February 2013, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Vice President Biden's Advice To Buy A Shotgun:   Illustrated.

(When I was growing up, many people I knew considered a shotgun — with the right kind of shells — a good home defense weapon.  A shotgun is more intimidating and requires a less accurate aim than a rifle.  It is much easier to aim than a pistol or a revolver.  And a shotgun's limited range would rarely matter unless you own a vast estate and are defending against criminals armed with rifles.

But we always assumed, without thinking about it, that the shotgun would be used by an adult male who was familiar with the weapon.  For home defense by an inexperienced smaller person, a light rifle, like the scary-looking AR-15, would probably be a better choice.

And anyone planning to use a handgun for self defense should know that to use it effectively requires training and regular practice.  If you doubt that, just look for accounts of the police using them, and see how often they miss their targets, even when the targets are quite close.)
- 2:40 PM, 28 February 2013   [link]

Not Having A Cell Phone Has Allowed Me to avoid the problem shown in today's New Yorker cartoon.
- 8:03 AM, 28 February 2013   [link]

Pete Wehner Gives Us A Fine One-Paragraph Summary of the sequester debate
In the Great Sequestration Debate, here’s what we know: (a) The president has paternity of an idea he now characterizes as a brutal and senseless assault on America.  (b) The president and his then-chief of staff, Jack Lew, misled the public about their role in giving birth to the sequester idea.  (c) House Republicans have twice passed legislation to avoid the sequester cuts with carefully targeted ones, but Senate Democrats refused to act.  (d) Mr. Obama has brushed off a Republican plan to give him flexibility to allocate the $85 billion in spending cuts, which makes no sense if the president wants to replace reckless cuts with responsible ones.
Wehner believes that Obama will "has supplemented his demagoguery with a touch of cruelty", that Obama is deliberately choosing painful cuts in order to make political points.

We should not be surprised by this touch of cruelty, since it is one possible consequence of the "fireman first" strategy that Obama has been using.
There's the rub.  If we cut the budget of the C.B. who has bluffed by saying that he will have to fire essential employees, he may-to preserve his credibility-actually have to fire them, instead of the middle-level newspaper-readers who are the real fat, which means we could end up with a government of planning analysts, friends of congressmen, and trains running to Bakersfield via Stockton.
(C. B. = Clever Bureaucrat.)

The same logic applies to moderately clever politicians who use the strategy.  The Obama administration, having predicted catastrophes, now has a strong political incentive to make catastrophes occur.
- 7:52 AM, 28 February 2013   [link]

Broken Lock:  Yesterday afternoon, I locked my door as I was about to set out for a walk.  The key didn't feel right and so I immediately tried to unlock it.  It wouldn't.  As I learned later, the rod connecting to the dead bolt had failed.

Some hours later, I was able to contact the maintenance man and get it replaced.

So I spent, as anyone who knows me well would have guessed, much of the afternoon and early evening in the Kirkland library, and a used book store.

The lesson, if there is any in this incident is that I suppose that I should get another pre-paid cell phone and carry it whenever I go out.

(Just to make the incident perfect, it started to rain after I had gotten about two blocks from my apartment — and I hadn't put on my rain gear, so I didn't even get my walk.

The one article I was hoping to read at the library, this one, was not on the shelf with the rest of the New Yorkers.  But I do hope to get to it, soon.)
- 7:27 AM, 28 February 2013   [link]

Remember All Those Stories About The Department Of Homeland Security Buying Billions Of Rounds Of Ammunition?  I ignored them for a while, but finally linked to one by Reverend Sensing because he would be likely to know the facts, and because I trust him on this subject (and most other subjects).

I was right to trust him because when he found out that he was wrong, he put up a correction.
So there you have it.  I retract the Feb. 7 post and affirm today that DHS is not buying billions of rounds of pistol ammo with one proviso: DHS is not buying billions of rounds as quickly as some of us bloggers say they are.  But they are still buying a heck of a lot of ammo that, if continued at the published pace, definitely will come to billions over a longer time.
For example, they are currently buying "90 million rounds per year of .40-caliber pistol ammo alone".

Why so much?  Because they need the practice.  And in that post you will find an explanation for the shell company that is providing some of the ammunition:  It was "set up to capture the minority/women/disadvantaged set aside" part of the contract.

I've put a correction pointer in my earlier post.

