January 2014, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
More Questions About The Official US Analysis Of The Syrian Rocket Attack: You remember the attack, the one last August that required, according to President Obama, an American response.
At the time of the attack, I said that the regime was probably responsible, but that I had a hard time figuring out what their motive was, since they seemed to be winning the civil war. (Since then, I've seen a claim, I don't recall where just now, that the regime didn't plan the attack, but that it was an independent action by a low-level commander.)
Now some missile experts are saying that the rocket used didn't have the range to have come from government-controlled territory.
A series of revelations about the rocket believed to have delivered poison sarin gas to a Damascus suburb last summer are challenging American intelligence assumptions about that attack and suggest that the case U.S. officials initially made for retaliatory military action was flawed.Puzzling.
To know what to make of this, you would have to know many things not touched on in the article, for example, just how fixed the lines between the government and that rebel-controlled territory were. In guerrilla wars, it is common for there to be areas that are not completely controlled by either side.
Overall, I would say this new analysis does not settle the matter, but does give us more reason to be skeptical about the official Obama administration story.
By way of Hot Air.
(The best-known expert cited in the McClatchy article, Theodore Postol, is indeed an expert, one best known for his skepticism about missile defense systems.)
- 10:26 AM, 16 January 2014 [link]
"Chris Christie’s Staff Blames Bridge Closing On Anti-Islam Video" You probably hadn't seen this explanation for one of the greatest scandals of our time.
This afternoon staff members loyal to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie alleged that the September closing of traffic lanes leading to the George Washington bridge was the result of a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islam YouTube video.No doubt that maker of that video will soon be arrested and jailed, perhaps because he violated parole conditions.
Borrowed from small dead animals.
- 8:44 AM, 16 January 2014 [link]
I Hadn't Planned On Writing Any More Posts About President Hollande's Complicated Love Life, but this detail is too funny not to pass on.
Since early last year, Mr Hollande has been making visits to his love nest on the back of a moped, using a crash helmet as a disguise.A chauffeur-driven moped, naturally. (And I think you will agree that the use of a moped to transport the president of France provides an excellent disguise, all by itself.)
Cartoonists are going to love that image, and there is already a computer game starring Hollande on a moped, a computer game that, claims the Daily Mail, is "taking France by storm". The numbers don't suggest to me that it is already a mega hit, but the game just became available.
(The article has a link to the game if you would like to try it.
And here's the reaction to the story from a French woman, Agnès Poirier, who gamely tries to make the best of an awkward situation.)
- 6:21 PM, 15 January 2014
Here's the first cartoon I've found, featuring that helmet. If the pose looks familiar, it's probably because Steve Bell borrowed it from this famous (and when first exhibited, wildly controversial) painting.
- 9:15 AM, 16 January 2014 [link]
NSA Is Using Electronic Means To Spy On Our Enemies: (And some of our allies.) Which is their job, right? Just as the job of the National Park Service is to maintain our parks.
That may be obvious to you and me, but it appears to be news to our newspaper of record, the New York Times, which put this story on the front page, above the fold.
The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks.We've also been able to implant hardware on some computers that are not connected to the Internet, hardware that broadcasts weak radio signals that can, in principle, tell us what is happening on those machines.
None of this would surprise anyone who knows a little about the NSA, and how you might go about compromising computers. Nor is there anything especially new about the techniques described in the article; you can find similar techniques, used in the 1950s, described in Peter Wright's Spycatcher.
There is the mildly interesting claim that most of this spying is defensive in nature, intended to, for example, foil cyber attacks from China. But that is, for obvious reasons, a claim that is impossible for an outsider to verify.
The Times published this because they are working with their co-conspirator, Edward Snowden, to reveal our secrets, even when they aren't particularly secret. And even when, as they admit in their article, no one in the United States is spied on in this way, and no American laws have been broken, or even bent.
But, for many of those who distrust the United States, here and abroad, this article will give them one more reason for that distrust.
- 5:14 PM, 15 January 2014 [link]
The Puzzling Robert Gates: Like many others, I have been reading the published excerpts from Robert Gates's book, Duty.
In these excerpts, I see Gates describe Obama blunders, for example:
For the first several months, it took a lot of discipline to sit quietly at the table as everyone from President Obama on down took shots at President Bush and his team. Sitting there, I would often think to myself, Am I invisible?(Emphasis added.)
