September 2008, Part 4
Jim Miller on Politics
Rahm Emanuel And Freddie Mac: The fourth ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives has a close relationship with one of the two failed mortgage giants. He was on Freddie Mac's board before he was elected to Congress. You won't learn that interesting detail in the biography on his web site or even in the longer Wikipedia biography. (Which reads as if it was written, mostly, by Rahm's staff. I'm not saying that it was, but that it reads that way.)
But it is true, and may help explain his actions yesterday.
Emanuel, who served as a board member for Freddie Mac, one of the agencies that precipitated the economic crisis the nation now finds itself in, had no misgivings about taking a leadership role in tanking the [bailout] bill. "He was cheerleading us along, mothering the votes," says the aide. "We wanted enough to put the pressure on the Republicans and Congressman Emanuel was charged with making it close enough. He did a great job."Rahm did vote for the bailout, or as President Bush calls it, the rescue package. But if this account is correct, he discouraged other Democrats from voting for the bill.
(A search turned up this 2003 letter, in which Emanuel boasts about his membership on the board.
Emanuel, judging mostly by the favorable Wikipedia article, shares something with Barack Obama. As David Freddoso puts it in The Case Against Barack Obama, Obama is "the product of a marriage between two of the least attractive parts of Democratic politics—the hard-core radicalism of the 1960s era and Chicago's Machine politics". The same is true for Emanuel, except that I would substitute "soft-core" for "hard-core".)
- 2:43 PM, 30 September 2008 [link]
Registration Fraud in Wisconsin: This story is familiar. All too familiar.
A Milwaukee resident was charged Monday with election fraud, the first charge in an investigation into voter registration workers who submitted fake names to the city in what a complaint says amounted to a quota system.And there's our old friend, ACORN, as usual. By now, there have so many of these incidents, in so many places, in so many elections, that we must conclude that ACORN operates so as to encourage fraudulent registrations — intentionally.
That's a harsh charge, but I think the evidence supports it. They hire practically anyone, including people with criminal records. When they can, they pay their workers by the number of registrations they turn in. Not valid registrations, just registrations. Inevitably some of these workers cheat. And I am absolutely convinced that the people who run ACORN (and similar groups) know that some of their workers will cheat.
Now it is true that fraudulent registrations do not always result in fraudulent votes. But they can, and they make vote fraud far easier. Especially when combined with absentee ballots.
(The Community Voters Project is run by a group founded by Ralph Nader, the Public Interest Research Group, which usually acts against the public interest. PIRG seldom does real research, and, when it does, almost always gets the wrong answers.
Many more ACORN misdeeds here.)
- 1:41 PM, 30 September 2008 [link]
Is Barack Obama Superstitious? Or is he just appealing to other people's superstition? This article does not answer that question, though the superstition is obvious enough.
The House on Monday sent to President Bush a bill sponsored by Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama that would eventually ban the export of elemental mercury.The rest of the Associated Press article reads like an Obama ad, so you can skip it if you like.
Here are the facts, for those who are not superstitious but do want to be better informed. There are 92 natural elements, and a bunch of artificial elements. Almost all of the elements are useful; all of them can kill you in the right amount in the wrong place. Banning the export of one of these elements is silly, especially the export of an element as useful as mercury.
If this ban passes, it will not make much difference to the world. A few US miners will lose their jobs. The largest producer of mercury is now China, so they will probably gain a few jobs as they fill the gap from our missing exports. Since China cares far less about the safety of its workers than we do, there will probably be some illness and death that could have been avoided if the ban had not passed.
Many people, including some I respect, think that Obama is "well-informed". He may be. But if he is well-informed, then his support for this superstitious bill shows that he is supremely cynical. On this issue, I think that superstitious is the more likely explanation for his actions.
(The bias in this article is astonishing, even for this year. The reporter, Jim Abrams, did not even bother to give us an opposing view.)
- 10:39 AM, 30 September 2008
More: If the Associated Press article is correct — and it might be — the bill does not ban the export of mercury compounds. So a mercury exporter could simply (and probably cheaply) convert elemental mercury to any number of compounds and export it that way. It would add a little in costs, but probably not enough to lose many sales. Some mercury compounds are extremely dangerous, far more than mercury itself, some are mostly harmless, and a few have been used as medicines.
Correction: All, or nearly all mercury production in the US now comes from recycling, not mines, so the jobs that would be lost would be recyling jobs, not mining jobs.
- 12:29 PM, 30 September 2008 [link]
Some Of Speaker Pelosi's Constituents Celebrate: In ways that you may not want to discuss with young children, or even read at work.
