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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Victory in Mesopotamia 


Ralph Peters' column on victory in Iraq is a balm for those of us who did and do support the American effort there, and it has some great red meat besides:

We all recall the delighted leftist claims that Iraq had entered a hopeless civil war. Wrong. That Iraqis preferred al Qaeda to us. Wrong. That Shia militias represented the people. Wrong. And that Iran would seize control. Wrong again.

Looking back over six years of good intentions, tragic errors, generosity, arrogance, partisan vituperation, painful deaths and ultimate vindication, two things strike me: the ever-resisted lesson that human affairs are more complex than academic theories claim, and the simple truth that most human beings prefer a measure of freedom to immeasurable repression.

Read the whole Ralph, and then go back more than three years and read my old post on the importance of the perception of victory in Iraq. We must proclaim victory and write the history of victory in Iraq in order to gain all its benefits. Will Barack Obama know how to do this, or even understand that it will be a great waste if he does not?

MORE: Allahpundit gets it. President Obama is not saying he was wrong on the surge and claiming victory per se, but he is not running from the accomplishment, either. Half a loaf, which is more than some of our commenters are predicting.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Senator Franken 



The recount litigation in Minnesota is over, and Al Franken has been certified as having won the U.S. Senate election last November.


Depending upon the health and attendance of Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd, the Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate, the first time in three decades either party has reached that filibuster-proof figure.

Senator Franken may find that keeping his Senate seat may be more difficult than attracting a consistent listening audience as an Air America radio host.

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The costs of courtesy in New Jersey 

Perhaps it is because I was raised in Iowa, or maybe it is the old school WASP in me. Either way, I open doors for people, regardless of their gender, age, physical capacity, or sexual orientation, if I get to the door first. Sometimes people smile and say thank you, sometimes not. I do not resent it when people do not thank me, however, because I do it as much out of habit as to relieve them of the door-opening burden.

That said, my opening of the door for you does not explicitly or implicitly authorize you to enter the line in front of me and order six differently mixed lattes and an assortment of pastries for the gang at your morning meeting. Protocol in most parts of the country -- not the greater New York area, perhaps, but just about everywhere else -- calls for you to invite me to order my grande non-fat no-whip mocha ahead of you. Capiche?


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Somewhat specialized public service announcement 


Notwithstanding my own poor talents, I do not want to ignore those many TigerHawk readers who are handy around the house and garage. Behold, Amazon's massive sale on air-powered tools. A bit arcane, to be sure, but deals to be had nonetheless.


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Monday, June 29, 2009

News you can use 


A photographic history of the bikini, with explanatory notes.


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O'Quiz!!! 


Fell out of the habit of linking to the O'Quiz. Good thing. This week's O'Quiz is absolutely brutal. I guessed my way to 5 out of 10, but that is still significantly above the prevailing average of 4.07. I defy you to name a more difficult multiple choice test. Take the O'Quiz and post your own score, no matter how glorious or ignominious, in the comments.


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Steve Driehaus, extreme spender 


Doug Ross really does not like Rep. Steve Driehaus, so much so that he is calling in favors to spread the word. Done. And, well, he certainly does appear to be another Democrat who ran as a fiscal conservative and votes as a fiscal derelict. A "lite" version of our president, I would say.

It is a shame that the Republicans made it so easy for Democrats to do that.


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Splitting hairs: A TigerHawk poll! 


Client Number 9 thinks that Mark Sanford is worse than he is. His rationale is that he did not fall in love with the prostitutes with whom he transacted. Spitzer's moral parsing is interesting, and might equally go the other way. What say you? Take the poll!



In your opinion, which adultery is worse?
Eliot Spitzer is right; it is much worse actually to fall in love with a person who is not your spouse.
Eliot Spitzer is wrong; it is a lot easier to decide not to hire a prostitute than it is to avoid falling in love.
I vote "present" on this one.
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com


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Is Barack Obama unable to fight the Congress, or unwilling? 


This is just about the most damning indictment of the Obama administration's mostly costly legislative initiatives (regarding health care and greenhouse gas regulation) you are going to read anywhere, and it comes from somebody who supports both initiatives.

The cap-and-trade bill is a travesty. Its net effect on short- to medium-term carbon emissions will be small to none. This is by design: a law that really made a difference would make energy dearer, hurt consumers and force an economic restructuring that would be painful for many industries and their workers. Congress cannot contemplate those effects. So the Waxman-Markey bill, while going through the complex motions of creating a carbon abatement regime, takes care to neutralise itself.

It proposes safety valves that will ease the cap if it threatens to have a noticeable effect on energy prices. It relies heavily on offsets – theoretical carbon reductions bought from other countries or other industries – so that big US emitters will not need to try so hard. It gives emission permits away, and tells utilities to rebate the windfall to consumers, so their electricity bills do not go up. It creates a vastly complicated apparatus, a playground for special interests and rent-seekers, a minefield of unintended consequences – and the bottom line for all that is business as usual.

If you regard universal access to health insurance as an urgent priority, as I do, the draft healthcare bills are easier to defend as at least a step in the right direction. Nonetheless, the same evasive mindset – the appetite for change without change – has guided their design. If you are happy with your present insurance, the bills’ designers keep telling voters, you will see no difference.

The crux of the US healthcare problem is the incentives that encourage over-production and over-consumption of services. Addressing that would alter the way healthcare is paid for and delivered to all Americans. At that scary prospect, Congress looks away. Debate thus revolves around how much of an increase in coverage you can buy for $1,000bn over 10 years in subsidies and other outlays. That is a good question. But legislators aim to duck the bigger challenge: controlling long-term growth in costs per patient.

That's really great. We're going to do great damage to the economy without actually reducing greenhouse gases, and we are going to create a massive new entitlement without actually restructuring the health care system. Much more of this and we will be done, and nobody, not even the president, seems to give a rat's ass.

The Democrats loved to accuse George W. Bush of recklessness, and "gambling" with the country's future, and so forth. If this rush to spend countless trillions and engineer vast sectors of the U.S. economy (finance, health care, and energy) without any genuine debate or even a "national conversation" is not reckless, what would be?

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Another reason to worry about China 


Lest you think the Chinese will not sell our bonds and crush our currency when the spirit moves them, consider this troubling graph from The Economist:


China dependency bubble


It depicts China's looming "dependency bubble" (the huge ratio of old people and children to total population) which because of that country's strange demographics will make our various entitlement issues look trivial. The only way the Chinese will be able to finance care for so many people will be to liquidate their assets, including particularly our bonds. We need a plan for managing our own dependents that does not require the Chinese to do the saving on our behalf; they will need that money for themselves.

CWCID: Paul Kedrosky.


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Sunday, June 28, 2009

An interpretive question for Obama voters 


Hey, all you middle income Obama voters out there, I've got a little parsing exercise for you. Reconcile this...



...with this:

White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the president won't rule out a health care reform bill that includes a middle-class tax hike.

Apparently I'm not the only one who is confused.

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Crushing of dissent watch: Only right-thinking polar bear experts need apply 


Many more of these stories, and people are going to wonder whether climate science has been entirely captured by people with political objectives:

Dr Mitchell Taylor has been researching the status and management of polar bears in Canada and around the Arctic Circle for 30 years, as both an academic and a government employee. More than once since 2006 he has made headlines by insisting that polar bear numbers, far from decreasing, are much higher than they were 30 years ago. Of the 19 different bear populations, almost all are increasing or at optimum levels, only two have for local reasons modestly declined.

