May 2011, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
The British Election Declaration Ceremonies: If you watch British election returns, as I was doing almost two weeks ago, you'll see a lot of declaration ceremonies. This one, from the 2010 general election, will give you an idea of what they look like.
A returning officer, or often an acting returning officer, reads the vote totals while the candidates stand facing a small crowd. (As you probably noticed, almost all of the candidates are wearing rosettes that identify their party, blue for Conservatives, red for Labour, and so on.)
The winner shakes hands with the other candidates, makes a brief acceptance speech, and that's it. It's about as simple as a ceremony can be, even in a democracy.
Simple, but at least for me, very touching.
I don't see any way of introducing similar ceremonies here, but if there was I would be in favor of doing so.
(As far as I know, the candidates come to these ceremonies because it is customary, not because it is legally required.)
- 3:56 PM, 16 May 2011 [link]
Snowpocalypse In The Cascades: We've had a cold, wet spring in this area, which produces unhappy people in the lowlands — and piles and piles of snow in the Cascades.
Yes, it is odd that a British paper would publish the best set of snow pictures that I've seen, especially considering that they come from Washington state's Department of Transportation, but there they are. (Our local journalists are, with a few honorable exceptions, not much interested in our rural areas.)
But it is not odd that the Daily Mail got the story a little bit wrong. Most likely, the North Cascades highway has had 75 feet of snow fall since the beginning of winter, not 75 feet of accumulation.
(I hope to have some snow pictures of my own to show you soon. Thursday is supposed to be sunny, and I am planning to drive down to Mt. Rainier to ski a little bit, and to take a lot of pictures. According to their phone message, they have had 890 inches of snow since last July, and currently have 224 inches on the ground.
Both are above average for this time of year; neither is close to a record.)
- 10:19 AM, 16 May 2011 [link]
Two More Unreasonable Economists: As you may recall, I was amused by Ruth Marcus's claim that no "reasonable" economist thought that Obama's stimulus package hurt the economy, short term. With just a brief search, I found an economist, who looks reasonable to me, who thought that it did.
Now, economists Timothy Conley of Western Ontario and Bill Dupor of Ohio State have come up with an estimate of how much the stimulus hurt the economy.
Our benchmark results suggest that the ARRA created/saved approximately 450 thousand state and local government jobs and destroyed/forestalled roughly one million private sector jobs. State and local government jobs were saved because ARRA funds were largely used to offset state revenue shortfalls and Medicaid increases rather than boost private sector employment. The majority of destroyed/forestalled jobs were in growth industries including health, education, professional and business services. This suggests the possibility that, in absence of the ARRA, many government workers (on average relatively well-educated) would have found private-sector employment had their jobs not been saved.(ARRA = American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.)
Before anyone gets too excited about that result, I should add that many other economists found that the stimulus package created jobs, net. (Conley and Dupor give brief descriptions of a number of such studies in section 5 of their paper.)
So no one should consider the Conley/Dupor paper proof that the stimulus package hurt employment, short term. But, unlike the other studies, it does explain why employment growth was so anemic during the stimulus.
(One finding that is likely to hold up: Conley and Dupor found that the states used money intended for highway construction to balance their budgets, not to speed up new construction. For example, Texas received $700 million for highways, but reduced their highway capital budget from $3.38 billion in 2009 to $2.82 billion in 2010.
In general, states used highway money, not to build or repair highways, but to make up for shortfalls in tax collections, and increases in Medicaid spending.)
- 8:06 AM, 16 May 2011 [link]
Congratulations To The Danish Navy, in particular the captain and crew of the Esbern Snare.
A Danish warship has attacked a pirate boat off Somalia, killing four pirates and freeing 16 Iranian hostages on board.No losses for the good guys, and no hostages lost. That's an excellent result.
(More on the ship here. It's named after a medieval warrior, and is the second ship by that name in the Danish navy.)
- 6:21 PM, 15 May 2011 [link]
Fair Trade Coffee Isn't Especially Fair to the coffee growers.
Today, on World Fair Trade Day, we have something else to feel guilty about. That fair-trade cup of coffee we savour may not only fail to ease the lot of poor farmers, it may actually help to impoverish them, according to a study out recently from Germany's University of Hohenheim.Lawrence Solomon, who is president of the Green Beanery, a Toronto roaster and coffee shop, explains why in the rest of the piece.
The people who set up these programs mostly mean well — but are not as diligent at checking the results of their programs as they ought to be.
By way of Tim Blair.
