1:30 PM, 23 April 2014
Jim Miller on Politics
jimxc1 at gmail.com
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Laborer's Union President Terry O'Sullivan Is Disappointed by President Obama's latest delay of the Keystone XL pipeline. In fact, make that very disappointed.
This is once again politics at its worst. In another gutless move, the Administration is delaying a finding on whether the pipeline is in the national interest based on months-old litigation in Nebraska regarding a state level challenge to a state process -- and which has nothing to with the national interest. They waited until Good Friday, believing no one would be paying attention. The only surprise is they didn’t wait to do it in the dark of night.Rightly disappointed, in my opinion.
(By way of the Wall Street Journal, which notes that: "Mr. O'Sullivan may feel especially bitter because he and the Laborers twice endorsed Mr. Obama for President, calling him a leader "who will fight to create jobs." But the union doesn't contribute nearly as much money as Tom Steyer and company do.)
- 1:30 PM, 23 April 2014 [link]
It's Time To Rename "Bertha" Seattle Mayor Bertha Knight Landes had nothing to do with choosing the tunnel boring machine, the machine that may be inoperative until early next year.
So it is unfair to tie this failure to Landes, especially since she is no longer able to object to the slur.
Who should the machine be named after? That seems obvious, at least to me.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 7:30 AM, 23 April 2014 [link]
Keith Koffler Has a good question: "Why Did Obama Hire a Top Criminal Attorney for WH Counsel?"
Koffler doesn't have any answer to that question (nor do I), but I imagine that all of us can think of some interesting possible answers.
(And, to be fair, a few boring possible answers, too.)
- 6:47 AM, 23 April 2014 [link]
This Probably Won't Make the national news (and perhaps shouldn't), but you may find it amusing: President Obama thinks that "Oso" is pronounced as if it were spelled ah-so, rather than oh-so.
That shows, I suspect, just how much attention he has been paying to the tragedy.
(Oh, and you may be interested in who was invited — and who wasn't.)
- 6:15 PM, 22 April 2014 [link]
Confused By The "Deportation" Numbers You See In News Stories? (I certainly have been.)
Professor Anna Law tries to explain.
Somehow, the Obama administration is simultaneously responsible for the highest rate of deportation in 20 years and a 26 percent drop in deportation. What is going on here? As it turns out, changes in immigration law, terminology and classification are causing this confusion.Once you realize that these legal classifications use words in ways that do not have their usual meanings, you will, if you are like me, be a little less confused.
So, has President Obama decreased or increased the number of deportations, using the older (and standard dictionary) meaning of the term? He has probably decreased them, though we can't be certain, because the "removal" numbers include deportations and exclusions.
Compared to his predecessors, Obama has deemphasized removals and concentrated on returns. His numbers reflect a deliberate shift in strategy to exercise prosecutorial discretion to aid longtime immigrant residents who have family ties and no criminal backgrounds besides the immigration law violation.Incidentally, stopping millions at the border is not necessarily a sign of a successful policy; in fact, it may show that we are not deterring enough people from trying to cross the border, illegally.
- 1:26 PM, 22 April 2014 [link]
Why Is President Obama Visiting Oso Today? Because it is on his way to Japan.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(I was pleasantly surprised to see that this visit did not appear to be timed to cause the maximum traffic disruptions, as his fund-raising visits usually are. If his schedulers made a mistake, I hope they won't be punished for that accidental mercy.)
- 7:27 AM, 22 April 2014 [link]
Slovakia Is Improving Tax Collections with a lottery.
Over the last 10 years, Slovakia's revenue from value-added taxes, a type of sales tax, has declined. But hiring auditors and pursuing individual merchants and service providers in court is expensive and slow. So last fall, the government decided to put a lottery in the mix.According to the article, ten years ago Slovakia was collecting about 80 percent of value-added taxes owed, but is now down to "about 60 percent, putting Slovakia in a league with Greece for the poorest record", so they had to do something.
And the lottery appears to be both helpful to the tax collectors, and popular.
There are people uncomfortable with this approach. In Portugal, which is also using a lottery to improve tax collection, some "opposition politicians . . . say it is a capitalist tool to turn citizens into tax inspectors".
