February 2015, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

President Obama Vetoed The Keystone XL Pipeline:  But says he has yet to decide on the merits of the pipeline.
Defying the Republican-run Congress, President Barack Obama rejected a bill Tuesday to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, wielding his veto power for only the third time in his presidency.

Obama offered no indication of whether he'll eventually issue a permit for the pipeline, whose construction has become a flashpoint in the U.S. debate about environmental policy and climate change.  Instead, Obama sought to reassert his authority to make the decision himself, rebuffing GOP lawmakers who will control both the House and Senate for the remain
(Emphasis added.)

If President Obama had opposed the pipeline within a year or two after it was proposed, I would have understood, even though I disagreed with his decision.  If he had waited until after the 2012 or 2014 election, for political reasons, I would have thought that contemptible, but I would understand why he had made our Canadian friends wait so long for a decision.

But to claim now that the process which began in 2008 still needs more time is insulting to our Canadian allies, and to the intelligence of the American people.  The project had to receive permission from several bureaucracies.  Two of them acted with reasonable speed (for a bureaucracy).
The Keystone XL extension was proposed in 2008.[20]  The application was filed in September 2008 and the National Energy Board of Canada started hearings in September 2009.[38]  On March 11, 2010 the Canadian National Energy Board approved the project.[18][28][39]  The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission granted a permit on February 19, 2010.[40]
All of the bureaucracies controlled by the Obama administration have delayed, and delayed, and delayed.

So this song goes out to President Obama:

Who really ought to "finally decide" — now.
- 4:45 PM, 24 February 2015   [link]

Anatolia Or The Steppes, Agriculture Or Conquest:  The debate over the origin of Indo-European languages continues, with the side arguing for the steppes and conquest gaining, from two new findings.
The peoples of India, Iran and Europe speak a Babel of tongues, but most — English included — are descended from an ancient language known as proto-Indo-European.  Scholars have argued for two centuries about the identity and homeland of those who spoke this parent language, but a surprisingly sudden resolution of this longstanding issue may be at hand.
Not only were they arguing about the origin of indo-Europeans, they were also arguing about how they spread, by farmers slowly diffusing, peacefully, out of the Middle East, or by conquerors using chariots and bronze weapons to expand out of their base in the steppes.

A few years ago, computational methods appeared to give an edge to the Anatolia/agriculture hypothesis, because the date of the root language, "7,800 to 9,800 years ago", fit Anatolia better than the steppes.  But now what appears to be a needed correction in those calculations changed the date to "6,500 years old", which fits the steppe hypothesis.

The second finding seems stronger evidence to me, though Nicholas Wade gives it less space.
A second boost for the steppe theory has emerged from the largest study of ancient DNA in Europe, based on analysis of 69 people who lived 3,000 to 8,000 years ago.  Patterns in the DNA bear evidence of a migration into Germany some 4,500 years ago of people from the Yamnaya culture of the steppes, the first to develop a pastoral economy based on wagons, sheep and horses.  So extensive was this migration that three-quarters of the ancient people sampled in Germany bear Yamnaya-type DNA, says a team led by Wolfgang Haak of the University of Adelaide, Australia, and David Reich of Harvard Medical School.  Their report was posted this month on bioRxiv.
The disagreement is partly between disciplines, with linguists tending to favor the steppe hypothesis, and archaeologists tending to favor Anatolia.

For more, you'll want to skim the article; for much more, you'll want to read the whole article, carefully.

(Here's a 2012 article by Wade, giving the other side.

For background, here are the Wikipedia articles on the steppe hypothesis and the Anatolian hypothesis.

Finally, a bit of irony.  The best-known city in the steppe area is now known as Volgograd, but is better known by the name it had during World War II, Stalingrad.  The German soldiers attempting to capture the city were attempting to return to the ancient homeland their ancestors had once shared with the ancestors of their Russian enemies.)
- 3:05 PM, 24 February 2015   [link]

Andrew Malcolm Gives President Obama some credit.
We now know that Barack Obama has very few useful presidential skills.  One of them is the guile to appear absolutely, 100% genuinely sincere when he says one thing.  And then, just months later, to appear absolutely, 100% genuinely sincere when saying exactly the opposite.
And then gives an example of that guile in a one-minute video.

Barack Obama is one of the best I have seen at faking sincerity.  It's unfortunate that he didn't go to Hollywood or on stage, instead of into politics.

