October 2011, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Romney + Perry = Bush?  In this post, I fear I may annoy almost every Republican, but I am not writing it for that purpose.  Instead I hope to say something about the Grand Old Party, and the problem it is having this year trying to find a presidential nominee.

Our major parties, like major parties in almost every democracy are coalitions, often uneasy coalitions.

(And have been since their beginnings.  The Democratic Party began as a coalition between southerners and big city northerners, and stayed that way long after one might have expected it to break up.  Now it tends to be a top-bottom coalition, which has its own stresses.  From its beginning, the Republican Party has been home to those who joined for moral and religious reasons, and to those who like its friendliness toward business.)

When a party chooses a presidential nominee, the party disappoints some in that coalition, and pleases others.  The party does best when it can find a nominee who does not offend any of the major groups supporting the party, too seriously.

George W. Bush was such a nominee, which is one reason he won the presidency twice.   He was acceptable to businessmen and evangelicals, and to those who wanted a more conservative foreign policy than Clinton had given us.  With his common touch, he could appeal to populists; with his Harvard MBA, he could appeal to those who like credentials.

Now for a thought that may strike you as weird:  If you somehow could merge Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, you might get someone a lot like George W. Bush.  You would get someone in between the two on educational attainment, on business success, on regional background, and so on.  You would get someone, in other words, a lot like George W. Bush.

But we can't merge them, can't pick a Republican to be named later, as I jokingly suggested, so many Republicans are going to be disappointed, no matter which man we choose.  The two are each, in opposite ways, farther from the center of the party than Bush was, not in policies, but in the symbolism that we see in their lives.   Republicans who are comfortable with Rick Perry as a person are likely to be uncomfortable with Mitt Romney, and vice versa.

(Could you merge Herman Cain with Romney and Perry, and come still closer to Bush?  I think so, though I am still learning about the man.)
- 12:51 PM, 24 October 2011   [link]

Congratulations To Governor Bobby Jindal On His Easy Re-Election:  He won nearly 66 percent of the vote in the first round, and so will not have to go to a run-off.

It is not easy to evaluate his win.  There was no Democratic party-endorsed candidate running against him, though there were four Democrats in the race.  From that you can infer that Jindal is so popular that no serious Democrat wanted to run against him, or that he would have done worse if he had a serious Democratic challenger.

The truth, I suppose, is somewhere in between, and I won't try to guess which of those alternatives is closer to the truth.

What is certain is that he is popular in Louisiana, and has been a successful reform governor of that often misgoverned state.

And that this win gives him another boost in his plans to run, some time, for the presidency.  If he does run, he is likely to have my support, since he has been so successful in every job he has held.

(Jindal is just 40 years old, so he could run in 2016, 2020, 2024, and so on.

According to the Almanac of American Politics, his name is pronounced "JIN-dil", not, as I would have guessed, "JIN-dall".)
- 9:16 AM, 24 October 2011   [link]

Public Worker Pensions Or Public Services:  Rhode Island is learning that it will have to choose between them, that the state will have to cut back on current pensions, or give up even more public services.

Here's an example lesson:
That evening in September, [Rhode Island Treasurer] Ms. [Gina] Raimondo walked into the Cranston Portuguese Club to face yet another angry audience.  People like Paul Valletta, Jr., the head of Local 1363 of the firefighters union.

"I want to get the biggest travesty out of the way here," Mr. Valletta boomed from the back of the hall.  "You are going after the retirees!  In this economic time, how could you possibly take a pension away?"

Someone else in the audience said Rhode Island was reneging on a moral obligation.

Ms. Raimondo, 40, stood her ground.  Rhode Island, she said, had a choice:   It could pay for schoolbooks, roadwork, care for the elderly and so on, or it could keep every promise to its retirees.

"I would ask you, is it morally right to do nothing, and not provide services to the state's most vulnerable citizens?" she asked the crowd.  "Yes, sir, I think this is moral."
Rhode Island is not alone, as the article notes.  Other states will soon face the same dilemma, among them Barack Obama's Illinois.

