Archive:

August 2013, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Here's A 9/11 Operator Who Went Beyond the call of duty.
A Washington state bride-to-be whose wedding dress was stolen the day of the ceremony found a fairy godmother of sorts in an unlikely way: by calling 911.
Read the rest to learn what the operator, "Candice", did after taking that call.
- 9:43 AM, 16 August 2013   [link]


Sometimes The Writing Is So Bad, It's Entertaining:   For example.
Consider for a moment the society that this comet exploded into in the mid-’50s.  It was a culture nibbling on the genial jingoism of Norman Vincent Peale and being made somewhat uncomfortable by Adlai Stevenson.  It was a stale, waist-up America, decked out in tuxes and tails—a tasteful semi-corpse living in white picket houses stuffed with secrets, suffocating denial, and institutional racism andsexism.  It was a society with absolutely nothing at stake, one that had taken up permanent residence in the spiritual ICU and where the accumulated hypocrisy of all the piled centuries since Paradise had rendered it ready to split in two.
The comet Larry Durstin refers to is Elvis Presley.

For fun, you may want to try to visualize some of his metaphors — but I would advise you not to try too hard.

I can't say that the rest of the piece is that good (or that bad, depending on your point of view), but there are some other good (bad) lines in it.

Could this have been intended as satire?  I don't think so, because: "Larry Durstin is an independent journalist who has covered politics and sports for a variety of publications and websites over the past 20 years."

In my experience, the really bad writing, the writing so bad it is entertaining, almost always comes from professional journalists.  And very few of them are good at satire.
- 9:31 AM, 16 August 2013   [link]


Commander-In-Chief Obama Has No Grand Strategy:  Robert Kaplan notices the obvious.
Nothing is happening because Obama has no grand geopolitical conception.  He and his top officials are not great European-style improvisers like Kissinger.  They don't have a plan for America, like Holbrooke had, to be a great moral force while promoting its geopolitical interests at the same time.  They don't intend to upend a utopian ideology (communism) like Reagan did.  And unlike the elder Bush team, they have no design for stabilizing the world once that ideology was, in fact, upended.  (After all, jihadism and terrorism are disease germs like malaria, which can be suppressed but probably not wholly eliminated.  This is a different order of threat from communism.)  In sum, Obama offers only a negative: I am not George W. Bush.  He started wars.  I will end them, and avoid future ones.   I will kill individual terrorists as they crop up.  That's all, thank you.
And for noticing the obvious, I suppose we should give Kaplan some credit.

But I am not as sure as he is that we would be better off if Obama did have a grand strategy.  No doubt such a strategy would entertain people like Kaplan, but there is nothing in Obama's education or career that would make us think that he could come up with a good strategy.

For the United States, that is.  For his own political campaigns, there is no doubt that Obama has been quite successful in devising, or adopting, successful strategies.  Now, if we could only get him to view, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood in the same way he views the Republican Party, . . .

(It is odd to see Kaplan, who is well informed, repeat the leftist talking point that George W. Bush started wars.  I suppose I should do another "common mistake" post refuting that talking point, some time.)
- 6:46 AM, 16 August 2013   [link]


The Secret Refinery Belongs to Alon USA.  So we have gained a little transparency in the last week.

But Kimberly Strassel doesn't know why this particular refinery got the ethanol exemption.
The EPA did not respond to inquiries about why Alon received the exemption.  The EPA had previously told me that its "case by case" decisions on exemptions are based on "metrics" and Energy Department "recommendations."

Maybe so. Perhaps Krotz Springs is facing a financial challenge that dwarfs that of other small refineries.  Perhaps the EPA conducted a careful analysis, devoid of political pressure

The problem is we don't know.  The EPA, citing confidentiality restrictions, won't explain the process.
Strassel does give us some possible suspects, including, some will be pleased to hear, Goldman Sachs.

(Here's the Wikipedia article on the company, which gave me no clues, but might give someone more familiar with the industry an idea about why one refinery, belong to this one company, got such a big favor.)
- 3:46 PM, 15 August 2013   [link]


J. E. Dyer — Who Is Way More Informed Than I Am On This Subject — comes to the same tentative conclusion about the Benghazi attack that I did two days ago.
The 400 surface-to-air missiles reminded me of something Catherine Herridge said in October 2012: that Ambassador Stevens may have been in Benghazi to negotiate a weapons transfer, as part of “an effort to get SA-7 missiles out of the hands of Libya-based extremists” (emphasis added).  The significance of this passage is subtle but game-changing.  Suppose the whole Benghazi issue revolves, not around whom the arms were going to, but around the fact that the U.S. presence in Benghazi was serving to funnel arms away from the groups al-Kashif, and probably Mohammed Morsi, wanted to patronize in Libya?
If you are at all interested in what actually happened in Benghazi, you'll want to read the whole post, carefully.

