Archive:

January 2012, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



The Attacks On The Citizens United Free Speech Decision Are Increasing:  Two years ago, the Supreme Court upheld basic free speech principles in a 5-4 decision.  Opponents of the decision on the left have never accepted it.
Two years ago the Supreme Court upheld the right of an incorporated nonprofit organization to distribute, air and advertise a turgid documentary about Hillary Clinton called, appropriately enough, "Hillary: The Movie."  From this seemingly innocuous and obvious First Amendment decision has sprung a campaign of disinformation and alarmism rarely seen in American politics.
Some opponents are even calling for a constitutional amendment.
[Senate Judiciary chairman Patrick] Leahy, at least, limited himself to foolish remarks.  His junior colleague, Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) proposed a constitutional amendment last month that would not only prohibit corporations from speaking on political elections, but would prohibit any group of citizens organized "to promote business interests" from speaking about elections.  Presumably, this could extend to everyone from the Heritage Foundation and the National Federation of Independent Business to the Republican National committee and local citizens organizing against a sales-tax referendum.

Because most newspapers are Incorporated, UCLA law Prof. Eugene Volokh believes that the Sanders Amendment and a companion bill in the House would even authorize the government to prohibit newspaper editorials about elections.
The "Occupy" movement does not have a coherent platform, or even set of demands, but many of the protesters support some of these limits on free speech — if the speech comes from groups they dislike.

(You may have to find the whole piece in a library; I wasn't able to reach it with the usual Google search.

Here are two posts on the Sanders Amendment from Professor Volokh, and here's the Wikipedia article on the Citizens United decision, with the usual caveats.)
- 2:54 PM, 24 January 2012   [link]


It Has Been 1,000 Days Since The Senate, Led By Harry Reid, Has Passed A Budget:  The Heritage Foundation has put out a little video honoring that dubious achievement.

In 2010, the House, led by Nancy Pelosi, also chose not to pass a budget.  Reid and Pelosi chose then, and Reid has chosen since, not to pass budgets so as to disguise our budget problems, and their responsibility for those problems.

Last year, President Obama presented a budget that had no solutions for our deficit problems, and ignored almost entirely the proposals of his own deficit commission.  It received zero votes in the Senate.  After that rejection, he did not present a new, compromise budget, though he talked vaguely, when pressed, about possible compromises.

In my opinion, Pelosi, Reid, and Obama have been just a trifle irresponsible.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 10:21 AM, 24 January 2012   [link]


Newt Gingrich Was a Rockefeller Republican.

Those who have followed Gingrich's career for years know this, and know what it implies.   Others, especially younger people, may need a little explanation.

Nelson Rockefeller was a moderate Republican, which went over well in New York state, where he was a popular governor.  Despite his wealth, he had a common touch, and was often photographed eating ethnic foods, so often that this became something of a joke.

He was a big spender and borrower, especially later in his time as governor.

He had a, shall we say, active social life, so active that it may have cost him the 1964 Republican nomination.  (You can get away with behaving like a Kennedy if you are a Democrat, but not if you are a Republican.)

Like Gingrich, he was full of ideas, some worthwhile, some not.
- 6:31 AM, 24 January 2012   [link]


David Brooks Refutes Danny Westneat:  I didn't plan to write about Westneat's pair of columns, but then I saw Brooks' column and realized that the three columns go together neatly.

Last month, Westneat proposed that we build a new university to accommodate all those potential computer science students, who can't get into the University of Washington department.  Westneat received a little criticism from readers for this idea, but did not take time to think about that criticism.  Instead, on January 23rd, he repeated his proposal.

Some people told me they blame the UW.  It's bloated, they say.  At minimum it should reallocate money from fields that aren't in such hot demand (Scandinavian studies, for instance).

But these ideas, even if they could save some money, completely misjudge the depth of the hole we've dug for ourselves in this state.

It doesn't take college-level math to figure that a growing state also needs to continually expand its college system.  Trimming and tucking isn't going to do it.  By 2030 the forecast is that we'll need the equivalent of another UW-sized institution even if we expand the current higher-ed system to the max (which so far we are not doing).
. . .
Seattle has been fussing for years over what to do with the developed, old Navy base portion of Magnuson Park.  How about a West Coast MIT there?

Note, please, that Westneat simply rejects the idea of cutting back anywhere, even though he admits that some departments may not be worth what they are costing us.

Now, for the critique from David Brooks.

