Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Debt Ceiling Deal Struck

The leaders of Congress and the President and Vice President have agreed on a deal to raise the debt ceiling, cut government spending, with a number of other provisos. This Associated Press article on Yahoo News spells it out with only a modest amount of spin.

What remains is for the two houses of Congress to pass the deal. The article suggests passage should be easy in the Senate, more difficult in the House. That sounds about right. A fair number of freshmen Republicans may vote no, although they shouldn't. While the president has approved the deal, many Democrat Representatives may also vote no.

Barring a last-minute snafu, the federal government should be able to keep borrowing and paying its bills. There will be journalistic post-mortems on this stand-off for weeks to come. Both sides will claim a victory, at least one side will be lying.

Quote of the Day

Stanley B. Greenberg is a Democratic pollster who has written a New York Times article you should read. His polling finds voters not liking government and, associating Democrats with government, not liking them either. He says:
A crisis of government legitimacy is a crisis of liberalism. It doesn’t hurt Republicans. If government is seen as useless, what is the point of electing Democrats.
Greenberg makes sense; if you don't trust government, elect people (Republicans) who want less of it, who don't see it as the solution to all problems.

Cuts Only to Providers?

ABC News political reporter Jake Tapper writes about the outlines of the debt ceiling deal worked out in Washington over the weekend. One thing he says I take exception to. He says if the super committee can't come up with $1.5 trillion in savings, then automatically there will be:
Spending cuts that will hit the Pentagon budget most deeply, as well as Medicare providers (not beneficiaries) and other programs.
Let's be real about cuts hitting "Medicare providers (not beneficiaries)." Do you think Medicare providers will just "eat" those cuts? I don't.

If Medicare reimbursements to physicians drop, seniors are going to have trouble getting medical appointments. Most doctors will try to spend more time with patients for whom they get full reimbursement, and less time with Medicare patients. Count on it.

Debt Ceiling Gridlock

Are any of my regular readers surprised by the gridlock in Washington over the debt ceiling? I ask because I am not surprised; I'm discouraged, saddened, apprehensive, fascinated...all of these but not surprised.

Many pundits are quoting a statistic that our government is borrowing roughly 40 cents of every dollar it spends. We want more government than we are willing to pay taxes for. That behavior is like a teenager with his first credit disaster.

Why does the world enable this? Because they need a place to invest and the U.S., for all its economic sins, is still the safest place. Bizarre.

If loaning money to a teenager was the safest investment available, we'd keep our money in a safe deposit box or under the mattress. Since it is the U.S. government we buy Treasuries.

Meanwhile our political system features the famous "checks and balances," which we enhance by having one house of Congress dominated by Democrats and the other by Republicans. And our President is a Democrat, all of this a recipe for gridlock.

Democrats like lots of government and are willing to raise taxes to pay for it. Republicans want much less government and try to keep it from growing by blocking tax hikes.

Democrats have been good at fostering government growth; Republicans have been good at blocking new taxes. The result: big government financed with borrowed money, exactly what we have now and don't need.

Historically attempts to shrink the size of government have not been very successful. Still, the Tea Party is correct, we've got to try.

If we cannot shrink government then we've got to raise taxes and stop living on plastic. That will doom the U.S. to slow growth and economic sluggishness.

Rubio Makes Sense

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has made a speech on the Senate floor about the debt ceiling and our deficit crisis that is really very good. His tone is gentle but his words are strong and very much to the point.

If Rubio isn't on everybody's short list of GOP vice presidential candidates, I'll be surprised. Go read it for yourself here on RealClearPolitics.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Debt Ceiling Update

National Journal's Major Garrett (Major is his name, not his title) has an outline of what the compromise debt ceiling deal could look like. I believe he has good sources, and is likely to be accurate.

Garrett says the deal will look much like the tentative deal negotiated a week ago by Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Boehner (R-OH). That deal the president then rejected but is now likely to accept.

