June 2012, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Where Do People have Confidence In President Putin?   According to Pew, Russia (69%), China (50%), and Greece (39%).  In fact, Greeks have more confidence in Putin than in Obama (30%).

I don't have a solid explanation for that finding, but I did want to pass it on.
- 4:20 PM, 16 June 2012   [link]

"A Billion Here, A Billion There, Pretty Soon You're Talking Real Money"  Have we reached that real money point here in the Seattle area?

Apparently not.

Sound Transit expects to spend $2.1 billion for its mostly-tunneled light-rail line from Husky Stadium to Northgate, based on figures its capital committee endorsed Thursday.  The full transit board is to vote June 28 on a budget for the 4.3-mile project, to be finished in 2021.

That $2.1 billion can't be real money, at least to the board.  Or to Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom, who treats this as an absolutely routine story.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Some background for those not familiar with the Seattle area's transportation problems.  Much of our terrain is hilly, so building light rail here often requires tunnels for the trains.  This link will replace, at a guess, four buses — which we already have — and will not provide any improvement in times for transit trips for most riders.  The area it goes through is not, by the standards of large European or northeastern cities, densely populated.

Most of you will have guessed that I borrowed that title from Everett Dirksen.
- 8:58 AM, 16 June 2012   [link]

How many Greek Parties Want To Abandon The Euro?   Just one major party, the Communist party.

But four other major parties, Syriza (far left), Independent Greeks, Democratic Left, and Golden Dawn (fascist?) also oppose the bailout.  And together those five parties won 50 percent of the vote in last month's election.  The two pro-bailout parties, New Democracy (center right) and Pasok (center left), won just 32 percent.

(Who won the rest of the votes?  Many parties, as you can see here.)

So it is likely that there is an anti-bailout majority in Greece — but that majority may not agree on anything else.

It is hard to see how tomorrow's vote can have an outcome that will help Greece.

(Four economists, all of them Greek or of Greek descent, judging by their names, say that the bailout is working and that Greece would be far better off staying with the euro.  It may be rude of me, but I can't help noticing that only one of the four, Emmanuel Petrakis, is living in Greece.)
- 8:22 AM, 16 June 2012   [link]

$26 Billion To The UAW, $23 Billion From The Taxpayers:   James Sherk and Todd Zywicki summarize what they found in their study of the Obama auto bailout.
We estimate that these three irregularities increased the cost of the bailout by $26.5 billion.  The Treasury expects the auto bailout to ultimately cost taxpayers $23 billion.  The funds diverted to the UAW account for the taxpayers' entire net loss.

Avoiding these losses would have been straightforward.  If the government treated the UAW in the manner required by bankruptcy law, it could have given the stock and promissory notes to the Treasury instead of to the UAW.  Labor cost savings and not supporting Delphi pensions would have increased the value of the taxpayers' shares of GM, while GM would have needed less financing.
For me, it's not just the money — as much was spent in these payoffs to the United Auto Workers — it's the complete disregard for ordinary bankruptcy law.

(That disregard was one of the reasons that Michael Barone has described the Obama administration as a "gangster government", a phrase that David Freddoso then used for his book title.)
- 9:48 AM, 15 June 2012   [link]

Trierweiler Versus Royal:  More evidence that "Presidents of the French 5th Republic" would make a great soap opera.
Francois Hollande’s former partner has demanded ‘respect’ from his current girlfriend in an increasingly bitter war of words.

The French media have likened the spat between Segolene Royal, the mother of the president’s four children, and first lady Valerie Trierweiler, who is nicknamed The Rottweiler, to ‘Dallas at the Elysee Palace’.

Miss Royal, a former presidential candidate who lived with Mr Hollande for 30 years before he left her for Miss Trierweiler, is standing for parliament in the western town of La Rochelle against Left-winger Olivier Falorni.
And Trierweiler is backing Falorni.

