Last updated:
8:07 AM, 27 March 2015



Jim Miller on Politics

  Email:
jimxc1 at gmail.com



What's he reading? Francis Parkman.

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Pseudo-Random Thoughts

The Odd Presentation Of Names In That Press Conference Transcript:   Before I wrote the post just below, I followed James Taranto's link to the transcript of the press conference, and was surprised because Taranto had used a standard way of presenting a press conference or interview, but the original did not.  Taranto had given Jonathan Karl's full name and company, and then identified Josh Earnest and Karl by their last names, in bold.

Here's how the White House press office displayed some of the same material:
Q  Josh, just a quick one first on Yemen.  I know you’re asked this every time something terrible happens in Yemen.  But now that we have essentially complete chaos in Yemen, does the White House still believe that Yemen is the model for a counterterrorism strategy?

MR. EARNEST:  Jon, the White House does continue to believe that a successful counterterrorism strategy is one that will build up the capacity of the central government to have local fighters on the ground to take the fight to extremists in their own country, and the United States can serve both to diplomatically offer up some political support to central governments.  We can offer very tangible support to local security forces in the form of training and equipping, and we can also support the operations of those security forces through whether it’s the deployment of ISR capability, or even in the case of Iraq, military airstrikes.
(ISR = "intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance".)

All through the transcript, reporters are identified only by their first names; all through the transcript, Josh Earnest is identified as "MR. EARNEST".

Doesn't that remind you of a grade school class, with one teacher, and a bunch of kids?

(As a practical matter, that transcript makes it almost impossible, for anyone who does not follow White House reporters closely, to identify the reporters, without doing searches.  There are, as I can tell you, a lot of men named "Jim"; there are even a lot of reporters with my common first name.  And some of the questions aren't linked to any reporters, even by first names.)
- 8:07 AM, 27 March 2015   [link]


What Would Failure In Yemen Look Like?  Last September, President Obama was claiming success for his policies in Yemen.  Now, the United States has been forced out of that country, and the pro-American president has had to flee for his life.  There is a multi-sided civil war going on in the county, with none of the principal factions friendly to the United States.

About everything that could go wrong for us in Yemen, has.

So reporters naturally asked Obama's spokesman, Josh Earnest, whether the administration still considered their policies in Yemen a success.

They do.   Or at least say they do.  (You can get directly to the entire "Best of the Web" through this search.)

If I were a White House reporter and quick witted enough, I would have followed up by asking that question in the title: What would failure in Yemen look like?

I might even have said something snarky about Obama imitating Monty Python's Black Knight.

(Background:  If you want to know the basics about Yemen, you might start with this BBC Q&A.

Adam Baron argues that any foreign intervention in Yemen would be a mistake.   He may be right, but I must note that the Iranians appear to have had some success with their intervention.)
- 7:27 AM, 27 March 2015   [link]


Alex Berezow Is Unhappy With The NYT's Science Coverage:   Very unhappy, as the title of his post shows: "The New York Times Should Seriously Consider Not Writing About Science Anymore".

Here's the essence of his complaint:
The NYT's science coverage is particularly galling.  While the paper does employ a staff of decent journalists (including several excellent writers, such as Carl Zimmer and John Tierney), its overall science coverage is trite.  Other outlets cover the same stories (and many more), in ways that are both more in-depth and more interesting.  (They are also usually free to read.)  Worst of all, too much of NYT's science journalism is egregiously wrong.
On the whole, I agree with him, though I wouldn't put the argument as strongly.  The coverage of science at the Times has deteriorated and there are too many mistakes in the articles on science.  (Though, to be fair, those mistakes are often outside the Tuesday "Science" section, and made by a reporter who does not specialize in science coverage.)

Unfortunately for readers, our newspaper of record is especially likely to be wrong on food issues, wrong, in other words, on the issues that are most likely to affect our daily choices.   If you see a scientific article on food in the Times, distrust it, and spend some time verifying it, before you act on it.
- 8:11 PM, 26 March 2015   [link]


If You Know About Schrödinger's Cat, you'll like this cartoon. (It's the fifth in the slide show.)

