Archive:

May 2010, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Congratulations To Kevin Ellis:  And to Amy Chyao and Yale Fan.  (Kevin Ellis got first billing because he's from Vancouver, Washington.)  For their wins in the Intel International Science And Engineering Fair.

Here's what Chyao did:

She worked on a concept to extend the usefulness of a promising treatment for cancer.   The approach is called photodynamic therapy, or PDT, which uses light energy to activate a drug called a photosensitizer that produces a form of oxygen that kills nearby cells.   The treatment can be used to narrowly target cancer cells, with fewer adverse effects on others, Chyao says.  The problem is, since PDT requires light it has been confined to use with skin cancers, she says.

Chyao says she tried to extend the concept using energy that can penetrate the skin, such as near-infrared light, in hopes of attacking other forms of cancer.  Her goal was to develop a photosensitizer that would be activated when exposed to such forms of energy.  She says she couldn't actually experiment on living tissue, but was able to demonstrate the toxic effect of her photosensitizer (which included esoteric materials such as quantum dots).

And, here's what Ellis and Fan did:

Both teens created projects around computers.   Ellis developed a method to automatically speed up computer programs by analyzing the programs while they are running so that work could be divided across multiple microprocessors.

Fan's project demonstrated the advantages of quantum computing in performing difficult computations.

(I'd like more details on the projects, but these were the best descriptions I found in a very quick search.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 5:10 PM, 16 May 2010   [link]


Should Farm Subsidies Go To Accordion Clubs, Billiards Clubs, Alumni Societies, And Airports?  The answer is yes, if you work for the European Union, which passes out €55 billion a year in subsidies through their Common Agricultural Policy.

Some of that money goes to some odd recipients, and some to some very-well-connected recipients, which will not surprise you.

(As one who is generally opposed to agricultural subsidies, I take a little bit of pleasure in seeing that the European Union has even more foolish agricultural policies than we do.  But only a little bit, since I would rather that both we and they were more sensible.)
- 3:49 PM, 16 May 2010   [link]


Can We Trust What Academics Tell Us About China?  No, because they are censoring themselves.
Taken in isolation, these incidents may seem minor, but they are part of a much larger trend.  As China's influence spreads throughout the world, so does a willingness to play by its rules.  In March, Google shut down its Internet search service in mainland China, saying it no longer wanted to self-censor its search results to comply with "local" law.   But these laws may not be local anymore.  Interviews with a number of writers and China watchers suggest that Chinese censorship is becoming an increasingly borderless phenomenon.
. . .
While Beijing's censorship is well known, the self-censorship of Western writers is shrouded in uneasy silence.  The idea that scholars "collectively are compromising our academic ideals in order to gain access to China offends people intellectually, but we all do it," a professor at a prestigious American university told me in a telephone interview.  He requested anonymity out of fear of alienating not Beijing, but his colleagues in the United States.
(Emphasis added.)

It's an old, old story, by now.  It was an old problem when Simon Leys wrote about it in that brilliant little book, Chinese Shadows.  (Leys mentions being told by the editor of that very respectable French newspaper, Le Monde that the newspaper could not publish negative stories about China — because the staff would object, and because the newspaper wanted to keep a correspondent in Beijing.)  It is more than a little discouraging to see that the self-censorship continues, and, if anything, has gotten worse.

We need accurate information about China, and that information must include the shadows, as well as the bright spots.  To get that shadow information, we will have to look in unconventional places.

(Is New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who often writes glowingly about China, self-censoring?  Probably, but I think he believes most of what he writes.)
- 3:26 PM, 16 May 2010   [link]


The "Messaging" On Israel Has Gone Wrong, Not The Obama Policies, claims Rahm Emanuel.

But then he would say that, wouldn't he?  Especially with elections just months away.  (And a few elections just weeks, or even days, away.)
- 7:53 AM, 16 May 2010   [link]


Are Americans A Howling Mob?  No, but many officials seem to believe that, says Michael Barone.
Why the reluctance to state the obvious truth, that we are under attack from terrorists motivated by a radical form of Islam?

My theory is that these well-intentioned folk see the American people as a howling mob.  They think that if Americans find out that Islamists are attacking us, they will go out and slaughter innocent Muslims.  They think that Americans are incapable of understanding the simple truth that while most terrorists are Islamists, the large majority of Muslims are not terrorists.
. . .
The howling mob theory explains a lot of otherwise puzzling things.  It helps to explain why Janet Napolitano's Homeland Security Department, tasked with finding possible terrorists, set about tracking disgruntled military veterans and gun owners.  Just the kind of people who turn into a howling mob!

