Archive:

August 2011, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Was Gerald Ford A Moderate?  Not by today's standards.   Jay Cost explains.
In the last fifty years, the entire political discourse has shifted to the left, in large part because of the Great Society.  Liberals today are more liberal than their counterparts in the 1950s or early 1960s, and conservatives are more liberal as well!
And so a man who held Ford's positions today would be on the far right.  (If you aren't convinced, read through Cost's examples.)

(That shift, by the way, helps explain why Democrats lost supporters and Republicans gained them since the Great Society.  Many voters weren't convinced that all of the LBJ's programs were all that great.  In fact, LBJ wasn't convinced they all were, either, after he had seen what they did to support for his party.)
- 2:02 PM, 24 August 2011
More:  Cost doesn't mention it, but Ford led an effort, an unsuccessful effort, to impeach Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.
- 5:45 PM, 24 August 2011   [link]


Small Monopolies:  For years, I have been impressed by the way individuals and companies can establish small monopolies — and extract monopoly profits from them.  (And sometimes depressed if I had been planning to buy the good or service.)

Let me start with two examples from the movie business.  How much would you expect to pay for a copy of a well-known foreign movie, released in 1967?  Ten or fifteen dollars?   How about almost forty dollars?  Or what about a well-known movie released in 1940?  Again, you might guess ten or fifteen dollars, and for this movie the price is closer to thirty dollars.

It isn't hard to understand why those who own these movies can get away with charging those monopoly prices; there are no close equivalents for The Battle of Algiers or The Great Dictator.  So the owners of those movies can charge far more for them than for a typical, or even a very popular, movie from the same year.  (And, I suspect, they are right in thinking that they would not expand the market for either movie, greatly, by lowering the price.)

Once you realize that monopolies can come in many sizes, you will have a better understanding of many things, including the prices for many college texts.  Publishers, and authors, are taking advantage of their monopoly positions.

(I would argue that tuition charges at some famous universities, Harvard for instance, are best understood if you recognize that the universities are, in some sense, monopolies.  But, whatever else these universities are, they are not small.)
- 1:17 PM, 24 August 2011   [link]


The Australian Sex Scandal May Take Down The Gillard Government:  First, some background:  Australian Labor MP Craig Thomson was head of the Australian Health Services Union.

While he was head, the union finances do not seem to have been managed well.
HOW can a union whose income is almost entirely derived from membership fees and interest incur hundreds of thousands of dollars of bad debts at least two years' running?

That question is likely to be key to the official probes into the use of Craig Thomson's Health Services Union credit card, allegedly for prostitution services, as well as the financial discrepancies in the union's books.
The payments to prostitutes on a union charge card in his name have, naturally, drawn the most attention, but the scandal appears to be much larger.

So that's what we know about the scandal.  Now, how could this take down the Gillard government?

The answer to that is a bit complicated.  If Thomson resigns — and he has already given up heading a committee in the Australian parliament — the Australians will hold a special election.  Thomson won the seat by just 5 percent in the last election, and the Labor Party is unpopular, very unpopular.  So, the opposition Liberal Party is likely to win his seat, if he resigns.

And then it gets complicated, because neither Labor nor the Liberal-National coalition would have a majority in the Australian House.  (The Labor Party would still have a working majority in their upper house, the Australian Senate.)  You can get some idea just how complicated by reading this post.

But you don't need to know all the details to appreciate these two points:  The Australian Labor Party would almost certainly lose a national election — and so you can expect Prime Minister Gillard to try to avoid one any way she can, including defending, as long as possible, Craig Thomson.  And it looks less and less likely that she will be able to avoid an election.  Right now, I would bet that there will be an Australian election this year, and that Gillard will lose it, by a solid margin.

(This scandal may have international consequences, which I'll discuss in a later post, probably tomorrow.)
- 8:54 AM, 24 August 2011   [link]


Tea Party Activists Have Infiltrated Spain:  How else can you explain this agreement?
Spain's government and opposition have agreed to pass a constitutional limit on public sector borrowing.

Last week, the French and German leaders called for all eurozone governments to introduce such a limit to help contain the euro debt crisis.

The move came as the Spanish parliament discussed further austerity designed to cut the deficit to 6% of economic output this year, from 9.2% in 2010.
Having, it would appear, already taken over France and Germany.

President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel lead conservative parties, but Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero is the head of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, and no conservative.

Those Tea Party folks are everywhere.

All right, I'll be serious for a moment.

It is odd that the policies being adopted widely in Europe, even by leftist governments, would be so controversial here in the United States.  I suppose that's mostly because our "mainstream" journalists are such partisans that they can not admit that the Obama-Pelosi-Reid government failed fiscally, failed to even to pass a budget in the last session of Congress, much less provide a long-term plan to match spending and taxes.
- 6:29 AM, 24 August 2011   [link]


For Those In The East Hit By The Earthquake, this song, made famous by Jerry Lee Lewis.

