October 2007, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

5.6 Democrats To 1 Republican:  Sound about right to me, though not to the editorial writers at the New York Times.  They are complaining that the Bush Justice Department has been mean to Democrats and cite, among other things, this evidence of unfairness:
[House Judiciary] Committee members said they have learned of other prosecutions that may have been political and listed several defendants by name.  Donald Shields, the University of Missouri professor, testified that the Justice Department prosecuted 5.6 local Democratic officials for every Republican.  The odds of that occurring by chance, he found, is less than 1 in 10,000.
But this calculation makes sense only if you assume that Democrats and Republicans are equally likely to commit crimes.  In fact, though it might surprise the editorial writers at the New York Times, Democrats are far more likely to commit crimes.  And you don't need to be a statistician or student of American government to know that.  You can do easy comparisons, like counting those caught in Abscam.  Or you can do comparisons that require a little work, looking for one kind of crime, as I do.  What I have found when I search news sources for stories of vote fraud is that the culprits are Democrats in at least 9 cases out of 10.

Or, if you work for the New York Times, you could take a look at your own stories about a neighboring state, New Jersey.  The state is relatively competitive, so Democrats and Republicans there have had roughly equal chances to steal.  If the editorial writers at the New York Times were to review their own stories on New Jersey, they would see that the state has far more Democratic crooks than Republican crooks.  The most prominent recent Democratic crooks in New Jersey are former governor Jim McGreevy, who was forced to resign after it was learned he had given a state job to his homosexual lover, and former senator Robert Toricelli, who was forced to resign after he was accused of accepting a bribe.  At least the most prominent who have been forced to resign.  The current Democratic governor, Jon Corzine, has been linked to a number of scandals involving a former girlfriend, who is also the president of a large public employees union.   The Democratic junior senator from New Jersey, Robert Menendez, is even now being investigated by prosecutors for a number of ethical violations.

And those four are just the most prominent Democrats to have ethical problems.  There are literally dozens of other Democratic officials in New Jersey who have been caught with their hands in the till in the last decade.  New Jersey Republicans are not without sin, but they are far cleaner than their Democratic counterparts.

(The editorial does not mention the name of the committee, which is why I had to add it, nor the Donald Shields' credentials, nor does it link to his research, which is, I learned, incomplete.  Professor Shields, it turns out, is a Professor Emeritus of Communications at the University of Missouri, which I guess means he taught journalism, not political science.

And Professor Shields does reveal something interesting about his unfinished work:
Editors note: One of the subjects in the preliminary data presented in the February 2007 opinion editorial "The Political Profiling of Elected Democratic Officials" is Kathryn Shields, the sister of Dr. Shields.
Leaving out the name of the committee is even more interesting.  The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is John Conyers, who has not been prosecuted by the Bush Justice Department, but should be.)
- 5:11 PM, 24 October 2007   [link]

Reminder To The Editors At The Seattle Times:  You still haven't corrected this error.  (Unless your search routine isn't working correctly.)

It was an embarrassing mistake, and the longer it goes uncorrected, the more embarrassing it will become.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 2:28 PM, 24 October 2007   [link]

Charles Krauthammer Asks Three Questions:  And answers two of them.
There are three relevant questions concerning the Armenian genocide.

(a) Did it happen?

(b) Should the U.S. House of Representatives be expressing itself on this now?

(c) Was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's determination to bring this to a vote, knowing that it risked provoking Turkey into withdrawing crucial assistance to American soldiers in Iraq, a conscious (columnist Thomas Sowell) or unconscious (blogger Mickey Kaus) attempt to sabotage the U.S. war effort?

The answers are:

(a) Yes, unequivocally.

(b) No, unequivocally.

(c) God only knows.
I can answer the third.  As I have argued since Nancy Pelosi was first elected leader of the Democrats in the House, she is best understood as a machine politician, like her father, the Baltimore boss.  As I argued last year, machine politicians typically have a simple approach to foreign policy; they are not much interested in it, unless they can use a foreign policy stance to appeal to a particular ethnic group.  So, Speaker Pelosi was not trying to sabotage the U.S. war effort; she was trying to win Armenian support in a few House districts, most of them in California.