It helps to explain journalists' desperate search for racist epithets at Tea Party gatherings -- and their lack of interest in the actual violence that has been common at rallies against the Arizona immigration law and antiwar marches.
And much else.

The contempt so many leftists, including most "mainstream" journalists, have for ordinary Americans is partly rooted in that fear of the howling mob, a mob that exists almost entirely in their minds.
- 7:24 AM, 16 May 2010   [link]


Some People Don't Like Kids:  Other people's kids, anyway, as this Washington Post article reminds us.
Mel Antonen and his 3-year-old son, Emmett, were walking in Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill one morning when a chocolate Labrador puppy named Wilson jumped at the toddler and wouldn't go away -- even after Antonen lifted his boy out of the dog's reach, yelling at the owner, "Get him off! Get him off!"

Owner and father exchanged words.  Wilson's owner, a journalist who has lived on Capitol Hill for 15 years and identified herself only as Linda because she didn't want to be seen as hostile to children, said later that she wished parents would keep their children inside the park's fenced-in play area.  "I find people with children to be tyrants," she said.   "As someone who doesn't have children, I think children are fine. I don't think they own everything."

Politicians and planners have heralded the return of young families to such areas as Washington, Boston and New York as a sign of resurgence.  But as the ranks of parents and their tykes have swelled, so, too, has resentment over having to accommodate them in public places.  Skirmishes have erupted on buses, in parks, on playing fields and in bars.   Often, the conflicts pit parents against childless adults who, after decades of middle-class flight, have gotten used to the sense that they have the city to themselves.
In a more civilized place, an ordinary suburb, for example, the puppy would have been on a leash and the owner would have controlled it.  (And if the dog's owner and the parent were smart, they would have used the encounter to give the toddler and puppy a lesson in how to get along with each other.)
- 7:01 AM, 16 May 2010   [link]


Sometimes You Need Someone Who Thinks In Crude Ethnic Categories:   Sometimes, in other words, you need someone like Pat Buchanan, to point out the obvious patterns in picks for the Supreme Court.
And not in nearly half a century has a Democratic president nominated a white Protestant or white Catholic man or woman.

The last was Byron "Whizzer" White, the all-American running back from the University of Colorado, nominated by his friend Jack Kennedy.  White cast one of the only two votes against Roe v Wade.
. . .
Reagan's first choice was Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman ever nominated.  His second was Antonin Scalia, the first Italian-American.   When his third nominee, Robert Bork, a Protestant, was rejected, Reagan chose Bork's Jewish colleague on the U.S. Appellate Court for the District of Columbia, Douglas H. Ginsburg.  When Douglas Ginsburg was pulled because of a marijuana incident in college, Reagan chose the Irish Catholic Anthony Kennedy.

George H. W. Bush picked David Souter, a Protestant from New Hampshire, and Clarence Thomas, the second African-American to sit.   George W. Bush chose John Roberts, a Catholic; Harriet Miers, the first Evangelical Christian of our era; and Sam Alito, the second Italian Catholic.
One party's presidents have chosen diverse nominees, from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds, one party's presidents haven't.  (For what it is worth, the Democratic presidents since Kennedy have all been Protestants, at least formally.)

I can add one more diversity point for Republican presidents.  President George W. Bush nominated Miguel Estrada to the Court of Appeals for the D. C. Circuit.  Senate Democrats blocked his confirmation with an unprecedented filibuster — because he is Hispanic, and they feared that Bush would later make Estrada the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court.
- 2:26 PM, 15 May 2010   [link]


The New York Times Is Worried About Elena Kagan:  We can tell that from the headlines they used on Tuesday, on their front page articles.  The first, over a "news analysis" by Peter Baker, is: "Liberal, in Moderation".  The second, over an article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Katherine Q. Seelye and Lisa W. Foderaro, is: "Pragmatic New Yorker Chose A Careful Path to Washington".

So there you are.  The New York Times wants you to think that Kagan is a pragmatic, moderate liberal, or perhaps a pragmatic, liberal moderate.  From which any sensible person will conclude that she is a lefty, though probably a lefty cautious about revealing her ideology.

(Kagan bats right, as the by-now famous picture of her reveals.  I wouldn't have mentioned that — except, when I searched for the picture with Google, I couldn't find the picture in the first few pages of images.  Bing, on the other hand, popped it right up, when I used the same search string I had used with Google: "Elena Kagan + softball + Chicago".