Quote of the Day

We rarely quote Maureen Dowd, The New York Times' left-wing snark princess, in these pages. Nevertheless, I think she may have today's best comment on the bipartisan stupidity going on in Washington with regard to lifting the debt ceiling. Take a look:
What if this is all a cruel joke on us? What if the people who hate government are good at it and the people who love government are bad at it?
She thinks the Tea Party have come out ahead, and she may be correct.

Mileage Misinformation

I'd heard most folks don't get the mileage from their new cars promised by the EPA window stickers. Now I know more about why this is not true. See this Los Angeles Times article which describes the scientifically rigorous but highly unrealistic testing procedure used by the EPA to determine the sticker mph levels.

In testing car mileage, two questions arise: whether the test regimen is realistic and whether it produces results that enable you to compare one car with another. I believe the answer to the first is "no" and to the second is "yes."

The article describes a test procedure that enables the public to compare all tested vehicles. In order to be able to compare car A with car B the procedures have to be identical, which means they cannot be done on the highway, with whatever fuel is handy, by mom and pop drivers.

What the article really wants to complain about is that the test procedures are not reflective of normal driving by normal people, and produce unrealistically high mph numbers. I believe that to be a valid complaint. The test procedures appear to have been designed by the auto manufacturers, who for obvious reasons prefer the sticker mph numbers be high.

So, can you believe the sticker numbers? No. You probably won't get mileage as high as those numbers. On the other hand, can you use them to compare one car with another? Yes. The mph numbers may be too high but should be roughly the same amount of "too high" for each car. Therefore, are the sticker mph numbers useful? Yes, as long as you understand how to use them.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Millennial Bait-and-Switch

I was reading a column by Chuck Raasch who writes politics for the Gannett papers, including USAToday. He writes about the political experience of the Millennials:
Obama's hope-and-change mantra overwhelmingly won over this age group in the 2008 election. Will they ever be as enthusiastic about any politician again?
Obama promised peace and escalated war in Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and perhaps elsewhere. Guantanamo isn't closed, either. He promised political cooperation and practiced partisanship. In these actions Obama's behavior has been less attractive than McCain's might have been.
Reading this reminded me of an early experience I had with politics. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson ran against Barry Goldwater. Johnson said he'd pursue peace, Goldwater sounded bellicose. As a draft-age young man I preferred peace and supported Johnson.

Following the inauguration Johnson escalated the war in Vietnam. In other words, Johnson did exactly what Goldwater had threatened to do. Do you see these as similar experiences? I have had a jaundiced view of politicians ever since.

Quotes of the Day

Peggy Noonan, who writes for The Wall Street Journal, analyzing our unloved president:
The secret of Mr. Obama is that he isn't really very good at politics, and he isn't good at politics because he doesn't really get people.
Noonan doesn't answer the question of why he doesn't get people, so I will. Obama doesn't "get" Americans because he was raised by people who either weren't American or didn't much like Americans, even if they were U.S. citizens. Noonan concludes with acid-dipped pen:
He is not a devil, an alien, a socialist. He is a loser. And this is America, where nobody loves a loser.

Krauthammer on Divided Government

Charles Krauthammer, who writes for The Washington Post, takes a constitutional/political look at the debt ceiling crisis and comes down on the side of the Boehner plan. As he so often does, Krauthammer seems to have the right of this issue.

Krauthammer says the Boehner plan is a good first step, considering we have divided government. He believes the really major politico-economic solutions must come after the 2012 election if the nation then gives the GOP control of the White House and both houses of Congress. That is a big "if."

More Global Not-Warming Data

Yahoo News echos a Forbes article that reports NASA science from a peer-reviewed journal entitled Remote Sensing. The researchers found that the earth was reradiating much more heat than was predicted by those concerned about "global warming." The key quote, in my opinion, is this:
Real-world measurements, however, show far less heat is being trapped in the earth's atmosphere than the alarmist computer models predict, and far more heat is escaping into space than the alarmist computer models predict.
And there is a lot more where this came from. Unfortunately, many global warmists treat their conclusions as a religious faith. That is, as belief not susceptible to scientific proof.

