L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

04 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

McCain-Palin and Uncle Remus

I don't know whether the Palin family ever read Uncle Remus' tales about B'rer Rabbit and his escapades but I suspect John McCain would have been familiar with them. And it seems to me that a lot of the Washington/New York insiders ought to be familiar with them too - at least the "Tar Baby" and "Brier Patch" incidents. Yet on the evidence the McCain-Palin campaign are basing a part of their strategy on Uncle Remus style trickery while their opponents seem to be cheerfully walking right into the traps.

I doubt that anyone on the campaign expected the "Trig is Sarah Palin's grandson" smear because a moment's verification with Mr Google confirmed to me what I thought was well-known, namely that Down Syndrome is something that tends to occur to children born to older mothers not younger ones. Yet I guess the 'Kos kids', who probably don't have children of their own or little nieces/nephews or indeed much to do with children, didn't think that one through and realize that it would not stand up to more than about 5 seconds of investigation. However I do think that the Palin family, and that includes the pregnant Bristol, must have been aware that they would be subject to innuendo and gossip about being a bunch of dumb hicks and that the gossip would include Bristol Palin's pregnacny, jokes about shotgun marriages, abstinence education and so on. So, since they knew this and since they aren't in fact dumb hicks they (and the McCain staffers) must have formulated a plan to let the snobbish insiders sneer down at them because they could be sure that such sneering would gain them sympathy and paint the sneerers in an unattractive light.

I mean given the extreme sensitivity shown by a certain Democratic presidential nominee regarding his own family and the excessive delicacy that the MSM showed in the Edwards affair it would seem clear that no one would dream of subjecting a Republican candidate to an invasive investigation of their private life in 2008 would they now?

Yet astoundingly in 2008 the MSM, the left wing bloggers and so on went right ahead ('but do fer de Lord's sake don't fling me in dat brier-patch,') and mounted a campaign of sneering investigation. And lo and behold the Palins are discovered to have a pregnant teenage daughter, a husband who had a DUI at age 22 and other issues that cause the MSM and democratic party elites as well as the nutroots activists to smear and sneer and snark and look absolutely terrible to Mr. and Mrs. Middle America. Mr & Mrs M. A. are probably from small towns themselves, they've done the hockey/soccer mom thing, they or their friends and neighbours have been pulled over for a DUI or had a daughter who got pregnant (or a son who was the cause of someone else's daughter getting pregnant) and so on. Hence Mr & Mrs M.A. can look at the facts that emerge from under the suffocating smearing and think "that happened to us" or "that's the same as Josh and Karen on the corner" and realize that not only do these things happen but that they don't actually affect anything important. Mr Palin being caught DUI 5 times in a dozen years, driving without a license etc. now that would be bad, but 22 year olds  (and even 42 year olds) sometimes drink more than they ought and 99% of the time when they get caught that is the end of it and Mr & Mrs M.A. know that only too well. Ditto with the teenage pregnancy. These things happen. The question is not whether the Palins have lived a blameless life but how they dealt with the upsets they have encountered. Going on the evidence to date the Palins have handled the problems just fine.

Oh and there is a rumor somewhere that Track Palin is a drug addict. Mr & Mrs M.A. know people who've served in the military recently and they know that, unlike in the Vietnam era, the military does not tolerate drug abuse by its personnel. Hence if Track Palin were a drug addict he would not be deploying to Iraq on Sept 11 but would instead be deplyoing to a stockade somewhere for a court martial.

I'm sure the Palins and the McCain's would prefer to not have such sordid rumours floating around but "when life sends you lemons make lemonade" and they can use the debunking of these rumours and smears to demonstrate just how derranged the rumourmongers are, and in the process of course they also gain sympathy from "regular folk" who realize that they too would be sneered at by the same self-obsessed elites if they were investigated.

I think Obama realizes just how dangerous this is to his campaign because he seems to be trying to shut it down. But I doubt it will do any good, his supporters simply don't understand how they are preceived by the "great unwashed" and they forget that in this election the "little people" have a vote. If this smearing continues then voting for Obama will be seen as voting for elitist snobbery while voting for McCain will be voting for the unfairly smeared underdog. That looks likely to swing quite a few million undecideds into the McCain camp and out of the Obama one.

04 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

More on McCain-Palin Strategy

So I decided to have a look at the TNR blogs and see what they had to say about Palin, McCain and co. There are some amusing juxtapositions of posts. For example there is a question "Can McCain Separate Himself From Bush? " and then a couple of posts earlier an answer: How Sarah Palin Is Like Ross Perot (And William Jennings Bryan). In case it isn't obvious the McCain Palin strategy is to not mention Bush at all but present themselves as reformers and mavericks come to clean up the cesspool of Washington (and yes there are contradictions in this position). Which also means that this question is answered too implicitly:

Strategically, my biggest quibble is that I don't see how you out-"change" and out-reform Obama. His credibility there has been pretty well-established. I'm not sure it helps to finish a close second on change if, in the process, you mostly junk the experience argument, which is a real vulnerability for him.

Obama is presented as the "insider". Sure he's an insider who promises change and reform but it has to be pretty simple to get the message across that real change/reform requires outsiders. Indeed over at NRO Victor Davis Hanson points out that one clear differentiator between McCain/Palin and Obama/Biden is the lack of lawyers on the Republican ticket.

Expect people to make that point over the next few weeks.

Something else I noted at TNR. An odd piece by Alan Wolfe: Why Sarah Palin's Speech Will Not Win Over All Evangelicals. In it he claims:

Sarah Palin's speech last night was rapturously received by the delegates to the Republican convention, most of whom are conservative Christians. But just because most Republicans are conservative Christians does not mean that all conservative Christians are Republican. I have the feeling that Palin's speech will not wear well among many of the primarily younger evangelicals I have come to know.

I do not believe that "most Republicans are conservative Christians" In fact from what I've seen a large part of the problem McCain had was that he was neither appealing to the libertarian wing nor to the conservative Christian wing. Palin appeals to both.

Then there is the problem that TNR creates out of whole cloth, that somehow Palin is supposed to appeal to dissaffected Clinton feminists and younger (single) people. I'm sure that the Republicans will be happy to welcome votes from those demographics but I don't expect that to be where they go looking for them. The strategy has to be more to appeal to middle aged, working and middle class voters. Hence a focus on tax cuts, cutting the price of oil (and hence gasoline etc.) and the other things that make a difference to the people who have a job and a family. In other words the Republicans aren't going after every voter any more than the Democrats are. The question is which demographics are larger and which are more likely to vote.

Older folks are typically, more right of center anyway because life tends to strip away the naive idealism of youth that makes socialistic ideas sound good so it will be easier to appeal to them anyway. Also my recollection is that older people tend to vote more than younger ones hence it makes even better strategic sense to appeal to the older folks. 

Guess what TNR? McCain doesn't care about your readership.

06 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Friday Olive Tree Blogging

20080905 - Friday Olive Tree Blogging
Our littlest olive tree has grown a bit this year, but it'll take a while before it gets to be a real tree. It is however a great place for a snail to hang out. See here for what it used to look like some 20 months ago and as always click on the image to see it enlarged. Also don't forget to visit the rest of the olive tree blogging archives to remind yourself of how nice olive trees are.

06 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Effort vs Results

This blog is turning into (yet another) Palin tribute blog at the moment. For those of you who want comentary on other subjects just wait, I'l get back to them. One of the barbs that Sarah Palin got in against Barrack Obama was the "community organizer" dig.

I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.

This caused the Obamanaics to come up with the (admittedly good at first sight) rejoinder - Jesus was a community organizer, Pilate was a governor. However the response doesn't stand up for long when you consider that Jesus actually did not organize his "community" to counter Roman Imperialism or slavery or any of the other injustices of life in palestine 2000 years ago. About the only "change" that Jesus actually tried to implement was to clear out the corrupt priests, money changers etc. in the temple and arguably that was what led to the Jewish leadership getting Pilate to crucify him on mostly trumped up charges.

[The sorts of charges that, had they been levelled against Obama in Chicago, would have resulted in about 5000 human rights lawyers filing petitions for this that and the other and getting wall to wall coverage on the national TV news.]

Obama, unlike Jesus, was indeed a community organizer. He was however even less successful than Jesus was. He didn't even get death threats because his community organizing was, as TNR reports, a miserable failure.  In his Time blog Joe Klein tries to put a positive spin on things:

... Obama was working for a group of churches that were concerned about their parishioners, many of whom had been laid off when the steel mills closed on the south side of Chicago. They hired Obama to help those stunned people recover and get the services they needed--job training, help with housing and so forth--from the local government. It was, dare I say it, the Lord's work--the sort of mission Jesus preached (as opposed to the war in Iraq, which Palin described as a "task from God.")

This is what Palin and Giuliani were mocking. They were making fun of a young man's decision "to serve a cause greater than himself," in the words of John McCain. They were, therefore, mocking one of their candidate's favorite messages. Obama served the poor for three years, then went to law school. To describe this service--the first thing he did out of college, the sort of service every college-educated American should perform, in some form or other--as anything other than noble is cheap and tawdry and cynical in the extreme.