(There is a dispute about the origins of the song.)
- 3:54 PM, 23 August 2011   [link]


Fannie Mae And The Feckless Regulators:  In June, I used a list, "Fannie Mae and Friends", from Morgenson and Rosner's Reckless Endangerment to come to this conclusion:
Most of the Democrats on that list have Obama connections.  Obama asked Johnson to be on his vice-presidential search committee, but dropped Johnson after "it was reported that he had received loans directly from Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide Financial, a company implicated in the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis".  Franklin Raines has also advised Obama, at least informally.  Clinton's wife works in the Obama administration.  Thomas Donilon is currently Obama's National Security Advisor.  Larry Summers was Obama's first head of the National Economic Council.  Robert Rubin is one of Obama's part-time economic advisors.  Richard Holbrooke served in the Obama administration as a special envoy, until his death last December.   Thomas R. Nides is currently Obama's Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.   Peter Orszag was Obama's first head of the Office of Management and Budgeting.

Obama chose at least 2 people on that list to be informal advisors, and named 6 of them to official positions in his administration.  (I think it likely that he would have found a place in his administration for Johnson and Raines, if it weren't for their legal problems.)  It is almost as if helping destroy Fannie Mae and cause the 2008 financial crisis was a resumé-enhancer for our current administration.

Morgenson and Rosner had three other lists: "Doubters and Those who Pushed Back", "Subprime Lenders and Their Enablers" and "Feckless Regulators".

In this post, I'll discuss, briefly, the people in that last group, the "Feckless Regulators".

Here they are, with links to their Wikipedia articles, where those articles exist:
As with the first list, Morgenson and Rosner appear to have listed these men in order of declining culpability, with Geithner being the most guilty and Mishkin the least.

(Robert Peach and John McCarthy are Federal Reserve researchers who wrote papers arguing that there was no housing bubble.  You can download one of them here, or you can see a quick summary of their conclusions in this article.)

As I did in the June post, I have put my guess at each man's party identification before his name.  (Mishkin was nominated to the Federal Reserve by George W. Bush, but he appears to be more a technician than a partisan.  He did err, spectacularly, on Iceland, but so did other economists, in both parties.)

Again we see that this is a predominately Democratic scandal.  The failure of Fannie Mae was the result of decisions made, mostly, by Democrats, and facilitated, mostly, by "feckless" Democratic regulators.

Three of these men, Geithner, Ferguson, and Cuomo, are eligible for high appointments in the Obama administration.  Geithner is Treasury Secretary (in spite of a little scandal or two), Ferguson is a part-time Obama advisor, and Cuomo is governor of New York.  (If he had lost his bid to be governor, I think it nearly certain that Obama would have offered him a Cabinet appointment.)

I'll repeat what I said in the June post, with a slight modification:  It is almost as if standing by while others destroyed Fannie Mae and helped cause the 2008 financial crisis was a resumé-enhancer for our current administration.
- 3:13 PM, 23 August 2011   [link]


Worth Reading:  Byron York explains where those immense Obama deficits came from.  Mostly from the economic downturn and new spending, not entitlements.
The bottom line is that with baby boomers aging, entitlements will one day be a major budget problem.  But today's deficit crisis is not one of entitlements.  It was created by out-of-control spending on everything other than entitlements.  The recent debt-ceiling agreement is supposed to put the brakes on that kind of spending, but leaders have so far been maddeningly vague on how they'll do it.
Vague because much of the increase in spending went to Democratic politicians and interest groups.   The Obama administration can not admit — before the 2012 election — that they intend to take some of the goodies away.

Any competent machine politician would understand that kind of thinking.

(You could argue, correctly in my opinion, that we would have been better able to afford the Obama spending spree if we had been more responsible about entitlements, especially Medicare and Medicaid, in past years.  That's true, but it doesn't disprove York's central point.)
- 1:24 PM, 23 August 2011   [link]


