Archive:

June 2014, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



When The Associated Press Stories About The Mass Burial At An Irish Orphanage Came Out, I Was Skeptical:  Rightly, it appears, from this correction.
DUBLIN (AP) — In stories published June 3 and June 8 about young children buried in unmarked graves after dying at a former Irish orphanage for the children of unwed mothers, The Associated Press incorrectly reported that the children had not received Roman Catholic baptisms; documents show that many children at the orphanage were baptized.  The AP also incorrectly reported that Catholic teaching at the time was to deny baptism and Christian burial to the children of unwed mothers; although that may have occurred in practice at times it was not church teaching.  In addition, in the June 3 story, the AP quoted a researcher who said she believed that most of the remains of children who died there were interred in a disused septic tank; the researcher has since clarified that without excavation and forensic analysis it is impossible to know how many sets of remains the tank contains, if any.  The June 3 story also contained an incorrect reference to the year that the orphanage opened; it was 1925, not 1926.
Other than that, . . .

It is hard to avoid concluding that anti-Catholic bias — the orphanage was run by an order of nuns who were hard on unwed mothers — was one of the reasons for all those errors.  And I say that as one who is not now, and never has been, a Catholic.
- 1:54 PM, 24 June 2014   [link]


Does This Story Sound Plausible?  Two men, dressed up as Indians and claiming to be Indians, show up at the headquarters of an electric utility.  They ask the head of that utility if they can have some scrap so that Indian children can make crafts from the scrap.  The executive agrees and gives them permission to go into a secure area, where they load their trucks with "20 tons of copper wire and scrap metal worth $120,000".

Plausible or not, it happened, last year, at a city-owned utility, Seattle City Light.

Why didn't the men working in the scrap yard object?  Because they were afraid of Superintendent Jorge Carrasco, who had given the "Indians" permission to get the scrap.

This story just came out, and the timing was fortunate for Carrasco, because the Seattle City Council just voted to give him a big raise.

Students of bureaucracy will not be surprised to learn that Seattle City Light was able to suppress Carrasco's part in this story, for more than a year.

(Fans of Elizabeth Warren will be pleased to learn that the "Indians" claimed to be Cherokees.)
- 1:32 PM, 24 June 2014   [link]


Not An Ideal Defender:  As the attacks on IRS Commissioner John Koskinen have become sharper, former senator (and presidential candidate) Gary "Monkey Business" Hart came out to defend Koskinen.

In a letter published in the New York Times, Hart said that he had "never met a more honorable, decent and honest American than John Koskinen".

Hart is probably not the best person to make this argument, for two reasons:  First, and most obvious, is that Koskinen is a big donor to Democratic candidates, including Gary Hart.

Second, though this may be unfair, Gary Hart is most famous now for a lie he told reporters.  He dared them to follow him around, claiming they would be "very bored".  They did, they weren't.

So Gary Hart may not be the best character witness Koskinen could find.

(I don't recall the Times publishing any letters on the other side of this scandal, but I usually just skim their letters column.)
- 12:52 PM, 24 June 2014   [link]


Obama's Foreign Policy Has Not Been A Success in Poland.
A Polish news magazine said on Sunday it had obtained a secret recording of Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, in contention for a senior European Union job, saying that Poland's relationship with the United States was worthless.

The Wprost news magazine said the recording was of a private conversation earlier this year between Sikorski and Jacek Rostowski, a member of parliament with the ruling Civic Platform who until last year was finance minister.
There's a partial list of Obama errors in dealing with Poland here, and there is some background on Sikorski here.
- 2:51 PM, 23 June 2014   [link]


How Much Will ObamaCare Hurt The Economy?  By about 2 percent of GDP, according to one estimate.

Some perspective: The US GDP is approaching $17 trillion, so ObamaCare will reduce it every year by about $340 billion.  That's about half the size of our Defense budget.

Remember when we were being told that ObamaCare would actually save us money?
- 6:40 AM, 23 June 2014   [link]


Stick Shift Stumps Would-Be car thieves.
On 6/21/14, at approximately 4:30 p.m., officers responded to a reported attempted robbery in the 1400 block of S. Main St. where a 70- year- old woman reported three males had taken her car keys at gunpoint and attempted to take her vehicle.

The woman’s car was a manual transmission and the suspects were unable to drive it he so that got out of the vehicle and ran north and westbound from the location.  An extensive area check was made but the suspects were not located.
(That police report could have used some editing, but you can figure out what they were trying to say.)

