March 2012, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
Just In Case You Missed It: Al Qaeda's least favorite American network is Fox.
Bin Laden and his aides hoped for big terrorist operations to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. They also had elaborate media plans. Adam Gadahn, a U.S.-born media adviser, even discussed in a message to his boss what would be the best television outlets for a bin Laden anniversary video.Like Ignatius, I think Fox should boast about that assessment.
- 4:04 PM, 24 March 2012 [link]
Was Mohamed Merah An Alienated Loner? Professor Jytte Klausen thinks not.
In fact, Merah was practically a prince in French jihadist circles. His mother is married to the father of Sabri Essid, a leading member of the Toulouse radical milieu who was captured in Syria in 2006. Essid and another Frenchman were running an al Qaeda safe house in Syria for fighters going to Iraq. In a 2009 trial that came to be known in the press as "Brothers for Iraq," they and six others were convicted in France of conspiracy for terrorist purposes. Essid was sentenced in 2009 to five years imprisonment.Those family connections could also explain how he was able to obtain his firearms and ammunition.
- 3:49 PM, 24 March 2012 [link]
Venezuela Is An "Unconstitutional Democracy" Francisco Toro coins a phrase to describe Venezuela, a nation where elections are important, and laws are ignored.
Here's a sample from his essay.
The more I think about it, the more I think you have to lean on the distinction, because nothing about Venezuelan politics makes any sense these days until you grasp both aspects of what our country has become: an Unconstitutional Democracy.From time to time, I have tried to think of a phrase to describe the Venezuelan system under Chávez, without success. But Toro's "Unconstitutional Democracy" seems just right to me, from what I know about Venezuela.
(There are many countries that have had what you might call constitutional non-democracies for their governments. The people in the countries may not have chosen their rulers, but the rulers did respect the rule of law.)
- 1:19 PM, 23 March 2012 [link]
The Branch Where I Do Most Of My Banking is a more exciting place than I would have guessed.
An Arizona mother said she felt "like she hit the jackpot" after King County sheriff's detectives made an arrest in the 2006 slaying of her daughter.I met David Pietz; in fact, he straightened out a debit card problem for me. I thought he seemed more tense than a fairly simple problem warranted, but had no idea that he had anything like this in his past.
(I am a little surprised that Chase would make him a vice president and branch manager with this in his past. Perhaps it didn't show up in a routine check, since he had never been formally charged.)
- 9:49 AM, 23 March 2012 [link]
A Guide To Non-GM Corn: From time to time, I see articles arguing against genetically modified plants and animals. (For an example, see this op-ed by Glenn Ashton.)
I don't agree with the objections to GM plants and animals — in fact, I regard them as another Green attack on science.
Nonetheless, I am still willing to help out those who share those beliefs, just as I might warn a devout Hindu about the beef in the sandwich he is about to eat.
And so I am putting up this occasional guide to GM plants and animals, so that those who prefer the non-GM versions can make the right choices for themselves. I'll begin with corn (or maize, as most of the world calls it).
The non-GM corn is on the left in that picture, and that's what those who want to avoid GM corn should choose. (Compromisers might want to choose the center kind of corn, which is genetically modified, but not as much as the corn on the right.) I'm not sure whether you can find non-GM corn in your average supermarket, but you can grow your own.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 8:51 AM, 23 March 2012 [link]
Liberals Just Don't Understand Me: Or you either, most likely. Who says so? Liberal Nicholas Kristof.
Conservatives may not like liberals, but they seem to understand them. In contrast, many liberals find conservative voters not just wrong but also bewildering.This would be less of a problem if liberals did not dominate our "mainstream" news rooms. But we get much of our news from people who simply don't understand how most of us think. (Moderates and conservatives together far outnumber liberals.)
Kudos to Kristof for attempting to understand those he disagrees with — but I doubt many "mainstream" journalists will follow his example.
(Here's the book Kristof refers to in the column.
As I have said before, I prefer leftist to liberal, even though the latter is far more common in the United States. In discussing this column, I thought it would be less confusing to use Kristof's term.
