June 2008, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

"Spinning Out Of Control":  The Associated Press.  Here are the first two paragraphs in an AP story.  Which is not labeled commentary.
Is everything spinning out of control?

Midwestern levees are bursting.  Polar bears are adrift.  Gas prices are skyrocketing.   Home values are abysmal.  Air fares, college tuition and health care border on unaffordable.   Wars without end rage in Iraq, Afghanistan and against terrorism.
Note the double standard; it is bad that some prices (gasoline) are up, and it is also bad that some prices (houses) are down.  And, as even some "mainstream" journalists are beginning to figure out, we are winning those wars.

(Oh, and those polar bears?  The people who live near them want them hunted, because hunters supply considerable employment in an impoverished area.

More thoughts on this "article" from Lileks.)
- 7:25 AM, 24 June 2008
More:  Did the Associated Press get their idea from the Onion?   Looks like it.
- 12:24 PM, 24 June 2008   [link]

Here Last Week, Gone This Week:  Obama's great seal.
After days of media mockery, Barack Obama has decided to stop using a presidential-looking seal that his campaign designed and affixed to his podium on Friday.

Journalists said the seal, which features an eagle clutching arrows and an olive branch, smacks of arrogance.  John McCain's camp had a field day, calling the seal "laughable, ridiculous, preposterous and revealing - all at the same time."

The seal was conspicuously missing from Obama's lectern when he spoke to a group of women in Albuquerque on Monday.  Not surprising, given how much grief Obama took from a normally laudatory press corps after unveiling the seal at an appearance in Chicago on Friday.
I was hoping he would say that he could no more disown the seal than he could disown his own family, and then, weeks later, disown the seal, when it got too embarrassing.
- 6:42 AM, 24 June 2008   [link]

RTN:  One of the surprises from switching to digital television was the sub-channels — which shows you, I suppose, how little attention I pay to television.   In this area, the PBS station, KCTS, has four sub-channels.  Two of the commercial channels have — so far — no sub-channels, and four of the commercial channels have two sub-channels.   One uses the extra channel to broadcast the same program as the first channel, which seems pointless.   (But they may be planning to change that in the future.)  Two of the channels are using their extra channel to broadcast continuous weather programs.

One station, KIRO, is doing something imaginative.  They are using their extra sub-channel to broadcast shows from the RTN, or to give the network its full name, from the Retro Television Network.  So, this evening, at 5:30 I could have watched Katie Couric on Kiro's first sub-channel, or Hogan's Heroes on KIRO's second sub-channel.  It was an easy choice.

The people running RTN have a sense of humor.  Along with the old programs they are running some of the old ads.  For instance, the other day I saw an ad for Hai Karate aftershave.

Finding RTN started me wondering what these sub-channels will do to cable networks.  The sub-channels belonging to existing stations must be very cheap to broadcast, if I understand the technology.  So it will be easy to add a sub-channel, and add another free choice for those who are too cheap to get cable or a satellite dish.  If there are enough of those free sub-channels, then some people will decide to stop their subscriptions to the cable companies.

Cable companies are at least as capable of figuring this out as I am, and so I assume that they worked to limit the number of commercial sub-channels.  But if it is possible to have many more digital sub-channels, then I would expect that limit to break down, in time, simply because the government can please voters and make money by auctioning off the additional sub-channels.

Those who dislike the cable companies will find that a pleasant prospect.
- 6:59 PM, 23 June 2008   [link]

Violence Trumps Elections:  We may wish that were not so, but it is, as this example from Zimbabwe reminds us.
The leader of Zimbabwe's opposition party withdrew Sunday from a presidential runoff, just five days before it was to be held, saying he could neither participate "in this violent, illegitimate sham of an election process," nor ask his voters to risk their lives in the face of threats from forces backing President Robert Mugabe.
. . .
A governing party militia blocked his supporters from attending a major rally in Harare on Sunday, the head of an election observer team said.  The opposition said rowdy youths, armed with iron bars and sticks, beat up people who had come to cheer for Mr. Tsvangirai.