(As you probably remember, Royal ran against President Sarkozy in 2007, and lost.)
- 8:12 AM, 15 June 2012   [link]

Obama Should "Skip The Falsehoods"  There are many people who would agree with that, but few of them are on the left, like the man who wrote the column, Dana Milbank.
Fallacy first. “Both parties have laid out their policies on the table for all to see,” Obama said. “What’s holding us back is a stalemate in Washington between two fundamentally different views of which direction America should take. And this election is your chance to break that stalemate.”
. . .
And that leads to the falsehood. Despite his claim that “both parties have laid out their policies on the table,” Obama has made no serious proposal to fix the runaway entitlement programs that threaten to swamp the government’s finances.
Milbank thinks that Obama should present his own plan, and that Obama might even profit, politically, from presenting a serious plan.

Perhaps, perhaps not.  But what is certain is that Obama, and his political team, don't think he can win by being serious.

(It's interesting to see Milbank do serious columns.  For many years, I had thought of him as a partisan lightweight, the kind of person who would sneer at conservative Republicans but ignore the faults of Democrats — and almost never look at serious problems, seriously.)
- 7:22 AM, 15 June 2012   [link]

Conrad Black Defends Richard Nixon:  Some may find his defense a little over the top, but almost everyone will find this of interest.
Even that shameful court of rabid House-committee kangaroos voted down the last two counts: that Nixon had usurped Congress’s power to declare war by bombing Cambodia . . .
The committee did vote down that impeachment count, but not unanimously.  So there were some Democrats who then thought that bombing a foreign country, without congressional approval, was an impeachable offense.

Can we think of any recent presidents that have bombed a country without congressional approval?  Yes, we can!

(Some distinguished congressmen urged Obama to get the approval to bomb Libya, at least retrospectively, but he ignored them.

If you want to know something about the sins of Nixon's Democratic predecessors, you might look for a copy of It Didn't Start with Watergate.)
- 3:55 PM, 14 June 2012   [link]

Stuck With The Bill:  This is almost too symbolic.
Amid the bustle of President Obama’s surprise stop for barbecue Wednesday the White House apparently overlooked one key detail: the bill.
. . .
The bill for the president and his four guests was $55.58, but was left unpaid at the point of sale, according to pool reports.
They've paid it by now, of course.

(Historical note:  John F. Kennedy was famous (infamous?) for not carrying cash, which often forced his aides to use their own money to pay for his meals, et cetera.  Maybe Obama has adopted the same bad habit.)
- 12:55 PM, 14 June 2012   [link]

Bill Clinton Was Late To The Peres Medal of Honor Ceremony, as usual.
Any reporter – like me – who covered Clinton during his presidency can tell you that Clinton was in fact not occasionally late for appearances.  He was always late, sometimes substantially so.

For the record, President Obama is often late.  Bush was never late.
Do these different habits tell us something about how much each man respects other people?  I think so.
- 9:46 AM, 14 June 2012   [link]

Lucky They're Secret:  That's my usual reaction to this kind of disclosure.
The U.S. military is expanding its secret intelligence operations across Africa, establishing a network of small air bases to spy on terrorist hideouts from the fringes of the Sahara to jungle terrain along the equator, according to documents and people involved in the project.
Lucky, because if they weren't secret, our enemies could find out ways to counteract them.

And we can be certain that those enemies do not read the Washington Post.

Was there any reason to publish this article on these no-longer-secret operations?   Not as far as I can tell.
- 8:19 AM, 14 June 2012   [link]

If The Prosecutors Are Right, Barry Gilton and Lupe Mercado did something very illegal.
A San Francisco couple whose teenage daughter was allegedly being pimped by a Southern California man tracked him around the state, failing at one attempt to kill him before shooting him to death near Candlestick Park, authorities said Wednesday.

Attorneys for the couple say that they tried everything to rescue their daughter from Calvin Sneed, a 22-year-old alleged gang member from Compton (Los Angeles County), but that they didn't kill him.
But I can't bring myself to say — assuming the prosecutors are right — that what Gilton and Mercado did was wrong.
- 7:10 AM, 14 June 2012   [link]

Meanwhile, Back In Barack Obama's Illinois (13):  Mobs are attacking people, just for fun (and sometimes profit).
"I saw the mob of them . . . young teenagers, tweeners between 13 and 15 years old, like young kids you'd see at the mall," the doctor said.  "The thing I remember clearly was that they were enjoying frightening people.  They went after a food delivery man on a bike.  Then they went after me.  It was like 'Lord of the Flies.'

