Archive:

May 2013, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



News You May Be Able to use: "Ideas that would work perfectly well in song lyrics can sound so wrong in court."

True enough, though I suppose it is going a little too far to call this news.  But I was charmed by the thought, considering its source, a law professor.

(It is, of course, possible to generalize that statement, in interesting ways.)
- 3:58 PM, 8 May 2013   [link]


The Trial Of The Accused Neo-Nazi Serial Murderer Has Been Postponed:  Again.

Here, from the BBC, is the basic story.
An alleged member of a German neo-Nazi cell has gone on trial in Munich in connection with a series of racially motivated murders.

Beate Zschaepe, 38, is accused of being part of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which killed 10 people, most of them of Turkish origin.

She denies the murder charges.  Critics say the police made serious errors.

The judge later adjourned the trial for a week after the defence team accused the judge of bias.
Eight of the ten victims were "of Turkish origin" (and most likely at least nominally Muslim), one was a policewoman, and one man was of Greek origin.  (Assuming they were all killed by the same gang — and there is strong evidence for that conclusion — one wonders whether the Greek was killed by mistake.)

They were killed, one by one, all over Germany, over a period of seven years.  The police did connect the killings because the same gun was used in all of them, but at first thought the murderers were part of a "Turkish Mafia".

The killers hoped to "purify" Germany by scaring away foreigners.

As you can imagine, the killings and trial are wildly controversial in both Germany and Turkey.

I have been expecting something like this for years.  Our "tribal" feelings are so strong that I have been expecting some Europeans to use violence against those they see as aliens.  And I am sorry to say that I expect more such violence in the future.

(The Daily Mail has, as you would expect, a sensational version of the story, including pictures of two of her dead accomplices (and lovers), both named Uwe and looking eerily similar.)
- 7:31 AM, 8 May 2013   [link]


Mark Sanford wins, defeating Elizabeth Colbert Busch 54.04 percent to 45.21 percent.

(Voter turnout was 31.55 percent, which is about normal for a special election.)

Sanford's margin is very close to the Republican edge in the district, about 11 percent, according to election handicapper Charlie Cook.

Public Policy Polling saw the race as "too close to call"; political scientist Jordan Ragusa thought that the race has "always been Sanford’s to lose".  Ragusa looks better than PPP, today.  (Ragusa has studied the effects of scandals on electoral success, and concluded that they hurt, but may not be fatal.)

To be fair, polling is harder in special elections, but it does look as if PPP missed on this one.

Ragusa doesn't mention this, so I will:  Sanford is a skillful and experienced politician, who has never lost a race.  Colbert Busch had never run before, and does not appear to be a natural politician.  Skilled professionals usually beat unskilled amateurs.

(Republicans who want to gloat will enjoy reading this John Avlon opinion piece, explaining "Why a Democrat has a chance against Mark Sanford in South Carolina".)
- 5:08 AM, 8 May 2013   [link]


"Ultraconserved Words"  Researchers have come up with a brief list of them.  (Which you may find of interest, even if you aren't an ultraconservative.)
You, hear me!  Give this fire to that old man.  Pull the black worm off the bark and give it to the mother.  And no spitting in the ashes!

It’s an odd little speech. But if you went back 15,000 years and spoke these words to hunter-gatherers in Asia in any one of hundreds of modern languages, there is a chance they would understand at least some of what you were saying.
Because they had words similar to those in their own language(s).

In other words, the researchers think they have found some base words in the Eurasiatic super-family of languages, words that have stayed relatively constant for all these years.

Are they right?  Ask ten linguists, and I suspect you will get ten different opinions on that question.

(There's a readable account of the search for super language families in The Great Human Diasporas.)
- 4:57 PM, 7 May 2013   [link]


Super-Zoom Cameras Get More Super:  When I began photography, most serious photographers preferred to avoid zoom lenses, if possible.   Their optical quality was not as good as that found in the best fixed lenses, they were heavy and awkward, they were expensive, and you needed at least two of them to cover a reasonable range.

Now, of course, the quality of the zoom lenses has improved, and their price has declined so that they are standard almost everywhere, even on the least expensive cameras.

When digital cameras came along, some designers realized that they could could create zooms with much longer ranges than had been common in SLRs.  Instead of 3X zooms, they began to offer 10X, 12X, 18X, and more.

In particular, designers realized that super-zooms were desirable on most "bridge" cameras.

