Archive:

April 2012, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Obama's "Buffett Rule" Exempts Income From Municipal Bonds:  In January, I joked that Obama was planning to end the tax-free treatment of municipal bonds, because he would have to if he really wanted to make all those earning more than a million a year pay at least 30 per cent of their income in taxes.

I was joking because such a change would increase the borrowing costs of cities and states, many of them governed by Obama allies.  Now we have an "official" legislative "Buffett rule" proposal and, surprise, surprise, the tax break for municipal bonds is being left intact.
The highest-earning U.S. households have ways to escape President Barack Obama's Buffett rule with tax-planning techniques that would limit their liability and undermine the proposal's purpose.

Those affected taxpayers -- the fewer than 0.5 percent of Americans with annual incomes exceeding $1 million and tax rates of less than 30 percent -- could take advantage of tax-free investments such as municipal bonds to escape the Buffett rule's bite.
And, as almost everyone knows, Buffett himself would not be affected by the proposal.

So passive investors could avoid the rule, simply by shifting their money to these tax-free bonds.  And for some of them, that would be a very good idea.
- 6:10 PM, 16 April 2012   [link]


Federal Gas Taxes Were Intended To Pay For Building And Repairing Our Federal Roads:  But, more and more, they are being spent on other things.
That makes too much sense for Washington.  In a typical year only about 65 cents of every gas tax dollar is spent on roads and highways.  The rest is intercepted by the public transit lobby and Congressional earmarkers.  Then there are the union wages that pad the cost of all federal projects.  The New York Times reported in 2010 that 8,074 Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees made $100,000 or more in 2009 even as the system loses money.

Transit is the biggest drain.  Only in New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. does public transit account for more than 5% of commuter trips.  Even with a recent 2.3% gain in bus and rail use due to high gas prices, public transit still accounts for a mere 2% of all inner-city trips and closer to 1% outside of New York.
As I recall, by law public transit gets at least 20 per cent of the gas tax money, which seems excessive.

That leaves another 15 per cent or so that goes to places other than roads and public transit, assuming the Journal's numbers are correct.

Incidentally, we could get even more roads for our money, if we allowed non-union workers to compete with union workers.
- 3:41 PM, 16 April 2012   [link]


Starbucks Isn't My Favorite Place To Get Coffee:  But smashing their stores seems extreme.

(I got a kick out of this summary:
The Occupy movement is a nihilist attack on Western civilization, including the warm fuzzy organic white bread NPR eco-leftism of a modern American company like Starbucks.   The radicals of Occupy see right through the mix of fair trade good intentions, acoustic guitar soul patch hipster design and affluence aspiring capitalism and their answer was an eight foot long steel pipe  The gave-at-the-office latte drinking liberals aren't able to donate their way out of the path of broken glass because at their core, they romanticize these thugs the same way the J-School Occupy fetishists do.
Which has some truth to it, though I would quarrel with the details.)
- 9:05 AM, 16 April 2012   [link]


Maine Is Spending More On Education:  And getting less than it did years ago.
Maine is on par with most other states in terms of fourth-grade reading ability, but the state once was among the best in the country.  Worse, far less than half the state and nation’s fourth-graders are considered proficient in reading, as measured by a top test. That’s causing concern among education and economic officials.
. . .
During the 2010-11 school year, Maine’s K-12 per student expenditures were the eighth highest in the country — at $15,032, according to an annual data summary from the National Education Association.  That spending was more than a third higher than the national average of $10,770.

Based on personal income, Maine’s spending ranked fourth in the country in 2009, according to the NEA, the nation’s teachers union, but the state is not spending that money on teacher pay.  Maine ranked 36th for teacher salaries in 2010-11, the NEA report shows.  Maine’s average teacher salary was $47,182; the national average was $55,623.
Class sizes in Maine, as you may already have guessed, are close to the smallest in the country, with just 10.9 students per teacher.  (Only Vermont has a lower ratio, 9.6.)