(It would be interesting to know whether Obama, like Bill Clinton, has had the help of a drama coach.  As I recall, Bill Clinton was getting regular lessons from Sheehan — while Clinton was president.)
- 8:34 AM, 24 February 2015   [link]

What's Sauce For The Mixed-Race Gander Is Sauce For The Jewish Goose?  Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has not been a great success as chair of the Democratic National Committee.  So it is no surprise that some in her party were thinking that a replacement might be in order.

But the congresswoman knew how to fight back.  She had seen how often Barack Obama had used the race card to get out of political trouble, and so, if this account is correct, she threatened to play the woman and Jewish cards.
Throughout her time as chair, Wasserman Schultz has turned off colleagues, other top Democrats and current and former staff for a management style that strikes many as self-centered — even for a politician — and often at the expense of the DNC or individual candidates or campaigns.   Many top Democrats, including some she counts as supporters and friends, privately complain about her trying to use the DNC as a vehicle for her own personal promotion, and letting her own ambition get in the way of larger goals.

Wasserman Schultz has a different sense of herself.  According to people who spoke with her, when she sensed Obama was considering replacing her as chair in 2013, she began to line up supporters to suggest the move was both anti-woman and anti-Semitic.  Under fire last fall for her leadership, she took Obama’s decision not to remove her then as evidence of renewed strength and said she was confident no one could get her out of the DNC before her term is over at the beginning of 2017, according to sources who’ve spoken with her.  She’s also been known to joke around the office about how having a vacation home in New Hampshire might one day be helpful in a presidential run.
(Emphasis added.)

In the modern Democratic Party, everyone except heterosexual white guys have one or more identity cards to play and, given their power within the party, it's no surprise that she would threaten to use hers.  Usually, however, identity cards are used more subtly.  Wasserman Schulz may have felt threatened enough so that subtlety was not appropriate.

(As Mediaite notes, that revelation was "[b]uried inside" the Politico story.  I suspect that it was buried deliberately; the reporter, Edward-Isaac Dovere, probably realized that he had a big scoop, but did not want to offend his Democratic sources too much by making it too prominent.)
- 7:59 AM, 24 February 2015   [link]

If You Missed The Oscars Program, you missed at least one pretty good joke.   (There may have been others, but that's the only one I've heard of.)

The target of the joke thinks it was funny; his co-conspirator doesn't.  I think in this instance we can believe Glenn Greenwald, and I think we never know whether to believe Edward Snowden, unless we have solid evidence from other sources..
- 3:29 PM, 23 February 2015   [link]

How Well Is Obama's Opening To Cuba Working Out?   Not very.
For all the high expectations, and deep anxieties, that surround the U.S.-Cuba thaw that President Obama announced two months ago, the reality is that the process is still in its very early days.   The two countries have not agreed even on one of the simpler bilateral issues: opening full-fledged embassies in each other’s capitals.  Cuban President Raúl Castro sounded an ominous note by hinting that complete normalization might depend on such far-fetched demands as the hand-over of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay or reparations for the U.S. embargo.

U.S. political leaders would be well advised not to succumb to, or foster, exuberance about the transformation in economic relations that might be at hand — much less about the pending transformation of the Cuban regime.  Official contacts must not sugarcoat or lend undeserved legitimacy to a dynastic dictatorship that remains one of the most repressive on the planet.
Exuberance like that coming from a Democratic congressional delegation to Cuba, led by Nancy Pelosi.

(Pelosi and company stayed at the Saratoga, a very nice hotel, with an instructive history:  It was expropriated by the Castro regime, twice, once in 1959, and again in 2011, after a British company had spent $75 million renovating it.  Two of the executives were jailed for years as part of the 2011 takeover.  If you must sup with the Castro regime, use a very long spoon.

Pelosi and company did not speak to this Cuban woman — but they should have.)
- 6:32 AM, 23 February 2015   [link]

Need Another Reason To Dislike Cable Companies?  The providers, reacting to fewer viewers, are squeezing in more commercials.  They are even compressing some movies, with odd effects on the voices.
When Stephen Cox was watching “The Wizard of Oz” on TBS last November, something didn’t sound quite right to him about the Munchkins, who are near and dear to his heart.

“Their voices were raised a notch,” said Mr. Cox, the author of several pop- culture books including one about the classic 1939 film.  “It was astounding to me.”

He wasn’t imagining things.  Time Warner Inc. ’s TBS used compression technology to speed up the movie.  The purpose: stuffing in more TV commercials.
Musicians would be most likely to notice these effects, and most likely to be annoyed by them.

