Archive:

August 2011, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Worth Reading:  Charles C. Mann on the biological interchanges after Columbus.
We usually describe globalization in purely economic terms, but it is also a biological phenomenon.  Researchers increasingly think that the most important cargo on these early transoceanic voyages was not silk and silver but an unruly menagerie of plants and animals, many of them accidental stowaways.  In the sweep of history, it is this biological side of globalization that may well have the greater impact on the fate of the world's people and nations.
. . .
After 1492, the world's ecosystems collided and mixed as European vessels carried thousands of species to new homes across the oceans.  The Columbian Exchange, as Mr. Crosby called it, is why we came to have tomatoes in Italy, oranges in Florida, chocolate in Switzerland and chili peppers in Thailand.
There's much more in the article, including some connections that surprised me.

(And I think it fair to assume that he has even more in his book, 1493.)
- 4:26 PM, 16 August 2011   [link]


Someone Has To Say It:  Why did Obama get a new bus?

Because he ran out of room underneath the old one.
- 2:00 PM, 16 August 2011   [link]


When Englishmen Were Free:  Daniel Pipes digs up a famous quotation from a famous English historian, A. J. P. Taylor.  (Famous, leftist, and extremely controversial.)

Here's the first paragraph; Pipes has three more.
Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman.  He could live where he liked and as he liked.  He had no official number or identity card.
At that time, the British welfare state was almost non-existent — and crime in Britain was markedly lower than it is now.
- 1:43 PM, 16 August 2011   [link]


Latest Generic Congressional Polls:  Gallup just found that Democrats had taken the lead in the generic vote.
Gallup's first measure of the 2012 congressional elections shows Democrats leading Republicans, 51% to 44%, in registered voters' preferences for which party's candidate they would support in their district "if the elections for Congress were being held today."
. . .
The poll was conducted Aug. 4-7, after Standard & Poor's downgrading of the U.S. government's credit rating last week but prior to this week's volatility in the stock market, including the 635-point stock market drop on Monday, Aug. 8.

The seven-percentage-point edge for Democratic congressional candidates, nationally, contrasts with ties or Republican leads in most Gallup polls leading up to the 2010 midterm elections.   However, the Democratic advantage is not as large as those they enjoyed in the 2006 and 2008 congressional election cycles -- each of which produced a Democratic majority in Congress.   The Democrats averaged a 10-point lead over Republicans among registered voters in the year prior to the 2008 elections and an 11-point advantage leading up to the 2006 elections, with individual polls showing them ahead by as much as 23 points.
Which, naturally, made me wonder what Rasmussen was saying.  Here's their latest result:
Republicans have bounced back to a seven-point lead on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, August 14.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 44% of Likely U.S. Voters would vote for their district's Republican congressional candidate, while 37% would choose the Democrat instead.  The GOP's lead is up five points from a week ago, the first full week survey since Congress and the president agreed on a spending cuts deal to raise the federal debt ceiling.   Last week's two-point gap was the narrowest lead Republicans had held since mid-May.
For some perspective, here's my generic chart:

Trends in generic Congressional vote, 15 August 2010 - 14 August 2011

(Note that I am using the traditional — and logical — colors for the two parties, rather than the colors inflicted on us by the "mainstream" media.)

If I were to summarize that chart, I would say that support for the Republicans declined from last November's election until May, and then plateaued, except for that dip last week.  And support for the Democrats has been surprisingly constant all through this last year.

Is it possible to reconcile the Gallup and Rasmussen results?  Not entirely, even though Gallup is polling registered voters and Rasmussen likely voters.

If I were pressed to explain the different results, I would first say that I would like to see more data, including internals, before giving an opinion.  If I were pressed harder, I would have to say that the true result is probably in between Rasmussen and Gallup.
- 11:41 AM, 16 August 2011
Gallup volatility:  One reason I am inclined to split the difference is that Gallup's results on this question have been so volatile.  For example, at one point during 2006 they found a 23 point lead for the Democrats.  (Actual margin that year, 7.9 percent.)

