Archive:

February 2008, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Shouldn't The Archbishop Of Canterbury Be A Christian?  That's what I wondered after I read about this controversy.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has come under fire after appearing to back the adoption of some aspects of Sharia law in the UK.

Dr Rowan Williams said the UK had to "face up to the fact" some citizens did not relate to the British legal system.
. . .
Dr Rowan Williams told BBC Radio 4 on Thursday that he believed the adoption of some Sharia law in the UK seemed "unavoidable".

He said adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law could help social cohesion.  For example, Muslims could choose to have marital disputes or financial matters dealt with in a Sharia court.
Some of us — simplistic folks, perhaps — think that those who can not "relate to the British legal system" (or the American legal system) should go elsewhere.  And there are precedents in American history for that.  After our Civil War, a few Confederates moved to Brazil, rather than accept the end of slavery.  And the Mormons of Utah were not admitted to the union until they gave up polygamy.

The interview came after the Archbishop delivered a long and scholarly speech on the subject, which you can read in two parts, here and here.  I skimmed the whole thing and was struck by three things.  First, the Archbishop is not a Christian.  There is nothing in the entire speech to suggest that he believes he should witness to Muslims (or even Christians), nothing to suggest that he has any religious beliefs beyond, perhaps, a vague belief in God.  (And this sketch, which mentions some of his earlier controversies, supports that judgment.)

Second, the Archbishop is, as far as I can tell, a well-read religious scholar.  He would not be out of place as a professor at a politically correct university, such as Oxford.  And, in fact, he held just that position earlier in his career.

Third, he is absolutely hopeless as a social scientist.  He does not understand communities and the way that they interact.  Consider, for example, his claim that adopting "some Sharia law" in the UK would "help social cohesion".  To believe that, you have to be ignorant of a great many studies of social cohesion — and you have to ignore many, many lessons from history.  If you want to destroy cohesion in a community, there is no better way than to have different rules for different groups.   That's not a difficult idea to understand.  It would not be beyond the comprehension of a bright junior high student.  But it is difficult for scholars trapped in political correctness to grasp.

Nor does Williams deal with this difficult point, mentioned in the BBC article:
Shaista Gohir, a government advisor on Muslim women and director of Muslim Voice UK, said she did not believe there was a need for Sharia courts because "the majority of Muslims do not want it".

She told BBC News: "Many Muslim commentators and the media are wrongly assuming that all Muslims want Sharia law in the UK.

"Various polls have so far indicated that around 40% want Sharia law.  Although this is a significant percentage, why ignore the views of the other 60%?"
And even those British Muslims who do want Sharia law, such as this man, often turn out to want only part of Sharia law.

I hesitate to give advice to Britons, especially on a matter of church policy.  But it does seem to me that they might be able to find a man better able to be Archbishop of Canterbury than Rowan Williams.
- 6:56 AM, 8 February 2008   [link]


Has Obama Peaked?  According to the Gallup daily tracking poll, he has.  On January 26th, Clinton had a 13 point lead (42-35).  On February 2nd, her lead was down to two points (46-44).  On February 5th, her lead was back up to 13 points (52-39).

That lead won't help her in the caucuses, such as those that will be held in Washington state this Saturday, because caucuses are dominated by leftwing activists.  But if the lead holds up, she should win most of the remaining primaries.
- 1:42 PM, 7 February 2008   [link]


This Should Warm Republican hearts.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the possibility of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) becoming president "sends a cold chill down my spine."
Not that Reid is wrong about everything — but that is the way to bet.
- 12:10 PM, 7 February 2008   [link]


Smart — And Patriotic:  Mitt Romney has suspended his campaign, and done so with a classy statement.
Mitt Romney suspended his faltering presidential campaign on Thursday, effectively sealing the Republican presidential nomination for John McCain.  "I must now stand aside, for our party and our country," Romney told conservatives.

"If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win.  And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror," Romney told the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
Romeny was smart enough to do the arithmetic — but we knew that already.  And he is patriotic enough to suspend his campaign in a way that gives McCain a better chance to defeat Clinton or Obama.

