Archive:

June 2012, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Forever In Blue Jeans:  Despite the song title, blue jeans, as we know them, are relatively recent.

The dye that makes them blue, indigo, is very old.  Originally, it came from plants, including the woad used by ancient Britons.   The indigo from woad was replaced in Europe by sub-tropical sources when they became available — not without some resistance from European producers — and then by chemical factories — not without some resistance from those sub-tropical producers.

But, according David Bodanis, demand for the indigo from those traditional factories began to fall in the 1950s after China decided to make its own.  (The blue uniforms they loved required, he says, 30 percent of the world's supply of indigo.)

Chemists at these plants — and there were just four plants left by the early 1960s — considered using indigo to dye pants, but the color was, they thought, too blue.  And then someone had a bright idea.
It was at this point that another in-house chemist had an interesting observation.   Cotton dyed entirely in indigo was too blue to be accepted as trousers.  But, if only half the threads were blue, if the vertical warp threads were soaked in indigo but the horizontal weft threads were left white, then something notably less garish would be produced.  A small California textile company was found which had precisely this design on their books.  Its name was Levi-Strauss, and its product was Levi jeans.
Now, for a confession:  Although I wear blue jeans from time to time, I had never noticed that blue thread/white thread combination, until I read that bit from the Bodanis book.  And then, of course, I had to look to see if he was right.

(Note:  If you plan to spend much time outdoors exposed to the weather, don't wear blue jeans.  Cotton is not suitable for wet weather, as any experienced outdoorsman can tell you.)
- 9:11 PM, 24 June 2012   [link]


Fran Lebowitz On Title IX:  If the journalists in your area are like those in mine, you have been hearing, for the past few days, a celebration of Title IX, which forced colleges to field many more women's teams — and end many men's teams, though few of the supporters will admit that.

(For an example of this unbalanced coverage, take a look at this Seattle Times article.)

Even if you agree with some of the objectives of Title IX (as I do), this quickly becomes tiresome, and I began to wish that we could bring on Fran Lebowitz for some sardonic commentary.

For instance, in her introduction to the "Letters" section of Metropolitan Life, she had this to say:  "Being a woman is of special interest only to aspiring male transsexuals.  To actual women, it is simply a good excuse not to play football."

A woman who could write something that honest could, undoubtedly, say something interesting about Title IX.

(For the record:  My own view on college sports is hopelessly idealistic:  I want to see as many participate as possible.  I'd much rather see 2,000 students getting exercise in intramural competitions, or club sports, than 20 professionals being paid to perform in front of audiences.  As I understand it, MIT comes the closest to this ideal.

And I am politically incorrect enough not to be bothered by the fact — and it is a fact — that sports are more important to most men than to most women.)
- 4:17 PM, 24 June 2012   [link]


Was Alan Turing's Death A Suicide Or An Accident?  I hadn't realized that there was a debate on that point, until I read this BBC article.

I had seen, as almost anyone who works with computers has, the standard account of his death, that, persecuted for his homosexuality, he committed suicide.  And I don't recall anyone ever mentioning that there was some doubt about his suicide, and that his mother disagreed with the official judgement.

That story was — for people of a certain political bent — too good to check.

But the evidence, says Turing expert Jack Copeland, is ambivalent, and would not be enough now to pronounce the death a suicide.
It is widely said that Turing had been haunted by the story of the poisoned apple in the fairy tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and had resorted to the same desperate measure to end the persecution he was suffering as a result of his homosexuality.

But according to Prof Copeland, it was Turing's habit to take an apple at bedtime, and that it was quite usual for him not to finish it; the half-eaten remains found near his body cannot be seen as an indication of a deliberate act.

Indeed, the police never tested the apple for the presence of cyanide.
If you read the whole article, you will learn that Turing was a careless experimenter, that he might have inhaled cyanide from one of his experiments, and that, according to several accounts, he was in good spirits in the days before he died.

(Here's the Wikipedia biography, if you want to know more about the man.)
- 2:22 PM, 24 June 2012   [link]


Don't Mess With Women And Their Horses, advises Professor Althouse.
By the way, attacking Ann Romney about her horses was a big mistake, and not just because of this MS/disability angle.  Women and horses.  It's a thing.   Not for all women, but for some women.  Do not interfere with a woman and her horse!
Sounds like good advice.  For somewhat similar reasons, you shouldn't interfere with a man and his dog.
- 2:04 PM, 24 June 2012   [link]


A Useful Early Indicator?  Harry Enten notes that polls at this stage of presidential campaigns are poor predictors, and argues that voter satisfaction doesn't work all the time either.

