July 2010, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Some Germans Are Thinking Calamari:  After Paul the octopus predicted another soccer game correctly.
No one can say Germany's World Cup loss to Spain last night was unexpected.  Paul the octopus, after all, predicted as much on Tuesday.  Now, football fans are calling for Paul's head.

Germans thronged restaurants and bars on one of the longest, warmest nights of the year on Wednesday to watch the World Cup semifinal against Spain, rightfully anticipating an advance to the final on Sunday.  But they went home disappointed.  TV presenters spoke in sober cadences, and some Germans wondered how to cook octopus.
If you follow soccer, you'll know that Paul has been been quite accurate in his predictions.  (So accurate that some practical Germans are suggesting that he be used to make predictions about currency reform and other frivolous — by comparison to the World Cup — matters.)

But, as this example reminds us, making correct predictions does not always win you fans.
- 4:26 PM, 8 July 2010
Correction:  Calamari, is, of course, cooked squid, not octopus.   Offhand, I can't think of any specifically octopus dish, though I am sure there are many.

Meanwhile, the Spanish Prime Minister is joking that he may send a team to protect Paul.
- 7:35 AM, 9 July 2010   [link]

Some Surprising People Are Beginning To Miss George W. Bush:   Michael Barone goes to Aspen, mixes with a crowd consisting (mostly) of wealthy and powerful leftists, and hears this:
I attended a session last night on foreign policy where almost all of the panelists painted a gloomy picture of the state of world affairs (James Fallows was a little upbeat about China's apparent concessions on Iran sanctions and its own currency) and had little good to say about Obama administration policy.  There were even occasional notes of nostalgia for George W. Bush: Charlayne Hunter-Gault noted that Africans appreciated his anti-AIDS program and Elisabeth Bumiller said that her editors at The New York Times could not believe that people in India were big Bush fans.
That last is absolutely fascinating, since reputable polls (Pew, for instance) showed that people in India mostly liked Bush, as did many Indian leaders.  (In my opinion, with good reason.)  But editors at the Times refused to believe their own reporter and this publicly available evidence.

Charles Krauthammer had it absolutely right in 2003, when he said that some people were suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome.
- 2:00 PM, 8 July 2010   [link]

That Financial "Reform" Bill requires, in one section, ethnic and gender quotas at financial institutions which do business with the government.  Diana Furchtgott-Roth says she was surprised to find that section, but she shouldn't have been — the bill was, after all, written by Democrats.

(Kind of makes you wonder what other surprises are in the bill, doesn't it?)
- 1:36 PM, 8 July 2010   [link]

Ever Wonder How BP Is Steering The Drill Bit In That Relief Well?   The New York Times has an explanation.  Which will probably make more sense if you look at their graphic before reading the article.
- 8:47 AM, 8 July 2010   [link]

Rhode Island Has Been Following Arizona's New Immigration Policies Since 2008:   Specifically, when Rhode Island state troopers stop someone, they check their immigration status, if there is reason to believe they are illegal.  And if they are, Rhode Island reports them to federal authorities.

No word yet on whether the Obama administration will bring a suit against the heavily Democratic state of Rhode Island similar to the one they are bringing against the usually Republican state of Arizona.
- 8:27 AM, 8 July 2010   [link]

Call Them Irresponsible:  Liberal Washington Post columnist David Broder does just that, in discussing the failure of the Democratically-controlled Congress to pass a budget.
On June 30, the Congressional Budget Office issued its long-term outlook, predicting that deficits would come down for the next few years as the need for counter-recession spending eased and revenue improved.   But then, it warned, "unsustainable" red ink would flow again, creating debts not seen since World War II.

The next day the House of Representatives passed a one-year budget resolution rather than the normal blueprint committing the government to a fiscal plan of at least five years.

