April 2013, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

What Motivated Tamerlan Tsarnaev?  An ex-brother-in-law, Elmirza Khozugov, explained in an email to the New York Times:
He was looking for looking for connections between the wars in the Middle East and oppression of Muslim population around the globe. . . . Never said anything bad about other religions.  But he was angry that the world pictures Islam as a violent religion.
Killing and injuring innocents with homemade bombs doesn't seem like the best way to change those pictures.
- 6:40 PM, 24 April 2013   [link]

Jailhouse Rock In Baltimore:  It was quite a party, while it lasted.

A gang took over control of a state prison there, with considerable help from some of the guards.
More than a dozen Maryland state prison guards helped a dangerous national gang operate a drug-trafficking and money-laundering scheme from behind bars that involved cash payments, sex and access to fancy cars, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
. . .
At the center of the investigation was an alleged leader of the Black Guerilla Family, Tavon White, who prosecutors said fathered five children with four of the corrections officers — Jennifer Owens, 31, of Randallstown; Katera Stevenson, 24, of Baltimore; Chania Brooks, 27, of Baltimore; and Tiffany Linder, 27, of Baltimore — since his incarceration on attempted murder charges in 2009.
. . .
The prison guards were among 25 defendants, including inmates and outside suppliers, charged with racketeering and drug conspiracy.
State senator Lisa Gladden (a Democrat), who has some experience with criminals — she's a public defender — thinks that the state should replace female guards with "a bunch of rough, ugly men".  At one time, almost everyone would have agreed with that common sense policy, but the state prison chief, Gary Maynard, doesn't seem likely to follow her advice.

Ultimately responsible for this disaster is Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (another Democrat).  He is, according to reports, likely to run for president in 2016.   It is unlikely that he will touting his successes with prison reform, if he does run.

(That gang has an interesting name, doesn't it?)
- 2:11 PM, 24 April 2013   [link]

Did Welfare Pay For The Boston Bombings?  It appears that it did.
Marathon bombings mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism, the Herald has learned.

State officials confirmed last night that Tsarnaev, slain in a raging gun battle with police last Friday, was receiving benefits along with his wife, Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, and their 3-year-old daughter.  The state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services said those benefits ended in 2012 when the couple stopped meeting income eligibility limits.  Russell Tsarnaev’s attorney has claimed Katherine — who had converted to Islam — was working up to 80 hours a week as a home health aide while Tsarnaev stayed at home.

In addition, both of Tsarnaev’s parents received benefits, and accused brother bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were recipients through their parents when they were younger, according to the state.
Welfare, the earnings of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's abused wife, and the drug deals of the younger brother.

Congratulations to the Boston Herald for their scoop.  (And I am a little annoyed at myself, because I should have thought of this possibility as soon as the suspects were identified.  I have seen this pattern, a mix of welfare and petty crime supporting terrorists, before.)
- 8:41 AM, 24 April 2013   [link]

Could Increased Regulation Be One of The Reasons Job Growth Has Been So Slow During The Recovery?  Sure, and there is some evidence for that conclusion in this report.
A new report by the Regulatory Studies Center at the George Washington University finds that the cost of regulatory rules in 2012 exceeded the cost of all rules in "the entire first terms of Presidents Bush and Clinton, combined."
Those cost estimates come from the Office of Mangement and Budget, that is, from the Obama administration itself.
- 8:19 AM, 24 April 2013   [link]

Speaker Boehner And Minority Leader McConnell Aren't Popular:  But they are less unpopular than Minority Leader Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid
The top Republican and Democratic leaders in the U.S. House and Senate are a generally unpopular foursome, with Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi being the most well-known, but also the least well-liked.  Thirty-one percent of Americans view Pelosi favorably and 48% unfavorably.  Her resulting net -17 image score compares with -11 for Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, -10 for Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, and -8 for Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Don't miss, by the way, the very large numbers of Americans who have "never heard of" of have "no opinion" of them.  Pelosi is the best known of the four; 11 percent of the respondents had never heard of her, and 10 percent knew her, but not well enough to have an opinion.