(More here from Professor Jacobson, and much more here from Professor Mead, who is, rightfully, angry at the decades of dishonesty that produced this disaster.)
- 8:08 AM, 24 October 2011   [link]

Not Conservatives, Reactionaries:  Brendan O'Neill gets the Green religious movement partly right.  And partly wrong.
Wait: green thinking represents a challenge to the status quo?  That's a laughable idea.  From schools and universities to every corner of the Western political sphere, the climate-change outlook is the status quo.  It's the new conservatism, its aim being to conserve nature at the expense of further developing and transforming society.
The climate-change outlook is the status quo in those organizations, but that does not make it conservative.

In fact, the people holding those views are not conservatives, because they don't want to keep what we have, but reactionaries, because they want to go back to a past.  (A mostly mythical past, I would add.)

Windmills are not new technology, nor is the use of solar power.  The "locavores", who want us to eat more food produced locally, want to go back to the past, not keep what we have.  Those who worry about global warming don't want to keep our current temperature, they want to go back to the temperature of a few decades ago.

And O'Neill misses the religious element in the Green movement, an element that, I think, is central to its appeal.  (That explains the worship of trees, polar bears, et cetera.)
- 6:30 AM, 24 October 2011   [link]

23 Columns:  That's how many Gail Collins has used to mention Mitt Romney's dog's trips.  And you may have thought I was exaggerating.

This wouldn't matter much if Collins weren't a columnist at our newspaper of record, and a former editorial page editor.

(Here are the facts on the dog's trips.
Here, we're ruling on Collins' statement that Romney "drove to Canada with the family dog Seamus strapped to the roof of the car."  It's important to note that the dog was not literally strapped to the car, as in tied around its midsection.  Rather, Seamus was in a carrier with a protective windscreen that Romney had built.
Oh, and the dog was car sick once, but got to love that way of traveling, as I would expect most dogs would.

It occurred to me, after I wrote the original post, that Collins may be trying to get the Times to fire her, hoping for a big severance package.  Mostly likely that isn't what is happening, but it makes more sense than anything else I can think of.)
- 7:39 PM, 23 October 2011   [link]

Seattle School Will Take The Pledge:  Controversy follows.  Washington state, like most (all?) other states, requires public schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily.

I have always assumed that classrooms in some Seattle schools (and perhaps schools in other urban areas) skipped it, finding that open display of patriotism uncomfortable.

Yesterday — in their lead story — the Seattle Times confirmed my guess, and revealed what happens when a new principal decides to start obeying the state law.  What follows is quite funny, though no one involved seems to recognize that.
When Haley Sides moved to Seattle after four years in the Air Force, she chose to settle in Wallingford so her 6-year-old daughter could attend John Stanford International School — an educational community promoting the same type of multiculturalism Sides has tried to instill in her half-Jamaican daughter.

Sides was outraged when the school's new principal announced this week that students will be asked to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of each day. The practice, which has long been mandated by district policy and state law but has not traditionally been observed at John Stanford, will start Monday.
. . .
In fact, the administration sent an email to all district principals reminding them of their legal responsibility regarding the pledge — the first such reminder issued during the school year "in recent memory," district spokeswoman Teresa Wippel said.

The district doesn't have the resources to enforce the policy on a day-to-day basis, Wippel said.
Later on, you learn that the father of Sides' daughter gained US citizenship before his death, which makes Sides' anger harder to understand.

And there is something delightful about an adminstration that claims that it can't enforce a state law on a "day-to-day basis".  You are left wondering whether the principals won't follow the law and direct orders.

(Why did the Times make this their lead story?  Beats me.  But then I have to admit that I have never been able to understand the principles behind their coverage of education issues.)
- 6:42 PM, 23 October 2011   [link]

Worth Reading:  Dorothy Rabinowitz on the latest "civil rights" case.  Here's her lead paragraph:
In the end it couldn't have come as any great shock when the Department of Justice intervened on behalf of a Muslim school teacher who claimed that the board of her Illinois school district was guilty of religious bias.  Nor could it have come as any surprise that the Board of Education, Berkeley School District 87 Cook Country Illinois, was finally forced to settle the case brought against it by the DOJ.  Still, even Americans accustomed to the relentless -- more precisely the relentlessly selective -- political correctness of the Obama Justice Department had to have been startled at the facts of this case and the deranged notions of equity that had impelled Eric Holder's DOJ to go rushing into battle against the school district.
It isn't every journalist who would be willing to say that the Obama Justice Department has "deranged notions of equity" — so we can be glad that Rabinowitz is.
- 3:32 PM, 22 October 2011   [link]

Herman Cain Goes To A 9-0-9 Plan for the poor.
GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain clarified his much talked-about "9-9-9" tax plan Friday, saying those who fall at or beneath the poverty level would have a different plan: "9-0-9." Cain took heat over his proposal, which replaces the current tax code with a 9% corporate tax, a 9% income tax and a new 9% national sales tax. Opponents have argued the middle part of the plan would increase taxes on the poor, who currently pay little to no taxes.
(Little or no income taxes.  Whether they pay other taxes depends.)

