Archive:

July 2011, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



The (Almost) Inevitable Debt Limit Compromise:  The deal isn't completed, but it looks as if James Taranto was right on Friday.
Contrary to the ludicrous media narrative of Obama as the "adult in the room," he has been the mirror image of the Tea Party representatives, employing extreme tactics in the impossible pursuit of total victory.  The actual adults in the room have been the congressional leaders--Boehner, Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell--all of whom have recognized all along that compromise is a necessity under current circumstances.

The Obama presidency has provided an excellent example of the dangers of entrusting an immature and inexperienced politician with great political power.  The same is true of Congress's Tea Partiers, though to a considerably lesser extent, since an individual congressman is not responsible for an entire branch of government.
That a compromise was inevitable does not mean that anyone has to relax and enjoy it, but it does mean that they were always arguing about the terms of the compromise, not whether one would occur.

Now it's possible that the deal will fall apart, but I think that unlikely since some compromise is almost inevitable, and a compromise would be quite popular with the voters, especially the independents.

If it falls apart, it will be, if I may hazard a guess, because one of the non-adults — Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi — sabotages it.
- 7:34 PM, 31 July 2011   [link]


Gregor Peter Schmitz Lectures Americans On Democracy:  A concept the Der Spiegel correspondent may not understand, at least as it works in the United States.

Here's a sample from his commentary.
America's Founding Fathers thought of everything.  They wanted to establish several centers of power in Washington rather than just one.  They wanted the occupant of the White House to be strong, but Congress was to have the power to check that strength.   The friction between Capitol Hill and the White House -- a product of this system of checks and balances -- was to make the decisions of America's leaders cleverer, wiser and better.

But the system only works when all branches of government play the role designed for them.  For almost 235 years, the system worked reasonably well.  But, about a year ago, things started to go wrong in the US capital; the system began to melt down.  The friction is no longer propelling the country to greatness, rather it is hastening its decline.
The Founding Fathers would not have claimed that they had thought of everything — and neither would any reasonably informed American since.  For example, they obviously goofed when they set up the electoral college — as they discovered in the 1800 presidential election.

Nor did they expect checks and balances to make decisions of leaders "cleverer, wiser, and better".  Instead, the checks and balances are intended to protect individual freedom, to protect citizens from being oppressed by leaders, or by other citizens.

Herr Schmitz may not have heard of the American Civil War, when very few would say that our system worked "reasonably well".  And those who do know even a little American history can add other, less extreme, examples, without much effort.

I could add more, but that's enough to give you an idea of just how misinformed this German correspondent is.  (Those who know even a little American history may find it entertaining to look for other mistakes in his piece.)

Schmitz described a Garden of Eden here in the United States for a reason:  He wants to warn everyone about the snake that has entered it, after "almost 235 years".

And what's the snake?  It's the Tea Party movement.  Seriously.  It is, he tells us, though not in these words, that the Tea Party movement is the greatest threat to our democracy since our founding.

You can read the rest of his rant explaining that if you like, but you will have heard most of it, if you have been listening to Obama's talking points.  (Does Schmitz know that Obama has not presented a detailed plan for escaping from these terrible deficits?  Does Schmitz know that the Democratic leaders failed to present such a plan, or even a budget, when they controlled both houses of Congress?  If he does know those things, Schmitz prefers not to share them with his readers.)

But we can — and should — give Schmitz credit for producing a testable proposition.  He believes that the Tea Party will prevent a compromise.  In less than a week, I believe, we will have a test of his prediction.

Right now, assuming the news reports are accurate, it looks as if there will be a compromise, and that many of those elected with Tea Party support will, perhaps reluctantly, support it.

If his prediction fails, will Schmitz modify his theory of American politics?  I hope so, but fear not.
- 12:01 PM, 31 July 2011   [link]


Monnett's Suspension Had Nothing To Do With Polar Bear Research:   According to the federal official who suspended him, anyway.
The recent suspension of Alaska wildlife biologist Charles Monnett is unrelated both to an article that he wrote about presumably drowned Arctic polar bears and to his scientific work, a federal official said Friday.

The director of the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Enforcement and Regulation, told agency staff in Alaska via email that it instead was the result of new information on a separate subject that was recently brought to officials' attention.
On Thursday, I said that the suspension might have nothing to do with his polar bear research; now I would say that his suspension almost certainly had nothing to do with his polar bear research.

By way of Anthony Watts.

