December 2012, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
Again, Drudge Juxtaposes In Order To Make A Point: Or several points, I suspect:
Then comes a picture of the Obamas, which is followed by two stories slamming the Obama supporters at the Washington Post, who backed Obama, and are now planning on dodging some Obama-era tax increases.
I am more than 95 percent sure that Matt Drudge intends you to connect the Obamas to all four negative stories.
- 12:45 PM, 8 December 2012 [link]
Four Golf Outings, One Meeting With Speaker Boehner: President Obama's schedule since election day shows his priorities — and just how much he wants a "grand bargain" that might put us on a path to solving our budget problems.
- 10:38 AM, 8 December 2012 [link]
Giddy From Success: That's how I would describe our local journalists after their wins on gay marriage and marijuana legalization. And I do think it fair to give them credits (or, if you prefer, debits) for both wins.
Our journalists are still celebrating their wins with front page stories that don't even make perfunctory attempts at balance. The journalists have become more than a little annoying, like a football player who won't stop dancing after he scores a touchdown.
(They do occasionally slip. I was amused to see this Pearl Harbor story next to another story on marijuana legalization. It wouldn't be hard to use those pictures of the two young women to argue that we have become degenerate.
Was it fair to use a phrase associated with Stalin to criticize our local journalists? No, but they really have been annoying.)
- 2:37 PM, 7 December 2012 [link]
What Do Voters Want On Taxes And Spending? The polls give us different answers, depending on how the questions are asked. Karl Rove uses a pair of lesser-known polls to show that Obama's program of raising taxes on the top 2 percent and increasing spending is not necessarily what voters, even Obama voters, want.
According to the Winston Group, 61% of Americans said “reforming the tax code to close loopholes” is a better way to raise tax revenues, compared to 28% who said "raising tax rates on those making over $250,000" was the right way to do so.(I corrected an obvious mistake in Rove's text.)
Whether those polled would be as likely to favor tax reform if they found that it affected popular breaks like charitable donations and mortgage deductions is not clear, nor is it clear that there would be as much support for spending cuts, if those polled knew that most cuts would have to come from entitlements.
Still, we shouldn't discount these two polls entirely, or even mostly, in my opinion.
- 12:57 PM, 7 December 2012 [link]
How Many People Paid That 91% Rate In The 1950s? Not many, says Peter Schiff.
There's much more in the op-ed, including data on how our income taxes have become more progressive since then.
(Those numbers may be affected by the steep 1958 recession.)
- 12:26 PM, 7 December 2012
Correction: Apparently, Schif (or whoever did the research for him) mis-read some IRS tables. The op-ed has been corrected, and so I have changed the quote above to show those corrections.
As you can see, the corrections weaken his argument significantly, but do not destroy it completely.
- 12:21 PM, 10 December 2012 [link]
Senator Murray Was Against The Bush Tax Cuts Before She Was For Them: In fact, she voted against them in 2001 and 2003.
But by 2010, she had decided they were a good idea after all, and voted for them. And now she says that she is in favor of those tax cuts — for almost everyone.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(It would be interesting to see what Murray said about those tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.)
- 7:17 AM, 7 December 2012 [link]
Because Women Worry More About The Effects On Children? Professor Althouse wonders why men are much more likely to favor marijuana legalization than women.
"Men support legalization 59 - 36 percent, but women are opposed 52 - 44 percent. The racial split evident throughout American politics on many matters is barely noticeable on this question with 50 percent of white voters and 57 percent of black voters backing legalization."You can see my tentative answer in the title. I would guess that women would be more likely to know about the dangers of marijuana to children, and to care more about those dangers.
- 6:28 AM, 7 December 2012 [link]
Professor Mankiw is disillusioned.
Reasonable people can disagree about whether President Obama is a good or bad president. But the claim that he has tried to transcend partisanship and find a middle ground is just impossible to square with the facts.Mankiw is honest enough to admit that he was wrong about Obama.
