April 2008, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
Would You Choose A Unrepentant Terrorist To Teach Teachers? The University of Illinois, Chicago has. In fact, former Weatherman William Ayers is a "Distinguished Professor of Education" at this public school. And as a professor of education, he is far more destructive than he was as a terrorist.
Barack Obama complains that he's been unfairly attacked for a casual political and social relationship with his neighbor, former Weatherman Bill Ayers. Obama has a point. In the ultraliberal Hyde Park community where the presidential candidate first earned his political spurs, Ayers is widely regarded as a member in good standing of the city's civic establishment, not an unrepentant domestic terrorist. But Obama and his critics are arguing about the wrong moral question. The more pressing issue is not the damage done by the Weather Underground 40 years ago, but the far greater harm inflicted on the nation's schoolchildren by the political and educational movement in which Ayers plays a leading role today.If you care about education in the United States, you'll want to read the whole thing. And you will probably want to read an earlier piece by Sol Stern, too, just for some background.
(More here, including a link to Ayers' own site.)
- 11:11 AM, 24 April 2008 [link]
Taking Out The Trash: This morning, I had to spend some time deleting spam comments from a post at Sound Politics. We often get spam comments there, and nearly all of them follow the same pattern. They appear to be from fake email addresses, they include some nonsense words, and they say something like "nice site". Fewer than one in ten links to a commercial site of any kind. None that I can recall makes a political point.
So I have begun to wonder about the motives of the person generating the spam. At first I just thought the empty posts were experiments by some script kiddy, some kid just trying to prove to his friends that he can follow a recipe and put up spam at another site. But now I am beginning to wonder whether the comments with no links are intended to protect the few with commercial links, by discouraging posters from deleting the spam quickly.
It's also possible, I suppose, that the spam is a low level harassment coming from some person who disagrees with the politics at the site.
- 10:37 AM, 24 April 2008 [link]
The New York Times Calls For A "Nuanced" Debate: In an editorial that begins with this paragraph:
The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.If that isn't nuanced, I don't know what is.
For years I have been suggesting that the New York Times hire a court jester, to tell those who run the newspaper when they are being absurd. I am being entirely serious when I make that suggestion. Though I am not sure even a jester could get through to the person who wrote this editorial. (And I am certain that a jester could not get through to some of their worst columnists.)
- 3:57 PM, 23 April 2008 [link]
If She Does Say So herself. As an American I am more and more appalled at the idea that Barack Obama might become president. As a blogger, I must admit that I can see some pluses in having Michelle Obama as first lady, since she does say the strangest things.
- 3:01 PM, 23 April 2008 [link]
Need Another Disaster To Worry About? How about another little ice age?
The scariest photo I have seen on the internet is www.spaceweather.com, where you will find a real-time image of the sun from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, located in deep space at the equilibrium point between solar and terrestrial gravity.It's scary because, historically, times with few sunpots have been times of cold weather. (If that seems paradoxical, since sunspots are cooler places on the sun, you can find an explanation here.)
Could the missing sunspots explain the sharp dip in the earth's temperature during the last year? Sure. And so could a dozen other things. So I would not jump to any conclusions. But I would take a look at Space Weather from time to time, or at Anthony Watt's site, where you often find discussions of the missing sunspots.
(Could human-caused global warming and missing sunpots cancel each other out, thus keeping our temperature stable? I don't know any reason why not, but it seems quite unlikely that two unconnected causes would balance out neatly, or even roughly.
It would be nice if we understood why the sun sometimes quits making sunspots.)
- 7:57 AM, 23 April 2008 [link]
How Good Were The Early (Leaked) Exit Polls? Lousy.
. . . it's very important for us, and even moreso the media, to remember that Obama almost always does well in the leaked, unweighted exit polls, and almost always does less well in the final results.There isn't much mystery about this. Different kinds of people vote at different times of the day, so a sample in the morning will capture a different part of the electorate than an sample in the afternoon or evening. Similarly, some kinds of voters are less willing to talk to pollsters after voting than other kinds. (And, in the past, there is some evidence that the interviewers tended to select voters like themselves to interview.)
