August 2009, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

What Percent Of The Uninsured Are Satisfied With Their Health Care?   According to Steve Chapman, 62 percent.
Critics say all those great medicines and therapies are cold comfort to Americans who lack insurance -- which by any standard is our greatest shortcoming.  People without coverage are more likely to do without needed treatment or preventive care and more likely to die from disease or accidents.

But they have it better than you might think.  Some 62 percent of uninsured Americans are satisfied with their medical care.  That is probably because they get a lot of uncompensated treatment from the most advanced, ambitious and capable medical system in the world.
(Emphasis added.)

I'm not sure whether Chapman is right about the main reason they are satisfied.  Many uninsured are young and healthy and do not need much medical care, so they are easy to satisfy.  (In my 20's and 30's I was usually insured, but needed almost no medical care other than routine dental work and eye exams.)

(Overall, 89 percent are satisfied with their medical care.

Chapman didn't name the poll, so I haven't checked it.  I'll email him and ask for his source.)
- 5:09 PM, 16 August 2009   [link]

What Should You Wear To A Townhall Meeting?  If you dress up, Nancy Pelosi will accuse you of being an astroturf demonstrator.

If you don't dress up, leftist Robin Givhan will treat you with contempt.
It seems safe to say that of the hundreds of thousands of style guides currently for sale on Amazon, not one of the didactic, shop-your-closet authors was prescient enough to outline the appropriate attire for those public occasions when good citizens decide to behave like raving lunatics and turn lawmakers into punching bags.  What does one wear to a town hall meeting on health care when the sole reason for attending is to shout down one's congressman like a peevish teenager in the midst of a hormonal rage?
. . .
By and large, the shouters are dressed in a way that underscores their Average Guy -- or Gal -- bona fides.  They are wearing T-shirts, baseball caps, promotional polo shirts and sundresses with bra straps sliding down their arm.  They wear fuchsia bandannas and American-flag hankies wrapped around their skulls like sweatbands.  A lot of them look as though they could be attending a sporting event and, as it turns out, the congressman is the opposing player they have decided to heckle.  If not for the prohibition on signs and banners inside these meetings, one could well expect to see some of these volatile worker bees wearing face paint and foam fingers, albeit the highlighted digit would be one expressing foul displeasure rather than competitive rank or skill level.
Neither Pelosi or Givhan has told us how we should dress at these meetings, though Givhan does lean toward suits, at least for men.  (But that may just be because Givhan really, really likes men's suits.)

If I attend one of these meetings, I'll try to be clean and neat (the second is more difficult for me), and will wear "business casual" clothes.  (Unless Pelosi makes another crack about Brooks Brothers suits, in which case I will wear mine.)

But I am soft enough so that I appreciate the sentiments in Rockwell's "Freedom of Speech" painting.  As you probably have noticed, Rockwell is making a point about clothes and class in that picture, by making the speaker a man who works with his hands.   (And just in case you don't get that immediately, Rockwell shows you the man's hands, along with the skeptical looks of the better-dressed at the meeting.)

And I am logical enough to know that the clothes a person wears do not affect the logic of a person's arguments.  (I am not sure that either Pelosi or Givhan grasps that point.)
- 9:05 AM, 16 August 2009   [link]

NYT Graph Versus NYT Story:  Here's the New York Times graph:

NYT graph showing European stagnation, 14 August 2009

Here's the New York Times headline that goes with the graph: "Europe's Surge Signals Hope for Economic Recovery"

And here's the first paragraph of the story.
The European economy bounced back with unexpected strength in the second quarter, buoying hopes that a worldwide recession was drawing to a close.
Would it be cruel of me to mention that the European economy continued to shrink in the second quarter, according to the graph?

I've seen this strange enthusiasm in the New York Times for mediocre European economic results before, but this is one of the most extreme examples I've seen.  A fair headline might be something like this: European Economy No Longer in Free Fall", or something equally neutral.

We can certainly hope that the European economy improves, but it hasn't started to improve yet, if that graph is correct.

(The article does not mention this interesting point:  Germany and France rejected Obama's approach to recovery, and are not running enormous deficits.)
- 4:59 PM, 14 August 2009   [link]

Who Helped Spread Those "Death Panel" Rumors?  Would you believe Barack Obama?
So as of April 2009 Obama himself expected the final legislation to include some sort of group (but NOT a "death panel"!) that would produce voluntary guidelines for end of life care with an eye towards saving money.