This is the disease that corrodes government at all times and in all places.  As George F. Will wrote in a column in Sunday's Washington Post, as government grows, interest groups accumulate, seeking to capture its power and money.
. . .
You would think that liberals would have a special incentive to root out rent-seeking.  Yet this has not been a major priority.  There is no Steve Jobs figure in American liberalism insisting that the designers keep government simple, elegant and user-friendly.  Sailors scrub their ships.  Democrats have not spent a lot of time scraping barnacles off the state.

Any person half-way familiar with the University of Washington (or almost any other large public university) could provide half a dozen examples of that rent seeking, often by leftist groups.

But Westneat ignores that rent seeking by his ideological allies, and asks that we spend still more, this time on a "West Coast MIT".  (There already is a West Coast MIT; it's called Cal Tech.)

Westneat is not alone in this unwillingness to prune back the suckers and dead wood in our universities; in fact, I sometimes think that particular blindness is a requirement for a job writing opinion pieces at our local monopoly newspaper.

I just hope that none of those opinion writers have a garden, since, as any gardener can tell you, you won't have a very productive garden unless you are willing to remove dead plants and weeds.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(There's another fundamental error in Westneat's columns, important enough to deserve a set of posts.  I hope to get to the first one soon, but won't make any promises.

But I will note that Westneat makes a careless error in the second column, identifying New York Mayor Bloomberg as a Republican.  Bloomberg has been a Democrat, a Republican, and is now an independent.  Given his flexibility, I think it fair to say that he has always been, above all, a member of the Bloomberg party.)
- 4:30 PM, 23 January 2012   [link]


On January 17th, There Was A Train Derailment in Wolf Point, Montana.

I know that because I had a small package from Lands' End on that train, and when I looked at the tracking notice, I saw the derailment in the list of places the package had been.

(The derailment doesn't seem to have delayed the package, but the bad weather here did.)
- 3:24 PM, 23 January 2012   [link]


Rescue Team On Mt. Rainier?  I am almost certain that this picture, which I captured this morning, shows a rescue team preparing to ascend Mt. Rainier to find four overdue climbers and campers.

Mt Rainier Rescue?
The two groups were due back on the 15th or 16th.

If they had the right equipment and skills, they may be fine; they may have just dug in and waited the storms out.  (As long as they have enough fuel for their camp stoves, they can melt snow to drink, and stay reasonably warm, assuming they dug snow caves.)

Oh, and that big pile on the right of the picture?  That's a car, and I have earlier pictures to prove it.  You'll notice that the park has marked it with two poles so they can plow around it.
- 2:44 PM, 23 January 2012
One thing that makes me worry about the two parties (besides the time they are overdue) is their size, just two in each.  In winter camping, or climbing on Mt. Rainier, a group of four seems like the absolute minimum to me.  With four people in the group, if one should get injured or sick, one person can stay with them while the other two go for help.
- 9:49 AM, 24 January 2012   [link]


If These Charges Are True, former CIA agent (and Senate staffer) John Kiriakou has been working for the other side — indirectly.
The Justice Department on Monday charged a former CIA officer with repeatedly leaking classified information, including the identities of agency operatives involved in the capture and interrogation of alleged terrorists.
. . .
The Justice Department also said that the information Kiriakou supplied to journalists also contributed to a subsequent security breach at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. Kiriakou's disclosures, according to the Justice Department, enabled defense attorneys to obtain photographs of CIA operatives suspected of being involved in controversial interrogations, pictures that were subsequently discovered in prisoners' cells.
If the charges are true, Kiriakou opposed Bush's policies and leaked information to sympathetic reporters — which then was transmitted to terrorists, probably by their lawyers.

The Post is inexplicably shy about telling us which reporters received his leaks.  I'll be looking for those names, since they are definitely part of this story.

(Kiriakou is an author; here's his book.

He was probably hired by the current chairman of the committee, John Kerry.)
- 1:07 PM, 23 January 2012
John Hinderaker has more, including the name of one of the journalists, Scott Shane of the New York Times.   Hinderaker ends with some questions that most of us would like to see answered.
The criminal complaint does not address Kiriakou's motivation, but it appears to have been the same as that of the New York Times.  Kiriakou had become an opponent of the Bush administration's anti-terror policies and wanted to damage the administration by betraying his former colleagues in the CIA.  So far, nothing is publicly known about how Kiriakou went to work for the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, or what his role was there.  Did John Kerry, the committee's chairman, know that Kiriakou was a criminal who had violated the terms of his employment with the CIA and endangered the lives of fellow agents?  We don't know, but the question certainly should be asked.

