August 2014, Part 4
Jim Miller on Politics
Elizabeth Warren's Regulatory Agency, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is having personnel problems.
America’s newest federal agency, charged with regulating financial institutions to prevent another hostile economic downturn, is having troubles regulating hostilities and discrimination among its own employees.Serious problems, if even half of the charges are true.
By way of the Boston Globe, which assures us that the CFPB is doing good work in spite of these problems. (Citing a Mother Jones article may not be the best way to demonstrate that point.)
I have been dubious about the agency ever since I learned that it was set up to be independent of congressional and executive oversight. Such oversight is always incomplete, and often unfair, but it is better, by far, than no oversight at all — especially in a democracy.
It occurs to me that the agency might have attracted some managers who liked the idea of being unaccountable.
(I should warn you that the servers for the Washington Times web site are not the fastest in the world, and that the newspaper uses that common trick of forcing you to click for the next pages in a six-page article. But you may find the time spent worthwhile, anyway.
No promises, but you may be able to read the article more quickly, if you convert it to the printed version, first.)
- 8:35 PM, 31 August 2014 [link]
The Hyper-Normal World Of Bridge Columns: I regularly look at bridge columns, not because I now play the game (though I did years ago, socially), but because I like the little logical puzzles they present.
And, in recent years, I have begun to notice that none of those columns ever mentions any disturbance in the outside world, even when the bridge is played in an exciting place.
For example, yesterday, the New York Times carried a column by Phillip Alder, which begins with this paragraph:
At the 15th World Youth Teams Championships here last week, in the girls event, for players born after 1988, the round-robin qualifying matches were followed by four 56-board quarterfinals. In these, there were easy victories for China, Italy and the Netherlands (over the United States). In the fourth, Australia led France by 27 international match points, with 14 boards to be played, but in a big last session, France triumphed by 12 imps.And goes on, as these columns almost always do, to describe one of the more interesting hands played at the event.
But the column says nothing about the location: Istanbul — and right now that is a very exciting location indeed. Most of the European jihadis who are rushing to join ISIS probably pass through Istanbul. Istanbul is also the center of secular and moderate Muslim resistance to Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
But none of that is even mentioned in the column, which is fine with me, though it seems a little odd.
But I suppose it doesn't hurt to remind ourselves, from time to time, that even in exciting places, most people, most of the time, are doing ordinary not-so-exciting things. And though bridge games can be exciting to those who understand the game, they are less exciting to almost all of us than religion and war. So it is nice to see the normal, perhaps even the hyper-normal, in these bridge games being played in exciting places.
- 3:06 PM, 31 August 2014 [link]
The Rotherham Child Sex Abuse Scandal: The best succinct description of the scandal that I have seen is in this New York Times article.
A report released on Tuesday on accusations of widespread sexual abuse in the northern England city of Rotherham found that about 1,400 minors — some as young as 11 years old — were beaten, raped and trafficked from 1997 to 2013 as the local authorities ignored a series of red flags.The best commentary I've seen on the report is from John Sullivan.
Official attitudes to the young white girls in Rotherham were different — but, if anything, worse. They combined sexism with a contempt for the white working class that is now common in both the progressive intelligentsia and the lumpen-intelligentsia whose members respectively lay down and enforce social policy under uncomprehending or cowardly political leaders. Thus the police shared the opinion of the criminals that their victims were little better than “sluts.” They were powerless, without influential parents or friends, lacking an ethnic support group that would rally to their defense. If racism is a weapon that can be used only by the powerful, as the progressive mantra holds, then the girls were victims of racism. But they were the wrong victims just as the criminals were the wrong pedophiles. Their plight had never been a topic in lectures on diversity. In short, they certainly weren’t worth risking a reprimand for disrupting good community relations or undermining diversity.(UKIP = United Kingdom Independence Party. They want limits on immigration, and independence from the European Union.)
Americans will naturally wonder whether something similar could happen here.
I think it could, and that, on a much smaller scale, may already have happened. I have seen a few reports on young Somali men in the pimping business, and have wondered how many I haven't seen, because our "mainstream" journalists would prefer not to cover such stories.
I'll have more to say about this scandal when I have read and studied the report.
(Rotherham has a population of about 260,000. A very rough calculation suggests that as many as 1 in 20 white girls there were victims.
And there have been similar scandals in similar cities in Britain.)
- 7:11 AM, 30 August 2014 [link]
"We Don't Have A Strategy, Yet" That Obama answer has drawn a lot of attention.
Obama, asked at a news conference on Thursday if he needs congressional approval to launch air strikes in Syria, said he "didn't want to put the cart before the horse. We don't have a strategy yet."I think that President Obama is using that answer to tell some of the people in his administration, Kerry and Hagel for example, to tone down their rhetoric.