Several channels now have more than 20 minutes of commercials per hour.  Of those they list, BET (Black Entertainment Television) is the worst, at 24.2 minutes.

(Full disclosure.  I do not now have cable TV, though I have had it when it came as part of a rent package.  Nor do I have a satellite connection, where you would, I assume, get the same commercials, and the same compression.)
- 5:51 AM, 23 February 2015   [link]

How Do Australian Jihadis Support Themselves?   Welfare, for 96 percent of those who have joined ISIS.

They didn't leave Australia — a nation that has had low unemployment for years — in search of jobs.

(I have no idea what the rules are in Australia, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some of the jihadis are breaking them, wouldn't even be surprised to learn that there was an organized effort to subvert their welfare system.  The article that Tim Blair linked to gives some evidence that supports both of those conclusions.)
- 5:21 AM, 23 February 2015   [link]

What Crime Did Rudy Giuliani Commit when he said that President Obama doesn't love America?
As the world now knows, Giuliani, the former New York mayor, said at a dinner featuring Walker, the Wisconsin governor, that “I do not believe that the president loves America.”  According to Politico, Giuliani said President Obama “wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”
(Dana Milbank is using the incident not to attack Giuliani, but to attack a possible Republican presidential nominee, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.)

One that is not even a crime in the United States, lèse-majesté.
. . . the crime of violating majesty, an offence against the dignity of a reigning sovereign or against a state.
No one will be surprised that this was not considered a crime by Milbank. or others who share his partisanship, when similar sentiments were directed against George W. Bush.  By many, including Barack Obama.

But they do see it as a crime now, and it shows, not just their partisanship, but their fundamentally monarchical view of the American presidency.

Moreover, though it is not important to my argument in this post, there is good reason to think that Giuliani was right, that Obama does not particularly love this country.  I don't plan to spend much time on that question, since I have no way of seeing into the man's heart.  But, if I could, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that, like about half of all Democrats, he doesn't think this is a good country.

(Milbank may be being silly when he argues that Walker was obligated to condemn what Giuliani had said.  Giuliani does not work for Walker and has not even formally given his support to the governor's likely bid for the presidency.  Another possibility is that Milbank knows his argument is silly, but hopes to provoke Walker to respond.  Which, Ann Althouse tells us, Walker is far too smart to do.)
- 3:05 PM, 21 February 2015   [link]

It's Hard To Buy Guns Legally In Europe; It's Easy To Buy Them Illegally:  Reporters Griff Witte and Karla Adam explain why.

Two samples:
“You can find Kalashnikovs for sale near the train station in Brussels,” acknowledged a Brussels-based European Union official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.  “They’re available even to very average criminals.”

In the case of the Paris attackers, they were able to obtain an entire arsenal: AK-47 assault rifles, pistols, a Skorpion submachine gun and even a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher.   All of it was purchased in Brussels for about $5,000, according to Belgian media reports.
.. . .
Guns have also been the weapon of choice in other recent lone-wolf attacks carried out in Ottawa and Sydney, suggesting the problem is hardly limited to Europe.

But it is a particularly challenging issue for Europe because of the continent’s open borders.  With 28 countries in the European Union, each with its own rules and regulations, controlling the flow of weapons has been nearly impossible.
(Emphasis added.)

The open-borders problem is something I have discussed before.  A smuggler of drugs, people, guns, or whatever, can smuggle into all of those countries, if he can find one gap in one of those countries.

Witte and Adam also explain why terrorists have switched from bombs to guns; guns give more precise targeting, are easier to smuggle, and require less skill.
- 8:20 AM, 20 February 2015   [link]

Lincoln's Doctor's Dog And The Seattle Times:  There is a story going back to at least the 1930s, possibly due to Bennett Cerf, about a writer who, after researching popular books, found that books on Lincoln, doctors, and dogs almost always sold well.  And so the writer wrote a book on Lincoln's doctor's dog.

Our local monopoly newspaper recognizes the second and third parts of that combination.   The Times gives considerable space to dogs and other pets, and to wild animals, especially "charismatic megafauna".

Similarly, the Times gives plenty of space to doctors, and to medical issues, generally.

But the Times — and I believe it is a matter of policy there — gives almost no space to Abraham Lincoln, or other patriotic figures and events.  Last Thursday, the Times did not even mention Lincoln's birthday.  On Monday, the Times did not even mention that we were celebrating, officially, Washington's birthday.

The Times does publish stories, columns, op-eds, and editorials on the less admirable parts of American history.  (In fact, I noticed a couple of them today, when glancing through the newspaper.)

