August 2012, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
Another Regulatory Capture At The SEC? That's what the Wall Street Journal thinks.
SEC rules have long allowed money-fund operators to employ an accounting fiction that makes their funds appear safer than they are. Instead of share prices that fluctuate, like other kinds of securities, money funds are allowed to report to customers a fixed net asset value (NAV) of $1 per share—even if that's not exactly true.But was defeated by the other commissioners (and the industry).
Does this matter to anyone who doesn't have money in one of these funds? It might. According to the editorial, there is now an implicit Treasury guarantee on these funds.
(As I mentioned in July, citing John Kenneth Galbraith, we should expect regulatory agencies to be captured. As the editorial reminds us, we owe much of our understanding of regulatory capture to economist George Stigler.)
- 3:52 PM, 24 August 2012 [link]
Are The French Giving Up On Love? That's what this hotel ad suggests.
Rough translation: One man, one woman, each his own room.
(I suppose another possibility is that the hotel is trying to accommodate couples who have some sophisticated arrangement.)
- 9:03 AM, 24 August 2012 [link]
"Joyless Slog" Ordinarily, I don't spend much time on campaign stories, and seldom suggest that you do, either (unless they are funny), but I'll make an exception for this one by Toby Harnden. It combines good basic reporting with reasonable generalizations (though Harnden has too rosy a view of Obama's 2008 campaign).
Obama is waging a relentlessly negative campaign of changing the subject from the one that, overwhelmingly, most Americans care about – the economy. Every week there is a new issue his campaign seizes on, preferring to talk about something, anything other than jobs and 8.3 per cent unemployment.Earlier, Harnden said that the people at these events do pay attention when Obama attacks his Republican opponents.
(That's better than any campaign article I've seen in the New York Times.)
- 8:13 AM, 24 August 2012 [link]
Hugo Chávez Has Not Run Venezuela's Prisons Well: As you can see from this real headline: "Well-armed Venezuela prisoners riot again, killing 25"
Well-armed prisoners? Yes, indeed. In fact, if this report is basically right, we can say very well-armed prisoners.
According to one press report, inmates involved in last weekend’s Yare I riot had at least 100 assault rifles (!!), an M60 machine gun (500 rounds per minute to you and me), a number of grenades, some plastic explosives and several Dragunov sniper rifles.With that kind of weaponry, why would inmates stay in the prison? I'm not sure, but they may stay for the free meals — and the opportunities to continue their criminal careers, without much interference from the police.
Chávez has ruled Venezuela since 1999, and the country has considerable oil riches, so he has had the time and the resources to control crime there, including managing the prisons well. But he has failed, and the people of Venezuela have paid a terrible price for his failure.
(It will not surprise you to learn that the statistics on Venezuelan crime are much disputed, and probably lousy. But here's an example, anyway, just to give you an idea of how bad the crime is in that nation.)
- 2:55 PM, 23 August 2012 [link]
Political Historians Agree That Obama Has No Free Will: (About some things, anyway.) Or, so says The Hill.
Bucking protocol, President Obama and the Democrats are planning a full-scale assault on Republicans next week during their convention.So you see that Obama (and, presumably, later Romney) have no choice in this matter. According to political historians Ross Baker of Rutgers and Julian Zelizer of Princeton.
Despite their impeccable academic credentials, I am inclined to disagree with those two gentlemen. I think that Obama could follow traditional protocol — if he wanted to.
(What will these political historians say if Romney follows traditional protocol during the Democratic convention? The reporter, Mike Lillis, doesn't say, and I suspect he didn't ask them that question. They could say they were wrong, I suppose.)
- 1:02 PM, 23 August 2012 [link]
Exelon, The President's Utility: Today's New York Times has a solid front-page story on the connections between Obama and this utility, and the favors the utility has received from his administration.
Exelon’s top executives were early and frequent supporters of Mr. Obama as he rose from the Illinois State Senate to the White House. John W. Rogers Jr., a friend of the president’s and one of his top fund-raisers, is an Exelon board member. David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s longtime political strategist, once worked as an Exelon consultant, and Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor and Mr. Obama’s former chief of staff, helped create the company through a corporate merger in 2000 while working as an investment banker.It's a good article, but I can add to it.