Wonder if she had a booth at the fair? Probably not.
(According to some of the commenters, laws were broken — as usual.)
- 10:05 AM, 30 September 2008 [link]
An Obvious Point That Deserve Repeating: Tod Zywicki watched the first Obama-McCain debate and was not impressed. But he did come away with this:
And just one other observation as it relates to foreign policy (the subject of this debate). For those of you who think that Barack Obama is qualified to be President more than Sarah Palin is to be Vice-President because of foreign policy issues, I'm sorry, but watching tonight's debate that is simply an absurd position. Maybe they are both qualified (my view, although it is much easier to argue that Obama is qualified to be Vice-President as Obama's lack of executive experience in making decisions and general aridity do worry me in seeing him as President in a world of Putins), or maybe they are both unqualified (although both seem obviously qualfied to be Vice-President). But the idea that Obama is qualified to be President and Palin unqualified to be Vice-President has never struck me as a particularly plausible position--and after last night, even less so.I would go farther; judging by the offices they have held and their achievements, Palin is more qualified to be vice president than Obama is. Obama has never held an executive position, unless you count his chairmanship of the Annenberg challenge. And he has fewer accomplishments in his legislative career than Palin does in her executive career.
- 8:01 AM, 30 September 2008 [link]
Nate Silver Mistakes The Tail For The Dog: Silver, who is good enough with numbers to be a Republican, makes an amusing error in this analysis:
This was predictable, I suppose, but it's remarkable to see how strong a relationship there is between today's failed vote on the bailout and the competitive nature of different House races.What is interesting is not that most swing district congressmen voted against the rescue package, but that some of them voted for it. In election years, swing district congressmen almost always put self preservation first.
And so, were I the Speaker and trying to pass the bill, I would have looked for votes among the congressmen with safe districts. And I might have asked my presidential candidate to make a few phone calls. The American Spectator, which is no friend to Speaker Pelosi, claims the leadership lost the vote deliberately. The New York Times, which is in the tank for Obama, admits that the presidential candidate did nothing to help pass the vote.
It is telling that Pelosi got only 19 of 34 California Democrats to go along with the proposal. Not all of them are open to her arguments, but I suspect she could have gotten at least five more, with a little effort. (Because of gerrymanders, almost all California congressmen, Democrats or Republicans, have safe districts.)
- 4:58 AM, 30 September 2008 [link]
Grandmasters For McCain: One chess grandmaster for McCain, anyway, and a grandmaster who happens to be a pretty good economist.
Could a grandmaster become a member of the next administration? Possibly. Kenneth S. Rogoff, a professor at Harvard, is an economics adviser to the Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain. Rogoff is also a grandmaster.That last, if true — and I think it is — is a very good quality in a president, or any other leader.
(And if you want to see how good a chess player Rogoff is, you can look at a sample game.)
- 4:45 PM, 29 September 2008 [link]
Thoughts On The Bailout: (Which will probably pass some time this week, even though it failed today.) Not from me, but from Professor Mankiw, who knows way more about economics than I do, but is still somewhat uncertain:
On the one hand, I share many of the concerns of the letter signers and other critics of the Treasury plan.Most of us can't do that. But we can observe that Bernanke is putting his reputation on the line with these proposals.
(An example of how mysterious this crisis still is, at least to me: Yesterday's New York Times had this article explaining how insurance giant AIG, got in trouble. An almost autonomous London branch of AIG invested way too much in insurance on "collateralized debt obligations".
[J. P.] Morgan proposed the following: A.I.G. should try writing insurance on packages of debt known as "collateralized debt obligations." C.D.O.'s. were pools of loans sliced into tranches and sold to investors based on the credit quality of the underlying securities.For a few years.
Those who can't recall even hearing about credit default swaps before this crisis should be modest about offering advice. At least as modest as Professor Mankiw. And I hope I am.)
- 2:24 PM, 29 September 2008
Bailout passes: As predicted.
With the economy on the brink and elections looming, Congress approved an unprecedented $700 billion government bailout of the battered financial industry on Friday and sent it to President Bush who quickly signed it.And I have learned a little bit more about the problem since Monday, but certainly not enough to pontificate on the subject.
-12:55 PM, 3 October 2008 [link]
President Bush: University President Bush. Stanley Fish, who has a gift for publicity, proposes a new career for the president after he leaves the White House.
