July 2009, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

"None Of The Cuts Are Welcome"  Over lunch, I learned from the editorial writers at the New York Times that all of the proposed California budget cuts are bad.
Nearly every day, there is another reminder of just how deep California's $24 billion deficit cuts into the operations of the state.  It ripples through schools, cities, highway departments, state agencies — everything that makes California function.

None of the cuts are welcome, and some do less for the budgetary bottom line than they seem to.  One example is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to close 220 state parks in order to save an estimated $213 million over nearly two years — or about $6 per California.
I might be wrong, but I suspect that California taxpayers might find some of those cuts welcome.   And in a budget that size, it is hard to believe that every single program benefits the taxpayers.

Just as remarkable is the editorial writers' claim that "schools, cities, highway departments, state agencies" are what make California function.  No doubt they play a part, but I have a feeling that businesses and families may also help California function, even if they don't get checks from the taxpayers.

(I have no opinion on whether closing those parks is a good idea, because, unlike the editorial writers at the Times, I know that I don't know enough details to have an opinion.)
- 2:33 PM, 16 July 2009   [link]

What Does Obama Believe?  On some issues, for example, free trade, even his advisors don't know.
President Obama's views about international trade are still something of a mystery.  As a senator and presidential candidate he seemed like a protectionist, but once elected he hired a bunch of free traders as economic advisers.

Larry Summers once said of Barack Obama, "When I've heard him talk about economic issues — with the exception of NAFTA, where I just hope he doesn't believe what he says — he seems intelligent and serious.  I wouldn't say I'm bowled over by the brilliance of anything I've heard, but everything has a kind of thoughtfulness to it that's sort of impressive."  That is, even the president's chief economic adviser was discomfited by his campaign rhetoric concerning international trade.
We might resolve this by assuming that many of Obama's advisors are there for decoration, as many were during the campaign.  As I said earlier this year, these advisors serve much the same purpose as the bunting that decorates most political platforms.
- 1:37 PM, 16 July 2009   [link]

Senator Dick Durbin Makes A Remarkable Scientific Discovery:  But announces it in a Senate committee meeting, rather than a scientific journal.  Durbin has discovered Republican DNA.
Democrats clearly enjoyed being on the other side of the confirmation process, defending a Democratic nominee.

"When we asked questions of the white male nominees of a Republican president, we were basically trying to . . . make sure that they would go far enough in understanding the plight of minorities, because clearly that was not in their DNA," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said.
As far as I know Durbin has not yet told us whether nominees of our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, had this DNA.

Quibbles aside, this is a remarkable scientific achievement, and one can only hope that Durbin will publish his findings in a scientific journal, soon.

It is even more remarkable considering that Durbin's biography does not mention any scientific training, so we have to assume that the senator is a self-taught geneticist.

(By way of the Gateway Pundit.)
- 1:17 PM, 16 July 2009   [link]

What Do The Snowfall Records At Mt. Rainier Tell Us?  When I posted a graph showing total snowfall at Mt. Rainier from 1921 to the present, I got a lot of guesses as to why I was posting the graph.  Almost all of the guessers thought that I posted it in order to make an argument on one side of the great climate change debate.  They were wrong.

The best guess was that I posted the graph to show a trend.  And, in fact, there is a trend, which you can see estimated in the dashed line in the plot.  If you believe the line, then you would say that the total snowfall at Rainier has been increasing by a little more than 2 inches a year since 1921.

Mt. Rainier total snowfalls, 1920-2009, with linear trend

(The equation was estimated with a simple linear model, in which the total snowfall(y) is a linear function of the year(x).  Those who like to do mindless extrapolation will notice that the average snowfall at Paradise will be close to 1,000 inches in 150 years — and that it was minus 3500 inches in 1 AD.  Mindless extrapolations can be entertaining.)

Having shown you that estimated trend, I will now say that I don't take that estimated line seriously.  I don't think a linear trend is a good description of the data.  Rather than give you my own description of the data now, I will leave that as a problem for the readers, for another week or two.

I am doing that for a nefarious purpose.  I hope to persuade at least a few readers to look at some data analytically, rather than as a source of ammunition in an ongoing political quarrel.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(You can find the sources of the data at my original post.  I made one minor change in the data set, restoring the fractions to four of the years.

Those who know even a little statistics will want to know that the estimated trend is significant at the 0.01 level, but that the R2 is a lousy 0.1188.

