Archive:

February 2012, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Muslim Judge Releases Man Who Attacked Anti-Muhammad Atheist!?!  In Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.  Here's the story, with video, and links.
A Muslim judge recently dismissed a case against a Muslim who attacked an atheist wearing a costume of Mohammed (specifically a “Zombie Mohammed” costume) in a Halloween parade.  The Muslim judge berated the athiest, called him a “doofus” for not learning about Mohammed, and told him that the First Amendment does not allow him to “piss off” people from other cultures.
When I first saw this story about Judge Mark Martin at Small Dead Animals, I knew that I had to check it out.

So did others, notably Professor Volokh, who verified the story against a recording.

Amazing, simply amazing.  And grounds for removal of Judge Martin, in my opinion.

(According to commenter Chris C., Judge Martin is at the lowest level and, earlier, would have been a Justice of Peace.   Martin may not even have a law degree.)
- 2:41 PM, 24 February 2012
More:  Here's a statement from — apparently — Judge Martin.  He defends his actions, and denies being a Muslim.  He does not explain why he appears to have said he was a Muslim.  It is possible, of course, that he mis-spoke, or that some people are hearing that tape wrong.  (I haven't listened to it myself, since my hearing is just OK.)

Martin was certainly wrong to berate the person who complained, and wrong — assuming the recording is roughly correct — in his understanding of the 1st Amendment.
- 4:04 PM, 25 February 2012   [link]


The Super Zoom Compromise:  By now, I expected that I would have bought a digital SLR.  I like the higher quality you get with the larger sensors and the freedom you have to change lenses.  I even like the idea of working with "raw" formats from time to time.

But I haven't, for two reasons:  First, most of the digital SLRs are too complex for my tastes; they lack the easy-to-use simplicity of my first camera, an Olympus OM-1.  No doubt, I could have learned to ignore most of the controls, most of the time, on, for instance, a Canon Rebel, could even learned to make the best use of those controls, with a little bit of effort.

But all that seemed more like work than play.

Second, the camera manufacturers keep introducing new models in between digital SLRs and compact point-and-shoot models, in quality and complexity.  This new category has acquired a number of names — I like EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder with Interchangeable Lens) best — but mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera may be more descriptive.
MILCs' initial purpose was to provide DSLR-like quality imaging in a small body, to obtain which they kept a DSLR-like sensor, but replaced the TTL viewfinder with an electronic one.  Recently, though, small-sensor MILCs (i.e. MILCs adopting small, compact-camera like sensors) have been introduced on the market. Current MILCs are therefore characterised just by having interchangeable lenses (like DSLRs) in the absence of a TTL view-finder. Versatility will therefore be DSLR-like, whilst image quality will either be compact-like (small sensor) or DSLR-like (large sensor).
(TTL = "through the lens", as most camera folks know.)

Although many look like they would meet my needs, the field is changing so fast that I have decided to wait a bit until it stabilizes.  (And until the prices come down a bit.)

Meanwhile, I have felt less need to upgrade because my Panasonic FZ-8 does at least 90 percent of what I want a camera to do.  The electronic viewfinder is good enough so that I can pretend I am using an SLR or DSLR, the zoom covers most of the range I need, the menus and controls hide most of the complexity — unless I actually need it, as I occasionally do — and so on.

It is large enough to be comfortable in my hands, and light enough so that I can put it in a camera bag, carried comfortably over my shoulder.

When I bought the Panasonic in 2007, I had no idea it would be my main camera this long.  In fact, I was expecting to replace it with a DSLR in a couple of years.  But sometimes temporary compromises, in cameras as in politics, last longer than expected.

(If you are interested in a similar compromise for yourself, here are the latest Panasonic models in this line, the FZ47 and the FZ150.  Of course, you'll want to look at competing models from other manufacturers, before buying one.

The "raw" format may be need a bit of explanation for some.  Digital cameras make a guess, usually a very good guess, at what kind of light they are seeing, and then adjust for that.  But sometimes they miss, and so most high-end cameras allow you to take pictures in "raw" mode, which gives you what the sensors saw, and lets you figure out how to make it look best, later.)
- 1:48 PM, 24 February 2012   [link]


Those Last Two Posts are related, though it might not seem so to those who don't follow Australian politics.  In 2009, Malcolm Turnbull lost the leadership of the Australian Liberal Party (then in opposition) to Tony Abbott, largely because Turnbull thought drastic action was required to reduce global warming, and tried to force the Liberal Party to follow him on that issue.

