Archive:

April 2012, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Asteroid Mining From Science Fiction To Science Fact?   All my life I have been reading science fiction stories about mining asteroids.  But I had begun to give up on the idea that I would ever see it happen.

There were always good reasons for thinking we might want to mine the asteroids.   We have known for some time that some have higher concentrations of some precious metals than are found on the surface of the earth.  The near-earth asteroids require relatively less energy to get to and from than other objects in the solar system.   Refining the metals in space would remove a serious source of pollution here on earth.   And so on.

But the initial costs of mining asteroids are so high that it was hard to see how you could put together a company with the necessary resources.  Well, we may have one, Planetary Resources.  For me, the most interesting thing about the company is the wealth of the investors backing it, about $50 billion according to one news account.

Their initial plan seems reasonable, too.  They plan to survey the asteroids with robots, until they find one with water for supplies, and then one with platinum, which has many industrial uses, even though it currently sells for about $1500 an ounce.  They would then mine that asteroid with robots.

What strikes me about this plan is that it may depend on good old-fashioned luck; they may succeed if they find the right kinds of asteroids early in their search, but fail if they don't.  Gold miners would understand that problem.

(Three metals in the platinum group, ruthenium, rhodium, and palladium, are so valuable, and so rare, that some have proposed creating them, commercially, in nuclear reactors.)
- 7:19 PM, 24 April 2012   [link]


News You May Be Able To Use:  Sugar is brain fuel; specifically, when you think hard, you use up glucose.

That's one of the many things I've learned from Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow.  Kahneman describes a simple experiment in which participants were given a task to make them think hard and use up their glucose.  They were then given drinks of lemonade, which was sweetened with either Splenda or glucose.
Then all participants were given a task in which they needed to overcome an intuitive response to get the correct answer.  Intuitive errors are normally much more frequent among ego-depleted people, and the drinkers of Splenda showed the expected depletion effect.   On the other hand, the glucose drinkers were not depleted.  Restoring the level of available sugar in the brain had prevented the deterioration of performance. (p. 43)
Interesting experiment, but does it have any real-world applications?

Probably.  Kahneman follows that with a description of a study of eight Israeli parole judges who spend all their days evaluating applications for parole.  They approve about 35 per cent of the applications, but their approval rates varied inversely with the time since they had eaten.  An applicant had a 65 per cent chance of getting parole if his application came before a judge right after lunch, and almost 0 per cent chance if his application came just before lunch, or some other meal.

Kahneman concludes that when the judges were short on glucose, they reverted to the "easy" decision, denying parole.
- 1:03 PM, 24 April 2012   [link]


What's Obama Doing These Days?  If you said mostly campaigning, you would be right, judging by the schedules the White House releases.

Here are links to Obama's last ten weekday schedules, followed by my code for what Obama was doing each day.  (C= campaigning, CW = mostly campaigning, WC = mostly working, and W = working.)

11 April: CW
12 April: C
13 April: C
16 April: ?
17 April: WC
18 April: C
19 April: WC
20 April: WC
23 April: WC
24 April: C

And that's just the week days.  I assume he spends much of each weekend campaigning, when he isn't playing golf.

Whether the nation is better off when he is not working is something I have mixed feelings about.  Obviously, the nation has many pressing problems; equally obviously, Obama may make them worse, if he does try to solve them.

(Thanks to Keith Koffler, for keeping track of these schedules for us.)
- 10:50 AM, 24 April 2012
Chuckle:  President Obama will start his re-election campaign, officially, in one week.  Andrew Malcolm has probably stopped laughing — by now — at that announcement.
- 3:10 PM, 26 April 2012   [link]


The World Won't Wait:  Jackson Diehl points out the weakness in President Obama's delay strategy.

Sample:
And so it goes.  Civil war may rage in Syria, with thousands of deaths and a potentially major effect on U.S. strategic interests.  But Obama is determined to do nothing that would take away his stump speech boast that the "tide of war is receding."  In the negotiations with Iran that began Saturday, the administration is focused on a time-buying deal that will stop the most dangerous Iranian nuclear activities and further deter Israeli military action — while leaving the underlying problem to be solved later.
When it may be impossible to solve at a reasonable cost.

