Archive:

November 2008, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Windows Oddity:  While trying to install the Norton 2009 security suite, I ran into one odd glitch.  I put the CD in, let it start, and clicked on install.  Instead of starting the install program, Windows started an Epson scanner program.  The problem wasn't difficult to work around; I just opened the CD and started the install program directly.  But it was odd.

(Why choose Norton?  Because Walter Mossberg claimed that current version is much less intrusive than previous versions.  And, so far, he seems to be right.  But you shouldn't put much weight on my experience, since I use Windows so little for serious work.)
- 9:29 AM, 24 November 2008   [link]


Should Congressman Charles Rangel Obey The Tax Laws?  He doesn't think so, even if he is the chairman of the Ways and Means committee.   Just because you write the tax laws doesn't mean you have to obey them.

The New York Post has been investigating Rangel for some months, and they keep coming up with new violations.
Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel took a "homestead" tax break on a Washington, DC, house for years while simultaneously occupying multiple rent-stabilized apartments in New York City, possibly violating laws and regulations in both cases.

The situation raises a number of potential problems for the congressman, including:

• New York City law requires that tenants use rent-stabilized apartments as their primary residence.

• DC's real Property Homestead Deduction Act also requires that a property receiving the benefit be a primary residence.
And there's much more.

You might think that Speaker Pelosi would want the chairman of Ways and Means to be someone who obeys the tax laws, as well as writing them, but you would be wrong.  Corruption on this level never bothers a machine politician — unless it begins to hurt the organization, politically.
- 7:09 AM, 24 November 2008   [link]


Want To See A Summary Picture Of Our Energy Production And Use?  You can find one here.  It is dated 2002, but the broad flows are still about the same now as they were six years ago.

I've saved a copy to look at whenever Obama discusses energy policy, and you may want to do the same.

Here's what Obama has been promising.
On Saturday, Obama gave his strongest comments yet about making the environment a cornerstone of his economic stimulus plan.  He outlined a package to create 2.5 million jobs, that included "building wind farms and solar panels, fuel-efficient cars and alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil . . ."

During the campaign, Obama pledged to cap carbon dioxide emissions and reduce them 80 percent by 2050 and to have 25 percent of US energy come from renewable sources by 2025.  He wants to invest $150 billion in clean energy in the next decade.  In addition, he has said he will raise vehicle fuel economy standards and aggressively pursue energy efficiency and conservation.
His goals are not physically impossible, but pursuing them would probably cripple the economy.  (We know his goals are not physically impossible, because we met them in the past.  But I doubt that many American voters really want to go that far back, especially with our larger population.)  Reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent is almost impossible without an immense investment in nuclear energy, or some amazing breakthrough.

(Summary picture by way of commenter RichatUF.)
- 6:11 AM, 24 November 2008   [link]


Mark Halperin makes a point about media bias.
Media bias was more intense in the 2008 election than in any other national campaign in recent history, Time magazine's Mark Halperin said Friday at the Politico/USC conference on the 2008 election.

"It's the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war," Halperin said at a panel of media analysts. "It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage."
John Heilemann, of New York magazine, illustrates Halperin's point:
"The biggest bias in the press is towards effectiveness," said Heilemann, who is authoring a book on the 2008 race along with Halperin.

"We love things that are smart."
Right.  Like 57 states, and FDR on television.

There's a bit of hope in the conclusion:
Still, Halperin's general point met with little resistance
Most "mainstream" journalists know they were trying to deceive us during the campaign.  And I suppose that I would rather have them know that they were dishonest, than not know it.  But it isn't a great choice.
- 4:37 PM, 23 November 2008   [link]


One Day Late:  But I agree with these sentiments entirely.  We have won a victory in Iraq, and we should celebrate our victory.
We won. The Iraq War is over.

I declare November 22, 2008 to be "Victory in Iraq Day." (Hereafter known as "VI Day.")

By every measure, The United States and coalition forces have conclusively defeated all enemies in Iraq, pacified the country, deposed the previous regime, successfully helped to establish a new functioning democratic government, and suppressed any lingering insurgencies.  The war has come to an end.  And we won.

