March 2014, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
In Peter Baker's Long Article on how three presidents, Clinton, Bush, and Obama, had failed in their dealings with Vladimir Putin, there was a paragraph that — probably — tells us much about President Obama's view of the world.
Presidents tend to think of autocrats as fellow statesmen, said Dennis Blair, Mr. Obama's first director of national intelligence. "They should think of dictators like they think of domestic politicians of the other party," he said, "opponents who smile on occasion when it suits their purposes, and cooperate when it is to their advantage, but who at heart are trying to push the U.S. out of power, will kneecap the United States if they get the chance, and will only go along if the U.S. has more power than they."What I interpret that to mean is that Blair thinks that Obama should have treated Putin as if he were a Republican, in other words, as an irreconcilable enemy, rather than a potential partner.
(Blair was dismissed by Obama. There are several theories on why he lost the job.)
- 7:28 PM, 24 March 2014 [link]
Obama Never Calls, complains Jimmy Carter, in this instructive exchange on Meet the Press.
ANDREA MITCHELL:(You can decide for yourself whether Carter answered that question with "complete candor". But when you think about it, you should remember that much of the world does not care about Carters's stand on the Palestinians, so there are many places where Carter could be used, if Obama wanted to use him, even if what Carter says is true.)
Every president after Carter, except Obama, found Carter to be a pain at times; every president after Carter, except Obama, found ways to use him.
As far as I know, Obama has not reached out for advice, in any serious way, to any of his predecessors.
- 6:47 PM, 24 March 2014 [link]
"Will Obama Rethink His Global Strategy?" The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt surveys President Obama's mistaken picture of the world, and the damage done by Obama's policies based on that picture, and then asks these questions:
As the administration refashions its policy toward a changed Europe, will it reexamine its broader strategy, too? Will Obama question his confidence that the United States can safely pull back from the world?In other words, will Obama recognize that his picture of the world was badly mistaken, and has resulted in a series of foreign policy failures? And having recognized that, will he change course?
Hiatt does not answer those questions directly, but you can see that he is not hopeful, since he ends with: "it’s not too late for Obama to change course". Which is true, and will be true until a new president takes office early in 2017, but is not something that will give many reason for hope.
- 9:04 AM, 24 March 2014 [link]
"The Hidden Rot In The Job Numbers" Economist Edward P. Lazear looks at the February jobs report and finds "hidden rot".
Although it is often overlooked, a key statistic for understanding the labor market is the length of the average workweek. Small changes in the average workweek imply large changes in total hours worked. The average workweek in the U.S. has fallen to 34.2 hours in February from 34.5 hours in September 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That decline, coupled with mediocre job creation, implies that the total hours of employment have decreased over the period.Decreased enough so that the losses in hours outweigh the gains in total jobs since last September.
Here's a fuller explanation. The job-equivalence number is computed simply by taking the total decline in hours and dividing by the average workweek. For example, if the average worker was employed for 34.4 hours and total hours worked declined by 344 hours, the 344 hours would be the equivalent of losing 10 workers' worth of labor. Thus, although the U.S. economy added about 900,000 jobs since September, the shortened workweek is equivalent to losing about one million jobs during this same period. The difference between the loss of the equivalent of one million jobs and the gain of 900,000 new jobs yields a net effect of the equivalent of 100,000 lost jobs.In the last two quarters, we have been replacing full time jobs with a larger number of part time jobs, but not enough part time jobs to increase the total number of hours worked.
Lazear doesn't know why this has been happening, but suspects that ObamaCare might be one of the causes.
And he is certain that this "recent decline is a cause for concern".
- 8:29 AM, 24 March 2014 [link]
Jokester Joe Biden strikes again.
Granted, the joke may have been unintentional, but it was still a good way of calling attention to the absurd claims made about President Obama, claims often made with explicitly religious language.
So we have to give Biden some credit for speaking truth to power, even if he didn't mean to.
- 6:46 AM, 24 March 2014 [link]
An Editor At The Boston Herald has a sense of humor: "Press banned as first lady touts free speech in China"
Now that is a good headline.
- 9:38 PM, 23 March 2014 [link]
The Death Toll From The Mudslide In Oso continues to rise.
