Archive:

August 2012, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Jonah Goldberg Begins His Criticism Of The Coverage Of Republican Convention with a wonderful Dan Rather story.
In 2004, Arnold Schwarzenegger — then a popular figure in the Republican party — gave an exciting, upbeat, and surprisingly funny speech at the GOP convention.  He covered a lot of territory: how he came to America, how he became a Republican after listening to Richard Nixon, and other highlights of his life story.

Afterwards, then–CBS News anchor Dan Rather reported that Schwarzenegger “slapped John Kerry around like a hockey puck.”

The only problem: Schwarzenegger never mentioned John Kerry, not even once.
As Goldberg goes on to say, "it’s hardly news that much of the press likes to report the convention as they want it to be rather than as it is."

So, for instance, MSNBC ignored the parade of minority speakers — some of them quite impressive — that the convention managers sent to the podium.
- 9:16 AM, 31 August 2012   [link]


The Seals Strike Back?  There's not much doubt that military leaders, including those in command of the Seals, were not happy with President Obama's credit grabbing for the success of the bin Laden raid, or the leaks that his administration used to grab that credit.

Now, a former Seal, who was on that raid, has written a book describing the raid — and he didn't get the book checked by the Pentagon.  That decision may cause him some legal problems; it will certainly increase the sales of his book.

But I wonder whether Matt Bissonette (who used the pen name "Mark Owen" for the book) made the decision to publish without checking, in part to criticize the Obama administration, for reasons that are obvious to Owen and Bing West.
Mr. Bissonnette's critics in the armed forces and media would do well to distinguish between one warrior who was on the front lines, writing about what he experienced, and the leaks about military matters that have been coming from the top of our government.  The written law and the moral burden of protecting the nation have been violated in a much more extreme fashion by the inner council of President Obama, resulting in the severe compromise of methods and sources.

One American official provided exquisite details about how the U.S. collaborated with Israel to launch cyber attacks that destroyed Iranian centrifuges.  Iran later arrested several technicians, accusing them of collaboration with the Americans.

In the case of Osama bin Laden, the White House leaked so many details of the raid that a Pakistani doctor was later sentenced to 33 years in prison for helping to locate the al Qaeda leader.  The administration even allowed a Hollywood crew to visit the White House to replicate details for an upcoming movie.  Early reports indicate that Mr. Bissonnette's version of events contradicts some of those details, including when exactly bin Laden was first shot and whether he was armed.
A flood of leaks, Mr. Bissonette may think, deserves a reply.  And it is easy to see why he and other Seals might feel that way.

(Here's my post on the likely source of many of those leaks, National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon.)
- 7:55 AM, 31 August 2012   [link]


Paul Ryan's College Sweetheart:  The Daily Mail covers this important story.   No, seriously, it is moderately important because it tells us something about his support for civil rights.
This is the cheerleader Paul Ryan dated at college who helped forge his uncompromising opposition to racism.

The relationship and the backlash he suffered from his so-called friends were a formative experience in the political evolution of the Republican vice-presidential pick who described himself as a 'big, big fan' of Martin Luther King and is a staunch advocate of civil rights.
. . .
Five years after being first elected to Congress, [Ryan] accompanied Representative John Lewis, a Democratic congressman and civil rights icon, on the Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama.

In that 2005 interview, Ryan described Lewis, who still bears the scars form a beating by state troopers in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, as ‘a hero’ and said that while he had experienced racism he had little knowledge of what Lewis and other blacks of his generation had gone through.
(FWIW, Congressman Lewis and I disagree more often than not on issues — but I, too, view him as a hero.)

Deneeta Pope and Paul Ryan departed friends, judging by her 1998 contributions to his campaigns.
- 5:20 PM, 30 August 2012   [link]


Professor Althouse Explains Why She Voted for Obama.
My refusal to apologize hinges on my 3 reasons for voting for Obama: 1. I wanted Democrats to have to take responsibility terrorism and security issues instead of being able to get away with sniping from the sidelines, 2. The central issue of the day was economics, and McCain had professed and demonstrated that he was unprepared to handle it, and 3. I believed Obama had the potential to advance us in some new way on racial matters.

In 2012, from my point of view: 1. Mission accomplished, 2. McCain isn't the alternative to Obama, and 3. Potential miserably squandered as a flailing Democratic party and its media facilitators use race any old way they want in the short-sighted pursuit of partisan goals.
Although I disagreed with her then and disagree with her now, I won't say her argument doesn't make any sense to me.  (There are others who voted for Obama, especially some of the purist libertarians, who still puzzle me.)