There's more; she also has an explanation for the provenance of that blame-the-video theory:
But considering it in light of Libyan revelations from the Shoebat-Barrack report – i.e., that launching attacks and blaming them on the video was a plan approved by members of the Guidance Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood – puts a new slant on the situation.  Rather than merely going off on a tangent of some kind with the “blame the video” line, the Obama administration was, in effect, retailing a Muslim Brotherhood theme.
Which, Obama, Clinton, and Rice had probably gotten from the Morsi government.

Thanks to "narciso" for pointing out this very interesting Dyer post.  In a later comment, he also noted that the two former SEALS, Doherty and Woods, would be unlikely to be a part of a scheme funneling weapons to terrorists.

(Dyer is a "retired US Naval intelligence officer", so she has the credentials, and experience, to write knowledgeably about this subject.  I've read other pieces by her, and have invariably been impressed by her knowledge, and the quality of her thinking.)
- 1:31 PM, 15 August 2013   [link]


Vote For The Republicans Next Time?  That's my answer to Garance Franke-Ruta's question: "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Bob Filner?"

But it is not an answer that she considers in her article, even though many Democrats — including Jess Durfee, "who was until the end of 2012 Democratic Party chairman for San Diego" — knew about Filner's problems with women.

Nor does she consider the possibility that the careers of the Kennedy brothers and Bill Clinton may have encouraged Filner to think that he could get away with this behavior, as long as he stayed in the Democratic Party.  As she must know, all three Kennedy brothers behaved in much worse ways to women than Filner did, and she must have heard about Bill Clinton's little problems, which are also far worse than Filner's.

(As far as I can tell, Franke-Ruta is hoping that old laws, or maybe a new law, can fix this kind of problem.  Perhaps, but past experience with such laws is not encouraging.

Incidentally, Filner's Republican opponent in the race for mayor, Carl DeMaio, appears to be qualified — and is gay, which for many of our journalists, probably including Franke-Ruta, would be a big plus.)
- 9:25 AM, 15 August 2013   [link]


What's The Big Story In Seattle?   Doritos.
Seattle police plan to use Hempfest, the annual pro-marijuana event and potential cases of the munchies to get their message to the masses.

SPD calls it Operation Orange Fingers, and they plan to hand deliver a thousand bags of Doritos with a label attached that will send Hempfest attendees to SPD's site, Marijwhatnow?  A legal guide to marijuana in Seattle.
In practice, marijuana has been legal in Seattle for years.  As I have mentioned before, there are actually more "medical" marijuana dispensaries in the city than Starbucks coffee shops.  The dispensary ads make it clear that, for almost all their customers, the "medical" claim is fraudulent, that they will give a "prescription" to anyone who is willing to pay for one.   I suppose a few of the doctors involved in these scams must have been prosecuted, but I can't recall hearing of any cases.

(It's my impression that the Seattle police didn't entirely agree with the city policy that made marijuana use the city's lowest priority crime, and I am certain that the police sometimes used marijuana arrests to get crooks they wanted for other reasons.  So there have been arrests for marijuana use from time to time in Seattle, in recent years, but they aren't common.)
- 7:50 AM, 15 August 2013   [link]


Victor Davis Hanson Thinks President Obama really doesn't know much about history or geography.

I'd give a pass to Obama on some of his errors.  I think, and said so at the time, that the "57 states" mistake was the kind of verbal slip we all make from time to time.

Similarly, I'd give Obama a pass on this mistake:
In the case of geography, Harvard Law School graduate Barack Obama recently lectured that, "If we don't deepen our ports all along the Gulf -- places like Charleston, South Carolina; or Savannah, Georgia; or Jacksonville, Florida ..." The problem is that all the examples he cited are cities on the East Coast, not the Gulf of Mexico.  If Obama does not know where these ports are, how can he deepen them?
But I would agree with Hanson's general point, that Obama knows less about the basics of history and geography than he ought to, as president.  Worse, Obama appears to know many things about history that aren't true, for example his continuing claim that Muslims have made substantial contributions to the United States since our founding.