By the way, this isn't the first time that I have suspected that Google was hiding some politically incorrect result, nor am I the only person who has come to that conclusion.  All the more reason not to rely on a single search engine, I suppose.)
- 8:38 AM, 14 May 2010   [link]


Condemn Before Reading:  That's what Attorney General Eric Holder has done with the Arizona immigration bill.
REPRESENTATIVE TED POE, (R-TEXAS):  So Arizona, since the federal government totally fails to secure the border desperately then passed laws to protect its own people.  The law is supported by 70 percent of the people in Arizona, 60 percent of all Americans, and 50 percent of all Hispanics according to the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll done just this week.  And I understand that you may file a lawsuit against the law.  Seems to me the Administration ought to be enforcing border security and immigration laws and not challenge them, and that the Administration is on the wrong side of the American people.   Have you read the Arizona law?

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I have not had a chance to, I've glanced at it.  I have not read it.
Those of us who aren't lawyers have an excuse; we may not have read the law because we suspect we could not understand the legalese.  And lawyers who don't work for the government have an excuse; it's not part of their job to read the law.

But what's Eric Holder's excuse?

(I would almost feel sorry for him, if he weren't the Attorney General, and hadn't accumulated such a long line of blunders, including yesterday's two.)
- 7:45 AM, 14 May 2010   [link]


Merkel Should Have Accepted Sarkozy's Offer:  That was my first reaction to this story.
Sarkozy demanded "a compromise from everyone to support Greece . . . or France would reconsider its position in the euro," according to one source cited by El País.

"Sarkozy went as far as banging his fist on the table and threatening to leave the euro," said one unnamed Socialist leader who was at the meeting with Zapatero.  "That obliged Angela Merkel to bend and reach an agreement."
And that's my second reaction, too.  Chancellor Merkel should have accepted President Sarkozy's offer and suggested that they work out an orderly way to return to national currencies.

The euro has proved to be a great mistake, for all the reasons that economists predicted that it would.   And it has not provided the predicted political benefits that some European politicians used to sell it.   Voters across Europe are less and less likely to vote in European elections and, if anything, less and less interested in becoming Europeans.  (There are exceptions like Nick Clegg, of course, but I think that they should be seen as just that, exceptions.)

The basic problem is simple; having a common currency requires that nations synchronize their budgets.  The nations that adopted the euro promised to do that but mostly didn't keep that promise, since, as any politician can tell you, the next election is more important than some dry words on a treaty.  And so now Greece, and probably many other countries, have to be rescued from their own extravagance, extravagance made possible by the euro.  As you may have noticed, the Greeks are not grateful to their rescuers, nor are the citizens in other countries that are providing the money happy to do so.  Germans, for example, can't see why they should send money to Greece to support a pension system far more generous than their own.

There is a second problem that is almost as serious; a common currency often requires mobility, as Americans have learned through many down turns.  We expect people to move from depressed regions, or states with bad policies, such as California, to prospering areas, or states with good policies, such as Texas.  In principle, the European Union allows similar mobility, but it is far harder, for many reasons, for Europeans to move from one country to another.

The best solution is the obvious one, an orderly exit from the euro and a return to national currencies.  Few European politicians want to admit that, but disasters like Greece, and the pressure of their voters, may force them to.

(Not all economists predicted that the euro would fail, and some still haven't grasped that it has.  For an example of their thinking, see this Wikipedia propaganda piece.)
- 6:48 AM, 14 May 2010   [link]


He's Baaaack!  Just when you thought it was safe to visit Mt. St. Helens.

Mt. St Helens Gnome, 13 May 2010

Though I must admit that he looks peaceful enough.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 5:08 PM, 13 May 2010   [link]


Was Faisal Shahzad An Illegal Immigrant?  At times, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, the would-be Times Square bomber was.
Contrary to what some news media have stated, it is not completely clear that Shahzad always maintained legal status.  In addition, there are aspects of his immigration history that indicate his awareness of how to work our system and that he was planning to engage in terrorism for some time.  Moreover, Shahzad was born in Pakistan, traveled there often and received his terrorist training there.  Thus, it seems inaccurate to describe him a "home grown" terrorist as some reporters have done.  Nor does it seem accurate to describe his terrorism as simply a case of "a legal immigrant's failed American Dream," as suggested by CBS news.
But those spells of illegality never got him into trouble with the INS.

(His wife, Huma Mian, was born in Colorado, if you were wondering how she became a US citizen.)
- 4:51 PM, 13 May 2010   [link]


The Korean War Heats Up:  Didn't the Korean War end way back in the 1950s?  Actually, no.  The main fighting ended with an armistice signed in July 1953.  But the war never ended, and from time to time, North Korea attacks South Korea.  (Here's a list of some of the more important attacks.)

