Archive:

September 2012, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Balance At Newspapers And Broadcast News Organizations:   The new public editor at the New York Times, Margaret Sullivan, worries that newspapers, including the Times, try too hard to be balanced, to give both sides, even when one side is obviously right.

Let me start by saying that, however hard they try, many newspapers, including the Times often fail to provide the kind of balance that they should — and many of our "mainstream" journalists don't even try for balance.

An example from the Times:  For years, I read David Leonhardt's stories about cost control in medicine.  I often found them interesting, but after a while I noticed something lacking:  Leonhardt was simply unwilling to write stories on using markets to control costs.  For example, he interviewed Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who has had success in moving state employees to health savings accounts.  According to the stories I have read — not in the Times — the HSAs saved money, made the employees happier, and had no effect on health outcomes.

Why didn't Leonhardt ask Daniels about them, why didn't Leonhardt look at other uses of markets to control costs?  I don't know, but I am inclined to think that Leonhardt thinks that using markets to control health care costs is immoral.  That's an understandable view, though I don't share it, but it does sharply constrain the possible ways we can control health care costs.  (Leonhardt has called for the appointment of a super bureaucrat to make ObamaCare work.)

If that is what Leonhardt thinks, he should be honest enough to tell the readers.   And the Times should get someone else to cover the stories Leonhardt is unwilling to cover.

But whatever you think about the success (or failure) of our newspapers to do balanced stories, or even if you think they try too hard for balance, I think we can agree that our broadcast news organizations often don't even try to balance their stories.

This morning, for example, I saw local news anchor Meg Coyle do a story on the first anniversary of the "Occupy" movement.  There are many criticisms that could be made of the movement — some would object, for example, to the murders, rapes, and thefts associated with it — but Coyle did not share any of those criticisms with the viewers.  Instead, she did a completely positive story, a story that could have been written by a PR man for the movement.

Unbalanced stories, like this one, are common from our broadcast news organizations.  I don't know why they so often don't even attempt to do balanced stories, but I wish they would try a little harder to be balanced.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Does Coyle know the unpleasant facts about the "Occupy" movement and choose not to share them with her viewers, or she does not know them?  Good question, but one for which I have no answer, since I seldom watch her.)
- 8:20 PM, 16 September 2012   [link]


Will John Edwards Be The Next To Campaign For Jay Inslee?   In February, disgraced former governor Eliot Spitzer — or as we like to call him, Client #9 — held a fund-raising event for gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee.

Yesterday, disgraced former president Bill Clinton held another fund raiser for Inslee.  (The article does not mention whether Clinton, who waged a years-long, personal war on women, mentioned that issue, but I wouldn't be surprised if he did.)

I begin to see a pattern, and suspect that disgraced former senator John Edwards will be next in this sequence.  And why not?  Edwards isn't very busy these days, and I am pretty sure he could draw a crowd.

(Old timers may wonder whether disgraced former Washington senator and Carter cabinet member Brock Adams might also show up for Inslee.  And he might have, if hadn't passed away some years ago.)

I suppose there might be some personal downside in this pattern of support.  I can easily imagine that one of Inslee's respectable relatives might wonder, even aloud, whether Inslee has any nice friends.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Of the three, Clinton behaved the most disgracefully, in my opinion.  And I am not even talking about his most famous sins.)
- 6:09 PM, 16 September 2012   [link]


This Week's Nugget From Peggy Noonan:  Comes in a quick switch from Romney to Obama
What is needed from Mr. Romney now, or soon, is a serious statement about America's role and purpose in the world.  If such a statement contained an intellectually serious critique of the president's grand strategy, or lack of it, all the better.   As far as I can tell, that strategy largely consists of spurts of emotion and calculation from his closest aides, and is not a strategy but an inbox.
(Emphasis added.)

I suppose that it is natural for a speechwriter to put the lack of a speech on the same level as the lack of a strategy, natural but wrong.

Noonan is, in my opinion, absolutely right about Obama's missing strategy (and to be fair, she may be right about Romney's missing speech).

For those who haven't been thinking about strategy most of their lives, a simile:   Having a president without a national strategy is like being on a ship with a captain who has no destination in mind.
- 2:31 PM, 15 September 2012   [link]


Bill Maher Contributed $1 Million To Obama's Campaign:   After making a "documentary" attacking many religions, including Islam.
But what people forget is that the last twenty-minutes or so of the film make a damning case against Islam.
. . .
And what if the terrorists learn that the president of the United States is benefiting from a million dollar contribution given by a filmmaker who mocked Islam?  How will Hillary Clinton claim with any credibility that the United States government has no connection to this outrage?
Good questions, though I don't expect any "mainstream" journalists to ask them of Clinton or Obama.
- 2:11 PM, 15 September 2012   [link]


A Czech Explains Ben Bernanke's policies in a brief video.

