April 2013, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Time For Tougher Controls on pressure cookers?
The explosives used in the deadly Boston Marathon bombing were contained in 6-liter pressure cookers and hidden in black duffel bags on the ground, a person briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

One of the explosives contained shards of metal and ball bearings, and another contained nails, the person said.
Perhaps it is, now that we have seen how dangerous these pressure cookers can be.

(If these were actually "6-litre" pressure cookers, rather than 6-quart pressure cookers, that might be a useful clue, since, judging by a quick look at Amazon's offerings, most American pressure cookers are sold in quart sizes.

If there were two of them, that might be a useful clue, too.  It's my impression that people almost never buy more than one of these at a time, so a customer who bought two might be noticed and remembered.  Assuming, of course, that they bought both of them in the same purchase.)
- 12:53 PM, 16 April 2013
Update:  According to an article in the New York Times, a piece of a pressure cooker was found with a "6L" (6 liters) marking on it.  That marking, by itself, is probably enough to identify the brand, and, perhaps, the model.
- 12:25 PM, 17 April 2013   [link]

Barack Obama Doesn't Like Britain:  And, as a leftist, he probably really didn't like former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.  But that still doesn't excuse this slight.
Friends and allies of Baroness Thatcher expressed 'surprise and disappointment' last night as it emerged President Obama is not planning to send any serving member of his administration to her funeral.

Whitehall sources have revealed that the US delegation at tomorrow's service in St Paul's Cathedral will be led by two Reagan era secretaries of state: James Baker and George Shultz.

Though President Obama himself had not been expected to attend, there had been speculation that he would be represented either by Vice President Joe Biden or wife Michelle.  However, the Obama administration had said it would not be attending Thatcher's funeral before the Boston bombings
Ordinarily, American presidents don't attend such funerals, but they almost always send their vice president or the first lady.

If I were Obama, I would have sent Vice President Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry — no matter how much I disliked the late prime minister.

(There are practical reasons for attending such funerals; you get a chance to "hobnob with the rest of the worlds leaders", which can be extremely useful.)
- 7:35 AM, 16 April 2013   [link]

So Far, I Haven't Seen Anything Solid on who bombed the Boston marathon, or their motives.  Like you, I've seen the story about the Saudi national who was, supposedly, acting suspiciously, and is now not under arrest but in custody.  Like you, I've seen the story about a massive search of a suburban Boston apartment, but have no idea what, if anything, they found there, or even why a judge authorized the search.

So I won't speculate on those questions.

It is not, however, speculation to say that, world wide, most such attacks are committed by Islamists.  Nor is it speculation to say that, from what we know now, the attack may have been committed by a single person.

Those who would like to see speculations can find ten of them here.  Almost all of them fit into the "my political enemies are probably responsible for this attack" category.
- 7:08 AM, 16 April 2013   [link]

Robert Byrne Died Last Friday:  That name won't mean much to you, unless you are a chess fan, but if you are, you will probably want to read this New York Times obituary.

Oddly, Byrne is probably most famous for a game he lost, against Bobby Fischer.  But I had not known, until I read the obituary, that Byrne got revenge against Fischer, beating him in this game the next year.

Or that Byrne did not spend his young adulthood — when you would have expected him to be strongest — as a chess player.
A prodigy as a young player, Mr. Byrne was nonetheless a latecomer to the professional game.  He had a career as a philosophy professor, teaching at Indiana University through most of the 1950s, and did not become a full-time chess player until he was in his 40s, by which time most top players are beyond their peak skills
Unlike Fischer, Byrne was, as far as I know, refreshingly normal — as well as being a great chess player.
- 7:19 PM, 15 April 2013   [link]

Two Explosions At The Boston Marathon:  I came back from lunch and learned about what appears to be a terrorist attack, with many injured and some killed.  And that's about all I know, now.

This post will probably have the main facts, and perhaps some non-facts, as the day goes on.

For what it is worth, today is Patriots' Day in Massachusetts, and tomorrow is Israeli Independence Day.

As almost all of you know, first reports are often wrong.
- 1:09 PM, 15 April 2013   [link]

Canada's Liberal Party Has Chosen Justin Trudeau As Its Leader:  If that name sounds familiar, it's because he is the son of the late Canadian prime minister, Pierre Trudeau.

As far as I can tell, the young Trudeau has the family name going for him, and almost nothing else.  The people who put this Wikipedia biography together appear to have been trying to pump him up, but they didn't have much to work with.