It was the latest incident in a tumultuous campaign season in which Mr. Tsvangirai has been repeatedly detained, his party's chief strategist jailed on treason charges that many people consider bogus, and rampant state-sponsored violence has left at least 85 opposition supporters dead and thousands injured, according to tallies by doctors treating the victims.
Apparently, Mugabe thought he could use fraud and a little violence to win the first election round.  When that failed, he decided to use fraud and much more violence to win the second.
- 4:15 PM, 23 June 2008   [link]

All Right, How Much More Do They Need?  A couple of weeks ago, Washington state representative Dave Quall argued that we need a different system for financing public education in this state.  (He's probably right, though I am not sure he and I would agree on the remedy.)   As part of his argument, he made this claim:

Bottom line: Most school districts do not have the resources they need to provide our children with the quality basic education they deserve.

That inspired me to send this email to Quall:

Dear Representative Quall:

In your June 6th Seattle Times op-ed, you said that most of our school districts "do not have the resources they need" to provide a "quality basic education".  All right, how much more do our schools need?   I understand that you may not have an exact number, but would be satisfied with a rough estimate, such as 20 or 30 percent more.

If our schools had these resources, how much — and again, a rough estimate would be fine — would our test scores go up?

Feel free to add any more information that you think would help the public understand this problem.  For example, I think almost everyone would be interested in knowing how the funding has changed over the last thirty years.  And many would be interested in knowing whether you see any places that could be cut to provide more resources for our primary grades.  For example, would the state be better off if we spent less money on, for instance, the Woman's Studies department at Evergreen and more on reading teachers in Seattle's central district?

Because of the great interest in this subject, I would like to publish your answer both on my own site, Jim Miller on Politics, and at a group site, Sound Politics.

Jim Miller

Be interesting to see what Quall has to say, if anything.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 2:59 PM, 23 June 2008   [link]

An Inconvenient Graph:  In 1988, James Hansen gave his first testimony to Congress warning about global warming.  Today, he was back, with an even more dire warning.   What's happened to the temperature of the atmosphere in those twenty years?  Not much, as this graph, prepared by meteorologist Joe D'Aleo, shows.

anti-Hansen graph

As you can see, it is currently cooler now than it was 1988.

By way of Watts Up With That?, where you can find a lively discussion on Hansen's testimony.

(Some explanations for the graph:  UAH = University of Alabama, Huntsville.  MSU = Microwave Sounding Unit.  It's a satellite measuring system for atmospheric temperatures.  The temperatures on the graph are shown, as is customary in discussions of global warming, as deviations from a long term average.  In other words, it was a little warmer than the long term average when Hansen testified in 1988; it's now about .2 of a degree cooler.

As usual, when I discuss global warming, I urge you to read my disclaimer, if you have not already done so.)
- 2:18 PM, 23 June 2008   [link]

Energy ≠ Electricity:  In this post I quoted from a press release from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.  In their lead sentence they said:
In the year since Al Gore took steps to make his home more energy-efficient, the former Vice President's home energy use surged more than 10%, according to the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.
But that's not true, because the Center only has numbers for Gore's electricity use, and the house, as I recall from last year's story, also uses natural gas, a lot of natural gas.

It's likely that Gore cut his use of natural gas since last year; in fact that may be why his electricity use is up.  (He could have cut his natural gas use substantially just by heating his pool only when it was in use.)

So it is is not fair to say that Gore's "energy use" surged by more than 10 percent — unless his natural gas use also surged during this last year.  And the Center did not have numbers for his natural gas use in this year's press release.

Gore is still an energy hog, but, contrary to the press release, he may be less of one than he was last year.  (To know for sure just about his homes, you would also want to see the numbers on his San Francisco condominium.  And, of course, his travels burn enormous amounts of fuel.)

(The press releases in both years made an odd comparison between Gore's yearly use and the monthly use by an average family.  I don't think whoever wrote the press releases was trying to be deceptive — but I could be wrong.)
- 9:02 AM, 23 June 2008   [link]

Is James Hansen About To Jump The Shark?   Maybe.
James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.
More on this after he testifies.