I am older — and perhaps a bit more cynical than Professor Althouse — so I believe that her 1st reason, Democrats taking responsibility on terrorism and security, would last approximately 1 microsecond after Romney was declared the victor, should that happen.  As for the second, I think that the last four years have shown us that McCain, for all his faults, understands the economy far better than Obama.

I agreed with her on the "potential" in 3, but abandoned that hope as soon as Obama named Eric Holder attorney general.
- 2:04 PM, 30 August 2012   [link]


Ryan In Hell:  This is the photograph our newspaper of record, the New York Times, chose to illustrate Paul Ryan's acceptance speech.

NYT cover photo of Ryan in hell

Sometimes the bias is blatant.

It would be easy to pass this off as just another failure of our newspaper of record, except — the Times often sets the agenda for many other news organizations, including ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC.

(Here's a link to the original.  I don't know how long that will last.  I should add that different editions do not always have the same photos.

In my opinion, this is fair use, since I am critiquing the picture, and not profiting from my critique in any way.

I did scale the picture down to 550 pixels wide to make it fit better on my site.)
- 1:03 PM, 30 August 2012
The Weekly Standard came to the same conclusion I did, at about the same time.
- 1:31 PM, 30 August 2012   [link]


Tuesday's New Yorker Cartoon Showed a little boy explaining the facts of school to an even littler boy.

The first boy is saying: "It's all learning-is-fun and invented spelling and then — bam! — second grade."
- 10:46 AM, 30 August 2012   [link]


Need Another Reason To Dislike Congressman Pete Stark?   Few of us do, but, just in case, here it is.
Rep. Pete Stark, 80, has seven children; three are minors, the product of his third marriage.  He once told the Los Angeles Times that he calls the three youngest his "second litter."  Lucky Stark.  Thanks to a dated Social Security system, he enjoys a "second-litter" subsidy.

As Carolyn Lochhead wrote in The Chronicle, Stark has reported a net worth as high as $27 million, and he earns $174,000 as a member of Congress.  Nonetheless, Stark's three minor children are collecting benefits from Social Security.
(The average monthly payment per child under this provision is $605.  Since Stark has had a higher income than average, almost forever, his "second litter" is probably getting more than that.)

There's nothing illegal about this, but it does make Congressman Stark look, well, greedy.

{If you have forgotten why you disliked Stark, you can find many reasons here.

Stark is being challenged by fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell.  Stark's campaign is not going well, so there is hope that he will soon be able to spend more time with his "second litter" — though perhaps we should not wish Stark on them.

This election, by the way, might be an example of where the "top-two" system works out better than most alternatives.)
- 10:35 AM, 30 August 2012   [link]


What's Germany Doing Now That They Have Dropped Nuclear Power?  Building coal plants.  For very practical reasons.
In mid-August, Germany opened a new 2200MW coal-fired power station near Cologne, and virtually not a word has been said about it.  This dearth of reporting is even more surprising when one considers that Germany has said building new coal plants is necessary because electricity produced by wind and solar has turned out to be unaffordably expensive and unreliable.
In fact, Germany has twenty-three (!) coal plants under construction.

No doubt they will be cleaner than their coal predecessors, but they will still emit more carbon dioxide than most other sources of electricity, way more.

(If Germany had the same natural gas resources as the United States does, they could switch to that fuel and emit less CO2 per kilowatt hour.  I am not sure whether they have those resources, and I am certain that they would have a hard time developing them, if they do.)
- 8:17 AM, 30 August 2012   [link]


If You Miss The Bushes, You'll Like this video.

(I miss hearing the elder Bush say, "Wouldn't be prudent." when he explained why he wasn't taking some action.)
- 7:58 AM, 30 August 2012   [link]


Meanwhile, Back In Barack Obama's Illinois (16):   Standard & Poor's just downgraded the state's debt — again.
Illinois’ credit rating was downgrade by Standard & Poor’s on Wednesday, a move that came after Gov. Pat Quinn has been unable to persuade lawmakers to cut costs in the state’s debt-ridden public employee pension system.