However the description at TNR makes it clear that Obama was disillusioned with community organizing because it didn't actually work:

Obama attempted to put these principles into practice in South Chicago. Kellman and Kruglik's initial objective was to revive the region's manufacturing base--and preserve what remained of its steel industry--by working with unions and church groups to pressure companies and the city; but those hopes were quickly dashed. Indeed, during his three years in South Chicago, Obama was constantly having to scale back his objectives as one project after another faltered. First, he got community members to demand a job center that would provide job referrals, but there were few jobs to distribute. Then, he tried to create what he called a "second-level consumer economy" in Roseland consisting of shops, restaurants, and theaters. This, too, went nowhere. At that point, Kellman advised Obama to move elsewhere. "Stay here, and you are bound to fail," he told him.

But Obama remained. Next, he began to focus on providing social services for Altgeld Gardens. "We didn't yet have the power to change state welfare policy, or create local jobs, or bring substantially more money into the schools," he wrote. "But what we could do was begin to improve basic services at Altgeld--get the toilets fixed, the heaters working, the windows repaired." Obama helped the residents wage a successful campaign to get the Chicago Housing Authority to promise to remove asbestos from the units; but, after an initial burst of activity, the city failed to keep its promise. (As of last year, some residences still had not been cleared of asbestos.) In waging these campaigns, Obama's organization added staff, gained adherents, and won church support, including from the congregation of Reverend Jeremiah Wright. But it failed to stem the area's overall decline. "Ain't nothing gonna change, Mr. Obama," says one resident quoted in Dreams from My Father who grows disillusioned with the Developing Communities Project. "We just gonna concentrate on saving our money so we can move outta here as fast as we can."

So while yes it is admirable that Obama did some community organizing (A for effort, A for hear in right place) it is also worth pointing out that it had minimal results (F for changes implemented).

What I hope Palin & McCain will point out next is the results of other spell where Obama was actually supposed to do something - when he was leading the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. The CAC was, as this blog post explains, almost as successful as Barrack Obama's community organizer stint was. From the summary:

2) Review of Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) documents shows that Ayers and Obama each chaired the two CAC operating bodies from 1995 to 2000

3) CAC was at heart of Chicago school “wars” in 90s

4) CAC handed out more than $100 million in Chicago school system

5) CAC failed to improve student achievement but Ayers and Obama’s political goals were tackled

So the Obama managed to blow over $100 million that was supposed to improve the Chicago school system but ended up making no difference what so ever as far as the supposed aims of the organization. As the final report on the CAC says:

In 2003 the final technical report of the CCSR on the CAC was published. The results were not pretty. The “bottom line” according to the report was that the CAC did not achieve its goal of improvement in student academic achievement and nonacademic outcomes. While student test scores improved in the so-called Annenberg Schools that received some of the $150 million disbursed in the six years from 1995 to 2001,

“This was similar to improvement across the system….There were no statistically significant differences in student achievement between Annenberg schools and demographically similar non-Annenberg schools. This indicates that there was no Annenberg effect on achievement.

So in two jobs where he was supposed to make a difference Obama made no impact what so ever. It might be possible to claim that during his 3 years of community organizing he was hampered by a lack of funding, but that doesn't apply to his stint at CAC where he had a significant budget at his disposal.

Compare this with Governor Palin. When Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla she was re-elected in a landslide in 1999 (winning 909 out of 1234 votes cast) and when she stepped down in 2002, her named successor stepped in. No doubt there are other measures to judge her success but re-election is a pretty good overall proof. She also managed to get millions of dollars of federal funding to Wasilla, which indicates a certain amount of competence. Of course there is a fine line between effective fund-raising, pork barrel spending and crony lobbyist corruption and the latter two are things she wants to fight, however the ability to attract funding is no bad thing in itself and a sign of executive ability. Indeed she reminds me somewhat of the mayor of Mouans Sartoux here on the Riviera who also gets re-elected in landlsides despite being a rare left-wing mayor in the heavily right-wing Alpes Maritimes. He gets re-elected because he's a good mayor who runs the town well without the sorts of petty corruption that dog most of his neighbouring mayors.

Subesequent to her mayoral career, she was on the state oil and gas comission. There she discovered ethical issues with other politicians that resulted in both resignations and guilty findings in criminal trials. Then as governor she has presided over what pretty much everyone (even Time) agrees has been a cleaning out of corruption and crony politics.

This is interesting to compare to Obama in another way. Obama, as we were told in Ryan Lizza's New Yorker piece, embraced the corrupt Chicago political machine, has used it to his benefit and has never complained about it. Palin on the otherhand got involved in the corrupt Alaskan political machine, got sickened by the corruption, took it on and beat it.

07 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

PanMacmillan - Scroll Bars & eBabel

A brief respite from Palin blogging. It has been brought to my attention that PanMacmillan in the UK are offering eBooks. Even better they are offering eBooks without DRM apparently (I can't confirm this because I haven't made a purchase yet).

However I have a gripe or two. When you click on Browse you discover that someone hasn't thought the thing through. Firstly you get the same book in a number of different eBabel formats treated as separate versions, since most books are in Adobe, Mobipocket and Microsoft.lit formats this means the list of books is 2-3 times as long as it needs to be. Combined with this there seems to be no way to search for only (say) Mobipocket books.

Secondly some of the titles listed are priced at £0.00, which doesn't mean free as you might expect from previous experience with webscription.net, but actually means "forthcoming". Oh and on the pricing front there is the moronic trick of having different priced electrons see for example Ink, available in electrons at either £7.99 or £14.99:

Format Price Availability Publication Date
Hardback £17.99 In Stock 02/02/2007
eBook - Adobe eReader   eBooks FAQ £14.99 In Stock 01/05/2007
Paperback £7.99 In Stock 04/01/2008
eBook - Adobe Digital Edition   eBooks FAQ £7.99 In Stock 28/08/2008
eBook - MobiPocket   eBooks FAQ £7.99 In Stock 28/08/2008

Thirdly you can't browse more than 9 books on a page. Given the multiple e-editions this tends to mean you get 3 or 4 different titles per page. There are allegedly 243 e-editions. That makes 27 pages. To make it worse you can't jump more than 2 or 3 pages in advance and you can't do a reverse sort. So authors whose names begin with letters from the "arse end" of the alphabet and who stupidly chose book titles that are also at the arse end aren't going to get many casual browsers.

Fourthly the ebooks available is a major subset of the total books available. And the way the site is laid out "ebooks" are treated as a category like "Fiction" of "SF & Fantansy". This is not helpful.

I don't want to be too discouraging to PanMacmillan since they are kind of doing things right but perhaps a little bit of thought on the webdesign front would help? and because I'd like to be positive here are some suggestions:

08 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Biased BBC on US Elections

If you go to republican supporting (blog)sites you see links to polls such as this USAToday-Gallup one which put McCain well ahead of Obama now that everyone has had a weekend to reflect on the two conventions. The Gallup results are not an outlier, this report summarizes similar recent Zogby and Rasmussen results and so on.

But go to the BBC's "US Election polltracker" and you wouldn't know this. According to the BBC no polls have been taken for a week and hence we're left to look at poll results from some time back, coincidentally this is when Obama wasin the lead. Here is a screen cap the BBC's report of Gallup:
Gallup poll report according to the BBC
The Gallup poll is not the only not terribly fresh one. Here are caps of the BBC's reports on Rasmussen, Washington Post and AP-IPSOS respectively
Rasmussen according to the BBCWaPo according to the BBCAP-IPSOS according to the BBC
Perhaps the BBC are going to update things today, but they certainly seem to be taking their time and thereby misleading their visitors about the actual US opinion polls.

This is not the only BBC bias on show. Take this "analysis" piece from yesterday and note all the anti-republican spin starting in the second paragraph:

Republicans are left to wonder if it will ever be possible to wear those plush-toy hats in the shape of an elephant - the symbol of their party - anywhere else on earth.

One wonders how many inappropriate pieces of clothing in the shape of a donkey the Democrat delegates are destined for a similar fate? Then there is:

Neither party appears to be enjoying the large, clear bounce in the opinion polls which traditionally follows their conventions.

Historically, candidates have been able to count on a 10% surge in popularity after the party gathering - partly because in modern times they have enjoyed extensive exposure on television against sympathetic and often spectacular backdrops.

Oddly enough, and as noted above, umm McCain is enjoying a bounce . OK maybe not the 15+% bounce of yesteryear but USAToday etc. (above) reports McCain up ahead and as Rich Galen reports:

I am going into screechingly boring detail about this because as of yesterday, the Gallup Track had gone from Obama +8 to McCain +3 a convention bounce of 11 percentage points for McCain/Palin.

An 11% change sounds like a bounce to me but not apparently to the BBC, who then compound their idiocy with this:

In other words, the tale of the opinion polls is not varying very much.

Most show Mr Obama in front, but when you take into account the statistical margin of error they don't show him in front by very much.