So, in fact, Maine is spending much of that money on teacher salaries, but they are spreading it out over many more teachers than most states.  (The national ratio is 15.6, so Maine has almost three teachers for every two in an average state.)

There is hope for improvement.  In the 2012 election, Republicans won the legislature and the governor's office, so Maine's educational bureaucracies may get the shaking up they so obviously need.
- 8:42 AM, 16 April 2012   [link]


Patent Nonsense:  Friday's Wall Street Journal has an article on the spreading use of patents to protect details of user interfaces on smart phones.  The article will delight lawyers who are looking for work — and appall technologists who want to build better gadgets.

The article uses a single Apple innovation (or, possibly, "innovation") to illustrate the problem.
Users activate Apple's iPhones by sliding a rectangle from left to right with a swipe of a finger.  The company has received two patents on the design.
(You may be wondering how Apple got two patents out of that feature.  I'll explain, in just a moment.)

Other companies tried different gestures to accomplish the same thing.  For example:
Users unlock some Samsung phones by moving a finger from inside a circle to anyplace outside it.  Apple and Samsung are currently fighting over this design in California courts.
But first, Apple had to apply for that second patent, making it a generic "slide-to-unlock" feature.

It is possible that all these legal fights will benefit the consumer in the long run — but that seems unlikely.

The article should, but does not, mention that software innovations were not always patentable in most countries, and that, even now, some are dubious about the very idea of patents on software.

(Oh, and the possibility that Apple's innovation may be an "innovation"?  A small Swedish firm, Neonode, applied for a similar patent earlier than Apple did.  Lawyers opposing Apple were delighted when they discovered that.)
- 1:50 PM, 15 April 2012   [link]


"A Question Of Residence"  It's tax time for many, so I thought that you might like Arthur C. Clarke's short story on tax evasion, which I found in this collection.

Three expeditions, American, British, and Russian, have reached the moon simultaneously and have been there for about six months.  Two of the expeditions are about to return, while one stays behind to finish up.  The British volunteer to stay behind, offering a plausible (and self-sacrificing) reason for being last to return.

That doesn't satisfy the Russian commander, and so the British captain gives the real reason they want to stay on the moon for seven months:
Sooner or later, I suppose, this interplanetary loophole will be plugged; the Department of Inland Revenue is still fighting a gallant rear-guard action, but we seem neatly covered under Section 57, paragraph 8 of thee Capital Gains Act of 1972.  We wrote our books and articles on the moon— and until there's a lunar government to impose income tax, we're hanging on to every penny.
Given the British tax rates at the time Clarke wrote the story (1956 or 1957), it easy to understand why the British might want to take advantage of that loophole.

I suppose I should apologize for spoiling the end, but there is no way to tell about the story, without giving the ending.  So I'll add that the collection is a good one.  It reminds me of box of assorted candies, most having no great nutritional value, but almost all them pleasant snacks.

(And there are a few deep stories in the collection, including his famous "The Nine Billion Names of God".)
- 4:21 PM, 14 April 2012   [link]


Two Legal Leftists Have Doubts About The Zimmerman Charges:  Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who thinks that the judge should throw the affidavit out.  The prosecutor could then give up the case, or try again with more evidence.

And defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt, who is not impressed by the affidavit, either.
Incredibly, it claims without support that Zimmerman was "profiling" Martin.  It misrepresents what the dispatcher said to Zimmerman, calling it an "instruction" not to follow Martin.  (The dispatcher said, "We don't need you to do that" to which Zimmerman responded "Ok.")