I doubt that Hansen actually believes this, but I could be wrong.  And I am pretty sure that he has heard about the protections for free speech in our constitution.

(Is Hansen going to resign from his position at NASA?  Because I don't think our laws allow a bureaucrat to campaign openly:
He is also considering personally targeting members of Congress who have a poor track record on climate change in the coming November elections.  He will campaign to have several of them unseated.
Or he may feel that the laws don't apply to him.)
- 7:51 AM, 23 June 2008
More:  The New York Times covered the story — but left out the most interesting parts.  You'd almost think that their reporter, Andrew Revkin, was trying to cover for Hansen.
- 1:33 PM, 23 June 2008   [link]

Worth Reading:  William Kristol on the latest ad from MoveOn.  (Who refused to move on after Clinton was impeached, but not removed from office.)  Here's his conclusion:
The MoveOn ad is unapologetic in its selfishness, and barely disguised in its disdain for those who have chosen to serve — and its contempt for those parents who might be proud of sons and daughters who are serving.  The ad boldly embraces a vision of a selfish and infantilized America, suggesting that military service and sacrifice are unnecessary and deplorable relics of the past.

And the sole responsibility of others.
It's the best column I've seen from him at the New York Times.

(Some wonder whether MoveOn is illegally coordinating with the Obama campaign>

It's worth remembering from time to time that MoveOn's original slogan was "censure and move on" — but that they never censured Bill Clinton, as they or anyone else could have done.)
- 7:23 AM, 23 June 2008   [link]

"Don't Blame The Candidates":  When they break their promises, and defy the spirit of our campaign finance laws.  So says the Seattle Times editorial page editor, James Vesely.  

Don't blame the candidates.  They are not fully in charge.  They are as much the creatures of the super campaigns as they are the star attractions.  The media are to blame, also, for the endless horse-race that fixates us.

(Well, yes, the media should be blamed for their endless horse-race coverage.  Or ignored, in favor of blogs that provide more substance.)

How did Vesely come to this strange conclusion?  A look at the first part of the column provides a clue:

Sen. Barack Obama has stepped away from public funding of his campaign, disappointing some supporters — and maybe the 1-in-10 taxpayers who check off a $3 contribution to campaigns on their returns.

(Translation: "stepped away" = "cynically broke his promise".)

And so to cover for the junior senator from Illinois, Barack "Arugula" Obama, Vesely has to say that we shouldn't "blame the candidates".  He actually means that we shouldn't blame one particular candidate, but prefers not to say so directly.

Obviously, Vesely has a severe case of Obama mania.  In hopes that he will recover some time, I offer him this simple argument:  Barack Obama is an adult.  To the best of my knowledge, Obama is sane.  Therefore, Obama can be held responsible for what he does — and what he doesn't do.  In particular, Obama can be blamed for not keeping his promise to use public financing in the general election.  Even if he is a DEMOCRAT!  (Sorry for the shouting, but few "mainstream" journalists seem to understand that Democrats can be blamed for what they do, and fail to do.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Full disclosure:  In my opinion, most of the campaign finance laws are unconstitutional limits on the freedom of speech.  On this issue, the ACLU is right.

If Obama's opting out of the system, after promising to stay in it, helps get rid of this mess, then I will be pleased by that result.  And, if that leads to a decline in the power of our "mainstream" journalists, even better.)
- 12:55 PM, 22 June 2008   [link]

Congratulations To Speaker Pelosi And Majority Leader Reid:  You've set a new record.
Gallup's annual update on confidence in institutions finds just 12% of Americans expressing confidence in Congress, the lowest of the 16 institutions tested this year, and the worst rating Gallup has measured for any institution in the 35-year history of this question.
In its own way, that's an impressive rating.  Especially when you realize that at least 12% of Americans pay almost no attention to politics.