Langone: Obama Not Presidential

Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot and former director of the New York Stock Exchange, has some unpleasant things to say about Barack Obama:
He is not acting presidential. He is behaving in a way designed in my opinion to divide us, to make us look at each other with skepticism, with suspicion. That is the end of America as we know it. The destruction he is inflicting by his behavior will carry on long after we settle the debt limit.
You can find this quote and much more on the CNBC website, the results of an on-air interview.

Tsunami Video

Do you live or vacation along the seacoast? Have you seen video footage of what a tsunami can do to substantial homes and businesses?

I have just seen the Yahoo News video of the Japanese tsunami. It is the most horrific, inexorable destruction I've ever watched. It is something you need to see but won't enjoy.

To me it's worse than a nuclear explosion because it is slow enough for the human mind to grasp. You see a town being ground up in almost slow motion, buildings floating inland only to ram into each other, then collapse and become watery debris that moves like lava.

Early on you see a car unknowingly driving toward inevitable destruction. Later, in a field you see people running away too slowly, trying to save something, maybe a child or a prized possession.

I'll be surprised if this video doesn't haunt you.

Another Prediction of Default

David Weidner, writing for The Wall Street Journal, says Washington and Wall Street have different views of the debt ceiling standoff. In his view, Wall Street is the more optimistic, and the less realistic.

Weidner finishes up with an odd insight, directed at the paper's Wall Street audience:
Admit it. Part of you wants to see Washington blow it. You want to see our national debt downgraded. Deep down inside, against your more rational instincts, you want to see a U.S. debt default.
Weidner says "you" but he means "I." He's talking about himself and presumes, probably accurately, that he's far from alone.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Debt Downgrade Results

Perhaps you've been wondering what will happen if the debt of the U.S. government is downgraded from AAA to a lower rating, as a result of a threatened default. This McClatchy article spells out the results which it describes as serious for the country.

The first outcome would be that the government would have to pay higher interest to borrow, meaning that government debt would cost us more. There is some chance that the higher interest rates would find their way into the private sector, for example home and auto loans or credit card interest rates.

Of course, if you are a person who loans money to the federal government, buying Treasury bills, notes or bonds, you will earn a higher interest rate. That might not hurt your feelings. Like many things, a downgrade will create winners and losers.

Brutal Realities

If we are at all honest with ourselves, we know the following hard truths: many of the "poor" aren't poor, many of the "disabled" aren't disabled, many of those benefiting from government handouts don't deserve or need them. Victor Davis Hanson has written for National Review Online a trenchant article on this uncomfortable subject.

Hanson's essential point is that the current budget/deficit/debt ceiling crunch is forcing us to examine government largess that has gone on for decades. It is largess we can no longer afford. Read what he has written.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Polar Bear Odd Facts

Go here to see five fun facts about polar bears, it's from The Week on Yahoo News. My favorite fact is that they are crossbreeding with grizzlies in the wild, producing cubs called "pizzlies" or "grolars." One nice thing about these facts, it appears that polar bears are less endangered than was formerly thought.

Hudson Bay thaws each summer, is frozen for 6 or more months of the year. The polar bears of Hudson Bay have always denned on the land south of Churchill, Manitoba, and appear none the worse for it.

The bears hang around Churchill in the fall, entertaining tourists, scaring the locals, and raiding the garbage dump for food while waiting for the Bay to freeze up so they can head out hunting seals. The DrsC have been to Churchill in the summer, too early in the season to see the bears which were inland hibernating.

Arms Race in Southeast Asia

Attack submarines (SSKs) are hot items on the shopping lists of several nations in southeast Asia: Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines. See this article in the Jakarta Post.

As the author points out, an SSK's only purposes are military. If all of these nations buy and operate SSKs in these relatively limited and busy waters, incidents leading to regional war may well occur. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

Jews Won't Vote GOP

Some weeks ago we wrote that Jews might not vote for Obama, but they for sure won't vote for the Republican nominee either. We wrote that based on conversations with Jewish friends.

Here is an article in Tablet which makes that point in historical detail and far more eloquently than I did. Democrats are clearly the more secular party; Jews fear the GOP's overt Christianity. As the article makes clear, the key question for American Jews is the nature of America, not the future of Israel.