And, as Kate McMillan says, "You don't have to read Czech to understand this blog post."

(Not so incidentally, the Wall Street Journal poll of prominent economists found that most would oppose Bernanke's latest move.)
- 8:48 AM, 14 September 2012   [link]


Robert Rector Reminds Us, Again, That Poor People In America are not necessarily about to starve.
But what does it mean to say that 46.2 million Americans are “poor”?  For most people, the word “poverty” suggests near destitution: an inability to provide nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter for one’s family. However, only a small number of the 46.2 million persons classified as “poor” by the Census Bureau fit that description.

Nearly all “poor” persons live in houses or apartments that are in good repair and not overcrowded; in fact, the dwelling of the average poor American is larger than the house or apartment of the average non-poor person in countries such as France and the United Kingdom.  By their own reports, most poor persons in America had sufficient funds to meet all essential needs and to obtain medical care for family members throughout the year whenever needed.

Some 80 percent of poor adults and 96 percent of poor children were never hungry at any time during the year because they could not afford food.
And he has much more, in case those statistics aren't enough for you.

But you don't need to go through all of them to understand his central point.  Sixty years ago, almost all the poor in the United States were skinny, or even under-nourished; now many of those who are officially poor are overweight, or even obese.

Whether is is appropriate to call them poor is a question I will leave to others.  But I do think we should recognize that anti-poverty policies that made some sense sixty years ago may no longer make sense for most of our poor.
- 8:33 AM, 14 September 2012   [link]


Why Did "Mainstream" Journalists React So Sharply Against Romney's Remarks About The Attacks On Our Embassies?  It is not as if what Romney said wasn't true; it was, as Byron York reminds us:
But Romney was, and is, right. As events in Benghazi and Cairo unfolded, the Obama administration's first instinct was to apologize for any offense Muslims might have taken from an Internet video, made in America, that mocked and ridiculed the prophet Mohammed, and which the radicals cited as the cause for their actions.  In his original statement last night, Romney said, "It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."  Then, on Wednesday morning, Romney said the administration "was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions."

And that is exactly what the administration did.
And the administration has, in effect, conceded Romney's point by trying to talk and act tougher, after their first, mistaken reactions.

So why did our "mainstream" journalists attack, not the rioters and murderers, or Obama, whose policies have so conspicuously failed, but Romney?

Some of the reaction comes from the usual partisanship, which is at laughably high levels, but part of it, I think, is that Romney forced them to look at something they didn't want to see.  They want so much to believe that the Obama administration's foreign policies are succeeding that they attack the messenger who brings them news of the failures.

That's understandable perhaps, but it's not what professional journalists should do.
- 7:23 AM, 14 September 2012   [link]


"Obama Talks Tough"  So says the BBC's Mark Mardell.
President Obama seems determined to both talk and act tough after the attack in Libya.  He told an audience in Las Vegas: "We want to send a message all around the world to anybody who will do us harm - no act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world."
Well, maybe for the BBC that's tough.

(Credit where due:  Later in the column, Mardell concedes, tacitly, that our "mainstream" journalists might be biased against Romney.)
- 5:48 AM, 14 September 2012   [link]


From Disunity To Unity?  One of the things I like — in some moods — and dislike — in other moods — about Linux is the variety of user interfaces available.  The Ubuntu people alone put out a number, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, et cetera.  And there are many others  (If you want to see some of the many variants, start here.)

(If you are wondering how there can be so many, the answer is simple:   Linux is built in layers and so to create a new user interface, you have to build the top layer, but can (mostly) leave the rest alone.  And, of course, you can borrow code from other interfaces that you think got it partly right.)

The latest from Ubuntu, which they call "Unity", was designed, they claim, with the help of user interface experts, and is a bit different from the older interfaces, which often looked much like Windows.  (You can see some of its features here.)

They have given up on the "tree" menu that Windows, and so many others, have used for so many years.  Instead, they put the ten or so most-used programs in a tray on the left side of the screen — and then let you search to find a less-often used program or file.

Is this a good design?  Maybe.  I use fewer than ten programs regularly, so having all of them available would make it easier for me, for 95 percent of what I do.  The search function seems to work well, but I have only tested it casually.

It does have a "cleaner" look than most of the interfaces I have seen over the years — and that's a positive.

And I definitely am pleased to see them experimenting with the user interface, since I have long thought that user interfaces could be improved, and that Linux would be a good place to do experiments with them.

