Archive:

June 2010, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



For Years I Have Thought That Al Gore Was A Sleazeball:  But I didn't think he was that kind of sleazeball.

And he may not be, since we have one of those she says/he says encounters, or to be more precise, one of those she says/he won't say encounters.

More thoughts, though no resolution, on the encounter here and here
- 9:17 AM, 24 June 2010   [link]


Foreigners Have Infiltrated Canadian Governments:  So says Richard Fadden, the director of Canada's spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Fadden doesn't name names, but is surprisingly specific.
Mr. Fadden said Cabinet ministers in two provinces, which he did not name, are under control of foreign governments.  He said the politicians haven't hidden their ties to foreign governments, and recently they've been shifting their policy decisions to reflect those relationships.

Mr. Fadden told the CBC that he has discussed with Canada's privy council how best to tell those provincial governments that there may be a problem.

He added several members of municipal governments in British Columbia are also agents of influence for foreign countries, CBC reported.
So far he hasn't spotted any foreign agents in Canada's federal government.

Which foreign governments?  He hasn't said, but he has hinted broadly that they include China and Middle Eastern nations.

Americans will, naturally, wonder whether we may have the same problem.  Almost certainly we do.  Most foreign nations have strong reasons to want to influence our policies, and we, like Canada, are almost certain to have politicians and bureaucrats who will, for money or because of ethnic or religious ties, do favors for foreign nations.

The "Chinagate" scandal, by far the worst American political scandal in my life time, should have made us more wary about these threats, but has not, as far as I can tell.
- 8:03 AM, 24 June 2010   [link]


Obama Is No Lincoln:  That's one lesson we should all draw from the McChrystal affair.  Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin may not be trying to teach that lesson, but she does, as she describes Lincoln's extraordinary patience with his troublesome general, George McClellan.  (Or, I should say, one of his troublesome generals, since Lincoln had other generals who did and said things they shouldn't have.)
For example, one night in 1861, Lincoln went with his secretary of state, William Seward, and his young aide John Hay to McClellan's house.  Told that the general was out, the three waited in the parlor for an hour.  When McClellan arrived home, the porter told him the president was there, but McClellan passed by the parlor and climbed the stairs to his private quarters.  After a half hour more, Lincoln again sent word, only to be informed that the general had gone to sleep.

Hay was enraged, writing in his diary of the"insolence of epaulettes" and "the threatened supremacy of the military authorities."  To Hay's astonishment, Lincoln"seemed not to have noticed it specially, saying it was better at this time not to be making points of etiquette and personal dignity."  He would hold McClellan's horse, he'd once said, if a victory could be achieved.
And Lincoln did, in time, find generals who could win.

In contrast, Obama has chosen a strategy that is almost certain to fail, combining a temporary surge in Afghanistan with a withdrawal date.  (Many seem to believe, or at least hope, that he is not serious about the withdrawal date.)  And, rather than hold McChrystal's horse, Obama has decided to take offense at the careless statements, almost all of them coming from McChrystal's aides, not McChrystal himself.

(Marc Ambinder, semi-official apologist for Obama, says: "No deviations from the mission are acceptable."  But then goes on to admit, a few paragraphs down, that Obama's civilian team is deviating from the mission.  Obama is not willing to hold their horses, either, or even order them to work out their difficulties with the military men.)
- 6:23 AM, 24 June 2010   [link]


Yesterday, South Carolina Republicans Chose Some Boring White Guys As Candidates:  Boring white guys like Nikki Haley and Tim Scott.

Both should be favorites in November.

(Scott is running in South Carolina's 1st district, which is rated solidly Republican, though the Republican incumbent, Henry Brown, did have his first tough general election race in 2008, beating challenger Linda Ketner by just 52-48.

Interestingly, Ketner is openly gay; equally interestingly, Brown didn't make an issue of her sexuality.

She was able to mount a strong challenge because she is a Food Lion heiress and spent more than a million dollars of her fortune on her campaign.  Brown had worked for the Piggly Wiggly chain for almost thirty years before entering politics, so the election could be seen as a contest between two supermarket chains, as well as between two parties.)
- 6:33 AM, 23 June 2010   [link]


Not Enough Distractions For Drivers?  California may have a solution.
As electronic highway billboards flashing neon advertisements become more prevalent, the next frontier in distracted driving is already approaching - ad-blaring license plates.

