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Charlie Martin

Charlie Martin writes on science, health, culture and technology for PJ Media. Follow his 13 week diet and exercise experiment on Facebook and at PJ Lifestyle
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American Airlines and a Reporting Soldier

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

I used to travel 200,000 miles a year or more, so I have plenty of airline horror stories, but this isn’t one.  Amanda Green recounts how US Air failed, and American Airlines came through:

Frustrated because US Air wasn’t willing work with him, the soldier made his way to American Airlines and, by chance, to my mother who was working in that terminal. He wanted to know if there was anything Mom could do to help him. Since she doesn’t work for the airline, she did the only thing she could. She escorted him to the nearest AA ticket agent.

And this is where I give kudos to American. The agent not only understood what the problem was, but he went above and beyond to help the young soldier. He not only started working his terminal to see what sort of flight arrangements he could make for the soldier, but he got on the phone to US Air to see if he could get them to do the right thing. Handing that phone to Mom to monitor while he was on hold with US Air, he picked up another phone and placed a call that turned out to be to one of the high mucky-mucks for American.

Read it all.

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AP: State Department Turned Down Heightened Security for Benghazi

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

AP today:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite two explosions and dozens of other security threats, U.S. officials in Washington turned down repeated pleas from American diplomats in Libya to increase security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi where the U.S. ambassador was killed, leaders of a House committee asserted Tuesday.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chairman Darrell Issa and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee said their information came from “individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya.”

Issa, R-Calif. and Chaffetz, R-Utah said the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months before Sept. 11.

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Romney Rumor: Mitt Doesn’t Understand What Working As A Garbageman Is Like

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

As just reported by my colleague Bob Owens, not only has Romney worked as a garbageman, he even used the same line about how garbagemen are invisible.

Raising the question of whether AFSCME’s ad agency are fools, plagiarists, or actually working for Romney.

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UAE Financing Matt Damon’s Anti-Fracking Flic

Friday, September 28th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

That’s the way it looks:

A new film starring Matt Damon presents American oil and natural gas producers as money-grubbing villains purportedly poisoning rural American towns. It is therefore of particular note that it is financed in part by the royal family of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.

The creators of Promised Land have gone to absurd lengths to vilify oil and gas companies, as Scribe’s Michael Sandoval noted Wednesday. Since recent events have demonstrated the relative environmental soundness of hydraulic fracturing – a technique for extracting oil and gas from shale formations – Promised Land’s script has been altered to make doom-saying environmentalists the tools of oil companies attempting to discredit legitimate “fracking” concerns.

While left-leaning Hollywood often targets supposed environmental evildoers, Promised Land was also produced “in association with” Image Media Abu Dhabi, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media, according to the preview’s list of credits. A spokesperson with DDA Public Relations, which is running PR for the film, confirmed that AD Media is a financier. The company is wholly owned by the government of the UAE.

It is, of course, completely accidental that fracking is one of the technologies bringing energy production back to the US.

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Romney Rumor: Did Romney Force His Name Into a ‘Ryan’ Chant?

Friday, September 28th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

MSNBC wants you to think so:

On Wednesday, MSNBC aired a clip of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney leading what looks like a failed “Romney-Ryan” chant at a campaign stop in Ohio on Tuesday, prompting an embarrassed Joe Scarborough to mutter “Oh, sweet Jesus” and a purse-lipped Mika Brzezinski to ask “What’s wrong with those people?” You can see our coverage of Scarborough’s outburst here, but we’ve included the clip as a refresher:

Blaze readers who were there didn’t agree:

“I … [was] near the front of the crowd and Paul Ryan had just finished speaking,” Michele Jewett of Carlisle, Ohio, told TheBlaze in an email.

“He introduced Governor Romney and handed the microphone to him. Gov. Romney said, ‘What about that Paul Ryan’ and the crowd immediately started chanting, ‘Romney, Romney‘ not ’Ryan, Ryan’ like the closed captioning on the MSNBC video stated,” she adds.

Indeed, the MSNBC closed captions claims the was crowd chanting “Ryan!“ when attendees say they were actually chanting ”Romney!” Obviously, this changes a lot about the situation. Instead of awkwardly inserting his name into what sounds like a failed chant, Gov. Romney was actually including his running mate in a crowd chant of his own name.