You can see some pictures of the snow at Rainier, taken in March, 2008, here.)
- 10:46 PM, 2 July 2009   [link]

Apollo 11 Reenactment:  In real time.   Here.  (You'll need Flash Player 10 to watch it.)
- 9:19 AM, 16 July 2009   [link]

That Lousy Obama Pitch:  Would not be worth mentioning if it were not for the "mainstream" media cover up.
Put aside the unacknowledged booing for a moment.  The other embarrassing fact is that my six-year-old throws a baseball better (far better, in fact) than Obama.  Yet the media went out of its way to obscure that, too — no doubt wishing to avoid unfavorable comparisons to the strike President Bush famously fired from the mound at Yankee Stadium at the 2001 World Series.  In its live broadcast, Fox (and remember, this is Fox Sports, not Fox News) covered Obama's first pitch at a very weird angle that conveyed his spastic motion but didn't do justice to how pathetic the toss was.  But that's nothing compared to ESPN's laughable coverage.  Here's the clip.  Besides reporting only that there was a "standing ovation for the commander-in-chief," the announcer made a point of noting that Obama's pitch "didn't bounce" before reaching home-plate (though the announcer did cop to the "horrible camera work that made the trajectory of the pitch impossible to see).

Now, take a look at this clip from, about 24 seconds in.  It's the only decent footage I've seen, and it shows that Obama's first pitch did bounce.  In fact, the pitch did not even reach home-plate — and they evidently knew it wouldn't.  The player who was sent out to catch Obama's pitch (more on that in a moment) was crouching on top of home plate, not behind it where catchers always set up.  And even so, he had to reach out a couple of feet in order to short-hop the ball, which otherwise might have bounced all the way to the backstop.
Obama's lousy pitch at the All Star game doesn't matter.  After all, I voted last November for Senator McCain, and I am fairly sure that his injuries from torture during his imprisonment in North Vietnam make him an even worse pitcher than Obama.  And, though one can't be certain, I suspect that Obama is a fairly good basketball player for a man his age.  (Though Sarah Palin would almost certainly beat him in a marathon, and George W. Bush would probably beat him in bicycle race.)  But athletic ability has almost nothing to do with a man's (or woman's) fitness to be president.  (It can indicate good health, which is a plus, but a person can be quite healthy without being much of an athlete.)

But it is both amusing and annoying to see the effort that our "mainstream" journalists went to in order to conceal Obama's lousy pitch.  Amusing because they are trying to conceal something that happened in front of thousands of people, not all of them Obama supporters.  Annoying because they take us for fools.

(For those interested in political tactics, Andy McCarthy has a good discussion of how cleverly the Obama team stage-managed his appearance at the game.)
- 8:54 AM, 16 July 2009   [link]

"Net Present Value"  One elected official knows how to make my heart beat faster.  When I met last Friday with Washington state attorney general Rob McKenna, I was pleasantly surprised to hear him use that phrase.  (So surprised that I don't recall the context.)  I have become so used to politicians, most of them Democrats, who appear unable to understand something as simple as a cost-benefit test that it was a pleasant surprise to hear one who knows the language.

And, though I didn't bring along a set of economic questions to test his knowledge, his academic history — he earned bachelor's degrees in both economics and international studies — and his general smarts, make me think that he understands the concepts, as well as knowing the words.

I have several other, more substantive, posts planned on the meeting, but I thought you might like to see this tidbit, especially if you live in Washington state.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Knute Berger's description of the meeting is reasonably accurate, though he and I are, naturally, interested in somewhat different aspects of the discussion.

Here's a review of net present value for anyone who needs it.

You can see two earlier posts on McKenna here and here.)
- 4:03 PM, 15 July 2009   [link]

Rushing To Beat The Bad Economic News?  Does that explain the Obama administration's mad rush to pass health care "reform"?
President Barack Obama's economic forecasts for long-term growth are too optimistic, many economists warn, a miscalculation that would mean budget deficits will be much higher than the administration is now acknowledging.

The White House will be forced to confront the disconnect between its original, upbeat predictions and the mainstream consensus about how the economy is likely to perform in a new budget forecast to be unveiled next month.
. . .
Higher deficit figures also would arrive at a critical moment in the health care debate, as lawmakers are already struggling to find a way to pay for the president's nearly $1 trillion reform package.
That certainly might be part of the explanation, and perhaps part of the explanation for the rush to pass the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill.

The general public usually objects to massive spending programs when we are running immense deficits — and Obama's political team is smart enough to know that.

(By way of talk show host Michael Medved.)
- 1:14 PM, 15 July 2009   [link]

"We Didn't Do It To Help The Planet"  Yesterday's Dilbert explains why we no longer have styrofoam cups.  The boss continues, "We did it to look like the sort of company that cares about that sort of thing.

The same explanation applies to many other strange environmental policies.

Styrofoam cups require less energy to manufacture than paper cups, and result in less pollution.   The material in them can be recycled, though at a loss.

We burn our fingers on paper cups because so many "environmentalists" are fooled by companies (and politicians) who want to "look like" people who care about the environment.
- 12:46 PM, 15 July 2009   [link]

Is Sotomayor telling The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But The Truth?   From the right, probably not.
Republican aides worked through the night, Tuesday into Wednesday, studying the 108-page transcript from Tuesday's hearing.  They believe Sotomayor told a variety of stories, none of them entirely truthful, to explain her series of infamous "wise Latina" speeches.  And they question her efforts to distance herself from the work of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, on whose board she served for twelve years in the 1980s and early 1990s.