Perhaps because Cain had seen some of the distribution tables like the one I linked to earlier.

Do you get the feeling that Cain is making it up as he goes along?
- 3:22 PM, 22 October 2011   [link]

Governor Jan Brewer Didn't Choose A Wimpy Title For Her Book:  It's Scorpions for Breakfast: My Fight Against Special Interests, Liberal Media, and Cynical Politicos to Secure America's Border.

One of those scorpions just might be Barack Obama.
She also paints a much different picture of her June 2010 Oval Office meeting with Obama than she did in media interviews after the event.

At the time, Brewer described the conversation as cordial, but in the book she calls the president "patronizing" and said "he lectured me."

"We sat down and started with some chitchat," she writes.  "But after a few minutes, the president's tone got serious - and condescending."

Brewer repeatedly skewers the president in the book.  She criticizes him for publicly mocking the state and SB 1070 during remarks he gave at this year's White House Correspondents dinner and says he "just blew me off and walked away" when she tried to speak with him prior to a May 2009 commencement address at Arizona State University.
Patronizing?  Condescending?  By now I hope you are not shocked when you see another person describing Obama that way.
- 1:53 PM, 21 October 2011   [link]

Obama The Drag:  Senate Democrats have a very good reason to distance themselves from the president.
In every major race next year featuring a Senate Democratic incumbent, Obama is polling worse than the incumbent — in some cases, by a substantial margin — according to publicly released surveys.

So rather than running for reelection on Obama’s coattails, these Senate Democrats may end up facing questions over whether they can win with the president on the ballot.
Most will opt for self preservation, I expect — especially after the lessons of 2010.
- 1:08 PM, 21 October 2011   [link]

It's Time For The Helicopter Guy To Win:  In this area, I have seen, again and again, an ad in which a husband and father tries to make dinner more fun by bringing in some of the ingredients with a radio-controlled helicopter.

He fails and causes a series of minor disasters.

The ad has so annoyed me that I would never buy the product, and I really, really want to see a reply video in which he succeeds.

I have no video experience or skills, so I won't try to make the video myself.  But I will make a suggestion or two for those who do know how to make videos.   (It occurs to me that the companies that make those helicopters might want to get in on this.)  And I hope you will make some suggestions, too.

I can think of two general approaches, fun and serious.  You could show a small boy — okay, a boy of almost any age — using the helicopter to bring part of his meal to where he is eating.  You might show the boy as confined to a bed with a broken leg, or even permanently handicapped, if you want to be semi-serious.  Or you could show the man using the helicopter to deliver food, water, and medical supplies to someone trapped somewhere.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(If by some chance you missed the ad, you can see it here.  But I must warn you that, if you are a man, or a woman who likes men, the ad will annoy you.

Why is it so annoying?  Because it is another ad showing a good husband and father as a doofus, and because tinkering with gadgets — and often failing at first — is one of the things that has made this country great.)
- 11:18 AM, 21 October 2011   [link]

Which State Has The Lowest Poverty Rate?  Low tax New Hampshire.
The ranks of the poor rose in almost all U.S. states and cities in 2010, despite the end of the longest and deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression the year before, U.S. Census data released on Thursday showed.

Mississippi and New Mexico had the highest poverty rates, with more than one out of every five people in each state living in poverty. Mississippi's poverty rate led, at 22.4 percent, followed by New Mexico at 20.4 percent.

New Hampshire had the lowest poverty rate, at 8.3 percent, making it the only state with a poverty rate below 10 percent.
(Actually, both Alaska and Maryland had poverty rates of 9.9 percent, so they may have been below 10 percent, too.  The margins of error for the two states were 0.9 and 0.4 percent, respectively.)

A quick look through the report suggests to me that the poverty rates for the different states are mostly determined by the size of their minority populations, and their general prosperity, not state policies.