What Kind Of Place Is Martha's Vineyard?  It's a great place for wealthy leftists like President Obama, who visit there during the summer.  Here's how Obama has described it:
One of those magical places where people of all different walks of life come together; where they take each other at face value.
But he has never worked as a servant, and has probably never been there except in tourist season.   Martha's Vineyard is not a magical place for most of the permanent residents, most of the time.
While it might sound wildly unrealistic, [Robert] Harris's depiction is, in part, the reality of life in Martha's Vineyard — a reality unseen by the wealthy tourists and presidential entourages.  When the holidaymakers depart at the beginning of September, the island's population drops from a summer high of 105,624 to 15,007 by the winter.  And, simultaneously, local police, counsellors and doctors see a spike in depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, drug-related crime and domestic violence.
. . .
It is the island's cash cow — its popularity among wealthy tourists — that has fuelled some of its endemic problems.  Since the Clintons holidayed there in the 1990s, property prices and the cost of living have soared.  Not only has this created financial pressure on locals, who largely worked in farming and fishing, it has also created a climate of despair.  As their little island has become a magnet for the wealthy, residents are left staring enviously at the mansions that are left unoccupied for much of the year.  "People look at Martha's Vineyard and think there is tons of money here, but we have got people out of work.  The cost of living is high," says Chief Erik Blake of Oak Bluffs Police Department.  He tells me that a two-week stretch of rain in August will hurt locals economically as far ahead as February.  "Much of our economy depends on tourism, so in the winter months you have people out of work, their unemployment benefits run out.   It's a snowball effect.  The next thing you know you have a bad situation."
But Obama and other wealthy leftists won't be there to see it.

(Here's the Harris book.

I've discussed leftists and servants in earlier posts here, here, and here.)
- 10:11 AM, 23 August 2011   [link]


Earning Interest On Gold Bars:  A Venezuelan official thinks that's possible.
But in the video above, Hector Navarro, who has been Minister of a variety of things with Chavez, appears to have smoked a gold dusted egg roll when in min. 4.35 or so he says "It is crazy to pay someone else to custody our gold without getting any interest"

Jeez, a gold bugs dream!  You not only speculate with the gold but get interest on it!
Those who know Spanish may want to watch the whole thing, judging by some of the excerpts.

(Venezuelan authorities have said that they plan to move their gold to Venezuela, for reasons that are not clear, at least to me.)
- 8:47 AM, 23 August 2011
Correction:  I originally said that Venezuela was moving their gold; actually they have just said they will move their gold.  I've corrected the text above.

Here's an explanation of some of the practical difficulties in moving tons of gold.
- 12:45 PM, 23 August 2011   [link]


Nocera On The NLRB And Boeing:  It seems a bit odd to credit a New York Times columnist for noticing the obvious, but that has become rare enough among the columnists there that I suppose that we should give him some credit.

Nocera realizes that some Democratic policies are costing us jobs.
Boeing's aircraft assembly has long been done by its unionized labor force in Puget Sound, Wash.  Most of the new Dreamliners will be built in Puget Sound as well.  But with the plane so far behind schedule, Boeing decided to spend $750 million to open the South Carolina facility.  Between the two plants, the company hopes to build 10 Dreamliners a month.

That's the plan, at least.  The Obama administration, however, has a different plan.   In April, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Boeing, accusing it of opening the South Carolina plant to retaliate against the union, which has a history of striking at contract time.  The N.L.R.B.'s proposed solution, believe it or not, is to move all the Dreamliner production back to Puget Sound, leaving those 5,000 workers in South Carolina twiddling their thumbs.
But pleasing the very political Machinist's union.

Can we hope for more columns like this from Nocera?  Probably not; he says in the column that he is unwilling to consider rolling back some of the EPA edicts that have destroyed jobs during the Obama administration.  And this column won't win him many friends at the newspaper.

(That column and this post may remind some of Orwell's famous line: " . . . we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.")
- 8:16 AM, 23 August 2011   [link]


Separate Planes:   Again.
Michelle Obama and President Obama traveled to Martha's Vineyard just hours apart, costing taxpayers thousands in additional expenses so she could have just a bit of extra vacation time.
. . .
This is not the first time Michelle has gone on vacation ahead of the president on the taxpayers' tab.  Last December, she racked up what was likely more than $100,000 in expenses leaving early for their Hawaii vacation.
I hesitated before blogging about this, because how the two of them are getting along is mostly none of our business.  (And it would be none of our business at all if we weren't paying for some of it.)

But there is a small political point worth making here:  From what I can tell from a distance Barack and Michelle both feel entitled, but in different ways.  He feels that he ought to be, well worshipped is too strong a word, but it is hard to think of a better one, and she feels that she has a right to feel aggrieved, constantly.  (Remember her complaining to those working class women in Ohio about how hard it was to pay for piano and dance lessons?)

If I am right, then the two of them are likely to get on each other's nerves from time to time.