The best the GOP can hope for is that substantial numbers of Jewish voters stay home or vote for Ralph Nader. In a key state like Florida that could be important.

A Perry Bio

If Texas Governor Rick Perry is about to become important in the GOP primary, you'll want to know something about him. An article by Paul Burka in Texas Monthly tells you a lot about the Guv.

Probably the most important things to know about him are that he is a hard man and an Aggie. And, as I noted the other day, he and George W. Bush don't like each other. They are different kinds of Republican. Burka explains this.

Somebody will tell you Perry was once a Democrat. It's true but means nothing; at one time all conservatives in the South were Democrats. They were Democrats because Abe Lincoln was a Republican. Darn few are Democrats today.

How Poor is Poor?

Go see this article in National Review Online which describes just how well America's poor live. Far from hunger, most overeat. A majority have multiple TVs, air conditioning, cable and cell phones. Try three quotes:
The average poor American has more living space than the average non-poor European.
Ninety-nine percent of children did not skip a single meal during 2009 because of lack of financial resources.
More than half of the families defined as poor by the Census Bureau have a computer in the home.
Maybe we should redefine poverty....

Unemployed Are Unemployable

The New York Times has a column in their Business Day section entitled "The Help-Wanted Sign Comes With A Frustrating Asterisk." Written by Catherine Rampell, the article reports that many employers will only consider those who are currently employed or perhaps recently unemployed.

This means that the long-term unemployed, in their millions, are unattractive to many employers. Are there valid reasons to discriminate against the long-term unemployed? Unfortunately, the answer is yes, as the article explains.

Does this mean the long-term unemployed will never get jobs? In a weak labor market like the one we have now, yes. In a tight labor market like we'd have in boom times, no. In a tight labor market employers are willing to take risks, to take less attractive candidates.

As our economy stumbles along, I fear we must face the likelihood that many of our long-term unemployed will never again hold serious, career-type jobs with benefits. It is unclear how our economy will support these individuals without setting up a European-style dole, something we don't want to do.

Garrett: Default Likely

Major Garrett was formerly Washington reporter for Fox News and now writes for National Journal. He takes a very gloomy view of the Debt Ceiling talks going on in Washington.

Garrett believes politics are overriding policy and economics. Politics won't allow the two sides to compromise. He concludes:
The aspiration to avoid default is just that. And it's not nearly enough.

Political Humor Alert

George Will, writing for The Washington Post, describing our President:
Obama — a demagogue for an age of smooth surfaces; Huey Long with a better tailor.
The Kingfish with a better tailor - that is snarky.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Review: The Final Potter Film

The other DrC and I saw "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" on Saturday. I've been too busy to write a review until now.

Watching the final Harry Potter film is a bittersweet experience for Potter fans. Bitter because the series stops here, and sweet because the film creates closure and is quite well done.

Driving home from seeing the film, the first thing the DrsC concluded is that splitting the last book into two films was a wise choice. Another thing upon which we agreed is that nothing of true significance to Potter readers was omitted from this film.

The Battle of Hogwarts is the major action sequence of this film, and is well done. We didn't see the film in 3D, being in a non-urban area. At this point we cannot comment on whether 3D worked, perhaps later.

Does the film stand on its own, would it make sense to a non-reader or someone who had not viewed Part 1? Perhaps not. Would Parts 1 and 2 taken together stand alone? To some extent.

I'm not sure any of the films truly meet the stand alone test. It would be interesting for a pollster to assemble focus groups of non-reader Potter film viewers to test this question.

Horse and Space Operas

"Cowboys and Aliens" opens on Friday, and reviews are already available in, for example, The Wall Street Journal. My favorite example of this genre mixing westerns with space is the TV series "Firefly" and the film sequel to that series "Serenity." Both are available on DVD.

Mentioned in the WSJ review, "Firefly" starred Nathan Fillon and was created by Joss Whedon. Fillon now has the title role in the TV series "Castle,"

The new "Cowboys and Aliens" stars Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. It should be fun; these two have done some great action movies. I'll write a review after I've seen it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

No Surprise

A British study of 25,000 individuals found that once people become overweight, they may lose the weight but almost all will regain it. You can read the article in The Daily Mail.