Even worse, Obama does not seem to realize that his lack of information, and his misinformation, are serious defects in a president.  He's an intelligent man, not super intelligent but intelligent, and he could have been studying these subjects before he was president, and since.  But, for whatever reason, he has chosen not to.

In 2008, I was struck by differences between McCain's and Obama's Senate offices.  McCain's office contained many books, and those that I could identify would be useful to a president; Obama's office contained almost no books — but many pictures of Obama.

(In past years, Obama would give out a "reading list" for his vacations; this year, judging by a quick search, he hasn't even bothered to claim that he will be doing much serious reading on his vacation.

Long time readers may recall seeing similar arguments here, begining with the 2008 campaign.   I even used the same song, Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World", to make the point.)
- 7:20 AM, 15 August 2013   [link]


What Crime Did That Missouri Rodeo Clown Commit?   Lèse-majesté.
Law French, from the Latin laesa maiestas, "injured majesty"; in English, also lese-majesty, lese majesty or leze majesty) is the crime of violating majesty, an offence against the dignity of a reigning sovereign or against a state.
Technically, President Obama is not a monarch.  Technically, the United States does not have a law forbidding insulting the president.  (Although from time to time, we have tried to protect our flag against insults.)

But Obama supporters aren't bothered by such technicalities.

It would be good if President Obama were to call this nonsense off.  He could benefit all of us by imitating what President Bush did after Jay Bennish, a Colorado geography teacher, called one of Bush's speeches "Hitleresque".

(Fun fact:  In some countries, Norway for instance, such laws protect not only the reigning monarch, but the rulers of other countries.

One could conclude, without much effort, that Jay Bennish knows too many things that aren't true to be a teacher at any level.)
- 3:19 PM, 14 August 2013   [link]


Are The Rich Less Ethical Drivers?  That's what an article in yesterday's New York Times claimed, citing a study by Paul Piff, Daniel Stancatoa, Stéphane Côtéb, Rodolfo Mendoza-Dentona, and Dacher Keltner.

The authors did two sets of observations; they watched drivers at crosswalks, to see whether they would yield to pedestrians, and they watched drivers at four-way stops, to see whether they would wait their turn.

In both sets, most drivers did the right thing, but the ones that didn't, the ones that didn't stop for pedestrians and the ones that wouldn't wait their turn, were more likely to be driving expensive cars.  (Including, by the way, the Prius.)

What Piff and company were trying to prove — this is part of a larger study — is that, in general, rich people are less ethical than poor people.

But it occurred to me that, given where he did the studies — the San Francisco Bay area — what he had really found was that rich leftists often behave badly.   Which would not surprise anyone familiar with the Kennedys, the Clintons, the Pelosis, or the Obamas.

It would be interesting to see the results of a similar experiment, conducted in a culturally conservative area.

In my occasional trips to Seattle, I regularly notice behavior that would be considered shocking in this Seattle suburb.  For example, in Kirkland I almost never see rude and lawless bicyclists cutting in and out of traffic — but I am almost certain to see some in a half day in downtown Seattle.  Although Kirkland has become more Democratic in recent years, most citizens here still behave decently, most of the time.  And that isn't because most of them are poor.

But you don't need to rely on my possibly biased observations.  You can do the obvious check that Piff and company did not do.  They did not look for insurance data that would show that the rich pay for their bad driving behavior with higher premiums.   For what it is worth, the Consumer Federation of America did a study and found the opposite; some insurance companies charge lower-income people higher rates.

If the rich really are less ethical drivers, then you would expect rational car insurance companies to charge them more, not less.

(Minor correction: In the article, Benjamin Preston says that the study was published in 2010.   The study I found was published in 2012, and does not mention an earlier publication.  Probably the car observations were done in 2010.)
- 8:08 AM, 14 August 2013   [link]


There's Is Always Someone who doesn't get a joke.

And, I am nearly certain, not just a joke, but a sly reference to Obama's little slip when he referred to the "Austrian" language.