There is plenty to worry strategists from both parties in those numbers.For Republicans, the concern is obvious. Mr McCain does appear to be persistently behind, albeit by relatively small margins.

Even Saturday it was possible to find hints that McCain was surging but the BBC clearly didn't bother looking. And rather than analyze reasons why Obama might be less inspiring (elitism, stupid policies) they play the race card:

But this is a year when America is suffering a crisis in the housing market, record gasoline prices and rising unemployment under an unpopular president who's conducting wars on two fronts overseas.

Lots of Democrats are concerned that their candidate is not winning by miles - they believe 2008 really should be a Democratic year.

Could it be that for all his charm in interviews, his brilliance onstage and his undoubted mastery of policy detail, Mr Obama is struggling to close the deal with the American public because of the colour of his skin?

Of course they present no evidence for this (indeed the next paragraph or two makes clear there isn't any) but never fear the BBC will now insist that a vote against Obama is a vote for the KKK.

08 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Palin Rumours Debunked

The thing that has got me and many other people amazed is the number of bizarre rumours being spread by lefties concerning Sarah Palin. Probably the best debunking page is this one which is getting lots of well deserved traffic.

Then there is this page where there are a list of debunkings of completely non-existant rumours such as:

No, Sarah Palin did not have a torrid love affair with GEN Petraeus while she was in Kuwait visiting AKNG troops.

Readers are invited to add their own as it says at the top:

Let's create new smear dismissals before the smears make it to the press. Post your smear in comments in the form of a dismissal. Keep it clean(ish). Make it at least as plausible as the real smears (OK, low bar, but...).

My contributions

10 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Lipstick, Assplodery and Other Thoughts

Yesterday (or was it the day before? I read it yesterday anyway) John Scalzi wrote a most excellent "Take a chill pill" rant for the Obamanaiacs who are assploding* all over the place with regard to Sarah Palin.

Dear Democrats, liberals and the like:

I know it’s a lot to ask at the moment, but could you possibly please stop publicly losing your shit all over the goddamn place? Honestly, it’s embarrassing. Did you really not know that coming out of the GOP convention, the GOP candidate might have a poll bounce? Likewise, were you somehow surprised that the GOP might try very hard to make this campaign about something other than actual issues? Did you expect them to try to run on the last eight years, or even pretend that they own them? What the fuck is wrong with you?

And it goes on in excellent fashion. I disagree with Mr Scalzi's professed view of Governor Palin but I think that he gets the point across very well to the nutroot community who certainly do see Governor Palin in that light (or worse). In fact given the republican response to Obama's lipstick remarks I think that handing the chill pills out all round would be a good thing. I'll get back to "lipstick" in a moment. First I'm going to paste the comment I made chez Scalzi:

As far as I can tell this FT article hasn’t been linked to on this thread.

Reading a lot of the comments on this page and even more of the assploding* lib/Dem commentariat elsewhere I get a huge sense of disdain/contempt by lib/Dems for the people they say they want to help. Even more than the ridiculous attacks on Governor Palin and the even more ridiculous lack of any pretense at neutrality by large chunks of the media this contempt is going to lose you an election you should have won. Obama, as a man, sounds OK to me and he has, for the most part, been handling the Palinmania just fine. I think he’s a typical shading the truth politician with dodgy deals in his past but then so is every pol including (surprise) Palin, but I believe he genuinely wants to make changes and I also believe that (duh) a lot of people are hacked off at the Bush government and want a change. So he ought to win easily (and probably be a total Carteresque disaster when he does but that’s irrelevant to this discussion).

He won’t win if he manages to surround himself with people who say essentially “Look you dumb hicks don’t vote for another dumb hick” Currently that’s exactly the impression I get.

Someone in this thread (Laurie Mann #92) wrote about how successful Obama was at signing up volunteers registering voters etc. The really big thing that the Palin pick did was energize a bunchaton of republican supporters to go and do likewise as opposed to doing the minimum. Since we’ve only had a week or so of Palinmania it is too soon to tell whether or not this effort will result in enough ground level campaign volunteers to have an effect but it may well do. Churches are very good community organizers. I’ll note that mocking Palin for her faith and drastically taking some of her statements re: creationism, sex ed, etc out of context are more likely to energise other Christians who fear that the godless liberals are (going to) persecute them than almost anything else.

Also in re 117. I’m pretty sure its Biden who’s going to look like an idiot in the VP debate. Just get the videos of the Alaskan primary and governor debates. Biden (D-MBNA) is going to come across like the sleazy blowhard he is and he is exactly the sort of inside politics pol that Palin is good at picking holes in.

I really recommend the FT article. People responded to it with a certrain amount of "same old lies told be republicans" which misses the point. Democrats/liberals/progressives really do seem to look down on the people in "flyoverstan" and wonder out loud how they can possibly believe the things they do, with the implication that only congenital morons could believe these things. This is the real problem with Obama's "clinging" comments in San Francisco. They fit a well established precedent of Democratic leaders who seem unable to do anything but look down at the people they want the votes from.

It must be noted that the Democrats are far from alone in this elitist snobbery. It seems like a fair number of republican politicians also condescend the little people who vote for them while paying more attention to the lobbyists and their clients who wine them, dine them and give them campaign contributions. Part of the appeal of Palin is that she demonstrably doesn't condescend to her voters and she equally clearly doesn't partake in the political gravy train but instead prefers to take it on.

Which leads us back to change and lipstick on the pig. I listened to the youtube video (via powerline) of Obama's comments and what struck me was just how poor a speaker he is for someone who is allegedly silver tongued. I mean we're not quite at Dubya levels of tongue-tied incoherence but compared to Bill Clinton (or Tony Blair) he's pretty bad. McCain isn't notably any better and neither is Biden a great speaker (we'll ignore the resume enhancing plagiarism here). From what I've seen of Palin's past Alaskan campaigning she comes across much much better. The lipstick comment may well have been an attempt to drop a subtle insult Palin's way and in itself so what? Politicians insult others all the time and they do it because we the voters like listening to it. The problem is that it was horribly delivered:

"That's just, just calling some uh the same thing something different. You know you can't uh you, you can put lipstick on a pig, is still a pig"d

Compared with Palin's smooth Pitbull/Lipstick ad lib it is embarrassing and since 40 million people or more watched Palin make that quip it's going to remind them just how natural, normal but well spoken she is compared to the rest of the field.

It is probably true that politicians who are too glib are trusted about as much as smoothtalking door to door salesmen. However, seeing as about 50% of politics is about making speeches, is it too much to hope that basic presentation/public speaking skills would be a mandatory pre-requisite for the job? I mean public speaking courses are available across the US for salesmen, marketers, lawyers and others who need to make public addresses and I'm sure politicians could get enrolled in the classes too. Sure the good ones are a thousand or more dollars a day but for a presidential campaign with a staff of hundreds and a budget of hundreds of millions plunking down say $5000 for a two day dedicated public speaking course where the candidate pracitises his stump speech(es) and gets them videoed and critiqued for presentation doesn't sound like a bad idea to me.

Apparently US politicians, no matter whether they uh wear uh lipstick uh fish uh paper uh not, don't think so.

*Assploding - my latest favourite word

11 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Cision - Obama's Creek

Who knew that there was a creek called Cision? Not me, but now I guess I do. More to the point I know who's indecision creek and what he's forgotten to bring with him. As Jay Cost writes, Obama's campaign seems unable to figure out a consistent line to attack McCain/Palin, as a result the come across as nervous, off balance and indecisive.

I suspect Obama's indecision is a large part of the message that will sink his campaign and quite possibly McCain has been working to get Obama to show us this flaw right at this time as a key part of his election strategy.

It has been noted by endless commenters that Obama did not so much win the Democratic nomination as Clinton lose it. This remains true even when you bear in mind that Obama's campaign out-organized Clinton in the caucus states. If Clinton had figured that out earlier she'd have found a way to organize better but she didn't and so now she's out of the game. During the primaries the Obama campaign managed to remain on message and disciplined, apart from a couple of nervous twitches, and once it was over there was little to worry about for a couple of months.

I'm actually wondering if McCain or someone on his campaign staff is a reader of Clauswitz or other military strategy books because it occurs to me that McCain's relative passivity in the past few months may have been part of a strategic
plan to lull his opponent into a false sense of security and not give him and his campaign the opportunity to learn how to remain disciplined and on message when being prodded in all directions. The few bobbles in the primary certainly gave a close observer the idea that the Obama campaign was a little brittle and vulnerable to shocks from unexpected directions so it would make sense to plan to produce one at the right moment.

Now with the conventions and just two months to go McCain's campaign may have decided that they had the opportunity to show Obama as a dithering whiner. If so then the pick of Palin was not the desperate last minute gamble that some have portrayed it as (Palin as a pick may have been a bit more spur of the moment, but the plan to choose a VP from an unexpected direction quite possibly was always part of the plan). I can quite well believe that McCain had a number of picks in mind and a decision tree that narrowed down depending on what VP pick Obama made and what messages he seemed to be keenest to make. Thus as Obama and the DNC made their basic campaign thrust clear (boring Biden for VP not female Clinton and message of McCain = McSame = 4 more years of Bush) the tree would have neatly plucked Palin as the perfect pick to throw the Democrats off balance.