As Diehl explains, this strategy of delay leaves Obama at the mercy of, among others, North Korea's Kim Jong Eun.

You can make a parallel argument about our budget problems, and indict Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi along with Obama.  As you know, the Senate, under Reid's "leadership" has refused to even pass a budget for three years now.  And all three leaders have postponed action on entitlement reform, again and again.
- 10:15 AM, 24 April 2012   [link]


Imagine That You Can Travel Freely Between Nations Without A Passport:  That was true of most of Europe before World War I.  In 1985, it became true for Germany, France, and the three Benelux countries, building on an earlier agreement between the Benelux countries.  Since then, the Schengen Area, as it is called, has been extended, again and again.

For tourists and honest businessmen, this end of border controls has been great.

But it always helps to also look at such changes from the viewpoint of people on the other side of the law.  Let's suppose that you want to smuggle drugs or yourself into one of the countries covered by the agreement.  If you have the resources — and many illegals do — you would probably try to cross the border around these nations at one of its weaker points.  Even if you are planning to sell your illegal drugs, or set up illegal residence in country A, you might prefer to enter through country B, because the border controls are weaker there.

And that is exactly what has been happening, and what has forced the nations in the agreement to have second thoughts.  As so often happens in Europe, Denmark led the way.
It was less that one year ago that Denmark decided to reintroduce controls on its borders with Germany and Sweden, a move, Copenhagen said, that was necessary to put a stop to illegal immigration and organized crime.  The reactions from Berlin and other European capitals were immediate and unequivocal.  The step taken by Copenhagen marked a "bad day for Europe," said German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger.  Europe's border-free travel regime, said the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, "cannot be infringed upon."

Now, just nine months later, it is Germany itself that is looking to weaken the Schengen Agreement, the treaty signed in 1985 to remove inner-European border controls.   According to a report in the Friday edition of daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany and France are seeking to change the treaty to allow for the temporary reintroduction of border controls.
(No word on whether they have apologized to Denmark.)

How temporary?  They say for thirty days, but cynics may recall this old French saying:  There is nothing so permanent as the provisional.

Which nation is thought to have the leakiest borders?  You've probably already guessed that it's Greece.  (To be fair, a glance at a map will show you that Greece would have a much harder time policing its borders than, say, Luxembourg.  And Greece is building a wall along its border with Turkey.)
- 7:55 AM, 24 April 2012   [link]


Obama's Law:  The Washington Times has a good line.
Newton’s law says for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Obama’s law says for every innovation, there is an equal and opposite regulation.  Despite President Obama’s assurance he is doing everything he can to solve the nation’s energy woes, his minions are busily grinding out fresh regulations to ensure only unaffordable power options have a chance at success.
Is the newspaper right?  Mostly, as far as I can tell, though I might say expensive and politically correct, rather than unaffordable.
- 6:54 AM, 24 April 2012   [link]


No, Exponential Doesn't Necessarily Mean Very Large:   One of the latest to make this very common mistake is Keith Olbermann.  (Who was on "This Week", for no obvious reason.)
Politicos, pundits and the presidential-campaign watching public spent the past week pondering which is worse, a presidential candidate who put his dog in a kennel strapped to the roof of his car for a 12-hour drive or a president who ate dog meat as a child living in Indonesia.

"It raises the level of absurdity to something exponential," Olbermann said on "This Week" about the Romney campaign criticizing Obama for consuming dog meat when he was 6 years old.
(Emphasis added.)

Olbermann is probably thinking of something like this, where 5 is the previous level of absurdity: 52 = 25.  But exponents don't need to be positive integers, so he could mean this: 5.2 = 1.38.  They don't even need to be positive.  (If you have forgotten your high school math, use your calculator to evaluate 5-2 to see what I mean.)

