October 2013, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

The Current Senate Chaplain Has been Getting A Lot Of Attention Recently:  But for some reason, none of the articles mention this famous Edward Everett Hale quote:
"Do you pray for the Senators, Dr. Hale?", someone asked the chaplain.

"No, I look at the Senators and pray for the country."
I had thought that was a Mark Twain quip, and he may well have repeated it.

(Incidentally, the source claims that Hale was not intending that to be as critical of the senators as it may seem, at first glance.)
- 4:40 PM, 16 October 2013   [link]

Who Will Win The New Jersey Special Senate Election Today?   The polls all agree; Democrat Cory Booker has led Republican Steve Lonegan in every single one of them since polling on the race began.

The race has tightened a bit, but not enough for me to see any significant possibility of an upset — and it would be a big one.

(I should add that this is the kind of election that pollsters hate, because it is so hard to predict turnout in special elections, and because sometimes one party turns out, and the other doesn't.  But the margin is so large that, even if there are surprises, I don't see any hope for Lonegan — even though I would vote for him, were I a New Jersey voter.)

So, how big will the margin be?  If this were a regular election, I would just predict the poll average, would just predict that Booker would win by about 12 percent.  But I do think the enthusiasm is more on Lonegan's side, and so I am predicting that he will lose by only 11 percent.

Although the result is unlikely to surprise us, the campaign has been exceptionally educational.  We have learned that Booker is, like a certain former senator from Illinois, inclined to tell great stories that are not entirely true.  And though others — even some who don't live in Portland — may have known this, I was unaware that there is at least one vegan strip club.

Which I find quite interesting, though I will admit that I am not entirely sure what the political implications of such enterprises are, except, perhaps to remind us that this is very diverse country.

(Pollster Mark Blumenthal isn't quite sure what to make of two late, conflicting polls — and neither am I.

Unless you have spent more time in New Jersey than I have, you may be wondering where Bogota is, and how big it is.  You can find some answers in this Wikipedia article.)
- 4:21 PM, 16 October 2013
Update:  Booker has been declared the winner and Lonegan has conceded.

As I write, 4,965 of 6,330 precincts have reported, and Booker is leading 55 to 43 percent.  (Oddly, the New Jersey Department of State is not posting results this evening.)
- 7:06 PM, 16 October 2013
Close enough:  According to unofficial results, Booker received 719,495 votes (54.80 percent) and Lonegan received 579,179 votes (44.12 percent), so the margin was 140,316 votes (10.68 percent).
- 6:05 AM, 17 October 2013   [link]

Flipped Classrooms:  The New York Times ran a good article on the concept.
Teachers record video lessons, which students watch on their smartphones, home computers or at lunch in the school’s tech lab.  In class, they do projects, exercises or lab experiments in small groups while the teacher circulates.
And Joanne Jacobs followed that with an interesting discussion.

On the whole, I would say this is the most promising idea for classroom reform that I have seen in many years.  But I would add this caution:  I am saying promising, not proven.

And I would agree with the commenters who worry that reading might be neglected in those classes.

(One of the advantages, of course, is that a student can stop a video and go back and watch again, if they realize they have missed some essential point — or even fast forward, as I am sure I would have done from time to time.)
- 9:05 AM, 16 October 2013   [link]

Who's To Blame For The Government Shutdown?   According to many residents of Washington , D. C., it's George W. Bush.

To be fair, the interviewer is — partly — steering the people toward that answer, by offering them only two alternatives.  But most of them were happy to go in that direction.

This is, perhaps, a good time to remind everyone that President Bush faced a Congress divided between the two parties (after Jim Jeffords jumped in 2001), a Congress controlled by Republicans (in his first few months in office, and after the 2002 election), and a Congress controlled by Democrats, many of them incredibly hostile, after the 2006 election.

Somehow, Bush was able to able to avoid a government shutdown in all three situations, able to increase the debt ceiling when necessary, though he was plagued by show boaters, including a certain junior senator from Illinois.

It's almost as if Bush was both more responsible and more capable than our current president, almost as if Bush were more ready to compromise for the country's sake, and a better negotiator.  But you may not want to share those heretical possibilities with any "mainstream" journalists.
- 8:25 AM, 16 October 2013   [link]

What Makes Britons Really Excited?  Hillary Clinton getting a parking ticket.
This is the extraordinary moment that Hillary Clinton's security staff got into an argument with a traffic warden after he issued her car with a parking ticket.

