August 2009, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
Ever Think Your Appliances Are Plotting Against You? Andrei Melnikov has more reason than most to come to that conclusion.
On the day it turned itself on, Mr. Melnikov recalled, his cellphone had rung in the kitchen. He talked for about 10 minutes. Then he smelled smoke. The oven was roaring. The thermometer was in flames.It's even worse when the appliances work together against you.
More seriously, I would expect to see more such incidents as electronic controls replace manual controls on more and more devices.
- 4:33 PM, 24 August 2009 [link]
Oil Prices, 1987-2009: This graph, which I found at Wikipedia, may give you some idea of why I keep writing posts on oil prices.
Finally, notice that big spike at the end? Could that be one cause of our current recession?
(For the record, I think oil prices during the Clinton years may have been too low, may have discouraged exploration and production. And they almost certainly included too low a risk premium.
The Wikipedia version of the graph is better, but doesn't fit in the space above.)
- 2:03 PM, 24 August 2009 [link]
Bad New for a recovery.
Commodities prices rose as investors placed additional bets on a global turnaround. The price of oil rose 69 cents, to $74.58 in New York, its highest point of the year.Actually, those investors may be betting against the dollar.
I don't think we will have a vigorous recovery in the US until oil prices drop markedly.
- 1:26 PM, 24 August 2009 [link]
CIA Versus The White House? Here's the ABC story.
A "profanity-laced screaming match" at the White House involving CIA Director Leon Panetta, and the expected release today of another damning internal investigation, has administration officials worrying about the direction of its newly-appoint intelligence team, current and former senior intelligence officials tell ABC News.com.Panetta is angry over "plans by Attorney General Eric Holder to open a criminal investigation of allegations that CIA officers broke the law".
That's the story; Jennifer Rubin gives us the story behind the story:
Let's unpack some of this. For starters, this is not "politically awkward" for Holder. He will be greeted by cheers from the Left. The media will write glowing editorials. There is nothing like going after the intelligence community for getting the liberal elite's juices flowing. But he is actually doing one of two things: he is either a rogue attorney general, defying the wishes of the administration and determined to drag the administration and country through a quagmire of investigations and problematic prosecutions, or he is carrying out the president's wishes while insulating Obama from the wrath of anyone thinking it is the president's job to defend those who defended us and to avoid further damage to the already crumbling morale at Langley.(You'll want to read the whole thing, even though she does get her numbering mixed up.)
And here's my grim reminder: Intelligence is crucial in the war on terror; it is not just an important factor, it is the most important factor. Attacking our intelligence agencies will lead, almost certainly, to weaknesses in our intelligence operations, and, soon, to the deaths of innocent civilians, especially in other nations.
(Similar thoughts from Ed Morrissey.)
- 11:49 AM, 24 August 2009 [link]
The New York Times And The Fashion Industry: Our newspaper of record plays a central role in the fashion industry. (Partly because New York was once the center of clothes manufacturing and distribution, as I understand it.) The Times regularly puts out fashion supplements, such as this one, intended, as far as I can tell, to let the leaders in the industry communicate with each other.
That issue is 226 pages long, and is filled with pages of slick ads. These supplements must be a big source of income for the newspaper, though I have never seen the numbers.
No doubt the New York Times influences the fashion industry in many ways. Those familiar with the industry can probably think of many examples.
But the influence probably works both ways. It is hard not to suspect that the fashion industry influences the Times, even though editors at the newspaper may fight that influence. I don't mean that the Times doesn't try to report news from the industry honestly; I mean that some of the values of the fashion industry must seep back into the newspaper.
We might expect, to state the obvious, that the newspaper would pay more attention to appearances than it should, or that it would be more faddish than it ought to be. And I think both of those faults can be found in the Times.
- 8:50 AM, 24 August 2009 [link]
Senator Ted Kennedy Has Been Unable To Do His Job For Months: It is unlikely that he will recover from his brain cancer.
If Kennedy is sincere - if his chief concern is that Massachusetts not be left for months without the services of a full-time senator - then he should do the right thing right now: He should resign.Jeff Jacoby is right; Kennedy should resign. And I say that knowing full well that his incapacity helps the Republican party in the Senate. (Jacoby knows that, too, I am sure.)
- 7:17 AM, 24 August 2009 [link]
Paterson, Obama, And The Race Card: New York Governor David Paterson is in trouble in the polls, and, if he runs for governor next year, is likely to be defeated in the Democratic primary. So it is no surprise that he played the race card.