If you want more details, here's a TV story, with an interview of the the woman, Nancy Fredrickson.
- 6:05 AM, 23 June 2014   [link]


Our Oceans Are Anemic:  (In some parts, at some times.)  So a private company, with funding from an Indian tribe, fertilized one section of the Pacific with iron, and got back a bumper harvest of salmon.
In 2012, the British Columbia–based Native American Haida tribe launched an effort to restore the salmon fishery that has provided much of their livelihood for centuries.  Acting collectively, the Haida voted to form the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation, financed it with $2.5 million of their own savings, and used it to support the efforts of American scientist-entrepreneur Russ George to demonstrate the feasibility of open-sea mariculture — in this case, the distribution of 120 tons of iron sulfate into the northeast Pacific to stimulate a phytoplankton bloom which in turn would provide ample food for baby salmon.

The verdict is now in on this highly controversial experiment:  It worked.

In fact it has been a stunningly over-the-top success.  This year, the number of salmon caught in the northeast Pacific more than quadrupled, going from 50 million to 226 million.  In the Fraser River, which only once before in history had a salmon run greater than 25 million fish (about 45 million in 2010), the number of salmon increased to 72 million.
Naturally, Russ George is in legal trouble, and has been attacked by a number of prominent Greens.

This is not the first such experiment, but it appears to be the most, or one of the most, successful, at increasing fish production.

Iron fertilization has also been proposed as a way to fight global warming.  When diatoms die their shells often end up on the ocean floor, taking some carbon with them.  For this to work, the ocean area fertilized has to have enough silica for the diatoms to form those shells.

(Caveat:  Fish populations, definitely including salmon populations, vary widely from year to year.  It's my impression that the scientists who study these variations still can't explain many of the changes they see.)
- 4:50 PM, 22 June 2014   [link]


If You Like Political Gossip (And Almost All Of Us Do), you'll love this excerpt from Edward Klein's Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas.

Sample:
Lately, Bill Clinton has become convinced that Obama won’t endorse Hillary in 2016.   During a gathering at Whitehaven, guests overheard Bill talking to his daughter Chelsea about whether the president would back Joe Biden.

“Recently, I’ve been hearing a different scenario from state committeemen,” Clinton said.   “They say he’s looking for a candidate who’s just like him.  Someone relatively unknown.  Someone with a fresh face.

“He’s convinced himself he’s been a brilliant president, and wants to clone himself — to find his Mini-Me.
There's much more.  I suppose I should add that fans of either the Obamas or the Clintons are likely to enjoy it less than others will.

(One thing that comes across in the excerpt is Bill Clinton's professionalism.   Clinton despises Obama, but feels compelled to work with him anyway, for long-term political advantage.  That may seem an obvious thing for a politician (or almost any other leader) to do, but I have become more and more convinced that Obama often isn't willing to do it, that, for example, some of his problems with foreign leaders are caused by his unwillingness to work with men (or women) he dislikes.)
- 10:54 AM, 22 June 2014   [link]


Which Living American Presidents Have Higher Favorable Ratings Than Barack Obama?  According to Gallup, all of them.
Americans view each of the four former living presidents more positively than negatively, while giving Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush higher favorable ratings than George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.  Current President Barack Obama has a net-negative favorable rating.
As Gallup says, Americans see ex-presidents in less partisan ways than they see presidents, which is one of the reasons why the favorable ratings rise once they leave office.   Whoever wrote that is correct, but it is also true that some presidents are more partisan than others, and voters understand that.  There are reasons, good reasons, that 44 percent of Democrats now give George H. W. Bush a favorable rating, while only 7 percent of Republicans give Barack Obama a favorable rating.

(George W. Bush's favorable rating (53-44) is now significantly higher than Barack Obama's (47-52), as I predicted would happen.  The prediction was not difficult.  I knew that ex-presidents usually recover some of their popularity, and I expected that voters would compare Obama's performance to Bush's, and would come to the obvious conclusions.)
- 8:07 AM, 22 June 2014   [link]


Putin Is Using European Greens To Stop Fracking, according to the head of NATO.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), and former premier of Denmark, told the Chatham House thinktank in London on Thursday that Vladimir Putin’s government was behind attempts to discredit fracking, according to reports.

Rasmussen said: “I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations - environmental organisations working against shale gas - to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”
It would be interesting to know exactly what he means by "engaged actively".   Subsidized?  Provided with propaganda?  Infiltrated?