“Mitt said, ‘Let’s try this, Romney/Ryan, Romney/Ryan, I like that better!‘ Jewett’s email continues. “I thought to myself ‘what a humble guy to include Ryan in our chant.’”

And C-SPAN lets you decide for yourself.

Remember: they think you’re sheep.

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Romney Rumor: Ryan Calls Romney “The Stench”

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Okay, Rick and Michael have already pretty well covered this (that’s what I get for going out to lunch) but this has to get in the Romney Rumors.

When Roger Simon wrote in Politico Wednesday that Paul Ryan’s new nickname for Mitt Romney is “Stench,” a number of news outlets — from MSNBC to Mediaite — took it seriously.

Simon told BuzzFeed: “Some people always don’t get something, but I figured describing PowerPoint as having been invented to euthanize cattle would make the satire clear. I guess people hate PowerPoint more than I thought.”

As Buzzfeed points out, the list of people who fell for it is long and extinguished distinguished:

I think I’m going to create an official Sheep Award for people who fall for these things.

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Romney Rumor: Romney Pays Lower Tax Rate Than Middle-Class

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Obama’s campaign is now running this video:

YouTube Preview Image

Is it true? In a word, no, and several groups have pointed it out.  FactCheck.org for example:

According to Romney’s 2010 tax return, he had an adjusted gross income of about $21.7 million in 2010 and paid about $3 million in taxes. That comes to an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent. That’s considerably less than the amount paid by most people with that high of an income, but in Romney’s case most of his income comes from dividends and capital gains — which are taxed at 15 percent rather than the highest marginal rate of 35 percent. Romney dipped below the 15 percent threshold because he donated about 14 percent of his income to charity.

The question, though, is whether Romney paying 14 percent is “probably less than you.”

It’s not if you look strictly at the income tax paid to the IRS. Scott Hodge, president of the business-backed Tax Foundation, released a report based on 2009 IRS tax data that found 97 percent of American tax filers paid a lower rate of income tax than Romney did. The bottom 40 percent of tax filers pay no income tax at all, or receive a refund, Hodge told us in a phone interview, and so “by definition, those people are paying less than Mitt Romney.” On average, Hodge said, people making between $100,000 and $200,000 paid about 12 percent in federal income taxes. That’s less than Romney’s 13.9 percent, and people making less than $200,000 represent more than 97 percent of all tax filers.

In fact, at 14 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center, Romney pays a higher rate than 97 percent of Americans.

Of course, that considers income tax only.  What about with payroll taxes? Then it edges up.  Again from FactCheck.org:

But there’s another way to look at this, and that is to include payroll taxes, those often unnoticed taxes that are usually withheld from an employee’s paycheck to pay for such things as Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance. The employer also pays payroll taxes for each employee, money that arguably would go to an employee if the company didn’t have to pay it. Together, those payroll taxes actually account for the lion’s share of federal taxes most people pay.

In February, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center released an analysis that found that when you include income tax and payroll taxes paid both by the employee and employer, people in the middle 20 percent paid an effective rate of 15.5 percent. That’s a higher percentage than Romney (who paid no payroll taxes because he declared no wages or salary in 2010).

I’ll just note in passing that if the Obama campaign is making that argument, it would be the first time in living memory that a Democrat has admitted the employer’s share of FICA was a tax on the employee.  Romney, being retired as far as the tax law goes — no wages, living entirely on investment income — doesn’t pay employment taxes.

But what about all those people in the Obama video who say they’re paying much more?  The problem is that most people confuse their actual tax rate and their marginal rate.  Your actual tax rate is easily calculated: take how much tax you paid over your total income.  The marginal rate is what you pay on your next dollar of income at your current, basically what the tax tables tell you when you do your taxes.  But because we have a progressive tax system, that’s not your total tax rate.  Say you make $50,000 — the first $20,000 or so has a tax rate of zero.  The next maybe $25,000 is taxed at, say, 12 percent. Then, in this admittedly contrived example, you get to that last $5000, and it’s taxed at your marginal rate, say 20 percent.  But you remember your marginal rate and think your actual tax rate is 20 percent.

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Romney Rumor: Romney Thinks Airplane Windows Should Open

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Oh, my, this was popular yesterday.  See, eg, the LA Times:

“I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were,” Romney said. “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver. But she’s safe and sound.”

