March 2008, Part 4
Jim Miller on Politics
Yes, I Was Joking Last Monday: When I said the Mt. Rainier picture in this post was very old. I drew attention to the cars in the post so that people could figure that out quickly. (And, just in case someone wanted to check, I put a label on the picture, which most browsers will show you. For example, if you are using my favorite browser, Firefox, you can see the title by right clicking on the picture and choosing "properties".)
I was joking, but I was also making a mildly serious point. Those who believe most strongly in man-caused global warming often cite winters with little snow as evidence for their beliefs. But they do not cite winters with heavy snow as evidence against their beliefs. (For the record, I see winters with little snow as very slight evidence for their theories, and winters with much snow as very slight evidence against their theories. In this area, we have had both in the last five years.)
For example, Al Gore handles contradictory evidence like that in my photo — by ignoring it. And so, jokingly, I went along with him and said that the picture must be a very old one, instead of one shot this month. But the picture does show current conditions. There really was more than ten feet of snow on the ground on Mt. Rainier on March 22nd. And there is almost certainly even more snow there now, according to recent weather reports.
All that snow is a tiny bit of evidence, but it is evidence, and it shouldn't be ignored by Al Gore, and those who agree with him.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.
(It is trivial to produce black and white photos with a digital camera. Many cameras, including my Olympus C-765 and my Panasonic FZ8, can be set to take black and white pictures. (And, often, sepia pictures, if you want your pictures to look really old.) Or, you can use a photo program, even a simple photo program like Google's Picasa, to convert color pictures to black and white.
I can't say that I have had any great results making digital black and white photos, but then I didn't have much luck making good black and white photos with film, either. I have done just enough experiments with black and white photography to gain a deep appreciation for the genius of Ansel Adams, but not enough to produce any pictures I wanted to keep.As always when I discuss global warming, I urge you to read my disclaimer, if you have not already done so.)
- 12:59 PM, 31 March 2008 [link]
Worth Reading: James Q. Wilson on prisons, and their benefits, benefits ignored by Pew Research in a recent study.
The Pew writers lament the fact that this country imprisons a higher fraction of its population than any other nation in the world, including Russia. But what they ignore is what the United States gets in return for its high rate of incarceration. For instance, in 1976, Britain had a lower robbery rate than did California. But then California got tough on crime as judges began handing out more prison sentences, and Britain became soft as laws were passed encouraging judges to avoid prison sentences. As a result, the size of the state's prison population went up while Britain's went down. By 1996, Britain's robbery rate was one-quarter higher than California's. Compared with those of the U.S. overall, Britain's burglary and assault rates are twice as high, according to a comparative study done by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.There's much more, including some sensible thoughts on drug crimes, and a description of a Hawaiian program that sounds promising.
- 6:18 AM, 31 March 2008 [link]
Another Day, Another Obama Fib Detected: This time, by Kenneth Vogel of Politico.
During his first run for elected office, Barack Obama played a greater role than his aides now acknowledge in crafting liberal stands on gun control, the death penalty and abortion— positions that appear at odds with the more moderate image he's projected during his presidential campaign.It is possible, of course, that Obama forgot this interview, possible but unlikely. But I doubt that he did. And it may be significant that Obama did not deny this personally, but had an aide do the dirty work.
- 5:50 AM, 31 March 2008 [link]
Why Do They Lie? During the 1992 presidential campaign, I was surprised to see how boldly, and how often, Bill Clinton lied. It seemed to me then, as it did to others then and later, that he lied when he had no reason to. And then, somewhat later, I learned that Hillary Clinton had the same habit, as Gerard Baker notes.
In fact the facility with which the Clintons misspeak is so pronounced that it is quite possible they have genuinely forgotten how to tell the plain truth. There was no real need for Mrs Clinton to make the claim about landing in sniper fire. But the compulsion to embroider, to dissemble and to dissimulate is now so entrenched in the synapses of the Clinton brain that it came to her as naturally as the truth would to a slow-witted innocent.What puzzled me in 1992, and has puzzled me since, is why the Clintons do it. And I am similarly puzzled by Barack Obama's frequent fibs about his past.
In my experience, even politicians who have no moral compunctions about lying will still usually tell the truth, for practical reasons. Politicians are often deceptive, but tell outright lies less often than most think. But the Clintons — and Obama — don't seem to follow that usual prudent path. Instead, all three tell lies when they don't need to, and when they must know that their lies are likely to be detected.
