November 2008, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Why Did Barack Obama Choose Rahm Emanuel For His Chief Of Staff?  I've seen different explanations for the choice and haven't really come to my own conclusion.  But I can say three things.  First, Obama really wanted Emanuel.  That explains why he asked Rahm publicly, making it much harder for Rahm to refuse.

Second, Emanuel is another cog in the Chicago machine.
While at Sarah Lawrence, Mr Emanuel joined the team for the congressional campaign of fellow Chicagoan David Robertson.  Via a master's degree in speech and communication at Northwestern University in 1985, he went on to work for several other Democratic campaigns, culminating in a role as chief fundraiser in Richard Daley's successful campaign for Mayor of Chicago in 1989.
The corrupt Chicago machine.

Third, Emanuel is a very unpleasant man.
His ways are so crude that he was demoted by even the boorish Clinton White House for, among other things, disrespecting elder Cabinet members and leaking dirt on his enemies to the press.  Clinton strategist Paul Begala, not the most pleasant soul himself, called Emanuel "a cross between a hemorrhoid and a toothache."

That Obama, the seeming paragon of class and dignity, would want to yoke himself to such a guttersnipe leaves many scratching their heads.  His thuggish slash-and-burn style may get results, but for how long?  Wasn't it Obama who said he also wanted to change the culture of greed and corruption on Wall Street?

After leaving the scandal-plagued Clinton White House, Emanuel joined the board of Freddie Mac, which backed risky subprime home loans with the encouragement of Obama and other Democrats.  He pocketed $231,655 in director's fees in his last year there.
The simplest explanation for Obama's choice — which may not be the right one — is that Obama will be brutal toward his political opponents — but will let others, including Emanuel, do the dirty work.  If that explanation is right, Machiavelli is smiling from wherever he now resides.   (Probably somewhere below.)
- 10:09 AM, 7 November 2008   [link]

Iowahawk Gives his own election analysis. Here's his conclusion:
So for now, let's put politics aside and celebrate this historic milestone.  In his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial 45 years ago, Dr. King said "I have a dream that one day my children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."  Let us now take pride that Tuesday we Americans proved that neither thing matters anymore.
You'll want to read the whole thing if you are on the right.  You should read the whole thing if you are on the left — assuming you want to understand those who disagree with you on Tuesday's result.
- 9:48 AM, 7 November 2008   [link]

"Media Bias May Have Just saved America":  So says "journalist" Will Bunch.  Here's his argument, such as it is:
But for eight years now, there's been an out-of-control fire raging outside of that temple — a fire that was built upon the USA Patriot Act and Guantanamo and rendition and torture and signing statements and 16 words in a State of the Union Address.  Ultimately, saving the last fabric of democracy is more important than worrying about what contrived commandments of journalism were stepped on while the blaze was finally extinguished.

I myself would call it truth-telling, and honest journalism, but now we have some who want to call it "media bias."  That's fine with me, but understand this.

"Media bias" may have just saved America.
Interesting that he should pick stories that our "mainstream" media consistently got wrong to support his argument.  For example, by "16 words" he means President Bush's claim that Saddam was trying to buy uranium in Africa, or to be more precise:
The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
Those words happen to be true.  As some of our leading newspapers, including the New York Times and the Washington Post have admitted.  (The first, rather reluctantly.)  But Bunch apparently does not know that Bush was right in those sixteen words.

And you know, I suspect that he doesn't really care.

I could say that it is refreshing to have Bunch's admission, but I can't considering how wrong he is on the facts.  And how absurd his claim is that the media was "saving the last fabric of democracy".   If I were the managing editor at his paper, I would suggest he get a check-up from a mental health professional.  A man that out of touch with reality needs help — and should not be a journalist.

(Just to nitpick, none of the things he complains about happened in 2000.  So, it hasn't been "eight years".

Jeff Goldstein has even harsher thoughts.)
- 7:09 AM, 7 November 2008   [link]

Now Newsweek Tells Us:  Matthew Balan has the story
Newsweek's Evan Thomas and Jon Meacham shared a bizarre Obama love-fest session with Charlie Rose on the PBS host's program on Wednesday.  Meacham stated that he was "very struck watching the stagecraft" of Obama and pointed out how Obama gave his victory speech by himself: "...[H]ave you ever seen a victory speech where there was no one else on stage?  No adoring wife, no cute kid -- he is the message."  Thomas went one step further in this vein: "There is a slightly creepy cult of personality about all of this."  Rose confronted him on his use of this phrase, and he explained that it made him "a little uneasy that he's so singular.  He's clearly managing his own spectacle.   He knows how to do it.  He's a -- I think, a deeply manipulative guy..."  Later, all tall three marveled about how it was "amazing" that Obama "watches us watching him."
All three are still in love with Obama, of course.  But shouldn't they have told us about these doubts before the election?