Gov. Paterson blamed a racist media Friday for trying to push him out of next year's election - launching into an angry rant that left even some black Democrats shaking their heads.In the interview, Paterson claimed that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick had been similarly targeted because of his race — and that Barack Obama would be the next target.
That made the Obama administration very, very unhappy.
President Obama's aides were so furious that Gov. Paterson dragged him into a rant about racism that they sent a message sharply criticizing the governor's comments just hours after he made them, The Post has learned.Understandably.
Playing the race card probably won't save Paterson, and dragging Obama into it may hurt Obama. Voters, in New York and elsewhere, may find some similarities in the two men's policies, and begin to think that Paterson's failures predict Obama's failures.
And then there is this unpleasant fact: It is unfair, but voters tend to judge politicians coming from one group by other politicians in that group. If Governors Patrick and Paterson are perceived as failures — and they are right now, judging by polls — then some of that failure will rub off on Obama.
(It is possible that playing the race card will let Paterson survive a Democratic primary, but it is difficult even to think of a scenario where he can continue as governor, even if he passes that first test. And if he doesn't pass the first test, then the Democrats will have alienated many of their most loyal voters.)
- 5:47 AM, 24 August 2009 [link]
Smile, You're On Candid Camera: That used to be the punch line to a TV program. Now, more and more often, it is a fact of our everyday lives, as in this picture.
How many people in that picture realize that they are being photographed? Very few, I suspect. The camera is not hidden, but it isn't obvious from the parking lot, either.
Webcams are becoming so common that we probably should just get used to being on camera all the time, especially in our large cities.
In a way, this spread of webcams takes us back to our small town roots. Those familiar with small towns know that it is best to assume that you are being watched almost all the time. It isn't exactly the same, since those watching you in small towns almost always know who you are. On the other hand, the watchers in small towns don't take pictures of you several times a minute.
- 3:56 PM, 23 August 2009
More: From this Telegraph article.
Britain is one of the most monitored countries in the world, with an estimated four million cameras nationwide.That's about 1 camera for every 15 people in Britain and about 1 camera for every 8 people in London.
The closed circuit TV cameras have not had as great an impact on crime in London as some hoped:
Fewer than one crime is solved by every 1,000 closed circuit television cameras, the Metropolitan Police, Britain's biggest police force, has admitted.But it is not clear from the article whether the London police are not using the cameras effectively, or whether the cameras can't be used effectively.
- 9:03 AM, 25 August 2009 [link]
$9 Trillion, Not $7 Trillion: The Obama administration has just admitted that the gloomier CBO forecast was more accurate than their own original budget forecast.
The Obama administration will raise its 10-year budget deficit projection to approximately $9 trillion from $7.108 trillion in a report next week, a senior administration official told Reuters on Friday.(I suspect both estimates are too optimistic, if you assume that the Democrats pass some kind of health insurance "reform" package.)
They released this on a Friday afternoon, naturally.
- 4:20 PM, 21 August 2009 [link]
Want To Come To The United States Badly Enough To Fake A Marriage? Then it will cost you about $30,000, of which about $10,000 will go to the person posing as your fiancé.
Interestingly enough, $30,000 is the same number that I have seen quoted for an illegal entry to the US, when you are smuggled in by way of a shipping crate.
There's more in the article, including this:
The Nguyen brothers, from Vancouver, Wash., recruited U.S. citizens to travel to Vietnam in order to fabricate engagements with Vietnamese nationals.The Nguyens, along with another ring, created so many fake engagements that the US stopped giving out fiancé visas for six months.
In the 1900s, the United States had open borders, with very few restrictions on immigration. If we were to do the same today, I suspect our population would soon pass one billion. At least.
(The Libertarian Party favors open borders, with a few exceptions. Here's the relevant plank in their platform:
3.4 Free Trade and MigrationYou have to give them credit for consistency, I suppose.)
- 3:35 PM, 21 August 2009 [link]
Worth Watching: This video listing all the Obama Czars.
You do have to wonder about an elected official who is that fond of calling his subordinates "czars", though Obama is hardly the first to use the term.
By way of the Instapundit.
- 1:17 PM, 21 August 2009 [link]
The LA Times Corrects A Mistake: And pleases Andrew Malcolm.
But without this kind of correction, online too, a few thousand people might have tuned into MSNBC, the Obama administration's favorite cable channel, expecting to see a "Jackass" show, and instead they'd have found Olbermann.Ouch.