- 6:18 AM, 7 December 2012 [link]
Pearl Harbor Day: This year, I will just recycle three of my four posts from last year: the complete failure of the first phase of the Japanese attack, why we were surprised, and Roosevelt's "day of infamy" speech.
This year, like last year, Bing is remembering the attack, and Google isn't.
- 5:59 AM, 7 December 2012 [link]
Al Sharpton Is An Expert On Taxes: An expert on not paying them.
Sharpton’s all about taxes — for others.So, naturally, President Obama invited Sharpton, along with other MSNBC hosts, to the White House to talk about taxes, and the necessity of making the rich (excepting Sharpton, I assume) pay more taxes.
- 2:25 PM, 6 December 2012 [link]
Villages For "Scum" Outside Amsterdam: Those who have bad neighbors may appreciate this Dutch program.
Nuisance neighbours in Amsterdam will be exiled from the city and rehoused in 'scum villages' made up of caravans or containers under constant police supervision.None of the articles I have seen explain exactly what constitutes a nuisance, although there are hints in this BBC article.
The new rules will only be enforced in extreme cases. For example, they say, if gay people are being harassed or police witnesses intimidated.Exile hasn't been used much in the Western world in the last century, but maybe we should think about it again.
- 9:04 AM, 6 December 2012 [link]
Dennis Kucinich Says That There Isn't Much Difference Between Obama's Foreign Policy And Bush's: And he thinks that neither president followed the Constitution.
“You could draw a straight line from George [W.] Bush’s international policies to President Obama’s,” Kucinich told TheDC. ”There’s really not that much of a difference. One could say that President Obama’s taken George Bush’s authorization of the use of military force and has used that to telescope wars throughout the Middle East region using drones to further Bush administration policies.”As you know, Obama adopted many Bush policies and personnel (for example, Robert Gates and David Petraeus) after criticizing both in his long presidential campaign.
On one point, Kucinich agrees with Senator Lugar. Obama should have gotten authorization from Congress for his war on Libya.
Kucinich pointed out that President Obama did not seek congressional approval for the Libya strike in 2011.At the time, Lugar tried to help Obama out, and give him the congressional authorization Obama should have asked for. Obama rejected his offer of help.
And, though I don't have enough information yet to come to a firm conclusion, I suspect that Obama has over-used drone strikes.
Kucinich is right when he says the tactics that Obama is using are similar to those Bush used. But he did not discuss, in that interview, the differences in strategies and objectives between the two administrations. And those, in my opinion, are profound.
For example, Bush used a surge to win a victory in Iraq; Obama used a surge in Afghanistan, but not to win a victory, but to, well, I don't know what his objectives were or are.
- 8:27 AM, 6 December 2012 [link]
New Zealand Driving School: With dogs as the pupils.
Animal experts are teaching dogs how to drive.I'm as impressed by the dog trainers as by the dogs.
(The comments after the article are fun, too.)
- 5:46 AM, 6 December 2012 [link]
On Average, Public Employees Work Less than private employees.
What we found was that during a typical workweek, private-sector employees work about 41.4 hours. Federal workers, by contrast, put in 38.7 hours, and state and local government employees work 38.1 hours. In a calendar year, private-sector employees work the equivalent of 3.8 more 40-hour workweeks than federal employees and 4.7 more weeks than state and local government workers. Put another way, private employees spend around an extra month working each year compared with public employees. If the public sector worked that additional month, governments could theoretically save around $130 billion in annual labor costs without reducing services.That excludes teachers, by the way.
- 7:24 PM, 5 December 2012 [link]
Open Letter On Tax Fairness To Senator Murray:
Dear Senator Murray:
And I am still not sure that I understand your position on taxes, so I hope you won't mind if I ask you three questions about it.
If I understand you correctly, the most important thing for you is that the rich pay their "fair share", where the rich are defined as people who make more than senators and congressmen.
All right, what, in your opinion, would be their fair share? According to the Tax Foundation, the top one percent currently pay about 37 percent of all individual federal income taxes, and the top five percent almost 60 percent. How much higher should those percentages be before we would have a fair system?