(Whatever problems they may be having, I admire how well their two daughters appear to be doing.  That says something good about both parents, in my opinion.)
- 6:17 PM, 22 August 2011   [link]


Gallup Puts Mitt Romney Ahead Of Obama:  Rick Perry tied, Ron Paul just a few points behind, and Michelle Bachmann close.
President Barack Obama is closely matched against each of four possible Republican opponents when registered voters are asked whom they would support if the 2012 presidential election were held today.  Mitt Romney leads Obama by two percentage points, 48% to 46%, Rick Perry and Obama are tied at 47%, and Obama edges out Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann by two and four points, respectively.
Considering the differences among those four, I would have expected more variation.  Perhaps many voters are, at this point, treating all four as generic Republicans.  (Which, I suspect, would annoy all four.)
- 3:41 PM, 22 August 2011   [link]


Yes, But Are They Rebels For Us?  This morning, the news programs were celebrating the apparent fall of Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi.  I have no reason to be fond of the Libyan dictator — and many reasons not to — but I couldn't join in that celebration because I don't know whether the rebels will be an improvement.  And I don't see any reason to expect them to show much gratitude for the NATO support that made their victory possible.

It is probably best, for now, not to hope for too much.

(The title of the post is a play on a famous line by the next-to-the-last Austrian emperor, Franz Joseph I.  
No wonder the Emperor, on being told that one of his subjects was a good patriot, said irritably, 'Yes, but is he a patriot for me?' (p. 8)
- 2:19 PM, 22 August 2011
More:  Victor Davis Hanson has a brief post discussing likely outcomes.  Some are worse than others.
- 9:12 AM, 23 August 2011   [link]


Eco-Fads:  It's not often I recommend a book I haven't seen, much less read, but I'll make an exception for Todd Myers' Eco-Fads.

Why the exception?

Because I trust Myers, and because a book like this is desperately needed.

Desperately, because these fads interfere with rational efforts to improve our environment.

As environmental consciousness has become socially popular, eco-fads supplant objective data. Politicians pick the latest environmental agenda in the same way we choose the fall fashions — looking for what will yield the largest benefit with our public and social circles.

Eco-Fads exposes the pressures that cause politicians, businesses, the media and even scientists to fall for trendy environmental fads.  It examines why we fall for such fads, even when we should know better.  The desire to "be green" can cloud our judgment, causing us to place things that make us appear green ahead of actions that may be socially invisible yet environmentally responsible.

Those in this area may want to attend a reception for the book tomorrow evening, from 6 to 8, in Bellevue.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 1:16 PM, 22 August 2011   [link]


Tim Blair Criticizes The Australian Labor Party:  For not knowing how to do a sex scandal.
This hopeless Labor government can't even run a simple political sex scandal properly.

Classically, here's how these things work: male politician is accused of non-marital affection involving someone usually several years younger and several degrees hotter than his wife, politician denies any wrongdoing, politician is seen as a lyin', cheatin' horn dog, politician either rebuilds reputation or slinks away to obscurity.
But the big Australian sex scandal is mostly about a credit card.  For now.

Australian voters may be pleased that their government is not experienced at handling sex scandals — or may see this as just more evidence of incompetence.  Regardless of how voters see this scandal, few political observers think the Labor government will win the next election.

(Though Blair doesn't mention it, the story does give one reason some men might want to be labor union officers.)
- 8:47 AM, 22 August 2011
More:  The scandal could result in the Labor government losing power, either because Australian MP Craig Thomson is forced to resign and is replaced by a Liberal MP in a special election, or because one of the independents that give Prime Minister Gillard her narrow majority switches.

More on the scandal here; more on recent poll results here.
- 4:04 PM, 22 August 2011   [link]


The New York Times Reporter Is Surprised by the close race in New York's 9th district.
Of all the places to hear fulminations against President Obama, one of the least expected is the corner of 71st Avenue and Queens Boulevard, in the heart of a Congressional district that propelled Democrats like Geraldine A. Ferraro, Charles E. Schumer and Anthony D. Weiner to Washington.
. . .
The Sept. 13 election for the Ninth Congressional District seat became vacant this summer when Mr. Weiner quit over an online sex scandal. The race was widely viewed as a sleepy sideshow — a mere formality that would put David I. Weprin, a Democratic state assemblyman and heir to a Queens political dynasty, into a seat known for its deep blue hue.

Instead, the race has become something far more unsettling to Democrats: a referendum on the president and his party that is highlighting the surprisingly raw emotions of the electorate.
But regular readers of this site wouldn't be surprised.  Nor would anyone who noticed that Bush and McCain had won 44 percent of the district's vote in 2004 and 2008.

Those emotions would not surprise anyone who listened to talk radio even occasionally, or spent a little time at conservative news sites, or even went out to talk to a few voters, as reporter Michael Barbaro finally did.  They might surprise someone who spent too much time in the newsroom at our newspaper of record.

Incidentally, Barbaro provides some support for my speculation that Obama's record on Israel is hurting him in the district.  The Republican candidate, Bob Turner, a Catholic, has attacked Obama's policies toward Israel.