Incidentally, those numbers are probably underestimates, since some respondents will give opinions, even when they don't have them.
- 7:34 AM, 24 April 2013   [link]

Just When You Thought The Ricin-Letter Story Couldn't Get Any Weirder:  It does.
Charges were dropped Tuesday against the Mississippi man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and others, while authorities searched at another man's home in connection with the case.

The surprising move was announced in a brief document filed in federal court in Oxford hours after Paul Kevin Curtis was released from custody.  The charges were dismissed without prejudice, which means they could be re-instated if prosecutors so choose.
Curtis's lawyer is claiming he was framed — and maybe he was.

(Curtis's version of "Jailhouse Rock" may now be even more authentic.  I suspect that copy is illegal, so that link may not work forever.)
- 4:13 PM, 23 April 2013   [link]

LED Bulbs Continue To Get Better:  Now, Switch Lighting has announced that two of its bulbs are eligible for rebates.
Switch Lighting, makers of the only liquid-cooled LED A- lamp, today announced their 60 and 75 watt-equivalents, the SWITCH60 and SWITCH75, have earned ENERGY STAR® certification.  Customers who purchase the SWITCH60 and SWITCH75 will now be able to take advantage of the accompanying price rebates offered by utility companies in many markets across the country.
. . .
SWITCH LED A-Lamps provide the same warm, familiar glow of an incandescent light bulb, while using up to 80% less energy and lasting 25 times as long.  They fit into standard light sockets, are dimmable, and can be used in the same manner as any incandescent or compact fluorescent light bulb.  Unlike many competitors, SWITCH bulbs can be used in any orientation, any fixture, and any location.   SWITCH bulbs pose no environmental hazards and have no toxic ingredients (unlike the mercury found in CFLs).
You'll want a rebate if you are going to buy one, since they cost more than LEDs from their competitors.

But not so much more that some of us won't want to experiment with one or two of them.

(An obvious point, but one that I don't see made very often:  LED bulbs have cost advantages over incandescents only if they are used heavily.  If, for instance, you have an attic that you use for storage, and visit briefly once every two or three weeks, than an incandescent is almost certainly the best choice.)
- 10:05 AM, 23 April 2013   [link]

That "Public Safety" Exception To The Miranda Warning Didn't Last Long:  A few days ago, we were being told that Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would be interrogated without getting the Miranda warning.
Now that authorities have captured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old believed to be the second suspect in the bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday, federal law enforcement officials are invoking the public safety exception regarding his Miranda rights, a senior Justice Department official told ABC News.
Now we are being told that he has received the Miranda warning, from a judge, no less.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, charged Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in a death in the Boston Marathon Bombings, was read his Miranda rights at his hospital bedside Monday after the Justice Department invoked Miranda's public safety exception.

A federal magistrate judge read the rights to Tsarnaev, an American citizen of Chechen descent, at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  Tsarnaev nodded his head to answer the judge's questions, and answered "no" when asked if he could afford a lawyer.  He remained in serious condition at the hospital.
The article implies that he got just one day of questions before being "Mirandized".   That seems plausible, in view of his serious condition.  But a real interrogation might easily last for days, so it looks to me as if the authorities decided to cut short that interrogation and go to the ordinary, "Mirandized" questioning.  Did the first round of questioning lead them to conclude that giving the warning would not damage the investigation?  Or did higher-ups in the Justice Department over-rule the people directing the investigation?

The latter seems more likely, given the timing, and — so far — the lack of leaks about secrets he might have revealed.

(Charles Lane thinks that the Miranda warning came as a response to real abuses, but that we can do better now.  I agree, since I have never thought that the warning was a good solution to real problems.)
- 9:32 AM, 23 April 2013
Update:  The investigators did question Tsarnaev without the warning for just that one day, and the investigators did decide that he was cooperative enough so that they could go ahead and give him the warning.  I may have been too suspicious about the motives of the investigators.
- 2:34 PM, 24 April 2013   [link]

An Artist At The Sydney Morning Herald Knew Who To Blame for the Boston Marathon bombs.

