July 2012, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
Scientists, Just Like The Rest Of Us, are subject to confirmation bias.
Yet most scientists behave very differently in practice. They not only become strongly attached to their own theories; they perpetually look for evidence that supports rather than challenges their theories. Like defense attorneys building a case, they collect confirming evidence.According to Matt Ridley, the worst offenders may be the most experienced.
One of the alarming things about confirmation bias is that it seems to get worse with greater expertise. Lawyers and doctors (but not weather forecasters who get regularly mugged by reality) become more confident in their judgment as they become more senior, requiring less positive evidence to support their views than they need negative evidence to drop them.That pattern would help explain recent errors by the very experienced ABC reporter Brian Ross, and the very experienced Princeton economist Paul Krugman. Each has reached the point where they need hardly any evidence to support their conclusions — and seldom look for evidence that undermines their conclusions.
(Here's the Wikipedia article on confirmation bias.)
- 7:50 PM, 24 July 2012 [link]
Is the EPA Trying To Kill Mining Jobs In Alaska? Probably.
The proposed Pebble Mine, near the headwaters of Bristol Bay in southwest Alaska, could yield a staggering 107 million ounces of gold, 80 billion pounds of copper and 5.6 billion pounds of molybdenum, which is used to make steel alloys. Pebble Partnership, which wants to do the digging, is so confident of the bounty beneath the ground it has spent five years and $107 million monitoring the soil, water and air in order to assure the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) it can mine without causing ecological damage.If the minerals at the site really are that valuable, there ought to be a way to extract them without endangering the salmon. Mining can be horribly polluting — but it doesn't have to be.
- 3:12 PM, 24 July 2012 [link]
Roger Pielke Jr. Thinks That Paul Krugman should rely on research findings, not the musings of a climate blogger. (A very partisan climate blogger, I might add.)
Instead of looking at the musings of a "climate blogger" (as entertaining as that may be) like Krugman does, let's instead look at scientific research that has examined trends in US droughts. A crazy idea, I know. Fortunately, scientists have examined empirical data on the frequency and severity of drought on climate time scales.And what have those scientists found? That, over the last century, droughts have become "shorter" and "less frequent".
(Professor Pielke isn't the first person to wish that the Princeton economist (and New York Times columnist) would treat research data with more respect. Daniel Okrent, the first (and best) New York Times public editor, after several conflicts with Krugman, said that Krugman had "the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults.")
- 10:04 AM, 24 July 2012 [link]
Whatever It Takes? At the end of her first TV ad this year, Washington's junior senator, Democrat Maria Cantwell, says: "I'll do whatever it takes to put our people back to work."
My first reaction was pleasure, since I hadn't known that she was intending to vote for Mitt Romney this November. If we want to put people back to work, we need a change in the White House, as Cantwell must know. (Whether her senior colleague, Patty Murray, will ever figure that out is less certain.)
But then I had a disturbing thought. Literally, "whatever it takes" includes unethical acts as well as ethical acts, illegal acts as well as legal acts, violent acts as well as peaceful acts, and so on. Let's hope that Cantwell is exaggerating, just a little, in that closing statement. And let's hope that there are some limits on what she would do, even in the good cause of putting people back to work.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(In the context of the ad, by "our people" she probably means Washingtonians, but there are other possible meanings. A party activist, for instance, might think she means that she will be providing more patronage jobs for the deserving.)
- 9:24 AM, 24 July 2012 [link]
Is Senator Feinstein Accusing President Obama Of Leaking Our Secrets? Sure looks that way to me.
"I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks," Sen. Dianne Feinstein told a World Affairs Council forum.In rhetoric, this trick of suggesting something by denying it is called apophasis. (The word has a different meaning in theology.)
Senator Feinstein is chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee, so she is more likely than the average senator to know who is leaking our secrets. I think that she made that denial to warn Obama to stop leaking, and fear that her warning will have little effect.
- 6:48 AM, 24 July 2012
As you would expect, Feinstein has backtracked.
Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) backtracked from her comments Monday that the White House was responsible for some of the national security leaks, saying she did not know the source of the leaks. “I stated that I did not believe the president leaked classified information,” Feinstein said in the statement on Tuesday. “I shouldn’t have speculated beyond that, because the fact of the matter is I don’t know the source of the leaks.”And if she says that a few more times, we can be almost certain that she thinks Obama has been leaking. As a Shakespeare character says in Hamlet, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
- 9:10 AM, 25 July 2012 [link]
The $65 Million Art Work That Can't Be Sold, Legally: Why not? Because the Rauschenberg work contains a stuffed bald eagle. And the kids who inherited it are being asked to pay taxes on it, even though they can't sell it.
But there is one item in the collection, a work by Robert Rauschenberg that cannot be sold. It contains a stuffed bald eagle and under the terms of the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the 1918 Migratory Bird Act, it is a felony to “possess, sell, purchase, barter, transport, import or export any bald eagle — alive or dead.” The estate, advised by three experts, including one from Christie’s, therefore, valued the work at zero. The IRS decided it was worth $65 million, and is demanding $29.2 million in taxes and $11 million in penalties because the heirs “inaccurately” stated its value.(The bald eagle was originally killed and stuffed by one of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders, so Rauschenberg was able to get an exception for the art work.)
It occurs to me that, since the painting is insured, there is an independent measure of its worth. But it's an odd measure since the work might be valuable to a thief, but not to a legitimate purchaser.
(Here's the work. It wouldn't be worth $65 million to me, but then I'm not in the art world, which is a strange place, indeed.)
- 1:09 PM, 23 July 2012 [link]
If President Obama Visited Chicago To Console Family And Friends After Every 12 Murders, How Many Trips Would He Have Made So Far This Year? Through July19th, 24.
William Bratton immediately goes on to say that the number of murders has declined in Chicago, as it has across the country. He's right about that (although he doesn't mention the population decline in Chicago, which probably explains part of that decline in crime).
But I would like to make a somewhat different point, one that I have made before but one that bears repeating: Although Obama has lived most of his adult life in Chicago, and has been a prominent political figure there for years, I know of nothing he has done to reduce crime there, nothing. Not as a community organizer, not as a civil rights lawyer, not as an instructor at the University of Chicago, not as a state senator representing a Chicago district, not as a US senator, and not as president.
Those familiar with Chicago neighborhoods, in particular Hyde Park, where Barack and Michelle Obama chose to live, will understand why he has been indifferent to the crime that has plagued Chicago.
In the 1960s, as a result of the [urban renewal] project, Hyde Park's average income soared by seventy percent, but its Black population fell by forty percent, since the substandard housing primarily occupied by low income minorities had been purchased, torn down, and replaced, with the residents not being able to afford to remain in the newly rehabilitated areas. On the other hand, middle class residents were offered increased opportunities for employment and home-ownership. One notable infrastructure transformation was the two way traffic opening of E 59th Street which goes under the viaduct for the Metra, between Harper and Stony Island. This entryway into the University of Chicago campus was formerly a one way street that allowed travel out of Hyde Park, but not into from surrounding neighborhoods. The renewal project meant that Hyde Park did not experience the same economic depression that occurred in neighboring areas, and also ensured that it remained a racially diverse neighborhood.In other words, the Obamas chose to live in a neighborhood that had, as a matter of deliberate policy, removed poor blacks. (You can, by the way, see the effects of that removal, even now, with Google maps.)
So he and his neighbors (including unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers) were relatively safe from the crime that plagued less fortunate Chicagoans, most of them black.
(The Obama's home is in the Kenwood neighborhood, but the two neighborhoods can be treated as one as far as the effects of urban renewal go.)
- 10:39 AM, 23 July 2012 [link]
Do House Democrats Expect To Win Back Their Majority? Mostly, no.
One by one, the pictures of House members adorning the lobby of Democratic Party headquarters have come down, turning neat rows of framed photos into a disjointed mess — “splattered,” as one aide described it.(Sadly, Politico didn't include a picture of that lobby.)
