December 2012, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
More Evidence, Not That We Needed More, that President Obama is not a good listener.
Past and current Obama administration officials say Mr. Boehner has little grasp of strategy and less of a hold on policy details. Yet Mr. Boehner is confident that he is the one with depth and experience in deal-making and regards Mr. Obama as a naïf.(Emphasis added.)
Nor is Obama a good negotiator, if that description is even roughly accurate.
You don't insult or preach at someone you want to make a deal with. You do spend much of your time listening to them.
- 6:14 PM, 16 December 2012 [link]
Michael Kennedy Reviews The "Deinstitutionalization" Of The Mentally Ill: And suggests that we may have seen one consequence last Friday in Connecticut.
This looks to me like an incident of mass violence by a schizophrenic 20 year-old male with possible assistance by his mother in allowing him access to guns. Her assistance would be in the form of enabling, not active assistance.Kennedy does not mention one common alternative to institutionlization, "Assisted outpatient treatment". In AOT, patients are not institutionalized, but they are required to "adhere to a mental health treatment plan while living in the community". Typically, that means that the patient must take anti-psychotic drugs, under supervision.
(If this comment is correct, Connecticut is one of just six states that does not have this option.)
Clayton Cramer makes what should be an obvious observation — but isn't.
Curiously, during the period before deinstitutionalization, the mentally ill seem to have been less likely to be arrested for serious crimes than the general population. Studies in New York and Connecticut from the 1920s through the 1940s showed a much lower arrest rate for the mentally ill.64 In an era when involuntary commitment was relatively easy, those who were considered a danger to themselves or others would be hospitalized at the first signs of serious mental illness. The connection between insanity and crime was apparent,65 and the society took a precautionary approach. Mentally ill persons who were not hospitalized were those not considered a danger to others. This changed as deinstitutionalization took effect.Those old mental hospitals were, sometimes, horrible places — but we may have gone too far in the opposite direction when we closed most of them.
(Here's the Wikipedia article on schizophrenia.)
- 3:29 PM, 16 December 2012 [link]
In These Tough Times, it's good to see that President Obama can still tell jokes.
In a Thursday interview with a Miami-based local television station, Obama said he thinks few people believe he wants to impose socialism on the country.We know this is a joke because polls show that a great many people do think he wants to impose socialism on the country, and because his domestic policies are not at all "mainstream".
(As I've said before, Obama's beliefs don't fit the original definition of socialism — state ownership of the means of production — but they would be acceptable in many of the world's socialist parties.)
- 9:24 AM, 16 December 2012 [link]
Outlook For Venezuela Brightens: Assuming these doctors are correct.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's cancer is most likely terminal given the disease's recurrences, and while the president may bounce back for periods, his health is increasingly at risk, say several leading cancer specialists not involved in the treatment.Chávez has, according to one specialist, about a "50% chance of survival in the next six months".
Most observers think that there is no replacement in his movement who would be as popular with Venezuelans, and as capable of holding his movement together.
(Here's a post with a flowchart outlining some of the near-term possibilities. As you can see, much depends on (1) the outcome of the elections tomorrow, (2) the timing of the devaluation of the Venezuelan currency, and, of course, (3) when Chávez departs for a warmer place.)
- 1:22 PM, 15 December 2012 [link]
First Reports Are Often Wrong: And they certainly were in the school shootings in Newtown.
That comment thread was quickly taken over by the news of the massacre, and if you read the comments in order, you'll see just how wrong the first reports were — and how some of the mistakes were corrected.
My initial reaction — which might be wrong — is that this disaster shows us, again, that we are not very good at identifying the dangerous mentally ill among us.
And that might be, in part, because it is an inherently hard thing to do.
- 12:45 PM, 15 December 2012 [link]
Horrific School Massacre In Connecticut: For now I don't have anything more to say about it, except my usual caution that first reports often get important details wrong.
- 12:13 PM, 14 December 2012 [link]
Republicans All Across America Will Be Relieved by this Barbra Streisand revelation.
(Should this make Democrats, especially Democratic men, just a little more nervous? Perhaps.)