Tea Party Bombers, Sydney Morning Herald

Oddly enough, the opinion piece it illustrates argues against jumping to conclusions on terror attacks.

The Herald was, at one time, a respectable newspaper.

It is worth asking why the artist — Simon Letch — automatically assumed that the Tea Party movement was to blame for the bombings.   Without knowing much more about the man, and how he has formed his picture of American politics, I can only speculate.

But it seems likely that he got his false picture of the Tea Party from Australian journalists, who in turn got theirs mostly from American journalists.

(By way of Tim Blair.

The author of the opinion piece, Waleed Aly, says that our reaction to the bombings "could be very revealing".  I agree — and I think that Moir's reaction and Aly's reaction are both very revealing.)
- 7:22 AM, 23 April 2013   [link]

It's A Tie Between Barack Obama And George W. Bush:  While Obama's approval ratings have been going down, Bush's have been going up, and now the two ratings have met.
Days before his second term ended in 2009, Bush’s approval rating among all adults was 33 percent positive and 66 percent negative.  The new poll found 47 percent saying they approve and 50 percent saying they disapprove.  Among registered voters, his approval rating today is equal to President Obama’s, at 47 percent, according to the latest Post-ABC surveys.
Chris Cillizza tries to explain Bush's gains, and gets part of the answer right.  It is true that we tend to think better of our ex-presidents as time goes by.  But only part.

What Cillizza does not mention is that Obama has adopted many Bush polices on national security, and that the Obama administration has failed to give us prosperity at home.   Both of those make Bush's record look better, by contrast.
- 6:48 AM, 23 April 2013   [link]

Worth Reading:  Michael Mukasey's op-ed on the Boston Marathon bombing.

I found this part especially interesting.
Will the investigation probe as well the FBI's own questioning of Tamerlan two years ago at the behest of an unspecified foreign government, presumably Russia, over his involvement with jihadist websites and other activities?  Tamerlan Tsarnaev is the fifth person since 9/11 who has participated in terror attacks after questioning by the FBI.  He was preceded by Nidal Hasan; drone casualty Anwar al Awlaki; Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad (born Carlos Leon Bledsoe), who murdered an Army recruit in Little Rock in June 2009; and David Coleman Headley, who provided intelligence to the perpetrators of the Mumbai massacre in 2008.  That doesn't count [Umar Farouk] Abdulmutallab, who was the subject of warnings to the CIA that he was a potential terrorist.
(Emphasis added.)

Interesting, and troubling.
- 2:30 PM, 22 April 2013   [link]

If You Were Trying To Follow The Boston Marathon Bombing News Last Week, you'll probably like this Scott Stantis cartoon.

By way of Warren Peterson.

(Amazingly, the cartoon was published in the Seattle Times (in black and white).  The newspaper almost never publishes cartoons by conservative cartoonists, and I can't recall another one that criticized the news business.  Maybe they thought the cartoon was attacking Fox.)
- 1:51 PM, 22 April 2013   [link]

Mounties Stop A Terrorist Plot:  Here's the CBC story.
Canadian police and intelligence agencies say they have arrested two men and thwarted a plot to carry out a major terrorist attack on a Via passenger train. The two accused are Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser.  They have been charged with conspiracy to carry out a terrorist attack and "conspiring to murder persons unknown for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group."
. . .
The investigation was part of a cross-border operation involving Canadian law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
By way of Small Dead Animals.

(Here's a shorter version of the story from Fox, and a Royal Canadian Mounted Police press release.  I was amazed to see that they thanked no fewer than fourteen other organizations for their help.