Right now, the Iowa election market gives the Democrats about a ten percent chance of winning back control of the House — and about a thirty percent chance of losing seats to the Republicans.
(That second part is a little surprising to me, perhaps because I haven't done a seat-by-seat analysis of the prospects yet.
But I can see why that might happen, just by looking at my own 1st district here in Washington state The district was drawn, supposedly, to be a perfect swing district, exactly balanced between Democrats and Republicans. But this year is likely to be a Republican year (though not as strongly as 2010), and the Republicans are unified behind a single candidate, John Koster, while the Democrats are having an increasingly bitter fight over who will face him in November.
If Koster does win, and the other races go as most expect, Republicans will have five of the ten seats in this mostly Democratic state.)
- 9:07 AM, 23 July 2012 [link]
Venezuelan Leader Hugo Chávez Endorses Barack Obama: Indirectly.
In a campaign speech Saturday night, Chavez equated the agenda of his challenger, Henrique Capriles, with that of Romney, saying both men represent the callously selfish capitalist elite.That endorsement should please some of the president's Hollywood supporters — and distress almost everyone else.
- 7:55 AM, 23 July 2012 [link]
Another Nugget From Peggy Noonan: In her latest column , she argues that substance matters more than narrative, or "stories", as Obama said last week.
It is odd he does not notice this, because communicating is his obsession. He made this clear again in his interview last week with Charlie Rose. "The mistake of my first couple of years was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right," he said. "But, you know, the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism."Unlike Noonan, I suspect that Obama does realize how patronizing he is — and thinks almost all of us deserve to be treated like little children. But that doesn't stop me from appreciating that wonderful "blankie" line.
(Earlier in the column, Noonan criticized the way the US Olympic uniforms looked, comparing them to "some European bureaucrat's idea of a secret militia, like Brussels's idea of a chic new army". I have almost zero fashion sense, but had come to a similar conclusion.)
- 2:15 PM, 22 July 2012 [link]
The Instapundit Has Some Fun with the Mexican food stamp story.
- 1:54 PM, 21 July 2012 [link]
John Kass Eviscerates George Stephanopoulos: Kass begins by reviewing the Stephanopoulos/Brian Ross exchange, in which the two suggested that the Colorado shooter was a Tea Party supporter, and then ends with a devastating quote from the late Christopher Hitchens.
"George Stephanopoulos spends weekends in my apartment building because he comes down for 'The Week Without David Brinkley' or whatever that TV show is now called," Hitchens had said. "We had a drink around the time of the Diana business, and he said, 'Hey, Tony Blair's doing brilliantly, isn't he? This is his Oklahoma City.' Those guys think about things that way."As Bill Clinton used the Oklahoma City bombing, with the full approval of George Stephanopoulos, and as Stephanopoulos tried to use the Colorado massacre.
- 1:31 PM, 21 July 2012 [link]
No Arithmetic, No Factory Job: Jim Hoyt has two openings at his factory, but he has trouble finding workers because so many applicants can't do arithmetic.
But when you talk to employers, they say they can't find good people to hire. North American Tool Corp.'s Jim Hoyt has two openings right now for his northwest Illinois company, and he expects to continue hiring. But he often sees the same problem crop up during the application process.The NPR article calls that math, but I would call it arithmetic, and grade school arithmetic at that. (The article mentions fractions and basic trigonometry, as well, but apparently Hoyt's simple questions are often enough to disqualify applicants before they get to anything applicants might have learned in high school.)
From time to time, I encounter young people at fast food places who obviously have trouble with the simple arithmetic they should have learned in grade school. (And I suspect that would happen far more often if the geniuses who design their computer systems hadn't made them so close to fool proof, or, to be more precise, innumeracy proof.)
By way of Joanne Jacobs, where commenters explain why Hoyt asks them to do simple arithmetic problems, rather than give them a formal test.