Oliver Cromwell is famous for, among other things, telling a portraitist to paint him, "warts and all".

In contrast, the Times chooses, instead, to paint a picture of American history that consists of little besides warts.  A moment's thought will show you that Cromwell wanted an honest, if unflattering, painting.  Another moment's thought will show you that the policy of our local monopoly newspaper will give many readers an extremely misleading picture of American history, for the same reason that a picture only of Cromwell's warts would tell us little about how the man looked.

The newspaper's policy might be understandable, if not admirable, if it led to greater sales.  But there is every reason to think that it does not, that, if anything, refusing to give space to Lincoln, and other American patriots, results in fewer sales of the newspaper.   A quick search at Amazon on "Abraham Lincoln" turned up 89,853 hits, which should give you a rough idea of just how interested Americans (and others) are in our greatest president.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Although I wrote only about the Seattle Times, you could make a similar argument about most of our local news organizations.)
- 3:33 PM, 19 February 2015   [link]

Michelle Malkin On The "Jobs for Jihad Delinquents" Program:   For some subjects, you want a nuanced, soft-spoken writer.  And, for others, including the latest thinking from the Obama administration on how to cope with Islamic terrorists, you want Michelle Malkin.
The “root cause” of their evildoing is not a lack of employment, education, community centers, iftar dinners at the White House, or publicly funded “opportunities.”  When will these fools in high office learn that you can’t bribe these adherents of Stone Age ideology to behave?   They don’t want jobs.  They want blood.  Revenge.  Islamist dominance.  Ruthless extermination of Jews, gays, Coptic Christians, Christian aid workers, cartoonists, journalists, apostates, and infidels of all shapes and sizes.
Two minor corrections:  The ideology is better described as medieval, not "Stone Age", and the Obama administration is more likely to offer them midnight soccer than midnight basketball.

But Malkin is absolutely right in her main point, that our leftists are simply unwilling to learn from the what the terrorists do, or what they say.
- 8:24 PM, 19 February 2015   [link]

Wisconsin May Have Another Democratic Scandal:  But you are even less likely to hear about it than the Oregon Kitzhaber/Hayes scandal.  (I just learned about it, yesterday.)

It began with a Veterans Affairs medical center in Tomah, Wisconsin, which has been accused of over-prescribing pain killers.

A whistle blower complained to Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin who, apparently, did nothing about the complaint (although she is now calling for an investigation).

When the publicity over her inaction got bad enough, Baldwin did act:  She fired one of her aides, Marquette Baylor.
But Baldwin did not call for an investigation until after an investigative report detailing the concerns broke in early January, months after a whistleblower reportedly begged Baldwin’s office to do something.

The senator did do something, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.   She fired Baylor on Jan. 22, apparently in response to the public relations heat Baldwin was taking.

Sources last month told the newspaper Baldwin’s office offered a severance package to Baylor, a cash payout with a confidentiality deal.
Now, before anyone jumps to conclusions, note the caveats, the reliance on anonymous "sources", et cetera.  That's why I put "May" in the title of the post.

But, like the Journal Sentinel's Daniel Bice, I find it suspicious that Baldwin has hired an expensive lawyer to represent her in this controversy.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is finally speaking out about her decision to fire a staffer over the problems at the troubled Tomah VA Medical Center.

Or at least her nationally renowned Democratic attorney has issued a statement defending the move last month to oust Marquette Baylor, ex-deputy state director for Baldwin and chief of her Milwaukee office. "Marquette Baylor was terminated because her long-term performance on a range of issues did not meet with the senator's expectations for effective constituent service," said Marc Elias, former general counsel for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and a partner at the Perkins Coie law firm in Washington, D.C.
Ordinarily, you don't hire a lawyer like that for routine problems.  And it probably is significant that Baylor worked, in a similar position, for at least a decade, for another Democratic senator, Herb Kohl.

Here's why this won't get much national coverage, even if it turns out to be a big Wisconsin scandal:  Baldwin is a left wing Democratic woman — and an open lesbian.

But I will be looking for stories on this potential scandal to share with you, just as I did with Kitzhaber and Hayes.

Original tip by way of "henry", who knows way more about Wisconsin politics than I do.

(The Barbara Mikulski scandal showed me just how reluctant our "mainstream" reporters are to cover certain types of scandals.  Some years ago, the Maryland senator became involved with an Australian feminist.  The Australian woman caused so many problems that half of Mikulski's staff quit, but Mikulski kept her on.  Mikulski even stepped over some legal lines in her payments to the woman, and ending up paying a fine.