(This reminds me of the way that Newsweek covered for John Kerry in the 2004 election, though they were not as infatuated with Kerry as they are with Obama.)
- 6:15 AM, 7 November 2008   [link]

Valerie Jarrett's Record:  Jarrett has been close to both Barack Obama and Michelle Obama for years and is now co-chairwoman of his transition team.  It is fair, I think, to say that her record shows much about both Obamas, since the three have been allies for so long.

Jarrett worked briefly as a lawyer for Mayor Harold Washington, and stayed on after his death to become Mayor Richard Daley's Deputy Chief of Staff.  In other words, she was a key cog in the Daley machine.

She is also a businesswoman, CEO of the Habitat company, which manages housing in Chicago, not always successfully.  The Boston Globe did a very substantial investigation of the problems in some of the housing that she, and other allies of Obama, managed.  You should read their whole exposé, and even watch the video that accompanies it.  Here are some samples to show you why you will want to read the whole thing.

Grove Parc has become a symbol for some in Chicago of the broader failures of giving public subsidies to private companies to build and manage affordable housing - an approach strongly backed by Obama as the best replacement for public housing.

As a state senator, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee coauthored an Illinois law creating a new pool of tax credits for developers.  As a US senator, he pressed for increased federal subsidies.  And as a presidential candidate, he has campaigned on a promise to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that could give developers an estimated $500 million a year.

But a Globe review found that thousands of apartments across Chicago that had been built with local, state, and federal subsidies - including several hundred in Obama's former district - deteriorated so completely that they were no longer habitable.

Grove Parc and several other prominent failures were developed and managed by Obama's close friends and political supporters.  Those people profited from the subsidies even as many of Obama's constituents suffered.  Tenants lost their homes; surrounding neighborhoods were blighted.
. . .
Among those tied to Obama politically, personally, or professionally are:

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama's presidential campaign and a member of his finance committee. Jarrett is the chief executive of Habitat Co., which managed Grove Parc Plaza from 2001 until this winter and co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006, after city inspectors found widespread problems.
. . .
Campaign finance records show that six prominent developers - including Jarrett, Davis, and Rezko - collectively contributed more than $175,000 to Obama's campaigns over the last decade and raised hundreds of thousands more from other donors. Rezko alone raised at least $200,000, by Obama's own accounting.
. . .
"Throughout his career in public service, Barack Obama has advocated for the development of mixed-income housing and public-private partnerships to create affordable housing as an alternative to publicly subsidized, concentrated, low-income housing," the Obama campaign said in a statement provided to the Globe.

As a result, some people in Chicago's poorest neighborhoods are torn between a natural inclination to support Obama and a concern about his relationships with the developers they hold responsible for Chicago's affordable housing failures.  Some housing advocates worry that Obama has not learned from those failures.

There are, I think, four great lessons in this sordid story, three easy lessons and one less so.  First, many of Barack Obama's long-time allies, including one of the closest, Valerie Jarrett, are sleazy.  That isn't a surprise to anyone familiar with the Chicago machine.  Second, Obama must have known they were sleazy — unless he never read a Chicago newspaper.  Third, Valerie Jarrett does not belong on his transition team, or anywhere near the White House.

The fourth lesson is less obvious, but may be the most important of all.  These public-private partnerships failed spectacularly, causing great suffering to poor people — and Obama appears to have learned nothing from that failure.  He wants to do many more of these partnerships.

In some ways, his failure to learn is understandable.  After all, the partnerships worked out very well for him, and for some of his allies.

There's an old saying among students of government: personnel is policy.  By making Valerie Jarrett co-chairwoman of his transition team, Obama has told us something about the policies he will pursue — and who will benefit from those policies.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Even some leftists are troubled by Jarrett's record, as you can see here.

There are aerial pictures of some of the properties here and another long post here.

For what it is worth, Jarrett does not come from a poor background.  Her father was a doctor, and like senators Obama and Biden, she attended a private school.)
- 5:06 PM, 6 November 2008   [link]

Bacteria, Speculators, and Voters, Again:  In 2004, I called attention to similarities between bacteria and speculators, and suggested that some voters use a strategy like the strategy used by bacteria and speculators.

First, a review of that strategy, taken from Harold Morowitz's "Bull, Bears, and Bacteria", which you can find in his collection, The Wine of Life.
Additional results in recent years tell us in a more detailed manner just how bacteria manage to swim toward favorable environments and away from harmful ones.  By processes as yet incompletely understood, bacteria sense the time rate of change in concentration of molecules in their environment.  They then respond by determining the length of time between tumbles.  Thus if a bacterium is swimming toward a higher concentration of food it waits long periods between changes of direction, while if it finds it is swimming away from food it quickly tumbles.  This results in the net motion of a given cell toward the highest nutrient values.  Similarly, if it is swimming toward repellents it tumbles frequently, while if it is swimming away from repellents it waits before changing course.  These tiny organisms have thus evolved what we must designate as a strategy to deal with the problems of living in a variable environment.