- 8:20 AM, 14 December 2012 [link]
Obama Defeated Romney Mostly By Demonizing Him: But that isn't a "narrative" that anyone can admire, especially anyone who knows what a fundamentally decent man Romney is.
And so the Obama campaign — with the help, as usual, of our "mainstream" journalists — is trying to spread a different, more positive narrative.
The secret of their successful spin: Instead of talking about how their guy won a second term by methodically defining—and demonizing—his buffoon of an opponent, they’re gushing about the ingenuity of their apps and algorithms.Like much effective propaganda, this second, positive narrative has some truth in it. But it is also true that the Obama get-out-the-vote effort would not have given him a majority, if thousands of negative ads had not discouraged millions of potential Romney voters.
(Incidentally, both narratives tacitly admit that Obama could not have won on his record, or his promises.)
- 7:13 AM, 14 December 2012 [link]
NBC Editor Nancy Snyderman Likes Part Of Christmas: The non-religious part.
During a panel discussion on Tuesday's NBC Today about hiring people to do Christmas chores like decorating the tree or buying gifts, the network's chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman suddenly broke into an anti-religious rant: "I don't like the religion part. I think religion is what mucks the whole thing up....I think that's what makes the holidays so stressful."Not for most Americans, as Snyderman should know.
But then I have encountered her thinking before, and have never once heard her say anything politically incorrect.
Most Americans who aren't Christians have learned not to be bothered by the "religion part", just as I — and many other Americans — have learned not to be bothered by the Hindu and Buddhist celebrations that we occasionally see.
(Her Wikipedia biography didn't give me any hints about her hatred for the "religious parts".)
- 6:31 AM, 14 December 2012 [link]
The November Federal Deficit Was A Record For That Month: But you wouldn't have learned that from the Associated Press story.
A case in point is today's Associated Press report on November's Monthly Treasury Statement. The government's report came in with a deficit of $172.1 billion, the highest November shortfall ever (the runner-up: last year's $137.3 billion). The AP's Christopher Rugaber either failed to recognize the reported amount as a record -- doubtful in my view given its size -- or didn't think its recordbreaking status was newsworthy.That isn't quite as bad as it looks, because of "a calendar quirk that pulled about $33 billion in benefits payments into November from December". But it would still have been a record, even without that "quirk".
If you read more of the AP article, you'll discover that Rugaber explicitly blames President Bush for deficits during his time in office, but just says that: "Obama's presidency has coincided with four straight $1 trillion-plus deficits". And then goes on to blame those deficits on the recession — which is partly true, but only partly.
We don't seem to be gaining on the deficit, even though tax revenues increased about 10 percent in October and November over the same two months last year. If we exclude that $33 billion "quirk", we find that spending also increased about 10 percent over last year.
- 1:57 PM, 13 December 2012 [link]
Harry Belafonte Has Always Been A Fan Of Third-World Dictators: So it isn't any surprise to see him suggesting (half jokingly, I think) that President Obama should act like one and put opponents in jail.
A real newsman — and Al Sharpton is many things, but not a newsman — would have explored Belafonte's reasoning. If Obama's re-election gives him a powerful mandate, did President Bush's re-election in 2004 give him an equally powerful mandate?
(I am pretty sure that Belafonte did not say Bush had that kind of mandate after the 2004 election, even though Bush improved his showing over 2000, and the Republicans kept control of both House and Senate, winning three additional seats in the House and four in the Senate.)
Democrats didn't think so at the time, and acted as if Bush had no mandate at all.
- 9:28 AM, 13 December 2012 [link]
Partial Miracle Cure For Leukemia: Partial miracle sounds funny, doesn't it? But I think that's an accurate description of an experimental treatment that — so far — has cured four of twelve terminal patients suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and helped four others. Three who received this treatment were not helped, and one had it so recently that the researchers don't know whether it helped him.
(I have to say so far, because, as we all know, cancer can come back.)
How does the cure work? According to this New York Times article, the researchers used a disabled version of the AIDS virus to "re-program" T-cells, inserting genes that will make them kill the cancer cells. They don't say which kind of T-cells they use; if I had to guess, I would say the cytotoxic T-cells.