The Westminster City Council warden put an £80 penalty notice on the former US secretary of state’s silver Mercedes vehicle in Central London while she was attending an event at Chatham House.
As I write, there are 2,271 comments on article and it has been "shared" 772 times.

Here's the top-rated comment:
Fair play to the Traffic Warden.  I complain all the time about them but good on ye son!  Hawl!  Mrs Clinton, Our Country, Our Rules, Follow them or go home!  If this traffic warden deserves anything it's a pat on the back for believing that no matter who you are, we should all be treated the same!
Which, I must say, I agree with.

(I was thinking that American diplomats should drive American cars, but then I realized that we may not make any luxury cars with the driver's side on the right.)
- 6:06 AM, 16 October 2013
You'll be pleased to learn that Clinton has paid the fine.  And if you ever get a parking ticket in London, you should know that it is usually a good idea to pay it right away.

(The Daily Mail has been complaining about diplomats, including Americans, refusing to pay London "congestion charges".  Here's an explanation of the congestion charges, and two explanations of the US position, one in "diplo speak", and one from the BBC.)
- 8:06 AM, 18 October 2013   [link]

A Happy Marriage?  On the front page of today's New York Times (at least in this area) is an article with vignettes about rural Russia.

One of them is illustrated with a picture of a gypsy wedding, where the groom is 13, casually dressed, and looking unhappy.  His bride is 14, a head taller, dressed in a wedding gown, and looking very pleased.  But not with him, at least in that picture.

According to a guest, the parents rushed the wedding because the bride, Mariuka, was getting to be quite attractive, and they feared that she might start "messing around".

If it weren't for that, the parents might have waited until she was 15, or even 16.
- 3:34 PM, 15 October 2013   [link]

There Are So Many Critiques Of The ObamaCare Web Site That It Would Be Hard Even To List All Of The Serious Ones:  (Though I suppose I should do a "tab dump" post some time to give you a chance to choose a few on your own.)

But here is one that will not surprise those who are familiar with the way the federal government buys software — but may surprise those who aren't.
The biggest problem with seems simple enough: It was built by people who are apparently far more familiar with government cronyism than they are with IT.

That's one of the insights that can be gleaned from the work done by the Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that focuses on government transparency.  In a report filed this past week, the group examined why the system broke as horribly as it did: The contracts awarded to those who built it were, by and large, existing government contractors with "deep political pockets."
Come to think of it, this pattern wouldn't surprise anyone familiar with Chicago-style politics, either.
- 2:12 PM, 15 October 2013   [link]

Pure Coincidence:  If you read these posts very closely, you may have noticed that I started out the day with three posts that all had ":19" in the time stamp.  Since I do those manually — which is why you see errors in them from time to time — you may have thought I had some plan in mind.

I didn't.  It just happened to come out that way.

(Most likely, the last two digits are not quite random because it takes me a certain amount of time to write an average post, but I have never looked at a bunch of them to see if there is a pattern — and don't plan to.  Incidentally, programmers have sometimes used clock digits to generate random numbers.)
- 1:57 PM, 15 October 2013   [link]

Suzy Strutner And The Huffington Post May Know Geography:  But they could use a little help with history.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated that the Berlin Wall was built by Nazi Germany.  In fact, it was built by the Communists during the Cold War.
(If you don't want to click on the link, Strutner is describing 30 places everyone should see before they die, or preferably before they turn 30, in her opinion.  No word on how much carbon dioxide you would create to visit all 30, but it would be a lot.)

Some corrections are too entertaining not to share.

By way of James Taranto.
- 1:19 PM, 15 October 2013   [link]

So Who Should Have Received The Nobel Peace Prize?   Most people would probably agree that President Bashar al-Assad would not be the best choice for the prize.  Most people, if they are honest, would admit that the group that did receive it hasn't accomplished anything yet.  And though we can sympathize, greatly, with the Pakistani girl who was shot, if we are honest we have to admit that she has done nothing to deserve the prize, either.

So who would deserve it, assuming we are honoring recent achievements?  I hate to admit this, but I can't think of anyone who would.
- 9:19 AM, 15 October 2013   [link]

McGinn And Murray Ignore The Costs Of The Climate Change Policies They Favor:  The contest between the current Seattle mayor, Mike McGinn and his challenger, state senator Ed Murray reminds us, again, that politicians who say they fear climate change almost never discuss the costs of the measures they favor to reduce those risks.

