August 2014, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
Because I Think Canada Is A Fine Neighbor, and because I think we Americans pay too little attention to our neighbor, I liked today's New Yorker cartoon.
(I don't know how Canadians feel about this, but they routinely win Americans' favorite nation contest in the Gallup poll.)
- 2:55 PM, 8 August 2014 [link]
IBM's New "TrueNorth" Computer Chip Looks Like an important advance.
The technology company has developed a microchip that simulates functions of neurons, synapses and other features of the brain to perform calculations. IBM says the chip, a sharp break from the fundamental design used in most computers, excels at chores like recognizing patterns and classifying objects while using much less electrical power than conventional hardware.In fact, assuming I understand that description and the potential of such a chip, it's a fundamental advance, just as they say.
Here's an example of the kind of problem where this chip might have a great advantage: face recognition. It is something that we humans are much better at than computer programs, probably because our brains are organized something like the TrueNorth chip.
(More: In a quick search, I found a more technical article, and a statement from an IBM spokesman.)
- 1:54 PM, 8 August 2014 [link]
Pedro Celis Survived The Primary For Washington State's 1st House District: Apparently.
After trailing in preliminary counts, Celis moved into second place yesterday. He, and his principal Republican opponent, Robert J. Sutherland, agree that Celis is likely to keep that lead.
“I’m feeling good,” Celis said, calling it “very unlikely” the trend would reverse. But he stopped short of declaring victory.I favored Celis because I am impressed by his technical achievements, because I like his family, because I think that running a legal immigrant for a top office is good for the country (and the Republican Party), and because he should be able to fund most of his campaign himself.
(If you look at a map of the 1st House district, you may be able to see why money is such a big consideration. A candidate almost has to advertise on Seattle TV stations — but most of that money will be wasted because the 1st district is only a small part of the Seattle TV market, less than a fifth, I would guess.)
His field, databases, may not seem sexy, but it is one where his specialized knowledge and experience could be of enormous help in Congress.
I should add that I still think the odds are against him, by, at a guess, at least 10-1. Unfortunately.
- 1:09 PM, 8 August 2014 [link]
Two Assessment Of Obama's Military Response In Iraq: From former artillery officer Reverend Donald Sensing:
This strike was simply symbolic. It was not an expression of the national will nor even of presidential resolve. It was at best an expression of Obama's distaste for having to deal with the whole situation.Reverend Sensing has a helpful pair of pictures showing what was done, and what ought to be done.
And from (retired) four-star general Barry McCaffrey:
There's a huge tragedy unfolding: 1.5 million refugees, a couple of hundred thousand just in the last few weeks. 50,000 of this minority group stuck on – up in the mountains,' Gen. Barry McCaffrey said on MSNBC.(I corrected the spelling of his first name.)
I would guess that at least 90 percent of military experts would agree with that last paragraph.
- 12:29 PM, 8 August 2014 [link]
Not Exactly "Shock And Awe", Was It? This morning, when I heard the news of the air strike, I thought for a moment that the announcer was joking.
American warplanes struck Sunni militant positions in northern Iraq on Friday, the Pentagon and Kurdish officials said, confirming the first significant American military operation in the country since United States forces withdrew in 2011.Two fighters, two 500-pound bombs. By itself, this is not a military response to the genocidal "Islamic State" (aka ISIS), this is a symbolic political response.
- 10:11 AM, 8 August 2014 [link]
In 2007, I Was Startled By Candidate Obama's Casual Acceptance Of A Possible Genocide In Iraq, If We Followed His Proposed Polices: Here's my original post, with this key quote from an Associated Press story:
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn't a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.(Unfortunately, the link to my secondary source, Breitbart, no longer works, but you should be able to find the full AP story with a search.)
I found that frank admission both disgusting — and admirably honest. I haven't seen any reason to think that Obama has changed his position since then. He has, for example, given high positions to Susan Rice, finally making her National Security Advisor last year, in spite (because?) of her failure on Rwanda. (In 1994, she urged suppressing the story of the genocide there, because it might damage Democratic chances in that year's election. She says, now, that she was wrong, but she would have to say that, wouldn't she?)