(James Taranto was setting a trap and was delighted, I am certain, when he caught Gawker.   When I read that line about Oprah not speaking Swiss yesterday, I immediately wondered who would take his bait.)
- 3:34 PM, 13 August 2013   [link]


This Finding Won't Surprise You:  Unless you are a "mainstream" journalist.
Abstract

We study the coverage of U.S. political scandals by U.S. newspapers during the past decade.   Using automatic keyword-based searches we collected data on 32 scandals and approximately 200 newspapers.  We find that Democratic-leaning newspapers—i.e., those with a higher propensity to endorse Democratic candidates in elections—provide relatively more coverage of scandals involving Republican politicians than scandals involving Democratic politicians, while Republican-leaning newspapers tend to do the opposite.  This is true even after controlling for the average partisan leanings of readers.  In contrast, newspapers appear to cater to the partisan tastes of readers only for local scandals.
(You can download the paper for free for two weeks.)

The authors also found weak evidence that competition reduces the bias in the coverage of scandals.

Here is the moral that Professor Riccardo Puglisia and Professor James M. Snyder, Jr., draw from their study:
We are more confident asserting that the correlations we find cast doubt on one of the basic tenets of a free press—the duty of the press to behave as watchdogs vis a vis incumbent politicians.   Newspapers cover political scandals, but they do so in systematically biased ways, which appear to depend on the partisan positions of their publishers, editors, and readers.
Again, these findings should not surprise us, but it is useful to see a formal estimate of this kind of bias.

And they lead me to wonder about the opposite question:  Do Democratic-leaning newspapers tend to give less coverage to positive stories about Republican leaders, and Republican-leaning newspapers less coverage to positive stories about Democratic leaders?

I would give very high odds that they do.

By way of the Monkey Cage.
- 2:22 PM, 13 August 2013   [link]


Another Closet Republican At The New York Times?   I have sometimes thought that one or more of their photo editors is a closet Republican, because of the photographs they sometimes use.

Now I have to wonder whether one of their headline writers might be, too.  An article by Mark Landler on the President and Mrs. Obama's latest vacation has this headline: "The First Couple's Chance To Put Themselves First".

When I read that over lunch, I immediately wondered whether the headline writer was being sarcastic — and couldn't quite decide.  If I had written that headline, I would have been being sarcastic, and would have been using it to remind you of how often the first couple puts themselves first (approximately all the time, individually, most of the time when they are together).  But I can believe that there is an editor at the Times who wouldn't realize that that headline is funny.

So I am not sure whether the headline was intended as a sly dig.  Or whether there is another Republican hiding out at the Times.  (If so, I hope I didn't reveal their secret to others at the Times.)
- 1:22 PM, 13 August 2013   [link]


Greed?  That's my tentative answer to this question: "How Did Cory Booker Get Himself Into Such a Dumb Money Mess?"

If you are wondering where the question came from, here's the explanation:
As The New York Times reported, while ostensibly a full-time mayor, Booker has found time to launch an Internet startup that has increased his net worth by more than $1 million.  That is, at best, strange.  As mayor, Booker is paid about the same as a member of Congress, and one can imagine the outcry if a sitting congressman used his connections to lure investors into a corporate venture that made him an instant millionaire.  Indeed, it would be illegal for a congressman to do so, and while it may not be illegal for a Newark mayor, the whole thing still stinks.
. . .
On closer examination, it only gets worse.  The Internet startup, called Waywire, is basically a joke, with fewer than 3,000 visits in June.
There's more.  Booker has also "been receiving equity payments from his former law firms that he has failed to disclose".

None of this is likely to have much effect on the Senate primary today, given Booker's lead in the polls, but it does make you wonder about his character.  And about what those investors in Waywire thought they were buying.
- 8:56 AM, 13 August 2013   [link]


400 Missing Missiles:  Is that what the Benghazi operation was all about? That's what attorney Joseph DiGenova said in an interview with WMAL.  Here's the key quote:
'We have learned that one of the reasons the administration is so deeply concerned' is that 'there were 400 surface-to-air missiles stolen, and that they are ... in the hands of many people, and that the biggest fear in the U.S. intelligence community is that one of these missiles will be used to shoot down an airliner.  400 missiles, surface-to-air missiles, taken from Libya.'
There's much more speculation in the Daily Mail article, too much for my tastes, since it goes beyond what DiGenova said in that interview, and isn't labeled as speculation.

Unfortunately, the interviewer, at least in the part that they broadcast, did not ask clarifying questions and did jump to conclusions, so if you listen to the seven-minute interview, you may still be partly confused about what DiGenova's sources are telling him.