(Republicans should not let these poll results get their hopes up too high.  Many voters do not know which party controls Congress, and of those that do, many still blame Republicans for recent failures — with some justice.)
- 11:27 AM, 22 June 2008   [link]

Probably Not Illegal:  (Despite this opinion from the Weekly Standard.)   But very silly.
Just before the president of the United States makes an appearance at a speech, a usually tall, muscular person with a machine gun hanging under his suit coat quietly walks on stage and hangs the presidential seal on the podium front.

It's an impressive looking thing that conveys a sense of the power of the top elected office in the land and, indeed, the free world.

But Barack Obama's crowd has decided not to wait for any of the formalities like a presidential election, an inauguration or even a nomination, which he still hasn't actually officially won yet.  Wasn't it Hillary Clinton who was so s[n]idely accused of thinking her nomination was inevitable?

Obama now has his own Great Seal already.  And it is really, really big.  It's big like the tires on those elevated pickups in the parking lot at NASCAR races where you look out the car window and see nothing but fist-sized lug nuts.

Obama's new seal looks really presidential, which is probably a coincidence, don't you think?
How does that song go, again?  "He's so vain . . . "

It's interesting that no one in his campaign told Obama not to do this.  Or that he didn't listen, if someone did tell him.
- 11:13 AM, 22 June 2008   [link]

Vexillophobia:  Another word we may need to use more often.
Dutch school officials order two boys to remove Dutch flags from their backpacks because Moroccan students might find them "provocative".  A Swedish high school sends two girls home for having tiny Swedish flags on their sweaters; another bans national team shirts from class photos lest the flags on the shirts seem "xenophobic".  In England, prison officers are directed to stop wearing English flag pins — and a black dustman is instructed to shed a bandanna featuring St. George's cross — for fear Muslims will cry "racist".

Call it vexillophobia (vexillum, of course, being Latin for "flag").
Imagine, just for a moment, the reactions if these same authorities had banned Muslim crescents because they are "provocative" or "xenophobic".

(Technically, you probably want an adjective to go with "vexillophobia", since it is not a fear of flags in general, but a fear of displaying one's own flag.  I know only a few words of Latin, so I won't try to guess what the adjective might be.

The Swedish flag and the English flag both include crosses, but the Dutch flag has no religious symbolism, as far as I can tell.)
- 4:17 PM, 21 June 2008   [link]

The B.E.2c Scout:  Hanging from the ceiling of the Imperial War Museum are a number of airplanes, including this B.E.2c Scout.

BE2C Scout

An earlier version, the B.E.2a, was the first British plane to land in France during World War I.   Unfortunately, the characteristic that made the British government choose the B.E.2 in 1913, its stability, made it a poor choice as soon as these observation planes had to defend themselves against enemy fighters.  But at least one survived the war, anyway.
- 3:24 PM, 20 June 2008
Correction:  I originally said the airplane was a B.E.2a, after I misread my guidebook.  I have rewritten the post to correct the error.
- 3:40 PM, 20 June 2008   [link]

David Brooks Is Getting To Be As Cynical About Obama As I Am:  But he isn't there yet.
But as recent weeks have made clear, Barack Obama is the most split-personality politician in the country today.  On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spent this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set and feeling the fierce urgency of now.  But then on the other side, there's Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who'd throw you under the truck for votes.

This guy is the whole Chicago package: an idealistic, lakefront liberal fronting a sharp-elbowed machine operator.  Hes the only politician of our lifetime who is underestimated because he's too intelligent.  He speaks so calmly and polysyllabically that people fail to appreciate the Machiavellian ambition inside.
Brooks thinks that the Dr. Barack side is real, and I think it's a mask (one of many) that Obama puts on to fool particular audiences.
- 10:56 AM, 20 June 2008   [link]

Violin Teacher?  Or convicted ecoterrorist?  The Seattle Times prefers the first label, but the second label is more appropriate for this story.

Briana Waters, a California woman convicted in March of assisting in the 2001 arson that destroyed the University of Washington's Urban Horticulture Center, was sentenced this morning to six years in prison.

