April 2014, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
This French cartoon amuses me, even though I don't agree with it.
(Why not? Mostly because it gives way too much credit to President Obama, who has shown no sign that he would even know how to be a puppeteer in foreign affairs. And President Hollande is not quite that ineffective, or that willing to be manipulated.)
- 8:39 AM, 16 April 2014 [link]
"Absurdities At The IRS" Apama Mathur thinks these parts of our tax law are absurd.
Under tax law, stolen property, bribes, kickbacks, and income from other illegal activities must be counted as income. Embezzlers, thieves, and bootleggers may also take deductions for costs relating to criminal activity.I think that they actually make sense, in a weird way — and the courts have generally agreed with me.
What doesn't make sense is that our tax laws have become so complex that it is difficult for anyone with moderately complex financial affairs to be certain he is following them, as Donald Rumsfeld complains, every year.
Unfortunately, serious tax reform is unlikely as long as Barack Obama is president — and may be difficult even after he leaves, because so few Democrats support it, unlike in 1986.
(I think there would be even more complaints, were it not for the tax programs that take people step by step through their returns. But I often wonder just how many people who use those programs understand the directions they are following.
As Mathur notes, the tax system was used to convict Al Capone — who definitely deserved to go to prison.)
- 8:00 AM, 16 April 2014 [link]
When I Saw This Survey Finding from Brazil, I was dubious.
There's been a huge backlash on social media in Brazil, after a new survey suggested 65% of Brazilians think women who dress in a revealing way "deserve to be attacked".Rightly dubious, it seems.
Update 11 April 2014: The institute which published the research - the IPEA - last week revealed it had made a mistake in its findings. The correct figure for the percentage of Brazilians surveyed who agreed that women who dress in a revealing way "deserve to be attacked" was actually 26% they said - not 65%.That 26% is still disturbing, but not nearly as disturbing as the 65%.
By way of Andrew Gelman.
(It is hard to know exactly what to make of that 26 percent, without more details about the survey, especially the question wording.
Since men often get in trouble when discussing this issue, I'll use a different crime to make a general point. It is imprudent to flash large rolls of cash in some places, at some times. If you were attacked after doing that, some might say you "deserved" it, not to excuse the criminal, but to say that you had not been as prudent as you should have been.)
- 2:01 PM, 15 April 2014 [link]
Is this Ramirez cartoon unfair to Nixon, Obama, or both?
Both men did talk, loosely, about using the IRS against their enemies. (And Nixon had been a target of Kennedy's IRS, as Barry Goldwater was of LBJ's IRS.)
But Nixon's IRS didn't always follow those hints from Nixon, nor did Nixon always know what his underlings were up to. For example:
Later on it developed that [John] Dean had prepared another list, this one of McGovern supporters, which he had transmitted to the IRS with a request for special audits of their returns. But IRS Commissioner Johnnie Walters took the matter up with Treasury Secretary George P. Shultz, who told him to "do nothing". According to Shultz, Walters's notes showed that the President had no knowledge of the list.So I am inclined to think that the cartoon is unfair to Nixon.
(For an example of loose talk by Obama, see this Glenn Reynolds op-ed. As he says, there are some things a president should not joke about.
Some have argued that Nixon often blew off steam with tough talk around his subordinates, and that those who knew him well did not take that talk seriously, did not act on it, even though Nixon might have appeared to have given them direct orders. If true, that doesn't excuse the talk, but it does help us understand Nixon and his closest aides better.
Younger readers may want to know more about George Shultz.)
- 1:31 PM, 15 April 2014 [link]
The Almost Magic Material, Graphene: Take some graphite from an ordinary pencil lead, separate out the carbon atoms, and arrange them into one-atom thick sheet and you have graphene.
Graphene is the strongest, thinnest material known to exist. A form of carbon, it can conduct electricity and heat better than anything else. And get ready for this: It is not only the hardest material in the world, but also one of the most pliable.That brief list sounds pretty good, for a start.