For all the publicity that goes to earmarks and other spending gimmicks, this was a far worse dereliction of duty.  And the cynicism of the maneuver just made it worse.
. . .
Of all the times for Congress to abandon its responsibility for long-term fiscal planning, this is the worst.
Border seems shocked by this "dereliction of duty", but he shouldn't be.  Not if he has been paying attention to what Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid have been doing since they took power.
- 7:14 AM, 8 July 2010   [link]

Danny Westneat Gets Half Of The Answer On Obama's Stimulus Plan:   The Seattle Times columnist does some investigative reporting on Obama's stimulus, and learns something interesting.

Why hasn't the stimulus stimulated us more? I poked around at the "track the money" website,  That answer is pretty simple: Most of the money isn't going to jobs.

A third of the $800 billion was for tax cuts. A huge mistake, in my view, as it largely gave payroll-tax refunds to people, like me, who already have jobs.

Another third went to shore up the states' health and education budgets.  I'm OK with this part — thousands of schoolteachers, health-care workers and researchers at the University of Washington have kept their jobs, at least for now.

The last third was sent out as grants to try to create actual jobs.
. . .

Instead, what Congress and President Obama did is throw 800 billion borrowed dollars out the window.  It now showers across the land, with some positive effects.  Just not many you can touch.  Probably none that will be remembered.

(There are some errors in Westneat's description of the spending, but I will leave those for others, since I want to go directly to a larger point.)

Westneat thinks that we should have spent more on infrastructure, but does not know (or does not tell us) why Obama chose not to.

Christina Hoff Sommers knows, and told us, last year.

Last November, President-elect Obama addressed the devastation in the construction and manufacturing industries by proposing an ambitious New Deal-like program to rebuild the nation's infrastructure.  He called for a two-year "shovel ready" stimulus program to modernize roads, bridges, schools, electrical grids, public transportation, and dams and made reinvigorating the hardest-hit sectors of the economy the goal of the legislation that would become the recovery act.

Women's groups were appalled.  Grids?  Dams?  Opinion pieces immediately appeared in major newspapers with titles like "Where are the New Jobs for Women?" and "The Macho Stimulus Plan."  A group of "notable feminist economists" circulated a petition that quickly garnered more than 600 signatures, calling on the president-elect to add projects in health, child care, education, and social services and to "institute apprenticeships" to train women for "at least one third" of the infrastructure jobs.  At the same time, more than 1,000 feminist historians signed an open letter urging Obama not to favor a "heavily male-dominated field" like construction: "We need to rebuild not only concrete and steel bridges but also human bridges."  As soon as these groups became aware of each other, they formed an anti-stimulus plan action group called WEAVE--Women's Equality Adds Value to the Economy.

These groups succeeded in shifting the spending away from the infrastructure projects that Westneat says he wants.  They could not have succeeded without the support of Obama, and the Democratic majorities in Congress.

(It is a point often forgotten, in newsrooms, and other places dominated by leftists, but women are often hurt when a man loses a job.  Those women get very little sympathy from feminists.  And are pretty much invisible to journalists like Westneat.)

This time, to his credit, Westneat names one actual Democratic politician whose plan failed, President Obama.  (Although I can't give him a lot of credit for just getting one of the basics right.)

But I also think that Westneat needs to go an extra step.  Neither our senior senator, Patty Murray, nor our junior senator, Maria Cantwell, is likely to answer my questions on this shift — but they might answer Westneat's.  He could begin by asking them whether the shift that Sommers describes has made what many have called a "man-cession" worse, whether it would have been better to stick to Obama's original plan.  (As far as I know, the Seattle Times does not have a formal rule against asking our senators such questions.)  Asking them that question would give Westneat another chance to commit journalism.  And we can all hope he takes it.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 1:16 PM, 7 July 2010   [link]

Dennis Prager has a good question:
Here's a challenge: Can you name one difference between what the media refer to as "world opinion" and Left-wing opinion?
Conservatives will like his answer; leftists (and most journalists) won't.  (Long time readers will find parts of his column familiar, though I have never made my similar arguments quite so elegantly.)
- 12:30 PM, 7 July 2010   [link]

Does Barack Obama Care About Democracy And Human Rights?   Rather than answer that question directly, let me bring on Anne Applebaum and Richard Cohen, both of whom voted for Obama.