And that it certainly has done. Indeed it seems to have been perfectly designed to cause a dilemma for Obama and he's ended up neatly piled on its horns, unable to decide whether to ignore her or attack her.

Looked at it that way the fact that McCain responded to bacon lipstick gate looks like a deliberate tactic in the plan to keep Obama and his campaign off balance and indecisive. If it wasn't it certainly seems to have worked that way.

11 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Obama and Education

The Obama campaign is upset about a McCain ad that claims that the only thing Obama has done for education is push a bill that mandates sex-ed for kindergarteners. Now I'll grant the ad is clearly not doing the "fair and balanced" (and why would you expect a political ad to do the fair and balanced?) but this reaction could be unfortunate:

Bill Burton, Obama's press secretary, responded in a statement: “It is shameful and downright perverse for the McCain campaign to use a bill that was written to protect young children from sexual predators as a recycled and discredited political attack against a father of two young girls – a position that his friend Mitt Romney also holds. Last week, John McCain told Time magazine he couldn't define what honor was. Now we know why."

Why is it unfortunate? Because unfortunately for Obama the central claim appears to be true:

Anyway, having now looked at the text of the sex education bill in question… it’s clear that one of its key purposes was to change existing law that said “Each class or course in comprehensive sex education offered in any of grades 6 through 12 shall include instruction on the prevention, transmission and spread of AIDS” to “Each class or course in comprehensive sex education offered in any of grades K through 12 shall include instruction on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including the prevention, transmission and spread of HIV.” Yes, the legislation permitted parents to take their children out of the class. But that was already existing law.

(Note that the legislation also aimed to change the language from “All public elementary, junior high, and senior high 20 school classes that teach sex education and discuss sexual –intercourse shall emphasize that abstinence is the expected norm in that abstinence from sexual intercourse is the only protection that is 100% effective against unwanted teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)” to “All public elementary, junior high, and senior high school classes that teach sex education and discuss sexual activity or behavior shall emphasize that abstinence is an effective method of preventing unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV when transmitted sexually.”)

Yes, there is a section stating that course material ought to be “age and developmentally appropriate.” But the bill also talks about alcohol and drug use education instruction in grades 5 through 12. So the legislation clearly recognized that some topics are best held until later years, but deemed that instruction on sexually-transmitted diseases - not merely "good touch, bad touch" - wasn’t one of them.

Actually in a further zinger the NRO blogger points out that the ad is wrong in one respect - it called the bill an accomplishment which it wasn't because it failed to be passed into law. Sounds like some other great Obama accomplishment such as the Chicago Annenberg Challenge: over $150M spent to improve education in Chicago with the result "There were no statistically significant differences in student achievement between Annenberg schools and demographically similar non-Annenberg schools. This indicates that there was no Annenberg effect on achievement.

In fact I'm kind of wondering when exactly McCain is going to bring up the CAC in one of his ads. I can't believe it's going to be ignored. Maybe this will be his next ad:
"We apologise for our previous ad on Obama's education experience where we made a couple of errors. Firstly we claimed Obama's bill was an accomplishment, since it didn't pass it wasn't. Secondly we forgot to mention that he also spent over $150M on a leftist authoritarian attempt to improve education in Chicago whoch resilted in no statistically significant improvement"

And of course they could also ding him on the fact that he has such faith in the Chicago school system he spent all that money on that he sends his children to a private school - one that his wife is on the board of (is that better than being a PTA mom?). Hopefully that is a sign that the Obamas are involved in the school rather than a sign that they get a discount from it ...

(PS A little google searching provides this from 2006. They do contribute to raise funds for the school, though I'm not sure the contributions aren't much more than an ego boost: $500 minimum for "COCKTAILS WITH MICHELLE OBAMA You and three of your best friends can have cocktails with the charismatic Michelle Obama." or $2000 for "DAY ON THE HILL WITH BARACK OBAMA Spend a day in the nation’s capital and have lunch with U.S. Senator Barack Obama")

12 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Friday Olive Tree Blogging

We don't have a massive crop of olives this year but it's not a complete disaster either - as long as the accursed olive fly doesn't show up that is! So far so good because now is about the time you start to see the false ripeness of fly-infested olives
20080912 - Friday Olive Tree Blogging
As always click on the image to see it enlarged and don't forget to visit of the olive tree blogging archives for further reminders of how nice olive trees are.

12 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

MSM Finally Find Clue

Wow stop the presses! In fact not just any MSM outlet but the NY Slimes itself! Fortunately for my sanity it isn't Maureen Dowd (who is still repeating lines about Palin which originate in a post that begins "Below are some fake quotes of Governor Palin I made up just for fun"), rather it is Judith Warner. According to her, she intended to pop along to the McCain Palin rally and gather stuff for a light-hearted "if-you-can’t-beat-’em-laugh-at-’em kind of" column but ends up being more serious:

We talked about the moral vacuity of modern parenting. “I see extreme spoiling, self-absorption,” she said. “Constant bringing the kids up to love themselves without reflecting on how they affect others.” We talked about the disastrous lack of respect that children now show adults and institutions, and about the ways this lack of respect translates into a very ugly sort of lack of decorum and a lack of basic manners: “This 10-year-old, my daughter’s friend, she comes over and throws down a magazine with John McCain on the cover. ‘Here’s friggin John McCain,’ she says. ‘Let’s see what lies he’s going to tell now.’” She continued: “These 10-year-olds think they’re better than me. That they don’t have to say hello. That they think I’m beneath them.”

You go girl, I was thinking, in so many words, until the talk turned back to politics: “So often these kids that are so incredibly full of themselves, I find their parents are Democrats. The Democrats, they hate ‘us,’ the United States, but they love ‘me,’ that is, themselves,” she said.

Indeed the whole column brings home a couple of things that Democrats/liberals/progressives really really need to understand. One is tactical (and I'll get back to that in a second) and one is strategic. The latter is summed up neatly at the end:

Jonathan Haidt, an associate professor of moral psychology at the University of Virginia, argues in an essay this month, “What Makes People Vote Republican?”, that it’s liberals, in fact, who are dangerously blind.

Haidt has conducted research in which liberals and conservatives were asked to project themselves into the minds of their opponents and answer questions about their moral reasoning. Conservatives, he said, prove quite adept at thinking like liberals, but liberals are consistently incapable of understanding the conservative point of view. “Liberals feel contempt for the conservative moral view, and that is very, very angering. Republicans are good at exploiting that anger,” he told me in a phone interview.

Perhaps that’s why the conservatives can so successfully get under liberals’ skin. And why liberals need to start working harder at breaking through the empathy barrier.

I think that is absolutely right. And it goes in with previous comments in that column (and on this blog and elsewhere) about how contemptuous liberals come across to their opponents. And the comments underneath beautifully (if sometimes ironically) hammer home that point. Phrases like "white supremacist capitalist patriarchy" land in the ironic box while this comment shows the empathy of conservatives and the lack on the pregressive side.

I'll add further that the other attraction for Palin is that she doesn't sit around waiting for the "government" to fix things, neither does she seem to have made attention grabbing protests, rather when she saw something broken she went right ahead and fixed it. This is a very American attitude and one that resonates with a lot of people in the US (and quite a few of us outside the US too), however it is something that the progressive segment of the population really don't seem to be able to grasp.

12 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Questions for Gov Palin

Over at The Nation Katha Pollitt shows how (apropos to the previous post here) some progressives really do lack empathy. She has a list of questions which are, I assume, intended to be absolute gotchas for Governor Palin. In the event I figure I can answer them for her:

§ Suppose your 14-year-old daughter Willow is brutally raped in her bedroom by an intruder. She becomes pregnant and wants an abortion. Could you tell the parents of America why you think your child and their children should be forced by law to have their rapists' babies?

Because we don't believe in punishing innocent bystanders. The baby didn't ask to be conceived through rape but killing him or her because of how it was conceived is murdering an innocent life. You wouldn't insist on executing an innocent bystander who happens to discover a murder in process so why would you insist on killing a baby?

§ You say you don't believe global warming is man-made. Could you tell us what scientists you've spoken with or read who have led you to that conclusion? What do you think the 2,500 scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are getting wrong?

A consensus of 100 or even 2500 scientists are trumped by one scientific fact. As I understand it there are numerous problems with the statistical methods used in the IPCC report and with the models it contains, none of which appear to have predicted the last decade or so of global cooling. The science is not as settled as you seem to believe.

§ If you didn't try to fire Wasilla librarian Mary Ellen Baker over her refusal to consider censoring books, why did you try to fire her?

I didn't fire her for her censorship. I fired her because she was married to the chief of police who is a scumbag

§ What is the European Union, and how does it function?

It's a gathering of most countries in Europe as a confused entity that is half state half confederation of states. For the most part it doesn't function so who cares?

§ Forty-seven million Americans lack health insurance. John Goodman, who has advised McCain on healthcare, has proposed redefining them as covered because, he says, anyone can get care at an ER. Do you agree with him?