He worked as a social studies and French teacher, studied for degrees in engineering and "environmental geography", but completed neither, and got the media coverage that usually goes to children of celebrities.

In politics, according to the article, he "criticized", "fought against", "called for", and "encouraged".  But he doesn't seem to have accomplished anything of note.

Although the Canadian Liberal party came in third in number of seats in the last election, they came in second in the popular vote, and are still the most likely alternative to the Conservative Party.

Americans who wish Canada well — and that is almost all of us — will be disappointed in this choice, and will hope that Trudeau is not as bad as he appears to be.

(Canadian grassroots conservatives seem to think little of Trudeau, sometimes describing him as a "substitute drama teacher".)
- 9:08 AM, 15 April 2013   [link]

Howard Dean Is Unhappy with President Obama's budget, specifically with the insufficient — in Dean's opinion — cuts in the military budget.

(In his tweet, Dean said he might become an independent.  Dean's reaction to Obama's proposed budget makes me wonder whether Dean is thinking of running for president again, either as an outsider Democrat, again, or as an independent.

He can't be pleased that Obama has adopted many Bush security policies, and that much of the Democratic Party has gone along with Obama's switch.)
- 8:22 AM, 15 April 2013   [link]

Capriles is not conceding.
Defeated Venezuelan presidential candidate Henrique Capriles has demanded a recount of votes, rejecting the election of Hugo Chavez's successor as "illegitimate".

Mr Capriles, who lost by a very narrow margin, said there were more than 300,000 incidents from Sunday's poll that needed to be examined.
There was certainly fraud in yesterday's election; there is in every large election.   But I don't know whether there was enough fraud to change the result, much less whether there was enough provable fraud to change the result.

(Some are arguing that this is a Pyrrhic victory for the regime, that it is so close that Maduro will find it hard to govern, and that he will be unable to escape the blame for the troubles caused by the regime's often idiotic policies.  That's a relatively pleasant conclusion, and may even be true.)
- 6:57 AM, 15 April 2013   [link]

Upset In Venezuela?!?  According to the Venezuelan bloggers I read, the Capriles forces think they have won by about 1 percent.   Here's an earlier post with some background, and here's the latest, as I write.
The Capriles Campaign is certain that Henrique Capriles Radonski has won today’s election.  Various opposition quick counts now point clearly in that direction.  There has been a high level decision not to announce it publicly at this point.
Venezuela's election technology is more modern than that in most of the United States, so the opposition has access to better numbers than the Republicans did at the same time on election night in last year's election.

So the Capriles campaign might have good reason to believe they won.  And I sure hope they are right.

(One interesting detail:  There are many Venezuelans living overseas.  They can vote and, apparently are, in large numbers.  For instance, there was a line of them in Boston, earlier today.  Those votes are counted later, for some reason, and they tend to be heavily anti-regime.)
- 8:19 PM, 14 April 2013
Update:  The election board (CNE) has announced the results.
CNE on TV to announce results or something.  Tibisay Lucena says with 99%.12% of votes with 78.2% Nicolas Maduro 7.5 Million votes 50.6% of the votes, Henrique Capriles 49.07% of the votes.  Whether true or not this is a HUGE opposition victory.
Huge, because it shows that Maduro may stay in office, but that he does not have anything like a mandate.

If I understood the earlier posts correctly, the overseas votes would not be enough to change the winner.

According to one report (rumor), Capriles met with leaders of the military.  If the report (rumor) is correct, Capriles was trying to assure himself of their support before declaring victory.  As far as I know, Capriles has not conceded.
- 9:10 PM, 14 April 2013   [link]

The NYT Editorial Board Doesn't Want To Discuss The Gosnell Trial:  Until the last few days, "mainstream" reporters have been mostly been unwilling to give this story national coverage.  But that is beginning to break down and we are beginning to hear about that "house of horrors", even from people who are not pro-life.  (For an example, see this piece by the Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf — though I must warn you that the post is horrifying, and includes a picture of a naked, murdered baby.)

But the editorial board at our newspaper of record is not going to be trapped into discussing anything that might undermine their extremist pro-abortion position.  Instead, today their lead editorial praises the opening of a new abortion clinic in Kansas, in the same building where a murdered abortionist, Dr. George Tiller, practiced.

(The clinic, as Times calls it, will only do first-trimester abortions, unlike Tiller.  Or so they claim.)