The introduction of the concept of strategy takes us from the survival struggle at the microscopic level to the equally intense intense struggle waged by the bulls and bears.  For, as I noted, the day I attended the seminar on bacteria I also read Handbook or Commodity Speculators put out by Merrill Lynch, and on page three I was surprised to find the statement, "This is just another way of saying, 'Cut your losses short and let your profits run,' which is a basic principle in any kind of successful speculation."  The strategy proposed for speculators is the same as that used by bacteria for countless eons. (p. 62)
The extension of this strategy to voting is straightforward:  If things are going well, vote for the incumbent party; if things are going badly, vote for the opposition.  This is not a sophisticated strategy, but it is an easy one to follow.  A voter who uses it does not need to understand party platforms, or the details of candidate proposals.  In fact, the voter can ignore all the information that they might get during a campaign.  (Which would have some advantages, you must admit, though in this area it would have required a fast finger on the TV remote control to skip all the campaign ads.)

Sophisticated voters, a group that includes most party activists and even most journalists, tend to forget that many voters use such simple rules.  The sophisticates assume that nearly all voters have an ideology, and that the results of any given election can be interpreted as a victory for the left or the right.  In fact, many voters do not really have an ideology; instead, if they vote, they use simple strategies like the one I just described.  And those voters — and this is a key point — are more common among independents, are more likely to be swing voters.  Another, less comfortable, way to say that is to say that our election winners are often determined by our least informed voters.

I mention this again, for a reason that should be obvious by now.  Much of the discussion of the election results has assumed too much about the knowledge of voters, especially swing voters.   In fact, many voters chose change on November 4th, without a good idea of what the change would be.   (Similarly, many voters chose change in 1980, without much understanding of Reagan's platform.)   In that, these voters are like the bacteria, which change course randomly if conditions are getting worse.  (And change course randomly, though after a longer wait, even if conditions are getting better.)

I am not describing this strategy because I approve of it.  Obviously, I would rather voters, even less educated voters, make an effort to understand the issues and know the candidates.  But I also recognize that millions of voters won't do that.  And since they won't, I find many of the complex analyses of election results a bit unreal.

That doesn't mean that I won't make my own analyses, just that we all should be skeptical toward too complex, too ideological, explanations for last Tuesday's results.

(In this election, I would have preferred that these unsophisticated voters use a a different simple strategy, the one described by Hillaire Belloc:
And always keep a hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.
Now that I think of it, I suspect that many voters did use this strategy, though not enough.

There is another very general fact that may help you understand my argument:  The average IQ is 100.  That means that half the people have IQs below 100.  Voters have a slightly higher average IQ than the population, if only because people with the very lowest IQs are in mental institutions.  But that still means that very large numbers of voters would have trouble following the kind of abstract argument about conservatives and liberals so common in our media.)
- 1:29 PM, 6 November 2008   [link]

An Early Success For Obama?  He has made it clear that he thinks rich people have too much money, so he might consider yesterday's stock market fall a success.
The stock market posted its biggest plunge following a presidential election as reports on jobs and service industries stoked concern the economy will worsen even as President-elect Barack Obama tries to stimulate growth.

Citigroup Inc. tumbled 14 percent and Bank of America Corp. lost 11 percent as the Standard & Poor's 500 Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average sank more than 5 percent.  Nucor Corp., the largest U.S.-based steel producer, slid 10 percent after bigger rival ArcelorMittal doubled production cuts amid slowing demand.  Boeing Co., the world's second-largest commercial planemaker, lost 6.9 percent after UBS AG forecast a 3 percent drop in global air traffic next year.
Of course a lot of middle class people are poorer, too, but he might think the increase in equality of wealth makes those losses worth while.
- 6:48 AM, 6 November 2008   [link]

All The Cool Kids Were For Obama:  William Kole, who is the head of the Associated Press bureau in Vienna, produces a piece that could be a parody, but isn't.

And repeats mindless anti-American propaganda, just to show that it isn't a parody.

He sounds like a junior high school girl, suddenly delighted to be accepted by the in crowd.  Which is pretty ridiculous for a man his age.
- 6:16 AM, 6 November 2008   [link]

Cheers!  Here's a fine idea.
American students have designed a genetically modified yeast that can ferment beer and produces the chemical resveratrol, known to offer some protection against developing cancer.

Resveratrol is a chemical found in high concentrations in grapes, berries, peanuts and pistachio nuts.  It has received increasing attention since 1992, when researchers suggested that red wine containing large amounts of resveratrol might have cardiovascular health benefits.
There is much to be done before before you can buy resveratrol-enriched beer in your local store.  And I should add that the "benefits of resveratrol in humans remain unclear", though it appears to be really good for mice.

(If this beer is developed, could it be sold in Europe?  Many Europeans, especially European leftists, have a superstitious fear of genetically engineered foods.)
- 5:29 AM, 6 November 2008   [link]

More Ballot Insecurity:  In King County, where I live, voters can go to the polls, as I do, can vote by mail, as most do, or can drop off their absentee ballots in one these drop boxes.

Ballot drop box

This particular box is located in Crossroads Mall, just outside the library branch.