I don't think she was thinking strategically; I am not even sure she can think strategically.

But she was not the only Democrat who pushed this resolution, and I think it fair to say that at least few of the House Democrats did hope to handicap the war effort.  After all, a great many Democratic voters say that losing the war in Iraq would be a good thing, so it should not surprise us that some Democratic leaders share that view — and act on it, however slyly.

(Incidentally, I would not say that those who want us to lose the war are necessarily unpatriotic.   Some may honestly believe that it would be best for the United States to lose this war, that we and the the rest of the world would be better off if that happens.  I think that view is crazy but am willing to believe that some hold it honestly.

Note that I said some.  It is easy to find people on the far left who want the United States defeated because they think this a wicked country that should be destroyed, and they see that defeat as a first step.  Are any Democratic congressmen in that group?  I can think of a few possibilities, but none I would be certain about.)
- 2:07 PM, 24 October 2007   [link]

Precocious:  It's good to see young Americans getting involved in politics.  Some of them very young Americans.
Elrick Williams's toddler niece Carlyn may be one of the youngest contributors to this year's presidential campaign.  The 2-year-old gave $2,300 to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

So did her sister and brother, Imara, 13, and Ishmael, 9, and her cousins Chan and Alexis, both 13.   Altogether, according to newly released campaign finance reports, the extended family of Williams, a wealthy Chicago financier, handed over nearly a dozen checks in March for the maximum allowed under federal law to Obama.

Such campaign donations from young children would almost certainly run afoul of campaign finance regulations, several campaign lawyers said.  But as bundlers seek to raise higher and higher sums for presidential contenders this year, the number who are turning to checks from underage givers appears to be on the rise.
Were those donations legal?  Probably not, but it would be hard to prove that they were illegal.

For the record, Obama has promised to return those donations, and claims he has a policy against accepting donations from anyone younger than 15.

(This is one of the many foolish consequences of those limits on individual donations, limits that I think are unconstitutional (though the Supreme Court does not agree), and are certainly unwise.)
- 8:17 AM, 24 October 2007   [link]

Worth Reading:  Jack Shafer's description of the "The New Clinton Propaganda Machine".  Here are his lead sentences.
Politicians don't call it dissembling, deceiving, or lying.  They call it media management, and no administration has practiced this black art better in recent times than that of President Bill Clinton.
If I were writing this column, I would add that Bill Clinton's success then, and Hillary Clinton's success now, would not be possible were not so many reporters sympathetic to them, ideologically and personally.   Many "mainstream" reporters set aside much of their skepticism when they cover the Clintons.  That is the main reason the Clintons' media management has been so successful.

But the column is still worth reading.
- 7:41 AM, 24 October 2007   [link]

Congressman Stark Apologizes:  And doesn't do too bad a job of it, as you can see here.

(Earlier post on Stark here.)
- 7:23 AM, 24 October 2007   [link]

Fall Colors:  Today was gorgeous, so I drove over Stevens Pass and back, taking pictures along the way.

Tumwater Dam, 2007

This picture shows trees next to Tumwater Dam.   (Incidentally, at the right time of year you can watch the salmon trying to jump over the dam, or taking the easier route up the fish ladder beside it.)
- 4:05 PM, 23 October 2007   [link]

Speak For Yourself, Mr. Drum:  In this post, Kevin Drum rightly criticizes the emphasis on candidate debates.
I know this is almost too obvious to bear repeating, but are we really all so stupid that we judge participants in presidential debates by who gets off the best prepackaged zingers?
Well, I don't, and I have done my modest bit to discourage other voters from doing it.  (Which reminds me, I really must give another candidate a Vilsack rating this week.  I hope the ratings will be a modest resource for those who are interested in what a candidate has done, rather than which candidate has the cleverest speech writers.)