(I've never watched Olbermann's show, but from what I read about the man, I have the feeling that he deserves Malcolm's jab.)
- 9:25 AM, 21 August 2009 [link]
Everyone In Washington Gets All What In August? I am not sure what Obama meant when he said this.
At an online forum on healthcare held Thursday at the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Obama drew on his own political experience to predict better fortunes next month.Though it might make some sense if he was talking to a group of little boys, rather than Democratic activists.
My own guess is that Obama was thinking of a much cruder expression, one that also ends in "up", but tried to bowdlerize it at the last moment.
(More guesses here.)
- 8:58 AM, 21 August 2009 [link]
Twenty Seat Gain For The Republicans Next Year? Last month, I guesstimated that they had about a 75 percent chance of winning at least that many House seats.
Charlie Cook, who makes these estimates for a living, now gives the Republicans a 50 percent chance of winning twenty seats.
Today, The Cook Political Report's Congressional election model, based on individual races, is pointing toward a net Democratic loss of between six and 12 seats, but our sense, factoring in macro-political dynamics is that this is far too low.(FWIW, the Republicans gained seats in the 2002 election.)
- 5:25 PM, 20 August 2009 [link]
Poor Poll Wording On Health Plan "Misperceptions"? Brendan Nyhan looks closely at the question wording in an NBC poll, and concludes the findings may not mean what NBC thinks they mean.
While it's great to see major news organizations polling on misperceptions, the wording of the NBC poll questions means that we can't draw sharp conclusions about the extent to which the public has mistaken beliefs about the actual contents of the legislation before Congress.One source of the confusion, though Nyhan doesn't mention it, is the fact that there is no single plan to evaluate. There is a House bill, which you can find on line, and several bills in the Senate. Obama himself has not presented a detailed plan. (Commenter "David" makes a similar point, while arguing that the poll wording is appropriate.)
If you asked me those questions, I would probably turn around and ask which plan you meant, the House bill, one of the Senate bills, or what I think Obama wants. (Not that he has been entirely consistent in describing what he wants.)
(I made a somewhat similar point about Gallup's alternatives on abortion; Gallup's alternatives do not map clearly into party positions.)
- 3:44 PM, 20 August 2009 [link]
Reports Of The Death Of The Republican Party Are Greatly Exaggerated: And so are reports that the party will be limited geographically for the foreseeable future.
Here's a common conclusion from lefty Harold Meyerson:
But today's Palinoidal Republicans have lost most of the professionals, much of Wall Street and an increasing chunk of suburbia. What they can claim is the allegiance of the white South and the almost entirely white, non-urban parts of the Mountain West. Of the 40 Republican members of the Senate, fully half -- 20 -- come from the old Confederacy, the Civil War border states where slavery was legal or Oklahoma, which politically is an extension of Texas without Texas's racial minorities. Ten others come from the Mountain West. The rest of the nation -- that is, of course, most of the nation -- has become an ever-smaller share of Republican ranks.There are some good lines there, but his conclusion is inconsistent with recent polls. In Connecticut, for example, long-time Democratic Senator Chris Dodd is likely to lose next year to Rob Simmons, a former Republican congressman.
In New Jersey, incumbent Democratic Governor Jon Corzine trails Republican challenger Chris Christie in all the latest polls.
In Pennsylvania, incumbent party switcher Arlen Specter is behind likely Republican challenger Pat Toomey in the latest Rasmussen poll. That poll may be an outlier, Specter may be dropping fast, or both. (To add to Specter's troubles, he is likely to face a tough challenge in the Democratic primary from Congressman Joe Sestak.)
The Virginia governorship is the biggest prize this year. Obama's victory in Virginia last fall was only the latest in a series of wins for the Democrats in the state — but Republican candidate Bob McDonnell has a solid lead in all the recent polls over Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds.
In Illinois, Obama's home state, Republican Mark Kirk leads two likely Democratic candidates, Alexi Giannoulias and Cheryle Jackson, in the 2010 Senate race.
The Democrats have made gains in the Mountain West in recent years. In Colorado, the largest mountain state, incumbent Democratic Governor Bill Ritter is trailing one likely challenger, Scott McInnis, and is tied with another, Josh Penry, in the latest poll.
If Republicans make gains this year and next year in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, and Colorado, they will do so because they have won back many professionals, suburbanites, and Wall Streeters. Or to put it in a better way than Meyerson did, because they won back independents and moderates.