And now Obama is plagued by scurrilous rumors that his legislation will include groups that issue guidelines for end of life care with the goal of saving money.
There's much more in the post, which is mostly about how the New York Times is ignoring its own reporting, in an effort to protect Obama.

And to evade the grim facts.  Any successful effort to reduce costs — as Obama says he wants to do — will almost certainly require limits on end-of-life care.  In the interview, Obama said:
So that's where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues.  But that's also a huge driver of cost, right?

I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.
The 80 percent is probably too high, but I am not sure what he means by that qualifier, "potentially".  But those two groups do account for a very large share of our costs.

If you were Obama, would you look first for cost savings in the 80 percent, or the 20 percent?   And, if you look in the 80 percent, how would you decide where we can save money?  By getting advice from, of course, a panel of experts, who would set up guidelines, right?

(I don't think I am the only one who suspects that those moral issues are not very difficult for Barack Obama.)
- 10:39 AM, 14 August 2009   [link]

Don't Trust People Under Thirty:  Who says so?  Everyone, including people under thirty.
Overall, nearly three-quarters, or 74 percent, think that older adults have the superior work ethic, a judgment surprisingly shared across age groups, with 68 percent of respondents under 30 agreeing with that statement.

Seven-in-10 adults said older people have better moral values than the younger generation.  This judgment also was held by 66 percent of young adults and 69 percent of adults ages 50 and older, the [Pew Research] poll found.

About seven-in-10 also think the older generation is more respectful of others, an assessment made by 67 percent of respondents younger than 30 and 69 percent of those 50 and older.  About three-quarters of those ages 30 to 49 say the older generation is more respectful.
Younger people do think they are more tolerant — and they may be right about that.
- 7:43 AM, 14 August 2009   [link]

Obama Faces a tough interviewer:
He's interviewed Oprah, D-Wade and now President Obama.  No, we're not talking about Rush Limbaugh, Anderson Cooper or Larry King.

Damon Weaver already has a resume to match all of those big shot media powers, and he's only 11.
Tough and well-informed:
All across America, money is being cut from education.  How can education be improved with all these cuts?" Weaver peppered the Prez. "We think it's important to put more money into the shcools, but money alone is not going to make the difference, we've also got to improve how the schools are operating," Obama responded.
Actually, education spending has been growing for decades, without producing many gains in learning.   (Obama should have corrected Weaver, assuming Obama knows those facts.)

To be fair, Weaver was not much worse than the average "mainstream" journalist would have been.
- 7:29 AM, 14 August 2009   [link]

Andrew Saves The Gang Of Four:  But two of the four did't want to be saved.

Last Friday, KUOW's Gang of Four began by discussing Obama's health insurance plan.  They did not begin well, since the host, Steve Scher, did not start with a substantive question, but instead began by asking the other three (Joni Balter of the Seattle Times, Michael Parks of Marple's Pacific Northwest Letter, and Eli Sanders of the Stranger) whether the citizens attending the townhall meetings on the plan were there as part of an "astroturf" campaign.  In support of that possibility, Scher, showing a gift for choosing the most partisan columnists possible, cited Paul Krugman and our own Joel Connelly.

Balter took the bait, and told us that the demonstrations seem "so orchestrated".  (Which explains, no doubt, the home-made signs held by opponents, and the professionally-printed signs held by supporters.)

Eli Sanders, who will not win last week's open-minded prize, went further.  He was sure that the anti-Obama demonstrations were "profoundly un-American", that they were "stifling debate", that they "can't be taken seriously", and that those anti demonstrators are "honestly, idiots".  (Oddly enough, a week or two before, Sanders had said that he liked leaders who "stomped on" opponents, assuming, of course, that those leaders were urban leftists, I suppose.)  It is always a pleasure to hear from a professional journalist who respects people with different views.

After that diatribe, it was a pleasure to listen to Parks, who said that the subject was complex (no kidding!) and that he favored restricting end-of-life care.  (Almost everyone who wants to reduce costs favors that, though most politicians are reluctant to say so.)

Steve Scher — who has, to the best of my knowledge, never studied polling — is certain that US polls showing that most people are satisfied with their own medical care must be wrong.  He did not say whether he had sent this interesting conclusion to Gallup, Rasmussen, and other polling firms, so that they could correct their findings.  Nor did he explain how he knew they were wrong, except that he, and people he knew, didn't feel that way.  Perhaps he should get out more often.  Or just listen to stations other than KUOW, from time to time.