But he then claims that paying attention is a good early predictor.
It turns out, though, that there is one Pew proxy that has done very well at predicting election results: how closely voters are following election news.  In presidential elections, Pew asks voters how closely they've been following "news about candidates for the presidential election".  In midterm elections, Pew asks how closely voters have been following "news about candidates and election campaigns in your state and district".   The questions aim at measuring voter engagement – but they may be getting at something far more important.
. . .
What you see in these elections [1992-2010] is that the percentage difference between Democrats and Republicans paying "very close" attention to election news in early summer has correlated very well with the eventual election result.  If more Republicans than Democrats are paying close attention to election news in the early summer, then there is a better chance their candidate for president (or party for Congress in midterm elections) will do well in the fall.
As Enten goes on to say, this should make Mitt Romney happy, since right now Republicans are paying closer attention to election news than Democrats.

I can think of some plausible ways to explain this — but not any simple and inexpensive ways to test those explanations.

(FWIW, the paying-attention/vote relationship vanishes later in the campaign, so it is a useful early indicator, but not a useful late indicator.)
- 8:06 AM, 23 June 2012   [link]


22 June Is Not A Date That Sticks In The Mind For Most Americans:  Not like 7 December (which will live in infamy) or 6 June (which will not).

But it should, because it was the day Operation Barbarossa began.
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during the Second World War.[17][18]   Beginning on 22 June 1941, over 3.9 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a 2,900 km (1,800 mi) front,[19] the largest invasion in the history of warfare.  In addition to troops, Barbarossa involved 600,000 motor vehicles and 750,000 horses.[20]  The ambitious operation, driven by Adolf Hitler's persistent desire to conquer the Russian territories, marked the beginning of the pivotal phase in deciding the victors of the war.  The German invasion of the Soviet Union ultimately resulted in 95% of all German Army casualties from 1941 to 1944 and 65% of all Allied military casualties accumulated throughout the war.
(Most of us have in our minds pictures of German panzers and have to think a bit to remember that much of the German transport, all through the war, came from horse-drawn wagons.  The Soviets used horse transport, too, and even had cavalry divisions.   They didn't, typically, fight on horseback, but they did use their horses to move far more quickly than infantry divisions could.  The brilliant German general, Erich von Manstein, once complained:  "A Soviet cavalry division can move, in its entirety, a hundred kilometres in a night— and that at a tangent to the axis of communication.")

That, and much more, I learned from Alan Clark's study of the campaign, Barbarossa, which was first published in 1965, and is still in print.

Clark is unequivocal on one of the most discussed questions about the campaign:
It is often asked, could not the Germans have won the war if they had not made certain mistakes?

The general answer, I believe, is that the Russians, too, made mistakes.  Which is more absurd— to allow, with the wisdom of hindsight, an immaculate German campaign against a Russian resistance still plagued by those blunders and follies that arose in the heat and urgency of the battle, or to correct both and reset the board in an atmosphere of complete fantasy, with each side making the correct move like a chess text, when "white must win"? (p. xxi)
Even those who disagree with Clark on that will agree that Germany could not win after the Japanese brought us in to the war — and Hitler made it easy for Roosevelt by declaring war on us, before we had declared war on him.
- 4:48 PM, 22 June 2012   [link]


Greg Mankiw Has The Right Attitude about corrections.  Even when they come from people who aren't entirely friendly.

(I try to cultivate a similar attitude.  If you think I have made a mistake, please let know — especially if you disagree with me.)
- 12:38 PM, 22 June 2012   [link]


The "Journalist" in yesterday's Ramirez cartoon looks a lot like Andrea Mitchell.

(If you are wondering why, you can find the answer here.)
- 12:31 PM, 22 June 2012   [link]


The RBS Banks In Britain Are Having Problems:  No, not going broke; they already did that and were bought by the British government.  (According to the Wikipedia article, the taxpayers are currently out £26 billion on their investment.)

Now the banks in the group are having "technical problems" that prevent customers from doing basic transactions.
Up to 12 million NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland customers are still unable to pay bills or move money after a computer glitch left their accounts frozen for the third day running.
The banks will be open this weekend, in an effort to resolve problems for their customers.

What's fascinating about this story is that — for years — the banks in the group must have had accounting software that worked.  As do thousands of other banks around the world.  It's a solved problem — or was until, I would guess, someone in the RBS Group made changes in the software and didn't test the changes properly.