If you are wondering why I prefer "leftist", take a look at this Wikipedia article, "Classical Liberalism".)
- 6:52 AM, 23 March 2012 [link]
President Obama Gets The Facts Wrong On Energy: Again.
"He was incredibly defensive because little of what he says is true — that's his dilemma," said Dan Kish, a vice president at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Energy Research.(Kish might say as usual, instead of again.)
The Daily Caller goes on to speculate that Obama misspoke because he mixed up production with reserves — on which he is also wrong.
(The Institute for Energy Research favors free market solutions to energy problems.)
- 6:25 AM, 23 March 2012 [link]
European (And American) Journalists Really Wanted The Toulouse Terrorist to be a member of the "far right".
And have been scrambling to change their stories, once Mohammad Merah was identified as the suspect. (That BBC link, for example, no longer includes that astonishing "preference" quote.)
For the record: A terrorist from one group does not necessarily show us anything about the other members of that group. This is true whether the terrorist is a Muslim or a member of the "far right".
But we can look at a group's beliefs and decide whether they encourage or discourage terrorism, and, even better, we can look at the statistics of terrorism. And it is simply a fact that most modern terrorists adhere to Islam in some form. It is also a fact — and we should never forget this — that most victims of Muslim terrorists are also Muslims.
- 8:22 AM, 22 March 2012 [link]
Mohammad Merah's Tabloid Life And Death: As one would expect, a politically incorrect tabloid, the Daily Mail, has the best story (the best, I've seen, anyway) on the death of the al Qaeda terrorist, who is suspected of murdering seven French citizens, including three children.
The Al Qaeda fanatic who murdered seven people in south west France died in a vicious gunfire battle after police stormed his apartment following a 32-hour siege.It is hard for me to look at the picture of that little eight-year-old girl, Miriam Monsonego, without tearing up. (As you may have heard, in the attack on the Jewish school, the terrorist chased her, cornered her, grabbed her by the hair, and shot her in the head.)
The French soldiers, murdered earlier, were attacked, apparently, because of their ancestry, too. From their names, one can tell that their families came from North Africa, and were probably Muslim, at one time.
According to news accounts, Merah was planning another attack when the French police trapped him. (The second attack was four days after the first; the third was four days after the second. They trapped him four days after the third.)
A French terrorism expert, Mathieu Guidère, says that Merah must have had accomplices. That seems almost certain to me, given what we know about his equipment and training.
- 7:40 AM, 22 March 2012 [link]
Michael Ramirez Has Some Fun with Obama's claim that we are drilling everywhere.
- 12:44 PM, 21 March 2012 [link]
Grade Inflation Reaches the Energy Department.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a House panel Tuesday that he'd give himself top marks when asked to grade his policies' effects on energy prices. Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House committee on Oversight and Government Reform, asked President Obama's top energy official if he'd grade himself with an "A minus" on "controlling the cost of gasoline at the pump."The very brief video is worth listening to — carefully.
Note that Secretary Chu does not say that he deserves an 'A' grade for keeping gas prices from rising even higher; instead he says he deserves that grade for his work on finding "long-term solutions". A man as smart as Chu surely understands that he is not agreeing with Congressman Issa that one of his objectives should be lower gas prices, right now.
Chu has used that kind of line before. The unwary may think he is saying that he does want lower gas prices, but that it will take time to reach that objective — but he isn't, and those who think that he and Obama want higher gas prices will see more evidence for that conclusion in this interchange.
(Years ago, I read that wise university presidents were often secretly displeased when one of their faculty won a Nobel Prize. They knew that the man — and they almost all were men — was likely to become insufferable, and impossible to get rid of.
Chu seems like a more decent man than many winners, but I do wonder from time to time, whether he would be a better secretary if he hadn't won that prize.)
- 10:19 AM, 21 March 2012 [link]
Prime Minister Cameron Enjoyed His Joint Campaign Appearances With President Obama: But some advisor should tell him that some of the details he is sharing with the world about his latest trip here qualify as too much information.