(In general, US polls have found, again and again, that most people think their own coverage and care are good, but that we need reform nationally.  Nothing paradoxical about that — but then I would say that, since that's my position.)

At this point, I was beginning to think that the hour would be wasted, but then "Andrew" called in.  Andrew began by saying that the nation can't afford Obama's plan (an obvious point, but no one there, other than Parks, seemed to understand it).  He then went on to describe his own plan, a combination health savings account and very high deductible ($2500) plan from Regence Blue Shield.  According to Andrew, that plan costs him $152 a month.  A conventional plan had cost him about $500 dollars a month, before he switched.  After he meets the yearly deductible, the coverage is similar to that from an ordinary Blue Shield plan.

Now at this point, I thought that the Gang had two choices:  They could be journalists, and ask Andrew to describe his plan more fully, or they could be Democratic party hacks, and attack him for even bringing up this idea.  To his credit, Scher gave Andrew plenty of time to describe his plan and to defend his ideas, although Scher — who is not always the best interviewer — did not ask him many questions.  Parks contributed a few rational points, from time to time, but did not, as I would have, ask Andrew for more details.

Balter and Sanders reacted as if they had just heard from a vampire, though they used Obama talking points, rather than a cross, to ward off the threat.  Neither even seem to understand why some, including Andrew, might want more freedom (fewer government mandates) even at the cost of some economic inequality.  Nor were they able to answer Andrew's point that it is better not to have people (that is, government bureaucrats) between a patient and a doctor.

After Andrew hung up, the rest of the discussion on health insurance was mostly wasted, with callers reciting stale Democratic talking points, and the Gang mostly agreeing with them.

Scher, who always tries to promote the work of his panel, asked Parks what the economic outlook was for this area.  Parks, citing a Philadelphia federal reserve study, said the outlook was terrible.

After that cheerful note, the Gang had a brief discussion of the "cash-for-clunkers" program.   Balter did not appear to understand that a more efficient stimulus, such as a temporary cut in social security taxes, would have been better.  And Parks had to remind her, when she plugged electric cars, that the biggest source of electricity in this country is burning coal.

The program ended with a brief discussion of Clinton's trip to North Korea and the Sotomayor nomination.  Balter, who was not having a good day, thought that the most important thing about the trip was that it showed that Clinton was back.  (I would have thought that the most important thing was the effect on a nuclear-armed dictatorship, but I am not a professional journalist, so I am probably wrong about that.)  And, of course, Steve Scher hopes that Hispanic voters will be moving away from the Republican party.  (As they moved away from the Democratic party after the attacks on Miguel Estrada and Alberto Gonzales, perhaps?)

The program was entertaining, and, in spite of the best efforts of Balter and Sanders, instructive.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 5:19 PM, 13 August 2009   [link]

Maybe Obama Is Just Not A Numbers Guy:  Even if he is adorable.
Before presenting tennis legend Billie Jean King with the Medal of Freedom Wednesday, President Obama ticked off some . . .

. . . of her accomplishments: 12 Grand Slam titles, 101 doubles titles, 67 singles titles.

"Pretty good, Billie Jean," he quipped.

But he didn't get any of it right, according to King herself.
. . .
King found it amusing, and said her accomplishments on the court aren't the most important.

"I thought it was adorable," she said.

Asked what Obama got wrong, she said, "Well the Grand Slam's at 39 not at 12."
Probably, Obama was just reading something prepared by an aide.  Probably.  If so, that aide should be given different work, or perhaps encouraged to seek other employment.

But Obama may have misread his script.  And if the aide made the mistake, we must wonder about a White House that would hire someone who can't get basic facts correct.

(How long does it take to get the basic facts from Wikipedia?  Less than a minute if you have a broadband connection.)
- 12:25 PM, 13 August 2009   [link]

"Unexpectedly"  Remember the economic stories during the Bush administration?  They so often had news that was "unexpectedly" good, that I began to joke about it.  (Though there were fewer such stories after the Democrats took control of Congress in the 2006 election.)