Granted, Kevin has a problem I don't have.  The three leading candidates in his party, Clinton, Edwards and Obama, have almost no accomplishments as public officials.  That does make it harder to discuss what they will do (if anything).  But I still think he should try.
- 6:06 AM, 23 October 2007   [link]

The New York Times Finally Gets Around To Mentioning Michael Murphy:  In this article, which is not bad, though oddly timed.
Today, President Bush will award Lieutenant Murphy, a team leader from Patchogue, the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award.  Mr. Bush will present it to Lieutenant Murphy's father and mother, Daniel and Maureen, in a ceremony scheduled to take place in the East Room.

Mr. Murphy said his son's action in battle was typical of the sort of selflessness he displayed even as a child, recalling an episode when he got into a scrap with three bullies in middle school who tried to shove a disabled student in a locker.

"He just jumped in," Mr. Murphy said, noting that it was the kind of action that led him and his former wife to refer to their oldest son as "the Protector" when he was a boy.  "That was Michael's way."
Oddly timed, because ordinarily one would expect this story to run after President Bush had presented the award.

(Some will wonder where our newspaper of record put the article.  It's on page A20, in the New York Report section.  Not quite the most obscure location in the print newspaper, but close.

Here's my earlier post on Lieutenant Murphy.)
- 2:55 PM, 22 October 2007   [link]

Common Sense On Global Warming:  From biologist Daniel B. Botkin.
Global warming doesn't matter except to the extent that it will affect life--ours and that of all living things on Earth.  And contrary to the latest news, the evidence that global warming will have serious effects on life is thin.  Most evidence suggests the contrary.
. . .
Should we therefore dismiss global warming?  Of course not.  But we should make a realistic assessment, as rationally as possible, about its cultural, economic and environmental effects.  As Erik the Red might have told you, not everything due to a climatic warming is bad, nor is everything that is bad due to a climatic warming.
And don't miss what he says about those climate models.
The climate modelers who developed the computer programs that are being used to forecast climate change used to readily admit that the models were crude and not very realistic, but were the best that could be done with available computers and programming methods.  They said our options were to either believe those crude models or believe the opinions of experienced, data-focused scientists.  Having done a great deal of computer modeling myself, I appreciated their acknowledgment of the limits of their methods.   But I hear no such statements today.  Oddly, the forecasts of computer models have become our new reality, while facts such as the few extinctions of the past 2.5 million years are pushed aside, as if they were not our reality.
During those 2.5 million years, the earth's climate has oscillated sharply, going in and out of ice ages, again and again.

Finally, Botkin makes this serious charge in the article:  Some of his colleagues have told him that scientists should exaggerate the problem of global warming, in order to get the public to pay attention.

(As always when I mention global warming, I urge you to read my disclaimer, if you have not already done so.  Like Botkin, I have worked with computer simulations — which is one of the reasons I am skeptical about the grandiose claims made by some climate modelers.)
- 12:46 PM, 22 October 2007
More:  Engram gives us some data on Botkin's publication record — it's impressive — and links, at the end of the post, to a critique of the op-ed.

The critique does not even mention what I consider one of Botkin's two main points, that the climate models are not adequate to make the kinds of predictions you see in the newspapers.  As you may recall, physicist Freeman Dyson has even sharper criticisms to make of the climate models.

Nor does the critique address his charge that some scientists are deliberately exaggerating the dangers in order to get the public's attention.
- 7:25 AM, 23 October 2007   [link]

Some Might Find His Stand a little ironic.
Democrat John Edwards blamed Bill Clinton's administration Saturday for trade agreements unpopular with labor unions and warned against electing "corporate Democrats."
Like the "corporate Democrats" who make enormous profits working for hedge funds, for instance?