What more indication do you need?  An announcement from the outgoing Bush administration?  It's not gonna happen.  An announcement from the incoming Obama administration?  That's really not gonna happen.  A declaration of victory by the media?  Please.  Don't make me laugh.  A concession of surrender by what few remaining insurgents remain in hiding?   Forget about it.
We can celebrate, but we should not forget that too many Americans, and far too many American journalists, did not, in the last few years, want us to win.  That the costs of a defeat in Iraq would have been terrible, for the Iraqis and, in the long run, for ourselves, did not bother them much, if at all.

(More thoughts from neo-neocon, the blogger they liked so well, they named her twice.)
- 4:14 PM, 23 November 2008   [link]


Halo, Seattle:  (That pun was so bad I couldn't resist it.)

Halo over Seattle, November 2008

And I thought you might like the picture, even with the pun.

More on sun halos here.  And, if you know that this halo is 22 degrees away from the sun, then you were paying attention in science class.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(There is probably a fine explanation of this halo, and much else, in this book, but I haven't received my review copy yet, so I can't be sure.)
- 3:15 PM, 21 November 2008
More:  Professor Mass tells me that what you see in that picture (not counting Seattle) is "a halo in a cirostratus cloud deck . . . and something called crepuscular rays".  And he tells me that you can find that information, and much else, in his new book.
- 12:41 PM, 22 November 2008   [link]


Fifteen Minutes?!  That detail is what startled me in this lawsuit story.
A series of lawsuits have been brought against major US companies by staff claiming unpaid overtime based on the time it takes Windows Vista to start up and shut down.
. . .
The crux of the issue is the fact that some companies have connected time-keeping systems to their PCs.

These systems are not activated until the user logs in, which is taking up to 15 minutes after the machine running Windows Vista has been turned on thanks to the long boot cycle.  This means staff are in the office or shop but not officially working until they've logged in
Do Vista systems really take that long to boot up?  (And shut down?)  They also say "up to two hours" a week.  If we assume that an employee takes a lunch break, then they would boot up and shut down ten times in a five day week.  That would be just twelve minutes for a complete cycle, which sounds high, but not unreasonable.
- 2:01 PM, 21 November 2008   [link]


Virtual Cartoon Number 2:  This one will, I am afraid, require considerable artistic skill.  But it makes an important point, so I hope that someone who can draw will attempt it.

Seattle PI cartoonist David Horsey has been one of the worst American cartoonists during the last eight years.  (Though there are foreign cartoonists who make Horsey look almost fair.)  He has drawn attack after attack on George W. Bush, most of them unfair, even by the standards of editorial cartoons, and many of them resting on falsehoods about Bush.

But I am certain that Horsey will treat the next president, the former junior senator from Illinois, very differently.  And so, I suggest the following cartoon:  It would be titled "David Horsey prepares for the Obama administration".  And we would see Horsey in two panels.  In the first, he is putting away the buckets of mud he has been using for the last eight years.  In the second, he is picking up a makeup kit, a shoeshine box, and a bouquet of flowers.

As before, I would be delighted if one of you would draw these panels, and convert this virtual cartoon into a real cartoon.  I would publish your cartoon, with or without credit, whichever you prefer.  (From time to time, Horsey has given us drawings of himself, so you should be able to find a drawing of him to copy, without much effort.  As far as that goes, I think that using one of the Horsey's drawings of himself to do a satire on Horsey may be within the fair use rules governing copyrights.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Horsey has never struck me as an intellectual giant, or as a man who is especially curious.  He has all the prejudices of the typical "mainstream" journalist, and is quite unlikely to check those prejudices for accuracy.  One would think that being incurious would be a defect for a journalist, but so many journalists have that characteristic that I am inclined to think that editors and producers see it as a plus.

Similar cartoons could be drawn of many other American cartoonists, most of whom have been quite unfunny over the last eight years.)
- 12:55 PM, 21 November 2008   [link]


Should We Spend More On Infrastructure?  David Leonhardt has some basic numbers and part of the answer, but only part.

First, the numbers:
They help explain why our infrastructure is in such poor shape even though spending on it, surprisingly enough, has risen at a good clip in recent decades.  Spending is up 50 percent over the last 10 years, after adjusting for inflation.  As a share of the economy, it will be higher this year than in any year since 1981.
So we are spending more, but, Leonhardt thinks, not getting our money's worth.
Mary Peters, the current secretary of transportation, put it this way:  "The United States is one of the few countries in the world to make the majority of its transportation investments without first conducting any kind of economic analysis to determine whether those investments will have any practical benefits for commuters or shippers.  The results are telling."
You can read the rest of the piece for more details, but you don't really need to, since you have the worthwhile parts of Leonhardt's analysis.  And that analysis is, to put it mildly, incomplete.