Here is my best guess about what intelligence sources are telling DiGenova:  The CIA "facility" in Benghazi was negotiating to get control of surface-to-air missiles, specifically Man-Portable Air-Defense System missiles.  The missiles could be American made, like the Stinger, or they could be Russian missiles from Muammar Qaddafi's arsenal.

The attack might — let me repeat might — have been triggered by a preliminary success in negotiating with whoever controlled the missiles.  If, for instance, the terrorists thought that we were close to a deal with some tribe or militia that controlled the weapons, they might have struck at the embassy in order to block the deal.

But that is just my best guess.

(Here's a much longer post, with many links.  I haven't read enough of his past work to have any opinion on "sundance's" reliability.  Note, please, that DiGenova does not say, in that interview, that the missiles are American.)
- 7:10 AM, 13 August 2013   [link]


Worth Reading:  (If, like me, you are wondering what those "501(c)(4)" designations mean, and why the IRS was concerned with political organizations.)

Bradley A. Smith explains how campaign finance law created this opportunity for abuse.
Yet conservative groups targeted by the IRS did not seek tax status as charities.  They were applying for designation as nonprofits operating under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, for "the promotion of social welfare."  Contributions to 501(c)(4) organizations are not tax deductible, so there is no "tax break" for their donors.  Nor do the groups themselves get a "tax advantage."
. . .
So why was the IRS involved at all, and why does it matter?  The answer is that the IRS scandal is part of a long-term assault on First Amendment rights.  Thanks to "campaign finance reform," citizen groups must navigate a maze of government paperwork and apply to the IRS for a tax license to speak on politics.  People literally need a lawyer to figure it out, and not just any lawyer, but one from the highly compensated and mostly Washington, D.C.-based bar practicing "political law."

The standard used by the IRS to decide who qualifies for 501(c)(4) tax status is an arbitrary "facts and circumstances" test that few people understand.  If more than 50% of an organization's activities might support or oppose candidates under the vague "facts and circumstances" test, then the group is placed in the same tax status—Section 527—as candidate committees, political parties and political-action committees.
Among the groups that have received this status are "MoveOn.org, People for the American Way, Naral Pro-Choice America, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence", so a group can be completely political and still qualify under Section 501(c)(4).

(If his name seems vaguely familiar, that's because Professor Smith is an expert on the 1st Amendment, a former member of the Federal Election Commission, and the author of a fine book on campaign finance "reform", Unfree Speech.)
- 2:15 PM, 12 August 2013   [link]


Benghazi And The CIA:  Like most of you, I have heard the stories about the attack on our Benghazi "facility" last year being somehow related to our CIA sending weapons to the Muslim Brotherhood, or their allies.

The problem with that explanation is the missing motivation.  If the Muslim Brotherhood was responsible for the attack, they would be attacking their arms supplier — which would be unusual, to say the least.  (Not impossible, but unusual.)

Isn't it more likely that their leaders would pretend to be on good terms with us, as long as we kept sending them weapons?  And even if we stopped, because we might change our minds.

There's another possible explanation for the "facility" that makes more sense to me, and to Michael Ledeen.
I have never believed the rumor that we were sending arms from Libya to Syrian rebels.   I was told by Syrian friends that the opposition were furious because they weren’t getting any support.  Not from us, and not via Turkey.  There was some training, based in Jordan I believe.  I think that the Annex was an Intelligence Community hq.  Not just CIA, also NSA, FBI, DIA, special forces etc. and I think their major operation was trying to get control of US weaponry that we had sent to anti-Qadaffi forces, now spreading around the Middle East to the usual suspects.
As I understand it, we would be especially interested in getting control of MANPADS, such as the Stinger.

If Ledeen is right, then the attack might have occurred because we were having some success keeping those weapons away from terrorists.

John Hinderaker makes a similar argument, citing an anonymous congressional source.

So why the Obama administration silence?  To protect President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and others in the administration from criticism because of their failure to act.

As of now, I would say those are the most likely explanations for what we doing in Benghazi, and why the Obama administration is so determined not to let us know more about what happened, almost a year ago.

But I could change my mind if I saw new information from informed, and named, sources.

(For the record:  I can, of course, think of scenarios in which we were supplying weapons to the Brotherhood, and they attacked us.  For instance, there might have been a misunderstanding during negotiations, or they might have been expecting more weapons than we were willing to give them.  But all such scenarios together seem much less likely than the Ledeen explanation.)
- 10:15 AM, 12 August 2013   [link]


Summerfest With Robots:  This year, Kirkland's Summerfest included, besides the usual music, food, and crafts, two robot exhibits.