First, Applebaum.
But democracy promotion has also been unfairly discredited by the invasion of Iraq, a decision too often remembered as nothing more than a foolish "war for democracy" that went predictably wrong.  The subsequent failure of Iraq to metamorphose overnight into the Switzerland of the Middle East is cited as an example of why democracy should never be pushed or promoted.  This silly argument has had a strong echo: Since becoming president, Barack Obama has shied away from the word democracy in foreign contexts -- he prefers "our common security and prosperity" -- as if it might be some dangerous Bushism.

In fact, democracy promotion was not invented by a secret cabal of neocons but is, rather, a long-standing tool of bipartisan American as well as Western foreign policy, one that has overlapped at times with both public diplomacy and foreign aid.  The Germans use their political party foundations to bolster democrats, especially in Eastern Europe; the British sometimes work through the Commonwealth, the organization of former British colonies and others in Africa and Asia.  We Americans tend to spend money on media (Radio Free Europe and its modern offshoots), on training (for judges, journalists, activists) and, yes, sometimes on covert funding of democrats in authoritarian countries.
(Emphasis added.)

As far as I know, Obama didn't say much about democracy before becoming president, either.

We promote democracy for both practical, and idealistic, reasons.  Democratic countries are unlikely to be threats to us, or our friends.  And most Americans want to share the great gift of self government with others.  (Is Obama in that group?  I don't know, though it is fair to say that, at the very least, he cares less about democracy than George W. Bush does.)

Next, Cohen.
For instance, it's not clear that Obama is appalled by China's appalling human rights record.  He seems hardly stirred about continued repression in Russia.  He treats the Israelis and their various enemies as pests of equal moral standing.  The president seems to stand foursquare for nothing much.
(Cohen goes on to argue that Obama is a "pragmatist", which is simply foolish.  Pragmatists do not become community organizers or civil rights lawyers.  Obama has ideals; he just doesn't have the same ideals as Cohen.  In particular, like many campus leftists, he doesn't have a strong attachment to the Western — and that's a key point — concepts of human rights.)

Applebaum and Cohen don't appear ready to support a Republican in 2012, but they do appear to be, however slowly, realizing what they should have known in 2008: Barack Obama does not share many of their ideals.
- 10:24 AM, 7 July 2010   [link]

Meanwhile, Back In Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco (1):  Some public workers have been partying.
Bored and unsupervised, five highly paid electricians working for the city of San Francisco spent years allegedly stealing from taxpayers during a remarkable binge that investigators say involved sex parties with prostitutes, moonlighting on city time and fraudulent billing to pay for their suburban lifestyles.
A glance at their pictures will show you that it was a pleasingly diverse group of thieves.  They may have come from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, but they were able to work together, harmoniously, for years.

For some people that may be enough; most, however, will want basic honesty, as well.

(There's an interesting detail in the story.  The electricians appear to have drifted into these crimes partly because they didn't have anything to do most days.)
- 9:49 AM, 7 July 2010   [link]

Hezbollah In Tijuana?!  Here's the basic story.
Hezbollah operatives employed Mexicans nationals with family ties to Lebanon to set up the network, designed to target Israel and the West, the Al-Seyassah daily said.

According to the report, Mexican police mounted a surveillance operation on the group's leader, Jameel Nasr, who traveled frequently to Lebanon to receive information and instructions from Hezbollah commanders there.

Police say Nasr also made frequent trips to other countries in Latin America, including a two-month stay in Venezuela in the summer of 2008.

Nasr was living in Tijuana, Mexico at the time of his arrest, the report said.
(Which has, if Google News is to be trusted, drawn almost no attention from American newspapers.   Exception:  The Investor's Business Daily.  It is odd how often we have to get basic news stories from conservative editorial pages.)

Now then, what to make of this news?  Why would Hezbollah be setting up a base in Tijuana , of all places?

Two reasons jump out at me:  Hezbollah wants to sell illegal drugs to Americans because it needs cash, and that is a practical, and ideologically satisfying way (for them) to get cash.  (And they are not the first American enemy to adopt that strategy.)  Second, and more worrisome, they want to build up their base in the United States, and they need someone near the United States to coordinate the effort.