For example, in response to questioning from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sotomayor denied involvement in PRLDEF litigation which argued that the denial of taxpayer-funded abortions amounted to a form of slavery.  One brief, in 1980, compared the withholding of taxpayer abortion funding to the Dred Scott decision, and another, in 1992, argued that for poor women, especially blacks, denying taxpayer-funded abortion violated "the right to privacy in matters of body and reproduction -- a right that was trammeled with state sanction during centuries of slavery."

Sotomayor testified that she "never reviewed" and "wasn't aware of what was said" in the abortion briefs.  Yet Sotomayor served on PRLDEF's litigation committee at the time, and a report last May in the New York Times, citing several former board members, said that, among the PRLDEF board, Sotomayor "stood out, frequently meeting with the legal staff to review the status of cases."
And from the left, probably not.
Speaking only for myself (I guess that's obvious), I was completely disgusted by Judge Sotomayor's testimony today.  If she was not perjuring herself, she is intellectually unqualified to be on the Supreme Court.  If she was perjuring herself, she is morally unqualified.  How could someone who has been on the bench for seventeen years possibly believe that judging in hard cases involves no more than applying the law to the facts?
Though Professor Seidman does concede that she might be telling the truth, but only if she is not smart enough to be on the Supreme Court.

Her testimony reminds me, again, of that little boy, with chocolate all over his face, telling his parents that he did not touch the chocolate cake.  Of course a little more is at stake in this lifetime appointment.

(David Brooks gives us a mostly sympathetic sketch of Sotomayor as a high achiever, who has sacrificed much.  That's true, but if you read the column carefully, you see that she is a particular kind of high achiever, one who has benefitted greatly from "mentors".   There are crude terms for such people; we all know them, so I won't repeat them.  But we all know how they operate; they say what their mentors want to hear, and that is what Sotomayor is doing now.

In my experience, these types are seldom successes when they reach the top positions they crave.   You can flatter superiors, but you can not flatter the real world.)
- 10:35 AM, 15 July 2009   [link]

Worth Reading:  This San Francisco Examiner editorial.  Two samples:
Look no further than Monday's seemingly unnoticed report from the American Petroleum Institute that oil and natural gas drilling activities in the U.S. fell nearly 46 percent in the second quarter from a year ago.  Drilling now stands at its lowest level since 2003.  A small portion of this change is attributable to a drop in the price of oil, but the elephant in the room is Obama-Waxman-Markey, the cap-and-trade, anti-global warming energy bill that recently passed the House and is now pending in the Senate.  Energy companies know that legislation is aimed directly at them and are reducing drilling operations accordingly.

And for what?  This is a sacrifice that will force American consumers to pay much higher energy bills.  Yet, cap-and-trade proponents seem startlingly comfortable with the fact that no such sacrifice is ahead for the rest of the world.
. . .
Unilateral U.S. actions, however, will affect U.S. competitiveness, sacrificing jobs, growth, opportunity and prosperity, quite possibly for generations to come.
There are two larger points illustrated by this example.  Businesses are less likely to hire new workers if they think taxes and regulations will be worse in the future — or even if they are uncertain about those risks.

Almost anyone who has run a business understands those facts, but few in the Democratic majorities in Congress, or in the Obama White House do, because so few of them have that experience.

(I assume that you know that unilateral reductions in CO2 by the US will have, by themselves, an almost unmeasurable effect on the world's temperature, even according to the high priests of global warming.)
- 9:38 AM, 15 July 2009   [link]

France Celebrates Bastille Day:  In traditional fashion.
France's national holiday, Bastille Day, has been overshadowed by a night of rioting in which more than 300 cars were torched on the streets of Paris and other cities.

Rigorous attempts by the French government to clamp down on Bastille Day rioting were not enough to prevent at least 317 cars being torched in major French cities in the early hours of July 14.

Despite a deployment of 10,000 police officers, the number of cars set alight represents a rise of almost seven percent from the previous year.  Youths threw home-made explosives and fireworks to set alight bins and cars, before targeting police officers, 13 of whom were wounded in the riots.  A total of 240 arrests were made -- almost double the number recorded in 2008.
Well, by now it is traditional.
- 9:16 AM, 15 July 2009   [link]

Senator Leahy Tries To Cover For Sotomayor:  The Associated Press catches him.
LEAHY SAID: "You said that, quote, you 'would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would reach wise decisions.'"

THE FACTS: If that's all Sotomayor said, the quote would barely have mattered to opponents of her nomination.  The actual quote, delivered in a 2001 speech to law students at the University of California at Berkeley, was: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Leahy's revision dropped the controversial part of the phrase, the part that has attracted charges of reverse racism.
It's a pleasure to see a reporter doing his job.