Another question that should be asked is why Shane Scott, his editor, and the publisher of the Times, Pinch Sulzburger, are not under indictment for violation of the Espionage Act.
(Hinderaker reversed Shane's first and last name in that last sentence.  And the publisher's family name is Sulzberger, not Sulzburger.)

Hinderaker is more generous to the Obama administration than I am; he credits them for this prosecution.  I think the person responsible is probably General Petraeus, and that Obama appointees had little to do with it.
- 7:22 AM, 24 January 2012   [link]


Modern Theology:  This morning, as I was driving to a grocery store, I heard a discussion on a local talk show about gay marriage, which is a hot topic here in Washington state.  (Perhaps because our governor and legislature would rather do almost anything to postpone confronting the budget problems they have caused.)

A woman called in and said that her church wasn't ready to marry gay couples, even though it is a "reconciling" church.  (If you aren't sure what that is — I wasn't — here's an explanation.)

The woman hopes that her church would evolve and summarized her theological thinking on the subject, as follows: "Everyone should be free to do whatever."

As a succinct statement of belief, that's hard to beat, even lacking the usual libertarian qualifier: "as long as you don't hurt someone else", or the traditional, half-joking qualifier: "as long as you don't do it in the street or scare the horses".

That there might be costs to society from following her principle did not seem to occur to her, that it might not be best, in particular, for children did not concern her.

If the will of any deity entered into her thinking, she didn't mention it.  In fact, she never mentioned any deity at all.

(To be fair, I should add that I suspect that she would add some qualifiers, if pressed, but the talk show host did not press her because he was about to move on to a new subject.)
- 12:41 PM, 23 January 2012   [link]


Maureen Dowd Is Disenchanted with the Obamas.  And uses a book by another Times woman, Jodi Kantor, to explain why.  (Dowd hasn't, as far as I can tell, done much actual reporting in years.)
The portrait of the first couple in Jodi Kantor's new book, "The Obamas," bristles with aggrievement and the rational president's disdain for the irrational nature of politics, the press and Republicans.  Despite what his rivals say, the president and the first lady do believe in American exceptionalism — their own, and they feel overassaulted and underappreciated.

We disappointed them.

As Michelle said to Oprah in an interview she did with the president last May: "I always told the voters, the question isn't whether Barack Obama is ready to be president.   The question is whether we're ready.  And that continues to be the question we have to ask ourselves."
Dowd is wrong, of course, about Obama being a rational president; instead, he has learned to pose as rational, even intellectual, has learned to act "cool".  But there is no evidence that he is good at that essential for rational thinking, cost-benefit analysis.

Despite that error, the column is worth reading for what it shows us about how leftist journalists are beginning to have their doubts about the Obamas.  (And, I have to admit, for Dowd's writing, which can be entertaining even when you disagree with her.)

Our journalists are beginning to notice some of the things about Obama that they should have noticed in 2007 and 2008.

(Presumably, Dowd's job is safe at the Times, but she protects it anyway with an attack on Gingrich at the end of the column.

From the descriptions of the Kantor book that I have read, and from listening to an interview with her, I would say that she made the book as positive toward the Obamas as she could.  But they and their supporters dislike the book, anyway.)
- 7:25 AM, 23 January 2012   [link]


Newt Gingrich And The Media, BFF:  Newt Gingrich has risen in the polls mostly by attacking journalists in these endless "debates".   So, he and the media really dislike each other?

No.

He loves them.
Gingrich loves the press. In some respects we are, as John McCain famously noted, his "base".   He craves the media.  I've never seen a man so happy as Gingrich was when he ambled into the spin room in Myrtle Beach last Monday night and about 200 of us swarmed around him hanging on his every word.
And they love him.  (Or at least like him, for now.  They are a fickle bunch.)
In South Carolina, it was an open secret that the press were rooting for Gingrich, not out of bias or any belief that he would be a weaker candidate against Obama but simply because the press wants a good story and a knock-down, drag-out battle for the GOP nomination to cover.
I'm going to disagree with Toby Harnden here.  I think that some journalists very definitely want Gingrich nominated so that he will lose to Obama — which Romney might not.

Similarly, some journalists have given Ron Paul relatively favorable coverage, not because they agree with him, or want him to be president (excluding a few libertarians), but because they think that his candidacy causes trouble for the Republican party.   (They're right.)

