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January 2010, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Coakley Has Been A Horrible Prosecutor, Part 2:  Not only did Coakley botch the Amirault case, she botched three other high profile child molestation cases.  (Note, by the way, that she has been wrong in both directions; she has been both too severe and too lenient.)

And in a state which has more than its share of corruption, she has stood on the sidelines in corruption cases.
Paul Kix of Boston magazine recently profiled the woman vying to fill the people's seat formerly occupied by Ted Kennedy.

Mr. Kix reports that "the three biggest public-corruption cases of the past three years—the only three that anyone remembers—saw her sitting on the sidelines."

The author notes that indictments of former Massachusetts House Speaker Sal DiMasi, state Senator Dianne Wilkerson and Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner were all brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office, not Ms. Coakley.  The feds charged Mr. DiMasi with allegedly taking payments for advancing state software contracts, and made a bribery case against the others.

Writes Mr. Kix, "The FBI had video proof of Wilkerson stuffing bribe money into her bra.  Coakley did nothing.  The [Boston] Globe and Secretary of State William Galvin hammered DiMasi and his (allegedly) shady friends for 14 months.  And the best Coakley could do was indict DiMasi's golfing buddy Richard Vitale?  On misdemeanor charges?"
No wonder she has the "full support" of more than 80 state legislators.
- 2:19 PM, 16 January 2010   [link]


Lightscribe:  On most Fridays, I do a back-up of my data and write it on to a DVD.  I then flip the DVD over in the drive and put a label on it with Lightscribe.

It's the best system I have found for putting labels on work DVDs and CDs.  It takes a few minutes for the drive to write my simple labels, but once I have started the process, I can move on to the next task.

Requirements:  You need, naturally, a Lightscribe drive; you can buy an internal DVD drive for less than $30, and an external DVD drive for less than $50.  Lightscribe discs are usually more expensive than discs that don't have the special coating, but the convenience of the system makes the extra cost worthwhile for me.

(CD and DVD labels printed with an inkjet printer are generally fancier than labels printed with a Lightscribe drive, but take longer to make, and can not be used until the ink dries.

You can create extremely elaborate labels with Lightscribe; for some examples, look in the Design Center, but you should know that the more elaborate the label, the longer it takes to write.)
- 2:07 PM, 15 January 2010   [link]


Pictures Of The Haiti Catastrophe:  From the personal to the abstract: For much more, you will want to check the Anchoress regularly.
- 1:12 PM, 15 January 2010   [link]


Martha Coakley Has Been A Horrible Prosecutor:  I've been joking about her Senate campaign, but those jokes have a point:  Coakley has terrible judgment.   She has blundered in this campaign, and she has blundered again and again as a prosecutor.

Dorothy Rabinowitz describes Coakley's disgraceful behavior in the Amirault case, where Coakley helped perpetuate a terrible injustice, helped keep an innocent man in jail for years.

Here's what Rabinowitz says in conclusion:
Attorney General Martha Coakley—who had proven so dedicated a representative of the system that had brought the Amirault family to ruin, and who had fought so relentlessly to preserve their case—has recently expressed her view of this episode.  Questioned about the Amiraults in the course of her current race for the U.S. Senate, she told reporters of her firm belief that the evidence against the Amiraults was "formidable" and that she was entirely convinced "those children were abused at day care center by the three defendants."

What does this say about her candidacy?  (Ms. Coakley declined to be interviewed.)  If the current attorney general of Massachusetts actually believes, as no serious citizen does, the preposterous charges that caused the Amiraults to be thrown into prison—the butcher knife rape with no blood, the public tree-tying episode, the mutilated squirrel and the rest—that is powerful testimony to the mind and capacities of this aspirant to a Senate seat.  It is little short of wonderful to hear now of Ms. Coakley's concern for the rights of terror suspects at Guantanamo—her urgent call for the protection of the right to the presumption of innocence.