Huffington Post:

Making post-fundraiser comments this weekend, presidential candidate Mitt Romney revealed a tenuous grip on the science of aviation, despite the fact that he and his wife, Ann, have been flying around the country this summer on the campaign trail.

After his wife’s plane was forced to make an emergency landing this weekend,Romney told the Los Angeles Times, he was worried for her safety. The candidate then continued on a bizarre tangent that showed just how little the Republican nominee understands about flight.

“I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were,” Romney told the paper. “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly.”

HuffPo added an update to the same article:

UPDATE: He was for rolling down airplane windows before he was against it.

Mitt Romney gave the Internet – and Rachel Maddow – a chuckle Monday after post-fundraiser comments that appeared to show the candidate has a tenuous grasp on the physics of flight.

But after Mitt Romney was quoted as saying that airplane windows “don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that,” a campaign pool reporter says the candidate was joking.

Ashley Parker, a New York Times reporter who filed on the comments, tells New Yorkmagazine that “it was clear from the context that he was not being serious.”

Dan Amira at New York magazine did a little fact checking and found (emphasis mine):

The Los Angeles Times story that relayed Romney’s airplane remark to the world was based off a pool report written by the New York Times‘s Ashley Parker. When we asked Parker this morning whether it seemed as if Romney made the mark in jest, she left no doubt. “Romney was joking,” she e-mailed. Parker told us that while the pool report didn’t explicitly indicate that Romney was joking, it was self-evident that he was. ”The pool report provided the full transcript of his comments on Ann’s plane scare,” she said, “and it was clear from the context that he was not being serious.”


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ZOMG! Bacon Crisis, Now It Gets Real!

Monday, September 24th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Huffington Post on the impending catastrophe:

In a recent press release, the U.K.’s National Pig Association is warning that a “world shortage of pork and bacon next year is now unavoidable“:  ”New data shows the European Union pig herd is declining at a significant rate, and this is a trend that is being mirrored around the world. Pig farmers have been plunged into loss by high pig-feed costs, caused by the global failure of maize and soya harvests. All main European pig-producing countries report shrinking sow herds.”




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Bumps in the road?

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin
YouTube Preview Image

Look, I would normally hate to do three posts in a row, but this really is an outrage.

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Skewed and Unskewed Polls

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

In most all things, I try to follow Hanlon’s (or Heinlein’s) Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

This is particularly important to remember when looking at polls.Sometimes, however, one must wonder.

As I pointed out yesterday, the result of Romney’s “really bad week” was that Romney had gone from 5 or 6 points behind in Gallup, to essentially tied. Even so, a number of people have noted that there are some odd assumptions in that poll, and others. Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen talked about it recently. Asked if the polls were, in his opinion, a fair representation of the electorate, Schoen said:

“The simple answer is no John. The bottom line is there were seven percent more Democrats in the electorate in 2008 than there were Republicans. That’s from the exit polls and that’s about as accurate as you can get….President Obama won by about seven points. Given 90 percent of Democrats vote for the Democrat and 90 percent of Republicans vote for the Republican, every time you reduce the margin between the parties by one point, roughly it’s about one point off the margin.”

Schoen pointed out that the Pew poll was based on Democrats sampled for having an 11 percent voters registration edge over Republicans. He further added, “saying that America has gotten more Democratic than 2008, which is a questionable assumption.”

In fact, Rasmussen keeps a running monthly poll of party identification. In the latest poll, released September 1, they found:

During August, 37.6% of Americans considered themselves Republicans. That’s up from 34.9% in July and 35.4% in June. It’s also the largest number of Republicans ever recorded by Rasmussen Report since monthly tracking began in November 2002.

Other polls — including Gallup — apparently have similar assumptions (called “turnout models”) in their polls.

There is a new website, called unskewedpolls.com, that basically reweights the data to fit the Rasmussen party identification. Their results are quite different, giving Romney somewhere between a five and eleven point lead.

Now, this should also be taken with a grain of salt. Basically, they claim (by the site name) to be an unskewed poll. In fact, they’re just a differently skewed take on existing polls. Instead of taking their numbers over, say, Gallup, though, what it should tell us is that even if the polls are being heavily weighted to Obama, Romney’s still essentially tied. Any difference in Romney’s direction in real turnout from the pollster’s assumptions would bring Romney into a lead.

