Archive:

July 2013, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Climate Scientist Judith Curry Reviews Three Papers From Britain's Met Office:  And comes to a polite, but disturbing conclusion.
There is some good material in these reports.  But they draw some conclusions that seem to me to be unwarranted, and further miss an opportunity to ‘cover their backs’ if the pause does indeed continue for another 2-3 decades by acknowledging the importance of multidecadal natural internal variability in explaining the 20th century record.

They seem to obliquely admit the inadequacy of climate models by saying that they have not been falsified by the recent pause.  Well, even if they have not been falsified, the climate models are not looking very useful at the moment, and climate model-derived values of climate sensitivity are seeming increasingly unconvincing.
(Emphasis added.)

Translation:  The global climate models — the big simulations that tell some scientists that we are facing dangerous warming in the near future — may not be worth the electricity they use during computer runs.

That's disturbing for two reasons:  First, if the climate models are not useful, then many prominent scientists, and a great many more actiivists, should stop warning of inevitable disaster and admit that we really don't know how warm the climate will be fifty years from now — or even ten years from now.

Second, not knowing what future climates will be like complicates our long-range planning in many, many areas.  Speculators hoping that the oceans will rise enough to change ordinary lots into waterfront property may have to give up on that idea.  Plant breeders may want to spend less time developing heat-resistant plants.  And so on, and so on.

By way of Anthony Watts.

(I am not entirely surprised to see Professor Curry holding these views; I am a little surprised to see her state them so bluntly.  Many of her colleagues have spent years developing these models — without necessarily producing anything "very useful".)
- 7:11 PM, 24 July 2013   [link]


Was It Just Coincidence That The Latest Story In The Ongoing Anthony Weiner Scandal broke on National Hot Dog Day?

I don't know — but it does seem like a remarkable coincidence.  And the story is not new, so someone with a sense of humor could have decided to save it for yesterday.

(To me the most interesting person in this story is his wife, Huma Abedin.  I don't claim to have any explanations for her close connections to the Clintons, her marriage to Anthony Weiner, or her behavior since the scandal broke — but I would like to have some.)
- 8:32 AM, 24 July 2013   [link]


Boys Raised With Sisters Are More Likely to vote Republican.
Researchers at Loyola Marymount University and Stanford Graduate School of Business released a study Tuesday that found men who were raised with female siblings tend to be conservative in their views of gender throughout their lives, and more likely to vote Republican when they’re young than their male peers.
As you probably know, married men — who have more contact with females than single men — are more likely to vote Republican than single men.

Since I am feeling mischievous this morning, I'll speculate that direct contact with females makes males think that the sexes are different.  That's a radical suggestion in some places.  It would be dangerous, for instance, for a young man to say that in some university settings.

It's a radical suggestion, but one supported by experience, and thousands and thousands of scientific studies.  So — I said I was feeling mischievous — we can conclude that men with sisters and married men are better informed about sex differences than other men.

(The study did not look for a similar effect among women with brothers.   Unfortunately.  But we do know that married women vote more Republican, by a very large margin, than single women.

Here's the paper, if you want to read it yourself.)
- 7:52 AM, 24 July 2013   [link]


This Anthony Weiner story reminds me of Bill Clinton, CNN, and Monica Lewinsky.
I know that a lot of people are basking in the schadenfreude of Anthony Weiner being, well…being Anthony Weiner but there is a VITAL part of the story that is getting almost no play.
Weiner also allegedly promised the source a job at Politico
That is ringing alarm bells all over my head.  That Anthony Weiner hasn’t lost interested in women is no surprise, that he contends he has job placement privileges at a news organization quoted daily on TV covering the political scene in DC IS
One of the more interesting details of that whole sordid affair was that Bill Clinton at one time mused about getting Lewinsky away from the White House by getting her a job at CNN.

At that time, Clinton was close to the president of CNN/USS, Rick Kaplan, so he might have been able to get Lewinsky a job there — which tells us something about Kaplan, I suppose.

I am inclined to think that Weiner could not get a job for this woman at Politico, that he was just trying to look more important than he is, but I could be wrong.

(As you probably recall, Clinton's people, cleaning up after him, found Lewinsky a job at the Pentagon, for which she was unqualified, and a job there for Linda Tripp, who they were worried about.  The Tripp job was an interesting combination of carrot with the threat of a stick:  She received a big pay increase, but was moved into a job no longer protected by civil service rules.)
- 5:37 PM, 22 July 2013   [link]


The Odd Disappearance of Jeffrey Zients.
A top former Obama Cabinet member who met with IRS officials at the White House during the targeting scandal is currently out of the country, a White House source told The Daily Caller.