- 5:41 AM, 23 April 2008 [link]
Double Digit Win? The networks are projecting a Clinton win in Pennsylvania, though, as I write, only about 15 percent of the precincts in Pennsylvania have reported. Such early calls usually mean that the race is not close. The poll average at Real Clear Politics gave Clinton a 6.1 percent lead. Giving these early calls, I think it likely that she will do at least a point or two better than that, and possibly more. Pollster Mark Blumenthal says that the late deciders broke toward Clinton, which also suggests that she will do better than predicted by most polls.
(But she may not gain much in delegates, because of the way Pennsylvania Democrats allocate their delegates, I learned this afternoon from Karl Rove.)
- 6:32 PM, 22 April 2008
Update: Again, as I write, with 68 percent of the precincts reporting, Clinton has taken a 10 percent lead, 55-45.
- 7:16 PM, 22 April 2008
Update 2: Again, as I write, Clinton's margin is back down to 8 percent. But 94 percent of the precincts in Philadelphia have reported, so I would expect her lead to grow, though I am still not sure whether she will break 10 percent. (Obama is winning Philadelphia 65-35.)
- 7:31 PM, 22 April 2008
Update 3: It does look as though Clinton will carry the state by at least 10 percent, though I will wait until tomorrow morning to be sure about that.
The pattern of votes, by county, is clear. Obama won Philadelphia, where there are many blacks (46 percent of the population, a majority of the Democratic vote). He won two counties, Centre and Union, which have many college students (Penn State and Bucknell, respectively). He won Dauphin county, which contains Harrisburg, the state capital, with many state employees. And he won three counties, Lancaster, Chester, and Delaware, where one would expect to find many arugula eating leftists (and almost won Montgomery, a similar county).
Clinton won everything else, in particular, every county where, according to Obama, one might expect to find bitter, gun toting, bigoted religious fanatics.
- 8:51 PM, 22 April 2008
Not Quite: News organizations, for example, this one, are reporting that Clinton beat Obama 55-45, which looks like a 10 point, double digit, win. But if you do the arithmetic on their vote totals, you will see that her actual margin is closer to 9 percent. Two counties that Obama carried, Philadelphia and Delaware, have yet to report all their votes, so her margin will probably drop a little.
- 4:49 AM, 23 April 2008 [link]
McCain Almost Tied With Obama In Massachusetts!? When I read that claim in this piece, I had to check. And Michael Graham is right; Obama leads McCain by a trivial 2 points in this SurveyUSA poll, 48-46. (In the same poll, Clinton beats McCain, 56-41, which sounds more like Massachusetts.)
Some think that part of Obama's problem in Massachusetts is Governor Deval Patrick, an ally of Obama. Patrick is an Obama ally and is similar to him in many ways. And he has not been a great success as governor of Massachusetts.
Holly Robichaud, the "Lone Republican" of Boston Herald fame, blames Patrick for Obama's woes. "We've already elected one inexperienced candidate running on a vague platform of hope in Massachusetts, and it's not working out. This is a classic example of 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.'"Graham doesn't agree with Robichaud entirely, but I think there is something in Robichaud's theory.
(For more on Deval Patrick, look here and here.)
- 10:24 AM, 22 April 2008 [link]
Worth Reading: Patrick Moore explains why he left Greenpeace.
In 1971 an environmental and antiwar ethic was taking root in Canada, and I chose to participate. As I completed a Ph.D. in ecology, I combined my science background with the strong media skills of my colleagues. In keeping with our pacifist views, we started Greenpeace.In the op-ed, Moore gives two examples of what I call "green superstition", chlorine and phthalates. Greenpeace wants to ban the use of both. (I am not sure that every member of Greenpeace realizes that chlorine is found everywhere naturally, especially near the oceans.) In both cases, if we followed Greenpeace's urging, we would be less safe than we are now.
- 9:32 AM, 22 April 2008 [link]
Clinton And Obama are both right.
A six-week, increasingly hard-edged Pennsylvania primary contest between Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama culminated Tuesday as voters registered their choice - a decision that could save or sink Clinton's flagging candidacy.As they should. Both have character flaws; neither is ready to be commander in chief. Unfortunately, my choice in this contest, none of the above, is not on the Pennsylvania ballot.
