July 2013, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

How Long Did President Obama's Re-Election Campaign Last?   There's an official answer, and at least one legal answer to that question, but I am looking for a political answer.

And to come up with that answer, I'll pose a similar question:  How long does a doughnut shop keep selling doughnuts?

As long as they want to stay in business, right?

Similarly, machine politicians see office holding as a permanent career.  (In the past, many machine politicians held party positions, rather than elective offices, but the principle is the same.)  And so do most left wing activists, unless they are motivated by a single issue, and that issue is decided in their favor.

So we should not have been surprised when Obama spent much of his first four years campaigning for re-election, just as we should not be surprised that a doughnut shop was trying to sell doughnuts, in those same four years.  Each was just trying to stay in business.

We can go just a little further.  I think it almost certain that some of Obama's operatives, David Axelrod, for example, were thinking about his re-election before Obama was even elected.

How much before November 2008?  It would be hard to say without inside information, but I think four weeks is a reasonable minimum.

So Obama's re-election campaign lasted at least four weeks and four years.   At least.

(The continuation of his campaign after he was re-elected, has a similar explanation.   He is trying to keep the firm in business, even though he can't be CEO, after January 2017.)
- 2:09 PM, 31 July 2013   [link]

The Obama Administration Wants To "Nudge" Us to behave better.

Which makes me wonder whether we can, in turn, "nudge" them to behave better, to be, for instance, less reckless in their spending, more sensitive to strategic concerns in foreign policy, less divisive, and less dismissive of their opponents' arguments.

Right now, I don't have any suggestions for nudging them, but I do think we should spend some time trying to find some.

(The "nudge" concept is not wrong in itself.  We should, in fact, look for gentle ways to encourage good behavior, and discourage bad.  But it is easy to see how nudges, like any other exercise of government power, could be misused.)
- 10:21 AM, 31 July 2013   [link]

What Happens When The British Government Encourages Illegals To Leave Voluntarily?  They get called racist.
All mobile billboards aimed at illegal immigrants do is inform people who have no right to be here that the Government will help them return home voluntarily.

But the reaction they have generated from the Left and the pro-immigration industry has been astonishing.  They have denounced that simple message as ‘racist’.
Sadly, that isn't surprising.

(There's a commendable detail in Minister Mark Harper's piece:  The ad program is experimental, and if it doesn't increase voluntary departures, the government plans to drop it.)
- 6:35 AM, 31 July 2013   [link]

Better Tasting Fruit With Red LEDs?  Researchers at the University of Florida have found that they can increase some of the chemicals that give fruit its flavors (and flowers their scents) by shining LEDs on them, with the right wave lengths.
Scientists have known for hundreds of years that plants respond to light in a variety of ways.   But the results of a new study show how specific light wavelengths can manipulate volatile compounds that control aroma and taste in several high-value crops, including petunias, tomatoes, strawberries, and blueberries.
. . .
They found that a key floral volatile called 2-phenylethanol increased when the plant [petunia cuttings] was exposed to red and far-red treatments.  Far-red is a hue so far on the color spectrum that humans can’t detect it, but plants can.

Similar tests conducted on tomatoes, strawberries, and blueberries show that flavor volatiles in each of those fruits could be manipulated with light.
Not only that, but according to a Wall Street Journal article, in earlier research the same team found that they could "boost some nutrients with light manipulation".

The researchers speculate that future refrigerators might include LEDs to improve the taste of our fruits and vegetables.

(Here's the research paper. Unfortunately, it is behind a pay wall.)
- 6:07 AM, 31 July 2013
It occurs to me that home experimenters should be able to duplicate some of these results.  You would need infrared LEDs — which seem to be easy enough to find — a power source, some fruit, and some friends who were willing to take part in blind taste tests.

For example, you could get some tomatoes, as identical as possible, expose half of them to the infrared, keep the other half in the dark, and then have your subjects compare slices from test tomatoes with slices from the controls.
- 12:51 PM, 31 July 2013   [link]

Big Clues To CEO Behavior In Small Character Flaws?   Here's Floyd Norris's summary of a comparative study of chief executives.
If the chief executive likes to drive too fast, watch out.  He may be more likely to commit fraud.