But there is one comparison I can't resist making:  New Hampshire's neighboring state, Vermont, is similar to it demographically and economically.  But the two states have had very different politics for many years, with Vermont sharply to the left of New Hampshire.

Naturally, that has meant much higher state and local taxes in Vermont.  And the poverty rate in the Green Mountain state?  12.7 percent, below the national average, but much higher than in New Hampshire.
- 7:18 AM, 21 October 2011   [link]

Do We Have A National Bridge Crisis?   No.
Over the last 19 years, we’ve added about 6% to our national bridge inventory, while the number of Obsolete bridges has declined by about 4% in absolute terms, and the number of Structurally Deficient bridges is down by over 40% in absolute terms:
It's a pleasure to see the numbers on this problem.

(Alternatively, you could claim that we have had that crisis for two decades — and that it has been declining all that time.)
- 1:04 PM, 20 October 2011   [link]

Gail Collins' Big Issue:  What's your big issue?   Mine, short term, is unemployment and economic stagnation.  Long term, I worry more about the increasing risk of nuclear war.

I suspect most Americans, even if they didn't put those two at the absolute top of their lists, would agree that they are important.

But I am not sure that Gail Collins, columnist and former editorial page editor of the New York Times, would.

In today's column — which I will not link to — Collins brings up her top issue again.  She enjoyed Governor Perry's attack on Mitt Romney at the latest Republican "debate" because:
I found this very exciting because it brings us closer to the moment when one of Romney's competitors will point out that he once drove to Canada with the family dog strapped on the roof of the car.

And then Romney will say: "Hey, he was in a crate."  Or: "He liked the fresh air!"  Everybody else will whip out pictures of their pets and stories about how their cat rides in her own special chair in the back seat, or how the family deferred a trip because the whippet was sick.
Think I am being unfair?  You wouldn't if you had seen how many times Collins had included this wholly innocuous incident in one of her columns.

And her second most important issue?  Romney once hired a landscaping firm that used an illegal alien or two.  He got rid of them after he learned about the illegal, though not fast enough to satisfy some people.

Does she mention unemployment in the column?  No.  The risk of war?   No.  Any other serious subject?  No.
- 12:45 PM, 20 October 2011   [link]

Austerity?  Tuesday's Wall Street Journal had a useful editorial summarizing recent changes in federal receipts and outlays.  (You may want to print a copy for future reference.)

As usual, I urge you to look at the table embedded in the editorial before you read the text.  They begin their budget numbers in fiscal year 2007.  Democrats won the 2006 election, but the numbers for the 2007 fiscal year are mostly the work of the Bush administration and the previous Republican Congress.  In fiscal year 2007, the federal government spent $2,729 billion, and the deficit was $161 billion.

Four years later, in fiscal year 2011, the federal spending had risen to $3,600 billion, and the deficit was $1,298 billion.

In four years, federal spending has risen by more than 30 percent.

Nonetheless, you can still find people, including a Nobel-Prize-winning economist, who say that we are living in an age of austerity.
- 9:47 AM, 20 October 2011   [link]

Congratulations To The Sarkozys on the birth of their daughter.
Proud papa Nicolas Sarkozy, the first French president to have a baby while in office, said Thursday he and wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy feel "a very profound happiness" over the birth of their first child and added that mother and daughter are doing very well.
I think that his wife actually had the baby, and that he actually said, "très bien", not "very well", but we know what they mean.

All of the articles I found on the birth included speculation about the political effects.   I'll skip that subject until the baby has a name, and the mother has left the hospital.

(According to gossips they are likely to name her either Giulia (Italian) or Julia (French).)
- 8:02 AM, 20 October 2011   [link]

Public Policy Polling Has The First Public Poll On Linda Lingle:   And it shows that she is competitive in the Senate race.
When PPP polled the state in March, shortly after Lingle's second term as Governor ended, only 41% of voters in the state had a favorable opinion of her to 51% with a negative one.  Those poor numbers had her running 17 points behind Ed Case and 12 points behind Mazie Hirono in hypothetical head to head match ups.