The reporters do note that the fire did cause more than $6 million in damages, or rather that "prosecutors say" that the fire did that much damage.  (As if there was any doubt about the matter.)  But Mike Carter and Nancy Bartley don't mention two other significant facts:  The ecoterrorists attacked the center because they thought the scientists there were doing genetic engineering — they weren't.   And at least one scientist lost much of his life's work in the fire — which I think is a tragedy, even if he isn't a "violin teacher".

Slanted stories such as this one have persuaded me that I simply can not trust any stories on the environment from "mainstream" news sources.  The stories are often wrong, in large ways and small, and they are almost always biased, sometimes grossly.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 8:17 AM, 20 June 2008
More:  The Seattle PI did a somewhat more balanced story.  And the New York Times — bless their evil little hearts — did the story right.  Here's their headline: "Washington: Ecoterrorist Sentenced to Six Years".
- 1:01 PM, 20 June 2008   [link]

Another Obama Supporter Hopes He Is Lying:  This time it's Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
But we were taken by surprise when our African Kenyan brother, who is an American national, made statements that shocked all his supporters in the Arab world, in Africa, and in the Islamic world.  We hope that this is merely an elections "clearance sale," as they say in Egypt — in other words, merely an elections lie.  As you know, this is the farce of elections — a person lies and lies to people, just so that they will vote for him, and afterwards, when they say to him: "You promised this and that," he says: "No, this was just elections propaganda."  This is the farce of democracy for you.   He says: "This was propaganda, and you thought I was being serious.  I was fooling you to get your votes."

Allah willing, it will turn out that this was merely elections propaganda.  Obama said he would turn Jerusalem into the eternal capital of the Israelis.  This indicates that our brother Obama is ignorant of international politics, and is not familiar with the Middle East conflict.
(Qaddafi is right about Obama's ignorance.  In his speech to AIPAC, Obama promised an "undivided" Jerusalem, apparently not realizing how contentious that issue is.)

Lexington Green of the Chicago Boyz has more examples of Obama supporters hoping that he is lying, along with some speculation about this strange phenomena.  (Incidentally, some Obama supporters go beyond hope; they are certain that Obama is lying.)

My own quite cynical view is that, on many of these issues, Obama is lying — to both sides.   But not on all issues.  I think, for instance, that he really is a pro-abortion extremist, and that his votes on the issue show that, though he has pretended to soften his stance to fool pro-life voters.
- 5:56 AM, 20 June 2008   [link]

Going Digital:  A couple of days ago, I received my rebate card.   Today I picked up a Zenith DTT900 digital TV tuner and hooked it up, with no big problems, though I have some tweaking to do, and, as always, am going to have to straighten out the cable mess.  I could make things simpler by removing my VCR, which I have not used in years.

Reception is OK, even though I am using a very cheap rabbit ears antenna.  And I probably will watch some of the extra channels from time to time.  Some seem underused, as if they were place holders until the owners figure out how to exploit them.  (The local PBS station has four channels numbered for some reason, 1, 2, 3, and 5, all with different content, at least while I was watching this afternoon.  The commercial stations usually have two, sometimes with the same content.)  And I have been wondering whether there is now room for still more local channels, but haven't paid enough attention to the technology to know.

The rebate comes on a little plastic cash card.  If you return the tuner, the store recharges the card, so you want to keep the card for a while after you buy a tuner.

(In the future, I may upgrade to a computer that can handle TV, but that's at least a year away.)
- 5:46 PM, 19 June 2008
Oddities:  Using the default settings, three of the digital channels displayed in "letter box" style, not using the top and bottom of the screen, seven displayed as smaller squares within the screen, and four used the full screen.  It is curious that I got three such different results with a single setting.

(Setting the letter box and small square channels, individually, to "cropped" made them display using the full screen.  Does that setting mean that the picture is missing a little on the left and the right?  Probably.)
- 4:48 PM, 20 June 2008   [link]

Asylum, Welfare, Legal Loopholes, And Terrorism:  The Abu Qatada case has them all.  And the case shows why we and the British have so much difficulty fighting terrorism; the terrorists have learned to use our systems against us.