In his statement yesterday, Obama appears to have changed his position, justifying a limited intervention in order to prevent the "systematic destruction of the entire Yezidi people, which would constitute genocide". But he didn't extend that to the Christian minority in Iraq, which is just as threatened, or even to the Shiite majority.
The problem, of course, is the limits he puts on intervention; by putting those limits on our military actions, he is implicitly conceding that genocide might happen, despite limited air strikes and limited humanitarian aid.
(I followed that post up with two others, in the same month. You can see them here and here, or just by scrolling up.)
- 9:37 AM, 8 August 2014 [link]
As Obama's Failures Become More And More Apparent, What's A "Mainstream" Journalist To Do? For many — not all, but many — the answer is simple: Change the subject. Change the subject to something that has no obvious connection to Obama.
Last Sunday's New York Times gave us a neat example of that in their opinion section, the "Sunday Review". On the front page of the section, their lead piece was about a man and his cat. Underneath, but still on the front page of the section, was Maureen Dowd's latest Freudian attack on George W. Bush's relationship with his father. (You'll be better off if you read Professor Althouse's critique of the column, instead of the column.)
Neither are about big current issues, but, more important, the first has no connection to Barack Obama and his failures, and the second has almost none, though Dowd does mention Obama in passing, mostly to remind us of how much better Obama is than Bush. In her opinion.
For many "mainstream" journalists, and, for that matter, many readers of the Times, those choices will be comforting.
(A week before, the Times used that front page for a long editorial supporting marijuana legalization and an opinion piece by Stephanie Coontz on the problems of lower-income marriages. If you are familiar with her work, you will not be surprised at her politically correct analysis and conclusion.
Again, neither had anything to do with Obama; again, most "mainstream" journalists will find those choices comforting.)
- 1:56 PM, 7 August 2014 [link]
When A Female Democrat — An Attractive Female Democrat — Says She Is A "Clinton Democrat", Some People Are Going To Get The Wrong Idea: Especially when she says that, standing by Bill Clinton.
“Let me just set the record straight. I am not an empty dress, I am not a cheerleader, and I am not a rubber stamp,” she said at the Lexington stop with the still popular former president at her side, according to Kentucky radio station WFPL. “One label, though, I will proudly wear is that of a Clinton Democrat. I am a Clinton Democrat.”As far as I know, there is no reason to think that wrong idea is true (in this case), but thinking about it should remind us all of Clinton's long history of exploiting women, and the accusations that he attacked at least two women, Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick.
You would think that any candidate, but especially a woman candidate, would want to avoid a close association with a man like that. Obviously, the Kentucky Democrat, Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is running for the Senate against Mitch McConnell, doesn't agree with that conclusion.
- 9:16 AM, 7 August 2014 [link]
Federal Watchdogs Are Barking:
Dozens of government watchdogs are sounding the alarm that the Obama administration is stonewalling them, in what is being described as an unprecedented challenge to the agencies they're supposed to oversee.When investigators are blocked in this way, it is perfectly reasonable to suspect that those doing the blocking may have something to hide.
Remember when President Obama promised the "most transparent administration ever"?
President Obama has had, despite that promise, a poor relationship with the inspectors general, but it is still a little surprising to see this joint protest, especially considering that some of the 73 inspectors were appointed by Obama.
When this many watchdogs bark, we should pay attention. This should be a big story on our national newscasts, but I doubt that it has been — I almost never watch network news — and predict that it won't be.
(This section of the Wikipedia article will give you a general idea of what the US inspectors general do, but it omits any discussion of the Obama administration problems with them. I'll see if I can find an example or two for you, later.)
- 8:31 AM, 7 August 2014 [link]
Discrimination At Microsoft? With a twist that won't surprise tech folks.
The Seattle Times has the story of the lawsuit.
Nancy Williams said in her lawsuit, filed Monday in King County Superior Court, that she was subjected to discrimination and differential treatment, as well as a hostile work environment based on her gender, race (Hispanic) and age.Geekwire's Todd Bishop has the comments, almost all of them supporting her claim.