The Hezbollah operation in the United States is probably not intended — mainly — to support terrorist attacks in the United States.  Instead, and military professionals will appreciate this point, Hezbollah probably intends to use the United States to strengthen its logistics for attacks elsewhere.   The subject hasn't received much attention, but radical Islamic groups have been able to raise substantial sums here in the United States, and this country may be the best place in the world to acquire some kinds of militarily useful technology.

(Would some of the drugs Hebollah hopes to sell be produced in Venezuela?  That connection would help explain that lengthy visit.  But there are other possibilities.)
- 9:28 AM, 7 July 2010   [link]

The Black Panther Voter Intimidation Scandal:  John Fund has the best succinct description of the scandal that I've seen.

Here's his lead paragraph:
J. Christian Adams, a former career Justice Department official who resigned over the Obama administration's failure to pursue a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party, will finally get a chance to tell his story in public today when he testifies before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Read the whole thing, and consider sharing it with your friends.
- 5:04 PM, 6 July 2010   [link]

A Brief Note On Michael Steele's Problems:  If someone had asked me (no one in authority did) what kind of party chairman the Republicans needed after the 2008 losses, I would have said: "A colorless technician".  I would have favored a man (or woman) who would raise money, rebuild the organization, recruit candidates, and say no more in public than necessary.

My arguments for that kind of candidate are simple:  The party chairman is not an official elected by the voters, not even Republican voters, and has no claim to speak for them.  The Republican party, like the Democratic party, is necessarily so diverse that one set of views can not represent all of the elected Republicans (or Democrats), so it is best for the chairman not to spend his time pushing his own views.  When a party does not control the presidency or congress, it has no official spokesman, and the party chairman should recognize that.

A party chairman can help his party by attending to the basic duties of his position, especially candidate recruitment.  But he will almost never help his party by saying something controversial.

That said, Michael Steele may have been the best candidate for the position — of those who actually ran for the position.  He hasn't been all bad, though I do wish he would find a chief operating officer to help him in the job.  And, like most Republicans, I wish he would do a little more, and say a little less.
- 8:53 AM, 6 July 2010   [link]

There Will Be More Republican Governors Next Year:  Way more, according to current polls.
A Smart Politics analysis of nearly 1,800 gubernatorial elections since the beginning of the 20th Century finds that Republicans are poised to win more gubernatorial seats in 2010 than they have in any election cycle over the past 90 years.
Of course the polls could change, especially in states where the races are close.  And the public service unions will be going all out for the Democratic candidates in most of these elections.  But, even allowing for opinion shifts, and union power, I would expect — at the very least — close to a record number of Republican gubernatorial victories this year.

Some of those victories will be in states that usually vote Democratic.  Current polls now give Republican gubernatorial candidates leads in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, and Vermont.

In some states, Pennsylvania for example, those victories may give Republicans an advantage in Congress that will last through 2020, since next year many states will have to re-district.
- 7:57 AM, 6 July 2010   [link]

"To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before"  Or to make Muslims feel good about their past?  NASA may never have used the Star Trek slogan, but at one time it was a good description of their mission.

Now, says Charles Bolden, President Obama has switched NASA's mission to the second:
Bolden made the statements during a recent trip to the Middle East.  He told al-Jazeera that in the wake of the president's speech in Cairo last year, the American space agency is now pursuing "a new beginning of the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world."  Then:

When I became the NASA Administrator — before I became the NASA Administrator — [Obama] charged me with three things: One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and  third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.
(Emphasis added.)

I found that so amazing that I watched the whole 22-minute interview, just to see if Bolden ever backtracked, if he ever qualified what he had said was NASA's mission.  He didn't.

And he said some other amazing things in the interview, that we are a long way from militarizing space, that the International Space Station was a great example of what could be achieved through international cooperation, that we didn't know precisely the orbits of asteroids (true for some, but not true for those that have been studied for centuries, such as Ceres, Vesta, and Pallas), and that we are not going anywhere above low earth orbit by ourselves.  (No, we can't!)

