October 2007, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

In The To-Read Pile:  Bjorn Lomborg's Cool It.

From the introduction (p. 8):
The argument in this book is simple.
  1. Global warming is real and man-made.  It will have a serious impact on humans and the environment toward the end of this century.
  2. Statements about the strong, ominous, and immediate consequences of global warming are often wildly exaggerated, and this is unlikely to result in good policy.
  3. We need simpler, smarter, and more efficient solutions for global warming rather than excessive if well-intentioned efforts.  Large and very expensive CO2 cuts made now will have only a rather small and insignificant impact far into the future.
  4. Many other issues are much more important than global warming.  We need to get our perspective back.  There are many more pressing problems in the world, such as hunger, poverty, and disease.  By addressing them, we can help more people, at lower cost, with a much higher chance of success than by pursuing drastic climate policies at a cost of trillions of dollars.
Should be interesting.
- 1:43 PM, 31 October 2007   [link]

Another Surprise:  In the latest economic report.
U.S. economic growth accelerated between July and September as increases in exports and consumer spending overcame the continuing downturn in real estate and turmoil in the mortgage industry.

The economy grew at a 3.9 percent annual rate during those three months, the fastest pace since early 2006 and a surprise to analysts who had predicted that a sluggish housing market would take a larger toll on growth.
I blame President Bush for this unexpected good news.
- 1:11 PM, 31 October 2007   [link]

D. Parvaz Can Understand Why Someone Might Commit Arson:  If they select the right target.
It's one thing to set fire to The Man at the Burning Man festival a few days early -- at least the effigy is built to be burned, albeit at a specific hour.  But Paul Addis, the guy who bummed out thousands of burners by torching The Man before festival participants were ready for it, was arrested Sunday on suspicion of trying to torch a historic cathedral in San Francisco.
. . .
On the one hand, I can understand the power of the image to someone who sees the church as an oppressive institution.  On the other hand . . . it's still arson.  And given how fires can get out of hand, there's a chance that this little stunt could have damaged other property and hurt some folks.

The Seattle PI editorial writer doesn't favor burning this cathedral — partly because it might damage other buildings, might even "hurt some folks" — but she can "understand" why some might want to burn this magnificent building.

It is tempting to reply in kind, to suggest that burning down the PI building where Parvaz works is something that I could "understand".  And it would not be hard to make an argument that parallels hers.  Though the PI may not oppress people directly, it is certainly far more friendly to oppressors — as long as they are enemies of the United States — than a decent news organization should be.

But that would be wrong.  In a democracy, decent people, regardless of their political views, should reject violence as a way to settle political (or religious) disputes.  And so I will say that I have no sympathy for anyone who might want to burn the PI building, the Grace Cathedral, or any other symbolic building in the United States.  I don't want such people understood; I want them stopped, and then locked up.

There is some irony here.  No doubt, Parvaz, like most on the left, prides herself on her tolerance.  But I hope she will forgive me for saying that she would not be my first choice as a poster girl for tolerance week.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Incidentally, Grace Cathedral is an Episcopal church.   As anyone who follows these matters knows, Episcopal churches in the United States are often quite far left on social issues.  Since this one is in San Francisco, it is likely that the parishioners there agree with Ms. Parvaz on many issues, maybe even most issues.

Thanks to Orbusmax for the tip.  Similar thoughts here from Newsbusters.)
- 6:07 AM, 31 October 2007   [link]

The New York Times Takes A Look At Obama's Years In New York:  And finds the same pattern that the British newspapers found when they looked at other parts of his life.  Obama's accounts of his own life do not always match what others say, or what the evidence shows.  For example, here's what Obama says about his first job at Business International Corporation:
He takes a job in an unidentified "consulting house to multinational corporations," where he is "a spy behind enemy lines," startled to find himself with a secretary, a suit and money in the bank.
. . .
"Sometimes, coming out of an interview with Japanese financiers or German bond traders, I would catch my reflection in the elevator doors — see myself in a suit and tie, a briefcase in my hand — and for a split second I would imagine myself as a captain of industry, barking out orders, closing the deal, before I remembered who it was that I had told myself I wanted to be and felt pangs of guilt for my lack of resolve," Mr. Obama wrote.
And here's what others say:
Some say he has taken some literary license in the telling of his story.   Dan Armstrong, who worked with Mr. Obama at Business International Corporation in New York in 1984 and has deconstructed Mr. Obama's account of the job on his blog,, wrote: "All of Barack's embellishment serves a larger narrative purpose: to retell the story of the Christ's temptation.  The young, idealistic, would-be community organizer gets a nice suit, joins a consulting house, starts hanging out with investment bankers, and barely escapes moving into the big mansion with the white folks."