(One of the reasons I was skeptical is that I have learned to distrust organizations like PEER.)
- 7:17 AM, 30 July 2011   [link]


Boston Scientific Is Moving Jobs To China:  The Boston Globe explains why.
Boston Scientific Corp. said yesterday that it plans to eliminate 1,200 to 1,400 jobs worldwide during the next 2 ½ years to free money for new investments, the Natick medical device maker's second major round of cuts since last year.
. . .
Yesterday's move, a day after Boston Scientific disclosed it was investing $150 million and hiring 1,000 people in China, raised fears that the company will gradually shift more work to foreign sites with less government oversight and lower costs than the United States.
(Emphasis added.)

Imagine that.  An American company making high-tech medical products is moving jobs to Communist China partly to escape government regulation.

At one time, that would have amazed me; now it just distresses me.

(The company has received tax breaks from Massachusetts; naturally, at least one Democratic legislator is thinking of trying to rescind those breaks.)
- 6:47 AM, 30 July 2011   [link]


Waiting For A Budget Deal:  It may seem strange to write a post about not writing a post, but we live in strange times.

And so I thought I should explain to you that I haven't been posting on the budget deals because I am waiting until Boehner's plan passes the House, or Reid's plan passes the Senate.

In short, when I have something specific to write about, something that has some chance of being part of a final deal, I'll write about it.

But probably not before then.
- 1:15 PM, 29 July 2011   [link]


Speaker Boehner Has Made Some Democrats Very Happy:  All of them women.
Women finally have a seat in the House of Representatives.  Four seats, in fact.  And two sinks.

Last week, as debt-ceiling talks were building to a fever pitch, Room H211 in the U.S. Capitol quietly opened its door to the 76 female members of the House, giving them their own restroom near the Speaker’s Lobby.  Women in the Senate have had their own restroom off the Senate floor since 1993.
They should have done this in 1917, when Jeannette Rankin began her first term.

One of the things I like about Speaker Boehner is his practicality.
- 12:58 PM, 29 July 2011   [link]


Former Oregonian Editor Confesses:  If you are wondering how Oregon's newspaper of record missed or botched all those sex scandal stories, you'll want to read Stephen Engelberg's confession.

Sample:
In 2002, I joined the Oregonian in Portland, Ore., as a managing editor.  Within a year, I was part of the management team that bungled one of the most significant sex scandals one could imagine: the story of how a former governor and Carter-administration Cabinet secretary had preyed on a teenage girl and covered up his misconduct.  Neil Goldschmidt was the golden boy of Oregon politics, a kingmaker with the darkest secret imaginable.  We had a plausible tip on the story but failed to follow up, allowing a competitor, Willamette Week, to break the story and win a Pulitzer Prize.
Although Engelberg's account is interesting, it fails to be as complete as it might be.  He does not mention that all of the politicians he says deserved exposure were pro-choice, and all but one (Robert Packwood) were Democrats.

Nor does he note that sex scandals often are connected to other scandals.  Monica Lewinsky got a job at the Defense Department to keep her quiet.  Similarly, Gennifer Flowers almost certainly received her Arkansas job for her performances outside the office.
- 10:23 AM, 29 July 2011   [link]


The Obama Administration Admits — Barely — That ObamaCare will increase spending.
Despite President Obama’s promises to rein in health care costs as part of his reform bill, health spending nationwide is expected to rise more than if the sweeping legislation had never become law.

Total spending is projected to grow annually by 5.8 percent under Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act, according to a 10-year forecast by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released Thursday.  Without the ACA, spending would grow at a slightly slower rate of 5.7 percent annually.
I may be pointing out the obvious here, but the analysts had strong reasons not to reach that awkward conclusion, strong reasons not to embarrass Obama.

By way of Hot Air.

(I am still annoyed at Obama's claim that a massive new entitlement program would actually cut costs.  I don't like it when a president treats the voters like fools by expecting us to believe almost impossible things, before and after breakfast.)
- 9:05 AM, 29 July 2011   [link]


Can You Use It To Make Phone Calls?  Yesterday, I received an elaborate brochure from Sprint offering me the HTC EVO 3D.  According to the brochure, it can produce 3D displays, comes with a 3D version of the Green Hornet and several 3D games, and allows you to record your own 3D video.

All that is, granted, amazing.

But I was feeling mischievous and noticed that nowhere in the brochure did it say that you could use the gadget to make phone calls.  (Although they do say, on the outside, that it is a phone.)