If he lives too high on the hog, worry about whether he is paying enough attention to work to catch fraud being committed by his subordinates.  And there may be a greater chance that the company is making mistakes in its accounting, though not fraudulently.
Three researchers, Robert Davidson, Aiyesha Dey, and Abbie Smith, come to these conclusions in their paper, "Executives' Off-the-Job' Behavior, Corporate Culture, and Financial Risk", which will be published in the Journal of Financial Economics.  (You can download a version of it here.  That version may differ slightly from the published version.)

To come to the first conclusion, they took 109 companies that the Securities and Exchange Commission had filed fraud cases against between 1992 and 2004, and then tried to match each company with a similar company that had a clean record with the SEC.

Eleven percent of the executives at the 109 companies where fraud had been detected had "previous encounters with the law that were more serious than a speeding ticket".  None of the executives at the matching companies did.  Twenty percent had some encounter with the law; only five percent of the executives at the matching companies did.

(The serious offenses included felony drug charges, domestic violence, and traffic offenses worse than just a speeding ticket.)

To test the second conclusion, they looked for chief executives who had purchased fancy cars, boats, or houses.  Those chief executives were no more likely to commit fraud than other executives, but they were more likely to run companies where fraud was committed, and financial statements restated.

(These conclusions reminded me of Max Weber's Protestant Ethic, so I checked to see if the paper does support the conclusions that Weber came to, more than one hundred years ago.  And I think it does in a very general way, although, like nearly everyone else who has thought about this problem, I would immediately add that the Protestant Ethic is not found in all Protestants, or only in Protestants.

Full disclosure:  I have received two speeding tickets in my life time.  Oddly enough, both came when I was driving quite safely — which leads me to think that police officers might commonly set up speed traps in just such places.)
- 7:48 PM, 30 July 2013   [link]

What Do Guantánamo Prisoners Like To Read?   According to Congressman Jim Moran, Fifty Shades of Grey.
Military officials gave a congressional delegation a tour of Guantanamo's secretive Camp Seven last week and told a visiting congressional delegation that the camp's high-value detainees enjoy the Shades of Grey series, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) told The Huffington Post.

"Rather than the Quran, the book that is requested most by the [high-value detainees] is Fifty Shades of Grey.  They've read the entire series in English, but we were willing to translate it," Moran, who advocates for closing the facility, told HuffPost.  "I guess there's not much going on, these guys are going nowhere, so what the hell."
So far, I haven't seen any protests from "human rights" organizations about our letting the prisoners read this book — but I wouldn't be surprised to see some, and soon.

(Caveat:  Congressman Moran has had so many scandals that he may not be the best witness on anything, although I do believe he is telling the truth here.)
- 99:99 PM, 30 July 2013   [link]

How Bad Is Detroit's Government?  This bad, according to Bill Nojay.
Last year, I served as chief operating officer of the Detroit Department of Transportation.   I was hired as a contractor for the position, and in my eight months on the job I got a vivid sense of the city's dysfunction.  Almost every day, a problem would arise, a solution would be found—but implementing the fix would prove impossible.
Nojay then gives us a series of examples.

But what I also took from his op-ed is that Detroit had worked for a long time, politically.

Here's one of his examples:
Disability and workers' comp claims were routinely paid with no investigation into their validity.  More than 80% of the transportation department's 1,400 employees were certified for family medical-leave absences—meaning they could call in for a day off without prior notice, often leaving buses without drivers or mechanics.  Management's only recourse to get the work done was to pay the remaining employees overtime, at time-and-a-half rates.  DDOT's overtime costs were running over $20 million a year.
Riders might not like the consequences of those rules, but many of the employees would — and would vote for the benevolent city politicians who made it possible for them to play hooky, to collect overtime, or both, on different days.

That kind of system can work, politically — until you run out of money, and people willing to lend it to you.

(Nojay says that delays, some because so many routine contracts required approval by the City Council, often caused serious problems.  I am cynical enough to suspect that some of those contracts were delayed by the City Council because the right people on the Council weren't being offered the bribes they expected.)
- 1:10 PM, 30 July 2013   [link]

Bud Day's Life Would Make Good Mini-Series:  He was a Medal of Honor recipient whose bravery impressed other (living) recipients.