Even South Korean president Kim Dae-jung's efforts to reach out to North Korea with his "sunshine policy" did not result in a peace treaty.  (Though it did win him a famous Norwegian prize.)

Almost certainly, the sinking of a South Korean ship, the Cheonan, was another such attack.  (Almost certainly, because at least one expert still thinks the ship could have been sunk by a mine, even a very old mine.  The physical evidence that has been accumulating makes that unlikely, in my semi-informed opinion.)

The South Korean government has promised retaliation if the evidence proves that it was a deliberate North Korean attack, but has few good options.  Sanctions that might actually hurt North Korea, cutting off our food aid, for example, might result in massive starvation.  And North Korea has been working, with some success, on ways to further complicate the strategic problems for South Korea.  For some examples, look here and here.

In principle, China could bring North Korea to heel, but as far as I can tell, the Chinese government likes the problems that the North Korean regime causes for us.  The Chinese may be willing to put some limits on the regime's trouble making, but I think it highly unlikely that they will jerk that chain very hard.

I wish I could end this post with at least a little bit of optimism — but I can't.  The best possible alternative is probably a continuation of tension, and minor attacks, by North Korea.  But it is possible that things will get far worse before the regime finally collapses.

(Some commenters have been confused by a term, "bubble jet", used in some descriptions of explosion that sunk the Cheonan.  A bubble jet results when a shaped charge explodes under water, producing a powerful jet of water, mixed with a few bubbles.   If you are unfamiliar with shaped charges, you can find an explanation here, along with a nifty little animation.)
- 2:03 PM, 13 May 2010   [link]


"The Coming War Is On Everyone's Mind"  The coming war between Israel and its enemies.   So says Daniel Jackson, who lives in Israel, and has been talking to the young men and women who will fight the war.

You may not agree with everything Jackson says, but you will want to read the whole thing.

More thoughts on the post here from David Foster, who believes that the Obama administration has made war in the Middle East "much more likely".  (I think the administration has made war in the Middle East a little more likely.  But we agree that another war there is likely, and soon.)
- 9:04 AM, 13 May 2010   [link]


Kagan Is A Stealthy Quota Pick:  That, in my opinion, is why Barack Obama chose Elena Kagan, a woman with no judicial experience, a woman who failed miserably in her first appearance before the Supreme Court, for the Supreme Court.

Kagan was chosen, in short, because many people believe that she is a lesbian.  Whether she actually is one does not matter, just whether Obama's supporters in the gay community believe that she is.

She's Obama's second quota pick, following Sotomayor.  No white male with Sotomayor's history of racial comments and undistinguished record as a judge would have even been considered for the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor was an open quota pick, Kagan a stealthy quota pick.  It is easy to understand why the Obama administration prefers a woman widely believed to be a lesbian to an out-of-the-closet lesbian (or gay).  Choosing an open lesbian or gay would offend many people with traditional values, just as supporting gay marriage would.  And I am sure you recall that, during the 2008 campaign, Obama said that he opposed gay marriage.  (Does he actually oppose it?  Who knows?  But he knows enough to say that he opposes it, during a campaign.)

(That Kagan, like Sotomayor comes from Harvard, and knew Obama at the University of Chicago, shows us, again, how narrow his circle is, how little he knows of most of this country.

J. C. Arenas suspects that Obama may have another motive for choosing Kagan.)
- 7:53 AM, 13 May 2010   [link]


How The BBC License Fee Works:  Charles Moore explains.  He was offended by a particularly cruel program, and decided not to pay the yearly fee, as a protest.
When my renewal came up, I wrote to TV Licensing to explain my position.  They replied that a television licence was a "legal permission", not "a payment for services from broadcasters".   In other words, I had no rights.

After that, the wheels turned slowly.  But, in early December of last year, two burly men, looking like ex-policemen, arrived at my London flat.  I was surprised, since I do not have a television there.  The unlicensed television which was bothering them is at our house in Sussex.  I said I did not have time to see the two gentlemen from TV Licensing then and there, so they came down to Sussex to interview me under caution.   Eventually, I was summoned to court.
And eventually fined £262.

In the process of making his protest, he learned just how unfair the license fee is to many in Britain, most of them poor.
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing I have discovered over the past 20 months is the vast tide of small-scale human misery which the licence fee causes.  In 2008-09, there were 168,800 prosecutions for licence-fee evasion.  That is nearly 15 per cent of all prosecutions.  Almost all the people charged are poor.  The telly is one of their few pleasures, and they tend not to watch the BBC on it.  And yet, for want of £142.50, tens of thousands clog up the courts every year.