(You can find a brief review of Edwards' profitable career as a "corporate Democrat" here and here.)
- 10:28 AM, 22 October 2007   [link]

How Did The New York Times React To Jindal's Breakthrough Victory?   Badly.   Adam Nossiter gives the news in his first three paragraphs, and then shifts into this whine:
The ascendancy of the Brown- and Oxford-educated Mr. Jindal, an unabashed policy wonk who has produced a stream of multipoint plans, is likely to be regarded as a racial breakthrough of sorts in this once-segregated state. Still, it is one with qualifiers attached.

For one thing, he is by now a familiar figure in Louisiana, having made a strong run for the governorship in 2003, though losing to Ms. Blanco.  Before that he had held a series of high-profile administrative jobs, including state health secretary at the age of 24, when he earned a reputation for efficiency — critics said cold-bloodedness — for slashing a bloated budget, cutting jobs and lowering reimbursements to doctors.

For another, he did not have the support of a majority of the state's blacks, about a third of the population, who vote Democratic.
To his credit, today Nossiter has a somewhat more positive story.  But you'll still find the qualifiers, and his first reaction is telling.  He doesn't quite say that Republican Jindal isn't a real minority — but it is hard not to suspect that he is thinking that.

As for me, I don't care what race Jindal is (or color, to be more accurate*).  I am just pleased that Louisiana has elected a remarkable man, who intends to clean up some of the corruption that has weakened that state for centuries.

(*Those familiar with the traditional racial classifications will recall that people from the Indian subcontinent are classed as Caucasians, in spite of their darker skin, and are much more closely related to Europeans than to people in sub-Saharan Africa.  Apparently, Nossiter does not know this.)
- 9:50 AM, 22 October 2007   [link]

How Will We Know We Have Won In Iraq?  Jonathan Gewirtz has an answer.  (And Shannon Love's suggestion in the comments isn't bad, either.)
- 12:57 PM, 21 October 2007   [link]

Congratulations To Governor Jindal!  He won in the first round, which isn't easy to do.
In a campaign that had the air of both inevitable and the historical, Bobby Jindal was elected governor Saturday, claiming the electoral prize that eluded him four years ago.

By winning more than 50 percent of the primary vote against a field of 12 candidates, Jindal became the first candidate to win an open gubernatorial seat since Louisiana adopted its nonpartisan primary system in 1975.  Buddy Roemer was elected governor in 1987 when incumbent Edwin Edwards dropped out after trailing in the primary. Jindal also is the first member of an ethnic minority to become the state's chief executive since Reconstruction.

The 36-year-old Jindal becomes the nation's youngest governor and the first chief executive of any state who is of Indian-American descent.  When he officially takes over from Gov. Kathleen Blanco in January he will be the second-youngest person to serve in that office after Huey P. Long, who was 35 when voters first elected him in 1928.
. . .
The victory came despite the presence of two deep-pocketed, self-financed candidates -- Democratic state Sen. Walter Boasso of Arabi and New Orleans-area businessman John Georges, who ran without party affiliation -- who spent millions of their own dollars trying to push Jindal into a runoff but never made significant inroads with voters.
(If you read the comments following the article, you'll see that not everyone is delighted by his breakthrough victory.)

Katrina, and Governor Blanco's incompetent response to that disaster, had much to do with his easy victory.

There is a lesson in that Louisiana vote for those of us outside the state.  In the United States, and much of the world, for that matter, Katrina is often taken as a symbol of the Bush administration.  It showed, critics charged, that Bush was both uncaring and incompetent.  But in Louisiana, where many have direct knowledge of who did what to help them, the voters just chose as their new governor a conservative Republican, and a man who worked in the Bush administration.

One would almost think that those voters do not agree with the picture of Katrina painted by the "mainstream" media.

(Here are the semi-offical returns, if you want to look at the overall numbers.)
- 8:10 AM, 21 October 2007   [link]

Bumpass Hell, Part 2:  Here's closer look at that part of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Bumpass Hell 2, 2007

And a much closer look.

Bumpass Hell 3, 2007

(Incidentally, I realized just a few weeks ago that I should have shot a few seconds of video rather than a still picture, so that you could see that pot bubbling.)

