November 2011, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
Congratulations To Secretary Chu, Secretary Salazar, And President Obama: You want to see energy prices rise, and you are succeeding.
U.S. crude futures rose more than $2 to above $101 a barrel on Wednesday, on news of plans to reverse the Seaway pipeline in 2012 to relieve an oil glut in Cushing, Okla.Today, the New York Times had an interesting article on the "bifurcated" consumer market; upscale stores do better when the stock market rises, mass market stores do better when the price of gasoline falls.
It is not clear to me whether anyone in authority in the Obama administration understands that higher energy prices, especially higher prices for gasoline and oil, hurt lower-income consumers — and, if they live in rural or suburban areas, hurt them a lot.
It's not an idea that comes naturally to Barack "Arugula" Obama.
(To be fair, I should add that administration officials would probably not mind if the prices of energy from sources acceptable to members of the Green religion, sources like wind and solar, fell.)
- 1:02 PM, 16 November 2011 [link]
Jimmy O'Bama: Last July, someone went to the trouble of combining statements by President Carter and President Obama, and posted the combination on YouTube.
I continue to think that Obama is a much worse president than Carter, but I can't deny the disturbing similarities in what they have said.
- 8:59 AM, 16 November 2011 [link]
If You Want Better Treatment While You are traveling, dress up.
But, I'm just saying. Everything else being equal (same frequent flyer status, etc.) when a flight is oversold in economy and the airline needs to upgrade someone, are they going to choose the passenger in the tank top or the one wearing the nice dress or suit? Now you know the answer.And you are more likely to get polite treatment from security, customs officials, and so on.
This is something I figured out years ago, so when I fly I usually wear a sports jacket (though no tie) — and I have been been rewarded with a seat upgrade on a trans-Atlantic flight, and have never had any problems with security or customs.
The people you encounter, briefly, while you travel, don't have the time to judge you on your character, so they often judge you by how you dress, and, if they talk to you, by how polite you are.
(When I was in college, I sometimes contracted to deliver a car from the Midwest to the West Coast. Once I had to take a Cadillac, which I didn't want to do because of the extra gas costs and the sloppy handling, but the car did have some benefits: I was treated much more politely at service stations. One attendant even offered to empty the ash trays.)
- 8:40 AM, 16 November 2011 [link]
Is Warren Buffett Above The Law? Apparently, and so are many other big investors.
Just this year, the Securities and Exchange Commission allowed Buffett to keep secret his investment in IBM.
But Mr. Buffett didn’t build his $10 billion-plus stake in I.B.M. overnight. He started buying eight months ago, beginning in March. You wouldn’t have known that if you had been studiously reading Berkshire Hathaway’s filings — known as 13Fs — in which companies must disclose stock holdings. There was no mention of I.B.M. in Berkshire’s quarterly filing in April, nor in August. Instead, if you were looking carefully, you might have found an odd footnote that said: “Confidential information has been omitted from the form 13F and filed separately with the commission.”In short, the SEC allows Buffett and other big investors to evade the law by granting them exemptions. This looks to me like a classic case of regulatory capture. The SEC stopped working for the taxpayers — if they ever did — and now works for billionaires like Buffett.
You can argue about whether this disclosure requirement is a good idea, but it is the law, and Buffett should not be allowed to evade it, routinely, even though he plays the "sage of Omaha" from time to time, and contributes to leftist candidates and causes.
(One of the strongest arguments against regulatory agencies, in my opinion, is that they are so likely to be captured, over time, especially if what they do is obscure.)
- 7:20 AM, 16 November 2011 [link]
Deep Sea Quick Change Artists: Deep sea cephalopods (octopuses and squid) are hunted by fish that look up for dark silhouettes, and by fish that use "searchlights" to pick up reflections. So sometimes the cephalopods want to be transparent, and sometimes they want to be dark.
Researcher Sarah Zylinski has found an octopus and a squid that can switch between being transparent and being opaque.
Now a marine expert has discovered a unique octopus and squid that can change camouflage at will.Their default is transparent, and they switch to opaque only when they detect a light.