Is that story as important as the Gosnell trial?  Not even close.

I am not linking to the editorial, but you can find it easily enough at the newspaper site.

(The newspaper's credibility was partly saved today by this intelligent and honest Ross Douthat column, which discusses the inherent conflict between just-the-facts journalism and crusading journalism — and does mention the Gosnell trial.

Incidentally, I have consistently found Douthat the most interesting columnist at the Times.  That is, I suspect, partly because he is a social conservative and so must write his columns knowing that almost all his colleagues will disagree with him, and even despise his views.  Whether or not I agree with him, I almost always find him thought provoking.

And he sometimes writes things that no one else there would, as he did in this recent column on the secrets of Princeton match making.)
- 6:47 PM, 14 April 2013   [link]

There Were A Lot Of Theories Floated After The Murders, In A Texas County, Of A Former District Attorney, His Wife, And An Assistant District Attorney:  But I don't recall seeing this one.
Sources tell CBS 11 that Former Justice of the Peace Eric Williams will be charged with capital murder in the deaths of Mike and Cynthia McLelland, and Mark Hasse.
. . .
Earlier this month, the CBS 11 I-Team reported Williams had a history with both Mike McLelland and Mark Hasse.  The two prosecuted and secured a conviction against him back in 2012 for Burglary and Theft By A Public Servant.  Surveillance cameras caught Williams taking computer equipment from a county building.  As part of his appeal, Williams claimed McClelland and Hasse didn’t like him.
He doesn't seem to be a very likable fellow.

You probably recall seeing some of the speculation on suspects, with some thinking they might be white supremacists, others the Mexican Mafia, and so on.

But if you read the whole article, you'll see that local authorities have been investigating Williams for weeks, though the reporter does not explain — and may not know — what made Williams a suspect.
- 6:06 PM, 14 April 2013   [link]

In Washington State, Recreational Marijuana Use Is Legal/Illegal:  Last November, Washington voters legalized marijuana.

So it is legal here.

However, Initiative 502 did not change the federal laws on marijuana.

So it is illegal here (except, of course, for "medicinal" uses).

The federal government has not reacted to the change in state law with massive raids on marijuana stores.  Attorney General Eric Holder probably doesn't want to annoy people who, mostly, support the administration.  But Holder hasn't given a pass to Washington state, either — and I don't see how he can.

In practice, this means that you can set up a business to grow or sell marijuana in Washington state, but you may have trouble opening a bank account for the business.
Banks fall under the scrutiny of federal regulators such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.  And bankers fear punishment if their account holders violate anti-money laundering laws.  I’ve also heard that banks are worried about pot-related businesses leasing out space in commercial real estate properties on which banks hold loans, which could limit where marijuana producers or retailers locate.
Operating an all-cash business is not impossible, but it isn't easy.

(In Seattle, marijuana has long been legal, for most practical purposes.  The many "medicinal" marijuana dispensaries are transparent fakes.  The city had an official policy of ignoring marijuana use, putting it last on the police priority list.  It's my impression that the Seattle police sometimes ignored that policy, when they could use a marijuana violation to arrest someone they wanted to arrest for other reasons, but the police didn't go out of their way to arrest people at the annual Hemp Fest.)
- 9:20 AM, 14 April 2013   [link]

Who Will Win Today's Election In Venezuela?   Probably Hugo Chávez's handpicked successor, Nicolás Maduro.
I am a numbers guy and the numbers suggest Maduro will win by a smaller margin that polls say, but looking at just the overall numbers (which also say Capriles is more popular than Maduro, for example) without knowing exactly what people feel about the Son Of Chávez, it is very hard to predict that the outcome will be different than polls predict.
Miguel Octavio thinks that Maduro voters are less motivated than Henrique Capriles voters, and apparently there is some poll data and election results to support that generalization.

So, if turnout is low, Capriles has a chance.

It is likely — I say from a great distance — that the regime understands that, and will drag enough voters to the polls to win.

(Here's the Wikipedia article on Maduro, with the usual caveats.  There are reports that Maduro spent years in Cuba, being indoctrinated, but the article doesn't discuss that question.)
- 8:54 AM, 14 April 2013   [link]

Overall, President Obama's Latest Tax Return Reminds Me Of The One Mitt Romney Released During The 2012 Campaign:  Both families made very large charitable contributions.  As a result, both paid relatively low percentages of their adjusted gross income in federal income taxes, 14.1 percent in Romney's case, and 18.4 percent in Obama's case.

