July 2009, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Today Will Be Devoted To Field Research On Global Warming:  I'll be with a team collecting data at this key site.

If you were to watch the four web cams, you might see us there some time today.
- 5:30 AM, 31 July 2009   [link]

Think Obama Has Been On TV A Lot?  You're right.
Martha Joynt Kumar, a scholar of presidential communications strategies at Towson University, reports that President Obama is almost everywhere in the media.  In their first four months, Bill Clinton gave 11 interviews, and George W. Bush gave 18, compared with 43 from Obama.  He has offered his eloquence to ABC News at least six times, seven times on CBS and nine times on NBC.

That large number doesn't count his latest TV interview blitz, or the four prime-time press conferences.
The stories on Obama in the "mainstream" media have been mostly positive.  For example, on the Obama-Pelosi-Reid health insurance plans.
A new study by the Business and Media Institute shows that if liberal health plans are losing popularity, it can't be blamed on TV news.  From Jan. 20 to June 24 on ABC, CBS and NBC, fully 70 percent of the soundbites supported Obama's leftist health-care ideas.  Network reporters exaggerated the number of uninsured Americans up to "50 million."  The networks ignored how big-government health schemes like the one in Massachusetts were more costly than planned.
But he has been dropping in the polls, anyway.   For example.  Some of that drop can be explained by the criticism of Obama in the alternate media, conservative talk shows, and blogs like this one.  But some of it also has to be attributed to the fact that Obama is trying to govern a center-right country from the left.  Many ideas that are not just popular in his Hyde Park neighborhood, but unquestioned there, do not have majority support in the nation as a whole.

(Some of the drop in his popularity can also be explained by Obama's inexperience.  His many blunders and gaffes have not received a lot of coverage from the "mainstream" media, but they are leaking through.)
- 7:52 AM, 30 July 2009   [link]

Chicago And Seattle Have Traded Weather:   Chicago.
The National Weather Service says 2009 has seen the coldest July since the official recording station was moved away from the lakefront in 1942.  The average temperature this month in Chicago has been a mere 68.9 degrees.
If temperatures stay at 90 degrees or higher through Saturday, that will add up to six sweltering days in a row.  And if Seattle's high reaches 100 degrees today, as forecast, it will tie the city's all-time temperature record.
Weather that warm is rare enough in this area so that many here do not have air conditioning.  And most of us are less adapted to the heat than people in areas where such temperatures are common.  (I'll be adapting in my own way later today, by leaving my apartment for places with air conditioning, most likely a library and a shopping mall.)

(Those interested in the details of the weather in this area will want to look at Cliff Mass's blog from time to time.)
- 7:40 AM, 29 July 2009   [link]

That Gates Arrest?  May have been an Irish quarrel.
Henry Louis Gates Jr., the black professor at the center of the racial story involving his arrest outside his Harvard University-owned house, has spoken proudly of his Irish roots.

Strangely enough, he and the Cambridge, Mass., police officer who arrested him, Sgt. James Crowley, both trace their ancestry back to the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages.
Or not so strangely, since millions have Niall as their ancestor.

(I don't know whether Gates has ever claimed that he was discriminated against because he was Irish, but I wouldn't be surprised if he has.)
- 6:47 AM, 29 July 2009   [link]

Now NPR Has The Republicans In The Lead:  On the generic ballot.
The so-called generic ballot question was also very close.  Asked whether they would support a Democrat or a Republican for Congress in 2010 if the election were held today, 42 percent said they would choose a Democrat and 43 percent a Republican, a difference well within the poll's margin of error (plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for each number in each question).
Though it is true that the lead could just be sampling error.

NPR polled registered voters, so their results are quite close to recent Rasmussen polls of likely voters.  (Likely voters are usually a percent or two more Republican than registered voters.)

(Here's the RealClear Politics list of similar polls.  Note that polls from other organizations still show solid Democratic leads, and that NPR had the two parties tied back in March.)
- 6:16 AM, 29 July 2009   [link]

Climate Change Pragmatists:  Those who disagree with climate change alarmists like James Hansen and Al Gore are often described, politely, as "skeptics", or sometimes, not so politely, as "deniers".  Those who like temperature coding sometimes call one side "warmists" and the other side "coldists".  (That makes those of us in the middle "luke-warmists", I suppose.)