Yesterday in Hastings, a young single mother was tried for the same offence as mine.  She had a baby in a pushchair, and I agreed with the clerk to let her case go first, so that she could get out in time to fetch her other children out of school.   I can see no justice and no humour in a situation where people like her are punished, so that people like [former BBC employee Jonathan] Ross can get his £6 million.
Wouldn't it be fun to see an American network, for instance PBS, make a show on the BBC license fee?   (Seriously, I suppose we should hope that Fox will do it.)
- 4:24 PM, 12 May 2010   [link]


If You Were Having Trouble Trying To Access This Site, . . . so was I.   Here's the non-explanation from Seanet:
The domain name, Seanet.com, may not be accessible by some customers at this time as well as any email access.  The issue has been resolved, however, you may need to reboot your PC in order to refresh your connection.  Also, your DNS may still have cached results and you may need to clear/flush your DNS to be able to access www.seanet.com.
(And if you can guess what happened, please let me know.)

After I re-booted, my access problems stopped.  And now you know as much as I do.
- 3:54 PM, 12 May 2010   [link]


Does He, Or Doesn't He?  Know how to use an iPod.
President Barack Obama told Hampton University's graduating class on Sunday that he does not "know how to work" an iPod.  Last July, however, after pop-star Michael Jackson's death, Obama told the Associated Press (see video below) that he had Jackson's music on his iPod.
I suppose that both could be true; Obama could have all that music on his iPod, but not know how to get to it.  But that seems unlikely, since, as I understand it, much of the attraction of an iPod is that there isn't much to know, when it comes to using one.

Most likely, Obama was, as usual, just saying what he thought would work best with the audience immediately in front of him.
- 1:51 PM, 12 May 2010   [link]


Why Did The Conservatives Form A Coalition With The Liberal Democrats?    Partly it's a matter of simple arithmetic.  There are many possible party coalitions, even if you limit them to the smallest possible coalitions.
All in there are 60 permutations of smallest potential coalitions.  There are even more if you include coalitions with more than the minimum majority/effective majority.  There may be some use to having more than the effective majority in case a minor party pulls out so the government still retains minimally an effective majority.
But there are only two possible coalitions formed from just two parties, Conservative-Labour and Conservative-Liberal Democrats.  The first coalition is even more implausible than the second, so the British got the second, to most people's surprise.

And most of the minor parties are unsuitable as coalition partners.

(David Cameron could have tried for a much more limited agreement with the Liberal Democrats, a confidence and supply agreement.   Under such an agreement, the Liberal Democrats would not have joined the Cabinet, but would have agreed not to vote against the government on a no-confidence motion, or on the budget.

Such agreements probably make the most sense for a caretaker government, one that plans to be in office for less than a year before the next election.)
- 1:29 PM, 12 May 2010   [link]


One Way To Make Sure the nominee gets the right questions.
The White House today posted on its website a video allowing Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan to speak "in her own words" about her personal history and perspective.

In the interview, conducted by a White House staffer who produces videos for the administration, Kagan discusses her childhood, parents and professional career.  At one point she jokes that people get confused between her job as solicitor general arguing cases before the Supreme Court and the attorney general, who puts "the labels on the cigarette packages."

While the White House seems to believe the American people deserve to hear from Kagan, it has not made her available to reporters.  That prompted some consternation at today's White House briefing.
And no wrong questions.

I love that next-to-the-last sentence.  The CBS reporter, Brian Montpoli, just couldn't help himself; he had to add that alibi for Obama.
- 9:49 AM, 12 May 2010   [link]


Should There Be A Free Market In Human Eggs?  The New York Times does not disapprove of the market completely, but appears to agree with the American Society for Reproductive Medicine that the market should be more regulated.
In the study, Dr. Aaron Levine, an assistant professor of public policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, examined more than 100 egg donation ads from 63 college newspapers.  He found that a quarter of them offered compensation exceeding the $10,000 maximum cited in voluntary guidelines issued by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a professional association.

The guidelines state that payments of $5,000 or more above and beyond medical and related expenses "require justification" and that payments above $10,000 "are not appropriate."  Ads in newspapers at Harvard, Princeton and Yale promised $35,000 for donors, Dr. Levine found, while an ad placed on behalf of an anonymous couple in The Brown Daily Herald offered $50,000 for "an extraordinary egg donor."
Given the time and risks involved in egg donation, $5,000 seems a little chintzy to me, and if would-be parents want to pay more, and can, then that's their affair, not mine.

(The Times may be mostly worried about race and ethnicity requirements for donors.