"And then they hit me with something, a hard blunt object on the back of the head, and I went down," the doctor said.
This happened in Streeterville, a very up-scale Chicago neighborhood.

Was race a reason for the attack?  The doctor is Asian, and the attackers were black.  But we can't be sure — though many of the commenters are.

(I probably wouldn't have posted about this attack, except that there have been many similar attacks, most of them including petty theft, in Chicago, recently.)
- 3:36 PM, 13 June 2012   [link]

Who Visits The Obama White House?  This Heritage post has some answers.
President Obama certainly has an estranged relationship with his cabinet, preferring to govern mostly out of the White House.  But according to White House Visitor Logs, John Bryson actually visited more often than many of his colleagues–a total of 31 times (barring multiple John Brysons).  Energy Secretary Steven Chu had visited 17 times and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has only swung by 13 times.  To put that in context, Democratic consultant Hilary Rosen has visited the White House 33 times and union boss Richard Trumka has visited 69 times.
Kind of shows you who is important to Obama, doesn't it?

And I suspect that you, like me, would be happier if Obama were to talk with Panetta more often.

(As you may have guessed, the post is mostly about John Bryson, he of the multiple car crashes, and the White House reaction to Bryson's problems.)
- 1:00 PM, 13 June 2012   [link]

American Life Expectancies Continue To Rise:  But faster for blacks than whites.
The gap in life expectancy between U.S. blacks and whites has narrowed since 2003, thanks to declines in death from HIV infection and heart disease, but differences still persist, analysis of national data showed.

From 2003 to 2008, the disparity decreased from 6.5 years to 5.4 years among men of all ages and from 4.6 years to 3.7 years for all adult women, according to Sam Harper, PhD, and colleagues from McGill University in Montreal.
Given the timing, we have to blame George W. Bush for these increases in life expectancies, especially among blacks.

All right, I am mostly joking, but you know that if the gap had increased, the left would have blamed Bush.

The most important reasons for the gap are instructive.
In 2008, 22% of the racial gap in men related to heart disease and 19% was because of homicide.

Other important contributors for men in 2008 included cardiovascular disease overall (32%), cancer (16%), HIV (8%), and infant mortality (8%).

For women, the largest specific contributors to the gap were heart disease (29%) and diabetes (11%), with other causes including cardiovascular disease overall (43%), cancer (14%), communicable diseases (14%), and infant mortality (11%).
All of those, except infant mortality, are risks we can reduce by changing our own behavior.  And infant mortality can be reduced by changing mothers' behavior.

They haven't finished analyzing data from Latinos, but the government does have some preliminary results.
The study included data only for non-Latino whites and non-Latino blacks.  The government has only recently compiled the first life-expectancy tables for Latinos, who have an edge of several years over non-Latino whites for reasons that are not yet clear.
This relationship is typical, by the way.  Latinos tend to do a little better in life expectancy and infant mortality than non-Latino whites — even though they get less medical care.

(I don't know why the Los Angeles Times says "Latino", where most would say "Hispanic".  But we know who they mean.)
- 10:25 AM, 13 June 2012   [link]

Wall Streeters Are Catching On:  In 2008, Wall Street gave much of its money to Obama.  Given his record, his associates, and his platform, that struck me as bizarre.  Some of it could be explained by ethnic loyalties, by "time for a change" anger at the Bush administration, and by the vagueness of Obama's campaign.   If people wanted to fool themselves, the campaign was willing to help.

Still, it was a strange thing to watch, and I'd like to see some of those Wall Streeters — who are mostly pretty smart and well informed — explain their 2008 thinking.

Whatever they thought then, most have now figured Obama out, as you can tell from the pattern of donations.
Now, thanks to campaign finance filings, it’s possible to put a price tag on just how much: Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and the super PAC supporting it are outraising Obama among financial-sector donors $37.1 million to $4.8 million.