How fast can they make this change? In less than a second.
- 8:34 PM, 15 November 2011 [link]
Vote Fraud In The San Francisco Mayoralty Election? Sure looks like it.
Workers at a makeshift voting area in San Francisco’s Chinatown set up by an independent expenditure committee supporting Mayor Ed Lee were filling in ballots for voters Friday, according to two independent witnesses.Here's a cynical thought: What was unusual about this example of voter assistance is that it was done in public.
We don't know how often this happens, but we can be nearly certain that few who do mark ballots for others are foolish enough to do it in public, even in San Francisco.
And here's another cynical thought: It is possible that not all of those residents of Chinatown, who were being voted, are legal citizens.
Mayor Lee won the election by a large margin, so it is unlikely that vote fraud made the difference, but, still, vote fraud is not something we want to encourage.
Or perhaps I should say that it is not something that most of us want to encourage.
(More here and here.)
- 1:08 PM, 15 November 2011 [link]
Worth Reading: Even if it is behind the Wall Street Journal paywall. (Which you can get around with a Google search.)
William McGurn explains crony capitalism, Chicago-style.
In so doing, Chicago is giving America a window into the logic of crony capitalism: Raise taxes on everyone — and then cut side deals with those big enough to lobby for special relief.In particular, side deals for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, and Sears.
None of which are small businesses.
- 12:31 PM, 15 November 2011 [link]
Where Did The Obama Administration Go For Economic Advice? Jon Corzine.
And, until very recently, Jon Corzine was thought to have a good chance to be Treasury Secretary in a second Obama term.
They apparently had not noticed just how badly Corzine had performed as governor of New Jersey, so badly that the voters of that Democratic-leaning state tossed him out in favor of Chris Christie.
- 12:14 PM, 15 November 2011 [link]
A Cure For Economic Stagnation On The Eastside? Jon Talton has one.
But now, thanks to Mr. Talton, we have a potential cure for that stagnation, a cure which, he tells us, has done wonders for other cities. All we need to do is extend light rail to this stagnant area.
Oddly enough, Talton does not give us any estimate of costs and benefits from this extension, no doubt because Sound Transit's light rail system has so consistently beaten cost and ridership estimates.
And that's unfortunate because we do have an estimate on the temporary costs of the extension to Bellevue, $1.4 billion. But I have no doubt that Talton has numbers that show us that, even during the four years that the system is being built, the benefits will be much greater than $1.4 billion.
He just hasn't chosen to share those numbers with us.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(That four years may be optimistic. Although this may be hard to believe, you should know that these projects sometimes get delayed by lawsuits.)
- 8:09 AM, 15 November 2011 [link]
Is CNN "Reporter" Dan Lothian Uninformed, Out Of Touch, Irresponsible, And Biased? Yes, unless he was auditioning for a Saturday Night Live parody sketch.
- 7:11 AM, 15 November 2011 [link]
Best Friends Forever?
President Barack Obama is golfing in Hawaii with boyhood pal Robert "Bobby" Titcomb who pleaded no contest to soliciting a prostitute earlier this yearApparently.
(It's not as if he's Herman Cain, after all.)
- 6:54 AM, 15 November 2011 [link]
Is Apple Picking A Job That Americans Are Too Lazy To Do? A week ago, I mentioned that a few apple growers in Washington state had turned, in desperation, to prison inmates, in order to get in the apples before they freeze.
The growers did not do that before advertising for American pickers, with little success.
Diane Kurrle, vice-president of public affairs for the U.S. Apple Association, says apple growers in New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia face similar predicaments. And it's not like they haven't tried hiring U.S. citizens. Most farmers use the government's guest worker program, which requires extensive advertising of jobs in local listings and through state employment agencies before visas are granted to foreigners. But despite unemployment hovering around 10 percent, Kurrle says it's nearly impossible to find Americans willing to work hard, long hours, "including the type of people who are maybe at Occupy Seattle right now."The inmates may not be very skilled, may not work very hard, but they aren't going anywhere.