No, however 47M is probably the wrong number for the uninsured. It certainly includes a number of people who are unwilling to pay for healthcare insurance that they could afford because they believe that current policies which require cover of many unneccessary frills are a poor return on investment and it may well include illegal aliens who should not be here, insured or not. I would prefer to find a solution that permits catastrophic only cover and which permits people to self insure by means of MSAs and similar schemes.

§ What is the function of the Federal Reserve?

Ensure the stability of the US financial system. Recently this has seemed to equate to "Bail out democratic donors on Wall Street"

§ Cindy and John McCain say you have experience in foreign affairs because Alaska is next to Russia. When did you last speak with Prime Minister Putin, and what did you talk about?

Never. My negotiations have been more with Canada

§ Approximately how old is the earth? Five thousand years? 10,000? 5 billion?

Millions if not billions. Estimates beyond millions are subject to scientific theories which are almost impossible to verify. Of course it could be that God created the earth 5,000 years ago with all the clues that make it seem to be older. How can we know? we weren't there to watch.

§ You are a big fan of President Bush, so why didn't you mention him even once in your convention speech?

I'm an even greater fan of Ronald Reagan. I didn't mention him either.

§ McCain says cutting earmarks and waste will make up for revenues lost by making the tax cuts permanent. Experts say that won't wash. Balancing the Bush tax cuts plus new ones proposed by McCain would most likely mean cutting Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Which would you cut?

First I'll cut the porkine waste from government. Then if it turns out more cuts are needed we will see where the best place for them is.

§ You're suing the federal government to have polar bears removed from the endangered species list, even as Alaska's northern coastal ice is melting and falling into the sea. Can you explain the science behind your decision?

Because the number of polar bears have increased over the last few decades. This is not a sign of a species at risk.

§ You've suggested that God approves of the Iraq War and the Alaska pipeline. How do you know?

Either you can't understand English or you've been played for a fool by AP/ABC and a host of others who have decided to twist what I prayed for out of context. I prayed that we would be guided to what God's will is. I hope God approves of both but I cannot know it and I hope furthermore that if God disapproves he will find a way to guide us to the right choice.

12 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Sexist Democrats

At the NRO, Deroy Murdock shows that Obama is apparently more sexist than McCain in terms of the salaries he pays his staffers. He got this information from a website called legistorm which lists the reported salaries of congressional staffers. Mr Murdock found that:

Obama’s average male employee earned $54,397.

Obama’s 30 female employees split $1,354,580 among themselves, or $45,152, on average.


McCain’s 17 male staffers split $916,914, thus averaging $53,936. His 25 female employees divided $1,396,958 and averaged $55,878.

In other words McCain pays his males and females roughly the same and thus apparently employs both men and women in senior and junior positions in a comparable ratio which Obama appears to not have many well paid women.

I was curious and decided to take a few minutes to see if I could reproduce his results, I report similar but not identical results for reasons which I'll explain below. I also added Senator Biden to the list (and if anyone can find Governor Palin's staff salaries I'll be happy to add those).

The results I found are in the table below:

Senator Male Employees Female Employees Average Male Salary Avg Female Salary Salary Difference (F/M %)
Biden 15 25 $85,144.80 $55,922.33 65.68%
McCain 17 25 $53,259.36 $55,958.67 105.07%
Obama 27 30 $56,298.75 $45,070.09 80.06%
These numbers are not far off Murdock's. I seem to have lost one Obama male (I think I counted one Obam male staffer as an intern that Mr Murdock decided to keep) and I suspect our pro-rating calculations are subtly different. It could be that this is due to how we pro-rate the handful of staffers who seem to have had occasional weeks when they weren't paid generally around Christmas.

What is interesting is that although Senator Biden is (from this list) considerably more generous with salaries than either McCain or Obama he is even more of a sexist according to this measure.

If you want to quibble with my analysis my spreadsheets are available to play with in OpenOffice and Excel format.

15 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Is That a Projector in Your Pocket?

3M have announced the imminent arrival of their pocket sized video projector device, which is due to ship in October. Not only is the device small but it is also distinctly affordable with a US retail price of $359. It isn't perfect of course. The popsci article linked to above reports that:

Images were discernable up to about 11 inches across, even under our bright fluorescent office lights. But they were definitely faded. And some movie scenes were downright indecipherable. The same went for photos. I’m pretty sure the prototype 3M loaned me at CES in January was brighter as I was able to demonstrate it during a presentation under bright lights to a few hundred people. But I’ll have to do more tests to know for sure. (Even if it’s less than ideal, kudos to 3M for making it work.)

In a dark room, it could project a big enough image to be the ultimate cheap-o home theater.

However not only is it good enough it also uses very simple standard technology (LED lamp, LCoS screen) implying that in a few years this will be available from disreputable Chinese manufacturers for $100 or less.

Amusingly it seems that one reason why they announced the product now as opposed to in a couple of weeks is that 3M Germany jumped the gun with this press-release. The release doesn't add anything much to the review above beyond giving the dimensions (11,5 x 5 x 2,2 cm) and the fact that it can run for an hour on its battery. Oh it does add one other detail:

Der voraussichtliche empfohlene Verkaufspreis wird zwischen 349,00 Euro und 398,00 Euro liegen.

The anticipated recommended sales price will be between €349 and €398.

Since €1 = US$1.4 that is quite a difference from the US price even when you deduct the 19% VAT charged on stuff in Germany as the German asking price translates to between US$489 and US$557! Definitely something to get an American to buy I think.

15 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

The End of Professional Politicians?

Salon magazine has a description of Governor Palin's recent Nevada rally which includes these paragraphs of the people who came to see her:

"She represents me. She's real. She represents real people," said flight attendant Charlene Bybee, 54, of Sparks, Nev., who wore a black T-shirt with the slogans "I am Sarah Palin" and "Real Women for McCain." Bybee is a self-described "security mom" who has two sons, ages 20 and 24, and was once the runner-up "Miss Nevada." She said she identifies with Palin as a former PTA mom and one-time beauty queen. Bybee, who has been an active Republican volunteer in the past was tepid about McCain's candidacy. But she's so energized by Palin that she's now volunteering for the campaign. "You shouldn't have to be from a major American city to represent most Americans," she said.

Laura Tracy, 27, an unemployed barista from Yerington, Nev., held a sign that read "Hunter Chicks 4 Palin" on one side, and "Sarah Killed My Apathy" with a drawing of a deer rifle and a target on the other. Tracy, who had supported Mitt Romney in the primary, said that she cried the day of Palin's acceptance speech. "I think that it's great that the American people finally have a candidate who they can relate to, with morals," said Tracy, who said the issues she cares the most about are pro-life and the right to bear arms.

Deaun Parker, a 41-year-old single mother of five living in Carson City, who works full-time in workers comp insurance, attended the rally with her 16-year-old daughter Erica, and 12-year-old son Justin, a Boy Scout. "I think that she is a terrific role model for my daughter. She's a role model for me," said Parker, who supported Romney in the primary. Parker described her family as among the "working poor," and said she doesn't want a Democratic administration, which would bring universal health insurance, because she says she doesn't want to pay the taxes for it.

The descriptions remind me quite a bit of the descriptions of the people Judith Warner met for the NY Times and the descriptions we see in coverage of other McCain-Palin events and in the self-described commenters and email-writers who respond to posts and blogs about Sarah Palin. And there is a clear message here that Americans are sick and tired of professional politicians who seem to always end up scratching the back of special interests instead of having principles.

We saw this with Newt Gingrich's Contract With America over a decade ago, we've seen it to some extent with the campaigns of both Bill Clinton and GW Bush (and Reagan for that matter) and I suspect we're going to see it more and more. The idea that politicians should not be a semi-professional elite causes liberal/progressives to go into apoplexy as another Salon piece this week illustrates:

Palin's rapturous supporters embrace her because "she represents me." It's the politics of sheer narcissism.

This crudely personalized and debased approach to civic life has always been present, but it's getting stronger, and the Republicans are recklessly exacerbating it. Never mind that if they succeed in dumbing down the electorate and turning politics into the most superficial popularity contest, the country will suffer irreparable harm. Hey, we gotta win this election!

From the GOP's perspective, Palin has all of the virtues of Bush, and none of the drawbacks. She's a red state culture warrior. And in the new GOP gender con game, the fact that she's a woman automatically makes her a "maverick" and an "outsider."

and (a bit earlier)

Palin represents the reappearance of the one part of Bush that never died -- the culture warrior. Democrats may have forgotten about the notorious red state-blue state divide, or hoped that the failures of the last eight years had made it go away. But it hasn't. It's been there all along. If Palin catapults McCain to victory, it will be revealed to be the most powerful and enduring force in American politics. And that fact will raise serious questions about the viability of American democracy itself.

The culture war is driven by resentment, on the one hand, and crude identification, on the other. Resentment of "elites," "Washington insiders" and overeducated coastal snobs goes hand in hand with an unreflective, emotional identification with candidates who "are just like me."