Eight people are now confirmed dead after a massive landslide slammed into homes near Oso. Search and rescue crews planned to continue searching until nightfall.Most likely, the total will reach more than twenty, given the number of missing, and the number of houses that were wiped out.
So far, none of the news stories I have seen have told us who owns the land where the mud slide came from. Most of the land in the Cascades, and the foothills of the Cascades, is owned by the federal government.
(Here's the brief Wikipedia article on Oso, for some background.)
- 9:23 PM, 23 March 2014 [link]
Now, There's A Woman Who Doesn't Hold Back when she is flattering her boss.
Justine Tunney, a self-styled "champagne tranarchist", is now a software engineer at Google, but remains involved with Occupy Wall Street, through the occupywallst.org website, which she created.Since I don't know Schmidt, I can't tell whether she has overdone it, though in my experience few bosses are as suspicious of that kind of flattery as they ought to be.
By way of James Taranto, who thinks it odd for an anarchist to call for a "corporate dictatorship".
- 1:35 PM, 22 March 2014 [link]
Attorney General Kane Lawyers Up: And takes on an organization that buys ink by the barrel.
State Attorney General Kathleen Kane has hired one of the most feared litigators in the region, Richard A. Sprague, to represent her in possible defamation suits arising from accounts of her decision to end an undercover investigation that taped at least five Philadelphia Democrats accepting cash or gifts.(The Philadelphia Inquirer is not a Republican newspaper, if you are wondering. Or an enemy of Kane. In fact, they endorsed her in the 2012 attorney general race.)
I was surprised when I learned that she had dropped the corruption investigation; I am even more surprised by this action, which seems almost designed to make more news organizations in the state start their own investigations.
So far, her actions have not drawn much national attention — but they deserve that attention.
By way of Gabriel Malor, from whom I borrowed the post title.
Here's her defense of the decision to drop the investigation.
She claims in that op-ed to "loathe corruption" — and she won the attorney general primary with the help of an endorsement from Bill Clinton.
Naturally, the National Review has a review of the case.
Equally naturally, someone is already speculating on how this will affect her political prospects.
Finally, a conservative talk show host, Chris Stigall, wonders when Republican Governor Tom Corbett, who Kane has been attacking, will step into the fight. (For the record: I think that the right thing for Corbett to do tactically, right now, is nothing.))
- 1:25 PM, 21 March 2014 [link]
Snapshot Of The Generic Vote: When trying to assess how well a party will do in an election, I almost always begin with the generic vote. In 2010, it accurately predicted the Republican surge, and, in 2012, it accurately predicted close to a tie in the popular vote, which meant that the Republicans would keep control of the House.
What is the generic vote telling us now? That the two parties are, approximately, tied.
Which may make you wonder why so many analysts are predicting big Republican gains this fall. But those predictions are understandable after you note that they are predicting big Republican gains in the Senate, and that, this year, most of the Senate contests are in states that are more Republican than average.
So there are likely to be Republican gains in the Senate, perhaps even enough to give them control, but it is currently unlikely that Republicans will make large gains elsewhere.
(An important — in my opinion — technical point: RealClearPolitics averages polls of registered voters and likely voters. As a purist, I disapprove, and in off year elections, where turnout is almost always lower, I think it can be a serious mistake to look at registered voters, instead of likely voters..
If you look at the Democratic surge during the government "shutdown", you'll understand why so many Republicans are unhappy with Ted Cruz and company.)
- 6:54 AM, 21 March 2014
In 2010, the popular vote split in the House was 51.7 percent Republican to 44.9 percent Democratic; in 2012, the split was 47.6 percent Republican to 48.8 percent Democratic. If you look at the graphs for those years, you'll see that Rasmussen's polls were quite close to the actual results.
It's a minor point, but still worth noting: In some districts, the opposing party is unable to find someone to run, and so receives zero votes. Since more of these districts are controlled by Democrats, the effect is to slightly reduce the Republican popular vote share.
- 1:50 PM, 21 March 2014 [link]
Will The Missing Malaysian Airlines 777 Ever Be Found? Not necessarily.
If the ever-growing mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has you wondering how a plane can simply disappear into thin air, consider this: Data from the Aviation Safety Network shows that more than 80 aircraft (capable of carrying more than 14 passengers) have been declared “missing” since 1948.Mark Johanson then describes six of those incidents, and two famous mysteries.