You do not have to be a a chemical engineer, a mechanical engineer, a locksmith, or even just a handyman to see that the box is insecure, and could be attacked in many ways.  Ballots should never be left in such a box, unless it is inside a secure building.

Washington state has relatively clean elections.  But that is no excuse for being so casual about ballot security.  In a time when attacking an opponent's signs has become routine, it is foolish to expect that no one will attack an opponent's ballots.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 1:18 PM, 5 November 2008   [link]

Here's A Safe Prediction:  From Clifford May.
Give Obama his due:  It is an exceptional politician who can win the support of Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, and Kenneth Duberstein, former chief of staff to President Reagan; of William Ayers, an unrepentant terrorist, and Christopher Buckley, son of William F. Buckley, founder of modern intellectual conservatism; of Rashid Khalidi, an Israel-hater, and Edgar Bronfman, former head of the World Jewish Congress.  Here's a not-very-bold prediction:  A year from now, someone is going to be sorely disappointed.
Possibly, all of them.  Especially since so many of his supporters believe, or at least hope, that he has been lying to them.
- 12:54 PM, 5 November 2008   [link]

Before The Election, Write Posts, Bicycle, Hike, Or Ski:  After the election, write posts, bicycle, hike, or ski.  Obama's election will have little direct impact on my life, at least in the short run.  The things I can control in my life are still immensely more important to me than the changes he might bring to this country.  For instance, it is almost certain that nothing he does to our health care system will matter to me as much as whether I continue to exercise.

So, my unhappiness over his victory is not personal.  Rather, I worry that he will keep his promises and, in doing so, damage our nation and our friends abroad.

Speaking of exercise, it's time for a bicycle ride.

(If you missed the allusion in the title, you can find an explanation here.)
- 9:18 AM, 5 November 2008   [link]

Gallup Goofed:  In this post, I said that I didn't know what to make of Gallup's results, since they couldn't decide whether to use their traditional voting model, or an expanded model.  It was like seeing two answers to a test question.  Most teachers would suspect that the student didn't completely understand the problem.

We are still counting, especially here in Washington state, but it looks as though Obama's final popular vote margin will be about 6 percent.  Gallup had predicted a margin of 11 percent.  That's one of their three or four worst errors, ever.

And, just to add to Gallup's embarrassment, both models had about the same error.

(We are still counting here in Washington state because the state accepts absentee ballots as long as they are postmarked no later than the day of the election.  So our counters haven't even received all the ballots yet, much less counted them.)
- 8:58 AM, 5 November 2008   [link]

Amazon Is Alert:  This morning they sent me an email, recommending this book.  Good timing.

(No, I don't intend to buy it.  I have seen mixed reports on Corsi and the book, and have more than enough books in my to-read stack.)
- 8:16 AM, 5 November 2008   [link]

Congratulations To Barack Obama:  As everyone knows, his election is a breakthrough; he is the first graduate of Punahou to be elected president.

And thanks to Obama for choosing Joe Biden for vice president.  We can expect considerable entertainment from Biden over the next four years.
- 5:07 AM, 5 November 2008
More:  Jonah Goldberg was able to be more gracious than I was.
- 3:20 PM, 5 November 2008   [link]

Sounds Like The Usual Election Shenanigans in Philadelphia.
- 2:54 PM, 4 November 2008   [link]

Vote Choices:  Washington state gives voters many choices.  I just voted on a slew of candidates, including judges, and a slew of issues.  Not all of the choices are of great interest, so I will just tell you about the more important choices.

In the partisan races, I voted for Republicans in every race but two, the state auditor and the lieutenant governor.  The Democratic auditor, Brian Sonntag, has performed well over the years and has consistently put pressure on Democratic officials to use the taxpayer's money wisely.  The Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Marcia McCraw, needs to get her personal life in order before she runs for office.

Three statewide Republican candidates drew my enthusiastic support, Dino Rossi, who lost so narrowly for governor in 2004, Rob McKenna, the incumbent attorney general, and Doug Sutherland, the incumbent Commissioner for Public Lands.  If I were in his legislative district, I would have voted enthusiastically for Toby Nixon.

Some of my friends at Sound Politics may be surprised to learn that I voted for Sam Reed for secretary of state.  I agree with most of their criticisms of his performance, especially his efforts to push the state toward even more use of fraud-and-error-prone absentee ballots.  But I also think that he has improved election administration in the state and — this is the crucial point — that he is preferable to his opponent.

Superintendent of Public Instruction was a difficult choice.  I am dissatisfied with the incumbent, Terry Bergeson, and unimpressed by her challenger, Randy Dorn.  (Dorn missed his first appointment on a local talk show.  When he did show up, he gave answers that I mostly liked, but I kept wondering why he had missed that first appointment.)  So I ended up casting a protest vote for California author and education blogger Joanne Jacobs.  (Yes, I know she isn't eligible and probably doesn't want the job, but, as I said, it was a protest vote.)