David Axelrod, who has run so many campaigns for Obama, has also run "astroturf" campaigns for Commonwealth Edison, a subsidiary (and predecessor) of Exelon.
And there is another connection. Exelon was formed by a merger of PECO and Unison, the parent of Commonwealth Edison — which was run for many years by Thomas Ayers, who has a very famous son, William, living in Barack Obama's neighborhood.
- 12:37 PM, 23 August 2012
Tom Maguire has more on these Ayers/Obama connections, (much more if you follow his links), enough to suggest that the Thomas Ayers may have been Barack Obama's "guardian angel" as Obama rose in Chicago politics.
- 10:15 AM, 26 August 2012 [link]
The Bizarre Postponement of the Nidal Hasan trial.
One could be forgiven for thinking that political correctness is only one step away from complete insanity. Last Friday, a military appeals court halted the murder case against Maj. Nidal Hasan indefinitely. Why? Because Hasan refuses to shave a beard he grew beginning in June to express his allegiance to Islamo-fascism. According to CNN, U.S. Army Col. Gregory Gross, the military judge presiding over the case, "had previously held that Hassan's beard disrupts the court proceedings and held him in contempt of court five times, the Army said in a news release." The case is on hold in order to "sort out issues" surrounding the judge's threat to have Hasan forcibly shavedAnd that isn't the only bizarre thing about this trial.
Arnold Ahlert thinks that the court is doing the Obama campaign a favor by postponing the case until after the November election.
That's possible. It's also possible, I suppose, that the judge is annoyed because the defendant won't follow orders.
(In my opinion, Hasan should have been hanged within two weeks of committing his crimes.)
- 6:40 AM, 23 August 2012 [link]
George Orwell Is Too Far Left For The BBC, But Fine With Conservatives: Here's the story.
Today the author of Homage to Catalonia and The Road to Wigan Pier remains not just the foremost chronicler of the great ideological battles of the early 20th century, but a sort of conscience for British journalism.Ed West, a conservative, then goes on to say that a sculpture of Orwell in front of the BBC would be fine with him, and reminds us all that Orwell's last two books, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, have many conservative fans.
Could it be that Orwell's criticisms of the left make the BBC uncomfortable with the man?
- 5:14 AM, 23 August 2012 [link]
Welcome To A New Site, College Insurrection.
College Insurrection will be the place where conservative/libertarian students can find out what is going on with like-minded students on other campuses, and understand that they are the many, not the few, no matter what they are told.Kate McMillan of Small Dead Animals likes to ask this question: What's the opposite of diversity?
The answer is: university.
We can all hope that this new site adds some much-needed intellectual diversity to our campuses.
- 8:15 PM, 22 August 2012 [link]
Not My Brew: Yesterday, while looking for a beer to try out, I ran across a local product with this label:
It may be a good beer, but I think I'll pass on it. In fact, I think I'll pass on anything from Hale's from now on.
But, because I'm a good sport, I'll make a couple of suggestions to them. The label would really be better if it had more information. I would suggest a variation on something McDonald's has used. Instead of thousands served, Hale's could add 100 million killed to that label. Truth in advertising is almost always a good idea.
And while Hale's is honoring mass-murdering tyrants, they might want to add another brew to their line, to honor a German leader who was quite fond of beer. His favorite color was black, so "Black Forest" might be an appropriate name for that addition.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 7:54 PM, 22 August 2012 [link]
Apocalypses Avoided: One of the pleasures of dipping into Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist, as I do from time to time, is reading the many, many failed predictions of disaster.