Canon has taken a temporary lead in this race with a 50X zoom camera, the PowerShot SX50 HS. It's range is equivalent, in 35 mm. terms, to 24-1200 mm.  And, yes, that's the optical range, not a combination of optical and "digital".

According to a reviewer at Amazon, it is just possible to get the same kind of range with a Canon DSLR.
At a 1200mm - 50X - zoom you simply cannot buy a Canon DSLR lens with that kind of magnification for any amount of money.*1 The largest [standard production] DSLR telephoto lens that Canon makes is an 800mm and that lens costs over $13,000.  So there you have it.  For around $500 you can run circles around that magnification, get some fantastic shots and have a lot of fun with it.  It will most definitely amaze your friends when you show them with what you can do with the monster-zoom feature alone.

*1 Technically, "any amount of money" is not completely true here.  Another poster has pointed out that on special order Canon will make a 1200MM lens for a DSLR.  It weighs about 40 lbs.  The MSRP is $100,000.  Only a few dozen have ever been produced.  My bad.
Possible, but not practical for most amateur photographers.  (Incidentally, the reviewer, John Sturgeon, has posted a video that will give you an idea of what you can do at extreme ranges.)

Now I am not recommending this particular super-zoom camera to most of you.  (Take a look at other Amazon reviews and this extended review for some of the limits on the camera.)  But I am suggesting that amateurs take a good look at this category, when choosing a camera.

(Professionals know all about the advantages of these little super-zooms, and probably have one as a second or third camera.)
- 2:33 PM, 7 May 2013   [link]


The Seattle Police Department Wants To Get More Diverse:  So they are going to try to hire some criminals.

Past gang membership, tattoos and a record of driving while intoxicated will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in screening applicants for the Seattle Police Department under new policies designed to boost diversity on the force and hire officers who reflect the makeup of the community.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to smooth out those bumps in the road,” Assistant Police Chief Dick Reed said at a news conference Monday at the social-justice organization El Centro de la Raza as the city unveiled changes in minimum hiring standards.

Which will, probably, make the police force more diverse, though not in a good way.

To be sure, they don't plan to hire anyone who has been convicted of a felony, but they are likely, if they follow this policy, to hire more than a few officers who have committed felonies.

Police officers, because of their authority, face more temptations than most of us, and some of them succumb to those temptations, even in the best police departments.  To "boost diversity" in this way is simply asking for trouble.

Readers unfamiliar with Seattle politics may need to know that the concept of judging people by the "content of their character" does not have wide support among those who run the city.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 1:23 PM, 7 May 2013   [link]


Younger Readers May Need a partial explanation of this Michael Ramirez cartoon.

Ramirez has drawn Obama in a pose often associated with one of his predecessors — Richard M. Nixon.

For Democrats of a certain age, that's the ultimate insult.
- 12:53 PM, 7 May 2013   [link]


Elizabeth Colbert Busch Has Had Her Own Legal And Marital Problems:  Though they have drawn less attention than those of her opponent, Mark Sanford.
On Tuesday, voters in South Carolina's First Congressional District will choose a new congressional representative.  Although the media has been all over the extra-marital affair that haunts Republican Mark Sanford, very little has been reported about the 1988 arrest record of his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch.  On Sunday, the Independent Sentinel reported that Colbert-Busch spent time in jail on contempt-of-court charges during a messy divorce.

A Google search, however, finds very little reporting on the incident outside of conservative blogs.
Colbert Busch was far less prominent at the time than Mark Sanford was when his story broke — but I do think this story deserved some coverage during the campaign.  (With, of course, the usual caveat that a couple going through a messy divorce do not always tell the truth about each other.)

Incidentally, many Republicans, in South Carolina and elsewhere, would be pleased if Sanford loses.  This would rid them of an embarrassment, and they believe, probably correctly, that they can recover the seat in 2014. (If I had a vote in this election, I would vote for Sanford — but I would be looking around for a possible primary to him in 2014.)
- 12:32 PM, 7 May 2013   [link]


French President François Hollande Has Not Had A Good First Year:  As you can see in this cruel, but funny, magazine cover.

As far as I can tell from a distance, Hollande had almost no chance of succeeding, since France is suffering economically, and the potential solutions to its economic problems almost all require short term pain — and attacks on some of the beliefs of Hollande's Socialist Party.  But it also seems true, again from a distance, that Hollande has not handled his country's problems with great political skill.