It says, without providing a basis, that Zimmerman confronted Trayvon.  It then says a struggle ensued, at the end of which, Trayvon was dead.  It says witnesses heard arguments, a struggle and cries for help.  It does not say anyone saw the actual struggle.  (It doesn't refer to the one witness, John, who told police on his 911 call he did observe the struggle and has later said Zimmerman was on the bottom crying out for help.)
. . .
The only independent investigation they mention, interviewing witnesses, is the least reliable method of investigation they could have pursued.  New versions of witness statements are inherently unreliable.  These statements are the product of "post-event information." in which the witness' current memory is a co-mingling of actual memories from the event and information learned later, from the media and others.
(Emphasis added.)
- 9:54 AM, 13 April 2012   [link]


Congratulations To The CIA for destroying this rocket.
North Korea's much hyped long-range rocket launch on Friday ended in apparent failure, South Korean officials said, dealing a blow to the prestige of the reclusive and impoverished state that defied international pressure to push ahead with the plan.
All right, the CIA probably didn't sabotage the program — but it won't hurt to spread the rumor that they might have.

And, it might be true.  In general, our intelligence agency successes are kept secret, and our failures publicized.
- 6:35 AM, 13 April 2012   [link]


South Of The Border, they think less of Obama than they did two years ago.
U.S. President Barack Obama's job approval rating in Latin America is at a new low ahead of the Sixth Summit of the Americas taking place in Cartagena, Colombia, this week.   Obama's median job approval rating in the region rating stands at 47% in 2011, down from 62% in 2009.  Many Latin Americans have lost faith in Obama's ability to strengthen ties between Latin America and the U.S.: A median of 24% across the Latin American countries Gallup surveyed in 2011 believe relations will strengthen with Obama, down from 43% in 2009.
. . .
In neighboring Mexico, residents were half as likely to believe relations would get stronger under Obama in 2011 (19%) as they were in 2009 (43%).  Mexicans, along with Venezuelans (17%), Bolivians (17%), Trinbagonians (16%), and Guatemalans (13%), are the least likely to expect relations to get stronger.
("Fast and Furious" may have something to do with the decline in Mexico.)

Some of this decline was inevitable, since any American president is bound to make decisions that will offend some in Latin America.

But the extent of the decline, over just two years, is more evidence of Obama's foreign policy failures.

A few days ago, I saw a Brazilian journalist on PBS criticizing Obama for not making the personal connection with the current Brazilian president, Dilma_Rousseff, that Bush had with her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

President Rousseff has been openly critical of some US policies, arguing, for instance, that our easy money policies hurt countries like Brazil.  If she had a better relationship with Obama, she might have made those criticisms in private.

Years ago, supporters of George McGovern were accused of believing that the United States could do nothing wrong at home, and nothing right abroad.  I think that criticism, in a milder form, applies to our current president.

(Old-style machine politicians were often opposed to almost all vigorous foreign policy moves, with obvious exceptions in places important to their constituents, like Ireland.)
- 10:35 AM, 12 April 2012
More:  You can find a description of the failed Rousseff visit here — among other things, Obama didn't give her a state dinner, although this is her first visit as president of Brazil — and a video showing how out of sync the two are here.   If you don't want to watch the whole thing, I'll tell you that she never smiles, and never looks at Obama.  She looks like a teacher reading a riot act to the parents of a kid she has given up on.
- 10:12 AM, 12 April 2012   [link]


Chris Christie For VP?  It is just possible that he might be able to swing New Jersey to the Republican side.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s approval rating reached its highest level since the first-term Republican took office in 2010, a Quinnipiac University (78104MF) (78104MF) poll shows.

Registered voters approved of how the governor is doing his job 59 percent to 36 percent, according to the survey released today.  That’s four percentage points higher than in February and up from a low of 44 percent in June.  He scored highest ratings among Republicans, at 92 percent, and was at 64 percent among independents.   Democrats disapproved, 64 percent to 30 percent.
Of course, the people in New Jersey might prefer to keep him as governor.

And there's another interesting possibility:  Christie gets a lot of press coverage in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania.  Could he help the ticket there?  I don't know, but, if I were a strategist in the Romney campaign, I might commission a quiet poll to test that idea.
- 7:21 AM, 12 April 2012   [link]


Michelle Williams Doesn't Seem To Believe In That Old "Content Of Their Character" Idea:  But then not very many members of the old, or the New Black Panthers, do.

