December 2012, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Goodbye To 2012:  As the sun sets over Seattle.

sunset over Seattle, 26 November2012

(The picture was taken a little more than a month ago, from a Kirkland marina.)
- 4:10 PM, 31 December 2012   [link]

Dave Barry Reviews The Past Year:  As usual, he's brilliant.

Two samples:
[In March] …the endless slog for the Republican presidential nomination reaches “Super Tuesday,” with voters going to the polls in 12 states, including New Hampshire and South Carolina, which have already held primaries but can no longer remember whom they voted for.  It is now clear that Romney has won the nomination, but Gingrich vows to continue his campaign, lurching gamely onward despite the tranquilizer darts fired into his neck by his own advisors.

In Florida, the shooting death of Trayvon Martin sets off a passionate, weeks-long national debate among politicians, journalists, pundits, talk-show hosts, activists, celebrities, bloggers, anti-gun groups, pro-gun groups, Al Sharpton and millions of ordinary citizens, not a single one of whom knows what actually happened.
. . .
[In May] New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, having dealt with all of the city’s other concerns — disaster preparation, for example — turns his attention to the lone remaining problem facing New Yorkers: soft drinks.  For far too long, these uncontrolled beverages have roamed the city in vicious large-container packs, forcing innocent people to drink them and become obese.  Bloomberg’s plan would prohibit the sale of soft drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces, thereby making it impossible to consume larger quantities, unless, of course, somebody bought two containers, but the mayor is confident that nobody except him would ever be smart enough to think of that.
The rest of it is as good as those samples.

(Barry's writing style may look easy to imitate.  It's not.)
- 3:53 PM, 31 December 2012   [link]

If You Are Having Trouble Making Your New Year's Resolutions, You Might Try Calvin's Approach:  That's the Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, not the religious leader.
- 12:41 PM, 31 December 2012   [link]

Anthony Watts Sent Michael Mann A Gift Calendar:   And the Penn State professor went into conspiracy mode.

This would be even funnier, if it didn't make you suspect that conspiracy mode is Mann's default mode on some subjects.  My suspicion grew stronger when I saw that Mann didn't laugh at his own mistake.

As I have been saying for years, one of the reasons I am somewhat skeptical about extreme global warming claims is the behavior of those who make them.
- 10:02 AM, 31 December 2012   [link]

How Do Failed Presidential Candidates Do As Secretary of State?  Not very well says Ken Blackwell, who briefly reviews the failures of William Seward, William Jennings Bryan, Charles Evans Hughes, and, of course, Hillary Clinton.

Blackwell ends with this:
Given the record of defeated presidential candidates trying to make a comeback as Secretary of State, the [Washington] Post's endorsement becomes curious and curiouser.

Senators should press Sen. Kerry hard before taking the Post's advice on this nomination.
I'd give Seward somewhat higher marks, but agree with him on the rest.

(The high marks that the public currently gives to Clinton don't reflect any great achievements, as Aaron David Miller (who is something of a fan) admits.  And, apparently, most Americans don't blame her for the many foreign policy failures of the Obama administration, not even for those she was most involved with, such as the "reset" with Russia.)
- 6:44 AM, 31 December 2012   [link]

Is The NRA More Popular Than Obama?  It's close, but the National Rifle Association probably has a small edge over the president.
A new Gallup poll shows that the National Rifle Association, the target of a wave of intensely negative news coverage after the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings, still has a favorable rating of 54 percent.  While down from the organization’s 60 percent favorable rating in 2005, that is still about a point higher than President Obama’s personal favorable rating.
Though not, of course, among "mainstream" journalists.
- 6:00 AM, 31 December 2012   [link]

"Caput lupinum"  "Sgt. Mom" explains how our "mainstream" news organizations have been trying to turn law-abiding gun owners into outlaws.

Here's her conclusion:
This ‘Othering’ that I have been noticing for about the last five years or so – although it might have been going on in a more subtle way for decades before then.  It’s a process that’s more in the open now, voiced in stronger language, and from the mouths and keyboards of people – like newspaper publishers, TV news anchors, politicians and actors – who once were more circumspect in voicing them, and thereby appeared to be either evenly balanced or above the fray entirely.  It’s a dangerous business, since once it has gone beyond a certain point, those designated as ‘others’ are removed from consideration due to fellow citizens and human beings.  They have essentially been declared – as is the title of this essay – a wolf’s head; “an outlawed felon considered a pariah – a lone wolf – open to attack by anyone.”   A wolf’s head – the end product of systematic ‘othering’ through social conditioning, the legal system, or a combination of both – deserves no protection under the law, no consideration from the upright and the right-thinking, who may be disposed of whenever convenient without a second thought.  And that is what is motivating a lot of the fury; the suspicion that legal possession of firearms under the terms of the Constitution is the only thing which will prevent ‘othering’ from running its full and deadly course.
I wouldn't go as far as she did, but I do see, again and again, certain ideas ruled out simply because the people who hold them are treated like outlaws, like "wolf's heads", by our "mainstream" journalists.