The Soviets were so good during the Cold War at using front groups in the West that this doesn't surprise me.  Not one bit.
- 2:34 PM, 21 June 2014   [link]


If The Military Advisors President Obama Is Sending To Iraq Are Shot At, Can They Shoot Back?  That, it seems to me, is an essential question.  But then I am old enough to remember the same question being asked when President Kennedy sent "advisors" to South Vietnam.

You can understand why President Obama didn't answer that question the other day — both answers are wrong, politically — but it is hard to understand why our "mainstream" journalists, biased as they are, didn't ask it.  (Here's an example of the failure to even ask the question.)

(I assume most of you saw why both answers are wrong, politically, but just in case you didn't, here's a brief explanation:  If they can't shoot back, then he has taken away their right of self defense; if they can shoot back, then he is sending men into possible combat, despite his promises and denials.)
- 7:47 AM, 20 June 2014
Update:  McClatchy's James Rosen asks some retired Iraq veterans whether these advisors may get into fire fights.  Here's one answer:
“These special operators will be advisers, but they will be with Iraqi units, and if those units get engaged by the enemy, they will defend themselves,” said Fred Wellman, a former Army lieutenant colonel who served as spokesman for Gen. David Petraeus when he commanded U.S. and allied troops in Iraq.
Others say much the same thing, in different ways.  Some even say that the advisors might take a leading role, which makes sense militarily.  One of the best ways to teach an officer to lead is to show him, by doing it yourself.

(This James Rosen is not the Fox News James Rosen.  Both appear to be good reporters, and cover similar areas, so they often get confused.)
- 7:26 AM, 22 June 2014   [link]


Here's An Old-Fashioned View On Gay Marriage:  From, I must tell you, a militant British lesbian.
Isn't marriage merely a clever ploy to keep us quiet about the trickier issues such as the deportation of lesbian asylum seekers, and the still prevalent anti-gay bullying in schools and religious communities?
. . .
In her 1993 paper, Since When is Marriage a Path to Liberation?, the late Paula Ettelbrick, a US-based lesbian and human rights lawyer, came up with one of the greatest lines about state interference in relationships:  "Marriage is a great institution – if you like living in institutions."
By way of Tim Blair and David Thompson.

Old-fashioned?  Well, yes.  You won't find this in many American newspapers, but opposition to marriage was fairly common on the left, at times in the past.  (The Wikipedia article on "free love" will give you some of the history, though, as usual, you should read it with some skepticism.)  And there were homosexuals, some quite prominent, who thought that marriage was for those lower types they called "breeders".

(There are probably a fair number of homosexuals who still have those views, but they would have good reason, nowadays, to keep such unfashionable ideas to themselves.)
- 7:13 AM, 20 June 2014   [link]


Winning Hearts And Minds with demon dolls.
Beginning in about 2005, the CIA began secretly developing a ­custom-made Osama bin Laden ­ action figure, according to people familiar with the project.  The face of the figure was painted with a heat-dissolving material, designed to peel off and reveal a red-faced bin Laden who looked like a demon, with piercing green eyes and black facial markings.
Few, if any, were ever distributed, most likely because CIA higher-ups had doubts about the project.

Would it have worked?  I haven't the faintest idea.  But it does show that at least a few people in the CIA were thinking long term — as they should.
- 5:55 AM, 20 June 2014   [link]


Questions NBC And The WSJ Didn't Ask:  In reading through the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, I noticed some odd omissions.

Here is my list of their policy questions:
regulation (Q9)
Common Core (Q26, Q27)
immigration (Q27, Q28)
global warming (Q31, Q32, Q33, Q34)
closing Guantánamo (Q37)
Bergdahl exchange (Q38, Q39)
(Question 30 is being "held for later release".  I excluded questions that tapped feelings, but did not tell us anything about preferred policies.)

Here's what I noticed about that list:  There were no questions about taxes, spending, health care, or jobs.  The last two questions are about defense, but only tangentially.  The pollsters were not interested in the policy choices voters have in the areas that are, usually, the most important to voters.

Leaving out all quesions on those subjects is odd.

(But not inexplicable.  The issue questions they did ask are, I would guess, important to well-off leftists.  Especially leftists who are looking for issues they can use this November.)
- 2:45 PM, 19 June 2014   [link]


If You Want To Understand Why President Obama Is Failing, you might want to read David Gelernter's America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered In the Obamacrats).