- 4:31 PM, 15 May 2011 [link]
Nancy Pelosi's Constituents won't buy American cars.
U.S. automakers are having a banner year in 2011. Sales are up and so are profits. And they're doing it without much help from the city of San Francisco.And, I suspect, won't buy many other American products.
Why not? A combination of snobbery and ignorance, I suspect. (And maybe a touch of the anti-Americanism so common on the left.)
(This year is a better year than 2009 and 2010, but I doubt that many automakers would call it a "banner" year.)
- 2:32 PM, 13 May 2011 [link]
Worth Reading: Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever explains why he needs help on illegal immigration from the federal government, not obstruction.
There is no river between Arizona and Mexico to create a natural obstacle to illegal immigration, drug trafficking and human smuggling, and our county is a major corridor for all these. At best, illegal aliens and smugglers trespass, damage ranchers' land, steal water and food and start fires. At worst, people who have come here hoping for freedom and opportunity are raped or abandoned by smugglers and left to die in the desert.During the 1960s, Lyndon Johnson was admiring all the academic types that John Kennedy had brought into his adminstration. Speaker Sam Rayburn, a wiser man, replied with this:
They may be just as intelligent as you say. But I'd feel a helluva lot better if just one of them had ever run for sheriff.Sheriffs may not be right about everything, but they are in direct touch with many problems, in ways that few other elected officials are.
(Here's some background on Cochise County.)
- 12:48 PM, 13 May 2011 [link]
Digital TV, President Bush, And Prime Minister Gillard: The United States handled the transition to digital TV about as well as one could expect. Taxpayers subsidized the purchase of converter boxes for those who wanted to keep their analog TV sets, but did not, in most places, help with the installation. Those who couldn't handle the simple installation almost all had friends or relatives who could.
When it became obvious that many people had missed the almost endless public service announcements on the transition, the government delayed the transition and extended the time for the converter box rebate cards.
On the whole, I thought that the transition went about as well as one could expect, in a nation as large and diverse as this one.
It is hard to know how much credit President Bush deserves for the relatively smooth transition, but we can be certain that he would have been blamed if it had gone badly.
The current Australian experience shows some of the traps we avoided.
COMPANIES being paid $350 a time to install set-top boxes for pensioners are offering sub-contractors the work for as little as $84.Just from that account, you can see some of the mistakes that Gillard's Labor government is making. They are assuming that pensioners need help and that it must come from the government. They are paying for work that almost all Australians, pensioners or not, could do themselves. And they are awarding government work to a company that failed badly in earlier work. (The insulation installations sometimes caused house fires.)
By way of Tim Blair, who has some nasty, and very funny, things to say about the Australian government's blunders.
- 10:18 AM, 13 May 2011 [link]
Libertarians Won't Like this one-minute video. Unless they have a very good sense of humor.
- 8:45 AM, 13 May 2011 [link]
"Demagoguery 101" Last year, the Seattle Times dropped Charles Krauthammer from their list of columnists. It isn't hard to understand why; the editorial board did not like reading Krauthammer columns like this one.
The board did not like reading those columns because, I suspect, they knew that what Krauthammer writes is — usually — true. They would rather not read Krauthammer's critiques of President Obama, because those critiques force supporters to reconsider their support. (Or, perhaps, force them to support, or at least excuse, his demagoguery.)
Krauthammer could have made his case even stronger by citing Mark Salter's experience. Salter blames Obama for helping block immigration reform. Obama, Salter says, could never be satisfied; he wanted the issue, not reforms.
It is time for Obama to grow up a little, to give up these childish insults, these nasty attacks on the motives of those who disagree with him. Whether he likes it or not, he will have to work with Republicans during this year and next. And, even if he is re-elected in 2012, it is likely that the Republicans will control one or both houses of Congress during the next four years.
His supporters — including the Seattle Times editorial board — should be the first to insist that Obama grow up a little. If they want him to succeed as president, they should tell him to put the country's best interests ahead of immediate political gains, and they should stop tolerating the distortions, exaggerations, and sometimes outright falsehoods that he uses in so many of his speeches.
If, that is, his supporters think that the country's interests are more important than short-term gains for the left wing of the Democratic party.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 7:32 AM, 13 May 2011 [link]
Now Al Qaeda Has Gone Too Far: They've insulted Vice President Biden.
US officials have revealed that Osama bin Laden's diaries contain the rather startling conclusion that he didn't think Vice President Joe Biden was worth bumping off (hat tip: a tweet from my New York colleague Jon Swaine).(Toby Harnden doubts that they would have insulted Dick Cheney in the same way.)