According to the article, "many" industrialized nations forbid egg donation, though the Times doesn't explain why.)
- 9:23 AM, 12 May 2010   [link]


Integrated Criminal Gangs?  On April 28th, there was a horrible home invasion, robbery, and murder in a Tacoma suburb.  You can read about it here if you want to know more about the crime.

But I was struck by one very visible detail about the four suspects, Clabon Berniard, Kiyoshi Higashi, Amanda Knight, and Joshua Reese.  Take a look at their faces, which you can see here and here.  Berniard is of mixed race, Higashi appears to be Japanese, as his name suggests, Knight is white or mostly white, and Reese is black.  You can't get much more diverse than that, with only four people.

It's my impression that there are more of these mixed race criminal gangs than there were twenty years ago, and far more than there were fifty years ago.  Even for criminals, race may be declining in importance.

(Are mixed race gangs a bigger or smaller problem than less diverse gangs?  You'd have to ask a detective in a big city for an informed opinion on that question.  They might be less cohesive, easier to turn against each other, but they might also have a wider range of contacts, making some kinds of felonies easier.)
- 8:51 AM, 12 May 2010   [link]


Good News From West Virginia:  First district Congressman Alan Mollohan was defeated in a primary.
Democrat Alan Mollohan became the first member of the U.S. House to be ousted this spring primary season after his opponent mounted a campaign that questioned the 14-term congressman's ethics and support for federal health care "reform".
(I corrected the Associated Press story, adding the quotes around "reform".)

Don Surber explains why this is good news.
Mollohan is a crook.  He did it legally.  But trading favors for $250 million worth of earmarks over the years to "nonprofit" — tax-exempt — groups run by his associates is unethical.  The irony being he was the leading Democrat on the House ethics committee at the time.  He had to turn over every penny of his congressional salary to lawyers who are expert in defending people in white-collar crime cases.
Mollohan will stay out of jail, probably, but he won't be in Congress any more, and for that we can all be grateful.

(The 2010 Almanac of American Politics has more details on his ethical problems.
He long has had a strategy of encouraging the creation of non-profit organizations, many led by former staffers and close friends, through which he has funnel money into northern West Virginia. . . . . Mollohan argues that these nonprofits have created thousands of jobs in West Virginia, including high-tech jobs for 200 firms along the Interstate 79 corridor from Morganstown to Weston

But in April 2006, the conservative National Legal and Policy Center charged that Mollohan had failed to disclose all of his assets and issued a 500-page report that listed some 250 alleged misrepresentations.   As amplified in a Wall Street Journal article, Mollohan had made real estate investments with nonprofit officials who were former staffers or contributors that boosted his assets from $565,000 to at least $6 million in 2004.  The newspaper also reported that Mollohan bought a farm on the Cheat River in Tucker County with the head of a defense contracting firm that had obtained a contract funded by a Mollohan earmark. (p. 1602)
There's more, but that should be enough to give you an idea of why honest citizens should be happy that Mollohan lost the primary.

There's a good chance that the Republicans will pick up this seat, now that he is gone.   Bush carried the district in 2004 with 58 percent of the vote, and McCain carried it in 2008 with 57 percent of the vote.)
- 7:50 AM, 12 May 2010   [link]


It's Prime Minister David Cameron:  In a formal coalition with the Liberal Democrats, though they are still, apparently, working on the details.
David Cameron was formally invited to form a Government tonight after five days of extraordinary post-election wrangling ended in defeat for Gordon Brown.

Mr Brown announced his resignation as Prime Minister in an emotional statement outside No 10 before heading to Buckingham Palace to recommend to the Queen that she invite Mr Cameron to succeed him.

The Tory leader duly arrived at the Palace half an hour later, accompanied by his pregnant wife Samantha, for an audience with the monarch.  At 43 he becomes Britain's youngest prime minister since the Earl of Liverpool in 1812.

Curiously, however, it appeared that the deal with the Liberal Democrats that delivered Mr Cameron the keys to Downing Street had not yet been completed.
More later, when we know more.

(I was disappointed to learn that the new Prime Ministers no longer kiss the Queen's hands, though the British still use that phrase to describe the ceremony.)
- 1:16 PM, 11 May 2010   [link]


Union President Barrette Green Has Cost Washington State Millions Of Dollars:   Not in pay, or benefits, or wasted resources, but in sexual harassment lawsuits.  The latest has just been settled.

Washington state and a public-employees union have agreed to pay nearly $1 million to settle a sexual-harassment lawsuit stemming from the actions of a former Western State Hospital official accused of abusing at least 15 female employees before he was fired in 2003.