Still, Harnden's main point, that the relationship between Gingrich and the media is symbiotic, is right.  And Republican voters should think about that before giving their votes to Gingrich because they enjoy his staged "confrontations" with journalists.  Those confrontations are about as real as professional wrestling bouts.
- 5:51 AM, 23 January 2012   [link]


Skip Hammock And Dean Mosca Will Be Unhappy About The Baltimore Ravens' Loss Today:  Because they are fans?   Perhaps.

But more likely because the two sell chia seeds as a food supplement, and two Baltimore players, running back Ray Rice and linebacker Ray Lewis, eat them regularly.
Ray Rice, the leading rusher for the Baltimore Ravens, prepared for the NFL season with a grueling fitness regimen of running and lifting weights.

Unlike some extreme athletes, Rice is loath to pump himself full of supplements or protein drinks to sustain his workouts.  "I'm a fish and chicken guy," he said.   But there is one form of superfuel Rice has quietly begun mixing into his diet: spoonfuls of an obscure Bolivian-grown seed that, he believes, replenishes his energy and helps keep his digestive system humming.
. . .
A survey of Baltimore's locker room after a practice this week turned up another chia devotee—star linebacker Ray Lewis. "I put them in my shake every morning," he said.
(As far as I know, neither has developed green hair, as a result.)

If the Ravens had upset the Patriots today, many other athletes, professional and amateur, would have taken up the seeds, which would have made Hammock and Mosca very happy.

Those who believe in the seeds will note that the Ravens beat the point spread — and that their field goal kicker does not, apparently, eat them.

(Any reason to think that the seeds might be a "super food"?  Not particularly, at least not yet, but they might be beneficial.)
- 7:57 PM, 22 January 2012   [link]


The Gingrich South Carolina Surprise:  And it was a surprise to me; just five days ago, I cited, with approval, a piece arguing — correctly — that the winner of the New Hampshire primary usually went on to win the nomination.

I did say that Romney's victory might "mean less this year", but I missed completely the possibility that Gingrich would rise that much, that quickly, in South Carolina, that he would recapture his lead there in less than a week.

If I had thought about it, I guess I would have said that Romney was vulnerable in South Carolina, that it was possible that Gingrich or Santorum would beat him, but I don't believe that I would have guessed that Gingrich would rise that far, that fast.

I'll have more to say about the Gingrich's win later.  For now, I'll just console myself with the thought that every other analyst seems to have missed the result, too.   (Including, I suspect, Newt Gingrich.)
- 7:22 PM, 22 January 2012   [link]


Republican Candidate Theme Songs:  According to yesterday's Wall Street Journal, they are:

Mitt Romney: "Born Free"
Newt Gingrich: "Eye of the Tiger"
Rick Perry: "Made in America"
Rick Santorum: usually none
Ron Paul: usually none, but he has used Darth Vader's theme music

I won't attempt to explain that last choice, but I will note that Congressman Paul does have a wheezing way of speaking, at times.

(Michelle Bachmann was using "American Girl", but Tom Petty, living up to his last name, objected.)
- 2:34 PM, 21 January 2012   [link]


Meanwhile, Back In Barack Obama's Illinois (11):  Moody has downgraded the state's credit rating.
Run up spending and debt, raise taxes in the naming of balancing the budget, but then watch as deficits rise and your credit-rating falls anyway.  That's been the sad pattern in Europe, and now it's hitting that mecca of tax-and-spend government known as Illinois.

Though too few noticed, this month Moody's downgraded Illinois state debt to A2 from A1, the lowest among the 50 states.  That's worse even than California. The state's cost of borrowing for $800 million of new 10-year general obligation bonds rose to 3.1%—which is 110 basis points higher than the 2% on top-rated 10-year bonds of more financially secure states.
(Emphasis added.)

Moody's did this in spite of very substantial tax increases on businesses and families imposed by Illinois a year ago.

The Wall Street Journal contrasts Illinois' financial failures with the relative success of neighboring Wisconsin.

(Is it fair to implicitly blame, in part, Barack Obama for this failure?  Yes.  He was a member of the Illinois legislature while they were making some of the decisions that led to this mess, and he made no efforts, that I know about, to avoid it.  And the people who are currently blundering, or blundered before, are mostly his allies.

You may have to get to the Journal editorial as I did, by searching with Google.)
- 3:14 PM, 20 January 2012   [link]


Why Have The Republican Candidates Agreed To These Absurd "Debates"?  Why have they agreed to be questioned, again and again, by journalists who dislike, or even despise them?