First, Secretary Peters exaggerates when she says that the United States does not do cost/benefit analyses.  We do them often, though they aren't always very good.  But then we often ignore them.  Take, for instance, the many light rail projects around the country.  They almost never pass ordinary cost/benefit tests.  But politicians, especially politicians on the left, love them, as do most journalists, including, I suspect, Leonhardt.

Second, though it is easy to find examples of failing infrastructure around the country, as Leonhardt did to start the piece, it is not obvious that our infrastructure is "crumbling", on the whole.  Some is, some isn't.  And it is easy to find examples of improvements, as well as problems.  In the suburb where I live, there have many improvements in the infrastructure over the last ten years.  (Though not all of those improvements would pass cost/benefit tests.)

And there are good reasons to think that, on the whole, our infrastructure is getting better, that more of it is being fixed than is crumbling.  Our roads are safer than they have ever been, measured by deaths per million miles traveled, and so are our airways.

Third, although Leonhardt begins with an example from Obama's neighborhood, he does not draw the obvious lesson from that example.  Cities (and states) with corrupt governments almost always waste money that could be used to fix roads.  Chicago has had corrupt governments for decades, so it is no surprise to learn that Chicago streets need repair, in spite of Chicago's very high taxes.  (Regular readers, though not necessarily Leonhardt, will know that Barack Obama did nothing to fight that corruption.)

Fourth, Leonhardt says nothing about the environmental rules that have added so much to the cost of road construction.  Some of those rules have been beneficial, but many would not pass cost/benefit tests.  And some are only excuses for what I like to call "green pork", spending supposedly for environmental improvements, but actually for rewards to politically-connected contractors and politicians.

Despite these flaws, we can be grateful to Leonhardt for at least giving us the basic numbers on spending.  And, who knows, perhaps he will think a little bit harder about those numbers some time.  One can always hope.
- 11:09 AM, 21 November 2008   [link]


Don't Worry, Be Happy:  And if you aren't happy, then you may want to try watching less television.
Happy people spend a lot of time socializing, going to church and reading newspapers — but they don't spend a lot of time watching television, a new study finds.

That's what unhappy people do.

Although people who describe themselves as happy enjoy watching television, it turns out to be the single activity they engage in less often than unhappy people, said John Robinson, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland and the author of the study, which appeared in the journal Social Indicators Research.
No guarantee:
But the researchers could not tell whether unhappy people watch more television or whether being glued to the set is what makes people unhappy.  "I don't know that turning off the TV will make you more happy," Dr. Robinson said.
But definitely worth a try.

(Full disclosure:  I watch very little television, though I do often have it on during meals.)
- 10:22 AM, 21 November 2008   [link]


Why All The Pirate Attacks?  Blame changing laws and "human rights" organizations, say David Rivkin and Lee Casey.

We can catch pirates:
Capturing pirates is not the critical problem.  Rather, the issue is how to handle those in captivity.  Traditionally, pirates fell within that category of illegitimate hostiles that once included slave traders, brigands on the roads and, in wartime, unprivileged or "unlawful" enemy combatants.  As Judge Nicholas Trott, presiding over a pirate trial, explained in 1718: "It is lawful for any one that takes them, if they cannot with safety to themselves bring them under some government to be tried, to put them to death."  This law, of course, has changed since the 18th century.   Pirates, brigands and unlawful combatants must now be tried before they can be punished.

One solution would be for the capturing state to press charges based on the much misunderstood and abused principle of "universal" jurisdiction.  This is the notion that any state may criminalize and punish conduct that violates certain accepted international-law norms.  Although its application in most circumstances is dubious -- there is very little actual state practice supporting the right of one state to punish the nationals of a second for offenses against the citizens of a third -- piracy is one area where a strong case for universal jurisdiction can be made (if only because piratical activities often take place on the high seas, beyond any state's territorial jurisdiction).
But then we have trouble figuring out what to do with them, a problem that did not bother our ancestors:
The key problem is that America's NATO allies have effectively abandoned the historical legal rules permitting irregular fighters to be tried in special military courts (or, in the case of pirates, admiralty courts) in favor of a straightforward criminal-justice model.  Although piracy is certainly a criminal offense, treating it like bank robbery or an ordinary murder case presents certain problems for Western states.