I wish I could say I'm surprised, but I'm not. Food is one addiction you cannot break by abstaining. Alcoholics do well to avoid booze, drug addicts can stop sniffing, shooting up, or popping pills, etc. Food addicts cannot stop eating - the human body needs fuel.

If there were a way to chemically turn off the taste mechanism, would that work? If eating were not pleasant, I believe we'd do less of it. All food would be as unattractive as rice cakes; eating would become as boring as tooth brushing.

The AfPak Mess

In the Asia Times of Hong Kong, columnist Derek Henry Flood writes about Afghanistan and those elements in the nation who are not willing to make a deal with the Taliban. He calls these Afghanis "irreconcilables."

Flood believes the Taliban is a "Pashtun ethno-nationalist insurgency" which leaves out the other tribal groups in the country. Those who refuse to let elements of the Taliban back into the government are mostly non-Pashtuns. Non-Pashtuns made up the Northern Alliance that originally worked with NATO forces to oust the Taliban.

According to the CIA's World Fact Book section on Afghanistan, Pashtuns make up 42% of the Afghani population, Tajiks 27%, Hazaras 9%, Uzbeks 9%, Aimaks 4%, Turkmen 3%, Balochs 2%, other 4%. In other words, Pashtuns are the largest Afghani ethnic group who fall substantially short of a national majority of the Afghani population, but are a clear majority in certain large regions, see this U.S. Army ethnolinguistic map.

The new Afghan constitution gives all Afghanis equal rights, regardless of tribal affiliation. The irreconcilables, as Flood calls them, insist that, to be welcomed back into the fold, Pashtun Taliban must agree to accept the constitution as the national law instead of insisting on a "brutal interpretation of Islamic law at any cost."

By fighting the Taliban the west appears to have been drawn into a tribal conflict of long standing, on the side of the smaller non-Pashtun tribes. Other recent examples of U.S. intervention in tribal conflicts include the Iraq war, the Balkans and Libyan incursions.
The CIA World Fact Book says Pashtuns make up more than 15% of the Pakistani population, in other words, three Pakistanis out of 20 are Pashtuns. This is one of the reasons Pakistan refuses to join whole-heartedly in NATO's anti-Taliban battle.

I imagine Pakistan fears a drive by "their" Pashtuns to make Pakistani border territories into a Pashtun homeland/nation, much as Turkey fears a drive by Kurds to make eastern Turkey a Kurdish homeland. See a CIA map of the borders of a possible Pashtunistan here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Space Is the Frontier

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington editor for RealClearPolitics. His defense of the U.S. having a continuing role in space exploration is more eloquent than my July 13 post entitled "We Beg to Disagree." I believe Cannon is correct in concluding that Obama doesn't believe in American exceptionalism.

Kotkin: Cities No Magnet

Demographer Joel Kotkin, who writes for Forbes, has taken a look at the notion that there is a movement back into the city centers. The data do not support this view, according to Kotkin.

Instead, guess what? The Millennials, as they age, are moving to suburbia and beyond, to exurbia. It is what they prefer. Why am I not surprised?

Quote of the Day

Andrew Klavan, writing for City Journal, about the Obama presidency:
With the notable exception of Osama bin Laden’s execution, the Obama presidency has resembled nothing so much as an episode of Mr. Bean, one slapstick misadventure after another.
Except that Mr. Bean said little or nothing, a model our chatty president would be well advised to emulate.

Pew: GOP Gains Among Whites, Young

Go see seriously interesting polling results reported by the Pew Research Center for People & the Press. Scroll down to a table headed "Republicans Make Substantial Gains Among Young and Low-Income Whites."

Note that the table reports much more than that, although the heading is correct that young and low-income whites show the largest gains. Compare the 2008 margins to the 2011 margins.

The really stunning result is that, unlike 2008, today the only subgroup of whites in the entire country who favor the Democrats are in the Northeast. That group only favors Dems by a margin of one percentage point.

