October 2012, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Headline Versus URL:  The headline on this Reuters story is bland: "Romney takes slim lead as election nears".

But the identifying part of the URL isn't: "romney-steals-narrow-lead-obama-election-nears".

That part is, apparently, from Yahoo, since it doesn't appear on the same article on the Reuters site.

Yahoo may not like Republicans, or so I have heard.
- 8:01 PM, 24 October 2012   [link]

If You Like Cats And Fantasy, you might like Meryl Yourish's first novel, Darkness Rising.
It's been hundreds of years since the Darkness last surfaced, a grim time when both humans and Catmages lost their lives.  But now the Wild Ones work with humans again, and thirteen-year-old Andy Cohen gets the surprise of his life when a talking cat shows up in his front yard.  Goldeneyes, a powerful Catmage, needs Andy's help.
There a couple of nice reviews at Amazon that will tell you more about the book.  But Yourish will probably make more money if you buy it directly.

The book is aimed, they say, at "young adults", which doesn't mean that it can't be enjoyed by middle-aged adults, and even older adults.
- 12:52 PM, 24 October 2012   [link]

Meanwhile, Back In Bill Clinton's Arkansas:  Democrats have been buying votes, in an old-fashioned way.
Nine people have been charged with voter fraud in a district in Arkansas, after a scheme was uncovered in which half-pint bottles of vodka were used to buy votes.

Three of those charged have pleaded guilty, including Democratic State Representative Hudson Hallum who has since resigned.
Two thoughts:  First, the scheme also involved cheating with absentee ballots, no surprise there.

Second, Hallum says that he'd "always heard that’s what everybody did".  Now, where might he have gotten that impression?  From Arkansas's most famous politician and his supporters?

Possibly.  There is a story in Maraniss's biography about Bill Clinton being tempted to buy enough votes to win a House race, in his first election contest.  Maraniss is vague about the details, but Hillary, to her credit, appears to have opposed the proposal.  And, judging by the vote totals, the scheme probably wouldn't worked anyway.  It was a close race, but not close enough so that last-minute cheating could have given Clinton a win.

(I shouldn't say this, but I am almost relieved to find this example of traditional vote buying — and more than a little distressed to learn that votes could be bought so cheaply.  You can find stories like this since long before the United States became an independent nation.  And I think the sellers should have held out for at least full pints of vodka.)
- 10:56 AM, 24 October 2012   [link]

Two Predictions, One Certain, One Tentative:  One from Dick Morris, who is expecting Romney to win by 4-8 points.  (The video is brief, so you may want to watch his entire prediction.)

John Ellis goes through the swing states and comes to this tentative conclusion.
My somewhat larger view of the election is that Romney will win the popular vote.   I'm assuming that Obama runs at 36-37% among non-Latino white voters (75% of the total vote, in all likelihood).  That puts him at 27-28% of the total vote.  If he does exactly as well as he did last time among non-white voters, he adds 21% to his national vote total.   And he falls short of a majority.

So it may be that we end up with a Romney win nationally and an Obama win in the Electoral College.
Which would not be a great result, from almost any point of view.

Charles Cook, who makes his living from these predictions, comes close to agreeing with Ellis.
But if the national polls are looking even, that doesn't mean that the election is an even-money contest.  Although this race is very close, the road to 270 electoral votes is considerably more difficult for Romney than it is for Obama.  The president starts off with undisputed leads in 16 states and the District of Columbia with 237 electoral votes, 33 short of the 270 needed to win.  Romney begins with equally clear leads in 23 states with 191 electoral votes, 79 short of a victory.  Nine states with 110 electoral votes are in the admittedly broad Toss-Up column (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin).  Obama needs to win 30 percent of those Toss-Up electoral votes; Romney needs 72 percent of those votes.
I'll have my own prediction up real soon now, for sure no later than next Tuesday.
- 9:08 AM, 24 October 2012   [link]

Obama Was Wrong on bayonets.
The US Army today has more than 560,000 troops and the USMC more than 200,000.   Obama is wrong.  we have hundreds of thousands more bayonets now than in 1916.

Sarcasm and condescension only work if the speaker's presumption of lofty superior knowledge is borne out by his command of actual facts.  You can't successfully accuse your opponent of being an ignoramus when you don't know what you're talking about yourself.
That sneering bayonet line, in the last debate, struck me as a prepared answer, as something that Obama — or one of his campaign advisors — had worked up in advance.  If I am right, it wasn't a slip of the kind we all make from time to time.

Obama has been commander in chief for almost four years now.  Before that, he served for four years in the Senate.  If he had wanted learn about the basics about our military, he could have.

