Saturday, November 1, 2014

They Ate Him

The following is not a spooky-for-Halloween story. Reuters reports via Yahoo News a crowd in the Democratic Republic of the Congo killed a man they believed was from neighboring Uganda, after which they burned his corpse and ate him.

That's just hard to credit, but Reuters is normally sound. I'd say DR Congo is a place to avoid, yes? Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

Shows Lack Reality, Die

Entertainment Weekly's Inside TV reports so-called reality TV shows may be on the way out. I hope it is true. Talk about a step long overdue, they were the worst.

Friday, October 31, 2014

News Flash

Drudge Report headline, from an Associated Press story:
Republicans Take Big Lead in Colorado Early Voting
Side note to Cousin Bill in Colorado: way to go, guys.

Canadian Courage, U.S. Cowardice

The Associated Press reports via Yahoo News concerning the Ebola outbreak:
Canada's Conservative government said it is suspending visa applications for residents and nationals of countries with "widespread and persistent-intense transmission" of the Ebola virus.
Meanwhile the U.S. continues to avoid taking this logical step, because it is governed by cowards.

Cold War 2.0 Provocations

The Daily Beast reports on a variety of Russian aircraft flying provocative missions around the periphery of Europe, of NATO. It's just ol' Vlad the Improviser reminding us not to take his peaceful intent for granted.

This sort of mission can have several goals, at least one of which is to trigger alarm so frequently that if the balloon eventually goes up, people will think it is just another drill and not take it seriously. Another goal would be intimidation of European powers which have no political will to spend any significant portion of GDP on their militaries.

Blame the President

Writing for The Cook Political Report, National Editor Amy Walter selects data from the NBC News/Marist polls for this year, and for 2012. She looks at what people have called the "Obama coalition" of Democrats, Independents, Women, Minorities, the unmarried and those with modest incomes.

With the data for three states - Iowa, Colorado, and North Carolina - Walter examines three things for each subgroup: Obama's popularity today, his popularity two years ago, and the current standing for the Senate candidates with that group. The first thing that strikes you is that Obama's popularity in every group, even Democrats, has dropped by 10% or more. Among Independents, the results are much worse: down 20% to 33%.

In all three states Obama is now in negative numbers among 18-29 year olds, women, and those with modest incomes. Meanwhile, the Senate candidates in the three states are at break-even or worse and in most cases the loss of Independents can be blamed for their shaky support level.

Politics is like Morton Salt; when it rains, it pours.

Noonan Imagines Obama's Mea Culpa

Have some fun with Peggy Noonan. As a former presidential speechwriter, she imagines in a Patriot Post column what the President might say on November 5, to explain the ugly-from-his-viewpoint election results. Enjoy.

Liberal Bias in Social Psychology

The New Yorker reports a controversy in the field of social psychology concerning the fact that most of its academic members are political liberals - Democrats. The imbalance certainly exists, throughout the social sciences, and absolutely can be a source of bias in both theory and empirical findings.

I expect much of social psychology's liberal bias is like that exhibited by the PBS News Hour - not so much in what is said as in the choice of topics examined, of stories covered. That becomes a way to disguise bias, definitely less blatant.

A whimsical thought, perhaps I could become an affirmative action hire in a Psych. Department, their token conservative. I actually was an APA member briefly, decades ago.

Bradlee's Bromance

Writing in The Washington Examiner, Byron York raises some questions about the degree to which the late Ben Bradlee fell under the spell of President Jack Kennedy. Apparently they were as thick as thieves.

You have to wonder, if the Watergate break-in and coverup had happened on Kennedy's watch, instead of Nixon's, would Bradlee have supported his whiz kid reporters chasing the scandal? The clear implication is an answer of "Probably not."

What a lucky break for Woodward and Bernstein that Nixon was the target. The Kennedys did stunts that were as bad or worse, and like Nixon covered them up too.

A Conservative Credo

Writing in New York magazine, liberal Jonathan Chait admits he judges people at least in part based on their politics. His judgment of me wouldn't be flattering, I expect. That said, I have to agree with Chait that I too form opinions about others at least in part based on their politics.

My primary beef with liberals is my conviction that they confuse what they wish to be true, particularly about other human beings, with what is in fact true. I view their regard for others as unconditional, at least in the abstract, while I believe regard for other adults is (and should be) conditional on them upholding their end of the social contract.

Liberals believe many, perhaps most, people are the victims of vast social forces entirely beyond their control, pushed hither and thither by the tides of history, as dependent as children. To be sure such things happen in war zones or areas of extreme disaster.

Conservatives believe many, perhaps most, people are in fact the captains of their own destiny. Yes, there are tides and currents in the waters in which they swim, but at the end of the day the choices they make - often whether to forego immediate gratification for future gain - determine their outcomes.

Handing adults things which they have not earned is a way to destroy them, not little things but big things like the monies on which to live. People need to earn their way in life, whatever is done to allow them to avoid doing so is destructive of their character, and of society.

Rothenberg Assigns Blame

Pollster Stu Rothenberg weighs in for Roll Call on the final days of the 2014 midterm election campaign season. See his dismal-for-Dems conclusion, which is a bit snarky:
Are the Democrats’ losses due to the increasingly partisan nature of our elections and the makeup of the past two Senate classes, or is the president at least partially to blame because he failed to show leadership on key issues and never successfully moved to the political center?
The answer, most obviously, is, “Yes.”
It's his cute way of saying, "Both." Rothenberg warns Obama may lose a near-record number of own-party House members between the two midterm elections, the most since Harry Truman in the post-war era. Then the House was shedding the large Dem majorities FDR built-up during the depression and war years.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Weird Hydrocarbon Science

RealClearPolitics has a report on the uses of methanol as vehicle fuel. It sounds promising, particularly since it can be made from biomass: corncobs and stalks, wine grape pulp, rice straw, and the like.