And, if by some chance you don't know about the paradox, look it up.   It will boggle your mind.

Thanks to Jack is Back for the pointer.
- 3:04 PM, 26 March 2015   [link]


The More We Learn About Troy Kelley's Associate, Jason Jerue, the more interesting he becomes.
In 2010, when attorneys sued Troy Kelley — now the Washington state auditor but then the owner of an escrow-services company and Jerue’s boss — they failed to track down Jerue for a deposition.  Few at the company, Post Closing Department, said they ever saw him.

Jerue’s wife said under oath the couple had separated and she didn’t know where he was — even when he was tending to their baby — or the names of his friends, “except by their fictitious X-Box names,” according to court records.
. . .
Jerue and Kelley met in the early 1990s in California when they both worked for First American Title Insurance Company, according to court documents from that state and Washington. Kelley was an in-house attorney.

Both men were fired in 2000, and both sued for wrongful termination.  Their cases were so similar they were consolidated in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Kelley withdrew his claim days after First American’s attorneys won a motion that would have let them explore allegations that Kelley stole artwork from a company office after his termination, according to the court docket and documents filed in California.
There's much more in the article, but that's probably as much as I can give you, without going beyond fair use.

But I can remind you of this:  Jerue has been working for the auditor's office, part time — by email from California.  And there is some confusion about what Jerue's last name is, since it appears in three different forms in official documents.

Meanwhile, there's another small mystery about our Democratic auditor:
Much of Kelley’s day-to-day activity even before now has been a mystery.  He’s less visible than most state elected officials, and his involvement in the internal workings of the Auditor’s Office is hard to determine.

His calendar isn’t much help.  It doesn’t account for his whereabouts on more than 150 nonholiday weekdays between when he took office in January 2013 and November 2014.

That’s about one in every three weekdays.
It could be that Kelley, and his staff, just aren't very good about filling out his calendar, but that seems unlikely.

Unfortunately, we can't ask Kelley about his calendar because he, and his official spokesman, aren't talking.

(In 2012, the Seattle Times endorsed Kelley.  Yesterday, the Times ran an editorial confessing they had endorsed him, and calling for him to "come clean".  But they aren't quite ready to admit they made a mistake in 2012.)
- 2:48 PM, 26 March 2015   [link]


Will The Scottish National Party "Win" The British Election On 7 May?  They might, and that should worry the United States (and everyone else who wishes Britain well).

First, some background:  In the last election, in 2010, you could have described the British party system as a two-and-a-half party system: Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat.

That would have been a simplification; there were a number of minor parties that won seats, but the three parties together won 88.1 percent of the total popular vote, and 610 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons.  (After the election, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats formed a formal coalition, and have been governing, together.)

All three parties have lost seats since 2010, and minor parties have increased their appeal, to such an extent that some see a six-party system, or even a seven-party system.
The Liberal Democrats have been the third party in the UK for many years; but as described by various commentators, other parties have risen relative to the Liberal Democrats since the 2010 election.[25][26]  The Economist described a "familiar two-and-a-half-party system" (Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats in third place) that "appears to be breaking down" with the rise of UKIP, the Greens and the SNP.[27]  Newsnight[28] and The Economist[29] have described the country as moving into a six-party system, with the Liberal Democrats, SNP, UKIP and Greens all being significant.   Ofcom, in their role regulating election coverage in the UK, have ruled that for the general election and local elections in May 2015, the major parties in Great Britain are the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats, with UKIP a major party in England and Wales, the SNP a major party in Scotland, and Plaid Cymru in Wales, and that the Greens are not a major party.[30]  The BBC's draft guidelines for coverage broadly concur with Ofcom.[31]  Seven parties (Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKIP, SNP, PC and Green) are the proposed participants in the election leadership debates.[32]
(I omitted all the standard links in that selection.)