This year, we are still seeing stories with "unexpected" or "unexpectedly" in them, but now the news is usually unexpectedly bad.   For instance:
Retail sales disappointed in July and the number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly last week.  The latest government reports reinforced concerns about how quickly consumers will be able to contribute to a broad economic recovery.
One possible explanation for these numbers is that employers and households have become more cautious because they are becoming less certain about government policies, less certain whether they will be able to use another worker, less certain whether they will be able to pay for essentials in the next few years.
- 9:24 AM, 13 August 2009   [link]

Two Times When Obama Did Not Tell An Audience The Truth — From Just Yesterday:  First, no, AARP has not endorsed his plan.

As "Allahpundit" says, AARP is not fighting a plan that will (probably) cut benefits for their members, but they haven't formally endorsed it.

Second, despite what Obama said yesterday, he has been a proponent of a single-payer system for national health insurance.  (It would be surprising if he weren't, since almost everyone in the Democratic party with his ideology backs such plans.)

The first may have been a slip, because the leadership of AARP has been cooperating with the Obama administration.  (And losing a least a few members because of that.)

But the second?  He must remember that, in the past, he favored single-payer systems, but he still told the audience: "I have not said that I was a single-payer supporter".

If I were running the national Republican party, I would be running an ad showing Obama's 2003 statement, and, right after it, yesterday's statement.
- 7:26 AM, 12 August 2009   [link]

Sense And Nonsense From Paglia:  The usual monthly mixture, sometimes enlightening, often silly, and almost always entertaining.
Buyer's remorse?  Not me.  At the North American summit in Guadalajara this week, President Obama resumed the role he is best at -- representing the U.S. with dignity and authority abroad.   This is why I, for one, voted for Obama and continue to support him.  The damage done to U.S. prestige by the feckless, buffoonish George W. Bush will take years to repair.  Obama has barely begun the crucial mission that he was elected to do.

Having said that, I must confess my dismay bordering on horror at the amateurism of the White House apparatus for domestic policy.  When will heads start to roll?  I was glad to see the White House counsel booted, as well as Michelle Obama's chief of staff, and hope it's a harbinger of things to come.  Except for that wily fox, David Axelrod, who could charm gold threads out of moonbeams, Obama seems to be surrounded by juvenile tinhorns, bumbling mediocrities and crass bully boys.
And what does it say about Obama that he chose such subordinates?

Paglia is not very good with numbers and strategy, something not entirely surprising in a "University Professor of Humanities and Media Studies".  But I would think that she would be good enough with words to have noticed by now that Obama does not always tell audiences the truth, whether it is Muslims, as in his Cairo speech, or Americans, as in his townhall campaign event yesterday.

(I wrote "does not always tell audiences the truth", rather than the harsher "lies", because I often can not tell whether Obama believes his own words — at least while he is saying them.)

Perhaps she will understand that, in time.  It took her a while, but she has finally figured Pelosi out:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom I used to admire for her smooth aplomb under pressure, has clearly gone off the deep end with her bizarre rants about legitimate town-hall protests by American citizens.   She is doing grievous damage to the party and should immediately step down.
I am more troubled by the damage Pelosi has done to the country since becoming the leader of the House Democrats.  But I have to give a little credit to Paglia for finally recognizing the obvious.

(Tip for readers:  You will gain by skipping Paglia's third pages, unless you have distinctly minority tastes.)
- 6:28 AM, 12 August 2009   [link]

Sometimes the Smaller Broken Promises Are The Most Revealing:  For example, Obama's promise to put non-emergency bills up for comment for five days, before signing them.
One of President Obama's major campaign planks was making government more open and accountable.   It's a reaction to a habit in Congress of rushing bills through the House and Senate without giving people much opportunity to know what the bills would do.  Indeed, sometimes members of Congress don't even know what's in the bills.

So Obama pledged during the campaign to institute "sunlight before signing."

"Too often bills are rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them," Obama's campaign Web site states.  "As president, Obama will not sign any nonemergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House Web site for five days."
Obama broke that promise when he signed his first non-emergency bill, and has continued to break it.

It would not be a hard promise to keep.  There are no costs to waiting five days, no big reason not to keep the promise.  But he hasn't bothered.

Why hasn't he kept this promise?  Because, I believe, he doesn't care whether he keeps his promises to the public.  In that, he is like the typical machine politician who often makes promises during campaigns that he never intends to keep.  (Conventional politicians do this, too, but less often than many think.)

