July 2008, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
Climate Change Data Gathering: One of the predictions made by global warming alarmists is that the snow pack in the Cascades will decrease markedly. I will spend much of today gathering data on that question at this well-known site. Naturally, I will be taking pictures to document any changes I find. (I'll be taking my cross country skis along, just in case.)
- 9:08 AM, 16 July 2008 [link]
A Sample From Bjorn Lomborg: The featured speaker at yesterday's conference was Bjorn Lomborg. You can get some idea of Lomborg's approach to the problem of global warming from this piece.
Lomborg is not a global warming "denier", or even a skeptic, though he is often accused of both. He accepts the predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as reasonably accurate. Read the rest of the piece to learn the names of some of those who do not accept the IPCC estimates.
- 8:59 AM, 16 July 2008 [link]
Jury Duty Again: Maybe. Speaking of coincidences, I have been called again for jury duty. And this is beginning to get a little odd. In March 2006, I was called for jury duty by King County. In the previous four decades, I had never been called for jury duty, though I have always registered to vote and have almost always had a driver's license. Since March 2006, I have been called for jury duty four more times, once more by King County, and three more times by the Kirkland Municipal Court. Almost certainly, my recent streak is a coincidence, but it is getting a little odd.
I said maybe, because Kirkland has an odd system for jurors. It is not unusual for a case to be settled just before it goes to trial, and the court's work load is small enough so that they can't just call jurors in and assume that about half of them will be needed. (That, as far as I can tell, is King County's procedure; they only need about half of the jurors who show up.)
This part of the instructions in the summons explains how the Kirkland system works:
Since my duty starts August 18th, I have to call or check the website on the evening of August 17th, and, probably, the evenings of August 18th, 19th, 22nd, and 23rd, to find out if I actually have to show up.
At the end of the summons, the Kirkland court appeals to my patriotism and sense of duty with this gentle message:
They don't mention the pay, perhaps because it is so meager. (Ten dollars a day, plus three dollars a day for travel expenses.)
That nasty part of the summons is mostly a bluff. Nationally, about half of the jurors who are summoned actually show up, and nothing happens to almost all of those who don't. (Though I suppose writing about your summons on a blog might make you more of a target.)
On the whole, I am looking forward to this experience, though those who run our courts may not like my reason: Before I was called for jury duty, I suspected that our courts were badly run and that the judges and administrators who run them often abuse the jurors. Now, I have direct evidence for those suspicions, and expect to collect more evidence this time, if I have to go in.
I should add, just to make it absolutely clear, that serving on a jury is no hardship for me. But it is for others, such as the cleaning woman I saw who earns a little more than the minimum wage at her job, and had to give even that little up when she was called for jury duty. Or the woman I met the first time I was called for jury duty who owned a small business, and was taking care of an elderly relative who needed constant care. While waiting to be called, she was trying, frantically, to manage her business and to make arrangements for her relative, using her laptop and cellphone.
Though serving on a jury is no hardship for me, I dislike the restrictions on jurors that make it harder to decide a case fairly. If I am to be a juror, I want to be the best one that I can be — and our current laws and court procedures do not allow that.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 8:19 AM, 16 July 2008 [link]
In a dramatic move yesterday President Bush removed the executive-branch moratorium on offshore drilling. Today, at a news conference, Bush repeated his new position, and slammed the Democratic Congress for not removing the congressional moratorium on the Outer Continental Shelf and elsewhere. Crude-oil futures for August delivery plunged $9.26, or 6.3 percent, almost immediately as Bush was speaking, bringing the barrel price down to $136.And maybe not.
- 5:42 AM, 16 July 2008 [link]
It Could Be Worse: I spent this morning, and the first part of the afternoon, at the Washington Policy Center's annual Environmental Policy Luncheon and Conference. I'll have more to say about the presentations over the next few weeks. For today, I just want to pass on this point, made by John Charles, president of the Cascade Policy Institute in Oregon: States with bad policies tend to lose people to states with better policies.
The example he used will amuse many Washingtonians. According to Charles, Oregon has uniquely bad land use regulations, and, as a result, the state is losing people to Washington and Idaho. (Those not familiar with Washington state may need to know that this state has its own draconian land use regulations. But, apparently, it could be worse.)Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 3:44 PM, 15 July 2008 [link]
What Would A President Obama Do? Good question. And a great many people, many of them experts on American politics, confess to not knowing the answer. For example, David Broder.