(Arrange the carbon atoms one way, and you get diamonds; arrange them another way and you get graphene, which may be far more useful. (And when they are not in any regular pattern, you have graphite.)
If you are up for a challenge, try the very technical Wikipedia article on graphene. I think I understood parts of it.)
- 7:22 AM, 15 April 2014 [link]
"Seven Answers to Seven Questions You’re Probably Asking Right Now About The Nevada Rancher Situation" If you want to understand the controversy, this Blaze article seems like a good place to start, though I haven't checked any of the answers myself.
5. So Who Owns the Land in Question?For now, I don't have anything more to say specifically about the dispute between cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management.
But I can give you a general conclusion that I came to, decades ago: The United States government should not be in the business of renting out range land. In the past, that has often resulted in considerable subsidies to wealthy corporations (and may still, now, for all I know). And that is just one of the many ways these relationships can go wrong, on both sides.
Instead of renting the land out, we should sell it at open auctions, with, perhaps, some advantages for anyone who has used a specific piece of land for grazing for years.
And, given our deficits, we can use the money.
- 7:40 PM, 14 April 2014 [link]
Narendra Modi has admitted that he is married.
Narendra Modi, currently the favorite to be India's next prime minister, had to make an unusual admission on Thursday. The 63-year-old Modi, long famous for being a bachelor without any family, was in fact married.His parents and her parents arranged the marriage, but he seems not to have ever really accepted it. The two did live together for a time, but he left permanently after three years, without ever divorcing her. (His wife, Jashodaben Chimanlal Modi, became a teacher, lived a quiet life, is now retired, and appears to bear him no ill will.)
He did not leave her for another woman; in fact, quite the reverse.
What led Modi away, it seems, was the teachings of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a strict Hindu organization that is reported to require a vow of celibacy. Modi's time with the RSS eventually led to his leadership of India's second largest political party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), . . .India has a long history of honoring, and sometimes even following, men like him, so this may not hurt him with the Indian electorate.
(Here are the Wikipedia articles on Modi and the BJP, with stronger-than-usual caveats, even for political articles.)
- 1:14 PM, 14 April 2014 [link]
"Billing Medicare While Financing Top Democrats" That headline in last Thursday's New York Times is surprisingly explicit, as are the first four paragraphs of the article by Frances Robles and Eric Lipton.
Two Florida doctors who received the nation’s highest Medicare reimbursements in 2012 are both major contributors to Democratic Party causes, and they have turned to the political system in recent years to defend themselves against suspicions that they may have submitted fraudulent or excessive charges to the federal government.There are several possible explanations of those connections. The obvious one is that the doctors are running dubious operations, and then buying influence to protect themselves. But it is also possible, though less likely, that the doctors are running operations that look bad, but aren't, and are paying protection money.
And, of course, different explanations may fit different doctors.
Now that these records are public, we are going to be seeing many more such articles. When we read them, we should not, automatically, assume that the doctors are guilty of defrauding the public.
- 8:09 AM, 14 April 2014 [link]
At First Glance, This Cut-Off Phone Call Sounds like an important clue to the disappearance of flight MH370.
The co-pilot of missing flight MH370 made a call from his mobile phone while the aircraft flew low over the west coast of Malaysia, it was revealed today as the U.S. denied reports the plane landed at a military base on the remote island of Diego Garcia.But then you read a little further and suspect that it isn't.
'On why the call was cut off, it was likely because the aircraft was fast moving away from the tower and had not come under the coverage of the next one,' the paper said, quoting 'sources'.One of the things that has puzzled me ever since the flight disappeared was that the authorities did not seem to be looking for phone calls or text messages from people on the plane. Nor have I seen a discussion of what calls were possible, whether, for instance, any of the passengers had satellite phones, which will work almost everywhere.
But now we know that, at least for part of the flight, ordinary cell phone calls could be made, so at least the first step in that part of the investigation has been taken.