(Hoyt's company is looking for employees who can operate Computer Numerical Control machines. You can find a brief description of CNC machines here, and a much longer one, with examples, here.)
- 2:47 PM, 20 July 2012 [link]
David Brooks Still Admires Obama: And, I must say, cheered me up at lunch with his latest column, though not, I fear, for reasons that would please Brooks.
In the column, the New York Times columnist tells us that Obama has been a "good foreign policy president", and praises Obama's ability to improvise and to learn, and the way he has balanced realism with support for democracy and human rights.
And almost every example Brooks gives us is another Obama foreign policy failure.
Near the end of the column, for example, Brooks mentions two of the worst Obama mistakes:
There have been failures on Obama's watch, of course. Some of these flow from executive hubris. Obama believed that he could help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. He proceeded clumsily, pushed everyone into a corner and now peace is farther away than ever.(Those soldiers and Marines, and their families, may not see Obama as a great foreign policy success.)
In the rest of the column, Brooks mentions Obama's failures in Iran and North Korea, and — implausibly — credits Obama with success in dealing with China. He does not mention Obama's failures with Russia, or his incredible blunders with Argentina, Britain, and many other countries.
Brooks assures us that Obama has learned from some of his earlier failures. (For a counter-example, see this Andrew Malcolm post.)
It is entertaining, but more than a little dismaying, to see an intelligent man adding up a whole series of negatives — and getting a positive result.
Entertaining, and instructive, since it shows us just how hard it is to reject our theories, regardless of the evidence.
- 1:02 PM, 20 July 2012 [link]
A Tragedy Like The Colorado Massacre Will Cause Some Journalists And Experts To Misbehave: And engage in wild speculation, which will, all too often, support their pet theories, without waiting for actual evidence.
For example, I don't doubt that there is some flat earth believer out there who is convinced that the massacre wouldn't have happened, if we hadn't been telling kids that the earth is round.
You can see examples of that wild speculation, if you want to, here and here.
The worst that I've seen so far came from one of our big three TV networks.
Meanwhile, ABC’s Brian Ross was focused this morning, not on the man who perpetrated the shooting, but on the first Jim Holmes he could find in the Denver area with a Tea Party connection. His reporting is so bad as to suggest he simply Googled “Jim Holmes + Tea Party + Denver,” and George Stephanopoulos accepted his report credulously.What fascinates me about that bit of "reporting" is that Ross (and Stephanopoulos?), when faced with mass violence, immediately wondered about a Tea Party connection. Now, whether or not you agree or disagree with the Tea Party movement (and I agree in part), you should know that it has been notably peaceful.
And you should realize that a Batman movie is an unlikely target for anyone who wants to see our spending and taxes limited. That shouldn't be hard to understand.
- 12:33 PM, 20 July 2012 [link]
The Batman Movie Murders: Like, I suspect, most of you, I awoke this morning to hear about the mass murder in Aurora, Colorado. My sympathies to the families and friends of the victims, and, until I know more, that's all I'll have to say about this massacre.
(I am cautious in reacting to these incidents because experience has taught me that early reports are often wrong, sometimes in critical ways. (Sometimes, it takes years for accurate reports to come out.) And, I am sorry to say, experience has also taught me that some believe that you shouldn't waste tragedies, and will try to exploit them for political gain, without much regard for mere facts.)
- 8:12 AM, 20 July 2012 [link]
Galbraith On The Life Cycles Of Regulatory Bodies: The economist understood one of the principal problems with regulatory agencies.
Moreover, regulatory bodies, like the people who comprise them, have a marked life cycle. In youth, they are vigorous, aggressive, evangelistic, and even intolerant. Later they mellow, and in old age — after a matter of ten or fifteen years — they become, with some exceptions, either an arm of the industry they are regulating or senile. (p. 171, in my edition, anyway)There is no general solution to this problem, as long as we have men, rather than angels, to run these regulatory bodies. But I do think this is one more argument for keeping regulations as simple and minimal as practical, so that outsiders can more easily judge whether the regulatory bodies have been captured, or become senile.