(Incidentally, so far Unity has been notably easier to use than Windows with the laptop, though I should add that the problems seem to have been caused by HP, rather than Microsoft.

For instance:  I used an HP program to do a complete update.  In the middle of the program, it changed the screen resolution, and then went back to the correct resolution, but hid all the progress reports from me, so I had no idea how much longer the whole thing would take.  HP has never been famous for great software, but I do expect better than that.)
- 7:22 PM, 13 September 2012   [link]


Mayor Emanuel May Have Been Looking For A Fight, Too:   In this recent post, I speculated that the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, may have been looking for a fight.

A commenter at Joanne Jacobs' site pointed me to a column that argued that Rahm Emanuel may have had a similar motivation.  (He is not generally known as a pacifist.)

Sample:
In his 2011 campaign for mayor, he took the Chicago Teachers Union on as an adversary rather than attempt to make them a partner.  He opted for a blunt instrument rather than a finessed approach.  In hammering home how he was “for the children,” he left the implication that teachers were not.
If both leaders wanted a fight, we can conclude that a fight was almost inevitable.
- 1:47 PM, 13 September 2012   [link]


Worth Reading:  Eugene Volokh on our Secretary of State's declaration: "The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others."

As Volokh explains, this official statement might delegitimize much of the discusion of religions in the United States.
- 1:30 PM, 13 September 2012   [link]


Another Scandal At The Holder Justice Department:  A minor scandal, granted, but one that may tell us something about the quality of the people Attorney General Eric Holder has hired.

On Sunday, I picked up a copy of J. Christian Adams's Injustice, hoping that it would include descriptions of some of the scandals in our scandal-plagued Justice Department.

It does.  (And the book doesn't even mention "Fast and Furious".)

Here's one scandal, of many:

The ascendancy of leftwing activists has resulted not only in political bias in the Civil Rights Division, but in startling unprofessionalism as well.  For example, for several months beginning in January 2010, a rash of stolen wallets and pilfered cash was reported inside the secure offices of the Civil Rights Division's Housing and Voting Sections.   Sending out notices after each crime, Voting Section chief Chris Herren essentially copied and pasted the same email, changing just a few words.  "It appears that there was another theft of money from a wallet in the Voting Section today," read one notice, followed shortly thereafter by another proclaiming, "It appears that there was yet another theft of money from a wallet in the Voting Section today."  The appearance of an outright criminal inside the Civil Rights Division surely fulfilled Tom Perez's vow to transform the agency, though not in the way he had implied.

I'm not familiar with law offices, but I believe that petty theft is uncommon inside most of them.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 12:53 PM, 13 September 2012   [link]


More Evidence That George W. Bush is smart .
Former President George W. Bush recently told Meet the Press host David Gregory, "I never watch you."
Smart and sensible.  (And not above gently needling one of his enemies.)
- 12:22 PM, 13 September 2012   [link]


President Obama's Administration Often Ignores Our Laws:   Here's another, recent example.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) said [Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius broke federal law by saying in a February speech that it is “imperative” to reelect President Obama.  She also used the speech, delivered at a Human Rights Campaign event in Charlotte, N.C., to plug local Democrats.

The OSC said Sebelius violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from campaigning while acting in an official capacity.
Sebelius is a professional politician with decades of experience, so we can't attribute these lapses to ignorance.

When Obama was elected, I expected him to mostly follow the letter of the law — he is a lawyer, after all — while often violating the spirit of the law.  I was wrong.  He and his administration often ignore both.
- 8:26 AM, 13 September 2012   [link]


Who Created That Movie, And Who Dubbed It Into Arabic?   You know the movie I mean, the one that is ostensibly the trigger for all those attacks on our embassies.

Roger Simon has some wild speculation, wild speculation that just might be true.
What remains unclear is the provenance of the aesthetically challenged video that allegedly (very allegedly) instigated much of the mayhem in Egypt and Libya, not to mention raising the greedy ire of the execrable Karzai in Afghanistan and similar Islamo-gangsters. Much confusion has reigned.  First (naturally) Israelis or Israeli Americans were accused.  Then it was the Coptic Christians.  That latter group is a possibility, of course.  The Copts certainly have a beef about the way they have been treated in Egypt.  But why such a wretched, amateurish production apparently reedited with voice-overs?  Why did that attract even a second’s attention?  At least some of the Danish cartoons were skillful.  Okay, the Copts don’t have a reputation as filmmakers and a man identified as Sam Bacile, a Christian Arab said to have relatives in Egypt, has his fingerprints all over the video, but still.