John McCain is the candidate who actually had experience as a wartime flier, but Barack Obama is the one who has most successfully adapted a favorite tactic of those intrepid aviators. When the pilots were over a target heavily defended by antiaircraft guns, they would release a cloud of fine metal scraps, hoping to confuse the aim of the shells or missiles being fired in their direction.Broder confesses that he has no answer to my question, that he doesn't know what a President Obama would do, and ends with this:
Obama is making it hard for the Republicans to figure out how to attack him. The risk for him is if he also frustrates the voters who need to understand what makes him tick. They don't elect enigmas to the Oval Office.Broder may or may not be right about the tactical question; it is possible that the confusion over what Obama would do will hurt him at the ballot box. Or the chaff he is throwing out may confuse enough voters, in a Democratic year, to let him slip through to victory this November.
But that's not the question that interests me here. Unlike Broder, I think that we can make a reasonable guess about what Obama would do, if he were elected president.
Briefly, I think that Obama will govern as close to his leftist ideas and values as he can get away with. Note that I am not saying that Obama will govern as far to the left as he can. In his Chicago neighborhood, Hyde Park, Obama is a moderate, and it would be easy to find people there who would govern much farther to the left than he would. But, relative to the country as a whole, Obama is on the left and, on some issues, on the far left.
Several lines of evidence have led me to this conclusion. To begin with, all of the people close to the young Obama (with the possible exception of his Indonesian stepfather) were on the left, his mother, his father, his maternal grandparents, his communist friend, Frank Davis, and so on. According to his own accounts, he chose to associate with leftists when he went to Occidental and then to Columbia. If he were actually a moderate, he would have been the only one in his family and the only one in his groups of friends in the colleges he attended. (His actual past explains why he talks so much about Kansas values; he wants to disguise his real values.)
And he chose, as we all know, to belong to the Trinity United Church of Christ for two decades. The anti-American, hateful, and possibly racist views of his pastor at Trinity, Jeremiah Wright, are well-known, but they shouldn't make us miss how far left that denomination, and, in particular, that church is. It is not a place one would go to associate with moderates.
There is nothing in his record that suggests that he disagrees with his family, or that he chose those leftist friends and associates, or his church, because he liked vigorous debates.
His record, in the Illinois senate and the United States senate, is thin, but supports my conclusion. Though he may not spout doctrinaire leftist positions as often as some of his colleagues, he consistently voted on the left in both senates. And you can comb through his entire elected career, as brief as it is, without finding any significant deviations from leftist orthodoxy.
In other words, the people he grew up with, and has associated with since, and his record, all lead to the conclusion that his "verbal hints of altered positions" are mostly what I called "pivots" and "fakes". They are attempts by this skillful basketball player to make us think he has moved, when he hasn't. Pivots and fakes are fine in basketball, but they are dishonest in politics.
I qualified "as close to his leftist ideas" with "as he can get away with". Let me explain what I meant by that, using the example of abortion. Obama's record on abortion has been truly extreme; read this column if you want a description of that record. (Or just look at the cartoon that begins this piece.) His position is so extreme that he has been trying to disguise it in recent weeks with "verbal hints". (And even, with, at this Obama site, a claim that he is not as extreme as he is.)
But we should know that he doesn't mean anything by those "verbal hints", because the Supreme Court now controls this issue and Obama has told us that intends to appoint justices who will vote like the pro-abortion extremists on the court. He calculates, I believe, that he can pretend to be a little more moderate than he is — and achieve his policy goals by appointing justices who are on the far left on social issues.
In the near future, I'll have my best guesses on how his leftist views would determine his actions on economic issues, and in foreign policy choices.
- 4:38 PM, 14 July 2008 [link]
Correction On Refine: In this post, I said that the meaning of "refine" was to purify, especially a metal. I should have said that was the original meaning of refine, or that purify was the principal meaning of refine. My American Heritage dictionary adds this definition, which fits what Obama was trying to say: "To use precise distinctions and subtlety in thought or speech."
I still would not use the word as he did, because of the connotations from the main meaning — though his usage is not uncommon in academia — but I should not have implied that his usage was wrong.
Thanks to an astute emailer for catching my mistake.
(I'm not quite sure what Obama should have said instead, since he wants to say both that he is adjusting his position and that he is not adjusting his position. Perhaps the most honest answer would have been for him to say that his goals for Iraq were fixed, but that he would be willing to look at different ways to achieve those goals, if there were changes on the ground.)