In the 2008 House election, the best for Democrats in many years, their margin was 10.65 percent (53.18-42.53).  That's a long way from 23 percent.  And they have gotten other poll results that are far outside the result in any recent election.

That said, when Gallup gets close to elections and starts polling likely voters, they do quite well with the generic question.
- 3:12 PM, 16 August 2011   [link]


Renton Police Cartoon Update:  The judge who had signed the search warrant had second thoughts and revoked it.  The person who made the cartoons was a Renton police officer, as almost everyone suspected, and the department is now disciplining him, and others in the department.
The Renton Police Department just released the details of their disciplinary measures over the video a sergeant created and posted online.

The 87-page report condemns the sergeant and the the officers, including a deputy chief, who knew about the video.
Were the charges in the cartoons true, or partly true?  So far, I haven't seen anything definitive on that question.

But I can say that the Renton police department must be an uncomfortable place to work these days.

(Earlier posts here and here.)
- 8:27 AM, 16 August 2011   [link]


Obama's Big Black Bus:  Even the BBC notices that the symbolism is a little off.
In British elections we're used to what we call "battle buses", cheerfully painted wagons, festooned with party slogans and colours.

US President Barack Obama has embarked on his first bus tour in office.

But his vehicle for the trip through the rural parts of three Midwestern states looks like it really is heading for a battle.

Big, blocky, black, with painted-out windows, it looks more like a police mortuary van than a symbol of hope arriving on your street.
In American elections, too, Mr. Mardell, which is what makes this choice so interesting.  I've never seen an American candidate choose anything that gloomy before.  (Officially, of course, this is not a campaign trip, and if you believe that, you should be wary of strangers offering to sell you a bridge.)

Energy Secretary Chu would probably advise a lighter color, to reduce the need for air conditioning, especially in a Midwest summer.

(Air Force 1 is painted blue and white, with a big American flag on the tail.  Something similar would be a good choice for an official presidential bus.)
- 6:37 AM, 16 August 2011   [link]


Does Michelle Bachmann Play Well With Others?  Note, please, that I am asking a question, not saying directly that she doesn't.

But I wouldn't be asking that question if I hadn't seen some evidence that she doesn't play well with others.

Bachmann won her first elective office by defeating a sitting Republican state senator, Gary Laidig.  (Minnesota uses a two-stage nominating process; she won the party's official backing at a convention, and then beat him in a primary.  The two disagree sharply on what happened in that fight.  Laidig's account seems more plausible.)

Ordinarily, party leaders do not like insurgents who knock out their colleagues, but the Republican leader in the Minnesota senate chose to give her a leadership position.  She didn't last long in that position.
In November 2004, Republican Senate Minority Leader Dick Day appointed Bachmann as Assistant Minority Leader in charge of Policy for the Senate Republican Caucus.[62]   In July 2005, the Republican Caucus removed her from her leadership position.   Bachmann said that disagreements with Day over her anti-tax stance were the reason for her ouster.[63]
She would say that, wouldn't she?  And it might even true, but I think it far more likely that that her fellow Republicans (most of whom would not have wanted higher taxes, if there was any way to avoid them) simply found her impossible to work with.

It is easy, especially for purists, to underestimate how important skill in working with others is for an effective elected executive.  I can't think of any effective elected executives who were not good at working (and, usually, playing) with others.  If you need an example, study the career of Ronald Reagan.

If Bachmann can't play well with others, then she shouldn't be running for president — or any other executive office.

(This account of her time in the Minnesota legislature is disturbing, though it is only fair to note that much of it may come from her enemies.)
- 1:41 PM, 15 August 2011   [link]


Today's Stock Market Tip Comes From The New Yorker Daily Cartoon Calendar:  A financial advisor is giving advice to a young couple: "What should you do?  Here's what you should do: invent a time machine, go back sixteen months, and convert everything to cash."

Which, in some situations, would be a very good financial strategy.

(Just for the record, I should mention that, even if you were to invent a time machine or acquire one, there might be problems with that strategy.  Science fiction writer C. M. Kornbluth showed how it could go wrong in his short story, Dominoes, though his protagonist went forward in time instead of back.)
- 12:46 PM, 15 August 2011   [link]


Reid And Pelosi Put Party Hacks On The Fiscal "Supercommittee"   But that doesn't bother Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez.