Note, please, that Bolden does not say that this is his policy, but that it is Obama's, that making Muslims feel good about their past history is what Obama has told him should be NASA's highest priority, way above, I assume, putting people and objects into space.  (If that even makes the top ten.)

Obama probably did tell Bolden something like that, though Obama might not have put it quite as clearly as Bolden did.  (Obama is a lawyer and politician; Bolden was a Marine pilot, test pilot, and astronaut.)  It's consistent with Obama's Cairo speech, and with Bolden's own Cairo speech.

(There was a striking line in Obama's Cairo speech that has drawn less attention than it deserves
So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed.   That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't.  And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. (Applause.)
(Again, emphasis added.)

Imagine the reaction, said Beldar, if George W. Bush had said the same thing, except about Christianity.)

The interview gives us more reason to think that this new mission, making Muslims feel good about their past, is not Bolden's idea.  In it, he reveals that he once hoped to go to the moon, and that he hopes that his granddaughter will go to Mars.  That's more like the old NASA spirit, but not at all like Obama's policies.

(I did a very brief search on the net to find out a little more about Bolden.  I didn't find enough to get a full picture of the man, but I did learn two things:  According to this Wikipedia biography, he flew "more than 100 sorties" in Vietnam — and, according to this NASA biography, he and his wife named their son, "Anthony Che".  The middle name doesn't seem to have done his son any harm; he's now a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps.

Those who know more about the law than I do may want to investigate whether this new mission is consistent with the law establishing NASA, and with congressional directives in appropriations bills.)
- 7:11 AM, 6 July 2010   [link]

Big Business Sours On Obama:  So says Fareed Zakaria.
Most of the business leaders I spoke to had voted for Barack Obama.  They still admire him.  Those who had met him thought he was unusually smart.  But all think he is, at his core, anti-business.  When I asked for specifics, they pointed to the fact that Obama has no business executives in his Cabinet, that he rarely consults with CEOs (except for photo ops), that he has almost no private-sector experience, that he's made clear he thinks government and nonprofit work are superior to the private sector.  It all added up to a profound sense of distrust.
And a slower recovery because these leaders, watching what Obama has done, are reluctant to invest or hire.

Everything in the column would make us believe that those business leaders are correct; Obama is "anti-business".  But Zakaria still hopes that Obama can somehow reach out to them.  Why Zakaria believes this could happen is not clear; perhaps we are seeing another example of the triumph of hope over experience.

It is extraordinary that so many business leaders backed Obama in the election, since nearly everything that would make us think that he was anti-business was obvious before the election, obvious to anyone who wanted to look at Obama's career, and his promises.  Perhaps these leaders thought that Obama was just engaging in the usual demagoguery about business that we hear, so often, from elected Democrats.

The leaders should have learned a lesson from Amarillo Slim; if you don't know who the sucker is, it's you.  I feel a little sorry for them, as I do for most suckers — but mostly I hope they learn something from their mistake.
- 2:25 PM, 5 July 2010   [link]

Happy 4th Of July!  Here's part of the Kirkland celebration.

Kirkland 4th of July, 2010

The picture may need an explanation, for those not from Kirkland.  Kirkland begins its 4th of July parade with kids, hundreds of kids, on bicycles, tricycles, scooters, foot, and even in strollers.  They are all decorated in patriotic colors, and a few wear costumes.  The kids, along with their parents, are behind that fence, and will be unleashed in a few minutes.  It's the best part of the celebration, in my opinion.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(I was able to get a few pictures of local candidates, and their supporters, and will be sharing them, during this next week, over at Sound Politics.)
- 4:40 PM, 4 July 2010   [link]

Meanwhile, Back In Barack Obama's Illinois (1):  The state is broke, broke, broke.
Even by the standards of this deficit-ridden state, Illinois's comptroller, Daniel W. Hynes, faces an ugly balance sheet.  Precisely how ugly becomes clear when he beckons you into his office to examine his daily briefing memo.

He picks the papers off his desk and points to a figure in red: $5.01 billion.