Now I admit what follows is pure speculation, but we have to ask cui bono, who profits from violence of this nature driving the Arab world further from the U.S., Israel and the West.  Well, al-Qaeda, of course, but I suspect they’re not that deep into the intelligence business that they’re fabricating movies, even of this crude nature.   No, this seems to be the work of a country with an intelligence service, one that has the reach even to cross our borders to plot the assassination of a foreign ambassador, one that frequently works through cutouts and has a fair amount of expatriate citizens in Los Angeles, the capital of film (well, once upon a time).
It would also be interesting to know who dubbed it into Arabic.

(During the Cold War, the KGB and its allies often fabricated documents to cause problems for the United States.  Sometimes, with considerable success.)
- 7:52 AM, 13 September 2012   [link]


Population Decline In Ottoman-Ruled Egypt:  In studying several of Colin McEvedy's atlases, I was startled to find that — apparently — Egypt's population had declined in the last stage of Ottoman rule (roughly 1700-1799).

Unfortunately, those atlases did not have quite enough data to support a post on the subject.  So, a week ago, I finally got around to ordering his Atlas of World Population History.

Today the copy I ordered arrived.  Bingo!  Its chapter on Egypt has just the data I was looking for:
During the last millennium BC the irregular increase of the Egyptian peasantry slowed: in the first two centuries AD it ceased altogether.  The available land was being exploited as fully as was possible with the available techniques, and at about 5m the population reached a maximum that was not exceeded until modern times.  Plague, famine and war will, of course, have reduced the population below this level from time to time, and during particularly bad spells — the economic collapse of the 4th century AD, the plagues of the 7th and 14th centuries and the stagnation in the last stage of Ottoman rule — must have been nearer 3m than 5m.
So the last stage of Ottoman rule was about as bad for Egypt as wars, famine, and plagues.  (Or, possibly even worse.   The savants who came with Napoleon to Egypt in 1799 estimated the population at 2.5 million.)

But we can't blame the Ottomans entirely for that decline, because in the later years of their rule in Egypt, control slipped back to the slave soldiers who had ruled Egypt before, the Mamelukes.

By way of comparison, the population of Europe during that time of Ottoman stagnation was beginning to grow rapidly.  We might not care to live under the monarchies that ruled most of Europe then, but we should recognize that they were, on the whole, far better rulers than the Ottomans and Mamelukes.

(Spelling note:  Mameluke is the more common spelling, which is why I used that rather than Wikipedia's "Mamluk".)
- 7:37 PM, 12 September 2012   [link]


Not Everyone Denounced The Attacks On Our Embassies:   In this post, Professor Althouse criticizes the "mainstream" media for their treatment of Romney's remarks about the attacks on our embassies. (Link fixed.)   She's right, but she goes a little too far with this:
ADDED: Ridiculous NYT headline: "Many Republicans Join Democrats in Denouncing Attack in Libya."  Everyone denounces it!  What's this notion that the Dems are all one and some but not all Republicans "join" them?  I think they're trying to separate Mitt Romney as the one who isn't joining
(Emphasis added.)

As it happens, I am on the email list for the campaign of Libertarian Gary Johnson.  This morning I received this message from them.
It is tragic when Americans serving their country are murdered, and we both mourn their loss and honor their service.

Part of honoring that service is to ask the obvious question: What U.S. interest is being served by putting our people – and our money – in places where U.S. personnel can be killed by extremists over a video?  We launched millions of dollars worth of missiles to bring down Gaddafi, and this is what we get.  We hail and encourage the outbreak of an Arab Spring in Egypt, send them billions of dollars we can’t afford, — and our embassy is breached and our flag desecrated.

In Afghanistan, we continue to put our troops in harm’s way 10 years after our post-9/11 mission was complete.  Why?

The airwaves are filled today with political chest-pounding and calls for decisive action.  The most decisive and prudent action we can take today is to stop trying to manage governments and peoples on the other side of the globe who don’t want to be managed, get our people out of impossible situations that have no direct U.S. interest, and immediately stop sending money to regimes who clearly cannot or will not control their own countries.

Protecting America with a strong national defense and a rational foreign policy is our leaders’ most basic responsibility.  But let us not confuse national security with senseless intervention where our interests are clearly not being served.
That's the whole thing.  If there is a denunciation in there, I don't see it.
- 2:27 PM, 12 September 2012   [link]


Spain Has Meter Maids:  (Though they probably don't have as snappy a name for them as we do.)  But they have been withdrawn from one area.

Can you guess what the predominant religion is in that area?

Sure you can.
Muslim immigrants in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the Balearic Islands in Spain, have succeeded in forcing the expulsion of all female parking meter enforcement officers from a city neighborhood that is home to a growing Muslim population.