The California Legislature is considering a bill that would allow the state to begin researching the use of electronic license plates for vehicles.  The move is intended as a moneymaker for a state facing a $19 billion deficit.
It's good to see California legislators working on important issues, and not getting distracted by minor problems, like the rising cost of public employee pensions.
- 4:49 AM, 23 June 2010   [link]


Oliver Stone Investigates:  And refuses to see the obvious.
"None of them are dictators," director Oliver Stone said, referring to the eight Latin American presidents — including Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Raul Castro — he interviewed for his newest documentary "South of the Border."  He said the "democratic leaders" he talked to for his new movie "do not have Wall Street's interests at heart, and Wall Street doesn't like people who change things.  I recognize the link."
We can all be glad that he cleared that up.

(Is Chavez a dictator?  I wouldn't say so, yet, though Chavez has been moving in that direction.   It depends, I suppose, on your definition of dictator.)
- 1:22 PM, 22 June 2010   [link]


More On Those Oil-Eating Gulf Bacteria:  Turns out that they support entire communities.
In 1984, scientists found that the heat was not necessary.  In exploring the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, they discovered sunless habitats powered by a new form of nourishment.  The microbes that founded the food chain lived not on hot minerals but on cold petrochemicals seeping up from the icy seabed.

Today, scientists have identified roughly one hundred sites in the gulf where cold-seep communities of clams, mussels and tube worms flourish in the sunless depths.  And they have accumulated evidence of many more — hundreds by some estimates, thousands by others — most especially in the gulf's deep, unexplored waters.
A few experts actually think the oil spill might be partly beneficial.
A few scientists say the gushing oil — despite its clear harm to pelicans, turtles and other forms of coastal life — might ultimately represent a subtle boon to the creatures of the cold seeps and even to the wider food chain.

"The gulf is such a great fishery because it's fed organic matter from oil," said Roger Sassen, a specialist on the cold seeps who recently retired from Texas A&M University.  "It's preadapted to crude oil.  The image of this spill being a complete disaster is not true."  His stance seems to be a minority view.
Somehow I don't think Sassen will be invited to be on all the news programs — but it would be interesting to hear what he has to say.
- 12:54 PM, 22 June 2010   [link]


What An Extraordinary Idea!  By way of James Taranto, I learned that leftist Dan Froomkin had written this about Obama's speech on the BP oil spill:
As for inflection points, there may have been one on Tuesday night after all, just not the one the White House was hoping for.  This week could, ultimately, mark the point at which the public, and the media, start actively discounting what the president says, judging him instead on what he does and doesn't do.
(Emphasis added.)

What an extraordinary idea, judging a person by what he does, rather than what he says!  (Though the idea does seem vaguely familiar.)

That paragraph can be interpreted as Froomkin's confession that, up till now, he has been judging Obama by his words.  And that he thinks others have been doing the same.
- 8:28 AM, 22 June 2010   [link]


Three Hours Behind:  When I got up this morning, I learned that General McChrystal was in serious trouble for injudicious comments in a Rolling Stone article.   Since I haven't had time to read the article, or even read a summary of it, I don't, for now, have much to say about the controversy.

Sometimes there are disadvantages in being three hours behind the reporters and bloggers in the Eastern Time Zone.

Having said that I am not up on the details, I will go ahead anyway and say that I suspect that this may similar to an old joke, told about many leaders.  Here's a version from the Cold War:
A drunken Russian soldier was found shouting that the Soviet dictator, Nikita Khrushchev, was a fool.  The soldier was arrested and quickly sentenced to twenty years in the Gulag, ten years for insulting Khrushchev — and ten years for revealing a state secret.
What may make McChrystal's actions unforgivable is that he has revealed things about Obama, and his advisors, that the administration would like to keep secret.
- 7:41 AM, 22 June 2010   [link]


How Much Oil Has Leaked From The BP Spill?  The Associated Press has some comparisons.
For every gallon of oil that BP's well has gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, there is more than 5 billion gallons of water already in it.
. . .
More not-so-dreadful context: The amount of oil spilled so far could only fill the cavernous New Orleans Superdome about one-seventh of the way up.
Those comparisons should let you relax a little — unless you are a politician hoping to exploit the spill.
- 6:21 PM, 21 June 2010   [link]


Good News From Gallup:  If you are a Republican candidate.

An average of 59% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have said they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting this year compared with past elections, the highest average Gallup has found in a midterm election year for either party since the question was first asked in 1994.