To begin with, common criminals cannot be targeted with military force.  There are other issues as well.  Last April the British Foreign Office reportedly warned the Royal Navy not to detain pirates, since this might violate their "human rights" and could even lead to claims of asylum in Britain.   Turning the captives over to Somali authorities is also problematic -- since they might face the head- and hand-chopping rigors of Shariah law.  Similar considerations have confounded U.S. government officials in their discussions of how to confront this new problem of an old terror at sea.
I know, I know, the solutions seem obvious*.  But not to most experts on international law, or to most "human rights" organizations.

And the solutions won't seem at all obvious to the Obama administration, which is headed by a leftist lawyer, married to a leftist lawyer.

(*If you are an expert on international law or a representative of a "human rights" organization, here are two solutions:  Re-establish admiralty courts.  Try captured pirates and give them long sentences.  Locate their shore bases and send Marines in to destroy them.

Similar thoughts from Caroline Glick.)
- 8:07 AM, 21 November 2008
More:  A shipping official is calling for a blockade of the Somali coast.   I'm not sure how practical that would be, given the length of the coast, 2400 miles, and the size of the boats they are using in the attacks.  The boats don't look as if they need much in the way of a harbor.
- 1:42 PM, 24 November 2008
More Details from Bret Stephens.  For example:
Article 110 of the U.N.'s Law of the Sea Convention -- ratified by most nations, but not by the U.S. -- enjoins naval ships from simply firing on suspected pirates.  Instead, they are required first to send over a boarding party to inquire of the pirates whether they are, in fact, pirates.  A recent U.N. Security Council resolution allows foreign navies to pursue pirates into Somali waters -- provided Somalia's tottering government agrees -- but the resolution expires next week.
This whole thing would be even funnier if the losses weren't so serious — and growing.
- 3:23 PM, 25 November 2008   [link]


This Probably Isn't The Best Way to get a good recommendation.
A Minnesota college student allegedly went on an obscenity-laced rampage at a local television station after being fired as an intern, court charges say.

According to the Star Tribune in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Jennifer Nicole Anato-Mensah, a 21-year-old University of Minnesota student, is accused of chasing after an executive producer at KSTP-TV who had just fired her, damaging company property along the way.
Especially in a tight job market.
- 4:24 PM, 20 November 2008   [link]


Some Subjects I Am Happy To Avoid:  For instance, I see no reason to write about Germaine Greer's critique of Michelle Obama's clothing choices.   Or about Erin Aubry Kaplan's celebration of Michelle Obama's anatomy, or to be specific, one part of her anatomy.   Which I won't name, in order to keep this site family friendly.

But I will make one small point.  Both the critique and the celebration were published by leftist news organizations.  Where you can probably find many people who will tell you how crude conservatives are.
- 12:49 PM, 20 November 2008   [link]


The "House Negro" Insult Drew Most Of The Attention:  But that wasn't what most interesting about the Ayman al-Zawahiri message to Barack Obama.  Perhaps the most interesting parts of the message — to me, anyway — were his references to Malcolm X.  For example:
You represent the direct opposite of honorable black Americans like Malik al-Shabazz, or Malcolm X (may Allah have mercy on him).  You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America.
Like commenter "Gladius et Scutum", I think those references to Malcolm X are aimed at black Americans.

And note the "claim to be a Christian" phrase.

You'll want to read the whole thing.
- 7:31 AM, 20 November 2008   [link]


Democrats Often Say They Want To Count Every Vote:  But they don't really mean it, as Al Franken's challenge to this vote shows.