In my opinion, the quote looks even worse in the context of the entire speech.

(Here's my original post on the nomination.)
- 4:52 PM, 14 July 2009   [link]

Chuckles From The Seattle Times:  Today's editorial has two howlers, so amazing that they left me wondering whether the editorial writers read their own newspaper.

Even the Obama administration, which has been reluctant to second-guess its predecessor in the White House, is recognizing that serious questions about past anti-terror policies cannot be ignored.

Until now, all the generic excuses and talking points have been employed by Democrats and Republicans alike.

(Emphasis added.)

Did the editorial writers notice when Obama went on his apology tours?  This president is the least reluctant to "second-guess" his predecessors, especially his immediate predecessor, that I have seen in my lifetime.  (Perhaps ever, though you would have to know more about some of the 19th century presidents than I do to be certain.)

In the war on terror — which we are now supposed to call something else — Obama has adopted some of the more sensible Bush policies, without admitting that, and simultaneously blamed the Bush administration endlessly.  If you are like me, you can admire the political dexterity in that combination, while being appalled by its intellectual dishonesty.

Actually, Democrats, in an effort to protect our failed Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, have been raising these issues for weeks — with the help, naturally, of the New York Times, and other "mainstream" news organizations.  Republicans have mostly laughed at their efforts so far, though many worry, as I do (and as some of the more responsible Democrats do) that this will handicap us in the war on terror.  Or, to be more blunt, will get Americans, and others, most of them moderate Muslims, killed.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(You can read the entire editorial if you want, but, if you do, I would suggest that you prepare for it by reading this Andrew McCarthy article first.)
- 3:06 AM, 14 July 2009   [link]

Political Protest Written In Dust:  On my visit to a local Fred Meyers supermarket, I saw two messages written on the back of a commercial trailer: "Mr. President, please stop spending so much money" and "Try towing this with a Prius".  When such messages begin to replace "Wash me", we can conclude that the Obama administration has a political problem, maybe not a large problem yet, but a problem, for certain.

For the record:  I saw the trailer in an area that voted for Obama, by about 60-40, I would guess.

(At the same supermarket, I saw two small parts of a solution to our economic problems: Fred Meyer is selling a dozen large eggs for 77 cents and a pound box of saltines for 88 cents.  Both are the lowest prices I have seen for those items in some years.

To the best of my knowledge, no change in regulations produced those lower prices, just businesses and farmers competing.)
- 2:28 PM, 14 July 2009   [link]

What's Bad For The Country:  Is usually good for Washington, DC.
No matter how far the economy falters, there is always a winner.  And no city does better when the nation is at the brink of disaster than Washington, DC. Since December 2007, when the current recession formally began, the nation has lost approximately 6 million jobs.  Only two states, Alaska and North Dakota, have lost a smaller percentage of jobs than Washington, DC, which has seen a job loss of 0.6%, or 4,400.  Simply put, Washington has done better in this recession than 48 of the fifty states when it comes to job performance.
Greater Washington, which includes the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, is doing even better, as far as I can tell.

(Alaska and North Dakota are oil producing states, which helps explain why they are doing better than the rest of the nation.  That's indirect evidence for the argument that this recession was caused, in part, by high oil prices.)
- 10:54 AM, 14 July 2009   [link]

White Roofs?  Energy Secretary Steven Chu is backing the idea.
Among those promoting the idea is Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a big-thinking physicist who has a bully pulpit and influence over billions in research and stimulus funds.

Chu spoke about the idea at a London conference last month while Congress was busy hashing out a complex, 1,400-page bill to cut greenhouse gases.

Whitening the world's roofs and roads would have the same effect on global warming as removing all the world's cars for 11 years, he said.
(I don't know whether his numbers are correct, but they aren't obviously implausible.)

However, there may be an even better solution for temperate regions, chameleon roofs.  The small apartment building where I live gives us an example of how that might work.  The roof is black and, in the summers, the roof makes the apartments, especially the three apartments on the top floor, warmer than they would be otherwise.  Most likely that causes the people who live there to use fans more often.  (I haven't noticed any room air conditioners sticking out of windows.)  And the roof makes the other six apartments a little warmer, too.

So, in the summer, that black roof increases the tenants' energy use, a little.

But in the winter, the black roof decreases our energy use by reducing the need for heating.   And heating, in this area, uses far more energy than cooling.  So, during about half the year, a black roof reduces our energy use.  (And probably by more than the roof increases our energy use during the rest of the year.)

So, what we really want in temperate regions is not a white roof, but a roof that can change color with the seasons.  Chameleons, and other natural mimics, have been solving the color change problem for millions of years, so we know that a color-changing roof is possible.  I can think of several ways to build a roof that changes from black to white at the flip of a switch, and, if economically practical, that's what we should try for.