The returns are even more similar if you combine their charitable contributions and federal income taxes; the Obamas gave up 43.1 percent of their income in taxes and charitable contributions, the Romneys 43.5 percent.

You can decide for yourself whether these returns are examples of a "fair" tax system.

Professor Caron's post giving the overall numbers for the Obamas' returns since 2000 also gives us the Bidens' returns since 1996.  And I think anyone who looks at the numbers will conclude that the Bidens are not cheerful givers, that their charitable contributions have been downright chintzy, averaging less than 0.2 percent before they got into the national spotlight, and less than 2 percent since then.

As a purely practical matter, almost any political operative would advise the Bidens to loosen their purse strings — if he intends to run for president

(Of course, both the Obamas and the Romneys paid other taxes in those years.  I don't know of any simple way of estimating how much those taxes amounted to.   But some, for instance the property taxes on Romney's California home, must have been substantial.

Here are the overall numbers for the Bush/Cheney 2007 returns, for those who want to compare Obama and Biden to their predecessors.)
- 8:06 AM, 13 April 2013   [link]

Delay On Obama Budget Posts:  Yesterday, I picked up four newspapers, the Seattle Times, the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal, hoping for a good summary of the budget President Obama submitted — two months late.

None of the four newspapers had that summary.  (The Journal was the closest.)  Moreover, some of the articles were, intentionally or not, deceptive.

So I decided to put off any commentary until I could do my own summary.

Meanwhile, just to show you how differently columnists have pictured the president's proposed budget, here are two columns from the Washington Post, one by Ruth Marcus:
This one, both arriving late and coming down, ideologically, between (although by no means equally between) the House and Senate budgets, may prove more relevant, and it is far from a wish list.  It’s a reasonable-under-the-circumstances compromise.  The budget includes changes, such as in Social Security calculations, that have infuriated the president’s political allies.  It takes important, if insufficient, steps on reining in federal health-care spending.  And it raises needed revenue, albeit not enough, in an entirely sensible way, by capping the value of itemized deductions for the wealthiest Americans.
And one by Charles Krauthammer:
Now the bad news.  The cards laid down by the White House are quite unimpressive.  The 2014 budget is tax-and-spend as usual.  The actual deficit reduction over a decade is a minuscule $0.6 trillion — out of a total spending of $46.5 trillion.  And every penny of this tiny reduction comes from tax hikes.  Nothing from spending cuts, which all end up getting spent elsewhere.

Moreover, where’s the compromise?  The Obama budget calls for not only more spending than the GOP’s, but more than the Democratic Senate’s as well.  For just fiscal 2014, it even contains $160 billion more spending, and $128 billion more deficit, than if the budget — that Obama purports to be cutting — were left untouched!
Does that sound as if Marcus and Krauthammer are discussing the same budget proposal?

If you are at all like me, you react to that apparent disagreement by thinking that you will have to look at the budget proposal yourself.  And if you remember how long and complex these things are, you won't make any promises about when you will be finished summarizing the thing.

(A third column by another Post columnist, Robert Samuelson, strikes me as sensible, but, as I said, I haven't even seen a good summary of the proposed budget, much less read it.)
- 3:01 PM, 12 April 2013   [link]

Tuesday's New Yorker Cartoon Made Me Laugh:   Partly because it is so politically incorrect.

But I didn't realize just how politically incorrect, until I searched for it and saw that it was number 40 in a list of the "50 most racist cartoons".

That inspired me to look through the list and I found that I agreed that almost all of the older cartoons were bigoted, if not technically racist — and that most of the modern cartoons were not.

For example, I think that number 6 is funny, though it doesn't make any great political point, and not the least bit racist or bigoted.

That may show that I am insufficiently sensitive — or that the person who compiled the list sees racism where none exists.

(Modern cartoons that I thought were bigoted: numbers 39, 38, and 30.  All three were done by leftist cartoonists.  The collection does not include any of the racist cartoons attacking Condoleezza Rice, by the way, and only one attacking Clarence Thomas.)
- 10:47 AM, 12 April 2013   [link]

Sauve Qui Peut In Kentucky?  The man who accused "Progress Kentucky" activists of taping the Mitch McConnell strategy meeting is a Democratic official, and he did it, he says, to protect his party.  Not because bugging your political opponents is wrong, or anything like that.
A Jefferson County Democratic Party official alleged Thursday that two men affiliated with the liberal SuperPAC Progress Kentucky, Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison, bragged about secretly recording a private McConnell campaign meeting on February 2.
. . .
It should not be seen as a reflection of the Democratic Party or our candidates," Conway argued, "McConnell wants this to be a story to distract from his record."
As of now, I am inclined to think that the local Democratic Party was not involved in this bugging, but it is interesting to see how quickly Conway has tried to separate them from their allies, Progress Kentucky.