(For the record, my own rule is:  Count every legal vote.  And I do think that when Democrats leave out that little adjective, they tell us something about themselves.)
- 6:23 AM, 20 November 2008
More:  Minnesota Public Radio has scans of eleven more disputed ballots.   I found it hard to decide how I would rule on a few of them, partly because the election law assumes ordinary paper ballots, not optical scan ballots.  And partly because some of the rules can conflict with the overall intent of the law, to recognize voter intent, if possible.  For example, if a voter puts a small mark in one oval and fills in another oval completely, most of us would think that they meant to vote for the second candidate.  But section 7 says:  "When more names than the number to be elected are marked or written in, the ballot is defective with respect to that office and no vote shall be counted for that office."  As I understand that section, ballots 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, and 11 should be rejected.  But what if the first mark were even smaller than the one by Dean Barkley's name in ballot 8?
- 4:08 PM, 20 November 2008   [link]


HP 2133 Screen Dump:  Here's what the screen on the little netbook looks like, running an application you may have seen before.

HP 2133 screen dump

Click on the picture if you want to see the actual screen dump at its full 1280x768 size.  The screen measures 8.9 inches diagonally, if you are wondering how large it is, as well as how clear it is.   Colors are a little off on photos, as you would expect, but not so much that you can't enjoy the pictures.

Oddly, the screen looks smaller vertically than the monitor I used for more than a decade, even though I used a 1024x768 resolution on the monitor.  I suppose that's because the netbook screen is wider.
- 5:06 PM, 19 November 2008   [link]


Blame OPEC:  All over the world, economies are slowing down, and even going into recession, officially.  Since different nations have followed different economic policies, it would be a mistake to blame all of the slowdowns on the policies of the individual nations.  Instead, we should look for something that hurt most of the world's economies in the last few years.

And that something isn't hard to find.  The BBC, unintentionally, gave us a clue today.
Opec members have lost about $700bn (£467bn) because of falling crude prices, the oil cartel's president Chakib Khelil said in an interview.

Oil prices have fallen 60% from their $147 peak, prompting speculation Opec will cut output again to boost prices.
Which means that the rest of us have $700 billion dollars more to spend.  (And something like $1.75 trillion extra, if we allow for all the oil producers, since OPEC has just 40 percent of the world's production.)  The article doesn't say what time period Chakib Khelil is using, but even over a year, that is a heavy burden to put on the rest of the world's economies.

Oddly enough, though the BBC doesn't mention this OPEC-recession connection in the article, they do mention it in a linked article in their sidebar.
In the wake of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the Arab oil-producing countries (OPEC) imposed an embargo on supplies to the US on 20 October 1973.

For the wider world, oil prices went through the roof, from around $3 a barrel before the war to over $11 by early the following January.

The crisis led to a recession in 1975, the first of four world downturns where oil price increases caused by events in the Middle East played a key role.

The finger of blame was also pointed at Opec when prices spiked in the second half of 2000 and prompted fuel protests across much of Europe.
Not that there isn't blame to go around.  There is no question that the policies of many nations, including my own, may have contributed to this slowdown.  But I do think that Khelil and company deserve the biggest share of the blame.

(It's my impression — and I almost never watch network news, and watch as little local TV news as I can — that our TV journalists have said very little about this obvious OPEC-recession connection, in part because they want to blame everything bad on Bush, and in part because they think we should pay higher prices for energy, to atone for our environmental sins.)
- 3:14 PM, 19 November 2008   [link]


Dave Ross Should Bail Out General Motors:  Or, if he prefers, Chrysler or Ford.

Yesterday and today I listened, off and on, to a local talk show host, Dave Ross, discuss a possible bailout of the US auto makers.  Ross, who ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2004, was sympathetic to the auto makers and to their principal union, the United Auto Workers.  But there was one very strange thing about his programs, both yesterday and today.  Mixed in with his discussions of the problems of the US auto industry were Ross's commercials for the Toyota Prius, which is not manufactured by a US auto maker, or even in the US.

And that inspired me to suggest an alternative solution to the problems of our big three auto manufacturers:  Dave Ross should help them out by buying one (or more) of their cars.  Which car he buys is, of course, up to him.  All three make fuel efficient cars so, if that is his main criterion, he will have many to choose from.  Both GM and Ford make some models with very good reliability — I don't know whether Chrysler does — so, if Ross looks, he should be able to find a US-made car with both good gas mileage and good reliability.  Which is what he says he likes about the Prius.

Ross can't bail out the US car companies by himself, but he can set an example for other people.  And there are, in my opinion, enough muddled leftists like Ross in our country so that they could bail out all three car companies without any help from the taxpayers.  And they would get something in return, brand new cars.  A million extra sales would do a lot for GM, Ford, and Chrysler, and I think there are at least a million muddled leftists in this country who could afford a new car, right now.  (Some wealthier leftists might want to buy extra cars and donate them to the poor, especially the working poor who need to commute by car to their jobs.  And, if any do, I will applaud their acts of charity.)