Former acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jeffrey Zients has still not returned from an overseas exile that began after his departure from the Obama administration in April, two weeks before the IRS scandal broke.
. . .
After a Senate vote confirming his successor — Sylvia Mathews Burwell — Zients left his post at OMB on April 24, 2013 with no public fanfare and no official White House statement on his departure, leading Washington insiders to speculate that he “disappeared.”
The reporter, Patrick Howley, suspects that Zients may be heavily involved in that scandal, and is trying to avoid notice by hiding overseas.

(Judging by this Wikipedia biography — with the usual caveats — Zients has not been a private person in the past.)
- 7:41 AM, 22 July 2013   [link]


Did You Smile And Wave when the Cassini probe look our picture from Saturn?

(I didn't, but I'm not especially photogenic, so you aren't missing anything.

You can find much more on the probe here, and on the astrologer/astronomer it's named after, here.)
- 7:06 AM, 23 July 2013   [link]


Accused Killer Of Molly Conley Charged with 1st degree murder.

So far, no official has given a motive for the killing — and there may not be one that we can understand.  But I do wonder if race may not have had something to do with it, mostly because our local "mainstream" journalists have concealed, again and again, racist motives if the perpetrator happens to be an African-American, as Erick Walker is, in part.

(Here's a summary of the case, if you need one.

And here's a touching letter Conley wrote shortly before she was killed.)
- 8:58 AM, 22 July 2013   [link]


It's A Crude Photoshop Effort, but it is still funny.

(If you need an explanation for what Edward Snowden might want to take to Venezuela, you can find one here.)
- 8:37 AM, 22 July 2013   [link]


Shuffling Aluminum Bars For Fun And Profit:  According to this New York Times article, Goldman Sachs is making money — in Detroit, of all places — by shuffling aluminum bars from one warehouse to another.
The story of how this works begins in 27 industrial warehouses in the Detroit area where a Goldman subsidiary stores customers' aluminum.  Each day, a fleet of trucks shuffles 1,500-pound bars of the metal among the warehouses.  Two or three times a day, sometimes more, the drivers make the same circuits.  They load in one warehouse.  They unload in another.  And then they do it again.
If you are like me, you immediately wonder why moving the bars can increase profits, since it must add to the costs.

The answer is simple, although buried deep inside the article:
Metro International holds nearly 1.5 million tons of aluminum in its Detroit facilities, but industry rules require that all that metal cannot simply sit in a warehouse forever.  At least 3,000 tons of that metal must be moved out each day.  But nearly all of the metal that Metro moves is not delivered to customers, according to the interviews.   Instead, it is shuttled from one warehouse to another.
So the Goldman Sachs subsidiary is using that loophole to "corner" the market, and force up prices.

Goldman Sachs also benefits, according the article, in their trading operations.  By controlling so much of the physical stock, they know more about the aluminum market than other traders.

As you would expect, the reporter, David Kocieniewski, uses this shuffle to argue for more regulation and for keeping banks out of non-banking activities.  He isn't necessarily wrong (especially about the second), but you could also use this shuffle to argue for the near inevitability of regulatory capture, the way that regulating bodies, in this example the London Metal Exchange, get captured by those they are supposed to regulate.

(The London Metal Exchange, which established this regulation, profits, too.  They receive "1 percent of the rent collected by its warehouses worldwide", so the longer the aluminum sits in the warehouses, the better for them.

The system may not have been as efficient as it should have been, even before Goldman Sachs.  According to the article, buyers used to wait six weeks for the delivery once they had placed their order.  Although that is much less than the 16 months they now wait, on the average, it still seems about three or four times as long as it should be.)
- 7:24 AM, 22 July 2013
Tom Maguire thinks that the Times misunderstood the arithmetic and exaggerated the gains from these practices for Goldman Sachs.  He's probably right, though I can say that his post is a model of clarity.

And I don't think he would disagree with my conclusion that there is something wrong with the rules when it is profitable to move large amounts of aluminum between warehouses.
- 7:57 AM, 23 July 2013   [link]


It Is Good Of Them to share.
Food stamps are paying for trans-Atlantic takeout — with New Yorkers using taxpayer-funded benefits to ship food to relatives in Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Welfare recipients are buying groceries with their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards and packing them in giant barrels for the trip overseas, The Post found.