The terrorists were probably targeting the Via train that runs from Toronto to New York.)
- 1:13 PM, 22 April 2013   [link]

What's The Lead Story At The Huffington Post?  As I write, this one.
The two brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings, who police say engaged in a gun battle with officers early Friday after a frenzied manhunt, were not licensed to own guns in the towns where they lived, authorities said on Sunday.
Journalists, even quasi-journalists like those at the Huffington Post, are obsessed with the gun issue, aren't they?

(There is nothing in the article about whether the Tsarnaev brothers were licensed to own pressure cookers.)
- 8:56 AM, 22 April 2013   [link]

"Tsarnaev and Miranda Rights"  Law professor Orin Kerr explains why the authorities don't have to read Dzhokar Tsarnaev his rights.   It's a detailed post, but here's the essence of his explanation.
A lot of people assume that the police are required to read a suspect his Miranda rights upon arrest.  That is, they assume that one of a person’s rights is the right to be read their rights.  It often happens that way on Law & Order, but that’s not what the law actually requires.  The police aren’t required to follow Miranda.  Miranda is a set of rules the government can chose to follow if they want to admit a person’s statements in a criminal case in court, not a set of rules they have to follow in every case.
(Emphasis added.)

If the police think they have enough evidence without his statements — and they probably do — they can go ahead and question him without reading him the Miranda warning that we have all seen on TV.
- 8:26 AM, 22 April 2013   [link]

NPR's First Take On The Boston Bombings:  Probably committed by right-wing "domestic extremists", because of the timing, said correspondent Dina Temple-Raston, citing unnamed experts.
In her segment, she notes that Hitler’s birthday and the anniversaries of the Columbine attack, the Oklahoma City bombing and the assault on the Branch-Davidian compound in Waco, TX all fall in April.
Ralston may want to find some new "experts".

Your tax dollars (and donations) at work.

By way of the Instapundit.

(You can see my more cautious first takes, here and here.)
- 7:52 AM, 22 April 2013   [link]

Did The Tsarnaev Brothers Have No Plan B?  That's what I am inclined to think.  They appear to have believed that they would not be identified, in spite of all those cameras and witnesses, and that, after placing the bombs, they could just go back to whatever they were doing before.

For example:
The day after the horrific Boston Marathon bombings, the surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev spent time at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he was enrolled, and ‘acted like nothing happened,’ a friend of his, who saw him that day, told ABC News's Nightline.
This behavior makes sense if the two assumed there was very little chance they would be identified.

And then when they were identified, instead of executing Plan B, a well-thought-out escape plan, they appear to have panicked, killing a policeman, hijacking a car, driving around in search of ATMs so they could get some cash from the driver, and then letting him go — which allowed the police to begin tracking the car, almost immediately.

(They didn't even make an effort to disguise themselves.  Even wearing hoodies and large dark glasses — which would not have been too out of place in that crowd — would have made it harder to identify them.)
- 6:23 PM, 21 April 2013   [link]

Today's Maureen Dowd Column Annoyed Walter Russell Mead:  That was a mistake.
If Maureen Dowd’s evisceration manqué of President Obama’s gun control strategy in the New York Times is any indication, Ms. Dowd is in the wrong line of work.  She doesn’t understand American politics.   She doesn’t know how votes are gained and lost, she doesn’t know what presidents do or understand what powers they have, and above all she doesn’t understand how politicians think.
Other than that, Dowd is perfectly qualified to write about American politics, as she frequently does.

(I'm not sure I would entirely agree with Mead's analysis.  Often what smart legislators — including presidents acting as chief legislators — do is figure out how much of what they want they can get from the legislature — and then put that into the bill.

If I were advising President Obama on gun control, I would have told him to first sit down with Harry Reid and find out what kind of bill could be passed — assuming, of course, that Obama wanted to pass a bill through the Senate, rather than just have the issue.  And then check that by bringing in possible swing votes like Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and asking them if they could vote for something like the tentative package that Reid and he had talked about.

If they didn't find the package acceptable, then ask them what they could accept, and modify accordingly.