(They use the AIDS virus because it is good at getting into the T-cells. Although researchers don't talk about this a lot in public, disabled viruses are one of the principal tools of genetic engineers.)
For their star patient, seven year old Emma Whitehead, it has been, so far, a complete miracle.
(The treatment is not without side effects, as you would expect when some blood cells are destroying other blood cells in the patient.
Megan McArdle has some sensible comments on the cure and our too-high expectations of miracle cures.)
- 3:45 PM, 12 December 2012 [link]
Another Senator Menendez Scandal: And this one has a link to the Obama administration.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez employed as an unpaid intern in his Senate office an illegal immigrant who was a registered sex offender, now under arrest by immigration authorities, The Associated Press has learned. The Homeland Security Department instructed federal agents not to arrest him until after Election Day, a U.S. official involved in the case told the AP.(Emphasis added.)
What services, I wonder, would an unpaid registered sex offender provide to a senator?
(Another? Sure, you may have heard about this one, though I have to add that neither the two, uh, ladies nor Menendez are completely credible witnesses.
And if you scroll down in the Wikipedia biography, you'll find many more, along with a link to this New York Times editorial:
But since entering politics as a corruption-fighting mayor of Union City, N.J., Mr. Menendez has become a proponent of business as usual. He has long been an entrenched de facto leader of the Hudson County Democratic machine.So Menendez has the usual vices of the bosses of traditional political machines, along with some more modern vices.)
- 12:55 PM, 12 December 2012 [link]
President Obama Got A Very Small Bounce in post-election polls.
Mr. Obama’s net job approval improved by only two percentage points right after the election, according to Gallup. Fifty-two percent of adults approved of Mr. Obama’s performance in Gallup’s surveys both immediately before and after the election, but the share of adults who disapproved dropped from 44 percent before to 42 percent after (those numbers largely match an average of all polls since Election Day).The average gain in net job approval for incumbent presidents, beginning with Truman in 1952, is about six points.
This suggests to me that Obama has less of a mandate than he may think he has, that he might very well be in negative approval territory again, by, say, next April.
(Three incumbent presidents have lost ground after an election: Truman (1952, -1), Johnson (1964, -8), and Carter (1980, -7).
The two biggest gainers, Ford (1976, +16) and Bush (1992, +19), had lost their elections. Sympathy? Second thoughts? Probably some of each.)
- 8:36 AM, 12 December 2012 [link]
What Were We Fighting For In World War II? Chris Matthews knows.
Mr. [Richard] Langworth says Chris Matthews, a fellow Churchill Centre board member and host of MSNBC's "Hardball," has misquoted Churchill. Last year Mr. Matthews made a promotional ad for MSNBC in which he recounted Churchill being told during World War II that he should cut government funding for the arts.Put that way, you can see his point. But I would be willing to give long odds that Churchill did cut arts funding during World War II, since the British government was then cutting almost everything not directly concerned with the war.
By way of Tim Blair.
- 8:17 AM, 12 December 2012 [link]
We Have Made A Profit From Our Investment In AIG: How much? About $20 billion.
And Tuesday Treasury announced that by Friday the government's last 234 million shares, representing about a 15.9% stake in AIG, would be sold at $32.50.And we may make a little more, thanks to the warrants we hold on approximately 2.7 million shares.
Andrew Malcolm, who worked for the Bush administration, can't resist crowing a little bit.
Well, unlike the soured Solyndra, A123 and so many other naive Obama green investments, the AIG bet turned out great for taxpayers. Too bad we don't have another businessman moving into the White House next month.As far as I can tell, the Bush administration TARP investments have mostly turned a profit, but the big Obama administration investments in GM and Chrysler have given us a substantial loss, thanks to their payoffs to the United Auto Workers.
As you undoubtedly recall, Bush earned an MBA from Harvard, and Obama didn't.
(The New York Times, citing the Treasury Department, gives a lower figure for our profit, $15.1 billion. I've also seen $17 billion in other articles.)
- 7:22 AM, 12 December 2012 [link]
A Bipartisan Reform Coalition Will Control The Washington State Senate: Everyone who follows politics in Washington state has been expecting this for weeks.