The passage of time appears to have done Lingle some good though.  Her favorability is up 5 points to 46% while her negatives have dropped 8 points to 43%.  And with that improvement in her image has come an improvement in her standing against her potential opponents.  She now trails Hirono by just 6 points at 48-42, and she actually leads Case by 2 points at 45-43.
(In 2002, Ed Case lost a primary challenge in the governor's race to the Democratic machine's candidate, Mazie Hirono.  In 2006, he lost a primary challenge to incumbent Democratic Senator Daniel Akaka.  Presumably, some Democrats have not forgiven him for those challenges.)

In 2008, Obama won his home state 72-27.  That Lingle can be competitive there shows how strong a candidate she is and shows that, even in Hawaii, Obama has lost popularity.

I think that we are likely to see some more competitive races like this one next year in other, usually Democratic, states.  If the Republicans win even one of them, it will be almost impossible for the Democrats to keep control of the Senate.

(Earlier post here.

There's a good chance that Lingle had a private poll done before she decided to enter this race, so these results may come as no surprise to her.)
- 7:33 AM, 20 October 2011   [link]

Worth A Quick Look:  This brutal Merkel/Sarkozy cartoon.

And the argument that goes with it?  Not so much.  Rainier Hachfeld argues that current European leaders aren't as bad as they may seem; they just don't have enough power.
There is no doubt that Obama, just like the duo of “Mer-kozy”, has made mistakes.   And perhaps that Sarkozy is not quite of the stature of a Mitterrand, that Merkel doesn't punch at Kohl's weight, and that Obama lacks the political ingenuity of a Bill Clinton.   But the performances of former leaders often take on a rosy glow over time.   Moreover, the political room for manoeuvre has become narrower almost everywhere.

This is explained by one fundamental cause: the erosion of state power.  The political scientist Alfred van Staden in 2008 compared the freedom of movement of a head of government today to that of a motorist stuck in traffic: "He is master of his own driving and sometimes manages to sneak on through, but the traffic flow is largely determined by how other drivers behave on the road and by the traffic rules.”  Even the United States is stuck in traffic, though many Republicans still believe they are living in a time when, as an American, one could drive wherever one wanted without having to stop.
There is some truth to this argument in Europe, mostly because European Union bureaucrats have stolen so much power from elected officials, but anyone who watched Obama nationalize two of our three largest car companies and start a war with Libya, without asking Congress, will not think that he has too little power.
- 4:01 PM, 19 October 2011   [link]

Edward Jay Epstein Sampler:  If you haven't read anything by this author, Myths of the Media, which has some of his greatest hits, would be a good place to start.

I can also recommend News From Nowhere, Dossier, Legend, and Between Fact and Fiction.
- 1:26 PM, 19 October 2011   [link]

Were All Obama's Policy Choices Right?  He says so, in an interview with ABC's Jake Tapper.

Tapper is trying to get Obama to say whether Mitt Romney would be his toughest opponent.  Obama refuses to answer, and then slides into these remarkable claims:
What I am certain of, though, is that there's going to be a very clear contrast between whoever they nominate and their vision of where we should take the country and where I believe we should take the country.  I think that on a whole host of issues, whether it's Wall Street reform, whether it's that we're investing in education or rebuilding our infrastructure, whether it's how we approach reducing our deficit.  Are we going to do it in a balanced way or are we going to do it on the backs of our seniors or the middle class or the poor?  On a whole range of these issues, there's going to be a clear choice for the American people to make.

I guarantee it's going to be a close election because the economy is not where it wants to be and even though I believe all the choices we've made have been the right ones, we're still going through difficult circumstances.  That means people who may be sympathetic to my point of view still kind of feel like, yeah, but it still hasn't gotten done yet.  This is going to be a close election and a very important one for the American people.  The thing I hope the most is that everyone is going to be paying close attention to the debate that takes place because it could determine not just what happens over the next four years, but what'll happen over the next 20 or 30 years.
(Emphasis added.)

Tapper does not follow up on that remarkable set of claims, not even the summary claim that all Obama's choices were right.  That's unfortunate, because the claim should have been challenged in many ways.  (For instance, the Solyndra loan.)

Obama is a modest fellow, isn't he?

But that immodesty doesn't bother me as much as what it appears linked to, Obama's inability to learn from his mistakes.  Any executive running a large organization will make mistakes, and the larger the organization, the more mistakes they will make.  The better executives learn from their mistakes, and are less likely to repeat them.

If you had asked FDR, after he had been president for 1,000 days, whether all his policies had been the right ones, he would have admitted that he had mistakes, and said that his administration was trying to learn from those mistakes.  That Obama won't make the same admission is troubling, to say the least.