(Ross might have to give up those Toyota commercials, but that is a sacrifice he should be glad to make for his country.  Or he could use more than one car, as many do.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Some background on Ross for those unfamiliar with his program;  He's something of a rarity in the talk show business; he's a successful leftwing talk show host.  Even in this area, that isn't easy to do.  He's popular enough so that he ran for Congress in 2004, and lost 52-47 to Republican Dave Reichert, not a bad showing against a man who had been a popular King County sheriff.

If I were choose a single phrase to describe his views, I would call him a muddled leftist.  He often talks about economic issues, but does not appear to know enough about economics to pass Economics 101 — at least before grade inflation.  He generally drops what little critical ability he has when he is interviewing someone on the left.  That may explain why Democratic politicians in trouble often go on his show to defend themselves.  And why he was such a sucker for Valerie Plame and her husband.)
- 11:00 AM, 19 November 2008   [link]


Barack Obama Is A Pro-Abortion Extremist:  Nat Hentoff — who is not religious, and is not on the right — has a good summary of just how extreme Obama is on this issue.
During a July 17, 2007 speech before the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, then Sen. Barack Obama pledged: "The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act."  That is a bizarre way "to bring us together," another goal of his as president.
. . .
The rabidly pro-abortion Freedom of Choice Act he supports, unless there is an unlikely successful filibuster in the Democratically controlled Senate, would invalidate parental-notification laws; any state's requirement of full disclosure of the physical and emotional risks inherent in abortion; and — can you believe this? — all laws prohibiting medical personnel other than licensed physicians from performing abortions because such restrictions might "interfere" with access to this absolute right to abortion.   This is respect for women?

As of now, before our abortion president gets his wish, 26 states have informed-consent laws, 36 have parental-involvement laws and 34 states have restrictions on funding for abortions.

Also disposed of will be the "conscience rights" in many states.  They include, [Douglas] Johnson [of the National Right to Life Committee] reminds us, "all laws allowing doctors, nurses or other state-licensed professionals, and hospitals or other health care providers, to decline to provide or pay for abortions."
In other words, Obama would require, for example, Catholic hospitals to provide abortions, to commit what Catholics regard as a mortal sin.  This is not an abstract issue.  Some time ago a state ACLU affiliate (New Jersey, I think) sued to force Catholic hospitals in the state to provide abortions.  They lost, of course, but they might not lose again if the FOCA became law.

This act would be, in my opinion, the most severe attack on freedom of religion in this country, in at least the last century.

(Full disclosure:  Like most Americans, I am in the middle on the abortion issue.  I favor more restrictions on abortion than we currently have, but not outright bans on early abortions.  But I am not at all in the middle on Roe versus Wade, since I believe that elected legislators, not appointed judges, should make our laws.)
- 9:58 AM, 19 November 2008   [link]


Hillary Clinton For Secretary Of State?!  Apparently, there is some basis to the rumors.   The original story in the Guardian went too far, I thought, but I can believe what Jake Tapper says.
President-elect Barack Obama is inching closer to naming former rival Sen. Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state, ABC News has learned.

Serious progress has been made in the talks between the two, leaving both Obama and Clinton increasingly optimistic that the assignment will happen, sources say.
There is one minor stumbling block:
Her appointment, however, would also come with complications stemming from Bill Clinton's constant world travels and fundraising among foreigners for his presidential library and William J. Clinton Foundation.

Bill Clinton's ventures are being vetted by Obama attorney Christine Varney, as well as by Obama transition officials, who are known and trusted by the Clintons, as well as by some officials at Clinton's philanthropic foundation to make sure there is nothing that could complicate or compromise an Obama foreign policy.
If Obama does offer the job to Hillary Clinton, and she accepts, then Bill Clinton is going to lose a lot of foreign deals — at least I hope he will.

(It would be interesting to know which camp(s) the rumors are coming from.  The Guardian does not describe its sources; Tapper only says "sources familiar with the negotiations".

