April 2010, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
WW I Navy Recruiting Poster: Because it's Friday, and because I get a kick out of this poster:
Partly, I must admit, because it is so politically incorrect.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(You can learn about the artist, Howard Chandler Christy, here and here.)
- 1:33 PM, 16 April 2010 [link]
"Uncorroborated" That's the adjective James Taranto uses to describe those epithets supposedly shouted at black congressmen. There was another congressman, Heath Shuler, at the demonstration against ObamaCare, and he didn't hear those epithets.
But when we phoned Shuler's office this afternoon, press secretary Julie Fishman told us the local reporter misunderstood. According to Fishman, Shuler's comments to the Times-News referred to the general tenor of the protests, not to the black congressmen's specific allegations.And probably false, though I will repeat, at the risk of boring you, that it is possible that the black congressmen misheard what a few demonstrators were saying.
One can argue that this incident, or, almost certainly, non-incident, has received far too much coverage. If two or three demonstrators shouted bad things, that shows nothing about the other demonstrators, and almost nothing about the crowd as a whole. (This morning, I read about a drunken Phillies fan who deliberately vomited on a little girl attending the baseball game with her father. From that, we can conclude that the fan is a nasty, drunken jerk, but we can't say anything about the rest of the fans at the game.)
But this non-incident does show us something about our "mainstream" journalists, who were eager to spread this story without verifying it, and who were eager to draw general conclusions from it.
- 9:30 AM, 16 April 2010 [link]
CNN's Rick Sanchez is no vulcanologist.
As he covered the volcanic eruption in Iceland which has disrupted thousands of airplane flights across Europe, he commented that "when you think of a volcano, you think of Hawaii and long words like that. You don't think of Iceland. You think it's too cold to have a volcano there"You think that if you know less about volcanoes than the average 6th grader.
If you happen to run into Sanchez, please explain to him that the entire island of Iceland was formed by volcanic eruptions, and that it is part of the volcanic mid-Atlantic Ridge.
If you watch CNN regularly, you may be appalled by his ignorance; if you don't, you may be amused.
(In February, Sanchez attacked Sarah Palin and her supporters for "anti-intellectualism".
And, yes, Iceland is a longer word, by one letter, than Hawaii.)
- 7:43 AM, 16 April 2010 [link]
Eyjafjallajokull Heats Up: And shuts down air traffic in part of Europe.
Civil aviation authorities closed airspace and shut down airports in Britain, France, Scandinavia and other parts of Europe on Thursday as a high-altitude cloud of ash drifted south and east from an erupting volcano in Iceland.The Wall Street Journal has more on the disruptions to air travel:
Airspace in the U.K., Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland was affected, and the havoc threatened to spread further with Germany also reviewing the situation as the clouds were sent south by the prevailing winds. In London, Britain's air traffic service extended the ban on most air traffic in England until 1 p.m. London time (8 a.m. Eastern time) Friday, but flights to Scotland and Northern Ireland may be allowed to resume earlier, the Associated Press reported.There is much more at this New York Times post, including many links. (The post even includes NASA's pronunciation guide; as you would expect, Eyjafjallajokull is pronounced just the way it is spelled: "AYA-fyatla-jo-kutl". And if that isn't enough for you, Robert Mackey links to a recording of the name.)
This latest eruption has vulcanologists worried because of Iceland's earlier eruptions, notably the 1783-1984 Laki eruptions. If Eyjafjallajokull grows into something similar, we won't be worrying about global warming for a few years, but we will have some more urgent problems.
- 1:52 PM, 15 April 2010
Too cautious? Richard Littlejohn thinks that authorities may have grounded far too many planes. He says that, not from any knowledge of the hazards of volcano ash, but from recent experience.
I'd be prepared to give the air traffic control authorities the benefit of the doubt were it not for the tendency of everyone in any position of authority to take the line of least resistance and embrace any excuse to stop us going about our lawful business.For our own good, of course.
One of the reasons that the authorities are being especially cautious is that, despite all those volcanic clouds you may have seen on TV, it is hard to detect the dangerous particles, so it is hard to know which routes might be safe.
- 8:29 AM, 16 April 2010 [link]
One More Reason You Aren't Seeing Much Critical Reporting On The Obama Administration: Book deals.
"Whenever reporters cover the White House, there are more journalists than there are knowledgeable sources," says Mark Feldstein, a professor of journalism at George Washington University. "So the sources are always in a position of power, and they dole out the information to reporters that they trust to give them the spin they want -- whether that's the Obama White House or the Bush White House.And the reading public, less knowledgeable in the short term, and perhaps the long.
More evidence that we really do need Fox News.
- 11:13 AM, 15 April 2010 [link]
Best Obama Joke Yet: Told by Barack Obama.