It is also a way to turn plentiful natural gas into an easy to store and vend liquid fuel that can operate in very slightly modified internal combustion engines like the one in your auto. If stupid people want to drink it and die, let them win the Darwin award.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pure Delusion

Josh Kraushaar writes for National Journal about President Obama's negative impact on his party's Senate candidates.
White House officials are preemptively spinning a midterm defeat, and they're using their own fantasies to do it. They're starting to blame candidates for not supporting President Obama enough.

This is pure delusion: Obama is the main reason Republicans are well-positioned to win control of the upper chamber next Tuesday. And Democrats' biggest strategic mistake in this election is that most candidates didn't run away far and fast enough.

Democrats should have recognized that the president was falling out of favor with the public and inoculated themselves a long time ago. Instead, many bought the White House's spin, and are at risk of going down with a sinking ship.
Only those who came from outside Washington could pull off successful distancing. Democratic House members and Senators have voting records showing them voting with the President most of the time. Their records have proven impossible to run away from.

Meta-analysis of Election Results

John Dickerson of Slate is a liberal who's smart about politics. Here he writes a primer on how to evaluate the various outcomes one of which will be in place a week from today, depending on how many Senate seats the GOP manages to win.

His bottom line, if Republicans only manage to win seats in the states Romney carried in 2012, it will give them Senate control but not bragging rights. Such an outcome will only prove that Republicans vote for Republicans, which we already knew. It should not become the basis for arguing that the GOP has a policy mandate from the nation.

On the other hand, the more Senate seats the GOP wins in purple or even blue states the more it can claim a policy mandate. It isn't a bad analysis.

Falling Crime Rates

As Heather Mac Donald notes in an article for The Daily Signal, crime rates have fallen over the past two decades.
From 2000 to 2012, the U.S. violent crime rate fell over 23 percent. Such an improvement in the social fabric would be cause enough for celebration. But the crime drop of the 2000s followed an even larger decline in the previous decade: 32 percent from 1993 to 2000.
Mac Donald comes up with a shopping list of possible causes, but doesn't settle on any of them. At COTTonLINE we think we know the two main causes of the decline: an aging population and higher incarceration rates.

The U.S. has an aging population. Most groups have fewer children than they did in the post-war period, so the number of young men has dropped. Young men commit most of the crimes so ... less crime.

The other major cause is the proliferation of three-strikes laws; the long-term sentencing of repeat felons. Most crime is committed by a relatively small subset of the population who each commit many crimes. Locking most of those up until they reach their late 40s or early 50s keeps their criminal behavior safely behind bars. In other words, they victimize primarily each other.

We have no realistic method of rehabilitating most career criminals. Isolating them is a very expensive but ultimately worthwhile expenditure of public funds.

Doing so is no new idea, Europe once sent the career criminals it didn't hang to penal colonies in Georgia or Australia or Devil's Island. Perhaps we could transport ours to central Nevada and create a penal colony there, or perhaps hinterland Alaska could house a Siberia-style gulag?

News Flash

National Journal's Ron Fournier reports poll results from Harvard's Institute of Politics, the news is bad for Dems.
Millennials who told the IOP they will "definitely be voting" Tuesday favored Republicans over Democrats, 51 percent to 47 percent. That is a reversal of September 2010 results, when the IOP found Democrats favored over Republicans among young likely voters, 55 percent to 43 percent.
Politics often operates this way, when things are going bad for one party, they just can't catch a break anywhere. Fournier also reports that among millennials Obama's stock is down sharply.

Quantitative Easing Finished, for Now

The Federal Reserve Bank announced it is ending its program of buying back federal bond debt, thus putting money into the market. Called "quantitative easing" or QE, it has been an attempt to stimulate the economy, the equivalent of printing money. See the CNBC story for more.

Oddly, the Fed's QE activities have not been inflationary. I've seen no convincing explanation of the absence of inflation.

They Didn't Get the Memo

National Journal's Ron Brownstein writes a long column which can be summarized in one sentence. The only group of whites who continue to prefer Democrats are single women with college degrees.

It is Brownstein's belief that Democrats' chances of winning anything significant next Tuesday rests on that outlier group. Someone should do focus groups to determine why a majority of that group - single white women with degrees - should march to their own idiosyncratic drummer when a majority of all other whites prefer the GOP.

Brownstein's column seems to overlook the latest polling which suggests these educated women may be moving into the GOP camp too.

Australia Acts, We Don't

Reuters reports Australia has taken action with regard to Ebola:
Australia came under fire on Tuesday from health experts and rights advocates after it issued a blanket ban on visas from West African nations affected by the Ebola outbreak, making it the first rich nation to shut its doors to the region.
I am sorry our government lacks this kind of courage, aren't you?

Cold War 2.0

ABC News reports the U.S. embassy in Moscow and its diplomats are experiencing Cold War-style harassment: slashed tires, hacked emails, B&Es, and heavy-handed surveillance aimed at intimidating the staff.

I sincerely hope we are reciprocating in kind with the Russian diplomats in Washington. The FBI should be able to make their diplomats' lives uncomfortable and dissuade Americans from casual contact therewith.

Tit for tat is a diplomatic principle as old as time. However, I fear the current administration has no stomach for such cold-eyed reciprocity.