I'll go farther.  I think that he had, in both offices, a duty to learn those basics.  Obviously, Obama doesn't agree with me on that.
- 8:02 AM, 24 October 2012   [link]

Which Presidential Candidate Is Talking About The Poor?   Mitt Romney.
There's an odd imbalance that few have noticed in this presidential campaign.  In the midst of a continuing economic downturn, one candidate talks regularly about poverty, and the other doesn't.  The one who does is the Republican, Mitt Romney.

He's done it for a long time.  Go back to Romney's March 30 speech in Appleton, Wis., in which he introduced the charge that President Obama is creating a "government-centered society."  "Over 46 million Americans are now living in poverty, more than ever before in our nation's history," Romney said.  "In households with single moms, over 39 percent are living in poverty."
In contrast, President Obama almost never mentions the poor.

And, though Byron York doesn't say this, many other Democratic candidates have been following Obama's lead.  I can not recall seeing a single advertisement from a Democratic candidate, this year, that even mentioned the poor.  Or the working class, once the heart of the Democratic Party.

If you believed the Democratic ads that I have been seeing, you would think that everyone in the United States was in the middle class — except for a few really rich people, who could solve almost all our problems, if they would just pay a little more to the tax man.

(Last December, I commented on the strange reluctance of the Democratic candidates to talk about the working class, or even the poor.  Obviously, they must think this is a good political tactic, but I am not sure they are right even on that.)
- 7:29 AM, 24 October 2012   [link]

Romney Supporters Make A Play For Maine's 2nd district.
Restore Our Future, the Super PAC supporting Mitt Romney, has reserved television airtime in Maine beginning later this week, according to a Republican source tracking media buys.
. . .
The move suggests Romney allies see Maine's 2nd Congressional District, which encompasses the state's northern reaches, as fertile ground for the Republican.

Maine allocates its electoral votes by congressional district, and winning a single vote there could be a factor in a tight race.
And, of course, if some people in New Hampshire see the ads, so much the better.

McCain lost the district in 2008, 55-43, so these backers are hoping for a big swing.  That big a swing wouldn't surprise me, since Obama has not been great for our rural areas.

The article is needlessly imprecise in describing how Maine allocates its four electoral votes.  Two votes go the overall winner, and one vote to the winner of each House district.  (Nebraska uses the same system, which let Obama pick up one extra vote in 2008.)

(Here's Wikipedia's description of Maine's 2nd, which has way more trees than people.)
- 7:34 PM, 23 October 2012   [link]

"Ramtha" And The Thurston County Commissioners:  I was vaguely aware of J. Z. Knight, and knew that she had founded the very profitable Ramtha cult not far from here.

But I had not realized she was involved in politics.

Washington State Republicans called Yelm spiritual leader JZ Knight “an intolerant bigot” Tuesday, after video of her surfaced online making a variety of insensitive remarks about Catholics, Jews and homosexuals.

Knight, who claims she channels the 35,000-year-old Ramtha at her School of Enlightenment, has stepped into politics this campaign season after donating $50,000 to the Democratic party and $8,100 to other candidates.

Let's just say that "insensitive" doesn't quite capture how crude her rants are.   Before I give the link, I must warn you that the video is not fit for young children, or most work places.  So, with that warning, here it is.

If you look at the video, or just read the text accompanying the video, you will see that this is an attack on two Thurston County commissioners, Sandra Romero and Cathy Wolfe.

To be fair, I have to add that I have no knowledge about the truth of those charges, though I can say that I would not want to have Knight's support, if I were a public official.

And for those not familiar with Washington politics, I should say that our local political fights are rarely this strange or this exciting.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 7:03 PM, 23 October 2012   [link]

Gallup And Rasmussen Converge:  Here's the latest from Gallup, which is now giving Romney a 5 point lead (51-46) among likely voters.  (This is from their seven-day rolling average.)

And from Rasmussen.
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows Mitt Romney attracting support from 50% of voters nationwide, while President Obama earns the vote from 46%.   One percent (1%) prefers some other candidate, and two percent (2%) are undecided.

Other than brief convention bounces, this is the first time either candidate has led by more than three points in months.
Rasmussen is using a three-day rolling average, so there may be no difference at all between those two results.

That's significant, because the two use such different methods of polling.  For example, Rasmussen has been using automated polls for years — and has had good enough results to make them at least semi-respectable in the polling community.  In contrast, Gallup is using people to interview respondents, as it has for decades.

And there are other differences between the methods used by the two firms.