Near the front of the pack are 19 Obama donors from 2008 who are giving big to Romney.

The 19 have already given $4.8 million to Romney’s presidential campaign and the super PAC supporting it through the end of April, according to a POLITICO analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.  Four years ago, they gave Obama $213,700.
What's especially interesting is that they don't even seem to be paying what you might call "protection money" (if you are a cynic, as I am from time to time).  They aren't giving donations to both sides, just in case.

(Even more puzzling than the 2008 support for Obama among Wall Streeters was the support he got from some libertarians.  And I haven't seen any good explanation for that, either.)
- 9:49 AM, 13 June 2012   [link]

Britain's Coarse Side:  That celebration of Queen Elizabeth's 60 years on the throne was pretty classy, wasn't it?  But modern Britain has a vulgar side that is, if anything, even worse than what you can find, all too often, here in the United States.

Cristina Odone has a particularly gross example of that vulgarity, from an "up market" department store chain, Harvey Nichols.  And it is hard to disagree with her conclusion.
It seems incredible, after a week in which Britain’s glorious pageantry wowed the world, that a high-end department store chain could strike so crass a note.  Yet the ad men who masterminded the Harvey Nichols flyers have unwittingly exposed this country’s schizophrenic culture, in which an unsurpassed talent for orchestrating tasteful but popular spectacle coexists with a deeply offensive streak of vulgarity.  Imagine the Queen and Jeremy Kyle fighting for the soul of the nation – with the latter gaining the upper hand.
With some changes in the details, her conclusions would apply to the United States, as well.

(Britain has always had its coarse side, as George Orwell reminded us in his famous essay on Donald McGill's postcards.  But that coarseness wasn't sold in the best shops, nor was it something celebrated, openly, by much of Britain's middle class.)
- 8:43 AM, 13 June 2012   [link]

Worth Reading:  This angry Wall Street Journal editorial on the deal struck between "big pharma" and the Obama administration.

The joint venture was forged in secret in spring 2009 amid an uneasy mix of menace and opportunism.  The drug makers worried that health-care reform would revert to the liberal default of price controls and drug re-importation that Mr. Obama campaigned on, but they also understood that a new entitlement could be a windfall as taxpayers bought more of their products.  The White House wanted industry financial help and knew that determined business opposition could tank the bill.
Each got some of what they wanted, but the public never even had a seat at the table.

(The pharmaceutical industry is so heavily regulated that it is, inevitably, equally heavily involved in politics.  And so they hire fixers like Billy Tauzin to represent them.

I think there is strong evidence that we — that is, the public — would be better off with less regulation.)
- 5:00 PM, 12 June 2012   [link]

Thomas Sowell Has Some Fun With Definitions:  Obama's politicies aren't socialist; they're fascist.
It bothers me a little when conservatives call Barack Obama a "socialist."  He certainly is an enemy of the free market, and wants politicians and bureaucrats to make the fundamental decisions about the economy.  But that does not mean that he wants government ownership of the means of production, which has long been a standard definition of socialism.

What President Obama has been pushing for, and moving toward, is more insidious: government control of the economy, while leaving ownership in private hands.   That way, politicians get to call the shots but, when their bright ideas lead to disaster, they can always blame those who own businesses in the private sector.
. . .
One of the reasons why both pro-Obama and anti-Obama observers may be reluctant to see him as fascist is that both tend to accept the prevailing notion that fascism is on the political right, while it is obvious that Obama is on the political left.
As I've said before, I think it reasonable to say that Obama is a social democrat, and social democrats are usually considered socialists, even though they don't see ownership of the means of production as essential.  And I'll repeat what I have said before:  Obama would be welcome in many parties that call themselves socialist — but not all.

But it is also true that there is some overlap between socialist and fascist policies, and it is true that there are indeed some similarities between Obama's policies and fascist policies, just as Sowell says.
- 2:34 PM, 12 June 2012   [link]

David Carr Attacked The NYT:  That's New York Times columnist David Carr.