Instead, she is worried that not all of the racial and gender quotas were met.
With House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) announcement Thursday of her three appointees to the bipartisan debt "supercommittee," the panel’s 12-member roster is complete.  It represents a broad range of ideological views, from House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Tex.) on the right to Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) on the left.

But the group’s membership is marked by a problem that has plagued Congress — a lack of gender and racial diversity.
And, for a certain kind of person, that discredits the committee from the beginning.

You could argue that it was the very effort to make the committee more "diverse" that made the Democratic members such a dubious bunch.

For example, according to some reports Washington senior senator Patty Murray is on the committee because she's a woman.  If so, Majority Leader Reid put her there in spite of the fact that Murray is a not-very-bright, pork-barreling party hack, exactly the sort of person you don't want on that committee.

(Reid could have chosen Dianne Feinstein, or even Washington's junior senator Maria Cantwell.   I suppose he picked Murray because of her committee assignments — she's on the Budget and Appropriations committees — and because of her party loyalty.)
- 10:11 AM, 15 August 2011
Read this Michelle Malkin column if you want to see what someone who is really tough on Patty Murray says.  And don't miss the example at the very end.
- 12:30 PM, 15 August 2011   [link]


Is Obama Doing All Those Fundraisers Because They Make Him Feel Good?  That's what Jim Geraghty says in a post titled "Are Obama’s Frequent Fundraisers a Form of Therapy?".

Could be, although I think Obama wants the money, too.

(Peter Wehner gives us some evidence that Obama might be looking for reassurance these days.)
- 9:36 AM, 15 August 2011   [link]


The Obama Administration Loses Another drilling case.
A judge on Friday threw out Obama administration rules that sought to slow down expedited environmental review of oil and gas drilling on federal land.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal ruled in favor of a petroleum industry group, the Western Energy Alliance, in its lawsuit against the federal government, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
(Not so incidentally, Judge Freudenthal, was nominated by President Obama — after her name was suggested by the governor of Wyoming, who just happens to be her husband.  Any Chicago politician would understand that hint.)

It's almost as if Obama and Salazar don't care what the laws say about drilling.
- 2:26 PM, 14 August 2011   [link]


Mitt Romney Said That Corporations Are People:  Which is a little awkward, but accurate enough.  (He would have done better to say that corporations consist of people, or something similar.)

That innocuous statement got all sorts of people spun up, notably the New York Times red-headed columnist, Maureen Dowd.  After fourteen paragraphs filled with insults (and, as usual, one off-topic movie reference), Dowd summarizes with this deep analysis:
Of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation.  We the corporation.   Corporations who need corporations are the luckiest corporations in the world.  Power to the corporation!
Which is, I will admit, mildly funny, though it will not win a prize from anyone looking for a rational argument.

Dowd continues by attacking the Citizens United free speech decision.

And with all her insults she misses the best joke.  In making her attack on Romney and Citizens United she has, apparently, forgotten that she works for the New York Times, a very powerful corporation, and that most of her influence comes from her being part of that corporation.

And the Citizens United decision?  It gave other corporations some of the same freedoms that the Times — and Maureen Dowd — have always had.

(No link, because I have used up my quota for this month.  You should be able to find the column easily enough.)
- 1:57 PM, 14 August 2011   [link]


Andrew Malcolm Explains The Ames Straw Poll:  And why so many political folks pay attention to it.
It's the Ames Straw Poll, a meaningless vote tomorrow in which voters are wooed with barbecue and ice cream, ballots are bought and ballot boxes are stuffed as if they were in Chicago.

Newspaper surveys aside, the straw poll is the earliest indication of how the GOP field is shaping up when the corn is maturing and little else is going on except the state fair.  It's a transitory measure, to be sure.
Even though they shouldn't.