For example:
In the spring of 1967, Day, by then just a year away from retirement, decided to volunteer for a tour in Vietnam.  In June, he became commander of an all-volunteer fighter wing operating out of the Phu Cat Air Base.  He and his men were flying F-100 Super Sabres as part of a top secret program to act as Forward Air Controllers for U.S. fighter bombers operating over North Vietnam, selecting targets and calling in air strikes on them.
On his 65th mission, he was shot down and captured.  He escaped, but was re-captured and taken to the "Hanoi Hilton", where he received the hospitality that made that place famous.

He didn't retire, even after he returned from Vietnam, but kept on fighting, in other ways, during the rest of his life.
- 10:49 AM, 30 July 2013   [link]

Is The Marc Rich Pardon Eric Holder's Biggest Achievement?   Probably.
Marc Rich, the man who got away with it, died last week, and I would be remiss if I let his death pass without comment.  Rich became internationally notorious in 2001, when, as a fugitive from justice, he was pardoned by Bill Clinton in the last hours of his administration.  What many don’t recall is that Attorney General Eric Holder, who was then a deputy attorney general, was instrumental in securing Rich’s pardon.
. . .
Rich was an active fugitive, a man who had used his money to evade the law, and presidents do not generally pardon people like that.  What’s more, the Justice Department opposed the pardon—or would’ve, if it had known about it.  But Holder and Quinn did an end-around, bringing the pardon to Clinton directly and avoiding any chance that Justice colleagues might give negative input.  As the House Government Reform Committee report later put it, “Holder failed to inform the prosecutors under him that the Rich pardon was under consideration, despite the fact that he was aware of the pardon effort for almost two months before it was granted.”
Justin Peters thinks that this was the "Most Unjust Presidential Pardon in American History".  I'm not familiar with all presidential pardons, so I can't say for sure that he is right.  But I wouldn't quarrel with anyone who put it in the bottom ten.

What makes this pardon especially impressive is that Holder was able to sneak the pardon through without completely ruining his reputation.

That is an achievement, though not what most would consider a positive achievement.

And what makes it especially troubling is that President Obama did not think that the Marc Rich pardon disqualified Holder from any position in government.  The kindest explanation for Holder's decision to push the pardon through is that he was fooled.  If Obama believed that, then he knowingly chose a man who could easily be fooled to be attorney general.

All the other explanations are worse, some much worse.

(Here's Marc Rich's Wikipedia biography.  As you can see, at one time or another, he worked with almost every dictator on the planet.)
- 9:29 AM, 30 July 2013   [link]

How Many Jobs Would The Keystone XL Pipeline Create?   President Obama has a low estimate, in fact, the lowest estimate that I've seen.
And my hope would be that any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time to confirm that the most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline -- which might take a year or two -- and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 [chuckles] jobs in a economy of 150 million working people.
TransCanada, which wants to build the pipeline, has higher estimates.
"We have dealt with criticism of our job number totals for over two years and we stand by them.  It is not logical to think a $7.6 billion infrastructure project stretching across the entire breadth of the continental US wouldn't employ thousands of workers both in the manufacturing sector and in constructing the pipeline."

TransCanada maintains the project will create 13,000 construction jobs and 7,000 manufacturing jobs in the US.
The TransCanada estimate sounds more plausible to me.

If I understand them correctly, they are counting only direct jobs, the jobs of those who manufacture the equipment, and the jobs of those who install the pipeline.  As any economist can tell you, those direct jobs often create many more indirect jobs.

By way of Mr. Fur.

(Although the Times asked Obama a Canada question, what the Canadians could do to make Obama choose correctly, neither the newspaper nor Obama said anything about the effects of this delay on our relations with Canada.  Canadians are such good neighbors that I think we should consider authorizing the project, even if we think that the direct benefits to the United States are small.

And we should not forget that Canadian prosperity is our interest, too.)
- 6:50 PM, 29 July 2013   [link]

It's Good To See Detroit Police Officers Working With their suburban counterparts.
Detroit — A photograph snapped by a citizen and distributed to the media led to the arrest of two police officers who allegedly robbed and assaulted two citizens last week, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said Monday.

The two men — one a sergeant and 20-year veteran of the Detroit Police Department; the other holding the same rank in St. Clair Shores — allegedly wore their badges around their necks and drew their department-issued pistols on July 21, when police say they robbed two men at an east-side gas station.  One of the victims was assaulted, Craig said.
All right, that may not be the best example of urban-suburban cooperation.