(The rest of the interview is moderately interesting, but Tapper is far too soft in his questioning.  ABC may have had to promise that he would not be tough in order to get the interview, but it is still disappointing.)
- 10:16 AM, 19 October 2011
Here's another example of Obama's modesty from Mickey Kaus.  If Obama is trying to make enemies in Congress, he's succeeding.
- 3:34 PM, 19 October 2011   [link]

Redistribution Under Herman Cain's 9-9-9 Plan:  Here's one estimate.

Briefly, the top fifth would pay less, and everyone else would pay more.  (The plan is close to revenue neutral.)

I'll be looking for other estimates on the plan, particularly estimates about its effects on economic growth.

It might be a good plan for the nation — even for low income people — in the long run, but it is hard to see it as a winning issue in a general election, if that estimate is even close to accurate.

By way of Professor Mankiw.
- 9:20 AM, 19 October 2011   [link]

Anti-Semitism At The "Occupy Wall Street" Protests?   There's enough so that the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League have issued statements.

It's hard for me to judge how serious the problem is, since the protests are so unorganized, and the "mainstream" coverage has been both shallow and biased.  But anti-Semitism has been growing on the left in recent decades, even here in the United States, so no one should be surprised to find it at these protests.

(A substitute teacher in Los Angeles was fired because of her open anti-Semitism at one of the protests.)
- 7:51 AM, 19 October 2011   [link]

Charles Cooke Doesn't Believe A College Degree should entitle you to a good job.
In the West, we are hard at work establishing a culture that fetishizes education, and instills the belief that college — regardless of its content or application — will, and should, inexorably lead to a better job, or a better life, or even a better America.   Worse, that one has a right to these things.  In doing so, we have created a Potemkin aristocracy, one based upon the erroneous and tragic conceit that having letters after one's name intrinsically confers excellence.  We are happily encouraging our children to join its ranks, regardless of whether there is any evidence that to do so will be in their interest.
Neither do I, but I fear we may be in the minority.
- 2:02 PM, 18 October 2011   [link]

Some Thieves Have Been Listening to the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters.
Occupy Wall Street protesters said yesterday that packs of brazen crooks within their ranks have been robbing their fellow demonstrators blind, making off with pricey cameras, phones and laptops -- and even a hefty bundle of donated cash and food.

"Stealing is our biggest problem at the moment," said Nan Terrie, 18, a kitchen and legal-team volunteer from Fort Lauderdale.

"I had my Mac stolen -- that was like $5,500. Every night, something else is gone.  Last night, our entire [kitchen] budget for the day was stolen, so the first thing I had to do was . . . get the message out to our supporters that we needed food!"
Maybe the thieves decided that anyone who could afford a five thousand dollar computer was in that 1%.

(She may be over-estimating the price of her Mac.  I couldn't find any MacBooks that cost anywhere near that much, in a quick look at the Apple site.)
- 9:43 AM, 18 October 2011   [link]

Warren Buffett, Vulture Capitalist:  In 1998, a hedge fund, Long-Term Capital Management, failed.

(The name is a misnomer, since the fund made money — in its early years — by highly-leveraged arbitrage, which is about as short term as you can get.  If the managers had kept the fund small, they might have kept making money, but the big early gains encouraged the managers to take in more money, and take on more risk.)

As it was about to fail, Buffett stepped in with an offer:
Long-Term Capital Management did business with nearly everyone important on Wall Street.  As LTCM teetered, Wall Street feared that Long-Term's failure could cause a chain reaction in numerous markets, causing catastrophic losses throughout the financial system.  After LTCM failed to raise more money on its own, it became clear it was running out of options.  On September 23, 1998, Goldman Sachs, AIG, and Berkshire Hathaway offered then to buy out the fund's partners for $250 million, to inject $3.75 billion and to operate LTCM within Goldman's own trading division.  The offer was stunningly low to LTCM's partners because at the start of the year their firm had been worth $4.7 billion.  Buffett gave Meriwether less than one hour to accept the deal; the time period lapsed before a deal could be worked out.[22]
Buffett's offer wasn't accepted, but it does show something about the way he operates — some of the time.  He offers to bail out the management of a firm in distress — at the expense of ordinary investors.