Oddly enough, I don't think this story got a lot of play on most networks, though her, shall we say, "colorful" language would interest most viewers.

I hope that her apology is sincere, but have my doubts.
- 6:17 AM, 12 April 2012   [link]


Obama, Pragmatist Or Leftist Ideologue?  Oddly enough, we are still discussing that question.  (I gave my own answer before the 2008 presidential election, for example, here.  He would, I predicted, "govern as close to his leftist ideas and values as he can get away with".  So we would see a mix of policies depending on his political requirements, with sometimes leftist, and sometimes pragmatic appeals to voters.)

Others are still trying to decipher the man, notably Professor Althouse, who voted for Obama in 2008.
I'm independent, moderate, and pragmatic, and I voted for you in 2008 because I thought I saw those qualities in you.  I still see those qualities in you, but the you that has those qualities is one of two Obamas, and the other Obama — Radical Lefty Obama — is a person I will not vote for.

I think you alternate between these 2 personas, and I sense that you've done it for so long that it feels normal and comfortable to you, but I want to urge you to pack up Radical Lefty Obama and stow him away with the rest of your Harvard Law School memorabilia.   I know you — the Moderate Obama — have impressed some very useful people over the years by parading about as Radical Lefty Obama.
(Here's how I understand her last sentence:  In most law schools, it would be an advantage for a professor, especially a black professor, to pose as a "Radical Lefty", whether or not they are one.  It would also help in campaigns in academic neighborhoods like Obama's Hyde Park.)

Professor Hanson sees the same mix of leftism and pragmatism that Professor Althouse does, but interprets it very differently.
Such revelations are all the more striking in Obama's case since rarely has a president's ideology been so at variance with his public persona. His real views have been gleaned mostly from unguarded moments when he talks confidently without prompts — and therefore sounds conniving and shallow.
. . .
If it comes down to a choice between an eloquent delivery of someone else's neatly crafted liberal ideas and Obama's ad-hoc revelations of his own hard-left worldview, it is no wonder why most of us prefer the teleprompter.
But the ad-hoc revelations tell us more about Obama, in Hanson's opinion — and in mine.

Nonetheless, I can not say, with absolute certainty, that Obama does not have some real moderate and pragmatic beliefs.  But to believe that, you have to believe either that Obama was concealing his beliefs from radicals like Rashid Khalidi — or that Obama has changed his beliefs, in recent years.  And you also have to believe that Obama's fairly standard leftist record in the Illinois senate and the US senate does not, somehow, reflect his underlying views.

I don't see any evidence that Obama was concealing his pragmatic views from his leftist allies, or that he has changed, in recent years.  But if you know of any, I would be grateful if you called it to my attention.
- 3:48 PM, 11 April 2012   [link]


Today's New Yorker Cartoon shows two businessmen, one seated at a computer, and the other standing beside him.

The man seated at the computer is saying, "I don't get it— the last time I jiggled the mouse this way we made a 16.45 percent profit."

(With all the bad news today, I thought you might appreciate a joke, even a mediocre joke.)
- 2:40 PM, 11 April 2012   [link]


Here's What Offended Administrators in Warwick, Rhode Island.
The mural was meant to depict the life of a man and it ended with the scene with the man, woman and a child.  The student artist, 17-year-old Liz Bierendy, said that she depicted the man and woman has [as] married with wedding rings.  According to Horoshack’s press release the scene was painted over because “some of the members of the Pilgrim High School community suggested that the depiction of a young man’s development from boyhood through adulthood as displayed may not represent the life experiences of many of the students at Pilgrim High School.”
Not all of the administrators, fortunately.  The superintendent, Peter Horoschak, was smart enough to over-rule his subordinates.

I think the students at Pilgrim High School will be able to cope with the horrific idea that some of them may get married and have children.

By way of Tim Blair.