The practice is so common that hundreds of 45- to 55-gallon cardboard and plastic barrels line the walls of supermarkets in almost every Caribbean corner of the city.
But you do have to wonder how needy those New Yorkers are, and whether this is the most efficient way to aid those poor countries.

There is a detail that makes me suspect that those poor countries could use some Walmart and Kroger stores: "Still, New Yorkers say they ship the food because staples available in the States are superior and less costly than what their families can get abroad."

Given how low shipping costs are, there is no practical reason why those nations can't have essentially the same prices and quality that we do.  Perhaps Walmart, Kroger, and similar companies could set up franchises with local partners.

(The widespread corruption would be a disincentive for all of those companies.   In many such countries, if you don't bribe local officials, you can't operate; if you do bribe them, you are likely to get caught by American authorities, as Walmart was in Mexico.)
- 6:28 AM, 22 July 2013   [link]


Two Psychopaths/Sociopaths?  On Friday, I read an obituary in the New York Times describing the life of bluesman "T-Model Ford".

Which was eventful, to say the least.

But what I was struck by most strongly, was the pull quote.   Fat Possum, the company that produced several of his records, described him as: "the friendliest, fun-loving psychopath you'll ever meet".

And what the obituary tells us of his life makes every bit of that sound entirely plausible.

Today, I ran across neo-neocon's post on Dzhokar Tsarnaev, who she describes as follows:
It struck me when I read it that the people interviewed by Rolling Stone—friends, acquaintances, and teachers of Dzhokhar—were universally puzzled by his supposed transformation from easygoing guy, affable and loved by all and particularly relaxed and cool (and who wasn’t even especially religious) into murderous jihadi.  That transformation has puzzled not only those who knew him, but most journalists who write about him.  My thesis is that they are failing to entertain the theory I think most likely, which is that the charming-appearing Dzhokhar was and is a psychopath.  Unlike his brother Tamerlane, who was a more conventionally troubled misfit, as well as devout Muslim, Dzhokhar fits the classic description of psychopathy in Hervey Cleckley’s classic book on the subject, The Mask of Sanity.
Those who knew him before the bombing might have said he could compete with Ford in friendliness and fun loving.  And now they should know that Tsarnaev could compete with Ford in deviance, too, that he may be a psychopath or sociopath.

(What's the difference?  Psychiatrists don't agree, I decided after some simple searches, with some psychiatrists seeing the one as a subset of the other, some seeing the two as essentially similar, and others seeing distinct differences between the two.

I think some of the confusion comes from the psychiatrists' use of ideal types to define their categories.  That tends to distract us from the very real possibility that a person can be a mix of several categories.)
- 7:44 PM, 21 July 2013   [link]


Datechguy Thinks these three images (link fixed) explain President Obama's latest talk on race and Trayvon Martin.

I don't know whether he is right that Obama is trying to distract us from scandals.  But I am sure that Obama thinks that talking about Trayvon is to his advantage, politically.

And for that very reason, Republicans would be wise to talk about other subjects.
- 4:12 PM, 21 July 2013   [link]


Dangerous Israeli Carrots:  In the opinion of some Jordanians, anyway.

By way of BCF.

(Will European leftists be calling for a boycott of these dangerous carrots soon?   Probably.)
- 3:21 PM, 21 July 2013   [link]


Nancy Pelosi Is Neutral In The "War On Women"  If the attacker is a prominent Democrat, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner.

(From what I can tell, Filner's behavior toward women has been disgusting for years, but not anywhere nearly as bad John or Ted Kennedy's, or Bill Clinton's for that matter.  But Filner's behavior does remind me of the scandal that kept Washington governor Mike Lowry from running for a second term.)
- 6:28 AM, 21 July 2013   [link]


Al Sharpton, one-percenter.
If Tom Wolfe were writing "The Bonfire of the Vanities" today, he'd need a scene in the Grand Havana Room in New York City.  It's an Olympian den fit for what Wolfe called "Masters of the Universe" -- the super-rich gods of finance who today go by "the one percent."   Taking up the penthouse floor of 666 Fifth Ave., the Grand Havana Room is a private, by-invitation-only cigar club and four-star restaurant.  Through its windows, you can see the toiling salary men 39 floors below as they scurry about like ants, some furtively smoking in doorways, ever fearful of Nanny Bloomberg's All-Seeing Eye.
. . .
The one question I have is: Who's paying for Al Sharpton's membership?

"The Rev." is an omnipresent member of the club.  After his MSNBC show, he'll swing by for dinner and cigars amidst the other Masters of the Universe.
Good question, Jonah Goldberg.