The move reflects the increasing assertiveness of Spain's Muslim community, which in recent years, has sought to impose its will over Spanish society on a variety of issues deemed offensive to Islam.

Female parking enforcement officers patrolling the streets near a mosque situated on the Plaza de Pere Garau in downtown Palma have been subjected to a systematic campaign of harassment and humiliation by Muslims who insist that only male officers should be allowed to work in the area.
That was an easy question, wasn't it?

If Mayor Giuliani were running the place, he would have run decoy officers through the neighborhood, and arrested the harassers.

By way of small dead animals.

To be fair, I should add that most Spaniards seem appalled by this cowardice.
- 2:00 PM, 12 September 2012   [link]


Today's New Yorker Cartoon Seems Weirdly Appropriate:  Two friendly men have met outside their homes.  The man with a dog by his side is saying: "I had no idea his barking was a problem.  Thanks for letting me know you are bothered by it."

And the title of the cartoon? It's "Midwest Peace Talks".
- 1:41 PM, 12 September 2012   [link]


More Evidence That The "Reset" With Russia went too far.
On the last night of the Democratic National Convention, a retired Navy four-star took the stage to pay tribute to veterans.  Behind him, on a giant screen, the image of four hulking warships reinforced his patriotic message.

But there was a big mistake in the stirring backdrop: those are Russian warships.
All right, it was almost certainly a mistake, but it was a huge mistake.  (The mistake might offend both those who built our ships, and those who sailed in them.)
- 9:18 AM, 12 September 2012   [link]


For the Moment, I don't plan to do another post on the attacks on our embassies, not because I don't have more to say, but because the stories that I have seen and heard do not agree on what happened, especially in Libya.

It seems likely, for instance, that the Egyptian government decided to tolerate the attack on our embassy but not certain.  This morning, I heard defense analyst Ralph Peters say just that, and add that he thought the government had told the leaders of the mob not to injure anyone.   But it is possible that the Egyptian government didn't stop the demonstration because they are incompetent, not hostile.
- 9:08 AM, 12 September 2012   [link]


Men Have Another Good Reason to avoid marijuana.
Marijuana smoking may lead some men to develop especially serious types of testicular cancer, a new study finds.

The study - published online September 10 in the American Cancer Society's journal, Cancer - suggests that not only recreational pot-use but medicinal marijuana-smoking may be risky for young males.
The usual caveats apply.  For example, you would like to see another group of researchers replicate the results, preferably with a different approach.  Still, most men would not want to take the chance that these researchers are right.

(In the Seattle area, you should write "medicinal" marijuana, since the ads for the shops that sell it make it clear that they are not selling it to relieve pain.)
- 7:50 AM, 12 September 2012   [link]


Ambassador Murdered In Libya:  And I think it no accident that the murder took place on 9/11.
The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three American members of his staff were killed in the attack on the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi by protesters angry over a film that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad, Libyan officials said Wednesday.

They said Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed Tuesday night when he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as the building came under attack by a mob guns and rocket propelled grenades.
Or that a mob attacked our embassy in Egypt on the same date.

The Associated Press story doesn't mention the significance of the date — but they should.  The movie was an excuse for the attack, not the reason for it.  The men who planned and organized these two attacks chose 9/11 for a reason, and we should try to understand their thinking.
- 7:34 AM, 12 September 2012   [link]


Justice 1, Eric Holder 0:  Sometimes the good guys win.
Mr. Durham, recall, is the special prosecutor appointed in 2008 by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate allegations that the CIA had illegally destroyed videotapes of CIA detainee interrogations.  The prosecutor's mandate was expanded in 2009 by current Attorney General Eric Holder to look into allegations that CIA officers and contractors had abused and, in some cases, tortured and killed, as many as 101 detainees thought to have been in U.S. custody.
. . .
What followed was an investigation that led to one exoneration after another. No criminal charges were filed in the videotape destruction case.  In 2011, Mr. Durham concluded that no further investigation was warranted in all but two of the 101 detainee cases.

The last shoe dropped on Aug. 30, when Mr. Holder announced that the final two cases—involving the death of one detainee in Afghanistan and another in Iraq—would be closed once and for all.  His statement praised Mr. Durham and his team for conducting an "extraordinarily thorough" review, ranging over "information and matters that were not examined during the Department's prior reviews."
Bret Stephens thinks that Holder had to grit his teeth when he made that announcement.  And I would agree considering that Holder expanded the investigation "over the tacit objections of the White House and the vocal objections of seven CIA directors, including then-director Leon Panetta".

Holder really, really wanted some convictions, or at least some trials, and he didn't get them.