If the sound of ghostly laughter is heard in Massachusetts these days as this campaign rolls on, with Martha Coakley self-portrayed as the guardian of justice and civil liberties, there is good reason.
Anyone who examines the facts of the Amirault case will conclude that Martha Coakley should not be a senator, should not have been a prosecutor, and should not even be a lawyer.  And that is not the only case that she has botched.
- 6:08 AM, 15 January 2010   [link]


What's Next, Apple Pie?  Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley has attacked Mom's garden club and baseball, both usually consdered sacred.  Will apple pie be next?
- 4:25 PM, 14 January 2010   [link]


Remember Scott Ritter?  He's the UN weapons inspector who switched from being a bitter opponent of Saddam to a being a defender of the regime.

He's been caught, again.  And I am not the only one who wonders whether blackmail might explain Ritter's strange switch.

(James Taranto has some useful background on the case.)
- 3:46 PM, 14 January 2010   [link]


Can ObamaCare Be Saved By A Super Bureaucrat?  That's what New York Times columnist David Leonhardt hopes.  Faintly.
The technocratic approach, however, comes with risks.  The first is simply that the bureaucracy won't be up to the job.

Mark McClellan, who ran Medicare from 2004 to 2006 and now works at the Brookings Institution, likes to tell the story of a Medicare demonstration project that Congress approved in 2003.  Once the bill passed, officials had to devise the project's details, decide how to measure the results and choose the locations.  All of that took until 2009.  The first round of projects — coordinating care across medical specialties, in Indiana and North Carolina — has only recently started.  Years more will pass before the results are in.
. . .
The brand new parts of the health system, like the independent Medicare board and a tax on high-cost insurance plans (if it survives), will certainly help.  Still, an overhaul will also depend on leadership.

That will probably mean having someone in the White House whose job is to make sure that the disparate parts of health reform are working, and working together.  It will also mean naming someone with a rare set of skills to run Medicare.  This person will, incredibly, be the first Senate-confirmed head of the program since Dr. McClellan stepped down more than three years ago.
Let's stipulate, just for the sake of the argument, that some version of ObamaCare will pass and that it will establish a set of programs that are, in principle, workable.  (Leonhardt isn't sure that a workable set of programs will be established; he just thinks the status quo is unacceptable, and he is unwilling, for whatever reason, to consider market-based reforms.)  I think that is about as likely as me winning the lottery — without buying a ticket — but let's stipulate it so that we can get to the rest of Leonhardt's argument.

To run this set of programs we will need a person, says Leonhardt, with "a rare set of skills".   That qualifies, I would say, as the understatement of the week.  This super bureaucrat would have to understand medicine, the economics of medicine, and how to run an immense, and often unresponsive, bureaucracy.  Just to make things slightly worse, even this super bureaucrat's correct decisions will, necessarily, result in some deaths.  (Any large system for deciding who gets what medical care will, inevitably, err from time to time.  And at least a few people will die from time to time as the result of those errors.)

And if that is not enough, this super bureaucrat will have to report to three hyperpartisan politicians, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid.  All three will impose severe political constraints; none of the three has a real understanding of our health insurance problems.  (Or cares to take the time to develop that understanding.)

Is there even one person with that "rare set of skills"?  Leonhardt doesn't name one, and I doubt very much that such a person exists.  And if such a person exists, could they satisfy Obama, Pelosi, and Reid?  No, because the political constraints imposed by those three would block most real reforms.

(Leonhardt has been studying the problems of controlling health care costs for years, and has often had interesting things to say on the subject.  But he has been unwilling, at least in the last year, to examine Republican ideas, such as tort reform or a whole array of market-based reforms.  I don't know why Leonhardt is unwilling (or unable?) to think outside his leftwing Democratic box, but it has made his columns far less useful than they might have been.  (Perhaps he is simply one of those people for whom universal coverage is a moral imperative, though I can't recall him saying so.  Certainly, he values individual freedoms less than I do.)

Some years ago, Jeffrey Pressman and Aaron Wildavsky wrote an entertaining, and very instructive, case study on the problem of Implementation.  I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to understand why government programs so often fail to do what their legislative sponsors expected them to do.)
- 8:54 AM, 14 January 2010   [link]


Here's The Latest On The Massachusetts Senate Race from Mark Blumenthal, along with an updated chart that will give Republicans hope.  Brown is still behind, but closing rapidly.  (But we Republicans should read his caveats carefully.)