- 5:50 AM, 21 March 2014 [link]
"Chicken From Hell" Or "New Large-Bodied Oviraptorosaurian"? I think you'll agree that the nickname for the new dinosaur discovery, Anzu wyliei, is more fun than the formal description.
The BBC's article on the discovery is probably reasonably accurate, but almost boring. The Daily Mail's article is shorter, and not at all boring.
More than 66 million years ago, a fearsome beast roamed the planet that was so ferocious it has been dubbed the 'chicken from hell'.(They didn't find fossil evidence of the feathers, but they know that close relatives of the dinosaur had them.)
Judging by the pictures, a single thigh would be enough for the main course in a large family's Thanksgiving dinner.
(The "hell" part of the nickname probably has a double meaning. The fossils were found in the Hell Creek formation. And the discoverers named it after "Anzu, a bird-like demon in ancient mythology".
There's more information in this Wikipedia article.
For the ambitious, here's the formal paper.)
- 1:22 PM, 20 March 2014 [link]
We Should Put The Emphasis On "Possibly" in this story.
Australian search planes are scouring the southern Indian Ocean after satellites spotted objects "possibly related" to the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.Their search area is, according to this story, about the size of Arizona, that is, more than 100 thousand square miles.
To search that area we have, as far as I can tell from news reports, fewer than ten airplanes from Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
And there is fog in the area, which won't make the search easier.
- 7:21 AM, 20 March 2014 [link]
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane Exercises prosecutorial discretion.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office ran an undercover sting operation over three years that captured leading Philadelphia Democrats, including four members of the city's state House delegation, on tape accepting money, The Inquirer has learned.(In fact, the sting operation had offered bribes to Republicans and Democrats, whites and blacks.)
Or, possibly, political discretion. As you have probably guessed, Kane is a Democrat.
She isn't the only one exercising discretion; so is Attorney General Eric Holder. (Or someone working for him.)
Just weeks before Kane's January 2013 inauguration, those state prosecutors bundled up the investigation, including copies of all tapes, and shared the material with federal prosecutors. Federal authorities decided not to take the case. They have declined to say why.A good government group, the Committee of Seventy, "urges the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate dismissed attorney general probe".
That sounds like a good idea.
(Some may find this ironic: The supposed bribes were being offered to Democrats to get them to oppose voter IDs.
Older readers may be reminded of Abscam; younger readers may want to read about that rather similar sting operation.)
- 6:36 PM, 19 March 2014 [link]
"Silver Blaze" And The Missing Malaysian 777: As you probably recall — and if you don't you can find an explanation here — the key clue in that Sherlock Holmes story was something that didn't happen. And so, in the same spirit, I would like to call your attention to two things that didn't happen (as far as is publicly known) on flight MH370.
The pilot and the copilot did not radio for help.
According to accounts that I have read, it would be likely that a few of the passengers on that flight had satellite phones, which can work almost anywhere. Because it was a night flight, many of the passengers might have been asleep, or about to doze off, but I would expect almost all of them would be awake in minutes, in an emergency. As far as is publicly known, none of the passengers made a phone call after whatever happened, happened.
What can we infer from these two things that didn't happen? That the changeover from an ordinary flight happened quickly, within a minute or less. And that is why I was skeptical, yesterday, about a fire in the airplane, or some similar emergency. It seemed unlikely that such an emergency could have disabled the pilot, the copilot, and every passenger with a satellite phone, without stopping the airplane's flight.
And, as we all know, the airplane continued to fly, for hours.
(Whether the airplane had a live pilot during those hours is less certain; you can find evidence that it did for at least part of that time in this article.)
- 12:47 PM, 19 March 2014 [link]
Did Obama's "Stimulus" Work? Robert Samuelson, who supported it, says that it may not have worked.
Superficially, economic stimulus seems common sense. If private-sector demand is inadequate, the public sector ought to fill the void. In practice, it’s not so simple. Economists talk of “multipliers”: how much an extra dollar of spending or tax cuts spurs the economy. Unfortunately, it’s unclear. The Congressional Budget Office surveyed scholarly studies and found that multiplier estimates for government investment spending ranged from 0.5 to 2.5. This means that a dollar of spending generates between 50 cents and $2.50 in added output (gross domestic product). Quite a range!And that it did work.