In 1995, the otherwise excellent scientist and writer Jared Diamond fell under the spell of fashionable pessimism when he promised: 'By the time my young sons reach retirement age, half the world's species will be extinct, the air radioactive and the seas polluted with oil.' Let me reassure his sons that species extinction, though terrible, is so far under-shooting that promise by a wide margin. Even if you take E. O. Wilson's wildly pessimistic guess that 27,000 species are dying out every year, that equates to just 2.7 per cent a century (there are thought to be at least ten million species), a long way short of 50 per cent in sixty years. As for Diamond's other worries, the trends are better, not worse: the radioactive dose his sons receive today from weapons tests and nuclear accidents is 90 per cent down on what their father received in the early 1960s and is anyway less than 1 per cent of natural background radiation. The amount of oil spilled in the sea has been falling steadily since before the young Diamonds were born: it is now down by 90 per cent since 1980. (pp. 293-294)(I've enjoyed reading Diamond, and often learned from him, but I do think he has been far too pessimistic about the environment in recent years.)
You can find many more examples in Ridley's Wired article, if you don't want to read the entire book.
(I have some disagreements with Ridley. He is, for example, a little too willing to believe that every good thing comes from voluntary exchanges of goods and ideas, and little too unwilling to see possible bad side effects of such exchanges. In short, he's like many other libertarians.)
- 2:59 PM, 22 August 2012 [link]
If There Is A Trend In The Gallup Data since 12 July, it's toward Romney, who leads, among registered voters, 47-45.
(But I won't claim that the "eyeball" technique I used to estimate the trend is especially sophisticated.)
- 1:25 PM, 22 August 2012 [link]
Senator Cantwell's Gasoline Price Dilemma: Washington state's junior senator favors decreased use of fossil fuels, including gasoline. Here, for example, are some things she says on her campaign site.
(I did a search on the page, but did not find any mention of Solyndra, or any of the other failed "clean energy" boondoggles.)
So far, our experience with most such initiatives has not been encouraging. But there is a simpler way to decrease fossil fuel use, one favored by many economists, including Bush presidential advisor Greg Mankiw. Those economists, having noticed that people buy less when prices are higher, favor the imposition of a Pigovian tax on gasoline or fossil fuels generally. Most would then return the tax by, for example, lower income taxes on individuals.
Why doesn't Cantwell favor this solution? In part, I would guess, because the last time she voted for higher taxes on gasoline, 1993, she lost the next election. (And I am just enough of a cynic to think that she may prefer trying to solve this problem by exchanging special interest handouts for campaign contributions and votes.)
Should Cantwell also favor increases in gasoline prices not caused by higher taxes? In general, yes. If it is essential, as she seems to believe, that we reduce our use of fossil fuels, then those increases should, within limits, be welcome.
Unfortunately for her, many voters do not agree. They dislike high gasoline prices and tend to blame them, fairly or not, on incumbents.
So Cantwell has to at least pretend to oppose higher gasoline prices, if she wants to stay in office.
And so, she has, again, used an old, old trick; she has called for an investigation into the reasons for high gasoline prices, and blamed wicked oil companies for those increases. (And if the investigation shows that the higher gasoline prices were caused by market forces, as such investigations usually do, that won't matter because the election will be over by then.)
It's an old, old trick, because it keeps working. When Cantwell called for an investigation, as she has before, into higher gasoline prices, only one local journalists, as far as I know, even mentioned that we have seen this before. (And KOMO's Brian Johnson deserves some credit for pointing out the obvious.) Our local monopoly newspaper, the Seattle Times, actually backed Cantwell's call for an investigation.
The trick may help Cantwell win re-election, but it won't help the nation solve our energy problems, and it won't give informed voters any reason to think well of our junior senator.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(Is it possible that Cantwell actually believes her arguments on energy policies? Sure. She's a Democrat, she got her start in politics with Jerry Springer, and her degree in Public Administration probably did not include many courses in economics or science.)
- 9:04 AM, 22 August 2012 [link]
What Political Books Are Americans Buying? Mostly conservative books, judging by sales at Amazon.
[The Amazon map] reveals that in book sales at least Mitt Romney is proving the biggest page turner with Republican-skewed books outselling Democrat tomes in all but six U.S. states.(Actually, five states — Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and Maryland — and the District of Columbia, but you can't expect British journalists to always get those details right.)
Perhaps the biggest surprise on that map, to me, is Hawaii.
Here's the interactive Amazon map, which is updated daily. It will interesting to see if any of the states change colors before the election.