Today's Seattle Times contained a Neal Peirce column with this language.
But even before the Newtown shooting, the NRA’s political armor was weakening.   It fought hard to stop President Obama’s re-election and lost; it invested heavily in a range of U.S. Senate races and lost nine out of 13.

This wolf’s teeth may not be so sharp after all.  Public officials should listen.  If the moment for a people’s counterinsurgency were ever ripe, it’s now.
(Emphasis added.)

It is almost as if he was trying to illustrate her point.

(There are many comments after her post.  Unfortunately, most of them are by, or in response, to a troll who was, in my opinion, deliberately trying to disrupt the discussion.)
- 1:16 PM, 30 December 2012   [link]

Even If We Go Off The "Fiscal Cliff", We Won't Go Back To Clinton-Era tax rates.
First, for all the talk about "going back to the Clinton-era tax rates", that is not exactly what we're doing.  Since Clinton, other tax hikes have been passed, most notably to pay for Obamacare, which raise the marginal tax rates on the wealthy well above their Clinton-era levels.
And, of course, there were the very regressive increases in taxes on tobacco products, which was practically the first thing Pelosi and company did in 2009.

McArdle worries that we may be reaching the practical limits on taxing the rich, as she explains further on in the post.

(She's one of those libertarians who voted for Obama.  It's a group that fascinates me because Obama is one of the least libertarian men ever to run for president on a major party ticket.  I thought that was obvious in 2008, but there were some smart people who didn't see it.

Almost no one thinks we have the political will to go back to Clinton-era spending rates.  And we are unlikely even to move in that direction while Obama is president.)
- 12:41 PM, 29 December 2012   [link]

Was This Pay Raise Intended as a provocation?
President Barack Obama issued an executive order to end the pay freeze on federal employees, in effect giving some federal workers a raise.  One federal worker now to receive a pay increase is Vice President Joe Biden.
Over the next ten years, this pay increase will cost taxpayers about $11 billion, according to a Republican congressional aide, citing the Congressional Budget Office.

Given the timing, and the recipients, I would say yes; President Obama was trying to provoke congressional Republicans (and may have succeeded).

As is almost always true, Republicans are likely to come out ahead if they "keep calm and carry on", in spite of this latest provocation.
- 7:37 AM, 29 December 2012   [link]

The NYT Is Concerned Because Kids Can Get Good Jobs Without Going To College:  Because, you see, the jobs are in the oil industry.
The New York Times seems concerned that teens in the fracking belt of eastern Montana are opting to work in the new oil-field economy right after high school rather than going straight on to college.  A front-page story warns: Taking a job is “a lucrative but risky decision for any 18-year-old to make, one that could foreclose on his future if the frenzied pace of oil and gas drilling from here to North Dakota to Texas falters and work dries up.”
Heather MacDonald thinks a kid will be better off working in an oil company job than "as a communications and binge-drinking double major at Missoula State University".

I think she's right, and will add this point:  The Times would probably be pleased if these same kids were taking bad jobs in, for example, the wind industry.

(For the record:  There are a few fields, notably mathematics and theoretical physics, where a young man should probably not delay his studies, even for a very good job.  Really original work in those fields is usually done by very young men.  But there are very few men (and almost no women) who have the ability needed to do that kind of work.)
- 9:19 AM, 28 December 2012   [link]

Should Piers Morgan Go Back To Britain?  I think so, although I don't see any legal grounds for deporting him.  (And he certainly shouldn't be sent back for his foolish opinions on guns.)

But he should go back to Britain to face the investigators in the on-going "phone hacking" scandal, in which British reporters tapped into recorded private phone calls.  He has been accused of playing a big part in that scandal.