- 8:32 AM, 22 April 2008 [link]
Global Warming, The Scientist, And The Incurious NPR Host: First, the basic data for the last ten years, which I have taken from this open letter.
(Those who have followed the climate debate will be able to interpret that chart without my help. For those who have not, this explanation: The green line shows the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, in parts per million, as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. As you can see, carbon dioxide has been rising steadily over the last ten years.
The other two lines show two of the standard sets of temperature readings for the entire earth, for the same ten years. Hadley-Crut has readings for ground stations, MSU for satellites. The readings are given, as I understand it, in deviations from a long term average. So, 1998 was about .6 or .7 of a degree warmer than average, and since that year, the earth has been about .3 of a degree warmer than average, with no obvious trend. (Degrees centigrade, I assume, since this is a letter from scientists.) Or, as the scientists who signed that letter say:
As I understand it, most climate scientists — whatever their opinions on global warming — accept the facts in that chart. Carbon dioxide is rising, but the earth has not warmed in the last ten years. Now, let me say immediately that this does not prove that the computer models that predict global warming are necessarily wrong. Everyone who has studied the matter agrees that you should expect ups and downs in temperatures from year to year, and even decade to decade, whether or not the models are broadly correct. And the earth's temperature was rising before 1998. (Of course, at some point, if the earth does not get warmer than it was in 1998, then the climate models will have to be reexamined.)
Now, for the scientist and the NPR host. On Friday mornings, as I have said before, I sometimes listen to the Weekday program at ten on our local NPR station, KUOW. And I sometimes tune in a little before ten to listen to the discussion of the current weather between University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences Cliff Mass and KUOW host Steve Scher.
In recent weeks, Professor Mass has had many interesting things to say about climate change in that segment. For example, on April 4th, he said that the last few months had been the coldest for the entire world in the last ten years. Global warming, he said, had been set back ten years. (Which will not surprise those who have studied that chart at the beginning of this post.) On April 18th, he noted that some snow stations in the Cascades have 200 percent of the average snowfall, which is not what the global climate models predict. (You can see some recent pictures of that Cascade snow pack here. Pretty pictures, if I do say so myself.)
At least I think they are interesting. And I think a reasonably bright 8th grader would find them interesting, too. And both of us would see some obvious questions to ask Professor Mass. For instance: If the global warming models are correct, shouldn't the earth be warming? And I don't doubt that Professor Mass has some answers for those questions, probably having to do with the weather pattern known as La Niña.
But here's the strange thing: I have never heard Scher ask those questions, never heard him ask why the earth has stopped warming. Which I think is a question anyone with a normal amount of curiosity would ask. But I have learned over the years that most "mainstream" journalists are notably incurious about some matters — and so I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised when one of them fails to ask some obvious questions. I would think that being incurious would be a serious flaw in a journalist, but most people who hire journalists disagree with me on that point.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(Note to Cliff Mass: Steve Scher may not be interested in your answers to these questions, but I am, and I am certain that many of my readers would be, too.)
- 1:55 PM, 21 April 2008 [link]
Tomorrow, Votes Will Be Bought And Sold In Philadelphia: How do I know that? Because votes are bought and sold in Philadelphia in every election.
For decades, candidates have passed money to city ward bosses, who in turn give it out to the committee people and party loyalists under their jurisdiction. Called street money, it is used for any number of purposes. In its most noble form, it reimburses people for gas, coffee or other legitimate expenses rung up on election day.The Obama campaign claims that they are not passing out "street money", but I have my doubts about that. And if he isn't, his allies there will.
- 10:14 AM, 21 April 2008
More: Tom Ferrick, a former columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, describes many examples of corruption from street money in Philadelphia, but thinks that it is inevitable, and not entirely undesirable. (He might feel differently if Philadelphia were controlled by Republicans — as it once was.)
- 12:51 PM, 22 April 2008 [link]
Should We Care About Obama's Friends And Supporters? Does it matter what they believe, as long as Obama doesn't share those beliefs? Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman says that we should, at least in the case of former terrorist William Ayers.