Republicans even have chances for gains in states that have been heavily Democratic for years, or have been trending Democratic. Democratic governors in many of those states have terrible approval ratings. Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick had an approval rating of just 27 percent in March. (And it may be even lower now.) Patrick was elected in a campaign that was similar to Obama's presidential campaign, and has governed in a broadly similar way.
New York Governor David Paterson has an approval rating of just 18 percent. Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski has an approval rating of 35 percent, as does Washington governor Chris Gregoire.
Is there a single explanation for these Republican gains and Democratic vulnerabilities? Sure. Too many Democratic leaders have been trying to please leftists like Meyerson, rather than trying to please the average voter.
- 2:18 PM, 20 August 2009 [link]
Another Climate Change Expedition: I spent most of yesterday investigating sea level changes. This picture was taken on the way to the investigation area.
- 8:15 AM, 20 August 2009
The picture was taken on the Edmonds-Kingston ferry, approaching Kingston. You can just see the Olympics on the horizon.
- 11:04 AM, 21 August 2009 [link]
Worth Reading: Byron York on the disappearance of the anti-war movement.
Remember the anti-war movement? Not too long ago, the Democratic party's most loyal voters passionately opposed the war in Iraq. Democratic presidential candidates argued over who would withdraw American troops the quickest. Netroots activists regularly denounced President George W. Bush, and sometimes the U.S. military ("General Betray Us"). Cindy Sheehan, the woman whose soldier son was killed in Iraq, became a heroine when she led protests at Bush's Texas ranch.Read the whole thing for the evidence, and for his explanation for this disappearance.
- 2:21 PM, 18 August 2009 [link]
The Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations? The New York Times reporter is impressed by this exchange.
Ever since their father became president, Malia and Sasha Obama have for the most part been seen but not heard. But during a family trip on Sunday to the Grand Canyon, the voice of Malia, 11, was crystal clear over the television microphones, as she demonstrated her acumen in geology to her very impressed mother and father.Most 11 year old kids would be able to do that — if they had just studied the subject. Especially if they were attending a school as good as Sidwell Friends is supposed to be.
That bit from the Grand Canyon visit was mildly depressing; this is laugh-out-loud funny.
- 1:32 PM, 18 August 2009 [link]
Can Fat Clog Your Brain? Maybe.
Eating fatty food appears to take an almost immediate toll on both short-term memory and exercise performance, according to new research on rats and people.(Many of the commenters are unhappy with that conclusion.)
- 12:57 PM, 18 August 2009 [link]
Poetry And Poverty: Former New York governor Mario Cuomo is one of the greatest public speakers of our time. Some of his best speeches approached poetry. (The most famous is his 1984 Democratic convention keynote speech.)
Cuomo was a disaster as New York governor.
Yet what did Mario Cuomo actually accomplish in his three terms as governor? During his twelve-year tenure Mario Cuomo presided over the virtual evisceration of the New York State economy. He had no sense of how to achieve prosperity except to set up trade barriers and "share the wealth." At one point he suggested that only New York State wines be sold in grocery stores. He refused to buy bid-winning subway cars for New York City because they were made in Canada. When the New York Yankees threatened to leave the crime-ridden Bronx and move to New Jersey, Cuomo promised to "sell some bonds" and buy the team from George Steinbrenner -- probably not even realizing that "selling bonds" meant borrowing money. In the 1991-1992 recession, one out of every five jobs lost in America were in New York State.(Emphasis added.)
Upstate New York was once an economic powerhouse, as older readers will know, but younger readers may not.
Cuomo's rhetorical skills, his poetry, if you will, allowed him to stay in office, even while his policies were impoverishing his state. (He was helped by "mainstream" journalists who strongly approve of his leftist social views, especially his support for abortion, and his opposition to capital punishment.) His career should be a warning to all of us.
(Tucker's thoughtful article is about the tension between universal brotherhood and individual responsibility.
You can read a sketch of Cuomo's political career in this Wikipedia biography. It's an odd sketch, naming all the offices he held or ran for, but saying little about his policy successes — or failures.)
- 7:31 AM, 18 August 2009 [link]
Obama Is Subsidizing Offshore Oil Production: Brazil's offshore oil production.
The U.S. is going to lend billions of dollars to Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobras, to finance exploration of the huge offshore discovery in Brazil's Tupi oil field in the Santos Basin near Rio de Janeiro. Brazil's planning minister confirmed that White House National Security Adviser James Jones met this month with Brazilian officials to talk about the loan.(It's a subsidy because Petrobras would have to pay higher interest if they borrowed the money privately.)