The good guys won, but at great cost to their reputations and to our intelligence operations.
- 3:24 PM, 11 September 2012   [link]


Remember That Fraudulent Vote To Amend The Democratic Platform?  Jim Pinkerton thinks it would have been treated rather differently if it had happened at the Republican convention.

His guesses in that 90 second video sound awfully plausible to me.
- 12:28 PM, 11 September 2012   [link]


Meanwhile, Back In Barack Obama's Illinois (17):  His home town, Chicago, is in the middle of a nasty teacher's strike.

Joanne Jacobs has a good summary of the issues, if you need a quick review.  (At least as much security and evaluations, as compensation.)

But I wonder whether the teacher's union leader, Karen Lewis, called this strike in part because she likes to break things.  (That motivation may be more common in small boys than adult women, but it isn't entirely absent from the second group.  One of the now almost entirely undiscussed motivations in the 1960s riots was simply the fun of breaking things up, and, yes, some women did join in.)

For those not familiar with Ms. Lewis, I'd recommend this Daily Mail article.

Sample:
The union chief leading 26,000 public school teachers out on strike in Chicago bragged last year about ‘smoking lots of weed’ at college and mocked the lisp of President Barack Obama’s Education Secretary.

Speaking at a North West Teaching for Social Justice conference in Seattle, Washington in October 2011, Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union, pacing up and down a stage, delivered a sarcastic tirade.

‘I am the only black woman in the class of 1974 from Dartmouth College,’ she said.   ‘Woo.  People are impressed.  Let me tell you, I spent those years smoking lots of weed, self-medicating.   Self-medicating, thank you. '
She would not be my first choice to teach kids, much less head a teacher's union.

(There's always a national political angle, and it isn't hard to find one here:  This is a struggle between two groups of Obama supporters, and the longer it goes on, the worse off the kids will be — unless they escape to private or charter schools.)
- 9:48 AM, 11 September 2012   [link]


Newspapers And Pearl Harbor, Newspapers And 9/11:   In late 1941, a careful reader of a good newspaper, for example, the New York Times or the New York Herald Tribune, would have had as good an understanding of the failing negotiations between Japan and the United States as the negotiators did, until the last week or two before the attack.

But that was not true, Roberta Wohlstetter tells us, in her classic study, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision, of readers of the Honolulu newspapers of the time.  She is not specific in her criticisms, but she says enough to make it clear that those newspapers were terrible.

As a consequence, many of our intelligence officials in Hawaii did not have the necessary background to understand Japanese policy, or our own.  (They were often clearer about the first than the second, since FDR's strategic ambiguity confused friends and foes.)

To add to the confusion, officials in Washington often assumed that the officers in Hawaii had that background, that they understood what was happening, or rather, not happening, in the negotiations.

In the years before 9/11, I was expecting another spectacular terrorist attack by radical Islamists.  The 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, and the bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, made me certain that we would see more attacks, and probably something spectacular.

But I don't think many of our journalists, even at our better newspapers, had come to the same conclusion.  They weren't physically cut off from information, as those intelligence officers in Hawaii were, but they were mentally ill-equipped to understand religious fanatics, or why our very existence would offend men like bin Laden.

Sadly, many "mainstream" journalists have not corrected that deficiency, have still not attempted to understand our enemies.

And I expect that failure will hurt us in the future, as it did in the very recent past.

Here's a simple example:  I have predicted that this war will last at least a hundred years, based on an amateur reading of Middle East history.  What has happened many times before is likely, I believe, to happen again.

But few "mainstream" journalists have reached that same admittedly unpleasant conclusion.  Instead, we see claims that the war in Afghanistan is our longest — it's not — or even that George W. Bush started this conflict.

(In 1941, it took about five days for airmailed versions of quality American newspapers to reach Hawaii.  As you would expect, they were very expensive.)
- 6:46 AM, 11 September 2012   [link]


9/11 Jumper:  The New York Times will not show you this picture today, so I will.

9/11 jumper

This man jumped from one of the World Trade Center towers, rather than burn to death.  From the picture we can see that he was a young black man, probably American though he might have been an immigrant, and that he worked in a kitchen.

We can not know whether he knew why he was about to die, though I think it unlikely.  Few Americans then understood how much the fanatics who planned the 9/11 attack hated us, and how little they cared for innocent life.  Whether this victim knew or not, I hope that he rests in peace.

He, and nearly three thousand others, died in order to create a propaganda poster for Al Qaeda.

(I scanned the picture from a New York Times book, Nation Challenged.  I believe this to be fair use because I am criticizing the Times, and most other "mainstream" news organizations, for suppressing this picture, and similar pictures, in the years since 9/11.

Reposted from 2008.)