"This is what the state owes right now to schools, rehabilitation centers, child care, the state university — and it's getting worse every single day," he says in his downtown office.
It would be unfair to blame Obama for all of this balance sheet, or even most of it.  But it would be fair to blame Obama's political allies — and Obama — for most of it.

The state has been controlled for years by allies of Obama, notably former governor Rod Blagojevich.   If Obama saw anything wrong with the way they were bankrupting the state, he didn't say or do much about it.  And he could have, both as a state senator (with a safe seat), and as a US senator representing Illinois.

The state's fiscal recklessness is hitting many Illinois citizens hard.
In Illinois, the fiscal pain is radiating downward.

From suburban Elgin to Chicago to Rockford to Peoria, school districts have fired thousands of teachers, curtailed kindergarten and electives, drained pools and cut after-school clubs.  Drug, family and mental health counseling centers have slashed their work forces and borrowed money to stave off insolvency.

In Beardstown, a small city deep in the western marshes, Ann Johnson plans to shut her century-old pharmacy.  Because of late state payments, she could not afford to keep a 10-day supply of drugs.  In Chicago, a funeral home owner wonders whether he can afford to bury the impoverished, as the state has fallen six months behind on its charity payments, $1,103 a funeral.
Since this is the New York Times, you won't be surprised to learn that the reporter, Michael Powell, favors tax increases to solve the state's fiscal problems.  And tax increases may be necessary; Illinois is that broke.  But anyone with a little knowledge of Illinois politics will know that the state wastes immense amounts of money.

(I numbered this post because I expect many more such examples.

Californians will be pleased by this line:
"We are a fiscal poster child for what not to do," said Ralph Martire of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a liberal-leaning policy group in Illinois. "We make California look as if it's run by penurious accountants who sit in rooms trying to put together an honest budget all day."
It isn't true, but it may make them feel better to know that another state is in even worse shape.)
- 2:59 PM, 3 July 2010   [link]

Governor Blagojevich Dressed Well:  Or at least expensively.
A $5,000 Oxxford suit, $1,400 spent on Geneva Custom Shirts, $63 in Hanro underwear and $214 in ties — and it was all bought in a matter of days.

The Blagojevich household spent more on fine clothing than on their mortgage, child care, travel or private schools in the years that Rod Blagojevich served as governor, testimony at his trial today showed.

Jurors in the ex-governor's trial were shown credit card bill after credit card bill where Rod Blagojevich dropped hundreds of dollars at a time on ties at Saks Fifth Avenue and thousands of dollars on high-end, custom Oxxford suits, not to mention pricey Allen Edmonds footwear.

The grand total from 2002-2008: more than $400,000 on clothes.
Doesn't sound as though the Blagojevichs were sticking to a tight budget, even for a governor's family.   And this little story might help explain why Illinois is having trouble balancing its budget
- 6:26 AM, 2 July 2010   [link]

MSNBC Should Check the settings on their air conditioning systems.
- 6:01 AM, 2 July 2010   [link]

Allan Meltzer Isn't Surprised:  The Carnegie Mellon economics professor expected that the Obama policies would fail.
Two overarching reasons explain the failure of Obamanomics.  First, administration economists and their outside supporters neglected the longer-term costs and consequences of their actions.  Second, the administration and Congress have through their deeds and words heightened uncertainty about the economic future.  High uncertainty is the enemy of investment and growth.
Much of that uncertainty comes from regulations, as you can see in small examples, and large.   Karl Dietrich of Terrafugia has tried to follow all the regulations — but isn't sure he has succeeded — and a regulatory delay of even a few months might put his airplane company out of business.  The major petrochemical companies are holding back on investments, and may even have to close plants and lay off workers, because of the EPA's attack on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's flexible permits.
- 10:38 AM, 1 July 2010   [link]

