Last updated:
5:56 PM, 27 August 2014



Jim Miller on Politics

  Email:
jimxc1 at gmail.com



What's he reading? Francis Parkman.

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*new



Pseudo-Random Thoughts


Kent Sorenson Pleads Guilty:  And gives us one of the more interesting stories from the 2012 election.
A former Iowa state senator has pleaded guilty in federal court to crimes related to accepting payment from a presidential campaign during Iowa's 2012 presidential caucus campaign.

Kent Sorenson, of Milo, concealed payments he received from then-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's presidential campaign and then obstructed the investigation into the incident, the U.S. Department of Justice announced in a release on Wednesday.

He pleaded guilty to two counts and now is awaiting sentencing. Sorenson could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 for the first count and 20 years in prison and another $250,000 fine for the second.

The case revolves around Sorenson's dramatic jump from the presidential campaign of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann to Paul's rival campaign in late December, 2011, just days before the caucuses.
I recall that jump vaguely, and remember, vaguely, that people more familiar with Iowa politics than I am seemed surprised by it.  (Paul finished third in the race, with 21 percent of the vote, behind Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, who each had 25 percent of the vote.   The early count by party officials gave Romney the lead, but in the final count, Santorum came out ahead, 29,839-29,805.  Bachmann finished sixth and dropped out.)

I suppose, as part of this agreement, we'll know pretty soon who in the Paul campaign gave Sorenson the money.

(Although politicians often make mutually beneificial agreements — some of them against the public interest — it is rare to see something this blatant in a state like Iowa.)
- 5:56 PM, 27 August 2014   [link]


Today's New Yorker Cartoon shows a politician explaining why he has returned to the fray.
- 2:40 PM, 27 August 2014   [link]


Are Leftist "Journalists" Creating A "Lynch Mob Mentality" Over Ferguson?  That's what Howard Kurtz says.

And this example — which I have not verified — suggests that he may be right.

It is only fair to add that we do not know, for certain, why the two men were attacked.

But it is also only fair to add that Al Sharpton, at the center of things in Ferguson, has inspired racial and anti-Semitic killings in the past.

(The National Review article I linked to in that 2003 post has been moved, but you can find it here.  It's longish, but well worth your time.)
- 2:31 PM, 27 August 2014   [link]


Gabriel Schoenfeld Explains Why NYT Reporter James Risen Will (Probably) Go To Jail:  And why he should.

Here's the lead paragraph, which sets the scene:
After nearly four years of procedural delay, the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling is set to open shortly.  Sterling was indicted at the end of 2010 for leaking information about a top-secret CIA operation to James Risen of the New York Times in violation of the espionage statutes.  It is difficult to regard Sterling as in any sense a whistleblower, though, predictably, he calls himself such.  He appears to have given Risen CIA secrets as a way to settle scores with the agency in a dispute over the presence of classified information in memoirs he sought to publish and also for being the victim of what, following a poor performance review, he claimed was racial bias.
Risen will be called to testify, and he has promised that he will remain silent.  When he refuses to testify, the judge will probably toss him in jail — as he would any other citizen who refuses to testify.  (There are exceptions for spouses, and for clergy and lawyers, in some situations.)

It will be difficult for our journalists to cover this case fairly, so, if you follow this case, you will want to look for more from Schoenfeld, and others who share his respect for our laws, and our security.
- 1:45 PM, 27 August 2014   [link]


Worth Reading:  Donald McNeil's longish article on how the Bush administration fought AIDS in South Africa, and how the gains made there are now threatened.

Samples:
South Africa has 2.4 million people on antiretroviral drugs, far more than any other country, and adds 100,000 each month.  Five years ago, 490 clinics gave out those drugs; now 3,540 do.  Only 250 nurses were trained to prescribe them then; now 23,000 are.  (The figures, from the end of 2013, are the most recent available.)

Mother-to-child transmissions have dropped by 90 percent, new infections have dropped by a third, and life expectancy has increased by almost 10 years.
. . .
Though few Americans or even South Africans realize it, the nation owes much of its success to a single United States program, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, started in 2003 under President George W. Bush.  It has poured more than $3 billion into South Africa, largely for training doctors, building clinics and laboratories, and buying drugs.
. . .
Right to Care, like many other AIDS treatment programs here, owes its existence to a decision that year [2004] by Pepfar to help South Africa quietly, almost clandestinely, while the Mbeki administration was still in power.