When Kevin Rudd was elected Prime Minister, he was, at first, quite popular.  He lost popularity for a number of reasons, including a failed insulation program that led to deaths, but his biggest failure — from a Green point of view — is that he was unable to pass his Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.  Worse, Australian voters were beginning to realize that any serious attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Australia would be very expensive..

His successor, Julia Gillard, became prime minister on 23 June 2010.  On 17 July, she scheduled an election for 21 August.  During the brief campaign, she promised not to impose an energy tax, and probably would have lost without that promise.  After the election, she promptly broke her promise.  (Americans may be reminded of Bill Clinton's promised middle class tax cut, which he abandoned almost immediately on taking office.)

If Gillard loses the leadership vote on Monday (not likely, according to the news accounts I have seen) or the next election (likely, according to recent polls), there will have been two Australian prime ministers and one opposition leader who lost their posts, in part because they called for serious actions to reduce climate change.

There is, I think, a political lesson in these leadership changes:  Voters may tell pollsters they are worried about climate change, but those same voters are often unwilling to back actions to stop it — if those actions impose significant costs on the voters.

Most practical politicians understand this, and so they often look for ways to pose on the issue rather than take serious steps, even if they agree that global warming is a serious threat.  Or, they propose actions where most costs hit after they are out of office.

Roger Pielke, Jr. goes even farther than I do, finding an "iron law": "However, if there is an iron law of climate policy, it is that when policies focused on economic growth confront policies focused on emissions reductions, it is economic growth that will win out every time." (p. 46)
- 9:07 AM, 24 February 2012   [link]


Lindzen Criticizes Catastrophic Climate Change Models:   On Wednesday, MIT Professor Richard S. Lindzen gave a talk to a committee of the British House of Commons.  He began with the best short critique of catastrophic global warming models (and modelers) that I have seen:
I wish to thank the Campaign to Repeal the Climate Change Act for the opportunity to present my views on the issue of climate change — or as it was once referred to: global warming.   Stated briefly, I will simply try to clarify what the debate over climate change is really about.  It most certainly is not about whether climate is changing: it always is.  It is not about whether CO2 is increasing: it clearly is.  It is not about whether the increase in CO2, by itself, will lead to some warming: it should.  The debate is simply over the matter of how much warming the increase in CO2 can lead to, and the connection of such warming to the innumerable claimed catastrophes.  The evidence is that the increase in CO2 will lead to very little warming, and that the connection of this minimal warming (or even significant warming) to the purported catastrophes is also minimal.  The arguments on which the catastrophic claims are made are extremely weak — and commonly acknowledged as such.  They are sometimes overtly dishonest.
(That last sentence has quite a sting, doesn't it?)

Lindzen goes on to argue that the key question is whether there is positive feedback from increased CO2, as the modelers believe.  He thinks that the evidence shows that there is negative feedback.

You can find the entire talk, in a PDF, here.  Parts of it get mildly technical, especially toward the end, but I think even those without a science background can learn from most of it.

Those who are impressed by credentials will be impressed by Lindzen's.  For example, I had not realized, until I skimmed through that Wikipedia biography, how much work he had done for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

By way of Richard Delingpole.
- 7:29 AM, 24 February 2012   [link]


The Rudd Versus Gillard Rematch:  In June 2010, Julia Gillard forced Kevin Rudd out, as Australian prime minister, and as leader of the Australian Labor Party.  In the election that followed, the party won just enough seats to stay in power, with the help of independents.

Gillard then made Rudd Minister for Foreign Affairs.  He has just resigned, and will challenge her for party leadership on Monday.

It's fun to try to translate this into American terms.  Imagine that Hillary Clinton had forced Barack Obama out as president, and then made him Secretary of State.  Unhappy in that position (and probably noticing her unpopularity with the public), Obama would now be challenging Clinton for the top job.

(Can they both lose?  You would have to know more than I do about the party's rules to answer that question, although one would think that a compromise candidate might be best for the party.)