(As is usual these days, the colors are reversed.)
- 7:49 AM, 22 August 2012 [link]
Obama Is Now Telling Local Reporters what questions to ask.
The White House is doing something with its local TV interviews that it could not easily get away with in encounters with the White House press corps, which President Obama has been studiously ignoring: choosing the topic about which President Obama and the reporter will talk.Since he can't tell the White House reporters what questions to ask, he has been ignoring them. According to Koffler: "Obama before Monday had taken exactly one substantive question from White House reporters since June."
(Yesterday's surprise mini-press conference took place, I am certain, because Obama was sure he would get questions about Todd Akin's blunder. Jennifer Rubin was not impressed by his answers to other questions. But those other answers got very little coverage, comparatively.)
- 6:13 AM, 22 August 2012 [link]
Worth Reading: Senator Rob Portman on the "regulatory cliff" we are approaching.
After three years of bureaucratic excess, the Obama administration has been quietly postponing several multibillion-dollar regulations until after the November election. Those delayed rules, together with more than 130 unfinished mandates under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law, could significantly increase the regulatory drag on our economy in 2013.From time to time, I wonder whether our current EPA would behave much differently if it were controlled by a hostile foreign power. (But I should add that the agency is often required by law to ignore cost/benefit analyses.)
- 8:09 AM, 21 August 2012 [link]
Since I Don't Play Golf, I Had No Reason To Join The Augusta National Golf Club: But I do now.
Augusta National Golf Club has admitted female members for the first time, granting entry to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore.(I wonder if either of them would like to go cross country skiing?)
- 5:05 PM, 20 August 2012 [link]
Remember Congressman "Baghdad" Jim McDermott? He's running for re-election to Washington's 7th district House seat — and is in the middle of a nasty divorce trial.
Which I wouldn't have mentioned, except for this unusual combination.
[Therese] Hansen and her attorney have accused McDermott of concealing assets at the outset of their marriage and stonewalling discovery requests for financial documents and personal diaries during the case.If a man had lied to me about our financial affairs, I'd find it hard to vote for him. But I may be missing something here.
McDermott does have a plausible opponent this year, Ron Bemis. I don't think anyone thinks that Bemis has a good chance to win, for reasons you can see in the primary results, but no one need be ashamed to vote for him.
(Here's the Wikipedia article on McDermott. The article is is biased in his favor, but not unusably so.)
- 4:15 PM, 20 August 2012 [link]
Interesting Confession from Mark Halperin.
So interesting that I halfway thought he might have backed away from it by now, but I didn't find any retreats in a quick search.
(There are a few "mainstream" journalists who consistently try to play it straight, for example, Jake Tapper. But from most of them, including Halperin, we can expect only occasional slips from their usual partisanship.)
- 3:30 PM, 20 August 2012 [link]
Subsidized Air Pollution: That's what we are getting from some biomass plants. (Which make power by burning, mostly, scrap wood.)
The Wall Street Journal has a California example of the pollution problems.
BLUE LAKE, Calif.—Malodorous brown smoke from a power plant enveloped this logging town on April 29, 2010, and several hundred residents fled until it passed.Is the Blue Lake plant exceptional?
Not necessarily, since the Journal found that 85 of the 107 currently operating plants "have been cited by state or federal regulators for violating air-pollution or water-pollution standards at some time during the past five years". That includes, they say, "minor infractions", so we can't tell how serious the overall problem is. But a follow-up article shows that some regulators think the problems are quite serious.
(Here's Blue Lake.
The solid biofuels section of this Wikipedia article is less negative about the pollution problems.)
- 7:43 AM, 20 August 2012 [link]
How Hard Is It To Get A Voter ID In Pennsylvania: (Now that they are required for voting.)
Vote-fraud defenders have been using Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year old Pennsylvania woman whose birth certificate copies were destroyed in two separate house fires, as the “star witness” against Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID law. Her Social Security card was stolen a while ago, and she doesn’t have a drivers’ license. Without either birth certificate or SS card, this sweet old lady would be ruthlessly “disenfranchised,” because she couldn’t get one of the new photographic voter ID cards the state is handing out.I saw her on TV, when she was still the star witness. I may be cynical, but I doubt that her easy acquisition of an ID will get anywhere near the coverage her testimony did.