(Traditionalists will wonder why the two police officers didn't just go out and solicit some bribes.  You can find a possible answer to that question in Mike Royko's Boss.  It turns out that many police officers don't have much opportunity to solicit bribes.  They have the wrong kind of job, they work in the wrong neighborhood, or something similar.  That may be why, in 1960, eight Chicago police officers were found to be part of a burglary ring.  There were many opportunities for some Chicago policemen to solicit bribes then, but those eight may not have been in a favored position.)
- 2:15 PM, 29 July 2013   [link]

Rick Kaplan And Bill Clinton, BFF:  A week ago, I mentioned that, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton considered getting her a job at CNN.  In my post, I said that Clinton thought he could do that because he was close to Rick Kaplan, who was then president of CNN/USA.  You can learn more about how close the two men were, here.
- 1:23 PM, 29 July 2013   [link]

Andrew Malcom Liked this joke in his weekly collection best.
Leno: In his economy speech President Obama said we've all been distracted by phony scandals.  He prefers we be distracted by his phony recovery.
I thought this one was even better:
Letterman: So, Anthony Weiner has apologized for this new scandal.  He also apologized for the next one.  And the next one after that.
Because it's true.

Though I will admit that making jokes about Anthony Weiner is almost too easy.

(There are some decent non-political jokes in the collection, too.)
- 1:00 PM, 29 July 2013   [link]

Rising House Prices Are Good For Sellers, Bad For Buyers:   Is that idea too complicated for our "mainstream" journalists?

It often seems so, since the same news organizations that worry about housing "affordability" will, in other pieces and articles, celebrate rising house prices as a good thing.

Joel Kotkin provides a useful corrective to that common journalistic malpractice.
The current housing recovery may be like manna to homeowners, but it may do little to ease a growing shortage of affordable residences, and could even make it worse.  After a recession-generated drought, household formation is on the rise, notes a recent study by the Harvard Joint Center on Housing Studies, and in many markets there isn’t an adequate supply of housing for the working and middle classes.

Given problems with regulations in some states, particularly restrictions on new single-family home development, the uptick in housing prices threatens both prospective owners and renters, forcing people who would otherwise buy into the rental market.  Ownership levels continue to drop, most notably for minorities, particularly African Americans.   Last year, according to the Harvard study, the number of renters in the U.S. rose by a million, accompanied by a net loss of 161,000 homeowners.
Or, to quote from the famous New York Times headline joke: "Poor and minorities hardest hit".

Kotkin believes we could help working and middle class buyers and renters by decreasing regulation, and there is much research to support his point of view.
- 9:33 AM, 29 July 2013   [link]

Alex Berezow Comes Out In Favor of "three-parent" babies, babies with nuclear DNA from their mothers and fathers as usual, and mitochondrial DNA from donor mothers.  Babies created this way would be able to escape certain rare mitochondrial diseases carried by their mothers.

I don't disagree with Dr. Berezow, but I do think he should correct this careless mistake:
Because a sperm contains no mitochondria, a developing embryo receives all of its mitochondria from the mother’s egg.
In fact, as his reference says, sperm do contain mitochondria.  And they need them for some of the energy they use to move.

But, after fertilization, the mitochondria from the sperm are destroyed.  With, possibly, a few very rare exceptions.  (You can find more about that process, and much more about mitochondria here.)

There are two ways to create "three-parent" babies;  You can see them described and illustrated in this BBC article.

The techniques would not be widely used.  Researchers estimate that about ten British couples a year could have children in this way.

(I've been writing about this subject for more than a decade, as you can see here, here, and here.)
- 8:57 AM, 29 July 2013   [link]

How Good Is The Code In The Global Climate Models?   That's something I've been wondering about for years, because I have some understanding of the potential numerical traps in such programs — especially when they are written by amateurs, however talented.

Now, along comes a study that gives me even more reason to worry.

It is behind a pay wall, but I can give you the abstract:
This study presents the dependency of the simulation results from a global atmospheric numerical model on machines with different hardware and software systems.  The global model program (GMP) of the Global/Regional Integrated Model system (GRIMs) is tested on 10 different computer systems having different central processing unit (CPU) architectures or compilers. There exist differences in the results for different compilers, parallel libraries, and optimization levels, primarily due to the treatment of rounding errors by the different software systems.  The system dependency, which is the standard deviation of the 500-hPa geopotential height averaged over the globe, increases with time.  However, its fractional tendency, which is the change of the standard deviation relative to the value itself, remains nearly zero with time.  In a seasonal prediction framework, the ensemble spread due to the differences in software system is comparable to the ensemble spread due to the differences in initial conditions that is used for the traditional ensemble forecasting.
(Emphasis added.

