page picture) on the growing popularity of "fajas", a traditional Colombian garment, now being used as, well, girdles.

I was partly prepared for this news, since I just recently learned about billionaire Sara Blakely, who became a billionaire by selling, well, girdles.

So many women want to look "shapely" or even "curvaceous", which will come as no surprise to almost everyone past puberty.  (Though you might not want to mention this in, for example, Women Studies 101.)

But there was one charming comment at the end of the faja article that did surprise me.  One young woman, who I will not name so as not to embarrass her further, said: "Your body is the way it is.  When you take it off, your body is still the same.  It's like false advertising."

I found that naive comment charming, but I can think of many industries where executives would be appalled by the comment.  Women and men use "false advertising" all the time, often with help from things they buy.

(Here's a somewhat dated example of the way some men try to deceive some women:  In Britain, some years ago, cell phones were a mark of status.  So some young men bought fake cell phones to take along to singles bars.  According to sociologists who observed this, those fake phones did make it easier for the men to meet women.

I'll leave examples of women trying to fool men with "false advertising" to others.)
- 2:57 PM, 17 May 2012   [link]

The People At Biased BBC will like the result of this contest.
The liberal media took another stunning defeat Tuesday as Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace totally demolished the BBC's Katty Kay on Jeopardy!.
Wallace finished with $22,400, Kay with $8,000, and Dr. Mehmet Oz with $5,900.

(For the record, although Kay is definitely on the left, Wallace is not necessarily a conservative.

He's harder to read, ideologically, than most journalists, but I would put him on the moderate left, even though he works for a generally conservative network, Fox News.   And I suppose the fact that I find a moderator hard to read is something of a compliment to Wallace.)
- 2:16 PM, 17 May 2012   [link]

Today's Seattle Times Editorial On Our Looming National Bankruptcy Is Bizarre:  The Obama administration is planning to bankrupt the country.  That isn't just what Republican partisans say, that's what their own numbers say.  Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner admitted that the administration has no plan to avoid bankruptcy — but says that he doesn't like the Republican plans he has seen.  (I'm not sure what his position is on the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson plan, but we do know that President Obama has, almost entirely, ignored it.)

For more than three years now, the Senate Democratic leadership, including our own senior senator, Patty Murray, has refused to even present a budget resolution — as required by law.

Since the Republican takeover of the House in the 2010 election, the Republican majority has presented a budget plan that would, according to official estimates, let us avoid national bankruptcy.  The Ryan plan may not be perfect — unlike all the other plans — but it should have been a place to start serious negotiations.

Instead, President Obama has, after one failed attempt to negotiate a grand bargain with the Republicans, gone back to nearly full-time campaigning.  Anyone who looks at his daily schedules, as I do from time to time, will notice that he rarely even meets with congressional leaders, much less spends the time necessary to work out a compromise.  I have my disagreements will all four of Obama's immediate predecessors, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2, but all of them were willing to try to achieve compromises on budgets, and all of them succeeded, to some extent.

President Obama is not even willing to try.

So who does the Seattle Times attack? Speaker Boehner.

That editorial attack is simply bizarre.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(There are also several budget plans from Republican senators, two of them serious enough to get more than 40 votes in the Senate.  To the best of my knowledge, no Democratic leader in the Senate — including our own Patty Murray — has even presented a budget plan in the last three years.)
- 1:16 PM, 17 May 2012   [link]

$1 Trillion?  That, according to Doug McWilliams, of the Centre for Economic and Business Research, is how much Greece's exit could cost the eurozone.
The British government is making urgent preparations to cope with the fallout of a possible Greek exit from the single currency, after the governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, warned that Europe was "tearing itself apart".

Reports from Athens that massive sums of money were being spirited out of the country intensified concern in London about the impact of a splintering of the eurozone on a UK economy that is stuck in double-dip recession. One estimate put the cost to the eurozone of Greece making a disorderly exit from the currency at $1tn, 5% of output.
(By way of comparison, Greece's GDP is somewhere around $300 billion.)

But, cheery fellow that he is, McWilliams thinks that a "planned breakup" would only cost the eurozone about $300 billion.  He favors that alternative, since he considers the breakup inevitable.

He's probably right about the inevitability.

(I have no idea whether his numbers are plausible, or even how he calculated them.   You can find a little more of his thinking in this press release.

McWilliams does think that the eurozone will be better off in the long run if they abandon the euro, but few elected officials are likely to get excited by the idea that they will ahead in 2025 if they take harsh measures now.)
- 9:06 AM, 17 May 2012   [link]

President Obama Has United The Senate:  Again.   In opposition to his budgets.
A budget resolution based on President Obama’s 2013 budget failed to get any votes in the Senate on Wednesday.

In a 99-0 vote, all of the senators present rejected the president’s blueprint.

It’s the second year in a row the Senate has voted down Obama’s budget.

Obama's 2012 budget failed 97 to 0 last May after Obama himself last April said he wanted deeper deficit cuts.
This year, the House also rejected Obama's budget — unanimously.

All this is amusing — and infuriating.  The Senate Democrats have refused to perform their most essential task for three years now, have refused to pass any budget resolution at all.

(Why are the Senate Democrats refusing to present a budget?  For many reasons, but mostly because, if they were honest, they would be calling for tax increases, though not immediately.  They want to force the Republicans to take partial responsibility for those tax increases.)
- 8:33 AM, 17 May 2012   [link]