I often wish that our "mainstream" journalists and our talk show hosts would pay half as much attention to the candidates' accomplishments (if any), as they do to these events.
- 1:42 PM, 13 August 2011   [link]


Norman Podhoretz Was Not Surprised By Obama:  (Unlike many on the left.)  Obama, Podhoretz says, is the same man he always was.
I disagree with those of my fellow conservatives who maintain that Mr. Obama is indifferent to "the best interests of the United States" (Thomas Sowell) and is "purposely" out to harm America (Rush Limbaugh).  In my opinion, he imagines that he is helping America to repent of its many sins and to become a different and better country.

But I emphatically agree with Messrs. Limbaugh and Sowell about this president's attitude toward America as it exists and as the Founding Fathers intended it.  That is why my own answer to the question, "What Happened to Obama?" is that nothing happened to him.  He is still the same anti-American leftist he was before becoming our president, and it is this rather than inexperience or incompetence or weakness or stupidity that accounts for the richly deserved failure both at home and abroad of the policies stemming from that reprehensible cast of mind.
I would quibble a bit, since I think Obama can be inexperienced, incompetent at some of a president's tasks, misinformed (not stupid), and an "anti-American leftist".

There is nothing terribly surprising about this; about half of Democrats see the United States as a "bad" country, a country in need of reform at home and retrenchment abroad.  (And, to be fair, there is a small segment of the Republican party, Ron Paul, for example, who share some of those attitudes.)

Nor is it surprising that the Democrats finally nominated a candidate with his views (which he, and our "mainstream" journalists worked very hard, and with considerable success, to conceal).  Our parties often make mistakes, and, as everyone knows, the activists in each tend to be on the extremes.  Obama's edge over Clinton came largely from party caucuses, just as, in 1964, many of Goldwater's delegates did.

You can have that negative view of the United States and still love this country, just as a parent can love a child even when the child has committed crimes.  And I don't doubt that many parents, especially mothers, will understand why Obama might want to apologize for this country, again and again.
- 1:25 PM, 13 August 2011   [link]


US Productivity Has Declined So Far This Year:  Another reason to worry about the economy from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Nonfarm business sector labor productivity decreased at a 0.3 percent annual rate during the second quarter of 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today, with output and hours worked rising 1.8 percent and 2.0 percent, respectively.  (All quarterly percent changes in this release are seasonally adjusted annual rates.)  From the second quarter of 2010 to the second quarter of 2011, output increased 2.5 percent while hours rose 1.6 percent, yielding an increase in productivity of 0.8 percent.
. . .
In the first quarter of 2011, nonfarm business productivity declined 0.6 percent, rather than increasing 1.8 percent, reflecting a downward revision of 2.3 percentage points to output.
In 2009 and 2010, US productivity grew at healthy rates; now that growth appears to have stopped.
- 2:12 PM, 12 August 2011   [link]


"London Rioters Resent Media Image Of Hooded Teen Thug"  That's the headline on this Reuters story, and it isn't a joke, not an intentional joke, anyway.

Sample, just to show you that Reuters was being serious:
One man held a marijuana joint, another rode in circles on a bike with his hood drawn tight over his face, a so-called "hoodie," a stereotype blamed for much of the violence.

"They were not your typical hoodlums out there.  There were working people, angry people.  They've raised rates, cut child benefit.  Everyone just used it as a chance to vent," L said, referring to government austerity measures the poor say have hit them hardest.
Which is why they attacked places belonging to Britain's government, rather than, say, going after alcohol, tobacco, fancy clothes, and consumer electronics.

There is some news in this story; parents at this housing project, as Americans would call it, did not condemn the young rioters.  In fact, at least a few parents joined the rioters.

(By way of James Taranto.)
- 1:42 PM, 12 August 2011   [link]


"Fast and Furious" Summarized:  I haven't said anything about that bizarre operation because others were saying it better than I could — and because the whole thing seems so weird.  And that was true whether I tried to explain it as incompetence on a grand scale, or malice toward gun rights supporters, as some suspect.

But I do think I should share this summary with you, just in case you've missed some of the details
Let's see if I have this straight:

The smartest administration in the history of the world conceived of this plan.

The plan was to just let thousands of weapons flow to murderous drug cartels.

And then take those cartels down.

But they didn't take the cartels down, because they didn't track the guns.