My own objection is somewhat different. If you think of this in terms of expected value, Slovakia and Portugal are paying low wages to people to do dull clerical tax inspection work. The article does not give enough data for me to guess exactly how substandard, but I would be very surprised if they can expect as much as a dollar an hour for all that clerical work.
Which sounds just a little exploitative, to me. Even if those being exploited are happy with the arrangement.
Here are the Wikipedia articles on value-added taxes and Slovakia.)
- 1:21 PM, 21 April 2014 [link]
It's Dyngus Day: And, in Buffalo, they had to scramble to find enough pussy willows.
Dyngus Day celebrations, to be staged Monday in Buffalo and a handful of other U.S. cities, trace their roots to ancient Polish fertility rites centered around the end of Lent and the advent of spring. As part of the festivities, young men traditionally splash water on women they fancy. Women carry pussy willow branches to hit the men they like.Unexpectedly, the reporter, Will Connors, does not blame global warming for the cold weather that delayed the pussy willows.
(The Wikipedia article on the celebration make it sound more, shall we say, vigorous than the Wall Street Journal article does.)
- 12:47 PM, 21 April 2014 [link]
Happy Easter! To all those who celebrate it today.
Which is almost every Christian, this year.
- 4:41 PM, 20 April 2014 [link]
Will The Republicans Gain House Seats This November? That's what John Sides is predicting.
To recap, the model is currently based on a set of structural features known to influence House races: the state of the economy, presidential approval, the fact that it’s a midterm year, the partisanship of the district, and whether the incumbent is running for reelection. We’ll build more into this model soon — for example, fundraising — but even this simple model provides a useful sense of the landscape.That estimate seems reasonable, if anything a little bit low. since it would still be fewer seats than the Republicans held after the 2010 elections (242 seats).
- 3:21 PM, 19 April 2014 [link]
My Apologies To Canada: For this further delay.
The Obama administration pulled a classic campaign-year move Friday: It punted on the Keystone XL pipeline.For the delay, which has become absurd, and for the attitude in that Politico article, in which everything is about our elections this fall.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: When you have a neighbor as good as Canada, you should treat them well; in particular, you should approve projects like this one, even if you think that there is no gain to the United States from the project — though almost every analysis says there is, which makes this further delay even more ridiculous.
(The article doesn't even mention Canada, and it doesn't mention zillionaire Tom Steyer, whose opposition may explain this delay.)
- 2:39 PM, 19 April 2014 [link]
Saturn's New Moon, "Peggy"? Here's the NASA press release, along with the picture that everyone else is using.
"We have not seen anything like this before," said Carl Murray of Queen Mary University of London, and the report's lead author. "We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is just leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right."Note the "may", which is why I put a question mark in the title.
(As you probably know, Saturn has a lot of moons, so many that not all of them have names. There's a good reason for that. As the Wikipedia article notes: "Thus a precise number of Saturnian moons cannot be given, as there is no objective boundary between the countless small anonymous objects that form Saturn's ring system and the larger objects that have been named as moons.")
- 10:14 AM, 18 April 2014 [link]
Brutal: No, not the Nancy Pelosi foot-washing photo-op, the comments afterwards.
There are, it appears, people who disagree with her views on many things, but especially abortion.
(Oh, and that's an Episcopal church, presumably because Catholic authorities wouldn't let her do the photo-op in a Catholic church.)
- 9:34 AM, 18 April 2014 [link]
The Obama Dishonesty On The "Pay Gap" Between Men And Women Was Deliberate: And may give them political gains. That's what Major Garrett concludes.
The questioning of Obama's use of a Census Bureau statistic that the median wages of working women in America are 77 percent of median wages earned by men lasted almost all week. The story revved into mini-overdrive when the White House defensively swatted away criticism that salaries on Obama's watch—for which the American Enterprise Institute used the same median wages metric applied by the Census Bureau—showed that women in the president's employ earned 88 cents for every dollar earned by men.John Dickerson, writing in Slate, agrees.
The issue last week was the pay gap between men and women. The president issued executive orders to address the disparity, and Democrats pushed legislation in Congress. In making the case, the president and White House advisers used a figure they knew to be imprecise and controversial—a Census Bureau statistic that the median wages of working women in America are 77 percent of median wages earned by men.That phrase, "imprecise and controversial", is, I suppose nicer than the more accurate "deliberately misleading", which is what I would say. (Note please, since I try to be precises, I do not call it a lie. The 77 percent statistic is true, but misleading, because it is only part of the truth. There are many ways to be dishonest besides telling direct lies.)