Dr Taylor agrees that the Arctic has been warming over the last 30 years. But he ascribes this not to rising levels of CO2 – as is dictated by the computer models of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and believed by his PBSG colleagues – but to currents bringing warm water into the Arctic from the Pacific and the effect of winds blowing in from the Bering Sea.

He has also observed, however, how the melting of Arctic ice, supposedly threatening the survival of the bears, has rocketed to the top of the warmists' agenda as their most iconic single cause. The famous photograph of two bears standing forlornly on a melting iceberg was produced thousands of times by Al Gore, the WWF and others as an emblem of how the bears faced extinction – until last year the photographer, Amanda Byrd, revealed that the bears, just off the Alaska coast, were in no danger. Her picture had nothing to do with global warming and was only taken because the wind-sculpted ice they were standing on made such a striking image.

Dr Taylor had obtained funding to attend this week's meeting of the PBSG, but this was voted down by its members because of his views on global warming. The chairman, Dr Andy Derocher, a former university pupil of Dr Taylor's, frankly explained in an email (which I was not sent by Dr Taylor) that his rejection had nothing to do with his undoubted expertise on polar bears: "it was the position you've taken on global warming that brought opposition".

Dr Taylor was told that his views running "counter to human-induced climate change are extremely unhelpful". His signing of the Manhattan Declaration – a statement by 500 scientists that the causes of climate change are not CO2 but natural, such as changes in the radiation of the sun and ocean currents – was "inconsistent with the position taken by the PBSG".

They told me that if I voted for John McCain science would be politicized beyond all recognition, and they were right!

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How is Eliot Spitzer going to top this? 


While you were paying attention to Mark Sanford's affair and Michael Jackson's entourage, you may not have noticed that the John Edwards/Rielle Hunter affair seems to have ventured into sex tape territory. Whatever. The Breck Girl and, frankly, everybody else involved are so unrelievedly tacky that we are almost forced to rehabilitate Sanford and Eliot Spitzer just because they are not, well, John Edwards. When the bar's that low, just about anybody ought to be allowed over it.


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In re "bling": Race and conspicuous consumption 


The Wharton School has published a paper (pdf) that examines patterns of consumer behavior by race (or, rather, by American "racial" categories, which are not consistently racial). The carefully-hedged abstract:

Using nationally representative data on consumption, we show that Blacks and Hispanics devote larger shares of their expenditure bundles to visible goods (clothing, jewelry, and cars) than do comparable Whites. These differences exist among virtually all sub-populations, are relatively constant over time, and are economically large. While racial differences in utility preference parameters might account for a portion of these consumption differences, we emphasize instead a model of status seeking in which conspicuous consumption is used as a costly indicator of a household’s economic position. Using merged data on race and state-level income, we demonstrate that a key prediction of the status-signaling model -- that visible consumption should be declining in reference group income -- is strongly borne out in the data for each racial group. Moreover, we show that accounting for differences in reference group income characteristics explains most of the racial difference in visible consumption.

I have not read far beyond the abstract, and may report more later. I note, however, that the study did not look at the consumption patterns of racial Asian-Americans. Indeed, the word "asian" does not appear even once. One is forced to wonder why, in a study that purported to look at "race" and consumption, the authors examined Hispanics but not Asians.

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Pulling a Hank Rearden! 


It is a little bit surprising that the clowns distinguished officials who run Princeton (Borough or Township, take your pick) have not yet adopted this arrestingly silly program (in which towns in New England are guilting businesses into doing work for free). Maybe they have not thought of it yet. Anyway, a similar mandate would put the McCaffrey's chain in a tough spot, because it is both aggressively "green" in its propaganda and (by all accounts) immensely profitable. "Green" for no profit does not seem like it is part of the program.

Anyway, more businesses need to stand up and refuse to be roped into the latest doing of good for no reason other than altruism or the demands will never end and businesses will no longer actually serve their customers and owners. Hank Rearden was, and remains, the last word on that subject.


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Saturday, June 27, 2009

You mean, we still have a reputation problem? 


Glenn Reynolds links to and excerpts an editorial from Der Spiegel that absolutely savages Barack Obama:

The occupant of the White House may have changed recently. But the amount of ill-advised ideology coming from Washington has remained constant. Obama's list of economic errors is long -- and continues to grow.... Barack Obama and George W. Bush, it has become clear, are more similar than they might seem at first glance.

But not, sadly, in ways that would delight most of our readers. The scorn from the traditionally anti-American magazine, this time aimed at the sainted Obama, is really quite something, and the comparison of Obama to Bush and Summers to Cheney is arresting.

Now, do not confuse me with somebody who cares very much what editorialists in Der Spiegel or other outposts of the European chattering classes think of any American president. I could not care less, in no small part because I believe that the interests of such people generally diverge from mine own. I note, however, that many of the cosmopolitan Americans who voted for Barack Obama did so because they were embarrassed by the Bush administration's reputation among foreigners, particularly European elites. They hated having to explain themselves over dinner in Paris, Brussels, and Frankfurt, and worried that most Europeans would not understand that we are not all unnuanced rubes. I therefore wonder how such people will react if anti-Obama sentiment in Europe grows to the point where they have to explain themselves all over again. Will they rise in Barack Obama's defense, agree with the foreign critique but deny that they voted for him, or explode from the cognitive dissonance?

The possibilities for hilarity are not small.

MORE along the same lines from the Financial Times. The Obama administration may learn that the bond vigilantes were friendly little puppies compared to the currency vigilantes.

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Beat Corzine 


Chris Christie has another anti-Corzine ad up. If you share, as I do, the dream of defeating Jon Corzine in November for both New Jersey and the national headlines it would garner, consider helping the Christie campaign.



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Savings and confidence 


Yesterday we learned that American consumer confidence was at its highest level since February 2008 and that our savings rate was shooting through the roof, reaching 6.5% in May, the highest rate since the early 1990s (check out this graph to see the speed of the ascent). The unemployment rate rose but so did personal income, largely on the back of one-time government stimulus payments to senior citizen (I missed out on those -- any of our readers get one?). Apparently, notwithstanding their growing confidence, most people banked the payments or used them to pay down debt, either of which is "savings."

In general, I applaud the higher savings rate and hope it persists for a generation. With the federal government spending trillions it does not have and cannot raise by taxation, Americans are going to need a lot of savings to avoid debasing their own currency and destroying their own standard of living to finance all of this largess. There is no time like the present to relearn the thrifty habits of our grandparents. That said, yesterday's news does tend to support at least one of the arguments that Barack Obama made for his massive direct spending stimulus package over the Republican call for tax cuts: That tax cuts and direct transfer payments will not contribute to economic growth in the short term because people will use them for debt reduction rather than investment or consumption. That is indeed what seems to be happening here. (Of course, neither is this news a refutation of the right's counterarguments, which were (i) changes in the tax law would foster a change psychology that would make for more durable economic growth, and (ii) the stimulus money flows too slowly to achieve its purported objective, which is to stimulate the economy now).


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Definite and indefinite endings 


Of course, by now everybody who reads blogs knows that Barack Obama is preparing an executive order that would "reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely." At this point there is little to add to the big round-up at Memeorandum, except perhaps this: Wars only have "definite" endings in retrospect -- who knew in 1931 that the Japanese invasion of Manchuria was the opening shot in a 14-year second "world war"? As surely as Allah God made little green apples, this one will also definitely come to an end. When that day comes there will be very little legal basis to detain jihadis at Gitmo or wherever they may be held, and we should release any who pledge not to take up arms again.