They instead were to follow the money, but they also didn't do that.

A US border agent was killed due to the illegal arms sent to a neighboring sovereign country in this massive covert operation.

In addition, so was the brother of a Mexican attorney general.

So were a number of other Mexican citizens murdered with these weapons -- we don't know the number yet.

In conducting this massive covert action, we lied to officials in this neighboring sovereign country, even though their people (and cops, and officials) were getting killed with our weapons.

As far as I know, we haven't taken any action beyond arresting a few straw buyers . . . who could have easily been arrested, with the weapons, when they attempted to smuggled them or sell them.

We have not taken down any cartels at all.

In fact, we've not done anything except murdered people by indirect, but perfectly foreseeable, US covert action.

And the only outlet that is following this is FoxNews, so you can tell Fox is biased.
I wouldn't say that the border agent, or the others, were killed "due to" the illegal arms, because the drug cartels who killed them might have purchased other weapons, but other than that, as far as I know, the summary is accurate.

And it is still far too weird for me to understand, either as incompetence or malice.  But I look forward with interest to reports from Fox, and to the investigations by Republicans in the Congress.

(Perhaps the explanation will come from a combination of incompetence and malice, but, if so, I haven't figured out what that might be.)
- 9:12 AM, 12 August 2011   [link]


The European Union Corrupts Poland:  How?  In many ways, no doubt, but in this example by encouraging organic farms, or perhaps that should be "organic" farms.
Dorta Metera, a member of the Organic Agriculture Council, and the owner of Bioekspert — the issuer of the Eko certification label — explains that countries such as Germany, which provide genuine support for the organic sector, insist that producers fulfill a strict set of conditions that tend to push up costs.

However, the same can not be said for the Polish Ministry of Agriculture, which has left the door open to fraudsters.  After 2004, the organic sector attracted a lot of new entrants, who tended to carefully study the conditions for obtaining European subsidies with help from specialised legal firms.  In some cases it turned out that these legal firms were also the owners of organic farms.
. . .
However, the same cannot be said for the organic walnut sector, which has proved to be particularly attractive to subsidy-hunters.  For a cultivated area of between several hundred and a thousand hectares, they can expect to cash in on grants of 2,800,000 zł, some 700,000 euros.  Everyone knows that in Poland, walnuts can be worth their weight in gold.
. . .
When pushed, inspectors will tell you that some of the biggest organic operations belong to farmers who are well-connected to political parties of a variety of hues.
Surprise, surprise.

When the walnut scam was uncovered, the fraudsters switched to apples, often planting the trees on land suitable for subsidies, but not apple trees.

The European Union's agriculture policies make ours look rational, all right, semi-rational.

(1 hectare = 10,000 square meters or 2.47 acres.)
- 7:31 AM, 12 August 2011   [link]


Mini-Vacations:  I took a couple yesterday and the day before yesterday, and will be taking others during the rest of the summer, but I don't plan any 10-day vacations on Martha's Vineyard.

(Despite what you may have heard the Obamas have not invited me to join them there, which is probably for the best.)
- 7:00 AM, 12 August 2011   [link]


Why Did Obama Have To Spoil His Iftar Dinner Remarks By Adding Some Fake History?  Politicians generally try to flatter their audiences, and often go too far.  I expect that, but I do wish they would not make up claims like this one:
"This evening reminds us of both the timeless teachings of a great religion and the enduring strengths of a great nation.  Like so many faiths, Islam has always been part of our American family, and Muslim Americans have long contributed to the strength and character of our country, in all walks of life.  This has been especially true over the past 10 years.
(Emphasis added.)

One thinks, for instance, of the Muslim members of George Washington's cabinet, or the the Muslim units that volunteered for Lincoln during the Civil War.

All right, neither of those things happened.  In fact, I can not think of a single Muslim contribution to the United States in our first 100 years, and very few since then.

(It is true that some of the slaves taken from Africa were nominal Muslims, often sold to European slave traders by other Muslims, but the faith didn't take root in the United States.)