(For the record:  I would still see Weprin as the heavy favorite, partly for the reason mentioned in the article: he'll have the support of a much better organization than Turner.   But it is also true that special elections often produce upsets, because they give the outs a chance to voice their anger.)
- 7:21 AM, 22 August 2011   [link]


Wins And Losses Aren't As Good A Predictor Of Wins And Losses as the runs differential.
Bill James noticed similar cases while he was writing his landmark series of Baseball Abstracts.   In response, he developed a runs-based win-loss estimator called Pythagorean Winning Percentage (pW-L%).  James's original formula was that estimated win-loss percentage equals the square of runs scored divided by the square of runs scored plus the square of runs allowed.  James found that this estimator was a better predictor of future win-loss percentage than a team's actual win-loss percentage.

In essence, run differential tells us more about a team's quality than its win-loss percentage.

Subsequent researchers have refined the formula and found an exponent of 1.83 rather than 2.0 models team performance more closely, but the basic idea applies well not only to baseball, but also to other sports.
(Emphasis added.)

That finding may seem paradoxical — until you think about it for a while.

(Serious baseball fans almost certainly knew this already, but it was new to me.  And I like that exact 1.83 exponent.

Yankee haters won't like this.)
- 3:05 PM, 21 August 2011   [link]


Heavy Duty Stuff?  I caught the end of today's Meet the Press and was amused by this claim from substitute host Savannah Guthrie:
And the president has released his reading list for his vacation on Martha's Vineyard, and it's pretty heavy duty stuff.  Let me tell you.  It's "The Bayou Trilogy," a collection by Daniel Woodrell, "Rodin's Debutante" by Ward Just, "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese, "To the End of the Land" by David Grossman, and "The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson.
Perhaps by your standards, Ms. Guthrie, but not by mine.  There are six serious (or semi-serious) novels in that list, and one black history book.  As usual, nothing on military strategy, general history, economics, or science.  Nothing, in short, that would help him be a better president.

That's the list of a man who thinks he knows all that he needs to know for his job, and is entitled to do some reading for pleasure.

What should Obama read?  He could start with this textbook.  Professor Mankiw might even be willing to give him a special deal, in return for the publicity.

He should read Morgenson and Rosner's Reckless Endangerment.

Or almost any book by Bernard Lewis, for example, What Went Wrong?.

And, though parts of it are gruesome, he could learn something from Karl Zimmer's Parasite Rex, though the president and I might draw different political lessons from the book.
- 1:43 PM, 21 August 2011   [link]


Michael Ramirez Got Brutal in last Friday's cartoon.

Was it unfair?  Judge for yourself, but I think his latest attack on Obama was fair — by the usual rough standards of political cartoons.
- 7:25 AM, 21 August 2011   [link]


Robbery!  Rape!  Murder!  Ghastly Punishments!  The Proceedings of London's Old Bailey court has them all.  And now the articles are available in a searchable database.  (Which, I must warn you, may be overworked right now, temporarily I hope.)

If it's busy, try again later, and you are almost certain to find something of interest.  For example, yesterday I learned that women who were pregnant were often allowed to postpone their punishment (after they had been examined by a group of "matrons" to ensure that they really were pregnant), and the women were then often pardoned after they gave birth.

So the courts combined harsh punishments, especially early in the period covered — 1674-1913 — with what we might consider sloppy enforcement of those punishments.

Here's the New York Times article where I learned about this archive.

(For some reason, I find it encouraging that scholars are arguing about the usefulness of the archive.  I get nervous when they agree about some new technique or resource, worrying that they might be missing some of its defects.)
- 3:30 PM, 20 August 2011
The site is back up, as I write.
- 9:41 AM, 22 August 2011   [link]


Congressman Defazio Tries To Cheer Us Up:  And succeeds, in my case.
Oregon [Democratic] Congressman Peter Defazio is traveling around his district and leveling verbal body blows at President Obama.

In his Eugene office Wednesday, Defazio accused the President of lacking the will to fight for the promises he made to get elected.
. . .
He's also not convinced the President will do well in Oregon.

"I believe Oregon is very much in play. I mean we are one of the harder hit states in the union, particularly my part of the state.  I've just done six town hall meetings, have seven to go but people are shaking their heads and saying 'I don't know if I'd vote for him again.'"   Defazio said.
Obama carried Oregon by 17 points (57-40).  (Bush lost the state in 2000 by less than 7,000 votes, but by more than 70,000 votes in 2004.  So the state had been moving against Republican presidential candidates.)

If Obama is in danger of losing Oregon, he must be in danger in many other states that swung to him in 2008.