So when they get the same result, we can have more confidence in both firms, for the same reason that we have more confidence when an experiment, using different methods, duplicates the findings of an earlier experiment.
- 1:38 PM, 23 October 2012   [link]

McCain Predicted Obama's foreign policy failures.
Whatever his faults as a presidential candidate, to read over the transcript from that first presidential debate back in 2008 today is to realize that almost all of what Mr. McCain warned us about regarding Mr. Obama's foreign policy has come to pass: the danger of setting specific withdrawal dates for our troops; the naiveté of pledging to negotiate with leaders such as Castro, Ahmadinejad and Chavez without first insisting on conditions; the threat to Israel; going too light on Russia; the precarious situation in Pakistan, and so on.
For that, McCain deserves more than a little credit — and those who didn't pay attention to his warnings, some debits.
- 12:38 PM, 23 October 2012   [link]

Who Is Responsible For Obama's Most Important Foreign Policy Successes?  Mostly George W. Bush, says Keith Koffler.
We’re going to be hearing during tonight’s debate about two things President Obama bills as his banner foreign policy achievements – killing Osama Bin Laden and ending the Iraq War.

But it turns out George W. Bush shares success for the former and is owed most of the credit for the latter.
Koffler is right, of course, but you may not want to say this to a Democrat or a "mainstream" journalist, without warning them that you are about to tell them something shocking.
- 6:23 AM, 23 October 2012   [link]

The Two Best Polls For Obama in today's Real Clear Politics snapshot were done for two conservative newspapers, the Investor's Business Daily and the Washington Times.

The IBD poll, taken 10/16-10/21 by TIPP, has Obama up 4 points, and the Washington Times poll, taken 10/18-10/20 by JZ Analytics, has Obama up 3 points.

That seems odd at first.

I have come to expect that polls done by news organizations will show "house effects", that they will be biased toward the editorial positions of the news organization, so this is, at first glance, even more surprising.  But that surprise vanishes when I remember that these polls were done for the news organizations, not by them.

(I should add, immediately, that I don't think the pollsters working for, for example, the Washington Post, are deliberately tilting their results.  I think they are doing it unconsciously.)

TIPP and JZ Analytics may be fine polling firms — I know little about either — but they don't have the same please-the-boss incentives that a pollster working directly for the New York Times would.
- 5:55 AM, 23 October 2012   [link]

Dorothy Rabinowitz Prepares Us For Tonight's Presidential Debate:  By telling us that we shouldn't trust anything Obama says.


For much of the past four years, the Obama administration's propensity for asserting views of reality wildly at odds with those evident to most rational citizens has looked increasingly like a page from that film script.
. . .
More and more clearly, the Obama administration has put its faith in the view that the governed, who must be told what is best for their lives, whether they want it or not (see ObamaCare), can also be told that they have not seen what they've seen, have not heard what their ears clearly told them.

(The film she is referring to is "A Guide for the Married Man".)

Somehow, Rabinowitz resisted using the famous Marx Brothers line: "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"  Perhaps she decided that one movie reference was enough.
- 2:15 PM, 22 October 2012   [link]

The Seattle Times Is Buying Ads In The Seattle Times:  Nothing new about that, you may think, since newspapers routinely run ads for themselves, describing the wonderful things you can read in their pages.

But this is different, since our local monopoly newspaper is buying ads for others.

The Seattle Times Co. purchased a full-page ad in Wednesday’s newspaper supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna.

The ad is part of an independent-expenditure campaign with no coordination between the paper and the campaign, according to a statement from The Seattle Times.  The ad appears on page B6 and says McKenna is a “choice that will make us all proud” and praises the candidate’s time as Washington state’s attorney general.  The advertisement states that “no candidate authorized this ad. It is paid for by The Seattle Times Company.”
. . .
The company will also run a similar campaign supporting Referendum 74, which would legalize same-sex marriage.  Fisco said that the two campaigns are a "a business decision that is completely separate from journalism functions of the newspaper.  The ads will be clearly identified as ads and there is no intersection between the advertising and our editorial commentary or news reporting."

As you may already have guessed, many journalists at the Times are unhappy about the decision.

More than 100 reporters, photographers, designers and other staffers signed a letter protesting The Seattle Times Co.'s decision to support the campaigns of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna and a gay marriage referendum.
. . .
In the letter, the staffers said the ad campaign threatens to compromise the newsroom's integrity, pointing out the newspaper company has now become a top contributor to McKenna's campaign by running the ad.

Executive editor David Boardman says the newspaper has just as much integrity as it always had.  On that, he and I mostly agree, although we arrive at that conclusion by different paths.  (Mostly, because, among other things, the newspaper has never recovered from losing Mindy Cameron as editorial page editor.)

As someone who supports free speech — even for news corporations — I have no objection to these ads.

But I do think that the journalists at the Times, from Boardman on down, are missing the obvious:  Many readers gave up trusting them years ago.  (For some recent evidence, they could take a look at these Gallup findings.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 12:49 PM, 22 October 2012   [link]

Head Fake In Pennsylvania?  Is the Romney campaign trying to get the Obama campaign to commit more resources to Pennsylvania?