- 12:58 PM, 14 July 2008 [link]
Newsweek Needs A New Pollster: That's what I thought when I saw the results from their poll last month, which showed Obama with a lead of 15 points over McCain. The magazine didn't hire a new pollster, but this month's poll does show results much more like those in other polls.
A month after emerging victorious from the bruising Democratic nominating contest, some of Barack Obama's glow may be fading. In the latest NEWSWEEK Poll, the Illinois senator leads Republican nominee John McCain by just 3 percentage points, 44 percent to 41 percent. The statistical dead heat is a marked change from last month's NEWSWEEK Poll, where Obama led McCain by 15 points, 51 percent to 36 percent.It is possible that they just had bad luck last month, and with so many polls being done, it is certain that some polling firms will get bad results from time to time, just by chance. But I think it more likely that Princeton Survey Associates, which did the poll for Newsweek, made some "adjustments" in their sample.
- 9:45 PM, 13 July 2008 [link]
"Tasteless And Offensive": Worse yet, the New Yorker cover showing Barack Obama as a Muslim and Michelle Obama as a violent revolutionary is, at most, moderately funny. At most.
(The magazine says they are trying to satirize the views of Obama's opponents, but very few of those opponents have views remotely similar to those depicted in the cover. However, it is interesting that the magazine thinks that Obama's opponents have such views.)
- 5:59 PM, 13 July 2008
Here's the cover, just in case you missed it.
By way of Outside the Beltway, where you can find a collection of reactions to the cover from leftist blogs.
- 7:24 AM, 14 July 2008 [link]
Worth A Look: NASA images of the California fires.
By way of commenter Ric Werme at Watt's Up With That?, where you can also see Anthony Watts' ground level pictures from Chico, showing how bad the smoke is there.
- 10:55 AM, 13 July 2008 [link]
The Best Tribute To Tony Snow that I've seen comes from Juan Williams. Here's the part I like best:
We became friends when Tony came to Washington to work for The Washington Times and I was at The Washington Post. We met in a small studio at Howard University discussing local Washington politics with national politics as filler. The show had a heavy dose of black issues because most people who live in the city are black. What initially fascinated me about Tony was his total lack of fear in getting down and dirty on black politics. He never had a problem being the one conservative on a panel of pundits. To the contrary he loved the intellectual fight and usually was on the offensive even as a white guy talking about local corruption and political shenanigans among black Washingtonians. By contrast, most white journalists did not even accept invitations to come on the show.That shows me, and, I am fairly certain, showed Juan Williams, just how free from racism, and how fearless, Tony Snow was. He did not suffer from the "bigotry of low expectations".
- 9:18 AM, 13 July 2008 [link]
The Seattle Times may need another proofreader. The death of James Paroline is a sad story, which didn't need this comic touch.
My sympathies to his family and friends. And I hope the man who struck Paroline is apprehended soon.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 12:41 PM, 12 July 2008 [link]
Kudos To Don Gulliford: For catching an error in this op-ed by University of Washington assistant political science professor, Christopher Parker. Here are the first two paragraphs of Gulliford's letter.
Not just an error, but a nasty implied slur on every person who has served in our National Guard.
Not only did Bush serve, but he served in a unit that was regularly sending pilots to Vietnam — and Bush volunteered, informally, to go to Vietnam. (He was rejected because he did not have enough flight experience.) The airplane he flew, the Delta Dagger, was notoriously dangerous, so Bush did not escape risk, even flying over Texas.
Professor Parker apparently did not know these facts about Bush's service. Nor, I assume, did the Seattle Times editor who accepted this piece. And that is simply amazing, in both cases. Did they both miss the little controversy that cost Dan Rather his job? Are they both so consumed by Bush Derangement Syndrome that they are unable to remember one of the basic facts about Bush's service to this country?
Some time ago, I jokingly accused the Seattle Times editorial page editor, James Vesely, of deliberately trying to discredit academics by running pieces such as this one. (He denies it.) But this latest example makes me wonder whether there isn't some truth in my joke, whether someone at the Times is trying to make local academics look like fools. (Incidentally, I would approve of that, were it happening, since our colleges and universities are in desperate need of reform.)
Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 5:05 PM, 11 July 2008 [link]
Don't Bother Me With Facts: There were some interesting reactions to that New York Times article on vote fraud in Alabama. If you read the article, or even my post on the article, you will know that there is substantial evidence of persistent vote fraud in several Alabama counties. The reporter for the Times even mentioned that there had been convictions for vote fraud in these counties in recent years. And somewhat reluctantly mentioned that a nonpartisan, multiracial organization, the Democracy Defense League was pushing for clean elections in these counties. And, just as reluctantly, that a black Democratic official, district attorney Michael Jackson, had asked for a federal investigation in his county, Perry.