- 4:30 PM, 19 July 2012 [link]
Read The Articles Upside Down, Advises Kathy Shaidle: In other words, read the comments before you read the story.
And you can see why she says that in this story about corrupt officials in Trenton, New Jersey.
Here's the first comment:
I did a google search to find out what Mayor Mack's party affiliation was. Obviously, since the Courier didn't mention it, I figured he was a Democrat, but it isn't nice to jump to conclusions so I checked. Frankly, the nation's news editors could save a lot of the stress and time they spend worrying about their failing industry if they ever realized that the reason their subscription rates are collapsing is because their former readers are weary of their failure to do their job. We've come to realize that when it comes to choosing between being a competent reporter and exposing the crimes of their favorite political party, or omitting an obviously relevant fact, they never fail to disappoint. I understand that decades ago, newspaper reporters actually reported the facts. It must have been before my time.The commenter saved me time, because I noticed the same omission, and was about to do the same search (except with Bing).
(For somewhat similar reasons, I urge readers to look at the graphs and tables first, in any article that has them. Often the text does not accurately described the graphs and tables, even in newspapers as prestigious as the New York Times.)
- 3:47 PM, 19 July 2012 [link]
Stuart Rothenberg Cheers Us All Up: All right, he cheers half of us up. After a discussion of the upcoming House elections, he comes to this conclusion:
Given the current outlook, a Democratic gain of 10 to 12 House seats would have to be regarded as an extremely good outcome for the party, and a net GOP gain is not impossible. What does seem impossible, at least at this point, is a Democratic takeover of the House in November.I don't know about you, but I feel more cheerful already.
- 2:24 PM, 19 July 2012 [link]
Professor Althouse Thinks That Obama Blundered when he said people don't build their own businesses.
And then there's Obama:Others, looking at the same words — and Obama's past, and his present policies — conclude that he did mean more or less what he said.If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.The boldface part is a blunder. He couldn't have meant to say that, and he must be really sorry he did. He's got the core idea there: You got some help. Then, in the blunder, he needed a few more words: If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that alone. Somebody else must have helped you make that happen. Anyone who likes Obama can say, in context, you can tell these additional words are implied. Someone more neutral — me, perhaps! — would say, obviously those additional words were intended, but it was nevertheless revealing that he let it slip out in that form.
My own view? I think she is right is saying that Obama might not have wanted to say what he did, simply because those words will hurt him in this campaign. But the idea that government is the fountain, from which almost every good thing flows, is not unusual in machine politicians, or among people who adhere to leftist ideas. And Obama is both of those, in part.
It is common to say that Republicans are the party of business; it should be equally common to say that Democrats are the party of government. So, while I agree that Obama wishes he hadn't said what he did, I don't conclude that he doesn't believe much of what he said, though he would probably put it differently, if he could go back and revise his statements.
(Althouse is mostly a libertarian, but one of those libertarians who voted for Obama, a group I find fascinating, since Obama is one of the least libertarian figures in American politics — ever.
This year, she has been proclaiming her neutrality.)
- 7:53 AM, 19 July 2012 [link]
These pictures will show you why they called it the "Black Death", although Paul Gaylord is now expected to survive.
Initially, Mr Gaylord thought he had the flu when he developed a fever after the [cat] bite.If this Wikipedia article is correct (and they usually are, mostly, on medical subjects), Gaylord would have done much better if he had been given the right antibiotics — immediately.
So, if you get sick after contacting a wild animal (and you live in the West), get the right antibiotics, immediately. (According to the Oregonian, Gaylord was turned away by a local veteran's clinic. That delayed him getting the antibiotics he needed, though they don't say by how long.)
- 6:48 AM, 19 July 2012 [link]
Nancy Pelosi Has Her Own Chapter in Peter Schweizer's Do As I Say (Not As I Do).