What should journalists say instead of "exponential", if they don't want to offend their high school math teachers?  This would work: "greater by an order of magnitude".   Or even by "orders of magnitude".

I wouldn't mention this — except that it reminds us that many of our journalists are close to innumerate, that they don't know the mathematics that almost every high school graduate should know.

(OK, I also mentioned this partly because the guilty party was Keith Olbermann.)
- 2:48 PM, 23 April 2012   [link]


Washington State Politicians Can Be Just As Foolish As California Politicians On Transportation Issues:  Just on a smaller scale.

So far, we haven't had any plans for a $100 billion high-speed train, which will do the same thing that airlines are already doing, sometimes profitably, but we do have many smaller examples, such as this one:
At the end of each workday in downtown Seattle, Dan McDougall walks two blocks and boards the SoundRunner passenger ferry to Kingston.  His 50-minute ride comes with free Wi-Fi and $3 premium beer.  It gets him home 40 minutes faster than the Washington State Ferries route via Bainbridge Island.

It's an enjoyable commute, but one that has attracted so few riders in its first 18 months of operation that taxpayers are subsidizing each passenger at a rate of about $35,000 a year.
Assuming about 400 trips a year, that's a subsidy of 80 or 90 dollars per trip.

Are these ferry riders poverty-stricken people who need this kind of subsidy?  Generally speaking, no.

(There's a similar subsidy per trip for commuter trains, running on ordinary railroad tracks to Seattle from the cities to the south and north of the city, Tacoma and Everett.  Those commuters, too, tend to be well off.

Cynics might suspect that both sets of commuters are not just better off than average, but better connected, politically.)
- 12:53 PM, 23 April 2012   [link]


David Carr Of The New York Times Agrees With Me:  In this post, I complained that broadcast news organizations were poor at correcting their own mistakes, and suggested that they broadcast corrections on the same program where the mistakes were made — and post them prominently on their web sites.

Today, Carr gives us a remarkable example of a broadcast news organization refusing to correct the error where it was first broadcast.

After broadcasting an audio clip on the "Today" show about George Zimmerman last month that hit the trifecta of being misleading, incendidary, and dead-bang wrong, NBC took serious action: it fired the producer and issued a statement apologizing for making it appear as if Mr. Zimmerman had made overtly racist statements

The only thing NBC didn't do was correct the report on the "Today" show.

But they should, maybe even more than once.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 12:31 PM, 23 April 2012   [link]


Michael Ramirez Makes A Brutal Attack on the Los Angeles Times.

Brutal, and, in my opinion, entirely deserved.  The newspaper was told — before they published the pictures — that our enemies would use them for propaganda, and that publishing them would almost certainly result in additional American deaths.   They decided to publish the pictures anyway.  (I'll have to dig up their justification, which makes their decision look even worse.)

(Ramirez worked for the Los Angeles Times for years.  They foolishly decided to discontinue his cartoon, almost certainly because his political views made them nervous.)
- 10:42 AM, 23 April 2012   [link]


Arthur Brisbane Scolds The NYT:  The newspaper's public editor, in a quite remarkable column, tacitly concedes that the Times has failed to cover Barack Obama adequately, and urges them to do so now.

Samples:
Many critics view The Times as constitutionally unable to address the election in an unbiased fashion.  Like a lot of America, it basked a bit in the warm glow of Mr. Obama's election in 2008.  The company published a book about the country's first African-American president, "Obama: The Historic Journey."  The Times also published a lengthy portrait of him in its Times Topics section on NYTimes.com, but there is nothing of the kind about George W. Bush or his father.

According to a study by the media scholars Stephen J. Farnsworth and S. Robert Lichter, The Times's coverage of the president's first year in office was significantly more favorable than its first-year coverage of three predecessors who also brought a new party to the White House: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan.
. . . .
Now is the time to shift to a campaign coverage paradigm that compares promises with execution, sheds light on campaign operations, and assesses the president's promises for a second term.
(Farnsworth and Lichter were so struck by the imbalance in coverage that they speculated that the Times was shifting to the left in response to competition from Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal.)