Most likely, the person or persons paying for Sharpton's membership are hoping to profit from his proven ability to increase animosity between races.  But it would be interesting to know for sure.

(Technically, members of that club are probably in the .1 or 01 percent, but we don't have a convenient phrase for those groups.)
- 6:09 AM, 21 July 2013   [link]


The Australian Labor Government Is Returning To The Immigration Policies Of Its Predecessor:  Policies the Labor Party criticized as inhumane before they took power.

Briefly, the Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd (who must really want to win the next election), has announced that "boat people" who arrive without visas will not be settled in Australia, but instead will be shipped to camps in Papua New Guinea (which hasn't made the people there very happy).

If you want to understand why, just look at the graph at the end of this post.  The policies of the Liberal/National coalition, led by John Howard, reduced boat people arrivals almost to zero; the polices of the Labor government, led by Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, and again Kevin Rudd, made them soar.

You seldom see such a clear comparison of a successful policy and a failed policy.

People respond to incentives, something that continues to surprise politicians all over the world>

(Here's a description of the Howard government's "Pacific Solution", and here's the Wikipedia article on Papua New Guinea.)
- 3:55 AM, 20 July 2013   [link]


William Saletan Goes Half Way, John Carlson Goes Almost All The Way:  Toward the truth as to what happened the night George Zimmerman encountered Trayvon Martin.

Each begins by saying his initial impressions were wrong.

First, Saletan, after looking at some of the evidence, but not all:
It turned out I had been wrong about many things.  The initial portrait of Zimmerman as a racist wasn’t just exaggerated.  It was completely unsubstantiated.  It’s a case study in how the same kind of bias that causes racism can cause unwarranted allegations of racism.  Some of the people Zimmerman had reported as suspicious were black men, so he was a racist.  Members of his family seemed racist, so he was a racist.  Everybody knew he was a racist, so his recorded words were misheard as racial slurs, proving again that he was a racist.

The 911 dispatcher who spoke to Zimmerman on the fatal night didn’t tell him to stay in his car.  Zimmerman said he was following a suspicious person, and the dispatcher told him, "We don't need you to do that."  Chief prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda conceded in his closing argument that these words were ambiguous.
Saletan does not mention, but should, that the complex had been plagued by burglaries, and at least one home invasion, almost all of them committed by young black men.  In fact, Zimmerman accepted what the dispatcher said, and lost track of Martin.

What did Saletan get wrong?  A number of things, but I'll mention just two:   He says that Zimmerman was wrong to infer that "Martin was a burglar".  In fact, Martin had a record of burglary, which was one of the reasons he had been suspended from school.  Moreover, we know, from the time line, that Martin did not go straight home from the convenience store.  It is entirely plausible that he was looking for vulnerable homes during that extra time.  That he chose to stay out in the rain when he didn't have to calls for an explanation, at the very least.

Next talk show host (and former gubernatorial candidate) John Carlson:
In my KOMO radio commentary of March 23, 2012, I said the following about the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman:

“Thinking of 17-year old Trayvon the way we’d think of our own kids is exactly how to view this tragedy.  The man who police say shot him, George Zimmerman, is a 28-year old CrimeWatch volunteer, who apparently did just about everything a Crimewatch volunteer SHOULDN’T do, such as following the 17 year old teen when a 911 dispatcher advised him not to, confronting him when he had no business doing so, and shooting him.  Mr. Zimmerman was not standing his ground against an aggressor, he WAS the aggressor.  And Trayvon Martin received the death penalty for walking home in the rain wearing a hooded sweatshirt, and carrying a pack of candy.”

Everything I said was based on what the network news media had been reporting, and continued to report for months.  And it was almost entirely wrong.
Carlson then corrects much of the record.

Note, please, that these two rather different men, politically, journalist Saletan and talk show host Carlson, erred by accepting the stories told by our "mainstream" journalists.  As it turns out, those stories mostly came from dubious sources — and were not checked out by journalists who should have known better.

(I had half resolved not to write any more posts on the Martin-Zimmerman encounter, since I think that concentrating on the incident is bad for the Republican party, the nation, and, above all, African-Americans.  But even to say something like that puts me in the paradoxical position of calling attention to something I thinks needs less attention.