Most reasonable people, even most reasonable Democrats, would look at those facts and say that an investigation is warranted, and that, probably, vote fraud has been committed in these counties. But not everyone is reasonable. By way of memeorandum, I found this entertaining Factesque post, which dismisses all that evidence.
With their party all but disintegrating because of the horrendous president they elected and the utter failure of their (insane) policies, radical Republican operatives are nevertheless attempting to sabotage yet another election with unsubstantiated charges of voter fraud in the states they still control.(I doubt that he knows that, after the Civil War, "radical Republicans" worked hard to protect the newly-freed black slaves.)
By "conscienceless dweebs" Mick Arran means the poor black citizens who have signed affidavits admitting that they have accepted cash or favors in return for votes. From the New York Times article, I would say that some of them were moved by their consciences, that they knew that taking cash for voting was wrong, but that they needed money.
If you think that Arran is unique, take a look at the comments in this post at the Volokh Conspiracy. You'll find that several commenters take very similar positions to Arran's.
- 2:53 PM, 11 July 2008 [link]
Obama Wants To Take His Money: So says Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert.
In my last post I joked that Obama wants to take my money and give it to people who don't work as hard as I do. As with all gross generalizations, there are plenty of exceptions. But how does it hold up as a generalization?And, in general — and I repeat, in general — Adams is right.
- 11:00 AM, 11 July 2008 [link]
$2.576 Trillion: That's the amount of royalties that we taxpayers might receive from opening up offshore areas to oil and gas drilling. At least according to an estimate prepared for Republican Congressman John E. Peterson.
I wouldn't take the exact amount of this back-of-the-envelope estimate seriously. But it does give us some idea of what those resources might be worth to the taxpayers.
(That's not the value of the oil and gas in those areas; that's just the amount that might come directly to the taxpayers at a royalty rate of a little more than 15 percent. If you do the arithmetic, then the value of the oil and gas in these areas might be something like $17 trillion. Which is real money, except in Zimbabwe.
One caveat: The charts Peterson prepared do not say whether he is discussing the total amounts of oil and gas, or the amounts of economically recoverable oil and gas, which are always less, usually much less.)
- 4:37 PM, 10 July 2008 [link]
Want To See The Latest Global Temperature Numbers? You can get them from the Goddard Institute of Space Studies here. You will probably also want to look at this post, which gave me the link, and which has some interesting things to say about the numbers. For example:
June comes in at 26, continuing the downward trend at GISS and making it the seventh lowest anomaly this decade.Some of that may not be understandable without these footnotes from the table:
Divide by 100 to get changes in degrees Centigrade.So, this June, the world was 0.26 degrees Centigrade warmer than the world was in the Junes from 1951 through 1980. Looking at the table shows us that last month was the coolest (least warm?) June since 1996.
And the post makes another point which some will find disturbing. When these numbers are released, they commonly include the most recent data, and changes in historical data, 111 changes in this last release. Let us suppose for a moment that those changes are all justified (although there is a fierce debate about many of them). Then we have to conclude that the historical data, against which we are trying to measure any changes, is less certain than we would like. Our measuring stick is made, at least partly, of rubber.
(As usual when I discuss global warming, I suggest that you read my disclaimer, if you have not already done so.)
- 2:32 PM, 10 July 2008 [link]
The NYT Reports On Another Example Of Vote Fraud: (The Alabama example I discussed, briefly, on Tuesday.) And comes to the usual conclusions.
The accusations have larger national implications at a moment when many Republican officials around the country have cited rampant voter fraud as a justification for stricter identification requirements at the polls, a move that Democrats have said is really designed to dampen the turnout among Democratic voters. Specific examples of fraud, though, are quite unusual.Or, to be more precise, the usual conclusions for the news pages. The editorial pages are less restrained, and have sometimes even asserted that vote fraud is a "myth".
The reporter for this piece, Adam Nossiter, says that examples of vote fraud are "quite unusual". You can easily test that conclusion yourself. Go to Google News and search the news sources on "vote + fraud". Every single time I have done that I have found specific examples of vote fraud in the United States. Every single time. And that's not because "mainstream" journalists are rushing out to check on Republican accusations of vote fraud. (Journalists are a little more willing to check accusations of vote fraud in Democratic primaries.)