We hold prisoners, even unlawful enemy combatants, until the war is over. This one has been going on since at least 1996 when al Qaeda's antecedents first proclaimed jihad against the United States. It will end when al Qaeda and its principal allies and descendents lay down their arms and surrender or walk away, for then violent jihad against the West will have run its course. The odds of that happening within the next decade or two, well within the natural lives of most of the detainees, are fairly high.


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Friday, June 26, 2009

The cultural significance of summer reading lists 


My old prep school's 2009 "summer reading list" is a lot less demanding but a lot more directive than it was in 1979. Back then, they told you to read a huge pile of books in the summer before you arrived at school; I believe I got through something like 10 of them, only to learn that many of my less ambitious peers had largely blown it off. Now the school is clear that you must read at least two books, annotate them, and prepare to be tested on them.

Candidly, I'm not sure which approach is better on average, even though the old school method worked well for me. I do know, however, that each seems to fit with the dominant child rearing paradigm of its decade. Back when hair was long and pot was harmless, the educated parents of the Silent Generation basically figured that if they exposed you to many different things your muse would find you and their job was done. Now, the unstructured children of that era, perhaps in reaction, manage their own kids down to the method of note-taking and the color of highlighter. That they and the school they hire should dictate the summer reading should come as no surprise. That does not make it any less depressing.

Anyway, I for one will be fascinated to see what outrages today's children visit upon our hapless grandchildren.


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A sunny afternoon in Chicago 


I could not handle the rain and gloom in the northeast for a moment longer, so the TH Daughter and I lit out for the territory. Chicago, that is, where the sun is shining long and warm as it ought in late June. We took in the Taste of Chicago, the Shedd Aquarium (which I had not been to in a very long time and which is way cooler than I remembered), and the Cubs and White Sox interleague game at "the Cell." Herewith, a few shots from my Blackberry, with the chance of more to come if I have the energy and you have the enthusiasm...


"Buckingham Fountain"  "Taste of Chicago" Loop Chicago


Shedd Chicago Loop


The actual opening pitch in a 5-4 victory for the Northsiders...


"the Cell" "White Sox" Cubs Chicago


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Regarding old school dignity 


I'm going to climb out on a creaking and structurally suspect limb and say I agree with Dorothy Rabinowitz:

We can now add the sad-eyed Gov. Mark Sanford, making his tearful public confessional, to the galaxy of similar fallen stars we have seen in this state before. The question no one has ever answered is how they all fell into the grip of the same delusion: namely, that the way to retrieving dignity is to go before the microphones to issue craven apologies to a list of purported victims.

Can these recitals, interrupted by barely suppressed sobs, acknowledgment of all the betrayed -- the family dog will be in there some day -- actually be what an adult male, whatever his status, imagines will do the trick? Perhaps someday one of these VIPs in trouble will figure out that on these occasions it's not such a great thing to go public looking like a pathetic dolt -- the kind of man who would induce instant headache and skin crawling in any woman imagining him as a lover.

Can we dream that some day a Mark Sanford -- or any other self-acknowledged miscreant -- will say what there is to say and refuse to slobber before the cameras?

Read her suggestion for an alternative, manned-up confession. I'd find it refreshing, too, but then I don't watch Oprah either.

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Ahmadinejad wants an apology 



...but, as AP reports,
"President Barack Obama says he doesn't take seriously the demand from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for an apology.

"The Iranian leader made that demand while accusing Obama of meddling in Iranian affairs by speaking in support of the demonstrators challenging the results of Iran's election"
Well, good for President Obama. I hope he remains steadfast if the same apology is required by the Iranian regime as a pre-condition for talks regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Besides, as anyone who has seen the movie "Love Story" (not based on Al and Tipper Gore) can tell you, love means never having to say you're sorry.

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The younger wife 



If I live long enough to make it to 80 years of age, it might be nice to have a wife a little bit more than half my age, provided that she is not a convicted corrupt Detroit City Council member, and I am not chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

It is hard to know how much of this sludge will rub off on John Conyers. In Philly (I live nearby), his wife's guilt would probably increase his chances of re-election.

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Neda trooferism 



Mohammad Hassan Ghadiri, the Iranian ambassador to Mexico, was interviewed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer yesterday, and all but accused the CIA of killing the now-iconic Neda Agha-Soltan. He needs to get his story straight, however, because when he tries to go all CSI during the interview, he says "the bullet that was found in her head was not a bullet that you could find in Iran." Except of, course, she was shot in the chest -- anyone who watched the video posted on YouTube could see the attempts being made by those around here to apply direct pressure to the wound. Also, I do not believe that it is likely that you will quickly aspirate blood through your mouth and nose after being shot in the head. Most head shots kill before the body hits the ground.

This is pretty much up there with Rosie O'Donnell saying about the World Trade Center 7 that "it's the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel."

IRNA (Iran's state-run news agency) is stating that Neda was killed by mistake.

The effortlessness with which the Iranian leadership tells lies is truly amazing.

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Waters vs. Obey 



Yo, Dave, you messin' with Maxine's earmarks?

Not a big fan of either Member of the House, but Maxine Waters (D-CA) would so kick David Obey's (D-WI) butt in a straight-up street fight. I would lay odds, in fact -- it would be a TKO after no more than 3 rounds, after which they could both be checked into the nearest sanatorium for an extended stay, thereby being prevented from doing more harm to this country in furtherance of their own grandiosity.

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Facebook status of the day 


From my scroll, Andrew Breitbart:

Gov Sanford is thinking to himself: Perhaps I should have done my big televised admission on Thursday instead of Wednesday.

Heh.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Graphing energy 


Here are three energy graphs that might brush you back; the question is, what ought the policy response be? There is room for policies that both promote conservation and production, but most supporters of each policy are not very interested in the other.


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Farrah Fawcett and the end of the 1970s 


I almost never think much more than "huh" when some celebrity dies, but I confess to some wistfulness on hearing of Farrah Fawcett's death this morning. If you are a man of a certain age, she was your first pin-up love, and no woman's look more iconically expressed the style, such as it was, of the 1970s. Her casual and affecting willingness to go without a bra did not hurt, either.

Farrah, rest in peace.

MORE: I'm having my more usual reaction to this news.


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Protecting the thugs 


Regarding the deafening silence of the United Nations on the oppression in Iran, this is spot on:

Imagine the U.N. as a sort of Thugs’ Protective Association and you will seldom go far wrong.

Well, yeah. The United Nations is and always will be a union of states. Several things inexorably flow from that. First, its purpose is to ensure the survival of its members. The United Nations can, when it is not conflicted, respond to threats to specific states or to the state system in general. Second, to the extent that states (as opposed to non-state actors) violate human rights, the United Nations will not respond at any level above the superficial. Why? Because its first duty is to states, not humans. That is why the United Nations is wholly ineffective as a guarantor of human rights. It simply must be so. The only surprise is that there is anybody on the planet who imagines that it ought to be. Yet more evidence that propaganda works, I suppose.