And I think it is necessary to say some things, from time to time, about the massive reactions to this attack and this death, which, however sad, are not very important to the nation as a whole — because the reactions are important, unfortunately.)
- 3:04 PM, 19 July 2013   [link]


Tom Perez, The New Labor Secretary, Knows What The Department Really Needs:   His picture.
That was fast.  Just hours after Tom Perez won a split-Senate vote Thursday to become the next secretary of Labor, an urgent email was dispatched to top Labor officials ordering them to quickly remove photos of the previous boss, Hilda Solis.
But they are to save the frames for the soon-to-be-available pictures of Perez.

(There are, sadly, some similarities between Perez, and the mayors who destroyed Detroit.)
- 7:29 AM, 19 July 2013   [link]


"Obama To Detroit: Drop Dead"  Detroit asked the Obama administration for a bailout, and was turned down.  The city, filled with poor people, almost all of them black, didn't even get a promise of help from Obama.

Walter Russell Mead explains why.
And now Detroit’s desperate request for a bailout has been turned down by the Obama White House.

Progressive politicians, wonks, and activists can only blame big corporations and other liberal bogeymen for so long.  The truth is that corrupt machine politics in a one-party system devoted to the blue social model wrecked an entire city and thousands of lives beyond repair.  The sooner blues come to terms with this reality, the greater chance other cities will have of avoiding Detroit’s fate.
(By "blues", Mead means what most call "liberals", and I usually call leftists.)

Even the Obama administration can, sometimes, recognize reality.  Sadly, bankruptcy is now the best option for Detroit, despite its human costs.

For example, almost everyone expects that Detroit's retirees will take a big hit in their pensions, will never see much of the money promised them.  And many others who had taken promises from the city will also suffer.

Mead could, but didn't, add that Detroit also suffered from decades of poisonous racial politics, and unsustainable United Auto Workers contracts that made it unprofitable to build cars there.

The two politicians most to blame for Detroit's plight are probably mayors Coleman Young and Kwame Kilpatrick.   But they had a lot of help.

The current mayor, Dave Bing, is, as far as I can tell, a good man with serious executive experience.  It seems unfair that he will have to spend almost all his time trying to solve problems caused by his predecessors.

(Younger readers may need to know that Mead is borrowing that headline from a 1975 New York Daily News headline attacking Gerald Ford.   That part of the Wikipedia biography is misleading.  When Ford did, later, approve aid to New York, it was after the city had made a much bigger effort to solve its own problems.  There are serious people, not all of them Republicans, who think that Ford's initial rejection of aid was just what New York needed.)
- 7:12 AM, 19 July 2013   [link]


Nasutoceratops Titusi:  (Titus's big-nosed horn face)  This dinosaur isn't new; it lived about 75 million years ago.  It wasn't just discovered; it was first found in 2006.  It is getting attention now because of a paper describing it just published in the Proceedings of The Royal Society B.

You can find a brief, informal account of the dinosaur in this BBC article, a longer, informal, and lavishly illustrated account in this Daily Mail article, and a brief, and moderately formal description in this Wikipedia article.

The paleontologists seem to think it is quite different from, say, a Triceratops, but I am not sure that I would agree.  Instead, the differences between the two remind me of the differences found among African antelope species.

But I do hope someone comes up with an interesting explanation for that big nose.
- 4:09 PM, 18 July 2013   [link]


ObamaCare Will Reduce Competition And Raise Prices:   Who says so?  Many people, including a New York Times reporter with the unusual name of Anemona Hartocollis.

During the legislative fight over ObamaCare, I learned that it had incentives for consolidation.  As I understand it, the proponents hoped to centralize care, and to reduce duplication of expensive equipment and facilities.

When I read about this, I had my doubts because such consolidation seemed likely to reduce, even further, price competition.  It's not hard to understand how this might happen if we remember that there is very little national competition among health care providers.  There are a few exceptions — Mayo Clinic comes to mind — but for the most part, people will get their medical treatment from doctors and hospitals no more than an hour's drive away.

Nor do you have to have a complete monopoly to have higher prices.  If an area has only two significant hospital chains, they are likely to coordinate their prices and need not ever meet to do so.  Even three or four competitors may have that kind of tacit coordination.

So it is likely, I thought, that we already have many local health care oligopolies — and that ObamaCare would strengthen their market power, strengthen their abilities to set prices above what you would find in a free market.

I don't recall writing a post on that subject, but I should have (after doing a few searches) because there are serious academic studies that support that argument.  And New York may be about to see another example of how lessening competition leads to higher prices.