Here's Blumenthal's hypothetical explanation for the difference in the polls on the race between Democrat Coakley and Republican Brown
Here's a hypothesis that might explain the pattern: if Brown ekes out a victory or comes within a few percentage points of winning, it will because he wins the support of a lot of voters -- most of them independent -- who typically vote Democratic.  Brown has probably not yet closed the sale with these voters, given their prior vote history, but they are poised to support him.  Perhaps it is harder for them to tell a live interviewer they are ready to vote Republican.  Perhaps the more anonymous nature of the automated methodology better simulates the act of voting which will ultimately force a decision.
That seems plausible to me, and I'll add a point that he doesn't.  It is likely that the live interviewers are disproportionately Democratic, since most are women, and it is not a high-paying job.  We have known for decades that people tend to tell interviewers what they think the interviewers want to hear.  If most of the interviewers are Democrats, an automated system might get less biased results than live interviewers would.  For what it is worth, the automated systems did better than the live interviewers in the November New Jersey gubernatorial race.

(As I write, the InTrade bettors are giving Brown somewhere between 1 chance in 5 and 1 chance in 7 of upsetting Coakley.  But the odds have been changing rapidly in the last few days.

One more complication:  Weather will affect the turnout.  Right now, AccuWeather is predicting a cold, but "partly sunny" election day in Boston.  If they are right, turnout will be higher than if the weather is bad next Tuesday.  I'm not sure which candidate would gain, if that prediction is correct; Brown's voters are more motivated, but they are also more likely to live where they have to drive to get to the polls.)
- 7:25 AM, 14 January 2010
One day later, the InTrade bettors are giving Brown 1 chance in 3 of winning — and I wouldn't be surprised to see that change by this evening.
- 7:03 AM, 15 January 2010
Three days later, the InTrade bettors are giving Brown a 55 percent of winning — but that may change by the time you read this.
- 7:08 AM, 17 January 2010   [link]


Martha Coakley Takes On The Scofflaws:  The Democratic candidate for Senate in Massachusetts has a day job, and she is not neglecting her important duties:  She is making sure that those notorious scofflaws in the garden clubs follow the law.
Attorney General Martha Coakley's crackdown on Bay State gardening clubs for failing to file financial disclosure forms has left some green thumbs fearing arrest - and many sore at the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.

Linda Jean Smith, president of the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts, has been besieged with calls from frightened, angry members after a prickly Jan. 4 letter from Coakley's office declared many of them were breaking the law for failing to file their financial records for the past four years.

"One club president asked me if she was going to be led away in handcuffs," said Smith, adding that many members are in nursing homes or in Florida.  "These ladies are confused."
As you would expect, since most of these clubs have small budgets, and didn't even realize they were supposed to file reports.

Is it possible that some Republican in disguise in Coakley's office sent out these letters — impeccably timed — in order to affect the election?  Sure, but from what I know of Coakley's record, it is more likely that this blunder is hers.
- 5:02 PM, 13 January 2010   [link]


Google Isn't The Only Target Of Chinese Cyber-Attacks:  Gerald Posner — who is not a wild-eyed conspiracy-monger — passes on some frightening estimates from the FBI.
A classified FBI report indicates that China has secretly developed an army of 180,000 cyberspies that "poses the largest single threat to the United States for cyberterrorism and has the potential to destroy vital infrastructure, interrupt banking and commerce, and compromise sensitive military and defense databases."

These spies are already launching 90,000 attacks a year just against U.S. Defense Department computers, according to a senior FBI analyst familiar with the contents of the report, making news Tuesday that the Chinese government may have hacked the email accountings of human-rights activists, prompting Google to consider withdrawing from that country, seem like child's play.
Why so many spies?  I read a description of Chinese espionage methods a year or so ago that may explain the numbers.  According to the account, the Chinese use immense numbers of spies, many of them part-timers, who are only expected to pick up crumbs.  But then their analysts work very hard to reassemble those crumbs into a loaf of bread, or even a cake.

They use those methods to go after not only our military secrets, but our commercial secrets as well.  As Google just learned.