When I heard Obama's ridiculous claim that "Islam has always been part of the American family", I wondered about the context, and so I read the whole speech.  And it turns out that most of it is unexceptional, and some of it quite good, for example, when he mentions the Muslims who died on 9/11 or the Muslim soldier who died fighting for America in Iraq.

But, for me, those good parts were spoiled by that fake history.  Either Obama believes what he said about Muslim contributions, in which case he is even more misinformed than I thought, or he is telling another big lie, in order to win political support

(Some will be reminded of the fake history often produced by "studies" departments, such as the claim that Cleopatra — a member of a Greek dynasty — was black.)
- 6:28 AM, 12 August 2011   [link]


Politico Finds This Poll surprising.
New York Democrat David Weprin holds a surprisingly narrow lead over Republican Bob Turner in the Sept. 13 special election to replace former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, according to a new Siena Research Institute poll.

The poll found Weprin, a state assemblyman, leading Turner, a retired broadcasting executive, 48 percent to 42 percent in the race for the Democratic-friendly Queens and Brooklyn-area seat.
But you wouldn't if you were a regular reader of this site.  (Although I was wrong then in thinking that Weiner wouldn't resign.)

As I mentioned in that post, New York 9th has been becoming more Republican, or, to be more precise, less Democratic.  Bush scored his best percentage gain there in 2004.   In spite of the national swing against Republicans in 2008, McCain won more popular votes in the district than Bush had in 2004.  (88,307 to 87,449.  Each received 44 percent of the popular vote in the district.)

Why has the district been moving toward the Republicans?  The Almanac of American Politics, where I found the voting results, does not say.  I would guess that it is because Russian Jews, in the Brooklyn part of the district, have been moving toward the Republican party.

So the poll result doesn't surprise me, and shouldn't surprise you.

I still think both that Weprin is the heavy favorite — and that an upset is possible.   (As of today, I don't know enough about Turner to give you odds on this election.)
- 8:13 AM, 11 August 2011   [link]


Last Night's Wisconsin Elections Should Put An End To One Union Racket, the WEA Trust.
The creation of Wisconsin's largest teachers union -- "WEA" stands for Wisconsin Education Association -- WEA Trust made money when union officials used collective bargaining agreements to steer profitable business its way.
WEA Trust often (always?) charged significantly higher rates than competitive, private insurance companies.
- 8:35 AM, 10 August 2011   [link]


On, Wisconsin:  According to a Tea Party email I received this morning, Republicans scored a big victory last night in Wisconsin.  According to "kos", Democrats scored a victory last night in Wisconsin, though not as big as he had hoped.

Who's right?

On the surface, kos has the better case; Democrats did take 2 seats from the Republicans, making the party balance 17-16.  Republicans kept control, but just barely.

But do those two victories tell us much about future elections?  Not in my opinion.

Instead, they mark, in my opinion, a return to normal.

First, some background from this informative Nate Silver post.  There have been 7 recall elections, and will be two more next Tuesday.  With one possible exception, these 9 districts are swing districts.
All of these seats can be classified as being in swing districts, having voted for Mr. Walker, a Republican, in 2010 but for President Obama in 2008.  Most are a couple of points more Republican than Wisconsin as a whole.  The closest thing to an exception is the 32nd Senate District in the western corner of the state, served by the Republican incumbent Dan Kapanke.  It is more liberal than the others, having given Mr. Walker only a narrow plurality in 2010 and Mr. Obama 61 percent of its vote in 2008.
A Democrat, Dave Hansen, won the first recall election on 19 July.  (The Republican candidate was weak, because the party failed to get their preferred candidate on the ballot.)

In normal elections, you expect Democrats to win Democratic-leaning seats.  In normal elections, you expect Republican incumbents to win Republican-leaning seats, unless there is a scandal.  And that is just what happened last night.  Republican Kapanke lost his Democratic-leaning seat, 55-45.  Republican Hopper lost his Republican-leaning seat, 51-49, because of a personal scandal.  (The Republicans should have a good chance of winning the seat back if they find a better candidate in the next election.)  All the other Republican incumbents won, as you would expect, in a normal election.