To learn that, I had to do some serious searching on the net, after I had run across some vague references to the scandal, that puzzled me.  I don't think our "mainstream" reporters would have been nearly as reluctant to cover the story if the senator had been a conservative Republican man.)
- 7:32 AM, 19 February 2015   [link]

Daniel Hannan Thinks Greece May Leave The Euro:   And that that would be a good thing in the long run, especially if it led to the collapse of the common currency.
Four years on, the situation is different.  Although both sides continue to insist that they want Greece to stay, neither is prepared to meet the other’s terms.  Four more years of poverty have shaken the unquestioning confidence that the Greeks used to have in Europe.   The EU, meanwhile, has put funds in place to muffle the impact of a Greek default.

These things rarely happen by design.  They happen, rather, through misjudgments, miscalculations and the miscalling of bluffs.
. . .
Greece’s least bad option is to default, decouple from the eurozone and devalue.

It won’t be easy — frankly, for a country in Greece’s situation, there are no easy options — but at least letting go of the euro offers some hope of eventual recovery.  Had Greece not been in the monetary union, its currency would have devalued automatically, as Britain’s did when recession hit.
And the same logic would apply to other debtor nations, now trapped in the euro.

(As I have said before, I hope that the euro collapses, since I think the collapse would benefit Europeans in the medium run, and so be good for us, too.  Even trimming the euro zone back to its core would be better than what we have today.)
- 7:41 PM, 18 February 2015   [link]

Michael Ramirez Illustrates Obama's Change of position on executive amnesty.

(He even gets the count right.)
- 4:27 PM, 18 February 2015   [link]

A Miss Is As Good as a light year.
An alien star passed through our Solar System just 70,000 years ago, astronomers have discovered.
. . .
The object, a red dwarf known as Scholz's star, cruised through the outer reaches of the Solar System - a region known as the Oort Cloud.

Scholz's star was not alone; it was accompanied on its travels by an object known as a brown dwarf.  These are essentially failed stars that lacked the necessary mass to get fusion going in their cores.
The BBC is exaggerating, a bit; the star came "within 0.8 light years of the Sun", which is not what most of us would consider passing through the solar system.

It is true that astronomers consider the Oort Cloud part of the solar system, and that the Cloud extends out to about 0.8 of a light year from the sun, so you could say that Scholz's star just missed, or, allowing for gravitational effects, just grazed the solar system.

Still, it's an interesting finding.

(Currently, the nearest star to the sun is Proxima Centauri.

A light year is — I always have to look this up, or calculate it — almost 6 trillion miles, or, if you prefer, about 0.3 of a parsec.)
- 1:10 PM, 18 February 2015   [link]

Miss P?  I don't care which dogs win these shows, but I was startled by the name of this winner.
After a two-day competition, a Best in Show was awarded at the 139th Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Feb. 17. And the winner is … Miss P!
It isn't as bad a name as MF Global, but it does make you wonder whether you would want this dog inside your house.
- 8:43 AM, 18 February 2015   [link]

Judge Hanen Agrees With President Obama:  You have certainly heard of Judge Hanen's decision.
President Obama’s new immigration program was supposed to begin accepting applications Wednesday from thousands of illegal immigrants hoping for relief from the threat of sudden deportation. Instead, the administration abruptly postponed the launch after a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked the White House initiative.

In a decision late Monday, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen ruled that the deferred-deportation program should not move forward while a lawsuit filed by 26 states challenging it was being decided.  Though Hanen did not rule on the constitutionality of Obama’s November immigration order, he said there was sufficient merit to warrant a suspension of the new program while the case goes forward.  All told, Obama’s immigration actions are projected to benefit as many as 5 million immigrants, many of whom could receive work permits if they qualified.
But what reporters David Nakamura and Juliet Eilperin do not tell you is that Judge Hanen is agreeing with what President Obama said, over and over again, before he decided to unilaterally re-write immigration laws.   Speaker Boehner's staff compiled a list of no fewer than 22 times in which Obama said that, as president, he did not have the power to grant amnesty to illegals.  Here's an example from 6 March 2014:
“I am the Champion-in-Chief of comprehensive immigration reform.  But what I’ve said in the past remains true, which is until Congress passes a new law, then I am constrained in terms of what I am able to do.  What I’ve done is to use my prosecutorial discretion, because you can’t enforce the laws across the board for 11 or 12 million people, there aren’t the resources there.  What we’ve said is focus on folks who are engaged in criminal activity, focus on people who are engaged in gang activity.   Do not focus on young people, who we’re calling DREAMers …. That already stretched my administrative capacity very far.  But I was confident that that was the right thing to do.  But at a certain point the reason that these deportations are taking place is, Congress said, ‘you have to enforce these laws.’   They fund the hiring of officials at the department that’s charged with enforcing. And I cannot ignore those laws any more than I could ignore, you know, any of the other laws that are on the books.   That’s why it’s so important for us to get comprehensive immigration reform done this year.” (3/6/14)
Judge Hanen said that in more words, but he said, basically, the same thing.