First, some history.  In 1993, using a fake passport, Qatada fled from Jordan, where he was wanted for involvement in acts of terrorism.  (And he continued that involvement, from Britain.  The Jordanians have convicted him, in absentia, for involvement in 1998 hotel bombings and plots to attack tourists in 2000.)

In Britain, he applied for asylum, claiming that he would be tortured if he were sent back to Jordan.   (And he may have been right in that claim, since torture is common in most of the countries of the Middle East.)

He applied for "benefits", as the British call them, or welfare, as most Americans would call the payments.  Since he has a wife and three children, the payments were generous.
Meanwhile the sponging fanatic is raking in benefits of £1,000 a month — and for two hours a day can roam the streets wearing an electronic tag.
Generous enough so that he could spend all his time preaching hate — which is just what he did.  For example:
October 1999.  Makes speech at the Four Feathers youth club in Baker Street advocating the killing of Jews and praising attacks on Americans.
After 9/11, the British toughened their rules on terrorism and arrested him.  But their courts have not allowed Qatada to be deported to Jordan.  And now a British court has ordered him released.   Because the British government views him as so dangerous, he will be held under a very expensive house arrest.

To celebrate his release, he issued a small book, preaching hate:
Referring to supporters of democracy, Qatada proclaims in his book that 'rising up against them with weapons and with force is an individual obligation upon every Muslim'.

He says Muslims should 'prepare to terrorise the enemies of Allah and incite believers to fight'.
That seems clear enough to me.

Although Qatada is the most prominent terrorist to receive this support and protection from the British government, he is not alone; others have learned to exploit the British system.

I don't know enough about the British welfare and legal systems to suggest changes — but I do think changes are in order there.  We should not be subsidizing our enemies as they plot to kill us.

(Qatada has American connections.  Both the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, and the leader of the 9/11 attacks, Mohamed Atta, were fans of his sermons.

One of our two principal candidate for president could learn something from this case — but won't.)
- 6:52 AM, 19 June 2008   [link]

Muslims Not Wanted:  In Barack Obama campaign photos.
Two Muslim women at Barack Obama's rally in Detroit on Monday were barred from sitting behind the podium by campaign volunteers seeking to prevent the women's headscarves from appearing in photographs or on television with the candidate.
The campaign has apologized to the two women, perhaps for being too obvious.
- 12:56 PM, 18 June 2008   [link]

Affirmative Action Has Been Very, Very Good To Michelle Obama:  In fact, it has been crucial to her career.
In fact, Michelle Obama's life is a case study in affirmative action.  I don't mean that as an insult, at all—I think Michelle would admit as much and proponents would point to her as a shining example of affirmative action's success.  At every step of her career, race has been central to her own identification and upward mobility.  Judging from the quality of thinking and writing exhibited in her Princeton thesis, Michelle would not likely have been admitted to Princeton (and later Harvard Law) had she been white.  And of course affirmative action opened up jobs, first in a prestigious law firm and later as the vice president of community affairs at the University of Chicago medical center-earning $300,000 a year.  She made it her first task at the hospital to steer more contracts to minority contractors.
Linda Chavez goes on to point out that most whites now oppose affirmative action, at least as it is now usually defined.  So the Obama campaign may not want to use Michelle Obama as an example, or even to talk very much about affirmative action.

But I would like to make another argument, using Michelle Obama as an example.  It is no secret that this wealthy woman, who has benefitted so greatly from racial preferences, has a chip on her shoulder.   She is angry with much of the world, including, in some ways, her country.  I think that some of that anger comes from affirmative action.

Consider this:  It is almost never spoken of openly, but one result of affirmative action is that whites often devalue black achievements.  Whites often assume, for instance, that a degree earned by a black may not mean as much as a degree earned by a white.  There's nothing surprising about this.  Whenever one group is held to a lower standard, then those not in that group will think less of the achievements of the favored group.