Two major hospital networks in the New York area, Mount Sinai and Continuum Health Partners, have agree to merge.
Other hospital officials said that the two hospital systems had been pushed together by anticipated changes in the way health care is delivered as the federal health care law takes hold over the coming year.
. . .
"The real question is whether, after the merger, the new system is what's called a must-have, a hospital system that every insurance must have in their network," said Martin S. Gaynor, professor of economics and health policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

"The strong evidence is that these kind of mergers raise prices anywhere from 20, 30, 40, up to 50 percent, if a merger strongly enhances a hospital system's negotiating power," Professor Gaynor said.
Note the "must-have" condition, but note also that many areas in the United States have already seen substantial consolidation and already have a few, market-dominating hospitals.

(ObamaCare proponents hope to control costs in other ways, but I think the experience of centuries shows us that markets are almost always better if you want to keep prices low, in the long run.)
- 3:22 PM, 18 July 2013   [link]


The "Presidents Of The French 5th Republic" Soap Opera Continues:  All right, as far as I know, that soap opera does not actually exist, but it should.

Here's another example from Maureen Dowd, who is sympathetic to Valérie Trierweiler, but enough of a journalist to pass on this funny story.
[French President François] Holland, who faced the ire of traditional marriage champions for legalizing gay marriage, sidestepped tradition himself.  He didn't marry Royale, the mother of his four children.  And, while he brings Trierweiler on official travel and splits his time with her in the Élysée Palace and an apartment in the 15th arrondissement, he hasn't saved her from the awkward position of being a single first lady.  A cartoon in Le Nouvel Observateur showed Valérie asking Hollande to marry her and him replying, do you think I'm gay or what?
That's right, the French president believes in marriage for gays, but not for himself.   The two are under some pressure to marry, for practical diplomatic reasons, but so far have resisted that pressure.

(Why doesn't Hollande marry his ladies?  I have never seen an explanation for his reluctance to do the practical thing and, in the eyes of many, the right thing.  But I can give you this bit of almost pure speculation:  Hollande strikes me as a conventional French man of the left, a man who absorbed leftist doctrines without thinking about them very hard.  For more than a century, some on the left have seen marriage as an oppressive, middle class institution.  It is easy to believe that Hollande absorbed that doctrine when he was young, and never gave it up completely.)
- 8:18 AM, 18 July 2013   [link]


The Washington Post Is Late To The One-Rabbit Disaster Plan, but they have the most complete story I've seen.
Marty Hahne, 54, does magic shows for kids in southern Missouri. For his big finale, he pulls a rabbit out of a hat.  Or out of a picnic basket.  Or out of a tiny library, if he’s doing his routine about reading being magical.

To do that, Hahne has an official U.S. government license.  Not for the magic.  For the rabbit.
And to keep that license, he has been asked to write a rabbit disaster recovery plan.   Since he has a sense of humor, he has accepted the volunteer help of an expert in such things, and now has a 28-page plan covering a wide range of possible disasters.  (It was that short because rabbits are not especially dangerous.  A plan for a tiger would have been much longer.)

The Agriculture Department is embarrassed by this, as they should be, and is promising to look into it.  But fair-minded people will agree that commenter "ScienceTim" makes a good point when he says that bureacrats often are just trying to enforce the laws as written, however silly the result.

I would agree with that, but would add that those bureaucrats can go to Congress when they find a silly (and perhaps unintended) result like this one, and ask that laws be changed or repealed.  No one in the Agricultural Department seems to have done that.
- 7:05 AM, 18 July 2013   [link]


Worth Reading:  This article in today's New York Times about the cyber attacks, mostly from China, on computers belonging to American universities.

Sample:
Some universities no longer allow their professors to take laptops to certain countries, and that should be a standard practice, said James A. Lewis, a senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a policy group in Washington.  "There are some countries, including China, where the minute you connect to a network, everything will be copied, or something will be planted on your computer in hopes that you'll take that computer back home and connect to your home network, and then they're in there," he said.   "Academics aren't used to thinking that way."

Bill Mellon of the University of Wisconsin said that when he set out to overhaul computer security recently, he was stunned by the sheer volume of hacking attempts.

"We get 90,000 to 100,000 attempts per day, from China alone, to penetrate our system," said Mr Mellon, the associate dean for research policy.  "There are also a lot from Russia, and recently a lot from Vietnam, but it's primarily China."
Major universities are spending millions more to counter these attacks.  Naturally, they aren't giving out many details about what they are using the money for, but I assume that they are tightening up their systems, and imposing new rules.

(The penetration of the New York Times, disclosed in January, may have made the newspaper more sensitive to these attacks.)
- 7:53 PM, 17 July 2013   [link]


Today's "Pepper . . . And Salt" Cartoon in the Wall Street Journal shows a group of executives around a conference table.  The boss is standing and saying: "That's banking for you.  If we make money, nobody loves us.  If we lose money, everybody hates us."