Yesterday, she proved, again, that she deserves that chapter.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi was emphatic. Mitt Romney’s refusal to release more than two years of his personal tax returns, she said, makes him unfit to win confirmation as a member of the president’s Cabinet, let alone to hold the high office himself.Her husband's investments are so extensive, and so involved with governments at every level, that any opposition researcher could find many conflicts of interest in those tax returns.
(Reid has his own conflicts of interest, thanks to some real estate deals.)
- 6:20 AM, 19 July 2012 [link]
Who Do Republicans Want As Mitt Romney's Vice President? A minority, although they don't agree on which one.
In order, here are the minority choices, with the percentages of Republican respondents picking each: Condoleezza Rice (30%), Marco Rubio (19%), Susana Martinez (3%), and Bobby Jindal (5%). So 57 percent of Republicans want Romney to pick a minority.
That is more than the total for the entire sample, 50 percent, so we know that Republicans are more eager to see a minority on the ticket than Democrats and independents. (For the exact numbers, scroll about two-thirds of the way down to find question 4 in the raw data.)
- 4:52 PM, 18 July 2012 [link]
Politico Explains Why President Obama's Job Council Hasn't Met in six months, at some length. Here's their beginning:
President Barack Obama’s Jobs Council hasn’t met publicly for six months, even as the issue of job creation dominates the 2012 election.But anyone familiar with organizations can see part of the problem just by looking at that formal picture of the group: There are way too many of them. Effective groups are likely to have just five to seven members (unless most of the members are specialists whose specialties don't overlap).
- 4:28 PM, 18 July 2012 [link]
No Thanks, Mom: Campaign finance laws produce some odd results, from time to time.
U.S. House candidate Laura Ruderman has called on an “independent” SuperPAC to take down an attack ad against fellow Democrat Suzan DelBene that began airing Tuesday on Seattle television.As you can see, the reporter was skeptical about that claim of independence.
DelBene has piles of money from her time at Microsoft, and has been spending that money on her own positive ads. (From past experience, I suspect her current ads may be misleading.)
I haven't seen the attack ad, but now I'd like to.
Often, as in this case, our campaign finance laws effectively "disarm" some of the candidates, unfairly, in my opinion. I think Rothschild should have been able to give that money directly to her daughter's campaign.
- 11:11 AM, 18 July 2012 [link]
Are Liberals Or Conservatives More Honest? Last week, Professor Orin Kerr put up dual polls asking liberals and conservatives about their perceptions of their ideological opponents' honesty. Kerr got the result he was expecting.
Today’s reader poll on perceptions of the honesty of political adversaries produced some really interesting results. With about 1100 responses so far, the results suggest that each side has the same view of the other. About 45% of respondents, both liberal and conservative, saw no difference between the honesty of liberals and conservatives. But about 50% thought that the other side is less honest. And about half of those, 25% of the total, thought that the other side is much less honest than their side. About 5% thought that the other side was more honest.His poll reminded of the grade school class that had just gotten a pet rabbit. The teacher asked them how they could decide whether the rabbit was a boy rabbit or a girl rabbit. One kid suggested that they vote on it.
And that, in my opinion, is roughly equivalent to what Professor Kerr did. Rather than look for data on his question, he asked people to vote on it.
That surprised me a bit, because data is available on this question. I assumed that one of his commenters would mention that data, and expected that would start an interesting discussion. This morning I skimmed through the comments on both posts, looking for data. Both liberals and conservative commenters gave examples, but none mentioned the available survey data. (Or any other kind of statistical information.)
And what that data shows, unequivocally, is that conservatives are more honest than liberals. (Or, if you prefer, less likely to be dishonest.) In chapter 4 of his book, Makers and Takers, Peter Schweizer gives us some examples:
Would you claim government benefits you were not entitled to? The World Values Survey asked thousands of Americans that question. The results, again, were startling. Liberals were more than twice as likely as conservatives to say it is okay to. One-third of those who said they were very liberal said it was fine, compared to only 15 percent of conservativesSimilarly, liberals are more likely to sell a car with a bad transmission to relative, without telling them about the problem, more likely to cheat on taxes, more likely to cheat a restaurant, and so on, and so on.