At the beginning of the campaign, I had a slight preference for Romney because of his considerable executive skills.  But as the campaign went on, I lost that preference, because I didn't care for much of his campaign.  I thought he went too far in his attacks on some of his rivals, and that he promised too much at times.  He knows, for example, that many of those lost auto jobs in Michigan will never come back — and he should not have said the opposite, just to win the state.

But what he just did and said makes up for much of what he did and said during the campaign.
- 11:11 AM, 7 February 2008   [link]


Worth Reading:  Bill Whittle's comment.  Here are the first two paragraphs:
After seven years of watching and fighting against Americans who wish to see the country suffer so that they can get at George Bush, the last thing I wanted or expected to see was conservatives saying they would rather see the country suffer than support John McCain over Clinton or Obama, so that they can "get the blame."

A retreat before victory is assured in Iraq cannot be undone in 2012.  And mandatory, single-payer, universal health care, once established, will not EVER go away either.
I would disagree with the first sentence in the second paragraph, but I would say that reversing a retreat, however necessary, would be incredibly expensive.  And, though it would not be literally impossible to reverse universal health care, it would be extraordinarily difficult, politically.

The full post that inspired that comment is worth reading, too.

By way of the Instapundit.
- 10:27 AM, 7 February 2008   [link]


The Quotable Obama:  Here's part of what he said in his Super Tuesday speech.
We have to choose between change and more of the same.  We have to choose between looking backwards and looking forwards.  We have to choose between our future and our past.
There's no record of laughter following these three sentences, though there was applause soon after.  (Do any of his supporters have a sense of humor?)

Let's think logically about these three sentences, even if we offend supporters of the arugula eater.  We don't have to choose between change and more of the same; in fact we shouldn't choose between change and more of the same.  We should choose mostly more of the same and a little change — as we almost always do.  (Imagine, just for amusement, Michelle Obama's reaction to Barack telling her that they had to choose between change and more of the same in their marriage.)

For the second sentence, a simple metaphor may help.  When you drive, do you use a rear view mirror?  I'll bet you do, since, judging by the emails I receive, most of my readers are smart, sensible people.  When you do, you are looking backwards — and looking forwards, at the same time.  And that is just what we should do in making policy; we should look backward for the lessons of history — and forward to plan the best course.  At the same time.

Literally, we can not choose between the future and the past, because, unless someone invents a time machine, the past is fixed, and is beyond our choices.  Even figuratively, choosing between the past and the future makes no sense.  All of us want to keep much of the past — the invention of fire comes to mind, and you can probably think of one or two other examples yourself, without much effort — and all of us will live in a future that we partly choose.

Barack Obama is said to be an intelligent man.  Intelligent enough, unless the newspapers have been lying about his background, to have earned a law degree from Harvard.  He should know that those three sentences are silly, but I am not sure he does.  As so often happens when I read what he says, I am left hoping that he is lying to us, that he does not believe what he says.

By way of James Taranto, who compares this part of Obama's speech to a speech by a famous Simpson's character — Kang.   I am not an expert on the Simpsons, but I seem to recall that Kang is not a great humanitarian.

(John Hinderaker of Power Line has similar doubts about Obama's speeches.)
- 1:13 PM, 6 February 2008   [link]


Ed Morrissey has a good summary of the state of the Republican race.  (Though I think he misses the obvious in his analysis of the Democratic race, which you can find in a neighboring post.)
- 8:22 AM, 6 February 2008   [link]


Not Inevitable, After All:  In October, when many in the "mainstream" press were describing Hillary Clinton's nomination as "inevitable", I said that it wasn't and outlined a way she could be challenged.  One of her opponents, I said, could defeat her in Iowa, and get enough momentum from that victory to challenge her in succeeding contests.

As you probably have noticed, that's pretty much what has happened.

(Luckily for me, I didn't make any predictions on the Republican race.  I say luckily, because I am not sure that I would have spotted either the Huckabee surge in Iowa, that has done so much to set the pattern of this race, or the McCain recovery.)
- 5:59 AM, 6 February 2008   [link]


California Reality:  Both Clinton and McCain have been projected to win our largest state.  Just 17 percent of the vote is in as I write, but, if McCain were to keep his current margin — 44 percent to Romney's 25 percent — he might win almost all the delegates in the state.