Garrett and Dickerson note that this tactic, however effective it may be in a campaign, interferes with governing, where facts must, at least some of the time, be faced.
(The metaphor, "stray voltage", that David Plouffe uses to describe this dishonest tactic, makes no sense at all to me. But I think we can understand the idea behind it, even if the name doesn't make sense.)
- 6:38 AM, 18 April 2014 [link]
Sometimes Non-Answers Are Even More Interesting than answers.
After addressing about 30 people who turned out to hear him, the senator opened the floor for questions.I haven't a clue as to why Paul — who is supporting McConnell, at least formally — didn't have an answer ready for her, and I can't even imagine why he would say he would give her a private answer.
It is almost as if he were trying to raise suspicions about his motives, but I don't think he was, because I can't imagine any motive for him.
(Since this was an informal event, it is possible that Senator Paul forgot, temporarily, that it was public, and so he said what he might have said at a private party, with no reporters present.
This Wikipedia article probably has more than most of us need to know about the location of the event, Glasgow, Kentucky.)
- 4:49 PM, 17 April 2014 [link]
Worth Reading: Geomorphologist David Montgomery's Seattle Times op-ed on the Oso mud slide.
Back in 1999, geologist Daniel J. Miller warned of the potential for catastrophic failure of this slope. After the 2006 Oso landslide, he was shocked to find that the county continued to allow residential development on the flood plain right across the river from the foot of the slide.Montgomery thinks that we can reduce the risks of such surprises by better mapping, in particular by mapping using lidar.
(Note: The Seattle Times is putting limits on the free access to their site. If you have read many of their articles, you may run into a barrier. There are probably ways of getting around it, but I haven't explored them yet.
You can listen to a KUOW interview with Montgomery at the first link, in this set.
You can learn a little more about Montgomery from this brief Wikipedia biography, or at his faculty site. Interesting fact: According to Wikipedia, he has studied the "evolution and near-extirpation of salmon". Fun fact: The name he chose for his email address at work is "bigdirt".)
- 3:08 PM, 17 April 2014 [link]
Does New York Times Columnist Paul Krugman Like Greater Economic Inequality? Consider the evidence.
As far as I know, he does not share his considerable wealth, in any significant amounts.
He has spent most of his career at Princeton, which has many good aspects, but is not a place where one will find many students (or faculty) planning to have modest incomes.
Now that he is retiring from Princeton, he is moving to Manhattan, which is a notoriously unequal place.
In 1980 Manhattan ranked 17th among the naiton's counties in income inequality; it now ranks the worst among the country's largest counties.In Manhattan, he will take a job with the City University of New York, which will pay him quite well.
Paul Krugman announced a couple months ago that he’s leaving his Princeton professorship to become a professor in the economics Ph.D. program at the City University of New York and a scholar the Luxembourg Income Study Center, which is based at CUNY. It turns out he’s going to be quite nicely compensated for his professorship. According to a freedom-of-information request by Gawker, he’ll be paid $225,000 a year for the gig.(According to Gawker, CUNY "pays adjunct professors approximately $3,000 per course".)
Now it is possible that Krugman is moving to Manhattan in somewhat the same spirit that a missionary might go to a country where he thinks the need for his preaching is greatest — but most missionaries do not bargain for high pay and easy working conditions.
It seems more likely that, in theory, he is opposed to greater inequality, but, in practice, he is fine with greater inequality — as long as Paul Krugman is one of the beneficiaries.
- 10:51 AM, 17 April 2014 [link]
The M&M Hair Academy In London made a fair offer to Kim Jong-un (and others with similar haircuts), but wasn't prepared for this reaction.
North Korean agents have demanded the Foreign Office intervene in their row with a London hairdresser who used a picture of Kim Jong-un to advertise its 15 per cent 'bad hair' discount.Dictators can be touchy.
Kim likes that hair style:
Kim Jong-un's hairstyle is the only one approved by the dictator.I think it safe to say that the age of Aquarius is not dawning in North Korea.