And, judging by the news stories I've looked for over the years, much more likely to commit vote fraud. When I search for vote fraud stories, as I do from time to time, in most of them (more than 80 percent), the perpetrators are Democrats (and, almost certainly, liberals). Take a look through my collection of posts on the right side of my site, if you need examples. And I should add that, although I do not write about all the Democratic vote fraud stories I find, I try hard to write about all the Republican vote fraud stories I find.
At this point, I have to say something that will disappoint some readers who have been happy with the post so far: That conservatives are more honest than liberals does not show us much about whether their ideas are better for the nation. A man (or woman) can be personally honest, and completely wrong on policy questions.
But we can, I think, make this generalization: Liberal politicians are more likely to lie to voters than conservative politicians, and more likely to be corrupt. And that's something you may want to remember during this campaign.
- 9:09 AM, 18 July 2012 [link]
Batman Is Really A Conservative Hero: So says the Telegraph's Robert Colville.
Imagine that you are a child billionaire, orphaned in a mugging that goes terribly wrong. You decide to devote yourself to making sure that no one else will suffer as you did. But how? Do you open a series of outreach centres, hire probation workers, sponsor rehabilitation schemes? Or do you put on a rubber suit and prowl the streets at night, clobbering members of the underclass until they promise to stop breaking the law?(I haven't seen the latest Batman movie, so I can't offer an independent opinion on this question, but Colville's argument seems plausible enough.)
Tim Stanley of the same newspaper looks at the question from the opposite direction.
Put the other way around, if Batman was like Obama then Gotham City would have been overrun by The Penguin years ago, while Bruce Wayne makes the occasional video about the case for gay marriage to distract us from the little penguins running around killing people.Before concluding, with tongue mostly in cheek, that what the United States really needs is Darth Vader.
But you shouldn't let that distract you from his main point, that this election is about competence, and the right plans, not about individual heroes rescuing us from villains.
- 7:01 AM, 18 July 2012 [link]
Prison Breaks Usually Go the other way.
Security is tight at the Monroe Corrections Complex to keep 2,400 Washington state prisoners locked up, but it couldn't stop a bobcat from breaking in.The cat is being treated for its cuts, and will be released in a few days (unlike nearly all the inmates).
Prison officials are not worried about inmates going the other way through the hole the bobcat used since bobcats are much smaller than inmates. (Adult males average about 20 pounds, females about 15.)
- 5:31 AM, 18 July 2012 [link]
The Median Voter Theorem And Romney's Prospects: You often see and hear arguments that candidates in the center have advantages over extremists in general elections, but you may not know that there are formal arguments supporting that idea.
For example, the median voter theorem.
The median voter theorem states that under certain assumptions, the outcome of the decision is the outcome most preferred by the median voter. The assumptions include a majoritarian election system in which political views are along a one-dimensional spectrum.There's more (including examples and limitations), and there are graphs to illustrate the theorem, but you can understand the basic idea with a simple example: Larry Lefty, Mark Moderate, and Rich Righty are ordering a pizza together. Larry wants the biggest, Rich the smallest, and Mark is in between. If they decide things by majority vote, Mark will be in the winning majority every time. And the three will always end up with a medium-sized pizza.
So what does this tell us about Romney's prospects? Something. Last December, Gallup asked Americans to place themselves on a 1-5 ideological spectrum, with 1 being very liberal and 5 being very conservative — and to place the candidates on the same spectrum. As it happens, Americans, collectively, placed Romney (3.5) much closer to the center (3.3) than they did Obama (2.3).
Which suggests that Romney's prospects are good, if voters choose on ideology.
(Caveat: There is much more to elections than simple ideological positioning, of course. But I don't think it is an accident that the Obama forces have decided to attack Romney personally, more than ideologically.
I wrote about these Gallup findings last December, since I was mildly amused to find that Americans saw Michelle Bachmann as about as extreme as Barack Obama. I think Americans are right, but I doubt very many "mainstream" journalists would agree with me.)