(During the Clinton administration, those two groups apparently paid lower shares. I assume you agree with me that Clinton-era taxes were less fair than our current tax system.)
Second, if I understand you correctly, you are willing to risk an economic downturn in order to bring about a fairer system. How much of an increase in unemployment do you think would be a reasonable price for that increase in fairness? One percent for a year? Two percent for four years?
Third, and this is a much more difficult question, could you explain the philosophy behind your concept of fairness? I assume that you, like almost every other college graduate, has studied the ideas of two philosophers who had much to say on this question, John Rawls and Robert Nozick.
As I am sure you recall — and I apologize for simplifying greatly — Rawls argued that a fair society would be designed so as to have a very high minimum. Nozick argued — and again I apologize for simplifying greatly — that such a society would drastically limit our freedoms. (My own thinking, because I value our freedoms, is closer to Nozick than Rawls.)
If I understand your thinking correctly, you hold what might be called an upside down version of Rawls. What you favor is not a society with a high minimum, but one with a low maximum.
Is that a fair summary of your philosophy? If not, could you provide us with one?
Thank you again for writing, and I hope that you, or one of your aides, will take a little time to answer my questions, especially the first two.
I have posted this letter on line, and will happy to add any reply to those posts.
Next week, I plan to send you another open letter, with some suggestions for increasing taxes on some of the rich.
Sincerely,Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 3:07 PM, 5 December 2012 [link]
From Pets To Diamonds: Literally.
Every time she looks into the ring on her finger, Ms. Pilon sees Meowy, her late beloved silver cat. Meowy really is there: The ring's two diamonds were made from her cremated remains.People have been converting the cremated remains of their loved ones to diamonds for a decade. Now, firms like this one will do the same for a pet, even, according to the article, an armadillo.
- 12:21 PM, 5 December 2012 [link]
Sasol Will Build A Plant To Make Diesel Fuel From Natural Gas: In Louisiana.
In an ambitious bet that the glut of cheap natural gas will last for many years, a South African energy company announced on Monday that it would build America's first commercial plant to convert natural gas to diesel and other liquid fuels.I have been saying for years, for example here, that: "At some price (and given some time) any fossil fuel can substitute for any other." So I should have been expecting this — but I wasn't. Price is what determines in what directions the substitutions go, so we should be expecting natural gas to increasingly substitute for coal and oil.
(The article goes on to note the risks in this venture, principally that the cost of natural gas will not stay low.
Krauss doesn't mention Sasol's experience in making liquid fuels from coal, as well as natural gas, but he should have.)
- 10:57 AM, 5 December 2012 [link]
Abdulateef Al-Mulhim Is A Brave Man: Brave enough to say that many Arab problems are caused by Arabs, and that one of the ways to solve some of those problems is to make peace with Israel.
The Arab Spring showed the world that the Palestinians are happier and in better situation than their Arab brothers who fought to liberate them from the Israelis. Now, it is time to stop the hatred and wars and start to create better living conditions for the future Arab generations.
- 9:18 AM, 5 December 2012 [link]
Liberal Racism: From time to time, people ask me why our "mainstream" journalists are unwilling to hold President Obama accountable for his failures. One of the reasons — not the only reason, but one of the reasons — is that many of our "mainstream" journalists are infected with "liberal racism", or, in Michael Gerson's more polite phrase, "the soft bigotry of low expectations".
And not just journalists. Many of our political leaders, especially in the Democratic Party, share those low expectations. Consider, for example, what Joe Biden once said about Barack Obama:
Biden made remarks during the campaign that attracted controversy. On the day of his January 2007 announcement, he spoke of fellow Democratic candidate and Senator Barack Obama: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy, I mean, that's a storybook, man."If you think about that even a little, you'll realize that Biden is demeaning not just Obama, but all African-American politicians. Biden didn't expect much from African-American politicians, and so was surprised to find one who can meet some of the minimum requirements to be president.
That bigotry of low expectations leads our "mainstream" journalists away from stories that might reflect badly on Obama, and leads them to give him credit for things he did not do, or are at best small achievements. I'd say the error of omission is the bigger fault, since it forces us to find those stories on our own, and few of us have the time to do that digging.