Notice the dramatic change in the party orientation of white women. This group changed from Dem +7 in 2008 to GOP +5 in 2011, a change of 12 percentage points. Something very interesting is happening in this group.

Another interesting shift is among white college graduates. The college grads shifted from a 2008 margin of Dem +1 to a 2011 margin of GOP +7, a change of 8 percentage points. In 2008 MSM pundits made much of white college grads favoring the Democrats, what will they say now?

The so-called Millennials, those born after 1980, have also been the focus of much attention. If you scroll down further you'll find that they've dramatically changed their orientation since 2008. Pew says:
Currently, 52% of Millennial voters are Democrats or lean to the Democratic Party while 39% are Republicans or lean to the GOP. This 13-point edge is less than half the size of the 32-point edge Democrats held three years ago.
If their margin can drop 19 points in three years, imagine what it will do in the next ten. Sounds like we'll be welcoming them into the GOP one day soon. Remember what Churchill said:
If you are not a liberal at twenty, you have no heart and if you are not conservative at thirty, you have no brain.

More Layoffs

Did you need more proof the employment picture is grim? Here is more proof, in the form of a Daily Ticker article on Yahoo Finance. It cites over a hundred thousand government employees laid off, and reminds us of the layoffs at Cisco, Lockheed Martin, and yes, Borders.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Europe on the Brink

Europe hasn't been looking healthy lately, what with economic problems in Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, and Italy. Author George Kerevan believes he sees sufficient forces to tear the European Union asunder, in this article for The Scotsman.

Kerevan sees Germany wanting to go play with Russia and China, while France is on the brink of political chaos. Meanwhile the U.K. remains on the periphery or goes its own way. He says one thing of which I wasn't aware, namely that Communism is popular in the farming areas of Europe.

A major purpose of the EU was to keep the peoples of Europe from going to war with each other every two decades. If the U.S. should decide to stop defending Europe via NATO, do any of these "nations" now have the political will to raise and equip a modern army? I doubt it.

Ayatollah Khamenei

Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei is portrayed as a practitioner of Machiavellian politics in this article for Foreign Policy. After showing how he follows Machiavelli's precepts, the article makes an interesting point concerning Khamenei's age (72) and the fact that 70% of Iranians are younger than 33, saying:
Despite his vast authority, his public appearances increasingly render him less a supreme leader than a grouchy old man yelling at his youthful subjects to stay off his proverbial lawn.
Now that is some serious lese majeste.

Noonan Cracks Wise

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, writing about President Obama's communications shortcomings:
In 2½ years, he has reached the point that took George W. Bush five years to reach: People aren't listening anymore.
Say what? We certainly elect some ... is the plural doofuses or doofi?

Why Perry Is Hot

A The Week article rerun on Yahoo News lists four reasons why Texas Governor Rick Perry would bring excitement to the Republican primary race. The reasons aren't anything spectacular, mostly of the "he would unite various factions of the party" sort.

The least interesting thing they say is that he'd put paid to the campaigns of Pawlenty and Huntsman. Umm ... would anybody notice or care?

Perry's most important characteristic is that, unlike Romney, he doesn't make social conservatives nervous.

On the other hand, I can just hear Team Obama asking the American public if they are ready for another Texas governor as president. That Perry and Bush are different and don't like each other, while true, is hard to convey in campaign mode.

More Unemployment Ahead

Jeff Reeves who writes for MarketWatch has a gloomy prediction of unemployment in the months and quarters ahead. He sees large numbers let go in financials, tech, and aerospace, and predicts national unemployment back over 10%.

Reeves didn't even mention layoffs in state and local government, including education. Or all the NASA folks who will be let go with the shutdown of the shuttle program. Hat tip to RealClearPolitics for the link.

Not Quite True

President Obama has said many things which are less than fully true. His description of voters' 2012 decision paradigm may be another of those:
If next November they feel like I've been on their side and I've been working as hard as I can and have been getting some things done to move us in the right direction, I'll win. If they don't, then I'll lose.
Do you notice how he has lowered the bar to "getting some things done?" How about not getting the important things done, like jobs and the economy? The source for this quote is an Associated Press article in the Deseret News. Hat tip to for the link.