- 4:03 PM, 17 July 2012 [link]
Worth Reading: This interview with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in which he defends freedom of speech, even anonymous speech.
Here's the first question and answer:
NEWSBUSTERS: You wrote an op-ed on June 22 in which you talked about the dangers of the so-called Disclose Act? Can you briefly explain what that is and why you oppose it?As something of a 1st Amendment purist, I support McConnell on this issue, and agree with an argument that he makes later in the interview, that the New York Times wants freedom of speech for itself — but wants to restrict others' freedom of speech.
(At one time a few states protected anonymous speech — for small leftist organizations. As I recall, typically they allowed small far left political parties to skip the disclosures that they required of mainstream parties, precisely so as to protect their donors from harassment and intimidation. It's been a while, so I don't remember whether those protections came from laws, court decisions, or both.)
- 2:49 PM, 17 July 2012 [link]
Remember When President Bush Was Accused Of Being Divisive? Whatever the truth of those charges — not much, in my opinion — there is no doubt that President Obama is the most divisive president in the last sixty years.
Whatever his intentions or provocations, Obama is now engaged in partisan polarization on an industrial scale. His campaign’s latest round of Bain charges is not politics as usual. It is the accusation of criminal impropriety — the filing of false government documents — without real evidence, as various fact-checking outfits have attested. Obama’s recent attack ad, “Firms,” reflects the sensibilities of a particularly nasty 13-year-old. It is difficult to imagine most Americans saying: “That’s just what American politics most needs — more juvenile viciousness.”But using those tactics won't stop Obama from proclaiming the need for more civility, from time to time.
(Here's a scary thought: Although I have no doubt that some of Obama's political operatives understand just how cynical this looks to many of us, I am not sure that Obama does. He may be so fond of himself that he doesn't see anything wrong with his campaign tactics.)
- 1:54 PM, 17 July 2012 [link]
Tim Pawlenty Checks Almost All the vice president boxes, says Sean Trende.
You can see why he tops so many lists. The Minnesota governor really checks off almost all of the boxes: He’s socially conservative, without any unusually socially conservative views; he’s from a state that has moved steadily toward the Republicans over the past few decades (in terms of PVI); and he connects with the coveted blue-collar white demographic. He’s an experienced governor with no significant Bush ties, and he endorsed Romney early on. The only major drawback is that the base would yawn; if he were more exciting, he’d be the obvious choice.I had come to a similar conclusion, though less formally. (If I had done a similar study, I would have added at least one more box: Is the person ready to be president, should the worst happen? I think that Romney is responsible enough to make that an essential part of his decision.)
Pawlenty is not a great campaigner, even though he was elected governor of Minnesota in 2002 and 2006. (Both were three-way races. Pawlenty won 44-36-16 in 2002 and 47-46-6 in 2006.) But that won't matter as much as it would have in earlier years, when the campaigning was more personal. (And, to be fair, none of the other possibilities look like great campaigners, either.)
Pawlenty has one more advantage that Trende doesn't mention: He is not now in an elected office. Given the closeness of the balance between the parties, nationally, a tactician would worry about taking Paul Ryan out of the House and Rob Portman out of the Senate.
(PVI = Partisan Voting Index.
Incidentally, if I were advising Romney, I wouldn't just count boxes, I would weight them to derive my composite score — after using several of them to exclude candidates.)
- 7:46 AM, 17 July 2012
More: I should have given Pawlenty more credit for winning in 2006, a very tough year for Republicans, especially in Minnesota.
His Democratic opponent, Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch, made an odd blunder near the end of the campaign, calling a reporter who had asked an inconvenient question a "Republican whore". Since Pawlenty won by just 21,108 votes, it's possible that Hatch's transgression against "Minnesota nice" tipped the scales.
Nonetheless, to win, even narrowly and with a little last-minute help from your opponent, is still impressive, given the year and the state.
- 12:52 PM, 17 July 2012 [link]