(The number of attacks on our Defense Department computers may not be as impressive as it seems, at first glance.  Often programmers who are probing computer defenses will automate their attacks, writing simple scripts to try the same attack on many computers, variations of an attack on the same computer, or both.)
- 1:58 PM, 13 January 2010   [link]


China Attacks Google, Google Fights Back:  Most of the blog posts I have seen mentioned the response, without mentioning the attack.  But the attack is more important:
Like many other well-known organizations, we face cyber attacks of varying degrees on a regular basis.  In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google.  However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident--albeit a significant one--was something quite different.

First, this attack was not just on Google.  As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses--including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors--have been similarly targeted.  We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.

Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.  Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective.  Only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.

Third, as part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties.  These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users' computers.
As you probably know, Google held out a hand to China for years.  The Chinese government bit that hand, and Google is now changing its policies.
These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China.  We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all.  We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences.  We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make Google.cn the success it is today.  We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.
You could say that Google, having tried Obama's approach to the communist regime, is now switching to Bush's.  And, as a result, Google is becoming a little less evil.

(As I read that last paragraph, Google executives fear that the communist government will retaliate against Google's Chinese employees.  Google is trying to protect those employees, but will probably fail.)
- 9:21 AM, 13 January 2010   [link]


The Haitian Earthquake:  The best single account I have seen is this New York Times article.  It's good because it describes the disaster:
A fierce earthquake struck Haiti late Tuesday afternoon, causing a crowded hospital to collapse, leveling countless shantytown dwellings and bringing even more suffering to a nation that was already the hemisphere's poorest and most disaster-prone.

The earthquake, the worst in the region in more than 200 years, left the country in a shambles.   As night fell in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, fires burned near the shoreline downtown, but otherwise the city fell into darkness.  The electricity was out, telephones were not working and relief workers struggled to make their way through streets blocked by rubble.

In the chaos, it was not possible for officials to determine how many people had been killed and injured, but they warned that the casualties could be substantial.
While admitting that much is still unknown.

And because the article gives some scientific background.  For example:
Most of Haiti lies on the Gonave microplate, a sliver of the earth's crust between the much larger North American plate to the north and the Caribbean plate to the south.  The earthquake on Tuesday occurred when what appears to be part of the southern fault zone broke and slid.

The fault is similar in structure to the San Andreas fault that slices through California, Dr. [Paul] Mann said.
If you are wondering where the Gonave microplate is (I was), this USGS map provides half of the answer:

USGS map of Haiti earthquake

The red line is the boundary between the North American plate and the Gonave microplate.

You can find the other half of the answer in this paper, which includes a map, and a false color picture of the plate.  As I understand it, the Gonave microplate was formed some millions of years ago when the Caribbean plate tore a small piece out of the North American plate.  You could say, without being too metaphorical, that the two larger plates are fighting over Gonave, with the Caribbean plate trying to take it east, and the North American plate trying to keep it where it is.
- 8:33 AM, 13 January 2010   [link]


Here's a list of the biggest earthquakes in the last twenty years from the USGS.
- 7:13 AM, 13 January 2010   [link]


Terrible News From Haiti:  An earthquake almost certainly killed thousands.
A major earthquake struck just off the coast of Haiti late this afternoon, reportedly causing extensive damage in the capital of Port-au-Prince, and one aid worker said "there must be thousands of people dead."

The quake had a magnitude of 7.0 according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and was centered just 10 miles from Port-au-Prince.

The center was also relatively shallow, less than 10 miles below ground, raising the risk of damage.
And the Haitians can not expect much help from their government, which is not exceptionally competent.
- 6:27 PM, 12 January 2010   [link]


Dyed Beards And Muslim Theology:  You might not think there is a connection, but there is.   (And that strange, henna-dyed beard deserves a look.)

Like Eric Scheie, I agree that we should pay more attention to this man's ideas than to his beard, but also like Eric, I can't be absolutely serious all day, every day.
- 4:10 PM, 12 January 2010   [link]


Worth Reading:  Cliff Mass's long post on the weakness of University of Washington students in basic mathematics.  He gave a simple math test to his Atmospheric Sciences 101 class last quarter, and got results like these:

43% did not know the formula for the area of a circle
86% could not do a simple algebra problem (problem 4b)
75% could not do a simple scientific notation problem (1e)
52% could not deal with a negative exponent (2 to the -2)
43% could not do simple long division problem with no remainder!
47% did not know what a cosine was.