Michelle Obama undoubtedly knows that.  And that may help explain her bitterness.  No matter what she does academically, no matter what she earns, no matter what position she is given, she must have doubts about whether her achievements were fairly earned.  And that must eat away at her endlessly.  If she were more cynical, she might be able to enjoy her good fortune, without wondering whether she really earned it.  If she were more honest than most of us, she might have rejected the advantages that affirmative action might bring her — as Thomas Sowell has done from time to time in his career.  But she isn't that cynical, or that honest, and so she accepts the advantages that she gets from affirmative action, but — in my opinion — never feels entirely right about them.
- 10:41 AM, 18 June 2008   [link]

"No Ordinary Man Could Be Such A Fool":  You've probably heard that Orwell quotation, but if you are like me, you may not have seen it in context.  It comes from a 1945 essay titled "Notes on Nationalism".   (Orwell uses "nationalism" in a nonstandard way, as he admits in the essay.)  Here's the context:
I come back to the astonishing failure of military prediction in the present war.  It is, I think, true to say that the intelligentsia have been more wrong about the progress of the war than the common people, and that they were more swayed by partisan feelings.  The average intellectual of the Left believed, for instance, that the war was lost in 1940, that the Germans were bound to overrun Egypt in 1942, that the Japanese would never be driven out of the lands they had conquered, and that the Anglo-American bombing offensive was making no impression on Germany.  He could believe these things because his hatred for the British ruling class forbade him to admit that British plans could succeed.  There is no limit to the follies that can be swallowed if one is under the influence of feelings of this kind.   I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution.  One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.
It isn't hard to think of modern parallels to those failures of prediction.

(I'll have more to say about this essay soon.)
- 7:29 PM, 17 June 2008   [link]

Al Gore, Hardened Sinner:  According to the tenets of his environmental religion, anyway.
In the year since Al Gore took steps to make his home more energy-efficient, the former Vice President's home energy use surged more than 10%, according to the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.

"A man's commitment to his beliefs is best measured by what he does behind the closed doors of his own home," said Drew Johnson, President of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.  "Al Gore is a hypocrite and a fraud when it comes to his commitment to the environment, judging by his home energy consumption."

In the past year, Gore's home burned through 213,210 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, enough to power 232 average American households for a month.
Or, to put in more clearly, Gore uses about 19 times as much electricity as the average American family — not counting the electricity he uses in his San Francisco condo.

(I don't share his religious beliefs, so to me he's just a hypocrite.)
- 6:51 PM, 17 June 2008
Correction:  See this post.   Gore is more of an electricity hog since last year, but he may not be more of an energy hog since then.
- 9:06 AM, 23 June 2008   [link]

Basic Numbers On World Oil Supply:  You can find them at the US Energy Information Administration.  In particular, you can find a spreadsheet giving oil production, by country, from 1980 through 2007, here.

To show you what you can learn from these numbers, let me give you some samples from the last seven years.  In 2001, the world produced 77,684,000 barrels of oil per day.  In 2005, that had risen to 84,631,000 barrels per day.  But then production fell slightly in 2006 and 2007, ending at 84,600,000 barrels per day.

Why did it level off during that period?  A look at production by regions gives some clues.   Oil production stayed almost constant in North America.  (Increases in Canada and Mexico made up for decreases in US production.)  Oil production stayed almost constant in South and Central America.   (An increase in Brazil made up for a decrease in Venezuela.)  There was a significant decrease in Europe, from 7,208,000 barrels per day to 5,426,000 barrels per day.  (Almost all the European countries that produce oil had decreases, especially Norway and Britain.)  Oil production increased dramatically in Eurasia, from 8,777,000 barrels per day to 12,608,000 barrels per day.  (Most of the increase was in Russia.)  Africa increased oil production from 8,072,000 barrels per day to 10,846,000 barrels per day.  (Most of the increase came from Algeria, Angola, and Libya.)   Asia and Oceania increased their oil production slightly.

And the Middle East?  That's where it gets interesting.  Oil production in the Middle East increased from 22,777,000 barrels per day in 2001 to 24,643,000 barrels per day in 2007.  But — all of the increase came between 2003 and 2005.  And Middle East production declined in 2006 and 2007, from 25,559,000 barrels per day to 24,643,000 barrels per day.  Both the increase and the decrease are almost entirely due to changes in production in Saudi Arabia.