The answers vary with the candidates, I'm sure, but the main answers are simple:  We have become accustomed to these "debates", and any candidate who rejects this custom will have some explaining to do.  If, for example, Rick Perry had begun his campaign, as he could have, by evading these "debates", he would have been accused of cowardice by his opponents.

What makes it even harder for well-funded candidates to reject these "debates" is that they know that their rivals, with less money and less name recognition, will show up at them, making it far harder for them to avoid these spectacles.  So, for example, Romney and Perry were almost forced to join these debates because they knew that Bachmann and Santorum would be there.

Is there anything that can be done about this?

Perhaps.

The Republican National Committee might try to set some standards for "debates", and they should definitely attack — in advance — moderators who have shown by their past behavior, that they can not ask fair questions, in a fair way.
- 10:57 AM, 20 January 2012   [link]


Double Standards On Affairs:  Pete Wehner is partly right in this discussion.
I understand as much as the next person the difficulty in offering detached judgments about those with whom we agree politically and philosophically versus those with whom we disagree.  But often there doesn't seem to be the slightest inclination to check the impulse of the double standard.  Some conservatives who found Bill Clinton's personal behavior repellent, and very nearly disqualifying, have suddenly developed a good deal more understanding for the wandering eye of a powerful politician (there are some impressive exceptions, including William Bennett).  The fact that a self-proclaimed "Reagan conservative" wanted an open marriage while he was speaker of the House is considered old and irrelevant news.  In fact, the true victim in all this is Newt Gingrich.  And those who were furious about the assault that was leveled against women who claimed they had affairs with Bill Clinton now seem to have a fair amount of tolerance when it comes to dismissing Marianne Gingrich as the "bitter" and "angry" ex-wife.
It is hard to avoid those double standards.

And partly wrong, because of what he leaves out.

When an elected official engages in an affair when they should be working, or gives someone a public job or other favor in return for private services, even the most tolerant of us should object Private affairs are often not entirely private.  A businessman cheating on his wife with an employee may favor that employee, and a politician may do the same thing with his employee, or with a lobbyist.  (There is a story — perhaps apocryphal — of a woman who applied for a lobbying job and listed, as part of her qualifications, the senators with whom she claimed to have had affairs.)

Gennifer Flowers got an Arkansas state job from Bill Clinton for her work in the bedroom, not the office.  Monica Lewinsky got a job in the Pentagon in an attempt to keep her quiet (which didn't work, as we all know).  And there are other Clinton examples of favoritism, which should worry us.

In contrast, as despicable as his behavior was, I have seen no evidence that John Edwards rewarded his mistress with favors paid for by the taxpayer.  (By his contributors, yes, by the taxpayers, no.)

Newt Gingrich's affair with his current wife, Callista, began while he was Speaker, and she was a congressional staffer.  I don't know of any evidence that she benefited from that other than eventually becoming Mrs. Gingrich.  (And only she can tell us whether that was a benefit, everything considered.)

So, from a public perspective, I would be far more critical of Clinton than of Edwards and, probably, Gingrich.  And that's without even considering the perjury and obstruction of justice that followed his affair with Lewinsky.

(From a private perspective, I think all three men have behaved disgustingly at times.)
- 8:59 AM, 20 January 2012   [link]


People With Strong Opinions Don't Like Any Of The Presidential Candidates:  But they really dislike, net, Newt Gingrich.
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have similar intensity scores among national adults, of -3 and -1, respectively.  All of the major presidential candidates' scores are in negative territory, meaning more Americans who recognize each candidate have a strongly negative than a strongly positive opinion of him.
. . .
Two major changes occurred in Positive Intensity Scores among national adults since last month's initial assessment.  Americans have become more intensely negative in their evaluations of Newt Gingrich (from a score of -11 to -20) -- who now has the lowest score overall -- and are less intensely negative about Obama (from -11 to -3).
I don't want to make too much of the exact numbers in this index, because it doesn't seem as stable as it ought to be, and because it doesn't include all the voters.

But I do think that the findings are broadly correct, that Obama and Romney have better images than Gingrich does.

Those negative assessments of Gingrich are one of the reasons I have thought that he had very little chance to win the nomination, much less the presidency.  They may be unfair, in part, but they have been there for so long that I don't see any reason to think that Gingrich can change them, short of a national disaster.
- 10:57 AM, 19 January 2012
Conn Carroll has three more polls, with the same message: "America does not love Romney, but boy do they hate Newt."   Not every American hates Newt, of course, but enough do so that any Republican who really, really wants to defeat Obama will look hard for a different nominee.
- 2:17 PM, 21 January 2012   [link]


Ice Storm:  The snow was fun, at least for me and all the kids who got to play in it, but now we have something more dangerous, an ice storm.