Note, please, I said, "might".  I think the book will be of most interest to those, like me, who think that our colleges and universities have changed our culture for the worse, and who think, like Gelernter, that their central problem is the primacy of theory in the thinking of so many academics.

But, even if you don't agree with us on those two central arguments, you may learn from his brief description of how our colleges and universities have changed — in some ways for the better — since the 1930s.

Example:  Our academic institutions used to discriminate against blacks, Jews, and women.  They very briefly tried to judge students and faculty by their abilities and characters, and then switched to discriminating against the groups they had previously favored.

Finally, I should add that the book is both brief and exceptionally well written.
- 8:48 AM, 19 June 2014   [link]


Here's A Democratic Candidate Who Is In Favor Of Redistribution:  And, if legal authorities in Texas are right, has practiced it.
A week before Maryland's primary elections, prosecutors in Texas are seeking to extradite a Baltimore candidate for state Senate on a felony charge of theft.

Will J. Hanna, 43, who is challenging Sen. Lisa Gladden in the Democratic primary for the 41st Senate District, is accused of stealing a car six years ago from an attorney in Guadalupe County, Texas.
And passing bad checks.  He denies all the charges.

(Gladden, a lawyer, has offered to represent him, which is nice of her.)
- 8:10 AM, 19 June 2014   [link]


Americans See Obama As Less Competent Than George W. Bush, And Think That He Can Not Lead The Country:  Those were the two most interesting findings, for me, in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday.  (Questions 16 and 17.)

In March 2006, 17 percent of the respondents thought that Bush was "very competent" and 39 percent thought he was "somewhat competent".  For Obama, this month, the corresponding percentages are 11 and 39.  As you may recall, that was not a high point in the Bush presidency, coming, as it did, less than a year after Katrina.

The next question has even worse news for the Obama administration, as Chris Cillizza noted:
And yet, all of those bad numbers pale in comparison to how people responded to this question: "Thinking about the rest of Barack Obama's term as president, do you think he can lead the country and get the job done or do you no longer feel that he is able to lead the country and get the job done?"

Fifty-four percent — let me repeat, 54 percent — said that Obama "cannot lead and get the job done," while just 42 percent said he could lead.  I asked the pollsters behind the NBC-WSJ survey for the party ID breakouts on that question, and here's what they sent me:  84 percent of Republicans said that Obama can't lead or get the job done, as did six in ten (61 percent) of independents.  (Just one in five Democrats agreed.)

That is an absolutely remarkable vote of no-confidence in Obama's ability to do the job he was elected to do.
This is what I expected would happen when Obama was elected in 2008 — and I really wish I had been wrong, really wish that Obama was competent enough to be president.
- 7:20 AM, 19 June 2014   [link]


How Did The San Antonio Spurs Beat The Miami Heat So Easily?  They didn't hog the ball.
In the Finals, the Spurs had 127 assists to just 76 for the Heat.  Even if we account for their many more made field goals and instead compare the percentage of assisted baskets, the Spurs still have an enormous edge: 66 percent to 45 percent.

More revealing: The Spurs had 42 secondary assists in the series (tracked by the NBA’s SportVU Player Tracking System, these are passes that led directly to an assist).  That means that a third of the Spurs’ assists in the series were part of a sequence of two or more passes.
Unlike most NBA teams.  (Note that sharing is not a certain path to success.)

It would be interesting to know whether the Spurs were also better at team defense, but I haven't seen any statistics on that.

(After all the political disasters I've been writing about, I needed to write about a success, a deserved success, from what I can tell.)
- 4:02 PM, 18 June 2014   [link]


It's A Good Joke:  Even though Hillary Clinton didn't intend it as a joke.
“Politics is so unpredictable,” Clinton responded.  “Whoever runs has to recognize that the American political system is probably the most difficult, even brutal, in the world.”
Right.

(I haven't actually counted, but I doubt that the United States would even make a top 100 most brutal politics list.)
- 8:27 AM, 18 June 2014   [link]


"Dana Milbank's Heritage Disaster"  Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank went to a Heritage terrorism event — and saw what he wanted to see (or what he wanted others to think he saw), and then produced a post that was a little too imaginative, according to Dylan Byers.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank set off a flurry of outraged tweets on Monday night after posting a highly critical recap of a panel event at The Heritage Foundation that, he says, "deteriorated into the ugly taunting of a woman in the room who wore an Islamic head covering."