OverdueThere are more comments along the same line, some of them from people claiming inside knowledge.
Since I don't have any inside knowledge, I won't venture an opinion on the merits of this lawsuit, but I can say that it strikes me as almost certain that there is age discrimination at Microsoft, and that the other claims sound plausible. For example, it is easy to believe that there are some East Indian managers there who discriminate against other ethnicities.
(This lawsuit won't make the new Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, happy.)
- 6:08 AM, 6 August 2014 [link]
Here's Nate Silver's Latest Senate prediction
Democrats hold the majority of Class II seats now, but that’s because they were last contested in 2008, one of the best Democratic years of the past half-century. That year, Democrats won the popular vote for the U.S. House by almost 11 percentage points. Imagine if 2008 had been a neutral partisan environment instead. We can approximate this by applying a uniform swing of 11 percentage points toward Republicans in each Senate race. In that case, Democrats would have lost the races in Alaska, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Oregon — and Republicans would already hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate.With this caveat:
It can be tempting, if you cover politics for a living, to check your calendar, see that it’s already August, and conclude that if there were a wave election coming we would have seen more signs of it by now. But political time is nonlinear and a lot of waves are late-breaking, especially in midterm years.Looking over his individual race probabilities, I see that I would give the Republican candidates better odds in Oregon, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Michigan, Iowa, and Alaska. Not a lot better odds (except in Oregon and Minnesota), but better odds. But that may just show you that Silver is a Democrat, and I am a Republican.
(Silver wonders why Obama has such low approval ratings in Iowa, and speculates that it may be because Iowa has more anti-incumbent sentiment than other states. I suspect that those low approval ratings may be a consequence of "Iowa nice", the widespread belief in the state that others — even others in the other party — are decent people, and should be treated as good neighbors. People with that kind of belief react badly to dishonesty, and to open partisanship.)
- 1:29 PM, 5 August 2014 [link]
Too Absurd Not To Pass On: This small civil war on the radical left.
If you want to see why modern feminism is in crisis, look no further than Michelle Goldberg’s piece in the latest New Yorker.Would it be wrong to wish that both sides could lose?
It is tempting to treat this as just a funny story, something to chuckle over and then forget — except for two things: Much of this debate is being fought on college campuses, and it is already spilling over into new rules for work places.
So all of us are paying for this little war, and will be paying more for it, in years to come.
- 7:04 AM, 5 August 2014 [link]
Two Stories Of Resistance To Hamas: In Gaza.
These stories shouldn't surprise us; after all, the chief sufferers from Hamas policies are the residents of Gaza.
- 6:38 AM, 5 August 2014 [link]
Economist Lawrence Kotlikoff Calls For Paul Krugman to stop the personal insults.
Here are the key paragraphs in the post:
In today’s [1 August 2014] NY Times, Paul wrote:It is unlikely that Krugman will listen to this sensible advice, unlikely that the New York Times will ask him to improve his columns, and even unlikely that the newspaper will print a reply, especially one at the same level.
(Kotlikoff does not fit neatly into either of our two major parties. This Wikipedia biography of Dick Armey is terribly biased, but there still should be enough there to persuade you that Armey, holder of a PhD in economics, is a smart fellow.)
- 4:38 PM, 4 August 2014 [link]
Did The CIA Spy On Congress? At one time or another, I am sure they did. (And should have in some cases, notably Vito Marcantonio, for reasons you can read about here and here.)
But were they spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently? Sort of, but the story is not as simple as the headlines may have made you think.
Here are the first two of Fred Fleitz's five points:
1. CIA spied on Senate computers, Senate offices, “Hill computers,” or U.S. Senators. These claims are false. The CIA monitored CIA computers in a CIA facility that were being used by Senate Intelligence Committee staff for the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation of the Bush-era enhanced interrogation program.Removing classified documents could also be seen as spying.
What we are seeing here, I suspect, is a continuation of two things, Bush Derangement Syndrome and that persistent tendency of some on the left to be more concerned about how nicely we treat our enemies, than how we can defeat them. I think it unlikely that the report that the committee's staff is preparing will be fair or balanced.