One common unit of pressure is the Pascal.  Meteorologists often use "hectopascals", which are one hundred Pascals.  "One hectopascal is equivalent to one millibar", so 500-hPa is in the middle of our atmosphere, by pressure.)

Here's the essential point, in case that abstract was unclear:  Identical weather programs, run for a simulated ten days, gave different results on different systems.  The differences increased with the number of days in a run.

Now, before you go further than you should, please note that this is one model, and that it is a weather model, not a climate model.

But — and this is a very big but — the two overlap, almost certainly share code, and are often written by the same teams.

There's much more at the Anthony Watts post, where I found this.

(If you are a pro, you may want to know that you can download the GRIMS; for those who found this surprising, I'll try to provide a simplified tutorial within the next week.)
- 5:34 PM, 28 July 2013   [link]

Good Question from David Gerstman: "Does President Obama consider Republicans a greater threat than the Muslim Brotherhood?"

His one-time ally, unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, would, as would many others in the academic left.
- 1:38 PM, 28 July 2013   [link]

Were You Suspicious When The Lockerbie Bomber Was Released?   Here's one more reason for us to suspect the release was part of a deal.
The release of the Lockerbie bomber from prison was connected to a £400million air defence deal Tony Blair discussed with Libya, according to a briefing note written by the British ambassador.

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was released from jail in 2009 on ‘compassionate grounds’ because he had terminal prostate cancer.

The Scottish Government said at the time that the bomber had only weeks to live – although it was almost three years before he was killed by his illness.
If there was a deal, it would have been, almost certainly, a tacit deal, so we are unlikely to ever see the kind of proof that would hold up in front of a skeptical jury.  But that need not stop us from drawing tentative conclusions.

(The Daily Mail got the story from the Telegraph.  I've used up my monthly quota there, or I would have quoted from the Telegraph, since they broke the story.)
- 1:25 PM, 28 July 2013   [link]

The United States Should Offer Asylum to Iris Telma Jónsdóttir.
REYKJAVIK, Iceland—In early July, eight women wearing sweaters began their week by filing into a sunlit meeting room in Iceland's cozy capital to hatch a scheme.

The objective: Put Miss Iceland to death.
They say they just want to kill the contest, not Miss Jónsdóttir, but I don't think we should take any chances.  These folks are descended from Vikings, after all.

(Practical folks may want to know whether she would be welcome here.  These pictures should answer that question.)
- 7:24 AM, 28 July 2013   [link]

When Did The Korean War End?   It hasn't.
The 1950-1953 Korean war pitted North Korean and Chinese troops against U.S.-led United Nations and South Korean forces.  It ended on July 27, 1953 — 60 years ago Saturday — with the signing of an armistice.

But a formal peace treaty was never signed, leaving the Korean Peninsula in a technical state of war and divided at the 38th parallel between its communist north and democratic south.
And, from time to time, not just technical, when the North Koreans stage another attack on the south.

And in March of this year, the North Korean regime said they had "invalidated" the armistice.  If you know what they mean by that, pass the information on to the Pentagon.
- 3:43 PM, 27 July 2013   [link]

Barack Obama Says The Darndest Things (2):  In 2009, I noted that Obama was claiming that Muslims had a big part in the history of the United States, from our very beginning.

Yesterday, he repeated that claim.
President Obama welcomed dozens of ambassadors and a handful of lawmakers to last night’s iftar dinner at the White House to break the day’s Ramadan fast by saying “throughout our history, Islam has contributed to the character of our country.”
That explains, for instance, all those guys named Muhammad who signed the Declaration of Independence.

It is typical at this kind of meeting for the president to try to flatter his guests, but he shouldn't distort our history in this way.

(I suppose that you could say that the First Barbary War (1801-1805) and the Second Barbary War (1815) contributed to the character of our country — but I don't think that's the kind of contribution he has in mind.)

And today, he made this absurd promise.
And as long as I have the privilege of holding this office, I will spend every minute of every day doing everything in my power to make this economy work for working Americans again; to build that better bargain for the middle class; to make sure that the American Dream is something that’s achievable for everybody — not just today, but for decades to come.
Well, at least he didn't say every second.