That's one possible explanation for Ryan's campaign stop.
MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Stoking speculation about whether Republicans may seek to make an 11th-hour play in this long-Democratic state, GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan on Saturday headlined a brief, hastily scheduled rally in an airport hangar here on his way to an event in eastern Ohio.

Addressing an enthusiastic group of about 800 supporters, many of whom got word of the rally only on Friday night, Ryan told the crowd that President Obama is waging a “war on coal” and cast the decision facing the country as one that will have consequences beyond the next four years.
Campaigns do sometimes try to fake out their opponents this way.  But I am inclined to think that this isn't a fake because the polls have been getting closer in Pennsylvania.  (Note that the most recent polls were finished on the 14th, more than a week ago.)  The Romney campaign hasn't been running TV ads in the state, but they claim to have a good ground game for turning out supporters on election day.

Democrats have more than a million vote edge in registration (4.3 to 3.1 million), but many Democrats there have shown their willingness to vote for Republicans.  The GOP now controls the state house, both houses of the legislature (112-91 and 30-20), and a majority of the House seats in Pennsylvania (12-7).

On the other hand, Obama won the state easily in 2008 (54-44).  The Bush 2004 campaign had hopes for Pennsylvania in 2004, but lost the state by 3 points (51-48).

Moon Township is 12 miles northwest of Pittsburgh — and quite close to Ohio.)
- 6:24 AM, 22 October 2012   [link]

The Obama Campaign Enables distributed campaign finance fraud.
The Obama re-election campaign has accepted at least one foreign donation in violation of the law — and does nothing to check on the provenance of millions of dollars in other contributions, a watchdog group alleges.

Chris Walker, a British citizen who lives outside London, told The Post he was able to make two $5 donations to President Obama’s campaign this month through its Web site while a similar attempt to give Mitt Romney cash was rejected.  It is illegal to knowingly solicit or accept money from foreign citizens.
Just as they did in 2008.

It's a clever way to break our campaign finance laws — and raise extra cash.  Whoever devised this plan in 2008 (Axlerod?) knew that most "mainstream" journalists would give this law breaking a pass because the individual amounts are small — and the money benefits Obama.

(Michael Barone wrote about this problem in May.

Distributed campaign finance fraud is similar to, but worse, than what I call "distributed vote fraud", since the Obama campaign appears to be breaking the law, not just enabling others to break it.)
- 5:35 AM, 22 October 2012   [link]

The Character Attack On Richard Carmona:  In Arizona, the Jeff Flake senate campaign has used this ad to attack Carmona's character.

It's hard to know what to make of it, other than concluding that he and Cristina Beato are not now friends — if they ever were.  And Carmona does have his defenders, though you don't need to know a lot of recent history to remember that Bill Clinton did, too.

Whatever the truth of the ad — and we may never know what really happened between the two — it is an old-fashioned kind of attack, a pure attack on Carmona's character.

In contrast, when President Obama attacks Mitt Romney's character, as he now does regularly, he usually bases his attack on policy disagreements.  He asks us to conclude that Romney is a bad man because Romney favors bad policies, not because Romney has problems with anger management, or something similar.

The pure character attacks are less common now, in my opinion, because the two parties are so distinct on issues.  When the parties overlapped more, candidates had more reason to campaign on character.

And, of course, there has been a general decrease in people's willingness to judge other people by their character, or lack of it.  Bill Clinton could never have survived his scandals if many of us hadn't become more tolerant, or, if you prefer, more willing to excuse the inexcusable.

(Probably, the best way to get at the truth of the story in that ad is to look for similar incidents with other women, but even diligent reporters might not find them, assuming any exist, before the election.  And we might also learn something from a similar search through Beato's background.)
- 7:47 PM, 21 October 2012   [link]

Investing In Taxi Medallions:  In an article on "alternative alternative" investments, the weekend Wall Street Journal describes one that has fascinated me for years.
Taxi "medallions" are licenses that allow drivers to operate a cab.  Investors can purchase them and wait for the price to appreciate, though New York medallions change hands infrequently.  Past gains have been significant.  Since 1980, medallion prices have appreciated by an annualized 6.8%, adjusted for inflation, based on data from New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission, or TLC.

Meanwhile, investors can lease them out to a management company or fleet garage, which in turn leases them to drivers, says Simon Greenbaum, president of NYC Medallion Brokers, a company that links buyers and sellers of medallions. Annual returns have trended upward to more than 3%, he says.
Those percentages may not look impressive, but this probably will:  Last month, a "corporate" medallion, which can be used by two drivers, sold for $2.25 million.