The agency lowered the state’s credit rating from A+ to A, citing a “lack of action” on changes aimed at lowering the pension system’s unfunded liability that could hit $93 billion by next summer if nothing is done. Standard & Poor’s also gave Illinois a “negative outlook,” saying Illinois’ budget future remains uncertain.
An A is a good grade in most American classes, but it's a lousy grade for a state's credit.   Of the 50 states, only California has a lower grade (A-) than Illinois.

None of the news articles I found in a quick search had a reaction to the downgrade from former Illinois state senator, Barack Obama, who could have done something about this problem while in the legislature, but did not.  (In fact, I believe he supported policies that made it worse.)

(The article does not mention one of the reasons for the legislators' inaction:  Almost any plausible reform would cost some of them (and their families and friends) serious amounts of money.)
- 7:34 AM, 30 August 2012   [link]


According To Aaron Blake, Obama Has An Advantage in the ground game.
Some Republicans are starting to fret a little bit about their ground game and a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that fear is at least somewhat justified.

According to the poll, 20 percent of registered voters say they have been contacted by the Obama campaign, compared to 13 percent who say they have been contacted by Mitt Romney’s campaign.
Is he right?  Probably.  Romney has just been nominated, so he has not had the time to build up his ground game.

But there is time to do that, just enough time, in my opinion.

(How much difference does a good ground game make?  In general elections, the common estimates are around 2-3 percent, maximum.  But that can be enough to tip an election, even a presidential election.)
- 4:35 PM, 29 August 2012   [link]


The Little Deaf Boy Who Is Being Asked Not To Sign his own name.
A school district has demanded a three-year-old deaf student named Hunter use a different hand sign for his name as the current gesture resembles a gun, his parents have claimed.

The Grand Island, Nebraska district reportedly has a policy forbidding children from bringing 'any instrument that looks like a weapon' to school.
(They have pictures of the two signs, and they don't look much alike to me.)

What surprised me most about this is that it happened in Nebraska, not, for example, California.

(I wonder what they would do if the kid's name were Peter Gunn, or something similar.)
- 1:21 PM, 29 August 2012
The school has backed down.  It's pretty hard to win when you appear to be picking on a cute, disabled three-year-old.
- 2:32 PM, 30 August 2012   [link]


18, 18-19, 19, 20, 21:  That's my summary of Keith Hennessey's cheat sheet.
  • Over the past 50 years federal taxes have averaged 18% of GDP.
  • Governor Romney proposes taxes “between 18 and 19 percent” of GDP.
  • The House-passed (“Ryan”) budget proposes long-term taxes of 19% of GDP.
  • President Obama’s budget proposes long-term taxes at 20% of GDP.*
  • The Bowles-Simpson plan proposes long-term taxes at 21% of GDP.
How big is 1% of the GDP?  Currently about $155 billion.  So a difference in taxes of 2% over a decade adds up to more than $3 trillion.

(Hennessey is being fair, and using each person's own estimates.  I think that Obama would be unable to pay for the programs he has proposed, at that tax level, without bankrupting the nation.

By way of Greg Mankiw.)
- 12:55 PM, 29 August 2012   [link]


Bret Stephens Summarizes Obama's Foreign Policy failures.
Consider the record.  His failed personal effort to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago.   His failed personal effort to negotiate a climate-change deal at Copenhagen in 2009.  His failed efforts to strike a nuclear deal with Iran that year and this year.  His failed effort to improve America's public standing in the Muslim world with the now-forgotten Cairo speech.  His failed reset with Russia.  His failed effort to strong-arm Israel into a permanent settlement freeze.  His failed (if half-hearted) effort to maintain a residual U.S. military force in Iraq.  His failed efforts to cut deals with the Taliban and reach out to North Korea.  His failed effort to win over China and Russia for even a symbolic U.N. condemnation of Syria's Bashar Assad.  His failed efforts to intercede in Europe's economic crisis.   ("Herr Obama should above all deal with the reduction of the American deficit" was the free advice German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble offered this year.)
Rich Richman adds a list of Obama "successes" that were actually failures.  For example:
His successful personal effort to insult the head of state and prime minister of America’s closest ally (as well as removing the bust of its wartime prime minister from the Oval Office); . . .
The first Stephens example showed, to me, Obama's failure to understand Diplomacy 101.  Almost always, when the president intervenes in a negotiation, it should be to ratify an agreement that has already been made.  In a few cases, it should be to provide just the extra needed to clinch an agreement, where the sides are very close.  (And in a very few cases, the president should intervene, knowing that he will lose, in order to uphold an important principle, or interest.)