Would Obama be friendly with someone who actually bombed abortion clinics and defends that conduct? Not likely. But he is friendly with William Ayers, a leader of the radical Weather Underground, which in the 1970s carried out numerous bombings, including one inside the U.S. Capitol. (Though the last person who should object is Hillary Clinton, whose husband pardoned two Weather Underground members.)Chapman assumes that Obama doesn't agree with Ayers, at least on Ayers terrorist past. But we really don't know that. I feel confident that Obama believes in Obama, but, beyond that, it is hard to tell what, if anything, he believes. And what he says he believes is often in direct conflict with what he does. For example, he says that he believes in working with Republicans — but he has made little effort to do so in his brief time in the Senate. Similarly, he says that he cares about the poor — but didn't give much to charity before he began running for president.
There would be less mystery about Obama's beliefs, if he were willing to answer more questions from reporters, and if reporters were willing to ask him some of the harder questions. For example, as far as I know, no reporter has asked him whether he shares Reverend's Wright's belief in black liberation theology; no reporter has ever asked him whether he believes what he heard for twenty years in his church. (And I doubt that he would answer that question, if some enterprising reporter did ask it.)
(Curiously, Chapman also said, in an earlier column, that Obama's friendship with Reverend Jeremiah Wright doesn't say much about the man. I think both relationships say something about Obama, as do his friendships with Lessig and Rezko, and many other dubious characters.)
- 7:33 AM, 21 April 2008 [link]
Does Jeremiah Wright Know About This Video? Because it sounds just a little anti-Christian. Eric Erickson gives us a brief description:
Just the other day I posted about the Obama voters at the University of Washington. On their way home from an Obama rally they videotaped themselves ridiculing Christian voters and were kind enough to put it on the web.(You can find the video by following the link.)
Lessig is a supporter of Barack Obama and advises him on technology issues, though their exact relationship is unclear (as is so often the case with Obama supporters).
(By way of Newsbusters.)
- 6:40 AM, 21 April 2008 [link]
878 Inches, So Far: This has been a good snow year for Mt. Rainier. According to their current phone message, Paradise has had 878 inches of snow during the last year. That isn't a record, but that is well above average, and the year doesn't end until the end of June*.
When I visited there on March 22, Paradise had about 20 feet of snow on the ground.
The Jackson visitor center was mostly buried.
The snowshoer is on top of the main part of the Jackson center roof.
There were significant amounts of snow even lower on the mountain. This part of Kautz creek is about 2,000 feet in altitude.
Since I was there in March, Paradise has gotten about 100 more inches of snow, but enough has melted so that the snow pack at Paradise is now only about 18 feet.
(*Mt. Rainier counts the snow for a year beginning in July and ending in June of the next year, in order to keep the winter months in the same year. And, yes, they do sometimes get snow at Paradise (elevation 5400 feet) in July.
Note to photographers: I took these pictures with my Panasonic FZ8, using the snow scene setting. I probably would have gotten slightly better results if I had used a white card to set the color balance. In both winter and summer, that extra step is often worth while, because of the altitude.)
- 5:15 PM, 20 April 2008
Update: I am not sure they are doing their arithmetic right, but the current phone message at Mt. Rainier says that their total snowfall since last July is now 886 inches. That would already be the sixth highest snow total since they began keeping snow records at Paradise in 1920, and it is nearly certain that the area will get significant amounts of snow in the rest of April, and in May. (They did not keep snow records at Paradise for three years during World War II, or for the six years from 1948-1954.)
They estimate that the snow pack at Paradise is down to a mere 216 inches of snow.
If you are wondering, the yearly record for Paradise, 1122 inches, was set in 1971-1972. That was the world record for annual snowfall until it was surpassed in 1999 at the Mt. Baker Ski Area.
- 2:49 PM, 24 April 2008 [link]
Next, Separate Water Fountains? Here's the story.
A father and his five-year-old son were turned away from their local swimming pool because they were the wrong religion.That's their local public swimming pool.