That's a lot of expensive fares.  (You may want to work out just how much a pair of drivers would have to earn in a year to justify that investment.)

As someone who has favored freer markets in transportation for years, I have often wondered how you could get rid of this shared monopoly.  (The advantages of getting rid of it should be obvious.  Riders would get cheaper fares, and more people would be employed driving taxis at, granted, lower pay.)

And I have to admit that I haven't been able to think of a solution that doesn't cost a lot of money, or take a very long time.  You could buy up all the current medallions at market price, which would cost roughly 13,237 x $2 million, or you could slowly introduce new medallions each year, selling them at an auction, and giving the proceeds to the current owners.  That would, I think, work, but it would take years.

If you can think of a better solution, let me know.

(Other cities have the same problem, though, as far as I know, none come close to New York in the cost of the medallions.)
- 6:46 PM, 21 October 2012   [link]

Chris Wallace Condenses Obama's First Statement On The Benghazi Attack To The Essentials:  Today, Wallace clarified what Obama meant by that "acts of terror" statement.  He ran a video which reduced what Obama said to these four statements.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yesterday, four of these extraordinary Americans were killed on an attack in our diplomatic post in Benghazi.
. . .
We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.
. . .
Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks.
. . .
No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.
What Wallace (or whoever put that together) wants you to conclude is that Obama began by blaming the attack on that video, and that when he mentions "acts of terror", he means the original 9/11 attacks.

And I think that's the most sensible way to read those four statements.

(You can watch the Fox video here.  That part of the the Durbin/Graham debate begins about 9 minutes and 50 seconds into the video.)
- 2:39 PM, 21 October 2012
I've added ellipses to show the skipped parts in that transcript.  The skipped parts go by too fast to be understood in the Fox video, but I do want to note them.
- 7:54 PM, 21 October2012   [link]

Ledeen Versus The NYT On Negotiations With Iran:  You can read the New York Times article on possible bilateral negotiations with Iran.

Or you can read Michael Ledeen's critique of that article, which, to my mind, completely destroys the article.

Here's how he begins:
The New York Times reports (and the White House denies) that “The United States and Iran have agreed for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.”

Two of the three assertions in that lead paragraph are demonstrably false.  One-on-one negotiations have been going on for years (most recently, according to my friend “Reza Kahlili,” in Doha, where, he was told, Valerie Jarrett and other American officials recently traveled for the latest talks).  The only news here is that the talks would no longer be secret.  And the notion that only diplomacy can avert “a military strike on Iran” is fanciful.  There are at least two other ways: sanctions may compel the regime to stop its nuclear weapons program, or the Iranian people may find a way to overthrow the regime, thereby (perhaps, at least) rendering military action unnecessary.
There is one fascinating nugget in his piece that I had not seen before:  He says that in 2006, Condoleezza Rice and Nicholas Burns believed they had reached an agreement with the Iranians — and actually waited for the Iranians to come to the UN to sign the agreement.  As you probably noticed, the Iranians never showed up.

If Ledeen is right about that story — and he is very well informed on Iranian affairs — then we should conclude that, almost certainly, the Iranians do want to negotiate, but do not want to reach an agreement to give up their nuclear programs.

(It is also possible the those 2006 Iranian negotiators were negotiating in good faith, but did not realize that their own government was just using them to fool us.)
- 2:03 PM, 21 October 2012   [link]

From Bottles Of Booze To Bags Of "Medical" Marijuana:   Politicians have been bribing voters since elections began.  The bribes change with the times, as this story from a Los Angeles neighborhood, Eagle Rock, shows us.
Fliers offering $40 worth of free medical-grade marijuana were reportedly passed out in Eagle Rock to try and draw residents to vote in the local election.

Was the free pot an incentive to get a larger turnout?  Politics ranked “high” on resident’s list of priorities.  Nearly 10 times as many voters – 792 residents – turned out to the polls during the recent Neighborhood Council elections than last year.
If you are like me, you will be disappointed that the flier did not promise "dope and change".  That seems like a natural slogan for this effort.
- 4:26 PM, 20 October 2012   [link]

The Romney Cabinet:  No, it's not too early to start thinking about it, and even talking about it, a little.

In Washington, a Republican Party awaiting its restoration to the executive branch would have needs.  And having been freshly elected as president of the entire nation, Romney would have to balance the party’s interests with the country’s.  To help him navigate that terrain, Romney has turned to a longtime friend and political power broker, former Utah Gov. and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, to lead the effort, largely separate from the day-to-day campaign operation, to people a Romney administration.
Leavitt looks like a good choice for this position.