In an interview, Mr. Armstrong added: "There may be some truth to that.  But in order to make it a good story, it required a bit of exaggeration."

Mr. Armstrong's description of the firm, and those of other co-workers, differs at least in emphasis from Mr. Obama's.  It was a small newsletter-publishing and research firm, with about 250 employees worldwide, that helped companies with foreign operations (they could be called multinationals) understand overseas markets, they said.  Far from a bastion of corporate conformity, they said, it was informal and staffed by young people making modest wages.  Employees called it "high school with ashtrays."

Many workers dressed down.  Only the vice president in charge of Mr. Obama's division got a secretary, they said.  Mr. Obama was a researcher and writer for a reference service called Financing Foreign Operations.  He also wrote for a newsletter, Business International Money Report.

"It was not working for General Foods or Chase Manhattan, that's for sure," said Louis Celi, a vice president at the company, which was later taken over by the Economist Intelligence Unit.  "And it was not a consulting firm by any stretch of the imagination.  I remember the first time I interviewed someone from Morgan Stanley and I got cheese on my tie because I thought my tie was a napkin."
Obama's accounts of his own life may not always be true, but they always serve his current political purposes.  Is he lying about his past life?  Or does he believe these stories?  Hard to say, though I think the first explanation is more likely.

I come to that conclusion in part because Obama's stories seem too convenient, too perfect for the picture he wants to paint of this country and his life.  And in part because Obama does not want his stories checked.
Senator Obama, an Illinois Democrat now seeking the presidency, suggests in his book that his years in New York were a pivotal period: He ran three miles a day, buckled down to work and "stopped getting high," which he says he had started doing in high school.  Yet he declined repeated requests to talk about his New York years, release his Columbia transcript or identify even a single fellow student, co-worker, roommate or friend from those years.
One thing that does seem plausible in his recollections is that he saw working as a political organizer as an honorable thing to do, but working in a business as dishonorable.  Yet, as anyone who knows something about both can tell you, political organizers are often destructive and businesses are usually doing something positive, providing goods or services for others.  The one year in Obama's life that he worked for Business International may be the only time in his adult life where he had a productive job.
- 1:57 PM, 30 October 2007   [link]

What Does One Soldier In Iraq Want For Christmas?  Answer here.
- 8:56 AM, 30 October 2007   [link]

Republicans Are Looking For Another Reagan:  But, as Charles Krauthammer reminds us, the actual Reagan had a few flaws.
Major grumbling among conservatives about the Republican field.  So many candidates, so many flaws.  Rudy Giuliani, abortion apostate.  Mitt Romney, flip-flopper.  John McCain, Mr. Amnesty.  Fred Thompson, lazy boy.  Where is the paragon?  Where is Ronald Reagan?

Well, what about Reagan?  This president, renowned for his naps, granted amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants in the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli bill.  As governor of California, he signed the most liberal abortion legalization bill in America, then flip-flopped and became an abortion opponent.  What did he do about it as president?  Gave us Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, the two swing votes that upheld and enshrined Roe v. Wade for the last quarter-century.

The point is not to denigrate Reagan but to bring a little realism to the gauzy idol worship that fuels today's discontent.  And to argue that in 2007 we have, by any reasonable historical standard, a fine Republican field: One of the great big-city mayors of the last century; a former governor of extraordinary executive talent; a war hero, highly principled and deeply schooled in national security; and a former senator with impeccable conservative credentials.
And when we remember the actual Reagan more accurately, we should find it easier to realize that the top tier Republican candidates are all impressive men.  None are perfect — but Reagan wasn't either.

In contrast, the top Democratic contenders, Clinton, Edwards, and Obama, are much less impressive.   Edwards and Obama have no significant achievements as national politicians, and Clinton's are so small that most voters would have trouble thinking of even one.  But leftist voters, if the polls are to be believed, are mostly satisfied with their choices.  Strange.
- 3:13 PM, 29 October 2007   [link]

Worth Reading:  Minette Marrin has seen Michael Moore's latest movie, Sicko, and doesn't like it.
Sicko, like all Moore's films, is about an important and emotive subject — healthcare.  He contrasts the harsh and exclusive system in the US with the European ideal of universal socialised medicine, equal and free for all, and tries to demonstrate that one is wrong and the other is right.  So far, so good; there are cases to be made.