The Scottish National Party (SNP) may be the third largest party after the election, and they might hold the balance of power between Conservatives and Labour.

If that happens, they have promised to put Labour into power, but not join in a formal coalition, which would allow them to make much mischief.  They would have enormous power, without any responsibility.
What the ever-cunning and canny Mr [Alex] Salmond appears to have in mind is not a coalition with Labour (which has already been rejected by Mr [Ed] Miliband), or even a less formal ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement which would involve giving general support.

Instead, he appears to imagine backing Labour on an issue-by-issue basis — in other words keeping it in power but not voting for all its legislation.  Mr Miliband might not relish such highly conditional endorsement, but if he wished to continue to rule he would have no choice but to accept it.
Stephen Glover goes on at length about what Salmond might demand in return for allowing Miliband to be prime minister — and the damage Salmond could do to English-Scottish relations.

I'll be following this election closely, but I don't plan, as of now, to make any predictions.   It's just too complex, especially with the likelihood that there will be a fair amount of tactical voting, with many voters choosing their second, or even third, choice, in order to block candidates they dislike.

(In principle, Conservatives and Labour could defeat the SNP by working together, in various ways, up to a grand coalition.  I don't think either party would find that attractive, now.

By "confidence and supply", Glover means that a party agrees to vote against no confidence motions, and for the money necessary to run the government.)
- 9:50 AM, 26 March 2015   [link]


The Alps Crash Was Mass Murder:  As I am sure you know by now.  Here's the Daily Mail story, which, as you would expect, has many pictures.
The co-pilot of the doomed Germanwings Airbus A320 locked his captain out of the cockpit before deliberately crashing into a mountain to 'destroy the plane', it was sensationally revealed today.

French prosecutor Brice Robin gave further chilling details of the final ten minutes in the cockpit before the Airbus A320 plunged into the French Alps killing 150 people.
But no speculation worth mentioning.

(Tacked to the end of the story are earlier stories with speculations that have since proved to be false.  I found them mildly interesting, for what they show about "experts", and the need of journalists to put up something after a disaster.)
- 8:06 AM, 26 March 2015   [link]


Today's Michael Ramirez Cartoon is excellent.
- 3:04 PM, 25 March 2015   [link]


The Small Surprise In The Bergdahl Announcement:  The charges are no surprise to anyone who has followed the story.
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban after abandoning his post in Afghanistan and then freed five years later in a controversial trade for five Guantanamo detainees, was charged Wednesday with desertion.

U.S. Army Forces Command announced the decision at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

He was charged with misbehavior before the enemy, which carries a maximum sentence of up to life in prison. He was also charged with desertion, which carries a maximum of five years.
But this was mildly surprising: today's date.  I expected the announcement would come at a time when it would attract less attention, probably late on a Friday, the traditional time to break bad news.

That it did not gives me a little hope; it makes me think that the Army is not doing everything it can to protect the Obama administration, politically.

(By the way, it is common for federal bureaucracies — and the Army is, among other things, a bureaucracy — to escape, somewhat, from a president's control, late in his administration.  It is not hard to understand why; the bureaucrats begin to look ahead, having less reason to fear punishment, and less reason to expect rewards, from the current administration.)
- 2:32 PM, 25 March 2015   [link]


Another Victory For Seattle In The City's War Against Cars:   Though it wasn't reported that way.
A semi-truck hauling fish overturned on State Route 99 near the Alaskan Way Viaduct Tuesday afternoon.  Blocking all southbound lanes for nine hours.  The lanes were re-opened just before midnight.

The accident happened near Atlantic Street, just south of the viaduct.

Traffic on the viaduct was at a standstill and the gridlock extended through the streets of downtown Seattle.  Entire busloads of people stuck on the viaduct decided to disembark and walk off the viaduct.

Traffic flow was reversed so drivers could exit off the viaduct off the Columbia Street on-ramp.  Motorists were also on exiting Highway 99 at Denny Way, just north of the Battery Street Tunnel.
Why is this a victory?