Again, as I write, Clinton has an even larger margin over Obama — 55 to 33 percent — but can expect to get only a little more than half of the delegates in the state, assuming that she wins by that margin.

If that seems puzzling, that's because you haven't studied the rules the two parties use in allocating delegates.  The Republican rules are a bit odd, giving more weight to Republican voters who live in Democratic areas.  The Democratic rules are, naturally, quite complex.
- 9:40 PM, 5 February 2008
Update:  With 95 percent of the precincts reporting McCain has a big enough lead, 42-34 percent, spread evenly enough, so that he should win most of California's congressional districts.  It is hard to judge just how many, looking at the map of results, since the districts are so convoluted, but I would not be surprised if he won 48 of the 53 districts.  With the 11 delegates that he won as a statewide bonus, that would give him 155 delegates from California.  Not quite winner take all, but close.

Clinton is now leading 52 to 42 percent, but her support is not quite as even as McCain's.  She does seem to have done better than Obama in heavily populated Democratic areas, which would help her win extra delegates.  It is harder to guess just how many delegates Clinton will win in California; if I had to, I would say about 60 percent of the 370 pledged delegates, or 222 delegates.
- 8:01 PM, 6 February 2008
Here's the map I have been using.
- 9:01 PM, 6 February 2008
Update 2:  McCain won 50 of the 53 districts, which would give him at least 161 delegates from California.  The three districts that Romney won, the 21st, 42nd, and 49th, have two characteristics in common; all three are Republican districts — with large Hispanic populations.  It's likely that Romney's tough stand on illegal immigration helped him in those districts.

By way of Hot Air.
- 9:53 AM, 7 February 2008     [link]


And A Somewhat Bigger Surprise In Missouri??  As I write, fewer votes have been counted there than in Georgia, but again Huckabee has had a lead there most of the evening.  McCain had an average lead in Missouri polls of 5.5 percent.

It is possible that talk show host Rush Limbaugh's attacks on McCain had some effect in his home state, though I don't think they did much damage nationally.
- 7:09 PM, 5 February 2008
More:  As I write, McCain has just taken the lead in Missouri, though his lead is still quite narrow, just 2,577 votes.
- 8:47 PM, 5 February 2008
Still More:  The Gateway Pundit, who knows way more about Missouri politics than I do, says its McCain.  He also says that Huckabee had an early lead because rural precincts, where Huckabee had the most support, usually report before urban and suburban precincts.
- 9:17 PM, 5 February 2008
However, the Gateway Pundit is still saying that Clinton won, even though Obama pulled out a narrow victory.  Apparently the same pattern occurred there as in the Republican race; the winner's margin came from urban areas, which reported later than the rest of the state.
- 6:09 AM, 6 February 2008   [link]


A Mild Surprise In Georgia?  Huckabee has had a lead in Georgia almost all evening, though it dipped a little in the last few minutes.  Unless the votes are coming disproportionately from his strongholds, he should win.  This would be a mild surprise, since McCain had a narrow lead in the most recent polls in Georgia.  Huckabee might, I repeat, might, have benefitted from a better organization, if evangelical churches worked hard for him.

One curious pattern in the maps:  McCain tends to be stronger in the same counties in Georgia that Obama is, though I'll have to take a closer look tomorrow to see if that is really true.
- 6:56 PM, 5 February 2008   [link]


Those Missing Florida And Michigan Delegates:  Florida and Michigan moved their primary dates up, against the wishes of the Democratic party.  The two states were penalized by losing their delegates.  Most of the candidates accepted this, but Hillary Clinton did not and won both states easily.  Some of her supporters have said that they will fight to have the delegates restored to those two states.

Now, let me speculate for a moment.  Suppose, and this is not implausible given current polls, that Clinton arrives at the convention with less than a majority of delegates, not counting those two states, but with a majority counting them.