Those who like to watch party fights will enjoy this one.  Their opponents in the Australian Liberal and National parties are probably stocking up on popcorn, and maybe even putting a beer or two in the refrigerator.

(Roger Pielke, Jr., has a time line for those who want to know more background than I included in that brief summary.

You can find Wikipedia biographies of the two candidates here and here.   The two are quite different on social issues, both in their personal behavior and their political positions.)
- 12:18 PM, 23 February 2012   [link]


Class Credit For Volunteering For Obama?  Yes, and Loretta Harper, the Las Vegas public school teacher, is planning to award the credit again, this year.

Harper isn't exactly an average teacher; she's also one of Obama's many campaign co-chairs.

(Harper's school, Desert Pines, has this mission:
The mission of Desert Pines High School's multicultural community is to push education so all students are better equipped with the academic, physical, communication, organizational, leadership and citizenship skills necessary to meet the challenges of today's ever changing world by motivating school involvement and promoting further education for a better future.
(That sentence is so vague that I am not sure I could translate it into English, no matter how hard I tried.)

Even by its own standards, the school does not appear to be a great success.  Note, for instance, how much smaller the senior class is than the freshman class (471 versu 1008).  That suggests to me that the school has a very high dropout rate.

The way this volunteer trick is usually done is that the teacher offers the credit to any student who volunteers for a political campaign, regardless of which candidate or party the student helps.  If you have a student body where almost all the activists are Democrats (or Republicans), you can achieve the desired effect, while preserving plausible deniability.   I am dubious about all such programs, because they are so prone to abuse.)
- 8:12 AM, 23 February 2012   [link]


"Who Is Responsible For The Republican Party?"  Jay Cost answers his own question: Nobody.
So, in their zeal to reform the party system, the lefty do-gooders of the late 1960s and early 1970s denuded those supposedly vile party organizations and replaced them with . . . nothing.  In reality, nobody is responsible for the well-being of the party, to manage its reputation and maximize its chances for a broad victory in November and beyond.
He's right, and his brief explanation of how we got here is about as good as I've seen, except for his unfortunate use of the term "establishment".

(As I have said before — and I probably should do a longish post on this some time — I think that there is no party establishment in any real sense, and that most of those who attack it would be charter members, if there were one.  Rush Limbaugh is an obvious example; he was born into a political family with considerable influence in his part of Missouri, was chosen to address the new House majority after the 1994 Republican victory, and constantly attacks the "establishment" on his radio program.)
- 7:02 AM, 23 February 2012   [link]


Loose Cable Connection Caused Faster-Than-Light Error?   That's what "sources" are saying.
A loose connection between a timer and a computer led some of the world's smartest particle physicists to conclude that certain tiny particles called neutrinos moved faster than the speed of light -- a declaration that shocked the science world and would have called into questions Einstein's theories.

Citing sources familiar with the experiment, Science magazine's website reported Wednesday that the 60-nanoseconds discrepancy that led to the startling speed conclusion came from a bad connection in a fiber optic cable connecting a GPS receiver (used to correct the timing of the neutrinos' flight) and a computer.
Years ago, experience led me to conclude that the first place you should look when you have a problem with a computer peripheral is the cable.  The cable is so often the source of the problem, at least half the time in my experience, that you should almost always check the cable before checking anything else.  (And, it is usually simple to check a cable, if you have a replacement cable that you know works.)

Modern cables and connections are probably more reliable than the ones that led me to that conclusion — but I suspect they are still often the best place to start.
- 6:00 AM, 23 February 2012   [link]


Philadelphia's Two Daily Newspapers May Be Bought by a group led by — a former Pennsylvania governor, Democrat Ed Rendell.
Philadelphia's two daily newspapers have long been accused of liberal bias, but critics say a group of potential buyers led by former Gov. Ed Rendell would turn the papers into mere mouthpieces of the Democratic Party in a 2012 swing state.

Mr. Rendell, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is teaming with George Norcross, the Democratic Party boss of southern New Jersey, and others in an effort to purchase the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily News and the company's website, philly.com.
Cynics may suspect that Rendell is not making this offer just because he thinks the newspapers are a good investment.  (They probably aren't.)