Democratic State Sens. Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon announced they would create a majority power-sharing coalition with Senate Republicans, throwing control of the chamber into question.(In general, as you will learn if you read the whole article, the coalition plans to keep the more important chairmanships. Those who favor education reform, for instance, will delighted to see that Rosemary McAuliffe will not chair the education committee.)
This coalition demonstrates the power of even small groups — in some situations. Let's call the dissident Democrats DD, the Democrats D, and the Republicans R. Then we can see that, as long as each group stays together, there are just three possible majority coalitions: (DD (2), R (23)), (DD (2), D (24)), and (D (24), R (23)).
The last seems unlikely, for obvious reasons, so we have to ask why the first formed, rather than the second. Why didn't the Democrats — who have had weeks to think about this — try to buy off the dissident Democrats? (As far as I know, they didn't try, at least not seriously.)
Most likely, from what I can glean from news reports, the dissident Democrats joined with the Republicans because the two are closer together, ideologically, on the issues that will be important in this coming session. Both groups favor controlling spending, both groups favor education reform, and so on. The social issues that caused Rodney Tom to leave the Republican party have mostly been settled.
(The Banzhaf power index lets you measure the voting power of groups. In this example, each group would have 1/3 of the power. That's obvious enough, but the Nassau County example will show you that it can get more complicated, even with a small number of groups.)
- 4:10 PM, 11 December 2012 [link]
What Kind Of Tax System Do Voters Want? Four days ago, I linked to a Karl Rove piece arguing that voters may prefer tax reform and spending cuts to tax increases, even tax increases on just the top two percent.
Today, Roll Call has two pieces that may confuse you further, if you are trying to figure out what voters actually want.
First, Democrat Margie Omero argues, with many poll citations, that voters really want to to tax the rich.
And one proposal most unifies voters: Taxing the highest earners at a higher rate. Nearly every public poll I’ve seen, not just recently, but frankly, ever, shows clear support for this method of deficit reduction.(Omero does not discuss the practicalities of trying to solve our deficit problems only by raising taxes on the top two percent.)
Second, conservatives Colin Hanna and Alex Cortes argue that pollsters get different results when they ask, specifically, about top rates.
In a survey conducted by The Hill in February, 61 percent of likely voters said the top tax rate should be 25 percent or less, a rate that is substantially lower than the present top rate, demonstrating majority support for lowering taxes below what they are today. Fully 88 percent said the top rate should be at the current 35 percent, or less. Only 4 percent supported a top tax rate of 40 percent, which is closest to the proposal of President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats to increase the top rate to 39.6 percent.Why this apparent difference in findings? Because, say Hanna and Cortes, voters do not know how much the top two percent already pay.
- 1:16 PM, 11 December 2012 [link]
Boys And Girls Are Different: Christina Hoff Summers (who likes both) has been making that revolutionary/common sense argument for years, and makes it one more time.
The problem with Egalia and gender-neutral toy catalogs is that boys and girls, on average, do not have identical interests, propensities, or needs. Twenty years ago, Hasbro, a major American toy manufacturing company, tested a playhouse it hoped to market to both boys and girls. It soon emerged that girls and boys did not interact with the structure in the same way. The girls dressed the dolls, kissed them, and played house. The boys catapulted the toy baby carriage from the roof. A Hasbro manager came up with a novel explanation: "Boys and girls are different."Revolutionary because you would have to be careful about saying that in many academic departments, common sense because it is something almost every parent, or for that matter, almost every baby sitter, knows.
(As you may know, female spotted hyenas are unusual, to say the least, in both their anatomy and their behavior.)
- 12:45 PM, 11 December 2012 [link]
Ivy League Scientists Have Named An Extinct Lizard after President Obama.
The asteroid collision widely thought to have killed the dinosaurs also led to extreme devastation among snake and lizard species, according to new research — including the extinction of a newly identified lizard Yale and Harvard scientists have named Obamadon gracilis.Right.
There are two possibilities in that naming. Either the researchers are trying to honor Obama by naming a species after him, a common practice, or they are comparing Obama to an extinct lizard. Which is not a compliment, since lizards are not intelligent animals, or famous for their ability to cooperate. A lizard wouldn't, for instance, have any idea what to do with our deficit problems, and wouldn't be able to able to work with other lizards to solve even a simple problem, like how to catch more insects.