(Sauve qui peut:  Literally, save who can, but often translated as every man for himself.

Jefferson County is Louisville and most of the Louisville suburbs, now combined under a single government.
- 9:08 AM, 12 April 2013   [link]

The Obama Administration Gets tough on crime.

Eric Brown probably can't look forward to a presidential pardon, either.
- 8:45 AM, 12 April 2013   [link]

A Boy And His Dog:  Even cat lovers will like these pictures.
- 5:15 AM, 12 April 2013   [link]

Was That Mitch McConnell Conversation About Ashley Judd Recorded Illegally?  Probably.  Was it illegal for David Corn of Mother Jones to publish the recording?   Possibly.
One GOP campaign veteran says, "Based on my reading of the relevant Kentucky statute, If Corn knowingly took this tape from the 'Louisville Plumbers' he's breaking the law here too.  Or maybe he thinks his previous comments on this whole botched operation are 'no longer operative.'"
According to the article, in Kentucky divulging an illegal recording is a "Class A misdemeanor".

But I hasten to remind you that I am not a lawyer, much less a lawyer who is an expert on this part of Kentucky law.

(There is, as you can see from some of the accessories sold with this standard voice recorder, a lot of surreptitious recording going on.  Note, for instance, that one of the most popular accessories is a telephone pick-up microphone (TP-8) and another is the ME-15 microphone, which, Amazon tells us, "can also be fixed under a jacket or shirt for easy concealment".

Incidentally, surreptitious does not necessarily mean illegal.  In some states, both parties to a conversation must consent to recording it; in others, only one side must.

And it will show you how little I know about the details of these laws when I tell you that I have no idea which states have which conditions.)
- 1:41 PM, 11 April 2013   [link]

These North Korean Women's Combat Boots don't look suitable for long marches.

Which I suppose is the point, since the women weren't there to march, but to be photographed.

(The vehicles the US troops are preparing look to me like M2 Bradleys, not tanks.  And those troops are also there, in part, to be photographed.)
- 10:32 AM, 11 April 2013   [link]

Farm Girls Tend To Be Strong And Practical:  So this story doesn't surprise me.
An Oregon man says his teenage daughters saved his life last weekend after they somehow lifted a 3,000-pound tractor off him after his boot slipped off the tractor's clutch and flipped.
Good for Hannah and Haylee Smith.

(And good for Gordon Smith, who said, in a TV story I saw, that he is going to install a roll cage on the tractor.)
- 8:18 AM, 11 April 2013   [link]

Bean Leaves against bedbugs.
Recently, though, researchers heard of a traditional Balkan remedy for bedbugs, a centuries-old technique used in Bulgaria, Serbia and other Eastern European countries.   Bean leaves scattered on the floor next to beds seem to entrap the bugs as they scurry along the floor at night.  The insect-encrusted leaves are then burned the next morning.
. . .
To uncover why this folk remedy worked, scientists used scanning electron microscopes and video cameras to analyze bedbugs walking on the leaves.  Sharp, microscopic hooks called trichomes cover the surface of a bean leaf.

The trichomes are each only about 10 microns wide and up to 100 microns long.  (In comparison, the average width of a human hair is 100 microns.)  The researchers found that when bedbugs step on the leaves, the hooks impale the insects' feet.   After getting pierced by a trichome, the critters continue to struggle, but this often just further ensnares them.
And now scientists are trying to copy that defense rather than, say, providing bean leaves to hotels in New York.

So far, they haven't succeeded in getting the details right, but I don't see any reason to think that they won't, in time.

(The article quotes entomologist Catherine Loudon saying that it is "purely coincidental" that bean leaves trap bedbugs.  I understand her argument; it is true that bedbugs do not feed on bean plants.  But I think she overstated it.  Insects have been feeding on plants for at least 400 million years, so plants have evolved many chemical and physical defenses against insects.  We shouldn't be completely surprised that a defense against sucking insects that feed on plants also works against sucking insects that feed on people.)
- 7:31 AM, 11 April 2013   [link]

Need Some Background For The Budget Discussion?   Then take a look at this chart showing federal revenue and spending, as percentages of the GDP, from 1929 to the present.