- 6:28 AM, 13 May 2011 [link]
Worth A Look: The Nate Beeler "target" cartoon, currently the fourth one in his list.
- 2:21 PM, 12 May 2011 [link]
Ruth Marcus Gave Me A Challenge: While criticizing John Boehner, the Washington Post columnist made this claim:
Reasonable economists can disagree about the effectiveness of the stimulus spending and whether it was worth the drag of the additional debt, but no reasonable economist argues that it hurt the economy in the short term.(Emphasis added.)
And I accepted her challenge, because economists are a notably diverse group, unlike our "mainstream" journalists. To refute that last line, all I have to do is find is one reasonable economist who thinks the stimulus hurt the economy, short term. A brief search on the net turned up Eugene F. Fama, "Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business". He certainly sounds reasonable to me, though Marcus may disagree.
(Professor Gregory Mankiw could probably turn up half a dozen for her, without using the net.)
There are larger problems with her column, but those will have to wait for later post(s).
- 2:07 PM, 12 May 2011 [link]
George Will Tries To Teach History To An Unpromising Group Of Students: Our "reactionary" liberals.
The lesson of all this is that one's sense of possibilities — and proprieties — is shaped by what we know, and often do not know, about history. The regnant ideology within the Obama administration and among congressional Democrats is reactionary liberalism, the conviction that whatever government programs exist should forever exist because they always have existed. That is, as baby boomers, in their narcissism — or perhaps solipsism; or both — understand "always."Will is unlikely to have much success with these students. Unfortunately for all of us.
It is astonishing to see how often Obama makes horrible mistakes in history, and disturbing to see how often he makes absurd claims about his political opponents' plans. It is disgusting to see how often he gets away with both.
- 9:01 AM, 12 May 2011 [link]
If You Like Grandmothers, and most of us do, you'll like this picture of a proud, and very famous, grandmother.
- 8:20 AM, 12 May 2011 [link]
Newsbusters Interviews David Freddoso on Barack Obama, Gangster Government.
NEWSBUSTERS: Starting with the title - the term "gangster goverment," I don't want to call it hyperbole, obviously it's not, but it's a very inflammatory term, almost.(Quibble: There are politicians in other cities who can be just as ruthless as Chicago politicians, but I know what he means.)
I plan to buy the book soon; you should at least read the entire interview — especially if you support Obama.
(Freddoso wrote the best book on Barack Obama that I've read so far, The Case Against Barack Obama. Freddoso is a careful reporter. I took the time to check a number of his footnotes in the book, and didn't find a single mistake — and I like to think that I am fairly good at finding mistakes in political books.)
- 8:00 AM, 12 May 2011 [link]
Yes, But Did He Make The Trains Run On Time? White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has the unpleasant duty of defending rapper Common's appearance at Michelle Obama's poetry reading.
This was the best that Carney could come up with:
"It's ironic to pick out those particular lyrics about this particular artist when in fact he's known as a socially conscious hip hop artist or rapper who, in fact, has done a lot of good things," offered Carney. "You can oppose some of what he's done and appreciate some of the other things he's done."For instance? For instance, working with children. A skeptic might wonder just what Common is teaching those children. And someone who knows even a little history will remember that nearly every vile movement has had children's auxiliaries.
(Common has traditional views on some subjects. For instance, he's against race mixing. A white Republican who agreed with him would be called a racist by everyone in the Obama adminstration.
Older readers will probably have guessed that I am repeating the excuse often used for Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, that at least he made the trains run on time. Actually he didn't, but many, in Italy and elsewhere, believed that he had.)
- 4:09 PM, 11 May 2011 [link]
If You Have Seen Any Mistakes In My Posts During April, Please Let Me Know: My archives for April are here, here, here, and here.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(I'll be running a similar post after each month from now on, usually a day or two after the end of the month.)
- 3:32 PM, 11 May 2011 [link]
Lifeguards In Newport Beach Do Very Well: If, as Jack Wu explains, they are full time. (Oddly, the full-time lifeguards leave most of the life guarding to hourly, part-time lifeguards.)
And the retired full-time lifeguards do even better.
Ooohhh . . . forgot to mention their juicy pensions didn't I?Newport Beach can probably afford this level of compensation, but not many other places can. As those other places are beginning to discover.
(Unfortunately for our late night comedians, the Newport Beach lifeguards aren't the Baywatch crew. Erika Eleniak, Pamela Anderson, and all the others worked for Los Angeles County, not Newport Beach.)