As far as I know, the Obama administration does not plan to subsidize American offshore oil production. (They might be more willing to do so if one of our oil companies was owned by the government.)
The Obama administration does not have a coherent energy policy. Obama wants the price of fossil fuels to rise dramatically, in the long run, but has accepted a few changes that will make them cheaper in the short run. He opposes increased development of nuclear energy, for the present, even though he is certain that global warming is a serious threat.
I don't expect that to change, because I don't think he understands the problems of the energy sector (or much else about our economy, for that matter).
It would be nice, however, if Obama would, at the very least, treat American energy firms as well as he treats foreign energy firms.
- 6:34 AM, 18 August 2009 [link]
Hot Dogs And Health Policy: On July 4th, Betty Beauchaine ate a hot dog. Is that any of our business?
The answer, it turns out, is yes. The July 28th Wall Street Journal* tells the story:
Mrs. Beauchaine, a 75-year-old great-grandmother who suffered from heart failure, was admitted to the Berkshire Medical Center twice in June, with fluid accumulation in lungs that left her short of breath.At 75, Beauchaine is on Medicare, so we taxpayers paid most of the charges for that re-admission.
The Berkshire Medical Center is trying, with some success, to persuade Beauchaine, and others like her, to avoid hot dogs, and other things that might bring them back to the hospital. The Center is doing this even though cutting down on re-admissions reduces their income.
But I would like to put that effort aside, and make a very large point: When we provide medical care with tax money, the way the recipients behave becomes the taxpayers' business. (Similarly, when we are part of any insurance pool, the way the others in that pool behave becomes our business. That may be more obvious in a small firm that provides insurance to its employees, but it is still true even in the largest pools.)
So, yes, it is our business that Mrs. Beauchaine ate that hot dog.
I am far from having a comprehensive plan to cure our health insurance problems. But I do know that, everything else being equal, I would prefer that Mrs. Beauchaine's hot dog was none of my business. (Since I am very fond of grandmothers and great-grandmothers, I do hope she takes better care of herself from now on, but that is very different from worrying about whether she is costing the taxpayers too much.) I can not even imagine a humane way to achieve that with Beauchaine, but I do think that we can begin to move the young and the healthy away from a reliance on the taxpayer for medical care — and I think that we should try to do so. (As far as I can tell, Barack Obama completely disagrees with me on that objective.)
(*As far as I know, the article is not available free on line. And I have no idea why she is both Mrs. and Ms. in the same article. Careless proof reading, most likely.)
- 7:02 PM, 17 August 2009 [link]
This Pitcher Plant could be useful in rat-infested cities.
- 2:48 PM, 17 August 2009 [link]
Paul Krugman Argues For Obama's Health Insurance "Reform" But doesn't make a logical argument.
Krugman begins by attacking the Investor's Business Daily for a mistake — which Krugman considers unforgivable, and ends by confessing to a mistake of his own — which Krugman considers forgivable.
In between, Krugman tells us that we are spending too much on health care (true), that all the "cool" countries have universal plans (probably not true, and certainly irrelevant), that the opponents of the plan are fighting dirty (even if true for all of the opponents — and it isn't — irrelevant), and that introducing a vast new government program will help control costs (which is possible, but unlikely, as anyone with any experience in government programs can tell you).
That's why I and others believe that a true public option competing with private insurers is extremely important: otherwise, rising costs could all too easily undermine the whole effort.He does not explain why a public option would help control costs, especially one designed by congressional Democrats, who love to dish out favors to special interests.
H (For a serious discussion from the other side, you may want to read John Mackey's proposals. Note that Mackey, unlike Krugman, does not engage in name calling.)
- 1:09 PM, 17 August 2009 [link]
Congratulations To Patterico: For catching this fake doctor.
And he has done some substantive follow-up posts, including this one.
- 8:30 AM, 16 August 2009 [link]
"We Invented The Personal Computer" Did you know that the personal computer was invented right here in King County? That's what I just learned from an ad from King County executive candidate Larry Phillips. He didn't explain how he came to that conclusion, but I would guess that Phillips thinks that Bill Gates and Paul Allen invented the personal computer.
Phillips is running as the candidate who really understands the county and the issues.
Usually TV ads are checked before they are aired, so Phillips' staff must be as misinformed as he is.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(Who did invent the personal computer? There are a number of plausible candidates. Those interested in the question might want to start with the Altair — and work back.)
- 7:44 AM, 17 August 2009 [link]