It's dangerous enough so that the authorities broke into broadcasts with a warning earlier this morning, dangerous enough so that the governor has declared an official state of emergency, and dangerous enough so that Sea-Tac closed all of their runways earlier this morning.  (They have opened one runway, but it may be a while before they are back to full capacity.)

The ice won't last long in most of the area, less than 24 hours if the forecasts are right, but it will cause work for linemen, body shops, and emergency rooms while it does.

I lost power for about an hour last night, and wouldn't be surprised if it goes out again before this is all over.  The numbers keep changing, but at least 100,000 may be without power in this area, right now.
- 10:06 AM, 19 January 2012
Update:  The newspapers are saying that more than 200,000 were without power at one time.  Electric heat is much more common in this area than in most of the country, so some of those people were cold, as well as in the dark.
- 3:36 PM, 19 January 2012
Now the local TV stations are telling us that about 300,000 are without power in the area, and that some will be without power into the weekend.  The weather forecasters are telling us that it will warm up today, and this time they are sure they are right.
- 6:54 AM, 20 January 2012   [link]


Richard Cohen Believes In Freedom Of Speech:  Even for people he disagrees with.
Sheldon Adelson is not my type of guy.   I don't like his politics.  But he has no less right to try his own hand at history than did that band of rich men who were convinced the war was a travesty-tragedy — and they were right.  Since 1968, my views have changed on many matters.  But my bottom line remains a fervent belief in the beauty and utility of free speech and of the widest exchange of ideas.  I am comfortable with dirty politics.  I fear living with less free speech.
At one time, that belief would not have set him apart from most left-wing journalists.  (There are a few moderate and conservative journalists.)  But now it does, and I suppose Cohen deserves some credit for still supporting freedom of speech, when so many of his colleagues don't.

Or at least, in this one area, no debits.

(For years I have been unable to shake the suspicion that many left-wing journalists — the editorial writers at the New York Times, for example — favor restrictions on campaign finance in part because those restrictions increase their power.

If you don't read Cohen often — and I wouldn't blame you for that — you may want to glance at this column, in which he confesses that he is out of touch with much of the country — and determined to stay that way.

That is, in my opinion, a defect in a journalist.)
- 9:07 AM, 19 January 2012   [link]


It's Not A Great Joke:  But it shouldn't have gotten Robert Klein Engler fired.
When Robert Klein Engler—a conservative professor at Roosevelt University—was fired from his position, he was upset.  He was frustrated.  And he was completely in the dark.

University officials refused to specify exactly why he had been let go, and did not divulge the details until two months after the firing, in August of 2010.  The reason?  He told a politically incorrect joke. Now Engler is suing the university and its union for failing to protect his academic freedom.
. . .
It took months for the university to explain the nature of the harassment charge, and it involved only one student, who had complained about a joke Engler made in his City and Citizenship course.  The joke was told during a discussion of Arizona's immigration law.  In jest, Engler said, "A group of sociologists did a poll in Arizona regarding the state's new immigration law.  Sixty percent said they were in favor, and 40 percent said, 'No hablo Ingles.'"
Engler had taught at Roosevelt, as an adjunct member of the faculty, since 1999, so he seems to have been a satisfactory instructor otherwise.

By way of Mark Steyn.

(Caveat:  There may be more to the story.  Julia Dent doesn't give her sources, but I assume from the content that she is passing on Engler's version of the firing.  I made a very quick news search but couldn't find any independent accounts.

An adjunct professor can be a part-timer who has another, real job, but teaches a course from time to time for a little extra money or the experience, or a full-time instructor who does not have enough academic credentials to be on a tenure track.  Since Engler belonged to a union of adjuncts, I suspect he fell into the latter category.)
- 5:23 AM, 19 January 2012   [link]


X-C Report:  It wasn't a "megastorm" here (though farther south it may have been), but we have gotten enough snow so that I could go cross country skiing to down town Kirkland for lunch.

(You need about three inches of loose snow, or an inch of packed snow, for cross country skiing.)

It's still snowing, though lightly, and it is supposed to freeze tonight, so I should be able to go out again tomorrow morning, if I am careful.