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Governor Sanford and matters of the heart 


I've been busy, which accounts for the transporting superficiality of my posts recently, so I have not bothered with Mark Sanford's cry for Argentina (massive blog round-up). I am, however, newly sensitive to this point: In matters of the heart, acts that others might judge as immoral or foolish do not necessarily reflect fundamental or pervasive defects in character or intelligence. Perhaps they usually do not. So, yes, I agree with Andy McCarthy, both on the morality of the matter and in the utilitarian consequences, to wit:

If the Colson standard is going to be the standard, two things — both bad — happen. First, good people are going to refrain from public life because they are not going to put their loved ones through the ringer the Colson standard invites (the standard that encourages the media and our ideological adversaries to scorch the earth since a single flaw is sure to derail the career of a talented conservative). Second, the people who will be most wounded by this state of things are conservatives: The Left does not impose the same standards and its most talented people needn't fear being marginalized by their human flaws. We will be ensuring that they get their best team on the field and we don't.

Of course, your results may differ.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Crushing of dissent watch 


They told me that if I voted for John McCain the Environmental Protection Agency would politicize science and suppress information crucial to understanding the threat of global warming, and they were right!


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But what about the badminton team? 


The Obama administration is finally dropping the hammer on the Islamic Republic, disinviting its diplomats from the 4th of July White House cookout. And if that fearsome sanction does not move the mullahs back to the straight and narrow, we can always withdraw the badminton team. Did that bit of "ping-pong" diplomacy work the way I predicted, or President Obama hoped?



CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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2012 post of the day 


Pew’s got a new poll out today showing Romney’s net favorable rating at +12, compared to just +1 for Sarahcuda. With Sanford and Huntsman now out of the game, Jindal almost certainly biding his time until 2016, and Palin possibly too polarizing to win against The One, we’d all better hope Mitt runs. Because if he doesn’t, an ominous scenario presents itself...

Indeed.

Oh, and yes, John Kerry is an enormous tool. "Is," not "has."

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Red meat 


Over the email, from Mrs. Charlottesvillain...


Red meat


I was amused.


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Republican politicians 



Well, it's becoming clear that serious Republican politicians with a national profile and ambitions for higher office really need to be single, because stepping out on your marriage is not a great way to win the hearts and minds of Republican Party voters and swing voters (not to be confused with swingers who vote). June has been a tough month -- first Nevada Senator John Ensign, now Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

Any other Republican politicians have anything to say, something they want to get off their chest? Let's rip it off all at once like a Band-Aid, instead of a drip-drip-drip of confessions.

Keep it in your pants, guys. It's not as if the press is going to cut you any slack (nor should they) the way they did for John Edwards. I mean, really, who do you think you are, Bill Clinton (NSFW video at link)?

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Hello, Syria 



In another example of Smart Diplomacy™, AP reports that President Obama
"will return an ambassador to Syria, filling a post that has been vacant for four years and marking an acceleration of Washington's engagement with the Arab world.

"The move reinforces Obama's determination, outlined in his Cairo speech earlier this month, to deepen America's role in the Middle East as he seeks to broker peace among Israel and its Arab neighbors and improve U.S. relations in the region."
The U.S. does have diplomatic relations with Syria, although that is not the case with Iran (Syria being its client state), as President Obama reminded reporters yesterday during the presser, when the question was posed about whether Iranian diplomats were still going to be invited to U.S. embassies around the world for a July 4th cook out. What happened to the last ambassador?
"The U.S. withdrew its ambassador to Syria in 2005 to protest Syrian actions in neighboring Lebanon. Washington has criticized Syria and Iran for supporting Islamic militant groups such as the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza and Lebanon's Hezbollah. The U.S. also has accused Syria of not doing enough to stop the infiltration of militants to fight U.S. and allied forces in neighboring Iraq."
It is all well and good to have an ambassador in an embassy to further diplomatic relations with a host country, but it is not as if all diplomacy and all consular duties grind to a halt when an ambassador in not in residence. Might it have been even Smarter Diplomacy™ to have Syria make some substantive or at least symbolic gesture to the U.S. before a U.S. ambassador returned to that country?

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jungle Trader hits the road 


If this is not the most, well, imperial -- and I use the term admiringly and specifically -- blog post you have ever read, what would be? One gets the sense that the Jungle Trader is working in the wrong century.


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Instruction to my children: Watch this 


It is a measure of my other obligations that I am the last blogger of means in America to link this video from Saturday Night Live, but there actually are a few people who read only TigerHawk!



CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.


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Wired world 


In case you were wondering how much fiber optic cable has been installed under the world's oceans, I provide this handy map (pdf). Via FP Passport, which takes note of the big surge in broadband coming to the east coast of Africa, the last place on earth without it. Will the islands in the net disappear?


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Garden State rainbow 


Those of us delighted to drive south on the Garden State Parkway earlier this evening were treated to a beautiful and very well defined rainbow. I snapped a phone camera picture; you'll have to imagine how great it was to the naked eye.


Rainbow on the GSP


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Consistent 



I think that President Obama's strong words directed at the Iranian regime today at his afternoon presser were good and appropriate. I believe that the effect of those words -- "appalled and outraged" and "I strongly condemn these unjust actions" -- is somewhat undercut when he also insists that he has been consistent in his remarks since the protests began immediately after the Iranian election. If he had said something such as, "We've consistently evolved our thinking and words based on the development of facts on the ground in Tehran and other Iranian cities," that would have been more palatable.

For President Obama to say that his words today are consistent with his first or second statements is just Clintonian parsing, which, if it becomes habitual, could disenchant many swing voters who voted for him, partly on his promise to be transparent and end politics as usual.

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Cairo speech inspired Iran protesters? 



From today's WaPo:
"Obama's approach to Iran, including his assertion that the unrest there represents a debate among Iranians unrelated to the United States, is an acknowledgment that a U.S. president's words have a limited ability to alter foreign events in real time and could do more harm than good. But privately Obama advisers are crediting his Cairo speech for inspiring the protesters, especially the young ones, who are now posing the most direct challenge to the republic's Islamic authority in its 30-year history.

"One senior administration official with experience in the Middle East said, 'There clearly is in the region a sense of new possibilities,' adding that 'I was struck in the aftermath of the president's speech that there was a connection. It was very sweeping in terms of its reach.'"
(bold emphasis added)

The text of President Obama's Cairo speech is here. There are three paragraphs that directly deal with or mention Iran:
"This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I've made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

"I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It's about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

"I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. (Applause.) And any nation -- including Iran -- should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I'm hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal."
(bold emphasis added)

What in this text "inspired the protesters?" Or is the inspiration in another part of the speech? Does the senior administration official have specific information or intelligence from Iranian protesters to substantiate this claim (and the scary thing is that, generally, the administration's intelligence from Iran might be inferior to, for example, Gateway Pundit's)? Or is this simply spin that comes from a dimension where the normal laws of physics and international politics simply do not apply?

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Kyrgyzstan base 



Hey, whaddyaknow, Smart Diplomacy™ actually works. Well, that, plus an additional $42.6 million, according to AP.
"The United States made a deal Tuesday allowing it to continue using a Central Asian air base that is crucial to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, after agreeing to triple the rent it pays.

"The former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan in February had ordered the U.S. forces out, a decision some observers said may have been made under pressure from Russia, which is strongly opposed to a U.S. military presence so close to its borders. Russia also has a base in Kyrgyzstan.

"Under the new deal, the U.S. will pay $60 million in annual rent, up from the current $17.4 million for use of the Manas air base, which is an increasingly important operations hub as the U.S.-led coalition ramps up its campaign against Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan."
Maybe there are other reset buttons available to soothe Russia's feelings.