- 8:24 AM, 17 April 2014 [link]
This French cartoon amuses me, even though I don't agree with it.
(Why not? Mostly because it gives way too much credit to President Obama, who has shown no sign that he would even know how to be a puppeteer in foreign affairs. And President Hollande is not quite that ineffective, or that willing to be manipulated.)
- 8:39 AM, 16 April 2014 [link]
"Absurdities At The IRS" Apama Mathur thinks these parts of our tax law are absurd.
Under tax law, stolen property, bribes, kickbacks, and income from other illegal activities must be counted as income. Embezzlers, thieves, and bootleggers may also take deductions for costs relating to criminal activity.I think that they actually make sense, in a weird way — and the courts have generally agreed with me.
What doesn't make sense is that our tax laws have become so complex that it is difficult for anyone with moderately complex financial affairs to be certain he is following them, as Donald Rumsfeld complains, every year.
Unfortunately, serious tax reform is unlikely as long as Barack Obama is president — and may be difficult even after he leaves, because so few Democrats support it, unlike in 1986.
(I think there would be even more complaints, were it not for the tax programs that take people step by step through their returns. But I often wonder just how many people who use those programs understand the directions they are following.
As Mathur notes, the tax system was used to convict Al Capone — who definitely deserved to go to prison.)
- 8:00 AM, 16 April 2014 [link]
When I Saw This Survey Finding from Brazil, I was dubious.
There's been a huge backlash on social media in Brazil, after a new survey suggested 65% of Brazilians think women who dress in a revealing way "deserve to be attacked".Rightly dubious, it seems.
Update 11 April 2014: The institute which published the research - the IPEA - last week revealed it had made a mistake in its findings. The correct figure for the percentage of Brazilians surveyed who agreed that women who dress in a revealing way "deserve to be attacked" was actually 26% they said - not 65%.That 26% is still disturbing, but not nearly as disturbing as the 65%.
By way of Andrew Gelman.
(It is hard to know exactly what to make of that 26 percent, without more details about the survey, especially the question wording.
Since men often get in trouble when discussing this issue, I'll use a different crime to make a general point. It is imprudent to flash large rolls of cash in some places, at some times. If you were attacked after doing that, some might say you "deserved" it, not to excuse the criminal, but to say that you had not been as prudent as you should have been.)
- 2:01 PM, 15 April 2014 [link]
Is this Ramirez cartoon unfair to Nixon, Obama, or both?
Both men did talk, loosely, about using the IRS against their enemies. (And Nixon had been a target of Kennedy's IRS, as Barry Goldwater was of LBJ's IRS.)
But Nixon's IRS didn't always follow those hints from Nixon, nor did Nixon always know what his underlings were up to. For example:
Later on it developed that [John] Dean had prepared another list, this one of McGovern supporters, which he had transmitted to the IRS with a request for special audits of their returns. But IRS Commissioner Johnnie Walters took the matter up with Treasury Secretary George P. Shultz, who told him to "do nothing". According to Shultz, Walters's notes showed that the President had no knowledge of the list.So I am inclined to think that the cartoon is unfair to Nixon.
(For an example of loose talk by Obama, see this Glenn Reynolds op-ed. As he says, there are some things a president should not joke about.
Some have argued that Nixon often blew off steam with tough talk around his subordinates, and that those who knew him well did not take that talk seriously, did not act on it, even though Nixon might have appeared to have given them direct orders. If true, that doesn't excuse the talk, but it does help us understand Nixon and his closest aides better.
Younger readers may want to know more about George Shultz.)
- 1:31 PM, 15 April 2014 [link]
The Almost Magic Material, Graphene: Take some graphite from an ordinary pencil lead, separate out the carbon atoms, and arrange them into one-atom thick sheet and you have graphene.
Graphene is the strongest, thinnest material known to exist. A form of carbon, it can conduct electricity and heat better than anything else. And get ready for this: It is not only the hardest material in the world, but also one of the most pliable.That brief list sounds pretty good, for a start.
(Arrange the carbon atoms one way, and you get diamonds; arrange them another way and you get graphene, which may be far more useful. (And when they are not in any regular pattern, you have graphite.)
If you are up for a challenge, try the very technical Wikipedia article on graphene. I think I understood parts of it.)