(For real old-time cross country skiers:  Today was a "blue wax" day for about 90 percent of the snow, but there were enough wet spots so that you would have been thinking hard about the advantages of waxless skis, before you had gone half a mile.)
- 12:43 PM, 18 January 2012   [link]


"Axis Of Egos"  Noemie Emery has a good line.
Luckily, the ongoing fade of Newt Gingrich has lessened the chance of a race with Obama, a man wholly unlike him in background and presence, but too much alike in much else.

Both see themselves as creatures of destiny, worship at the shrine of their own incandescence, and compare themselves freely to all the great men of the past.

Together, they make up the Axis of Egos, a pair of swelled heads so remarkably addled that they make most of their rivals seem rational.
It may be relevant that both men are, or were, academics.

I would give Gingrich more credit than she does, though I agree that he belongs in her "Axis of Egos".  Gingrich has often been right on policy — and has, too often, let his ego spoil his work.

(Neither man is good at telling jokes on himself, which is a serious failing in a politician.)
- 7:13 AM, 18 January 2012   [link]


Even Politico has noticed.
Candidate Barack Obama promised to transcend Washington partisanship.

President Obama plummeted into it.

As the House returns Tuesday for the final session of his first term, Obama's failure to fulfill this central claim of his 2008 campaign has never been more glaringly obvious.

The hard truth is that Washington next year will look indistinguishable from the one Obama warned against during his election-night victory speech, when he called on Republicans and Democrats to "resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long."

His relationship with Republican lawmakers is broken, the victim of grand expectations and hardball political tactics, irreconcilable policy differences and perceived personal snubs.
I did not expect Obama to keep this promise — but I didn't expect him to fail as badly as he has.  Consider this:  Obama was almost 20 months into his presidency before he met, one on one, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

You can't expect the other side to be bipartisan when you aren't willing to talk to them from time to time.

The contrast with his predecessor is striking.  President Bush worked with Democrats in Congress on key issues, and was able, again and again, to win support of some Democrats.   He began his presidency by reaching out to Democratic leaders, including Ted Kennedy.   And he was willing to incorporate some of their ideas in his programs, if that was necessary to win their support.

It is true that when Bush took office in 2001, he had a smaller majority in the House than Obama, and only 50 votes in the Senate , which forced him to work with Democrats from time to time.  But it is also true that Bush was able to do so, in spite of hyper-partisan Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

(Voters, as well as congressmen, have become "more polarized" during Obama's presidency.)
- 6:45 AM, 18 January 2012   [link]


Matt Ridley Gently Corrects some excited news stories and blog posts.  No, a new paper did not say that an ice age was coming soon, unless your definition of "soon" is about 1500 years.
Since then, of course, warmth has returned, probably driven at least partly by man-made carbon-dioxide emissions.  A new paper, from universities in Cambridge, London and Florida, drew headlines last week for arguing that these emissions may avert the return of the ice age.  Less noticed was the fact that the authors, by analogy with a previous warm spell 780,000 years ago that's a "dead ringer" for our own, expect the next ice age to start "within about 1,500 years."  Hardly the day after tomorrow.
(For most geologists, that would be soon.)

Along the way, Ridley makes an important point:  We are living in an "interglacial" period.
The entire 10,000-year history of civilization has happened in an unusually warm interlude in the Earth's recent history.  Over the past million years, it has been as warm as this or warmer for less than 10% of the time, during 11 brief episodes known as interglacial periods.  One theory holds that agriculture and dense settlement were impossible in the volatile, generally dry and carbon-dioxide-starved climates of the ice age, when crop plants would have grown more slowly and unpredictably even in warmer regions.
So that warmth probably made the rise of civilization possible.

(If you first saw this column in the Wall Street Journal, as I did, you may still want to follow the first link, since the version at his site includes links and graphs not found in the Journal.

The current ice ages, according to this Wikipedia article, began about 2.58 million years ago.  There have been other periods of ice ages, but in general the earth has been warmer than it is now.  Probably.)
- 2:55 PM, 17 January 2012   [link]


Why The New Hampshire Victory May Give Romney The Nomination:  Because a New Hampshire victory often makes a candidate the national leader — permanently.
Now, however, with the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary over, the national polls are worth watching closely.   An examination of the national primary polls in recent elections shows that the month following the Iowa and New Hampshire contests is critical.  That month is when voters make up their minds, often decisively shifting their support to previously lesser-known candidates who have emerged as winners in Iowa or New Hampshire.   As a recent Gallup analysis shows, the leader after the New Hampshire primary usually wins the nomination.
This may not make a great deal of sense.  What voters are doing, in a sense, is subcontracting the nomination decision to the caucus-goers of Iowa, and the primary voters of New Hampshire.  I respect democratic processes, but I see no reason to think that either group is that much wiser than the rest of us.