I am not sure how Smart™ you have to be to simply open up your checkbook, but, in any case, it is good to have this base re-established.

(9) Comments

Grim economic chart of the day, part deux 


From the same deck as yesterday's chart, a new slide that suggests that we are going to face new structural limits to rapid economic growth just when we need it most:


Limits to growth


An aging workforce and declining investment (because capital costs more, presumably) drive a lot of the decline, but so does the slower rate of productivity growth, which presumably is a function of the declining investment.

And, yes, blogging has been light. Lot's of exciting stuff at this end, which at the moment just happens to be Boston.


(12) Comments

Monday, June 22, 2009

Grim economic chart of the day 


Last week I stumbled across the following chart in a deck of slides from J.P. Morgan. It basically shows how much economic growth would be required to return the unemployment rate to "only" 6% -- recognizing that we had grown used to it being under 5% -- over the next one to three years, given a "starting" unemployment rate at the end of this year. It goes some distance to explaining in graphical terms why the Obama administration has thrown anything and everything into stimulating the current economy.


Grim picture


Very painful.


(19) Comments

No bald, fat guys with cigars! 


A friend, on vacation somewhere in Southeast Asia (I believe Borneo), grabbed this picture of a posted admonition. I am almost forced to wonder what, exactly, the prohibition might be.


No fat guys with cigars


(7) Comments

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rafsanjani's daughter 



Ayatollah Khamenei sent a shot across the bow of any wavering members of the ruling clerics, as AP reports:
"A backstage struggle among Iran's ruling clerics burst into the open Sunday when the government said it had arrested the daughter and other relatives of an ayatollah who is one of the country's most powerful men.

"State media said the daughter and four other relatives of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani were later released but their arrests appeared to be a clear warning from the hard-line establishment to a cleric who may be aligning himself with the opposition...

"'...It is a clear message about where a continued direct conflict with the regime could lead,' said Michael Wahid Hanna, a regional affairs analyst with the Century Foundation, a New York think tank. 'By going after family members, they have sent a warning as to the stakes involved and the price to be paid if Rafsanjani refuses to be quiescent.'"
It's a good thing that similar threats or strong suggestions of exile aren't levied against former leaders and their offspring in this country. Well, except for Keith Olbermann (recommending in a lengthy Special Comment that the former Vice President leave the country) and his acolytes at the HuffPo, such as Jacob Heilbrunn, who posted on May 13 under the title, "Who do you despise more, Dick or Liz?" But they are not in government. Technically.

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YouTube Extravaganza! 

Because I like total strangers to know what I like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1sguF2D1UA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7yfISlGLNU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UB_htqDCP-s

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtAnOuxp17c

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZqwvjwqwK4

Yeah, they're all music-related, but still. Second one's NSFW as far as language, but nothing else.

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Diminishing political capital? 



It's Rasmussen, so it has to be taken with a reasonably sized grain of salt, but the "Strongly Approve" figure of 32% in the Daily Presidential Tracking poll is now -2 versus the "Strongly Disapprove" figure of 34%, the first time that poll has been negative in that metric.




Rasmussen states:
"Overall, 53% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President's performance so far. Forty-six percent (46%) disapprove."
which is pretty close to the election results, so to the extent this means anything at all, perhaps we are back at square one, and the honeymoon is pretty much over.

The figures for the same strongly approve / strongly disapprove poll taken among members of the MSM, ex-Fox, still remains in the 95%+ range. OK, I made that up.


CWCID: Hot Air headlines

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Photoshop of the day 


President Nerobama. Cruel, and possibly unfair. But funny.

CWCID (for the BBC link): Tom Maguire.


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A Father's Day video 


Dr. Helen's Father's Day interview of Dr. Richard Driscoll is well worth watching, especially for those of you who have a father, know a father, or, in particular, are married to a father. I do not agree with all of it -- the geopolitical consequences of the decline in the status of fathers strike me as a stretch -- but it is worth a few minutes of your time. You know, while you're (perhaps resentfully) folding his laundry.

If you've watched the interview, I would respectfully suggest that Drs. Smith and Driscoll do not mention one of the big sources of female rage, the continuing preponderance in the workplace of men, male values (such as they are) and male behavioral impulses. That anger needs to come out, and the male partner is the most probable recipient. Inside more than a few marriages, therefore, husbands and therefore fathers take some of the blame for the suppressed frustrations of the day job, perhaps just because they are also men. That transference is as sexist, or more so, than the underlying outrage, but there is no corporate compliance program to deal with it.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.


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Helping NASA by watching television 


Most regular readers know that Anthony Watts has made a project of doing due diligence on the government's surface temperature measurement stations, using the distributed readership of his blog to note physical and administrative factors that might influence the temperature readings. Among his other contributions, he has located stations that have mysteriously dropped out of the main temperature database over the years. Now he's found one just by watching television! Hilarious, fascinating, and scary, all at once.


(3) Comments

Iran: A link, and a note 


I have not been writing much about Iran because I am note sure that I have much to add of either substance or wit. And, of course, other bloggers have been flooding the zone (see Pamela Geller's long post of photos, videos, and links as an example).

The memory of 1979 looms large, and not just in the battle for the revolution's legacy. The whole world remembers the promise and tragedy of Iranians in mass assembly, but we all remember it in different ways. As you follow the coverage of the new Iranian demonstrations, bear in mind the following items from 1978-1979:

  • The 1978 demonstrations were the largest in human history, with crowd estimates in at least one case exceeding seven million people. That's even bigger than the Taste of Chicago! (and around triple the estimates we have seen so far). Of course, it gives today's opposition a goal to shoot for; they know that Iranians hold the world record, so they also know the potential is there for more.

  • Even so, most observers expected the Shah to shut down the demonstrations with brutal force. The national security team of the sainted Jimmy Carter, desperate that Iran not be seen to "fall" on its watch, even told the Shah to "do whatever is necessary," or words to that effect (my copy of Kenneth Pollack's book is out of reach, but that was the gist of it). Fortunately for the demonstrators of 1979, the Shah was sick with cancer and did not want to die having slaughtered his own people, so he ignored the advice of his own loyalists and the panicking Carter team.

  • In any case, it was not at all clear that the Iranian military would be unqualified in its loyalty to the Shah. As the demonstrations progressed, it became increasingly possible that a crackdown would beget fighting between and perhaps within units. The Islamic Republic is safe until it has the same concern, which is less likely with the Revolutionary Guards in charge.

  • A popular movement is not in control of its own destiny, and it is very difficult to predict where it will lead. The anti-royalists who led the first resistance to the Shah ultimately lost to the Khomeinists, but that result was far from obvious when the first task was to overturn the Peacock Throne. The lesson, of course, is that in Iran there is always a devil you don't know.

  • (6) Comments

    Saturday, June 20, 2009

    Post-modern leadership 


    Old school leadership, revised to conform to modern sensibilities. Example:

    "Mr. Gorbachev, that wall is none of our business." — Ronald Reagan

    You get the idea.

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    Bats and balls 


    The TH Daughter, a friend of hers, and I had a fun if somewhat damp day in Manhattan. We got to Penn Station mid morning, hung a strap on the "1" to 79th St., and walked to the American Museum of Natural History, which I had not visited in years. After lots of geology, the whale room, no end of climate change propaganda, a grossly overpriced lunch in the cafeteria, and a long tour of the dinosaur exhibit (which is way cool, and a big improvement over my memory from the 1970s), we travelled across Central Park in the spring rain. On Madison Avenue, I stopped and took a picture of the Steuben Glass display, which featured crystal bats and balls with Yankees and Mets monikers. Kind of a self-portrait. Blackberry quality, to be sure.