Most Americans have moved on from the racism that was all too common in my youth. We are willing, in the famous phrase, to judge people by the "content of their character". But most of our "mainstream" journalists have not, and are still judging Obama, and others, by the color of their skin.
(There are many examples of mainstream African-American politicians who are articulate, bright, clean, and even nice-looking. For example, Edward Brooke.
Obama isn't the only African-American politician who has benefited from this soft bigotry. In this area, former King County executive Ron Sims received far more favorable coverage than his record deserved. Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat actually said that loved Sims, a love that caused Westneat, and many others, to ignore Sims' failures as a manager, and his often divisive policies.
I borrowed my title, and some of the argument, from a book by liberal Jim Sleeper.)
- 8:43 AM, 5 December 2012 [link]
The More I Learn About Susan Rice, The Worse She Looks: As a diplomat, that is. As a point guard, she's probably fine.
Today, Bret Stephens described some of her failures, and added one I hadn't seen before.
In May 1998, Ms. Rice had an opportunity to prove her diplomatic mettle when she was sent to mediate a peace plan between warring Ethiopia and Eritrea.According to accounts, after this disaster then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called Rice back to Washington and put her on "probation".
From time to time, I have argued that Democratic foreign policies are likely to result in heavy loss of life in other countries. Susan Rice's career could be used to illustrate that argument.
- 1:11 PM, 4 December 2012 [link]
Michael Moore Continues To Amuse: Often, unintentionally.
Moore got over $840,000 in taxpayer-funded incentives to make his movie opposing taxpayer-funded incentives for businesses.For more amusement from Michael Moore (and others), you may want to read Do As I Say (Not As I Do).
- 12:49 PM, 4 December 2012 [link]
Carol Platt Liebau Wonders Why The Obamas "like to live like Marie Antoinette in private, while talking like Madame Defarge in public".
And why our "mainstream" reporters let them get away with it.
- 10:29 AM, 4 December 2012 [link]
Are Opportunities For Women And Minorities Better In The Republican Party? (1) I started thinking about that question after the narrow loss of Mia Love in a predominately white district in Utah. Blacks are less than one percent of the population in Utah's 4th district, so the Republicans who nominated her were not hoping to win by appealing to black voters.
And I could think of a number of other examples where Republicans had nominated, and sometimes elected, minorities in mostly-white districts.
So I decided to do some simple counts, starting with the governors.
When I went through the 2012 Almanac of American Politics, I found that we currently have six women governors: Jan Brewer (Arizona, R), Susana Martinez (New Mexico, R), Bev Perdue (North Carolina, D), Mary Fallin (Oklahoma, R) Nikki Haley (South Carolina, R), and Chris Gregoire (Washington, D).
So there are currently 4 Republican women governors, and 2 Democratic women governors. Moreover, both Perdue and Gregoire will be leaving office in January, and will be replaced by men.
We get a similar result if we count visible minority* governors: Bobby Jindal (Louisiana, R), Deval Patrick (Massachusetts, D), Brian Sandoval (Nevada, R), Susana Martinez (New Mexico, R), and Nikki Haley (South Carolina, R).
So the Republicans have 4 minority governors, and the Democrats just 1.
I have a tentative explanation for this Republican advantage, which I will present in a later post. But for now I will just say that an ambitious woman or minority would probably be wise, in most cases, to choose the Republican party.
(*It is not a simple matter to decide who is in a minority, and who isn't. Technically, men are a minority of the electorate, and have been for some time, but those who write on politics almost never think of men as a minority. In my classification, I am following common practice, and counting as minorities those who look different from the white majority, or have Hispanic names and heritage.)
- 6:44 AM, 4 December 2012 [link]
Under The Bus Caption Contest: Cassandra takes advantage of Obama's narcissistic celebration of Rosa Parks.
- 5:50 AM, 4 December 2012 [link]
Has The Turkish Government Finally Gone too far?