The author of this pile of whiney entitlement crud clearly identifies with the "elites," "Washington insiders" and overeducated coastal snobs presumably because he considers himself to be one of them and he doesn't grasp that his lot have squandered their self-perceived right to govern by being caught too many times with their hands in the cookie-jar or each other's pockets. I suspect that the ongoing meltdown of Freddie and Fannie and the resulting disclosures about just how many Washington insiders were involved in delaying discovery that fustercluck is going to really really hurt whichever party is perceived to be the insider party and/or the party of Wall Street. This year it seems the party of Wall Street is the Democratic one, as is the party the provided most of the bosses of Freddy and Fanny including the notorious Jamie Gorelick.

While I'm pretty sure McCain would prefer not to have a Wall St. meltdown during the campaign I suspect he's the one who will come out of it smelling of violets, and the fact that he, his campaign and his running mate are all singing from the same anti "unlimited taxpayer bailout" songsheet is going to help. And then there are the Democratic pols like Charlie Rangel who seem to have been caught in a variety of sleazy practices just now to really hammer home the message that Democrats are anything but the party of fiscal rectitude.

To go back to the beginning. The professional politicians are being seen as corrupt and incompetant. If we can find (and Frum nails the problem) outside reformers who can clean house without getting corrupted themselves then perhaps we'll go back to an age where haberdashers, actors and other professions beyond lawyers/politicians are the ones who will be elected.

16 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Rebounding Smears

When I wrote about Uncle Remus and the McCain campaign I had no idea how accurate my Tarbaby analogy was going to be. The truly amazing thing about what Kaus called the lib-blog-MSM-(Obama)campaign axis is how its attacks on McCain/Palin rebound and end up attacking Obama & his allies instead. Lets consider the recent attacks.

First take Obama's "McCain Sexist" ad today. Pre-rebutted by me (and others) last Friday when we noticed that some prominent democratic senators who are applying for a couple of executive jobs pay their female staff less than what they pay their male staff while a Republican senator applying for the same position pays his women slightly more than his men.

Then there's the whole "Can't email" thing. Where it quickly becomes apparent that McCain grasps the internet quite well thank you and Obama's campaign struggle to use google to find out that the main reason McCain doesn't do email is because some Vietnamese smashed his hands and arms so they don't work well these days.

Then there's the "McCain/Bush/Republicans to blame for financial meltdown" and a few minutes checking shows that the party and candidates who received the most lobbying kickbacks from Lehman, Fannie & Freddie etc. is Obama and his Democratic pals with McCain receiving far less (or even nothing depending on who the bribegiver donator was).

And finally (for the moment), as Vodkapundit points out, there's the Palin comes from Idaho smear. Idaho you see is a place full of right-wing nazi nuts and since she's from there and went to university there she's clearly also a closet right-wing nazi nuts. Well as Vodkapundit points out Obama lives in Chicago where there are radical former terrorists and um yeah he's definitely friendly with them.

Is Obama's campaign really this incompetent? or are they so panicked they can't think straight? or?

17 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

UK (No)Energy Policy

Reuters and the BBC have items about a new report out (PDF here) which states that in about 5 years Britain will experience power cuts unless the grownups stop pandering to the eco-children and build some new nuclear and coal power plants. Oh and we have to tell the EU where to stuff their moronic carbon reduction obligations as well.

A report entitled "A Pragmatic Energy Policy for the UK", by Professor Ian Fells and Candida Whitmill, said renewables would not fill the impending energy gap so old nuclear and coal plants had to be kept going while new ones were built urgently.

"Current UK energy policy is not fit for purpose. Something has to be done about it if we are not going to run into serious problems around about the middle of the next decade," Fells, an advocate of nuclear power, told reporters.

The government should guarantee a minimum electricity price to the power companies for the next 30 years to give them a secure investment outlook to finance the 4 billion pounds each nuclear power plant is likely to cost, he added.

"We are looking at something that looks like a slow motion train crash," Fells said, accusing the government of vacillating over climate change and energy policy, starving the power industry of direction and reducing investment to a minimum.

Needless to say the enviroMENTALists don't approve but in typical fashion they prefer to play the man not the ball and miss the point:

"Professor Fells has a long standing love affair with the technologies of the 20th century, but as time goes by his fetish for coal and nuclear power looks increasingly naive," said Greenpeace chief scientist Doug Parr.

"All over the world jobs are being created in the renewable energy sector, but Britain has been left behind for too long by the negative, white flag approach to climate change that this report represents."

Since the same quote is given in both news items and nothing else is it looks like Doug Parr is one of those scientists who is unable to do basic sums (in other words a typical product of an arty farty university like Oxford :) ). Let me put my objection to his response in words of one syllable:

Jobs are not joules you fool!

It doesn't matter how many jobs renewable energy creates (and since the UK has a fairly low unemployment rate I think it is fair to say that most of the jobs created would go to factories in China and immigrants from E Europe anyway) because the problem isn't a lack of jobs its a lack of (kilo)joules and (mega)watts and we almost certainly cannot build sufficient renewable energy generastion to replace the stuff we're shutting down. In addition remember that building (or rebuilding) 20 nuclear and coal powerstations would create masses of jobs too so the entire argument collapses even further.

For those that want the sums.

UK Energy Demand is in the 60,000 MW range (current real time demand at time of writing is 42,578MW but this is September so no heating is required - December 2007 has some hours where we're at 58,000MW or so and I may have missed peaks of higher demand) and current generator capacity is around 80,000 MW (see this BERR excel sheet). According to the report closures of nuclear and coal/oil mean that the UK will lose "23 gigawatts (GW) of electricity generation capacity between now and 2020". This equates to (23/60=)38% of current UK demand and (23/80=)29% of total UK supply. Indeeed basic subtraction (80-23 = 57) implies that unless we build some more power plants now we will not be able to support current demand (even ignoring all the usual caveats about losses and assuming we can run 100% efficient and import 2GW from France as we currently do) in 2020.

So how can we do this using renewables as Greenpeace would like? The BERR excel sheet I linked to earlier also shows how much renewable energy contributed in 2007:
Hydro-electric stations:
    Natural flow 1,420
    Pumped storage 2,744
Wind (5) 1,042
Renewables other than hydro and wind 1,565
Total 6,771
So to replace our 23GW of lost capacity the Greenpeace way we have to slightly more than quadruple our renewable energy supplies. This doesn't sound too bad until you look a little closer and realize that over half that is Hydro-electric and there aren't (m)any more rivers to dam. Hence what this basically requires is that "Wind" and "Renewables other than hydro and wind" have to increase tenfold in 10-12 years.

To put this in perspective the same spreadsheet informs us that from 2003 to 2007 (5 years) wind has increased from 312 to 1042 (slightly more than tripled) and "other" has increased from 1062 to 1565 (50%). Overall this means in 5 years we doubled our non-hydro renewables usage. Does anyone think we can realistically do much better than quadruple non-hydro renewables generation in the next 10-12 years? Quadrupling means we generate about 10GW of renewables instead of 2.5GW and hence we replace 23GW of shut down power with 7.5GW of new power. This leaves a gap of some 15GW assuming that the UK has no increase in demand in the next 10-12 years. The only possible was the sum works is if we manage to reduce demand by 10-15GW (c. 20%) in 10 years and Loft insulation, CFL lighting etc. is NOT going to produce anything like the required savings.

In other words Fells is right and Greenpeace and their Ecofreak friends are wrong. Still I do have one suggestion as a stop gap while we build masses of new generators. Identify all greenpeace members and other activists and put their homes on a special meter that drops them off the power grid first. Oh and do the same to Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth etc. offices, shops etc. Maybe if they start suffering power outages they'll grasp the problem ...

18 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

FT ♥ Obama

The love affair the Economist has had with the US Democratic party, EU bureaucrats and trans-national progressives in general has been commented on for a while now. Samizdata, for example, pointed out a couple of anti-McCain and anti-Palin ones and there have been many others. Not at all to my surprise I noted that the Economist's Pearson stablemate the FT seems similarly biased in a pro-Obama/anti-McCain line. Take today's US election round up which I have screen-capped and reproduced below:
FT US election coverage
Note how many news articles and editorials overwhelmingly tilt one way:
Obama promises Wall Street reform

Barack Obama promised an end to the “anything goes” culture on Wall Street as the deepening financial crisis added fresh impetus to his fight back against John McCain - Sep 17 2008
Obama Positive
The end of McCain’s media honeymoon

Tighter control leads to more aggressive style - Sep 17 2008
McCain negative
Criticism as Obama reaches for the stars

Public fund gamble may not pay off - Sep 17 2008
Obama negative
Turmoil presents opening for Obama

Allegations McCain is out of touch - Sep 17 2008
Obama positive, McCain negative
Campaigns focus on US economy

Poll rivals vow to tighten financial regulation - Sep 15 2008
In the editorial part things aren't so bad at first sight, Things are more even hander, perhaps because of Clive Crook. He wrote a while back about how off-putting the democratic/media/blogger alliance agains Sarah Palin was and he repeated this criticism suggesting that it is quite possibly going to lead to a McCain victory earlier this week.