Some will wonder whether these results are typical of students entering the University of Washington, which is more selective than other large public schools in this state.  The results probably are typical; the course is often taken to fill a distribution requirement, but there are other science courses that can be used for the same thing, but require little or no math.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(You can take the test yourself, if you like, or just look at a copy with the answers.)
- 3:46 PM, 12 January 2010   [link]


Those Harry Reid Comments About Barack Obama:  Everyone is talking about what the Majority Leader said about Barack Obama during the campaign, even people who say they don't want to talk about the comments, like talk show host Michael Medved or columnist Jonah Goldberg. You can put me in that second group, partly for the same reasons as Goldberg.
Steele is obviously right that there's a double standard when it comes to such racial gaffes.   A Republican says something stupidly offensive or offensively stupid about race and he must be destroyed, even if he apologizes like Henry in the snows of Canossa.  But when a Democrat blunders the same way, the liberal establishment goes into overdrive explaining why it's no big deal.

But by demanding Reid's resignation, Steele is making an idiotic, nasty and entirely cynical game bipartisan.  Yes, there's a double standard, but the point is that the standard used against conservatives is unfair, not that that unfair standard should be used against Democrats as well.
. . .
The bittersweet irony is that racism is such a nonissue in U.S. politics today.  Most of the "black agenda" is simply a throwback to the ethnic spoils game played by Italians, Germans, Jews and the Irish in previous generations.  But we've absurdly elevated racial pork barrel into a test of one's soul.  It's no more racist to oppose spending on the "digital divide" than it is anti-Irish to oppose pay increases for Boston firemen.
And partly because what Reid said was, for a change, mostly true, though said in a politically incorrect way.  Obama does have political advantages because he usually speaks like an educated person and had parents from two different races.  (And he took advantage of both of those by, for example, claiming to have roots in both Kenya and Kansas.)

And that's as much as I plan to say about this episode, unless forced to by events.

But I will add one more related point that no one is making.  Reid's comments were all about Obama's electability.  If Reid said anything noteworthy during the campaign about how good a president Obama would be, it hasn't gotten much attention.

Wouldn't it be interesting to know what, if anything, Reid thought about that question during the campaign?
- 1:26 PM, 12 January 2010   [link]


Are Republican Opponents Of ObamaCare "Traitors"?  That was the argument Seattle talk show host Dave Ross made near the end of his program on December 24th.

Before I go any farther I should add that, as I learned yesterday, Ross may have been under great stress when he made that argument.  His father, who had been ill for many months, passed away on Christmas day.  (I was listening to the first hour of his program to see if he retracted the "traitors" statement, which he had made just before he left on holiday.  Ironically, Ross began the program by complaining about the mean things some Republicans have been saying about Harry Reid.)

That said, Ross should still either justify his name-calling, or retract it and formally apologize.  On air, on his web site, and on his program's web site.

It was not entirely clear why Ross thought that Republicans who oppose ObamaCare are "traitors", nor did he say whether he thought the large minority of Democrats who also oppose ObamaCare are also "traitors".  As I understood him — and he didn't make a very coherent argument — Republicans who oppose ObamaCare are traitors because the plan had so many features that would be wonderful for the country.

Although his argument was not particularly coherent, it was revealing.  For many supporters of ObamaCare, the principles behind it, especially universal coverage, are so important that they override any practical considerations of cost.  (And nearly all of the proponents are at best indifferent to the severe limitations on our freedoms in the plan.)  Or at least let us put those practical problems off to another time.  That overwhelming desire to have a national health insurance plan leads them to make silly arguments about bending the cost curve down, and even to call opponents of the plan "traitors".

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Ross is not just a talk show host; he was a Democratic candidate for Congress in 2004.