The actions of Barrette Green have now cost the state nearly $3 million — plus attorney's fees — and prompted the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to revamp its sexual-harassment policies and training.

Green is accused of using, or perhaps I should say, abusing, his position as union president.

In addition, Green was accused of using his position as president of a Washington Federation of State Employees union local to threaten and intimidate hospital workers who might complain about him

His union presidency may explain why he was promoted while he was harassing so many women, so aggressively.

The article does not say whether the officials who hired and promoted him have been fired, or even reprimanded.

He has not been prosecuted for his misdeeds at Western State, why I am not sure.  (If you have an explanation, pass it along, especially if you know more about criminal law than I do.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(For those unfamiliar with Washington politics:  Washington's governors have been Democrats since the 1984 election.  DSHS has been plagued by scandals for years, perhaps decades.)
- 12:45 PM, 11 May 2010   [link]


Ralph Peters Wonders Why The Obama Administration Switched Policy On Terrorism:  The former intelligence officer thinks that the administration got new intelligence about threats to the United States.
Something big is happening. Big enough to alarm the White House.  So big that the administration did an abrupt about-face regarding terrorism.

Terrorism's serious now -- driving major policy reversals. The administration just won't tell us why.
. . .
First, the administration has plainly realized that the terror danger is much higher than it believed one week ago.

Second, it means that Shahzad really has been talking -- almost certainly tipping us that there are more America-bound terror trainees out there (or already here) and letting us fit together important pieces of the intelligence puzzle.

Third, the White House obviously fears more terror attacks sooner rather than later.
It is not surprising that a former intelligence officer would think that new intelligence would change the administration's position.

But there is a more cynical explanation that seems just as plausible:  This administration, like its recent predecessors, polls constantly.  Political operatives like David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel may have seen political danger in recent poll results, and then persuaded Obama to change administration policies.

The two explanations aren't exclusive, of course, but with this administration, as with the Clinton administration, one should always try the political explanation first.
- 8:54 AM, 11 May 2010   [link]


Who Is Elena Kagan?  The Wall Street Journal editorial writers think they know.
In selecting Elena Kagan to be the country's next Supreme Court Justice, President Obama has tapped the legal world's version of himself: a skillful politician whose cautious public persona belies a desire to transform the court and shape a new Constitutional liberalism.

In announcing her appointment yesterday, Mr. Obama praised the Solicitor General as someone who had won kudos from "across the ideological spectrum" and proven that she could work with conservatives, even (gasp) hiring some while dean of Harvard law school.  Known for her personal charm and politesse, Ms. Kagan is also a woman of the modern judicial left who is unlikely to break from the High Court's liberal bloc on any major legal dispute.
(Like Sotomayor, Kagan fills another quota — probably.  Kagan is widely believed to be a lesbian.

Is that relevant?  I think it is, for two reasons, first for what it suggests about her personal values, and second, for what it suggests about her ability to hide things, when she wants to.   If she is a lesbian, she could easily have "come out" while she was Dean at Harvard Law.  That would have been a minor plus for her academic career.  Or she could have acted in ways that would have scotched the rumors, but as far as I know, never did so.  Most likely she took an in-between position in order to preserve her viability for high political posts.)

Her willingness to treat academic conservatives politely, and even to hire a few, tells us more about the sad state of academia than it does about Kagan.  There are so many rude leftists in academia that a person with ordinary civility stands out in contrast.  Her willingness to hire a few may show her shrewdness; for many years conservatives and libertarians have been devalued in most academic departments and schools.  A shrewd leader, who can put aside political prejudice, can hire good people, often at bargain prices.

If I were in the Senate, I would vote against her confirmation, because of her ideology.  Many, perhaps most, Americans would do the same.
Americans, however, would prefer a new Supreme Court justice who makes the court more conservative (42%) over one who would make the Court more liberal (27%).  Gallup found essentially the same result last May prior to Obama's nomination of Sotomayor to replace David Souter.
But I also suspect that I would enjoy talking to Kagan over a cup of coffee or tea.

(There's more on her leftist background here, and on the declining diversity of the Court here.)
- 8:22 AM, 11 May 2010
For the record:  Friends of Kagan are denying that she is a lesbian, and say that that she dated men in college.  That doesn't settle the question for me, because one would expect her friends to defend her and because most "lesbians" have some dating experiences with men.
- 12:49 PM, 12 May 2010   [link]


Bad New For Bailout Backers:  Angela Merkel's party lost control of the upper house of the German parliament.
Voters in Germany's most populous state dealt Chancellor Angela Merkel a painful setback Sunday, erasing her government's majority in the upper house of parliament and curbing its power after a stumbling start and criticism over the Greek debt crisis.