Defazio is, understandably, blaming the messenger rather than the message, blaming Obama rather than Obama's policies.  I think Defazio is wrong in that, but I respect his political judgment about the change in feelings toward Obama in Oregon, particularly in Defazio's 4th district.

(Defazio may be worried about his own seat.  The district leans Democratic, but only by 2 points according to Charles Cook, and Defazio's win in 2010 was much narrower than what he is used to.)
- 1:01 PM, 19 August 2011   [link]


Can "Green" Jobs Revive The Economy?  So far, they haven't.   That isn't surprising, but it is mildly surprising to see that fact in the New York Times.
In the Bay Area as in much of the country, the green economy is not proving to be the job-creation engine that many politicians envisioned.  President Obama once pledged to create five million green jobs over 10 years.  Gov. Jerry Brown promised 500,000 clean-technology jobs statewide by the end of the decade.  But the results so far suggest such numbers are a pipe dream.
The reporter, Aaron Glantz, is no conservative or even moderate, as you can tell from his gentle treatment of the far-left activist Van Jones.  But Glantz is willing to look at the numbers, and a few of the failed "Green" projects.  And for that he deserves some credit.

(I like his use of "pipe dream", for several reasons.)
- 8:20 AM, 19 August 2011   [link]


The Obama Administration Will Help Brazil Develop its energy resources.
The Obama administration said this week it will work closely with Brazil to develop the country's energy resources.

Energy Department Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman launched a partnership with the South American country aimed at improving cooperation on energy issues like offshore drilling, nuclear power and renewables.
It's too bad we can't talk the administration into following a similar policy for the United States.
- 6:29 AM, 19 August 2011   [link]


Fiscal Discipline In The Eurozone?  Today's Wall Street Journal has a nice summary chart showing the extent of the problem.  (Not available free on line.)  The nations with the largest economies in the Eurozone are Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain.

The Eurozone countries agreed to keep their total indebtedness below 60 percent of their GDP, and their current deficit below 3 percent of their GDP.

Of those eleven nations, how many are keeping those two agreements?  One, Finland.

Greece has the highest total debt, 142.8 percent, and Ireland has the highest current deficit, 32.4 percent.

(Some background on the Eurozone at the usual Wikipedia article.)
- 2:57 PM, 18 August 2011   [link]


That Unscrupulous Republican Operative?  That's my tentative answer to this Victor Davis Hanson question.
Whose Idea Was Martha's Vineyard?

Whoever in the White House decided on another first family vacation at Martha's Vineyard must be unhinged, coming as it does (a) after previous jaunts to places like Vail and Costa del Sol, and serial golf outings; (b) in the midst of tough economic times and bipartisan acknowledgment that national cutbacks for the vast majority of Americans are in order; (c) on the heels of three years of class warfare and anti-wealth demagoguery of the "fat-cat," "unneeded income," "spread the wealth" sort; and (d) during a presidential approval slide that seems to be based, at least in part, on the fact that the president's usual rhetoric has nothing to do with reality, that he suggests one thing while doing quite another.
Now I don't think these destinations are really being chosen by some unscrupulous Republican operative, but I do think that they are just the destinations that he (or she) would choose if they wanted to make the Obamas look out of touch with ordinary people.

Why do the Obamas keep making these mistakes?  Because, I suspect, they both feel they are entitled to special treatment.  And, of course, because our "mainstream" journalists (mostly) let them get away with it.

(As I mentioned last year, Michelle Obama's trip to Spain was almost perfect — from the point of view of a Republican operative.)
- 1:22 PM, 18 August 2011   [link]


Amerisclerosis?  For decades, Europeans (and some Americans) have been worried about Eurosclerosis.
. . . a term coined in the 1970s and the early 1980s to describe both a political period and an economic pattern in Europe, alluding to the medical term sclerosis.  Economically, it was used to describe countries which had high unemployment and slow job creation in spite of overall economic growth, in contrast to what the United States experienced in the same period when economic expansion was accompanied by high job growth.
. . .
The term was originally coined by German economist Herbert Giersch to describe how overregulation and a generous welfare state will undermine efficiency and job creation.
The Obama administration has been regulating like mad, and has been working day and night to expand the welfare state, so we should not be surprised — if we paid any attention to the European experience — that we have come down with same disease, and that the same people, young job seekers, suffer most, here and there.

("Amerisclerosis" isn't original, though I invented it independently.  You can find it, for example, here (translated here) and here.)
- 9:07 AM, 18 August 2011
Here are some numbers on regulatory growth under Obama.
Regulatory agencies have seen their combined budgets grow a healthy 16% since 2008, topping $54 billion, according to the annual "Regulator's Budget," compiled by George Washington University and Washington University in St. Louis.

