Politics: August 2010 Archives

The BBC World Service has aired a two-part series, Useful Idiots, about Western intellectuals and journalists who were and are apologists for evil regimes. (The title is a phrase of Lenin's.) Part one focuses on the Soviet Union, Stalin, and his defenders, like George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, and Walter Duranty, who won a Pulitzer Prize while withholding his knowledge of Stalin's murderous famine from his New York Times readers. Part two is about recent examples of useful idiots:

From Mao's China, General Pinochet's Chile, Apartheid-controlled South Africa, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, to President Ahmadinejad's Iran, why - and how - have so many supposedly intelligent people been manipulated by dictators into saying good things about bad regimes?

Via Ace of Spades HQ, which has direct links to downloadable MP3 files of the broadcasts. Ace notes that part 1 includes the quote "something so stupid only an intellectual could believe it."

NOTE: There's some question about the provenance of the document that was previously linked here, regarding the connection between the Democratic Socialists of America and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I am looking into it and will let you know what I find out.

My periodic work-related travels to Wichita this spring and summer have given me the chance to watch another state's elections up close, and I was back in Kansas for last Tuesday's primary. While the process is essentially the same there as in Oklahoma, there are some interesting differences in the way Kansas does elections.

As in many states, Kansas elections are under the authority of their elected Secretary of State. (Oklahoma is a rare exception -- our election board is an independent agency, and secretary of state has been an appointive office since the Boren-era constitutional amendments that eliminated a raft of statewide elected officials.)

Kansas has an automated the process for putting results on the web. Every 15 minutes on election night, not only were the statewide vote totals updated, but so were results by county -- how many precincts reporting and how many votes for each candidate. And better still, a map for each statewide and congressional race was automatically updated. Counties were color coded to show which candidate was leading. No color at all meant no results reported yet, a lighter hue indicated the candidate leading the incomplete results, and a darker hue indicated the candidate who finished first where results were complete. It was easy to tell where the remaining votes were coming from, and when the Republican Senate primary narrowed to a few thousand votes, it was clear the race would widen when all the results were in, since the remaining precincts were in the leading candidate's home turf.

As it's Kansas, most of the action was in the Republican primary, as it has been since Kansas became a state in 1854. Sam Brownback is leaving the U. S. Senate to run for governor. Two long-time congressmen -- Jerry Moran, who has represented the northwestern two-thirds of the state's area since 1996, and Todd Tiahrt, who has represented Wichita and a few counties south and east since 1994 -- quit their safe seats to seek to move to the Senate.

Both are conservatives. Tiahrt -- his T♥ yard signs explained his name's pronunciation -- is known for his work to protect gun owners from unwarranted Federal intrusion.

Moran was seen as more of a deficit hawk -- he scored better on Club for Growth's "RePork Card" -- but not really a conviction politician on constitutional issues. Paul Moore, who quit his job as an assistant U. S. Attorney in January to manage Moran's campaign, left the campaign after two months and endorsed Tiahrt, using phrases that I suspect apply to many Republican politicians of the sort that Man of the West calls "laundry-list conservatives":

After more than two months of intense interactions with Jerry Moran, I came to believe that he was not instinctively conservative and that his willingness to actually lead against the tide of government intrusiveness into our lives and businesses was practically nonexistent.

I have worked with many politicians throughout the last two decades, including during my service as a Regional Political Director for the Republican National Committee. Yet, it was stunning to see a man with Jerry Moran's decades of government service be so seemingly unsure of himself and his beliefs. While he is a hard worker, I still cannot tell you with any certainty what he truly believes.

To my surprise, Jerry Moran winced at the frequent use of the words "conservative" or "pro-life" to portray himself out of fear he might offend moderate or pro-choice voters. He ultimately relented to the political realities and has thoroughly advertised himself as "pro-life" and "conservative" to describe who he needed to become to get elected.

Our country desperately needs men and women of backbone who don't have to consult political weather vanes to know what they stand for. Neither candidate is perfect, but Todd Tiahrt will instinctively stand up for the country's founding principles - without regard for the political winds. Jerry Moran would be reliable - so long as the winds are blowing in a conservative direction, as they are now.

Tiahrt had support from Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, and the National Right to Life PAC (based on Tiahrt's track record as a leader on the abortion issue. Moran had twice as much money to spend, but Tiahrt got 45% and held Moran to just under 50%, with two minor candidates splitting the rest.

So when's the runoff? Kansas doesn't have them. In the race to replace Tiahrt in Congress, the winner, Mike Pompeo, received 39% of the vote. A two-candidate runoff wouldn't have clarified the situation much, as the second and third place candidates differed by only about 800 votes (about 24% each), and the 4th place candidate had 13%. This was a perfect situation of instant runoff voting.

At one point there were polls indicating that the sole pro-abortion candidate in the primary, State Sen. Jean Schodorf, had a strong enough core of support to finish first, as the pro-life majority split their support among the other four candidates. In the end, pro-lifers consolidated around Pompeo. That consolidation was helped by controversy over businessman Wink Hartman's claims to being a lifelong Kansan. Hartman, like Tulsa's former Mayor Kathy Taylor, had a homestead exemption in Florida and had been a registered and active voter there. (Unlike Taylor, there's no indication he was simultaneously registered and voting in two states.)

Without a runoff, and with less than 40% of the vote, Pompeo doesn't have much of a mandate to unite the party behind him, and there's no second round to encourage former rivals to back one or the other. In fact, the folks who were scolding Randy Brogdon for waiting a whole week to make a formal endorsement of Mary Fallin need to head to Wichita to give a good talking-to to three of Pompeo's four Republican opponents, who are so far refusing to endorse or campaign for him.