(Romney's New Hampshire victory may mean less this year than it has in past years, for two reasons.

The Republicans have moved from winner-take-all rules to proportional representation, which makes it harder to convert primary wins into overwhelming delegate leads.

And there are two "conviction" candidates in the race, Ron Paul and, to a lesser extent, Rick Santorum.  Each has reasons, in Paul's case, strong reasons — as he sees it — to keep the race going long after either has any realistic chance to win.)
- 2:09 PM, 17 January 2012   [link]


"Megastorm Looms For Area"  That's the headline over the lead story in the print edition of today's Seattle Times.  The current headline in the on-line edition is much calmer and less certain: "Less snow in the forecast?"  I don't blame the newspaper entirely for the shift, because the official forecasts have been "evolving", as they often do with snowstorms.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service on Monday predicted between 6 and 14 inches to fall, the heaviest snowfall in decades.  This morning, though, meterologist Allen Kam said that the area should expect between 5 and 10 inches.

Kam said the forecast is rapidly evolving.
Meanwhile, the region is in almost-full panic mode.  (Unfortunately, a few people who can't drive in snow will do so anyway.  Or, to put it another way, some of those who should panic, won't.)

The Seattle Times calmed down; so did University of Washington atmospheric scientist Cliff Mass, in his criticism of the paper.  (When I want to see the forecasts for this area with the most science in them, I visit his site.)

For me, this mostly means that I will, almost certainly, have a chance to walk out my door and go cross country skiing tomorrow, as I did on Sunday.

(This area is not good at handling snow because we don't get snow often enough to learn how to handle it, we have a lot of hills, and the snowstorms are, more often than not, mixed with ice.)
- 1:20 PM, 17 January 2012   [link]


Kathleen Parker Needs To Get Out More Often:  Or just read some of the comments after articles on Michelle Obama's vacations.
I can't speak for Michelle Obama, but call me an angry white woman.  If the first lady isn't angry, she certainly has every right to be.

Like every woman I know, black or white, I've watched Mrs. Obama with respect, admiration and arm-envy.  Every woman.  We talk about her unique role in American history, and we are proud and impressed.  I've interviewed a former first lady's chief of staff, various Republican operatives, former staffers for previous presidents, and without exception, they all say the same thing: "I admire her so much."
Every woman?  They all say the same thing?

Either Parker has a very narrow range of acquaintances, or she is a poor listener.   Again, a search through Gallup is helpful.  By October 2009, Michelle Obama's approval rating was down to 61 percent.  Some of those in the 39 percent who disapproved, or had no opinion, must be women.

Why does Michelle Obama have a right to be angry?  Parker never tells us, though she hints that African-Americans, however privileged they have been in their lives, have a right to be angry, just because of the past.  And Michelle Obama has led a privileged life; in fact, she has been in the top 1 percent for years.

I haven't said much about Michelle Obama — and don't plan to in the future — but sometimes I run across articles or columns so foolish that they almost beg for criticism.

(For comparison, here are approval ratings for other first ladies.)
- 7:39 AM, 17 January 2012   [link]


Bush Rising, Thanks To Obama?  Three years ago, Charles Krauthammer predicted that Bush's reputation would rise, that it would be rescued by Barack Obama, who would be forced, by reality, to adopt many Bush policies.

Bush's reputation has been rising.  At the end of 2010, his approval rating had hit 47 percent — more than 20 points above his record low while president.  (I looked for a more recent poll on Bush from Gallup, but didn't find one.)

President Obama has adopted, often reluctantly, many Bush policies.  He has not raised income tax rates for high income earners, he has run far larger deficits than Bush did, he has not closed Guantánamo because Congress won't let him, and he has fired more deadly drones at terrorists than all the other Nobel Peace Prize winners combined.

By adopting Bush's policies, Obama has, just as Krauthammer predicted, begun to rehabilitate Bush's reputation.

And in going further than Bush ever did, in some areas, Obama is doing even more to rehabilitate Bush's reputation.  Those who criticized Bush for a too-expansive view of presidential power are now mostly silent while Obama claims even more power, claims, for instance, the power to make recess appointments, even when Congress is not in recess.

But the silence of those Bush critics does not prevent the rest of us from making the obvious comparisons.
- 7:00 AM, 17 January 2012   [link]