It will be interesting to see whether Romney — assuming he is elected — tries to broaden the appeal of the Republican party and, if so, how.  With the advantage of hindsight, I've come to the tentative conclusion that George W. Bush made a mistake when he brought so many Republican governors to Washington.  I think that weakened the party, and may have hurt some of their states.

(But it is too early to start measuring the drapes in the Oval Office.)
- 4:05 PM, 20 October 2012   [link]

Obama Supporter Bruce Springsteen Insults the women of Ohio.

I join Jack M. in rejecting Springsteen's unfair attack.

(Do I have any personal experience to back up my position?  No gentleman would ever say.  And I try to behave like a gentleman.  Most of the time.)
- 1:37 PM, 19 October 2012   [link]

Napoleon Was Even Worse Than I Thought:  And probably worse than you thought, too.
Until recently, the French would have been incensed by any comparison between Napoleon and Hitler.

But to their rage and shame, new research has shown that France's greatest hero presided over mass atrocities which bear comparison with some of Hitler's worst crimes against humanity.
I had not known about the extent of Napoleon's atrocities in Haiti, although I did know about his attempt to reconquer the country, after the slave revolt.

(Napoleon's first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais, came from a wealthy French family in the Caribbean, which may help explain some of his attitudes toward Haiti.)
- 12:29 PM, 19 October 2012   [link]

JFK Lost The Popular Vote In 1960:  Probably.   I explained that way back in 2003.

Today, Sean Trende has a longer explanation of the odd result in Alabama.

Here's his summary:
In the end, there are three ways to count the popular vote in Alabama: Allocate all Democratic votes to Kennedy, allocate all Democratic votes to Byrd, or allocate the Democratic votes proportionally between the two candidates.

Two of those three methods result in a Nixon victory in the national popular vote.   Historians choose the one that results in a Kennedy win.  I don’t think this is because of any conspiracy, nor is it due to bias.  At the same time, though, I don’t think it’s because awarding Kennedy all of those votes is the best method either.  Rather I think it’s just due to a lazy counting of votes for Kennedy electors, combined with inertia.   It’s probably time for electoral historians to revisit that.
Would we hear more about this if Nixon had been the beneficiary, rather than Kennedy?  Sure.
- 8:13 AM, 19 October 2012   [link]

What Rick Steves Doesn't Know About Prohibition:   Yesterday, the travel writer was on John Carlson's show, plugging the latest effort to legalize marijuana in Washington state.  (For almost all practical purposes, it is legal in Seattle.)

During their conversation, Steves appeared to be surprised by Carlson's claim that Prohibition had reduced alcohol consumption in the United States.  But Carlson was right, as many historians have concluded.

Here's a summary of the evidence from the Wikipedia article.

The consumption of alcohol overall went down by half in the 1920s; and it remained below pre-Prohibition levels until the 1940s.[3]

The best evidence for that decline that I've seen is the decrease in cirrhosis.

Of particular importance was the discovery of a relationship between cirrhosis mortality rates and per capita levels of alcohol consumption in the population.  This relationship has proved to be remarkably strong and has been consistently observed across time periods and in various regions of the world (Bruun et al. 1975; Ramstedt 2001; Smart and Mann 1991).
. . .
Cirrhosis mortality rates in the United States have changed substantially over time.  Early in the 20th century, these rates were at their highest point.  As shown in figure 2, overall cirrhosis mortality rates declined precipitously with the introduction of Prohibition.  When Prohibition ended, alcohol consumption and cirrhosis mortality rates increased until the late 1960s and early 1970s, when these rates began to approach levels seen in the first decade of the century.

(Cirrhosis rates fell from about 22 per 100,000 to about 11 per 100,000.)

What interests me about that exchange on the Carlson show is that Steves doesn't know that Prohibition did, in fact, reduce alcohol consumption.  Steves has been advocating legalization of marijuana for years, and you would think he would have encountered these facts about Prohibition.

Perhaps he has encountered this evidence and simply rejected it, since it isn't convenient for his legalization argument.  Almost everyone makes this kind of mistake from time to time, even those who know about this trap, and try hard to avoid it.  (There are other, less pleasant, explanations for the gap, which I won't get into, since I don't know enough about Steves' thinking.  And I won't make the obvious joke about the effects of marijuana on IQ.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(One can recognize that legalizing marijuana will increase its use, and its bad health effects, including lung cancer — and still favor legalization, for many reasons.  But I do think that those who favor legalization should be honest about the costs, as well as the benefits.

Steves denies that legalizing marijuana will increase its use, but was inconsistent on whether he favors increased use.  I think he probably does, especially if it replaces alcohol.)
- 6:32 AM, 19 October 2012   [link]

Five Point Lead For Obama In Washington State!?  That's what a Democratic firm, Public Policy Polling, found in their latest survey.