(For instance, you could build a glass roof with a thin layer of fluid underneath the glass.   When you want cooling, you pump in a white fluid; when you want heating, you pump in a black fluid.  Engineers in the right fields can probably think of many other ways to build a chameleon roof, and may even be able to guess at the costs of such a roof.

While we are thinking about adapting to seasonal changes, I should mention one well-known solution, broadleaf trees, that has the some of the advantages of a chameleon roof.  To use the trees most efficiently, you build your house with the long axis going east-west.  Then you plant broadleaf trees on the south side of the house.  In the summer, they shade the house, reducing the need for cooling; in the winter, they drop their leaves, so that sun can get through to the house.)
- 3:38 PM, 13 July 2009   [link]

Obama Gets History Wrong, Again:  This time, it's the end of the Cold War.
There are two different versions of the story of the end of the Cold War: the Russian version, and the truth.  President Barack Obama endorsed the Russian version in Moscow last week.

Speaking to a group of students, our president explained it this way: "The American and Soviet armies were still massed in Europe, trained and ready to fight.  The ideological trenches of the last century were roughly in place.  Competition in everything from astrophysics to athletics was treated as a zero-sum game.  If one person won, then the other person had to lose.  And then within a few short years, the world as it was ceased to be.  Make no mistake: This change did not come from any one nation.  The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful."
The Obama version leaves out one or two minor things, such as the Reagan actions that undermined the Soviet system in many ways.

Liz Cheney is most worried by the possibility that Obama believes what he said.  And so am I.   There is some reason to think that he might.  It would be easy for a student to graduate from Columbia with an incomplete and distorted version of history, especially if that student is on the far left, as Obama was at the time.

And there is nothing in his biography since Columbia to suggest that he is intellectually curious, or much inclined to examine his own ideas, critically.  So, he may believe what he said in Moscow (and in Cairo).  And that would be, as Cheney says, "most concerning".
- 2:01 PM, 13 July 2009   [link]

Robert Samuelson Thinks We Should Talk About The Numbers:  For instance, these numbers.
For the past half-century, federal spending has averaged about 20 percent of GDP, federal taxes about 18 percent of GDP and the budget deficit 2 percent of GDP. The CBO's projection for 2020 -- which assumes the economy has returned to "full employment" -- puts spending at 26 percent of GDP, taxes at a bit less than 19 percent of GDP and a deficit above 7 percent of GDP.  Future spending and deficit figures continue to grow.

What this means is that balancing the budget in 2020 would require a tax increase of almost 50 percent from the last half-century's average.  Remember, that average was 18 percent of GDP.  To get from there to 26 percent of GDP (spending in 2020) would require an additional 8 percentage points.   In today's dollars, that would be about $1.1 trillion, a 44 percent annual tax increase.  Even these figures may be optimistic, because CBO's projections for defense and "nondefense discretionary" spending may be unrealistically low.  This last category covers much of what government does: environmental regulation, aid to education, highway construction, law enforcement, homeland security.
Obama isn't helping our long-term prospects.
Obama would make matters worse. He talks about controlling "entitlement" spending (mainly Social Security and Medicare) but hasn't done so.  He's proposing just the opposite. His health-care proposal would increase federal spending.  He says he will "pay for" the added outlays with tax increases or other spending cuts, but what people forget is that every penny of this "payment" could be used (and should be) to close the long-term deficit -- not raise future spending and taxes.
You should read the whole thing.

I have one serious disagreement with the column.  Samuelson says that Americans want more services and less taxes, and that we are unwilling to make the hard choices.  That's true of some Americans, but not all, perhaps not even most.  And a very large number of Americans have begun to protest those immense deficits at "tea parties".  (Though the Washington Post has not taken much notice of these protests.)

(Without much effort I can think of half a dozen "services" that I would rather government not provide, including some that benefit me personally.  In some cases — agricultural subsidies, for instance — not providing them would probably make the country better off, even without counting the money saved.)
- 8:41 AM, 13 July 2009   [link]

Why Is The Obama Administration Screwing Up?  Because the ideology of his team does not fit the real world, except, to some extent, politically.  Few of them have had much experience outside academia and politics, and so they have never had to test their ideas about, for example, the economy, against the real world.

And because they are short of sleep.
All West Wings face fatigue at some point, but the Obama team has had a particularly frenetic start, the result of inheriting the worse economic crisis since the Great Depression and the team's own seemingly chaotic drive to push an agenda that includes the creation of a new health insurance system, auto bailouts, Middle East peace, nuclear nonproliferation, two wars and education reform.

Political Washington has long fostered a workaholic culture, the expectation that the rewards of service on the big stage of national government come with 18-hour, on-call days.  But even the most hardy of Obama's staff members are beginning to recognize the toll that the pace is taking.
. . .
Martin Moore-Ede, a former Harvard University professor, calls it the "iron man" syndrome and says the American political workplace is one of the few that still resists a mechanism for ensuring people get rest.