- 7:27 AM, 14 April 2014 [link]
One Last Sebelius-Obama Hug for the cameras.
As you can see, the two are barely able to fake it.
Before Kathleen Sebelius joined Obama's cabinet, she had had a remarkably successful — if sometimes unscrupulous — political career, and was thought by many to be a potential presidential candidate. Now, she will, as Obama said, "go down in history" — way down.
I have a little sympathy for her, because Obama asked her to do the impossible, asked her to make the unworkable work, and because Obama did not give her the kind of help she so obviously needed to manage ObamaCare. But I do blame her, as well as Obama, for not paying attention to what the people under her were trying to tell her, and for being, all too often, dishonest in what she told Congress.
And even that little was diminished this morning when I read this Timothy Carney column on her too close ties to lobbyists.
- 3:56 PM, 13 April 2014 [link]
How Much Has The Chávez Regime Spent Trying To Buy Influence In The United States? At least $300 million, according to a new book, Chavistas En El Imperio (Chavistas in the Empire).
Perhaps nothing summarizes better the book, as Ocando’s revelation in the introduction, that Chavez spent US$ 300 million in propaganda in the US during his first ten years in power. Thus, while Chávez was accusing Washington of trying to destabilize Venezuela, he was outspending Bush and Obama in promoting his revolution. And his buddies in Government, were always (or are?) trying to make friends in the US, to defend their money, their properties and even guarantee protection sometime in the future.(The United States has an economy, very roughly, about 50 times as large as Venezuela's. So, for a roughly equivalent expenditure, multiply that $300 million by 50.)
Not all of the money went to buying influence; some of it went to "the purchase of properties in the “Imperio” by the same people who were pledging their allegiance to the XXIst. Century Socialist revolution".
At the end of the post, Miguel Octavio wonders whether the United States has its own strategy toward Venezuela. As far as I can tell, not at present.
The Bush administration appears to have decided that they best long-term strategy was to ignore Chávez and company, given other, more pressing problems. President Obama seems to have thought at first that these enemies could be made into friends with a little personal diplomacy, not understanding that the regime could make far more use of the United States as an enemy, than as a friend. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mostly ignored Latin America, and John Kerry is following her example.
(Here's the book, for those who read Spanish.)
- 3:05 PM, 13 April 2014 [link]
If The Washingtonian Was Trying To Make Jay Carney And Claire Shipman Look Ridiculous, they succeeded.
The most decadent Beltway publication yet conceived, Washingtonian, has outdone itself with its latest celebration of what life is like inside the city fueled by your forcibly confiscated money.There were, for instance, those two Communist propaganda posters in the background — and there is much more besides those.
But I don't think that whoever did the profile was trying to humiliate Carney and Shipman, because the two participated in making themselves look foolish. (They should have left the two kids out of the pictures, in my opinion.)
Shipman and Carney are big time journalists — and they are also, judging by that article, shallow, leftist poseurs, who should be covering something safe, like flower shows, rather than serious issues. And neither should be a spokesman for the mayor of a medium-sized city, much less the president of the United States.
(It seems appropriate, somehow, that the profile is so obviously fake, appropriate that two "mainstream" journalists would willingly participate in a fraudulent portrait of themselves.)
- 2:36 PM, 12 April 2014 [link]
Americans See President Obama As An Extremist: Relatively. Gallup found that in 2011, and political scientist Keith Poole found the same thing in a 2012 survey.
Now, Poole is using that data to show where some Senate candidates are located by the voters.
From that evidence, Sides concludes that:
In many crucial Senate elections, Republicans have coalesced around politically experienced candidates who make it much more likely that the GOP will win those elections.In his earlier post, Sides said that the chance that Republicans would take control of the Senate this fall could be as high as "4 in 5".
I'm not willing to go that high, yet.
(It is unfortunate that these academics have followed the lead of our "mainstream" journalists and switched the colors.)