He has been an extraordinarily successful stock picker over the years, but his fans tend to skip over his gains at the expense of ordinary investors, most of them in that 99 per cent.

(For the record:  I thought it was improper of the Federal Reserve to get involved in the rescue of LTCM, because of the moral hazard, because the rescue would encourage other large financial firms to take on too much risk.  And if you look at the companies involved in the rescue, you may conclude, as I do, that many of them did decide that they, like LTCM, were too big to fail.)
- 7:07 AM, 18 October 2011   [link]

Maybe The Thieves Have Been Listening To The "Occupy Wall Street" Protesters:  Because President Obama is certainly in the 1% the protesters have been attacking.
NBC12 has uncovered one of those stories that makes you think: "How in the world does that happen?!"  A truck filled with President Obama's podiums and audio equipment was stolen in Henrico just days before his visit to Chesterfield.
Whenever you tell a crowd that wealth is distributed unfairly, a few in the crowd are likely to decide that they should redistribute it, directly.

(Practical-minded folks will wonder how you fence a teleprompter.  I would assume that you can't just take it down to you local pawn shop.)
- 6:32 AM, 18 October 2011   [link]

Millions Of Tax Cheats Revealed:  A few days ago I was reviewing the 1986 Tax Reform Act for ideas on how we could reform our present system.

While skimming through the article, I came across this startling paragraph:
The act required people claiming children as dependents on their tax returns to obtain and list a Social Security number for every claimed child, to verify the child's existence.   Before this act, parents claiming tax deductions were on the honor system not to lie about the number of children they supported.  The requirement was phased in, and initially Social Security numbers were required only for children over the age of 5.  During the first year, this anti-fraud change resulted in seven million fewer dependents being claimed, nearly all of which are believed to have involved either children that never existed, or tax deductions improperly claimed by non-custodial parents.[2]
There was, in short, a whole lot of cheating going on.  Note also that, in the first year, you could still claim children who were younger than five on the honor system, so that seven million is, almost certainly, a significant underestimate of the total number being claimed illegally.

(And your quick thoughts on the act itself?  It wasn't as clean as I had remembered, but it is probably better than any law we could pass today, with a divided government.)
- 4:44 PM, 17 October 2011   [link]

US Prosecutors Allowed Grenades To Go To The Mexican Drug Cartels?!?  That's what CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson says.
CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, who has reported on this story from the beginning, said on "The Early Show" that the investigation into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)'s so-called "Fast and Furious" operation branches out to a case involving grenades.  Sources tell her a suspect was left to traffic and manufacture them for Mexican drug cartels.

Police say Jean Baptiste Kingery, a U.S. citizen, was a veritable grenade machine.   He's accused of smuggling parts for as many as 2,000 grenades into Mexico for killer drug cartels -- sometimes under the direct watch of U.S. law enforcement.
He was allowed to do so because prosecutors over-ruled requests from ATF agents.

I like to think that I have a good imagination, but I am unable to think of an explanation for this, not even a crazy explanation.  Why in the world did any prosecutor think that this was a good idea?
- 2:57 PM, 17 October 2011   [link]

Worth A Look:  Florida Legoland's dinosaur.

(Judging by the picture in the New York Times, the dinosaur is about twenty feet high.)
- 12:31 PM, 17 October 2011   [link]

Amazing Facts About Text Messages:  Amazing to me, anyway.  All of these are taken from an article by Jenna Wortham in last Monday's New York Times.
More than two trillion text messages are sent each year in the United States, generating more than $20 billion in revenue for the wireless industry.
. . .
This highly profitable product was something of a happy accident for cellphone carriers.   Srinivasan Keshav, a professor at the University of Waterloo who studies mobile computing, said text messages were almost an afterthought when cellphone standards were being developed in the late 1980s.
. . .
Professor Keshav estimates it costs the carriers about a third of a penny to send text messages.
(No link, because I don't want to run over their quota, but you should be able to find it easily enough.)

And this happy situation, from the point of view of the carriers, may be about to end, since Apple has introduced a new service called iMessage.

Fans of "creative destruction" will be pleased.
- 10:41 AM, 17 October 2011   [link]

Henry Payne Has His Own Grim Summary of the objectives of the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters.
So the most jarring irony of Friday’s anti-corporate rally [in Detroit] was that Obama himself was just 40 miles away at a General Motors plant — the mother of all corporations — in Lake Orion, north of Detroit.

