June 2010, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
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.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.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.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.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.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.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.
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.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.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.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.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.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.
- 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.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?'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.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.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.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.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.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]