Obama should not have traveled to personally lobby to get the Olympics for Chicago, unless the vote counters knew that he would succeed, or that the vote was so close that his presence might make a difference.

The Richman example showed me that Obama would put personal feelings (and, perhaps, ideology) ahead of the interests of the nation.  There was simply no gain for the United States in insulting the British prime minister, however good it made Obama feel.

These aren't the kind of mistakes a Metternich, a Bismark, or a Kissinger might make; these are the kinds of mistakes that failing students in Diplomacy 101 would make.  They are that bad.

(Paul Mirengoff adds two more mistakes to the lists.

You may have to get to the Stephens column through a search with Google News, as I did.)
- 12:29 PM, 29 August 2012   [link]


Being A Canadian Senator Is An Easy Job:  You don't even have to be compos mentis.
A Liberal senator was still at work — casting her vote along party lines a dozen times — four months after a geriatric psychiatrist declared her legally incompetent due to her worsening struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Liberal Senator Joyce Fairbairn, 72, has been receiving round-the-clock care for a year and a half due to her declining health from dementia and will not return to Ottawa for the time being, according to a letter her niece, Patricia McCullagh, sent to Senate officials earlier this month.
She deserves sympathy — and Canadians deserve senators who are fit for the job.

(Forgotten your Latin?  Here's a review.

The Canadian Senate is much less powerful than the American Senate, but it isn't entirely ornamental.)
- 7:44 AM, 29 August 2012   [link]


Governor Kasich Gets Tough with Vice President Biden.
“Folks, let me tell you this – Joe Biden disputes a lot of those facts, but Joe Biden told me that he was a good golfer.  And I’ve played golf with Joe Biden, I can tell you that’s not true, as well as all of the other things that he says,” Kasich said Tuesday at the Republican convention.
To be fair, some of the things Biden says are probably true, but it would be wise to check everything he says.

Is it a low blow to attack Biden's golf skills?  I'll leave that question to those who play the game.

- 7:13 AM, 29 August 2012   [link]


That Weird Anarchist Militia Plot:  Here's the story.
Prosecutors say four Army soldiers based in southeast Georgia killed a former comrade and his girlfriend to protect an anarchist militia group they formed that stockpiled assault weapons and plotted a range of anti-government attacks, including overthrowing the government, killing the president and even poisoning Washington state’s apple crop and bombing a dam.
(King 5 may have put those acts in, roughly, the opposite order that the conspirators planned to do them.)

The leader of this group, Isaac Aguigui, recruited the others with a video game, and I have to wonder whether he got his strange ideas from the same video game.

("Ace" wondered why this bizarre plot hasn't gotten more attention.   Like him, I am inclined to think that's because anarchists are usually considered leftists.   But there is another reason:  Aguigui is a minority, though not one most Americans are familiar with; he's descended from Chamorros, and this connection has already embarrassed people in Guam.)
- 2:49 PM, 28 August 2012   [link]


Pot Smoking Lowers IQ?  That's what a recently-published study found.
A new study more than thirty years in the making found that smoking marijuana permanently lowers intelligence, or IQ.  Pot smokers (even those who had given up marijuana) tended to have deficits in memory, concentration, and overall IQ.  The reduction in IQ for heavy pot smokers was pronounced: an average of eight points.  An eight point reduction in IQ is enough to have a significant, negative impact upon your life.  To put it into context, consider that individuals with an IQ of 110 have an average net worth of $71K and individuals with an IQ of 120 have an average net worth of $128K.  It looks like smoking pot can lower your tax bracket.

What’s significant about this research is that it was a longitudinal study: researchers followed and tested subjects from birth through to age 38, noting when and how frequently they picked up habits like drug use.  Previous studies scrutinized marijuana use at a single point in time, which failed to eliminate the possibility that people with lower IQs are more likely to smoke pot.  The longitudinal research provided a baseline IQ score for all subjects, which revealed changes in IQ scores as they picked up new habits, such as smoking pot.
The design of the study looks reasonable to me, though there are many ways longitudinal studies can go wrong.  If the authors are right — and right now I would bet on them being right — this is a big finding.

So big I won't, for now, make any of the obvious jokes.

But, if these researcher are right, we can add one more deleterious effect of smoking pot to the list published by the British Lung Foundation.