Unfortunately Sicko is a dishonest film.  That is not only my opinion.  It is the opinion of Professor Lord Robert Winston, the consultant and advocate of the NHS.  When asked on BBC Radio 4 whether he recognised the NHS as portrayed in this film, Winston replied: "No, I didn't.  Most of it was filmed at my hospital [the Hammersmith in west London], which is a very good hospital but doesn't represent what the NHS is like."

I didn't recognise it either, from years of visiting NHS hospitals.  Moore painted a rose-tinted vision of spotless wards, impeccable treatment, happy patients who laugh away any suggestion of waiting in casualty, and a glamorous young GP who combines his devotion to his patients with a salary of £100,000, a house worth £1m and two cars.  All this, and for free.

This, along with an even rosier portrait of the French welfare system, is what Moore says the state can and should provide.  You would never guess from Sicko that the NHS is in deep trouble, mired in scandal and incompetence, despite the injection of billions of pounds of taxpayers' money.
In the comments following this article, you can learn that some in Britain think that the poor in the US have to pay for their own care, or go without.  Medicaid is four decades old now, but news of the program has yet to reach many of our friends across the Atlantic.  I'm not sure Marrin shares that mistaken idea — though her "harsh and exclusive" phrase suggest that she does — but her description of the problems of the Britain's National Health Service is still worth reading.

(I tried to post a comment with brief descriptions of Medicaid and Medicare in the comments, but it hasn't shown up yet.)
- 8:41 AM, 29 October 2007   [link]

More Money Losing Leftists:  Paramount and Hasbro have decided to change one of the great franchises.
Who needs A Real American Hero?  Not Paramount or Hasbro it seems.  The studio's live-action feature film version of G.I. Joe will no longer revolve around a top-secret U.S. special forces team but rather an international operation.

In a follow-up to their confirmation that Stephen Sommers will direct G.I. Joe, Variety offers this new description of the team: "G.I. Joe is now a Brussels-based outfit that stands for Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity, an international co-ed force of operatives who use hi-tech equipment to battle Cobra, an evil organization headed by a double-crossing Scottish arms dealer.  The property is closer in tone to X-Men and James Bond than a war film."
(I checked.  That article is not dated April 1st.)

It is hard to believe that this decision will be good for either Paramount or Hasbro.  Most of the customers for G.I. Joe are Americans who value his patriotism.  They are unlikely to see this movie or to buy the toys linked to it.

(I had not realized — or had forgotten — that G.I. Joe was based on a real hero, Mitchell Paige.

Here's my original post on this curious phenomena, leftists making decisions which are almost certain to lose money for their corporations.)
- 7:31 AM, 29 October 2007   [link]

Candidates As Lawyers:  The New York Times sketches the legal careers of Clinton, Edwards, Giuliani, Obama, and Thompson.  We learn, for instance, that Fred Thompson didn't like prosecuting moonshiners, and that Hillary Clinton's first case before a jury concerned a rat's . . . well, I'll just give you the paragraph and let you fill in the last half of that familiar phrase yourself.
The first jury trial Mrs. Clinton handled on her own, for instance, concerned the rear end of a rat in a can of pork and beans.  She represented the cannery, and she argued that there had been no real harm, as the plaintiff did not actually eat the rat.  "Besides," she wrote in her autobiography, describing her client's position, "the rodent parts which had been sterilized might be considered edible in certain parts of the world."
(Maybe it tastes like chicken.)

As I have said before, I would want Edwards defending me — if I were guilty.  And, again if I were guilty, I wouldn't want Giuliani prosecuting me.  Not so sure about the other three.
- 2:37 PM, 28 October 2007   [link]

Southern Greenland Is Getting A Little Warmer:  Those who live there think that's a good change.
When using the words "growing" in connection with Greenland in the same sentence, it is important to remember that although Greenland is the size of Europe, it has only nine conifer forests like Mr. Bjerge's, all of them cultivated.  It has only 51 farms.  (They are all sheep farms, although one man is trying to raise cattle.  He has 22 cows.)  Except for potatoes, the only vegetables most Greenlanders ever eat — to the extent that they eat vegetables at all — are imported, mostly from Denmark.

But now that the climate is warming, it is not just old trees that are growing.  A Greenlandic supermarket is stocking locally grown cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage this year for the first time.   Eight sheep farmers are growing potatoes commercially.  Five more are experimenting with vegetables.  And Kenneth Hoeg, the region's chief agriculture adviser, says he does not see why southern Greenland cannot eventually be full of vegetable farms and viable forests.
. . .
"The limiting factor for human survival here is temperature, and there's a lot of benefits with a warmer climate," Mr. Hoeg said.  "We are on the frontier of agriculture, and even a few degrees can make a difference."
It may even get to be as warm there as it was in the 10th century, when it was settled by Vikings led by Erik the Red.