But then Gates gives Obama credit in "bottom line" judgements, like this one:
Obama, however, made the tough decision to go forward with the Afghan surge—a decision that was contrary to the advice of all his political advisers and almost certainly the least politically popular of his options.Having promised to send more men to Afghanistan during the 2008 campaign, Obama was, in my opinion, trapped by his own rhetoric, so it didn't require courage to make that "tough decision". What would have required courage would have been to either choose a strategy that his military advisors thought would give us a victory, or openly break his promise and begin a pull-back from Afghanistan.
I don't have a firm explanation for this apparent contradiction, but I do have a speculation. I suspect that Obama conned Gates, as Obama has conned so many others. I believe, for example, that Obama was able to make Gates believe that Obama shared his concern about our troops — in spite of considerable evidence against that conclusion.
But I should repeat that this is, so far, only speculation.
(On Fox News Sunday, Bob Woodward accused Gates of "trying to have it both ways". Woodward didn't develop his ideas enough there for me to be sure, but I thought he was making an argument similar to mine.)
- 1:43 PM, 15 January 2014 [link]
Is This Editor Violating The Spirit Of Our Civil Rights Laws? Here are two-and-a-half paragraphs describing some of her hiring decisions, paragraphs that I have re-written, slightly.
These days when [the editor] surveys the paper's masthead, she does so with a certain amount of satisfaction. Half of the top-ranking editors in the newsroom, including herself, are white. That's a long way from the time when whites had no presence on the [paper's] masthead; the first was Carolyn Lee in 1990.I think almost everyone, reading those paragraphs, would agree that the editor was violating the spirit of our civil rights laws. (You would have to know more about the specifics of the hiring decisions to decide whether she was violating the letter of those laws.)
As you may have guessed, what I did with those paragraphs was substitute "white" or "whites" for "woman", "women", "female", and "females". The paragraphs come from this column by the New York Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, describing the hiring practices of the newspaper's executive editor, Jill Abramson.
At this point, a reminder is probably in order because the kind of discrimination in hiring that Abramson boasts about is so common: Our civil rights laws generally forbid discriminating in hiring against blacks — and whites, against women — and men. For example, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act "prohibits discrimination by covered employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin". And there have been court cases in which employers were found guilty of discrimination against whites and men, as well as blacks and women.
So, yes, I think that Abramson is violating the spirit of our civil rights laws, and half hope that one or more white men at the Times sues her and the Times for discrimination, successfully.
(It is nearly certain, I think, that the Times is also discriminating against those with certain traditional religious beliefs, beliefs held by, for example, former Senator Joe Lieberman, presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Speaker John Boehner, and former President George W. Bush. And I say that, in spite of the presence at the Times of Ross Douthat, who is both a token, and a fine writer.)
- 9:25 AM, 15 January 2014 [link]
Roll Call Tells Us That Democratic Congressman Jim Moran is retiring.
Senior appropriator and progressive stalwart James P. Moran will step down at the end of this year, making him the third House Democrat in just three days to announce his retirement.But just summarizes some of the details in his scandalous career. And those details are interesting. For example:
The House Ethics Committee investigated several members of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, including Moran, Peter J. Visclosky, Norm Dicks, Marcy Kaptur and the late John Murtha, who was the chairman at the time, for a conflict of interest in the allocation of the government contracts to clients of the PMA Group, which donated nearly a million dollars to Moran's political action committee, as well as a significant amount of money to the gubernatorial campaign of Moran's younger brother, Brian. Moran said that he was unaware of "who made donations", and "how much they gave", and therefore was not affected by the donations when allocating the funding.So the man who gave the money paid for his sins, but the people who took the money, did not pay for theirs.
There are more "controversies" where that came from, and I found several others in the current Almanac of American Politics.
(Why the Democratic retirements now? Most likely those retiring have a mixtures of motives, but it is likely that many do not expect the Democrats to control the House any time soon.)
- 7:08 AM, 15 January 2014 [link]
The Headline Was Better Than The Story: If you looked at Drudge this morning you may have seen a story with this headline: "Retired cop guns down man for texting at Florida movie: sheriff"
But that headline leaves out some of the context. The dispute did begin over texting, but it escalated.
A retired cop, irked that the couple in front of him were texting at a Mark Wahlberg war movie, opened fire in a Florida theater Monday, killing the man and wounding his wife, authorities said.(Emphasis added.)
It isn't clear exactly what happened from that vague description. But, assuming the story is roughly correct, the "physical altercation" is what led to the shooting, not the texting. And, again assuming the story is roughly correct, Oulson initiated the second, fatal encounter.