And so, briefly, I was tempted to call the 800 number and ask them if you could use it to make phone calls, too.

But I decided not to, since I knew that I wouldn't be talking to the person who designed the phone, the executive who approved the design, the person who wrote the copy, or anyone else with some responsibility.

And it didn't seem fair to pick on a lowly order taker.

But if I could have talked to a responsible person, I would have made that prank call.

And I am beginning to wonder, more and more, whether the evolution of cell phones into tablet computers is not detracting from what used to be their main function.  I started thinking about that question after I saw a Consumer Reports article rating cell phones.  According to the magazine, none of the phones, some of them quite expensive, had better than mediocre sound.

(I suspect that mediocre sound may be an inevitable consequence of the shift toward a tablet computer design.  That must put severe limits on the built-in microphones and speakers.)
- 8:24 AM, 29 July 2011   [link]


Bad News And Worse News On The Economy:  The second paragraph gives you bad news; the third paragraph gives you even worse news.
The U.S. economy grew less than expected in the second quarter as consumer spending barely rose, and growth braked sharply in the prior quarter, a government report showed on Friday.

Growth in gross domestic product—a measure of all goods and services produced within U.S. borders—rose at a 1.3 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said.

First-quarter output was sharply revised down to a 0.4 percent pace from 1.9 percent.
And there is more bad news after that, since the fourth quarter of last year was also revised downward, from 3.1 to 2.3 percent.

This was, of course, "unexpected", except by those who think that Obama administration policies are hurting the economy.

The Bloomberg article blames high gasoline prices for part of the slowdown.  It is Obama administration policy to keep gasoline prices high, in order to cut fossil fuel consumption.  They don't say that openly, but anyone who looks at their actions can see what they intend.

They would prefer to have gasoline prices at least as high here as in Europe, but they recognize that they must move toward that goal slowly, because of the economic and political constraints.

(You can find the news release here, and you can find more evidence that Obama administration policies are slowing down the economy at the Commerce Department home page, where they are celebrating a "Green" job program.   You probably know that such programs generally destroy more jobs than they create, but that news may not have reached those running the Commerce Department.)
- 7:18 AM, 29 July 2011   [link]


Another Terrorist Trial:  Specifically, another eco-terrorist trial.

The man accused of building the firebomb used by Earth Liberation Front radicals to torch the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001 pleaded not guilty Wednesday to several federal charges.

Justin Solondz, 31, was arrested July 6 in Chicago after his expulsion from China, where he had been serving a prison term for selling drugs.

A former student at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Solondz is charged with conspiracy, arson, making an unregistered destructive device and using a destructive device during a violent crime, a charge that could result in a life sentence.

Those not in this area may need to know that the arsonists picked their target because they believed — wrongly — that the professor they targeted was doing genetic engineering.  (I'm not sure whether they understand that we have been doing genetic engineering for thousands of years, perhaps tens of thousands, if you start with the domestication of dogs.)

I may be wrong, but this article seems somewhat less favorable to the arsonists than most that I have seen in the past.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Much more on the Earth Liberation Front here.)
- 3:25 PM, 28 July 2011   [link]


In Illinois, Politics Is Often a family business.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday gave a highly paid position to the daughter of the Illinois Supreme Court justice who swore him into office and a powerful Chicago alderman who was a major campaign donor.

Attorney Jennifer Burke, 41, was named to the Illinois Pollution Control Board, a post that pays $117,043, Quinn’s office said.

She is the daughter of Justice Anne Burke and 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke, chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee.  Jennifer Burke works for the city as an assistant corporation counsel supervisor.  As of last month, her annual salary was $99,948.
Jennifer Burke may even be qualified for those two positions, although I would prefer that most members of pollution control boards be policy analysts, scientists, and medical professionals.

(Illinois voters had a chance to elect a reform governor last fall, and rejected him, narrowly.)
- 12:23 PM, 28 July 2011   [link]


Ambrose Evans-Pritchard Wants Obama to emulate FDR.
President Obama has categorically ruled out a constitutional challenge to the US debt ceiling since I wrote yesterday’s blog.
. . .
It is understandable why he should wish to avoid to an end-run around Congress in this violently polarized atmosphere, though it would not have stopped have FDR. (He went much further by stacking the Supreme Court).
But Evans-Pritchard should brush up on the consequences of that FDR proposal.
A political fight which began as a conflict between the President and the Supreme Court turned into a battle between Roosevelt and the recalcitrant members of his own party in the Congress.[11] The political consequences were wide-reaching, extending beyond the narrow question of judicial reform to implicate the political future of the New Deal itself. Not only was bipartisan support for Roosevelt's agenda largely dissipated by the struggle, the overall loss of political capital in the arena of public opinion was also significant.[11]