But "skeptic" doesn't really fit people like Bjorn Lomborg, who accepts the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but comes to different conclusions than Al Gore as to the appropriate policy responses.  Nor does it really apply to a speaker I saw last week, climatologist Pat Michaels.

Here's how Michaels begins the first chapter in his book, Climate of Extremes.
Earth's mean temperature is doubtlessly warmer than it was 100 years ago.  Get over it.

What matters is (1) how much it has warmed, (2) how much of that warming is caused by human activity, and (3) how the relationship between that activity and present temperatures can be translated into a reliable estimate of future warming and its effects.
Does Michaels sound like a "skeptic" to you?  Or like a pragmatist?

(Another man I would call a climate change pragmatist is Richard Lindzen.  You can find a sample of his thinking here.)
- 2:02 PM, 28 July 2009   [link]

Delusional:  The Seattle Times weighs in on the Gates arrest and argues:

In the larger picture, what ought to drive attention and public policy is the long history of racial disparities in law enforcement.

African Americans are 12 percent of the U.S. population, yet account for 28 percent of national arrests and 38 percent of those convicted of a felony.  More than 60 percent of prison inmates are racial and ethnic minorities.  Among black males in their twenties, 1 in every 8 is in prison or jail on any given day.

It would be easy to accept these statistics as proof that blacks commit more crimes.   Racial profiling is more likely.

(Emphasis added.)

That last sentence is an astonishing slur on our police, whatever their race or ethnicity.  In particular, it is an astonishing slur on our many black police officers, who have one of the toughest jobs in the world, and often do it very well.

As happens far too often, I am left hoping that whoever wrote that editorial is lying, that they do not believe what they wrote.  But I fear that they do, which is why I chose that title for this post.

Oddly, whoever wrote the editorial is right about racial disparities in law enforcement, but not in the way that they think.  In the past, racists often tolerated black-on-black crime.  Now, the people who tolerate, or excuse, or even deny, as in that editorial, the problem of black crime are almost all on the left.  I won't get into their motives; I'll leave that question to liberals like Jim Sleeper.  But I will say this:  The people hurt most by the tolerance for black crime are usually black.   That fact, which should trouble every decent American, apparently has escaped the Seattle Times editorial board.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(I didn't bother to check the numbers in that second paragraph, since the Times doesn't give their source(s).  Most likely all of their numbers are wrong.  For instance, the census says that blacks make up 12.8 percent of the population — but that's without counting people who identify themselves as mixed race.)
- 9:40 AM, 28 July 2009   [link]

Is Obama A Snob?  Lefty Bernie Quigley is starting to suspect that Barack "Arugula" Obama might look down on common people.
Purely from a marketing point of view, Obama's knee-jerk identification with Professor Gates when he didn't have all the facts was terrible strategy.  A samurai would never open a chink that wide for the opposition to exploit.  And he took his audience for granted.  Just as Letterman did.  And it showed Obama's instinctive identification with a small and cloistered elite and one which William F. Buckley Jr. considered so self-important and deluded that he said he'd rather be governed by the first 50 names in the Boston phonebook.

Obama instantly alienated himself from the vast world of common folk he so hopes to save.
. . .
Is Obama a snob?  Does he see himself only as a title in caricature and dress up as snobs do?   As Kerry does.  As Barbara Boxer does.  Does he to himself [sic] feel he doesn't belong where he is, as snobs do?  Is his only talent giving speeches?  Why is he so associated with pretenders?  Why would he seem uncomfortable with plain, original, solid folk?  People like Al Roker or Tony Dungy.  People like James Crowley.
Quigley isn't the first to have this suspicion — and won't be the last.  Not while Obama continues to make the kinds of choices that he has been making — like vacationing on that haven for common folk, Martha's Vineyard
- 7:56 AM, 28 July 2009   [link]

There Goes the police vote.

And if Officer Kelly King, in the course of her official duties, ever asks me to explain what I am doing, I will tell her, politely.