(It's possible that this problem is a side effect of a giant raid on the bank by hackers, but I think that much less likely.)

It would be wrong to conclude that this failure is a consequence of the government takeover; it would not be wrong to conclude that it might be.

(Here's the RBS Group site, where they are currently saying they don't know when the problems will be fixed.)
- 10:14 AM, 22 June 2012   [link]


Our Local News Organizations Haven't given this story the attention it deserves.
A mob of Leprechauns are carrying out vicious attacks in and around the city of Seattle, according to a man who claims to be one of their latest victims.

The pint-sized brutes were allegedly hopping mad after catching the man dancing with the wrong girl at a Belltown bar.
These Leprechauns are at least as big a threat as the radiation from Japan the local news organizations worry about.

(I wouldn't want to suggest that our intrepid journalists have been paid off, but Leprechauns are reputed to have pots of gold.

Tourists may want to know that there have been, so far, no other reports of Leprechaun attacks — and that they should be careful in the Belltown neighborhood, especially at night.)
- 8:47 AM, 22 June 2012   [link]


Do Most Women Want To Be Yummy Mummies?   Ordinarily, like any prudent man, I stay as far away from the mommy wars as I can.   But this column, with its irresistible "yummy mummies", has tempted me to break my silence.

Not, of course, to take any position, but simply to pass along the gist of Christina Odone's argument.
The plummy voices rang in my head as I slogged at my nine-to-five.  All I wanted to do was run back home to my five-month-old baby, but could I risk our family finances by giving up my job and going freelance?  I envied the glossy group of stay-at-homes: money, obviously, cast no cloud over their world.

I suspect that Cherie Blair, who, by sheer hard work and determination, has overcome a difficult and under-privileged childhood to become a successful QC, finds the yummy mummy as irritating as I did.  But her attack on their “dangerous” lifestyle, delivered at Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women event in Claridge’s, sounds worse than sour grapes; it sounds censorious – and out of touch.  The truth is, most women would rather be a yummy mummy than a Cherie Blair.
(QC = "Queen's Counsel", and, yes, that would change to "KC" if Prince Charles were to become king.)

Is Odone right?  Certainly some women prefer being "yummy mummies", because some do make that choice, and given the requirements, it is likely that most of those women had other attractive options, though not necessarily becoming a QC.

But most?  As a prudent man, I will pass on that question.  (But I will note that Odone does offer some statistical evidence for her conclusion.)
- 4:06 PM, 21 June 2012   [link]


Julina Assange's Flight To The Ecuadorian Embassy leaves Steven Glover delighted.
The story of Julian Assange would be hilarious if he had not caused so much damage.  Hilarious because the founder of WikiLeaks was once feted by the Left as a hero and champion of free speech who had exposed the manifest evils of the United States.

Now, as Mr Assange huddles in diplomatic sanctuary in the embassy of Ecuador in London, it is difficult to find anyone with a good word to say for him.   The man with the looks of a James Bond villain has alienated most of his former friends, disappointed many admirers and behaved in a thoroughly discreditable way.
And, not so incidentally, may have cost those admirers the £240,000 they put up for his bail.

Near the end of the piece, Glover makes an important point about a competitor.
Indeed, one can’t escape the irony of The Guardian’s behaviour.  Without registering any moral inconsistency, the paper has rightly taken a stern line over the News of the World phone-hacking scandal while also publishing top-secret emails that arguably undermined the security of the West.

I’m sure it would plead public interest, and often rightly so, but the justification doesn’t work in every case.
A point that applies equally to our newspaper of record, the New York Times, which has also been sanctimonious about the phone-hacking scandal — and equally willing to publish its own stolen material, from Assange and others.

(Ecuador has a poor human rights record, and is especially bad on freedom of the press.)
- 7:44 AM, 21 June 2012   [link]


Why Is Spain Broke?  Mostly, as I understand it, because of a real estate bubble.