A survey by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling gives gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee a six-point lead among Washington voters, but raises eyebrows in having President Obama leading Mitt Romney by only 50-45 percent.

The poll was taken Oct. 15-16, predominantly before the second Obama-Romney debate in which the 44th president woke up.  It showed Obama with support from 89 percent of Democrats, Romney backed by 91 percent of Republicans, with independents breaking 48-43 percent for Romney.

By way of comparison, Obama won Washington state in 2008 by 18 points (58-40).

Do I believe that poll?  I'd like to, but I don't, for two reasons.  First, the same poll showed Inslee doing better than Obama — and I can't recall another poll where that was true.  Second, the poll does appear to be an outlier, as you can see here.

But that same chart also shows that Romney is gaining here in Washington state, as he is everywhere, or almost everywhere, else.  And the Washington Poll gave Obama a margin of just nine points, among likely voters.  (Just for fun, you may want to see what the popular vote looks like, if you assume that Romney has improved that much over McCain, nationally.)
- 4:03 PM, 18 October 2012   [link]

The Mitterand Precedent:  François Hollande is only the second French president elected from the left, during the 5th Republic.

(Americans tend to think of the French as being on the left — and in some ways they are by our standards — but in the last half century, they have voted for conservative politicians — by their standards — most of the time.)

And the one previous French president from the left, François Mitterand, was forced, by events, to move to the center.
Mitterrand invited the Communist Party into his first government, a controversial move at the time.  In the event, the Communists were boxed in as junior partners and, rather than taking advantage, saw their support erode.  They left the cabinet in 1984.   Early in his first term, Mitterrand followed a radical economic program, including nationalization of key firms, but after two years, with the economy in crisis, he reversed course.  His foreign and defense policies built on those of his Gaullist predecessors. His partnership with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl advanced European integration via the Maastricht Treaty, but he accepted German reunification only reluctantly.  During his time in office he was a strong promoter of culture and implemented a range of costly "Grands Projets".  He was twice forced by the loss of a parliamentary majority into "cohabitation governments" with conservative cabinets led, respectively, by Jacques Chirac (1986–88), and Édouard Balladur (1993–95).
(Emphasis added.)

Hollande may be forced, by the same realities, to change his course in much the same way.  Already his popularity is low, and already important businessmen are moving, or threatening to move, out of France.
- 2:58 PM, 18 October 2012   [link]

Most European Political Cartoons Escape Me:  But this one, showing French President François Holland, didn't.

Even if you don't know French, you should be able to guess what he is saying.

(And if you can't, here's the translation: "The worst is behind us.")
- 2:35 PM, 18 October 2012   [link]

Edward Klein's Take On Hillary Clinton Accepting Responsibility For Benghazi Attack:  Intriguing, and it probably has some truth in it.

(How much we may never know, since we don't have the names of those anonymous sources.)

At that point, Bill Clinton and some of the members of the legal team advocated that Hillary consider a “nuclear option” — threatening the White House that she would resign as secretary of state if it continued to make her the scapegoat for Benghazi.
. . .
After the Clinton legal team had a chance to review the State Department cable traffic between Benghazi and Washington, the experts came to the conclusion that the cables proved that Hillary had in fact given specific instructions to beef up security in Libya, and that if those orders had been carried out — which they weren’t — they could conceivably have avoided the tragedy.
That "came to the conclusion" is an odd phrase, suggesting that the evidence that she had asked for more security is indirect, at best.
- 2:21 PM, 18 October 2012   [link]

Kate McMillan Makes A Rare Mistake:  That foiled terrorist attack on the New York Federal Reserve should be blamed, not on the Tea Party — but on George W. Bush.
- 8:03 AM, 18 October 2012   [link]

Broken Electoral Precedents from xkcd.

It's an entertaining cartoon, but I would add that there is some logic behind the "no candidate has won the election without this state" arguments.  If a state is close to the median, politically, as Missouri was for so long, then it is indeed unlikely that a candidate can win without winning that state.

But states change, as Missouri has, and so precedents get broken.
- 7:40 AM, 18 October 2012   [link]

Barry Rubin Has An Explanation For Ambassador Steven's Visit To Benghazi:  Stevens was trying to buy back some American weapons.
The official story of what led up to the attack is just plain weird.  Supposedly, the U.S. ambassador arrived back in the country and immediately ran off to Benghazi virtually by himself allegedly to investigate building a new school and a hospital there yet without any real security.  His protection was to be provided by relatively untrained Libyans who a few months earlier had been rebels in the civil war.
. . .
If he was, as accounts by sources in the U.S. intelligence community suggested, negotiating with a terrorist, anti-American group to obtain the return of U.S. weapons provided during the civil war, that would have been a much higher-priority matter.  I have been asked by sources not to reveal the specific weapons system that was Washington’s highest priority to buy back, but the details make sense.
That sounds much more plausible than the administration explanation.

