Archive:

February 2014, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Jimmy Carter Is Planning To Visit Venezuela:  Some Venezuelans would prefer that he stayed away.
I have just read that you are planning a trip to Venezuela sometime in April, depending how the rioting goes.  Right... I also learned that you have written to Maduro and Capriles, arguably the leaders in Venezuela.  In particular I note this sentence to Capriles that was picked up by newspapers: "send signals of their willingness to alleviate the present state of tension"; though in all justice you also wrote the following: "It is difficult for elected officials from opposition parties to resolve differences when they feel threatened and persecuted".   However, that you assume that in Venezuela today the opposition has concessions it can make do betrays an extremely poor understanding of the situation.  Or utter cynicism, your choice.

Please, desist from your trip: you have absolutely no credibility in Venezuela.
Read the rest of the post to learn why.

(I have always suspected that when Jimmy Carter monitored the 1990 Nicaraguan election he was hoping to ratify the Sandinista claim to power.  But the election turned out otherwise.  His interference before the 1st Gulf War angered the Bush administration; his grandstanding with North Korea made it impossible for the Clinton administration to be as tough as they wanted to be in trying to control the North Korean nuclear program.

In all of these, Carter was working against the best interests of the United States — and the best interests of the people in those countries.)
- 8:59 AM, 28 February 2014   [link]


US Marines Again Have The Right to bare arms.
There were grumbles in 2009 when the U.S. Marine Corps ordered troops to keep their hands out of their pockets except to quickly "retrieve something."  But when the Corps' commandant later decreed that Marines had to stop rolling up their sleeves, a longtime fashion statement, the leathernecks went into action.

"That's what separated us from every other branch, our sleeves," said First Sgt. Shawn Wright, a career Marine who was a drill instructor.  Troops launched petition drives and peppered superiors with questions.  Some complained it hid their tattoos.

The top brass did an about-face this week and returned the right to bare arms, starting March 9.
The article explains just how seriously the Marines take this tradition — which may come from the idea that you roll up your sleeves when you are about to go to work, especially on a dirty job.

And there may be another reason Marines like to roll up their sleeves.  Yesterday, when I bought a copy of the Wall Street Journal, I showed the story to the young woman who sold me the paper, and asked her whether she approved of the return to tradition.  She said she did.
- 8:03 AM, 28 February 2014   [link]


It's Good When A Sister Looks Out for her brother.
When Thomas White spotted a cougar approaching his teenage son outside their home in rural Washington state last week, there was only one thing to do - hand a gun to his 11-year-old daughter.

Without a moment's hesitation, Shelby White killed the female cougar, and wildlife officials suggested that the animal may have been sick.

The mountain cat was 4 years old and weighed about 50lbs, which is about half of what an animal that age should weigh.
(And vice versa.)

Why Shelby?  Because she was the only one there with an unused tag, the only one who could legally shoot the cougar.
- 6:56 PM, 27 February 2014   [link]


There's A Promising Candidate In My Own 1st Congressional District:  And, unlike the man who represented the 1st for years, Governor Jay Inslee, there is no doubt that he is smart enough for the job.

Republican Pedro Celis, a retired Microsoft software engineer from Redmond, plans to announce his candidacy officially Thursday morning.
. . .
Celis was born in Monterrey, Mexico.  He earned a computer-science degree, then headed to Canada in his 20s, he said, “with one bag of clothes and a box of books” to go to grad school.   He received his Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

He moved to the U.S. in 1986 to take a job as a professor of computer science at Indiana University Bloomington.  He later worked for startups in California and Texas before moving to Redmond to work for Microsoft, where he wrote database software.  He retired in 2012 as a “distinguished engineer” after 14 years there.

He'll be running against Suzan DelBene, who also spent time at Microsoft.  (And made a lot of money there, though I am unsure just what she did to deserve the money.)

Although I expect this year to be a Republican year, I would have to say that the odds are still against him.  DelBene is an incumbent, though in her first term.  The 1st is often described as a swing district — and was supposed to be designed that way — but voted 54-43 for Obama in 2012.

I expect that Democrats will appeal to anti-Hispanic sentiment; there's already a whiff of that in the Seattle Times article where the reporter, Jim Brunner, refers to Celis's "heavy accent".  (I don't recall the same reporter ever mentioning anything about Kshama Sawant's accent, which also could be described as "heavy".)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Fun fact:  If Celis wins, he will be the second Hispanic to represent Washington in Congress — and both would be Republicans.