All this makes for a messy verdict. When proposed, President Obama’s stimulus was desirable. (Disclosure: Though disliking details, I favored it.) Regardless of multipliers, it supported the economy. It also sent a message along with the auto-industry bailout, the Federal Reserve’s easy money and the Troubled Asset Relief Program: The government won’t let the economy collapse. This was crucial to restoring confidence. The stimulus was a justifiable emergency measure.A messy verdict, and a messy column — which I rather like, because I think it accurately reflects what we know, and don't know, about how our economy operates.
Samuelson does not consider a third possibility, that the stimulus did work, that the economy would have grown more slowly without it, but that other Obama policies dampened its effects.
For an example, consider Obama's dithering over the Keystone XL pipeline, which has certainly cost thousands of jobs in the short run.
(To be fair, I should add that the Bush administration also tried to stimulate the economy in 2008, with a temporary tax cut. There is more continuity between the two administrations' economic policies than partisans on either side like to admit. I ascribe much of that similarity to the Democratic takeover of Congress in the 2006 election. In 2007 and 2008, we were already following economic policies that were, at the very least, acceptable to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.)
- 8:44 AM, 19 March 2014 [link]
"Shut Up And Pay, Knucklehead!!!" "Prickly City" continues to critique the Obama administration. For the latest, start here, and go backward, forward, or both.
(It is puzzling to find the strip in our local monopoly newspaper, the Seattle Times, since Scott Stantis uses it to make arguments that are filtered out of the news and opinion pages. Perhaps the editors don't read the strip, or — and this is a pleasant thought — perhaps the newspaper has an editor who thinks independently.)
- 7:55 AM, 19 March 2014 [link]
Still Another Theory About The Disappearance Of the Malaysian Airlines 777.
What the theory does not explain is why neither the pilot nor the co-pilot got off a radio message — unless the fire destroyed their radio(s) first. Nor does it explain why we have not heard — as far as I know — from anyone else on the airplane.
- 1:41 PM, 18 March 2014 [link]
Now We're Getting Tough with Putin.
In what was described as a major ramping up of sanctions, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Tuesday that the United States had frozen Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Netflix account, effective immediately.
- 1:23 PM, 18 March 2014 [link]
While I Was Writing That First Post This Morning, there was a fatal helicopter crash in Seattle.
Two people were killed and one was critically injured when the KOMO News helicopter crashed and burned Tuesday morning on Broad Street only yards away from the Space Needle.And that's all I know, for now.
- 8:44 AM, 18 March 2014 [link]
How Barack Obama "Gets Things Done" Bret Stephens calls attention to President Obama's odd work habits.
Last year came the news that Mr. Obama was unaware of the problems plaguing his health-care website until after its rollout and that he never once had a private meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius between July 2010 and November 2013. How does something like that happen?(Emphasis added.)
That last sentence sounds like a joke, doesn't it? But I have seen the same thing reported in other places.
By way of comparison: Political bosses in Washington often ask the people under them to provide them with at least three alternate courses of action. The bureaucrats will sometimes game the alternatives by providing two that they know the boss will reject, in order to get the boss to choose their preferred alternative. For example, if asked for alternatives on dealing with Iran's nuclear threat, a bureaucrat might suggest these three: nothing, sanctions, and massive air strikes. There are counters to such tactics, which I won't go into here, because I don't want to distract you from the central point: Even the most naive bosses know that they should ask for more than one alternative.
With, apparently, a few exceptions, including our president, Barack Obama.
Who is not what anyone would call a "hands-on" manager.
Nor is Obama the kind of man who seeks out negative feedback. As Stephens points out, Obama spends much of his time with celebrities, or perhaps I should say, other celebrities.
But Stephens could have quoted this section of Blanda's post:
3. Shut out your critics.Blanda thinks he is complimenting Obama with that section; I think he has given us a devastating criticism.
It's an unpleasant fact — and it is a fact — that we are more likely to learn that we are wrong from our opponents, or even our enemies, than from our friends and allies.
Obama would have been better off if he had, at least, listened to critics of ObamaCare, when it was being concocted. Many of their criticisms now look prescient.