That's at a time when the overall economy grew a paltry 5%.

Meanwhile, employment at these agencies has climbed 13% since Obama took office to more than 281,000, while private-sector jobs shrank by 5.6%.
Incidentally, it is not easy to fire federal employees — and it is surprisingly hard to hire them in large numbers, so that growth is more impressive than it might seem at first glance,

Thanks to "Ranger" for the tip.
- 2:33 PM, 18 August 2011   [link]


"Fast And Furious" Was A Disaster:  So, why are the men who were in charge of the operation being promoted?
As guns funneled by the ATF into Mexico continue to show up at crime scenes, three key supervisors of an operation that resulted in the deaths of two U.S. agents get moved up instead of fired.
. . .
A cynic would suggest that this was so the agency could keep tabs on the trio in the wake of investigations by Rep. Darrell Issa's House Government Operations and Oversight Committee and other boards.   Both ATF and the Justice Department have been pressuring witnesses as well as withholding documents.
You can call me a cynic, because that's what I suspect, too.

(Summary of "Fast and Furious" here.)
- 8:31 AM, 18 August 2011   [link]


Ron Paul Supporters Supply Some Of The Strongest Arguments Against Ron Paul:   For example.
An Austin Ron Paul supporter has taken out a full-page ad in the local alt weekly newspaper seeking any "stripper . . . escort . . . or 'young hottie'" who has slept with Rick Perry, part of his single-minded jihad against the presidential candidate.
Congressman Paul does attract some unpleasant people, more than most candidates, I would say.

(As far as I know, there is no evidence behind any of the persistent rumors about Perry.   He married his childhood sweetheart, Anita Thigpen, in 1982, and they have two grown children.   Ordinarily, those basic facts would dampen rumors, but they don't seem to have in Perry's case, perhaps because he is quite good looking.)
- 8:10 AM, 18 August 2011   [link]


Toby Harnden's Republican Scorecard:  It's a little different from most.
Observing campaigns from afar, it can be easy to forget how visceral and personal they are.   Certainly, there are policies and principles involved.  But once you get into the thick of the fray a lot of what happens comes down to base instincts and emotions like, as the great Hunter S. Thompson put it, fear and loathing, .
Harnden has 15 examples, most of them like this one: "Santorum loathes Ron Paul".

All of them seem likely to me, though I have no direct evidence on any of them.
- 6:01 AM, 18 August 2011   [link]


Happy Birthday, Fermat!  You don't look a day over 400.
[Pierre de Fermat] was a French lawyer at the Parlement of Toulouse, France, and an amateur mathematician who is given credit for early developments that led to infinitesimal calculus, including his adequality.  In particular, he is recognized for his discovery of an original method of finding the greatest and the smallest ordinates of curved lines, which is analogous to that of the then unknown differential calculus, and his research into number theory.  He made notable contributions to analytic geometry, probability, and optics.  He is best known for Fermat's Last Theorem, which he described in a note at the margin of a copy of Diophantus' Arithmetica.
Another way to put that last is that he is most famous for claiming to have a proof that he almost certainly didn't have.
In number theory, Fermat's Last Theorem states that no three positive integers a, b, and c can satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than two.

This theorem was first conjectured by Pierre de Fermat in 1637, famously in the margin of a copy of Arithmetica where he claimed he had a proof that was too large to fit in the margin.  No successful proof was published until 1995 despite the efforts of countless mathematicians during the 358 intervening years.
(He did prove it for the special case where n=4)

By way of neoneocon, who has more.

(Fun facts:  There are some triplets that are close enough to fool most modern calculators.   You can find examples here, including some that appeared on the Simpsons program.

When Andrew Wiles was getting ready to announce his proof, some mathematicians guessed what he had been up to, and starting placing bets with British bookies.  There were enough bets so that the bookies adapted by, if I recall correctly, changing the odds they were giving.)
- 6:45 PM, 17 August 2011   [link]


Doonesbury Shows Why We Need Reform At Our Colleges And Universities:  Doonesbury?  Yes, Doonesbury!

And, who knows, perhaps the findings in that comic strip will somehow, however slowly, reach the editorial pages of our major newspapers.

Granted, Gary Trudeau is years late to this party, but he is still welcome to join it.
- 2:00 PM, 17 August 2011   [link]


Not All Publicity Is Good Publicity:  Even for Abercrombie and Fitch.
On Tuesday, clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) said it would offer "substantial payment" to MTV's The Jersey Shore's cast members to stop wearing the brand on air.
Or maybe it is, since both the clothing company and the cast are going to get a lot of publicity for this offer.