In fact, Obama was celebrating his bailout of GM and Chrysler — bailouts that the Occupy movement claims to loathe. But as the Obama-Occupy alliance proves, it is a false loathing. The Occupiers do not so much oppose bailouts as crave them for themselves.
(Emphasis added.)
- 9:09 AM, 17 October 2011   [link]

Denial Of Service Attack On The Wall Street Journal?  This morning, I haven't been able to access the newspaper's site, and so I am beginning to wonder whether they are under attack by hackers, perhaps hackers who are sympathetic to the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters.

Whatever else OWS may be, it's not a free speech movement, so an attempt to suppress the speech of those who disagree with them would not surprise me.
- 8:55 AM, 17 October 2011   [link]

Adviser/Advisor, Gray/Grey, Labor/Labour, Et Cetera:   Good spellers may have noticed that, in the post just below, I used "advisor", rather than the more common "adviser".  I did that because I like the sound of advisor better, and because it fits better with "advisory".

As it happens, advisor is more common in North America, so I might use adviser instead, if I were writing from England.

Similarly, gray is more common in America, and grey is more common in England, so I have been using the first, ever since I learned that.  (You'll notice that I have given you a hint if, like me, you have trouble rembering which nation prefers which.)

I also try to spell proper names as the owners of them do; that's why I sometimes write about Britain's Labour party, which the New York Times calls the "Labor" party, switching to the American spelling.

In all of these choices, I am not trying to follow some external style guide, consistently, though I use several, but I am trying to be internally consistent, to follow, if you will, my own style guide.

That's one of the privileges, I think, of being my own publisher.
- 8:29 AM, 17 October 2011   [link]

Mark Zandi, "Republican" Economist, McCain "Advisor"   Yesterday, on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace made a common mistake while he was interviewing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
WALLACE:  All right. But here's the issue -- the president points out that Moody's Analytics, one of the top economic consulting firms, scored his plan, figured at what impact it would have, and says it would add 1.9 million jobs next year and grow the economy by an addition 2 percent.
. . .
WALLACE:  Congressman Cantor, do you have an independent analysis that shows how this plan would grow the economy and add jobs?

CANTOR:  First of all, I would say as to the Moody's economist that the president speaks to, they and their chief economist was the one that predicted that the stimulus program would keep unemployment from rising above 8 percent. So, I think we need to raise some questions about that assessment of his.

WALLACE:  In fairness, he was an economic adviser to John McCain in 2008, Mark Zandi, and the fact there's a lot of the private economic firms that say whether it's 1 percent or 2 percent growth, a million jobs, 2 million jobs, that it would have some stimulative affect.
You can see what Wallace was doing; he was saying that even a John McCain advisor is backing Obama's latest stimulus plan.

And you'll often see Zandi described as a Republican economist, in similar contexts.

But is he a Republican and did he advise Senator McCain?  No to both.
In economics, Zandi is capable of meeting all of a reporter’s go-to-guy needs, so the trade has been careful in obscuring his liberalism.  He is a registered Democrat, as he freely admits when asked.  But he’s seldom asked.  The key to his indispensability is that he once—once—did some work for a Republican.  Early in the 2008 presidential campaign, one of John McCain’s economics advisors enlisted Zandi to file a weekly analysis of current economic data for the campaign’s use.  He never advised McCain on matters of policy, he never met McCain, and he was never paid for his labor.  The real payout, in fame and influence, came after the election.
Because he became, as Andrew Ferguson explains, a "go-to-guy" for reporters, who use him just as Wallace did in that segment, as a Republican economist who supports Obama's programs.

Even though he is not a Republican and was never, in any true sense, a McCain advisor.

(Ferguson notes that Zandi does not have a good record for prediction.  I haven't checked that myself, but suspect that he is right, since nearly every economist who backed Obama's programs has been wrong about their effects.)
- 7:57 AM, 17 October 2011   [link]

It's Time To Recycle All Those Jokes about buying a bridge.
Two brothers have been charged with stealing a western Pennsylvania bridge and selling the 15 ½ tons of scrap metal for more than $5,000.
Granted, this was the Covert's Crossing Bridge, not the Brooklyn Bridge, but the jokes should still work.
- 7:15 AM, 17 October 2011   [link]