- 9:38 AM, 21 March 2012 [link]
Voting Patterns In The Illinois Republican Primary Were Different In Degree, But Not In Kind: By now, we should all be expecting that the candidate who some see as the most conservative, Ron Paul, will do best with the less conservative voters, that the Mormon candidate, Mitt Romney, will do better among Catholics than the two Catholic candidates, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, and that the "anti-woman" candidate, Rick Santorum, will do better among women than men (in Illinois, 37-33).
All right, the last may deserve a little more discussion. You might not know this if you get your news entirely from "mainstream" news sources, but the strongest opponents of abortion in the United States are mostly women. There are few of them in news rooms, so that fact isn't mentioned as often as it should be.
I am fairly certain that Santorum's additional support among women comes from these pro-life women.
(Those who vote on this issue, on either side, are minorities in the general population — but the pro-life minority is somewhat larger than the pro-abortion minority, according to polls by, for example, Gallup.)
Here are the results from the Illinois exit poll, if you want to do your own analysis.)
- 6:30 AM, 21 March 2012 [link]
Returns May be Slow From Some Illinois Counties This Evening: Why?
Because some of the ballots are "too wide".
Elections officials in Illinois say dozens of counties are experiencing problems with their ballots, which will likely delay the release of official results from Tuesday's Republican presidential primary there.That doesn't inspire confidence in the election officials, does it?
- 4:04 PM, 20 March 2012 [link]
Did The Increase In Regulation Make Banking Consumers Better Off? No doubt it helped some consumers, but Meredith Whitney thinks that it has hurt many more.
Fewer Americans have access to traditional banking services such as checking accounts, consumer loans and credit cards than they did five years ago. Part of this has to do with the housing bust severely damaging the finances of U.S. households. But millions more have lost access to credit or essential banking services due to regulatory reforms imposed over the past four years.Read the whole thing for a description of how some regulations have hurt consumers, and for a brief description of a promising program at PNC.
(I reached the op-ed by way of a Google news search; you may have to do the same.
For the record: Some banks did have policies that abused their careless or innumerate customers. But a better solution might have been to publicize those policies so that consumers could avoid the traps, or even move to different banks.)
- 10:41 AM, 20 March 2012 [link]
Three Pinocchios For Tom Hanks And The Obama Campaign: Glenn Kessler catches the Obama campaign trying to deceive the voters about his mother's insurance coverage.
In the end, the impression left by the [campaign] film, especially if you watch it (go to the 8:45 mark), is very similar to Obama's 2008 campaign rhetoric: His mother was denied health-insurance coverage, draining her resources, and with better coverage she might have lived longer. The film suggests this experience helped inspire the president to keep fighting for the health care law, even in the face of advice from aides that he accept a less-than-satisfactory compromise.In other words, they tried to fool the voters without telling the same falsehoods that Obama had used in the 2008 campaign.
It would be fun if some "mainstream" reporter asked Hanks about his deception.
- 9:05 AM, 20 March 2012 [link]
GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt Is No Longer Supporting Obama: According to unnamed "friends".
Friends describe Immelt as privately dismayed that, even after three years on the job, President Obama hasn’t moved to the center, but instead further left. The GE CEO, I’m told, is appalled by everything from the president’s class-warfare rhetoric to his continued belief that big government is the key to economic salvation.Of course, a cynic might suspect that Immelt is just hedging his bets, in case Obama loses — as he may.
I suspect that Immelt probably has a mix of motives, that he is genuinely unhappy with some of Obama's policies and rhetoric and that he is hedging his bets by letting friends know about his feelings, so that they will leak them to the press.
- 8:08 AM, 20 March 2012 [link]
Public Policy Polling Is Confident in their Illinois prediction.
Mitt Romney is headed for a blowout victory in Illinois on Tuesday. He leads with 45% to 30% for Rick Santorum, 12% for Newt Gingrich, and 10% for Ron Paul.Too confident? Maybe, although other recent polls have similar results.
But it is also true that polls in this primary season have tended to underestimate Santorum's support, sometimes badly.
So my prediction is that Romney will win Illinois, but by about 11 points, not 15.
(Incidentally, the PPP poll shows Santorum doing better with women than with men, as other polls have. In contrast, Ron Paul does much worse with women.)