(Before I go further, let me say that I do not share their views.  In the current debate I am what is sometimes called a "luke-warmist".  I agree that the earth has warmed, and that some of the warming is caused by humans, but do not, for now, fear catastrophic changes.  But, like many others, I am fascinated by the apparent contradictions between what those who do fear climate change say, and what they do.  And the Seattle mayor's race gives us an especially neat example of those contradictions.)

Mayor McGinn came into politics as a leader in one of the Green religious groups, the Sierra Club.   His opponent, Ed Murray, has all the conventional beliefs of Seattle "progressives", or, as I would call them, leftists.  If either has ever had an original idea, or challenged conventional Seattle thinking, it has escaped my attention.

The only argument about the threat of climate change between the two, and their supporters, is on how strongly each supports the cause.

But neither has anything in their campaign sites (McGinn and Murray) about how the obvious measures to reduce global warming would affect Seattle — which they would, in a big way.   (Nor have our local reporters spent much time pressing them on these issues.)

If you ask most economists how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, they would tell you to tax them.  Economists favor a "carbon tax" on the grounds of economic efficiency; change the incentives and people will burn fewer fossil fuels, working out the best ways to do that with millions of individual decisions.  And put that way, the idea sounds sensible, sounds like something that would impose only a small amount of pain, spread widely, especially if the tax money is "recycled" back to the taxpayers with income tax cuts, or something similar.

But, if you look at how a carbon tax would play out in the real world, you would see that the effects would vary widely — and that Seattle would be particularly hard hit.

A carbon tax would, necessarily, increase the costs of jet fuel and flying, generally.   How much?  I'll leave that question to transportation economists, but it is hard to believe that you could get the reductions in jet fuel use that climate change alarmists want without at least doubling the cost of an average ticket.

This would affect Seattle in many ways, but two stand out.  A carbon tax would reduce tourism sharply; Seattle is a long way from most population centers, and it would make it far more expensive for most tourists to travel here.  And a carbon tax would make it harder for a certain airplane manufacturer, now headquartered in Chicago but with many employees in the Seattle area, to sell airplanes.

It is understandable, if not admirable, that two men running for elected office choose not to discuss these little difficulties, but it is a little dismaying that our local reporters — who generally share McGinn's and Murray's views on the threat of climate change — have not asked them how Seattle would be affected by a heavy carbon tax, or any other practical measure for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(There are, of course, other ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  Governments could, for example, subsidize crash programs to replace electricity from coal and gas plants with electricity from nuclear plants.  A carbon tax would make such plants better bets as investments, but you might want to encourage the switch in other ways, too.)
- 8:19 AM, 15 October 2013   [link]

Rand Paul Had A Great Reply to Candy Crowley's question.
"Do you see yourself at any point in the future being anything other than politically a member of the Republican Party?”

Paul once again laughed and said, “You mean, you're implying a third party or some other party?

“Or if you wanted to become a Democrat,” Crowley actually clarified.  “There are lots of sort of parties out there.  Just wonder if you see yourself being anything other than a Republican?”

Paul once again laughed and responded, “No. I've always been a Republican, and I'm one of those people who actually is a real lover of the history of the Republican Party from the days of abolition through the days of civil rights.  Republican Party has a really rich history.  In our state, I'm really proud of the fact that the ones who overturned Jim Crowe in Kentucky were Republicans fighting against an entirely unified Democrat Party.   So I am proud to be Republican.  I can't imagine being anything else.”
That reply has the advantage (as Kissinger might say) of being true, as well as being effective, politically.  It would be even more effective if Paul hadn't hired a man who liked to be known as the "Southern Avenger", earlier.   Jack Hunter may have been partly, or even mostly, joking when he was playing that role, but there are some things smart political figures don't joke about.  Or even have aides who joke about them.

(It's Jim Crow, not Jim Crowe, as Paul almost certainly knows, and Crowley may know.)
- 2:19 PM, 14 October 2013   [link]

Racial Preferences Forever:  In 1963, the Democratic governor of Alabama, George Wallace, declared that he was in favor of "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever".

Today, fifty years later, the Democratic editorial writers at our newspaper of record, the New York Times, declare that they are in favor of racial preferences now, racial preferences tomorrow, racial preferences forever.  The Times is making that argument now because the Supreme Court is about to hear a case from Michigan, where the voters amended the state constitution to forbid discrimination by race or sex.