A Turkish broadcaster has been fined nearly £20,000 after airing an episode of 'The Simpsons' that was deemed to mock religious beliefs.The episode did mock religious beliefs, which is still legal in the United States, but not in much of the world.
(As described, the episode makes me glad that I have, for years, watched the "couch gags" that begin the episodes, and then almost always turned the the program off.)
- 5:07 AM, 4 December 2012 [link]
Here Are The Main Findings from the survey mentioned in the post just below. (Link fixed.)
I was struck by just how much disagreement there is on many questions, for example:
A slight majority (56%) see at least a 50-50 chance that global temperatures will rise two degrees Celsius or more during the next 50 to 100 years. (The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cites this increase as the point beyond which additional warming would produce major environmental disruptions.)So a large minority thinks that the chance of a dangerous temperature increase — as defined by the UN's IPCC — is unlikely in the next 50-100 years.
That's not quite the scientific consensus I've been hearing about.
You can decide for yourself whether to be amused, dismayed, or both, that the scientists do agree that news coverage of this issue is not to be trusted.
(There's a Wikipedia article summarizing that poll, and a number of other polls. I don't think the article does justice to the uncertainty found by this George Mason poll.)
- 6:54 PM, 3 December 2012 [link]
Physicist Robert G. Brown On Global Warming (And Cooling): His discussion in this post is fairly close to my own thinking on the subject.
Here's something you won't see on "mainstream" news programs:
At the moment there is little reason to think that we are headed towards catastrophe. When the combined membership of the AMA and AGU were surveyed — this is surveying climate scientists in general, not the public or the particular climate scientists that are most vocal on the issue — 15% were not convinced of anthropogenic global warming at all, and over half of them doubted that the warming anthropogenic or not would be catastrophic. It’s the George Mason survey — feel free to look it up. The general consensus was, and remains, that there has definitely and unsurprisingly been warming post LIA, that humans have caused some part of this (how much open to considerable debate as the science is not settled or particularly clear), that there is some chance of it being “catastrophic” warming in the future, a much larger chance that it will not be, and some chance that it will not warm further at all or even cool.(LIA is the Little Ice Age.)
The post was originally published as a comment, and so we should not be surprised that there may be some mistakes in it. See the comment by "Alex" for some likely corrections, and the comment by "Gary" for some possible corrections.
But those corrections would not, in my opinion, affect his central argument.
As that paragraph shows, Brown is a "luke-warmist"; he believes the earth has warmed in recent decades, and that some of that warming is, most likely "anthropogenic", that is, caused by human activity.
- 2:52 PM, 3 December 2012 [link]
On Climate Change, The BBC Sought The Advice Of The "Best Scientific Experts" Except that their experts were not all scientists, and mostly not experts on climate change.
And when the BBC was asked who their "experts" were, they stonewalled, unsuccessfully in the end, thanks to some Internet detective work.
One of the reasons I have become somewhat more skeptical about global warming claims in recent years is the misbehavior of some of those who make those claims. Including those running the BBC.
(The post mentions the "IBT". I believe that's the International Broadcasting Trust.)
- 5:56 AM, 3 December 2012 [link]
Was Obama Trying To Insult Romney with that lunch menu? If so, it was a racist insult, since Romney was served not turkey chili, but white turkey chili.
Obama is certainly capable of that kind of insult. I was persuaded by the pictures that he probably did use his middle finger to insult both Hillary Clinton and John McCain during the 2008 debates. And I think it nearly certain that he meant to call Sarah Palin a pig during that same campaign.
- 4:55 AM, 3 December 2012 [link]
Michael Goodwin Says Supporters Of Obama shouldn't be surprised by his reckless behavior, since he was re-elected.
People weren’t paying attention. Those are the people now surprised that President Obama is still stridently campaigning instead of doing the real work of governing.They shouldn't be surprised — but many are.
- 7:09 PM, 2 December 2012 [link]
Is This Unpleasant Story true?
Egypt's ruling party is paying gangs of thugs to sexually assault women protesting in Cairo's Tahrir Square against President Mohamed Morsi, activists said.It could be true, but it is not obvious how Magda Adly, the one activist quoted by name, would know about those payments.