Pay is better for picking jobs, especially for skilled pickers, than many people realize.
. . . a recent state report (see pages 35 and 36 of pdf) shows that farm workers in the Pacific Northwest earn on average $9.85 an hour. Apple, pear and cherry pickers all earn more--up to $16.48 an hour on average.Some of the apple growers were advertising jobs at $150 a day, which tells me that the best pickers can do better than that.
(If you are wondering why the work is so hard, take a look at this doc, which describes apple harvest jobs. Those picking bags do get heavy at the end of a day.
The harvest is about two weeks later than average this year, which has added to the growers' problems. Presumably, that late harvest was caused, like everything else, by global warming.)
- 1:50 PM, 13 November 2011 [link]
President Obama Says Americans Have Gotten Lazy: (Not including himself, presumably.)
In particular, he says that we haven't done enough to attract foreign investment.
President Barack Obama told an international audience that Americans’ economic difficulties are caused, in part, by laziness, and the cure is more centralized government.So, has foreign investment in the US has been falling? No.
There was a big rush to invest in the US during the Internet boom, and investment fell off after that, but if you exclude that, and look at the long-term trends, foreign investment has been growing in the US since about 1990.
But, what about the larger question? Have we been getting lazier? Perhaps. Michael Barone has argued that we encourage young Americans to be soft — until they get into the work force. And it may be that some never recover from that early experience.
- 12:46 PM, 13 November 2011 [link]
No Hawaiian Shirts For The APEC Leaders: President Obama has broken tradition (and missed a chance to promote his home state).
For most of the last two decades, world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit would don exotic garb chosen by the hosts. The costumes made for a light moment at the picture-taking session -- sober leaders in bomber jackets or pajama-style robes.That's too bad. One of the few things I liked about these meetings was the formal picture of the leaders all dressed in similar costumes. (You can see some of them here.)
(For the record: Were there ever any "coconut bras" — outside comic strips, that is? I suspect not.)
- 7:37 AM, 13 November 2011 [link]
Massachusetts Continues An Old Political Tradition: Old, but, most would say, not proud. We got the term, gerrymander, from Massachusetts in 1812. The state's politicians have not stopped drawing creative lines since then.
For a recent example, take a look at Barney Frank's district, which I would call perverse, if that wouldn't get me in trouble with the diversity czars. I'm not sure what animal it most resembles, perhaps a sitting brontosaurus. (There are enemies of Congressmen Frank who would consider that entirely appropriate.)
This year, since Massachusetts is losing a seat, the state has to redraw lines. Since all ten current districts are represented by Democrats, the state's legislature had to eliminate one of them, without, of course, creating any district that a Republican might win.
Here's the proposed map, which, to be fair, is somewhat less irrational than the current map. (To be fashionable, they included a "majority-minority" district, which explains the 7th's weird shape.)
Howie Carr has been following the intra-party fight over the new boundaries with considerable pleasure, and thinks that Barney Frank is one of the losers.
(Just for fun: If the district boundaries were constructed fairly, how many seats would Republicans win? It's hard to say without detailed knowledge of the political geography, but I would guess between one and three.
And I should add that there are some Republicans who think the proposed map actually gives them opportunities. The Democrats may have put too much emphasis on the results from 2004, 2006, and 2008, and too little on underlying party strengths.)
- 6:40 AM, 14 November 2011 [link]
Michael Moore Has A Nice Little summer cottage.
Moore’s property has been officially assessed at close to $1 million (see below; we have redacted Moore’s addresses and parcel number). That is likely a gross underestimate, but nevertheless places Moore’s vacation home near the top one percent of home values in affluent Forest Home Township, and among the upper crust of residential properties in the state of Michigan. (Update 11/11/11: Several readers have pointed out that in Michigan, the S.E.V. is half the estimated fair market value of the home, so Moore’s Torch Lake vacation home is likely worth close to $2 million.)With no poor people, other than servants, living anywhere near him.