The headline for the editorial tells the story: "False Equality in Michigan".  That's right, as far as the Times is concerned, equality before the law is "false", and the amendment that created that equality, "intolerable".

If you think that I am exaggerating when I say they favor racial preferences forever, read the editorial to see if you can find any hint that the Times thinks that those preferences should end some time.

Nor is there any acknowledgement in the editorial that affirmative action often hurts the supposed beneficiaries.  For me, that should end the argument, but it doesn't; instead the backers will switch to claiming that affirmative action benefits others in the organization practicing it.  There may be some evidence, other than anecdotal, for that argument, but I haven't seen it.

(Sandra Day O'Connor, who provided more than one swing vote for affirmative action, said, in 2008, that it was constitutional only as a temporary fix, that it would be acceptable until, perhaps, some time around 2028.  Whether you agree with her or not, you have to admire her honesty.

A brief note on terminology:  Originally, affirmative action only meant that an organization made an effort to recruit blacks, that, for instance, an employer would send recruiters to black colleges and universities, as well as predominately white schools.  Its meaning changed when it became necessary to replace the too blunt "quotas", with some word or phrase that was less explicit.

For two conflicting views, take a look at this Detroit News editorial, or this Richard D. Kahlenberg op-ed.)
- 12:54 PM, 14 October 2013   [link]

Ten Days Ago, I said that it was time to bring in Vice President Biden to conduct the budget negotiations for the Obama administration.

Yesterday, Senator John McCain caught up with me.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Sunday that President Obama should be more engaged in talks to reopen the federal government and avoid default on the nation’s debt, adding that “maybe we need to get Joe Biden out of the witness protection program.”
(McCain found a much more colorful way to say it than I did.)

What is Biden doing?  Vacationing at Camp David.

I'll repeat my advice:  Obama should go on vacation, or play golf, or whatever, and Biden should come back to take charge of the negotiations for the administration.

I'll go even further this time:  The fact that Biden is not in Washington talking to all his old colleagues in the Senate and the House suggests to me that the Obama administration does not want a bargain with the Republicans; instead they want to appear as if they want a bargain, while sabotaging any agreement that might seem likely to pass the House and Senate.
- 8:28 AM, 14 October 2013   [link]

Columbus Day:  (In the United States.  In Canada, it's Thanksgiving.)

Historians generally agree that Columbus got one thing very wrong on his first voyage to the Americas, and one thing very right.  What he got wrong was the distance to Asia from Europe; what he got right was the wind patterns in the Atlantic.

Wikipedia has good discussions of both:
Where Columbus did differ from the view accepted by scholars in his day was in his estimate of the westward distance from Europe to Asia. Columbus's ideas in this regard were based on three factors: his low estimate of the size of the Earth, his high estimate of the size of the Eurasian landmass, and his belief that Japan and other inhabited islands lay far to the east of the coast of China.[citation needed]  In all three of these issues Columbus was both wrong and at odds with the scholarly consensus of his day.
. . .
Though Columbus was wrong about the number of degrees of longitude that separated Europe from the Far East and about the distance that each degree represented, he did possess valuable knowledge about the trade winds, which would prove to be the key to his successful navigation of the Atlantic Ocean.  During his first voyage in 1492, the brisk trade winds from the east, commonly called "easterlies", propelled Columbus's fleet for five weeks, from the Canary Islands to The Bahamas.  To return to Spain against this prevailing wind would have required several months of an arduous sailing technique, called beating, during which food and drinkable water would probably have been exhausted.

Instead, Columbus returned home by following the curving trade winds northeastward to the middle latitudes of the North Atlantic, where he was able to catch the "westerlies" that blow eastward to the coast of Western Europe.  There, in turn, the winds curve southward towards the Iberian Peninsula.[34][35][36]
The three errors Columbus made allowed him to estimate that Japan was about 2,000 miles away, rather than the actual 12,000.  The first was a practical distance for the ships of his time; the second wasn't.

(Some years ago, I picked up a copy of Morison's biography of Columbus and found it a fascinating read.  Morison has a gift for telling details, details that give you a feeling for what it was like on the ships of that time.  For instance, the sailors on Columbus's ships kept their watches, not with clocks, but with hourglasses, which were so fragile that the ships carried a supply of spares on long voyages.