The prior high for a party group was 50% more enthusiastic for Democrats in 2006, which is the only one of the last five midterm election years in which Democrats have had an enthusiasm advantage.  In that election, Democrats won back control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since 1994.

In short, Republican voters are: "Fired up.  Ready to go."  Most, more because they are appalled by what the Democrats are doing, than because they are enthusiastic about their own party.   But any political consultant will tell you that the most determined voters are usually those who are voting against, rather than those who are voting for.

And I think, though I haven't done a formal survey, that the Republican candidates for Congress are stronger — on the whole — this year than they were in 2006 and 2008.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(If you follow the Gallup link, you will find other reasons for Republican candidates to be optimistic about their chances this November.)
- 5:41 PM, 21 June 2010   [link]


Worst American Environmental Disaster?  In his speech to the nation last Tuesday, President Obama described the BP oil spill in almost apocalyptic terms.  The spill is "assaulting our shores and our citizens".  It is, already, the "worst environmental disaster America has ever faced".  It's like an "epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years".   It is a "tragedy", and a few lines later, it is a "catastrophe".

Obama may be overdoing it a bit, as the New York Times gently explained, a few days later.
From the Oval Office the other night, President Obama called the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced."  Senior people in the government have echoed that language.

The motive seems clear.  The words signal sympathy for the people of the Gulf Coast, an acknowledgment of the magnitude of their struggle.  And if this is really the worst environmental disaster, the wording seems to suggest, maybe people need to cut the government some slack for failing to get it under control right away.

But is the description accurate?

Scholars of environmental history, while expressing sympathy for the people of the gulf, say the assertion is debatable.  They offer an intimidating list of disasters to consider: floods caused by human negligence, the destruction of forests across the entire continent and the near-extermination of the American bison.
So, no, it isn't the worst environmental disaster, probably not even close to the worst.

And we have good reasons for thinking it will not be one of the worst, from our experience with a very similar 1979 spill.
For [marine biologist Wes] Tunnell and others involved in the fight to contain the June 3, 1979, spill from Mexico's Ixtoc 1 offshore well in the Gulf of Campeche, the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico conjures an eerie sense of déjà vu.

Like the BP spill, the Ixtoc disaster began with a burst of gas followed by an explosion and fire, followed by a relentless gush of oil that resisted all attempts to block it.  Plugs of mud and debris, chemical dispersants, booms skimming the surface of the water: Mexico's Pemex oil company tried them all, but still the spill inexorably crept ashore, first in southeast Mexico, later in Texas.

But if the BP spill seems to be repeating one truth already demonstrated in the Ixtoc spill - that human technology is no match for a high-pressure undersea oil blowout - scientists are hoping that it may eventually confirm another: that the environment has a stunning capacity to heal itself from manmade insults.
It isn't hard to understand why the Gulf has (mostly) recovered from the Ixtoc disaster.  Oil and gas are organic substances that are found everywhere in the natural environment, and everywhere in the natural environment there are bacteria that consume them.  How effective those bacteria are will vary with conditions, but they will do the clean-up job — and we may be helping them by dispersing the oil in the water.

The worst human part of the disaster, so far, was the 11 deaths and the 17 injuries of the original explosion.  After that, the worst human impact has been Obama's moratorium on drilling, a moratorium that experts advised him against.
The securities firm Raymond James & Associates predicts that the moratorium could last well into 2011, directly jeopardizing 50,000 jobs and potentially gutting blue-collar communities that rely heavily on the economic activity that comes with deepwater work.  "Just as the demise of auto plants and steel mills in the Upper Midwest devastated entire towns, an extended drilling ban could eventually have a similar effect in the Gulf Coast," the company said in a report Monday.

Lawrence R. Dickerson, the chief executive of Diamond Offshore Drilling, which owns the Ocean Monarch and five other deepwater rigs in the gulf, was less pessimistic, suggesting that 15,000 to 20,000 rig and associated service jobs were at risk.  He predicted that some deepwater rigs would remain in the area awaiting a resumption of drilling, but that all would be forced to cut staff as the moratorium continued.
Obama says he's sorry about the lost jobs, and he probably feels the pain of those lost jobs every second he's on the golf course.
- 1:34 PM, 21 June 2010   [link]


Too Idealistic?!?  The Telegraph has an article on the possible departure of chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, which included this remarkable paragraph:
It is well known in Washington that arguments have developed between pragmatic Mr Emanuel, a veteran in Congress where he was known for driving through compromises, and the idealistic inner circle who followed Mr Obama to the White House.
Alex Spillius names just two of the White House "idealists", Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod.  The first worked for the idealistic Chicago machine, and the second is famous for his idealistic "astroturf" campaigns.