One study conducted for the British Parliament found that "mental fatigue affects cognitive performance, leading to errors of judgement, microsleeps (lasting for seconds or minutes), mood swings and poor motivation."  The effect, it found, is equal to a blood alcohol level of .10 percent -- above the legal limit to drive in the United States.
You see the effects of that loss of sleep in small things, like misspelling Obama's name in a White House document, and in large, like the "stimulus" package with most of the spending in 2010, and even later.

Does Obama understand how loss of sleep is damaging his administration?  Probably not.  He has no significant executive experience, and this is a mistake that even experienced executives often make.

(Some of the relentless drive to do everything now could be explained if Obama and his team think that they have a very short time to transform the country before the political winds shift against them.  I don't know if that explains Obama's thinking, but I suspect it explains the thinking of some in his administration.)
- 7:09 AM, 13 July 2009   [link]

Or Both Then And Now:  John McCain thinks Obama was wrong then or now.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, told the NBC program "Meet the Press" that Obama either got it wrong when he predicted the benefits of his $787 billion economic stimulus package in February, or he's wrong now in saying the stimulus is working as intended.
I vote for both.

Obama was wrong in his prediction — obviously — and is wrong to claim that the stimulus is working as intended.  (Assuming, that is, that the package was intended to stimulate the economy, rather than to provide a great pork fest for Democrats.)
- 4:34 PM, 12 July 2009   [link]

Eleven Unique Baseball Feats:  Each has happened only once in the major leagues.  (And one of them will never happen again, unless they change the rules.)

By way of the Baseball Crank.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 3:49 PM, 12 July 2009   [link]

Yesterday Afternoon, I Met With My Lawyer:  He has more clients than most lawyers, about 6.5 million.  So I was there, not for myself, but as a representative of some of those 6.5 million.

Along with other local bloggers, I met with the attorney general for an open-ended exchange of ideas.  The topics discussed were different enough so that I will probably do several posts on the meeting, each focusing on a particular issue.

(Why were we invited in for this meeting?  Partly because our local newspapers have been declining, and we bloggers are a partial substitute.  And partly, I suspect, for another reason, which is mentioned in this Wikipedia article.)
- 1:27 PM, 11 July 2009   [link]

Joe Biden And Strategic Ambiguity:  Here's Mickey Kaus's take.
But when you think about it, if you wanted to scare the Iranians without credibly committing the United States, isn't Biden the perfect person for the job?  I mean, it's just Joe Biden!   He could be actually enunciating Obama administration policy.  Or he could be winging it!  Or it could be just another gaffe.  Who knows?  The Iranians don't.  They can't dismiss the threat, and have to be worried, but can't be sure whether to expect a strike or not.  Meanwhile, no credible U.S. spokesman has said anything especially bellicose.  That's exactly what we want, no? . . .

Strategic ambiguity, I think they call it.  Everything Biden says is by definition ambiguous!   He's an unreliable narrator.  The trick is making it strategic.  But the Obama brahmins would be crazy not to try to use this asset.
This might work if there was any reason to think that the Iranians were trying to figure out what our policy is.  But I doubt that they are.  You may recall that Saddam Hussein, up until the moment we tossed him out, believed that we wouldn't act, in spite of the military build-up, and in spite of warnings from his friends.

Similarly, I think the Iranian regime thinks they have Obama figured out.  (Perhaps by using this simple rule:  There was no attack while Bush was president; therefore there won't be an attack while Obama is president.)  So, they are unlikely to pay any attention to what Joe Biden, or anyone else, says.
- 9:18 AM, 10 July 2009   [link]

Carol Browner Is Not Obsessive About Keeping Records:  Either during the Clinton administration, or now.
Obama White House climate czar Carol Browner's instruction to auto executives to"write nothing down" on those secret negotiations to jump the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards up significantly higher was not the former EPA head's first time for trying to suppress official documents.

Soon after leaving EPA at the end of the Clinton administration, Browner was implicated in a federal court decision against EPA for destroying official computer files. Here's how the AP reported the decision: "A federal judge held the Environmental Protection Agency in contempt Thursday for destroying computer files during the Clinton administration that had been sought by a conservative legal foundation.

"U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth also ordered the EPA to pay the Landmark Legal Foundation's legal fees and costs because the agency disobeyed his order to preserve the electronic records of former chief Carol Browner.

"Lamberth ordered the sanctions because he said the EPA had shown 'contumacious conduct' - obstinate resistance to authority."

It has been suggested that one reason President Barack Obama appointed Browner to a White House "czar" position is precisely that such appointees advise the chief executive directly and thus are not subject to the normal disclosure rules, thanks to executive privilege.
In this she is like Obama, who has "lost" so many records, including those from his time in the Illinois senate.