And it is unfortunately true that some men will take the opportunities from any breakdown in order, and that in Muslim societies more than a few men see women as targets — without anyone paying them to do so.
In the United States, for example, the "Occupy" movement attracted a number of criminals, including at least a few rapists.
That said, Magda Adly has good reason, in my opinion, to fear the Muslim brotherhood.
- 5:56 PM, 2 December 2012 [link]
Murder For The "Smallest Of Political Posts" In South Africa, according to today's New York Times, even political posts that pay as little as $150 a month can be worth murdering a rival.
The article begins with a vivid example, and then provides some summary statistics:
Amid rising corruption and waning economic opportunities, political killings are on the rise. Here in Kwa-Zulu-Natal Province, nearly 40 politicians have been killed since 2012 in battles over political posts, more than triple the number in the previous three years, according to government figures. Over the past few years, dozens more have been killed in provinces like Mpumalanga, North West and Limpopo.The article doesn't explain why economic opportunities are "waning", but there are more than a few hints in this Wikipedia article. As some politician once said, "government is the problem", or at least a very big part of it.
- 3:41 PM, 1 December 2012 [link]
Anti-Science Feminists: James Taranto provides us with some fresh examples, including this one.
"Males Play Sports Much More Than Females," reads the headline on a press release from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich. Dog bites man, right? No. "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle," George Orwell observed. In today's academic world, the insight that the sexes are different is as revolutionary as Winston Smith's insight that two plus two make four was in Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four."(Emphasis added.)
This is, by now, an old, old story. But it deserves comment, even more, for that very reason. Academics have to be careful about saying that men and women are different — even in something as obvious as different tastes for competitive sports — and in spite of the accumulating scientific evidence.
(Although Taranto doesn't say this, he could: People with traditional religious beliefs often include among those, beliefs about the differences between men and women that are closer to the scientific evidence than the beliefs held by many feminist scholars.)
- 2:33 PM, 1 December 2012 [link]
And Those Were Joseph Kennedy's Good Qualities: Reviewers of David Nasaw's biography of Joseph P. Kennedy, Patriarch, are likely to quote his devastating summary of Kennedy, a summary that Nasaw presents, and then qualifies.
Edward Kosner begins with it. The New York Times reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, buries it the middle of her review, and includes the qualifiers:
Mr. Nasaw writes that since his death "Joseph P. Kennedy has been vilified and dismissed as an appeaser, an isolationist, an anti-Semite, a Nazi sympathizer, an unprincipled womanizer, a treacherous and vengeful scoundrel who made millions as a bootlegger and Wall Street swindler, then used those millions to steal elections for his son." There is "some truth to these allegations," he adds, but "they tell only part of a larger, grander, more complicated history."Okay, so those were actually his bad qualities. But it is also true that only one of those charges — that he was a bootlegger — is completely false. (I would say that he "bought" elections for John F. Kennedy, not that he "stole" them. Example: The 1960 West Virginia primary, where JFK defeated Hubert Humphrey.)
And to be fair, Kennedy did have his good qualities. Among other things, he was a brilliant businessman with, Kosner says, "an almost mystical ability to make money out of anything he put his disciplined mind to".
But what fascinates me now, as it has for years, is how the Kennedy family was able to keep the "mainstream" press from covering those bad qualities, in order to further the careers of John, Robert, and Ted Kennedy. It wasn't as if, for example, Joseph Kennedy's efforts to appease Hitler were a secret — but they weren't something that the average reader, much less the average TV viewer, would be likely to see during the 1950s and 1960s.
If anything, the elder Kennedy was an asset with voters, in spite of his outrageous personal behavior, his unprincipled scheming, and his efforts to appease Hitler.
We should have learned something from that mistake — but I don't think we have.
(John Kennedy did not share his father's penchant for appeasement; in fact, he actually cobbled together a Harvard thesis on England's failure to take Hitler seriously, a thesis that was turned into a book by ghostwriters.)
-8:52 AM, 1 December 2012 [link]