(The article shows, I suppose, the odd effects you can get when you interview only a narrow segment of a single party.  You can end up, like Spillius, passing on their delusions.)
- 11:04 AM, 21 June 2010
It's just speculation, but here's why I think Rahm Emanuel may leave the White House:  Chief of staff is a terribly wearing job.  He never wanted the job in the first place.  He probably does care about spending more time with his children, as the article says.  But most of all, he sees the White House as throwing away his biggest achievement, Speaker Pelosi.  Emanuel is more likely than anyone else in Obama's inner circle to realize the damage that their legislative "achievements" have done to the election prospects of Democrats in swing districts, and states.
- 12:29 PM, 21 June 2010   [link]


Senator Kyl Versus President Obama On Immigration Policy:  First, Senator Kyl.
President Obama is refusing to secure the border until Congress reaches a breakthrough on comprehensive immigration reform, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl said at a recent town hall meeting.
Next, the White House response.
But in a statement to POLITICO, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer denied Kyl's account of the conversation, saying "the president didn't say that and Senator Kyl knows it."
But Pfeiffer wasn't in the room.
Kyl spokesman Ryan Patmintra said the senator is not backing down from his assertion, despite the White House's denial.

"There were two people in that meeting, and Dan Pfieffer was not one of them," Patmintra said.   "Senator Kyl stands by his remarks, and the White House spokesman's pushback that you must have comprehensive immigration reform to secure the border only confirms Senator Kyl's account."
Since I wasn't one of the people in the room, I can't tell you which man, if either, is telling the truth.  But Kyl's assertion that the Obama administration is not doing all it can to secure the border is true enough.
- 10:34 AM, 21 June 2010   [link]


Winds Are Fickle, Compared To Our Demand For Power:  When we harnessed winds directly, with windmills, we solved that mismatch by waiting for the wind to do our work.  If you wanted your grain ground into flour, you took your grain to the windmill, and waited, perhaps for days, for the miller to grind it for you.

Now, every modern nation has an electrical network that is supposed to supply electricity continuously, with predictable peaks at certain times of the day, and seasons.  It is not easy to fit wind power into such networks.

In principle, you can solve the fickle-wind problem by building large storage reservoirs and using wind power to fill the reservoirs when you have too much wind, and then emptying them when you have too little.   But there are considerable practical problems with that solution, as Shannon Love explains.  You do not have to accept his exact numbers — and I don't know enough to evaluate them — to understand the problems, the loss of power in the conversions, and the lack of sites that can hold really large reservoirs (especially in this litigious age).

Without storage systems, you sometimes have too little electricity from wind — and you sometimes have too much.  Britain has enough wind power so that they have already encountered the second problem — and are trying to solve it with even more subsidies.
Energy firms will receive thousands of pounds a day per wind farm to turn off their turbines because the National Grid cannot use the power they are producing.

Critics of wind farms have seized on the revelation as evidence of the unsuitability of turbines to meet the UK's energy needs in the future.  They claim that the 'intermittent' nature of wind makes such farms unreliable providers of electricity.
Those critics certainly are picky, aren't they?

One big wind farm in Britain has hired the wife of the Liberal Democrat leader (and Deputy Prime Minister) Nick Clegg.  The firm's managers may feel they need a little extra help to keep those subsidies coming.   Her new position would appear to create an enormous conflict of interest, but the British are sometimes quite relaxed about such things.  (As we are, sometimes, too.)

(In principle, wind power might be a useful supplement in those areas that already have big reservoirs, areas that get most of their electricity from hydroelectric power.

In principle, you could use wind power for some manufacturing processes where the factory can afford to wait for cheap power, for example, aluminum production.  In practice, I suspect that the overhead costs of such factories would be too high to make that kind of production system profitable.

Andrew Gilligan has some numbers on wind power in Britain.  After you read them, you will see why he suggests calling wind farms, "subsidy farms".)
- 8:43 AM, 21 June 2010   [link]


$502 A Word:  Obama's speeches, whatever else you may say about them, aren't cheap.