- 6:33 AM, 20 March 2012
Nate Silver has a much more detailed prediction: Illinois allocates delegates by congressional district. Santorum's weak organization left him without delegates in the 13th district, where Silver thinks Santorum was competitive. Because of that and because of Romney's general strength in Illinois, Silver thinks that Santorum is unlikely to win more than a third of the 54 delegates at stake — and may do even worse.
- 4:20 PM, 20 March 2012
Romney's winning margin, with one county, Macoupin, yet to report, is 11.7 per cent. So I am going to count that as a successful prediction. (In general, I count my predictions as successful if I am within 1 per cent for primaries, and 0.5 per cent for general elections.)
Macoupin is a mostly rural county with a population of about 47,000. I would expect that it gave Santorum a win, but not by enough to change the state margin by more than 0.1 per cent.
- 5:32 AM, 21 March 2012 [link]
Julian Barbour — Physicist, Translator, And Einstein Challenger? In the March issue of Discover magazine, there is an article on a most unusual physicist, Julian Barbour.
(As far as I can tell, the article is not available on line, though an earlier article, with similar material, is.)
In 1964, Barbour was about to finish his graduate work. But he faced a serious difficulty if he wanted a standard academic career, He had concluded, rather audaciously, that Einstein had gone wrong with general relativity, and that physicists should go back to an earlier physicist, Ernst Mach, and start over.
So he decided to give up the idea of a standard academic career and support himself (and, soon, his family) as a part-time translator, and do physics on the side. In time, his ideas got attention from other physicists, and he is now a visiting professor at Oxford. In 2008 — at an age when most physicists are retired — he received his first research grant.
Could his ideas be right? Ask your local physicist. I can't say that I understood even the popularized account in the magazine, though I do plan to give it another try.
But I must say that, even as a complete outsider, I have begun to wonder whether physicists got off on a wrong track some time in the 20th century. (There are serious physicists, Lee Smolin, for example, who share that suspicion.)
So I am inclined to applaud the physicists who are trying something different.
(There's a little more on Barbour's theories in this Wikipedia biography and more at Barbour's own web site.)
- 8:37 PM, 18 March 2012 [link]
Coffee Naps: No, seriously.
Ordinarily, sleep experts advise steering clear of coffee and other stimulants before resting, since caffeine disrupts sleep. As a result, studies on drowsy drivers have generally compared the restorative benefits of pulling over and napping versus pulling over for a cup of caffeine. Researchers have found that a 15- to 30-minute nap increases alertness and driving performance, but most studies show that drinking caffeine is a slightly superior strategy.I have taken coffee naps from time to time in the past few years, and found that they work, even though I was pretty sure that they shouldn't.
Why do they work? The coffee doesn't affect you for 20 minutes or so, so you get the benefit of the nap. Researchers think that the nap clears out the adenosine. And then the caffeine starts to affect you as the nap ends.
- 3:43 PM, 18 March 2012 [link]
The Polls In Alabama And Mississippi Were Wrong Again: As I mentioned in this post, primary polls in the two southern states have been lousy, often having much larger errors than you would expect just from sampling.
They were lousy again — for one of the candidates.
Where the surveys were consistently off, however, were in their forecast of Santorum's support. Of the eight final polls listed in the table below, none showed Santorum ahead, and six showed him in running third or lower. Moreover, in every case the understatement of Santorum's vote was beyond the margins of error reported for the poll.Why did the pollsters miss some of Santorum's supporters? Mark Blumenthal thinks that the usual screening questions are not picking up enough evangelicals.
(These errors should remind all of us, but especially pollsters, just how hard it is to identify the voters who are most likely to vote in low-turnout elections.
Interestingly, the automated polls were less wrong than the polls that used human interviewers.)
- 1:11 PM, 18 March 2012 [link]
Coal-Powered Cars, Even In The Northwest: Cruel critics have sometimes described electric cars like the Chevrolet Volt as "coal-powered". That's partly true, even here in the Pacific Northwest, where we have a lot of hydroelectric power. (Which Washington state does not classify as renewable power. Really.)