Because incidents like this will make at least a few drivers decide — the city hopes — to switch to public transportation, preferably rail transportation.

(For the record:  Seattle elected officials routinely deny waging a war on cars — and, just as routinely, pursue policies that make it harder to drive, and more expensive to park, in Seattle.)
- 12:29 PM, 25 March 2015   [link]


"Jazz Hands"  I'll admit that I had never heard of that way of performing, and, though I am fascinated by politics, would not have guessed that jazz hands would be proposed as a substitute for clapping, to protect sensitive folks.

It can be so hard to distinguish intentional from unintentional parody these days.  If I had been told about that, without the context, I think I would have guessed that it was intentional, that someone was mocking politically correct groups, especially feminists.

(The National Union of Students has a long, and very leftist, history.)
- 9:37 AM, 25 March 2015   [link]


Another EB-5 Visa Scandal:  First, a review from the Wikipedia article.
The EB-5 visa provides a method of obtaining a green card for foreign nationals who invest money in the United States.[1]  To obtain the visa, individuals must invest $1,000,000 (or at least $500,000 in a Targeted Employment Area - high unemployment or rural area), creating or preserving at least 10 jobs for U.S. workers excluding the investor and their immediate family.[1] Initially, under the first EB-5 program, the foreign investor was required to create an entirely new commercial enterprise; however, under the Pilot Program investments can be made directly in a job-generating commercial enterprise (new, or existing - "Troubled Business"[2]), or into a "Regional Center" - a 3rd party-managed investment vehicle (private or public), which assumes the responsibility of creating the requisite jobs.  Regional Centers may charge an administration fee for managing the investor's investment.

If the foreign national investor's petition is approved, the investor and their dependents will be granted conditional permanent residence valid for two years.[2]   Within the 90 day period before the conditional permanent residence expires, the investor must submit evidence documenting that the full required investment has been made and that 10 jobs have been maintained, or 10 jobs have been created or will be created within a reasonable time period.[2]
(Which is accurate, as far as I know.)

You don't have to be an expert on investment, or government, to see weaknesses in this program.  If there is a good business opportunity in a "Targeted Employment Area", then there is no need to pass out visas to encourage investors, even foreign investors, who can just send money.  If the bureaucrats try to enforce the provisions of the law, then the approval is likely to be delayed for years, at a time when many investors think in months, not years.

But there can be a way for people with the right connections to speed up matters, and that's what the Virginia governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, is accused of doing.
Not long before he became governor of Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe received special treatment on behalf of his electric-car company from a top official at the Department of Homeland Security, according to a new report from the department’s inspector general.

McAuliffe was among several politically powerful individuals from both parties, including Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), seeking special visas for foreign investors through a program administered by the department.  But intervention on behalf of McAuliffe’s GreenTech Automotive company by Alejandro Mayorkas, now the department’s No. 2 official, “was unprecedented,” according to the report.
Those who have followed McAuliffe's career, even casually, will find nothing surprising in this story.

Mayorkas appears to have been rewarded for his efforts.  Which tells us something about the Obama administration.

(For the record:  I have long thought that we should simply abolish this program, that it makes no sense economically, and is subject to abuses, of many kinds.

His Wikipedia biography will show you why I am not surprised to see McAuliffe in still another scandal.)
- 8:28 AM, 25 March 2015   [link]


Good Line, Mitt.
While discussing his upcoming charity boxing match with former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield on Fox News, Romney said, “I can fight anybody so long as Candy Crowley isn’t the referee.”
(This Wikipedia biography makes Crowley sound a little odd.)
- 3:20 PM, 24 March 2015   [link]


The House Of Representatives Delivered A Resounding Vote Of No Confidence In President Obama's Policies Toward Iran:  The letter cautioning Obama was signed by 367 members of the House, a more than two-thirds majority.