But Obama seems to think that he can sway public opinion, which in turn will influence the senators.  He doesn't seem to grasp that Democrats from states like Alaska and North Dakota, and Republicans from most states, gain politically by having open differences with him.)
- 5:48 PM, 21 April 2013   [link]

A Genetic Puzzle from Chechnya.
Genetic tests on Chechens, though sparse and not sufficiently thorough so far, have shown roots in the Caucasus as well as strong connections to and influences from the Middle East as well as Europe.  As is the case with many other Caucasian peoples, Chechens are connected with the Middle East on the Y-DNA side, but more close to Europe in terms of mitochondrial DNA.
Most of you will understand how that curious pattern could have developed.  (And for those who are puzzled, I'll have an explanation, and some speculation, tomorrow.)
- 3:29 PM, 21 April 2013
An explanation and some speculation:  Men inherit their Y chromosomes from their fathers; all of us (with one known exception) inherit our mitochrondrial DNA from our mothers.  So the Chechen population is descended disproportionately from Middle East fathers and European mothers.

It is not hard, if you know anything about the history of this area, or of Muslim conquests generally, to explain how this pattern came about:  Middle East warriors invaded what is now Chechnya, killed the men and took the women as wives and concubines.

And now for the speculation — which, I must warn you, might get you tossed out of most self-respecting faculty clubs:  The kind of men who would engage in this kind of warfare would be warriors, and warriors who did not, in general, have much respect for women.  It is certain that such traits can be passed on culturally, but I will go a little further and say that it is almost certain that they can also be passed on, genetically.

If I am right, then Chechen men are more likely to be great fighters — and horrible lovers.
- 3:24 PM, 22 April 2013   [link]

Peter Bergen And Jennifer Rowland have seven questions, with tentative answers, about the Boston Marathon bombers.

To which I could add many more, including these two:

8. Where did the money for their apartments, the trip to Russia, the guns, and the bombs come from?

The family is not wealthy, and neither brother has had full-time work for years, yet they were able to afford the expenses for this terrorist attack, expenses that must have amounted to thousands of dollars.

Most college students from working class families would not be able to raise that amount of money, easily and legally.

9. What part, if any, did marijuana play in the changes in the two men?

We know that adolescents are more vulnerable to marijuana than adults, and we are told by the friends of Dzhokar Tsarnaev that he was a heavy user.  Tamerlan Tsarnaev may well have been a heavy user, too.  His best friend, and two other men, were murdered in 2011.  Their bodies were found "covered in marijuana".
- 8:18 AM, 21 April 2013   [link]

To Know Us Isn't Necessarily To Love Us:  Victor Davis Hanson reminds us of that unpleasant fact.
Like some, I question the standard American conceit that ignorance of the U.S. explains anti-American behavior in the Islamic world.  It often seems just as likely the very opposite case: The more Islamists are exposed to our affluence, popular culture, informality, self-critique, lack of hierarchy, sexual liberality, tolerance of homosexuality, parity between the sexes, and tolerance of all religious observance, and see that such American values may contribute to the world’s attraction to the United States, the more they end up hating it, not the least because of fears that America’s nature erodes one’s own zealotry.
But that reminder will have, judging by past experience, no effect on those on the left on social issues, particularly not hard-core libertarians.

(I am not, of course, saying that libertarians should give up their views on social issues — some of which I agree with — but I do think that they should try a little harder to understand the possible costs of, for instance, legalizing gay marriage.  That won't make us more popular in places like Cairo, Damascus, and Tehran.)
- 9:39 AM, 20 April 2013   [link]

Two Possible Ironies In The Boston Marathon Bombers Case:  Dzhohkar Tsarnaev may have killed his own brother.
The drama ended for the elder brother, Tamerlan, 26, when police shot him and then he apparently was run over by his brother in a melee witnessed by scores of frightened residents of Watertown, Mass., a residential community about five miles from the apartment where the pair lived.
Note the emphasis on "may".  We won't know until the autopsy report is released, but getting hit by a large SUV is not generally good for one's health.