Brisbane notes that there has been some improvement in recent months, and received promises that the news side of the newspaper will do better.  (He apparently did not try to get similar promises from the opinion writers, many of whom have long thought that they have a right to their own facts, as well as their own opinions.)
- 6:37 AM, 23 April 2012   [link]


Remember Those Feel-Good Stories About How Well The Obama Girls Were Getting Along With The Secret Service Agents?  How they had their favorite agents, and quarreled over who got them?

I don't think we'll be seeing similar stories for a while.

I won't claim that I foresaw this current scandal, or anything like it, but I do remember thinking at the time that the attitudes of everyone involved seemed a little, well, frivolous, for what is, after all, a serious job.

(Here's one of those stories from last October.)
- 8:14 AM, 22 April 2012   [link]


It'll Do:  The new laptop, that is.  The screen is OK, which is about as good as it gets with inexpensive laptops, the mouse pad works though I'll have to either practice those "gestures" or get rid of them, and the keyboard has a somewhat better feel than I expected.  I haven't tried the web cam yet, but others who have seem to like it.  The speakers would not impress an audiophile, but they'll do

And it does have a lot of protections, including an HP program that will encrypt the hard disk.  Which I will, probably, use, because I do plan to take the computer on trips.

There is almost no written documentation with the system — which won't surprise anyone who has bought a computer recently.

And the performance?  It's a little slower, over all, than the computer I built for myself two years ago, though it might improve after I clear out some of the "bloatware" that came with it.   (For those interested in the details, the desktop does better at accessing memory (7.4 versus 5.9), business graphics (6.5 versus 4.7), and 3D and games graphics (6.5 versus 6.1).   The two systems scored the same on processor speed (6.5) and disk transfer rate (5.9).   All of these numbers come from Microsoft's test program, which rates systems on a 1.0 to 7.9 scale.)

The out-of-the-box experience was, on the other hand, lousy.  When you get a new system, you want to turn it on and try it out, right?  But HP and Microsoft have other ideas; it took a surprisingly long time to do the simple things like naming the system and setting my password, and hours, literally, to install all the updates (78!)

And I am not anywhere near finished, since I have to remove a number of programs that I don't want.  I also have to create or order system disks.  (Like almost all modern systems, it does have a recovery partition, but I prefer to have both.)

But I am not going to do those tasks this afternoon, because the weather is simply gorgeous right now.

(One oddity:  The laptop came with an 8-page booklet in 29 different languages telling me that I can play DVDs with the Windows Media Player.  I suspect the booklet is there to tell me that I can't play them with a fancy Arcsoft media program that comes with the system.)
- 2:13 PM, 21 April 2012   [link]


Popo is popping off.
México's Popocatépetl volcano has spewed super-heated rock fragments into the sky and officials worry that this is a sign of more serious eruptions to come.
But so far I haven't seen any really interesting pictures on the web cam.  (There's a link to the web cam down on the left.  The pictures from it have often been unavailable in recent days, probably because of the extra traffic it's getting.)

(There's some background on the volcano at the usual Wikipedia article.  For what it is worth, they give a significantly different number for its height than the Fox did, 17,802 feet instead of 17,886 feet, while noting that "Sources vary widely on the elevation of" the mountain.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone with experience in modern surveying techniques on how large that range in height estimates should be.)
- 8:15 AM, 20 April 2012
Update:  I'm told that that range of estimated heights is about what you should expect, if they were measuring the height, using ordinary survey instruments, from Mexico City.

This discussion of how they have measured the height of Mt. Rainier, getting more and more accurate over the years, shows what you need to do if you want to measure a mountain's height to within a foot or so.  Note that the first estimate was more than 2,000 feet too low.
- 2:14 PM, 23 April 2012   [link]


How Good Predictors Are The Presidential Polls Right Now?   Not very.
In late October, polls will be highly predictive of the outcome, but now, with more than 200 days remaining until the election, the predictive accuracy of polling is less than 50/50.
This shouldn't surprise us.  Many voters, especially independents, have not been paying much attention to the race, and won't until the candidates are nominated and the campaigns begin, officially.  (It is easy for political junkies to think that most voters pay as much attention to politics as they do — easy, but wrong.)