You'll notice, for instance, that the increase in spending under Obama/Pelosi/Reid is about the same, relative to the GDP, as the increase during the Korean War.

(Click on the chart to get a larger version.)
- 9:48 AM, 10 April 2013   [link]

Sarah Palin Has The Best Reply to Melissa Harris-Perry that I've seen.

Incidentally, most of the kids I've known loved to ride in pickups.  And the boys typically preferred riding in the back, because it was more exciting.  (I imagine that's illegal, almost everywhere now, though I haven't checked.)
- 8:53 AM, 10 April 2013   [link]

Ceci Moses And Rick Schimmel Saw No Reason to rush into marriage.
After 25 years of companionship and 8 children, Ceci Moses and Rick Schimmel had been officially married, inspired in part by Louisville's epic run through the N. C. A. A. tournament, . . .
What did the tournament have to do with the timing of the marriage?  Two of their daughters, Jude and Shoni, starred on the Louisville team.  And their success inspired their parents to, finally, get legal.

That doesn't interest the Times reporter much, but Jeré Longman was interested in the racial angle, since Jude and Shoni grew up on an Indian reservation, and our reservations produce many basketball players, but few stars: "only 21 women and 4 men identified as American Indian/Alaska Native participated among the 10,151 basketball players at the Division 1 level".

The article goes on to explain that Ceci Moses did what parents who have ambitions for their children often do; she moved the family to Portland for the girls' last years in high school, so they could get the experience and challenges they needed.

(More here.   The reservation site is here.

As you may have guessed from his name, Rick Schimmel is not actually an Indian, but he was a good enough basketball player to play for Stanford.)
- 6:18 AM, 10 April 2013   [link]

Bevin Boys:  Since we were discussing British coal miners, it's a good time to mention this group of draftees.
Bevin Boys were young British men conscripted to work in the coal mines of the United Kingdom, from December 1943 until 1948.[1]  Chosen at random from conscripts but also including volunteers, nearly 48,000 Bevin Boys performed vital but largely unrecognised service in the mines, many of them not released until years after the Second World War ended.  Ten percent of those conscripted aged 18–25 were selected for this service.
Britain had to have more coal for the war effort, and had made the mistake of conscripting coal miners early in the war.  The work was so dirty, difficult, and dangerous that later they could not recruit enough miners in the usual ways.

(The United States had its own problems with getting enough coal during World War II, but for a different reason, the militancy of the United Mine Workers, led by John L. Lewis.
After the German attack on the Soviets and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the miners issued a no-strike pledge "for the duration" in support of the war effort.   However, Lewis repeatedly violated the pledge, most notably in 1943 when half a million workers walked off the job.  Throughout World War II Lewis repeatedly called his miners out on strike, defying the government, outraging public opinion, and strengthening the hand of anti-union Congressmen.  Public opinion was extremely angry and demanded and got tough new anti-union laws.[15]   President Roosevelt, a traditional ally of labor, felt he had no choice but to seize the mines.  Even so, some steel mills closed for weeks and power shortages crippled production.
Which didn't help the "arsenal of democracy", at all.)
- 8:40 PM, 9 April 2013   [link]

Flaws In The PoliceOne Survey:  If you were surfing the net today, you may have run across references to a survey of police officers on gun issues, done by PoliceOne.

The results, which would not please gun control advocates, interested me, so I took a look at their methodology:
PoliceOne’s Gun Policy & Law Enforcement survey was conducted between March 4 and March 13, 2013.  More than 15,000 officers completed the survey, which was promoted by PoliceOne exclusively to its 400,000 registered members, comprised of verified law enforcement professionals.  Only current, former or retired law enforcement personnel were eligible to participate in the survey.  The survey sample size was broadly distributed by geography and rank in proportion to the U.S. law enforcement community at large.  Respondents comprised a variety of ranks from departments of all sizes, with the majority representing departments of greater than 500 officers.  Of those that took the survey, 80 percent were current law enforcement officers and 20 percent were former/retired law enforcement.
So it isn't a survey of all police officers; it's a survey promoted to the members of this on line site.  To determine whether the respondents were "eligible" for the survey, they asked they whether they were current or former police officers, and only counted answers from those who said yes.