He did it indirectly, as you would expect.

In the old Soviet Union, journalists sometimes tipped off their readers in a similar fashion.  If, for example, there was an article in Pravda on an airplane crash somewhere in the free world, knowledgeable readers would understand that there had been an airplane crash somewhere in the Soviet Union, too.

Yesterday, Carr criticized the San Diego newspaper because the current owner has made it a "brochure for his various interests" and because its promotion of political candidates is "over-the-top and damaging to the paper's credibility".

Remind you of any other newspapers you know?  Well, yes, you can probably think of more than one.  But I think most of us will also be reminded of our newspaper of record, the New York Times.

And unless Carr is not as bright as I think he is, he must have known that many of us would take his criticism of the U-T San Diego as a criticism of his own paper.
- 1:14 PM, 12 June 2012   [link]

Why Do They Blame David Cameron, rather than Samantha Cameron?
Horrified David Cameron got home from a Sunday lunch with family and friends — and discovered he had left his eight-year-old daughter in the pub.

He dashed back and found little Nancy with staff at the Plough Inn in Cadsden, Bucks.

No 10 said: “The PM and wife Samantha were distraught when they realised Nancy wasn’t with them.”
I'd blame both of them, but Samantha more than David, since taking care of the nation is his job — and taking care of the children is mostly hers.

(And I wouldn't blame either of them very much, since this is the kind of mistake that almost every parent makes, once or twice.  Even good parents, as the two appear to be.)
- 10:06 AM, 12 June 2012   [link]

Obama Was Too Busy To Campaign in Wisconsin.

Or so he says.

Sometime his fibs are so obvious that they are funny, like the fibs a toddler might tell you.  Obama sometimes reminds me of the little boy claiming he hadn't eaten any of the chocolate cake — even though you can see chocolate smeared all over his face.
- 9:16 AM, 12 June 2012   [link]

Who's "Doing Fine"?  Marc Thiessen has some numbers.
Obama and Reid have it precisely backward: It’s the public sector that’s doing fine.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for government workers last month was just 4.2 percent (up slightly from 3.9 percent a year ago).  Compare that to private-sector industries such as construction (14.2 percent unemployment), leisure and hospitality services (9.7 percent), agriculture (9.5 percent), professional and business services (8.5 percent) and wholesale and retail trade (8.1 percent).  As Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute points out, the public-sector unemployment rate “is the lowest of any industry or class of worker, even including the growing energy industry.”  If the rest of Americans enjoyed the same unemployment rate as government workers, Obama would be cruising to reelection.
But they don't, and he isn't.

As older readers will recall, at one time those with government jobs expected somewhat lower pay, somewhat better benefits, and much better security than those in the private sector.  (The greater security was often a consequence of reforms intended to weaken political machines.)

Most thought that set of trade-offs reasonable.

Government workers now often receive better pay, far better benefits, and unprecedented security.  Taxpayers are beginning to notice.

(I put that "often" qualifier in because it's needed.  I think my description of the way the trade-offs have changed is a reasonable generalization, but with tens of thousands of governments, and millions of government employees, it isn't hard to find exceptions.)
- 6:54 AM, 12 June 2012   [link]

There Are Many Reasons I Admire Education Reformer Joanne Jacobs:  Here's one of them.

She doesn't just write about improving education.
- 2:27 PM, 11 June 2012   [link]

Castro Endorses Obama:  Mariela Castro. to be precise.
President Obama has received yet another endorsement, this time from the daughter of Cuban military dictator Raúl Castro.  Mariela Castro proclaimed her support for the sitting president 10 days ago, during a visit to the United States.  "I believe that Obama needs another opportunity and he needs greater support to move forward with his projects and with his ideas, which I believe come from the bottom of his heart," she said in a CNN interview in New York.

The dictator's daughter, who is a vociferous proponent of the Cuban status quo, was ostensibly in the U.S. to discuss matters pertaining to her field of expertise, which has something to do with advocating for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.   As the Cuban-born writer Carlos Alberto Montaner put it in a syndicated column last week, "Mariela is tolerant of sexual preferences and intolerant of all the rest."   He added: "For her, freedom and emotional coherence are something very specifically situated south of the navel."
Mary Anastasia O'Grady thinks that the Obama administration permitted this Castro visit in order to shore up support for Obama among the obvious groups.