That's only mildly funny (like most "Pepper . . . And Salt" cartoons, though you can find some exceptions here), but it makes an important point:  Bankers are not supposed to be particularly likable, since one of their principal duties is to tell some would-be borrowers that they can't have the money.

And if they are central bankers, one of their principal duties is to take away the punch bowl, just as the party is really getting started, to raise interest rates when an economy shows signs of over heating.  Which is, granted, not a problem we have had to worry about much in recent years.

Most of us have at least an intuitive understanding of those duties, enough at least so that we worry about free-wheeling bankers more than we do about similar executives in entertainment, or even industry.

(There's a quite readable discussion of this point in John Kenneth Galbraith's The Great Crash.)
- 7:02 PM, 17 July 2013   [link]


James Taranto Explains The New York Times's Changing Positions on the Senate filibuster.
It's now clearer than ever that the Times's guiding principle is nothing other than the tactical interests of the Democratic Party.  If the Democrats hold both the presidency and between 50 and 59 seats, as they do today, abolishing the filibuster is in their interest and thus a matter of high principle to the Times.  If the Republicans do, as in 2005, maintaining the filibuster is in the Democrats' interest and thus a matter of equally high principle.
(Quibble:  In the distant past, the Times consistently opposed the filibuster as the main obstacle to civil rights laws — as it often was.  But that was almost fifty years ago.)

And then continues with an interesting, and plausible, discussion of this question:
But here's an interesting question:  If abolishing the filibuster is in the tactical interest of the majority party, why have both parties shrunk from doing so when the opportunity presented itself?
The editorial writers at the Times could learn much from Taranto's critiques, but I doubt that they even bother to read them, and I am certain that they don't spend much time thinking about them.

(Here's the Wikipedia entry on the US Senate filibuster, if you need a review, and here's a description of its use in many other legislatures.)
- 4:17 PM, 17 July 2013   [link]


Prosecutor Angela Corey Has A "Checkered Past"  She may not have been the worst prosecutor to assign to the Zimmerman case — I don't know all the Florida prosecutors — but she was certainly one of the worst.

For example:
In June 2012, Alan Dershowitz, a well-known defense attorney who has been a professor at Harvard Law School for nearly half a century, criticized Corey for her affidavit in the Zimmerman case.  Making use of a quirk of Florida law that gives prosecutors, for any case except first-degree murder, the option of filing an affidavit with the judge instead of going to a grand jury, Corey filed an affidavit that, according to Dershowitz, “willfully and deliberately omitted” crucial exculpatory evidence: namely, that Trayvon Martin was beating George Zimmerman bloody at the time of the fatal gunshot.  So Corey avoided a grand jury, where her case likely would not have held water, and then withheld evidence in her affidavit to the judge.  “It was a perjurious affidavit,” Dershowitz tells me, and that comes with serious consequences: “Submitting a false affidavit is grounds for disbarment.”

Shortly after Dershowitz’s criticisms, Harvard Law School’s dean’s office received a phone call.  When the dean refused to pick up, Angela Corey spent a half hour demanding of an office-of-communications employee that Dershowitz be fired.  According to Dershowitz, Corey threatened to sue Harvard, to try to get him disbarred, and also to sue him for slander and libel.  Corey also told the communications employee that she had assigned a state investigator — an employee of the State of Florida, that is — to investigate Dershowitz.  “That’s an abuse of office right there,” Dershowitz says.

What happened in the weeks and months that followed was instructive.  Dershowitz says that he was flooded with correspondence from people telling him that this is Corey’s well-known M.O.
In particular, that she often threatens critics and, even worse for a prosecutor, "has a history of overcharging and withholding evidence".

Some think that she may have had "racial politics" motives for taking this case.  That is, I am sorry to say, a plausible explanation of her behavior before, during, and after the Zimmerman trial.

(When Ian Tuttle says that Corey has a "checkered past", he is implying that her past is a mix of good and bad, in roughly equal proportions.  He doesn't mention any of the good parts of that past — though I am sure there must be some.)
- 1:46 PM, 17 July 2013   [link]


Harry Enten Believes That Republicans Will Nominate A Presidential Candidate Who Can Be Elected:  He comes to that conclusion by looking at recent nominees, including George W. Bush.