Fly Old Glory

Remember that research we cited on July 4 about how going to Independence Day parades helps kids grow up conservative? Now a piece of politico-psychological research shows that being exposed to the United States flag causes pro-Republican biases in voters, some of which last several months.

If you need a better reason to fly the U.S. flag, I can't think of one. You can access the study itself here, and an article about the study on the Fox News website. The researchers are faculty at the University of Chicago, Cornell University, and Hebrew University; their article has been accepted for publication in Psychological Science.

Fascinating, that the Republican Party is associated in voters' minds with patriotism. You couldn't buy that kind of good public relations. It's almost enough to make you feel sorry for Democrats.

PPP: Today Obama Would Lose

Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling, a normally Democratic-leaning polling organization, analyzes their July poll looking toward the 2012 presidential race:
There’s a very good chance Barack Obama would lose if he had to stand for reelection today, This is his worst poll standing in a long time and he really needs the economy to start turning around.
PPP also says the following:
Obama's numbers are worse than they appear to be on the surface. (snip) If you allocate the undecides (sic) based on their approval/disapprove of Obama, Romney would lead 52-48.
Hot dang, when O's friends are saying these things he knows he's in trouble.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Barone: Higher Ed Bubble

Michael Barone, writing for The Washington Examiner, takes a look at what may be a bubble in higher education. The costs of a college degree have gone up more rapidly than inflation, or the cost of living, or just about anything you can name.

Has the value of a college degree gone up this rapidly? No. The price has gone up because of almost unlimited demand versus limited supply. In other words, the price has gone up because people are willing to pay more.

Barone makes the point that many people are going to college who shouldn't, who won't much benefit from a degree in Ethnic Studies, Communications or Sociology. Universities know this and have created a reward structure for faculty that relies on being popular with students.

Unsurprisingly, the need to be popular leads to the A being the most frequently given grade on many campuses. Students with lots of As tend to stay around and keep paying tuition, but their grade transcripts become essentially meaningless as indicators of ability and performance.

Bad News for Tall Women

Would you believe taller women are more likely to get cancer? Researchers at Oxford University have found that this is true for women in the United Kingdom. The article reporting these findings in The Daily Mail (U.K.) says the following:
A study carried out at Oxford University found the risk of cancer increased by around 16 per cent with every four inches of height. (snip) They found those who were 5ft 9in tall were more than 33 per cent more likely to get cancer than those who were just 5ft.
The study utilized the medical records of a million British women and looked at ten common forms of cancer. The study reported no findings for men.

More on British Journalism

Last Sunday I wrote about the ways in which British journalism differs from ours. Basically, you'll remember I said that theirs is a mix of excellent work and paparazzi-style stalking of persons of interest.

Much of the stalking has been done by shady private investigators and their pals in the police. Frankly, I'm disappointed. As an Anglophile I'd always thought their coppers were clean. Apparently the bobbies fall short of spotless, see this Reuters report on Yahoo News.

How Greece Got That Way

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman agonizes over how and why Greece became so bureaucratic, corrupt, and inefficient. I can suggest one possible reason.

During World War II Greece was occupied by Germany. Underground resistance movements developed, many of them supported by the Soviet Union and organized around Communist ideology. Thus for many Greeks, resisting the Germans became equated with being a Communist.

As one of the first moves of the Cold War, at the end of World War II, Harry Truman put U.S. resources into Greece to support the non-Communist political parties. With Truman's help the non-Communists won. If the people of Greece had gotten the post-war government they truly wanted, it might have been a Communist government.

Anti-Communists won the struggle, without having a clear majority. For this reason they may have needed to adopt some of the programs a Communist government would have instituted in order to become acceptable to the majority of Greeks.

Communist-style programs explain the bureaucracy and inefficiency noted above. Corruption is endemic in all cultures around the Mediterranean basin; it is not unique to Greece.