That green scum around the pot is probably a mixture of algae and bacteria, with perhaps some lichen in the drier places.

(You can find the previous 2007 disaster area tour posts here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

You can find the last posts, with links to earlier posts, for the 2006 and 2005 tours here and here.)
- 2:04 PM, 19 October 2007   [link]

Oops!  A sharp-eyed emailer spotted this mistake in today's Seattle Times.

Washington state last went for a Republican presidential candidate in 1988, picking George H.W. Bush over Michael Dukakis, 54 percent to 46 percent.

Actually, Dukakis won Washington state, with just over 50 percent of the vote.   (Bush received 48.5 percent of the vote, and minor candidates split the rest.)

Where did the reporter get those numbers?  Possibly from the national results that year.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(For most of its history, Washington leaned Republican in presidential elections.  But 1976 was the last year in which the Republican presidential candidate had a larger percentage of the vote in Washington than in the country as a whole.

If you want a quick look at presidential election numbers, I recommend Dave Leip's Atlas.)
- 1:08 PM, 19 October 2007   [link]

Congressman Pete Stark Is Infamous For His Nasty Attacks On Republicans:   But this time he may finally have gone too far.
No one's ever accused Pete Stark of having any class, or of serving as an example for civil discourse in Congress.  He's lived up to his reputation today.  During debate this morning, he accused Republicans of funding the war for the fun of seeing innocents die:
The post has the video, in case you find that hard to believe, and more examples of his nasty comments.

And I found still more examples in the 2006 Almanac of American Politics.  For instance, Stark once said that all of Congressman J. C. Watts' children had been born out of wedlock. (Not true.)

Stark seems to have a penchant for attacking blacks and women; if he were a Republican — I'm glad he's not — "mainstream" journalists would wonder if he weren't just a little bit racist and sexist.
- 1:04 PM, 18 October 2007   [link]

Wind Advisories:  The weather forecasters are predicting that this area will be hit by a wind storm this afternoon.  Here's the advisory.
414 AM PDT THU OCT 18 2007
11 PM.
I doubt that it will knock out my power for any length of time, since the current prediction is not as dire as last December's.

By the way, I found this advisory at the National Weather Service site, which can get to by clicking on the graphic over "Other US".  It is a rich source of information, with many details you won't get from your local TV stations.
- 7:38 AM, 18 October 2007   [link]

This Saturday Louisiana May Do Something Extraordinary:  The state may elect Bobby Jindal governor.  (Though I am not sure they deserve him.)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bobby Jindal is on track to win the Oct. 20 primary outright, according to an independent poll released Thursday.

The survey conducted by Loyola University pollster Ed Renwick for WWL-TV and other CBS affiliates in the state shows the other three major candidates in the race in a statistical tie for a distant second place.

Independent New Orleans area businessman John Georges and state Sen. Walter Boasso, D-Arabi, each received 9 percent, and Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, D-Elm Grove, came in at 7 percent.
As you may know, Louisiana uses a unique "jungle primary" in which all the candidates run against each other in the first round.  If one candidate wins 50 percent in that round, they win.  Otherwise, the top two candidates — who may be from the same party — go to a runoff.  (According to the Wikipedia article, the "jungle primary" was established by the corrupt Democratic governor, Edwin Edwards, in order to handicap the Republican party.)

Given his lead, I think we can be nearly certain that Jindal will be governor, even if he does not win outright this Saturday, even if there is a second round of voting.  (Twenty-two percent were undecided, or refused to say.  Ordinarily one would expect Jindal to win enough of that group to put him over 50 percent.)

For more on Jindal, see his official campaign site, this Wikipedia biography, and this tribute from Ben Domenech.

For a sample of some of the problems he will face as governor, take a look at this article; the New Orleans police superintendent wants to keep the Lousiana National Guard in the city after the new governor takes office in January.