How will he occupy his time? Roving ambassador? Baseball commissioner? University president? (Don't groan; he'd probably be good at it.) I don't know, but I do expect that one night in the not-too-distant future, some TV host will be calling for the drum roll and announcing, with pleasure and pride, "Heeeere's Georgie."(The comments following the post are amusing — if you are amused by leftists confronting ideas that are entirely to them.)
- 1:11 PM, 29 September 2008 [link]
Voters Learn From Experience: But don't remember their lessons indefinitely.
Let's review some political history. In 1954, Democrats won control of Congress and held the Senate until the 1980 election, and the House until the 1994 election. But in the early part of that period, leftists did not control Congress, because the Democratic majorities included moderate and conservative Southern Democrats. (Who worked so closely with Republicans that the two were often described as the "Conservative Coalition". The power of the conservatives was strengthened in the House by seniority rules, and the strange 1946 election in which Democrats lost many safe seats in urban districts in the North.)
The immense gains made by Democrats in the 1964 election changed that, and leftists took effective control over the legislative and executive branches. (Lyndon B. Johnson was more moderate than many Democrats, but most of his policy people, especially on domestic matters, were on the left.)
The results horrified many voters*. The Republicans made big gains in 1966, and Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1968. (Nixon would have won a solid victory if George Wallace had not been in the race. Polls showed that Nixon was the second choice of about two-thirds of the Wallace voters. Wallace won more than 13 percent of the popular vote, and 46 electoral votes.) In 1972, Nixon won in a landslide, showing that his 1968 win had not been a fluke.
Thanks to the scandals of the Nixon administration, Jimmy Carter was able to defeat Gerald Ford in 1976. Carter had run as a moderate, and he was more moderate on domestic issues than the Democratic candidate in 1972, George McGovern. But he was about as far to the left on foreign policy, early in his term, as McGovern had been.
The results again horrified (or perhaps disgusted) many voters. In 1980, Reagan defeated Carter; the Republicans took control in Senate, and made big gains in the House. (The Abscam scandal helped the Republicans that year, especially in the House.)
Reagan won re-election in 1984 easily, and the Republicans kept control of the Senate until the 1986 election.
In 1992, Bill Clinton ran as a moderate and won, thanks mainly to a slow recovery from a recession. By then, leftists had control of Congress, too. In his first two years, Clinton mostly ignored foreign policy and governed on the left, domestically.
The results again horrified the voters. In 1994, the Republicans took control of both houses of Congress for the first time since the 1954 election. After the election, Clinton abandoned much of his leftist agenda and worked with the Republicans. He was re-elected in 1996, but Republicans kept control of both houses of Congress.
In the last half century, voters have given control over the government to the left three times. Each time, the voters repented almost immediately. (Though not always in time to repair all the damages.)
It is not hard to see reasons why we have had this pattern. Voters who are unhappy with Republican candidates often will choose leftists because they want change, gambling that the change will be an improvement. When it isn't, voters go back to conservatives. Over time, some older voters forget the lessons they learned, and new voters, who never had those hard lessons, come into the electorate. And, of course, our "mainstream" media judges conservatives far more harshly than it does leftists, and over time those judgments have an effect on moderates, and even some conservatives.
There are enough older voters whose memories of 1994 have lapsed, and new voters who know nothing about the issues in that election, much less the elections of 1968 and 1980, so that Barack Obama could win this November. If he does, the result will not be pretty, since he is even more out of touch with reality than Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter. If he does win, the voters will catch on — in spite of our "mainstream" news organizations — but it may take us decades to repair all the damages.
(*And inspired a famous joke: A man muses, "They warned me that if I voted for Goldwater we would have riots in the streets and war in Asia. I voted for Goldwater, and, by golly, they were right.")
- 10:17 AM, 29 September 2008 [link]
Worth Reading: David Gelernter (who is almost always worth reading) on Obama as the first post-CR presidential candidate. Samples:
Barack Obama is America's first major party presidential candidate to have come of age after the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s and '70s. Americans who reached adulthood before or during the Cultural Revolution often differ over the big events of recent history. Americans who came of age afterward, on the other hand, don't necessarily know any recent history. And what they do know is often wrong. Every candidate makes mistakes on the stump, and voters allow for the gigantic g-forces exerted by the presidential campaign as it whirls candidates around the nation at terrific speed. But we have an obligation to ponder Obama's views of American reality in the context of his membership in the first generation fully shaped after the Cultural Revolution. Let's call it gen-CR. (The same applies to Sarah Palin, but she hasn't said the sort of crazy things Obama has.)In other words, Obama is not well-informed; in fact, he is misinformed in ways that would threaten the safety of the United States and much of the free world. Worse yet, our major news organizations have become so corrupted that, were Obama to become president, they would conceal many of his failures from the left.