There are two recall elections against Democrats Holperin and Wirch next Tuesday.  I would say that Holperin's district leans Republican and Wirch's district leans Democratic.   If Republicans pick up one of them, they will cut their net losses in this fight to 1.

So neither party can celebrate last night's results, wholeheartedly.  But I do think that Wisconsin Republicans, even though they lost two seats, have a little more reason to drink a toast than Wisconsin Democrats.  They kept control of the state government, and now have time to show that their policies are good for the state, that their policies have not brought the disasters the Democrats predicted.

And they were able to do that in spite of having a disadvantage on issues (according to polls), and spending less money.

(Here's a summary of last night's results, and here's an Associated Press summary, if you want to look at the results by county.)
- 7:31 PM, 10 August 2011   [link]


Bipartisan Groups Want To Elect More Scientists And Engineers To Congress:  Which, everything else being equal, is a good idea.

And you can find support for that general position in the article.  But I was most charmed by this pair of examples from former Democratic congressman Bill Foster.
There is plenty of scope for these efforts, said Dr. Foster, who cited "glaring instances of technical ignorance on both sides of the aisle."  He recalled a fellow Democrat (whom he would not name) as advocating greater use of wind power "because windmills poll so well" — which is not, Dr. Foster said, a sound basis for energy policy.  And then there was the Republican who praised the development of GPS technology as an example of innovation unfettered by government, apparently unaware that the technology is a product of government-sponsored research.
So the Democrat is a political hack, but the Republican is just misinformed.  The first is almost impossible to remedy, the second, easy.

(You could argue — and I'll leave examples to those who know more about the subject — that the Republican wasn't entirely wrong.  Although the Global Positioning System was created by and for our military, it has been used in many ways by private companies, who must have done some development work.  And I assume that many of the contractors that built the system were private companies.)
- 7:50 PM, 9 August 2011   [link]


Sue Sanders Bravely Thinks The Unthinkable:  Nuclear war?  No, she is worried about something even worse.
What if my daughter grows up to be Republican?
And there is a real risk that might happen because, you see, Sanders' parents belong to that frightening group.
Although I try to understand my parents' political beliefs, I don't.  When I see what Newsmax "article" or Wall Street Journal editorial my father "likes" on Facebook, or glance at a photo, taken a few years back, of my folks dressed as McCain and Palin for Halloween, I feel physically sick.  Sometimes it's hard to even have simple conversations with them.  Even the most innocent pleasantry, like "Nice weather," could spiral out of control if I don't watch what I say.  (For the record, they are loving grandparents and are far more gracious than I am about not bringing up delicate topics.)  If my dad says, "I bet you guys are happy you're not back east this winter.  All that snow in New York."  I'm tempted to mutter something about climate change, but instead I bite my tongue and say, "Yes, in Portland we don't have to shovel rain."
The whole piece is unintentionally hilarious, especially Sanders' insistence that she is a rational thinker, even as she tells you, again and again, about her emotional reactions to other people's beliefs.

But I do feel sorry for her daughter, and her parents.
- 2:32 PM, 9 August 2011   [link]


Victor Davis Hanson Takes Out Some Euro-Trash:  Yesterday, I read a commentary in Der Spiegel that was so bad that I had planned to critique it some time today.  It combined, I thought, a mindless anti-Americanism with a indifference to mere facts that was impressive, even for a piece in Der Spiegel, where facts, at least in their articles on America, often seem optional, at best.

Fortunately for me, Hanson saw the same piece and demolished it, far more completely than I had planned to do.
I rarely comment on the op-eds of others.  And I try not to use ad hominem attacks in lieu of argument.  Usually I reply forcefully on the principle of retaliation rather than preemption.  So I hesitate to devote space to a single essay.  But in the case of an article by one Jakob Augstein in the recent issue of Der Spiegel I'll make an exception, since his asinine views are emblematic of the poverty of thought that now is so evident among the European Left.   In what follows I quote the article, "Once Upon a Time in the West," in italics, with a bracketed commentary following each paragraph.
Three pages later, there is not much left of Herr Augstein.