If that happens, I think that we can reasonably expect a ding-dong battle over seating the delegates and that, no matter which side wins, the other side will feel cheated.  If Clinton wins, Obama supporters will feel — correctly — that she did not follow the rules.  If Obama wins, Clinton supporters will feel — correctly — that the voters in those states were disenfranchised through no fault of their own.

And the Clinton supporters may be able to make this practical argument:  Not seating the delegates would give the Republicans a fine issue in those two states.

(Of course, should this occur, Republicans will sit on the sidelines, enjoying the spectacle.)
- 6:22 PM, 5 February 2008   [link]


So Far, No Surprises:  Romney has won his home state, Massachusetts.   Obama has won his home state, Illinois.  Clinton has won her adopted state, Arkansas.  McCain has won Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and Illinois.
- 5:40 PM, 5 February 2008
More:  Clinton takes Tennessee and Oklahoma; Huckabee carries his home state, Arkansas.  Still no surprises.  Though, from early returns, I think we can say that McCain, for the first time, will break 50 percent in some states.
-6:04 PM, 5 February 2008   [link]


Obama Goes Marching through Georgia.
Sen. Barack Obama will win Georgia's Democratic primary, CNN projects, but the Republican race there is too close to call.

Early results showed Obama with a 2-1 lead over rival Hillary Clinton in the first state to close its polls.
Neither result is a surprise, if you have been following the polls.  Obama had a huge lead, and the Republican race was close.
- 4:25 PM, 5 February 2008   [link]


Josh Marshall Misses One Possibility:  But he is right to call attention to this gap between polls.
There's one guarantee I can make right now about tonight's results.  They are going take make either Zogby or SurveyUSA look like complete fools.  Which one I'm not completely sure, but definitely one of them.

Consider this spread.  Zogby has his final California number as Obama 49%, Clinton 36%.   SurveyUSA has Obama 42%, Clinton 52%.
The possibility that he misses is that both may look like complete fools, though one certainly will.   But I do have some sympathy for the polling organizations because, as I said here, I agree with Karl Rove's conclusion that polling in primaries is really, really hard.

(They could both look like fools, if, for example, the results came in halfway between the two polls.)
- 2:35 PM, 5 February 2008
More:  The Real Clear Politics average and their history suggest that the result will be in between Zogby and SurveyUSA.

There is a complication that may make polls even less reliable than they usually are.  About half of the voters mailed in their ballots, some of them days ago.  A poll is necessarily a snapshot at a particular time.  I don't know if any of the pollsters know how to handle this long, drawn out voting period, especially when there is, as the polls suggest, a big shift from one candidate to another.
- 4:35 PM, 5 February 2008
Update:  SurveyUSA looks pretty good; Zogby looks, well, foolish.   FWIW, Michael Barone says that "many other pollsters don't trust" Zogby.  One can see why.
- 4:06 PM, 6 February 2008   [link]


Huckabee Wins West Virginia:  Mostly.  With a little help from McCain
Mike Huckabee won the first of 21 states being contested by the Republican presidential candidates on Super Tuesday, pulling out a victory in the West Virginia Republican convention.

Huckabee won in the second round of voting, even though Mitt Romney led after the first round.  The former Arkansas governor won with 51.5 percent to Romney's 47.4 percent, pulling ahead after John McCain's delegates apparently defected to his side.
Mostly, because West Virginia Republicans do not choose all their delegates at the convention.  The state has 30 delegates total; the convention chooses 18, a May fifth primary will choose another 9, and the 3 members of the Republican National Committee are automatically delegates.

There are 23 states to go on Super Tuesday.  I'm not sure I can stay up late enough to cover them all.

(FWIW, game theorists would mostly predict that the two trailing candidates, Huckabee and Romney, would combine against McCain, perhaps splitting the delegates, if the rules allowed that.)
- 1:34 PM, 5 February 2008   [link]


Bush's War For Science:  When President Bush came into office, he proposed a large increase in spending for research, especially biological research.  (Which the Republican-controlled Congress passed, with few changes.)  In the last two years, he has been pushing for increases in spending on physics, too.
Under President Bush's proposed federal budget announced on Monday, research in the physical sciences would receive a hefty boost.
. . .
The Office of Science at the Energy Department, which finances much of the physical sciences research, would receive an increase of nearly 19 percent, to $4.72 billion from $3.97 billion.  Raymond L. Orbach, science under secretary at the Energy Department, said the proposal would begin to mend cuts made this year in high-energy particle physics, nuclear physics and basic energy research.