The reproof was bipartisan; majorities of both parties signed the letter.   Many prominent Democrats signed, including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Chairwoman of the National Democratic Party Debbie Wasserman Schultz, civil rights hero John Lewis, and far-left congresswoman Marcy Kaptur.

Not all Republicans signed the letter.  I was not surprised, for instance, that Justin Amash did not sign.

You can look at the signatures to see whether your representative signed the letter; you can even, as I just did, look to see who in your state's delegation signed.

For Washington state, there are eight signers, in order: Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R, 5th), Suzan DelBene (D, 1st), Derek Kilmer (D, 6th), Rick Larsen (D, 2nd), Dave Reichert (R, 8th), Dan Newhouse (R, 4th), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R, 3rd), and Denny Heck (D, 10th).

The two who did not sign are: Jim McDermott (D, 7th) and Adam Smith (D, 9th).No one who knows even a little about Jim McDermott will be surprised by his refusal to sign.  I was a little surprised that Adam Smith did not sign.

In this area, I don't know of any local journalists who will ask our representatives why they signed, or why they did not sign.  That's unfortunate, because the decision to sign, or not sign, is one of the most important in this Congress, and voters should know why their representatives chose to reprove — or to back — President Obama's increasingly reckless efforts to get an agreement, any agreement, with Iran.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(If you haven't already, you really should read the brief letter.  It's polite — and powerful.)

- 8:42 AM, 24 March 2015
Correction:  Derek Kilmer did sign the letter, which makes more sense, from what I know about the 6th district.  Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader for spotting the name, which I had somehow missed, on three separate readings of the list.  I've corrected the text above.
- 6:41 AM, 25 March 2015     [link]


Worth Reading:  (Though I must warn you that you may find it difficult to read her description of the massacre; I certainly did.)  Kathy Platoni's Wall Street Journal op-ed, "The Army’s Fort Hood Disgrace".

The Army knew that Nidal Hasan was dangerous, and did nothing.  And then after the massacre the Army protected those who had failed, while doing little for his victims.
Both an instructor and a colleague referred to Hasan as a “ticking time bomb.”  But his shocking conduct was ignored.  Officer-evaluation reports “sanitized his obsession with violent Islamist extremism into praiseworthy research on counterterrorism,” a 2011 congressional review states.  Political correctness, to which the military continues to bow, led many to fear that reporting Hasan would result in career-ending charges of racial or religious discrimination.

It is a gross miscarriage of justice that no one who supervised the shooter—overlooked his behavior and promoted him—has been held accountable.  That the massacre is still labeled an incident of workplace violence committed by a disgruntled employee is delusional and contemptible.  Because the massacre was not recognized as a terrorist attack, victims were deemed ineligible for combat-injury benefits, the Purple Heart, and its civilian counterpart, the Defense of Freedom medal.  Three successive defense secretaries refused to change this designation, and five years passed.
Thanks to congressional pressure, the victims are now finally getting some of what they are entitled to.

Although Platoni doesn't mention him, there is no doubt that President Obama deserves some of the blame for the way the Army protected those who had failed, and failed those it should have protected.

But we must also recognize that the FBI and the Defense Department should have detected and removed this threat while George W. Bush was president.
- 6:48 PM, 23 March 2015   [link]


The Great Unanswered Question About The Oso Mud Slide:   Yesterday, I looked through my posts on Oso and was struck by one unanswered question:   Why did Snohomish County ignore the dangers in the area?

As I mentioned last April, they were told, by experts, that the area was dangerous.  But they did not act on a proposal to buy out the home owners in the threatened area.  Instead, they continued to issue building permits in the area.

I suspect, though I have no direct evidence of this, that we know so little because some of those who know more have clammed up — on the advice of attorneys.

And there are, no surprise, lawsuits about the mud slide coming to our courts.

But it is also possible that our local journalists simply aren't asking the questions I would ask about the tragedy.
- 2:41 PM, 23 March 2015   [link]


The Troy Kelley Plot "Thickens"  Last Monday, as I mentioned on Thursday, federal agents raided the home of the Washington state auditor, Democrat Troy Kelley, and searched it for about five hours.  (Kelley was away on vacation at the time.)