Here's a picture and brief description of a replica of one of Columbus's ships, the Niña.)
- 7:57 AM, 14 October 2013   [link]

The BBC Wants To See Its Competitors Regulated:  But would prefer that it remain free.
And on the other side, not all sections of the news media are opposed to the idea of a press super-regulator under government auspices.  In fact, the BBC, which is the largest and most influential provider of news in this country, has made little attempt to disguise its support for the taming of what it regards as the vulgar British newspaper trade.  (At the same time, the corporation is under threat of external regulation itself: there is considerable pressure to bring it under the auspices of Ofcom like any other broadcasting organisation.   Interestingly, the BBC regards the idea that its practices and views might be questioned by an outside body as outrageous.)
(Ofcom = Office of Communications.)

The entire column is worth reading, especially for an American trying to understand the British journalism scene.

(Incidentally, Janet Daley is an American, and studied philosophy at Berkeley, before moving to Britain.)
- 9:01 PM, 13 October 2013   [link]

Europeans Don't Expect Much From Their Shale Oil And Gas:   Here's a survey article explaining why Europeans are less enthusiastic about developing their oil and gas than we are.

Two samples:
The speed and the magnitude of the growth of production across the Atlantic may not be repeated in Europe.  The exceptional conditions existing in the United States are not met here: the presence of a major oil and gas industry, abundant drilling equipment, a network of gas pipelines, and the great empty spaces that has let the Americans drill more than 200,000 wells in just a few years.  The legal context has also played a role: American citizens are the owners of their subsurface rights and have a financial interest in signing directly with the companies.
. . .
The same is true in the United Kingdom.  “In Europe it will take at least 10 years between starting up a site and coming online with the gas, versus three in the United States,” predicts one industrialist.  “Similarly, for reasons of acceptance, the number of simultaneous drillholes in the same area will probably be limited.”  According to a recent study by Bloomberg Energy Finance, the cost of production in the United Kingdom would be between 50 and 100 per cent higher than in the United States.
(Emphasis added.)

In many kinds of production, the United States still has leads over the rest of the world, though almost all of those leads have diminished over the decades since World War II.

And we aren't the only ones who have problems with too much regulation.
- 8:37 PM, 13 October 2013   [link]

"A Fake From A Fake For A Fake"  That's how Daniel Greenfield describes the silver griffin that Obama gave to Iran.

Greenfield drew on this article.
Sometimes an ancient artifact symbolizes more than its admirers necessarily imagine.   Take for example the silver griffin that was returned by the United States to Iran as a gesture of respect and—at least according to tea-leaf readers—a sign of an emerging thaw between the two nations.

There’s only one problem: It’s a fake.

Not only is it a fake, it’s a bad fake. The saga of the griffin, from its production to its much-touted return to Iranian President Rouhani during his recent visit to New York, demonstrates how fakers of ancient art fool the gullible wealthy with the connivance of museums and scholars.  More profoundly, it shows how ancient (or not so ancient) artifacts are made to carry cultural and diplomatic weight, in this case for a deeply problematic opening in relations between the United States and Iran.
There might be a second problem, it occurs to me.

Some Muslims take that prohibition against "graven images" very seriously.  And ancient griffins were worshipped by pagan religions, which Muslims generally don't much care for.

Remember, back in 2007 and 2008, when we were told how sophisticated and intelligent Obama was?
- 7:01 AM, 12 October 2013   [link]

Mitt Romney, Proven Right, again.

For which he will receive no credit at all, from our "mainstream" journalists.
- 7:14 AM, 11 October 2013   [link]

FDR And Frank Knox:  One of FDR's talents was a gift for choosing the right man, for the right place, at the right time.

In 1940, FDR chose Henry Stimson to be the Secretary of War.  Given his long and distinguished career, Stimson was an obvious choice, a Republican, but in general a supporter of FDR's foreign policies.

At the same time, FDR chose Frank Knox to be the Secretary of the Navy.  Knox was also a Republican — he had even been the Republican vice presidential candidate in 1936 — but there was nothing else in his background or experience to suggest that he would an especially good choice to head the Navy.

But he was.  In fact, Samuel Eliot Morison calls Knox, "one of the best secretaries the Navy ever had". (p. 29)

How did FDR know, or suspect, that Knox would a good choice for that position?  I don't know, but I do know that Knox wasn't the only surprising FDR choice who worked out well.