Nakamura and Eilperin must know about those previous Obama statements, so why didn't they share them with the readers?  Why didn't they at least note that Obama had changed his position, and rather recently?

The simplest and, most likely, the correct answer is that the two reporters agree with what Obama did, and don't care much about constitutional niceties.  In that they are not different from most "mainstream" journalists.   I saw at least five different TV stories on Hanen's decision yesterday.  All were sympathetic to Obama; none mentioned that Obama had changed his position.

(Some may wonder what Obama actually believes, what he said before he granted amnesty, or what he says now.  It is difficult to answer that question because, at each time, he may have been speaking in a way that was consistent with his political interests.  Before the 2014 election, he wanted to encourage Hispanics to vote against Republicans; afterwards he wanted to strengthen their attachment to the Democratic Party.

I think it most likely that he believes what he said before, that he knows that he is violating the Constitution now.  Those who want to form their own opinion on that question can watch these three examples for clues.  The first two are short, but the third is almost an hour long.)
- 7:54 AM, 18 February 2015   [link]

President Selfie:  Bret Stephens's column on President Obama and his foreign policy is definitely worth reading.

Stephens begins by describing how important dignity was to George Washington, and then makes the obvious contrast.
With Barack Obama —you won’t mind, Señor Presidente, if we call you Barry?—it’s another story.  Dignity of office?  How quaint.  In this most self-infatuated of presidencies, the D-word is at best an accessory and more often an impediment to everything Barry has ever wanted to be:  Cool.  Chill.  Connected.

So it was that, hours after the U.S. confirmed the murder of Kayla Jean Mueller at the hands of Islamic State, Mr. Obama filmed a short video for BuzzFeed, striking poses in a mirror, donning aviator shades, filming himself with a selfie stick and otherwise inhabiting a role that a chaster version of Miley Cyrus might have played had Hannah Montana been stuck in the White House after a sleepover with the Obama girls.
Barack Obama has always been like this, but he concealed most of it before the 2012 election, and some of it before the 2014 election.

But now we can see what he has always really wanted to do:  Ignore world problems, and pose for pictures.
- 1:29 PM, 17 February 2015   [link]

Anti-Vaxxers, Another Intense Minority:  Polls show that very large majorities, almost 90 percent in a recent Pew poll, favor childhood vaccinations.  That's been true for many years, so true that polling organizations haven't paid much attention to the question.

But it is also true that those opposed to vaccinations, the "anti-vaxxers" as they are often called, have had many legislative successes in recent decades, making it far easier for parents — in some states* — to opt out of vaccinations for their children.


Because the anti-vaxxers are intense in their feelings about the subject.  Politicians know that they are likely to vote on that issue, while the much larger majority in favor of vaccinations won't, even assuming they know about it.  And so many politicians have catered to the anti-vaxxers, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Rand Paul.

It is, almost any political scientist worth his pay can tell you, a classic example of how intense minorities can win.  (And, unless you stopped them, they would probably bore you with a dozen more examples of the phenomena.)

Intense minorities don't always win, of course.  They are likely to lose if the issue can be voted on in an initiative or referendum, or if the salience of the issue rises, if it becomes more important to the majority.  Last year, a gun control initiative, I-594, passed in Washington state, though similar measures have not been able to get through the Washington legislature, even when it was controlled by Democrats.  And, now that the outbreak of measles has made more people pay attention to vaccines, some politicians who supported the anti-vaxxers are adjusting their positions.

Intense minorities can also lose out if they become too identified with one party — and the other party comes to power.  That has happened both ways, here in the United States, on the abortion issue.  President Obama, for instance, doesn't even give those opposed to abortion the verbal "safe, legal, and rare" sop that President Clinton often used.

(*There's a brief description of varying state policies in this Wikipedia article.

Some Washington legislators are proposing modifying I-594 to make it less objectionable to supporters of gun rights, which won't surprise those who understand the power of intense minorities.)
- 10:08 AM, 17 February 2015   [link]