This won't surprise those who have read the Michael Moore chapter of Peter Schweizer's Do As I Say, but the pictures, and the additional details, do drive the point home.
- 7:11 AM, 13 November 2011 [link]
Genius Or Crackpot? Matt Ridley points out the importance of scientific heretics — and the difficulty of telling them from crackpots.
I would hazard a guess that 90% of great scientists start out as heretics. The problem is that 90% of scientific heretics are talking nonsense.I'd put the first percentage somewhat lower, though where it should be would depend on your definition of "great scientist", but I agree with his general point: Breakthroughs do often come from scientists who do work that is rejected early in their careers.
And I have no more idea than Ridley on how to spot the rare genius among the crackpots.
- 1:44 PM, 12 November 2011 [link]
Armistice Day: On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice ended the fighting in World War I. (Though not without difficulty. Some American troops, having spare shells and wanting the glory of having the last shot, competed with each other, for a time, after the official end.)
For many European countries, the war was a disaster from which they have never completely recovered. The casualties they suffered were so immense that, even now, they astonish. They were so large that, from the very beginning, the combatants lied about them on a grand scale. This Wikipedia article gives some of the common estimates of the casualties. The almost 1.4 million French military dead are more than all the deaths the United States has suffered in all our wars, combined. More than 1 million of them were from France itself, with the rest coming mostly from the French colonies. Since France then had a population of about 40 million, more than 1 in 40 died in the war; for us, now, the equivalent loss would be about 7.5 million deaths.
After World War II, we renamed Armistice Day to Veterans Day, to honor the soldiers of all our wars. When we honor, as we should, especially today, the American soldiers who served, and sometimes died in our wars, we should also spare some thought for those who fought at our side and who suffered far more than we did.
(This is an edited version of a post I first put up in 2002.)
- 3:16 PM, 11 November 2011 [link]
"Humor Disguised As A Question" Sometimes, you just have to love Newt Gingrich.
If, that is, you are a conservative who doesn't think much of "mainstream" reporting.
(If you aren't, let me suggest, gently, that you think about the argument he made in that exchange. Was he basically right? Have you seen any reporters asking the "Occupy" demonstrators serious questions about the economy?)
- 8:42 AM, 11 November 2011 [link]
Are American Incomes Becoming More Unequal? Yes and no.
Yes, if you are comparing families or households, no if you are comparing individual incomes.
Take a look at the graph, and then consider Ironman's conclusion:
But here's the thing. We have already confirmed that there has been absolutely no meaningful change in the inequality of individual income earners in the years from 1994 through 2010. If income inequality in the U.S. was really driven by economic factors, this is where we would see it, because paychecks (or dividend checks, or checks for capital gains, etc.) are made out to individuals, not to families and not to households.What we may be seeing, in other words, is a problem for sociologists (and perhaps marriage counselors), rather than economists.
(How good are the numbers? Quite good, in my opinion. It is possible to think of a number of potential flaws in the data, but none seem serious to me, especially since this is a comparison over years, not a set of absolute estimates.)
- 6:28 PM, 10 November 2011 [link]
Worse Than Expected: The economy? Well, yes, but also forced marriages in Germany.
A new study has revealed that thousands of young women and girls in forced marriages seek help every year in Germany. The vast majority of victims come from Muslim families, and many have been threatened with violence or even death. The numbers involved are much higher than previously suspected.Most of you have already noticed that this is a count of people who sought help at these counseling centers, so it is likely that the total number of forced marriages is much higher.
(There are ways German researchers could get more accurate numbers, but they would have to use an entirely different approach.)
- 1:22 PM, 10 November 2011 [link]
The Ray Gricar Disappearance: The prosecutor went for a drive, disappeared, and was never found. And now people are wondering whether his disappearance may be connected to his decision not to prosecute former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
Gricar disappeared April 15, 2005, after taking a day off work to drive to Lewisburg. His disappearance has been the subject of a lot of speculation.I can shed light on only one tiny aspect of this story. That drive is, by itself, not at all suspicious, since there are scenic routes that connect Lewisburg and State College. Lewisburg is a natural destination for someone who wanted to take a pleasure drive from State College.