    Bats and balls


    More exciting phone camera pictures to come.


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    Regarding the power of failure 


    Storied money managed Paul Tudor Jones is invited to speak at the graduation of some 9th graders. He avoids the usual cant and instead teaches them about the importance and power of failure, which is a far more effective teacher than success, didactic instruction, or even the example of failure in others. Short commentary below.


    Paul Tudor Jones - Failure Speech June 2009


    In my professional life especially, I have always tried to fail well so that I could learn from the experience (I'll leave it to others to decide whether I fail well in my personal life). The main requirement for good failing is honesty about the cause of the failure; if you do not understand the mistakes that you made, you will repeat them. In fact, the capacity to be honest about one's own failures, at least to one's self, is often if not usually the most important difference between a competent employee and an incompetent one.

    Actual social science on that subject here.

    CWCID: Paul Kedrosky.


    (7) Comments

    Friday, June 19, 2009

    Titles 



    A mash-up of Dr. Evil and Barbara Boxer, put together by Republican Chuck Devore's Senate campaign in California:





    Hey, if Al Franken can be elected in Minnesota, maybe Mike Meyers can run against Boxer in the California primary.


    CWCID: Ace and The Corner

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    Commonality 



    What does Ron Paul (R-TX) have in common with Keith Ellison (D-MN)?

    Neither voted for the resolution passed by the House on Friday in support of the Iranian dissidents. Ron Paul was the lone nay vote in the 405-1 tally, and Ellison voted "present."

    Paul is an isolationist, explaining his vote, and Ellison is the House's sole Muslim, but it isn't clear to me why he would vote "present."

    (11) Comments

    Grading ourselves 



    It's important to look back and admit when we've be incorrect, partly correct and, in that rare circumstance, altogether correct.

    Last Sunday was the first post in the Iran elections, and I laid out a $10 bet that
    "it will only be a matter of days before Ahmadinejad or someone in the regime blames the Jews (25,000 out of a population of 70 million, or 0.04%). These are all well worn pages from a well known playbook."
    OK, so today we have:
    "Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denied that the country's recent elections were fixed, called on protesters to stop and blamed the "Zionist" media."
    The K-man got this done for me in less than a week, but when I stated "a matter of days," I really though it would be only two or three at the most. The parenthetical I used clearly implied that he would blame Iranian Jews, but it seems from his statements that he is probably blaming American, Israeli and European Jews, but really, who frickin' knows with this loon? The blaming of the Jews was the central concept in the prediction, so I'll give myself a B/B-.

    I was also trying to compare the Soviet tankers who rolled through Budapest (my mother's hometown) to suppress the 1956 Hungarian revolt with the Iranian forces who might be called upon to crack down on the uprising in the present day:
    "the indigenous Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, who are highly motivated and will do anything to keep the ruling Mullahocracy in power, knowing that if they fall while suppressing the protests, it's off to paradise."
    There has been lethal force used, though the estimates of the dead and injured are variable, and -- fortunately -- are not yet of an order of magnitude that has quieted the protests. The time of the main event is rapidly approaching, however, if Khamenei's words today are to be believed. There are rumors floating around Iran and the Internet that elements of the IRGC will not engage the demonstrators. There are also rumors of Arab soldiers as mercs. The religious aspect of this conflict may be more on the side of the demonstrators, who continue to shout "God is great!" from the rooftops at night, in defiance of the regime. I have recently begun to think of the IRGC as just another economically corrupt gang that operates at the behest of and in a symbiotic relationship with an ideologically flawed political leadership (like the Stasi in East Germany or the KGB in the USSR), dividing up the spoils. That some may also think they have the express elevator to Allah may not be all that relevant. I am giving myself an Incomplete here, grade to follow soon, hopefully an F.

    (2) Comments

    The challenges of an off-grid water system 

    Every single day, James Rawles, proprietor of Survivalblog, addresses questions related to disaster preparedness, off-grid living, and the many details these topics encompass. Today he discusses the problem of operating a deep well off grid.

    Letter Re: Advice on Deep Water Wells in a Grid-Down Era

    James,
    I know that I have seen posts about deep water wells, but when I search I really don't see that many applicable posts. I am looking at a property where water [static level] is about 400 feet down. In a "grid-up" scenario, this isn't really a problem, but I am looking for "grid-down" options for using a well at this depth. Not knowing much about the specifics of wells, I am not having much luck searching with Google, either. Would you be able to cover some deep well basics and some options for grid down/solar/backup pumping, specifically for deep wells? - John C.

    JWR Replies: As per your request, here are a few deep well basics:

    Solar and wind power are the best solutions for deep wells in a grid-down collapse. If you live in an area with reliable winds, a windmill used in conjunction with a large gravity-fed tank or cistern, is relatively inexpensive and trouble-free. Photovoltaics are getting less expensive with each passing year, but system complexity is an issue, especially with systems that use a battery bank. (To maintain water pressure during hours of darkness, you will either need to store water in a gravity-fed cistern, or you will need a battery bank, so that you can operate your well pump. )

    Deep wells can be pumped with submersible AC pumps, but not submersible DC pumps. This is because the "line loss" (voltage drop) in DC cabling is tremendous. Even with fat, heavy gauge DC cables, if you start out with 24 Volts DC (VDC) at your battery bank, you will likely be down to just two or three volts at 400 feet! Given that sad fact, there are two good solutions:

    1.) Use a DC-to-AC inverter top-side, and run AC cabling down the well shaft to an AC well pump. (Note: Many of these pumps require 220 VAC, so you will either have to use a much more expensive 220-capable inverter, or replace the pump with a 120 VAC model. (You may be an electrical neophyte, and asking "What type of pump do I have?" Take a quick look at your AC circuit breaker box. If the breaker labeled "Well Pump" is a pair of breakers that are ganged-together with a wire loop so that they'll be actuated simultaneously, then the chances are 99% that you have a 220 VAC pump.)

    or,

    2.) Install a jack ("cricket") type pump or a windmill to actuate the sucker rod pump cylinder. Traditionally, sucker rods were made from hardwoods such as white ash. More recently they've been made with metal or fiberglass. Even with ash wood, their service life is measured in decades. The pump cylinders are made of brass and will last many decades. However, the pump leathers will eventually wear out, so you should consider buying a couple of spare sets and storing them someplace safe from mice and moisture/mold. Unfortunately changing all of the leathers on a down-hole sucker-rod actuated pump means yanking the entire sucker rod and then the weight of all 400 feet of your service line. That is a lot of weight, requiring a heavy duty hoist and of course all the usual "mind your head, fingers and toes" safety precautions and protective gear. Lifting a 1-1/2" or 2" diameter 400 foot long pipe is no problem for a pump company, but it would be a challenge for a typical rural family working with an improvised hoist. I recommend that you watch your pump company man carefully as he installs the pump in your well for the first time. You will notice that the crucial piece required is the flange that catches the pipe unions on each 20+ foot long section of service line pipe as they are raised or lowered in the well casing.

    I've previously owned a jack type pump, and in my experience I found them problematic. I would much rather use an AC submersible pump.