I don't claim to know why they do this, why the three tell so many reckless lies. (I don't agree with Baker that it might be sheer habit.) But I have begun to wonder whether the acclaim of the crowds is so important to them that they will say whatever they think might work in the short term, without worrying about the long term. But I will admit that that idea is only a working hypothesis.
If that's the explanation, then I would expect some of our enemies would figure it out — and might use it to manipulate Clinton or Obama, should either of them become president.
(All three also tell lies when they must be reasonably sure that their lies can not be disproved. For example, there is Obama's claim that he would have left Trinity United if Reverend Wright had not repented, or retired, or both. But although I don't believe him, I recognize that I have no way to prove that he is lying, in that instance.)
- 2:35 PM, 30 March 2008
More: Paul Greenberg has been following the Clintons far longer than I have, and he too is puzzled about why they lie so often and so boldly. One of his tentative explanations, that they want to star in their own dramas, is close to my working hypothesis.
- 4:27 AM, 31 March 2008 [link]
Another Story From Barack Obama Gets Shot Down: This time, by Michael Dobbs of the Washington Post.
Addressing civil rights activists in Selma, Ala., a year ago, Sen. Barack Obama traced his "very existence" to the generosity of the Kennedy family, which he said paid for his Kenyan father to travel to America on a student scholarship and thus meet his Kansan mother.And there's more.
I am sure that some of the stories Obama tells about his past are true — but many of them aren't. Some one, perhaps me, should make a collection of the Obama stories that have been shown to be false.
- 12:59 PM, 30 March 2008 [link]
Health Care ≠ Health Insurance: In his performance on "The View", Obama did something he has been doing throughout the campaign. He said that he would introduce legislation to provide "health care" for all of us, but what he meant was that he would introduce legislation to provide "health insurance". Obama uses that rhetorical trick because health care sounds better than health insurance and, I suspect, to distract us from the costs of his proposals.
(Obama's promise to provide health care for all of us is misleading in another way, which is obvious as soon as we say health insurance instead of health care. Most of us have health insurance already. The poor have Medicaid, the elderly have Medicare, and most of the rest of us have insurance through our employers. If Obama were to be precise, he would have to promise to provide health insurance for all those who do not have it currently, even if they could afford it, but have chosen not to buy it themselves. Or even if they are here illegally, as is true for many of those without health insurance.)
- 2:44 PM, 28 March 2008 [link]
Do You Believe this latest from Obama?
White House hopeful Barack Obama suggests he would have left his Chicago church had his longtime pastor, whose fiery anti-American comments about U.S. foreign policy and race relations threatened Obama's campaign, not stepped down.Obama did feel comfortable having Wright on his Religious Leadership Committee — until the scandal broke. Which makes me just a little skeptical. All right, very skeptical.
(I plan to watch "The View" today — something I have never done before — to get the context, and the reactions to that semi-weaselly statement.)
- 5:15 AM, 28 March 2008
Much More: First, in my rush this morning, I missed what appears to be an enormous fib. Tom Maguire didn't miss it.
So, when did Wright acknowledge that what he had said was deeply offensive and inappropriate?When I saw that quesion I realized I had to change that "semi-weaselly" to "weaselly". Wright has never publicly acknowledged that what he said was "inappropriate", or even that he had "deeply offended people". Maguire headlines his post: "Let's Just All Agree That Wright Apologized And Move On." And I think that's just right; Obama is trying to con us into thinking that Wright has apologized.
As I promised this morning, I watched Obama's performance on "The View", sometimes with amazement.
He began the performance (which took most of the hour) by walking onto the stage, clapping (for himself?) while the ladies and, as far as I could tell, everyone in the audience stood for him. I am old-fashioned in some ways, and so I found both the ladies standing for a man, and his self-applause odd, and a little offensive.
Now for the context. The ladies began with some pleasant chit-chat, mentioning his (very distant) relationship to Brad Pitt and saying that they agreed that Obama was "very sexy looking". After that tough introduction, Barbara Walters brought up the Don Imus case. As you probably recall, Obama said that Imus should be fired after his comments about the Rutgers woman's basketball team. Walters wondered whether Obama should not have used the same standard to break with Wright. After a little more back and forth, Obama came up with the strange statements that I quoted above.
Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who is, I gather, the show's token conservative, also tried to get something out of Obama on this issue, but he used a similar mix of evasion and double talk to avoid answering her questions. And Obama again claimed, in one answer, that he had not heard some of the more outrageous things that Wright has said. I am pretty sure that part of what he said to Hasselbeck is not true, but don't think we have proof of that yet.
The performance showed why Obama has refused to talk, at length, to tough interviewers. I know that Barbara Walters has made her living doing interviews, but I don't think she is a match for a Harvard-trained lawyer, and neither is Hasselbeck. For instance, neither woman thought to ask Obama his views on black liberation theology, which is what his church has been teaching for all the years that Obama has belonged to it. Nor did either ask some of the follow-up questions that would occur to, for instance, a Harvard-trained prosecutor.
But there was more in the program. And it wasn't encouraging. Near the end Joy Behar asked Obama what would be the first three things he would do as president. He said that he would begin by ordering the military to begin an orderly withdrawal from Iraq, as he has in many of his speeches. (Though he did not give a time limit, as he has in the past.) He did not even bother to claim that this withdrawal would strengthen our strategic position, nor did he bother to deny that this withdrawal would hearten our terrorist enemies.
His second action, he claimed, would be to introduce legislation to provide "health care" to all Americans. He did not explain how he expected to accomplish that, nor did he give any cost estimates. But he did say that he wanted to reduce the deductibles required by many insurance policies. That left me wondering whether he realizes that most health economists think those deductibles help control costs. As happens far too often, I was left hoping that he was lying to us.
His third action, he said, would be to deal with our "energy crisis". He gave the usual laundry list of proposals that you would expect from a leftist Democrat, and seemed to think that if we had a little more solar power, we would not have to import fuels — and the price of gasoline would go down. Again, I can only hope that he was lying to us, but I fear that he believes much of what he said.
He was also asked about taxes. And there his boldness amazed me. He promised to raise taxes on the wealthy by letting part of the Bush tax cuts expire, but cut taxes for others. His tax plan would, he said, be "revenue neutral". Which implies, unless I am missing something very large, that he is planning to provide "health care" for all Americans — without spending any additional money. Which would be, I must say, quite an accomplishment. But I don't believe in magic, so I don't think he can do it.
All in all, it is not hard to see why he has avoided Fox News, even a mild questioner like Chris Wallace. Obama is a clever man, but his claims can't stand close examination.
- 1:29 PM, 28 March 2008
Maybe not: The Obama campaign is saying that they were not claiming that Wright had apologized. But then they would say that, wouldn't they?
- 4:50 PM, 28 March 2008 [link]
Chickens Coming Home To Roost: By now, you have probably heard that phrase (which Reverend Jeremiah Wright copied from Malcolm X) more than once. Maybe many more times than once.
About the third or fourth time I heard it, I started thinking about it. (It's a bad habit I have.) Of course I know what Reverend Wright meant by it, from context, but I started wondering whether his metaphor actually makes sense. It has been many years since I helped raise chickens, but I think most chicken farmers would want their chickens to come home to roost. (Assuming the chickens were free to roam during the day.) If the chickens don't come home to roost, then you have probably lost their eggs, and maybe the chickens, too.
Or am I missing something about how chickens were once raised?
Now back to politics.
- 3:25 PM, 27 March 2008 [link]
78 Percent To Go: For each Democratic candidate.
Twenty-two percent (22%) of Democratic voters nationwide say that Hillary Clinton should drop out of the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that an identical number—22%--say that Barack Obama should drop out.I agree with the 22 percent on both questions, and hope those numbers grow, as more Democratic voters figure out that neither Clinton nor Obama would make a very good president.
- 5:23 AM, 27 March 2008 [link]
McArdle Trumps Krugman: In his blog, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman complains.
Today, our public discourse is dominated by people who have been wrong about everything — but are still, mysteriously, treated as men of wisdom, whose judgments should be believed. Those who were actually right about the major issues of the day can't get a word in edgewise.Megan McArdle can help noticing that Professor Krugman missed one of the best examples for his argument.