(And I do think that the people who arranged the speech could have found a place that didn't require construction workers to take an day off, without pay.)
- 7:50 AM, 21 June 2010   [link]


Happy Father's Day!  To all the fathers out there.  (And my sympathy if you received a giant rat instead of something you really wanted, like a neat new tool.)

If you are of a scientific turn of mind, you may want to look over this article on how becoming a father changes males, or this one on some of the varieties of fatherhood in the animal kingdom.

I'm not sure I buy their last example.
Yes, fathers love to take charge, beat the odds, expand the nest.   Reporting in the journal Science , David J. Varricchio of Montana State University and his colleagues offered evidence that for at least some species of birdlike carnivorous dinosaurs, fathers may have been the ones who cared for their young.
But the idea certainly is fun to think about — and it is not unprecedented.
- 2:40 PM, 20 June 2010   [link]


Wild Roses:  We haven't had much summer so far in this area, but we do have many spring flowers.

wild roses, June 2010

(Technically, these may not be wild, since they are cultivated on the grounds of a very expensive condominium.  But they look wild, or almost wild, to me.)
- 2:54 PM, 18 June 2010   [link]


Only If We Are Incredibly Lucky:  Der Spiegel recycles a question that has been asked many times on this side of the Atlantic: "Will Obama Be the 'Jimmy Carter of the 21st Century'?"

The Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds, has been saying, for months now, that another Jimmy Carter is the best case outcome.  In my opinion that's too optimistic.  We have now seen enough of Obama to know that he will be less destructive than Carter only if we are incredibly lucky.

Carter had executive and business experience, and his domestic policies were significantly more moderate than Obama's.  (For example, Carter backed deregulation of natural gas.  It wasn't done perfectly, but it was done, and we have benefited from that, greatly.)

Moreover, Carter showed some ability to learn from his mistakes.  After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he began to re-arm the nation, starting the build-up that had such good effects under Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

Obama has none of Carter's experience and, so far, has shown no signs of moderation (or even realism) in his domestic policies.  Worst of all, he has shown no sign that he is able to learn from his mistakes.

(As I have said before, I expect that foreigners will suffer most from Obama's errors.  Let me be more specific:  If Obama stays in office through 2017, then I expect that there will be, somewhere in the world, a genocide that could have been prevented by a more competent president.)
- 12:56 PM, 18 June 2010   [link]


Both The Jones Act, And The EPA Regulations:  Yesterday, I noted that I had seen two different reasons for the Obama administration rejecting the Dutch skimmers, which might have reduced the damage from the BP oil spill.  Some writers said that the Obama administration was unwilling to waive the protectionist Jones Act, even in this emergency.  Others said that the skimmers did not meet EPA regulations.

Both appear to be factors, though I have yet to learn who made the decision to reject the skimmers, and what reasons they gave.

First, the Jones Act, from the Houston Chronicle.
Three days after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch government offered to help.

It was willing to provide ships outfitted with oil-skimming booms, and it proposed a plan for building sand barriers to protect sensitive marshlands.

The response from the Obama administration and BP, which are coordinating the cleanup: "The embassy got a nice letter from the administration that said, 'Thanks, but no thanks,'" said Geert Visser, consul general for the Netherlands in Houston.
. . .
Federal law has also hampered the assistance.  The Jones Act, the maritime law that requires all goods be carried in U.S. waters by U.S.-flagged ships, has prevented Dutch ships with spill-fighting equipment from entering U.S. coastal areas.
Second, the EPA regulations, from Radio Netherlands.
The Americans don't have spill response vessels with skimmers because their environment regulations do not allow it.  With the Dutch method seawater is sucked up with the oil by the skimmer.  The oil is stored in the tanker and the superfluous water is pumped overboard.  But the water does contain some oil residue, and that is too much according to US environment regulations.
(By way of John Ryden, who has a fine discussion of the problem.)

So, probably both were factors, and the people of the Gulf are now paying for that protectionism, and those mindless regulations.  And I will keep on trying to find out who made the decision to reject the Dutch skimmers.
- 10:34 AM, 18 June 2010   [link]


If You Travel Much With A Laptop, you consider installing one of these programs.

(As always, of course, you should assess the potential losses before buying this kind of security software, or any other type of protection.  If you travel with a cheap netbook, which you use only for casual web surfing and email, then anti-theft software may not be worth its cost and trouble.  But if you store any significant data on your laptop, then it probably is.)
- 9:50 AM, 18 June 2010   [link]


Angelina Jolie Does Look Sort Of Greek:  So she wouldn't be a bad choice to play Cleopatra if you are going for historical accuracy,  But some people don't know history and are making the usual, uninformed protests.
An Essence Magazine online story asks, 'Another White Actress to Play Cleopatra?'