For an extreme example, consider the town of Pioz.
This bedroom community northwest of Madrid symbolises the real estate lunacy behind Spain’s financial bubble of the 2000s that is dragging down the country’s banking system today.  To pay off its debts — 4,200 euros per capita — under a state scheme for repayment of suppliers, the town would need more than 7,000 years.
. . .
Trascastillo, El Bosque del Henares, Valcastillo, Las Suertes, Montealto, La Arboleda, Los Charquillos, Madrebuena.  Some are half-empty.  Similar scenes litter many other parts of Spain.  The one thing special about Pioz is that it is the most indebted town in the country.  According to its mayor, Amelia Rodriguez (PP, Popular Party, conservative) the municipality is carrying a debt of no less than 16 million euros — on a budget of two million euros.
Those suppliers may not find that 7,000 year schedule fast enough for their needs.  Especially since, with current birth rates, Spain will vanish long before those debts are paid off.

(The Telegraph has a similar article, with a picture illustrating Spain's basic problem, too few children.  If you want to see exactly where Pioz is, you can use this Google map.)
- 7:21 AM, 21 June 2012   [link]


Negative Interest Rates:  It's not the first time this has happened.
Switzerland three month government debt bonds are showing increasingly negative interest rates, at -0.62 percent for bonds issued 29 May.  The Swiss National Bank began issuing -1 percent negative interest bonds in late August 2011 after five weeks of zero interest bonds over fears the Swiss franc was too high and that investors were using it as a haven.  Negative interest bonds yields then moved closer to zero and have fluctuated in the -0.1 to -0.25 range until this month.

Negative interest yields essentially meaning investors are paying the Swiss government to take their money, AP reports.
But every time rates go below zero or even get close to zero, it makes me nervous.

Denmark is also paying negative interest (-0.223%) on some of its government bonds, according to today's Wall Street Journal.

The worse Spain's problems look, the lower those rates will go as investors search for safety.
- 8:20 PM, 20 June 2012   [link]


"Frog Juice" And Horse Racing:  There is a connection.
It seems a substance found on the back of a certain South American frog can be made into a powerful performance-enhancing drug -- a painkiller far more potent than morphine --and has been found through post-race drug testing in Thoroughbred racing in four states, per the New York Times this week.

In the last several weeks, more than 30 horses from Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and possibly Texas have tested positive for the substance, called dermorphin, which is suspected of helping horses run faster, the Times reports.
They run faster, as I understand it, because they don't feel any pain.

Although it was originally discovered on the waxy monkey frog (Phyllomedusa sauvagei), the dermorphin used on the horses is probably produced in labs.

(Here are links to the Wikipedia articles on the frog and the painkiller.  Neither explains why the frog makes this substance.  If I had to guess, I would say that the dermorphin protects the frog from predators.)
- 8:03 PM, 20 June 2012   [link]


Threats From Tsunami Debris And Foreign Organisms?   In this area, we are seeing many stories on potential threats from the organisms and the debris now reaching our shores, from the horrific Japanese tsunami.

I am not particularly concerned about either threat, though for different reasons.  The probability that invasive plants and animals will cause problems seems low considering that the Japanese current has been moving them in this direction for thousands, perhaps millions, of years.  If they could come here, they probably already have.

And the debris?  Very little of it will be as dangerous as the contents of the average junkyard.  If beachcombers and sailors are prudent — as almost all of them are — they will be able to avoid the few pieces that are dangerous.
- 1:47 PM, 20 June 2012   [link]


Yesterday's New Yorker Cartoon showed two rabbits standing on their hind legs like people.  One rabbit is saying to the other: "You are one sick rabbit."

And the second rabbit?  It's wearing a pair of bunny slippers.

(Today's cartoon is a little grimmer.  It shows two bears looking at an empty swing set.  One of the bears is saying: "Damn!  The feeder's empty.")
- 1:03 PM, 20 June 2012   [link]


What Would NBC Viewers Know About Operation "Fast And Furious"?   As of a week ago, almost nothing.
NBC provided its first coverage of the Fast & Furious gun running scandal on Tuesday [12 June], providing a scant 30 seconds on Nightly News.  In contrast, Thursday's NBC Today devoted a 37-second report to a video of "Obama Boy," a gay activist singing over his support for the President in 2012.
It's good to see NBC keeping news stories in perspective.

I'll have to watch the program tonight, just to see how they explain the executive privilege claim and the possibility that Holder may be held in contempt by Congress.  Without a little background, their viewers may find the story mystifying.

(If you want to see exactly what NBC said on 12 June, you can find it here.)
- 12:34 PM, 20 June 2012   [link]


Even The BBC has noticed.
President Obama has taken the rare step of claiming executive privilege to withhold documents sought by lawmakers probing a botched US sting operation.

The attorney general is facing a vote holding him in contempt of Congress over the issue.