Merkel's center-right alliance was voted out of power in a state election in North Rhine-Westphalia, a region of some 18 million people that includes Cologne and the industrial Ruhr area, projections showed.  It was the first electoral test since she started her second term in October.
(Technically, her party lost control of the Bundesrat, which most Germans do not consider an upper house of the parliament — though many foreigners do.)

The Greece bailout wasn't the only reason her party lost the election; for some others, including a scandal, see this article from Der Spiegel.  But many observers will think so, and that's almost as important.
- 12:54 PM, 10 May 2010   [link]


Are American Jews Beginning To Catch On To Obama?   Maybe.
United States President Barack Obama has lost nearly half of his support among American Jews, a poll by the McLaughlin Group has shown.

The US Jews polled were asked whether they would: (a) vote to re-elect Obama, or (b) consider voting for someone else.  42% said they would vote for Obama and 46%, a plurality, preferred the second answer.  12% said they did not know or refused to answer.
(Note: There is an error in the first sentence; the poll was done by the polling firm of McLaughlin & Associates, not the PBS show, the McLaughlin Group.)

This poll is consistent with polls of other American groups, except, of course, for blacks.  (You can make a strong argument that American blacks have been hurt more by Obama's policies than any other American group, but that isn't how most American blacks see it, for now at least.)

For some of these Jewish voters — and I think this was the point that whoever commissioned the poll wanted to make — Obama's policies toward Israel are hurting him with American Jews.

(Maybe, because some details about the poll are obscure.  They sampled "600 likely Jewish voters", but don't explain how they found that many Jewish voters, or how they established that they are likely to vote.)
- 9:08 AM, 10 May 2010   [link]


Gordon Brown isn't giving up.
In an email to party supporters, the Prime Minister said Labour voters had ''heard our message above the roar of a hostile media and a very well funded opposition.''

Mr Brown is returning to Downing Street this afternoon after spending the night in his Scotland home.   He thanked the ''hundreds of thousands of activists who took pride in Labour's record''.

He wrote: ''The past few days have seen us enter a political landscape not considered possible a few short weeks ago - with the outcome of the election leading to no single party able to form a majority government.
British quipsters like to say that it will take crowbars to remove Gordon Brown from the Prime Minister's residence at #10 Downing Street.  I don't think that's literally true, but the top civil servants there might want to lay in a supply of crowbars, just in case.
- 7:44 AM, 10 May 2010
Update:  They found a crowbar.  Brown is willing to step down if doing so will keep Labour in power.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Monday he would step down this year, sacrificing himself to give his Labour Party a chance of forming a government with the smaller Liberal Democrats.

The Lib Dems are already being courted by David Cameron's Conservatives, who won most seats in a parliamentary election last week but fell short of a majority.
It is a well-timed ploy if Brown wanted to make it harder for the Conservatives to reach a reasonable agreement with the Liberal Democrats, as I am sure he does.
- 2:58 PM, 10 May 2010   [link]


Unifier Or Polarizer?  Morton Kondracke wonders which one is the real Barack Obama, as he contemplates the way Obama switches back and forth on business, sometimes praising businesses and sometimes attacking businesses with crude charges.

At the end of the column, Kondracke comes to a tentative, but disturbing, conclusion:
My own hunch is that Obama, at heart, is not a socialist but a liberal without the slightest idea of how private enterprises create wealth -- and deeply suspicious of their practitioners.

But he knows that unifying rhetoric is what the country wants to hear.  So, one day it's one thing.  Another day, it's another.  If this is right, it won't stop and it's very sad.
(Emphasis added.)

In other words, Kondracke suspects that Obama doesn't have a clue about how most of our economy works.  And Obama doesn't like the people who run businesses.  Those are devastating charges, worse in almost every way than calling Obama a "socialist", which Kondracke rejects.

Devastating but plausible.  Obama has almost no experience in the private sector, and there is nothing in his education — what we know about it — to suggest that he learned the basics of our private economy while in college.  Nothing in his background suggests that he likes businessmen.  (In a way, that's understandable, considering his main business contact, for many years, was Tony Rezko.)

(Some people say that has no experience in the private sector; that's incorrect, because he worked for a year, in a low-level job at Business International Corporation.   But that's all the private sector work experience he has had, other than, perhaps, some summer jobs.)
- 3:39 PM, 9 May 2010   [link]


Happy Mother's Day!  To all the mothers out there.

Mothers Day duck,  2010

We need our mothers most in stormy times.
- 7:05 AM, 9 May 2010   [link]