I've seen several other examples of this discriminatory practice, though it does not seem to be widespread — yet.
(By way of Harry's Place.)
- 9:10 AM, 20 April 2008 [link]
Revoke Jimmy Carter's Passport? That's probably a bad idea.
North Carolina's Rep. Sue Myrick wants America to "wake up" and stop allowing terrorism to proliferate — and if that means revoking the passport of a former U.S. president or examining the preaching of prison chaplains, that's what she's prepared to do.But I sympathize with her feelings. And I wish I could think of something practical to do about this ex-president — and public nuisance.
(Most of the other ideas in her list are sensible.)
- 7:21 AM, 20 April 2008 [link]
Pasta With Tomato Sauce And Ribs: I don't plan to do much recipe blogging, since I am not much of a cook. (There are some dishes that I make that most people like, but that's not the same as being a good cook.) But five years ago, I ran across an easy recipe in the New York Times that has been quite rewarding, and so I am sharing it. And since today is cold and wet, and I just started this dish, now is a good time to tell you about it.
It's the first recipe of three in this Mark Bittman article on using slow cookers. (Which, he says, have a poor reputation with most serious cooks, but are ideal for some dishes.) I haven't tried the other two recipes, though I keep meaning to try the short ribs recipe.
I have gotten good results when I substituted "country ribs" for the spareribs, cutting them up a little bit. The mix is sometimes a little watery, so once or twice I have tried adding a can of tomato paste. A real cook would probably know a better solution.
- 12:57 PM, 19 April 2008 [link]
John McCain, Aviator: I have sometimes thought that it would be better if John McCain did not look so ordinary. It might be easier to realize what an extraordinary man he is if, for instance, he were seven feet tall, instead of about average height. But if you take a close look at his service in the Navy, you will realize just how extraordinary he is, in spite of his ordinary appearance.
First, some statistics from Tom Wolfe's "The Truest Sport: Jousting With Sam and Charlie", which you can find in his collection, Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine. (Sam = Surface to Air Missiles, Charlie = North Vietnamese.)
Even without going into combat career Navy fighter pilots stood one chance in four of dying in an accident before their twenty years were up, and one chance in two of having to punch out, eject by parachute, at some point. In combat, especially in Vietnam, God knew what the figures were. The Pentagon was not saying. No, the Pentagon itself seemed bent on raising the ante to ridiculous heights, imposing restrictions that every aviator knew to be absurd. (pp. 55-56)John McCain may not have known those exact numbers when he volunteered to be a carrier pilot, to be an aviator, but he must have known something about the risks of his chosen profession, even in peace time. And he must have known, from the terrible losses, just how much extra risk he was taking on, each time he went out on a mission over North Vietnam. In spite of that, he volunteered for combat, and volunteered for another carrier after a terrible accident on the Forrestal that almost killed him. In other words, he actively sought risks most* would flee from. Even most of those who are braver than average.
But he, and other naval aviators, kept going out on their missions — in spite of the fact that they thought their targets were virtually worthless. Which makes the courage shown by McCain and his fellow aviators even more extraordinary. They went out on missions they thought had no point, missions they thought would not contribute to winning the war. But McCain, and his fellow aviators, persevered anyway, out of patriotism, out of loyalty to each other, and out of what they called "professionalism", though that word hardly seems large enough to hold their concept.
How many men have as much raw courage as John McCain? There is no simple way to measure courage, no Courage Quotient test that we can give prospective naval aviators, so it is impossible to say exactly how extraordinary he is. But I will say this much: McCain is certainly one in a thousand, probably one in ten thousand, and possibly one in a hundred thousand, as far as courage goes.
Men with that amount of courage are often bored by the routine of everyday life, as McCain obviously was, before he became a combat pilot. His Navy career, before combat began, was, at best, mediocre. But as a few extraordinary men do, he found purpose in combat. (And perhaps in his suffering as a prisoner.) That purpose lasted after combat. The man who had been an underachieving party animal became an effective squadron commander and then an even more effective Navy liaison in Congress. After he retired from the Navy, he went into politics and has had an impressive career there as well. In his political career, he has often shown considerable courage, certainly far more than most elected officials.