On Saturday, the Woodinville 4H Club — 4H has changed since I was a member — showed up with a basketball shooting robot.  (You can learn more about the Swerve Club at their site.)  Which was able to make baskets most of the time.  That's less impressive than it might seem, since the hoop was about three feet high, rather than the regulation ten, but was still fun to watch.

On Sunday I watched a couple of combats between robots from the Western Allied Robotics club, which has been "Proudly Breaking Bots Since 2002".

While I was there, both drew more people than many of the more traditional exhibits.
- 8:37 AM, 12 August 2013   [link]


The Emperor's Dirty Clothes:  Yesterday's Maureen Dowd column reminded me, again, of the odd gap between the actual Barack Obama — and how so many of our "mainstream" journalists still see him.
The Clintons are ends-justify-the-means types with flexible boundaries about right and wrong, while the Obama mystique is the opposite.  His White House runs on the idea that if you are virtuous and true and honorable, people will ultimately come to you.  (An ethos that sometimes collides with political success.)
Let's see.  In Illinois, one of Obama's allies was former governor Rod Blagojevich, who is currently in prison.  One of Obama's closest friends and political allies was Tony Rezko, who is currently in prison.  For his most powerful aide, Obama chose Valerie Jarrett, who worked for the Chicago machine.

Since becoming president, Obama put a scandal-plagued attorney, Eric Holder, in charge of the Justice Department, and is keeping him on, in spite of failures like "Fast and Furious".

His "Green" initiatives have mostly been failures — except for the crony capitalists who benefited from tax money given to Solyndra and other well-connected firms.

He routinely slanders political opponents, especially in the Republican Party.   When people disagree with him, he almost always imputes bad motives to them.

If President Obama actually were "virtuous and true and honorable", he would never have associated so closely with Rezko and Blagojevich, would never have brought Jarrett to the White House, would never have given away so much money to crony capitalists, and would sometimes admit that his opponents may have decent motives.

He came from Chicago wearing clothes covered with Chicago dirt, and he has added to that dirt since then.

But Maureen Dowd, and other "mainstream" journalists, still see him wearing a clean toga.

Which must be one of the most remarkable examples of people seeing what they want to see, ever, since all of the dirt I have mentioned could be found — by a careful reader — in the New York Times.

(Here's a similar example of that refusal to see the dirt on Emperor Obama's clothes by Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat.)
- 7:15 AM, 12 August 2013   [link]


How Long Should It Have Taken To Bring Major Hasan To Trial, After The Fort Hood Massacre?  One week.  At most.

Here's how long it has taken to start the court-martial of Colonel Nidal Malik Hasan.
On December 7, 1941, the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked.  Three years, eight months, and eight days later, the Japanese surrendered.  These days, America’s military moves at a more leisurely pace.  On November 5, 2009, another U.S. base, Fort Hood, was attacked — by one man standing on a table, screaming “Allahu akbar!” and opening fire.  Three years, nine months, and one day later, his court-martial finally got under way.
How long should his trial take?  One day.  If military law permits, he should be hanged the next day; otherwise, shot.  It's not as if there is any doubt about what happened.

It seems unlikely that anyone of consequence in the Obama administration — headed by a lawyer, married to a lawyer — understands that these delays deny justice to his victims, and encourage our enemies.

(It is easy to understand why Hasan wants delays; they give him longer to live, and a chance to propagandize for his cause.

It is hard to understand why our military would be so willing to accommodate him.  If I had to guess, I would say that the lawyers making these decisions agree with President Obama that Hasan's murders (and treason) should be treated as ordinary crimes, think that we will impress the world by this long process, and enjoy playing lawyer.

According to Mark Steyn, his military victims were unarmed because of a "Clinton-era directive".

Here's a review of the massacre from Wikipedia.)
- 6:40 PM, 11 August 2013   [link]


President Obama Gets By With A Little Help From His Friends In The "Mainstream" Media:  But sometimes the help is so blatant, it backfires.
During his Wednesday appearance on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show,' President Obama made three factual gaffes; one of them involved the claim that cities not found along the Gulf of Mexico are.  Were Obama a Republican, these gaffes would have led news coverage for the next forty-eight hours. Not only did most of the media ignore or downplay these gaffes; the Associated Press went so far as to cover one of them up.
The Associated Press has since admitted that they shouldn't have given Obama that help.