David Henneberry, the man who spotted Dzhohkar in his back yard, may have saved Dzhohkar's life.

Again, note the emphasis on "may", though this one seems more likely to me, given that Dzhohkar is reported to be in "serious" condition, and appears to have had no way to get medical treatment.

(I'm a little less certain about these ironies than Ed Morrissey, because I am not sure the reports he relies on are entirely accurate.)
- 9:25 AM, 20 April 2013   [link]

Climate Change And The Boston Marathon Bombings:   Think there's no connection?  Then you haven't been listening to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“It’s a terrible situation in Boston.  And, unfortunately, … one gets the sense that this is more reflective of the ‘new normal,’ if you will,” he explained.  “So much of society is changing so rapidly.  We talk about a ‘new normal’ when it comes to climate change and adjusting to a change in the weather patterns.  ‘New normal’ when it comes to public security in a post-9/11 world.  Where these random acts of violence, which at one time were implausible, now seem all-too-frequent.”
If I understand Cuomo correctly, he is not saying that climate change causes terrorism, but that the two are parallel problems, because they both require us to adapt to environments that have changed for the worse.

(I wonder if Cuomo thinks climate change caused World War II?)
- 12:09 PM, 19 April 2013   [link]

What's In Those Suspects' Names?  This is, let me begin by saying, a bit of speculation.

The names of the dead suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, may tell us something about their history.

Imperial Russia conquered Chechnya and incorporated the Chechens in their empire — but the Chechens never accepted their defeats, under imperial Russia, the Soviet Union, or Putin's rule.

But the Russian influence was strong, which explains their Slavic last name, Tsarnaev, and the Slavic name of the younger brother.  (Could "Tsarnaev" mean belonging to the Tsar?)

However, the first name of the older brother looks a lot like like the name of a famous islamic conqueror.
- 5:52 AM, 19 April 2013
More:  Dzhokhar may be named after the assassinated "first President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria".  Assasinated in 1996 by the Russians, using a missile fired from an airplane.
- 7:57 AM, 19 April 2013   [link]

Well, That Was Exciting News To Wake Up To:  Here's the best story I've found — so far — on the crime spree and police shootout with the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.
With a bomb strapped to his chest, one of the Boston Marathon suspects was killed early Friday after he and his accomplice brother robbed a 7-Eleven, shot a police officer to death, carjacked an SUV and hurled explosives in an extraordinary firefight with law enforcement, authorities told NBC News.
The suspects are Chechen brothers with the last name Tsarnaev.

So far, I haven't seen any explanation for their presence in United States.  Or, more precisely, I think we can guess why they wanted to come here, but we don't know why the State Department issued them visas.  One, at least, appears to have been a high school student at Boston Cambridge Rindge and Latin.
- 5:02 AM, 19 April 2013   [link]

ICE Workers Sue Obama:  Ordinarily, I dislike the idea of making policy through lawsuits.  But I might make an exception in this case.
The suit pits the Obama administration against its own immigration-enforcement agents, who are suing over the administration’s use of “prosecutorial discretion” to dictate how immigration law is enforced — or not enforced.  A group of ten U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents has charged that a series of policy directives from ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) effectively “commands ICE officers to violate federal law” and face possible suspension or termination if they refuse.  Critics of the Gang of Eight’s proposal worry that if nothing is done to prevent future administrations from similarly ignoring immigration laws, the country will inevitably face another crisis down the road.

A federal judge in Dallas heard arguments in the case on April 8, and he is expected to issue a ruling in the coming days.  The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction against a June 2012 directive from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that instructs ICE officers to refrain from initiating deportation proceedings for illegal immigrants who may qualify for what is sometimes referred to as “DREAM status.”  Immigrants who might qualify would be those who were brought here illegally as children, who are currently enrolled in school or are a member of the military, and who have not been convicted of a serious crime.
Naturally, as the article goes on to explain, illegal immigrants have been telling each other how to claim they are in “DREAM status” — whether or not they actually are.