(Thomas Sowell says we shouldn't be surprised to see Obama get that encounter wrong.
Those who were shocked at President Obama's cheap shot at the Cambridge police for being "stupid" in arresting Henry Louis Gates must have been among those who let their wishes prevail over the obvious implications of Obama's 20 years of association with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.  Anyone who can believe that Obama did not understand what the racist rants of Jeremiah Wright meant can believe anything.
. . .
As a state senator in Illinois, Obama pushed the "racial profiling" issue, so it is hardly surprising that he jumped to the conclusion that a policeman was racial profiling when in fact the cop was investigating a report received from a neighbor that someone seemed to be breaking into the house that Professor Gates was renting in Cambridge.
There's no reason to think that Obama has changed since then, or that he has ever taken the time to learn the facts about this difficult subject.)
- 7:31 AM, 28 July 2009   [link]

As Bad As I Expected On Valerie Jarrett:  Yesterday I glanced at the cover of the New York Times magazine, saw the picture of Obama ally and aide Valerie Jarrett, and assumed they would leave all the interesting parts out.  They did.  As Malkin details, the Times wrote an extremely long profile, without ever mentioning some of Jarrett's sins, without ever mentioning, for example, her part in the failure of the Grove Parc housing project.

Why did I expect the Times to leave out the interesting parts?  Because that's what the Times has done before.  Deliberately, in my opinion, because the very best exposé of Jarrett that I've seen was done by the Boston Globe — which is owned by the New York Times.

(More here on Jarrett's sins.)
- 4:14 PM, 27 July 2009   [link]

Funny How Often this happens.
They were elected on the promise of delivering prosperity to Argentina, but statistics showing a stunning economic turnaround have come with a catch.

New figures show that since Nestor and Cristina Kirchner came to power in 2003, they have presided over a remarkable sixfold increase in their own wealth.

The couple have racked up a fortune through property speculation and investments that have thrived even as the economy has faltered.  Last year alone their wealth jumped 158% to £7.3m.
Probably just a coincidence.  But leaders, particularly leftist leaders, often profit while in office.

How has Argentina been doing recently?  Not too well.
They were popular for presiding over a speedy recovery after Argentina's econnomic meltdown in 2001-02.  But underlying problems became apparent after "Queen Cristina", as she is known to some, took over.

Analysts said inflation was perhaps triple the official rate of 9%, a figure widely viewed as a product of government fiddling, and a bruising battle with farmers over export taxes was compounded by a drought.  After six consecutive years of steady growth the IMF expects GDP to shrink by about 1.5% this year.  Industrial activity has slumped.
(The Guardian made a spelling error in that article, but since they are famous, perhaps unfairly, for such mistakes, I left it in.)
- 1:03 PM, 27 July 2009   [link]

Climate Shift On Mt. Rainier?  When I first posted a graph showing the total snowfall on Mt. Rainier from 1921 to the present, I did so to provide readers a chance to do some simple data analysis.  Most readers, judging by the comments at Sound Politics, thought that I was making a point about global warming.  I was not, except in a negative way, which I will explain at the end of this post.

(One very well-informed reader guessed that I posted the graph to show a linear trend.  And there is a linear trend, but I don't think it fits the data well, for reasons I explained in that second post.)

It is often helpful in looking at a set of data to begin with the very simplest kind of analysis.  Excluding the missing years, as we must, the average snowfall during this period was 637.3 inches per year.  (Yes, I know that that number suggests a false precision in the original measurements, but that's a subject for another post.)  So I started by drawing that dotted line across the chart to show the average.

Mt. Rainier total snowfalls, 1920-2009, showing 2 periods

And when you draw that line, you see that most of the years before 1954-1955 were below average, and that most of them after that year were above average.  (Not quite like the children in Lake Woebegone, but close.)  We can get an even better picture by bracketing the snowfall in those two periods with minima and maxima.  And, by now, I hope almost everyone can see that there are at least two distinct periods in the snowfall records, from 1920-1921 to 1942-1943 (and perhaps later), and from 1954-1955 (and perhaps earlier) to the present.  Within each period, there appears to be no obvious trend.

Anyone who took an elementary statistics class will have noticed a second way in which the two periods differ; the snowfall varies more from year to year in the second period.  (Specifically, the standard deviation is 125 inches in the first period and 165 inches in the second.)  That gives us even more reason to think that there was a shift between the two periods.

Infuriatingly, the missing years prevent us from know exactly when that shift happened, and whether it was gradual or abrupt — using only this data.