Justice officials said the privilege applied to files on how they learned of problems with Fast and Furious.
It's almost as if the administration has something to hide.

At least until after the election in November.

(Originally, I was inclined to think that "Fast and Furious" was just another gigantic bureaucratic botch, but the more Holder and Obama try to hide the records, the more I suspect that there is something terribly damaging in them.)
- 9:17 AM, 20 June 2012   [link]


Charles Lane Says Obama's Clean Energy Strategy Is "Money Wasted", citing a Brookings study in support of his conclusion.
U.S. energy subsidies — spending, tax breaks, loan guarantees — increased from $17.9 billion in fiscal 2007 to $37.2 billion in fiscal 2010, according to the Energy Department.  Yet fossil fuels’ overwhelming market advantages have produced a litany of clean-energy failures, from electric cars to Solyndra.

The subsidies ostensibly address several issues — dependence on foreign oil, job creation, international economic competitiveness and environmental degradation — but without clear priorities, much less rigorous cost-benefit analysis.  Unintended consequences and political influence abound.
Lane (and the scholars at Brookings) are right — from an economic point of view.

But they aren't necessarily right from a Chicago-Way politician's point of view, where political influence is the objective, not an unpleasant side effect.

Moreover, the idea of cheap, green energy is still popular with much of the public, who seldom see the kind of cost-benefit analysis that might help them understand our policy choices.

So a Chicago-Way politician can pursue political influence and, often, votes by backing these policies.

As long as there aren't any great scandals, as far as such politicians are concerned, it's a win-win; they get influence and votes.  (And such politicians are likely to be adept at minimizing the effects of scandals, especially if they have a friendly press.)
- 8:02 AM, 20 June 2012   [link]


More News On Our Symbiotic Bacteria:   For instance:
In a study of 16 lactating women published last year, Katherine M. Hunt of the University of Idaho and her colleagues reported that the women's milk had up to 600 species of bacteria, as well as sugars called oligosaccharides that babies cannot digest.   The sugars serve to nourish certain beneficial gut bacteria in the infants, the scientists said.  The more the good bacteria thrive, the harder it is for harmful species to gain a foothold.
Which seems like a fair exchange.

There are more examples in the article, including some speculation about how a bacteria that helps digest milk, Lactobacillus johnsonii, gets to babies right when they need it.

(Here's the Wikipedia article on oligosaccharides if, like me, you had no idea what they were.)
- 7:01 PM, 19 June 2012   [link]


Not Just West Virginia, Parts Of Pennsylvania, Too:   Gibson and Gleason have a nice analysis showing that President Obama's unpopularity in West Virginia extends to many counties in rural Pennsylvania.
A significant portion of western and central Pennsylvania Democrats declined to vote for Barack Obama in the April primary, an analysis by PoliticsPA has found.  The results there resemble those of Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia, where the President lost around 40 percent of the primary vote to no-name opponents or “undecided”.

A review of county-by-county vote totals show that the President underperformed historic trends, as well as other Democrats on the ballot this year.

Over 30 percent of voters left the presidential ballot blank rather than select Obama’s name in 27 counties.  That’s compared to just 6 counties apiece for the two other unopposed statewide Democratic primary candidates, incumbent PA Treasurer Rob McCord and Auditor General hopeful (and first time statewide candidate) Eugene DePasquale.
(For readers unfamiliar with Pennsylvania politics:  That county in the center of the state (Centre County) that is less unfriendly to Obama than its neighbors is the location of the main Penn State campus.)

Most of those are rural counties with small populations, but there are a lot of them.   And you can see smaller, but still serious, drop offs in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) and the suburban counties around Philadelphia (6.21, 9.04, 11.8, and 17.3), in the southeast corner of the state.
- 2:25 PM, 19 June 2012   [link]


Let's Hope Mayor Bloomberg Doesn't Hear about this anti-smoking campaign.

He might be tempted to adopt some aspects of it.
- 1:23 PM, 19 June 2012   [link]


Time For A New Generic Congressional Vote Graph?  I think so.  (Maybe even past time, since the last one was in August of last year.)

As usual, I am getting my numbers from Rasmussen.
Republicans lead Democrats by seven points on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, June 17.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 45% of Likely U.S. Voters would vote for the Republican in their district’s congressional race if the election were held today, while 38% would choose the Democrat instead. Republicans led by six points the week before, 45% to 39%, and seven points 44% to 37%, the week before that.