(If Obama were a conservative Republican who had decided not to enforce a law he didn't like, would he be criticized for that?  He would be if the non-enforcement helped conservatives.)
- 6:41 PM, 18 April 2013   [link]

Why Did President Obama Decide To Push For Gun Control Legislation?  And why did he appear so angry after his defeat yesterday?

Jennifer Steinhauer's front-page article in today's New York Times reviewed what should have been obvious to Obama:  "The measure never really had a chance."

I don't follow this issue closely, and I knew that weeks ago.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appears to have known it.

Moreover, Reid probably knows that raising the issue, forcing Democratic senators from the South and the West to take awkward votes, might endanger his majority.

But that doesn't show that Obama knew the measure was doomed.  He does not have, among his inner circle, anyone who is likely to understand the politics of the gun issue — outside our large cities.  And there is good reason to think that he would not listen to someone like Reid, if that person tried to warn him about the likely defeat of any significant restrictions on gun purchases.

And so I am inclined to think that it was not obvious to Obama, inclined to think that, until the votes were taken, he thought the measure had a chance.  If I am right on that, then the anger he showed yesterday was real, not put on for the cameras, looking for some long-term political gain.

If that seems implausible, consider this:  The editorial board at the Times also seemed to think the measure had a chance of passage.  (And, of course, gave us an angry editorial today, denouncing the vote.)

There is another reason to think that Obama may have deceived himself, one that I will try to explain delicately.  Obama is less of a hands-on manager or legislator than most presidents.  He may not have taken the time to review the gun-control defeats in recent years, or even to ask Reid to do a tentative vote count before he decided to back legislation on the subject.

And even if he did get a tentative vote count, he may have believed that he could use public opinion to change it, though he has had little success with that in the past.

(Tom Maguire also thinks that Obama may be detached from reality, but in different ways than I have discussed in this post.  But what Maguire says supports, indirectly, my argument.)
- 1:29 PM, 18 April 2013   [link]

Why Do The CIA And The Defense Department Want All Those Fake Washington state drivers licenses?
A Washington Department of Licensing program that supplied fake licenses for undercover officers issued the most fake IDs to the Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Department, the Kitsap Sun reported.

In response to a public records request, the department last month showed the newspaper and public radio's Northwest News Network a list of agencies issued confidential licenses since 2007.  The CIA topped the list with 288, followed by the Defense Department with 198, then followed mostly by police agencies in the state, such as the Kitsap County sheriff's office and Bremerton Police Department, the Kitsap Sun reported Monday.
I don't think it is because the CIA and DOD are helping their underage people get into bars, but beyond that it is hard to figure out why they would need so many.

This legal quirk might be part of the explanation.
Three states — Washington, New Mexico and Utah — allow illegal immigrants to get licenses because their laws do not require proof of citizenship or legal residency.   An Associated Press analysis found that those states have seen a surge in immigrants seeking IDs in recent months, a trend experts attribute to crackdowns on illegal immigration in Arizona and elsewhere.
Although most of those illegals are just looking for jobs, some of them are involved in activities that would interest the CIA and the DOD.
- 9:28 AM, 18 April 2013   [link]

Cleaning Business Owner/Elvis Impersonator Arrested For Sending Ricin Letters To President Obama And Senator Wicker:  You probably have seen that story; if not, you can get the details from this rather snarky post.

But I took the trouble to read what Paul Kevin Curtis has said himself in this internet complaint.  And I am not sure he didn't see something he shouldn't have seen when he got in trouble at that Mississippi hospital.

At the time, he claims that he was the owner of a commercial cleaning business and had gotten good reviews in the 18 months he had been cleaning the hospital.

The story sounds entirely different if we leave out the Elvis impersonator part, doesn't it?

But at the same time, we have to wonder whether a man who, apparently, sent ricin-laden letters to government officials, has been thinking very clearly.

So I think that reporters in his area should investigate his story — if they have not done so already — but do so with even more skepticism than usual.