"We can put all of those back on track," Dr. Orbach said.

The National Science Foundation would receive $6.85 billion, an increase of $822 million, or 14 percent over this year.  Mr. Bush is asking for $634 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a 22 percent increase.

Any optimism about the proposed budget is tempered by experience.  In the past two years, Mr. Bush also proposed significant increases for the physical sciences budget, but the increases largely vanished by the time Congress finished the final spending bills.
Including last year when the Congress was controlled by the Democrats.

Strangely, Bush's willingness to back scientific research with more money (in contrast to Clinton) has not drawn much attention, even from the scientific community.  (Maybe some scientists have paid more attention to arguments from polemicists such as Chris Mooney, instead of looking at boring budget numbers.)

On the whole, I think that Bush was right to push for increased spending on research, though I thought he went too far in his first two or three years.  Scientific organizations, like most others, can only absorb so much in the way of increases before they begin to waste money.
- 12:36 PM, 5 February 2008   [link]


Here Are Some Amusing Thoughts:  From Kathleen Parker.
If Barack Obama were a state, he'd be California, said Maria Shriver as she endorsed Obama last weekend.

But what if Barack Obama were white?  What if Hillary Clinton were a man?  What if John McCain were a woman?  What if Mitt Romney were a black female Baptist?
Amusing thoughts that make a serious point in the rest of the column.

(I have no idea why Shriver thinks Obama would be California, rather than Hawaii, Kansas, or Illinois.  Or Kenya, for that matter.)
- 10:29 AM, 5 February 2008   [link]


Anyone Out There With Any Video Skills?  Anyone out there who can imitate Barack Obama's voice?  Because the grandiose promises in his TV ads simply beg for parodies.

Granted it will be hard to top his promises, but it should be possible.  I've suggested that he should go ahead and promise to walk on water to all the signing ceremonies, and to cure cancer.  And I think a great many people would be happy if he promised that they would lose weight if they elect him president.  Feel free to add suggestions of your own, but try to make them at least as absurd as Obama's own promises.

I am no expert in these things, but I think it wouldn't be hard to change the sound track on some of his ads to put in your own grandiose promises.  He's begging for parodies.  Let's not disappoint him.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Naturally, I would happy to link to almost any Obama parody that you come up with, as long as it is family friendly.

It probably would be wise to add a notice at the end of any parody making it clear that it is a parody.)
- 10:07 AM, 5 February 2008   [link]


More Extreme Than NARAL:  Yesterday, I said that Barack Obama was extreme on this issue of abortion.  Here's why I came to that conclusion
Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.) portrays himself as a thoughtful Democrat who carefully considers both sides of controversial issues, but his radical stance on abortion puts him further left on that issue than even NARAL Pro-Choice America.

In 2002, as an Illinois legislator, Obama voted against the Induced Infant Liability Act, which would have protected babies that survived late-term abortions.  That same year a similar federal law, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, was signed by President Bush.  Only 15 members of the U.S. House opposed it, and it passed the Senate unanimously on a voice vote.
He's more extreme than NARAL.  Which is not easy to do, as you know if you have followed their positions over the years.

Let's be blunt about Obama's position.  Occasionally, not often, but it does happen, a baby survives an attempted abortion.  Obama does not think those babies have a right to legal protection, does not think those helpless babies have a right to life.

I wonder what other helpless people he would be willing to discard?
- 9:14 AM, 5 February 2008   [link]


Probably Ann Curry Knows Where Illinois Is:  But with news readers one never can be sure.   (The ignorance of many news readers wouldn't bother me much — if they didn't spend so much of their time telling the rest of us what to believe.)
- 1:17 PM, 4 February 2008   [link]


The Seattle PI And The Stranger Agree With Me:  Tacitly.  Both the PI and one of our local alternative newspapers have endorsed Barack Obama.  (You can find the PI endorsement here; I generally don't link to the Stranger because it is not suitable for sprogs, but you should be able to find it easily enough.)