Because such a report would necessarily reflect badly on some in the CIA, there has been a struggle between them and left-wing staffers on the Senate committee, a struggle mostly fought underground, but occasionally popping up to the surface.
(Caveats: This piece is in Newsmax, and I am not familiar with the author (who claims considerable experience in intelligence operations). But it is consistent with stories I have seen in "mainstream" outlets.)
- 4:12 PM, 4 August 2014 [link]
Jackson Diehl Generalizes The Argument I Made last Week: I noted that the Netherlands seemed more worried about Venezuela than the United States. Diehl agrees with that, and adds five more examples in this column.
“It’s like a bank run,” one congressional foreign policy staffer told me last week. An international consensus seems to have gelled that the United States can’t be counted on to uphold its commitments and red lines, even with allies; the result is a free for all that can be seen as much in the nose-thumbing of Georgia as in Israel’s high-profile rejection of U.S. diplomacy.Diehl thinks we should be tougher with our clients, and, in some cases, I think he is right. But I think we also need to work harder to understand them, and to help them when what they are doing is in our interests. There is a place for carrots in international diplomacy, as well as sticks. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki might be more willing to listen to Obama now, if Obama had given him the military help against the ISIS terrorists that al-Maliki requested, about a year ago. (The Iraqis wanted us to hit the terrorist organization with drones.)
Obama also should be more careful with his words. The careless way he often talks — for instance, the "red line" in Syria that wasn't really a red line — causes many problems here, but may result in real disasters, abroad.
(For the record: I don't expect Obama to become more careful with his words, though he should. He's shown less ability to learn from his mistakes than any other president during my life time.)
- 7:41 AM, 4 August 2014 [link]
Here's Last Week's Collection of jokes from Andrew Malcolm. He liked this one best.
Fallon: “Game of Thrones” announced that it's adding nine new characters for the next season. And they're already dead.(As did I.)
Another joke shows, I suspect, a difference between Seattle and Los Angeles.
Conan: Obama is in Los Angeles today for a fundraising tour. I don’t want to say traffic is bad, but right now I’m actually stuck on the freeway, Skyping this show from my car.In this area, for whatever reason, our journalists and our celebrities (and there are some here) are still reluctant even to complain about the traffic disruptions caused by Obama's visits. Recently I actually heard a traffic reporter gushing about one of his visits, even though she must have been able to see the disruption it caused.
- 6:47 AM, 4 August 2014 [link]
Worth Reading: Daniel Hannan's post, "Left-wing anti-Semitism is anything but a new phenomenon ".
Here's how he begins:
“How, as a socialist, can you not be an anti-Semite?” Adolf Hitler asked his party members in 1920. No one thought it an odd question. Anti-Semitism was at that time widely understood to be part of the broader revolutionary movement against markets, property and capital.And there is much more, including some quotations from Karl Marx who, though a grandson of two rabbis, said some awfully anti-Semitic things.
(Karl Marx was not raised in a religious home. His father had a secular education and converted to Lutheranism, "to escape the constraints of anti-semitic legislation", before Karl was born. Karl was baptised and so, technically, was a Lutheran. At least as a small child.
I don't blame Lutherans for the terrible effects of his theories.)
- 7:11 PM, 3 August 2014 [link]
You Know That Little Story On Ruth Bader Ginsburg Not Retiring I Linked To The Other Day? If you take a look at the comments, you'll find a whole series of anti-Semitic comments from one "Jack Ross".
It's important to remember that Lev Bronstein and the Bolsheviks were not Russians. They hated Russians and they hated Christians.Although Lev Bronstein (Leon Trotsky) was indeed of Jewish descent, most of the Bolsheviks were Russian, including Vladimir Lenin. Joseph Stalin was, of course, of Georgian descent.
But as Marxists, and therefore atheists, they disliked all religions, very definitely including Judaism.
(I could not, for a moment, understand why that commenter was putting those comments on that article — and then I remembered that Justice Ginsburg is Jewish, though I suspect her feminism explains more of her judicial thinking than her Judaism.)