O'Grady may be right about the reasons for permitting this visit, but, if she is, I would say that this was a miscalculation.  An endorsement from the Cuban dictatorship, even coming from an attractive "sexologist", will not be a plus for Obama.

Especially not, as O'Grady reminds us, with an American, Alan Gross, being held hostage by the Cuban dictatorship.
- 1:41 PM, 11 June 2012   [link]

Could Romney Win Oregon?  Sure.

That's what Nate Silver says.

If there is an unheralded state that could be in play this year, it might be Oregon.   Oregon has been sparsely polled, but the most recent survey found a tight race there, and the state has been extremely competitive in the past — like in 2000 when Al Gore won it by less than a full percentage point.

And Jay Cost, who shows Oregon as a swing state on his map.

And that's what I've thought for some time, though I haven't gotten around to writing about it.

The basic argument is simple:  Romney could win any state that George W. Bush won in 2000 or 2004 — and any state where Bush came close in those elections.  And Bush came very close in 2000, losing Oregon by just 6,765 votes.

Could doesn't mean will, and if I had to place a bet now, at even odds I would probably bet on Obama.  But at 10-1 odds, I'd probably bet on Romney.  How much lower would I go?  I haven't decided yet.  (Silver gives Romney almost 1 chance in 5 of winning Oregon.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(For the curious:  Silver and I have fairly close estimates of the national odds, right now.)
- 10:39 AM, 10 June 2012   [link]

French Journalists, Like American Journalists, lack political diversity.
Before France's presidential election, a poll was held in le Centre de formation des journalistes de Paris, writes Alain Frachon, with the first round showing the left and the far left out ahead, with incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy obtaining not a single vote, and with François Hollande winning the second round handily, with 100% of the votes, "à la North Korea".
The Centre is, as you probably guessed, a journalism school.  Working French journalists are almost certainly a little more diverse than the students and faculty at the Centre.  A little more.
- 7:54 PM, 10 June 2012   [link]

At Least Bryson isn't Transportation Secretary.
[Secretary of Commerce John] Bryson was found unconscious in his vehicle and has been hospitalized, officials said.

Bryson was driving a Lexus in the 400 block of South San Gabriel Boulevard shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday, when he allegedly rear-ended a Buick as it was waiting for a train to pass, according to a statement released by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department and the San Gabriel Police Department.

After briefly stopping to talk to the three men inside the Buick, Bryson left the location in the Lexus and then struck the Buick a second time, authorities said.  The men followed Bryson's car and called 911 to ask for police assistance.

Bryson continued to drive his Lexus into Rosemead, which is patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.  There, he allegedly crashed into a second vehicle near the intersection of San Gabriel Boulevard and Hellman Avenue.
Amazingly, "authorities" say that "drugs or alcohol do not appear to have played a role in the crash".  What did?  According to the Commerce Department, he suffered a "seizure".

A seizure doesn't seem consistent with the sequence of events — it might explain one accident, but not three — but I suppose we should wait for more evidence before deciding that explanation is false.

(Bryson has had an odd career, starting out as a Green lawyer, and ending up as a utility executive.)
- 7:36 AM, 11 June 2012
As a commenter at Althouse reminded me, columnist Bob Novak had a car accident in 2008 that was, almost certainly, caused by a brain tumor.
On July 23, 2008, Novak received a citation from police for "failing to yield a right of way" to an 86-year-old pedestrian, Don Clifford Liljenquist, who was hit by Novak's Corvette in slow-moving traffic.   Novak drove approximately one block from the scene before being flagged down by a cyclist who had witnessed the accident and subsequently called the police.  Novak said that he was unaware that a collision had occurred until being informed by eyewitnesses.  This is likely to be accurate, as it is typical in patients with non-dominant (usually right-sided) brain tumors that cause left sided visual problems (including visual neglect), which Novak had ("I have lost not only left peripheral vision but nearly all my left vision").
(Liljenquist suffered a dislocated shoulder; Novak died of the brain tumor in August 2009.)