(Almost all of us can understand the point that the artist is making with that limp baguette.

The headline, "Le coup de pompe" might be translated as "Groggy"; the subhead can be translated: "The foreign press judges François Hollande one year after his election". Here's the usual Wikipedia article, for some background.)
- 6:41 AM, 7 May 2013   [link]


Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, And Michelle Knight Are Free, after all those years.
Three girls who were abducted more than a decade ago have been found alive in the basement of a house in Ohio - where they were apparently held captive in chains.
More when we learn more.
- 5:41 AM, 7 May 2013   [link]


Running Close In South Carolina And Massachusetts:  The polls are close enough so that either Mark Sanford or Elizabeth Colbert Busch could win the special election in South Carolina's 1st House district.  (Vacated when Tim Scott won the senate seat in another special election.)

Scott won the 1st in 2010, 65-29.  In the presidential years of 2004 and 2008, Bush and McCain won it 61-39 and 56-42, respectively.

That the South Carolina race is close is not a surprise, given Sanford's marital problems.   (I do wonder whether Jenny Sanford may not always have behaved perfectly, either, given her determination to destroy Mark since their split.)

That the Massachusetts special senate race is this close is a mild surprise.
"Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) enters the general election to fill John Kerry's Senate seat with a relatively slender 4-point lead over Republican rival Gabriel Gomez, according to a poll released Friday.  Markey is supported by 44 percent of likely Massachusetts voters, while Gomez is backed by 40 percent, the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) found...
Gomez may be doing well because he is a fresh face with real accomplishments — not many men have been Navy SEALs and earned MBAs from Harvard — and looks especially good compared to career politician Ed Markey.

(The South Carolina election is tomorrow; the Massachusetts election is on June 25th.)
- 5:04 PM, 6 May 2013   [link]


Democratic Party Official Makes Racist Attack On Elected Republican:  Nothing novel about that you may think, if you assume that the party official is a member of a politically correct minority, but he isn't, in this case.
South Carolina Democratic Chairman Dick Harpootlian is getting some heat today for a comment he made about that state’s Republican governor at Friday night’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner, shortly before Vice President Joe Biden took the stage.  Harpootlian’s comment came during his introduction of South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen.  “In about 18 months from now,” he said, “hopefully he’ll have sent Nikki Haley back to wherever the hell she came from.”

The comment drew cheers and laughs from the audience in attendance, but Harpootlian is now facing harsh criticism, given Governor Nikki Haley‘s Indian heritage.
Note, please, that many in the audience cheered what he said.

Leftist Democrat Peter Beinart — to his credit — criticized Harpootlian, and called for other Democrats to do the same.
That’s a problem, because unless offenses like Harpootlian’s are slapped down hard, Democratic Party bigotry is likely to get worse.  The reason is simple: the Republican Party is getting more diverse.  Stung by its disastrous electoral showings among Americans who are neither white, Anglo, straight, nor male, the GOP has finally begun to broaden its candidate base.  The party now boasts an African-American senator from South Carolina, Cuban-American senators from Florida and Texas, Indian-American governors in South Carolina and Louisiana, and Mexican-American governors in Nevada and New Mexico.  In all likelihood, 2016 will witness the first-ever serious minority candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination.  And it’s a good bet that either a minority or a woman will find a place on the Republican ticket.  Prominent openly gay Republican politicians are only a matter of time.
With more opportunities to appeal to bigotry, more opportunist Democrats will take them, Beinart fears.
- 1:53 PM, 6 May 2013   [link]


If You Have Been Following The Benghazi Cover-Up Story, you'll like this Michael Ramirez cartoon.
- 1:33 PM, 6 May 2013   [link]


Clean Your Baby's Binky With Your Tongue:  That's the advice that, sort of, comes out of this New York Times article.
For years, health officials have told parents not to share utensils with their babies or clean their pacifiers with their mouths, arguing that the practice spreads harmful germs between parent and child.  But new research may turn that thinking on its head.

In a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, scientists report that infants whose parents sucked on their pacifiers to clean them developed fewer allergies than children whose parents typically boiled or rinsed them.  They also had lower rates of excema, fewer signs of asthma and smaller amounts of a type of white blood cell that rises in response to allergies and other disorders
The researchers aren't sure whether cleaning binkies with tongues is beneficial in itself, or whether the practice just identifies parents who are casual about germs, and let their kids be exposed to many of them — to the kids' long-term benefit.