(I did a quick search looking for more from the school administrators, but didn't find anything.)
- 8:52 AM, 11 April 2012   [link]


The New York Times Has Labor Problems:  All the more reason for the publisher to take off on a Himalayan trek.
Reporter Don McNeil sent a pissed missive to about 150 Times employees, and naturally, it was obtained by Gawker. In it, McNeil slams publisher/scion Arthur Sulzberger Jr. for offenses including canceling the 2012 State of the Times address, failing to speak at a memorial for reporter Anthony Shadid, and scheduling an indulgent trip (relevant embarrassing YouTube footage included):
After all, who would want to spend time his time negotiating with some unpleasant representatives of the Newspaper Guild when you could be hiking among some beautiful mountains?

I sometimes feel sorry for "Pinch" Sulzberger, who inherited a position for which he is unfit.  But then I remember how much damage he has done, and remember that he could turn the job over to a competent professional.
- 7:54 AM, 11 April 2012   [link]


Oops!  This won't help Newt Gingrich.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports Gingrich's $500 check to pay the [Utah primary] filing fee has bounced. If the former House speaker doesn't pay up by April 20, the story says, his name won't appear on the ballot.
- 6:47 AM, 11 April 2012   [link]


I Won't Suggest That President Obama Is Using An Ancient Rhetorical Trick, paralipsis.
"I'm a firm believer that whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, that you're a patriot, you care about this country, you love this country," Obama said at an intimate fundraiser in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. "And so I'm not somebody who, when we're in a political contest, suggests somehow that one side or the other has a monopoly on love of country."
Obama said that in order to accuse his opponents of being unpatriotic.

Following Obama's example, I won't suggest that he is bankrupting the nation, or weakening our defenses and ties to our allies.

(Don't use paralipsis every day?  Neither do I, but you hear that trick all the time in political speeches.  It's often described as one form of apophasis, or kin to it.

One of the commenters at that Politico article reminds us that Obama accused George W. Bush of being "unpatriotic" — for running up the debt.)
- 5:35 AM, 11 April 2012   [link]


Admiral Leahy, Admiral Richardson, And The Fallibility Of Memory:  In late 1940, Admiral James O. Richardson was the commander of the US fleet in the Pacific.  When the Roosevelt administration ordered the fleet to move to Pearl Harbor, Richardson objected, seeing Pearl Harbor as a poor substitute for San Diego.

He took his protest directly to Roosevelt and met with him at a working lunch in the fall of 1940.  At the meeting was Admiral William D. Leahy

In the congressional hearings on the Pearl Harbor attack after the war, Richardson and Leahy were questioned about what Roosevelt had said at the luncheon.  The two admirals had quite different recollections.
According to Admiral Richardson, the President at this luncheon on 8 Oct. 1940 said that the United States would not go to war with Japan if the Japanese attacked Thailand, the Kra Isthmus or the Dutch East Indies, and doubted that even if they attacked the Philippines we would enter the war, but the Japs might make "mistakes" which would bring us in.  But Admiral Leahy, who was present at the luncheon, remembered no such statement and indicated that if Japan had then invaded the Philippines, the President would have recommended declaring war. (p. 47)
One would expect that Leahy and Richardson would have every reason to listen carefully to what Roosevelt told them.  But they had entirely different recollections.

On the surface, Leahy's recollection seems more plausible.  But it is also true that Roosevelt was famous (infamous?) for having the ability to convince two men with opposing positions that he agreed with both of them.  So it is possible that he didn't say what either admiral remembered, but something vague enough so that each could fit it into what he wanted to believe.

We tend to trust eyewitness, or in this case "ear witness", testimony more than we should.

Whatever happened at the luncheon, the Roosevelt administration, decided, soon after, to replace Richardson with Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, who became, as a result, one of the scapegoats of the Pearl Harbor attack.