Gelernter goes a little farther in his argument than I would, perhaps because he is an academic, living in an academic community. The Cultural Revolution is not nearly as complete outside such places.
(I've added this to my "Strange Obama" series.)
- 9:02 AM, 29 September 2008 [link]
Tony Rezko Is Talking: According to "sources".
Just weeks before he is to be sentenced, political fund-raiser Tony Rezko is in the midst of intense discussions with federal investigators, sources close to the investigation confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times. There's no question federal authorities are interested in Rezko, a former top adviser and fund-raiser to Gov. Blagojevich, as a federal witness. But one source who spoke on the condition of anonymity, warned it's too early to call the discussions full-fledged cooperation.Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich may be indicted. According to "sources".
Obama's friends and backers in Illinois are an interesting lot. But we shouldn't conclude that they will all be in jail soon, until we have more than "sources" to rely on.
There is one important deadline. Rezko is scheduled to be sentenced October 28th, exactly one week before the election.
(One more detail: Blagojevich ran as a reformer, and in some ways has governed as one. Some ways. But Illinois has a lot of room for reform.)
- 7:13 AM, 29 September 2008 [link]
Is Bill Clinton A Little Bit Crazy? That's what clinical psychologist John D. Gartner thinks, though he might not put it that bluntly. In The Hypomanic Edge, Gartner argued that a little hypomania can lead to success, especially in America. In his latest book, In Search of Bill Clinton, he applies that argument to Clinton.
Since I have speculated along similar lines for years, for example here and here, Gartner's argument does not surprise me. And it helps explain one of the enduring mysteries of the 1992 and 1996 campaigns, Clinton's refusal to release his medical records. (By way of comparison: Gore released his medical records in 2000. Kerry released most of his medical records in 2004. And so far, Obama has not released his medical records. As I recall, all recent Republican presidential candidates have released all their medical records.)
(More in this Nick Gillespie review, including Gartner's theory about the identity of Bill Clinton's biological father, and the part Hillary Clinton played in his success.)
- 8:25 AM, 28 September 2008 [link]
Yves Rossy Crosses The English Channel: With his personal jet. (The BBC has video.)
You may be surprised to learn how he steers.
(Fun to watch, but I do have to note that he is only a little faster in his jet outfit than a World War I Sopwith Camel. But then neither is especially streamlined.)
- 7:43 AM, 28 September 2008 [link]
The Head Of State Is Not Always The Leader: The Seattle Times tries to trip up Sarah Palin — and goofs. Here's the mistake:
Note that she said "the leader".
The Seattle Times reporter, Hal Bernton, is wrong because the Iceland president is not the leader of his country. Like many nations, Iceland has a dual executive, and the president has a mostly ceremonial job. Here's how the CIA explains it:
So the leader of Iceland is Prime Minister Haarde, not President Grímsson.
This isn't unusual; many nations have dual executives, and it is common for the one of the two jobs to be largely ceremonial. For example, Canada has a mostly ceremonial governor general, as well as a prime minister. And even though I have written about her, I have to think a little before I can remember her name, Michaëlle Jean. If I were to meet her, I would not say that I had met the leader of Canada. The leader of Canada is Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (And I have no trouble remembering his name, though I do have to check to see whether he spells his first name with a "v" or a "ph".)
Bernton and the Seattle Times should publish a correction. Promptly. And I hope they won't mind if I give them a little bit of advice: Try covering what Palin did as governor of Alaska and stop looking for nits to pick.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 4:17 PM, 26 September 2008 [link]
Wonder Why You Didn't Hear Those Bush Warnings About Fannie Mae? It may be because the warnings got so little coverage from the networks.
But prior to this year, the watchdogs at ABC, CBS and NBC found time for only 10 stories on the financial health and management of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A review of the three networks' morning and evening news programs from January 1, 2003 through December 31, 2007 found nine anchor-read items or brief references to the companies troubles, plus one in-depth report by CBS's Anthony Mason on the May 23, 2006 Evening News, after Fannie Mae was fined $400 million for accounting fraud.So the networks were interested in Enron, but not in Fannie Mae — even after the accounting scandal.
- 1:48 PM, 26 September 2008 [link]
Sopwith Camel: The first airplanes used in World War I, such as the B.E.2c, were quickly replaced with more capable airplanes, such as this Sopwith Camel.
(This is a 2F.1)
Flying one, you might have gotten to meet the "Red Baron" — up close.
(Earlier pictures in this Imperial War Museum series, here, here, and here.