This is not the first foolish thing that Ross said; for two more examples, look here and here.)
- 9:41 AM, 12 January 2010   [link]


ObamaCare Will Bend The Cost Curve — Up:  If the anti-reform package cobbled together by Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and President Barack Obama goes into effect, it will increase health care costs faster then they would have increased without it.  That's not just my opinion; that's the official estimate of the chief Medicare actuary.
Among the astonishing things about the ObamaCare debate—or lack thereof—is that Washington is inundated with warnings about the destructiveness of this plan, and it doesn't matter.  The agency that runs Medicare rung the latest alarm bell on Friday, and good luck finding any media mention.

Richard Foster, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, reports that under his analysis national health spending will rise under the bills by $222 billion over the next 10 years.  In other words, ObamaCare really does "bend the cost curve"—up.
Nearly every honest analyst would agree that our health insurance systems are too complex, and too expensive.  ObamaCare would make them even more complex, and even more expensive.  It is, as I have been saying for some time, an "anti-reform" plan, a plan that would worsen the obvious faults in our current system.

(As before, I should warn you that these cost estimates are seldom accurate, especially over a long periods of time, and that they are usually underestimates, sometimes by enormous amounts.)
- 9:03 AM, 12 January 2010   [link]


The Trend Is Scott Brown's Friend:  Probably.  The few polls on the Senate race in Massachusetts have been all over the place.  Mark Blumenthal tries to explain the divergences — without great success — but he does post an interesting graph showing gains in support for Republican Brown, and losses for Democrat Coakley.

(I'm not being critical of Blumenthal.  It is difficult to poll in special elections, because turnout in special elections is so unpredictable.)

Do those two converging lines show real trends?  Will they cross before the election next Tuesday?    We (probably) won't know the answers to those two questions until then.  But Brown is conducting a good campaign; for instance, he had the best line in last night's debate.  He also raised a million dollars yesterday, which shows that he has enthusiastic backers.

(More analysis of the polls from Scott Rasmussen and Sean Trende.)
- 7:01 AM, 12 January 2010   [link]


More Thoughts On Engineers As Terrorists:  In this post, I mentioned a serious study, described in this Slate article, which found that, in the Muslim world, engineers were more likely to be terrorists.  The author of the article, Benjamin Popper, wanted us, I suspect, to draw these conclusions from the study:  Engineers are more likely to be religious conservatives.  (Probably true.)  Religious conservatives are more likely to be terrorists.

If we accept those "conservative" labels* — as many journalists do — then the second conclusion probably holds for the Muslim world, but, to the best of my knowledge, does not hold for the rest of the world.  In the United States, engineers were rare among the New Left terrorists, and religious conservatives were non-existent.  (You can find a few pro-life people who can be fairly described as religious conservatives and, perhaps, terrorists, but some of the striking examples turn out to be men without any religious beliefs.)  To the best of my knowledge, the same was true in post-WW II Western Europe.  Terrorists there were unlikely to be Christian conservatives, or engineers.

(Many "conservatives" in the United States have views that would have made them classical liberals a century ago.  Groups described as "conservative" in the Muslim world are often fanatically opposed to conserving their present societies.  They are more appropriately described as extremists, or radicals.  But too many of our journalists have just the two categories, liberal and conservative, and insist on fitting everyone into them, using them as Procrustes used his infamous bed.)
- 1:07 PM, 11 January 2010   [link]


The Edwards "Partnership"  When John Edwards ran for president, many described his marriage to Elizabeth Edwards as a political partnership.  But I can't recall anyone telling us who the senior partner was .

If this excerpt from Game Changer is reasonably accurate, now we know.
With her husband, she could be intensely affectionate or brutally dismissive.  At times subtly, at times blatantly, she was forever letting John know that she regarded him as her intellectual inferior.  She called her spouse a "hick" in front of other people and derided his parents as rednecks.  One time, when a friend asked if John had read a certain book, Elizabeth burst out laughing.  "Oh, he doesn't read books," she said.  "I'm the one who reads books."

During the 2004 race, Elizabeth badgered and berated John's advisers around the clock.  She called Nick Baldick, his campaign manager, an idiot.  She accused David Axelrod, his (and later Obama's) media consultant, of lying to her and insisted that he be stripped of the responsibility for making the campaign's TV ads.  She would stay up late scouring the Web, pulling down negative stories and blog items about her husband, forwarding them with vicious messages to the communications team.  She routinely unleashed profanity-laced tirades on conference calls.
That's how a senior partner might act — if the senior partner were an exceptionally unpleasant person.