And then there is the problem of figuring out who will vote.  The pollsters all have their own voter screens, which typically work better as the election gets closer.  (Minor but important technical point:  A voter screen which works well in one election may fail in another.)
- 7:52 AM, 20 April 2012   [link]


From CPU To APU:  The laptop I ordered (and which should be here tomorrow) will have an APU, rather than a CPU — though Intel, which makes the Core i3, is still calling it a CPU.

When Intel invented the first CPU, the 4004, they did so to replace a number of specialized chips with a single, general chip.  Ever since then, designers have added features to the CPUs, often allowing computer manufacturers to get rid of peripheral chips, making systems simpler and more reliable.

The Z80, for instance, ran all the 8080 instructions, but also included circuits for the memory interface.  The 486DX (and nearly all CPUs since then) included a math co-processor, which before then required a separate chip.  (For example, 8086 systems sometimes (usually?) included sockets for an 8087 math co-processor, which did long division, trig functions, and so on, much faster than the 8086.)

In recent years, the limit on the speed of a program has often been, not in the CPU, but in graphics processing units, the GPUs.  These were such bottlenecks, especially in high end games, that systems were designed to use two graphics boards, with each one responsible for drawing half of the screen.  At the same time, others were noticing that the GPUs had become specialized CPUs, with very useful applications outside of drawing pixels on screens.  (Simplifying drastically, the GPUs were often better at doing many simple operations simultaneously than the CPUs.)

And so both Intel and AMD decided to combine a CPU with a GPU on a single chip.   AMD calls them APUs; Intel doesn't, at least for now.  AMD used Radeon designs for the graphics in its new APUs; Intel used its own graphics.

What do you get for it?  A more powerful, more efficient, more reliable, and less expensive, computer.

(Which line is better, Intel or AMD?  From what I can tell, it depends on what you are trying to do.  At a given price, if you are doing something graphics intensive, AMD APUs may have the better performance; if you are running spreadsheets, Intel may be faster.

You can find some comparisons here and here.  The comparisons are both from last year, so check around more, if this is a matter of great importance to you.)
- 9:02 PM, 19 April 2012   [link]


Public Policy Polling Says that Chis Christie would help Romney.
The running mate who helps Romney the most- allowing him to achieve a 47/47 tie with Obama- is Christie.   In contrast to Romney, Christie actually has positive national favorability numbers at 36/34.  Christie's inclusion doesn't have a big impact with Democrats or independents but it helps Romney shore up the party base, going from an 82-10 lead with Republicans to an 86/9 one.
You may recall that I suggested Christie as possibility a week ago.

Presidential candidates have often chosen running mates in part for their ability to make sharp attacks on the opposition, and Christie has certainly shown that he can do that.

(There's another advantage in choosing Christie that might count with some:  He doesn't have to give up his governorship to run for vice president.)
- 2:48 PM, 19 April 2012   [link]


The Media Filter At Work:  President Obama's verbal gaffe on the Maldives/Malvinas was funny — and important.  Obama made the gaffe while saying that the United States was neutral on who owns the Falklands, Britain or Argentina.  Which, some fear, might inspire the current Argentine regime to make more trouble over the islands.

(Obama's neutrality didn't make Nile Gardiner happy.  Understandably, in my opinion.)

Let me put aside the double gaffe for a moment, and consider how it was covered.   The Telegraph's Jonathan Gilbert reported the gaffe — and immediately said it was something George W. Bush would say, not Obama.  (He drew more than 1,300 comments, most of them, if my sampling is representative, refuting that conclusion.)

Did the left-wing Guardian cover the gaffe?  No, although they did publish an attack on Obama from Amy Goodman.