- 6:41 AM, 14 January 2014 [link]
More Evidence For My Theory That Presidents Of The French Fifth Republic Would Make a great soap opera.
Ever since the magazine Closer revealed that President François Hollande has a mistress (allegations which sent Valérie Trierweiler to a Paris hospital) — thus proving that in the internet age France can no longer hide their leaders' piccadilloes — a number of ethics issues have surfaced, write Le Monde's Gérard Davet and Fabrice Lhomme: Notably reports of a 'tryst in a mafia flat'.Who does President Hollande think he is, anyway, John F. Kennedy?
I suppose I can understand why Hollande would rather dally with a pretty woman (or women) than try to cure the ills of the French economy.
(A review for those who don't follow French politics closely: He never married his mistress (and French presidential candidate) Ségolène Royal, although they lived together for thirty years and have four children. Royal was displaced by journalist Valérie Trierweiler, who is, for now, what the French used to call a Maîtresse-en-titre, an official mistress. And now Trierweller is troubled because Hollande has, apparently, taken a second, unofficial mistress, actress Julie Gayet.)
- 6:06 AM, 14 January 2014 [link]
There's That Broadway Bank, again.
A slain Brooklyn slumlord’s shady business practices helped sink a bank that counted President Obama as a customer and ex-Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon as a member of its board, The Post has learned.Again? Yes.
The Post is, uncharacteristically, silent on some of the other clients of the bank — which did an awful lot of business with organized crime figures, as well as Barack Obama and his ally, Tony Rezko. I could be wrong, but I doubt that your ordinary community bank makes loans to people like Michael "Jaws" Giorango.
(There is one aspect of these loans to organized crime figures that continues to puzzle me: If they stop paying off the loan, would it be safe to go through the usual collection processes? Or would you be better off just writing off the loan?
As I have mentioned before, I think that a shared love of basketball was one of the things that drew Alex Giannoulias and Barack Obama together.)
- 4:36 PM, 13 January 2014 [link]
Good Carbon Dioxide, Bad Carbon Dioxide: In the last two weeks, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee has come out strongly in favor of producing more Boeing jets here — and in favor of a cap-and-trade plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Most of those Boeing jets will be needed only if the price of jet fuel does not rise significantly — an increase that is needed if a world-wide cap-and-trade plan is to succeed.
This combination seems paradoxical. If you really want to cut carbon dioxide emissions, then you should want to discourage air travel. (A humane governor who was worried about carbon dioxide emissions might want to work with Boeing so they could find other vehicles to manufacture, vehicles that did not, directly or indirectly, emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide.)
But the combination must not seem paradoxical to Governor Inslee.
I don't know why it doesn't — for some reason our local journalists haven't asked him about this apparent conflict — so I can only speculate.
The best explanation that I have been able to come up with is that Governor Inslee believes that there are two kinds of carbon dioxide, good and bad. Good carbon dioxide comes from Boeing jets (and rail transit); bad carbon dioxide comes from private cars (and electricity generated to power incandescent light bulbs). The good carbon dioxide fertilizes plants and, if anything, improves the world's climate; the bad carbon dioxide threatens to cook us all.
This explanation is a bit fanciful, I'll admit, but it explains many things besides Governor Inslee's policy choices. For example, the New York Times, which shares Inslee's views on the dangers of bad carbon dioxide, promotes international travel, extensively. (I am sure that the many travel ads they run have no connection to those promotions.) This weekend, for example, they listed "52 Places to Go in 2014". If you look through their list, you see that almost all of those destinations could be reached from New York only by burning large amounts of fossil fuels. (Partial exception: In principle, New Yorkers could visit Niagara Falls, one of the destinations, by bicycle. Assuming, of course, they were fit, and wanted to take the time required.)
You can, I am sure, think of similar examples, without much effort.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(Some will wonder whether Airbus jets, which are not manufactured in Washington state, produce good carbon dioxide or bad carbon dioxide. I am sorry to say that I do not know the answer to that question, though I suspect Governor Inslee would say they produce the bad kind.)
- 3:15 PM, 13 January 2014 [link]
Worth Reading: Robert Samuelson on how we "won — and lost — the War on Poverty".
We won in the sense that programs for the poor have dramatically reduced hardship and kept millions from destitution. To those who think that Washington mainly serves “fat cats,” Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution says: Look at the numbers. In 2011, he estimates, federal spending dedicated to the poor averaged $13,000 for every person below the federal poverty line, now $23,000 for a family of four.We have been so successful in reducing hardship that we have become accustomed to seeing obesity among the poor, so accustomed that we forget how extraordinary that obesity is, historically. Even here in the United States, just eighty years ago, you didn't see poor people who needed to cut back on calories, or get more exercise.