The TV commercials that DelBene used in her previous campaigns impressed me for their political effectiveness, their intellectual incoherence and their dishonesty.

Here's the Wikipedia article on the 1st district.)
- 1:22 PM, 27 February 2014   [link]


For Some Wealthy Leftists, The "Immigration Problem" Is a shortage of cheap servants, preferably politically correct servants.  I wrote about this back in 2006, relying on Tom Wolfe's "Radical Chic" for background.

I haven't written about it often since then, but that isn't because you don't see it from time to time.   For example.
Florida Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink said immigration reform was important at a Tuesday debate because, without it, it would be difficult for employers to find people to clean hotel rooms and do landscaping.

“Immigration reform is important in our country,” she said.  “We have a lot of employers over on the beaches that rely upon workers and especially in this high-growth environment, where are you going to get people to work to clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping?
(No, I don't know why she thinks we are in a "high-growth environment".)
- 7:33 AM, 27 February 2014   [link]


Think Some Scientific Papers Are Gibberish?  You're right.
The publishers Springer and IEEE are removing more than 120 papers from their subscription services after a French researcher discovered that the works were computer-generated nonsense.

Over the past two years, computer scientist Cyril Labbé of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, has catalogued computer-generated papers that made it into more than 30 published conference proceedings between 2008 and 2013.  Sixteen appeared in publications by Springer, which is headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany, and more than 100 were published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), based in New York.  Both publishers, which were privately informed by Labbé, say that they are now removing the papers.
The publishers and those running the conferences should have detected those papers.   (I suspect some who attended the conferences did detect them, but saw no reason to make public their conclusions.)

We are seeing far too many stories that cast doubt on the basic quality control in our scientific publications.  I don't know whether the overall quality has declined, don't know if there is even a reasonable way to measure quality, but the stories are worrisome.

(In my opinion, Labbé is more confident in his ability to detect such papers than he ought to be.  According to the article, he looks for characteristic vocabulary used by a paper-generating program, SCIgen.  But it would be easy to modify that program to use a different set of words, and not terribly difficult to use the program as a template to write a different paper-generating program.)
- 7:02 AM, 27 February 2014   [link]


What Issues Do The American People Think Our Elected Representatives Should Be Working On?  You can find a partial answer in the simple chart which accompanies this Gallup post.

The more important the issue to voters, the farther to the right it is; the more dissatisfied they are, the higher it is.  So the public, taken as whole, wants our legislators to work more on issues in the upper right quadrangle.  It's no surprise that the economy stands out, all by itself, in that quadrangle.  (But it is interesting to see that the next in importance in the quadrangle is education.)

Even more interesting to me are the issues in the lower left quadrangle, where the American people see the issue as unimportant, and are relatively satisfied.  Again, one stands out, "Acceptance of gays and lesbians".  After that come "Race relations" and "Abortion", though, as you can see from the chart, the people are much less satisfied on abortion than race relations.

The analysis isn't complete; Gallup didn't include anything on foreign policy, except a bland "World affairs".  There is nothing there on the deficit, which would probably be in the upper right quadrangle.  But there is enough in the chart so that we can conclude that the public has different priorities than our journalists.

(Frank Newport uses that chart to argue that immigration is not a very important issue to the public; I agree with him, but am dubious about his argument that the public wants a "comprehensive" immigration plan.)
- 6:29 AM, 27 February 2014   [link]


President Obama Thinks ObamaCare has divine support.
About 4 million people have signed up for private health care plans under the Affordable Care Act, Obama said Tuesday night at an Organizing for Action event in Washington, urging his supporters to keep pushing to enroll as many people as possible before the March 31 deadline.

“We’re going to make a big push these last few weeks,” Obama told OFA volunteers and officials.  “I can talk, my team can talk here in Washington, but it’s not going to make as much of a difference as if you are out there making the case.  The work you’re doing is God’s work.  It is hard work.”
(Emphasis added.)

Let's see, if I were the Instapundit, I would say something like this:  They told me that if I voted for Romney, our president would be claiming divine support for his causes.