Trends in generic Congressional vote, 19 June 2011 - 17 June 2012

(Note that I am using the traditional — and logical — colors for the two parties, rather than the colors inflicted on us by the "mainstream" media.)

The general pattern for this year seems reasonably clear.  The Republicans did worse during the presidential primary contests, but have since recovered the ground they lost.

(How accurate was Rasmussen in 2008 and 2010?  In both years, they predicted better results for the Republicans than actually happened.  In their last poll before the 2008 election, Rasmussen predicted a 7 percent margin for the Democrats; the actual margin was 10.65 percent.   In 2010, Rasmussen predicted a 12 point margin for the Republicans, but the actual margin was 6.6 percent.

However, in defense of Rasmussen, we have to remember that they are polling the entire nation, and in some districts, most of them Democratic, there is no Republican candidate for people to vote for, or at best a token candidate.  Which, naturally, reduces the Republican popular vote, though it has no effect on who controls the House.

This year, with both California and Washington switching to "top-two" jungle primaries, we will see another complication:  Some districts will have two Republicans, or two Democrats, to choose from in the general election.)
- 12:57 PM, 19 June 2012
Fox and Gallup were even more wrong than Rasmussen on the 2010 generic vote.  That all three were wrong in the same direction leads me to this speculative question:  Could the Republicans have done even better in 2010 if they had had a better get-out-the-vote operation?

And I wish I could take some credit for the accuracy of my prediction on Republican seat gains that year, but it was so close to a blind guess that I can't.
- 10:31 AM, 20 June 2012   [link]


If You Are Interested In The Nitty-Gritty Of Polling, take a look at this Mark Blumenthal post, discussing why Gallup has had more Republican results than most pollsters, and this reply to the Blumenthal post by Jay Cost.

I think Cost has the better of the exchange, but hope that Blumenthal will continue the discussion.

(For the record:  I do not think that polls tell us much this early in the presidential race, especially when the race is as close as this one appears to be.  And I am particularly skeptical of polls of "adults", since that group includes many who never vote and some who are ineligible to vote.

Their opinions may be interesting — but they don't tell us much about who will win the election.)
- 8:44 AM, 19 June 2012   [link]


Fortunately, Obama Didn't Make His Amnesty Proclamation for political reasons.
Seven hours after President Barack Obama announced that some illegal aliens would be allowed to stay in the United States and could be allowed to work here, Katherine Archuleta, Obama’s national campaign director, e-mailed a fundraising letter seeking donations to his re-election effort.
If he had, he might have included illegal immigrants who were here by their own actions.
The maddening details of Obama’s DREAM Decree are becoming clearer.  As this CIS report notes, 1) The decree doesn’t just apply to illegal immigrants who were “brought to this country by their parents.”  It also would give work permits to those who snuck across the border by themselves as teenagers.  “Through no fault of their own” is a talking point for DREAM proselytizers, not an actual legal requirement.
Kaus has more, and links to even more.

(Was Obama's action legal?  I'll leave that question to the legal experts, but I will make this political point:  Obama has made comprehensive immigration reform less likely by taking away one of the carrots that proponents might use to pass a package deal.

Not so incidentally, Obama sabotaged comprehensive immigration reform when he was a senator by backing amendments that he must have known would kill the package.)
- 7:21 AM, 19 June 2012   [link]


Do Better Marriages Make Better NFL Players?  That's what Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Kahn thinks.
The process NFL Teams use to evaluate talent is a pressure-packed and grueling one.   Right now, as teams look for free agents to fill key holes on their rosters, they're sifting through thousands of pages of scouting reports and dozens of hours of video to find the perfect fit.

There's one team that thinks it has hit on a smart strategy for identifying the best free agents on the market: They look for players with great wives.
In general, I think that men (or women) in good marriages will perform better on the job.

But does that generalization apply to the weird world of professional football?  The reporter, Kevin Clark, doesn't know the answer to that question — and neither do I.  But I kind of hope that the Jaguars are right.
- 4:19 PM, 18 June 2012   [link]


It's Been Eight Years, but I still thought this post deserved a correction.

(I won't always try to fix broken links, for a number of reasons, most of them boiling down to it being more work than it's worth.  But if you see one in a current post, or in my archives, and think it should be fixed, please let me know.

And I suppose that some time I really, really have to learn to use the Wayback machine.)
- 3:58 PM, 18 June 2012   [link]


Worth Reading:  (And fun, too.)

This Wall Street Journal article on how solar panels, and LED lights, are beginning to transform some African villages.