But the parent's saliva itself may be beneficial, as Anahad O'Connor mentions at the end of article, and as this Wikipedia article explains.  (It's even possible that your dog does your baby a favor, when it licks the baby's face, as dogs like to do.)

This study provides more support for the "hygiene hypothesis".

(Caveat:  The study sample was small, just 184 babies, and came from just one country, Sweden.

There's more about the study in this CBS article.)
- 1:03 PM, 6 May 2013   [link]


The Man Who Executed The Benghazi Cover-Up may be Ben Rhodes.
He reportedly altered the CIA talking points to delete references to Islamic terrorists, "attacks" (they became "demonstrations") and other negative references to Islamism.   Also, someone at the White House level apparently dreamt up the idea of blaming an inconsequential video for triggering a spontaneous protest, that in the frenzy of events, led to the murder of Americans.  These CIA talking points were eviscerated to whitewash the role of Islamic terrorism.
Rhodes earned a masters degree in fiction writing from New York University, and has considerable experience in writing for leftist politicians.

According to Ed Lasky, Rhodes's work shows that his fiction writing training has served him well.

Rhodes's career has probably been helped by the fact that his brother is president of CBS News.

(The post is titled: "The man behind the Benghazi cover-up?".  I think the man behind the cover-up is, probably, President Obama, which is why I used a different title for this post.)
- 6:47 AM, 6 May 2013   [link]


Hide The Taxes, orders the government.
Spirit, Allegiant and Southwest are low-cost carriers that have thrived since the deregulation of the airline industry, which began in 1978.  The government retains a narrow authority to prevent deceptive advertising practices.  But as the airlines argued in petitioning the Supreme Court to hear their case, the government is micromanaging their speech merely to prevent the public from understanding the government’s tax burdens.

The government’s total price rule forbids the airlines from calling attention to the tax component of the price of a ticket by listing the price the airline charges and then the tax component with equal prominence.  The rule mandates that any listing of the tax portion of a ticket’s price “not be displayed prominently and be presented in significantly smaller type than the listing of the total price.”  The government is trying to prevent people from clearly seeing the burdens of government.
It's not hard to understand why a government bureaucrat might want that rule — or why it hurts consumers.

George Will argues that the Supreme Court should have ended the total price rule, and supported freedom of speech, even if the speech is commercial.  Instead, the Court declined to hear the case.

(The worst example of tax hiding in the United States is the "employer contribution" to social security.  Economists generally agree that calling it an employer contribution hides the fact that it is part of the tax on the individual.)
- 6:09 AM, 6 May 2013   [link]


Happy Easter!  To all those who celebrate it today.

Easter flowers, 2008

Even President Putin.  (I've often wondered what Putin believes.  There may, or may not, be some hints here.)

Here's a brief description of Orthodox Easter, and here's the home page of the Russian Orthodox church.  (Click on the English graphic if you prefer that language.)
- 8:30 PM, 5 May 2013   [link]


President Maduro Gets Critical of President Obama.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro took a swipe at Barack Obama on Saturday, calling him the "grand chief of devils" after the US president declined to recognize his contested re-election.

"Coming out of Central America, Obama let loose with a bunch of impertinent remarks, insolent stuff... He is giving an order, and his blessing, for the fascist rightwing to attack Venezuela's democracy," Maduro alleged in an address.

But "we are here defending our institutions, peace, democracy, the people of Venezuela... and we can sit down with anyone, even the grand chief of devils: Obama," Maduro said.
I have one or two criticisms of Obama myself, but I think that's going too far.

Presumably, if Maduro and Obama do sit down together, Maduro will bring a long spoon, just in case.

(One of my criticisms of Obama is that his foreign policy toward Venezuela does not seem to have been a great success, or even a small success.

Maduro also described Obama as a "puppet", which doesn't seem consistent with the "grand chief" label.)
- 12:28 PM, 5 May 2013   [link]


"Fans Should Embrace Seattle’s Newest Pro Team, Reign FC"  The Seattle Times tells us that we have another civic duty.

Women’s professional soccer is back, and the community ought to give Seattle Reign FC a big welcome in its first home game.

Which reminded me, naturally, of an old joke:

"Comes the Revolution, Comrade, we will all eat strawberries and cream!"

"But I don't like strawberries and cream."