There were three statewide issues.  I voted for 985, to reduce traffic congestion.  I voted against 1000, a "death with dignity" initiative, since I am against death, with or without dignity.  More seriously, I became convinced that there is no need for these assisted suicide laws, after caring for a close relative in her last weeks of life — and some potential for abuse in such a law.

Washington, as I have said before, requires voters to choose judges — and then makes it nearly impossible to choose by preventing the candidates from telling us what they would do.  In the three competitive races, I chose the three recommended by a local conservative talk show host.

Sound Transit, which is determined to force us on to rail transit, whether we want to ride trains or not, had a proposition on the ballot asking for even more tax money.  I voted against it enthusiastically, and then looked to see if there was a legal way to vote against it again.  (There wasn't.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(There were no lines when I voted at about 12:30, since almost everyone in Washington state votes by mail.  There were police cars on the block in front of the school where I voted, warning motorists against an oil slick on the road.)

- 2:21 PM, 4 November 2008   [link]

Another Reason To Vote For McCain:  If he wins, you will embarrass the "mainstream" media.
If Barack Obama wins the election, it will be historic. And if he loses, it will be pretty historic, too:  It would mark the biggest collective error in the history of the media and political establishment.

An Obama loss would mean the majority of pundits, reporters, and analysts were wrong.  Pollsters would have to find a new line of work, since Obama has been ahead in all 159 polls taken in the last six weeks.  The massive crowds that have regularly turned out to see Obama would turn out to have meant nothing.  This collective failure of elites would provide such a blast of schadenfreude that Republicans like Rush Limbaugh would be struck speechless (another historic first).
(Not that you needed any more reasons.)
- 8:51 AM, 4 November 2008   [link]

Another Journalist On The Other Side:  In this case, Nir Rosen of Rolling Stone.
Good for Dave Dilegge for speaking out in Small Wars Journal about the October issue of Rolling Stone magazine, wherein Nir Rosen, an American reporter, described his visit with Taliban forces in Afghanistan.  Rosen left no doubt about his active cooperation with the Taliban fighters.  "They have promised to take me to see the Taliban in action: going out on patrols, conducting attacks," he wrote, " . . . once we are on the road we should take the batteries out of our phones, to prevent anyone from tracking us."
. . .
Rosen described how he and two Taliban fighters deceived the guards at a government checkpoint.   Suppose during World War II an American reporter had sneaked through the lines with two German officers wearing civilian clothes.  "When we caught enemy combatants out of uniform in the 1940s," a veteran wrote in The American Heritage, "we sometimes simply executed them."  The Greatest Generation had a direct way of dealing with moral ambiguity.
Rosen is helping the Taliban, helping a terrorist organization that, among other things, has murdered teachers for the crime of teaching little girls to read and write.

By way of the Armed Liberal.
- 7:11 AM, 4 November 2008   [link]

Reckless:  The Obama campaign's plan to hold an immense celebration in Grant Park
Chicago is bracing for a gigantic crowd this week in Grant Park, the city's iconic front yard, where Senator Barack Obama has chosen to spend election night.

Grant Park was the site of clashes during the Democratic National Convention in 1968.

As many as 70,000 people are expected to attend an event for local supporters.  All available tickets were swept up days ago, and thousands of people have applied to be on a waiting list.  Thousands more — maybe as many as a million people, Mayor Richard M. Daley has proudly suggested — are expected to pile into the downtown parkland and sidewalks and streets surrounding Mr. Obama's official celebration.
And how will those people react if Obama loses?  Or even, possibly, if he wins?

Why is Obama doing this?  Presumably because he loves those adoring crowds.

(The security people must be going nuts over the risks inherent in this large a gathering, especially one outside.)
- 6:36 AM, 4 November 2008   [link]

Vote Against Speaker Pelosi:  In 2006, I argued that you should vote against any congressional candidate who would vote to make Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House.  My reason was simple: I objected to Alcee Hastings, the man that she was willing to make chairman of the critical House Intelligence Committee:

If the Democrats win a majority, then, almost certainly*, Nancy Pelosi, now Minority Leader, will become speaker and name the chairman.  Newspaper accounts differ; some say that she has promised to name Hastings chairman, others only that she is considering him for chairman.  Anyone who would even consider Hastings for that position is unfit to be speaker.

(Here are the reasons I consider Alcee Hastings unfit for that position, or any other public position.)

The publicity over the Hastings appointment was so bad — even the New York Times objected — that Pelosi backed down and found another candidate for that position.  (Not, unfortunately, California congresswoman Jane Harmon, who would be a good choice.  She and Pelosi have disagreements, both political and personal.)

Pelosi also backed unindicted ABSCAM co-conspirator John Murtha for Majority Leader after her victory.  Fortunately, he was rejected by the Democratic caucus, in a rare display of good sense.  (Hastings and Murtha are not the only corrupt Democratic congressmen that Pelosi was willing to put in positions of power.  At one point, I suggested, sarcastically, that she should go ahead and make corruption a requirement to hold a position of power in the Democratic House.)