Sample:
When the sun disappears behind the South African village of Lomshyo,Thandi Mangomisse no longer frets about how much kerosene her lamps are burning.

Now, she flicks on two LED ceiling lamps and a lantern, all powered by batteries she charges with two small solar panels on her roof.  After living her whole life without electricity, she now can't imagine life without it.  The lantern is so integral to her routine that she won't let her grandchildren carry it.  "I think they'd break it," says Ms. Mangomisse, 55.  "It's too valuable."
The solar panels and lights are gifts from Philips Electronics, which hopes to make money, eventually, by selling similar systems to other villages.

And the potential markets are enormous.  According to a graph accompanying the article, only 42 percent of the people in Africa have access to electricity.

(You may have to get to the article by way of Google News, as I did, although it isn't marked as being behind their paywall.)
- 1:29 PM, 18 June 2012   [link]


Celebrities Are The "Ultimate Arbiter"?  That's what Obama said, at that fund raiser put on by Sarah Jessica Parker and the Prada-wearing devil, Anna Wintour.
Speaking in a dimly lighted, art-filled room, Obama told supporters they would play a critical role in an election that would determine a vision for the nation's future.

"You're the tie-breaker," he said.  "You're the ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes."

Among the celebrities on hand to hear Obama's remarks were Oscar winner Meryl Streep, fashion designer Michael Kors and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who moderated a private question-and-answer session between the president and the guests.
In democracies, the people are usually the "ultimate arbiter".

And if we were to choose celebrities as arbiters, we wouldn't choose those celebrities.

By way of Fausta.
- 12:58 PM, 18 June 2012   [link]


Hope And Change And Golf:  President Obama reaches another milestone.
President Barack Obama’s love of golf hit a milestone today as he marked his 100th time on the links.   His Father’s Day achievement was reached at the Beverly Country Club in his hometown, the windy city.
And I hope that we will have a change in November that will give him even more time to play golf.

(Which president played the most golf?  I would never have guessed, so I will let you look at the ABC article for the answer.)
- 7:56 AM, 18 June 2012   [link]


Pro-Bailout Greek Parties Won A Parliamentary Majority — But Not A Popular Vote Majority:  How did that happen?

Simple.  Greek rules give the party with the most popular votes a 50 seat bonus in parliament.  The main center-right party, New Democracy, won the largest share of the vote, 29.66 percent.  Their partner, a center-left party, Pasok, won just 13.18 percent of the vote.  But between them the two parties will have 162 seats, an absolute majority in the 300-member parliament.

If, that is, Pasok wants to be in a coalition again.  And they might not, considering how badly they lost in the May and June elections.  (They have gone from 43.92 percent of the vote to 13.18 percent, and from 160 seats to 33 seats.)

That election result doesn't sound like a stable outcome to me.

Daniel Hannan thinks that the Greek electorate, and their leaders, still haven't faced reality.
The Greek electorate is in denial.  It rejects austerity, but insists on keeping the euro.  All the main parties duly parroted what voters wanted to hear, making for a fantasy election, a make-believe election, a fingers-in-my-ears-I-can't-hear-you election.  The only list which was honest about the necessary cuts – a coalition of three liberal parties – failed to gain a single seat.
(By "liberal" he means in favor of free markets, not leftist.)

But then, as he goes on to say, neither has the European Union, which will, he suspects, continue to complain — and to subsidize Greece.

(For those who would like to see many more numbers, here's the Wikipedia article on the June election.  It will probably change a bit over the next few days.

I hinted in an earlier post that the Golden Dawn party might not be entirely respectable.  If you missed it before, take a look at their party symbol for a hint on their ideology.  They received almost 7 percent of the vote in both the May and June elections.)
- 7:36 AM, 18 June 2012   [link]


Mitt Romney Was An Honest Governor Of Massachusetts:   Honest, hard working, and exceptionally competent.  So says Douglas Foy, who served in his administration.

That might not mean much — subordinates usually have good things to say about their bosses, if those bosses are in line for a big promotion — but Foy was not a political supporter of Romney, and probably won't vote for him this November.
The two had a good working relationship.  Foy admired the way Romney assembled a government.  “He put together his cabinet personally and appointed terrific people,” says Foy, modestly excepting himself.  Talent mattered back then; politics seemed a secondary consideration.  (Foy is an independent and did not support Romney during his gubernatorial campaign.)  Romney immersed himself in the detail of government; “he soaks up information very quickly,” Foy says.  Unlike many ambitious individuals, however, he was not afraid of dissent.  He surrounded himself with “potent, opinionated people.”