In poor countries with broken health care systems, Pepfar paid American medical schools to run its programs.  South Africa, by contrast, had excellent doctors and hospitals, but Mr. Mbeki’s health minister, who claimed garlic, beetroot and lemons could cure AIDS, forbade public hospitals to give out AIDS drugs.

Mr. Mbeki was finally ousted in an internal African National Congress power struggle in 2008; by that time, Harvard researchers calculated, his policies had cost 365,000 lives.
That almost clandestine approach shows, I think, just how subtle the Bush administration could be, when it needed to be.  Rather than quarrel with President Thabo Mbeki — which almost certainly would have had bad results — they went around him, quietly.
- 2:21 PM, 26 August 2014   [link]


If You Would Like To See A Cynical Explanation For The Attention the Obama administration is paying to Ferguson, you can find one here.
The racial unrest caused by tensions over the shooting of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., could be a rallying cry for Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts, according to the voter education committee chair for the Democratic Southern caucus.

“There is a story beneath the story in Ferguson,” chairwoman Janet May said at the Southern Caucus meeting during the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta on Friday.
There are many precedents for this kind of calculation; for example, many believe that David Dinkins was elected mayor of New York in 1989, thanks to Al Sharpton's exploitation of the murder of Yusuf Hawkins.
- 1:38 PM, 26 August 2014   [link]


Victor Davis Hanson Reminds Us, Once Again, that the Obama we see in the Oval Office is not the Obama we were promised in 2008.
For those who are “shocked” at the present meltdown, of a magnitude not seen since the annus horribilis of 1979, in their defense: Obama certainly did not campaign on a new health-care plan that would force Americans to give up the doctors they liked and their existing coverage, while raising premiums and deductibles, while giving exemptions for insiders and cronies, and while raising the deficit.

Nor did we hear on the campaign trail that Obama would push gay marriage, open borders, near-permanent zero interest rates, six consecutive $1 trillion deficits, and record food-stamp and Social Security disability payouts.  He criticized Bush for relatively minor executive orders, suggesting that he would never rule by fiat — as he since has done in matters of Obamacare, immigration law, and environmental regulations.  Remember the promise of ending the revolving door and stopping aides from cashing in — and then follow the post-administration careers of Obama’s closest advisers.

Obama promised to halve the deficit — not run up more red ink than almost all prior presidents combined.  Indeed, he once as a senator voted against raising the debt limit and blasted Bush for borrowing from China.  He once sermonized to us that the presidency is serious stuff, that it entails inordinate personal sacrifice and even a virtual absence of downtime and vacation — and then he became just the sort of president he was critiquing.
All that is true, but I think Hanson fails to give Obama's acting ability the credit that it deserves.  Obama was selling arguments that were, often, internally inconsistent, and, more often than not, inconsistent with Obama's political record, and personal history.

Example:  A man who truly wanted to bring people together would never have spent years belonging to Reverend Wright's church.

It is also true that Obama could not have succeeded if so many journalists had not supported him, some because they believed what he was saying (which required them putting their critical facilities aside), others because they wanted victory for their party so much, and still others from a mixture of those two.

Their failure is one of the reasons Americans continue to lose faith in "mainstream" reporting; more and more we recognize that, on some subjects, and with some political figures, our "mainstream" journalists simply can not be trusted.

But it is still true that Obama's performance in 2008 showed real acting talent, showed his gift for reading implausible lines, plausibly — and all of us should recognize that gift.

(Another example from earlier in Obama's career:  At Harvard Law, Obama would often speak in a meeting in such a way that both sides thought that he was agreeing with them.  The people he was fooling were not stupid, and, if students, were being trained to analyze words with great care, or, if faculty, had years of training and experience in that arcane art.)

Those who oppose Obama should not underestimate that ability; those who support him should take a long look at what he has done, and pay a little less attention to what he says.

(Minor correction:  Hanson describes John F. Kennedy as a "Northern liberal".   That wasn't how Kennedy would have described himself, nor is it a good description of Kennedy's policies at the time.  Now, of course, his policies would be considered conservative.

Obama is not the only recent president with acting ability; besides the obvious example, Reagan, I would add Bill Clinton, who was pretty good before he became president, and worked to get better by taking acting lessons from a famous acting coach, Michael Sheehan.

As I recall, Clinton was getting lessons about once a month from Sheehan, who, no doubt, helped Clinton fake sincerity, effectively.)
- 1:15 PM, 26 August 2014   [link]


President Obama Is Half Way To The "Coveted" EGOT:   As I learned from this fawning Parade article.
On Saturday, August 16, Obama walked away from the Creative Arts Emmys with a statuette for Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program for his comedic work in Funny or Die’s “Between Two Ferns” video with Zach Galafianakis.