There is one howler in the Guardian article:
Although the two [Obama and McCain] clashed during the election campaign over tax policy and withdrawal from Iraq, they have more in common than they have differences.  They both favour the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention centre, an increase in US troops to Afghanistan, immigration reform, stem cell research and measures to tackle climate change, and oppose torture and the widespread use of wire-tapping.
Ewen MacAskill, the reporter who wrote that bit of nonsense, is not an intern, as you might have thought, but the Guardian's Washington DC bureau chief.  Does he know that, by one widely accepted measure, Obama had the most liberal voting record in the United States Senate?  Or that McCain has a long conservative record?  Or even that McCain has always wanted to win in Iraq, and that Obama has almost always wanted to lose?)
- 5:05 PM, 18 November 2008
Reactions  to the possible appointment from Noemie Emery, who is amused by the way Hillary Clinton became the "Great Right Hope", from David Broder, who thinks she's the wrong person for the job, from Thomas Friedman, who thinks that she isn't close enough to Obama to be secretary of state, and from Dick Morris, who thinks that she is unqualified.

Two odd bits:  Broder says that he became a Hillary fan when he watched her efforts at health care reform — which she botched.  Friedman thinks that James Baker was a great secretary of state.

And one irrefutable, but almost unsayable, point from Dick Morris:  Obama is "without any experience in foreign affairs".  And almost without any experience in domestic problems, I would add.
- 9:19 AM, 19 November 2008   [link]


Need A Reason To Laugh?  Left wing talk show host Ed Schultz supplies one.  Unintentionally.
This being an election year and all, nefarious right-wing forces must be at work, at least according to Schultz.  Here's what the Fargo, N.D.-based liberal talker told his listeners on Nov. 12 --
You know what's gonna happen?  Gasoline's gonna be a buck 47 ($1.47) when Bush gets out of office.  This has just been all so pre-arranged.  Oil fell 5 percent to 56 bucks a barrel today.  Wow.  OPEC officials concerned about the oil's steep drop from record highs of $147 per barrel in July, said the cartel could possibly decide by the end of the month to cut production again to raise prices.
Let me see if I've got this straight.  That steep drop in oil prices from summer to election day was "  all so pre-arranged," correct?  In fairness to Schultz's claim, it's not as if this hasn't happened before.  As I recall, oil prices also dropped in the months leading to the 2006 mid-term elections.

The problem with Schultz's theory, however, is that oil prices this year kept dropping after the election.  Did the alleged conspirators forget to synchronize their watches?
I suppose he could save his theory by postulating evil, but inept, conspirators.

Actually, as almost any Republican operative could tell you, the rise in energy prices that preceded this fall hurt more than the fall may have helped.
- 1:01 PM, 18 November 2008   [link]


Rupert Murdoch has some advice for American journalists
"My summary of the way some of the established media has responded to the Internet is this: It's not newspapers that might become obsolete.  It's some of the editors, reporters, and proprietors who are forgetting a newspaper's most precious asset: the bond with its readers," said Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corp.
. . .
"It used to be that a handful of editors could decide what was news--and what was not.  They acted as sort of demigods.  If they ran a story, it became news.  If they ignored an event, it never happened," Murdoch said.  "Today, editors are losing this power.  The Internet, for example, provides access to thousands of new sources that cover things an editor might ignore.  And if you aren't satisfied with that, you can start up your own blog, and cover and comment on the news yourself.   Journalists like to think of themselves as watchdogs, but they haven't always responded well when the public calls them to account."
. . .
". . . A recent American study reported that many editors and reporters simply do not trust their readers to make good decisions.  Let's be clear about what this means.  This is a polite way of saying that these editors and reporters think their readers are too stupid to think for themselves."
Oddly enough, some readers have sensed that editors and reporters have those attitudes.  And those readers are not buying newspapers as often as they once did.

It is, I think, not entirely coincidental that the decline of American newspapers began about the same time the newspapers began to be dominated by "professionals", educated in journalism schools.

Good advice, but few of them will take it, especially since it comes from Rupert Murdoch.
- 11:21 AM, 18 November 2008   [link]


Even The New York Times Editorial Writers Aren't Wrong All The Time:   (Though that is the way to bet.)  They are right, for example, in this editorial.
We don't say it all that often, but President Bush is right: Congress should pass the Colombian free-trade agreement now.