(I was slow to note the story originally, because it didn't make sense to me, taken as a whole.  I was unable to think a plausible motive for the purchase of that much ammunition.)
- 9:54 AM, 27 February 2013   [link]

Obama Tells Us The Sequester Will Have Horrible Consequences:  So what's he doing to prevent it?  Today, judging by his official schedule, nothing.

If he really thought it would have horrible consequences, he would have time for a meeting or two with congressional leaders.

(And if you were wondering, he didn't have any meetings with congressional leaders on Monday or Tuesday, either.)
- 8:44 AM, 27 February 2013   [link]

Jack Lew's Talent:  It's impressive, in its own way.
Some guys have it, and some don’t.  I’m referring to that special quality that makes powerful institutions want to throw fistfuls of dollars at them in senseless acts of high-priced beneficence.

Jack Lew has it like nobody’s business.  You might think the bespectacled treasury-secretary nominee is just another brainy budget wonk and miss the animal magnetism that makes his employers lose all sense of financial proportion around him, paying him astronomical sums, forgiving his loans, and granting him generous golden parachutes.

Yes, Jack Lew is a rare talent — at the art of getting paid.
You have to wonder whether the institutions that paid him all that money, New York University and Citigroup, thought they were buying a little political influence, too.

(On the other hand, a treasury secretary is supposed to be good at collecting money, so perhaps Lew has the right talent for the job — if he is willing to use it for the nation as well as himself.)
- 7:37 AM, 27 February 2013   [link]

Twenty Years Ago Today, Terrorists Bombed The World Trade Center:  They hoped to kill hundreds of thousands; they succeeded in killing six, Monica Smith, Robert Kirkpatrick, Bill Macko, Stephen Knapp, John DiGiovanni, and Wilfredo Mercado.  Or seven if you count Monica Smith's unborn child — she was seven months pregnant — as I think we should.

(You may wonder how they hoped to kill that many by bombing a single tower.  What they hoped would happen is that the bomb would topple one tower into the other, killing everyone in the two towers, and setting off a chain reaction of fires in nearby buildings.)

We did not take this attack as seriously as we should have.  In particular, we did not increase and rationalize our intelligence efforts directed at radical Islamists as much as we should have.

It wasn't a subject that the Clinton administration — or most Americans — wanted to think about at the time.

Jonathan Tobin, at Commentary, calls 26 February 1993 "The Day the War on America Began".  I think it began years earlier, but that we should have realized, twenty years ago today, that we were in a war.

(One of the men who inspired the attack was the blind sheik, Omar Abdel Rahman.  His record is worth some study.  While in the United States, he was fairly open in his calls for terrorist attacks, here and elsewhere.  But few law enforcement people knew Arabic, and those that did paid no attention to him.)
- 6:35 AM, 26 February 2013   [link]

John Kerry Shouldn't Tempt Me like this:
Secretary of State John Kerry offered a defense of freedom of speech, religion and thought in the United States on Tuesday telling German students that in America "you have a right to be stupid if you want to be."
You probably came up with a snarky reply to that, as soon as you saw it.  I know I did.

And I don't doubt that our professional joke writers were delighted to see that line.

More seriously, I think this tells us something about our new secretary of state — especially given that he said it to a European audience.
- 3:36 PM, 26 February 2013   [link]

Michael Ramirez Explains The Sequester Fight:  

Clearly enough so that even Washington's senior senator, Patty Murray, could understand it.

If she wanted to.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Yes, the second pie is 67 percent wider than the first, rather than having 40 percent more area, or even volume.  I wouldn't do that in a formal report, but I think it is fine in a cartoon, where everyone expects exaggeration.)
- 9:37 AM, 26 February 2013

Correction: I originally wrote that the second pie was 40 percent wider than the first.  On my screen, the first is about 3 centimeters wide, the second 5, so the second is 67 percent wider than the first.  I've corrected the mistake in the text.

Thanks to an alert reader for catching my mistake.

Those who have read that little classic, How to Lie with Statistics, may realize that I was thinking that Ramirez had made a common chart mistake, but he didn't; he just exaggerated as cartoonists often do.
- 1:19 PM, 26 February 2013   [link]

If You Are Wondering Why I haven't Said Anything About Hugo Chávez's return to Venezuela, it's because people I mostly trust don't know what is actually going on there.

For example:
The truth is that it is really hard to figure out what is going on.  If there was one thing Chavismo was very good at, was at using the same script, everyone saying the same thing, even if it was an outright lie.  But somehow the message with Chavez’ health has been anything but uniform in the last few days.
According to regime spokesmen, Chávez is well enough to have a five hour meeting, but as Miguel Octavio notes, not well enough to take the oath of office.  That combination is, I think you will admit, a little confusing.