- 1:21 PM, 11 April 2014 [link]
Worth Reading: Kimberly Strassel's explanation of what we know — and don't know — about the IRS scandal.
Nearly a year into the IRS scandal, we still don't know exactly what happened—though we are finally getting an inkling. That's thanks to the letter House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp sent this week to the Justice Department recommending a criminal probe of Lois Lerner.The rest is too complex to summarize easily, which is why I suggest that you read it, study it, and even share it with others.
(Here's the Camp press release, and here's the full 97-page (including supporting documents) letter.)
- 7:26 AM, 11 April 2014 [link]
It's Too Bad Glenn Kessler Doesn't Fact Check The New York Times: On Wednesday, as you probably recall, Kessler gave President Obama two "Pinocchios" for that misleading 77 percent pay gap claim.
On Thursday, the New York Times repeated Obama's misleading claim, in an editorial under this headline: "The Truth About the Pay Gap", a headline I find ironic.
Threaded through the political fight over pay fairness is a continuing debate about the size of the pay gap. Mr. Obama and others often cite 77 cents as what women make on average for every $1 earned by men — a figure that critics say is an exaggeration.(Emphasis added.)
To be fair, the editorial does mention some of the same factors that Kessler does — but without ever mentioning that most of them are caused by women making, on the average, different choices than men do. And they are absolutely certain that some of that difference in pay "reflects overt discrimination".
Nor do they explain why employers do not replace most of their male employees with females, since, according to our newspaper of record, those females will do the same work for less money.
They do not even mention that pay discrimination by sex has been illegal in the United States since the Kennedy administration.
(Credit where due: The editorial writers do urge President Obama to pay his female staffers the same as he pays his male staffers. But it is unlikely that they will urge Senator Murray to do the same thing.
Some will wonder whether the editorial writers know the facts. I can't know whether they do, though a careful reader, even of the Times, would. But I am nearly certain, from his past performances, that the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, does not care whether his editorials are entirely truthful, as long as they damage Republicans.)
- 6:33 AM, 11 April 2014 [link]
What Would You Think Of An Employer Who Paid Their Female Employees 66 Percent Of What They Paid Their Male Employees? Different people would, I suppose, have different answers to that question. I, for one, would want to know whether the men and women were doing the same jobs, worked the same hours, and other such boring details.
President Obama and our senior senator, Patty Murray, would not be bothered by such details; they would be certain that the difference was due to bias, and might even say that the employer was waging a "war on women".
Which makes this ironic, to say the least.
The very worst senator in that 2012 article was Socialist Bernie Sanders — who caucuses with the Democrats.
No doubt, our ace local reporters are, even now, trying to find out whether that 2012 pay gap in Murray's office has shrunk, stayed the same, or grown.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 4:08 PM, 10 April 2014 [link]
“I Did Not Let That Baby Go For One Second.” Amanda Skorjanc tells how she saved her son during the Oso mud slide.
“It was like a movie,” she said. “Houses were exploding. The next thing I see is my neighbor’s chimney coming into the front door.”She and Duke were badly injured; both are improving.
They were rescued from the mud slide by loggers, who had to cut her out of the couch she was trapped in.
- 1:03 PM, 10 April 2014 [link]
Independent Maine Senator Angus King Thinks The Republicans May Win Control Of The Senate: And, if so, he may support them.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with the Democrats, will decide after the midterm elections whether to switch sides and join the Republicans.Yes, it could be "especially intense".
The best result for Republicans would be, of course, if they won a majority without him, and then King joined them.
But if they gain five seats net, King would be an extremely popular man — for a time.
(King began in politics as a Democrat, specifically as an aide to Democratic Senator William Hathaway. He left politics, worked for an alternative energy company, and then founded an energy conservation company, Northeast Energy Management, which did so well that he was able to sell it for $20 million. He came back into politics, running on issues that made him sound like a moderate Republican.