That Elizabeth Edwards was in charge explains much that was mysterious about the Edwards campaign.   For instance, if it was more her idea than John's that he run for the presidency, it explains why his Senate career was so empty.  (Here's my 2003 description of his empty political career.)  After his law career, he was more interested in having a good time than in running for the presidency.

It may even help explain his affair with Rielle Hunter.  If he was being pushed into running for the presidency when he didn't really want to, then he might well have thought that he deserved some compensation, so to speak, or he may have been, consciously or unconsciously, sabotaging his own campaign.

That "mainstream" journalists refused to investigate the reports about his affair is not surprising; most of them are interested in covering Republican scandals, but few have the same interest in covering Democratic scandals.  (And a very few have actively helped Democrats bury scandals.)

(More here from Micky Kaus.

Richard Cohen provided an example of just how eager "mainstream" journalists were to believe John Edwards' words, and how unwilling they were to make even the simplest checks against his deeds.)
- 12:12 PM, 11 January 2010   [link]


Eliot Cohen Doesn't Think Much Of Obama's Foreign Policy:  Here's how he begins his Wall Street Journal op-ed.
If the first year of President Barack Obama's foreign policy were a law firm in Charles Dickens's London, it would have a name like Bumble, Stumble and Skid.
And he doesn't get much more favorable later on, though he does hold out some hope that Obama will learn from his blunders.  (I share that hope, of course, but would not predict improvement, for reasons I explained last January.)

Near the end, Cohen makes this point:
Part of un-Bushism as foreign policy has been a self-inflicted muteness by this most articulate of politicians on the topic of democracy, freedom and human rights.  American foreign policy has always been a long and difficult dialogue between realpolitik and our values, our pursuit of our own interests, and our deliberate efforts to spread freedom abroad.  Saying that the U.S. will "bear witness" to abuses and brutality around the world is, in effect, to say that we will send flowers to funerals.  Mr. Obama needs to say something considerably more serious.  In the case of Iran, for example, he could make it altogether unambiguous that we stand with those risking their lives to confront and, if fortune favors them, overthrow a dangerous, indeed evil regime.
At the risk of being thought cynical, I will speculate that Obama doesn't say much about American values like "democracy, freedom, and human rights" because he doesn't care much about them.  Those on the far left, where so many of his long-time allies reside, rarely do.  Some on the far left forthrightly favor leftist dictatorships; many see Western democracies as shams, or, at best, so imperfect that no one should emulate them.
- 8:54 AM, 11 January 2010   [link]


How Ignorant Was Barack Obama In 2008?  So ignorant that he was surprised to learn that Joe Biden often says foolish things.

And often Biden commits "Kinsley gaffes", saying something true, but embarrassing.

It is depressing to realize that, though Biden is a lightweight, the country would be better off if he, rather than Barack Obama, had been elected president.
- 7:24 AM, 11 January 2010   [link]


Does Physical Therapy Help Patients Heal?  Sometimes, but we really don't know very much about when it will help, and when it won't.  That's the conclusion I drew from this Gina Kolata article.

We don't know much about what works because much of the research on physical therapy isn't very good.
When I asked [researcher] Dr. [James] Irrgang for studies showing what worked, I was a bit surprised.  To put it kindly, they left much to be desired.

Researchers would mix treatments — stretching and massage and orthotic shoe inserts, for example.  If patients said they felt better, it was impossible to know why.  Some of the studies involved as few as four participants.  And the researchers did not always assign subjects randomly to one treatment or another to see which one worked better.

In addition, researchers routinely failed to follow a standard method of data analysis called intention to treat.  It means that when you look at results, you include even people who dropped out of your study.  After all, people are dropping out for a reason.  Often it is because the treatment is not helping, or is making them feel worse.  Those remaining might be having a placebo effect or might be getting better despite, rather than because of, the treatment.  And even if those remaining are actually being helped, when the dropouts are not counted, the treatment will end up looking better than it really is.
Most likely, we are spending billions on physical therapy treatments that don't help.  But we won't really know until we get some good studies.
- 5:38 PM, 10 January 2010   [link]