So we can say that smoking pot doesn't harm people, if you don't count lower IQs, and a greater chance of various diseases, including lung cancer.

(You can find the abstract of the paper, and a link to some of the data, here.

I assume everyone knows that the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is a respectable publication.)
- 12:53 PM, 28 August 2012   [link]


"Barkin Mad"  The actress, that is, not some dog.
On Sunday, Ellen Barkin expressed her hope that Tropical Storm Isaac would smash up the Republican National Convention in Tampa and drown all its delegates.

She retweeted the message of one of her followers that read: “C’mon #Isaac! Wash every pro-life, anti-education, anti-woman, xenophobic, gay-bashing, racist SOB right into the ocean! #RNC ” Barkin did not express any disagreement in her retweet.
No doubt the civility police in the "mainstream' media have already called on Barkin, and asked her to retract her "eliminationist" rhetoric.  Just kidding!

(Here's her Wikipedia entry, for those, like me, who have trouble remembering which actress is which.)
- 12:29 PM, 28 August 2012   [link]


Neil Armstrong's Death Was All About Obama:   According to Obama, anyway.

To show that, Matt Drudge did one of his better juxtapositions.

And Iowahawk provided the text, illustrated with the picture that Obama used.

(Some days I am amused because Obama and his people don't seem to realized this narcissism is funny, some days I am disturbed, and some days I am both.)
- 6:00 AM, 28 August 2012   [link]


The Washington Post/ABC Poll Shows A Gain for Romney.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Romney at 47 percent among registered voters and Obama at 46 percent — barely changed from the deadlocked contest in early July. The findings continue a months-long pattern, with neither the incumbent nor the challenger able to sustain clear momentum, despite airing hundreds of millions of dollars in television ads — most of them negative — and exchanging some of the harshest early rhetoric seen in a modern presidential campaign.
That summary somewhat misrepresents the Post's data, as you can see in the graph here.  (Link fixed.)

The most plausible explanation for that pattern is that Mitt Romney is gaining on Barack Obama.  (In fact, that's even stronger evidence of a trend in his favor than what — I think — I saw in the Gallup polls.)

And — credit where due — Ed Morrissey makes this important point about the sample mix.
As mentioned, this poll has a D+9 sample, with Republicans ridiculously undersampled at 22%.  The 2008 election had a split of D+7, 39/32,29, and the 2010 midterms had a split of 35/35/30.  The likelihood of getting a D+9 turnout in this election is nil, as is the likelihood of an electorate that is comprised of 22% Republicans.   Even if we saw it, Obama would still only get 46% of the vote as an incumbent, hardly a gratifying position for Team Obama.
- 3:14 PM, 27 August 2012   [link]


It's The 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay, a turning point in World War II.
The battle is considered to be the first in the Pacific campaign in which Allied troops decisively defeated Japanese land forces.  Although Japanese land forces had experienced local setbacks elsewhere in the Pacific earlier in the war, unlike at Milne Bay, these actions had not forced them to withdraw completely and abandon their strategic objective.  As a result of the battle, Allied morale was boosted and Milne Bay was developed into a major Allied base, which was used to mount subsequent operations in the region.
Hadn't heard of it?  Don't feel bad.  Even some Australians had forgotten it, and it was their victory.

More here, including a few pictures.

(The Battle of Coral Sea, a tactical defeat but a strategic victory, may have helped make the victory at Milne Bay possible.)
- 2:04 PM, 27 August 2012   [link]


Linux 4530s Laptop:  Yesterday, I began installing the 12.04 version of Ubuntu on my new laptop.

It took longer than I had estimated, with unexpected detours in both Windows and Ubuntu, but the system is now working well.  It's a "dual-boot" system, which means that I choose between Windows and Linux when I turn on the computer.

(I'll probably put up a post on the installation problems in the next week or so, for those who like semi-geeky topics.  For now, I'll just say that I ended up using WUBI, instead of doing a native installation, as I had expected to do.)
- 1:03 PM, 27 August 2012   [link]


Convention "Bounces"  Gallup has the numbers.
U.S. presidential candidates historically have seen a median increase of five percentage points in their support in preference polls among registered voters after their party's nominating convention. The average is slightly higher, six points, due to the record 16-point increase for Bill Clinton after the 1992 Democratic convention.
Michael Barone has a brief discussion of the numbers.