(Despite Nossiter's weaselly conclusions, there is much additional information in the article, including examples of voters who admit they were paid for their votes.
And an example of a Democratic official who appears to be doing the right thing:
The Perry County district attorney, Michael W. Jackson, a Democrat and the first black to be elected to the post, called early in June for a federal investigation into possible voting irregularities, particularly focusing on absentee ballots.Of course, Jackson may also understand a point I made in my Tuesday post; vote fraud is more likely to change results in Democratic primaries than in general elections.)
- 10:05 AM, 10 July 2008 [link]
Jesse Jackson Is Right: When he accuses Barack Obama of "talking down" to black people. But Obama is not being racist; he talks down to almost everyone. That's why I have been calling him Barack "Arugula" Obama since last December.
Rev. Jesse Jackson apologized Wednesday for saying Barack Obama is "talking down to black people" during what Jackson thought was a private conversation before a FOX News interview Sunday.The video with the article is worth watching, just to show Jackson's emotions, and to get all of what Jackson said. (I left out the part unsuitable for younger sprogs.)
The second part of Jackson's statement has drawn more attention, naturally, though John Kass says that's just the way most Chicago politicians talk. (And not just Chicago politicians. I sometimes have to remind commenters at Sound Politics that metaphors like Jackson's may be common in ordinary talk, but are usually inappropriate for the printed page.)
(Mickey Kaus agrees that Obama talks down to black people, and gives an example.
It would be instructive to see a list of the people that Obama does not talk down to. I suspect it would be rather short.)
- 8:49 AM, 10 July 2008
More on the tape that we haven't heard? Apparently.
- 5:02 PM, 10 July 2008 [link]
So Far, No Response From Representative Quall: On June 23rd, I sent an email to Washington state representative Dave Quall, asking him about an op-ed he had written. In the op-ed, Quall said:
So I asked Quall to tell us, roughly, how much more in resources the school districts needed. And what kind of gains we could expect in test scores, if the school districts got those additional resources.
To date, Quall has not replied. Feel free to speculate on why not. Some will think that he did not reply because he is aware of these numbers:
Or Quall may not have replied because he knows about these results of those additional
expenditures, which I have taken from the same
The measured achievement varies, but in patterns that appear to have little to do with the rising expenditures.
If you happen to know Representative Quall, or if you live in his district, I hope that you will urge him to answer my two simple questions.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(Paper by way of Stuart Buck.)
- 1:56 PM, 9 July 2008 [link]
Worth Reading: Andrew Walden's detailed investigation of the far left, even communist, influences on the young Barack Obama.
I have not read most of the pieces that Walden links to, but I have read some of them, and Walden is correct in what he says about those. Walden has enough material so that an enterprising reporter should ask Obama about some of those influences, especially about Obama's relationship to Frank Davis, a black poet — and an active member of the American Communist party.
- 12:24 PM, 9 July 2008 [link]
"At Least Two": Near the end of volume XIV of his history of the United States Navy in World War II, Victory in the Pacific, Samuel Eliot Morison describes the efforts, hidden from us, of the Japanese emperor to bring peace. (They had to be hidden because factions in the Japanese army would have assassinated any leader who spoke of peace openly.) In the course of this description, Morison makes this obvious point: "Although it takes but one antagonist to start a war, at least two are required to conclude peace; . . . ." (p. 338)
The point is, as I said, obvious. So obvious that Morison does not bother even to explain it, much less support it with an extended argument.
The point is obvious, but it is also unacceptable to many people, especially in peace-loving nations. There are many in the United States who value peace so highly that they believe that we can achieve it, unilaterally. If you believe that we can achieve peace unilaterally — and many do — then any extended period of war must be caused by a failure of leadership. For which it is entirely natural to blame whoever is president at the time.
(I am sure psychologists have a name for this kind of reasoning error, in which an unpleasant conclusion is rejected, and a different picture of the world constructed to fit that rejection, but I don't recall what it is.)
If you understand Morison's point, and recognize that many in our nation, and nations like ours, are unwilling to accept it, you understand much of our politics in recent years.
(There are a few cases in which one side can achieve peace unilaterally. Empires sometimes achieved peace by wiping out a nation or tribe that had displeased them. And sometimes in the past, it was possible to achieve peace, or at least an absence of war, by isolating a hostile group. But neither of those applies to our current enemies. We can not kill every one of our radical Islamist enemies, nor can we put them on a deserted island with no boats.)
- 10:51 AM, 9 July 2008 [link]