But he does leave you wondering when he will get some sleep, and who will be conducting our foreign policy.
- 9:19 AM, 27 July 2013   [link]

When I Heard That The Lincoln Memorial had been vandalized, I immediately wondered where former Rand Paul aide Jack Hunter was when the memorial was attacked.

If you know a little about Mr. Hunter's career, you can understand why that thought flashed through my head.
Paul hired Jack Hunter, 39, to help write his book The Tea Party Goes to Washington during his 2010 Senate run.  Hunter joined Paul’s office as his social media director in August 2012.

From 1999 to 2012, Hunter was a South Carolina radio shock jock known as the “Southern Avenger.”  He has weighed in on issues such as racial pride and Hispanic immigration, and stated his support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
My sudden suspicion is almost certainly unjustified, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the vandalism was committed by someone who shares Hunter's (former?) views.

And I do think Senator Paul has some 'splaining to do about his decision to hire this particular aide.

(In case you are wondering, Hunter also worked for Ron Paul, but not during the time the former congressman was sending out newsletters with racist content, content Ron Paul says he never read.)
- 7:26 AM, 27 July 2013   [link]

Does President Obama Know That Most Voters Don't Have a High Opinion of reporters?
President Obama said reporters praise his economic proposals as “great” and tell him they are “all good ideas.”

Obama made the remarks in a speech Wednesday in Galesburg, Ill., focused on the economy.
Not all reporters are poor at judging policy proposals, but, as a group, they don't have a high batting average.

There is another group with lower ratings than journalists: politicians.  And in the same speech, Obama told us that he had secret support from Republican politicians, too.
- 8:08 AM, 26 July 2013   [link]

George H. W. Bush Gets A Haircut:  For a good cause.

(Here's the cause.)
- 7:34 AM, 26 July 2013   [link]

Peter Beinart Says Anthony Weiner Hasn't Behaved as badly as Bill Clinton did.
By any reasonable standard, Weiner’s behavior is less damning than Clinton’s.  Yes, Weiner committed adultery (of a kind).  Yes, he repeatedly lied about it.  Yes, he humiliated his wife in an effort to save his candidacy.  Clinton did all that, too.   What Weiner, in contrast to Clinton, has not done—as far as we know—is use his office to reward his paramours.  He has not publicly besmirched their character.  He has not asked them to violate the law.  And he has not violated campaign disclosure laws in his effort to keep them silent.  According to legal experts, he has also not committed sexual harassment.
Beinart is right, and right to criticize the New York Times for its double standards.   (Although, by now, that particular criticism of their editorials is so easy to do that we can't give him any credit for noticing the obvious.)

But I don't think that even Beinart would say that Clinton set a high standard for personal behavior.

And I do think that Beinart might give some thought to the public value of discretion.  When politicians keep private sins private, they show a left-handed respect for traditional values.  And that is something we could use more of.  Even if the politicians are discrete only for the most practical political reasons.

(You can see my own thoughts on judging politicians by their personal sexual morality here and here.

It would be instructive if Beinart were to follow this up with a piece on how some journalists enabled Bill Clinton's and John Kennedy's sleazy behaviors.)
- 6:18 AM, 26 July 2013   [link]

We're Living Longer:  And the gap in life expectancy between blacks and whites is decreasing.

US life expectancy for whites and blacks, 1970-2010

(There is one thing in Figure 1 that may need an explanation: the lack of gains for blacks from about 1982 to about 1992.  Much of that stagnation is due to the "crack epidemic".   For a few years, if I recall correctly, life expectancies for black males actually fell, because of the surge in homicides, many of them associated with crack.)

If you prefer text with exact numbers, here's the same conclusion in a different form:
Life expectancy at birth increased from 70.8 years in 1970 to 78.7 years in 2010 for the total population (an 11% increase) (Figure 1).  For white persons, the increase was from 71.7 years to 78.9 years (10% increase), and for black persons from 64.1 years to 75.1 years (17% increase).  The gap in life expectancy between the white and black populations has decreased, from 7.6 years in 1970 to 3.8 years in 2010, but the disparity still exists.
Whether you want to view those gains, especially for blacks, as "half full", or "half empty" is up to you, of course.