And I'll make a prediction:  Romney will get a bounce of 4 points, Obama a bounce of 3 points, from their respective conventions.

(Still amazing:  Hubert Humphrey got a bounce, according to Gallup, from the 1968 Democratic convention, in spite of the violence and bitter factional fights.  It was only 2 points, but it was still a bounce.)
- 12:28 PM, 27 August 2012
Thomas Holbrook made a formal estimate, and got numbers not very far from from my own.  He is predicting a 3.6 percent bump for Romney, and a 1.1 percent bump for Obama.
- 11:05 AM, 29 August 2012   [link]


Seattle Times Columnist Danny Westneat Doesn't Want Washington Voters To Hear Some Arguments:  In his recent attack on free speech, Westneat argues for some restrictions that would, oddly enough, prevent voters here from hearing ideas that he opposes.  Voluntary restrictions, granted, but restrictions nonetheless.

The rumor is that at least one big out-of-state group is about to pour gobs of money into our debate over gay marriage.

Please don't. If it's you, National Organization for Marriage, then please butt out instead.
. . .
No, the corporate-lackey prize this year goes to our man of the people, Tim Eyman.

Eyman has shed any pretense of a people-powered campaign.  His Initiative 1185, to require a two-thirds vote in the state Legislature for tax increases (which is already the law), has 95 percent of its financing from corporate behemoths such as oil companies (Shell, Conoco, BP), the national beer and soda-pop industries and big pharmaceutical firms.

(Some might wonder whether Westneat has been entirely consistent in his positions, whether, for example, he has opposed speculator George Soros's efforts to increase vote fraud in our states, or the efforts of Peter Lewis of Progressive Insurance to increase pot smoking everywhere in the United States.  I don't recall Westneat opposing their efforts, but I haven't read everything he has written.  And, even if he hasn't been consistent, he might still be right in his most recent examples.)

As I understand Westneat, he would prefer that "outsiders" and corporations not finance efforts to make our laws, that they limit their speech by political borders, and legal status.

Presumably, Westneat would have opposed the outside help that civil rights organizations in the South received, decades ago, in their efforts to change the laws and practices in those states.  Incidentally, as anyone who remembers those fights can tell you, the arguments against outsiders that some southerners made then were quite similar to the argument Westneat is making now.  (Though those older arguments were often more colorful.)

To protect their members and supporters from retaliation, those civil rights organizations often kept their financing secret, something Westneat condemns now, and would, presumably, have condemned then.

His second objection, to corporate funding of free speech, is harder to understand, since he accepts funding if it comes from (local) millionaires and billionaires.  If I understand Westneat correctly, he would accept funding from Billy Big Bucks, a local entrepreneur, but oppose the same funding if Billy incorporates and uses money from his wholly-owned company to support the same causes.

Nor does he explain why his corporation, the Seattle Times, should be exempt from the restrictions he wants to put on all other non-media corporations.

(Westneat is not alone there.  I haven't seen any other journalist explain why their corporation deserves to be exempt from the speech restrictions they want to put on other corporations.  I don't know whether they haven't thought about that question, or whether they haven't found an answer that would appeal to the average reader.)

There is one explanation for Westneat's odd combination of suggested restrictions.  I hesitate to suggest it, but it is consistent with Westneat's arguments, such as they are.

Westneat wants restrictions on the free speech of his political opponents, but not on his free speech.  That's not an unusual position, as Nat Hentoff can tell you, but it is distressing to find it, as I so often do, held by journalists.

Here's an old, old song for Westneat, and all the other leftists who want restrictions on (other's) free speech.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Finally, I can't resist asking this mischievous question:  Should Westneat's corporation, the Seattle Times, avoid taking positions on issues in other states?)
- 8:29 AM, 27 August 2012   [link]


If A Nation Has A Big Budget Deficit, Should It Cut Spending Or Raise Taxes?  A new paper, which you can read in draft form here, gives an unequivocal answer:
This paper studies whether fiscal corrections cause large output losses.   We find that it matters crucially how the fiscal correction occurs.  Adjustments based upon spending cuts are much less costly in terms of output losses than tax-based ones.  Spending-based adjustments have been associated with mild and short-lived recessions, in many cases with no recession at all.  Tax-based adjustments have been associated with prolonged and deep recessions.  The difference cannot be explained by different monetary policies during the two types of adjustments.
(Emphasis added.)