Those two choices showed that Pelosi was unfit to Speaker, unfit to be our second most powerful elected official.

In 2006, I thought that Pelosi was unfit to be Speaker.  Since then, my opinion of her has gone down.  I now think that she is the worst Speaker of my life time, worse even than corrupt Jim Wright.

In my first post on Pelosi, I predicted that she would imitate her father, a Baltimore boss.  She has proved me right, again and again, especially on foreign policy, where she has been, to put it mildly, irresponsible.

It is easy to vote against Pelosi.  In almost every district, you can vote against Pelosi by voting against the Democratic candidate.  In this area, that is especially easy to do, since, with the exception of Brian Baird, none of the Democratic candidates have much to recommend them, even if you agree with their policies.  (There were a few Democrats who did not vote for her as Speaker; I would consider voting for them, if they were acceptable in other ways.)

(Ironic point:  The Seattle Times is sure that we need change in the other Washington — but endorsed all the incumbents in this area, including the one Republican, Dave Reichert (who I would vote for).  Hint to the editorial board at the Times:  If you really want change, you must be willing to reject at least a few incumbents.  And you ought to reject Pelosi's old style machine politics.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 3:12 PM, 3 November 2008   [link]

Both Sides Now:  That's Barack Obama position on gay marriage.
ABC News' Teddy Davis, Sunlen Miller, Tahman Bradley, and Rigel Anderson report: Barack Obama's nuanced position on same-sex marriage is on full display in an MTV interview which is set to air on Monday.

Obama told MTV he believes marriage is "between a man and a woman" and that he is "not in favor of gay marriage."

At the same time, Obama reiterated his opposition to Proposition 8, the California ballot measure which would eliminate a right to same-sex marriage that the state's Supreme Court recently recognized.
There are basically two ways to interpret this combination; either Obama has an extraordinarily nuanced position, in which he thinks that his moral views should not determine legislation, or he is being profoundly cynical, pretending to oppose gay marriage when he really favors it.

I won't say the first interpretation is impossible, but given Obama's history of making misleading and even dishonest statements, I would put all my money on the second interpretation.

Most Obama supporters would probably agree that we are too cynical in this country — but they are backing Obama anyway.
- 1:55 PM, 3 November 2008   [link]

Obama Wants You To Pay More For Electricity:  Much more
You know, when I was asked earlier about the issue of coal, uh, you know — Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.  Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad.  Because I'm capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it — whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, uh, they would have to retrofit their operations.  That will cost money.  They will pass that money on to consumers.
Let's see.  Suppose we do have Obama's middle-class tax cut, and we also have "skyrocketing" electricity rates.  Would the average person be better off, or worse off, everything else being equal?  (Not that everything else would be equal, since higher energy prices would put a heavy burden on most employers.  It can be hard to pay electricity bills, if you no longer have a pay check.)  Much worse off, I would guess, judging from my own electric bills.

His stance on this issue is one of the reasons I expect him to propose energy taxes, should he be elected president.

In May, I argued that many politicians want us to pay more for energy, but that they couldn't say so, because they understood that most voters don't agree.  I admire Obama for being more frank on the subject than, for instance, my state's junior senator, Maria Cantwell.  But I can't say I admire the San Francisco Chronicle, which did not publicize his confession.

(In the same interview, Obama reviews his position on nuclear energy.  As I said in this post, he strives to appear reasonable on the subject, while using the bogus issue of nuclear wastes to stop actual nuclear power plants.)
- 11:11 AM, 3 November 2008   [link]

Think Like A Political Scientist, Not An Economist:  Or just think like a politician, not an economist.  That's my advice to Harvard economist Greg Mankiw, who is puzzled by this:

Over at Intrade, you can bet on future tax rates.  Currently, the implied probability of a hike in the top income tax rate in 2009 is about two-thirds.

This surprises me.  Even assuming an Obama victory, I would put the probability much lower.   As an economic matter, raising anyone's taxes with the economy so weak seems ill-advised.  As a political matter, why not just let the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of 2010?  Obama could then claim in four years that he never signed a tax hike.  It seems neither economically nor politically sensible for the new President to push for an immediate tax increase, even if an eventual tax increase is his goal.

Mankiw then goes on to give three hypotheses, but misses the obvious explanation:  Many bettors think that Obama is lying.  And those bettors have history on their side; after all, Bill Clinton promised a middle-class tax cut in 1992 — and dropped that promise almost immediately after the election, instead backing tax increases that hit almost everyone, including the middle class.  (Washington state's governor, Christine Gregoire, promised no tax hikes in 2004, but switched almost immediately after taking office.)  The Clinton tax increases probably slowed the recovery, though Clinton supporters would claim that they were good for the economy in the long run.

The logic, from a politician's point of view, is simple.  If you are going to impose a tax increase, as I expect Obama to do, you should either wait until events appear to force you to impose that increase, or you should impose it immediately, to give voters time to forget before the next election.  Bill Clinton used the second tactic in 1993 (with some mix of the first) — and was re-elected in 1996.   Obama knows that.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(What kind of tax increase would Obama propose?  Probably a regressive energy tax, as well as increases in top rates.  He has made it clear that he favors higher energy taxes in order, as I like to say, to take power from the people.