    Shallow wells (say, 50 feet or less) can be pumped with a DC submersible pump. I generally advise my consulting clients to "hang" both an AC pump and and a DC pump, one above the other in the same well casing, for the sake of versatility an redundancy.
    The original post has numerous embedded links, so if you are interested in more information, click through.

    (5) Comments

    Upstaged? 


    With only a hint of partisan wingnut-baiting, Chris Chambers takes a long, hard look at the great upstagers in television history.


    (7) Comments

    Iran: It is different this time 


    An Iranian student has an excellent and enlightening op-ed in the New York Times this morning. He pointedly makes the case that much of what passes for "analysis" in the Western media is hogwash, founded on 30 year-old experiences and attenuated knowledge that simply does not capture what is happening there. And there is this surprise, too:

    One final note: the election does reveal a paradox. There is strong evidence that Iranians across the board want a better relationship with the United States. But if Mr. Moussavi were to become president and carry out his campaign promise of seeking improved relations with America, we would probably see a good 30 percent of the Iranian population protesting that he is “selling out” to the enemy.

    By contrast, support for Mr. Ahmadinejad’s campaign was rooted in part in his supposed defense of the homeland and national honor in the face of United States aggression. Americans too-long familiar with the boorish antics of the Iranian president will no doubt be surprised to learn that the best chance for improved relations with the United States perhaps lies with Mr. Ahmadinejad. But Mr. Ahmadinejad is perceived here as being uniquely able to play the part of an Iranian Nixon by “traveling to the United States” and bringing along with him his supporters — and they are not few.

    In other words, Iranians believe they face a daunting choice: a disastrous domestic political situation with Mr. Ahmadinejad but an improved foreign policy, or improved domestic leadership under Mr. Moussavi but near impossible challenges in making relations with the United States better.

    The question, of course, neither asked nor answered by the author, is whether the Obama administration also believes that the United States would fare better with Ahmadinejad in power. Does Obama, like Mao, pointedly prefer the devil we know?

    Read the whole thing.

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    The surprising limits of President Obama's vast power 


    It really is astonishing that Barack Obama is able to get virtually anything he wants out of Congress -- billions for this, trillions for that -- but somehow cannot extract a lousy few million clams to close Gitmo, a policy that the Democratic Party stands united behind. It's almost as though the president is telling the public one thing, and quietly signalling Congress -- perhaps using a dog whistle -- to do the opposite.

    Perhaps Congress would give him the money if he left the room.


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    If you take money when you're not in the room, did you really take the money? 

    Lawyers are taught to "leave the room" if something untoward is going on. Back in the day, I learned antitrust law from a former head of the Justice Department's antitrust enforcement group. One day he told us that if we were ever present when two competitors discussed fixing prices, we should grab the nearest glass of water and dramatically pour it out on the table. Why? So "everyone will remember when you left."

    Well, apparently Barack Obama learned pretty much the same thing at Harvard:

    When President Obama arrived at the Mandarin Oriental hotel for a fund-raising reception on Thursday night, the new White House rules of political purity were in order: no lobbyists allowed.

    But at the same downtown hotel on Friday morning, registered lobbyists have not only been invited to attend an issues conference with Democratic leaders, but they have also been asked to come with a $5,000 check in hand if they want to stay in good favor with the party’s House and Senate re-election committees.

    The practicality of Mr. Obama’s pledge to change the ways of Washington is colliding once more with the reality of how money, influence and governance interact here. He repeatedly declared while campaigning last year that he would “not take a dime” from lobbyists or political action committees.

    So to follow through with that promise, Mr. Obama is simply leaving the room.

    Hmmm. I'm not sure that when Obama said he would "not take a dime" people understood that he meant that he, personally, would not actually carry out the bags of cash. We're going to have to pay closer attention to what this guy says.

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    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    DeMint boxes Boxer 



    From America's Morning News via Hot Air, Jim DeMint (R-SC) hits the easy target and comments on (audio link requires software that will play mp3 files) his senate colleague Barbara "please don't call me ma'am" Boxer (D-CA), who upbraided a Brigadier General earlier this week during a hearing for not referring to her as "Senator."

    I did not serve in the military, but my father did, and I was raised to use the "sir" and "ma'am" convention as a sign of respect, particularly with those people whom you are meeting for the first time. I still do it from time to time, almost without thinking. For those in the military, it has to be something close to a reflexive habit to use those terms.

    But, if SENATOR Boxer is into it, then, hey, why not? From now on, we shall refer to TigerHawk as "King of the Jungle" TigerHawk (or does that refer to lions, I forget?), and you can refer to me as "Baron" Escort81. Please post in the comments the titles that you'd prefer when you are addressed.


    CWCID: Hot Air

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    Paging Neil Young 



    I think it would be great if Neil Young would compose a song memorializing the protesters killed in Iran earlier this week, along the lines of the tune "Ohio" that he wrote after the killings of four Kent State University students marching against the Vietnam war nearly 40 years ago. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young recorded and performed the song in 1970, and the group still performs the piece (this YouTube post apparently was initially recorded in March, 2000, in Toronto):




    There is a large expatriate Iranian population in the U.S., and I am sure Mr. Young would have quite a few volunteers offering to help him translate the lyrics of his new song into Farsi. He could use this cool ap from Google, but Farsi isn't available yet. Google needs to get on that.

    I realize it would be tough to have the new song ready for tomorrow's predicted showdown in Tehran, but anytime soon would probably be good enough. I think that the students and the massive population in Iran that is under 30 years of age would be quite excited if a Western rock star (Canadian, in Mr. Young's case) recognized their efforts and sacrifices.

    It's high time that politically activist popular musicians start protesting in song against governments other than the U.S. (in fairness, there were concerts against the apartheid regime in South Africa, but that is ancient history by pop culture standards). It's time for the artistic world to stand up against truly repressive regimes.

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    U.S. Senate resolution apologizes for slavery 



    The AP is reporting that the Senate has passed a resolution apologizing for slavery and racial segregation.
    "Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin first introduced the measure years ago but wanted it passed Thursday on the eve of Juneteenth - a day of celebration commemorating the end of the Civil War and the release of African Americans from slavery. He said the House is to take it up soon and that a formal celebration will be held next month in the Capitol Rotunda."
    I might substitute the word "ceremony" for "celebration" for the Rotunda event, understanding that Juneteenth is indeed a celebration. Once the measure has passed the House, perhaps it would be fitting if the First Lady and her mother were present in the Rotunda, since they are descendants of slaves in this country (though President Obama is not). I can imagine that the event will be positive and dignified, but also somber in some sense.

    Perhaps it would also be fitting to have a few descendants of Union soldiers attend the ceremony, as a part of the background, since the Union Army provided the muscle that was necessary to unlock the shackles, at great cost in blood.

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    "Memo to the Left" 



    Over at Pajamas Media, Frank J. Fleming has a good satirical piece posted about the post-election protests in Iran, titled, "Memo to the Left: How About Redirecting the Rage and Scorn?" It starts out:
    "Okay, liberals, I have a radical idea I want to run by you: the Iranian government is bad and worthy of some of your outrage.

    "Yeah, I know, it sounds crazy. Iran is not a beauty queen speaking out against gay marriage, or Sarah Palin. Why in the world would you want to direct any scorn towards a brutal theocracy seeking nuclear weapons? It’s not obvious, but let me explain.