According to this press release, they just posted the survey on line, after emailing their members.

They do not claim — and this is a critical point — that they got a random sample even of their members.

So, what can we infer from this survey?  Not much, unfortunately.  Since we don't have a random sample, we have no reason to think that the 15,000 who responded are representative even of the 400,000 members, and some reason to think they are not, since such surveys tend to draw more responses from those who feel strongly about the subject.

(This is an example of a well-known problem in survey research, especially in the United States.  If we wanted to find out what police officers, or any other relatively small group, think about a particular subject, we can either call a great many people so that we pick up enough members of that group, or we can try to find a list of members to call.  And we may not be able to find a list that is close to comprehensive.)
- 6:40 PM, 9 April 2013   [link]

Worth Reading:  The best single piece I've seen on Margaret Thatcher is this Paul Johnson op-ed.

Here's his lead paragraph:
Margaret Thatcher had more impact on the world than any woman ruler since Catherine the Great of Russia.  Not only did she turn around—decisively—the British economy in the 1980s, she also saw her methods copied in more than 50 countries.   "Thatcherism" was the most popular and successful way of running a country in the last quarter of the 20th century and into the 21st.
Johnson says less than he should about Thatcher's victory in the 1984-1985 miner's strike — which came after her 1981 defeat by the same union.  (Megan McArdle has a good discussion of the necessity of Thatcher's victories over the unions — and some of the costs of those victories.)

You may not want to read the whole Wikipedia article on the 1984-1985 strike, but you should know at least these things about the strike:  The leader of the union was Arthur Scargill, a Communist for much of his life.  Scargill is generally credited, rightly as far as I can tell, with bringing down two British governments, Conservative Edward Heath's in 1974 and Labour's Jim Callaghan's in 1979.

The strike lasted nearly a year.

It was marked by considerable violence, including ten deaths.

Scargill's power was, I think it fair to say, a direct threat to British democracy.
- 1:06 PM, 9 April 2013   [link]

A Ferret Is Not Actually A Rodent, which makes this story even funnier.
A retired man has fallen victim to a pet poodle hoax after his local veterinarian uncovered he had been sold two giant rodents pumped up with steroids.

Bargain hunters rummaging around Argentina’s largest flea market, La Salada, have been duped into spending hundreds of dollars on what they have been told is the dog of their dreams.

In reality, they’ve just been sold what locals call the ‘Brazilian rat’ – a ferret pumped up on steroids and groomed to resemble a fluffy toy poodle.
So, not only was the man fooled, so was Yahoo.  And if the veterinarian didn't know that a ferret is not a rodent, then he needs to go back to school.

(A ferret is a member of the Mustelidae family, along with polecats, weasels, et cetera.)
- 10:38 AM, 9 April 2013   [link]

How Close Is Argentina To Another Default?   According to the insurers who rate their debt, disturbingly close.
Argentina's bonds have been whipsawed the past two weeks by the to-and-fro of a court battle that could drive the country into default.  But investors should take a longer view of the country's 11-year battle with some holders of its defaulted debt.

Doing so puts the 16.9% yield on Argentina's restructured US dollar-denominated bonds maturing in 2017 in perspective.  And it should warn off any yield-starved investors tempted by the chunky payout.
Accompanying this article in the Wall Street Journal was a little graph showing the premium you would pay to insure $10 million in Argentine debt against default, for one year.  It's currently about $2.5 million, and though it dropped recently from more than $3 million, it has still risen since the beginning of the year from about $1.3 million.

(Could this help explain why Argentine leaders are talking about the Falklands again?   Sure.)
- 7:35 AM, 9 April 2013   [link]

We're No. 1 In Oil Production, Again:  Last year, we passed Saudi Arabia.
Guess which country is the world’s largest oil producer.  No, it’s not Saudi Arabia or Russia.  It’s the United States, which passed Saudi Arabia in November of 2012, according to data from the federal Energy Information Administration and reported in Investors Business Daily.

In 2012 American domestic output rose by an astonishing 800,000 barrels a day.   That’s more than total oil production in such middling oil producers as Argentina, and the greatest single-year increase in the United States since Edwin Drake drilled the first well in 1859.
This is a big defeat for the Obama administration, which has discouraged oil and gas production, where they could, a big victory for the oil producers who developed new ways of accessing the oil, and a medium-sized victory for the Bush-Cheney policies, which encouraged the producers.
- 6:02 AM, 9 April 2013   [link]