Incidentally, I read Mankiw's site regularly, and often learn something there.  But I have no idea why he thinks that Obama's people are "savvy" about economics.  After all, to take just one example from many, Obama opposes the Colombia free trade agreement.  Some of the economists who are supporting Obama may be savvy, but there is no evidence that they have affected his thinking on issues.)
- 7:29 AM, 3 November 2008   [link]

How Did The Times Locate Obama's Impoverished Boston Aunt?  Ordinary reporting, using clues from Obama's book, Dreams from My Father.
The trail that led to "Aunt Zeituni", the relative of Barack Obama who was traced by The Times last week, started with Mr Obama's memoir, one of the most widely read political autobiographies of all time.

The Democrat campaign has implied that the story might have come from Republican sources — "the American people are . . . pretty suspicious of things that are dumped in the marketplace 72 hours before a campaign," said Mr Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod yesterday.

In fact, the story came from a book that has been read by millions, including just about everyone connected to the Obama campaign.
That's the Times of London, not the New York Times, which should be embarrassed to be scooped by a British newspaper on a story from its back yard.  And the Boston Globe should be even more embarrassed.

That his aunt is an illegal alien, living on welfare, adds to the story.  As does the fact that Obama has not helped this poor relative (or any other poor relatives, as far as I can tell).  But she does seem to have helped him, with an illegal campaign contribution.

(For the record, I don't think that Obama has a strong moral obligation to help this aunt, or most of his other relatives.  But I do think it telling that we don't hear of him helping any of his poor relatives.  In that, he is unlike John McCain, who has helped his relatives, including his adopted children.)
- 5:18 AM, 3 November 2008   [link]

McCain For President:  This year, the choice is as clear as it has been in at least a century.  Citizens who love this country, and who understand the choices, will vote for John McCain over Barack Obama, with no hesitation.

There are positive reasons to favor McCain; he has a good record on spending and taxes, and he understands our dangerous world.  He has been right about most of the great issues of our time, welfare reform, the fall of the Soviet Union, and, most recently, the surge in Iraq.

But the choice is made far easier this year by his opponent, Barack Obama.  Obama does not have the character that we need in a leader, in particular does not have the integrity needed in a president.   We know that because whenever a newspaper checks what he has said about his past, they find discrepancies; again and again, what he said happened, didn't.  Some of these differences could be explained by the inevitable lapses in memory that almost all of us have.  But not all.  And when we look at what he has said about his past, we find that his stories all make sense — as leftist political fables.  But real life does not always fit into those neat patterns.  We know that he does not have the character needed in a president even though much of his past life has been hidden from us; again and again we learn that relatives and friends of his have been asked not to speak about him until the campaign is over.

We also can draw an obvious inference from his missing records.  We have not seen Obama's test scores, his college transcripts, his Columbia thesis, his state senate records, and much else.  If a man hides this much of his past, it is fair to conclude that we would think less of him if we could see those records.

Obama is the least qualified man ever nominated by a major American party.  As even his supporters admit tacitly, he has no significant accomplishments as a public figure.  He has done nothing as a United States senator, and he did little as an Illinois state senator.  He has no significant executive experience; he has never been an officer in our military, never been an executive in a business, never held an elected executive office, never been a member of a Cabinet.  The closest thing he has to executive experience is being chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge — which failed completely.

Obama is not well-informed on most subjects important to a president.  There is no reason to believe that he understands military strategy, on even the most basic level.  He understands so little of physics that he thinks that the problem of storing nuclear wastes is unsolved.  He knows so little about trade issues that he opposes the free trade agreement with Colombia.  He knows so little about agricultural policy that he thought arugula could be a significant product in Iowa.  I could add example after example to that brief list, but it is easier to list the subjects that he does know something about: community organizing, law, and, probably, basketball.  And that's it.

His senate office is full of pictures of Barack Obama — and almost empty of books.

Obama has been consistently wrong on major policy decisions.  He opposed the Reagan military buildup that led to the fall of the Soviet Union.  He opposed welfare reform.  He favors affirmative action, in spite of the mounting evidence that it hurts those it is supposed to help.   He voted for the bloated farm bill.  In his short career in the Senate, he has voted for many wasteful earmarks.  He even sponsored one that went directly to his wife's employer.   He has opposed most controls on illegal immigration.

He is wrong on his proposals for the future.  At a time when our federal budget needs restraint, Obama has promised both immense tax cuts, and enormous increases in spending.  (He claims that he can pay for both with unspecified savings, but no one who understands our budgets takes him seriously on that promise.)

There are two common themes in his domestic proposals, themes that will be familiar to anyone who has observed big city machines.  He wants to make citizens clients of the government, dependent on the government in as many ways as possible.  And he wants to provide jobs for the politically connected, from the precinct worker to the big contributor.  Machines have used these two to keep political control of their cities for decades.