Almost unheard of for a governor, there was no patronage.  Foy oversaw departments with over 11,000 employees, “and he never sent anyone over for a job.”  It went even further than that.  On one occasion, a major Romney contributor approached Foy for state financing.  Foy turned him down and the unhappy contributor went to the governor’s political staff.  Expecting pushback, Foy met with Romney to explain the situation.  The governor’s response was withering: “I’ll never understand how people think a contribution to a politician buys them money from the state,” Foy recounts him saying.  “You do what you think is best.”  That was the last Foy heard from Romney on the matter.
In short, Romney took the opposite approach from the "Chicago Way", where patronage is central, and competence is secondary.

Foy describes with some disappointment how Romney shifted, ideologically, during his term as governor.  There are two different explanations for that shift, one flattering and one not.  Supporters of Romney believe that he changed his mind on these issues, as he had more time to think about them.  Opponents believe that presidential ambitions led Romney to shift to the right.

Which explanation is more correct?  I honestly don't know, though I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  We should remember that Romney was not a professional politician before he became governor, and had had a very busy business career, so the idea that he might have changed his mind after thinking more about these issues is not inherently implausible.

By way of Hot Air.

(Romney's honesty is one of the reasons he was able to win in a very Democratic state.  (Currently Democrats have a 3-1 lead over Republicans in registration, though independents outnumber both put together.)  He was the fourth Republican governor in a row in Massachusetts, so he wasn't able to argue that it was time for a change when he ran in 2002.)
- 5:55 AM, 18 June 2012   [link]


Martha Payne Wins:  The nine-year-old Scottish school girl has been blogging about her school lunches since 30 April.  For most lunches, she illustrated her commentary with a picture of the lunch.

Since she wasn't always completely complimentary, the local authorities decided to put a stop to it by banning photographs of the lunches.

Naturally, people on the Internet disagreed, and soon won a reversal.
A nine-year-old blogger has raised more than £70,000 for charity after a council overturned its ban on her taking photos of her school meals.

Martha Payne, from Argyll, has also recorded well over five million page views on her NeverSeconds blog.

When Argyll and Bute Council stopped her posting the photos, the fundraising total for school meal projects in Malawi stood at less than £2,000.
Is there a political point to this?

I think so.  If you are like me, you often get requests for feedback from the businesses that sell you goods and services.  And I am sure you have noticed that these same businesses try to get information about your tastes in less direct ways.

So information about customer satisfaction is valuable to these companies.  But the local authorities didn't see Martha's posts as a valuable source of information, they saw them as a threat.

Why?  Because that's how government bureaucracies usually behave.  Instead of learning from customer dissatisfaction, they often try to hide it.

But enough politics.  Here's her site, which has begun to include pictures of school lunches from all over the world.  (The name of the site — NeverSeconds — describes one of the school's policies.)

And if you know a school kid who is complaining about their lunches, you may want to show them her site, and suggest that they contribute their own lunch picture and evaluation.
- 1:21 PM, 17 June 2012   [link]


Peggy Noonan Is Furious about Obama's national security leaks.
There's something in the leaks that is a hallmark of the Obama White House.  They always misunderstand the country they seek to spin, and they always think less of it than it deserves.  Why do the president's appointees think the picture of him with a kill list in his hand makes him look good?  He sits and personally decides who to kill?  Americans don't think of their presidents like that.  And they don't want to.

National security doesn't exist to help presidents win elections.  It's not a plaything or a tool to advance one's prospects.
Under most presidents.

(Noonan voted for Obama in 2008.  It's unlikely she will repeat that mistake this year.)
- 12:56 PM, 17 June 2012   [link]


Lynne Varner Honors Her Stepfather:  In a touching, and often instructive, tribute.

Sample:

Separately, my stepfather and mother were two people whose response to the twin burdens of poverty and early parenting was a whirlwind life of partying and drinking, activities that left little time or initiative for family.

But something changed when they met each other. They got sober, bought a house in the suburbs and spent untold amounts of money and time on lawyers and courtrooms to collect the remains of their broods. Alas, those wonderful changes came after I was on my own, but my outsider's perspective gave a clear view of the positive power each one, acting as the stepparent, had on my young siblings and step-siblings.

You'll want to read the whole thing.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 7:33 AM, 17 June 2012   [link]