A few months ago, along with a bill I didn't understand, my electricity provider, Puget Sound Energy, sent a little slip showing their sources of electricity for 2010. The top source was coal at 36 per cent, next was hydroelectric at 33 per cent, and third was natural gas at 29 per cent.
And the remaining 2 per cent? We may be in the same state as Hanford, but we get just 1 per cent of our electricity from nuclear power.
And the remaining 1 per cent? "Biomass, landfill gas, petroleum and waste." Oddly, the utility did not mention wind power, though we have been putting up windmills like mad here in Washington state.
- 12:44 PM, 18 March 2012 [link]
Fans Of Rutherford B. Hayes — All Right, Foes Of Barack Obama — Have Been Having Fun comparing the two presidents.
I found two favorites. First:
I served with Abraham Lincoln, I knew Abraham Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln was a friend of mine.And then this simple variation:
Miss me yet?I hadn't ever thought that I would miss President Hayes — but I do.
By way of John Hinderacker.
(Incidentally, you can make your own, if you want to.)
- 7:03 AM, 18 March 2012 [link]
The Puerto Republican Contest yesterday wasn't close, with Romney winning 83 per cent of the vote and all 20 delegates.
There are five US territories with delegates: American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Romney has won all five of them. Together, those five wins gave him more delegates (about 50) than his win in his home state of Massachusetts (41).
It is easy to see which candidate has the best organization.
(Rick Santorum was once known as the senator from Puerto Rico, but he must have let his contacts there lapse.)
- 5:53 AM, 19 March 2012 [link]
Prime Minister Cameron Made A Fool Of Himself In His Visit To The United States: A guest should almost always be polite, but not absurdly so.
Then comes what must surely be one of the most obsequious things Obama — who is well used to adulation — has ever heard. Obama, says Cameron 'has pressed the reset button on the moral authority of the entire free world'.Harnden has more examples, for the those who can stand more.
I see three possible explanations for this absurd flattery: First, Cameron thinks it will help him at the next election to be seen to be close to President Obama. And that electoral calculation might be correct, since Obama is more popular in Britain than here, perhaps because the British have been less affected by his policies.
Second, Cameron wants some concessions from Obama, and thinks that flattery is the best way to get them. Cameron believes, in other words, that Obama is susceptible to flattery, even absurd flattery. (And I can't say that calculation would necessarily be wrong, though I suspect Obama may see this flattery as only his due.)
Third, Cameron may actually believe part of what he said. He appears to be conventional sort of politician, one that knows the conventional wisdom, but does not think deeply about issues. And that flattering view of Obama was conventional wisdom in much of the British press.
(Of course, Cameron could have a mixture of motives, as politicians often do.)
— 7:47 AM, 18 March 2012 [link]
Because Many "Mainstream" Journalists Have Low Standards? That's my answer to Kathleen Parker's implied question:
Like most women in the media, I've grown accustomed to vile and vicious attacks. It's part of the marinade in which we swim now. I've always figured, well, that's the game. Get tough. Hit delete. Deal. But my feelings, raw as they may be at times, are not what matters. What does matter is that our children are growing up in a world that believes it's okay to denigrate women. They are witnesses to adults laughing at jokes about women being sluts, whores and worse. When the object of derision is Sarah Palin, "jokes" are made even about her child with Down syndrome.So I think it is easy to comprehend why "he was selected to amuse a group of journalists". He gives them the kind of entertainment that many "mainstream" journalists like. Not all, but many.
(For evidence that many "mainstream" journalists like his work, perhaps especially his attacks on Sarah Palin, see here, here, and here.
I have a later post planned on Parker's double standards.)
- 6:55 AM, 18 March 2012 [link]
Happy Saint Patrick's Day!
And if you would like to go beyond the green beer, the pinches for those not wearing green, and the rivers dyed green, you may want to read this Wikipedia biography of the saint. We know little about the man for certain, but what little we do know is fascinating.
(Republished from 2008, and if you still haven't read that article on St. Patrick, let me urge you to do so.)
- 12:28 PM, 17 March 2012 [link]