What about the BBC?  If you search for the gaffe, you will find it on their site, but I think it is there accidentally.

The BBC doesn't have their own story on the gaffe, but they do link to one at the Washington Times.  Their internal search also returns some links to outside news sources.  Usually, such results are generated automatically, so, most likely, no BBC editor is to blame for letting the readers find out about Obama's gaffe, even though it might be of interest to their readers.

What we see here is something very common:  Journalists have beliefs about politicians, and fit their stories into those beliefs.  Stories that don't fit those beliefs will usually get filtered out; stories that fit them especially well make the front pages or the lead stories on TV broadcasts.

Jonathan Gilbert — and most other journalists — believe that Obama speaks well, and is not prone to gaffes.  If they do mention one of his many gaffes, they explain that it is not characteristic of him, as Gilbert did.  But they are more likely not to even mention it, because the gaffe doesn't fit their picture of Obama.

(Toby Harnden did mention the gaffe, and gave his readers a useful review of the conflict over the Falklands.)
- 9:55 AM, 19 April 2012   [link]


And An Asteroid To Be Named Later?  That was my first reaction to this story.
New research suggests that billions of stars in our galaxy have captured rogue planets that once roamed interstellar space.  The nomad worlds, which were kicked out of the star systems in which they formed, occasionally find a new home with a different sun.  This finding could explain the existence of some planets that orbit surprisingly far from their stars, and even the existence of a double-planet system.

“Stars trade planets just like baseball teams trade players,” said Hagai Perets of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
It's an interesting study — and should inspire some science fiction writers — but I do think that Perets pushed his simile too far.
- 7:20 AM, 19 April 2012   [link]


James Taranto Collected Most of the Obama-bites-dog jokes, so we don't have to.

But if you see a really good one that he missed, pass it along.

(I may be beating a dead dog here, but I have to add that (1) most dogs prefer to ride outside where they can take in the smells, and (2) dogs are routinely shipped in crates on airplanes, which must be much tougher on them than riding on the top of a car, next to their families.)
- 4:39 PM, 18 April 2012
The Instapundit has his own collection.   (Scroll down to see them all.)  I especially liked the dog looking worried because he has been invited to the White House.
- 8:33 AM, 19 April 2012   [link]


Brief Geography Lesson For President Obama:  Here in the Indian Ocean are the Maldives.

Here in the Atlantic Ocean are the Falklands.

Maldives is an independent nation; the Falklands are British territory, and the inhabitants are almost all British citizens.

(No doubt this was in your briefing books, but I'll add it just in case you missed it:   Referring to the Falklands as the "Malvinas" as you were apparently trying to do, offends our strongest ally, Britain, without gaining many points with Argentina, which will continue to be a public nuisance, as long as they have their current government.)
- 6:02 AM, 18 April 2012   [link]


They Should Go Ahead And Give Mohammad Ashan his hundred dollars.

Giving him the reward might inspire other members of the Taliban to turn themselves in.
- 5:41 AM, 18 April 2012   [link]


Michelle Obama's View Of Politics Seems Rather Manichean:   In a recent campaign stop, she said:
I am so in," Michelle Obama said toward the end of her remarks.  "I am going to be working so hard.  We have an amazing story to tell.  This president has brought us out of the dark and into the light."
(Like the Weekly Standard, I added some emphasis.)

Now, consider this description from the Wikipedia article on Manichaeism:
Manichaeism taught an elaborate cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness.
It's clear that she shares her husband's modesty, and, I suspect, he shares some of her Manichean views of the world, though he may be discrete enough not to say so, in public.
- 7:01 PM, 17 April 2012   [link]


Today, I Stimulated The Economy By Ordering A Laptop:   (And have no fewer than four emails from Newegg to prove it.)

Specifically, this HP ProBook 4530s.

(If you are curious, you can find most of my reasons for this choice here.   I chose that particular model, instead of cheaper ones in the same line, because it has a 7200 rpm drive.  I'm also being charged extra for Windows 7 professional, instead of the home version.  I probably won't use the extra features, but you can't get the faster drive without them.