He entered the 1994 governor's race as an independent, attacking high taxes and clumsy government meddling in business and calling for specific spending cuts.Maine Republicans don't much like him, naturally, but he doesn't sound like a man who would be completely out of place in the party, especially in New England.
In July, I mentioned the possibility that King would change sides. That wasn't prescient; I was just repeating what King had said, after the 2012 election.)
- 10:12 AM, 10 April 2014 [link]
Critic Jerry Saitz is so in the grip of Bush Derangement Syndrome that he can't write fairly about Bush's paintings.
I wouldn't have mentioned his rant, except for this comment about one of Bush's paintings: "We see the Dalai Lama (one can only imagine what he made of Bush), . . . "
In fact, we don't have to imagine, since the Dalai Lama has told us.
Asked about the people he’s met who have really impressed him, the Tibetan leader-in-exile said during a sit-down with CNN’s Piers Morgan that other than Nelson Mandela — whom he considers “quite impressive” — he also admires Bush.One can only imagine what Saitz would make of that exchange. And when I do, I visualize Saitz's head exploding.
- 5:48 PM, 9 April 2014 [link]
Glenn Kessler Gives Obama Another Pinocchio: Kessler raised his rating from one to two, because Obama keeps trying to deceive voters with this factoid.
Today, the average full-time working woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. . . . in 2014, that’s an embarrassment. It is wrong.”Which is true, but misleading, because Obama (and many other Democrats) use that to imply that all of this difference is caused by discrimination, not the different choices that men and women make.
Obama is using a figure (annual wages, from the Census Bureau) that makes the disparity appear the greatest—23 cents. But the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the gap is 19 cents when looking at weekly wages. The gap is even smaller when you look at hourly wages — it is 14 cents — but then not every wage earner is paid on an hourly basis, so that statistic excludes salaried workers.So about half of the discrepancy might be explained by the fact that men work more paid hours (and women work more hours at home, which don't show up in those pay checks).
There's more in the Fact Check, though Kessler omits the standard question any free market person would ask: If employers can get the same work from a woman at 77 percent of what they would pay a man, why wouldn't they replace most of their men with women?
(Kessler is certain that Obama knows what he is saying is misleading. Kessler is probably right, but I can't completely shake my suspicion that Obama doesn't care whether what he is saying is misleading, and hasn't bothered to learn the facts on this issue.)
- 8:57 AM, 9 April 2014 [link]
Leftist Women Love "The Game Of Thrones" As any "mainstream" journalist can tell you, two examples make a trend, and so I am perfectly safe in making that generalization, having seen two prominent examples.
First, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.
But after I finished tromping around the bayou with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, I decided to watch one "Game of Thrones" to see what the fuss was about. It is not only the most pirated show on the Internet, but one of President Barack Obama's favorites — although he hasn't picked up any good tips about ruthlessly wielding power, either from "Game" or from Maggie Smith's Countess of Grantham on "Downton Abbey," another show he raves about.I think we can see what she likes about the series — and how, in a fantasy world, she would treat her Republican opponents.
Second, former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard.
I first felt the addictive power of Game of Thrones when I was prime minister, living in a world where power was also pursued relentlessly, albeit far less colourfully. Certainly the characters of my world were nowhere near as good looking or exotically dressed.(In Australia, "barracking" means shouting support for a team.)
As a working politician, Gillard is, naturally, more discrete than Dowd, but she appears to like "Game of Thrones" for the same reason that Dowd does: It shows both women a world in which they can kill their enemies without worrying about "middle ages morality".
Or about democracy and winning elections.
I suspect that other leftists may share their view — although most leftist men would be less candid about their fantasies of murder and mayhem.
(For the record: I have never watched even a snippet of "Game of Thrones. I vaguely recall reading a few of Martin's science fiction stories, but didn't much like them.)
- 7:07 AM, 9 April 2014 [link]