After I read Augstein's commentary, I wondered how he had risen so far in Germany's journalism community.  This little bit of biography may provide the answer.
Although his biological father was the German author, Martin Walser, 42-year-old Augstein was actually raised by Rudolf Augstein, the founder of the German news magazine, Der Spiegel.
- 10:51 AM, 9 August 2011   [link]


Movie Maker Michael Moore Knows How To Deal With People who bring bad news.
On his Twitter feed Monday, the Oscar-winning film director also blamed the 2008 economic collapse on Standard & Poor's — apparently because it and other credit-ratings agencies did not downgrade mortgage-based bonds, which encouraged the housing bubble and let it spread throughout the economy.

"Pres Obama, show some guts & arrest the CEO of Standard & Poors.  These criminals brought down the economy in 2008& now they will do it again," Mr. Moore wrote.
Somehow, I don't think Moore is a fan of freedom of speech — when it comes from his political enemies.
- 10:27 AM, 9 August 2011   [link]


"Rioting Mainly For Fun And Profit"  When political scientist Edward Banfield gave that title to a chapter in his wildly controversial book, The Unheavenly City, he must have known that he would enrage many, especially on the left, and must have hoped that he would enlighten those who were willing to think about what he was saying.

He certainly helped clarify my thinking on urban riots.  When I saw pictures of the rioters in London, I was immediately reminded of Banfield's arguments, that often (note the qualifying "Mainly") rioters were having fun and grabbing loot, while loot was easy to grab.

As in the American riots a generation ago, many (most?) of the rioters are simply seizing a chance to get goods at a 100 percent discount.
Widespread looting took place across London after the riots that erupted in Tottenham on Saturday night.

Early on Sunday morning gangs of looters descended on a retail park in Tottenham Hale north London, where they ransacked several stores including PC World, Currys, Comet and Staples.

At a branch of JD Sports looters formed an orderly queue as they waited their turn to help themselves to training shoes and other designer label sports wear.
(That "orderly queue" does seem very British, doesn't it.)

There are differences, of course.  Now looters take to the net to boast about their hauls, and use BlackBerrys to coordinate their strikes.

But there are eerie similarities, too.

As in the American "race" riots, a significant percentage of the looters are white.  (It's been a while since I saw the statistics, but as I recall, in a few cities more than ten percent of the looters were white.)  If you look through a collection of London riot pictures, you'll see some whites getting their share of the loot.

And the excuses from, for instance, the BBC, are similar, too, with rioters and looters being called "protesters".  (The BBC even gave a couple of drunk young women a chance to claim that their looting of a wine shop was an attack on the "rich".  Do the young women actually believe that?  Who knows?  But it does fit, almost perfectly, with the BBC's view of the world.)

If Banfield's interpretation is correct, then the death of Mark Duggan, who was shot by the police, did not provoke the riots as many news stories have told us, but provided a signal which allowed the rioters to coordinate their actions, told them now was the time to riot "mainly for fun and profit".

(Duggan looks like a successful gang banger to me.  The police must have thought so, since they were trying to arrest him for a firearm offense, and appear to have suspected him of being a drug dealer.

In general, the left reacted to Banfield's interpretation of the riots with denial; here's a recent example.  Note that Professor Florida is so unhappy with Banfield that he gets the quote wrong, and is unable (or unwilling) to explain why he thinks Banfield was wrong.

Banfield revised his famous book; I've never read The Unheavenly City Revisited, but I suppose that I should, some time.)
- 9:00 AM, 9 August 2011   [link]


How To Give A Speech On Time:  In which your humble correspondent gives some advice to President Obama.

Yesterday, as you may have noticed, the Obama administration told us they would have a statement on the Standard & Poor's downgrade at 1:00 PM, and then delayed it, twice.  This is not the first time that they have made this elementary mistake, which, at best, makes them look mildly incompetent.  (And, at worst, deliberately rude.)

There are several practical ways to avoid this mistake.  For Obama, I would suggest this one:  Don't schedule a speech until it has been completely written, and checked.  And then allow another hour, just in case.

(Oh, and if your chief of staff, currently William Daley, isn't taking care of details like this one for you, learn to use him better, or get a new chief of staff.)
- 5:31 AM, 9 August 2011   [link]