More: Wake Up, Mainstream Media: If Tide Is Shifting, It’s in Romney’s Direction

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The Wonders of Crowd Estimation

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Long-time PJM readers will recall I’ve done a lot of crowd-size estimates. Now, the whole science of crowd estimation seems to be controversial, especially since in general the people who do crowd estimates for the legacy media seem to insist their methods are proprietary; that’s why I’ve always made an effort to be very open about it.

Sometimes, though, it’s easy. If you fill an arena with 5000 seats, you pretty well have to figure that’s a crowd of about 5000 people.

Except if it’s an Obama rally.

As noted by the blog battlegroundwatch, crowd sizes get weird in Wisconsin.

Here’s the crowd in the 5000-seat BMO Theater, from the Battlegroundwatch article:

That looks like a pretty good crowd. People at the event said there were some empty seats, but as the BGW folks said, it’s fair to say it was pretty full. Ergo, since it’s a 5000-seat venue, about 5000 people.

Once it got to Politico, is was 18,000.

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Gallup on Romney’s Terrible Month

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

This is from Gallup today. Notice what’s happened since the 47 percent “gaffe”.

Also, this is registered voters. Likely voters probably favors Romney.

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An Explanation

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Something has been puzzling me for a very long time, it seems.

First, we had the announcement that Obama had presided over the smallest increase in spending of any President since Eisenhower.  When closely examined, we find that this is only true if all spending in 2009 is attributed to George Bush.

Earlier this week, President Obama insisted “Fast and Furious” started under President Bush. “Fast and Furious” started with a DoJ teleconference on October 29, 2009.

On Friday, Chris Matthews (on Bill Maher HBO show) said “Unemployment was well past 10 percent” when Obama took office; it turns out that unemployment only reached 10 percent once, in October 2009. (And it’s not been “well past 10 percent” since 1982-83.)

I think the evidence is accumulating: Barack Obama didn’t actually take office until sometime around Thanksgiving 2009.



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After Romney’s Horrible Week, Gallup Is Now Tied

Thursday, September 20th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Story here.

As Andrew Klavan said the other day, if Romney keeps screwing up, he could win in a landslide.

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Administration Now Admits Benghazi Terrorist Attack

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Foreign Policy’s diplomatic blog The Cable reports:

The Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was in fact “a terrorist attack” and the U.S. government has indications that members of al Qaeda were directly involved, a top Obama administration official said Wednesday morning.

“I would say yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy,” Matt Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said Wednesday at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, in response to questioning from Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT) about the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Sen. Susan Collins said further that based on what she’s heard from a classified briefing, she believed it was pre-planned:

“First, I will tell you that based on the briefings I have had, I’ve come to the opposite conclusion and agree with the president of Libya that this was a premeditated, planned attack that was associated with the date of 9/11, the anniversary of 9/11,” she said. “I just don’t think that people come to protests equipped with RPGs and other heavy weapons. And the reports of complicity — and they are many — with the Libyan guards who were assigned to guard the consulate also suggest to me that this was premeditated.”

Also read: Romney Tells the Key Truth Needed to Comprehend the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

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Romney Rumor: Romney Thinks “Middle Income” is $200K-$250K

Friday, September 14th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Sometimes just a couple words makes all the difference. Here’s how the Huffington Post just reported something Romney said recently:

BOSTON (AP) — Mitt Romney is promising to reduce taxes on middle-income Americans.

But how does he define “middle-income”? The Republican presidential nominee defined it as income of $200,000 to $250,000 a year.

Romney commented during an interview broadcast Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

…. The definition of “middle income” or the “middle class” is politically charged. Both presidential candidates are fighting to win over working-class voters.

President Barack Obama has defined “middle class” as income up to $250,000 a year.

Now, let’s look at how it was reported elsewhere:

But how does he define “middle-income”? The Republican presidential nominee defined it Friday as income of $200,000 to $250,000 a year and less.

The definition of “middle income” or the “middle class” is politically charged as Romney and President Barack Obama fight to win over working-class voters. Romney would be among the wealthiest presidents, if elected, and Democrats have repeatedly painted him as out of touch with average people.

Obama also has set his definition for “middle class” as families with income of up to $250,000 a year.