As you may have guessed, the newspapers have influence in southern New Jersey, as well as all through Pennsylvania.
- 6:30 AM, 22 February 2012   [link]


Secretary Clinton Stands Out at the G-20 foreign affairs ministers meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, more than she wanted to, perhaps.

(The Daily Mail misses some of the significance.  Customarily, the costumes worn are traditional clothes from the host country.  You can think of them as a small tribute to the host country, so not wearing one might be taken as a small insult.)

ABC has a collection of pictures from previous G-20 meetings, for comparison.

Obama dropped the custom for the meeting in Hawaii — and I wish he hadn't.
- 6:17 AM, 22 February 2012
According to Fausta, the other foreign ministers are wearing white guayaberas (sometimes called "Mexican wedding shirts"), while Clinton is wearing a "lime green Mao".
- 12:25 PM, 22 February2012   [link]


Can Alcohol Help You Fight Off Parasites?  It can, if you happen to be an ordinary fruit fly, attacked by a parasitic wasp.
Some people drink alcohol to drown their sorrows.  So does the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, but its sorrows aren't teary rejections or lost jobs.  It drinks to kill wasps that have hatched inside its body, and would otherwise eat it alive.  It uses alcohol as a cure for body-snatchers.

D.melanogaster lives in a boozy world.  It eats yeasts that grow on rotting fruit, which can contain up to 6 per cent alcohol.  Being constantly drunk isn't a good idea for a wild animal, and the flies have evolved a certain degree of resistance to alcohol.  But Neil Milan from Emory University has found that alcohol isn't just something that the insect tolerates.  It's also fly medicine.
Professor Milan is not sure whether alcohol might help humans, in a similar way, but I'm not taking any chances.  I had a glass of wine with my dinner, as I usually do.
- 6:26 PM, 21 February 2012   [link]


Germany Is (Mostly) Giving Up On Solar Power Subsidies:   Bjørn Lomborg explains why the Germans are cutting back, after spending more than $130 billion subsidizing solar power.
Unfortunately, Germany—like most of the world—is not as sunny as the Sahara.  And, while sunlight is free, panels and installation are not.  Solar power is at least four times more costly than energy produced by fossil fuels.  It also has the distinct disadvantage of not working at night, when much electricity is consumed.
And, as Lomborg goes on to explain, Germany's immense investment in solar power "does remarkably little to counter global warming".

All of this was obvious — though perhaps not to German voters — before Germany started these reckless subsidies.

What puzzles me is why all this was not obvious to Chancellor Merkel, who is almost a nuclear physicist.  (Her doctoral degree is in quantum chemistry.)

(Relative to GDP, a comparable US subsidy would be about $575 billion.)
- 1:32 PM, 21 February 2012   [link]


Lagarde Lectures Papademos:  Today's Wall Street Journal illustrated its story on the latest Greek bailout with a picture much like this one, showing IMF head Christine Lagarde looming over Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, like a teacher unhappy with a pupil who refuses to do his work.

Which is pretty funny, if you aren't Greek, or lending more money to Greece.

(You can find the Journal article here, and more pictures in that sequence by searching images on: "AFP + Lagarde + Papademos".)
- 1:12 PM, 21 February 2012   [link]


Avalanche Airbags:  I have to admit that I had never heard of them, until an avalanche survivor credited one for saving her life.
Elyse Saugstad, a professional skier originally from Alaska, survived the fatal slide.

"We didn't anticipate it, but when we saw it happening we knew exactly what was happening and it's amazing how quickly an avalanche happens and it progresses," Saugstad told the TODAY show.

Saugstad said she immediately pulled the lever on her avalanche safety backpack.  The backpack inflates an airbag around your upper body and lifts you above the avalanche, so you stay on top of the snow.
The packs also protect you by keeping a space open around your mouth and nose.

Here's what one pack looks like, uninflated.  And here's a brief video showing one in action

My own method of protecting myself from avalanches is to stay out of areas where they might occur — and those areas are reasonably obvious.  But if I were now as, let's say, risk acceptant, as I was when I was younger, I might want to have one of these packs.

The avalanche occurred when the skiers were skiing outside the protected area at a local ski resort on Stevens Pass.  That area is prone to avalanches, as any driver who takes Route 2 over the Cascades can see.   As you drive along, you see, again and again, slots cut in the forests by avalanches.   Those slots are kept clear of trees by periodic avalanches.