- 7:22 AM, 15 April 2014 [link]
"Seven Answers to Seven Questions You’re Probably Asking Right Now About The Nevada Rancher Situation" If you want to understand the controversy, this Blaze article seems like a good place to start, though I haven't checked any of the answers myself.
5. So Who Owns the Land in Question?For now, I don't have anything more to say specifically about the dispute between cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management.
But I can give you a general conclusion that I came to, decades ago: The United States government should not be in the business of renting out range land. In the past, that has often resulted in considerable subsidies to wealthy corporations (and may still, now, for all I know). And that is just one of the many ways these relationships can go wrong, on both sides.
Instead of renting the land out, we should sell it at open auctions, with, perhaps, some advantages for anyone who has used a specific piece of land for grazing for years.
And, given our deficits, we can use the money.
- 7:40 PM, 14 April 2014 [link]
Narendra Modi has admitted that he is married.
Narendra Modi, currently the favorite to be India's next prime minister, had to make an unusual admission on Thursday. The 63-year-old Modi, long famous for being a bachelor without any family, was in fact married.His parents and her parents arranged the marriage, but he seems not to have ever really accepted it. The two did live together for a time, but he left permanently after three years, without ever divorcing her. (His wife, Jashodaben Chimanlal Modi, became a teacher, lived a quiet life, is now retired, and appears to bear him no ill will.)
He did not leave her for another woman; in fact, quite the reverse.
What led Modi away, it seems, was the teachings of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a strict Hindu organization that is reported to require a vow of celibacy. Modi's time with the RSS eventually led to his leadership of India's second largest political party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), . . .India has a long history of honoring, and sometimes even following, men like him, so this may not hurt him with the Indian electorate.
(Here are the Wikipedia articles on Modi and the BJP, with stronger-than-usual caveats, even for political articles.)
- 1:14 PM, 14 April 2014 [link]
"Billing Medicare While Financing Top Democrats" That headline in last Thursday's New York Times is surprisingly explicit, as are the first four paragraphs of the article by Frances Robles and Eric Lipton.
Two Florida doctors who received the nation’s highest Medicare reimbursements in 2012 are both major contributors to Democratic Party causes, and they have turned to the political system in recent years to defend themselves against suspicions that they may have submitted fraudulent or excessive charges to the federal government.There are several possible explanations of those connections. The obvious one is that the doctors are running dubious operations, and then buying influence to protect themselves. But it is also possible, though less likely, that the doctors are running operations that look bad, but aren't, and are paying protection money.
And, of course, different explanations may fit different doctors.
Now that these records are public, we are going to be seeing many more such articles. When we read them, we should not, automatically, assume that the doctors are guilty of defrauding the public.
- 8:09 AM, 14 April 2014 [link]
At First Glance, This Cut-Off Phone Call Sounds like an important clue to the disappearance of flight MH370.
The co-pilot of missing flight MH370 made a call from his mobile phone while the aircraft flew low over the west coast of Malaysia, it was revealed today as the U.S. denied reports the plane landed at a military base on the remote island of Diego Garcia.But then you read a little further and suspect that it isn't.
'On why the call was cut off, it was likely because the aircraft was fast moving away from the tower and had not come under the coverage of the next one,' the paper said, quoting 'sources'.One of the things that has puzzled me ever since the flight disappeared was that the authorities did not seem to be looking for phone calls or text messages from people on the plane. Nor have I seen a discussion of what calls were possible, whether, for instance, any of the passengers had satellite phones, which will work almost everywhere.
But now we know that, at least for part of the flight, ordinary cell phone calls could be made, so at least the first step in that part of the investigation has been taken.
- 7:27 AM, 14 April 2014 [link]
October 2002, Part 1 and Part 2
November 2002, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
December 2002, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
January 2003, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
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March 2003, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
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May 2012, Part 1 Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
June 2012, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
July 2012, Part 1, Part 2 Part 3, and Part 4
August 2012, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
September 2012, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
October 2012, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
November 2012, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3and Part 4
December 2012, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
January 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
February 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
March 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
April 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
May 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
June 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
July 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
August 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
September 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
October 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
November 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
December 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
January 2014, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
February 2014, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4
March 2014, Part 1. Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
April 2014, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
The Unknown Bush
The Gang of Four
Chomsky Cult Program