As I have been arguing for years, global warming would benefit some parts of the world.  Apparently Greenlanders agree.
- 12:28 PM, 28 October 2007   [link]

Good News?  On balance, yes.
Shortly after winning a majority last year, Democrats triumphantly declared that they would put Congress back to work, promising an "end to the two-day workweek."  And indeed, the House has clocked more time in Washington this year than in any other session since 1995, when Republicans, newly in control, sought to make a similar point.

But 10 months into the session, with their legislative agenda often in gridlock with the Bush administration and a big election year looming, the Democrats are now planning a lighter schedule when the 110th Congress begins its second year in mid-January.
On the whole, I think it is better for the nation if the Democrats spend less time legislating and "investigating", even though that will give them more time to spend campaigning.

But perhaps I have just gotten too cynical over the years.

(The graphic accompanying the article is worth some study.  You'll see that the amounts of time the House and Senate have spent in session each year between 1981 and the present are about equal — and remarkably constant, with the exception of 1995.  There does seem to be some tendency in recent years for the two houses to take a little more time off in election years, but less than I would have expected.)
- 3:47 PM, 27 October 2007   [link]

Lassen Trailhead:  Before we hiked down to Bumpass Hell, we had lunch at the trailhead, and watched the hikers going up and down .

Lassen trailhead, 2007

I had planned to climb Lassen on this tour, but decided to see more of the surrounding territory instead.  It's said to be the easiest of the principal Cascade volcanoes to climb.

Here's a picture from Google Earth, which will show you the location of today's photo, and earlier photos.

Lassen Park from Google Earth, 2007

We drove in from the south, stopped at the Sulphur Works, which is not far from the south entrance, and drove up to the trailhead for lunch.  (If you are having trouble locating the trailhead, it is a little above the middle of the picture, and almost exactly in the center, left to right.)  Bumpass Hell is below, and a little to the right, of the trailhead.

The area looks like a jumbled mess, because it is.  According to Stephen Harris, during the last three million years there have been "at least five large andesitic stratovolcanos" in the general area.  They have been built up one by one, and then destroyed by eruptions and erosion.  (Harris describes Lassen's immediate predecessor, Mount Tehama, but doesn't say much about the other four.  I found a little more on two others here.)

(You can find the previous 2007 disaster area tour posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

You can find the last posts, with links to earlier posts, for the 2006 and 2005 tours here and here.)
- 2:07 PM, 26 October 2007   [link]

How Good Are Those Climate Models?  Not very.
Climate change models, no matter how powerful, can never give a precise prediction of how greenhouse gases will warm the Earth, according to a new study.
. . .
The analysis focuses on the temperature increase that would occur if levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubled from pre-Industrial Revolution levels.  The current best guess for this number — which is a useful way to gauge how sensitive the climate is to rising carbon levels — is that it lies between 2.0 C and 4.5 C.  And there is a small chance that the temperature rise could be up to 8C or higher.
. . .
To the frustration of policy makers, it is an estimate that has not become much more precise over the last 20 years.
. . .
It now appears that the estimates will never get much better.
Those who have read my global warming disclaimer will recall that I have been saying for years that climate may be inherently unpredictable.  If this account of the study is correct — and I will have to look at the article in Science soon to be sure — then the authors, Gerard Roe and Marcia Baker of the University of Washington, are arguing that climate can be predicted — but only within very broad limits.
- 12:37 PM, 26 October 2007   [link]

Worth Reading:  John Iwasaki of the Seattle PI talks to some homeless people.  What they say supports what I reported three weeks ago.  For example, consider John Studley:

John Studley worked 36 years as a hot press operator at a plywood mill before losing his job and some of his dignity.

"I've never been homeless all my life until last year," said Studley, 62, formerly of Klamath Falls in rural southern Oregon.

Through word of mouth, he heard that Seattle was a "homeless-friendly city," a place that helped the down-and-out so much that "they jokingly call it 'Free-attle.'"

Studley may be homeless, but he is not broke.  He receives regular social security checks, so he should have enough income to pay for housing, maybe not fancy housing in the best neighborhoods, but housing nonetheless.  Studley is choosing to be homeless.

And, as the article shows, Seattle is subsidizing his choice, encouraging him to be homeless.  This is, as I said in this follow-up post, bad for Seattle, and bad for the homeless, including John Studley.

Those who care about Seattle — and Mr. Studley — will want to change these policies, will want the city to stop encouraging people to be homeless.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 8:22 AM, 25 October 2007   [link]