Why Newegg?  Because they are cheaper than their local competitors, partly because they don't charge me Washington state sales tax.  And they have been, so far, quite reliable.  I should add that, before you order a computer from them, you should check their return policies very carefully.)
- 6:19 PM, 17 April 2012   [link]


The NYT's Double Standards On Obama And North Korea:   James Taranto catches the editorial writers at the Times in an almost laughable double standard.  (Scroll about half way down to find the selection from the editorial.)
Beijing's diplomacy fails, and the Times doubts whether China is even "a serious international player."  Washington's diplomacy fails, and the Times defends Obama against his partisan critics.
This is funny, but it would be even funnier if it didn't come from a supposedly serious newspaper, and if we hadn't seen so many examples of this unwillingness to hold Obama responsible for his failures.
- 3:29 PM, 17 April 2012   [link]


Gallup Shocker?  That's what Drudge is calling this trial heat, with Romney leading Obama 48 to 43 per cent.

Looking at the graph, I'm not sure I would call it shocking.  Surprising, perhaps, but not shocking.

And the five-day average looks just about right to me.
Mitt Romney is supported by 47% of national registered voters and Barack Obama by 45% in the inaugural Gallup Daily tracking results from April 11-15.  Both Obama and Romney are supported by 90% of their respective partisans.
Why the bump up for Romney?  Probably because he went from contender to "presumptive nominee" in recent days.  And some of the recent economic news may have helped him, too.
- 2:02 PM, 17 April 2012   [link]


How Much Income Taxes Did The Candidates Pay In 2003?   While discussing the muncipal bonds tax exemption, I ran across an account of the taxes paid by the 2004 presidential and vice presidential candiates.

Here they are, ranked by per cent of total income:

George W. Bush (27.7%)
John Kerry (25.8%)
Dick Cheney (13.0%)
Teresa Heinz Kerry (12.5%)
John Edwards (5.2%)

(If you look at taxable income, rather than total income, both Bush and Cheney paid more than 30 per cent in income tax in 2003.  The Cheneys gave an extraordinary amount to charity that year, as they often have.)

That John Edwards 5.2% calls for an explanation, but there isn't one in the article.  (In previous years, he had paid a much higher per cent.)

By way of comparison, Barack Obama paid 20.5% of his taxable income for last year, and Joe Biden paid 23.0% of his.

Anyone who looks over these reports will note one other comparison:  The Cheneys have been extraordinarily generous to charities over the years, and the Bidens have been, well, chintzy.
- 1:09 PM, 17 April 2012   [link]


Some Narcissists Are More Equal Than Others:  That's how I explain Dwight Pelz's objection to a possible Dennis Kucinich run here in Washington state.

The possibility of a Kucinich run here "horrified" state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz, who has repeatedly discouraged the idea.

"Dennis Kucinich has to decide what his legacy is going to be. Will he be remembered as a principled member of Congress or the narcissist who lost two Congressional races in two states the same year?" Pelz said.

(If my point isn't obvious, here's a hint:  A man whose principal achievements are two (fictionalized) autobiographies may be rather fond of himself.)

Could Kucinich win in a Washington state district?  Sure.  There are two open districts, the new 1st district where I live, and the 6th district, which has been represented by Norm Dicks, approximately forever.  Washington has a "top two" primary, so Kucinich would have to come in second in one of those two districts in the August primary.  That might be easier in the new 1st, simply because so many Democrats are running.  On the other hand, Kucinich might find it easier to win a general election in the 6th, which is more Democratic than the new 1st.

Both scenarios seem unlikely to me, but neither is impossible.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Jim Brunner says that there are three open seats here in Washington state.   He is probably including the old 1st district, which will have a special election to fill the Inslee vacancy for the month of December.)
- 6:19 AM, 17 April 2012
Correction:  I had forgotten the new 10th district, which is also open, though designed, many think, for Denny Heck.
- 6:51 AM, 17 April 2012   [link]