Are they right?  I'm not qualified to assess the paper.  (The three economists who wrote the paper, Alberto Alesina, Carlo Favero, and Francesco Giavazz, do have impressive positions, but so do some economists who disagree with them.)

But I can say that their conclusion is consistent with my experience.  When Canada, for example, cut central government spending sharply, the nation came through their fiscal crisis rather well.

By way of Greg Mankiw.
- 7:11 AM, 27 August 2012   [link]


Fake Republicans:  You hear them from time to time on conservative talk shows — and now you can see a couple in one of Obama's ads. Are the others real?  Possibly.  People switch parties all the time, so finding some real switchers is easy, though perhaps time consuming.

Erika Johnsen, who watched the ad so that you don't have to, was astounded by this claim:
If you’re a conservative women, and you believe in small government, Barack Obama is your candidate, because “he’s keeping the government out of decisions that should remain between you and God and you and your own conscience.”
. . .
Secondly, small government?  President Obama has put the expansion of both our federal government and our federal debt on steroids, and ObamaCare is the biggest overstep into everybody’s health-care decisions in the history of the United States.  And honestly now, enough is enough with the damned lie that conservatives want to get “statist” with contraception — you can have all the contraception you want, I just don’t want to be forced to pay for your contraception.   It’s your business.  Democrats are very clearly the party affording the federal government greater authority in people’s private decisions of late, not the other way around.
(I was so amazed by that quote that I watched the ad myself, just to check it.  Yes, one of the women really does say that if you favor small government, you should vote for Barack Obama.)

Incidentally, the official Republican positions on abortion and contraception have not changed for years, perhaps decades, though it is true that there are fewer pro-abortion Republicans than there once were (and fewer pro-life Democrats).

It is also still true that Republicans are more tolerant on this issue than Democrats.   Condoleezza Rice will speak at the Republican convention, but I doubt very much that a prominent pro-life Democrat will get similar time at their convention
- 6:01 AM, 26 August 2012   [link]


Does Eduardo Porter Understand Basic Economics?  (He should; he's a columnist in the business section of the New York Times.)

Let's review:  If fewer people consume a good, then, everything else being equal, the price of the good should fall, right?

But on July 4th, Porter made the following argument.
If there is one number that embodies the seemingly intractable challenge imposed by the illegal drug trade on the the relationship between the United States and Mexico, it is $177.26.   That is the retail price, according to the Drug Enforcement data, of one gram of cocaine from your typical local pusher.  That is 74 percent cheaper than it was 30 years ago.
When I read that last month, I was startled because Porter did not seem to recognize that a lower price could be a sign of success, could be evidence that fewer people were using cocaine.

But I was busy that day, and set aside the article without reading the whole thing.

Today, I finally got around to the rest of the article and found — somewhat to my surprise — that Porter actually supplies data, in the form of a handy graph, showing that drug use has declined in the last thirty years.  That's particularly true of cocaine.  In the early 1980s, surveys found that more than 10 percent of the population admitted to using cocaine in the last twelve months.  Now, less than 3 percent do.

Again, everything else being equal, one would expect more people to use drugs if the price has fallen by three quarters.  Many more.  But the opposite has happened, according to Porter's own data.

Now I do not conclude from the decline in the use of illegal drugs that our drug control policies are optimal, or anywhere close to optimal.  But I do think no one should conclude that they have failed to reduce drug use, either.  (You could argue that other factors — the bitter personal experiences from crack, for instance — had more to do with reducing drug use than official policies.  And, if you have data supporting that argument, I might be willing to take a look at it.)

(The graph also shows a decline from about 32 percent to about 17 percent for "Any drug other than marijuana".  Drug use is up a bit since Obama became president, but the increase is almost entirely due to more people using what he called "choom".

Here's Porter's personal site.)
- 2:47 PM, 24 August 2012   [link]


"Here in America, We Believe In Keeping Our Promises"  So says President Obama.

Well, some of us do.

I fear that Obama does not realize how funny that sounds — coming from him.

(Obama started his weekly speech with this: "Hi, everybody."  That's a bit informal for my tastes, especially when he immediately launches into a Mediscare attack after that opening.)
- 1:27 PM, 25 August 2012
An astute reader reminds me that the "Hi, everybody!" greeting is used by Dr. Nick Riviera, and thus oddly appropriate for the start of a Mediscare speech.
- 9:54 AM, 27 August 2012   [link]