I’ve bolded a few inconvenient words. Observe: the HuffPo reports “$200-$250″; the AP story elsewhere says $200K-$250K and less. Add the “and less” and suddenly Romney is saying the same limits as Obama — and the other bolded words make clear.

By the way, this is first in a series of Romney Rumors; it’s become clear that we need to capture these things just as we did with Palin. If you see anything you think needs to be debunked, pass it along.

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Obama’s Intelligence Failure

Thursday, September 13th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Obama is famous — or notorious — for his high opinion of his own capabilities.  He was quoted as saying

“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Mr. Obama told Patrick Gaspard, his political director, at the start of the 2008 campaign, according to The New Yorker. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

So, as Mark Theissen points out, it’s probably not a surprise that he also doesn’t figure he needs intelligence briefings, preferring instead to read the Presidential Daily Brief.

Well, I was involved in the Intelligence Community for a good while. I was more involved in collection and then computer security than analysis, but I know analysts. Here’s how the business is done:

People out at the collection end collect raw intelligence (never you mind how) and transmit it to CIA, where the main analysis shop is. This being the government, it’s not really that simple — there are independent analysis shops at State and in DoD, and some of the analysis, especially heavily technical analysis, is partly done at the front end, but for simplicity, we’ll say it goes to CIA. There, it’s stored — you can think of it as if each little piece is copied to a 5×8 card, which is really how it was done at the dawn of time — with various techniques available to sort it and sift it. At that point, an analyst — someone with a degree in something like history or political science or even psychology — looks at the new stuff, sorts through it, and summarizes it. Basically, they write a term paper every day. These term papers are further summarized by an area specialist, summartied again, and eventually make it to a document (or data base) called a National intelligence Estimate. That is in turn summarized into a document called the Presidential Daily Brief, which is the document that Obama claims to read in the morning. These used to be in the hands of the Director of Central Intelligence, who was the President’s direct line to the Intelligence Community. Now it’s the Director of National Intelligence, as the Congress in its infinite wisdom decided that the solution to a politicized and fragile system was to put another layer of management over it in another agency. So now the Director of the CIA is sending this stuff to the DNI, who is responsible to the President.

Now, I’ve never seen a PDB or NIE except in declassified form, but George Washington University has some examples online. Have a look at them: they are a page or two of bullet points on each topic, and I can tell you what that means is this torrent, this firehose of information, has been summarized in a way which guarantees:

that it mentions a lot of possibilities;
that it says nothing that can be certainly disproven, and;
that everything it says matches exactly what the DNI thinks is politically advantageous to the DNI.

What the PDB is supposed to be is basically a powerpoint of the important things that have happened; they send along a briefer, who is a top-level analyst who spends all day every day becoming an expert in the topics covered, and then if something exciting is happening, they may bring an area expert who is an even more rigorous expert in a more narrowly constrained topic. These experts can answer questions, and take new direction on areas of interest; they’re there to be the President’s (and the National Security Councils’) brains. As you can see from the examples I linked, the PDB itself is basically a USA Today level of detail at best. The briefer expands that and works with the President’s staff to make sure the details are getting through.

What Mark Thiessen is telling us is that Obama prefers to read the USA Today summary instead of talking to an expert and asking questions.

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A Remembrance

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

I’d forgotten this until I was reminded of it on Facebook.

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The Answer to “People Like Me Should Pay More Taxes”

Saturday, September 8th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

A major theme of the various hot actresses speeches at the DNC was how they, as wealthy people, should pay more taxes. Warren buffet was famous for that one as well.

Of course, while arguing for higher taxes, Warren Buffet is suing the IRS to reduce his taxes, and could easily reorganize his finances so he was paid a salary instead of capital gains and dividends, which would mean paying the highest tax rate instead of the current 15 percent, or he could even write a check and send it to

Gifts to the United States
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch
3700 East-West Highway, Room 622D
Hyattsville, MD 20782

But, see, this isn’t about people really thinking they should pay more.

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Obama Campaign Source of Endless Amusement

Friday, August 31st, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

I already put this up as a headline: after Romney announced he was visiting New Orleans, Obama announced plans to visit on Monday.

When the story got around, Jay Carney announced that really, it had been planned all along. They thought of it first.