As Michael Parrish has written, "the protracted legislative battle over the Court-packing bill blunted the momentum for additional reforms, divided the New Deal coalition, squandered the political advantage Roosevelt had gained in the 1936 elections, and gave fresh ammunition to those who accused him of dictatorship, tyranny, and fascism. When the dust settled, FDR had suffered a humiliating political defeat at the hands of Chief Justice Hughes and the administration's Congressional opponents."[144][145]
As far as I can tell, Evans-Pritchard does not know (1) that there are several Republican plans to reduce the deficit gradually, and (2) that none of the Democratic leaders, not Obama, not Pelosi, not Reid, has published their own plan to do the same thing, and (3) that Obama has threatened to veto a short-term debt limit increase, though these are routine in the United States.

Why doesn't he know those things?  There are no clues in the post.  I suppose that he may get his news from the BBC.
- 9:55 AM, 28 July 2011   [link]


Strange AP Story On Polar Bear Science:  Maybe.  I'm passing this on partly in hopes that someone out there knows more about this investigation.
A federal wildlife biologist whose observation in 2004 of presumably drowned polar bears in the Arctic helped to galvanize the global warming movement has been placed on administrative leave and is being investigated for scientific misconduct, possibly over the veracity of that article.

Charles Monnett, an Anchorage-based scientist with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, or BOEMRE, was told July 18 that he was being put on leave, pending results of an investigation into "integrity issues." But he has not yet been informed by the inspector general's office of specific charges or questions related to the scientific integrity of his work, said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

On Thursday, Ruch's watchdog group plans to file a complaint with the agency on Monnett's behalf, asserting that Obama administration officials have "actively persecuted" him in violation of policy intended to protect scientists from political interference.
Note, please, that "possibly".  Although Jeff Ruch seems almost certain that Monnett is being persecuted by the Obama administration for his scientific views, Monnett was put on leave, officially, for "integrity issues", which could mean anything from stealing from the office coffee fund to scientific fraud.

(You can find PEER's own description of their objectives here.  You could describe it as a group of environmental whistle blowers inside the federal government, or as a conspiracy of Green religious believers inside the federal government, who are violating federal rules in order to push their religious beliefs.

They provide links to documents in the Monnett case here.  Note that the memo putting him on leave says nothing about his research into polar bears, or anything else.)
- 9:13 AM, 28 July 2011   [link]


The Sharpton Pledge:  Glenn Greenwald thinks it makes Sharpton unfit to be a journalist.
How can a media outlet such as MSNBC that purports to be presenting political journalism possibly employ someone as a journalist -- even an opinion journalist -- who publicly and categorically pledges never to criticize the President of the United States under any circumstances?  That would be like hiring a physician who vows never to treat any diseases, or employing an auto mechanic who pledges never to fix any cars, or retaining a pollster who swears never to make any findings about public opinion.  Holding people in political power accountable is the prime function -- the defining feature -- of a journalist, including a pundit; if you expressly and publicly vow never to do that, how can you possibly be credibly presented as being one?  And how can the political analysis of someone who takes this pledge possibly be trusted as sincerely held, let alone accurate?  Note that this vow was not from three years ago; it was from two months ago.
(Even on MSNBC, I would add.)

And here I find myself in complete agreement with leftist Glenn Greenwald, something that does not happen every day.  (Of course, unlike Greenwald, I would have mentioned all the other reasons that Shaprton should not be a journalist, or hold any other job where you expect the person holding it to be honest and fair.)

And I would have added that all too many of our "mainstream" journalists have taken the same pledge; they just haven't told us they have taken it.

(For the record:  I think that calling Sharpton a "civil rights leader", as almost all "mainstream" journalists do, dishonors real civil rights leaders.)
- 8:29 AM, 28 July 2011   [link]


Did The New York Times Inspire Anders Behring Breivik?   Ann Coulter has some fun with that question.
In fact, however, Americans who jumped to conclusions about [Maj. Nidal Malik] Hasan were right and New York Times reporters who jumped to conclusions about Breivik were wrong.