Imagine, just for second, the reaction if George W. Bush had said something similar.
- 8:27 AM, 26 February 2014   [link]


Another ObamaCare Victim?  Nina Shapiro's article on minimum wage workers in Seattle included these two paragraphs:

But [Jason] Harvey’s career has gone the other direction.  While his hourly wage has not gone down, his hours have, dramatically—from nearly 40 a week to 28, due to cuts implemented throughout the franchise early last year.  Harvey says he was told at the time that the reason was a looming provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to provide health insurance for staffers working at least 30 hours.

[Mark] Escamilla, however, maintains that the cuts derived not from Obamacare but from a change in ownership that moved the franchise toward a part-time model.  (Escamilla was part of the old ownership group as well.)  “It gives us flexibility,” he says.  During busy periods, restaurants can tap into a pool of part-timers, whereas under the old full-time model, staffers would have to work overtime, according to Escamilla.  His franchise is not alone.   Part-time staffing has become pervasive throughout the fast-food industry, and is one reason why workers’ incomes are so low, according to Jacobs, the U.C. Berkeley researcher.

Given that 28 hours and the timing, the first explanation is more plausible than the second.  That 28 is the number of hours chosen by many employers who wish to escape ObamaCare.  And, as we all know, blaming anything on Obama will get you in trouble in Seattle, so the manager would have reason to say that ObamaCare was not his motive for cutting Harvey's hours.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Some perspective:  Assuming he works 50 weeks a year, 28 hours a week, Harvey's yearly income would be above the official poverty line, $11,940 a year for a single person,  (Last year, the minimum wage in Washington state was $9.19 an hour; this year, it is $9.32.)

Harvey would probably be better off if he could find a similar job in a place with a lower cost of living, even though he has a subsidized apartment.  He might be better off in other ways, too.  As we all know — okay, as we all should know — cities can damage a person's mental health.

You can find some international perspective in this post.

Most of you will find the full Shapiro article worth reading, though I do fear that she may have left out some of the more interesting details.)
- 7:37 AM, 26 February 2014   [link]


Suppose President Obama And Attorney General Holder Wanted To Make Race Relations Worse:  What kind of person would they choose to be assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil-rights division?

Probably someone like Debo Adegbile, best known for his defense of cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
To understand Mr. Adegbile's involvement, you must first consider the nature of the case.  In December 1981, Abu-Jamal shot and killed Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Immediately following the incident, Abu-Jamal confessed and stated before three witnesses that he hoped the officer died.

The murder was not a random street crime.  Abu-Jamal was an ardent supporter of the "MOVE" organization—a racist, anarchist group founded in Philadelphia in 1972.  The group's radical positions included encouraging violence against police.

By murdering a police officer, Abu-Jamal became a MOVE hero in the 1980s.  He relished the role, and he made every effort to turn his trial into political theater and incite racial conflict.   Repeatedly, he and his supporters interrupted proceedings, insulted the judge, and abused the officer's widow.
. . .
Given this context—and the fact that Abu-Jamal was already well represented and had funds at his disposal—it is difficult to understand why, as acting president and director of litigation at the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund, Mr. Adegbile chose in 2009 to enter the circus created by Abu-Jamal and inject his organization into the case.  Under Mr. Adegbile's leadership and through rallies, protests and a media campaign, the Legal Defense Fund actively fanned the racial firestorm.   In a news release issued when it took over as Abu-Jamal's counsel, the Legal Defense Fund proclaimed that Abu-Jamal was "a symbol of the racial injustices of the death penalty."
Obviously, I can't see into President Obama's and Attorney General Holder's hearts, so I can't know what their motives are in this nomination, but I can say that Adegbile is exactly the kind of person they would choose — if they wanted to worsen race relations.

And that Obama and Holder should know that.

(Here's the Wikipedia article on Abu-Jamal.)
- 8:49 PM, 25 February 2014   [link]


How Close Have Electric Car Sales Come To President Obama's Projection?  He has missed, so far, by about 80 percent.
As we noted in our previous installment, there's about an 80% gap between what President Obama promised and what he actually delivered.  Or if you prefer, President Obama can only apparently deliver one-fifth of what he promises.
You might say that one-fifth is better than nothing, which is true.  But, when I look at that sales graph, I can't see any obvious effect from Obama's intervention.  Sales were growing slowly, and have continued to grow slowly.  In spite of fairly substantial subsidies for the cars.
- 1:59 PM, 25 February 2014   [link]


Sex-Tailored Mother's Milk:  A brief article in today's New York Times pointed me to this Guardian article.
Baby formula should be tailored for boys and girls to reflect the differences in milk that mothers produce depending on their baby's sex, researchers say.