(It is also possible that he saw some of the usual human parts that pathologists work on as they try to discover the causes of illnesses, and deaths.)
- 8:23 AM, 18 April 2013   [link]

John Kass Has Some Advice for CNN: "It's OK to say, 'We don't know'"

CNN should say that more often, and so should many of their competitors, if they want to avoid fiascos like yesterday's many false reports.

(Although it's a separate issue, you shouldn't miss what Kass says about the clever (and completely unscrupulous) way David Axelrod used the Boston Marathon bombings to suggest that Obama's political opponents might be responsible.)
- 7:29 AM, 18 April 2013   [link]

Ricin is nasty stuff.
Ricin . . . , from the castor oil plant Ricinus communis, is a highly toxic, naturally occurring protein.  A dose as small as a few grains of table salt can kill an adult human.  The LD50 of ricin is around 22 micrograms per kilogram (1.78 mg for an average adult, around 1⁄228 of a standard aspirin tablet/0.4 g gross) in humans if exposure is from injection or inhalation.[1]  Oral exposure to ricin is far less toxic and a lethal dose can be up to 20–30 milligrams per kilogram.
I hope the clerks who were checking the letters to President Obama and Senator Wicker did not inhale dangerous doses.  I wouldn't be surprised if they wear surgical masks, or something similar, while they work.
- 4:40 PM, 17 April 2013   [link]

"California Dems Censure School Reformers"   California Democrats censure Democratic school reformers.

- 4:12 PM, 17 April 2013   [link]

More On Pressure Cooker Bombs:  Here's a picture of the famous magazine cover.  You'll notice that "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom" is not even their lead article.

And if you take a second look, you'll notice that the cover is fairly professional, and written in good English.  The people who put this together are not starving, semi-literate goat herders.

The Daily Mail has a helpful diagram in their article, just in case you don't want to search the Internet for basic directions on making your own bomb.

And the Washington Post has a long, and more than a little pessimistic, article on these bombs.
The devices’ design was immediately recognized by counterterrorism experts as a type touted by al-Qaeda for use by its operatives around the world.  Similar devices have been used by terrorists in mass-casualty bombings in numerous countries, from the Middle East to South Asia to North Africa.

Yet the bomb’s simplicity and garden-variety ingredients complicate the task of determining whether the maker was an international terrorist, a homegrown extremist or a local citizen with a grudge, investigators and experts say.
I am somewhat less pessimistic that the cited authorities; I think there is a good chance we will get useful clues from the remains of these bombs.
- 1:38 PM, 17 April 2013   [link]

Charles Lane Thinks The Visas-For-Dollars Program is scandalous.
The standard objection to EB-5 is moral: The United States should not be in the business of selling the right to live in this country.  Though a fair point, it is also a slight misconception.  In effect, the government gives away the visas — to profit-making businesses that have jumped through the program’s requisite bureaucratic hoops.   Then the companies “sell” them, by soliciting investment based on the promise of permanent residency.
As he goes on to say, this makes jobs for "consultants, brokers and other fee-seeking middlemen", but may not do much for the rest of us.

You can see the weakness of this program if you consider this simple fact:  A business that has good uses for additional capital can almost always get that capital from investors, who are looking for such opportunities — whether the investors live here, or somewhere else>

(There are some exceptions where such visas might make sense economically, for example where an investor is also the key person in his own company, but few of these visas go to such people.)
- 7:08 AM, 17 April 2013   [link]

David Sirota Hopes That The Boston Marathon Bomber Was Unrepentant Terrorist Bill Ayers:  Or at least someone like Ayers in what leftist Sirota considers the essential characteristic, the color of his skin.

Oh, all right, I am pretty sure that Sirota does not want the killer to be a leftist, even if the leftist has the right skin color.  But that isn't what Sirota said.

And it is simply a fact that Ayers has benefited from his privileged background, not so much his skin color, but the wealth and political power of his father.

(If you want a serious reply to Sirota, you can find one here.)
- 6:03 AM, 17 April 2013   [link]