True, in one lone entry on Breivik's gaseous 1,500-page manifesto, "2083: A European Declaration of Independence," he calls himself "Christian."  But unfortunately he also uses a great number of other words to describe himself, and these other words make clear that he does not mean "Christian" as most Americans understand the term.  (Incidentally, he also cites The New York Times more than a half-dozen times.)
(Emphasis added.)

Coulter is joking — and attacking the double standards and bias at our newspaper of record.

But you could make a serious argument that the Times did inspire Breivik.  How?  By noting that Christopher Caldwell, who has written for the Times, has published a devastating book on the problems of Muslim immigrants in Europe.

And that some of the arguments in that book appeared in Caldwell's articles in the Times.  (Caldwell thanks two editors at the Times for their contributions to those articles, and his book.)

So, yes, you could argue that Breivik was inspired by the Times.

(I've recommended the book before, and I'll recommend it again.  It is not a comfortable book, not something to read if you want to relax.  But it is an excellent, fair-minded survey of the problems Europe (and to a lesser extent, the United States) is facing.  What makes it so difficult to read is that Caldwell does not see any easy answers to the problems caused by this massive Muslim immigration to Europe.)
- 5:11 AM, 28 July 2011   [link]


Standard = Starter, High Capacity = Standard?  This morning, I bought a new photo printer.  (The Epson Artisan 725, if you are curious.)  As usual, the salesmen tried to talk me into extras, not, this time, a "protection" plan, but extra ink.

They told me that the printer comes with "starter" cartridges, which is not what is says on the box.  According to the box, it comes with five standard-capacity color cartridges and one high-capacity black cartridge.  Again, according to the box, the standard-capacity color cartridges are good for 510 pages, and the high capacity color cartridges are good for 805 pages. And according to Epson, they only ship full cartridges.  However, Epson also says that the first cartridges will yield fewer pages because some ink is used to "prime the printer for use".

So I am pretty sure the salesmen were wrong.  And I couldn't help but suspect that their profit on ink is higher than their profit on the printer.

(Why this printer?  Because I expect the photo quality to be a little higher than from the HP printer I bought last year, and because I could get it for $90, before tax, since Staples was willing to match Fry's sales price.  It might not be as good at printing business graphics as the HP, but those are less important to me.)
- 5:21 PM, 27 July 2011
So far, so good, though I am basing that conclusion on three 4x6 photos, two test prints, one copy, and one CD print.

It makes noticeably better photo prints, faster, than my HP 7560.  The software is not as complex and imperial as the software that came with the HP printer.  It doesn't try to organize everything for me.  (And Ubuntu found software that supports basic printing with no trouble.)

It will be handy from time to time to be able to make copies directly.

Some people — I'm not one of them — will find the network capabilities useful, though this is not a printer you would want to share in an office with a heavy print load.

That's the good (so far); here's the bad (so far):  The output tray is needlessly complex and flimsy, so flimsy that I feel nervous whenever I pull it out.  The LCD screen is a little small for someone doing basic photo fixes with old eyes.  The printed manual is incomplete; it doesn't even have directions for doing CD prints — which you need for a couple of the steps.
- 2:36 PM, 28 July 2011   [link]


George Soros Doesn't Like Dodd-Frank:  Not for himself, anyway.
Billionaire investor George Soros will only manage his own family's money in future due to the impact of new US regulations on hedge funds, his sons have said. His fund will return around $1bn (£625m) to outside investors, leaving it with around $24bn. Under the new Dodd-Frank Act, hedge funds will have to register with financial regulators.
As I understand it — and I repeat that I am no expert on the law — the regulations imposed on hedge funds are much less stringent than the regulations imposed on banks.  But they were still too much for Soros, though they may not be the only reason he is making this move.
- 1:11 PM, 27 July 2011   [link]


Should We Pay Terrorists Salaries?  Or, to be more precise, should we continue paying terrorists salaries?

Because we are.  Not directly, and not all of their salaries, but indirectly and partially.
The Palestinian Authority spends more than $5 million a month paying salaries to terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons, according to a Palestinian Media Watch report presented to congressmen in Washington on Tuesday.

According to the report, written by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, such payments contravene US law, which prohibits funding of any person who "engages in, or has engaged in terrorist activity.

"The US funds the PA's general budget," the document reads.  "Through the PA budget the US is paying the salaries of terrorist murderers in prison and funding the glorification and role modeling of terrorists."
I understand the thinking behind these subsidies; we hope to use them to gain influence, and, eventually, to change their policies.  I just think that experience has shown that they haven't worked as intended, that the Palestinian leaders have taken our money without changing their policies significantly.  As a result, we have been enabling terrorism.