Certainly, the Democrats can see they are in a hole. Somehow, though, the word has gone out: “Keep digging.” Mr Obama is also urged to be less cool and lose his temper. Voters adore an angry candidate, you see. “Dig faster, and be more angry,” is the advice coming down from the political geniuses who decided it was a fine idea to laugh at Ms Palin in the first place. A recurring television image in the past few days has been the split-screen contrast between a serenely smiling Republican operative and a fulminating red-faced Democrat about to have a stroke.

Efforts to smear the governor proceed at a frantic pace. My guess would be that there are now more journalists on assignment in Alaska than bothered to turn up for the Republican convention in St Paul, sifting through dustbins, interrogating Palin family acquaintances (extra credit for those with a grievance) and subjecting Ms Palin’s expenses claims to a fanatical scrutiny which I dare say their own record-keeping, or that of most senators, might not withstand.

Of course, they will find things. They may even find something important. But the sheer swarming zeal for trivial malfeasance and family embarrassments is rapidly raising the bar for impropriety. I think that many voters – and not just committed Republicans – find this whole spectacle disgusting, so on top of everything else Ms Palin is now getting a sympathy vote.

However this is countered by Jurek Martin who ought to be awarded an OBN (Order of the Brown Nose) by the Obama campaign for this piece of tripe which is pretty much a perfect example of what Mr Crook finds objectionable. In fact it is so filled with half-truths and bias it deserves a good fisking and I'm only too happy to oblige:

Obama and the conservative backlash against Palin

It would be logical to conclude that one benefit of the horrors on Wall Street would be to force those running for president finally to get around to talking about serious issues, not least the parlous state of the nation’s economy

Nice start. I guess Mr Martin may have pontificated slightly prematurely as the BBC reports that both candidates spent a lot of time yesterday on that subject.

I am not sure this follows. After 9/11, logic dictated the US should pursue more multilateral foreign policies, but the reverse was the case. In the current political climate, one campaign, John McCain’s, may see no reason to get on to the high policy road, while the other, Barack Obama’s, cannot find the road map to it.

Ohh equal opportunity snark. I like it! Although surely claiming that Obama can't navigate is RACIST? no?

Initial responses to last weekend’s calamitous events are not encouraging. The Republican candidate continued to wrap himself in the mantra that the American economy is “strong,” even as it leaks from all its financial seams. But, then, in his long-gone honest moments, he used to admit that economics were not his strong suit.

Given that the chaos appears to be caused by bad loans made to homeowners by a bunch of banks who are now paying for them by an inability to get repayments of the loans they shouldn't have made, McCain's statement is not completely wrong. Assuming the fallout remains lmited to a bunch of suits on Wall St then outside New York the economy should remain OK.

Moreover, his assurances that a proven reformer like himself, coupled with another of same ilk, Sarah Palin, constitute just the team to clean up Washington, ring hollow in light of the fact that he has been a longstanding member of the very flawed Washington regulatory establishment. Moreover, his running mate, on all available evidence, would not know how to find credit drefault swaps in the aisle of her Wasilla WalMart.

Ok this is where Mr Martin goes into full Obama-chanelling mode. There is plenty of evidence that having got involved with Charles Keating, McCain learned a number of lessons about the dangers of lobbying and of bankers. This would be why he sounded warning notes regarding Freddie and Fannie in 2002 and 2005. Also, while I think McCain Feingold is a horrible bit of legislation, the clear aim of it was to reform the lobbyist culture of Congress. Is Mr Martin seriously suggesting that reform is only possible from outside?

Now there is the sneer at Governor Palin which can be read as either disgustingly, patronizingly sexist - "poor little woman, can't handle stuff not sold in supermarkets and lets her husband balance the check book and make the big ticket purchases" or classic sophisticated urban elistist sneering at the rural hicks (or both). But ignoring the condescension and moving onto the thin substance; apart from the fact that credit debit swaps are not offered in Walmarts (except, arguably, at the cash till) it must be noted that gas pipelines and ethics reforms are also not offered for sale in Walmart but Governor Palin managed to push both through the Alaska legislature just fine.

For his part, Mr Obama, with his sophisticated mind, might be able to do better than simply to continue to tie Mr McCain to the failed policies of the Bush administration. Americans, not unreasonably, like to think that those who seek to govern them have some plans to extricate the nation from messes, be they in Iraq or the financial markets, rather than dwell on an admittedly awful recent past.

Uh huh. Obama is sophisticated and intellectual unlike the dumb rebpulicans. That's nice. By the way, Obama's plans to extricate the US from the mess in Iraq seem likely to have precipitated a major humanitarian disaster there. McCain's (the surge) seems to have dramatically improved things.

But this is what happens when campaigns are locked into their own perceptions of what is working for them. And for Mr McCain, a seat-of-the-pants pilot who is not a strategic thinker by a very long chalk, he just has to look at the evidence of the latest polls, which tell him that just presenting himself as he is, seems to be good political medicine.

I'd say that McCain's campaign has been strategically sound - as evidenced by those polls.

It is not necessary to dwell on the cynicism of his choice of Ms Palin as a running mate or on the outright lies that are the underpinnings of their campaign. Even a timid US media is summoning up what remains of its courage to pick holes and find contradictions in every respect of Ms Palin’s record, as it might have done from the outset had they ever heard of her before the Republican convention.

Allow me to translate: It is not necessary to dwell on how shocked me and my democratic leaning MSM friends were when McCain decided to come out fighting instead of doing a Bob Dole gallant loser thing, Of ocurse when we were presented with some hick like Governor Palin we immediately spared no effort to turn over even the smallest pebble in Wasilla, unfortunately so far we have yet to find any mud that will stick, but never fear we'll keep trying.

More noteworthy is the extent to which the establishment conservative commentariat, Charles Krauthammer, George Will and now David Brooks of the New York Times, are turning on Ms Palin. They appear insulted by what even they concede is her total lack of qualifications for the vice presidency, much as they were by the president’s abortive nomination of his tame and completely undistinguished in-house legal counsel, Harriet Miers, for the Supreme Court, two years back.

The "establishment conservative commentariat" is limited to three people who write for the WaPo and NYT most of the time? really? I think this means the "conservatives that my liberal friends invite around for aperitifs because we trust them not to spout off about Ronald Reagan" or something like that. And they are upset? As compared to all those liberal commentators who were insulted about Obama's "total lack of qualifications for the vice presidency"? Just asking you know, but I'll note that Krauthammer for one seems to be coming around to a pro-Palin POV as he sees more of her.

But they are not necessarily the dominant voices of conservativism any longer, drowned out by more visceral rightwing populists, in print and electronic media, who take delight in the fact the party base has finally been energised in this election by Ms Palin. The fact that this base is not big enough any longer to win a general election is immaterial, compared to the delights of discomfiting and unnerving the Democrats, who have reacted, true to form, by sinking into their traditional state of funk.

Yes I think my translation above is accurate regarding "establishment conservative commentariat". I'm not sure that W Kristol, M Barone, J Goldberg and half a dozen others are not equally establishment these days though they do seem to be pro Palin. Still moving on. "The fact that this base is not big enough any longer to win a general election is immaterial" is a moronic statement. The base is not enough of course, everyone knows that and it applys equally to the Democratic nutroots base too, but energising the base means that McCain get run a more successful grassroots get out the vote campaign than otherwise. Finally I have to admit that the Democrats have indeed sunk into their traditional state of funk so he's right there even if the rest of the last few paragraphs has been total bilge.

This manifests itself in all sorts of ways, not least through desperate communications though the internet. But the one person who appears above all this angst is Barack Obama, either admirably or to his cost. Much as pundits and consultants urge him to get into the gutter with the Republicans, which is what electoral politics are supposedly all about, he refuses to do it.

As Matthew Dowd, once a Bush strategist, put it to the New York Times, if Mr McCain drags Mr Obama into the mud, it is to his advantage; if he flies at 10,000 feet, he has no advantage.

This is interesting because whereas Mr McCain, reputedly his own man, has fallen under the spell of practitioners of the darker political arts, the Democratic candidate still sets the tone for his campaign, all his party alchemists notwithstanding. If he says the Palin family is off limits, then it remains so.

Glad to see the accuracy disappears again. Barack Obama is above all the angst? that's why he tells lame lipstick jokes I suppose. And why he launches Hispanic attack ads that wilfully a) misquote Rush Limbaugh and b) imply that McCain supported Mr Limbaugh's position. As for Mr Dowd, he is correct in that Obama has yet to face the sort of public scrutiny awarded to, say, Governor Palin.  And it has to be said that the claim that "if  [Obama] says the Palin family is off limits, then it remains so" appears to be somewhat wistful, True there have been no campaign ads regarding the Palin family but then there have hardly needed to be given all the rubbish dug up by progressive bloggers and their MSM pals.

He had not even, at the time of writing, pointed out that John Thain of Merrill Lynch, no longer the Thundering Herd but one of Bank of America’s herd of cows, has not only been a fervent supporter of Mr McCain but had openly hoped for a senior policy job in the next Republican administration (not that he would now win Senate confirmation).