Tests on mothers' milk in both monkeys and humans have showed that levels of fat, protein, vitamins, sugars, minerals and hormones vary enormously, but there is evidence that milk made for female and male babies is consistently different.
. . .
Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago, [Professor Katie] Hinde described her work in rhesus monkeys that showed mothers produce milk with 35% more fat and protein for male babies, and even richer milk when the male was first-born.

But when mothers fed female babies, their milk was less fatty and had more calcium, probably to support the faster growth of their skeletons.  Mothers produced more milk overall for females, and over the course of their breast feeding, they received the same amount of fat as the males.
Well, actually, Professor Hinde rejects that first paragraph.
NOT EVEN CLOSE.  I said that there is emerging evidence that the "biological recipe" for milk for sons and daughters may be different in some species and at some times.  This motivates doing more research to better understand what human infants may be adapted to expect in milk.   In humans there are 5 total studies on milk for sons compared to milk for daughters, some of them show differences, some of them don't, so we need more research to understand differences in milk for sons and daughters.  Without more research we can't know how formula could be improved.  The work I do has implications for formula, but doesn't tell us what we should do.
Judging by her post, the Daily Mail got it even more wrong than the Guardian.   And the New York Times?  They just copied the mistake they found in the Guardian.

But her findings are enormously interesting, anyway.

(Here's her site, and here's the Wikipedia article on rhesus monkeys.

By the way, I usually look at a researcher's site before posting an article on their findings.  It seems like an obvious thing to do.  Apparently, someone at the Times doesn't agree with me on that.)
- 1:45 PM, 25 February 2014   [link]


Some Brit With The Improbable Name Of Piers Morgan Has Lost His CNN Show:  A surprisingly large number of people seem to care, more perhaps than actually watched his show.

I've never seen the show, and can't recall ever having seen him on television elsewhere, so I can't say that I care about his losing the show.

But I am mildly interested in the fact that CNN hired a man with triumphs like this one on his resumé:
Morgan was fired as Editor of the Daily Mirror "with immediate effect" on 14 May 2004 after refusing to apologise to Sly Bailey, then head of Trinity Mirror, for authorising the newspaper's publication of photographs which had been shown to be false.[31]  These were alleged to show Iraqi prisoners being abused by British Army soldiers from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment.[32]  When, within days the photographs were shown to be crude fakes, under the headline "SORRY.. WE WERE HOAXED", the Mirror responded that it had fallen victim to a "calculated and malicious hoax" and apologised for the publication of the photographs.[33][34]
Morgan is gullible — and unwilling to correct his mistakes, properly.  Neither would seem to be a desirable characteristic in a journalist.

So far I haven't seen an explanation for CNN's decision to hire him to replace, of all people, mild-mannered Larry King.

(Those who are interested in the Morgan story can learn more from Charles Cooke, or read this sympathetic piece by David Carr of the New York Times  Carr thinks that Morgan failed in part because the CNN's audience is "intrinsically provincial".  I probably should add that Carr would not be my first choice if I were looking for unbiased coverage of the media.)
- 10:16 AM, 25 February 2014   [link]


President Obama's 2015 Budget Request "Will Call For An End To The Era Of Austerity"  In case you think I am making that up, here's a Washington Post article which treats that seriously.
President Obama’s forthcoming budget request will seek tens of billions of dollars in fresh spending for domestic priorities while abandoning a compromise proposal to tame the national debt in part by trimming Social Security benefits.

With the 2015 budget request, Obama will call for an end to the era of austerity that has dogged much of his presidency and to his efforts to find common ground with Republicans.  Instead, the president will focus on pumping new cash into job training, early-childhood education and other programs aimed at bolstering the middle class, providing Democrats with a policy blueprint heading into the midterm elections.
For those who are trying to recall the era of austerity, Mollie Hemingway has provided us with some pictures.  I think you will be impressed by the sacrifices the Obamas have made.
- 7:25 AM, 25 February 2014   [link]