United States president Barack Obama says he and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd share several personality traits - one of which is humility.(Was that a sly dig at the Australian prime minister? Perhaps.)
Commenters at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation site seem to think that Rudd may indeed be as humble as Obama, which would be impressive. If that is true, it would require a very large room to hold the two men, and their egos.
- 10:27 AM, 15 April 2010 [link]
Solar Energy At Night? Not supremely efficient solar panels, but remarkably stupid crooks. (If they had been less stupid, they could have kept on getting away with their scam — and almost certainly other, slightly less stupid, crooks still are.)
General hint to legislators: If you provide big subsidies to encourage an activity, you should expect that many people will cheat to try to collect those subsidies. And most of the cheaters won't give themselves away quite that obviously.
- 6:31 PM, 14 April 2010 [link]
A Little Buyer's Remorse? Looks like it.
Americans are now pretty evenly divided about whether they would rather have Barack Obama or George W. Bush in the White House. 48% prefer Obama while 46% say they would rather have the old President back.Though we really need an Obama-McCain trial race to be sure.
(Historical note: Early in 1996, a polling firm tested George H. W. Bush against Bill Clinton. They found that the first Bush was beating Clinton by a solid margin — while Bob Dole was losing, by about the same margin that he lost in the November election. You probably won't find this in any collection of poll results. I saw it in the National Review, where it was ascribed to an anonymous private pollster. But it is consistent with approval ratings for Bush, which rose after he left office in 1993.)
- 9:09 AM, 14 April 2010 [link]
Dana Milbank Compares Obama To Stalin: Really. I won't try to summarize Milbank's Washington Post column, but will just give you two excerpts:
World leaders arriving in Washington for President Obama's Nuclear Security Summit must have felt for a moment that they had instead been transported to Soviet-era Moscow.Milbank goes way too far, of course, but his column shows how irritated he (and probably other reporters) are becoming with this administration, and its lack of transparency.
(Just for fun, imagine the reaction if Sarah Palin had said those things.)
- 7:42 AM, 14 April 2010 [link]
Different Bailouts, Different Results: Andrew Sorkin believes that the bailouts of Wall Street may turn out to be a success.
And what if, after all that vitriol over the government's risking hundreds of billions of dollars to rescue Wall Street from disaster, it turned out that taxpayers might actually lose nothing, or even make a profit?Good news, right?
But the good news is overwhelmed by the bad news about the GSEs, the Government Sponsored Entities:
Of course, there's a small problem with all this happy Washington math: it doesn't take into account the piles of cash we're likely to lose on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the huge mortgage finance companies. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that figure to be about $320 billion. That would wipe away any gains made elsewhere.Sorkin is arguing that the bailouts may be seen as a success, eventually, despite that little problem with the GSEs. I think it more reasonable to separate the bailouts and say that the Wall Street bailouts may be seen as a success, but the Washington, DC bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be seen as proof of enormous failures.
Meanwhile, Congress which is largely responsible for the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac failures, is working hard to regulate Wall Street — and is not saying much about its own role in the failure of the GSEs. Perhaps it is too much to ask the heads of the banking committees, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, to criticize themselves, but it does seem that a reporter or two might want to ask them whether losing 320 billion taxpayer dollars bothers them even a little bit.
(This column annoyed Paul Krugman, apparently because Sorkin committed the crime of quoting Krugman.)
- 6:20 AM, 14 April 2010 [link]
Former Democratic Congressman Eric Massa Is A Real Sleazebag: Probably, judging by this Washington Post article, a law-breaking sleazebag.
Just three months after Eric Massa was elected to Congress, his young male employees on Capitol Hill began complaining to supervisors that the lawmaker was making aggressive, sexual overtures toward them, according to new interviews and internal documents.One last unpleasant detail:
The incident that eventually lead to Massa's resignation occurred at a funeral reception on Feb. 2 in Hornel[l], N.Y., for Lance Cpl. Zack Smith. The 19-year-old Marine had died in an explosion in Afghanistan. Massa struck up a conversation with a young bartender serving at the informal wake.It is natural to compare Massa to former Republican congressman Mark Foley. Judging by newspaper reports, what Foley did was creepy, but not illegal — and nowhere near as bad as what Massa is accused of doing. (Ironically, Foley was succeeded by a Democrat, Tim Mahoney, who was defeated after he was accused of paying hush money to a mistress whom he had fired. The district is now held by a Republican, Tom Rooney, who appears to have a boring personal life, which probably makes the residents of Florida 16th very happy.)
No doubt our newspapers will be full of articles making that comparison before the fall election. Well, maybe not, now that I think about it.