The only problem?  In the story linked above, Politco notes that …

Obama campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told POLITICO earlier Friday that the president had no plans yet to visit the Gulf state and review damage from Hurricane Isaac, even though Mitt Romney announced plans to visit Friday.

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In Honor of the Sikhs of Wisconsin

Sunday, August 5th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin
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Vante of Tucson Regrets Actions of Former CFO (Update: Now Former Lecturer)

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

See here:

Vante of Tucson, AZ Regrets Actions of Former CFO


Employee Has Left the Company



TUCSON, AZ–(Marketwire – Aug 2, 2012) – The following is a statement from Vante:

Vante regrets the unfortunate events that transpired yesterday in Tucson between our former CFO/Treasurer Adam Smith and an employee at Chick-fil-A. Effective immediately, Mr. Smith is no longer an employee of our company.

The actions of Mr. Smith do not reflect our corporate values in any manner. Vante is an equal opportunity company with a diverse workforce, which holds diverse opinions. We respect the right of our employees and all Americans to hold and express their personal opinions, however, we also expect our company officers to behave in a manner commensurate with their position and in a respectful fashion that conveys these values of civility with others.

We hope that the general population does not hold Mr. Smith’s actions against Vante and its employees.


A statement from the University of Arizona:

UA Statement Regarding Former Adjunct Lecturer Adam Smith

University of Arizona | August 2, 2012

Adam Smith held an appointment as an Adjunct Lecturer, Finance (non-tenure eligible) in the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona from January 2, 2012, to May 20, 2012. He presently holds no appointment with the University.

The University of Arizona strives to provide an environment where a free and respectful exchange of ideas is valued and encouraged. We strive to have a workforce that is diverse and respectful of different viewpoints and where opinions are respected.

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What We’ve Learned From This Campaign

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

I’ve learned a whole bunch of new things recently.  Let’s see –

We’ve learned that if Romney — a guy who ran a successful Olympics — says it’s “disconcerting” that there are reports the security company has lost control, and that the ticketing isn’t working, and that there are going to be strikes to disrupt the games — even when the London papers have been reporting the problems with security, tickets, and strikes — that’s a gaffe.

And that Obama has been to Israel over and over again as President, although no one remembers him going.

And that when Obama says “you didn’t build that” on tape, it’s out of context, even though looking more closely at what he said seems to just reinforce his point.  And besides, when he said it, he was affecting a black dialect, so noticing what he said is racist.

And when Romney goes to Poland — that’s racist. And when Romney speaks at the NAACP — that’s racist.  And when Romney points out that the differences between the Palestinian kleptocracy — which is stealing its own people blind while siphoning off literal billions of dollars in aid, while its people live in squalor — and the Israelis, with whom they live cheek-to-jowl on the same chunk of desert, but who are rich, have an expanding economy, a vital, working democracy, and beautiful cities filled with beautiful people — is primarily cultural, that’s racist.

And white people shouldn’t think they can vote against Obama, without that being racist.

And referring to the “Anglo-Saxon” heritage from which we draw our language, our common law, our and even our names for farm animals as opposed to their meats, is racist.

And interrupting Obama during a press event is unacceptable, but  reporters shouting questions during a solemn ceremony at a foreign memorial to victims of the Nazis is perfectly ordinary, and objecting to it is horribly impolite at best, and, yes, a gaffe.

You know, I think I’m seeing a pattern here.

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Harry Reid Doesn’t Pay His Taxes

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

He won’t release his tax returns, so that must be it, right?

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Why ‘You Didn’t Build That’ is a Problem

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

At Bloomberg, Josh Barro has an excellent essay about why “you didn’t build that” is a problem.  I’ll commend to you all the whole essay, but in the middle of it, he quotes from a scene in the second season of The West Wing:

The president’s speech calls to mind a second-season West Wing episode, in which speechwriter Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) explains to the staff of some liberal house members why he won’t insert a line in President Bartlet’s upcoming speech. They want the president to attack Republican tax cut proposals as financing “private jets and swimming pools” for the wealthy. As Seaborn argues:

Henry, last fall, every time your boss got on the stump and said, “It’s time for the rich to pay their fair share,” I hid under a couch and changed my name. I left Gage Whitney making $400,000 a year, which means I paid twenty-seven times the national average in income tax. I paid my fair share, and the fair share of twenty-six other people. And I’m happy to ’cause that’s the only way it’s gonna work, and it’s in my best interest that everybody be able to go to schools and drive on roads, but I don’t get twenty-seven votes on Election Day. The fire department doesn’t come to my house twenty-seven times faster and the water doesn’t come out of my faucet twenty-seven times hotter. The top one percent of wage earners in this country pay for twenty-two percent of this country. Let’s not call them names while they’re doing it, is all I’m saying.