(Lewisburg does have a federal prison, but I would assume that any Gricar visit to the facility would be recorded.)
- 12:46 PM, 10 November 2011 [link]
Three Brutal (But Funny) Cartoons from Michael Ramirez. (That's his main page, so the three will change in a day or two.)
This one's my favorite.
- 10:09 AM, 10 November 2011 [link]
Crazy Enough To Be Correct? Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is calling for America and China to "crush Germany into submission", and thus solve the European debt crisis.
One can only guess what is happening in the great global centres of power, but it would not surprise me if US President Barack Obama and China's Hu Jintao start to intervene very soon, in unison and with massive diplomatic force.The chances that either President Obama or President Hu would take such a step seem to me to be approximately zero.
But Evans-Pritchard's column did start me wondering whether his idea, that the European Union should spend even more money bailing out Greece and now Italy, was crazy enough to be correct, if I may borrow a famous line from Niels Bohr.
And I don't think it is. The European Union needs to scale back its membership, beginning with Greece, and its commitments, not increase them in a mad effort to send more good money after bad.
This is one of the times when an American president should do nothing, and say little or nothing.
- 9:26 AM, 10 November 2011 [link]
Will Obama Ever Get Serious About Our Deficit? He did nothing during his years as a senator to reduce it; instead he backed spending plans that made it worse. During his first two years as president, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, he made no effort to put together a package that would reduce spending long term; instead he spent much of his efforts promoting ObamaCare, the health insurance takeover that will, almost certainly, increase spending, if it ever goes fully into effect. He ignored the recommendations of his own deficit panel. He is choosing, the New York Times tells us, not to help resolve the impasse in the special committee.
The White House’s expectations for the special Congressional committee on deficit reduction, never high, have been all but dashed now that the panel has reached a partisan impasse less than two weeks before it is supposed to recommend a compromise plan.He has not even presented a plan, however frivolous, however based on rosy scenarios, to solve the deficit problem, long term.
He is, however, asking federal officials to buy fewer plaques, print fewer documents, et cetera.
Keith Koffler wonders whether Americans will see how non-serious this latest Obama initiative is. Some will, some won't. This morning, I watched, first with fascination, and then with horror, as one of the local Obama cheerleaders, KCPQ's Lily Jang, treated the story as a serious effort to reduce federal spending.
As far as I can tell, she believed that.
Now then, suppose that Obama is re-elected and that he keeps the Democratic majority in the Senate and wins back a Democratic majority in the House. Would he then make a serious effort to tackle our deficit problem? Judging by his past behavior, including his time in the Illinois legislature, even then, no. I would be delighted if I could find any evidence for a different conclusion, but I can't.
- 8:39 AM, 10 November 2011 [link]
"Fast And Furious" No, Bush didn't do it, too, as even Eric Holder admits.
But you are going to hear that argument often during this next year, anyway.
- 7:44 AM, 10 November 2011 [link]
Worth Reading: Jay Cost explains why Mitt Romney does not appear to have a serious challenger.
(Incidentally, I think that Republicans have behaved responsibly by choosing most of their nominees from that very short list of men with high-level political experience.
And I think that one of the reasons that the Republican presidential bench is shallow this year is that George W. Bush brought so many governors into his administration. That deprived them of their political roots in their home states, and, for some voters, tarnished them.)
- 4:48 PM, 9 November 2011 [link]
"Why Do Sarkozy And Obama Hate Netanyahu?" The Washington Post's Jackson Diehl asks that question and comes to a tentative answer: It's personal.
[Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas, it’s fair to say, has gone from resisting U.S. and French diplomacy to actively seeking to undermine it. Yet it is Netanyahu whom Sarkozy finds “unbearable,” and whom Obama groans at having to “deal with every day.” If there is an explanation for this, it must be personal; in substance, it makes little sense.If that's true, then the two leaders, or perhaps all three, are behaving childishly, by letting their personal feelings determine national policy.