It is just possible that Mr Obama’s reticence may come over as a lack of toughness when matched against the McCain-Palin ticket of tough guys and gun-toting gals, to whom truth is just another five letter word? A few concise policy proposals on the financial debacle might remove that impression, as would substantive performances in the upcoming, and ever more important, presidential debates.

Dare one point out to Mr Martin that one reason why Obama is not mentioning John Thain's support of McCain is that it would immediately invite people to look at who supports Obama. People such as those wonderful leaders of Fannie Mae, Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson. I hope that Obama does indeed bring up mr Thain because it will undoubtedly turn out to be yet another rebounding smear.

That is the end of the article. I know that usually it isn't the journalist who comes up with the title but really the "conservative backlash" appears to be three "establishment conservatives" and about a third of the article is how McCain is in bed with Kkkarl Rove or someone like him. All in all the whole piece is unworthy of being published in a serious newspaper.

19 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Friday Olive Tree Blogging

Summer is over, autumn is starting and we had rain last night. Actually we've had rain about once a week for the last 2-3 weeks but only the last couple have been really good solid rains. The olive trees (and indeed everything else in the garden) really appreciate it.
20080919 - Friday Olive Tree Blogging
As always click on the image to see it enlarged and don't forget to visit of the olive tree blogging archives for further reminders of how nice olive trees are.

19 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Baen - Why Yes We'll Take Your Money

There is nothing like Baen as an example to other publishing houses about how to listen to their addicts devoted readers suckers customers. And I say this in admiration with an electronic wallet that is lighter by $10 than it was earlier today. I'll let them explain:

Back By
Popular Demand:
The World's
Largest Snippet!

A Brief History

It was late 2005 and David Weber's latest Honor Harrington novel had just been published. More than a hundred thousand people had read it and they were hungry for more.

There would be a teeny tiny wait.

Until now.

Late 2008. Rumors of a new Honorverse novel to be published in 2009 abounded. David's progress on Storm from the Shadows, the sequel to Shadow of Saganami, was followed with great glee. David, being the honest Baen writer that he is, wanted to help those rumors along.

So he snippeted. Snippeting being a technique invented by Jim Baen to torture, er, nurture Baen readers by sharing parts of the latest novels that haven't been released yet.

David, being David, does not do things in a small way. So he snippeted the whole freakin' quarter-million-word novel as it existed on September 2, 2008.

Okay, so that's not exactly what he had planned. He had just planned to let out a few chapters. So the "oopsie version," as it has come to be called in our usual dignified way, was pulled within a few hours of the post.

But not before a very few people downloaded it in all good faith. And proceeded to read it. And proceeded to gloat in front of the rest of us.

Lamentations and wailings for parity commenced. And so we let everyone know that the version that got released really was not the final version. Several rounds of revisions by the author have been made since, and the copy edit and continuity check is still in progress. We really aren't quite ready to let the book out as an official eARC (i.e. electronic advanced reader copy); we want to send it out to the world all prettied up.

But the lamentations from the faithful did not cease.

And so, we—the publisher, author of the book, and webmaster—bring to you:

The Plan ™

For those who want it—and we stress this is an early, un-edited, incomplete version—we will sell the "oopsie" now for $10. We are not asking you to buy this version, we do not recommend you buy this version, but if you gotta have it, come and get it.

In about 6 weeks, when all the revisions and edits are in, we will make available for the usual $15 the official eARC, which will get you both the "final" and "oopsie" versions—extra computer memory sold separately. If you bought the "oopsie" version, you'll be able to get the official eARC for only $12.

If you buy the Webscription month that contains Storm from the Shadows, March 2009, you will get access to all three versions, if you want 'em. If you buy the novel as a solo ebook, you get access to all three versions, if you want 'em.

And so let there be peace in the valley. Until the next snippet.

—Toni Weisskopf

19 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Monty Python Meets Chromatography

This is very silly (and a great way to advertise a company)

19 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

LED Spotlights

Once upon a time we bought a dual spotlight fitting for our library/living room. It takes two 40W spots and has seen heavy use because the room is a bit dark during the day (thick walls and small windows will that). The heavy use means that it seems like the bulbs burn out every 4 months or so. This was an irritation and it has to be said my scottish ancestors were also concerned about the 80W of electricity being burned for so many hours a day. Unfortunately there didn't seem to much of an alternative since the fitting is quite small so even the smallest CFL would have been too big. Then I went to the local briconautes and found some 1.5W LED spots.
LED Spotlights LED Spotlights
The lights cost €9.90 each which something like 5 times the price of the incandescent spots they replace. Allegedly though they hast 50,000 hours (13 years) powered on so on a capital cost basis they'll pay for themselves some 7-10 times over if they really do last as long as promised. This of course ignored the weeny electrical consumption - 1.5W instead of 40W - so my scottish ancestors can feel relaxed when we leave them on for 16 hours a day.

There is only one problem. They aren't quite as bright. During the day this is fine. We don't need them bright we just need them to highlight reading areas but in the evenings its not quite enough. So far we've just added a couple of standing CFL lamps (7W + 8W) and it seems to be fine. We'll see if we need more but so far I'm quite happy recommend these lights for this room.

24 September 2008 Blog Home : All September 2008 Posts : Permalink

Freddie Mac's Incompetent Lobbying

The NY Slimes, that paragon of liberal leaning journalism had a hit piece yesterday on Senator McCain, to which his campaign responded. While the obvious intent of the piece is to highlight (non-existant) sleaze in the McCain campaign what it actually shows is that Freddie Mac were very good at wasting money, possibly as much as half a million dollars.

The hit piece refers to McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis, a former lobbyist and former part owner of a lobbying firm. The rebuttal makes clear that while Rick Davis may, once upon a time, have been a lobbyist he hasn't benefitted from that as a source of income for some years:

As has been previously reported, Mr. Davis separated from his consulting firm, Davis Manafort, in 2006. As has been previously reported, Mr. Davis has seen no income from Davis Manafort since 2006. Zero. Mr. Davis has received no salary or compensation since 2006. Mr. Davis has received no profit or partner distributions from that firm on any basis -- weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or annual -- since 2006. Again, zero. Neither has Mr. Davis received any equity in the firm based on profits derived since his financial separation from Davis Manafort in 2006. [...] Mr. Davis has not served as a registered lobbyist since 2005.

I shall ignore other parts of the rebuttal because I can't see that they can be easily proven. The above however is sufficiently straight forward and factual that it is unlikely to be false. Now let's have a look at the NY Times:

One of the giant mortgage companies at the heart of the credit crisis paid $15,000 a month from the end of 2005 through last month to a firm owned by Senator John McCain’s campaign manager, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement.

 [...] Mr. Davis’s firm received the payments from the company, Freddie Mac, until it was taken over by the government this month along with Fannie Mae, the other big mortgage lender whose deteriorating finances helped precipitate the cascading problems on Wall Street, the people said.

They said they did not recall Mr. Davis’s doing much substantive work for the company in return for the money, other than speak to a political action committee of high-ranking employees in October 2006 on the approaching midterm Congressional elections. They said Mr. Davis’s firm, Davis & Manafort, had been kept on the payroll because of Mr. Davis’s close ties to Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, who by 2006 was widely expected to run again for the White House.

[...] No one at Davis & Manafort other than Mr. Davis was involved in efforts on Freddie Mac’s behalf, the people familiar with the arrangement said.

So even by the Times' own admission Freddie Mac paid 15,000 a month from the end 2005 until (presumably) August 2008. Assuming the "end of 2005" means the first payment was in December 2005 and that the last was in August 2008 then this means 33 months of payments by my calculatioms. 15,000 * 33 = $495,000. For that $495,000 Mr Davis spoke to a PAC once in October 2006 and his firm did absolutely nothing whatsoever (apart apparently from cashing the checks).

It is possible that in October 2006 Mr Davis was still receiving financial benefits from his consulting firm but it seems clear that if he was then that arrangement ended shortly afterwards, and from the context of the McCain rebuttal and this WaPo article from earlier this year it sounds like his separation was earlier than that. If (worst case) Davis quit the firm in December 2006 then Freddie Mac wasted 20 months of payments or $300,000.

[Note: that since the McCain campaign was not launched unti February 2007 and/or April 2007, depending on how you count things, there would be no ethical conflicts involved in Mr Davis receiving money from Freddie Mac in October 2006 when he does not appear to have been a McCain employee.]

Yet, in the hopes of influencing McCain via Davis, Freddie Mac continued to throw money at his firm even though he had left it and had no financial interest in it. This seems to be indicative of major cluelessness by whichever Freddie Mac exec was in charge of bribinginfluencing congress. It is even more idiotic given that McCain spoke out against maintaining the Freddie Mac status quo in 2006 (and earlier and later). Hence, given McCain's tendency to be stubborn about things, it seems unlikely that he would change his mind because a member of his campaign team was formerly employed ba a lobbying firm that received money from Freddie Mac.