But there is a warning in the shift, and it is a warning that all of us should take seriously.  As far as I know, climate scientists do not generally think that the shift was anthropogenic, that it was caused by man's activities.  But that implies that, regardless of our views on global warming models, that we should be prepared for significant shifts in climate.  They can happen, whether or not we cause them.  For instance, in the next century, there will almost certainly be a large volcanic eruption, which will cool the earth for a few years.  And we know from the geological record that some past eruptions were devastating, to put it mildly.

Nothing is constant except change, and that is true of our climate in the long run, as well as everything else.

Not being an expert climatologist like Joel Connelly (who moonlights as a Seattle PI columnist), or Greg Nickels (who moonlights as mayor of Seattle), or Al Gore (who moonlights as a carbon credits salesman), I won't say anything definitive about what snowfall records at Mt. Rainier tell us about climate models.  I recognize that there is much that I do not know about the subject, and I wish those three gentlemen would do the same.

But I will say two things, the first tentatively, and the second, not.  First, if those records are typical of this area, if there was a similar shift to higher levels of snow in other parts of the Cascades, beginning somewhere between 1943 and 1954, then an adequate regional climate model should be able to predict that.  To put it another way, an adequate simulation of this region's climate should be able to take conditions around, for example, 1930, and produce the climate we now have, and have had for decades.  I have no idea whether any models are able to do that.  But if none are, then we have reason to be dubious about their ability to predict future climates.

Second, the climate change debate has become so polarized, so politicized, that many look at any new piece of data as possible ammunition for their side in the argument.  That's a serious error, in my opinion.  The climate will warm, or will not warm, regardless of the arguments we make about it.  No speech, however powerful, no post, however amusing, will make any difference to the earth's temperature.  And, though I shouldn't have to say this, no personal insult will make any difference, either.

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.

Finally, some of my favorite pictures of the snow at Rainier, taken in March, 2008.)
- 10:26 AM, 27 July 2009
Correction: Looking at the snowfall data yesterday, I made an off-by-one error on some of the years.  I have corrected the dates in the text.  The error had no effect on the graph or on any of my conclusions, tentative, or otherwise.
- 8:09 AM, 28 July 2009   [link]

Speaker Pelosi May Not Care:  But her backbenchers in marginal seats may.
"No, I don't care," Pelosi told POLITICO last Thursday, laughing heartily as she walked beneath the Capitol dome and plunged into a crowd of tourists.

Last week's Public Strategies Inc./POLITICO poll brought grim news for Pelosi, revealing that only a quarter of Americans trust the San Francisco Democrat — putting her in the basement with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).
In my opinion, Pelosi is now unpopular enough to be a small drag on House Democrats.  If she continues to run the House in the same arrogant way, she may lose her majority in 2010.  As of now, the odds are against that happening, because the Democrats have such a large majority.  As I write, the InTrade bettors give the Republicans one chance in four of retaking the House next year.  That seems, if anything, a little high to me.  But I would give the Republicans at least three chances in four of making substantial gains in 2010.  And Pelosi is one of the reasons I put the odds of substantial gains that high.

(By substantial, I mean twenty seats or more.

As Minority Leader, Pelosi was probably a plus, politically, for the Democrats.  Her refusal to work with the Bush administration on a variety of issues may not have been public spirited, but it was effective, politically.)
- 7:26 AM, 27 July 2009   [link]

Remember Dan Quayle?  What if the former vice president had made all these mistakes?   What if, for example, Quayle often had problems remembering when to use "an" rather than "a"?   Would our press corps have taken that as definitive proof that Quayle simply wasn't bright enough to be vice president, much less president?
- 6:52 AM, 27 July 2009   [link]

Senator Conrad Has A Radical Idea:  The Senate should think about health insurance reform before passing any bills.
"It's just not possible to have a Democrat-only bill?" I [George Stephanopoulos] asked Sen. Conrad.

"No, it is not possible," he told me, "and perhaps not desirable either.  We're probably going to get a better product if we go through the tough business of debate, consideration, and analysis of what we're proposing."

Conrad would not commit to Obama's August recess deadline for health reform legislation.

"Look the critical thin[g] is that we do get this right.  This is going to affect every American.  Very few legislative initiatives affect every single American.  And it's one-sixth of the national economy, so it's critically important we get it right.
(Emphasis added.)