And the same is true of many other decisions he has made.
(Blanda based his post partly on the long Michael Lewis Vanity Fair article on Obama, an article so bad that it may make you wonder about everything else Lewis has written.)
- 8:31 AM, 18 March 2014 [link]
The Kahosadi Indians Do Exist: As, according to this source, a sub-division of the Shasta tribe.
"The Shasta territory falls into four natural drainage areas of about equal size. The people within each tract were marked off by certain peculiarities of dialect and custom. There is no precise record of these distinctions, but they do not seem to have been considerable. The Rogue River division was called Kahosadi, that on the Klamath, Kammatwa or Wiruhikwairuk'a. The Scott Valley people were the Iruaitsu; those of Shasta Valley, the Ahotireitsu."(The author of that piece is quoting an authority on Indians, the late anthropologist Alfred Kroeber.)
However, this does not settle whether activist Karama Blackhorn is officially an Indian, whether she is, as she has claimed, an enrolled member of a tribe. According to this Wikipedia article, the Shasta are not an officially recognized tribe, but she could still be enrolled in another tribe, or confederacy of tribes, like the Grande Ronde or the Siletz.
Perhaps I am being too suspicious, but there have been enough cases of people falsely claiming Indian ancestry, notably Ward Churchill and Elizabeth Warren, so that I think we all should be a little suspicious of such claims. Especially given how big an advantage in academic job markets those claims can be.
So the Kahosadi exist, but I don't know from the sources I have been able to find whether Blackhorn belongs to the tribe in any real sense, or whether she is an officially enrolled member of another tribal group.
(I've updated the earlier post on Blackhorn.
Not so incidentally, the different tribes have different rules for membership, rules you can find in this blood quantum article.)
- 2:16 PM, 17 March 2014 [link]
Happy Saint Patrick's Day!
And if you would like to go beyond the green beer, the pinches for those not wearing green, the rivers dyed green, and, this year, the complaints that those who celebrate a particular kind of sins are not allowed in all the parades, 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.
(Recycled from 2008, and if you still haven't read that article on St. Patrick, let me urge you to do so.)
- 1:27 PM, 17 March 2014 [link]
First Reports Are Often Wrong: And that applies to the first reports on the missing Malaysian Airlines 777.
But some of the technical information that we are now getting is probably mostly right. You can find a reasonable summary of that technical information in the first page of this Charlie Martin post.
The first indication of trouble was when the transponder stopped responding to radar. This is the point where newspeople are saying it “dropped off the radar,” so let’s get a little clarity here to start. A transponder is a device that transmits a response. In a plane, the transponder is receiving an interrogation and responding by transmitting a burst of data. The problem with “dropped off the radar” from the start is that all it indicated was that the transponder stopped transponding. Imagine for a second that you’re trying to find someone in the dark. If you have a flashlight, you can use the flashlight, and hopefully see them in the reflected light. This, in radar, is called a primary radar response. It’s a lot easier, though, if the person you’re looking for has a flashlight too, and can turn it on and wave back at you with it. This is what a transponder does, and it’s the major part of what’s called secondary surveillance radar.Martin then follows that technical discussion with speculation about possible scenarios that could be consistent with that technical information, scenarios that seem improbable, at least to me.
Right now, I think it most likely that the pilot, or the co-pilot, or both, were in on a hijacking — but that they did not intend to commit suicide in a protest. I come to that conclusion because the airplane almost certainly went on flying for hours after it was, apparently, taken over. (It could have been on automatic pilot, with everyone on board dead, as happened with Payne Stewart's plane.)
But I think we should recognize that we really don't know what happened to the 777, and that we may never know.
(The Daily Mail has a dramatic story, supported by some evidence, on one of those possibilities.)
- 1:02 PM, 17 March 2014 [link]
This Doesn't Sound too friendly.
A leading anchor on Russian state television on Sunday described Russia as the only country capable of turning the United States into "radioactive ash", in an incendiary comment at the height of tensions over the Crimea referendum.The article describes Kiselyov as "one of Russia's most provocative television news host" and "hugely influential".
You never hear anything that interesting — all right, "provocative" — from our PBS anchors.
- 9:33 AM, 17 March 2014 [link]