There is statistical evidence for that conclusion; increased aid to the Palestinians correlates with increased terrorism.
- 7:47 AM, 27 July 2011   [link]


Michelle Malkin Says Congressman Wu Was Protected by Democratic enablers.
Wu-hoo!  Welcome to another freaky ethics fiasco brought to you by the D.C. den of dysfunctional Democrats.  This one comes clothed in a Tigger costume, wrapped in blinders and bathed in the fetid Beltway odor of eau de Pass le Buck.

Liberal David Wu is a seven-term Democratic congressman from Oregon who announced Tuesday that he'll resign amid a festering sex scandal involving the teenage daughter of a longtime campaign donor.  He won't, however, be vacating public office until "the resolution of the debt-ceiling crisis."  Translation: Call off the U-Haul trucks. Wu's staying awhile.
Malkin follows that with a good summary of the Wu's scandals, though she misses the dangerous T-shirts.

Malkin blames Nancy Pelosi and company; I blame the voters and party officials in Oregon's 1st district.  During the 2010 campaign, Wu's aides were so worried about his erratic behavior that they hid him for weeks.  Party officials must have known about his problems, and voters could have known about them if they were paying close attention.

(Was Wu protected by "mainstream" journalists, as well?  Perhaps, to some extent, though the Oregonian did reveal his Stanford attack during the 2004 campaign.  Some journalists may have been in the awkward position of knowing something about his problems, but not having enough evidence to print or broadcast a story.)

Some voters did notice Wu's problems in 2010; he won with just 54.7 percent of the vote.  That's much below his vote in recent elections, though I must add that 2010 was, as you know, a Republican year.

(Oregon's Democrats appear to have more than their fair share of sex scandals.  I think Governor John Kitzhaber should be more discreet, and that Portland Mayor Sam Adams should be more honest, and, probably, less promiscuous.

The worst, as far as I know, was former governor Neil Goldschmidt.

Fun fact:  Wu's opponent in 2004 was Goli Ameri.)
- 7:15 AM, 27 July 2011   [link]


An Italian Official May have Found A Way To Fight Crime:   She's threatening to take away mobsters' designer clothing.
For decades Palermo's Ucciardone prison has been known to its inmates as "The Grand Hotel" — a place where not even a custodial sentence could prevent well-connected mafiosi from enjoying the pleasures of a fine meal and a well-cut suit.

One mobster, Michele Catalano, was even able to hold a champagne and lobster birthday banquet in the gym of the Sicilian jail, while a fellow godfather arranged a formal wedding for his daughter in the prison chapel.

But the new governor, Rita Barbera, is calling an end to the good times, starting with a ban on several designer labels such as Prada, Gucci, Valentino, Versace, Louis Vuitton and Armani.
Governor Barbera obviously has her work cut out for her.

(For what it's worth, in The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, Jimmy Breslin claimed that mobsters' fashionable shoes were a weakness that the authorities should exploit.)
-2:55 PM, 26 July 2011   [link]


My Sympathies To The People Of Norway:  A few days late, but still heart-felt.

Norwegian flag

Norway's population is about 5 million, so a proportional loss here in the United States would be about 60 times as large.
- 2:19 PM, 26 July 2011   [link]


More Good News On Crime:  The NFL owners and players have come to an agreement, and we will have a season this year.

How will that help with crime?  Criminologist (and linebacker) Ray Lewis explained that back in May.
- 12:59 PM, 26 July 2011   [link]


Maine Governor Paul LePage Did Not Start Out With A Silver Spoon In His Mouth:  In fact, the Republican governor had a very rough start.
LePage was the oldest of 18 children in a dysfunctional family.  At age 11, his father put him in the hospital with a broken nose and a dislocated jaw.  When his dad showed up to the hospital, he flipped LePage a 50-cent piece and told him to say he'd fallen down the stairs.

Instead, LePage decided he'd had enough.  He slipped out of the hospital and lived on the streets of Lewiston, Maine, for two years, sleeping where he could — cars, stairwells, hallways, even a brothel.

He's kept that 50-cent piece in his pocket every day since 1960 as a reminder of where he came from.  For LePage, fiscal conservatism wasn't so much a political philosophy as a survival strategy.
There's a man who knows the value of a half dollar.

How did he get out of that hole?  Hard work, and the help of two families, one of them connected by marriage to Senator Olympia Snowe.