If you are a Republican, or just ordinarily suspicious, you would suspect that the two have something to hide.
- 7:23 AM, 10 July 2009   [link]

Prince Charles Makes A New Prediction:  Last year, the heir to the British throne said we had just 18 months to stop deforestation, or we would face a series of natural disasters.

On Wednesday, he said that we have just 96 months to save the world.
Capitalism and consumerism have brought the world to the brink of economic and environmental collapse, the Prince of Wales has warned in a grandstand speech which set out his concerns for the future of the planet.

The heir to the throne told an audience of industrialists and environmentalists at St James's Palace last night that he had calculated that we have just 96 months left to save the world.
. . .
Delivering the annual Richard Dimbleby lecture, Charles said that without "coherent financial incentives and disincentives" we have just 96 months to avert "irretrievable climate and ecosystem collapse, and all that goes with it."
Unfortunately, the article does not give the details of his calculations, so I can't tell you how he arrived at that conclusion.  Nor does the article mention any ways in which he has curbed his own, rather conspicuous, consumerism.

But this does give us even more reason to check last year's prediction.  If I understand the prince correctly, we should see a series of natural disasters, beginning this November, at the latest.   And, as I said last year, I appreciate the fact that he is making predictions that are specific enough to test.

(Some, even in Britain, disagree with Charles.)
- 7:02 AM, 10 July 2009   [link]

Another Broken Obama Promise:  Noticed by — miracles do happen — the editorial writers at the New York Times.
When candidate Barack Obama broke his promise to use public financing as a brake on lavish presidential campaign spending, he left another promise in its wake: to overhaul election financing and the federal commission that regularly undermines rather than enforces campaign law.  President Obama has yet to deliver.
. . .
Mr. Obama was the first presidential candidate to walk away from general election public spending limits enacted after Watergate.  As a result, he enjoyed a fund-raising advantage of hundreds of millions of dollars in private donations over the Republican nominee, Mr. McCain, who accepted the $84 million public limit.

Having done his damage to a severely damaged system, Mr. Obama now has a clear responsibility to fix it.
I agree, though I am certain that the Times and I have different definitions of "fix it".  For one thing, I think that a humble blogger like myself should have at least the same level of protection from these laws as our newspaper of record.

(Having done so much damage to American journalism, does the Times have an obligation to make repairs?  I would think so, but doubt that those who run the newspaper would agree.)
- 5:20 PM, 9 July 2009   [link]

Not For Renters:  The Instapundit links to this post which concludes: "The Rental Market Stinks Too".  For landlords, perhaps, but not for renters.

(In my view, this is, like the fall in house prices, a good thing, net, however painful it may be in the short run.  People who can spend less on housing can spend more on other things, and can even save a little more.)
- 4:32 PM, 9 July 2009   [link]

Do We Need More Scientists And Engineers?  Maybe, maybe not — assuming we want them to have jobs.
As the push to train more young people in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — careers gains steam, a few prominent skeptics are warning that it may be misguided — and that rhetoric about the USA losing its world pre-eminence in science, math and technology may be a stretch.

One example: Numbers from the U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics issued Tuesday showed the unemployment rate for electrical engineers hit a record high, 8.6%, in the second quarter, more than doubling from 4.1% in the first quarter.
. . .
Among the most vocal critics: Michael Teitelbaum of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York, which funds basic scientific, economic and civic research.  He says there are "substantially more scientists and engineers" graduating from the USA's universities than can find attractive jobs.

"Indeed, science and engineering careers in the U.S. appear to be relatively unattractive" compared with other career paths, he told Congress in 2007.
The sidebar gives one reason why we are not short of scientists and engineers.
Statistics show that the share of non-U.S. citizens in science and engineering doubled, to 12% from 6%, between 1994 and 2006.

The diminishing share of degrees awarded to U.S. citizens suggests that science and engineering careers "are becoming less attractive to U.S. citizens," said RAND, "or, alternatively, that U.S. citizens encounter more competition (from foreigners) in applying for a limited number of desirable spots" at research institutions, where foreigners have helped reduce research costs by holding down wages.
And I suspect that significant amounts of engineering work have been "off-shored".

The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, says that we need more scientists and engineers.  Perhaps, but we should be cautious about encouraging young people to go through years of education for jobs that may not exist when they finish their degrees.
- 3:45 AM, 9 July 2009   [link]

How The AP Failed Us During The Last Presidential Campaign:  Many bloggers — well, many conservative and libertarian bloggers — have been grimly pleased by an Associated Press story, where the news service finally admitted that Obama will raise taxes on everyone, if he can, not just the rich.  And that he has already broken his promise not raise taxes on anyone who is not wealthy.