Although I think it appropriate to remember the victims of 9/11, including this man, I have come to believe that we make a mistake when we call this a "tragedy", as so many now do.  It was an attack, like Pearl Harbor in 1941, and that's what we should call it.
- 5:29 AM, 11 September 2012   [link]


Grade First, Evaluation Second:  I've been seeing a number of Obama "report cards" recently.  (Not his real report cards, of course, but estimates by journalists on how well he is doing.)

Most, I am sorry to say, read as if the journalist gave the grade — and then did the evaluation.  The high grade or grades are seldom justified by the details in the evaluation, which is why I think the journalists are doing them backward.

That might explain the odd David Brooks column that I wrote about in July.

In contrast, Roger Pielke, Jr. seems to have done things in the right order in this post.  Pielke appears have come to his conclusion after comparing what Mitt Romney and Barack said to scientific groups about climate change:
A lot of the replies are just campaign boilerplate, but there are a few items of note.   Most significantly is the fact that Mitt Romney's reply on climate change is far more substantive than that from President Obama -- call me surprised.
Pielke shouldn't have been surprised, since Romney is far better than Obama at analyzing problems — and solving them.

Since he works at a university, Pielke is prudent to claim that he will vote for Obama, but, who knows, maybe in the privacy of the voting booth, he will do the right thing.

(Here's the full set of questions and answers.)
- 8:24 PM, 10 September 2012   [link]


Worth Reading:  Patrick Caddell on "The Audacity of Cronyism", where he takes down three top Obama staffers, Valerie Jarrett, David Plouffe, and Tom Donilon.  Most of the material will be familiar to regular readers of this site, but he puts it all together in a way I haven't.

Here's his lead paragraph:
It’s hard to know which is worse: the arrogance of the Obama administration in assuming that its White House staffers can get away with anything, or the apathy of the media in not holding those staffers accountable.
Caddell has spent enough time in Washington to know arrogance when he sees it.
- 7:57 PM, 10 September 2012   [link]


Some People Don't Understand the whole wild animal concept.
You'd think it would be a parent's worst nightmare - their child getting up close and personal with a wild animal.

But this shocking video appears to show a man encouraging a group of kids to make friends with a bison at Yellowstone National Park, as he holds back at a safe distance.
Incidentally, the camera man was not at a safe distance, as anyone who knows even a little bit about bison could tell you.

(My favorite clueless-tourist-in-Yellowstone story comes from years ago, before the park started discouraging feeding the animals.  One man had what he thought was a great idea for a picture — and tried to lure a bear into his car, next to his wife, with a sandwich.  As I recall, the park rangers came along in time to stop him, and spoil the picture.)
- 1:29 PM, 10 September 2012   [link]


Harvard Professor (And Senate Candidate) Elizabeth Warren Was a beneficiary of affirmative action.
In a 1994 interview, then-Harvard Law School dean Richard Clark said his institution was actively applying an affirmative action policy to hiring female faculty, The Daily Caller has learned. The famed law school first offered Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren a professorship in 1992 and granted her tenure in 1995.

And charges leveled in a 1990 academic law journal raised serious questions about her qualifications to teach at Harvard at all.
I think everyone who was open to knowing that she had benefited from affirmative action had already guessed that, but it's nice to have it on the record.

It is harder to tell whether the claim of 1/32 Cherokee heritage also helped her at Harvard, but I think it is nearly certain that it helped her earlier in her career.

(Warren likes to charge that the "system is rigged".  I think that's an example of what psychologists call "projection".

Anyone who wants to try to follow her twists and turns will want to read Professor Jacobson, regularly.)
- 1:08 PM, 10 September 2012   [link]


How Often Does President Obama Attend His Daily Intelligence Briefings?  Less than half the time.
The Government Accountability Institute examined President Obama’s schedule from the day he took office until mid-June 2012, to see how often he attended his Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) — the meeting at which he is briefed on the most critical intelligence threats to the country.  During his first 1,225 days in office, Obama attended his PDB just 536 times — or 43.8 percent of the time.  During 2011 and the first half of 2012, his attendance became even less frequent — falling to just over 38 percent.  By contrast, Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush almost never missed his daily intelligence meeting.
That neglect of his official duties is — or should be — startllng.

If I had been asked whether Obama attends these meetings, before I saw this column, I would have said that of course he does.  I would have said that Obama may not like some aspects of the job, but at least he goes through the motions.  I now realize that I have to amend that to add "if those motions are in public".

(Marc Thiessen takes a little time to demolish a puff piece published earlier in the Post claiming that Obama is an effective leader in those meetings.  It's hard to lead a meeting if you aren't there.