(From what I can tell, he's doing a pretty good job as governor, though he ran into a bump or two at the beginning.  And I love an executive who understands how destructive regulations can be.)
- 12:36 PM, 26 July 2011   [link]


President Obama Is Inspiring George Will:  Inspiring him to get sarcastic.
Inordinate self-regard is an occupational hazard of politics and part of the job description of the rhetorical presidency, this incessant tutor.  Still, upon what meat doth this our current Caesar feed that he has grown so great that he presumes to command leaders of a coequal branch of government?

He once boasted (June 3, 2008) that he could influence the oceans' rise; he must be disabused of comparable delusions about controlling Congress.  When he was a lecturer on constitutional law, he evidently skipped the separation of powers doctrine.
(Chicago machine politicians have never been big fans of the separation of powers doctrine.)

Those who voted against Obama will enjoy Will's attack.  Those who voted for him should read the column and, in between winces, consider whether some of what Will is saying might be true.
- 6:33 AM, 26 July 2011   [link]


Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Saved Teachers' Jobs:   By giving school districts more flexibility to set benefits.

For example:
Emily Koczela had been anxiously waiting for months for Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's controversial budget repair bill to take effect.  Koczela, the finance director for the Brown Deer school district, had been negotiating with the local union, trying to get it to accept concessions in order to make up for a $1 million budget shortfall.  But the union wouldn't budge.

"We laid off 27 [teachers] as a precautionary measure," Koczela told me.  "They were crying.  Some of these people are my friends."

On June 29 at 12:01 a.m., Koczela could finally breathe a sigh of relief.  The budget repair bill​—​delayed for months by protests, runaway state senators, and a legal challenge that made its way to the state's supreme court​—​was law.  The 27 teachers on the chopping block were spared.
If you look at the details of the changes, you find that Koczela did this by, in effect, reducing every teacher's pay.  In other words, she made them share the sacrifice, instead of inflicting it all on the teachers with less seniority.

And, here's an important detail:  Although the article does not mention this, the teachers now have the freedom not to pay union dues, so some of them may actually come out of this with larger pay checks.

Some school districts that did not take advantage of Walker's reforms have had to make massive layoffs.

For example:
But as the abstract debate over collective bargaining collides with reality, it is becoming clear just how big a lie the Big Labor line was.  Now that the law is in effect, where are the horror stories of massive layoffs and schools shutting down?  They don't exist​—​except in a couple of districts where collective bargaining agreements, inked before the budget repair bill was introduced, remain in effect.

In Milwaukee, nine schools are shutting and 354 teachers have been fired due to a drop in state funding and the end of federal stimulus funding.  But if teachers there agreed to the 5.8 percent pension contribution, the school district says it would rehire 200 of those teachers.   (Other changes could offset the rest of the layoffs.)

Despite the promise from Mary Bell that all teachers would contribute something toward their pensions, Milwaukee teachers' union president Bob Peterson won't agree to the change.  In doing so he's made it clear that "collective bargaining rights" is code for "union veto power."
Layoffs are a common result of union power.
- 4:40 PM, 25 July 2011   [link]


John Walsh Says That Dodd-Frank Is Hurting Economic Growth:   No big deal, you may think, since lots of people say that, especially people in the banking industry.  But this John Walsh is the (acting) Comptroller of the Currency, and as such is responsible for enforcing many of the provisions of Dodd-Frank.
John Walsh voiced the frustrations of many bankers when he warned in a speech last month that federal regulators were not paying attention to the cumulative impact of new rules and restrictions, jeopardizing the ability of banks to support economic growth.

"I might have titled these remarks, 'Beware of the Pendulum,' " he said.   "To put it plainly, my view is that we are in danger of trying to squeeze too much risk and complexity out of banking."

What made the speech unusual was that Mr. Walsh is a federal regulator.  In fact, he is responsible for overseeing most of the nation's large banks.  And as the text of his remarks ricocheted across the electronic landscape of official Washington, it drew a furious reaction from advocates of increased regulation, who called on the White House to replace him.
Is Walsh right?  It wouldn't surprise me, since we often react to crises by imposing counter-productive regulations.

But I am not one of the very few who understand Dodd-Frank.  (And don't plan to be, since I want to have a life.)  So that's just my almost-entirely uninformed opinion.