Could something similar have happened to Bryson?  Perhaps.
- 7:56 AM, 12 June 2012     [link]

"Unexpected Costs"  There are a lot of stories that could follow that blog title, aren't there?

But the one I have in mind is especially instructive, because those costs should have been, almost entirely, expected.

Germany is learning, the hard way, that it isn't easy, or cheap, being green.
The German government was quick to approve a phase-out of nuclear power in the country after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.   Now the costs of moving toward renewable energy are just being realized, and low-income consumers are paying the price.
. . .
The federal Economy Ministry calculates internally that prices will increase by between three and five euro cents per kilowatt hour within the next 12 months, in order to finance renewable energy subsidies and grid expansion.  Those increases amount to an additional annual burden of between €105 and €175 ($130 and $220) for a family of three.

Consumer protection advocates and interest groups focusing on social issues blame the federal government for these increases.  In particular, they say, the unchecked expansion of highly-subsidized photovoltaic installations is driving prices up, without the benefit of creating a commensurate increase in supply.
If consumer advocates in Germany are right — and they might be — hundreds of thousands of Germans had their power cut off last year because they hadn't paid their electric bills.  (Some skepticism about the numbers is warranted, since Der Spiegel gives us two widely varying estimates, 200,000 and 600,000.)

As in the United States, the subsidies for solar panels have gone almost entirely to the better off — and to those who supply the panels.  Some, in both countries, think that unfair.

Should these results have been "unexpected"?  No.  There were analysts who predicted them, but the German leaders chose the temporarily popular path, and ignored them.

But you didn't even need to be an energy expert to predict this result.  You just had to ask yourself this question:  How will switching to higher-cost sources of electricity affect the retail price?
- 7:36 PM, 10 June 2012   [link]

10 Foreign Car Companies, 16 Big Assembly Plants:   From time to time, I have noted that foreign car companies think that the United States is a good place to build cars (and trucks) — and that there was no reason to think they were motivated by charity.  Instead, they were building cars (and trucks) here because they think they can make money here.

James R. Healey tells us how that all started, with Honda, thirty years ago.
Honda was "the canary in the coal mine," says John Voorhorst, a consultant and retired vice president of auto-parts supplier Denso.  "There were a lot of skeptics here" betting that Honda's plant at Marysville, Ohio, wouldn't last long.

In fact, that "transplant" factory, which built its first Accord in November 1982, burst a dam.  Within a few years, Japan's major automakers all were here, cranking out hundreds of thousands of vehicles a year.
Followed, after a bit, by the German and Korean car companies.

So the next time someone tells you that we don't make anything here, tell them that BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, and Toyota disagree.

(There's a story about the differences between the Japanese plants and the American plants that I've always liked.  A Toyota executive, who had worked in both Japan and the United States, said that he thought that the average Japanese worker was a little better than the average American worker, but that the very best workers were American.

Why?  Because the best workers were the guys who had their own shops at home, and were so familiar with cars that they could improvise in emergencies.  That kind of guy is, apparently, much rarer in Japan.)
- 2:44 PM, 10 June 2012   [link]

Michael Barone Makes A Rare Mistake:  In a column which I mostly agree with, he says:
But there's something else worth noting in the California returns.  State voters adopted a new primary procedure, in which the top two vote getters, regardless of party, go on to the general election.

Washington state had a similar primary system in the 1990s, and the primary results tended to be replicated in November.  For example, the 1994 primary results enabled some to forecast that Democrats would lose six of nine House seats in November.
In fact, Washington state then had a blanket primary.
The blanket primary is a system used for selecting political party candidates in a primary election in the USA.  In a blanket primary, voters may pick one candidate for each office without regard to party lines; for instance, a voter might select a Democratic candidate for governor and a Republican candidate for senator.  The candidates with the highest votes by party for each office advance to the general election, as the respective party's nominee.  It differs from the open primary – in open primaries voters may pick candidates regardless of their own party registration, but may only choose among candidates from a single party of the voter's choice.  A blanket primary gives registered voters maximum choice in selecting candidates.
We have now switched, after court cases and a citizen initiative, to the same kind of top-two or jungle primary that California uses.