"Comes the Revolution, Comrade, we will all eat strawberries and cream, and we will all like strawberries and cream!"

Can we adapt that to the Seattle Times editorial?  Sure, here's the punch line: "Comes the Evolution, Citizen, we will all watch women's soccer, and we will all like watching women's soccer!"

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(It's time to repeat an offer I've made before:  If anyone at the Seattle Times wants help with their metaphors, they should feel free to email me.  I mention that because I am pretty sure that the Reign FC doesn't allow random spectators to hug the players — although that would attract a certain kind of customer.)
- 7:18 AM, 5 May 2013   [link]


Book Burning Climate Professors:  Two professors in the San Jose State University Meteorology Department forget, for a moment, what kind of people burn books they disagree with.

SJSU book burners

The department has since realized their mistake — few in the modern world think that book burners are enlightened — and taken the picture down.

You can find a discussion of the incident here.

(And you can pre-order the book here.)
- 4:25 PM, 4 May 2013   [link]


Worth Study:  (And worth buying when it comes out in print.)  Stephen Hayes's meticulous description of how the false Benghazi "talking points" came to be.
As intelligence officials pieced together the puzzle of events unfolding in Libya, they concluded even before the assaults had ended that al Qaeda-linked terrorists were involved.  Senior administration officials, however, sought to obscure the emerging picture and downplay the significance of attacks that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.  The frantic process that produced the changes to the talking points took place over a 24-hour period just one day before Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, made her now-famous appearances on the Sunday television talk shows.  The discussions involved senior officials from the State Department, the National Security Council, the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the White House.
What Hayes does not explain — and perhaps can not — is why these officials decided to concoct this story.

We can't be sure, but it seems likely that the reason is something like this:  The political operatives must have decided that the facts would be too damaging in the middle of an election campaign.

They may have known that the facts would eventually come out, but were willing to do whatever they had to do to keep them hidden until the election was over.
- 2:18 PM, 4 May 2013   [link]


Some Kind Words For Scott Simon:  NPR can be so annoying that it is easy to forget that they do some good reporting, and have some good people, notably Scott Simon, who I sometimes listen to on Saturday mornings.

If you are wondering why I like him, compare this interview:
Jim Gaffigan is outnumbered.  The comedian and actor lives with his wife, Jeannie Noth Gaffigan, and five children — that's not a typo — in a two-bedroom apartment in lower Manhattan.
With this CNN panel snark:
Via BuzzFeed, here’s the latest in tolerance from last night’s Piers Morgan show.  Mitt Romney spoke at a commencement for Southern Virginia University, whose student body is 92% Mormon, according to Hunter Schwartz, and Romney used his speech to talk about traditional Mormon pro-family values — or really, generic Christian family values.   For quoting Psalms — by the way, an Old Testament book common to all Christians and Jews — the panel laughs Romney out of the room as a “religious fanatic”
Scott Simon is tolerant; Piers Morgan and company aren't.

(Here's Gaffigan's book.)
- 10:51 AM, 4 May 2013   [link]


How Many Rioters Did The Seattle Police Arrest In The Latest May Day Riot?   Seventeen.
Although windows at three Capitol Hill businesses were broken, the damage did not approach what occurred a year ago, when bands of protesters left a swath of smashed windows, vandalized cars and other damage in the downtown business district.

Police arrested 17 people — more than double the number of arrests last year.
If you read through the description of the violence, you may conclude that there should have been more arrests this year — and way more, last year.

But it is only fair to add that the police are looking at video recordings of the violence and may make more arrests.
- 10:08 AM, 4 May 2013   [link]


Yesterday's New Yorker cartoon has no obvious political point, but I thought it was pretty funny.

(Could I make a political point out of it?  Sure, political junkies like me can make political points out of anything.  But I don't see any reason to, with this cartoon.)
- 8:48 AM, 3 May 2013   [link]


Too Smart To Be A Cop?  That's Robert Jordan.
A man whose bid to become a police officer was rejected after he scored too high on an intelligence test has lost an appeal in his federal lawsuit against the city.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld a lower court’s decision that the city did not discriminate against Robert Jordan because the same standards were applied to everyone who took the test.
You would think that a police department would want smart police officers for some of its jobs, detective for example, and would certainly want them for the management jobs.  Most police departments promote from within, so if you want smart police captains, you have to have at least a few smart police officers.
- 8:04 AM, 3 May 2013   [link]