- 2:27 PM, 13 April 2010 [link]
Why Can't Obama Get Along With Prime Minister Harper, Chancellor Merkel, Or President Sarkozy? Steven Harper is the most pro-American Canadian prime minister in decades. Angela Merkel is the most pro-American German chancellor in decades. (For some evidence, see this Der Spiegel article.) Nicolas Sarkozy is the most pro-American French president in decades.
President Obama is popular in all three countries. The policy differences between Obama and these three leaders are, in general, not large. One would think that it would be easy for him to get along with all three leaders. But he has poor relations, if we are to believe press reports, with all three.
Harper is withdrawing Canadian troops from Afghanistan. Merkel, despite her efforts, has been unable to establish a working relationship with Obama — though one would benefit both nations. Sarkozy has made sharp criticisms of Obama, in private, but knowing they would become public.
Why has Obama failed to get along with these three leaders?
We don't know why, and we may not know fully why until Obama's papers become available to historians, years from now. But we can say this much: Obama has not worked hard to establish good relationships with these three leaders. And with Sarkozy, he ostensibly signalled that he did not want a good relationship, by rejecting Sarkozy's dinner invitation while visiting Paris.
Perhaps these failures are the result of a deliberate Obama strategy, but I think it more likely that they tell us something about that strange man, Obama. His failures to get along with these three leaders remind me of a petulant adolescent, who can't be bothered to try to get along with the adults in his life. That's a disagreeable explanation for the failures, but it is the one that makes the most sense to me, for now at least.
(You may already have seen this picture of Harper and Obama. The body language is striking.)
- 1:43 PM, 13 April 2010 [link]
Barack Obama Has Nominated An Extremist To The 9th Circuit Court: Debra Saunders is worried about the consequences. After reviewing Goodwin Liu's extremist record, Saunders comes to the bottom line:
I have a more parochial concern. As a citizen subject to 9th Circuit sensibilities, I want to know how much this appointment would cost Californians.Probably not.
Like Saunders I am in the 9th Circuit, so, like her, I take this nomination personally.
(Of course all of the decisions she mentions show abuse by unelected judges of their powers. But we have become almost inured to these outrages over the years.)
- 10:31 AM, 13 April 2010 [link]
Some "Unintended Consequences" Of ObamaCare: For Congress.
It is often said that the new health care law will affect almost every American in some way. And, perhaps fittingly if unintentionally, no one may be more affected than members of Congress themselves.Robert Pear then asks, reasonably, whether Congress understood the details of the bill it passed. I think everyone knows the answer to that question.
We should expect that many more "unintended consequences" will be found, as people have a chance to actually read and analyze the bill.
(Tom Maguire has much more.)
- 6:37 AM, 13 April 2010 [link]
Obama's Second Supreme Court Pick: It isn't precise enough to be called a prediction, but you can see my thinking on the subject here.
For what it's worth — not much right now — another name has been added to Obama's short list, Leah Ward Sears.
- 5:09 PM, 12 April 2010 [link]
What's Planned Parenthood Been Doing Recently? Encouraging the spread of AIDS.
Seems a trifle irresponsible, if you ask me. But then AIDS has, from when it was first identified, inspired irresponsible behavior. (For some of that early history, see Randy Shilts' And the Band Played On.)
If I recall correctly, for a while some states were actually not telling pregnant women that they had AIDS — in spite of the fact that the right precautions can greatly reduce the chance of transmitting AIDS to the woman's baby.
- 10:45 AM, 12 April 2010 [link]
Two Constitutional Theories: A century ago, Tammany Hall leader Tim Campbell asked: "What's the Constitution among friends?"
Campbell was expressing, in a commendably clear way, a theory of the Constitution. It would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to find a law professor who would be that direct and lucid.
Somewhat earlier, an opposing theory of the Constitution was expressed, almost as clearly:
(For my Democratic friends: Those are the 9th and 10th amendments to the Constitution, part of our Bill of Rights.)
In this state, Governor Christine Gregoire appears to hold the first view, while Attorney General Rob McKenna holds the second. McKenna believes that the Constitution puts limits on the powers of the federal government, in particular that the federal government can not mandate that individuals buy health insurance. Gregoire (who was our attorney general before McKenna) appears to believe that the Constitution should put no such limits on the federal government — at least when the federal government is controlled by her friends.
I had to say "appears to believe" because our governor has not been as clear in her constitutional explanations as her Democratic predecessor, Tim Campbell, was. I don't expect this, but it would be helpful if she, and others who support her position, would try to be as clear as he was.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(Incidentally, if you want to understand our modern Democratic party, a good place to start is that little classic, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, where you can find the Campbell quote, and much else, including Plunkitt's theory of "honest graft". And if you want to stimulate the economy, you can buy a copy, at Amazon, or many other places.)
- 9:18 AM, 12 April 2010 [link]
Sam Donaldson Slips: But Cokie Roberts comes in to save him. Here's the slip and the save, from ABC's This Week.