Does Barack Obama have the same skills in choosing people that FDR did?  I think you know my answer to that question.

(Sometimes, FDR's choices worked out badly.  If you look through at FDR's two Secretaries of War who preceded Stimson, George Dern and Harry Woodring, you may conclude that FDR used the position as a place to park not-especially-talented Democratic politicians.  Which may have made sense politically, but was not good for the nation.)
- 2:43 PM, 10 October 2013   [link]

Two Topical Cartoons From The New Yorker:  On Tuesday, there was this one, commenting on health care.  (And, yes, I have heard of a few individuals who have made similar choices.)

On Wednesday, there was this one on biofuels — and allergies.

(I liked them both, but the second more than the first.)
- 1:44 PM, 10 October 2013   [link]

Economist Greg Mankiw Applauds President Obama's choice of Janet Yellen.
President Obama has made a great decision in choosing Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve.
Now, what I find interesting is that Mankiw did not say that Larry Summers, long thought to be Obama's first choice for the position, would also have been a great choice.  Maybe I am reading too much into that omission, but Mankiw would know Summers well from their years together at Harvard.

(Yellen also taught at Harvard, but before Mankiw had even earned his PhD.)
- 1:23 PM, 10 October 2013   [link]

Those Big DC Fights:  Of course I know about them, and even have some opinions on them, but I haven't posted much on them, because:  (1) You can hardly escape learning about them elsewhere.  (2) I don't have anything special to add to the discussion.  (3)  I suspect that part of this fight — on both sides — is for show, is partly play-acting to please party bases.

But I will try to say something about them, though I may wait until the dust has settled.
- 12:59 PM, 10 October 2013   [link]

Azerbaijan Scientists have developed time travel.
Azerbaijan's big presidential election, held on Wednesday, was anticipated to be neither free nor fair.  President Ilham Aliyev, who took over from his father 10 years ago, has stepped up intimidation of activists and journalists.  Rights groups are complaining about free speech restrictions and one-sided state media coverage.  The BBC's headline for its story on the election reads "The Pre-Determined President."  So expectations were pretty low.

Even still, one expects a certain ritual in these sorts of authoritarian elections, a fealty to at least the appearance of democracy, if not democracy itself.  So it was a bit awkward when Azerbaijan's election authorities released vote results – a full day before voting had even started.
The Washington Post should have learned from their competitors at the New York Times that vote fraud is "mythical".  If we exclude vote fraud as an explanation for this early release, we are left with bureaucratic error — which is a boring explanation — and time travel — which is not at all boring.
- 8:59 AM, 10 October 2013   [link]

US Refinery Exports Hit New Record:  US law forbids the export of crude oil, but not the export of refined products, and those exports hit a new record in July.  Some details from yesterday's Wall Street Journal article (which is, unfortunately, behind their pay wall):
In July, U. S. refiners shipped 3.8 million barrels of products a day to places as far flung as Africa and the Middle East, according to the latest data from the Energy Information Industry.  That volume was nearly 65% above the 2010 export level, when the U. S. oil boom was still in its infancy.
. . .
Overseas customers are particularly eager for low-sulfur diesel fuel that meets the stringent air-quality standards that are now rolling out across South and Central America, and are already law in Europe.
Much of that growth has come at the expense of European refineries.

You may be amused, as I was, to learn that we are exporting refined products to oil producing nations, including Venezuela, Nigeria, and some in the Middle East.

Here's an EIA table and chart showing exports since 1991.  If you look at it, you see that exports were stable for many years, and then began to grow in 2006.  Most likely, we are seeing the effect of a Bush administration energy reform, which allowed our refineries to export more.  (The Wikipedia article on the 2005 Energy Policy Act doesn't mention any change in export policies, but the timing makes me think that's what enabled the export increase.)

The energy boom in the United States has had ironic consequences, politically.  It has strengthened our economy, and thus Obama politically, in spite of Obama administration policies intended to reduce the production and consumption of fossil fuels.

(Even a casual observer will notice that the numbers from the article don't match those in the chart.  In a quick search of the EIA site, I didn't find any explanation, but such differences are often matters of different definitions, rather than errors.  The overall pattern of rising refined exports is quite clear in both, however.)
- 8:40 AM, 10 October 2013
Update:  After a little more searching, I found this July report, which has the same numbers as the Journal article — and this press release from the American Petroleum Institute that has a different number for total exports.