(According to Morison, Richardson did not see a danger from an air attack at Pearl, but he did order more air patrols than his successor, Kimmel.)
- 8:11 PM, 10 April 2012   [link]


Error Correction At Broadcast News Organizations:  The errors made by our news organizations are their most annoying defects.  Not the worst, but the most annoying, because so many journalists are so bad at correcting their errors.

(Those who work in news organizations may be surprised by this, so I'll describe at length what usually happens when someone who isn't a journalist tries to get a journalist to make a correction: nothing.  If you send the reporter, columnist, or editorial writer a polite email explaining their error and asking them to make a correction, you will, in most cases, not even get a reply.  Exception: They will, usually, correct minor mistakes, such as a misspelled name.)

Our broadcast news organizations are especially poor at making corrections.   Often they don't even provide an obvious way to request a correction, or tell you who to send corrections to.  Our newspapers have their faults, but their mastheads usually tell you who is responsible for what.

In my experience, our broadcast news organizations make more, and worse, errors than our newspapers.  So their unwillingness to provide easy ways to suggest corrections, or simple ways to tell who is in charge, is, depending on my mood, amusing, annoying, or infuriating.

And so, on the off chance that our broadcast news organizations care about getting their stories right, I have some modest suggestions about how they should handle corrections.

I was inspired to make these suggestions by a recent case before the Washington News Council.  A report by one of our local NPR stations, KUOW, on a local pro-life organization got some of the facts wrong.  KUOW refused to make an on-air correction, but did put up a post or two after they received complaints from the Vitae Foundation.

In my opinion (and that of the News Council) those posts were an inadequate correction.  The News Council noted that many fewer people would read the posts than would have heard the original story.  That's true, but the News Council did not go as far as I would.

Broadcast news is, from the point of view of the audience, ephemeral, though less so than it once was, thanks to the Internet.  You hear, or see, a story, and unless you happened to be recording it, you will often be unsure, later, just what you heard or saw.  And if a correction comes days or weeks later, you may easily miss it.

So I suggest that our broadcast news organizations use a two-level method of publishing their corrections.  They should correct their original stories on the same program where they occurred — and they should post all corrections on their web sites.  In, I must add, a clearly labeled location.

And they should make it obvious on their web sites how a viewer or listener can request a correction and who should get those requests.

The very best news organizations may also want to add the corrections to the official copies of their stories.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 7:00 PM, 10 April 2012   [link]


Are Texas Teachers Better Off Than California Teachers?   Probably.

You probably know that Texas students do better than California students.
The two states’ educational outcomes reflect this disparity.  If we compare national test scores in math, science, and reading for the fourth and eighth grades among four basic ethnic and racial categories — all students, whites, Hispanics, and African-Americans — Texas beats California in every category, and by a substantial margin.  In fact, Texas schools perform consistently above the national average across categories of age, race, and subject matter, while California schools perform well below the national average.
(Chuck DeVore is referring to their scores on tests given by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.)

That's by far the most important thing we should consider in evaluating our schools.   But we also might want to know how well teachers, and other education employees, are doing.

Let me begin by saying something that I think most of those who have known teachers well will agree with:  Most teachers are happier when their students are learning than when their students are not.  So the teachers in Texas are likely to be happier than the teachers in California, on the average, because their students are learning more.

Now for some more numbers from DeVore:
The average state spends 5.7 percent of its economy on education.  Neither California (at 5.6 percent) nor Texas (5.4 percent) deviates far from the average.  But Texas stretches its spending much further, employing 17 percent more educators per capita than does California, with its strong teachers’ unions and highly paid teachers.
(At this point, I am going to substitute teachers for "educators".   I don't think there's any harm in that since teachers are usually a majority of the employees in our public schools and other's pay is closely related to theirs, but I want you to know what I am doing.)

So, you might conclude that California teachers are less happy, but better off than Texas teachers.

However, that leaves out one critical piece of data, the cost of living in the two states.   According to DeVore, the cost of living is 42 per cent higher in California than in Texas.