In March, the 44th president sat down with the comedian to talk about the Affordable Healthcare Act.  In addition to raking in the laughs (and an Emmy!), the video helped nudge thousands more Americans to enroll for health insurance.

With his Emmy award, Obama is halfway to earning his own coveted EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony).  Prior to his newest hardware, he had won a spoken word Grammy for his audiobooks “Dreams of My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.”
So, perhaps he can continue his career in Hollywood, after his current gig runs out.

Those awards, like his Nobel Peace Prize, have two effects on me:  They make me laugh, and they make me doubt all the other awards given out by the same organization.

("Reporter" Ashleigh Schmitz was hoping that Obama would show up at the Emmy Awards ceremony.  He didn't.)
- 7:29 AM, 26 August 2014   [link]


It's A Great Quote, But James Farley Didn't Say It:   Probably.

Here's a persuasive discussion of the question from Walt Crowley:

Let me begin with the famous toast offered by U.S. Postmaster and national Democratic Party leader "Big Jim" Farley in the mid-1930s: "To the 47 States of the Union and the Soviet of Washington."

It's one of my favorite stories.  Unfortunately it's probably not true.  James Farley denied ever saying it, there is no contemporary press report or other documentation of its original utterance, and it makes no sense since the left wing of the state Democratic Party, then organized as the Washington Commonwealth Federation, was among the most loyal supporters of FDR and the New Deal at the time.

Now someone should pass this fact on to Ellis Conklin and, perhaps, to Knute Berger.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

Incidentally, I discovered that the quote was dubious some years ago, not by any great feat of research, but with a simple search, when I was hoping to use the quote, and wanted a source.

(James Farley is worth study, because of his skill as an executive and political organizer, his part in FDR's political career, and the reasons he broke with FDR.)
- 2:23 PM, 25 August 2014   [link]


Water Problems Of The Very Rich And Famous:  In Montecito, California.

Ann Louise Bardach starts with an easy example:
Many mornings, just before 7 a.m., a large tanker truck pulls up to the grand gates of Oprah Winfrey’s 40-acre estate in Montecito, California.  Inside is neither merchandise nor produce – just water.

A year ago, Oprah’s annual bill from the Montecito Water District was just shy of $125,000.   This year, it is less than half.  Like many in this wealthy enclave, Oprah has cut back on her consumption of district water.  That said, her property has its own wells and a small lake and, according to neighbors, there are the trucks.

These days, tankers can be seen barreling down Montecito’s narrow country roads day and night, ferrying up to 5,000 gallons of H20 to some of the world’s richest and thirstiest folks.
Bardach continues with a more general discussion, with lots of details, but fewer summaries than I would like.

Still, many of the details are interesting.

For example, you don't have to be a populist — I'm not — to be disturbed by the amounts of water that some of these rich folks use, in a state that is suffering so much from drought.  (The top three users "in 2012/13 guzzled close to 30 million gallons alone".)

But, rather than complain, I came up with a solution for these rich folks, a solution that they can easily afford.  (And might even save them money in the long run.)  According to Bardach, Montecito has "less water than any other part of the central coast of California".  Which is probably true if you are talking about fresh water.  But Montecito is on the Pacific Ocean, and so could have its own desalination plant.  They might even be able to build one powered by solar energy, if they want to bow down to Green idols (and I imagine that some of them do).

Unfortunately, it might be hard to get environmental permits for a desalination plant, because of our laws, and court rulings.  But there isn't anything technologically impractical about this solution.

(Santa Barbara County is considering reviving a desalination project.  Bardach says it could be built in as little as two years.  I suspect one could be built, in months, but have no idea how long getting through the permits, and the almost certain lawsuits would take.)
- 1:03 PM, 25 August 2014   [link]


Colbert King Is Sure That President Obama's National Security Team has put Obama on the spot.
But when the Islamic State is painted as a greater threat to the United States than al-Qaeda, and in public pronouncements, by the secretaries of state and defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the attorney general, Obama is left with little choice: Either he must confront this jihadist organization or be seen as turning his back on his most senior foreign policy and military advisers.

How can the president remain inert when Secretary of State John Kerry says that the Islamic State “and the wickedness it represents must be destroyed” and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel states that the group “is beyond anything that we’ve seen” and “poses a whole new dynamic and new paradigm of threats to this country”?
But King isn't sure whether they are "freelancing", or acting on Obama's orders.