As Woody Allen said, ". . . 80 percent of life is showing up.")
- 9:38 AM, 10 September 2012   [link]


Is The Obama Administration Soft On Crime In The Suites?   That's what Charles Gasparino says.
In fact, neither Obama nor Clinton can hold a candle to the corporate crime-fighting record of George W. Bush, that supposed lapdog for large corporate interests.

Consider: As we near the four-year anniversary of the financial crisis, not a single Wall Street fat cat has been charged with violations of securities laws in connection with the 2008 collapse.
Among the thousands on Wall Street, it is inevitable that there will be some crooks, just as as is true of any other group that large, so there must be some who behaved illegally.

And, again, as is true of any other large group, if criminals are not prosecuted, then you are likely to see more crime, as those who are conditionally honest switch sides.  And the always honest Wall Streeters are likely to suffer.

Gasparino wonders, as so many of us do, why no one has been prosecuted at MF Global, the firm Jon Corzine bankrupted.

(I am no expert in security laws, so I will add that it is possible that the collapse of MF Global was caused by criminally reckless speculation — without Corzine and company necessarily breaking any laws.  Possible, but improbable, in my opinion.)
- 8:24 AM, 10 September 2012   [link]


"Three Proud Words"  Well, actually four, Mr. President.

It would be wrong, of course, to make too much of this gaffe, but it does make me wonder, again, just how good Obama is at math.

(Almost certainly, he took no math or statistics classes at Harvard, and he might have been able to skip them in his two years at Columbia.  I don't know what kind of distributional requirements Occidental had when he was there, so I don't know whether he took even a basic math course in his two years at that California school.)
- 7:26 AM, 10 September 2012   [link]


What Do BBC Readers Think Of The Obama-Romney Race?   We can get some idea from the comments after this fairly bland article.

Here are the first and fourth highest-rated comments:
IabiMyshkin - I find it so hard to understand America sometimes.  I just don't see that their are two viable choices at all, in a rational and reasonable country it would be a land slide.  The Republican party is an archaic, ghoulish bunch of fundamentalist salesmen.  Romney is a slime bag who cares only about the rich elite and protecting the religious industrial complex.  Romney/Ryan would be a disaster!

BritintheUS -I'm a Brit living in the USA. There is genuine hatred of Obama spewed forth daily on radio and TV.  So called 'news' outlets spread fear to those who don't check the 'facts' they are spoon fed.  I am shocked every day by the poisonous name calling.  Reps have only one thing on their minds.  To get Obama out of the White House.  Clearly they have not paid much heed to who they want to replace him.
(The lowest rated comments are mostly anti Obama.)

If I encountered either commenter, and heard something similar from them, I'm not sure whether I would suggest that they calm down, or whether I would just fade away for my own safety.
- 8:10 PM, 9 September 2012   [link]


What Did Congressional Leaders Do When They Wanted To Get Serious About The Debt Ceiling Negotiations?  They sent President Obama out of the room.
Boehner said he believed that he and the others — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — had a plan.  He told Obama: We think we can work this out.  Give us a little more time.  We’ll come back to you.  We are not going to negotiate this with you.
. . .
Reid, the most powerful Democrat on Capitol Hill, spoke up.  The congressional leaders want to speak privately, he said.  Give us some time.

This was it.  Congress was taking over.  The leaders were asking the president to leave the meeting he had called in the White House.
Since this is a Woodward account from anonymous sources, we have to be a little cautious — but I am reasonably sure something like this happened.

Especially since, just a few paragraphs later, Woodward gives us a confirmation — from Obama.
- 7:32 PM, 9 September 2012   [link]


Unexpectedly Good Job Data:  In Canada.
The loonie was up 0.48 of a cent to $1.0223 (U.S.) as the U.S. currency lost ground following a disappointing August employment report.

But it was a different story in Canada as the economy created 34,300 jobs in August.   That was much better than the approximately 10,000 new jobs that economists had expected.
(A comparable gain for the United States would be about 340,000 jobs.)

Perhaps this difference between the two countries shouldn't surprise us, though it surprised the journalists, since Canada's leader, Stephen Harper, is an economist by training.  (As far as I can tell, President Obama knows almost nothing about economics.)
- 7:39 AM, 9 September 2012   [link]


Has Lady Gaga Read Kornbluth's Classic Story, "The Marching Morons"?  That was my reaction to her promise (threat?) to leave for another planet if Romney wins.

Old-time science fiction fans will understand the connection; others can find an explanation here.

(Cyril Kornbluth is somewhat neglected now, but is definitely worth reading, though I should warn you that many of his stories — including "The Marching Morons" — are politically incorrect.)
- 7:21 AM, 9 September 2012   [link]