And, because he doesn't expect to be held accountable for broken promises — but he may be wrong about that.  I didn't care much when he made the promise, but I do care that he hasn't even attempted to keep it.

(Is a five day waiting period a good idea?  Probably, though I would prefer a variable waiting period, with the time depending on the importance and complexity of the bill.)
- 1:25 PM, 11 August 2009   [link]

Robert Samuelson Is Getting Exasperated:  Understandably.  Because Obama's cure for our health insurance problems is incompatible with Obama's diagnosis of those problems.
One of the bewildering ironies of the health care debate is that President Obama claims to be attacking the status quo when he's actually embracing it.  Ever since Congress created Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, health politics has followed a simple logic: Expand benefits and talk about controlling costs.  That's the status quo, and Obama faithfully adheres to it.  While denouncing skyrocketing health spending, he would increase it by extending government health insurance to millions more Americans.
What Samuelson does not discuss is whether Obama understands this contradiction.

My own opinion — and I will admit that I have no direct evidence on this point — is that Obama has not even thought about the contradiction.  As he did during the campaign, he is saying what he thinks he needs to say to gain an objective, regardless of whether it is even internally consistent.
- 12:46 PM, 11 August 2009   [link]

Is This Poster Racist?  Take a look, and decide for yourself.

But about one thing you can be certain.  There some people who will see that poster as racist, and sexist.  Seriously.
- 12:24 PM, 11 August 2009   [link]

Uh-Oh:  New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is saying that we have avoided the worst.
So it seems that we aren't going to have a second Great Depression after all.  What saved us?  The answer, basically, is Big Government.

Just to be clear: the economic situation remains terrible, indeed worse than almost anyone thought possible not long ago.  The nation has lost 6.7 million jobs since the recession began.   Once you take into account the need to find employment for a growing working-age population, we're probably around nine million jobs short of where we should be.
. . .
For all that, however, the latest flurry of economic reports suggests that the economy has backed up several paces from the edge of the abyss.
Sensible people will get a little more worried when they read this because Krugman has been, over the years, such a good negative indicator.  Generally, if Krugman says something won't happen, then you should bet that it will.

His prediction may be right this time — I think it is — but I doubt very much that we were at the edge of an abyss.  Still, the prudent will want to re-check their forecasts.

(The column is mildly interesting, in a perverse way.  Krugman credits "Big Government" with saving us from the abyss, without ever mentioning who was president when most of the actions that he approves were taken.  For Paul Krugman fans, I'll add the name: George W. Bush.  Nor does he name the head of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke — who was appointed by President Bush.)
- 8:45 AM, 11 August 2009
Krugman's Failed Predictions:  Here's a current example from Europe.  You can see what Krugman predicted here and here.  His prediction, that Europe, in particular, Germany, would recover slowly, might be right in the long run, but it isn't looking good right now.
- 3:26 PM, 17 August 2009   [link]

Worth Reading:  General McPeak makes the case for the F-22.   And along the way makes some general points about the advantages of air superiority.
So today, no one in his right mind wants to fight us in a conventional war.  Many are saying this another way: that we have no "peer competitor," that there is no threat of high-end conventional war.  I wouldn't bet the ranch on that, but, if it is so, it is a desirable condition and one that didn't happen by accident.

We have forced anyone with a bone to pick with us to find an alternative to high-end, conventional war.  We've had to invent a vocabulary for this low end: "asymmetrical" conflict, it being another poorly understood activity.  But it seems clear that in this sort of war our existence is not threatened, that we can regulate the resource input.  It can be expensive in men and material, but we cannot be defeated militarily.
McPeak has trouble believing that some actually make this argument:  "In an argument they seem to think makes sense, critics say the aircraft has no worthy opponent—as if we want to create forces that do have peer competitors."  But anyone who has been following our politics closely will have seen similar arguments for years.

I don't know enough about the F-22 to know whether we should keep building it, but I do know that many of the arguments against it are, just as McPeak suggests, nonsensical.
- 1:14 PM, 10 August 2009   [link]

Is Dissent On Obama's Health Insurance Plan Un-American?  That's what Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer say.
However, it is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue.  These tactics have included hanging in effigy one Democratic member of Congress in Maryland and protesters holding a sign displaying a tombstone with the name of another congressman in Texas, where protesters also shouted "Just say no!" drowning out those who wanted to hold a substantive discussion.