The two deserve each other, in my opinion.
- 1:13 PM, 17 August 2011   [link]


Obama's Lincoln Joke:  Was pretty good, I thought, just the kind of self-deprecating humor he should use more often.
President Barack Obama said yesterday in Decorah, Iowa, that he absorbs more political criticism than Abraham Lincoln, the assassinated 16th U.S. president, attracted from his Civil War critics.

The comment came during a question-and-answer session where one invited audience member asked Obama how he deals with his congressional critics in the GOP.  "The Congress doesn't seem to be a good partner.  You said so yourself, they're more interested in seeing you lose than [seeing] the country win," the questioner lamented.

"Democracy is always a messy business in a big country like this," Obama responded. "When you listen to what the federalists said about the anti-federalists . . . those guys were tough.  Lincoln, they used to talk about him almost as bad as they talk about me."
(Especially that John Wilkes Booth fellow.)

Some, Don Surber for instance, seem to think that Obama was serious.

But how plausible is that?  To make that mistake, Obama would have to know almost nothing about our most famous president and, perhaps, to have missed much of the criticism of George W. Bush.

No, most likely Obama was joking.

(Historian Eric Foner took him seriously.
Criticism of Lincoln in his day "was even more vitriolic than what you see about Obama," said Eric Foner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential historian at Columbia University.  "Obama is a guy who has a thin skin and does not take criticism well."  Foner's Pulitzer-winning volume was titled "The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery."
But he's just defending his turf.)
- 8:23 AM, 17 August 2011   [link]


How Good Is The Texas Jobs Record?  Very good, as the Political Math blog shows in considerable detail.

Samples:
People are flocking to Texas in massive numbers.  This is speculative, but it *seems* that people are moving to Texas looking for jobs rather than moving to Texas for a job they already have lined up.  This would explain why Texas is adding jobs faster than any other state but still has a relatively high unemployment rate.
. . .
Since the recession started hourly wages in Texas have increased at a 6th fastest pace in the nation.
. . .
When we finally get the data, we discover that energy isn't really the biggest part of the Texas economy.  Increases in jobs in the energy sector (or closely related to it) account for about 25% of the job increases in the last year.  Since the energy sector only makes up 3% of all employment, there is some truth to this claim.

However, take the energy sector completely out of the equation and Texas is still growing faster than any other state.
Can Governor Perry claim credit for the Texas record?

At this point a quip is in order:  During his time as governor, Perry did very little — and did it very well.

It's a quip that not everyone will understand, so perhaps I should explain.  In general, job growth is more likely where taxes are moderate, and regulations are few.  A governor who wants to encourage job growth — in the long run — should spend much of his time restraining government, or at least not encouraging its growth.

Shannon Love, who lives in Texas, gives Perry some credit.
Since we learned our lesson, the people of Texas have repeatedly elected pro-economic-creative, pro-growth and small-government politicians to all offices across the state.  Perry deserves some credit for our sound economy because he has been one of the principle political leaders of the last decade but, frankly, if it hadn't been Perry it would have been someone else just like him, because that is what the political culture of Texas demands.  Perry is a cork bobbing in a torrent of responsible Texans en masse.
That sounds about right to me.

(And I love the idea of a "torrent of responsible Texans" — especially as compared to a cabal of irresponsible Chicagoans.)
- 7:31 AM, 17 August 2011   [link]


0 for 2 In Wisconsin:  Republican efforts to recall two Democratic "fleebaggers" failed.
Two Democratic Wisconsin state senators targeted by Republicans survived their elections Tuesday, ending a tumultuous summer of recalls spurred by anger over how lawmakers reacted to Gov. Scott Walker's proposal curbing collective bargaining rights of public workers.

Democrats picked up two seats through the nine recalls but were unable to wrest majority Senate control away from the GOP, which now holds a narrow 17-16 majority.  Before the recalls, Republicans had a 19-14 edge in the chamber.
These victories will probably have little effect on policy in Wisconsin, since the Republicans have already passed their main bills — including redistricting.  (There is some gossip that a Republican senator might switch and give Democrats control of the state Senate.  From what I can tell, that's more wishful thinking than a realistic possibility, especially since it is hard to see what Democrats could give him that he doesn't have already.)

At this point I'll make a straightforward (and obvious) prediction:  If Governor Walker's policies look successful to most Wisconsin voters in 2012, Republicans will keep control of the state and, perhaps, even gain a few seats in the legislature.  (Sometimes the obvious needs to be said.)

Republicans might have done better in the 12th district, which leans slightly Republican, with a better candidate.

(Here are the currently incomplete results by county.  Simac should win Florence County easily, but not by enough to change the results.   Most likely that precinct in Walworth County with 0 votes is a mistake by the Associated Press.

Earlier post on the recall elections here.)
- 6:02 AM, 17 August 2011   [link]