Which, I expect, will sometimes produce some entertaining results here, as it already has in California.

(For the record:  The blanket primary is not my favorite way of choosing candidates, but I would much rather have it than the jungle primary.  And I have never heard an explanation of the legal reasons for getting rid of the blanket primary that made sense to me.)
- 1:39 PM, 10 June 2012   [link]

Those Somali Terrorists Are Insulting our Secretary of State.
The al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia has mocked the new $33 million bounty on its top leaders heads by offering its own bounty for President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – 10 camels for Obama and 20 chickens for Clinton.
If Barack Obama is worth ten camels, then Hillary Clinton is worth at least seven.
- 1:17 PM, 10 June 2012   [link]

Six Pitchers, one no-hitter.
The six pitchers tied the record for the most used in a no-hitter and each played an important role, from Charlie Furbush quickly entering the game after Millwood left in the seventh to Brandon League finding the nasty splitter that had eluded him in recent weeks to Wilhelmsen being so oblivious that teammates had to tell him he just completed a no-hitter.

"He was surprised," Montero said.  "He didn't know. . . . I jumped on him and I was like, 'Hey, it's a no-hitter!'  And he went, 'What?!"  And then he was so happy after that.  He was so focused on the game.  That's what happened."
That doesn't happen every day.  Especially against a team as good as the Dodgers are this year.

Fun fact:  The pitcher who got the win, Stephen Pryor, pitched just 1/3 inning.
- 2:04 PM, 9 June 2012   [link]

Want To Test Your Knowledge Of Jevons Paradox?   Try applying it to this op-ed by William Ruckelshaus and K. C. Golden.

Here's enough to get you started.

Here in the Northwest states, three decades of investment in energy efficiency are delivering impressive results:  We're harvesting enough energy savings to power more than four cities the size of Seattle.  Those efficiency upgrades are saving us more than $2 billion a year on our energy bills.  We're squeezing more work out of our existing hydropower, and adding new renewables like wind, solar and geothermal power.  Renewable energy isn't "alternative" in the Northwest — it's the backbone of our power system, and the reason why we enjoy some of the cleanest and most affordable electricity in the nation.

The region's growing clean-energy economy isn't just about energy efficiency and renewable-energy companies.  It's Boeing gaining a competitive edge by marketing the world's most efficient commercial aircraft while developing sustainable fuels for aviation.

By now, I assume that everyone knows about Jevons Paradox, but in case you need a review, you can find one here.  Incidentally, I'm not sure that economists would find it particularly paradoxical.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Yes, the co-author is that William Ruckelshaus, the man who ignored the recommendations of his scientific advisors and banned DDT.)
- 1:37 PM, 9 June 2012   [link]

Is Obama A Slow Learner?  That's what Fred Barnes thinks.
President Obama has been touted by friends and family as the smartest man ever to sit in the White House.  Perhaps.  Yet he surely is the slowest learner to gain the presidency and probably the most intellectually inflexible.  Obama is not only presiding over the most sluggish economic recovery in 80 years, but the economic future looks even worse.  In May, a woefully small number of jobs were created, the unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent, and the rate of growth in the first quarter of 2012 was shaved from 2.2 percent to 1.9 percent.  Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office warned that if Obama leaves his economic program in place, a recession in 2013 is all but certain.

His response?  Let’s do more of the same.
In contrast, FDR was famous, perhaps too famous, for being willing to change policies when the old ones had failed.

I came to a similar conclusion about Obama, some time ago.  As engineers might say, his feedback loops appear not to work as they should.

(There is an alternative explanation, which I should go into at some length — and with some sympathy for Obama:  He probably believes that his policies may not be the best way to make the economy grow, but they are more just than alternative policies.)
- 9:50 AM, 9 June 2012   [link]