At the same time, many on the left have forgotten why a hand up is better than a handout, so they propose increases in food stamps and unemployment, rather than programs like the CCC.
- 8:34 AM, 13 January 2014 [link]
Our "Mainstream" Journalists Are "Obsessed" With Governor Christie's bridge scandal.
(Honorable exception: Bob Schieffer.)
I've seen the same obsession here; our local journalists have given this far more space and time than than the far more important stories coming out of Robert Gates book.
So far, I haven't seen any reason to think the New Jersey lane closing is an important scandal. It seems unlikely that Christie knew about a few of his aides behaving badly. Nor does the event itself look like a major crime. In fact, it looks similar to the traffic problems caused by Obama fund-raising visits in this area — except that Obama must know about those problems.
(I wish I could stop suspecting that Obama is, secretly, pleased by those traffic tie-ups — but, so far, I haven't been able to do so.)
- 8:05 AM, 13 January 2014 [link]
"Hillary's Hit List" It isn't surprising that she has one, but it is a little surprising to see so many details revealed publicly.
When the Clintons sat in judgment, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) got the seat closest to the fire. Bill and Hillary had gone all out for her when she ran for Senate in 2006, as had Obama. But McCaskill seemed to forget that favor when NBC’s Tim Russert asked her whether Bill had been a great president, during a Meet the Press debate against then-Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) in October 2006. “He’s been a great leader,” McCaskill said of Bill, “but I don’t want my daughter near him.”According to Allen and Parnes, McCaskill "regretted her remark instantly", perhaps because she recognized that the Clintons would never forgive her for that truthful, but undiplomatic, remark.
Why did Clinton loyalists decide to share these details with reporters? Most likely, as a warning to those who haven't signed on to the Hillary-in-2016 campaign. And, again most likely, the reporters know that they are being used to send that message.
(In a sidebar, Politico gives some Obama endorsements from top Democrats on that hit list. Most, at first glance, are funny, but more than a little dismaying when you think about how badly these top leaders were fooled.)
- 7:21 AM, 13 January 2014 [link]
Champagne Communist: For a committed Communist, Eric Hobsbawm was an awfully successful capitalist.
Leading Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm left more than £1.8million in his will, it has been revealed.Neither the article, nor the Wikipedia biography, explain where the money came from. He did not, as far as I can tell, have wealthy parents. Most likely, he earned large sums from his writing, and then saved and invested the money.
(If you aren't familiar with the historian, you might want to glance through the Wikipedia article, which shows just how far to the left you can be, and still be successful in academia, and society.)
- 6:00 PM, 12 January 2014 [link]
Just in Case You Missed Hearing About this unusual lawsuit.
A 26-year-old Portland pimp has filed a $100 million lawsuit against Nike, claiming the shoe manufacturer is partially responsible for a brutal beating that helped net him a 100-year prison sentence.I assume the lawsuit will be thrown out, though our judges do surprise us from time to time.
(I assume that isn't his original name, maybe not even his legal name, but the article doesn't give an alternative.)
- 5:38 PM, 12 January 2014 [link]
Charles Blow Revives The Self-Esteem Theory: Though he never uses the phrase in his latest column.
Blow begins by tackling an admittedly difficult problem:
There is often a simplistic, black-or-white, conservative vs. progressive discussion around the dissolution of the traditional family and high single-parent birthrates in America and what these trends may portend for us as a country.And then presents us with a familiar set of answers, including these two.
There are some rather simple ways to move in this direction if we can agree to be less puritanical and more practical. We could, for example, begin teaching young people to value themselves in a way that contextualizes the initiation of sexual activity as a thing fully within their control and not so easily manipulated by peer and societal pressures. Abstinence can be honorable, but it won't be for everyone. Everyone can be affirmed, though, in the fact that they must love themselves enough emotionally to be in control of whom they allow to love them physically, and when.Some may need these translations of those two paragraphs: Girls with self esteem won't sleep with the first guy to ask them; boys should be taught that true self esteem comes only from treating girls decently.
You don't have to know a lot about our schools to know that most sex education classes have been trying to teach those two things for years, with little success.
Nor do you have to know a lot about our popular culture to know that many performers have been teaching rather different lessons, for decades.