Two other Republican congressional primaries were won with less than 50% of the vote. The winner of the race to replace Moran in CD 1 was won with 35% of the vote, and the vote in CD 3 (suburban KC) was 45-37, with the remaining 18% split between 7 candidates in single digits.

Moran isn't the only (alleged) weather vane in Kansas politics. At the edges of farms, along the highways, big campaign signs are posted in a way that protects them from being destroyed by the constantly blowing Kansas wind. A typical rig involves an inverted, L-shaped section of PVC pipe, to which the top and one side of the sign is attached. The pipe holding the sign sits in another pipe attached to a fencepost, able to swing freely as the wind direction changes. Pretty smart.

Kansas allows write-ins. Primaries that drew no contestants or only one contender were still on the ballot, and voters could opt for another choice.

Party precinct officials in Kansas are elected at primaries. (Oklahoma parties hold caucuses.) Republicans and Democrats alike voted for a precinct committeeman and precinct committeewoman. Many of these elections drew only one candidate or no one at all. Here are the results from Sedgwick County, including all the primaries for precinct officials and township clerks.

It's happened twice this week. I've written long blog entries -- long essays with links -- and then hesitated to click the "publish" button. Ironically, the essay arose from a story about a sociologist reluctant to publish his findings because they may give aid and comfort to the politically incorrect.

Rather than leave you completely deprived, while I decide what to do with this latest piece, which is about immigration, here are some of the articles I read while writing it.

First, the item that got me started, by John Leo, on Robert Putnam's five-year study showing "that immigration and ethnic diversity have a devastating short- and medium-term influence on the social capital, fabric of associations, trust, and neighborliness that create and sustain communities." Leo reports that Putnam (best known for his book Bowling Alone) has expressed reluctance to publish his research:

Putnam's study reveals that immigration and diversity not only reduce social capital between ethnic groups, but also within the groups themselves. Trust, even for members of one's own race, is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friendships fewer. The problem isn't ethnic conflict or troubled racial relations, but withdrawal and isolation. Putnam writes: "In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to 'hunker down'--that is, to pull in like a turtle."

That led me to Roger Axtell's collection of books on "Do's and Taboos around the World" and an essay on missionaries and culture stress.

And from there, I went looking for Francis Fukuyama's work on trust, social capital, and economic development:

Social Capital and Civil Society (1999)
Social Capital and Development (2001)

Then there's this McClatchy news story from January 2010 on the devastation wrought by Haiti's lack of construction codes:

Most buildings in Haiti go up without engineers, standards or inspections. The earthquake is only the latest, and worst, tragedy to expose the largely unregulated and slapdash construction long accepted on the island -- practices that structural engineers believe added to a staggering death toll that could reach 200,000....

It wasn't just humble shacks and turn-of-the-previous-century icons like the historic Roman Catholic Cathedral of Port-au-Prince, but new and newly renovated schools, police stations, bank branches, high-end hotels and hospitals. The U.S. Agency for International Development reported Thursday that 13 of 15 government ministry buildings had been destroyed.

"This was pseudo-engineering. It was terrible," said Eduardo Fierro, a California-based forensic and seismic engineer who was among the first experts to survey the damage....

Most Caribbean countries, Haiti included, have building laws based on the Caribbean Uniform Building Code, said Cletus Springs, director of the OAS' Department of Sustainable Development in Washington. But in many places, rules exist only on paper....

Haiti has taken stabs at beefing up building codes in the past. Ironically, said architect Magloire, one expert brought in recently to work on the code died in the collapse of the Hotel Montana.

You may recall Tulsa City Councilor Jim Mautino's remarks from March 2010 regarding "taco trucks" and zoning, health, and tax enforcement:

City Councilor Jim Mautino said he had received complaints from constituents regarding six mobile food trailers. He said he was concerned about food safety and the city's ability to collect sales taxes.

"This is Third World stuff," he said. "When people come here we assimilate them (new residents of the country) into our lifestyle and our politics; it's not the other way around.

"And it seems to me like what's happening is we're being assimilated."

Mautino expanded on those comments in an April 28 UTW story:

As for new residents assimilating to the U.S., Mautino said this statement stemmed from what he was taught as a child.

"My parents came from Italy and their opinion was when you're in Rome you do like the Romans, when you're in America you do like the Americans," he said. "You come to this country and you don't change this country. You can add things that come from your country, but you abide by our laws."

And here's another immigration-related item, although not part of my essay, on the topic of immigration enforcement, a report that U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have no confidence that the agency's leadership is committed to enforcing the laws:

On June 11, 2010, the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council and its constituent local representatives from around the nation, acting on behalf of approximately 7,000 ICE officers and employees from the ICE Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), cast a unanimous "Vote of No Confidence" in the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Morton, and the Assistant Director of the ICE Office of Detention Policy and Planning, (ODPP), Phyllis Coven.

The letter from the president of the AFL-CIO-affiliated union that represents ICE agents explains that local law enforcement is really the only path to immigration enforcement at the moment:

  • While ICE reports internally that more than 90 percent of ICE detainees are first encountered in jails after they are arrested by local police for criminal charges, ICE senior leadership misrepresents this information publicly in order to portray ICE detainees as being non-criminal in nature to support the Administration's position on amnesty and relaxed security at ICE detention facilities.
  • The majority of ICE ERO Officers are prohibited from making street arrests or enforcing United States immigration laws outside of the institutional (jail) setting. This has effectively created "amnesty through policy" for anyone illegally in the United States who has not been arrested by another agency for a criminal violation.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from August 2010.

Politics: July 2010 is the previous archive.

Politics: September 2010 is the next archive.

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