I don't know either, but I am inclined to think, as I said yesterday, that they are trying to get him to make a decision to strike ISIS, hard.

At some point, Obama should decide whether to go with Kerry, Hagel, and the others, or pull them back into line with his own, more cautious, pronouncements.  The first seems unlikely, given his rigid determination not to emulate George W. Bush's policies, even Bush's successful policies.  The second seems more likely, now that he has returned to Washington.

So, most likely we will see a softening of the rhetoric, combined with a moderate, or even small, increase in air strikes.
- 8:24 AM, 25 August 2014   [link]


The New York Times Is Hosting A Conference On Farming:  But they haven't invited any farmers to speak.
Consider this panel planned for November hosted by the New York Times.  The panel, titled "Food For Tomorrow: Farm Better, Eat Better, Feed the World" includes exactly zero farmers on the panel.  That's right, not one farmer has been asked to speak about...FARMING.
The panel does have an executive chef, Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns.   To be fair, he almost certainly knows some farmers.

(When I looked at the speakers, I thought, at first, that they didn't have any agricultural scientists, either.  But it turns out that one of them, Danielle Nierenberg, does have a masters degree in "agriculture, food, and environment" from Tufts, so I suppose you could call her an agricultural scientist, though I think "activist" would be more accurate.  As far as I can tell, she has never done any original research.)
- 6:29 AM, 25 August 2014   [link]


In Principle, President Obama Might Be Able To Get Some Help In Combating ISIS From His One-Time Friend, Turkey's Recep Erdogan:   On 28 August Erdogan will become the first popularly-elected president of Turkey, after serving as prime minister since March 2003.  After a nasty campaign, he made a conciliatory speech, so he may be in the mood to cooperate, a little, with us.

And there is an obvious way Erdogan could help us with ISIS.
What do ISIS do with the oil they get?

ISIS smuggle the crude oil and trade it for cash and refined products, at a reduced price.   They also have their own small and rudimentary refineries in Syria.

Refined oil is returned to ISIS for selling locally, in Iraq and Syria.  ISIS also use the oil in their own warfare.

ISIS controls smuggling routes and the crude transported by tankers to Jordan via Anbar province, to Iran via Kurdistan, to Turkey via Mosul, to Syria's local market and to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where most of it gets refined locally.

Turkey has turned a blind eye to this and may continue to do so until they come under pressure from the West to close down oil black markets in the country's south.
The expert CNN was interviewing, Luay al-Khatteeb, estimates that ISIS earns $2 million a day from this traffic.
- 5:05 PM, 24 August 2014   [link]


"To Fix Foreign Policy Mistakes, President Obama Must First Admit Them"  So says Jackson Diehl, in this column.

The main mistake that Diehl has in mind is Obama's pullout from Iraq.
“What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision.”

These words, marrying petulance and implausibility, were spoken by President Obama when he was asked, shortly after the beginning of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, whether he regretted withdrawing all U.S. troops from the country during his first term.  “That entire analysis is bogus and is wrong,” was his startling answer.

That Obama is somehow not responsible for the Iraq pullout would be news to anyone who remembers his announcement of it, when he bragged of fulfilling his “promise” to end “America’s war in Iraq”; or his subsequent election campaign, in which he tirelessly proclaimed that “the tide of war is receding.”  The sudden disclaimer certainly raised eyebrows among the numerous senior officials who have said, both on and off the record, that Obama resisted leaving behind a stay-on force, slashed its size far below that proposed by military commanders and expressed relief when a legal snag provided him a pretext to pull the plug on Iraq altogether.
Diehl will be mostly satisfied, I suspect, if Obama changes course, without formally admitting he made a mistake.

Obama already has changed course, to some extent, by ordering the air strikes against ISIS (which his administration keeps calling ISIL, for some reason).  But his justifications, so far, for those air strikes do not justify much more than a modest air campaign to keep the ISIS forces away from our people in Iraq.  (In contrast, some in his administration have been calling for much more forceful actions.  They may be attempting to put pressure on Obama.)

Diehl says, correctly in my opinion, that Obama has repeated some of the mistakes that George W. Bush made.  One of those mistakes has been releasing too many captured terrorists.  The current leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is an example of that mistake, though which administration made the mistake is unclear.