But I don't think that's all of the answer, or even most of it. Instead, I would say that Obama and Netanyahu clash because of Obama's ideology. It is now routine on the left, especially among African-Americans, to see Israel as a white, colonial power, oppressing colored folks. I can't prove that Obama shares that view because Obama has, for many years, concealed his ideology. But those views are what you would expect from a black, Hyde Park leftist, a man who was comfortable, for decades, in Jeremiah Wright's church.
They are also consistent with Obama's many ties to Rashid Khalidi. Here's what Stanley Kurtz says about those ties:
Obama's ties to University of Chicago professor Rashid Khalidi are part of a broader web of connections between Obama, Ayers, and Chicago's leftist foundations. Although Khalidi denies being a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1970s, the evidence that he was is very strong.60 To make sense of the ties between this prominent Palestinian activist and Obama's radical world, keep in mind that Obama was a frequent dinner guest in the Khalidi home.61 At the same time, Bill Ayers was a friend to both Rashid Khalidi and his wife, Mona.62 (p. 346)It is simply not believable that the Khalidis would be that close to Obama, unless they thought that he sympathized with their views on Israel. It is possible, of course, that Obama was conning them, as he has conned others, but I think it more likely that Obama did — and does — share some of their views.
(And why do Sarkozy and Netanyahu clash? Probably because Sarkozy wants to make a splash diplomatically, and thinks he can do so by selling out Israel, a little.
We might know more about Obama and the Khalidis if the Los Angeles Times would release that 2003 videotape.
If you want to know more about those ties, you might start here.)
- 4:26 PM, 9 November 2011 [link]
The Portland "Occupy" Protest Just Keeps Getting weirder and weirder.
The city of Portland says they are closing the last city-owned restroom after threats against their cleaning crews.According to the article, protesters will be buying their own restrooms.
Why were the cleaning crews being threatened?
I haven't been able to find an official explanation. Most likely, illegal activities were going on in the restrooms, and a few (some?) of the protesters wanted to drive away any potential witnesses. Downtown Seattle has often had problems with drug use and prostitution in its public restrooms, so it wouldn't surprise me to find something similar in Portland.
- 12:34 PM, 9 November 2011 [link]
Which Party Won Yesterday? Democratic activist (and "mainstream" journalist) Molly Ball thinks that the Democrats won.
Democrats had a very good election night on Tuesday.(Russell Pearce lost to a fellow Republican, but she doesn't mention that. And it is entirely possible that Jerry Lewis's win will strengthen the Republican party in Arizona, by making it more appealing to moderates and Hispanics. I don't know enough about Arizona politics to know whether Pearce's loss was truly "unexpected", and I suspect that Ms. Ball doesn't know enough, either.)
Election analyst Michael Barone, who has leaned Republican in recent years, is still looking at numbers, but would probably score yesterday as a tie.
In other words, in November 2011 we are about where we were in November 2010, but we’re not very happy about it. Governors who adapt well to the political climate of their states—Democrats Beshear and Manchin and, to a lesser extent, Tomblin, and Republicans Jindal and McDonnell and, to a lesser extent, Christie—are getting pretty favorable treatment from the voters.I haven't looked at many of the numbers yet, but am inclined to agree with Barone.
(Here's a later post from Barone with some numbers on the New Jersey legislative races.)
- 9:49 AM, 9 November 2011 [link]
Politics Gets Rough in Cleveland.
Greg Flanagan, 49, said he went to the Gloria Dei Evangelical Lutheran Church on Memphis Avenue to vote Tuesday afternoon. On his way into the church, the lifelong Clevelander noticed a woman holding signs that supported a local, municipal judge.Presumably the election officials know who this "rover" is, so we should be able to hear his side of the story soon — if he wants to tell it.
(Incidents like this — and far worse — were common in American elections during the 19th century, and in much of the 20th century, in some areas.)
- 8:02 AM, 9 November 2011 [link]