- 9:07 AM, 11 December 2012 [link]
Americans Are More Likely To Think Santa Claus is a Democrat — and that Mitt Romney is more likely to get presents from Santa than Barack Obama.
PPP’s new holiday season poll sees voters in giving moods towards both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney - voters believe both men will be receiving presents from Santa this holiday season rather than a lump of coal, with Romney perhaps getting some sympathy presents. Voters say Romney will get presents by a 63/37 margin compared to 51/49 for Obama. 44% of respondents said Santa was a Democrat, to 28% who think he is a Republican.I have no explanation for that combination, but if you have one I would love to hear it. And I am fascinated by the fact that the respondents expect presents for Obama by such a narrow margin.
(There are more fun questions in the survey. For instance, lawyers and grandmothers will be both be interested to learn that if grandma got run over by a reindeer, 24 percent of the respondents would press charges, and 61 percent would not. For what it is worth, Democrats were more likely to say they would press charges than Republicans.)
- 6:40 AM, 11 December 2012 [link]
Many People, Mostly Leftists, Fell For The Fox/Lower IQ Hoax: Here's the story, in case you missed it.
I saw the story and knew, instantly, that it was fake.
Why didn't others? Because most have had less experience than I have had in analyzing this kind of data — and because, for many leftists, the story was one they wanted to believe because it reflected badly on Fox viewers.
And I think that last has a lesson for all of us, left, right, or center. If we see a story we really, really want to believe, then we should treat that story with more skepticism than usual. (I try to do that when I write my posts, but am sure that I fail from time to time.)
Cross posted at Sound Politics.
(There are studies of the differences in knowledge between Democrats and Republicans and between conservatives and liberals. In general, these studies find that Republicans and conservatives have a small edge in knowledge over their leftist counterparts. Here's a recent example from Pew.
What strikes me most about that simple test — and similar attempts to test voters' knowledge — is not the small edge for Republicans, but how poorly informed many citizens of both parties are.Some on the left will wonder about those results, given the Democratic edge in academia. For an explanation, they should look up one of my posts on the "J-curve".)
- 1:06 PM, 10 December 2012 [link]
Professor Althouse Asks: "What are Hillary Clinton's accomplishments, if any?" And uses the rest of the post to answer her own question, by summarizing her reaction to a very favorable piece in Foreign Policy.
Hardheaded, she spearheaded blah blah blah. My question remains. She believes things and she has an attitude about those beliefs, but can you name an accomplishment?I read through the comments on that post, and on an earlier post that asked the same question, to see if any of the commenters could come up with some major accomplishments. The best I found was a link to this very favorable USA Today article, which praises Hillary over and over, while admitting that she "is piling up awards and accolades faster than clear-cut achievements".
The article does not mention her failures with Russia, beginning with that absurd "reset" button. (Though it is included in a timeline next to the article.)
In contrast, it would be easy to find accomplishments for Bush's first secretary of state, Colin Powell. Among other things, he certainly helped end the civil war in Sudan, with a series of agreement that led to the independence of South Sudan. When you end a civil war that has killed millions of people, you deserve some credit, I think.
(I have always thought that we were able to get those agreements in part because we made it clear that we would aid the the rebels in the south with training and weapons, but I have no direct evidence for that conclusion.)
- 11:00 AM, 10 December 2012 [link]
Another Foreign Policy Defeat For The Obama Administration: The Obama administration, as you know, blocked the Keystone pipeline, making it harder for the Canadians to export oil to the United States.
So now the Canadians are making deals with the Communist Chinese.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been trying to create new markets to export Canadian energy, which is largely dependent on the United States for its exports. He has been courting China since the United States stalled approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would move more oil sands production to the Gulf Coast.What bothers me most about this is that I suspect that Obama does not consider this a defeat. Alienating our most important foreign energy supplier does not matter to him, but losing thousands of votes because of Green superstition would have.
Since this was a foreign policy defeat, should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton share the blame? Probably not, because, as far as I can tell, she had nothing to do with the decision to block the Keystone pipeline.