Paul Krugman has been predicting imminent recession with . . . er . . . depressing regularity since George Bush got elected; I doubt he thinks he should have had his column pulled the first time his prediction didn't pan out.She could have gone farther. To the best of my knowledge, Krugman also failed to predict the 2000-2001 recession. (The Bush economics team produced some quite pessimistic reports during the 2000 campaign, so a good economist could have seen that recession coming.)
The comments following the two posts help me understand why McArdle is usually worth reading, and Krugman usually isn't. As I write, there are 52 comments following Krugman's post, almost all of them written by Krugman cheerleaders. None makes the rather obvious point that McArdle made.
As I write, there are 60 comments following McArdle's post, with a mix of defenders and opponents. The defenders have the advantage, in my opinion. Note, for instance, the comments by "Goggler" and "Qwinn", which document her argument.
But there is a larger point that I think is more important. McArdle is being exposed to opposing arguments, and Krugman isn't. And I think that helps explain why her posts are usually better than his columns. She confronts opposing ideas; apparently, he doesn't even see or hear them.
- 4:42 PM, 26 March 2008 [link]
A Dent, But No More: I worked on my back email for about an hour and made a little progress. And then checked my email and found four more messages, one of which will require some time for my reply.
Some of the more interesting messages have sat in my stack the longest, just because they require much more than a quick reply. So, if I haven't gotten back to you yet, think of it as a left-handed compliment.
Even so, my apologies for the delays.
- 4:16 PM, 26 March 2008 [link]
We Choose Our Friends: (And they choose us.) Thomas Sowell tells us what kinds of friends Barack Obama has been choosing all his adult life.
Barack Obama's own account of his life shows that he consciously sought out people on the far left fringe. In college, "I chose my friends carefully," he said in his first book, "Dreams From My Father."And the friends we choose say a lot about us.
In contrast, Hillary Clinton's friends are chosen from a wider range of people. Her friends may almost all be Democratic partisans, but they are not all on the far left. But her range of friends is small, compared to John McCain's. Of the three, only McCain has long time friends in the other party.
- 6:41 AM, 26 March 2008
More thoughts: On looking over that list, given by Obama himself, I have to wonder about his intellectual abilities and his taste. Marxism as a serious intellectual endeavor has been passé since, oh, about 1880 or 1890, when it became obvious that Marx's predictions were being falsified. (As a political movement, of course, Marxism was, and is, enormously important.) My high school was nowhere near as prestigious as Obama's Punahou, but I knew that fact, at his age, and he should have known it, too. If, that is, he is as smart as people say he is.
(I am not quite sure what a "structural feminist" believes. This Wikipedia article on feminism mentions "post-structural" feminism extensively, but does not quite explain what the "post-structural" variant is supposed to be replacing.)
I confess not to be familiar with any "punk rock performance poets", but feel confident that none of them will rank with Shakespeare, Yeats, or even Kipling.
I usually feel a little sorry when I see young people absorbing trash, when they could, with no more effort, be getting good ideas, or listening to good music or poetry. But Obama appears to have had his own, political reasons for his choices, and so I don't feel sorry for him. But I do wonder, even more, just what he learned in college, considering how much time he was wasting on trash.
- 1:20 PM, 26 March 2008 [link]
It's Good To See A Young Man trying to improve himself.
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has been taking intensive English lessons in order to impress his hosts during his state visit to the UK.Perhaps he wants to be closer to the Anglosphere, as improbable as that might seem to Bush's critics.
- 5:54 AM, 26 March 2008 [link]
Market Bottom? "U*2" at ¡No-Pasarán! spots a contrarian indicator.
I have long thought that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman was a contrarian indicator, but I had not realized that the whole newspaper might be one.
So far — and this is very early — U*2's theory looks pretty good. The stock market has performed very nicely in the last three sessions.
Wall Street paused after a huge two-session rally Tuesday but closed mostly higher, holding on to almost all its gains even after disappointing reports on consumer sentiment and the housing market.And the housing market gave us a pleasant surprise.
Sales of existing homes in the U.S. unexpectedly rose in February for the first time in seven months, easing concern credit restrictions and falling prices would hurt demand.A graph on the front page of the New York Times shows that this February increase makes up for most of the losses in November, December, and January.
Oddly enough, the fall in house prices seems to have convinced some that this is a good time to buy.