But all agree that our exports of petroleum products have been increasing, and fairly dramatically.

And a minor correction:  At the end of the last July report table, the EIA notes five exceptions to the ban on petroleum exports.
- 12:42 PM, 10 October 2013   [link]

Richard Lindzen Helps Us Understand The IPCC's AR5:  And I think it is fair to say that the MIT professor, who has all kinds of credentials, is not impressed by the fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Each IPCC report seems to be required to conclude that the case for an international agreement to curb carbon dioxide has grown stronger.  That is to say the IPCC report (and especially the press release accompanying the summary) is a political document, and as George Orwell noted, political language “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

With respect to climate, we have had 17 years without warming; all models show greater tropical warming than has been observed since 1978; and arctic sea ice is suddenly showing surprising growth.  And yet, as the discrepancies between models and observations increase, the IPCC insists that its confidence in the model predictions is greater than ever.
Lindzen worked on some of the earlier IPCC reports, so he was respected by the alarmists, at one time.  Now, almost all of them reject his arguments, if the Wikipedia article is reasonably accurate on that point.  But the article does not explain why they have decided his objections are wrong.

(In principle, you can reject a scientific theory because it is internally inconsistent, or because it is inconsistent with the data (or both).  I am not qualified to evaluate the consistency of Lindzen's views, or those of his opponents, but I can see that the data over the last seventeen years gives more support to his position than theirs.)
- 7:54 AM, 9 October 2013   [link]

Brendan O'Neill Makes A Point That I Have Often Made Here:   Most leftists now want limits on the freedom of the press.
If you get into an argument about press regulation this week, as the Privy Council unilaterally decides on the fate of the British press, I guarantee you this: it will be the Lefties among your acquaintances who will most vociferously champion state intrusion into the press, while the voices criticising such intrusion are far more likely to come from your Right-leaning mates.
But adds some British history that I was only vaguely aware of.  And points out the dangers to press freedom in that country from the Leveson Inquiry.

Thanks to the 1st Amendment, there is less danger of direct controls here in the United States — but our newspapers are much less supportive of other people's freedom of speech than they once were.  Most, for instance, now favor limits on campaign contributions, limits that will inevitably limit the speech of those who don't happen to own, or work for, a major news organization.

(I follow some of the British papers casually, and have come to the tentative opinion that they have, on the average, somewhat lower standards than American newspapers, but are usually far more interesting to read, and far more willing to cover politically incorrect subjects.)
- 11:06 AM, 9 October 2013   [link]

The Unscrupulous Republican Operative Loses One (7):   Regular readers may recall that I have said that it often seemed as if Michelle Obama's trips were being planned by an unscrupulous Republican operative.

Now it looks as if the Republican operative has had a rare defeat.
With the partial shutdown of the federal government dragging on, first lady Michelle Obama has canceled a fundraising trip to California that was scheduled for this weekend, Democratic Party officials said Tuesday.

Obama was to have visited Los Angeles on Friday and then headed to the Bay Area for three fundraisers to benefit the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Saturday and Sunday.
If you read about the three fund raisers, you'll see why a Republican operative would want them to happen during the (partial) government shutdown.

(It is possible that the operative has moved on to President Obama's staff.  That would explain, for example, why the White House is keeping the president's golf courses open, while closing the troops' commissaries.)
- 6:47 AM, 9 October 2013   [link]

James Taranto Takes Obama's "Fever" Metaphor — and runs with it.
What the 2008 version of the metaphor and the 2012-13 one have in common is that in both cases the "fever" is a phenomenon external to Obama.  That's important, but perhaps not in precisely the way the president thinks.
. . .
"Fevers have an adaptive function," notes John Durant in his new book, "The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health": "A fever is a natural immune response to infection, not just an unpleasant side effect of being ill.  Fever isn't a bug, it's a feature."  When the infection is gone, the fever "breaks" as the body's temperature returns to normal.

So if America's body politic continues to run a fever, that means it is still suffering from the underlying illness.  And if the Republicans are fevered--or are the fever--then it follows that Obama and the Democrats are the infectious agent.
Even if you don't agree with Taranto, you'll probably enjoy reading that part of his column.

(Obama may be suffering from what some medical experts call "fever phobia".)
- 5:07 AM, 9 October 2013   [link]