When Barack Obama has made an argument for progressive taxation that even Aaron Sorkinfinds distasteful, he has erred. That’s not a problem that has anything to do with the president being black.

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Even More Excitement in the Climate Change World

Sunday, July 29th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

(Via Watts Up With That) It turns out that the papers Richard Mueller has been pushing with his New York Times publicity blitz (aided by, among others, Joe Romm at Think Progress) were actually rejected for publication — with some misstatements so egregious that Ross McKittrick has published his reviews, saying that the publicity blitz can’t go unanswered. Here’s what he had to say (I can’t find a way to get a permalink to the statement, so scroll down if you need to):

BERKELEY EARTH STUDY REFEREE REPORTS: On September 8 2011 I was asked by Journal of Geophysical Research to be a reviewer for a paper by Charlotte Wickham et al. presenting the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (“BEST”) analysis of the effect of urbanization on land surface temperatures. This work is mainly associated with Richard Muller and his various coauthors.  I submitted my review just before the end of September 2011, outlining what I saw were serious shortcomings in their methods and arguing that their analysis does not establish valid grounds for the conclusions they assert. I suggested the authors be asked to undertake a major revision.
In October 2011, despite the papers not being accepted, Richard Muller launched a major international publicity blitz announcing the results of the “BEST” project. I wrote to him and his coauthor Judy Curry objecting to the promotional initiative since the critical comments of people like me were locked up under confidentiality rules, and the papers had not been accepted for publication. Richard stated that he felt there was no alternative since the studies would be picked up by the press anyway. Later, when the journal turned the paper down and asked for major revisions, I sought permission from Richard to release my review. He requested that I post it without indicating I was a reviewer for JGR. Since that was not feasible I simply kept it confidential.
On March 8 2012 I was asked by JGR to review a revised version of the Wickham et al. paper. I submitted my review at the end of March. The authors had made very few changes and had not addressed any of the methodological problems, so I recommended the paper not be published. I do not know what the journal’s decision was, but it is 4 months later and I can find no evidence on the BEST website that this or any other BEST project paper has been accepted for publication.
On July 29 2012 Richard Muller launched another publicity blitz (e.g. here and here) claiming, among other things, that “In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects [including those related to urbanization and land surface changes] unduly biased our conclusions.” Their failure to provide a proper demonstration of this point had led me to recommend against publishing their paper. This places me in an awkward position since I made an undertaking to JGR to respect the confidentiality of the peer review process, but I have reason to believe Muller et al.’s analysis does not support the conclusions he is now asserting in the press.
I take the journal peer review process seriously and I dislike being placed in the position of having to break a commitment I made to JGR, but the “BEST” team’s decision to launch another publicity blitz effectively nullifies any right they might have had to confidentiality in this matter. So I am herewith releasing my referee reports. The first, from September 2011, is here and the second, from March 2012 is here.

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Richard Miniter: Obama Cancelled Three Attempts to Kill Osama

Sunday, July 29th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

The story is up at Daily Caller. Quote:

“President Obama’s greatest success was actually his greatest failure,” Miniter told The Daily Caller Friday. ”Leading From Behind,“ he said, traces the arc of six key Obama administration decisions, and shows how the president made them — and, often, failed to make them.

[Headline corrected. Sigh.]

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New Excitement in the Climate Change Controversy (Updated)

Sunday, July 29th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Yesterday, Richard Mueller of UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project published an op-ed in the New York Times headlined “The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic.”  In it, he says:

Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

Today, Anthony Watts of the Watts Up With That website announced and provided a paper (figures and tables here) in pre-print titled “An area and distance weighted analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends.”

Watts is listed as lead author, with co-authors Evan Jones of New York; Stephen McIntyre of Toronto, Canada; and Dr. John R. Christy from the Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama, Huntsville. In it, they demonstrate a systematic bias of about 0.15 degrees Celsius per decade in the United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) temperature estimates.