Two samples:
Yet Romney won the nomination.  He did so because he was viewed as the most electable in primary after primary.  Consider the key Michigan primary when a Santorum victory could have been devastating to Romney's hopes.  A plurality 32% said that defeating President Obama was the most important issue.  Among those voters Romney won 61% of the vote – far higher than his 41% among all voters.   Same thing happened the following week in the swing state of Ohio.  Then 42% said winning in November was most important and Romney took 52% of these voters versus the 38% he took overall.
. . .
You might say that the House GOP is poisoning the well.  Past history tends to suggest otherwise.  Back in 1998, the House GOP impeached President Bill Clinton in a gamble that ultimately backfired.  Most Americans saw the move as extreme, and the Republican party saw its favorability plummet in the aftermath of the 1998 midterm election.

The Republican party decided to go with a Washington outsider in Texas Governor George W Bush.  Bush, at the time, was well liked by most Americans.  He turned in one of the strongest performances by a candidate relative to the economic fundamentals on record.  Along the way, the Republican party's favorability among the American people rebounded.
(Emphasis added.)

Enten doesn't mention that, during the 2000 campaign, Bush openly broke with the House Republicans, when they were considering limiting the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Here, I think, is some food for thought:  Bush defeated the incumbent party at a time of peace and, most important, prosperity.  He did much better than you would expect "relative to the economic fundamentals".  (And he would have done even better had it not been for that bogus drunk driving story just before the election.)

If I were a Republican strategist, I would be looking very hard at that successful campaign.  And at the successful 2004 Bush campaign.

(FWIW — not much right now — the Irish betting site, Paddy Power, is giving even odds on the two parties in the 2016 presidential election.   Their other American political odds, including control of the House and Senate in 2014, look reasonable to me.  I should add that, as far as I know, there is no legal way to place such bets from the United States.)
- 1:23 PM, 17 July 2013   [link]


Here's a feel-good story.  A five-year-old girl, Jocelyn Rojas, was abducted from her home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Two boys, Temar Boggs and Chris Garcia, heard about the abduction, and went looking for her.
Temar Boggs, a fifteen-year-old African American, was helping move an elderly woman’s couch at a nearby apartment complex that evening when he learned of the ongoing search.

He and his friend Chris Garcia hopped on their bikes.  About a half-mile from the apartment complex, Boggs spotted Jocelyn in a dark red car with an old white man behind the wheel.
Boggs and Garcia followed him until the man got nervous and let the little girl out of his car.  As far as I can tell from the news accounts, she is fine.

Boggs and Garcia strike me as great kids (if perhaps bolder than they ought to be, as teenage boys often are).

You can see a video of the two of them here, and many more pictures in this Daily Mail article.

(Oh, and for those obsessed with such things, Rojas and Garcia are, judging by their names and appearances, "white Hispanics".  That shouldn't matter to those of us who believe we should judge people by the "content of their character".)
- 11:19 AM, 17 July 2013   [link]


Paul Pelosi Still Hasn't Paid All his UFL employees what he owes them.
Sued for non-payment by a group of coaches, the owner of Sacramento's moribund minor league football team vowed today to make good on the debt.

Paul Pelosi, majority owner of the Sacramento Mountain Lions and husband of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, also told The Bee that he hopes the team and the league can resume operations next spring.
Last year, I wrote about his failure to pay his players what he owed them.  He has apparently taken care of that, but has still not paid his coaches what he owes them.

Why not?  I haven't seen an explanation, but that failure should embarrass Pelosi and his wife — but doesn't appear to have.

By way of the Instapundit.

(The UFL was not a great financial success.  Pelosi may be reluctant to use his own money to pay his UFL employees.)
- 6:19 AM, 17 July 2013   [link]


You Can Keep Mosquitoes Away With Fans:  Here's a picture of a simple, practical way to keep them from drinking your blood, while you are enjoying your backyard.  And here's a New York Times article explaining why fans work.

Briefly, mosquitoes are not strong fliers ("roughly 1 to 1.5 miles per hour") and locate us by our CO2 and the chemicals in our sweat.  The breeze from the fan makes it hard for them to fly and disperses the CO2 and the chemicals.

(Years ago, I was on a hike southeast of Mount Rainier.  There were mosquitoes in the area.  I was using DEET, but it wasn't completely effective.  I found that I could evade the mosquitoes by walking faster, uncomfortably faster, as it happened.  By creating my own little breeze, I was disrupting their detection systems, I suppose.

Another, less ethical, way to avoid mosquito bites is to get a companion that smells better than you do, to mosquitoes.)
- 5:28 AM, 17 July 2013   [link]