The PI gave Obama four long paragraphs; the Stranger gave him an entire page.  Neither paper mentioned anything he has accomplished as a national political figure; neither mentioned a single thing he has done as a senator.  He's a sweet talkin' guy, and that's enough for both newspapers.  (I wonder if you could get a job writing editorials at either newspaper — if you had never written anything significant.  Probably not.)

By now, I think we can conclude that Obama's supporters don't mention his accomplishments — because he doesn't have any, at least not as a national political figure.  But he does talk pretty and he does make wonderful promises — and that's enough for those editorialists.  But it shouldn't be enough for serious citizens.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Here's one of my earlier posts on this subject.

Local readers will be amused to learn that the editorial writers at the Stranger do not pay income taxes.  Or at least so I infer from their claim that Republicans always hurt (they use a nastier verb) people who live on their wages.  No doubt they also disapprove of President Bush's efforts to help public school students with the No Child Left Behind Act.  Or perhaps they don't have children, though I seem to recall one of the people there adopting a kid.)
- 11:16 PM, 4 February 2008
More:  Talk show host Sean Hannity asked some Obama supporters to name some of Obama's accomplishments; they couldn't think of any.  (And they seem less embarrassed by that than they should be.)
- 3:52 PM, 5 February 2008   [link]


Maybe He Should Promise To Cure Cancer:  And to walk on water to all the signing ceremonies, as well.  That's my reaction to the ad that Barack Obama is running in this area.  Here's the text of the ad:

Obama: I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message.
Obama: I'll be a president who finally makes health care affordable to every single American by bringing Democrats and Republicans together.  I'll be a president who ends the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and put a middle class tax cut into the pockets of working Americans.  And I'll be a president who ends this war in Iraq and finally brings our troops home.  We are one nation and our time for change has come.

And why shouldn't he promise to cure cancer and to walk on water?  He has just as much chance to fulfill those two promises as those he makes in this ad.

Let's begin with the combination in the first two sentences; Obama is promising to "make health care affordable" for everyone, and to cut taxes for the middle classes.  That's not literally impossible, but it is impossible without enormous federal deficits, or draconian controls on health spending, controls that would almost certainly affect the quality of care many Americans receive.  (And, no you can't do both by taxing wealthy Americans; they just don't have enough money to support either of those promises, much less both of them.)

Nor is it likely that he can get Republican lambs to lie down with Democratic lions on health; the two parties have been feuding on health policy for more than seventy years now, with the Republicans preferring individual freedom, and the Democrats wanting to make all of us government clients.  No president, however agreeable personally, can bridge that gap.

Moreover, just to make it more difficult for the two parties to agree, abortion has separated the two parties more and more in the last thirty years — and two parties often fight over abortion and related issues, when they are discussing health policy.  Obama must know this, even though he is an extremist on abortion, about as pro-abortion as any American politician has ever been, but he still says that he can bring the two parties together on health policy issues.

And then in the next sentence he promises to end "this war in Iraq", though he doesn't even hint at how.  Since he also promises to bring our troops home, I infer that he intends to surrender to the terrorists in Iraq.  To his credit, or discredit, depending on your point of view, earlier in the campaign he admitted that a withdrawal of American troops might lead to mass killings — but that minor problem did not seem to bother him.  A little genocide, he seems to think, is a reasonable price to pay for making him president.

(I have no idea whether he has even thought about the strategic consequences of defeat in Iraq.   "Mainstream" journalists, who mostly favor a terrorist victory in Iraq (though few will say so this bluntly), don't seem to have asked him about that question.  But they should, even if he refuses to answer.)