Blow doesn't present any serious ideas on changing our sex education classes, or influencing our popular culture, but he is all in favor of that standard leftist answer to these problems, abortion. Which, even if you favor unrestricted abortion, should be seen as an admission of failure.
Finally, regardless of your views on abortion, you will probably agree with me that Blow should get some help with his writing.
(President Obama's true beliefs are still partly obscure, in many areas. But there is no doubt that he favors unrestricted abortion, paid for by the taxpayers. So Blow's views on this issue are consistent with Obama's.)
- 9:52 AM, 12 January 2014 [link]
Kimberly Strassel Indicts Harry Reid: You'll want to read (and, I hope, share) the whole column.
She doesn't mince words at the beginning.
The popular judgment that Washington's dysfunction is the result of "partisanship" misses a crucial point. Washington is currently gridlocked because of the particular partisanship of one man: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. And Republicans are warming to the power of making that case to voters.Harry Reid's Senate did, finally, pass a budget last year — which only highlights their failure to do so in previous years. And the Senate did not pass a single appropriations bill.
- 10:03 AM, 11 January 2014 [link]
Wind Bowl This Afternoon: The weathermen are forecasting a stormy afternoon here in the Seattle area.
Windy with rain likely. High 46F. Winds SSW at 25 to 35 mph. Additional rainfall near a half an inch. Winds could occasionally gust over 50 mph.Which should make it interesting for the quarterbacks in the game between Seattle and New Orleans. And for the rest of us wondering whether the power will stay on. There are already power outages affecting almost 40,000 people.
- 9:45 AM, 11 January 2014 [link]
Has Fox Butterfield moved to Sweden? "Swedish jails empty despite crime rise"
(Younger readers may need a review on Fox Butterfield.
Butterfield is the eponym for "The Butterfield Effect", used to refer to a person who "makes a statement that is ludicrous on its face, yet it reveals what the speaker truly believes," especially if expressing a supposed paradox when a causal relationship should be obvious. The particular article that sparked this was titled "More Inmates, Despite Drop In Crime" by Butterfield in the New York Times on Nov. 8, 2004.Butterfield made that argument more than once and, as far as I know, has never shown that he understood why others saw the relationship as obvious.)
- 10:40 AM, 10 January 2014
James Taranto picked up on my find — and showed us how to write "Fox Butterfield, is that you?" in Swedish.
- 12:45 PM, 13 January 2014 [link]
Presseurop Is Closed, having lost its subsidy.
I have enjoyed reading it, for the additional perspectives it gave me, especially from the smaller countries in the European Union. And, frankly, for the political cartoons, which I could, sometimes, understand.
Not knowing how much it cost the European Union, I have no idea whether it was worth while for them.
(There is, for those who read English, a partial alternative in the "Local" network of news sites. You can, since 2004, read the main Swedish news stories, here. And since then they have added six other European sites, though none, so far, in eastern Europe.)
- 10:21 AM, 10 January 2014 [link]
Jay Leno Thinks Governor Christie is looking more presidential.
Pundits are saying this [bridge-closing scandal] could hurt his 2016 presidential campaign. The ironic thing is now that Christie is denying everything he sounds even more presidential, doesn't he? [Laughter] That's what presidents do. They deny everything.Which was followed by more laughter.
- 9:56 AM, 10 January 2014 [link]
This Murder Has Finally Moved Venezuelans to protest.
Venezuelans kill one another by the tens of thousands every year, making this South American nation one of the world’s most violent.(Her ex-husband was murdered and her five year old daughter was wounded in the attack.)
There's much background here.
And there is this bottom line: The murder rate in Venezuela is two or three times as high as the murder rate in Iraq.
- 9:07 AM, 9 January 2014 [link]
President Barack Obama And New York Mayor Bill De Blasio are not "progressive", according to Rudy Giuliani.
“I’m beginning to really bristle at this progressive label for de Blasio’s programs and Obama’s programs,” Giuliani said during an interview this morning with radio host Geraldo Rivera.Well, you can, but only by using a different meaning for "progressive" than you will find in a standard dictionary.
It is good to see Giuliani making the same argument I have made many times before, that labeling ideas that are both old and discredited, "progressive", is wrong.
(For the record: Obviously, neither of us think that an idea is wrong because it is old, but we would agree, I assume, that old ideas that have failed again and again, are wrong.
Here's a post of mine from 2010, which makes the same point, with a different set of examples.)
- 6:12 AM, 9 January 2014 [link]