(It is not even absolutely certain that Chávez has returned from Cuba, since no outsider has seen him in Venezuela.)
- 9:03 AM, 26 February 2013   [link]

Has Argentina Done Anything For Us Lately?  Not that I know of.  Nor are they a traditional ally.  I
- 9:37 AM, 26 February 2013
n World War II, for example, they tended to side with Hitler and Mussolini against us and our allies.

What about Britain?  As everyone should know, we have fought side by side with them in almost all our wars since World War I.  (And we have been cooperating with them far longer.   It may not be stressed in American high school books, but the Monroe Doctrine was a practical success in the early years because it had the support of the British navy.  And about the same time, we began supporting their anti-slavery patrols off the African coast.)

So why was John Kerry being studiously neutral in the dispute over the Falklands?
With the Falklands referendum just two weeks away, the Obama administration still refuses to recognise the referendum and the right to self-determination of the Falkland Islanders.  At a news conference in London today alongside Foreign Secretary William Hague, US Secretary of State John Kerry made this point very clearly in response to a question from the press.
. . .
[Kerry said] Our position on the Falklands has not changed.  The United States recognizes de facto UK administration of the islands, but takes no position on the question of the parties’ sovereignty claims thereto.  And we support cooperation between UK and Argentina on practical matters, and we continue to urge a peaceful resolution of that critical issue.  And I think that’s exactly what our position has been, that’s what it remains, and we look forward to the future.
Kerry was being studiously neutral because it is Obama administration policy to appease the Argentine government at the expense of our relations with Britain.

And if you want to go further and say that Obama usually tries to appease our enemies and usually fails to support our friends, I wouldn't quarrel with you.
- 8:25 AM, 26 February 2013   [link]

How Much Better Do Pro-American Movies Do At The Box Office?   About seven times better.

"Ironman" spots a natural experiment, and looks at the numbers:
And that's exactly what we have today, thanks to the former Academy Award for Best-Picture winning The Hurt Locker and the current Academy Award Best-Picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty!

Both movies were made by same production team, including the director and screenwriter.   Although they feature different actors, the overall quality of acting in The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty is also consistent, as measured by Academy Award nominations for the lead characters in each film.
. . .
Through their first 65 days of release, Zero Dark Thirty has made over seven times as much in U.S. box office receipts as did The Hurt Locker, with nearly $90 million in receipts just in the United States.  That figure then represents the real difference between being pro and anti-American at the U.S. box office.
You can quibble with his argument.  What we may be looking at is the stronger appeal of a positive movie — and it is possible to make a positive, anti-American movie.  And we also have to recognize that the overseas market for American films is huge, and so an anti-American film that does a mediocre business here may be a success elsewhere.

Even so, I think his central argument is correct, and that he has found a neat example to illustrate it.

(Ever since I read Michael Medved's Hollywood vs. America, I've wondered why shareholders in the major studios put up with this profit minimizing behavior.  The studios could make more money by producing more positive, pro-American movies, but they mostly choose not to do so.)
- 7:34 AM, 26 February 2013   [link]

Iranian TV Thinks Michelle Obama Should be more modest.

(You aren't, I hope, expecting me to opine on this subject.)
- 5:37 PM, 25 February 2013   [link]

Are Muslims Over-Represented In California Prisons?   Slightly, according to this rather funny Debra Saunders column discussing a lawsuit arguing for more Wiccan chaplains.

In the column, there is this paragraph on religious affiliations of California inmates:
A 2007 Corrections survey found 183 Wiccan inmates — compared with 42,666 Protestant, 28,884 Muslim, 23,160 Catholic, 8,296 Native American and 2,678 Jewish inmates.  Those are the big five religions for which the department hires paid, full-time chaplains.  A survey five years earlier found 598 Wiccans, which suggests witchcraft could be melting in the California prison community.
For comparison, you can look at this Pew survey which has religious numbers for the entire population of California.  On page 99, there is a table giving the religious affiliations for the states in the West.  Thirty-six percent of Californians are Protestant (not including Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses), Thirty-one percent are Catholic, two percent are Muslim, and two percent are Jewish.  (Native Americans would be included in the two percent "other faiths" group.)