- 3:15 PM, 25 March 2008
More: Here's the press release from the National Association of Realtors on sales of existing homes. All the major news organizations are rewriting it, but the press release has a more positive tone than the articles based on it — at least the articles I have seen. Perhaps that's because the realtors are in the business of selling homes and so are naturally optimistic about their business. Or it may be that too many journalists are expecting, or even hoping for, a recession.
- 12:46 PM, 26 March 2008 [link]
This Superdelegate has his price.
Steven Ybarra, a California superdelegate who heads the voting-rights committee of the DNC Hispanic Caucus, said that he would decide which candidate to support based solely on who would best deliver for Latinos.Officially, I have to be dismayed by his indifference to anyone not Hispanic, and his crude request for a bribe. Unofficially, I have to admit to having some admiration for his honesty.
(Warning: There's more crudity in the rest of the article.)
- 2:45 PM, 25 March 2008 [link]
There Are No Republicans On The Seattle City Council: So the Grand Old Party can't be blamed for this fiasco.
Would attendants solve the problem in Seattle? Maybe not, judging by past experience.
(One would like to know more about why that failed.)
Other cities have solved this basic problem. The suburb where I live, Kirkland, has a public toilet in a very heavily used park, Marina Park. To the best of my knowledge, there have been only minor problems associated with it. There are even big cities that do better than Seattle. There may even be big cities dominated by leftwing Democrats that do better in providing this basic service — but I don't know of any.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(There's a picture of one of the automated toilets here.)
- 2:23 PM, 25 March 2008 [link]
Is This Claim True? I have been hearing this claim, usually from leftwing activists, for decades. Here's how Nicholas Kristof put it, in a recent column.
Much of the time, blacks have a pretty good sense of what whites think, but whites are oblivious to common black perspectives.But I have never seen much evidence for the claim. And I have seen some, let me repeat, some evidence against it. (In, for instance, the Thernstroms' America in Black and White.)
In fact, in this very column, Kristof supplies some indirect evidence against the claim. Jeremiah Wright built up the largest church in Chicago, and influenced many other congregations. Would blacks who listened to his sermons, or similar sermons, regularly "have a pretty good sense of what whites think", or would they, like Reverend Wright, be "frightfully wrong" in many of their beliefs about whites? The latter seems more plausible.
- 12:25 PM, 25 March 2008 [link]
Jonathan Alter Thinks that his candidate, Barack Obama, could civilize us.
To succeed in a crisis (and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.'s inflammatory sermons were at least a mini-crisis for Obama), presidents must do more than rally the country enough to win backing in polls for a course of action. That's relatively easy. The hard part is using the bully pulpit to instruct and illuminate and rearrange our mental furniture. Every great president has been a captivating teacher. By talking honestly and intelligently about a subject that most Americans would rather ignore, Obama offered a preview of how he would perform as educator-in-chief.Mickey Kaus, like Huck Finn, doesn't want to be civilized. At least not by Obama.
Hmmm. After last Tuesday, I'm not sure I want to be instructed and elevated any more by Prof. Obama. I'd kind of like to rearrange his mental furniture on welfare and affirmative action, where his vagueness suggests incoherence more than brilliance.I'm with Kaus on this one.
The example of a great president that Alter begins with, FDR, is telling. There is no doubt that FDR was, sometimes, a "captivating teacher". There is also no doubt that he did not have a coherent strategy for getting us out of the Great Depression when he came in to office, and never really figured one out. In fact, there is good reason to believe that FDR's policies, on the whole, made the depression longer and worse than it would have been otherwise.
(Alter's column contains an interesting semi-confession. He apparently believes that Obama would be unlikely to get many of his proposals through Congress. But he thinks that Obama would be a success anyway because Obama would make great speeches and "illuminate and rearrange our mental furniture". Is this another example of the "soft bigotry of low expectations"? Maybe.
That argument reminds me, cynical fellow that I am, of a football coach who doesn't win many games, but makes really great half-time speeches. Alter would see that coach as a success, but I think few fans would agree.
And I may be wrong, but I don't think that Alter would be willing to call Reagan a success just because he gave some good speeches.)
- 6:54 AM, 25 March 2008
More: I suppose that a few people have never read the last two sentences of Huck Finn, and a few more have forgotten them:
But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before.I'm not sure Jonathan Alter would understand those lines, but most people do.
- 3:41 PM, 25 March 2008 [link]