'Honestly, I don't care how full Angelina Jolie's lips are, how many African children she adopts, or how bronzed her skin will become for the film, I firmly believe this role should have gone to a black woman.'
As every classical scholar can tell you, Cleopatra, though she ruled Egypt, was a member of a Greek dynasty, founded by Ptolemy, one of Alexander's generals.

But some historical mistakes will never die, despite the evidence.

Frankly, I think it would fun to have a black actress play Cleopatra, or any of a number of women that we know were white.  But then I think we should be trying to pay less attention to a person's race, not more.

(How Greek was the dynasty?  So Greek that, according to the Wikipedia article, Cleopatra may have been the first member of the dynasty to learn the Egyptian language.

And, although the ancient Egyptians were a mixed people, most of them looked like they do now, that is, like the Arabs they are.)
- 8:16 AM, 18 June 2010   [link]


Leftist Robert Reich Disapproves Of Corporate Deals:  Obama's corporate deals.
The $20 billion deal with BP was also crafted in secret, and we have no way to know what assurances were given the oil giant that might cost us later.

So too with the financial reform bill that's now being finalized in conference committee, and with any potential energy bill where the real deals are made in the back room.

Remember the back-room deal that bailed out Wall Street?  We still don't have all the details but it's clear the public was taken to the cleaners, and the titans of Wall Street are beaming through their bonuses.

Call me old fashioned but I still think democracy is better than corporatist negotiation.  And when we have a president as articulate and thoughtful as the one we now have -- more capable than almost any occupant of the Oval Office in modern times to educate the public about real challenges and real solutions -- he and his advisors do a disservice to the American people when they make the important deals in secret.
Reich is right, though he is naive, or being excessively diplomatic, if he expects Obama to stop making these secret deals.  They are, after all, a central part of the Chicago Way.

American leftists would be outraged if a President McCain had made similar deals with corporate interests.  But a President McCain wouldn't have, having learned the hard way, early in his political career, to keep an appropriate distance from those seeking favors from the taxpayers.  In contrast, Obama was not much damaged by his associations with Tony Rezko and other dubious figures.   He even picked one of them, Valerie Jarrett, to be a top advisor.
- 7:33 AM, 18 June 2010   [link]


32 Or 39?  Political scientist Larry Sabato is currently predicting the first; political scientist Alan Abramowitz is currently predicting the second.
Democrats lost a total of 56 of their previous seats in 1994 while picking up two Republican seats for a net loss of 54 seats.  Almost all of the Democratic losses occurred in marginal or Republican leaning districts.  Democrats lost 32 percent of their seats with running incumbents in Republican leaning districts and 19 percent of their seats with running incumbents in marginally Democratic districts but only one percent of their seats with running incumbents in strongly Democratic districts.  Likewise, they lost 100 percent of their open seats in Republican leaning districts and 75 percent of their open seats in marginally Democratic districts but none of their open seats in strongly Democratic districts.

If we project the 1994 loss probabilities onto the 2010 distribution of Democratic seats in terms of party strength and incumbency status, we would expect Democrats to lose 42 of their current seats in November.  Since Democrats are given a good chance of picking up at least three current Republican seats (one each in Hawaii and Louisiana and the at-large seat in Delaware), we would expect a net loss of 39 House seats, leaving Republicans with the narrowest possible majority: 218 seats to 217 for the Democrats.
Sabato analyzed the races, district by district; Abramowitz, as you can see, is using a simple statistical model.  This far from November, I prefer statistical methods — if they have a good track record.  (And I may prefer them even then, since many House districts will not have good public polls.)

Some have argued that the Republicans would be better off in 2012 if they do not win control of the Congress.  I understand the thinking behind that conclusion; those who make the argument believe that it would be better to have the Democrats to blame for all the troubles of the next few years.   On the other hand, the majority party gets to investigate the executive — if it wants to.  And there is already much to investigate.