That is, they show that according to their methods, which are drawn from new UN World Meteorological Organization guidelines, the total warming in USHCN data are overstated — in fact, nearly doubled.

(For our more excitable commenters: “systematic bias” aren’t the words of Watts et. al., and they don’t mean a purposeful bias. “Systematic bias” is a term in statistics for any procedure that leads to “systematic error,” a procedural error that moves an observed statistic consistently in one direction. Go read the Wikipedia article linked and restrain yourselves from conspiracy theories.)

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Sally Ride, First US Woman Astronaut, Dead at 61

Monday, July 23rd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

From pancreatic cancer.


It was revealed in her official obituary that Ride was a lesbian, and is survived by her lifetime partner, Dr Tam O’Shaughnessy.  We extend our sympathies to Dr. O’Shaughnessy.

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The Sensible Parts of the Obamacare Decision

Thursday, June 28th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Okay, here’s some advice.  Go ahead and scream, but try to keep your throat relaxed and open.  Otherwise you’ll hurt your vocal cords.

Feel better?

Now, let’s calm down and look at what the SCOTUS really decided.

First, it decided that the individual mandate could be justified, but only as a tax.  Well, we knew that.  From the first, the Republicans were saying “this is a tax and a big tax, and a big tax that affects the poor and middle class disproportionately.”  We also knew that the Federal Government could tax us to pay for health care.  The only limits on the government’s power to tax us pretty much ended with the 13th Amendment in 1913. The notion that it wasn’t a tax was a fig leaf the Democrats came up with to keep from admitting Obama was setting up a big tax.

So what the decision has done is say “if it walks like a tax and talks like a tax, it’s a tax.”  Of course, that does mean it’s incumbent on us to brag on how the SCOTUS agreed with the Republicans on that point, and to hammer home the point that Obama broke his tax promise.

By the way, the fact that it wasn’t advertised as a tax meant the Anti-Injunction Act didn’t apply.  In other words, the Democrats were too clever by half — if they’d have called it a tax, the Court couldn’t have considered it at all.  By not calling it a tax, they ensured the decision would come before the election.

Second, the decision says that the governments power under the Commerce Clause is limited.  It may seem like a Pyrrhic victory right now, but this is still a good thing.  Again, we already knew the Federal Government could tax us for pretty much any reason it pleased, and they already impose taxes for not choosing to buy certain things. (Consider, eg: if you have a million dollars in a savings account, the income is taxable.  If you have it in a stock that pays dividends, the income is currently taxed at a lower rate.  And if you have it in municipal bonds, it’s not taxable.) So this establishes a good thing, and only affirms something else that was already true.  No loss there.

Third, it says that the Federal Government can’t force states to pay for Federally-mandated programs, at least under some conditions.  It will be interesting to see if that is called on in the future.

So, as I say, calm down.  This isn’t the end of the world, and actually establishes a couple of good precedents.

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Some Absurdities of the Obamacare Decision

Thursday, June 28th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Here’s a couple, and I suspect this post will grow:

First, as far as I can tell, while this said Congress was limited under the Commerce Act, you can get the same effect through power of taxation.  In other words, they can’t make you buy broccoli, but they can tax you for not buying broccoli.

Second, while the Left is crowing about Obamacare surviving, the mandate survives as a tax.  As a tax, since it applies to everyone equally, and is most likely to hit low-paid workers since they are least likely to have insurance. That means the Democratic Congress passed, and Obama signed, a massive new tax on those least able to pay.

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Clown Science: Liberal vs Conservative Brains

Thursday, June 28th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

I’d not read Political Math in quite a while, so I looked this morning and was rewarded with this this story: The Republican Brain (or How Liberal Journalists Distort Science To Confirm Their Biases).

Remember the stories about how being conservative indicated brain problems?  Well, the article provides a convenient little infographic, with references:

So, if brain research “proves” conservatives or Republicans are driven by fear, it also proves liberals are alcoholic OCD pedophiles.

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Image of the Flagstaff Fire Boulder CO

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin
Smoke from Flagstaff fire shrouds Boulder

Smoke from Flagstaff fire shrouds Boulder

(Photo: Messy Cupcakes Photography Boulder, click image for larger formats.)

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Colorado Voter Follies

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin
YouTube Preview Image

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