(There are many other kinds of avalanche survival and rescue gear, including a sort of aqualung that may let you survive until they dig you out.)
- 9:58 AM, 21 February 2012   [link]


DSK, Central Banker, and sex criminal?
Dominique Strauss-Kahn was today arrested by French police and faces criminal charges relating to an illegal prostitute racket.

The former International Monetary Fund chief was told by detectives that there is evidence linking him to 'complicity in pimping' and 'misuse of corporate assets'.
. . .
Strauss-Kahn, 62, has admitted to attending 'sex parties' in cities all over the world, but denies knowing that the women he slept with were prostitutes.
At one time I thought of central bankers — to the extent that I thought of them at all — as men of unquestioned probity, who were chosen in part because they lived in ways that showed that they deserved our trust.

They were, I would have said had I been asked, the kind of men who would almost never show up in gossip columns, in spite of their great power.

I still think that's true for Paul Volcker, though I was surprised to see that he had eloped in 2010, but now I am not sure how much that holds for many other central bankers.

Many people must have known about DSK's partying, to put it gently, but he was still considered an appropriate head for the International Monetary Fund.  Those who chose him have some explaining to do.
- 9:11 AM, 21 February 2012   [link]


Bush Rising, Obama Falling:  Both make Public Policy Polling's bottom eleven, but Bush by a tiny bit less than Obama.
The least popular by far is Richard Nixon (27-59), followed by ten others in negative territory: Lyndon B. Johnson (34-42), Warren Harding (12-19), Millard Fillmore (7-12), Herbert Hoover (25-29), Calvin Coolidge (18-22), Barack Obama (46-49), Chester Arthur (10-13), Martin Van Buren (13-15), James Buchanan (11-13), and George W. Bush (45-46).
(Your humble correspondent does a small victory dance to celebrate.)

Jimmy Carter just misses negative territory at (44-44).  Ronald Reagan is 14th from the top at (62-30), Gerald Ford 16th at (49-28),and George H. W. Bush 19th at (51-42).

By way of Don Surber.
- 1:47 PM, 20 February 2012   [link]


How Did The Seattle Times Celebrate Washington's Birthday?  With a politically correct guest column on — Abraham Lincoln.

That mix-up would amuse Lincoln, and, perhaps, Washington.

(Yes, this holiday is Washington's Birthday, not Presidents Day, despite what you may have heard on TV.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(I may have more to say about the column in a separate post.)
- 12:44 PM, 20 February 2012   [link]


It's Washington's Birthday:  (Though your local TV news readers may be telling you it's Presidents Day.)

To celebrate it, you may want to read Myron Magnet's "When George Washington Became Great".

(It's a bit long for a quick work break in most work places, but worth reading after hours, and definitely worth sharing with children and grandchildren.)
- 8:25 AM, 20 February 2012   [link]


Canadians Elect A Conservative Prime Minister:  And, within a few years, are our favorite nation.
A whopping 96% of Americans have a generally favorable view of Canada, while 3% view it unfavorably.  That favorable rating is the highest Gallup has measured for any country in more than 20 years of asking this question.  Canada's 93% ratings in 1987 and 1989 were the previous high favorable for any country.
Is it reasonable to connect the rise of Stephen Harper to that shift in American opinion?  I think so, though I will admit that I don't have the direct kind of evidence that one would like.

Harper took office in 2006, and Canada's ratings have been rising ever since, as you can see in Gallup's graph.  Canada's Conservatives have their faults, but they do not include the overt anti-Americans that you can find in all three major opposition parties, the Liberals, the NDP, and the PQ.

Canada's previous peaks came when Brian Mulroney, a Progressive Conservative, was prime minister.  Canada's Liberals were in power from 1993 until 2006, which coincides with that shallow trough in American approval of Canada.

(And, yes, now that you mention it, it does seem odd that President Obama picked a fight over the Keystone XL pipeline wtih Americans' favorite nation.)
- 6:57 AM, 20 February 2012   [link]


Order, Delivery, Email Notification:  Last Wednesday, I ordered a pair of cross country ski pants from REI.  On Thursday, they arrived.  (The REI warehouse is in Sumner, about an hour's drive away.)  On Friday, I received an email notification that the pants had been shipped.