(If the Republicans come within a few seats of a House majority, then they will be able to block almost all new Obama legislation, and defund some of his programs.  A few Democratic chairman may decide to protect their own careers by investigating the Obama administration, though Pelosi and company will do everything they can to block such investigations.)
- 2:32 PM, 17 June 2010   [link]


Useful Giant Rats:  And not just as lab animals.  Nicholas Kristof gets some of the details wrong, but still introduces us to a useful rodent.
A Dutch company, Apopo, has trained these giant rats, which have poor sight but excellent noses, to detect landmines in Africa.  The rats are too light to set off the mines, but they can explore a suspected minefield and point with their noses to buried mines.  After many months of training, a rat can clear as much land in 20 minutes as a human can in two days.

In addition to earning their stripes as mine detectors, the giant rats are also trained in health work: detecting cases of tuberculosis.  Possible TB sufferers provide samples of sputum, which are then handed over to the rats to sniff out.  This detection process turns out to be much faster than your typical microscope examination.  A technician with a microscope in Tanzania can screen about 40 samples a day, while one giant rat can screen the same amount in seven minutes.
Kristof tells us about these rats because he really, really wants his kids to donate one in his name for Father's Day.  (That's probably the right present for him, but would not be for most fathers.)

(The wrong details?  The correct name is APOPO, not Apopo.  (APOPO is almost certainly an acronym.)  APOPO is a non-profit organization, not a company.  Although called rats, they are not, technically, rats. The World Health Organization recommends that lab technicians screen no more than about 20 slides per day.)
- 1:59 PM, 17 June 2010   [link]


In Which Party Do You Find The Most Anti-Semites?  The Democratic Party.
In order to assess explicit prejudice toward Jews, we directly asked respondents "How much to blame were the Jews for the financial crisis?"  with responses falling under five categories: a great deal, a lot, a moderate amount, a little, not at all.  Among non-Jewish respondents, a strikingly high 24.6 percent of Americans blamed "the Jews" a moderate amount or more, and 38.4 percent attributed at least some level of blame to the group.

Interestingly, Democrats were especially prone to blaming Jews: while 32 percent of Democrats accorded at least moderate blame, only 18.4 percent of Republicans did so (a statistically significant difference).   This difference is somewhat surprising given the presumed higher degree of racial tolerance among liberals and the fact that Jews are a central part of the Democratic Party's electoral coalition.  Are Democrats simply more likely to "blame everything" thus casting doubt on whether the anti-Jewish attitudes are real?  Not at all.  We also asked how much "individuals who took out loans and mortgages they could not afford" were to blame on the same five-point scale.  In this case, Democrats were less likely than Republicans to assign moderate or greater blame.
Researchers Neil Malhotra and Yotam Margalit seem surprised by this result, but it only confirms what other studies have found for years:  Republicans are less likely to be anti-Semitic than Democrats.

That may not have always been true, but it has been true for at least a decade, and probably a couple of decades.

By way of EBD at Small Dead Animals.

(There is at least one problem with their study.  They found that higher education levels were associated with lower levels of anti-Semitism.  But what they may have been picking up is that more educated people are more likely to know what you aren't supposed to say in public.)
- 10:50 AM, 17 June 2010   [link]


EPA Crying Over Spilled Milk:  The EPA may not be doing much about the BP oil spill, but they are introducing new regulations on spilled milk.
Having watched the oil gushing in the Gulf of Mexico, dairy farmer Frank Konkel has a hard time seeing how spilled milk can be labeled the same kind of environmental hazard.

But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is classifying milk as oil because it contains a percentage of animal fat, which is a non-petroleum oil.

The Hesperia farmer and others would be required to develop and implement spill prevention plans for milk storage tanks.  The rules are set to take effect in November, though that date might be pushed back
Are these requirements reasonable?  Probably not, though it is true that agricultural pollution can be a real problem in some places.  But I haven't heard of any case where spilled milk caused serious pollution.  (Dairy farmers generally try very hard not to spill milk, because spills costs them money and time.)
- 10:11 AM, 17 June 2010   [link]


Which Agencies Are Supposed To Take Charge Of Large Oil Spills?  The Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency.  The Coast Guard is doing something, but the EPA seems to be just monitoring.  And may not be fulfilling their legal responsibilities.

(I have seen reports that the EPA rejected a Dutch offer of skimming equipment, because the equipment put a small amount of oil back in the water.  I have also seen reports that the Dutch offer was rejected because of the Jones Act, which protects American maritime unions against foreign competition.  I have been looking for something definitive on the Dutch offer, but haven't found it yet.)
- 9:56 AM, 17 June 2010   [link]