- 9:37 AM, 11 May 2011 [link]
Why The Rush To Reveal The Bin Laden Raid? Jonah Goldberg makes the same point I did in this post, but supports it with some anonymous experts and a metaphor that even President Obama should be able to understand.
For a week people have been asking, "Why won't the president release Osama bin Laden's photo?" That's the wrong question. We should be asking, "Why was Barack Obama in such a hurry to tell us bin Laden was dead?"You want to keep your enemies guessing as long as possible. Even a day or two might have helped.
(For an example of how we sometimes kept secrets during World War II, see the capture of the U-505.)
- 8:32 AM, 11 May 2011 [link]
Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter? You may have thought that our 16th president had enough to do, what with the Civil War and all, so that he had no time for a secret life. But a movie, due to be released next year, challenges that idea:
. . . [T]he cast and crew of the movie, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," are scrambling to deliver a summer blockbuster. It is set for release, in 3-D, by 20th Century Fox in June of next year.According to the article, the producers are trying to make the movie as historically accurate as possible, except for that little bit about vampires. (If you accept that bit, you will find John Wilkes Booth easier to understand.)
If Lincoln had been a vampire hunter, he would have been a good one.
(The movie is based on the book by the same name.
There are, I learned from the article, a number of similar books, including "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", "Jane Slayre", and "Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter".
Tom Maguire, sharp-eyed as always, spots a possible reference to vampires in Lincoln's Cooper Union speech.)
- 7:38 AM, 11 May 2011 [link]
The Housing Bubble (And More) In A Single Graph:
(Click here for a larger version.)
Note also that house prices were surprisingly stable from 1946 until 1997. I would guess that what was happening during that period was that innovation and increasing regulation roughly balanced each other; builders and suppliers found ways to make houses cheaper, and political leaders and bureaucrats found ways to make them more expensive. (One way to check that guess would be to explore the trends in house prices in markets that are more or less regulated.)
In my semi-informed opinion, we could have falling house prices, long term, if we were to reduce housing regulations. In many areas that would be politically impossible, but not all.
Again, in my semi-informed opinion, one of the causes of the housing bubble was excessive regulation that it made it expensive to build new houses. That helps explain why the increases in house prices varied so widely from state to state, and city to city.
Credits: The data in the graph come, mostly, from Shiller's book, Irrational Exuberance. The graph was originally constructed by the New York Times. It has been updated several times by Steve Barry and published at The Big Picture.
Barry Ritholtz published the latest version here; Megan McArdle uses the chart to criticize the Obama administration's tax credits here — though, for some reason, she never mentions Obama by name.
(You can find an explanation of the index here.)
- 9:56 AM, 10 May 2011 [link]
Mitch Daniels Is A Smart Fellow: Smart enough so that he once "fired" Donald Trump.
Though it may be hard to believe given his mild-mannered demeanor, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is the only potential Republican presidential candidate who can claim to have fired Donald Trump. Back in 2005, Daniels effectively blocked Trump's attempt to build a casino in the town of French Lick, Ind.And was right to do so.
(Daniels is my first choice for a Republican presidential candidate. I'll have more to say about why I like him in later posts.)
- 6:59 AM, 10 May 2011 [link]
Different Administrations, Different Tastes: John F. Kennedy asked Robert Frost to read a poem at his inauguration ceremony.
Michelle Obama has, shall we say, different tastes than Kennedy did. She's asked rapper Common to perform at the White House. He is not the poet I would choose, if I were looking for someone to bring us together.
First Lady Michelle Obama has scheduled a poetry evening for Wednesday, and she's invited several poets, including a successful Chicago poet and rapper, Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr., AKA "Common." However, Lynn is quite controversial, in part because his poetry includes threats to shoot police and at least one passage calling for the "burn[ing]" of then-President George W. Bush.(Common has attended Trinity United, Jeremiah Wright's church, for years.)
The article includes a long piece by Common, if you want to compare his poetry to Frost's.
(Bill Clinton chose Maya Angelou to speak at his first inauguration. I can't recall who Barack Obama chose for his inauguration, but I remember thinking that the piece they read wasn't very good.)
- 6:45 AM, 10 May 2011 [link]
The Bush-Musharraf secret deal:.
The deal was struck between the military leader General Pervez Musharraf and President George Bush after Bin Laden escaped US forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in late 2001, according to serving and retired Pakistani and US officials.The Pakistanis are quite good at vociferous protests, so there wasn't any reason to think they couldn't hold up their end of the deal.