Health Insurance Doesn't Seem To Do Much For People's Health:  In fact, professional health care doesn't seem to do much for people's health.  That's something I Have been arguing for years, ever since I encountered the argument in Leonard Sagan's 1967 book.
Evidence reviewed strongly suggests that the availability of medical care in general has played little role in reducing death rates from their historically high levels to those found in modern societies.   I do not mean to minimize the important contributions to health provided by modern and postmodern medicine and surgery in the treatment of certain diseases, but the effects of these therapeutics has contributed little to the overall decline in mortality rates.
A new study of Oregon Medicaid recipients has provided more support for that conclusion.   Very briefly, Oregon, not having enough money to insure all the poor it wanted to insure, conducted a true random experiment.  Those who had Medicaid spent more on health care, but weren't particularly healthier than those who didn't get the insurance.  They were less likely to be depressed, which may be simply because they had pleasant nurses asking them how they felt from time to time.

If very briefly isn't enough for you — and there is no reason it should be — I'd suggest reading this very detailed post by Megan McArdle.

Here's her conclusion:
Nonetheless.  This is what we have.  It's one of two major RCTs that have ever been done on insurance.  And like the first one, it doesn't show a signficiant effect.   That is huge news.  Not good news--obviously, it's much nicer if giving people money to pay for health care makes them obviously much healthier.  But big.
(RCT = randomized controlled trial.)

What the free insurance did do was make the poor in the trial a little less poor.

(You can find four of my earlier posts on this subject here, here, here, and here.)
- 4:23 PM, 2 May 2013   [link]


That "Racist" Mountain Dew Ad:  Pepsi Cola hired a rap star to make an ad promoting Mountain Dew.  (Which seems like a odd choice to begin with, since Mountain Dew is a name associated with — let's be polite — rural whites, rather than urban blacks (or suburban white wannabes)).

It should not surprise anyone even vaguely familiar with rap that they got an ad that many are calling racist.

Racist, and misogynist.  Which, again, should not surprise anyone even vaguely familiar with rap.

Since the ad stars a goat, I'll remind you that goats are famous (infamous) for being willing to eat (or drink) almost anything.  So choosing a goat to promote your product suggests that the product may not taste all that good.

Which, if my memories from years ago are accurate, is why I don't drink Mountain Dew.
- 11:16 AM, 2 May 2013   [link]


How Old Is Jay Carney?  That question occurred to me after I read this answer from the White House spokesman.
"Let's be clear," said Carney.  "Benghazi happened a long time ago.  We are unaware of any agency blocking an employee who would like to appear before Congress to provide information related to Benghazi."
September 11th, 2012 would a "long time ago" to a four year old, but Carney will be 48 on the 22nd.

That answer annoyed Charles Krauthammer; it annoys and amuses me.

Note the careful "We are unaware" phrasing.  Carney is not saying that agencies aren't blocking testimony; he is saying that the White House doesn't know whether they are.   (Of course they are, as everyone who has followed this story knows.)  Carney is giving us the Sergeant Schultz answer, which was funny in the TV program, but is pathetic coming from an official spokesman.
- 8:57 AM, 2 May 2013   [link]


The Annual Seattle May Day Riot Was Less Destructive This Year Than Last:  Mostly, as far as I can tell from early reports, because the police were better prepared this year.

You can see videos of the action last night here and here.  (KOMO preempted "Survivor" last night in order to cover the riot.)

You'll probably understand them better if you know these four things:
  • Unlike some cities, Seattle does not arrest people for marching without permits.  (There was a larger, peaceful march earlier in the day, which did have a permit.)
  • Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn really loves bicycles, so much so that he has been nicknamed "Mayor McSchwinn".  That may — I repeat, may — explain some of the police tactics.)
  • The Seattle Police Department is under a court order to reform, an unjustified order, as far as I can tell.  There have been incidents of police misbehavior, but I haven't seen any persuasive evidence that there is a pattern of problems.
  • The rioters, usually called anarchists, have grievances, but no program.  It probably wouldn't be wrong to say that some of them riot every year for the fun of it.
In the long run, Seattle could probably end these riots by adopting policies that forced the rioters to pay for the damage they cause, and the extra police costs.
- 8:03 AM, 2 May 2013   [link]


President Obama Doesn't Want To Close Guantánamo:  (Or "Gitmo", as Maureen Dowd would say.)