The EPA Hurts Pollution Control in Texas, And Adds To Costs:  So says Mark Tapscott.
Why is it one question keeps recurring whenever EPA announces a decision:  What is wrong with these people?  The latest such example concerns the agency's rejection of a Texas air quality program that slashed emissions in the Lone Star state while encouraging increased workplace productivity.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had requested EPA permission to proceed with a flexible permits program covering 122 petroleum processing facilities that had been covered under a trial effort.  Air quality in Texas has dramatically improved under TCEQ leadership and EPA approval of its application would have extended the successful program permanently.
If you are like me, you probably wondered what was "flexible" about these permits.  Here's the best answer I found, in a very brief search.
The permits cap noxious emissions for an entire site rather than individual units within that site.   Environmentalists argue that permits for individual units would force operators to upgrade equipment.   State officials say the permits brought plants built before the 1990 federal Clean Air Act into the state regulatory system by giving operators flexibility to manage their overall emissions.

The Texas Clean Air Act creating the permitting system was passed under Gov. Ann Richards in 1993, and the state began using the law to issue permits in 1995.  Perry and TCEQ officials say the EPA never formally objected to the state's process.
If that description is correct, then the flexible permits sound like a very good idea, since it is often much easier to clean up some processes than others.  Flexible permits could result in both lower emissions and lower costs than the more rigid EPA rules.

That doesn't mean that they are legal under US laws, though.  If they are illegal — and I am not a lawyer and don't even play one on TV — then the law should be changed.

Tapscott ends with this prediction:
So, now TCEQ has to go back to the drawing board. Here's a prediction - When EPA finally approves a new set of rules for these Texas facilities, the end result will be less improvement in air quality, but the process will have provided the Washington bureaucrats with continued justification for their existence and enhanced their power over the rest of us.
Which sounds like a pretty good bet to me.

(It is still true that some Texas cities, thanks largely to their petrochemical industry, still have serious problems with pollution.  They have made great improvements, but they had farther to go than much of the country.)
- 10:15 AM, 1 July 2010   [link]

"Unexpectedly"  You know what will follow, don't you, more bad news on the economy?  And you would be right.
New claims for state jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week, while manufacturing activity and employment slowed in June, heightening fears the U.S. economic recovery is stalling.
During the Bush administration, good news on the economy was "unexpected" so often that it got to be something of a joke; now, since Obama took office, bad news is almost always "unexpected".

Perhaps our "mainstream" journalists should adjust their expectations.

(My sympathies to anyone who has to look for work in this environment, especially if you didn't vote for Obama, and the other Democrats now running this country.)
- 9:44 AM, 1 July 2010   [link]

Another Flying Car:  (Or, as the company calls it, a "roadable airplane".)  The Terrafugia Transition is the niftiest design I've seen for this combination.
The Terrafugia Transition is a two-seater car that can convert from road to air in less than a minute, without the driver leaving the vehicle.

The wings fold when in it is in car mode and the car can travel at speeds of up to 90 mph.  The wings then unfold for flight mode in which it can cruise at a speed of 115 mph for up to 500 miles on a tank of unleaded gasoline.

The "roadable aircraft" is powered by the same 100-bhp engine whether it is on the ground or in the air.
Here, according to the company, is one reason it might succeed when other flying cars have failed.
* A lot of previous "flying car" attempts have failed.  Why is this any different?

The Transition® has the advantage of modern engines, composite materials, and computer-based avionics.  Terrafugia's philosophy is to design a vehicle for pilots that brings additional ground capability to an airplane instead of attempting to make a car fly.
And here, according to the company's founder, is one reason it might not.
What were the biggest challenges in developing this vehicle?  [Carl] Dietrich: "There are a lot of regulations that govern air traffic and a lot of regulations that govern pilots.  We have a small team with limited resources and making sure that we abide by all those regulations was a significant challenges."
The Transition should get about 30 miles to the gallon on the road, and about 27 in the air.

Video press release here, and answers to many questions here.
- 7:51 AM, 1 July 2010   [link]

58 States?  An Associated Press reporter discovers a new one.
Police in the US state of Portland are reopening an investigation into an Oregon massage therapist's allegations that former vice-president Al Gore groped her at an upscale hotel in 2006.
Or perhaps Portland was one of Obama's 57.

(By way of Tim Blair.)
- 6:31 AM, 1 July 2010   [link]