SAM DONALDSON: If this President decides that his main criteria is to nominate someone to avoid a big fight, he's betrayed the people who elected him and I think he's betrayed what a lot of people think are his own feelings about who should be on the court. He should nominate, no not someone who is an extremist, off the cliff, but someone that he thinks, at least, let's see how it evolves, is going to stand up for the principles — on the left, if you will — that he believes in.(Emphasis added.)
That was nice of her — but she's always struck me as a nice lady, the kind who would tell a white lie to rescue a friend from an awkward moment. And I like how quickly Donaldson accepted her help.
Can't have journalists saying that Obama is on the left — even though he is on the left by any rational measure.
- 8:01 AM, 12 April 2010 [link]
Washington Post Ombudsman Suggests That Reporters Check A Story: By itself, that isn't surprising, but it is a little surprising — and encouraging — that Andrew Alexander believes that reporters should check the facts on this story.
Demonstrators at the Capitol were loud and angry on March 20 as they jeered House Democrats preparing to approve landmark health-care legislation. Before the day ended, The Post and other news organizations had reported a series of incidents so ugly they were denounced by congressional leaders of both parties.Alexander now thinks that the Post should go back and take a second look at that story.
Regular readers of this site won't be surprised by his reasons for wanting more investigation, since you have seen all of them, and more, here. In fact, Alexander leaves out one important possibility; the congressmen who reported being called names may actually believe that happened. Witnesses, as any reporter who talks to police regularly could tell Alexander, are often unreliable, and frequently report seeing and hearing things that did not happen.
- 2:42 PM, 11 April 2010 [link]
The Death Of The Polish President: You've heard the news.
Poland suffered its greatest peacetime tragedy yesterday when its president and dozens of other leading figures were killed in a plane crash in Russia after their pilot ignored warnings not to land in thick fog. President Lech Kaczynski, 60, his wife Maria, an economist, and 95 others died on their way to commemorate the massacre of 22,000 Polish prisoners at Katyn in 1940 by Stalin's secret police. Instead of diverting, as advised, the pilot of the 20- year-old plane tried and failed to land at least once, before clipping trees and plunging into a forest.You may want to read this tribute, or this historical background.
My sympathies to the people of Poland, and to the families who have lost loved ones.
- 7:32 AM, 11 April 2010 [link]
The Prickly City Comic strip was awfully good yesterday.
And the follow-up today is pretty good, too.
- 2:00 PM, 9 April 2010 [link]
Obama Fills Out His Census Form: And misses an opportunity, says Abigail Thernstrom.
The president has officially declared himself to be black—having checked the "black" box on his census form. Barack Obama rejected the option of identifying himself as biracial, which of course he is. His declaration is hardly a surprise. His search for a black identity was the focus of his autobiography, "Dreams of My Father," and surely that search partly explains his long membership in the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's Trinity Church, which described itself as "Afrocentric"—an "instrument of Black self-determination."If people were to answer that question honestly, that mixed category would be far larger.
(Of course, if Obama had answered the question honestly, the traditional civil rights organizations, or perhaps I should say, "civil rights" organizations, would have attacked him fiercely.)
- 8:43 AM, 9 April 2010 [link]
Have Trouble Setting Up A Wireless Router? You aren't alone. Cisco is trying to fix that, and David Pogue thinks they made a good first step.
Imagine, Cisco's executives thought, if Pure Digital's simplification wizards could be thrown at the task of simplifying the wireless router! Imagine if you could press one big red button to set the thing up, instead of spending a weekend futzing with S.S.I.D., WEP-2 and D.H.C.P. The new team's mandate was this: "We want you to make it Flip easy."Read the rest to learn where Cisco succeeded — and where they failed.
(You can buy the Valet here, and probably many other places.
Those with simple needs, for example two computers in the same room, may want to use an even simpler solution, a desktop switch. I plugged the DSL modem into mine, and plugged the computers into the switch — and that was it. So far it has worked fine, and I have no security issues to deal with. I can even hook it up to a laptop in another room since, years ago, I acquired — for good reason — a 50 foot ethernet cable.)
- 7:39 AM, 9 April 2010 [link]
Republican Gains In Ohio: That crucial swing state registers voters by party. And this year's party switches show a encouraging pattern.
In what could be a worrisome sign for the party that controls the White House and Ohio governor's office, substantially more Democrats than Republicans are switching parties this year in early absentee-ballot requests from Ohio's largest counties.(Reporter Mark Niquette calls the shifts "worrisome". I call them "encouraging". You are free to conclude from my adjective that I usually support the Republican party — and from Niquette's adjective that he usually supports the Democratic party.)
- 6:31 AM, 9 April 2010 [link]