He wants to move it.

That's the conclusion that two people with opposing views on the indefinite detention of terrorists, Benjamin Wittes and Glenn Greenwald, have reached.
Remember that Obama himself has imposed a moratorium on repatriating people to Yemen.  And Obama himself has insisted that nearly 50 detainees cannot either be tried or transferred.

True, he would hold such people in a domestic facility, rather than at Guantanamo Bay.  But so what?  does the President not understand when he frets about “the notion that we’re going to continue to keep over 100 individuals in a no-man’s land in perpetuity” that if Congress let him do exactly as he wished, he would still be doing exactly that—except that the number might not reach 100 and the location would not be at Guantanamo?
I might be wrong, but I suspect that most terrorists held at Guantánamo would prefer being in subtropical Cuba to being in northern Illinois, with its blazing summers and fierce winters.

(Maureen Dowd is not the only one confused by Obama on this issue; so is the BBC.   And many other respectable news organizations, who continue to pay more attention to what Obama says, than what he does.)
- 1:51 PM, 1 May 2013   [link]


Maureen Dowd And President Obama Are Having An Interesting Back And Forth:  (And one I approve of, since I think it helps keep both of them from bothering the adults.)

Dowd criticized Obama's legislative leadership on gun control.  (And drew this devastating response from Walter Russell Mead.)

Obama replied, with a lame joke at Dowd's expense and then another lame joke — at least I think it was intended as a joke — in his speech to the White House Correspondents' Association dinner.
Of course, everybody has got plenty of advice.  Maureen Dowd said I could solve all my problems if I were just more like Michael Douglas in “The American President.”  (Laughter.)  And I know Michael is here tonight.  Michael, what’s your secret, man?  (Laughter.)  Could it be that you were an actor in an Aaron Sorkin liberal fantasy?  (Laughter.)  Might that have something to do with it?  (Applause.)   don’t know.  Check in with me.   Maybe it’s something else.  (Laughter.)
. . .
Of course, even after I’ve done all this, some folks still don’t think I spend enough time with Congress.  “Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?” they ask.  Really?  (Laughter.)   Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?  (Laughter and applause.)  I’m sorry.  I get frustrated sometimes.
Today, Dowd is back, with the same advice as before.
The senior senator from Kentucky has been a leader in Keep-Terrorists-Offshore.   Maybe, if the president really wants to close Gitmo, he should have a drink with Mitch McConnell.  Really.
During the Iran-Iraq war, Henry Kissinger lamented that it was unfortunate that both nations couldn't lose.  So he might be happy watching this exchange, since both Dowd and Obama are losing.

But I think we should spare a thought for Mitch McConnell.  He is not perfect, but I can't think of anything he has done that deserves the punishment Dowd wants to give him: a drink with Obama.
- 1:08 PM, 1 May 2013   [link]


Riot Day In Seattle?  Maybe.  Anarchists are promising trouble, and the police say that, this time, they are prepared for a riot.
Wednesday marks the anniversary of the May Day riots that caused tens of thousands of dollars damage to Seattle businesses and a black eye for the Seattle Police Department.

This year, police and anarchists are preparing for a long day on Wednesday.

"We have been preparing for this upcoming May Day celebration for a very long time," Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said.  "We will have ample officers and police to provide a safe and peaceful environment for those people interested in carrying out their First Amendment rights."
There is a legal protest march planned for today.  The TV stories I saw were vague about the objectives of the marchers, but it sounded as if the group wants amnesty for illegal immigrants.

There's enough chance for trouble that I decided to postpone a trip I had planned to downtown Seattle.

(The biggest recent Seattle riot was the 1999 WTO riot, which appeared to catch local authorities by surprise, though it shouldn't have.)
- 6:09 AM, 1 May 2013   [link]


Some New Yorkers Are Beginning To Tackle Their Own Problems:  Instead of waiting for their nanny, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to take care of them.

For example, these New Yorkers are helping out with pest control.
Consider it a scrappy, streetwise cousin of mannerly countryside fox hunts.  A loosely knit band of dogs and their owners periodically goes rat-hunting in gritty Manhattan alleys.
They are doing the city a service, and having a little fun.  Smart leaders would encourage them, perhaps even arrange for contests.

(Cat owners might want to join in rat-hunting competitions, though the cats would have to compete under different rules than the dogs.)
- 5:00 AM, 1 May 2013   [link]