It would be interesting to know how many of those prison Muslims were converted in prison.
- 5:04 PM, 25 February 2013   [link]

Let's Start With Some Hypotheticals:  Suppose Joe Jones thinks he is Napoleon (to use a very old-fashioned example).  Should we encourage him?

Suppose Josephine Jones thinks she is the Empress Josephine.  Should we encourage her?

Suppose little Joey Jones thinks he is Superman?  Should we encourage him?

Suppose little Josephine Jones thinks she is Wonder Woman.  Should we encourage her?

Most of you, I suspect, would find all of these hypotheticals easy.  We should discourage them — for their own good.  A man who tries to command armies as Napoleon did, a woman who demands the luxuries due an empress, a boy who tries to fly like Superman, and a girl who tries to make people tell the truth with a magic lasso like Wonder Woman are likely to hurt themselves.

In fact, I think most of us would think it right to discourage anyone we cared about from these kinds of self delusion.  I can think of a few exceptions, as you probably can, too, but even with those exceptions, this strikes me as a good general rule.

Now suppose that Joe thinks he is a woman, Josephine thinks she is a man, little Joey thinks he is a girl, and little Josephine thinks she is a boy.  Should we encourage any of them in that belief?  No, because all of them will be better off if they do not hold these false beliefs about themselves.

This simple argument has always struck me as both obvious, and supported by all kinds of scientific studies.  But it is not an argument that would carry any weight with the education officials in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Department of Education on Friday issued directives for handling transgender students, including allowing them to use the bathrooms or play on the sports teams that correspond to the gender with which they identify.
And if other students come to the same common sense, scientifically-supported conclusion that I did?  Well, they had better not let anyone know about their politically incorrect thoughts.
The guidance also addresses what to do if other students consistently and intentionally refuse to refer to a transgendered student by the name or sex they identify as: ‘‘It should not be tolerated and can be grounds for student discipline.’’
There's a riddle often ascribed to Lincoln.
Q: If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?

A: Four, because calling a tail a leg doesn't mean it is one.
(And there is a good chance he said it, or something like it, though it is nearly certain that he wasn't the first to say it.)

And if the dog believes his tail is a leg, should we go along with that belief?  Not if we care for the dog, since a tail is not an adequate substitute for a leg, and the dog needs his tail for other things.

(In any discussion of this subject, I have to add that there are rare cases in which a person is not clearly male or female.  They deserve our sympathy, but we should not use them as an excuse to make silly rules for everyone else.)
- 3:23 PM, 25 February 2013   [link]

President Eddie Haskell?
Barack Obama is our first “Eddie Haskell President.”  He stirs up mischief, for which he blames the rascally Republicans, while professing his own innocence or non-involvement.  He levitates above the fray while his operatives do the dirty work.  He offers grand bargains, then moves the goal posts, and blames his jilted adversaries for obstructionism.  He extracts costly concessions and then berates the conceders for not giving enough.  He promises a post-racial society but conducts a campaign of class warfare.  Wall Street bonuses and Cayman accounts disqualify opponents but are “not important” for his own nominees.
There's a question mark because "Leave it to Beaver" was not part of my childhood.  But the description of Obama seems accurate enough.
- 10:54 AM, 25 February 2013   [link]

Cartoon For The Day:  I didn't find any of the jokes in Andrew Malcolm's weekly collection especially good, so instead I'll recommend this cartoon.

(I've seen similar scenes, and similar scenes with the sexes reversed.  Though usually people aren't that direct.)
- 9:21 AM, 25 February 2013   [link]

The Word Pasta Can Stay On The Menu Of An Italian Restaurant:   That's news?

It is in Quebec, where the language police may have over reached.
It appears that the word “pasta” will stay on the menu at Montreal’s Buonanotte restaurant, after all.

Quebec’s language police, the OQLF, have admitted an inspector showed “an excess of zeal” in citing Italian words on the restaurant’s menu.

The eatery on St-Laurent boulevard was recently cited for using the words "antipasti" (starters), "pasta," "carne” (meat) and "pesce” (fish) without French equivalents.
The key is "without French equivalents".  In theory, the restaurant could print menus completely in French — or provide French translations for every word of Italian.

If this description of the fundamental Quebec language law, Bill 101, is correct, then the inspectors were right; the restaurant should have provided French translations.

But applying the law literally made the inspectors look foolish, and so the language police are backing down.  Without, however, yielding one millimeter on the principle.

(The French word for pasta is pâtes.  For example: Les pâtes sont faciles à préparer.)
- 8:57 AM, 25 February 2013   [link]