So McCain is extraordinarily courageous man. But would his extraordinary courage be a plus, a minus, or irrelevant, if he were to become president? We want our presidents to be courageous, but is it possible that McCain is too courageous, too willing to accept risks for himself, and, possibly, for the nation? (A small example: Until just a few weeks ago, McCain had refused Secret Service protection during his campaign. I think most of us would judge that to be too courageous, or, if you prefer, too reckless.) My answer to the question is straightforward: It depends.
In particular, it depends on the times. Simon Leys, in his essay, "Mao Tse-tung and Chinese History", which you can find in his collection, Broken Images, has this to say about extraordinary men, both good and evil, and their times:
In order to do complete justice to themselves, exceptional men need exceptional circumstances. Being so superb amidst disasters, they are attracted to them for that reason. In July 1964, when a visiting delegation from the Japanese Socialist Party offered Mao its apologies for all the sufferings which Japan had inflicted on China during the war, Mao replied with the most lucid cynicism that there was no point regretting these events, because without them his own régime would never had seen the light of day.In short, if our time is stormy, then McCain's courage makes him more fit to be president. If the storm has blown over by January, 2009, then McCain's courage might make him somewhat less fit to be president.
In 2000, I thought that McCain's extraordinary courage was a small minus, because we were at peace. (And I thought the same about George H. W. Bush, another aviator, in 1988.) But now that we are in a war, I think that his courage is a considerable plus. And I think his courage will be a considerable plus for some of our domestic problems, too. For example, it will take courage to confront Congress over pork barrel spending, or the long term problems of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
(Sylvester Stallone also thinks that McCain fits the times, as I mentioned in this post.
*Elite mountain climbers are similar to aviators in this way, and in some other ways.
How much courage do McCain's opponents have? Neither have been tested as McCain has, but I would say that Hillary Clinton has more courage than the average person, and that Barack Obama has less courage than the average person.)
- 2:13 PM, 18 April 2008 [link]
"Everybody We Know Are Lawyers": So says Michelle Obama, speaking for herself and her husband.
I'd love to hear more of her speech than that very short video clip. But even that seems revealing, perhaps unintentionally. Many of us would be happier if the Obamas knew some manufacturers or farmers, or anyone else who actually produces something for a living.
(Wonder if she knows any good lawyer jokes? In my experience, lawyers often know the best ones. But Michelle Obama doesn't seem to have much of a sense of humor. It's hard to imagine her saying, "Professional courtesy", or "Not enough mud", or any of the other famous punch lines to lawyer jokes.)
- 6:27 AM, 18 April 2008 [link]
Michael Barone Says We Won't Have An Old Style Convention In Denver: Why not? Because we now have much different technology, notably cheap long distance phone calls. Delegates no longer have to be in the same room to communicate.
If so, that's too bad, for political junkies like myself. I have been looking forward to a convention with multiple votes, and back room negotiations.
One last thought: John Edwards has a few delegates and has not declared for either candidate. Presumably he wants something for his support. Perhaps to be Hillary Clinton's Poverty Czar?
(I would not be surprised if some of the uncommitted superdelegates get together before the convention to do some bargaining.
And, of course, both Clinton and Obama have been
You can find reactions to these campaign contributions here and here. And you can find my reaction to a superdelegate asking for a different kind of contribution here.)
- 8:28 AM, 17 April 2008 [link]
Still No Crater In This Area: Yesterday, while I was shopping for groceries at a Fred Meyer store I heard an announcement over their PA system. Fred Meyer is looking for workers. And when I got up to the cash register, I saw that they must have hired some recently because two of the registers had signs saying that the cashiers were in training. (There wasn't anyone at those registers. I assume that the signs were for people who would be there later.)
That's just one more story, and a story from an area that may not be typical. But as economist Greg Mankiw notes, if we are in a recession, someone forgot to tell the factories, since industrial production is still growing. (Typically, industrial production falls off before the rest of the economy in recessions.)
(Bob Herbert's crater may soon reach the New York Times newsroom — which might help explain his pessimism.)
- 7:31 AM, 17 April 2008 [link]