So, the Texas teachers' lower incomes buy more.  In particular, they buy more houses, which cost much less, on the average, in Texas than in California.

Some, especially some on the left, will want me to add one more item to this comparison: the difference in unions between the two states.  Texas has weak teachers' unions; California has strong unions, who protect their member's jobs, almost regardless of their performance.

And for some teachers in California, that is an important advantage.  But if we consider what kinds of teachers are likely to value those protections, we may not want to provide them as abundantly as California does.

Putting everything together, I think it fair to conclude that most Texas teachers are better off than most California teachers — and that this is especially true for the youngest teachers, who do not have tenure, and who have not bought a home yet.
- 2:56 PM, 10 April 2012   [link]


Santorum Suspends His Campaign:  As you almost certainly know, by now.

For the moment, I have just a few thoughts on his decision.  First, he has not quit, though some are headlining it that way.  A suspended campaign can be revived, though the odds are against that happening.

Second, it seems likely that his decision was motivated, in part, by his daughter's latest hospitalization.  One of the things I admire about Santorum is his devotion to his family — and their devotion to him.

Third, I was glad to see Romney pulling his critical ads, after he heard about the illness.  That was the right thing to do.  (I hope don't sound too crude when I add that it was also the right thing to do, politically.  Sometimes the two do coincide.)
- 12:39 PM, 10 April 2012   [link]


It's Probably Just As Well That They Aren't Footballs, soccer balls, or baseballs.
Using a special basketball festooned with his own image, President Obama shot some hoop today with former NBA players, Harlem Globetrotters and kids attending the White House Easter Egg Hunt.  The balls with the presidential face were brought for by the NBA players who came to the event, White House officials said.
Even so, there are still political possibilities:  If a player blocks an attempted shot with an Obama ball, is he rejecting Obama's policies?

(I clarified Tapper's post by crossing out one confusing word.)
- 7:54 AM, 10 April 2012   [link]


For Decades, Vice President Biden Has Posed as a guy from a working class background.

(Ashton Ellis missed the most famous example, Biden's use of Neil Kinnock's words in the 1988 presidential campaign.)

So you may be interested in seeing pictures of his tough, working class high school, Archmere Academy.

What worries me — a little — is that, by now, Biden may believe his own stories.

Biden has been a professional politician all his adult life.  That can be a working class job, but wasn't, in his case.

(I have to admit that I rather like Biden, partly because he sometimes tells inconvenient truths, like his recent admission that he had become a senator, rather than a mayor, because as a mayor, "You have to produce.")
- 6:55 AM, 10 April 2012   [link]


Seven Per Cent Quotas For The Disabled?  That's what James Bovard says the Obama administration is planning to impose.

Some of you are already wondering whether seven per cent of adults are disabled.  There are that many, if you broaden the definition enough.
The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments of 2008 vastly expanded the definition of disability to include people with diabetes, depression, heart disease or cancer, as well as people who have significant troubles "standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and interaction with others."  Anyone who is labeled disabled acquires a right to request "reasonable" accommodations from employers and others—with the federal government waiting to sue businesses who fail to pass muster.
Some of those, for example "thinking" and "interaction with others", sound like reasonable requirements for most jobs, in my opinion.

I said "quotas", not "quota", because:
The agency's disability quota is exceptionally draconian, in that it is proposing that all contractors achieve 7% disabled in each specific job group—which it defines as "one or more jobs with similar content, wages rates, and opportunities."  This job-group mandate is far more onerous than, say, an overall 7% quota.  It is also patently unreasonable.
That may seem unreasonable to Bovard, but not to the Labor Department bureaucrats who devised these rules.