One of the deals, anyway. There may be others.
- 3:44 PM, 9 May 2011 [link]
Worth Reading: Barry Rubin's savage critique of Obama's foreign policy — and his enablers.
So the usual corrective institutions aren't functioning. If no one tells the emperor and his courtiers that they are under-dressed, such people are going to keep peeling off clothes confident of the fact that nobody (or at least anyone who counts) will tell them that they are naked. With so much insulation, they don't feel the chill.Example: President Obama's Cairo speech, his much-touted outreach to the Muslim world, had several historical errors in it. As I recall, one or two of them were bad enough so that even I would have spotted them. If anyone in our "mainstream" media noticed those mistakes, they weren't bothered by them.
By way of Meryl Yourish.
(There are, I am sure, people in the State Department, the Defense Department, and the CIA who could have found and corrected the mistakes in the Cairo speech. There are university historians who would have been glad to vet the speech for Obama. Apparently, he didn't ask any of these people for help.)
- 10:45 AM, 9 May 2011 [link]
Congratulations To Meryl Yourish: On ten years of productive blogging.
Productive, and often, for me, instructive.
And I should mention, as I have before, that she was generous in helping me get started blogging. (She's even been nice enough to laugh at some of my jokes, though I think she may have missed this one.) I suspect that she has helped others in the same way, and many others, in other ways, during the last ten years.
(Yes, I'm late — but I have had two elections, and the bin Laden raid to cover in the last few weeks.)
- 10:21 AM, 9 May 2011 [link]
You'd Think That A Man with three wives would have one who wanted to make their house a home.
But you would be wrong.
Uninhabitable: Bin Laden's living quarters resembled a poorly-run care home rather than the nerve centre of the world's most wanted terroristThat dirt and disorder is of no great importance, but it does puzzle me. After all, none of the wives had demanding careers that kept them outside the home, so they had plenty of time to keep the place up, if they wanted to.
(Perhaps jealousy, an almost inevitable problem with polygamous relationships, kept the wives from even minimal cooperation. Or maybe all three of the wives viewed themselves as prisoners — understandably — and did no more than the absolute minimum.)
- 9:13 AM, 9 May 2011 [link]
They Told Me That If I Voted For John McCain Fat Cats Would Get Fatter. And they were right.
Chief executives at the biggest U.S. companies saw their pay jump sharply in 2010, as boards rewarded them for strong profit and share-price growth with bigger bonuses and stock grants. The median value of salaries, bonuses and long-term incentive awards for CEOs of 350 major companies surged 11% to $9.3 million, according to a study of proxy statements conducted for The Wall Street Journal by management consultancy Hay Group.
- 7:14 AM, 9 May 2011 [link]
Boat On Building: One more tsunami disaster picture. The boat looks as if it had been placed, by a careful crane operator, on top of that building.
(The article, on the use of battery-electric cars after the disaster, is mildly interesting, though I have doubts about its balance. But they made a mistake posing the car in front of that interesting background.)
- 6:47 AM, 9 May 2011
Missing link fixed. Sorry about that.
- 5:11 AM, 10 May 2011 [link]
Wanted Dead Or Dead: Toby Harnden calls attention to a change in American policy:
Throughout the Bush administration, the method of choice for dealing with senior al-Qaeda operatives was to track them down, capture them and transport them to a CIA secret prison, known as a "black site". Some were subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding, widely regarded as torture.President Obama:
Under Mr Obama, drone strikes in Pakistan have increased dramatically, resulting in dead suspects, civilian casualties and fewer prisoners to interrogate.Most — but not all — leftists are fine with this change in policy. Most leftists believe that it is very wrong to dunk a terorist in water, but that it is okay to shoot the same man, without holding a trial first.
Whatever you may think of that ethical position, it is obvious that the Obama policy has practical disadvantages. It is almost always better to capture a terrorist than kill him, because you can, in time, almost always get him to reveal some secrets.
(FWIW: Harnden quotes an unidentified Navy Seal saying that it would have been easier to capture bin Laden than to kill him.)
- 6:24 AM, 9 May 2011 [link]
Nancy Pelosi Celebrated Mother's Day In Her Own Way: She sent out a pro-abortion fund-raising message.
(The Hill isn't precise on the date, but Pelosi's message went out in the week before Mother's Day. It's odd that no one on her staff noticed the timing problem.)
- 5:45 AM, 9 May 2011 [link]