Mr. Bush signed the deal two years ago.  The Democratic majority in Congress has refused to approve it out of a legitimate concern over the state of human rights in Colombia and less legitimate desires to pander to organized labor or deny Mr. Bush a foreign policy win.

We believe that the trade pact would be good for America's economy and workers.  Rejecting it would send a dismal message to allies the world over that the United States is an unreliable partner and, despite all that it preaches, does not really believe in opening markets to trade.  There is no more time to waste.  If the lame-duck Congress does not approve the trade pact this year, prospects would dim considerably since it would lose the cover of the rule (formerly known as fast track) that provides for an up-or-down, no-amendment vote.

Because of trade preferences granted as part of the war on drugs, most Colombian exports already are exempt from United States tariffs.  The new agreement would benefit American companies that now have to pay high tariffs on exports to Colombia.
Rational thought is so rare in their editorials on Bush policies that this brief appearance should be celebrated.  Briefly.

(The Times is still being kind to Democrats.  Though it criticizes them, it does not name any of the miscreants.  But I will.  Here's the chief miscreant:  Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  The measure probably would have been approved long ago, had she given it her support.)
- 8:00 AM, 18 November 2008   [link]


Worth Saving:  Yesterday's Michael Ramirez cartoon, which you can find here.
- 5:33 AM, 18 November 2008   [link]


The HP Mini-Note Arrived This Morning:  And I have played with it enough to conclude that the impression I got from the reviews was correct.  It has fine hardware, and the wrong operating system, or at least the wrong version of an operating system.

Overall construction looks very solid, almost hardened.  (Which, admittedly, must add to the weight, though it is still quite easy to carry.)  The keyboard is, if anything, better than the keyboard on my 17-inch laptop, though, of course, it does not include a numeric keypad.  The screen is surprisingly readable, indoors, considering its size.  The graphics chip was able to play a Youtube video with no problems.  The speakers aren't bad, although I doubt that many audiophiles would be happy with them.  (There is a jack for headphones, and another jack for a microphone, so you can record as well as listen.)

And it didn't take me long to decide that the SUSE installation was poorly chosen, and poorly done.   On the first boot, you are taken to SUSE's usual installation dialog, with a series of questions that might frighten the naive user.  (I have seen them all before, but still managed to get confused on one set of choices.)  The installation takes up most of the memory, leaving less than 400K for data and other programs.  But it doesn't include a single game, not even solitaire.  I'll have to check, but I don't think they included the Microsoft's web fonts — which I use on my web site.

The WiFi is now working — but I am not sure what I did to get it started working.  (It may have been something as simple as turning it on during the boot process.)

Documentation is even worse than usual.  The Getting Started booklet doesn't even describe the connectors on the system, though they won't surprise the experienced user.  There is a manual on a CD, but it seems to have been designed to be read only on a Windows system.

More when I have more experience with the netbook.
- 4:07 PM, 17 November 2008
More:  Amazon has the best price on this model; but Newegg has a better set of pictures.   Neither set of pictures really gives you a good idea of what the screen looks like in use.
- 5:02 AM, 18 November 2008   [link]


Nice Work, If You Can Get It:  Washington state's university presidents are doing very well.
Washington now boasts two of the highest-paid university presidents in the country, according to a new report being released today by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

While it may come as no surprise that University of Washington President Mark Emmert is near the top of the list — as he has been since arriving in 2004 — a big mover this year is Elson Floyd, Emmert's counterpart at Washington State University.

In fact, the Chronicle devotes an entire story to Washington, titled "For a Raise, Try Looking in the Evergreen State."

According to the list, Emmert's compensation for the year ending June 30 was nearly $888,000.  That put him second at public universities, behind only his one-time mentor, E. Gordon Gee, of Ohio State University.

Floyd ranked 17th among public-university leaders but was ascending rapidly.  "His 2007-8 compensation, $623,000, did not include a $125,000 raise he received in August, which would make him the country's sixth-highest-compensated public-university president," the Chronicle wrote.
Do Emmert and Floyd earn their salaries?  I have no idea — which I suppose says something in itself.

(I have a challenge planned for the two early next year, which may bring us a partial answer to that question.

Those who do not follow college sports closely may wonder how well the Washington and Washington State football teams are doing, in light of those salaries.  Let me just say that it would be kind not to mention their records to fans of either team.)
- 1:21 PM, 17 November 2008   [link]