To my mind, the most interesting of the three mistakes was Obama calling Vladimir Putin the former "head of the KGB".  As I am sure you know, Putin was an officer in the KGB, but nowhere close to the head of that organization.

I fear this was not a slip of the tongue by Obama; instead I think that Obama may have failed to do his homework on Putin, failed to study the man and his career.  Which would be a serious error for anyone who hoped to negotiate with Putin.

(This kind of partisan help used to be routine.  While I was looking for something else today, I ran across this:
Newspaper coverage of the [Lincoln-Douglas] debates was intense.  Major papers from Chicago sent stenographers to create complete texts of each debate, which newspapers across the United States reprinted in full, with some partisan edits.  Newspapers that supported Douglas edited his speeches to remove any errors made by the stenographers and to correct grammatical errors, while they left Lincoln's speeches in the rough form in which they had been transcribed.  In the same way, pro-Lincoln papers edited Lincoln's speeches, but left the Douglas texts as reported.
Of course, now, almost all of our news organizations support the Democratic Party, so we don't have a variety of transcripts to choose from.)
- 5:43 PM, 11 August 2013   [link]


Is Rick Santorum Planning To Start His Campaign at Alpha Centauri?  (Or some star system even farther away?)
He said if he runs again, he will have a more robust organization than his famously shoestring operation in 2012.

“Obviously, we’re going to be in a little better shape, we’re organized already just from having campaigned in a lot of states.  Folks are anxious to help us.  Just that alone puts us light years ahead of where we were,” he said.
When Senator Santorum lost his Senate seat in 2006, I thought his political career was over, unless he could somehow come back in Pennsylvania.

He didn't just lose, he lost big.
The 2006 United States Senate election in Pennsylvania was held on November 7, 2006.   Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Rick Santorum ran for re-election to a third term, but was defeated by Bob Casey, Jr.[1] Casey was elected to serve between January 3, 2007 and January 3, 2013.  Santorum trailed Casey in every public poll taken during the campaign.  Casey's margin of victory (nearly 18% of those who voted) was the largest ever for a Democratic Senate nominee in Pennsylvania, and the largest margin of victory for a Senate challenger in the 2006 elections.[2]
Granted, 2006 was a lousy year for Republicans, but so was 2008, and John McCain, who was not an incumbent, lost Pennsylvania by just 10 points, 54-44.  (Mitt Romney came even closer in 2012, losing 52-47.)

Santorum's political career is unusual.  Most politicians improve with time, as they learn how to communicate with voters.  (Up, typically, to a plateau after ten to fifteen years.)  Santorum devolved in his second term in the Senate, getting less and less attractive to Pennsylvania voters.

So I was genuinely surprised when he ran for president — and disappointed that so many voters in Republican primaries didn't see the same problem with his record that I did.
- 6:11 AM, 11 August 2013   [link]


Bernie Madoff May Have Been Doing To His Staff, Literally, What He Was Doing To Investors, Metaphorically:  I'm trying to say that discretely, but if you want the very blunt version, you can find it in this New York Post article.

You can find the same news, without the crudity, but with more pictures, in this Daily Mail article.
New court documents have revealed that Bernie Madoff was involved in an office love triangle, proving that he was both swindling his clients out of billions and cheating on his wife of over 50 years.

Lawyers submitted papers in court today trying to block certain key pieces of evidence being submitted to the record as they will show top staffers at Madoff's firm were entangled in a number of inter-office romances that complicated the corrupt work environment.
On the other hand, some of the comments after that article are almost as crude as the Post article.

(I've read — I don't recall just where — that there are a few "investors" who watch for Ponzi schemes like the one Madoff ran so long, and try to exploit them by getting in and out early.  That's illegal in the United States, so I suppose anyone who did it would have to have some place else to go after they had made their score, assuming the scheme was being run here.)
- 4:38 PM, 10 August 2013   [link]


The Secret Refinery:  Kimberly Strassel reads a dull EPA rule, and finds something exciting, and more than a little mysterious.
The big news was that the EPA issued—finally—its infamous annual quota for renewable fuels.  That mandate tells the nation's refineries how much renewable fuel (ethanol) must be blended annually into gasoline, a quota that is becoming a pernicious driver of gas prices.  The EPA was supposed to release the 2013 quota last November but decided to leave the industry in panicked uncertainty until now.