In general*, prisoners of war should be kept until the war is over.  And we should have learned by now that our allies don't always run escape-proof prisons.  There have been big jail breaks, freeing hundreds of terrorists, in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

(*I said in general, because, in the past, some prisoners could be released on parole, if they promised not to go back into battle.  For example, after the Vicksburg campaign, that's what Grant did with most of the Confederate prisoners he had captured.  I don't know of any examples outside Europe and European-settled areas, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there were some.)
- 4:29 PM, 24 August 2014   [link]


Democratic Candidate Michelle Nunn May Be Getting Some Advice From Her Father:  That was my first reaction to this story.
Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn won't commit to voting for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) if she wins her Senate race.

"I look forward to changing the composition in the leadership of the Senate.  The way that we’re going to change Washington is to bring more people to recognize — to have the humility to recognize — that there are good ideas on both sides of the aisle," Nunn told reporters following a forum with her opponent, businessman David Perdue (R).

"I will vote for the Democratic leader that I think best represents our capacity to get things done and move things forward," she continued.
Reporter Cameron Joseph explains this unusual announcement in political terms; Nunn is trying to separate herself from the national Democratic Party.

But it is also possible that Nunn recognizes, as any informed person would, that Harry Reid has been a disaster as senate majority leader.  She might even have come by that knowledge thanks to a little chat with her father.

Most likely, she has a mix of motives; she knows that she has to separate from the national party, if she wants to win the election, and she sees Harry Reid for what he is.  Politicians often, in fact I should say usually, have a mix of motives for their actions.

Whatever her motives, I applaud what she is saying, indirectly, about the current majority leader of the Senate, Harry Reid.  It may be only for show, as Joseph implies, but at least she did say it.
- 9:01 AM, 24 August 2014   [link]


Worth Reading:  Christopher Caldwell's article, "No Law, No Order", on Ferguson, Missouri.

I recommend it because Caldwell does not try to tell us what happened between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown, but does tell what kind of place Ferguson is, and what the main actors there are doing, now.

Sample:
Perhaps the most common media complaint about the Ferguson police—that they were overly “militarized” and even “off the rails”—was wrong.  This complaint was, in the end, sartorial.  “Tell them to remove the damn tanks,” said Holder in the early days of the unrest, but he seemed to have no objection to the rows of armored vehicles that the National Guard was keeping in the Northland Shopping Center when he visited.  Columnist Thomas Byrne Edsall described the complaint about militarization as a moment of “rare right-left convergence.”  It is better thought of as a moment of p.c. terror, as conservatives sought to find some grounds for lining up against the police without violating their principles.

It was in this context that Holder made his bizarre visit to St. Louis. Bizarre in the sense that he intervened, in the name of the federal Justice Department, in a case already before a grand jury, without making even a feint at blind justice.  The Los Angeles Times reported that Justice Department officials attributed Holder’s concern to “the continuing violence and apparent mishandling of the case by local officials.”  Without making any judgment about whether the local officials mishandled the case, it is worth noting that the federal intervention has taken the side of those committing the continuing violence.
There's much more, including a good analysis of the politics that the Obama administration is playing.

(More:  You can find a demographic description of Ferguson, with maps, here.)
- 10:07 AM, 23 August 2014   [link]


Here's A Headline That Will Gladden the heart of almost any Republican strategist: "W.H. defends post-Foley golf game"

The more the White House defends Obama's golfing, the better.

(For the record:  I have been saying, at least since 2011, that I would rather have Obama golfing than trying to be president.  The damage he might do to a golf course is many orders of magnitude less than the damage he has done when trying to be president.

But I have to admit that, yesterday, I had a troubling thought:  My original argument was that, if Obama wasn't acting as president, the bureaucrats would take his place, to some extent — and for all their faults, will do better than he does.  But then it occurred to me that his absences might give even more power to Valerie Jarrett, and that she might be even worse than Obama.

On the whole, I still think we are better off with Obama on the golf courses, rather than in the Oval Office, or the Situation Room — but I would like to know more about what she does in his absences.

Also for the record:  Golf's reputation as an upper class game is more than a little out of date; we have had municipal golf courses for decades now.  But for many who don't play the game, or know someone who plays the game, it still looks like a rich man's sport.)
- 8:46 AM, 23 August 2014   [link]


Archives

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Coming Soon
  • Plan 17 Conservatives
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  • How Long Do Wars Last?
  • Carbon, Carbon Dioxide, and Crescent Wrenches
  • De-Lawyering and Attorney General McKenna


Coming Eventually
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  • Green Republicans
  • The Rise and Fall and Rise of Black Voting
  • Abortion, Cleft Palates, and Europe
  • Kweisi Mfume's Children
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  • Dual Loyalties
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  • Baby Dancing
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  • The Four Caliphs




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