(The Americans With Disabilities Act was one of the achievements of the first Bush administration.   I am not being sarcastic when I say that, but I will add that Bush erred in thinking that it would be administered by people as reasonable and sensible as he was.)
- 2:33 PM, 9 April 2012   [link]


Which Party Members Spend The Most On House Office Budgets?  They tend to be Democrats.
A tightening federal budget is hitting members of the House of Representatives where they work, forcing at least one in 10 to make sizable cuts from what they spent on office expenses last year, according to a USA TODAY analysis.
. . .
The average House office budget was $1.45 million last year, so a 6.4% cut is almost $93,000.  For all members of Congress, staff salaries are the biggest costs, and senior members tend to have long-tenured staff who earn top salaries.  Of the 40 highest payrolls in the House, 33 belong to Democratic members, according to Legistorm.com, which tracks congressional salaries.  Those figures do not include representatives' salaries — $174,000 for most members.
(Of the 20 lowest payrolls, 17 belong to Republican members.)

I assume, although the article doesn't say so, that these cuts are a result of the Republican takeover of the House, that they are cutting their own budgets to show that they are serious about controlling federal spending.  (I'll have to find some recent White House budgets, to see if President Obama is also trying to set a good example.)

At the top of the USA Today article is a scrolling table, with numbers for all the members.

(I have seen this pattern, with Republican congressmen being relatively more thrifty than Democratic congressmen, for decades.)
- 12:29 PM, 9 April 2012   [link]


There's So Much Snow At Mt. Rainier That They Are Stacking It Up in Front Of The Main Camera:  Click on the Rainier picture on the right to get an idea how high they are having to stack the snow, or click on the picture from the guide house (gh) or of the main parking lot (east) for other views.

How much, officially?  As of today, they have gotten 653 inches of snow at Paradise on Mt. Rainier since last July, and there are 225 inches of snow on the ground.

So they have already passed the annual average, 641 inches, with almost three months to go.  In that same time period last year, the mountain received 137 more inches.

(At the end of June, when we have the new annual total, I'll see if it is possible to say something about the recent shrinkage — or growth — of glaciers on Mt. Rainier.)
- 10:17 AM, 9 April 2012   [link]


John Lott And Barack Obama Were Colleagues At The University Of Chicago:  But not friends.
"The book [Lott and Norquist's Debacle] relates a couple out of the dozen-and-a-half conversations that I had with him," Lott told The Daily Caller.  "But they were all very short, cut off by Obama turning his back on me and walking away."

"He wouldn’t shake hands.  It was very clear that Obama disagreed on the gun issue and acted as if he believed that people who he disagreed with were not just wrong, but evil.   Unlike other liberal academics who usually enjoyed discussing opposing ideas, Obama simply showed disdain."
That's extreme, but consistent with Obama's general refusal to take opposing ideas seriously.

The problem with that approach is that sometimes your political opponents are right.  And Lott may be right that gun control has tended to increase crime.  Certainly, here is some evidence to support his position.

(For the record:  I do try, generally, to look hard at the arguments of political opponents.  Today, for instance, I am going to take a serious look at an article in that far-left magazine, The Nation, arguing that vote fraud is not a serious problem.

Lott has had an interesting academic career, with one or two little ethical problems of his own.)
- 8:40 AM, 9 April 2012
More:  Today's Wall Street Journal has a long interview with Daniel Kahneman on retirement decisions.  In it, he several times makes points similar to the one I made earlier today.

For example:
I don't think that people should generally try to think like scientists.  Most of the time, it does not matter, and being yourself is the best you can do.

On some occasions, when the stakes are high, examining the evidence more systematically—especially the evidence that makes you uncomfortable—is likely to be worthwhile.
That's good advice for anyone, but perhaps especially for academics and political leaders.
- 3:51 PM, 9 April 2012   [link]


The Job Market And Our "So-Called" Recovery:   Professor Mankiw (who was an advisor to President Bush) has a graph showing the collapse of our job market.

The recession ended, officially, early in 2009, three years ago.  At that time, about 58.3 per cent of working age adults had jobs; now, three years later, about 58.3 per cent of working age adults have jobs — down about 5 per cent from the peak in 2007.
- 6:33 AM, 9 April 2012   [link]