Area journalists have been trying to find out what this is all about, and strongly suspect that Kelley is in trouble for business dealings that led to a federal civil suit.
Kelley has maintained a fairly low-profile as state auditor since taking office in 2013.   He was elected after a campaign during which his opponent dredged up past lawsuits and allegations of misappropriated funds.  It all related to Kelley’s work in the real estate title and escrow business.

In a videotaped deposition in 2010 Kelley was asked by attorney Scott Smith about a series of unusual bank transfers involving nearly $4 million.

The money was swept from three business accounts and then moved from bank to bank.

Eventually records showed the money ended up in an account linked to an offshore bank in Belize — a known tax haven.  Asked in the deposition if he intended to pay taxes on the money, Kelley said he would “On advice of counsel, when he tells me to.”
I am no expert on the escrow business, but that does sound a little unusual.  (I don't know what Austin Jenkins means by "linked to", though I can think of some possibilities.)

The federal authorities are especially interested in a long-time associate of Kelley's, Jason Jerue.
Eleven days before federal agents searched state Auditor Troy Kelley’s Tacoma home on March 16, they demanded records related to a state employee and longtime business partner of Kelley’s whose name appears in an acrimonious lawsuit tied to Kelley’s past business dealings.

The federal grand jury subpoena served at the Auditor’s Office sought various records associated with Jason Jerue, 45, an office employee who previously worked as vice president of Kelley’s real estate document business, according to court records.  Those same records include a declaration from another former employee of Kelley’s, who said Jerue destroyed documents associated with the business shortly after legal troubles surfaced.

The subpoena, dated March 5 and released late Friday by the Auditor’s Office, requested emails between Jerue and other office employees relating to Jerue’s past employment at Post Closing Department, Kelley’s company that became embroiled in a federal lawsuit with a former client, Old Republic Title.
Could that "former employee" be the person who triggered this investigation?  Quite possibly.

In 2012, James Watkins, Kelley's Republican opponent, tried to raise these issues, but was unable to get much attention from our journalists.

For those unfamiliar with Washington state politics, I should add that large financial scandals are unusual here.  (Small ones are fairly common in Seattle.)  In fact, one local reporter went back to 1980 and "gamscam" in his search for a possible parallel.

(For the record:  Kelley is proclaiming his innocence, and says he is fully cooperating with federal authorities.

There's not much in this stub Wikipedia article, but I would guess that he earned a law degree from Buffalo, given his position in the National Guard.)
- 1:59 PM, 23 March 2015   [link]


The First "Bush Boy" Announces For President:  By "Bush Boy" I mean the candidates who got their start, or a big boost, by working for or with a member of the Bush family.  And by that standard, Ted Cruz is a definitely a Bush Boy.
Between 1999 and 2003, Cruz served as the director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission, an associate deputy attorney general at the United States Department of Justice, and as domestic policy advisor to U.S. President George W. Bush on the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign.
Cruz was appointed Texas solicitor general by Greg Abbott, a long-time Bush ally.

You may not want to share this thought with people who get their political ideas from Matt Drudge.

(For fun, you may want to try to identify more "Bush Boys" who are likely to run for president.  Jeb Bush is the easiest, but there are others.)
- 10:48 AM, 23 March 2015   [link]


Archives

June 2002
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January 2005, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
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January 2015, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
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March 2015, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4






Coming Soon
  • Plan 17 Conservatives
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  • How Long Do Wars Last?
  • Carbon, Carbon Dioxide, and Crescent Wrenches
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Coming Eventually
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  • Green Republicans
  • The Rise and Fall and Rise of Black Voting
  • Abortion, Cleft Palates, and Europe
  • Kweisi Mfume's Children
  • Public Opinion During Other US Wars
  • Dual Loyalties
  • The Power Index
  • Baby Dancing
  • Jocks, but no Nerds
  • The Four Caliphs




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