- 6:52 PM, 3 August 2014 [link]
More On Russian Violations Of The 1987 INF Treaty: From two real experts, Keith Payne and Mark Schneider.
The U.S. has sophisticated technical means by which to monitor and verify arms agreements. But in this case the administration could have pursued Moscow's compliance issue years ago by simply reading the multiple Russian press accounts of a ground-launched cruise missile called the R-500. This stream of commentary, including reporting by the official Russian news agency RIA Novosti, indicates a clear INF Treaty violation: Russia has tested and produced a ground-launched cruise missile with a prohibited range potential of between 310 and 3,400 miles.It is no secret that Vladimir Putin has wanted out of the INF treaty for years, so it seems almost certain that he approved of these revelations in the Russian press, and that he chose November 2008 to be explicit about them, in order to test the new guy in the White House.
(In my earlier post on their INF violations, I used a New York Times article as a source, but I wasn't entirely happy with the article, which seemed vague on some crucial points. This Wall Street Journal op-ed is much better.)
- 11:07 AM, 3 August 2014 [link]
Another Reporter Covering For Supporters Of Hamas: In Gaza? No, in Calgary.
(If this had been in Gaza, it would have been more understandable since — although you won't see this mentioned in many newscasts — reporters there are threatened when they try to do honest stories.)
There are some subjects where I no longer expect our "mainstream" reporters to even try to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This is one of them.
- 9:45 AM, 3 August 2014 [link]
No Loophole In The Wilberforce Law? That's what Ann Coulter claims.
It's been reported everywhere -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fox News -- that the William Wilberforce Sex Trafficking Act requires that any non-Mexican children who show up on our border be admitted and given a hearing. (New York Times, July 7, 2014: "Immigrant Surge Rooted in Law to Curb Child Trafficking.")Read the rest of the column for her argument.
Her argument seems plausible, but I am no lawyer, much less one familiar with the details of our immigration laws. And we have seen so many examples of the Obama administration ignoring the letter of the law, including the Constitution, that it wouldn't surprise me if she is right.
- 9:21 AM, 2 August 2014 [link]
BBC, The Voice Of Hamas: One of the reasons I can use feel-good stories is that I have been watching some of the BBC coverage of the war in Gaza, and I can say that, on the whole, what the BBC has been broadcasting on our local PBS station, KCTS, is exactly what a shrewd Hamas operative would want them to broadcast.
That doesn't mean that the BBC programs present the Hamas view straight — but that isn't what a shrewd Hamas operative would want the BBC to do. Instead, he would want them to produce emotional stories about civilian casualties in Gaza, with no explanations of the Hamas efforts to increase those civilian casualties. And that is just what I have been seeing.
Nor do any of the stories I have seen make the obvious historical comparison. When Nazi Germany sent V-1 and V-2 rockets at Britain during World War II, hoping to cause civilian casualties, the British responded, in part, by continuing the area raids against German cities, raids that were also intended to cause civilian casualties. (In the grim ledgers of war, the British came out way ahead on the exchange; Rick Atkinson passes on this rough estimate: about 400,000 Germans, most of them civilians, died from Allied bombs. (p. 536))
That Hamas is every bit as evil as the Nazis is evident to anyone who looks at their charter, or their actions in firing hundreds of inaccurate rockets at Israel, and their other deliberate attacks on civilians.
But the BBC either doesn't want to see those things, or doesn't care about them.
- 3:47 PM, 1 August 2014 [link]
Need A Feel-Good Story? (I do.) Here's one about a dog with an unusual job, a job that makes him very happy.
Soon Tucker goes into a trance. Rolling his shoulders, cocking a furry black brow, he emits a whimper then a low whine, signaling he is on the trail of his quarry—and knows he is soon to earn his reward: his favorite toy, a hunk of green rubber tethered to a length of nautical rope.Tucker is happy, and so are the people he is working for — and, as far as I know, the whales don't mind. It's a win-win-tie.
- 2:30 PM, 1 August 2014 [link]