Does Barack Arugula Obama actually believe all this nonsense?  I certainly hope not, but I fear that he believes at least a part of it.  A man who has no significant accomplishments as a national political figure may believe that he can give us miracles.  If he does believe that, he is delusional; if he doesn't believe that he can give us miracles, he is a cynic on a grand scale, willing to promise things he knows that he can't possibly deliver.
- 10:35 AM, 4 February 2008
Here's another Obama ad full of grandiose promises.  Again, he makes no attempt to explain how he could fulfill those promises.
- 9:52 AM, 5 February 2008   [link]


Surprise, Surprise!  As I am sure you know, this year the Super Bowl was a pretty good football game.  I watched much of it without expecting an exciting, well-played contest.  But that's what we got — unlike most Super Bowls, which are typically not very good games, and, occasionally, terrible games.  Three lead changes in the fourth quarter does keep your attention, even if, like me, you didn't really care which team won.  And the game wasn't plagued by turnovers, unlike some Super Bowls.

And I suppose there is a small political lesson in this game, at least for Republicans worried about this fall's election.  It ain't over till it's over.  No matter what the point spread is before the game.
- 7:25 PM, 3 February 2008
Or maybe it shouldn't have been so surprising.  As this New York Times story reminded me, the last time the two teams met, on December 29th, the Patriots won by just three points.
- 9:31 AM, 4 February 2008   [link]


Wonder Why Your Taxes Are Going Up?  Here's one reason.
State and local government workers are enjoying major gains in compensation, pushing the value of their average wages and benefits far ahead of private workers, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data shows.

The gap is widening every year, rising by an average $1.02 an hour last year and $2.45 an hour over the past three years.  The better pay and benefits for public employees come as private-sector workers face stagnant wages and rising unemployment.

State and local government workers now earn an average of $39.50 per hour in total compensation, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Private workers earn an average of $26.09 an hour.
. . .
From 2000 to 2007, public employees enjoyed a 16% increase in compensation after adjusting for inflation compared with 11% for private workers.
You can't tell, just from the difference in average pay, whether these state and local employees are being overpaid, since the mix of jobs is different in government from what it is in the private sector.  I think the best way to tell whether a group is overpaid is to look at how many qualified people apply for an open job.  If there is a long line, then the employer is usually offering too much compensation.

One pattern that you do often find in government jobs is that the pay and benefits vary less from the bottom to the top of the organization than they do in private sector jobs,  Cynics sometimes suggest that this happens because politicians buy votes as cheaply as they can, so they would rather give pay boosts to four ditch diggers than to one manager.

(Of course, many of those promised benefits are "unfunded liabilities; the reporter, Dennis Cauchon says they total one trillion for state and local employees.  That's a very round number, which makes me think he doesn't really know what the amount is — and it is possible that no one else knows, either.)
- 4:41 PM, 3 February 2008   [link]


The Ballistics is correct.  (At least I am pretty sure it is.)
Here's a straightforward question in ballistics:

What velocity do you need to launch a 350 pound object over a 12.5 foot barrier that is 33 feet away?

The answer, thanks to Raza Syed, a physicist at Northeastern University in Boston, and a pal is: 26.7 miles per hour at an angle of about 55 degrees.

Now let's make a few substitutions.  Replace 350 pound object with a female Siberian Tiger called Tatiana.  And for 12.5 foot barrier 33 feet away substitute the dimensions of the tiger enclosure at San Francisco zoo.

Is this kind of speed possible for a tiger?  Apparently yes.  Syed says tigers can reach speeds of 35 miles per hour with a run up of only a few feet so this enclosure was clearly no barrier to Tatiana.
But the analysis is a bit off.  (And if you don't see why, read Scott Manley's comment.  He saw the same thing that I did.)

(My earlier post on the tiger's escape is here.)
- 3:23 PM, 1 February 2008   [link]


The Snow is even affecting shipments of mice.
It took a mighty mouse effort to airlift some 7,000 stranded lab mice from Wyoming to West Coast research labs this week.

A truck hauling the mice for The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, had its trip interrupted on Tuesday because of bad weather.

According to the Jackson Lab's Kathy Vandegrift, the climate-controlled trailer was taken to Wyoming's Rock Springs-Sweetwater County Airport.
Where they were put on three airplanes and flown to their destinations in California, Washington, and California.

(Oh, and if you are unfamiliar with the fancy mice often used in medical research, read the rest of the article to see just how much that one truckload of mice is worth.)
- 2:59 PM, 1 February 2008   [link]