(This is a smaller sample than usual, but the results are consistent with other polls I have seen.)
- 6:28 AM, 18 October 2007   [link]

Wonder If Paul Krugman Reads The New York Times?  On Monday, he had some harsh things to say about the Republican candidates, and global warming.
Climate change is, however, harder to deal with than acid rain, because the causes are global.  The sulfuric acid in America's lakes mainly comes from coal burned in U.S. power plants, but the carbon dioxide in America's air comes from coal and oil burned around the planet — and a ton of coal burned in China has the same effect on the future climate as a ton of coal burned here.  So dealing with climate change not only requires new taxes or their equivalent; it also requires international negotiations in which the United States will have to give as well as get.

Everything I've just said should be uncontroversial — but imagine the reception a Republican candidate for president would receive if he acknowledged these truths at the next debate.  Today, being a good Republican means believing that taxes should always be cut, never raised.  It also means believing that we should bomb and bully foreigners, not negotiate with them.

So if science says that we have a big problem that can't be solved with tax cuts or bombs — well, the science must be rejected, and the scientists must be slimed.
Today, reporter Marc Santora gives us a more nuanced picture.
While many conservative commentators and editorialists have mocked concerns about climate change, a different reality is emerging among Republican presidential contenders.  It is a near-unanimous recognition among the leaders of the threat posed by global warming.

Within that camp, however, sharp divisions are developing.  Senator John McCain of Arizona is calling for capping gas emissions linked to warming and higher fuel economy standards.  Others, including Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mitt Romney, are refraining from advocating such limits and are instead emphasizing a push toward clean coal and other alternative energy sources.

All agree that nuclear power should be greatly expanded.
In other words, unlike Al Gore, all are willing to take practical measures to minimize global warming.   (Incidentally, moving toward more use of nuclear power is good idea, whether or not global warming is occurring, and whether or not the warming would be a bad thing, net.)

And there is this intriguing bit:
The debate has taken an intriguing twist.  Two candidates appealing to religious conservatives, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, call for strong actions to ease the effects of people on the climate, at times casting the effort in spiritual terms just as some evangelical groups have taken up the cause.
Which should interest anyone concerned about politics and the enviroment, anyone with an open mind, that is.

So, the very things that Krugman says can't happen, have happened.  That's what mathematicians call an existence proof, as I recall.  Or, perhaps, in this case, disproof.

Now, having being refuted by his very own newspaper, will Krugman correct the record?  Probably not, but I will applaud him, a little, if he does.  (Only a little, since his error was so easy to avoid.)

(Will the New York Times censor, Thomas Feyer, print a letter noting Krugman's error?  Almost certainly not, judging by past performance.

As always when I mention global warming, I urge you to read my disclaimer, if you have not already done so.)
- 10:41 AM, 17 October 2007   [link]

Cousins:  But probably not kissing cousins.
It sure would be an awkward family reunion.  But, believe it or not, Barack Obama is related to both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

OK, distantly related: Obama and Bush are 11th cousins.
And Obama and Cheney are 9th cousins (or maybe 8th cousins).
- 8:42 AM, 17 October 2007   [link]

Close, But No Republican Victory:  Yesterday they held the special election in Massachusetts that I wrote about two weeks ago.  Here's the result
Democrat Niki Tsongas of Lowell defeated Republican James Ogonowski of Dracut today to capture the 5th District congressional seat vacated by Marty Meehan earlier this year.

With 195 of 195 precincts reporting, Tsongas captured 54,363 votes, or 51 percent compared to 47,770 votes, or 45 percent, for Ogonowski.

Patrick Murphy, an Independent, had 2,170 votes, for 2 percent; Independent Kurt Hayes had 1,125 votes, for 1 percent, and Constitution Party Candidate Kevin Thompson had 494 votes, for 0 percent.
Ogonowski had much less money, probably a weaker organization, and still came close.  That's a good enough result so that he should consider running again next fall.

According to leftist Josh Marshall, some on the left are saying that this close result was because Tsongas was a weak candidate; he isn't sure he agrees with that argument, and neither am I, given the low poll ratings for the Democratic congress.
- 8:23 AM, 17 October 2007   [link]