That Conrad has to say something this commonsensical tells us a lot about the level of debate in our nation's capital.  And note that to say that he had to answer Stephanopoulos's question — and then slide into what he really wanted to say.  As far as I can tell, Stephanopoulos is not at all interested in the second part of Conrad's answer, even though Conrad is being highly critical, indirectly, of many in his own party.

(For contrast, an unpleasant contrast, read this Washington Post article, which is all about the political calculations behind the rush to pass something, anything, in order to help Obama politically.)
- 7:03 PM, 26 July 2009   [link]

Hope And Change In Massachusetts:  In 2006, Massachusetts elected governor a young, black, Harvard-trained lawyer, with considerable experience in Chicago-style politics.  The lawyer, Deval Patrick, was elected with the help of David Axelrod, and ran on a program of hope and, presumably, change, since he was trying to win back the state house for the Democrats.

Sound familiar, even if you aren't from Massachusetts?  It should.  Barack Obama borrowed themes, and even some words, from Patrick's campaign.

So how is Patrick working out in Massachusetts, one of our most Democratic states?  Poorly.
Governor Deval Patrick, fresh off signing a major tax increase and still battling through a historic budget crisis, has seen a huge drop in his standing among Massachusetts voters and faces a tough road to a second term, according to a new Boston Globe poll.

The survey, taken 16 months before the election, shows that the public has lost faith in Patrick's ability to handle the state's fiscal problems or bring reform to Beacon Hill, as he had promised.   He is either losing or running neck-and-neck in matchups with prospective rivals, according to the poll, conducted for the Globe by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

Patrick's favorability rating has dropped sharply over the past seven months, with just 36 percent of respondents holding a favorable opinion of him, and 52 percent viewing him unfavorably.  As recently as December, 64 percent of voters viewed him favorably.
He is running behind Charles D. Baker, even though "more than six in 10 respondents said they knew little about the Republican".  Polls show that an independent, former Democrat Timothy P. Cahill, runs about even with Patrick in a three-way race.  It is entirely possible that Patrick, who won in 2006 with 56 percent of the vote, will come in third in the 2010 election.

To drop that far, that fast, in such a Democratic state, Patrick had to make many mistakes, and he did.  He was far too self indulgent when he took office, and he has often been careless ethically.  And, he is on the far left, too far left for even Massachusetts.

And all those things sound familiar, too.

(There are other similarities.  Obama and Patrick were both abandoned by their fathers.  Both men married lawyers, and both worked as civil rights attorneys.

The differences between the two men are almost all to Patrick's advantage.  Patrick clerked for Steven Reinhardt, was an assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration, and did legal work for both Texaco and Coca-Cola.  He has signed a contract to write an autobiography, but has not yet written it.)
- 4:30 PM, 26 July 2009   [link]

Cambridge and New Jersey, Symbolism And Substance:  The immense attention paid to one arrest in Cambridge (Professor Gates) while 44 arrests — so far — in New Jersey are almost ignored shows why we often have trouble discussing issues, seriously.

By itself, Gates' arrest shows us almost nothing about the state of race relations in this country.   The mass arrests in New Jersey show us much about just how corrupt that state is, after years of investigations, and many convictions, including this one.   Since New Jersey is not unique, the arrests suggest that other states, especially neighboring states with similar political organizations, have similar problems.

But we would rather — and you can look at the front pages of most papers, Drudge, and Memeorandum if you want evidence for that — discuss the first than the second.  The symbolism in the Gates arrest is more important to us than the substance in the mass arrests.

Of course, some of this is partisanship.  Our "mainstream" journalists would much rather not discuss an almost entirely Democratic scandal.  But even those on the right have, so far, been more interested in the Cambridge arrest than in the mass New Jersey arrests.

(Even when a newspaper does discuss the mass New Jersey arrests, they are likely to make it one more horse race story, one more story telling us how this event affects political fortunes.  For an example, see this New York Times article, which laments the damage done to Jon Corzines's political fortunes by this latest scandal.  Nowhere in the article do they even consider the possibility that New Jersey may be better off without a governor who has ties to so many corrupt officials.

For the record:  What I think the Cambridge arrest shows us is that you can, if you are determined, get almost any policeman to arrest you, even if the policeman might not have the best of reasons to do so.)
- 1:36 PM, 25 July 2009   [link]