(Incidentally, the decision to block the Keystone pipeline may have benefited crony capitalist Warren Buffett. One branch of the pipeline would have competed with his railroad, BNSF, which now carries much of the oil from North Dakota.)
- 7:38 AM, 10 December 2012 [link]
Family Firms In Japan Stay Competitive Through Adoptions: In the United States and in Europe, family firms, after the first or second generation, tend to be less competitive, tend to be a drag on the economy. (Some years ago I read that the United States has an edge over Europe because we have fewer of those family firms, relatively.)
But in Japan, family firms are very competive, probably because of adult adoptions.
Japan boasts some of the world’s oldest family-run businesses, and many family firms—Suzuki, Matsui Securities, Suntory—break the rule of steady dynastic decline. So how do Japanese firms do it? The answer, says the paper, is adoption.I can think of a couple of newspaper families that would benefit by copying this Japanese practice.
(Here's a link to the paper.)
- 6:24 AM, 10 December 2012 [link]
RFK, Jr. High? This interview with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. drew a lot of attention for comments like this one:
There’s two things happening. One is the influence of big money in politics, and the other is the right-wing control of the American media, particularly starting with Fox News. 95 percent of talk radio in our country is right-wing, and you need, according to Pew survey, and you, so a whole section of our country that that’s what they’re hearing. They wake up in the morning, when they go to bed at night.But when I listened to it, I was struck more by his incoherence than his ideology. He didn't sound completely drunk, or completely high on marijuana or some other drug, but he did sound not in complete control of his faculties.
(Perhaps he is finally feeling guilty over the death of his wife — or worried about the investigation that her family is paying for.)
- 5:58 AM, 10 December 2012 [link]
Republican Gains In The States: Steven Hayward, using a graphic he, uh, borrowed from the New York Times, shows that Republicans will control more state legislatures than in any year since the 1952 election. Specifically, Republicans will control 24 state legislatures, the Democrats 13, and the rest will be mixed.
(I'm not sure how they count Washington state in that summary. As I have mentioned before, it is likely that Republicans will form a coalition with moderate Democrats to control the state senate here. There will be a similar coalition in control of the New York state senate, according to recent news accounts.)
- 6:34 PM, 9 December 2012 [link]
If Obama Got Those Tax Increases On Top 2%, How Much Money Would That Raise? Assuming Clinton-era tax levels, about $40 billion a year
The math shows why. Even if Republicans were to agree to Obama's core demand -- that the top marginal income rates return to the Clinton-era levels of 36 and 39.6 percent after Dec. 31, rather than stay at the Bush-era rates of 33 and 35 percent -- the additional revenue would be only about a quarter of the $1.6 trillion that Obama wants to collect over 10 years. That would be about half of the $800 billion that Republicans have said they would be willing to raise.$40 billion isn't chump change, even by federal budget standards, but it isn't enough to make a serious dent in those $1 trillion a year deficits. So, Jackie Calmes concludes that Obama will have to ask for other changes in the tax code that will take more money from the wealthy. (Which she is very much in favor of doing.)
The ones she comes up with have two things in common; They would increase taxes on investments for the wealthy, and, even combined with tax rate increases, they would not come close to solving our deficit problem. The largest of the combinations she considers would yield about $140 billion a year.
What makes all this even worse is that Obama is proposing to increase spending. Probably.
I saved the best for last. The President is proposing spending increases, not spending cuts. He claims $400 B of spending cuts for policies he hasn’t specified, and $291 B of which wouldn’t be considered until next year. But he proposes to spend $109 B to delay the sequester for a year (GOP defense hawks will like this), and another $175 B on highways, and another $30ish B on unemployment insurance. Then he’s got the cost of Menendez-Boxer on housing (I don’t know), and the cost of a permanent Medicare doc fix (hundreds of billions, depending on the details). The net result of his proposal is higher spending, not lower.As I am sure you noticed, Obama' proposed spending increases are specific, but his proposed spending cuts are not.
It is likely that adopting Obama's tax increase proposals and budget proposals would leave us with larger deficits than we have now.
And you thought that wasn't possible.
- 5:56 PM, 9 December 2012 [link]