Nearly all machines were, and are, corrupt.  Obama spent almost all his political career in Chicago — and backed many of the corrupt Daley candidates.  (One exception:  Obama backed Alex Giannoulias, instead of the organization candidate, for state treasurer.  But Giannoulias has ties to an even worse organization.)   For years, one of Obama's closest associates in Chicago was Tony Rezko, who was convicted of corruption — and is now most likely implicating other Obama associates.  Either Obama did not know Rezko was corrupt, in which case Obama's judgment is suspect, or Obama did know Rezko was corrupt, in which case Obama's integrity is suspect.

We have already seen, in this campaign, examples of corruption.  Obama's campaign set up their on-line donation system in a way that facilitates fraud, everything from theft to donations from foreigners.  They intended to make fraud easy — and succeeded.

Most of all, Obama is wrong on foreign policy, because he has the wrong view of the world.  Melanie Phillips describes Obama as a "Marxisant radical", and after I found this extended definition of the word, I had to agree with her, though I might qualify it slightly, to adapt it to the United States:

The French have a great adjective: marxisant. If you look it up in Larousse you are told that it means "that which tends toward Marxism," but so bald a definition doesn't capture the connotative flavor of the word.  To be marxisant is to be vaguely but ostentatiously leftist, as a form of class display.  It means to affect a faux-radical style, and to spout a half-baked Gramscian jargon that identifies you as politically cool and adversarial.  It's a way to be hip and trendy while hanging out at the Sorbonne.

In France if you are marxisant you wear a black turtleneck, you shave only every few days, you discuss Sartre at great length in bistros, and you kiss the feet of every decrepit soixante-huitard whom you encounter.  As for Marx and Lenin, well—you haven't actually read them, but you know they are profoundly important, and you'll quote them on occasion.  Being marxisant isn't an intellectual position.  It's a social posture, designed to indicate that you are a member of an upscale elite.

For example, a member of the upscale elite who sneers at people in rural areas, clinging to their religion and guns.

In short, Obama's leftist views are mostly a fashionable pose.  That doesn't mean that he holds them lightly.  People have died for their fashions, so strong is our desire to pose in just the right way.  Mostly a pose, but not entirely.  Though Obama's racial grievance collecting may have been a pose at first, I am inclined to think that he now believes much of his own spiel, as salesmen are prone to do.

Unfortunately for us, these Marxisant poses lead, in almost every case, to the wrong decisions in foreign policy.  Those who hold them sneer at bourgeois democracy, sympathize with third world extremists, as long as they belong to an oppressed group, and think that there was some good in communism, in spite of those millions murdered.  In short, Marxisants sympathize with all our enemies.

And our enemies know that.  Almost all of them, from the Iranian regime to Kim Jong Il from Castro to Chavez, have endorsed Obama.  They aren't backing him because they wish us well.

Why do our enemies prefer Obama?  Because they think they can make gains at our expense if he is president.  They recall what happened when the leftists took control of Congress in 1974 and what happened after Jimmy Carter was elected president.  And they are hoping for more of the same.

The greatest risk is in the Middle East.  This satirical Ralph Peters column will give you some idea of the risks of an Obama presidency — if you don't know them already.

Looking back on the four years of his first administration, President Obama can be proud: He made the US welcome among the family of nations again; he reduced our reliance on military force; and he gave us peace by reaching sensible accommodations with our enemies.

The lies told about him in the 2008 election were exposed as sheer bigotry.  Far from being "soft on radical Islam," President Obama was the first world leader to welcome Jewish refugees after Iran's nuclear destruction of Israel's major cities (his only caveat — a fair one — was the refusal to accept Zionist military officers and their families, in light of Israel's excessive retaliation).

Peters is being satirical, but he is right to say that electing Obama increases the chance of nuclear war in the Middle East — which would be bad for children and other living things.

Nuclear war is the biggest worry, by far, but if Obama is elected, we should fear more conventional conflicts as well, with deaths mostly in the thousands, and hundreds of thousands, instead of the millions.  This may not bother Obama.  You may recall that, in 2007, he admitted that genocide might be a consequence of a rapid withdrawal from Iraq (which he was favoring at the time), but did not see that as a sufficient reason to change his policy.

Oddly enough, Senator Biden has admitted that Obama would be tested by our enemies — and that we wouldn't be happy with Obama's response.  That bit of truth telling, along with a few gaffes, made the Obama campaign decide that Biden did not need to be heard, and rarely needed to be seen.

The choice is clear.  I could say that it is a hero versus a zero.  But that would be giving Obama too much credit.  He's way below zero.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(soixante-huitard means "68-er", that is, one of the violent radicals who almost brought down the French state in 1968.

The closest American equivalent to Marxisant is Tom Wolfe's "radical chic".

For more, you may want to look at three detailed posts from the Baseball Crank, on Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, and John McCain.)
- 6:59 PM, 2 November 2008   [link]