And, if I may speculate a bit, the Turkish diplomat he met shortly before the attack may have been an intermediary in this negotiation.
- 2:19 PM, 17 October 2012   [link]

Suzan DelBene, Congressional Referee:   When Suzan DelBene ran for Congress in 2010, I was charmed by the contrast between one of her TV ads and her platform.  In the ad, she promised to cut her own pay until the federal budget was balanced; in the platform she listed a series of new expenditures and new tax breaks, none of which would help, directly, to balance the budget.

This year, she is running for the open seat in my 1st district, and has a strange TV ad (which you can see here).  It doesn't have the same contrast with her platform; instead it is odd enough to deserve some comments, all by itself.

Here's a transcript, with my comments in italics:

Suzan DelBene: I was a high school football referee.  It was perfect training for Congress.

Now you know where the NFL got those substitute referees.  Football fans will want to know whether Congress plays by NFL or NCAA rules, and whether she has brushed up on the differences between those rules and the high school rules she learned.

All right, she is, I suppose, both joking and trying to claim that she'll act like a referee in Congress.  But that's not what congressmen (and women) are supposed to do; they are supposed to be players (or player-coaches, if they are in the leadership), representing their district or their state.  (There are people you could call referees in Congress.  For example, the Senate and the House each have a parliamentarian.)

There's too much extreme partisan gridlock.  We're the ones losing out.

Does she know that the United States Constitution was designed to make gridlock more likely, that James Madison designed it that way in order to limit the powers of government?  And you don't have to be a Republican to think that more gridlock would have been good for the nation, in the first two years of Obama's presidency.

I'll bring my career in business focused on the bottom line to work across party lines and get results.

For example?

Rebuild our economy.  Restore our middle class.  And make sure millionaires pay their fair share.

So much for the poor, the working class, and the well off.  The 1st district is relatively prosperous, but we do have poor people, and many working class people.   And DelBene should know that when the well off who raise food or build things are doing well, the rest of us almost always benefit.

DelBene is a millionaire.  Has she been paying her "fair share"?  As far as I know, she hasn't released her income taxes, so I can't tell.

And I'll always protect women's health care.

Men and children will have to take care of themselves.

(Oh, we know what she means; she is pro-abortion, and she wants someone else to pay for her birth control pills, and if she wants it, her sterilization.  But that isn't what she said.  Nor is it accurate to call those things "health care".)

I'm Suzan DelBene and I approved this message.

Maybe you are, but given the incoherence of the argument you just made, I'd like to see some ID.

Voiceover: Suzan DelBene, results not rhetoric.

Unlike this commercial.

Her issues list reminds me of a little kid's Christmas list.  There are many things she wants, but not much understanding of what those things might cost.  She may not believe in Santa Claus, but she seems to think that the government is a reasonable substitute for him.

This year, as far as I know, she is not promising to cut her own pay until the federal budget is balanced.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 1:10 PM, 17 October 2012   [link]

You Shouldn't Sign A Contract with debate "moderator" Candy Crowley.
In an interview with CNN this afternoon, Candy Crowley reiterated that, like past town-hall debate moderators, she intends to do more than just hold the microphone at tonight's debate in Hempstead, N.Y. -- an intention that has caused concern for both campaigns.

"They will call on 'Alice,' and 'Alice' will stand up and ask a question.  Both candidates will answer.  Then there's time for a follow-up question, facilitating a discussion, whatever you want to call it," Crowley said.  "So if Alice asks oranges, and someone answers apples, there's the time to go, 'But Alice asked oranges?  What's the answer to that?"   Or, 'Well, you say this, but what about that?'"
. . .
Crowley's vision of her role at tonight's debate is in keeping with past town hall debates, but it would defy the expectations agreed to by both campaigns in the co-signed memorandum of understanding, obtained and released yesterday by Time's Mark Halperin.
(Emphasis added.)

Unless you have really good lawyers to enforce that contract, and maybe not even then.

When she said she wouldn't follow the contract, the debate commission should have replaced her with someone who would, preferably not a journalist.
- 9:36 AM, 17 October 2012   [link]

This Disappointed 2008 Obama Voter is crude, but direct, in explaining why he won't vote for Obama again.
- 8:04 AM, 17 October 2012   [link]

Obama's cheering section.
The room set aside for reporters to watch Tuesday night's debate erupted into applause after President Obama ridiculed the size of Mitt Romney's personal wealth.
Were you surprised to read that?  I was, a little, since I would have expected them to be too busy watching and taking notes to break into applause — just then.
- 7:03 AM, 17 October 2012   [link]