An opinion based partly on the suspicion that a bill sponsored and partly written by two of the worst Fannie Mae miscreants, former senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, may not be exactly what we need.
- 1:52 PM, 25 July 2011   [link]


Two Cautions On The Breivik Stories:  As Ann Althouse reminds us, much of what we know about the man is what he wants us to know.
So, this is the information he wanted you to find.  Assuming he set up this page and he is the murderer, these statement could either be precisely true, deliberate misinformation, or something in between.
(Professor Althouse has a suspicious mind.  I like that.)

Neo-neocon echoes that point, and adds a comparison to the Columbine shooters.
People tend to forget (or never even knew in the first place) that the Columbine shooters were not hurt kids getting back at those who'd teased them, but instead had a grandiose political agenda:
People who never knew may be ignorant (or misinformed) because our "mainstream" journalists got that story so wrong, originally.

So we should be skeptical about the early stories for two reasons:  They are, in part, based on what Breivik wants us to think, and early stories are often wrong, sometimes drastically wrong.
- 11:15 AM, 25 July 2011   [link]


Bill Gates Disses Bill Ayers:  The Microsoft co-founder dismissed the former education professor's work indirectly, and casually.

"I bring a bias to this," says Mr. Gates.  "I believe in innovation and that the way you get innovation is you fund research and you learn the basic facts."  Compared with R&D spending in the pharmaceutical or information-technology sectors, he says, next to nothing is spent on education research.  "That's partly because of the problem of who would do it.   Who thinks of it as their business?  The 50 states don't think of it that way, and schools of education are not about research.  So we come into this thinking that we should fund the research."

(Emphasis added.)

Indirectly and casually, but devastatingly.

What's the connection to Bill Ayers, or as I sometimes call him, unrepentant-terrorist-Bill-Ayers?  Just this:  After he set aside the terrorist life — but not his terrorist objectives — Bill Ayers spent the rest of his adult years in schools of education, supposedly doing research.  Where, according to Bill Gates, little research takes place.  (He's right, though I might say little worthwhile research, and add that there are some important exceptions.)

Ayers was so well thought of in schools of education that the American Educational Research Association, an organization of ed school professors, made him their vice president.

In Ayers case, it should be clear to almost everyone by now that he was about propaganda, not research.  (It would be interesting to know how many members of the AERA share his views. Many, certainly.  Most, I fear.)

We do need solid research on education, but we should not expect to get it from the kind of education professors who think that Bill Ayers is a leader in the field.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(The rest of the Jason Riley interview is definitely worth reading, if you are at all interested in education.)
- 9:06 AM, 25 July 2011   [link]


Is Anders Behring Breivik A Christian?  The New York Times says he is; they are so sure he is a Christian that they used this for their front page headline yesterday: "As Horrors Emerge, Norway Charges Christian Extremist".

And there is no doubt that the accused Norwegian terrorist describes himself as a Christian.   But — and this qualification is essential — as a "cultural" Christian.
A majority of so called agnostics and atheists in Europe are cultural conservative Christians without even knowing it.  So what is the difference between cultural Christians and religious Christians?

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian.  Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God.  We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform.  This makes us Christian.
In his eyes, that makes him Christian, but not in the eyes of most Christians, I would guess.

John Sexton has much more on Breivick's beliefs in that post.

(Did the New York Times even mention that "cultural" qualification in their article?   No, for them, Breivick is simply a Christian, specifically a "Christian conservative".  The Times didn't even contact a few Christian leaders to see whether other Christians think Breivick is a Christian.)
- 7:37 AM, 25 July 2011
Andrew Brown, who edits the religious section of the Guardian's Comment is Free, says that Breivik is not a Christian.
The Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, who shot dead more than 90 young socialists at their summer camp on Friday after mounting a huge bomb attack on the centre of Oslo, has been described as a fundamentalist Christian.  Yet he published enough of his thoughts on the internet to make it clear that even in his saner moments his ideology had nothing to do with Christianity but was based on an atavistic horror of Muslims and a loathing of "Marxists", by which he meant anyone to the left of Genghis Khan.
As far as I can tell, Brown is on the religious left, which would explain who he likes, and who he doesn't.
- 1:02 PM, 25 July2011   [link]


Short Term Debt Limit Increases are "routine".
Over the last twenty years Congress and the President have acted 44 times to increase the debt limit.

Ten of those 44 times lasted more than a year.  The other 34 were for less than a year.
President Obama has threatened to veto any short-term debt limit increase, any increase that does not last through the 2012 presidential election.
- 5:57 AM, 25 July 2011   [link]