The 89-page rule is dull reading, until you get to page 11.  Tucked on that page is one short sentence, which reads: "EPA has approved a single small refinery/small refiner exemption for 2013, so an adjustment has been made to the standards to account for this exemption."   In English: Of the nation's 143 refineries, one (and only one) lucky player somehow had the pull to win itself a free pass from this government burden.
. . .
So who is the lucky dog?  Who could make this happen?  That's the best part.  The EPA won't say.  The agency not only refused to name the refinery in its rule, but also obscured certain numbers in the document to hide the beneficiary's identity.  An EPA press officer would not give me the name, citing "confidentiality restrictions."
Did this big favor go to a wealthy leftist, George Soros or someone similar?  Or did it go to the union local that controls the work force at this refinery?  (Or both.)  Or, and this is about the best explanation I can think of, did it go to a company that was also pursuing some Green initiative the administration backs?

The Obama administration thinks we shouldn't know who got it, or why.  Which, naturally, will make everyone except Obama loyalists even more curious.

Given the timing, we can't be sure whether this exemption was granted by former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, acting EPA administrator Bob Perciasepe, or current EPA administrator Gina McCarthy.  I'm inclined to think it was Jackson, who learned her politics in New Jersey, under the tutelage (among others) of Jon Corzine.  No New Jersey politician would surprised by this favor, or this secrecy.
- 8:51 AM, 10 August 2013   [link]


The New York State Senate is also controlled by a dissident Democrat-Republican coalition.
The Senate is headed by its President, a post held ex officio by the Lieutenant Governor.  The Senate President has a casting vote in the event of a tie, but otherwise may not vote.  More often, the Senate is presided over by the Temporary President, a post which is normally also held by the Majority Leader.  After the 2008 elections, the Senate had a Democratic majority for the first time since 1965.  They lost that majority on November 2, 2010, when Republican Jack Martins defeated Democratic Senator Craig Johnson.  Following the defections of Jeffrey Klein, David Valesky and Diane Savino from the Democratic caucus, the trio joined freshman David Carlucci in a newly formed Independent Conference; this conference serves as "crossbenchers" separate from the Democratic and Republican conferences.[2]
As far as I know, this coalition does not have any great achievements, though I suppose that New York might have been even worse off without them.
- 9:31 AM, 9 August 2013   [link]


Washington State's Reform Coalition Passes Its First Voter Test:  Last December, a reform coalition of 2 dissident Democrats, Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon, and the Republican minority, took control of the Washington state Senate.

Barely.  The 2 Democrats joined 23 Republicans to control the Senate, 25-24.

Meanwhile, thanks in part to Obama, the Democrats won control of almost everything else, statewide.  They kept control of the Washington House, they kept control of the governor's mansion, replacing Christine Gregoire with Jay Inslee.  (Who is already making me miss Gregoire.)  And they won every statewide office except Secretary of State.

Nonetheless, that bare Senate majority was able to dominate the policy decisions of the last session of our state legislature.  They promised no new taxes, more money for education, and controlling spending elsewhere.

And that, essentially, is what we got.  (You can see how successful they were from the reaction of Seattle Times columnist, and quasi-official Democratic spokesman, Danny Westneat.)

Somewhat, I must admit, to my surprise.  It isn't easy for majorities that small to stay together, even in the best of circumstances.  Nor is it easy for majorities that small to judge, accurately, what they can accomplish, and can't.

But they succeeded at both, and for that, all twenty-five deserve much credit.

On the whole, I think they did about the best for the state they could have, in the circumstances.  If I were grading them, I would give them A's for substance and tactics.

And in the first test of voter sentiment, voters in swing districts appear to agree.   After Democrat Derek Kilmer won the 6th House district (replacing Norm Dicks), he resigned from the state senate.  The Democratic party chose his temporary replacement, Nathan Schlicher.

Washington law requires an election for a permanent replacement, and held a top-two primary last Tuesday.  Jan Angel, the Republican candidate, has a solid lead over Schlicher, 15,560-12,909, as I write.  (Almost all the votes should be counted by now, even though Washington accepts ballots that are mailed on the day of the election.)

In the past, leads that large, more than nine percent, have almost always held up in the general election.  Almost always.

So I think we can conclude, tentatively, that the majority coalition has passed its first voter test.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 8:45 AM, 9 August 2013   [link]

From What I Know About MSNBC, Alec Baldwin would fit right in.
- 7:11 AM, 9 August 2013   [link]