- 6:38 AM, 20 August 2012 [link]
Markets Are Almost Always More Efficient Than Bureaucracies: So we shouldn't be surprised to find that true in health care, too; we shouldn't be surprised to find that Paul Ryan (and Alain Enthoven) might be right about Medicare.
Overlooked in the furor surrounding Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal — a plan, it should be recalled, that wouldn’t start until 2023 and even then would affect only new beneficiaries — is a just-published study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggesting that, well, Ryan might be right. The study finds that a voucher-type system might noticeably reduce costs compared to “traditional” fee-for-service Medicare. Three Harvard economists did the study, including one prominent supporter of President Obama’s health-care overhaul.And there is more evidence from the experience with the drug coverage in Medicare, Part D. But you will probably want to read the whole column to see all of Robert Samuelson's argument.
If markets are efficient, why do so many people oppose using them to control health care costs? Some, for moral reasons. They object to using money to control health care decisions, which they see as matters of life and death. Since some of us have so much more money than others, using markets in health care gives the wealthy another advantage, and one that seems worse, emotionally, than some of the other advantages.
I think the gains in efficiency and freedom are worth those possible losses in equality, but can understand why some might differ. (In practice, bureaucracies are often even more inegalitarian than markets, something proponents of bureaucracies often miss.)
Others object, of course, because they benefit from the current systems. (The American Association of Retired Persons is an obvious example.)
(David Leonhardt of the New York Times is probably in the first group. Over the years I read many articles by him on controlling health costs, and began to notice a pattern: He was not willing to even consider using markets to control health costs. If he ever explained why, I missed that, but I think moral objections are the most likely reason.
He has been promoted to Washington Bureau Chief, so his newspaper is not unhappy with his approach.
Here's a 2010 critique of Leonhardt's refusal to consider market solutions.)
- 6:16 AM, 20 August 2012 [link]
Timothy Egan Needs To Work On His Metaphors: Last Thursday, I opened the New York Times to the op-ed page and read this lead paragraph:
Ten days from now, some of the world's best-paid magicians of image and narrative will unveil a reboot of a most unfathomable man, Willard Mitt Romney, a 2012 model with a shelf life of barely two months.The first phrase makes sense, though it would be better if he had said something like this: "At the Republican convention ten days from now."
But the rest of it makes no sense at all.
To begin with, Egan has no way of knowing how the convention managers will present Romney, or even whether they are especially well paid. You don't "unveil a reboot", you just press a button or two. If Romney is truly "unfathomable", then Egan is admitting that he doesn't understand Romney. When we describe people with model years, we ordinarily mean their birth year. If Romney's shelf life has expired, then he must have been good earlier in the year.
Those metaphors aren't just mixed; they are scrambled.
If George Orwell were still alive, he might use that paragraph in a new version of "Politics and the English Language". It's that bad.
Timothy Egan is not a summer intern; he's a serious writer with a shared Pulitzer Prize and six books to his credit. (Or, perhaps, debit. I haven't read the books.)
So why didn't he write an opening paragraph that makes sense?
I suppose that the simplest explanation is the most likely: Egan hates Romney so much that he couldn't see the defects of that paragraph.
And if you read the rest of the op-ed — something I am not suggesting you do — you'll find more evidence for that explanation.
- 3:28 PM, 19 August 2012
It's piling on, but I have to add that the first phrase is incorrect. Since the convention starts on the 27th and the op-ed was published on the 16th, he sould have said eleven days.
- 10:25 AM, 22 August 2012 [link]
John Podhoretz Comes To An Unpleasant Conclusion about Joe Biden.
One is forced to conclude that Obama chose Biden because he wanted a running mate who would have no independent standing whatever.And another unpleasant conclusion about the man who chose Biden as his running mate.
I'm not forced to come to either conclusion — but I must admit that they make at least as much sense as any other explanation I've seen for the choice.