Video of that panel has since surfaced and -- in my view -- Milbank grossly misrepresented the nature of that exchange.
(I watched the video and decided to believe my eyes and ears, rather than Milbank.)

Milbank's column provoked an irritated reply from Mollie Hemingway.   She begins with this paragraph:
Dana Milbank is a columnist for the Washington Post who serially exaggerates or distorts what he writes about.  It’s just what he does.  This has been established so many times by so many people that it’s disappointing to see he is still given prominent perch in his paper and that people who made it past their sophomore year in high school take him seriously.  My contribution to the cataloguing of his hackery is "Dana Milbank Is Incoherent On Marriage,” which shows how he just made stuff up when covering a panel of women at the Heritage Foundation.
And she goes on, at some length, from there.

If Milbank has this history, why has the Post not reined him in, or even dismissed him?  That's a good question, to which I have no answer.

But I can say that, in general, Milbank's columns comfort comfortable leftists, many of whom read the Post.

(Even Wikipedia has noticed Milbank's controversial record.)
- 7:48 AM, 18 June 2014   [link]


Why Did The Obama Administration Arrest Ahmed Abu Khattala Now?  The first part of that question appears easy; the administration claims that Abu Khattala was one of the "ringleaders" in the attack on our "facility" in Benghazi.

But we haven't arrested any of the other "ringleaders", haven't even made much of an effort to arrest them, as far as I can tell.

I don't know why we nabbed him, and not the others, but I have to say that this cynical explanation seems all too plausible.
So, the one guy who will substantiate the White House claim that the YouTube video animated a “peaceful protest” is the only one caught, after two years, when he’s walking around mocking the charges?  And it happens to be during a time when Obama’s foreign policy is collapsing and the administration is mired in scandals.
And the second sentence seems like a plausible explanation for why we arrested him now.

You may recall that the a reporter friendly to the administration, David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times, claimed that we didn't arrest him earlier because we didn't want to disrupt the weak Libyan government.  There may have been some truth in that claim, but it is also true that the Libyan government is even weaker now than it was last December.

The Obama administration is, as it has before, making a serious mistake by treating a terrorist as a criminal, rather than a prisoner of war.  Abu Khattala belongs in Guantánamo, not an American courtroom.
- 6:23 AM, 18 June 2014   [link]


In 2010, Vice President Joe Biden said:
Appearing on CNN’s Larry King Live, Biden told King “It [Iraq] could be one of the greatest achievements of this administration.”  He continued, “You’re going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer.  You’re going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government.”

Biden, seemingly poised and confident in his foreign policy experience, said “I know every one of the major players in all the segments of that society.  It’s impressed me.   I’ve been impressed how they have been deciding to use the political process rather than guns to settle their differences.”
Was this just Joe Biden going out on a limb, without checking with the White House?

Nope.  In 2011, in a formal speech, President Obama gave similarly rosy predictions about the future of Iraq, after the American withdrawal.

It is now clear that both the peace, and the partial cooperation we saw then in Iraq, were consequences of the American military presence — and intelligent diplomacy by the Bush administration.  Without those two, Iraq began to fall apart.

(Was Biden attempting to claim credit for the success of Bush polices that he had opposed?   Of course.  What worries me, a little, is that he may not have realized that was what he was doing.)
- 2:42 PM, 17 June 2014   [link]


IRS Bureaucrats Burying Bad News:  You have heard about the "missing" Lois Lerner emails, you may have noticed that the IRS told Congress the bad news on a Friday afternoon, a time often chosen for the release of embarrassing stories, but you may not have heard how the IRS chose to pass on this news.
[House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave] Camp notes that the IRS decided to "bury" the claim of lost emails "deep in an unrelated letter on a Friday afternoon."   He isn't kidding.  It appears on the 15th page of the document, which is actually the seventh page of the first attachment to an eight-page letter, addressed to Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Orrin Hatch of Utah, respectively chairman and ranking Republican of the Senate Finance Committee.
It's almost as if the IRS hoped people wouldn't notice this little problem, if it were buried deeply enough.

Of course, this inept effort to bury the bad news will only make critics more suspicious.

(In May, I suggested watching (or reading) some episodes of "Yes Minister", if you wanted to understand the VA scandals.  Many of the episodes, including one I recommended, "Big Brother", turn on efforts of the bureaucrats to hide information they don't want elected officials to see.)
- 6:09 AM, 17 June 2014   [link]