    "Now, I know it doesn’t take much to convince conservatives to be against Iran. You just tell them, 'It’s full of foreigners.' And they’ll be like, 'What?! Let’s nuke it! Let’s nuke it now!' Liberals, of course, are more sophisticated and will take a much more measured approach. When you tell them that Iran has an evil government worthy of outrage, they’ll point out the obvious — that it’s not America."
    In fairness, liberal blog sites such as HuffPo have done an admirable job of providing a steady stream of text, photos and videos from Iran, clearly in support of the protesters. Broadly speaking, conservatives, centrists and liberals in this country seem reasonably well united in support of those Iranian citizens who are taking to the streets to protest against the Iranian government and the fraud it apparently perpetrated last week. There is sniping about President Obama's reaction (or lack of it) from different quarters, but the story is not really about him. The President's assessment that "difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as has been advertised" is probably largely correct, looking at Mousavi's history -- and I think ABC's Jake Tapper has it about right -- but hopefully what it going on in Iran right now will end up being more about a metamorphosis in the political structure of the country than about Mousavi as a particular leader.

    In the unfortunate event that there is a return to status quo ante in Iran, it will be harder for those on the left in the U.S. and in Europe to support negotiations without preconditions in the same sense that could have been possible a week ago. The regime has been de-legitimized in their eyes. Over the past week, those on the right probably haven't changed their views too much about the Iranian regime, though perceptions about the Iranian people may have changed.

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    Public service announcement 


    If it is going to rain non-stop, you're going to need some indoor activities. You might want to consider blowing some of your increased savings on one of Amazon's ten best deals in electronics.


    (2) Comments

    Facebook status of the day 


    A recent study shows that you are more likely to get shot by a fat cop if you run.

    I could not find a reference, but it does stand to reason.

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    How not to measure temperature 


    In case you were wondering why some people question the surface temperature data used to "prove" that average global temperatures are rising, this would be one of many reasons. Another would be the divergences between the land readings (in May, an anamoly over the baseline of +0.87C, the 9th warmest May in 130 years) and lower troposphere readings from satellites and balloons (in May, an anamoly of only +0.05C to +0.09C, the 15th-16th warmest May in 31 years of such readings). One would think there would be more coverage in the popular press about this sort of thing, but the big media organizations seem to be in the tank for the "consensus."


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    OK, we're in with the green 

    I am not too swift when it comes to manipulating the template for this blog, so I resisted the urge to go "green" for the people of Iran. But then I realized, if they can do what they are doing, I can spend 15 minutes digging around until I find the right code to change. And besides, if it is good enough for Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan (and Eric Scheie!), it must be the right thing to do.


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    A question for Bill Clinton 


    Four years ago, Bill Clinton roiled the righty blogosphere by offering a, er, generous view of Iranian democracy:

    Iran is the only country in the world that has now had six elections since the first election of President Khatami (in 1997). (It is) the only one with elections, including the United States, including Israel, including you name it, where the liberals, or the progressives, have won two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote in six elections: Two for president; two for the Parliament, the Majlis; two for the mayoralties. In every single election, the guys I identify with got two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote. There is no other country in the world I can say that about, certainly not my own.

    Somebody needs to ask Bill Clinton whether he now thinks he was wrong about Iran back then.

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    High gasoline prices: Where are the headlines? 


    Greenstapundit is making a good point here.

    Meanwhile, in other (somewhat related) news, the Club of Rome continues to be wrong:

    Thanks to new drilling technologies that are unlocking substantial amounts of natural gas from shale rocks, the nation’s estimated gas reserves have surged by 35 percent, according to a study due for release on Thursday.

    The report by the Potential Gas Committee, the authority on gas supplies, shows the United States holds far larger reserves than previously thought. The jump is the largest increase in the 44-year history of reports from the committee.

    There are no limits to growth. Never have been, never will be. Not unless we abolish, or regulate away, human creativity and enterprise.

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    Seasonal affective disorder, in June 


    It has been raining a lot here in New Jersey. In the last 30 days, during the usually delightful stretch from mid-May to mid-June, cumulative rainfall here in Mercer County exceeds the normal by more than 50%. And we've been in an excess rain position for almost three months, so this is not some recent thing.

    There is no end in sight. It is supposed to rain all day today and tonight, be cloudy tomorrow, and then back to rain over the weekend and for most of the 10-day forecast on Weather.com. All the goddamned rain is affecting my mood. It is June, fer heaven's sake, and I want some farookin' sun.

    Meanwhile, the local activists are on the case.


    Because there is a drought somewhere in the world


    They told me that if I voted for John McCain the climate would destroy my quality of life, and they were right!


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    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    There be eagles! 


    Once again, eagles have nested on our property in the Adirondacks. The fellow from the "endangered species unit" of the "wildlife diversity group" of the New York State environmental agency who banded the young birds took these photographs.


    Eagles, baby


    This one is suffering mightily from an obnoxious sister and the plague of black flies that hammers the Adirondacks in May and June until the dragonflies come out.


    Eagle, baby


    Here's one of the parents, credit me last summer...


    Eagle eyes


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    Memo to Republicans: Stop it! 


    Enough with the phony outrage, already. We all think it is unbelievably tedious when it comes from the left. However successful it may be as a tactic, it is no less tedious coming from the right. Develop other successful tactics -- you do not have to copy everything the left does -- and leave the culture of victimhood to the Democrats.

    Title reference here.

    CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.


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    Are there anti-Darwin awards? 

    Can you be too dumb to kill yourself?

    A 27-year-old Mesa man apparently tried to kill himself Tuesday by rigging a sword to his steering wheel and ramming his car through a block wall, police said.

    Nathan Ryan’s car ended up at the bottom of a swimming pool in the 1300 block of North Dakota Street in Chandler, and he went to the hospital with wounds that were not a threat to his life, said Sgt. Joe Favazzo, Chandler police spokesman.

    The handle of the 24-inch sword was positioned against the instrument panel with the blade sticking through the steering wheel. It was tied into place with a T-shirt.

    Ryan then drove his car through the block wall, but the airbag deployed and bent the sword.

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    Protest on the soccer field 



    The BBC reports that six members of Iran's national soccer team, competing in South Korea, donned green wrist bands in support of the protesters in Iran. The wrist bands were not worn during the second half, and the BBC has information that the players were told to take them off. The match was televised in Iran.





    While this moment in sports may not become as iconic as Tommie Smith and Jon Carlos and the 1968 Olympics:




    it may have actually required a slightly larger set of cojones, since, as the BBC video points out, the players will be flying back to Tehran at some point, and could be met by "government representatives," presumably meaning elements of the IRGC.

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    Virginia and New Jersey and the national implications of each 


    Alan Steinberg has an interesting essay that compares the national implications of the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. The question, Steinberg argues, is whether Barack Obama will be willing to invest his prestige in a losing race and thereby suffer political damage in the event of an adverse result, especially in a traditionally Democratic stronghold. Steinberg's point is that Obama would gain much and risk little by campaigning for Creigh Deeds in Virginia because nobody would blame him if the Old Dominion elected a Republican governor, but that defending Corzine in New Jersey sets Obama up for the blame if Garden State voters turn him out. If Republican Christie is still ahead by double digits in September, the national Dems might well turn their back on Corzine and start quietly putting out the word that they expect him to lose. Presumably, that would go a long way toward blunting the impact of a Christie victory on the national political narrative.

    Your comments are most welcome.


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