Did the Saudis decide, in 2005, to increase the price of oil?  It sure looks like it, though the price increase may have been greater than they expected.  But take a look at the numbers for yourself, especially if you disagree with my simple analysis.  (The Saudis might not have succeeded, if it had not been for the decrease in production in Europe.  That decrease may have been partly due to worries over global warming, and other ecological concerns.)

(Caveat:  I assume that these numbers are the best that we have, at least publicly, but it is certain that some of them are wrong, simply because some of the countries do not report accurate figures, for all sorts of reasons.  I don't think that they are very far off, but I might be wrong about that.)
- 1:59 PM, 17 June 2008   [link]

Winnie The Pooh:  As a guide for Barack Obama's foreign policy?  That idea doesn't come from an opponent of Obama; it comes from one of his foreign policy advisers.
Richard Danzig, who served as Navy Secretary under President Clinton and is tipped to become National Security Adviser in an Obama White House, told a major foreign policy conference in Washington that the future of US strategy in the war on terrorism should follow a lesson from the pages of Winnie the Pooh, which can be shortened to: if it is causing you too much pain, try something else.
. . .
Mr Danzig spelt out the need to change by reading a paragraph from chapter one of the children's classic, which says:  "Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump on the back of his head behind Christopher Robin.  It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming down stairs.  But sometimes he thinks there really is another way if only he could stop bumping a minute and think about it."
There are two objections to Danzig's idea, one obvious, and one not so obvious.  It is obvious — or should be obvious — that using this metaphor will make people laugh at you, will make people think you are not a serious person.  And a bit of thought will show you that Danzig could easily have found a different metaphor that would have made the same point, without making him look silly.  (He might, for instance, have used the old hitting your head with a hammer metaphor.)

The not-so-obvious objection is more important.  To understand that, let me use a different, more serious metaphor.  When my dentist is cleaning my teeth, or putting in a filling, it often hurts a bit.  (Not because he isn't a skilled dentist, but because some pain is inherent in the procedures.)  But it has never occurred to me to "think about it", and have him stop in the middle.  That's because I recognize that there are long-term benefits that outweigh the pain.

When we consider only the pain, we miss the possible benefits.  And, just as there is no such thing as pain-free dentistry, there is no such thing as a pain-free foreign policy.  And sometimes we must bear enormous pain in pursuing a foreign policy.  It would — and I hope Danzig would agree with this — have been idiotic for the United States to have stopped fighting World War II in 1944.  But stopping then, through some sort of compromise peace, would have reduced our pain — in the short run.

(Danzig misses the fact — which most children would understand — that Edward Bear is not choosing to go down the stairs this way.)
- 12:40 PM, 17 June 2008
More:  Michelle Malkin has illustrations for the Obama campaign.  My favorite is the second, showing Obama and some of his cabinet choices.   Those familiar with the Winnie the Pooh stories may be able to guess which department each character would head.
- 7:53 AM, 19 June 2008   [link]

Literary Lion?  That's what the New York Times calls Gore Vidal.  But if you read the interview, other animals may seem more appropriate.  For example:
And what about Mr. McCain?  Disaster.  Who started this rumor that he was a war hero?  Where does that come from, aside from himself?  About his suffering in the prison war camp?
The interviewer, Deborah Solomon, does ask a three mild follow-up questions, but basically she lets Vidal get away with this vile insinuation — for which he provides exactly no evidence.

How did you feel when you heard that [William] Buckley died this year?  I thought hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins forever those whom he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred.
This time Solomon (who does not live up to her last name) does not even ask a follow-up question.   Or at least not one that she wants to include in the interview.

She ends by saying:  "Well, it was a great pleasure talking to you."  Vidal doubts that, but I fear she is telling the truth.  She really did enjoy listening to these vile smears, one of them against a man who can no longer defend himself.

(Which animal would be appropriate for Vidal?  Perhaps a poisonous snake.)
- 8:27 AM, 17 June 2008   [link]