But James Taranto has by far the best take I have seen on this admission.  Taranto analyzes a series of AP "Fact Checks" from last year's campaign to show that Republicans predicted that Obama would raise taxes, and that the AP, again and again, attempted to refute those Republican predictions by comparing them to Obama's promises.
So the AP repeatedly made a cognitive error in treating as-yet-untested predictions as if they were statements of fact.  Even more ludicrous, however, is the basis on which the AP concluded that the GOP statements were false.  It treated Obama's campaign promise as if it were not only a statement of fact but an incontrovertible one.
Even though anyone who can do arithmetic could see that Obama's promises literally did not add up.   But the AP did not notice, probably because their reporters and editors did not want to notice.

(Even now, they call his tax promise "unrealistic", rather than dishonest.  I suppose that fits the usual journalistic rules, but they could at least ask whether he knew during the campaign that his promises were unrealistic.)
- 2:59 PM, 9 July 2009   [link]

Are The Republicans Gaining, Slightly?  They might be, as I said in this post.  And there are other polls that suggest the same thing.

For example, from Rasmussen.
Just 18% of U.S. voters now say Congress is doing a good or excellent job, down from 23% in May.

Forty-seven percent (47%) now say Congress is doing a poor job.

The political division of opinion is little changed.  Seventy-one percent (71%) of Republicans and 56% of voters not affiliated with either major political party rate Congress' performance as poor, compared to just 21% of Democrats.
That 56 percent should worry Democratic strategists.  (Although we should remember, as always, that many voters do not know which party controls Congress.)

And from Gallup.   In polls taken from July 6 through July 8, Obama's job approval was down to 57 percent.

Similar trends have been seen in the past few weeks in some state polls, too.  (For example, Ohio.)

You have probably seen, as I have, articles telling us in what bad shape the Republican party is.   (Articles often filled with crocodile tears.)  And I would not say that anyone should bet that the Republicans will win control of the House next year, or the presidency in 2012.  But I will say that the odds are better for both of those events than they were at the beginning of this year, mostly because Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and company have been over reaching.
- 10:44 AM, 9 July 2009   [link]

Which Populations Did Justice Ginsburg Mean?  Ed Morrissey spotted an awkward, but possibly revealing, sentence in a New York Times interview.
Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of.
And the populations "we don't want to have too many of" would be?  The interviewer, Emily Bazelon, never asks the justice that question.

But it is a fact that black women, especially poor black women, are especially likely to have abortions.  I don't think that Ginsburg was thinking racially when she said that, though she may have been thinking that it would be better if poor women had more abortions.

By way of Ed Morrissey, who has a slightly different take on this than I do.

(Earlier in the interview, Ginsburg tries to defend Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor against the damage done by her claim that wise Latinas make better decisions than white men.  Ginsburg dismisses it as something that Sotomayor "didn't get out quite right".  Either Ginsburg does not know that the claim was part of a formal speech that Sotomayor delivered more than once and had published at least once, or Ginsburg is being disingenuous.

Emily Bazelon didn't follow that up, either.  Taken as a whole, the interview shows that it is nearly always a mistake to send a cheerleader to interview a team star.)
- 9:55 AM, 9 July 2009   [link]

Is Obama Impulsive?  That's the conclusion of blogger Dafydd ab Hugh.
Alas, Obama is probably the most impulsive man ever to sit in the big chair in la Casa Blanca; he appears allergic to debate, discussion, deliberation, contemplation, thinking things through, weighing consequences, examining the pros and cons, hearing from all sides before making a decision — and of course retrospection.
To support his argument, ab Hugh analyzes Obama's decision making after Honduran president Zelaya was ousted.

But ab Hugh's conclusion is hard to reconcile with Obama's presidential campaign, which was brilliantly conceived, very well executed, and not at all impulsive.  One could reconcile them by saying that Obama had little to do with his campaign, that he just followed the directions of his managers, but that seems implausible.

So I don't think Obama is impulsive.  Instead I think, as I have said before, that often he should be understood as a machine politician.  Even his decisions on foreign policy should be understood that way.  Here's an example of a machine politician's thinking I took from Edwin O'Connor's The Last Hurrah, with my conclusion:
Think about the principles behind Skeffington's foreign policy.  His positions are not chosen to further American interests or values.  Instead, he takes stands to appeal to particular groups within his constituency — and he is not even interested in how those stands might affect American interests and values.
(Edwin O'Connor based his Mayor Skeffington on a well-known machine politician, James Michael Curley.  O'Connor's description of Skeffington is still a good guide to the behavior of machine politicians, though O'Connor omitted most of the seamier side of the business.)

Would Obama's decision to back Zelaya appeal to constituency groups?  Sure, though perhaps not as many in the nation as in Obama's Hyde Park neighborhood.  But it will please those on the hard left, some of whom must be displeased by Obama's decisions to retain so many Bush policies in the war on terror.
- 9:04 AM, 9 July 2009   [link]