Usually electronic communications are faster than physical transport — but not always.

(Which pair?   This pair, which I chose because they come from a famous ski company, Swix, and because they don't look quite as boring as the alternatives.

I don't think they will last 25 years, even if I do.)
- 6:44 PM, 19 February 2012   [link]


Correction On Extra Points And Time:  A couple of weeks ago, I speculated that the New York Giants could have run more time off the clock during their extra-point try at the end of the Super Bowl.

If I had read my own link more carefully, I would have realized that was wrong for the NFL (and most other leagues).
In the National Football League, the scrimmage for point after attempt takes place from the two-yard line.  In American high school and college football, it is from the three-yard line.  In Canadian football it is from the five-yard line.  The game clock does not run during an extra-point attempt, except for some rare circumstances at the high-school level (some state associations allow for the clock to run continuously in the second half if one team is leading the other by a large margin)[4] and for arena football, which runs the clock continuously except during the final minute of each half.
(Emphasis added.)

In the NCAA, it sometimes makes sense for a team to down the ball rather than attempt an extra point, as the Wikipedia article goes on to say.

Thanks to an alert reader for catching my mistake.

I've noted the correction in the original post.

(While I am on the subject of time management at the end of the Super Bowl, I'll mention this Wall Street Journal article, which shows how the probabilities changed with the coaching decisions at the end of the game.  For instance, New England could have increased their chances of winning from 4.5 percent to 10.3 percent by letting Ahmad Bradshaw score on the first down, rather than the second.

You may have to get to the article through Google News, as I did.  This search string worked for me: "Running back Ahmad Bradshaw was so perplexed".)
- 2:55 PM, 19 February 2012   [link]


Remember When Obama Wouldn't Wear An American Flag Pin?  Now, he's calling himself an American "chauvinist".
"I'm a chauvinist," Obama told a crowd of 450 supporters who each paid $1,000 or more for a reception at a Bellevue, Wash., hotel.

"I want America to have the best stuff.  I don't want to go to China and see their airports better than ours, or go to Europe and see their railroads faster than ours," he said.
Imagine the reaction if George W. Bush had used the same adjective to describe himself.  (The word does have, as you probably know , an unpleasant history).

Which is the real Obama, the candidate who refused to wear a flag pin, or the self-proclaimed chauvinist?

The first seems more authentic to me, though I think he probably does like the idea of having fancier show projects here than in Europe and China.
- 10:03 AM, 19 February 2012   [link]


That Republican Operative Plans another Michelle Obama vacation.
With the economy on its knees, many American families have had to forgo their annual holiday just to make ends meet.

But barely a month after returning from a luxury Christmas break in Hawaii Michelle Obama is on holiday again - this time at the exclusive Colorado ski resort of Aspen.
OK, I am joking about that Republican operative — but if one were planning her vacations, this is exactly the kind of choice he would make.  Aspen has, shall we say, a certain reputation as the place for the politically correct 1 percent.
- 9:13 AM, 19 February 2012
That Republican operative is even better than I thought.   Not only is Michelle Obama vacationing in Aspen, she is staying with the Jim and Paula Crown, who may not be billionaires themselves, but are definitely members of a billionaire family.  Some people may think that this list of Mr. Crown's jobs lends support to the idea that he may have had a little help from his father, the billionaire.

If a Republican operative were choosing hosts for Michelle and her daughters, those are exactly the kind of hosts he would choose.
- 1:15 PM, 20 February 2012   [link]


Instapundit Glenn Reynolds offers some help to those trying to put together a syllabus for a course on the "Occupy" movement.

Here are his first two paragraphs:
Schools from New York's Columbia to Chicago's Roosevelt University are offering courses on the "Occupy" movement.  This has inspired some derision from the right, but I think that derision is misplaced.  There is much that a course on the Occupy movement might profitably cover.  Here are some possible lessons:

1) The Higher Education Bubble and Debt Slavery Throughout History.  Since ancient times, debt has been a tool used by rulers to enslave the ruled, which is why the Bible explains that the borrower is the slave to the lender.  One complaint of many Occupy protesters involves their pursuit of expensive degrees that has left them burdened by student loans but unable to find suitable employment.  This unit would compare the marketing of higher education and student debt to today's students with the techniques used to lure sharecroppers and coal miners into irredeemable indebtedness.  Music to be provided by Tennessee Ernie Ford.
Professor Reynolds is being generous, as he often is.