His career can accurately be described as "scandal-plagued".  Here are two of the worst:
In 2000, he was the subject of an investigation after Suzy Jagger wrote a story in The Daily Telegraph revealing that he had bought £20,000 worth of shares in the computer company Viglen soon before the Mirror 's 'City Slickers' column tipped Viglen as a good buy.[14]  Morgan was found by the Press Complaints Commission to have breached the Code of Conduct on financial journalism, but kept his job.  The 'City Slickers' columnists, Anil Bhoyrul and James Hipwell, were both found to have committed further breaches of the Code, and were sacked before the inquiry.  In 2004, further enquiry by the Department of Trade and Industry cleared Morgan from any charges.[15]  On 7 December 2005 Bhoyrul and Hipwell were convicted of conspiracy to breach the Financial Services Act.  During the trial it emerged that Morgan had bought £67,000 worth of Viglen shares, emptying his bank account and investing under his wife's name too.[16]
. . .
Morgan was fired as Editor of the Daily Mirror on 14 May 2004 after authorising the newspaper's publication of photographs allegedly showing Iraqi prisoners being abused by British Army soldiers from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment.[17]   Within days the photographs were shown to be crude fakes.  Under the headline "SORRY.. WE WERE HOAXED", the Mirror responded that it had fallen victim to a "calculated and malicious hoax" and apologised for the publication of the photographs.[18]
(As I understand it, the Mirror takes the position that the photographs were "fake, but accurate", fake photographs showing something that actually happened.  I have no idea how much, if any, truth there was to their abuse stories.)

With a record like that, you would think no respectable news organization would have wanted to hire him — but CNN may be getting desperate.

(Though younger than President Obama, Morgan has already written three "memoirs".)
- 6:48 AM, 27 December 2012   [link]

We Can Be Replaced By Bags Of Potatoes:  In some applications.
Engineers at Chicago-based Boeing used sacks of potatoes as stand-ins for passengers as they worked to eliminate weak spots in in-flight wireless signals.

They needed full planes to get accurate results during signal testing, but they couldn’t ask people to sit motionless for days while data was gathered.
And those bags of potatoes were better at that particular job than we would have been.
- 6:14 AM, 27 December 2012   [link]

Phil Gramm Makes The Case For Ending Subsidies for wind power.

But the cost to taxpayers is only part of the problem.  Subsidized, wind-generated electricity is displacing other, much cheaper sources of power.  The subsidies are so high that wind-power producers can pay utilities to take the electricity they produce and still make a profit.  Such "negative pricing" has occurred for some time in the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest and in Texas—and, according to the Energy Information Administration, it will likely grow.
. . .
Yet wind power is less economically viable today than it was when the current subsidies started in 1992.  After the expected gains in moving from one-off production to assembly-line production, no major technological breakthrough has occurred that would substantially lower the cost of wind-power electricity generation.  The Department of Energy's "2009 Wind Technology Market Report" finds average wind-power costs were higher in 2009 than they were in 1994, two years after the subsidies began.
And there is more in the op-ed, much more.
- 4:00 PM, 26 December 2012   [link]

Danny Westneat, Anti-Liberty Man:  In August, the Seattle Times columnist told us that he would like restrictions on the 1st Amendment.  (Except, of course, for journalists like himself.)  Now, he is taking advantage of the Newtown massacre to create a caricature, the "Liberty Man", so he can attack the 2nd Amendment.

Westneat may not have thought through his argument.  If his opponent is "Liberty Man", then that makes Westneat, you guessed it, the Anti-Liberty Man.

And I think calling him the Anti-Liberty Man is at least as fair as his caricature.  No doubt, somewhere in his long career, he has opposed the extension of government power over individuals (assuming, of course, that the government is controlled by his party), but I can't think of any examples, and it is easy to find counter-examples.

Westneat is not unusual among our "mainstream" journalists in favoring less liberty for individuals — as long as his party is in power — in fact, that's pretty much their default position.  (Some, but not all, feel differently when the other party is in power.)

We could urge him to think a little harder about the reasons that our founders wanted a limited government, but judging by his work over the years, that would be pointless.

So, instead, I am going to suggest to him that, having opposed the principles behind the 1st and 2nd Amendments, he should go ahead and attack the rest of the Bill of Rights.

He should do one column favoring limitations on each of the remaining amendments.  I'll even give him some help so he can get started on the 3rd.  Westneat is a great fan of the former King County executive (and current former Obama administration official), Ron Sims.  All that Westneat needs to do is think of a reason that Sims might want to quarter troops in our homes, and the rest of his column would practically write itself.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(There are serious issues — you can even say, without exaggeration, deadly serious issues — about the limits on government, as almost everyone not an anarchist will admit.  But journalists like Westneat are not willing (and in some cases, not able) to discuss those serious issues seriously.  Which is unfortunate, to say the least.)
- 8:54 AM, 26 December 2012   [link]

Here's A Christmas Decoration for you.  (Though it may be a little large for most trees.)
- 5:30 AM, 26 December 2012   [link]

Merry Christmas!

To all those who are celebrating it today.
- 7:11 AM, 25 December 2012   [link]