Let the facts be heard

These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves.  Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American.  Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.
(The tactics have also included at least one physical attack by supporters of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid plan.)

For the record, I seldom interupt others and — usually — think it is wrong to try to drown out a speaker.  But I know enough American history so that I would not describe those tactics as "un-American".

Many conservatives and libertarians remember when dissent, however vigorously expressed, was considered patriotic by the left.  Glenn Reynolds reminds us of that recent history.  For example:
Even disruptive tactics aimed at blocking President Bush's Social Security reform program were merely seen as evidence of boisterous high spirits and robust, wide-open debate.  On May 23, 2005, the Savannah Morning News reported:

"By now, Jack Kingston is used to shouted questions, interruptions and boos.  Republican congressmen expect such responses these days when they meet with constituents about President Bush's proposal to overhaul Social Security."
Debra Saunders wonders how the left would have reacted if the Bush administration had proposed a tell-us-about-the rumors plan, like the one started by the Obama administration.  Mark Steyn has the funniest take on this effort to suppress dissent that I have seen.

All three responses are worth reading, but none of the three answer this question:  Why are we seeing these attacks on demonstrators now?  And the answer is simple:  Because Obama and his allies know that they are losing the debate on substance.  So they are trying to change the subject.
- 9:22 AM, 10 August 2009   [link]

Pelosi's Planes:  Some, even some Democrats, are beginning to object to her spending spree.
Bipartisan opposition is emerging in the Senate to a plan by House lawmakers to spend $550 million for additional passenger jets for senior government officials.

The resistance to buying eight Gulfstream and Boeing planes comes as members of both chambers of Congress embark on the busiest month of the year for official overseas travel.  The plan to upgrade the fleet of government jets, which was included in a broader defense-funding bill, has also sparked criticism from the Pentagon, which has said it doesn't need half of the new jets.

"The whole thing kind of makes me sick to my stomach," said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) in an interview Sunday.  "It is evidence that some of the cynicism about Washington is well placed -- that people get out of touch and they spend money like it's Monopoly money."
(Senator McCaskill won office in 2006 — a very Democratic year — with 50 percent of the vote.  Nancy Pelosi was re-elected in 2008 — another very Democratic year — with 80 percent of the vote.)

The money for the additional planes is not a large part of the federal budget, but it does show, just as Senator McCaskill says, that leaders in Congress are "out of touch and they spend money like it's Monopoly money".

(The chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee is, surprise, surprise, unindicted ABSCAM co-conspirator John Murtha.  He probably thought he was doing Pelosi a favor by putting these extra planes in the budget.)
- 8:34 AM, 10 August 2009
Even John Murtha has realized that buying those extra planes just doesn't look good.
- 6:12 AM, 11 August 2009   [link]

Day Hikes, First:  New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wants us all to get out into the wilderness, and gives us some advice on how to go backpacking.   His advice is a mixture of good and bad, but he leaves out the most important advice:  Before you go backpacking, test your gear, and your abilities, with day hikes.  (Or even car camping.)

Most people should not start out backpacking, without doing some day hikes, because most people are not in good enough condition — and may not realize that.  And few people, in these urban and suburban days, have the skills they may need for backpacking.  Especially if they get lost, or the weather turns bad.

(What about the rest of his advice in the column?  I would say that some of it is okay, some of it isn't, and much of it depends on where and when you go backpacking.  For instance, on easy trails, light running shoes, which he recommends, might be fine.  On rougher trails, hiking boots will make the going much easier.  And, though he doesn't mention it, liner socks will generally prevent any blisters, as long as you have been careful to buy boots that fit.  Similarly, there are places and times when you can expect to get along without a tent — and places and times when you would be crazy not to bring one.)
- 3:52 PM, 9 August 2009   [link]

Is A 0.1% Drop In Unemployment Good News Or Bad News?  In 1992, the New York Times thought it was bad news; this year, our newspaper of record thinks it is good news.

(It is purely coincidence that a Republican was president then, and a Democrat is president now.)

Of course, I hope that this drop in the unemployment rate marks a turning point in unemployment, as the drop in 1992 did.  But the economic data that I have seen does not make me hopeful that we will see a quick recovery — even if we are able to stop some of Obama's more destructive economic proposals.

(In 1992, the drop was from 7.8 to 7.7 percent; this year it was from 9.5 to 9.4 percent.)
- 7:03 AM, 9 August 2009   [link]