But I do think that a back-of-the-envelope comparison might put them in perspective.  We can guess that Trayvon Martin lost about 50 years of life after he attacked George Zimmerman and was shot.  There are about 40 million blacks in the United States.  On the average since 1970, they have each gained 11 years of life expectancy, or about a quarter of a year, each year.  So, last year, American blacks gained about 10 million years in life expectancies, collectively.

And I think that comparison, 50 versus 10 million, gives us some idea of which story is more important.

Almost all of us — and I am not one of the rare exceptions — need stories to make us feel the impact of numbers larger than we can count on our fingers and toes.  So let me suggest you try this simple experiment:  Imagine a grandmother living long enough to see her favorite grandchild graduate from high school.  That rise in life expectancies has meant that millions of grandmothers have had that experience, an experience that they would not have had in earlier years.

So picture that proud grandmother — and then extend your picture to include millions more like her.
- 5:13 PM, 25 July 2013   [link]

Three Leno Political Jokes:  I can't imagine any of his competitors telling the first.
Leno: President Obama tells school children his favorite food is broccoli.  Hey, it’s one thing to lie to voters.  But now, kids?  C’mon, Mr. President!
. . .
Leno: NSA leaker Edward Snowden says he may seek asylum in Russia.  Well, he’ll love the freedom and openness there.
. . .
Leno: A U.S. drone has taken out al Qaeda's No. 2 leader in Yemen. He was doing a Rolling Stone cover and they tracked him.
I liked all three.

(For the record:  I think Obama was joking when he said broccoli was his favorite food, though I am not sure all the kids listening to him would understand that.)
- 3:34 PM, 25 July 2013   [link]

Bette Midler Thinks That Republicans Hindered FDR during World War II.

She must not know about the (Republican) Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, or the (Republican) Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson.

That's right, to prepare for a possible war, FDR brought in two prominent Republicans to run the Navy and the Army.  And Knox had been the Republican candidate for vice president in 1936.

I wonder where Midler got that idea?
- 9:09 AM, 25 July 2013   [link]

Andrew McCarthy Has An Explanation For Huma Abedin's Actions:  An unpleasant explanation.

You should read — and may want to study — his whole post, but to get you started, here's his conclusion.
What a racket.  The marriage to Huma Abedin, a Clinton insider, enables Anthony Weiner to resurrect a debased career and deflect attention from his psychotic antics even as he continues them.  The marriage to Anthony Weiner, a prominent Jewish progressive, enables Huma Abedin to deflect attention from her associations with various Islamic supremacists even as, during her tenure as a top State Department official, American policy embraces Islamic supremacists.
(The Russian spy ring revealed in 2010 had one member, "Cynthia Murphy", who was trying to get close to the Clintons, and had made some progress in that effort.  There is not much doubt that agents of the Chinese government did get close to the Clintons, in the "Chinagate" scandal.)

There's nothing implausible about McCarthy's implicit conclusion and, as far as I know, nothing wrong with the evidence he has compiled to support it.

By way of the Instapundit.

(Older readers may see similarities in the careers of Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White.  Both were respectable members of the New Deal, but Hiss was also, almost certainly, a Communist and a Soviet spy, and White undoubtedly passed on secret documents to the Soviets.  They were protected (and still are, in a few circles) by their respectability, and their connections.)
- 8:40 AM, 25 July 2013   [link]

Nothing Fails Like Success?  The strange story of Jay Leno's departure.
The irony—and it's s rich one—is that Leno has never been more dominant: the Nielsen ratings for the second week in July have him beating CBS's David Letterman by a 43 percent margin in the all-important "viewers 18-49" category )on which advertising rates are set) and swamping ABC's Jimmy Kimmel by a crushing 75 percent.  The "total viewers" number is a similar story, with Leno delivering 3.3 million compared with Letterman's 2.6 million.  Not counting a two-year rough patch after Letterman was enthroned at CBS in 1993, that makes 17 seasons in which Leno has won his time period since he started hosting the iconic show an May 25, 1992.
So why are TV executives getting rid of Leno, again?

Lloyd Grove, who knows way more about such things than I do, doesn't have an answer to that question.

Neither do I, but I can speculate:  Perhaps the executives who made the decision don't like watching Leno.  It wouldn't be the first time a TV executive has imposed his own tastes on his audiences.

(In particular, they may not like his jokes about President Obama, but now I am not just speculating, but wildly speculating.)
- 7:31 AM, 25 July 2013   [link]