Note: The first version of this post, which was up for about fifteen minutes, called the airplane a SPAD, incorrectly. My apologies for the mistake.)
- 1:04 PM, 26 September 2008 [link]
Fostok Didn't Go Into The Family Business: Which is a good thing, even though she chose to become a pole dancer, instead.
- 8:21 AM, 26 September 2008 [link]
McCain Gains In The "Frozen North"? That's what Michael Barone sees
Before the two conventions this year, John McCain was running far behind George W. Bush's levels in the Frozen North—in vivid contrast to rural/small town areas in Appalachia, where Barack Obama had been shellacked by Hillary Clinton in the primaries and where he was (and still is) running far behind the last three Democratic nominees in general election polls. The key factor is not, I think, race. The key factor is foreign policy: Appalachia is Jacksonian, extremely hawkish, intent on winning victory in any conflict it enters; Germano-Scandinavian America is dovish, sometimes even pacifist, intent on ending any military conflict on any terms possible. Obama's emphasis on his early opposition to the war appealed to Germano-Scandinavian America even as it repelled Appalachian America.By "Frozen North" Barone means the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington, North Dakota, Montana, and Alaska. Though he is still behind, McCain has a chance to win the first three states — and Obama now has almost no chance to win the last three.
There's much more in the post, including some interesting comments on Maine.
(I don't entirely agree with Barone's dovish characterization of the German-American voters of the area. Some were opposed to all wars; many others were opposed to wars with Germany. And most were staunch anti-Communists, perhaps in part because of Germany's many conflicts with Russia. Going back farther, most German-Americans were strong supporters of Lincoln, all through the Civil War.)
- 7:14 AM, 26 September 2008 [link]
Look Like Sarah Palin? Then you should be prepared for hate mail
A television news anchor in Maine who looks a lot like Sarah Palin says she's been getting "hate mail and nasty phone calls."Yesterday I heard Michaels talk about this on a local station. She said she had been wearing her hair like that for years, but telling that to critics didn't mollify them.
(As far as I know, Biden look-alikes have not had this problem.)
- 5:47 AM, 26 September 2008 [link]
Recession Arrives: In Ireland. (Some Democrats will be disappointed, thinking the recession hit the wrong country.)
It's a mild recession — so far.
The bettors at InTrade think a recession is 2009 is more likely in the United States than in the largest economies in Europe. I think they are wrong, in spite of our current problems.
(But one shouldn't be too quick to cite numbers at InTrade, as this Instapundit example shows.)
- 6:15 PM, 25 September 2008 [link]
The Quiet Sun: In the last year, the sun has been so quiet, so free, for example, of sunspots that NASA had a press conference on the subject Tuesday. Here's Anthony Watts' reaction. These NASA scientists were honest enough (for the most part) to admit how much they didn't know, and couldn't predict.
(Some background here. And Watts shows you the latest sunspot disappearing almost immediately.)
- 1:42 PM, 25 September 2008 [link]
It's Easy being Green.
People who believe they have the greenest lifestyles can be seen as some of the main culprits behind global warming, says a team of researchers, who claim that many ideas about sustainable living are a myth.Example: Travel writer Rick Steves believes that we face great danger from global warming. But he has not shut down his business, which encourages people to fly to Europe.
If increased carbon dioxide is as great a threat as he says it is, then he should close his business, or, perhaps, begin offering virtual tours.
(Another example: New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.)
- 10:44 AM, 25 September 2008 [link]
Great Investment? That's the Paulson plan, commonly described as a bailout. Here's the bottom line, according to Andy Kessler, a "former hedge-fund manager":
Now Mr. Paulson is pitching Congress for $700 billion or more to buy distressed loans and CDOs from the rest of Wall Street, injecting needed cash onto balance sheets so that normal loans for economic activity can be restored. The trick is what price he will pay. Better mortgages and CDOs are selling for 70 cents on the dollar. But many are seriously distressed (15-25 cents on the dollar) because they are the last to be paid in foreclosures. These are what Wall Street wants to unload the quickest.If Kessler is right — and I have no idea whether his calculations are reasonable — the taxpayers will profit greatly, at the expense of Wall Street fat cats.
Before you dismiss this, note that Warren Buffett, famous for his ability to spot value, is getting in on the deal, in a big way. But it is also true that Buffett's investments do not always benefit the ordinary stakeholder.
(Here's Kessler's site, and here's a brief Wikipedia biography.
CDOs = "collateralized debt obligations".)
- 8:27 AM, 25 September 2008 [link]