(Younger people may need an explanation of the Tennessee Ernie Ford reference.  You can find it here.)
- 4:19 PM, 18 February 2012   [link]


The NYT Catches Nancy Pelosi being hypocritical.
Nearly a century ago, Congress rashly approved a dam and an eight-mile-long reservoir called Hetch Hetchy in the northwest corner of Yosemite National Park.  The purpose was to trap water from the Tuolumne River and supply it to San Francisco.  The cost was the destruction of a pristine valley that the naturalist John Muir once called "one of nature's rarest and most precious mountain temples."  The project, completed in 1923 despite a national outcry, included a sweetheart deal for San Francisco: the right to buy the water for $30,000 a year.  There have been many attempts to re-examine this deal and study whether the dam could be breached, the reservoir emptied and the valley restored.  In the latest, Representative Dan Lungren, a Republican from California, has asked Ken Salazar, secretary of the interior, to investigate whether San Francisco is fulfilling its end of the deal, which requires the city to use all its local water sources before turning to Hetch Hetchy.
. . .
Democrats, usually more sympathetic to the environment, might be expected to sympathize with Mr. Lungren's call. But Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, and Senator Dianne Feinstein — both San Franciscans — like things the way they are.
Granted, spotting hypocrisy in the former speaker and current House minority leader is not difficult.  But it is also true that our newspaper of record doesn't do that nearly as often as it should.

Congratulations to Dan Lungren, who is trying to make San Francisco live by the same rules the city wants to impose on the rest of us.  That's good politics — and good policy.

(Here's more on the Hetch Hetchy valley, which is often described as Yosemite's twin.)
- 3:40 PM, 18 February 2012   [link]


Is The ObamaCare Individual Mandate A Tax?  Yes and no.  That's the official position of the Obama administration.  Or should I say official positions?

(Their answers remind me of Schrödinger's cat, which is simultaneously alive and not alive.)
- 1:22 PM, 17 February 2012   [link]


Routine Corruption In Illinois:  But still a little shocking in our nation's capital.  Venture capitalists raised big bucks for Obama in 2008, and some got jobs in his administration, where they directed money back to the firms where they had investments.

(There were controls that were supposed to stop that kind of thing, but they don't seem to have worked very well.)

For example, Sanjay Wagle:
Following an enduring Washington tradition, Wagle shifted from the private sector, where his firm hoped to profit from federal investments, to an insider's seat in the administration's $80 billion clean-energy investment program.

He was one of several players in venture capital, which was providing financial backing to start-up clean-tech companies, who moved into the Energy Department at a time when the agency was seeking outside expertise in the field.  At the same time, their industry had a huge stake in decisions about which companies would receive government loans, grants and support.

During the next three years, the department provided $2.4 billion in public funding to clean-energy companies in which Wagle's former firm, Vantage Point Venture Partners, had invested, a Washington Post analysis found.  Overall, the Post found that $3.9 billion in federal grants and financing flowed to 21 companies backed by firms with connections to five Obama administration staffers and advisers.
There are many more details in the article, which you may want to read, or even study.

Some may find this point, which you will not find in the article, amusing:  Wagle, and others like him, were making lousy investment decisions before they joined the Obama administration, as well as when they were working there.  They had believed Green propaganda, and failed to do the kind of analysis that would have shown that these companies were not good investments, even with taxpayer subsidies.

Those who got in early — Al Gore, for example — may have done well, but latecomers like Wagle are going to lose large amounts of their own money, as well as ours.
- 8:23 AM, 17 February 2012   [link]


Finally!  The Republican presidential candidates are refusing to attend another "debate".
CNN canceled its March 1 debate in Georgia after Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum signaled Thursday they would not attend, meaning the GOP field will meet just once more before the critical Super Tuesday vote on March 6.

Romney's campaign — the first to say it would not participate — said scheduling conflicts would prevent the former governor from attending.
Maybe the candidates will even start demanding less partisan moderators.  Or is that too much to hope for?
- 7:44 AM, 17 February 2012   [link]