- 1:38 PM, 18 August 2012 [link]
Too PC For The NYT: On Friday, reviewer Mike Hale of the New York Times startled me with this paragraph on a new BBC America TV series, "Copper".
Like a lot of other current high-class cable series, "Copper" achieves a distinctly American mix: a high level of sensationalistic violence, sex, and all-around turpitude presented in a package so stuffy and politically correct it makes your eyes bleed.I didn't know you could say that in the Times.
Especially considering that, as far as I can tell — I don't watch cable TV — it's true. (I do see programs from time to time on broadcast TV that make me want to open windows and wash out my eyes.)
- 3:45 PM, 18 August 2012 [link]
If So, Julian Assange Has Beaten some stiff competition.
Here's why Julian Assange is the most annoying and arrogant person in the whole worldOff hand, I can't think of anyone obviously more annoying and arrogant. (The Kim dynasty in North Korea are annoying and arrogant, but their sins are so great that annoying and arrogant are too weak to describe them.)
So Brendan O'Neill may be right. But I also have to add that, by all accounts, Assange was unpleasant before he received all the publicity. Our "mainstream" journalists may not have made him worse, so much as they made him impossible to ignore.
(If you are wondering why the Ecuador government wants to help Assange, you can find some answers here.)
- 1:59 PM, 18 August 2012 [link]
How Did Harry Reid Get Rich? The old-fashioned way, through careful investing — and political connections, earmarks, and dubious deals.
In 2004, the senator made $700,000 off a land deal that was, to say the least, unorthodox. It started in 1998 when he bought a parcel of land with attorney Jay Brown, a close friend whose name has surfaced multiple times in organized-crime investigations and whom one retired FBI agent described as “always a person of interest.” Three years after the purchase, Reid transferred his portion of the property to Patrick Lane LLC, a holding company Brown controlled. But Reid kept putting the property on his financial disclosures, and when the company sold it in 2004, he profited from the deal — a deal on land that he didn’t technically own and that had nearly tripled in value in six years.There may be an innocent explanation for that investing success, but I have to say I haven't been able to think of one.
- 6:08 AM, 17 August 2012 [link]
Two Sensible Pieces On The Shooting At The Family Research Council: One from conservative John Hinderaker.
Today’s attack differed from some of its predecessors, like Loughner’s and James Holmes’s, in two important respects. First, Corkins was much less effective. He killed no one, and wounded only one individual, not too seriously. So today’s shooting is, legitimately, a lesser news story. For this reason, I think some of my fellow conservatives have gone overboard in complaining that various news outlets (e.g., CNN) have failed to cover the story adequately. Second, while the facts are barely becoming known, it already seems obvious that Corkins’s attack, unlike Loughner’s and Holmes’s, was political. There seems to be no doubt that he wanted to shoot up the Family Research Council because he disagrees with the FRC’s position on gay marriage. It is also reasonable to suspect–although presumably more will be known about this in due course–that he was influenced by the many left-wing and gay activist organizations that labeled the FRC a “hate group.”And one from liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank.
Human Rights Campaign isn’t responsible for the shooting. Neither should the organization that deemed the FRC a “hate group,” the Southern Poverty Law Center, be blamed for a madman’s act. But both are reckless in labeling as a “hate group” a policy shop that advocates for a full range of conservative Christian positions, on issues from stem cells to euthanasia.And that recklessness on left or right, Milbank goes on to say, can inspire crazies.
- 5:50 AM, 17 August 2012 [link]
Congressman Ryan, bow hunter.
Paul Ryan might've been an early long shot to get the Republican vice presidential nod, but according to an old friend -- who just happens to be the president and CEO of the country's largest archers' organization -- Ryan has always been a sure shot with his hunting bow.What this shows me about Ryan is that he isn't afraid of a challenge, and that he genuinely loves nature. It is much harder to hunt deer with a bow and arrow than with a rifle, and those who hunt with a bow and arrow almost always love being in the forests.
(The article wasn't written by someone famliar with guns. One hundred yards is not an exceptionally long shot, especially with a scope.)
- 5:28 AM, 17 August 2012 [link]