But it didn't come out that way; instead it came out as a gaffe, as Aaron Blake explains at some length.
As with all gaffes, the worst ones are the ones that confirm people's pre-existing suspicions or fit into an easy narrative. That's why "47 percent" stung Mitt Romney so much, and its why "don't have a strategy" hurts Obama today.How many think he is too tough? Currently, three percent, which if you know anything about polls, means approximately no one, since about five percent will agree to almost anything.
(Detail-oriented people may wonder why I inserted that comma in the headline, when the journalists didn't. That's because I heard enough of a pause in his answer to deserve a comma. Similarly, I would punctuate Hillary Clinton's famous Benghazi answer like this: "What difference, at this point, does it make?" But I have often seen the commas omitted.
For students, I should add that there is no correct answer in either case, that it is a matter of taste, and ear.)
- 8:53 AM, 29 August 2014 [link]
It Can Be Advantageous To Be Homosexual: As even some British street criminals have figured out.
A violent father-of-two escaped deportation moments before being put on a plane to Jamaica – by suddenly declaring he was homosexual.Amazingly, he found some judges who believed him.
(Could something similar happen in the United States? Sure, although the details would differ. Like Britain, we give special consideration to those who might be persecuted back in their homelands for their political views — or their sexual practices. Inevitably, some are going to take advantage of those policies. And, now that I think about it, no doubt some already have.)
- 7:18 AM, 29 August 2014 [link]
We May Have Made A Mistake When We Let The Tsarnaev Family Into This Country: Here's more evidence for that conclusion.
A sister of the Boston Marathon bombers was busted in New York City Wednesday for allegedly threatening to blow up her live-in lover’s baby mama, The Post has learned.People besides her brother, who is now in custody? I do hope the police will ask her a few questions about that.
- 7:46 AM, 28 August 2014 [link]
President Obama Is The Wrong/Right Man To Confront ISIS: That odd headline is my way of saying that I found myself agreeing with two pieces that came to opposing views on that question.
The Washington Examiner suspects that he is the wrong man:
The bigger issue, however is whether Obama and his chief advisers are smart enough and tough enough to defeat ISIS. That's doubtful if a weekend observation by Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser is indicative of the administration's approach.The terrorist organization claims that they are already making plans to attack the United States, and our open southern border provides an easy way for them to get into the United States, if they are not already here. (I suspect at least a few of them are.)
The 9/11 attack should have taught even Obama to take such threats seriously. But I doubt that it has.
James Taranto thinks that Obama is the right man.
Leonard Nimoy memorably declared that "only Nixon could go to China." It's not literally true that only Obama could bomb Iraq--his three predecessors all did, and even Obama didn't put an immediate stop to the fighting. But perhaps only Obama could bomb Iraq now without encountering serious domestic political opposition.So President Obama is the wrong man to confront ISIS militarily and diplomatically, but the right man, politically.
Is there any solution to this dilemma? Possibly. We can hope that Obama will find a competent general to take charge of our military response, and that he will not interfere too much with our diplomats, some of whom are capable of rallying support.
We don't need a David Petraeus and a Henry Kissinger, just a competent general, and a few competent ambassadors.
- 6:31 AM, 28 August 2014 [link]
Kent Sorenson Pleads Guilty: And gives us one of the more interesting stories from the 2012 election.
A former Iowa state senator has pleaded guilty in federal court to crimes related to accepting payment from a presidential campaign during Iowa's 2012 presidential caucus campaign.I recall that jump vaguely, and remember, vaguely, that people more familiar with Iowa politics than I am seemed surprised by it. (Paul finished third in the race, with 21 percent of the vote, behind Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, who each had 25 percent of the vote. The early count by party officials gave Romney the lead, but in the final count, Santorum came out ahead, 29,839-29,805. Bachmann finished sixth and dropped out.)
I suppose, as part of this agreement, we'll know pretty soon who in the Paul campaign gave Sorenson the money.
(Although politicians often make mutually beneficial agreements — some of them against the public interest — it is rare to see something this blatant in a state like Iowa.)
- 5:56 PM, 27 August 2014 [link]
Today's New Yorker Cartoon shows a politician explaining why he has returned to the fray.
- 2:40 PM, 27 August 2014 [link]
Are Leftist "Journalists" Creating A "Lynch Mob Mentality" Over Ferguson? That's what Howard Kurtz says.
And this example — which I have not verified — suggests that he may be right.
It is only fair to add that we do not know, for certain, why the two men were attacked.
But it is also only fair to add that Al Sharpton, at the center of things in Ferguson, has inspired racial and anti-Semitic killings in the past.
(The National Review article I linked to in that 2003 post has been moved, but you can find it here. It's longish, but well worth your time.)
- 2:31 PM, 27 August 2014 [link]
Gabriel Schoenfeld Explains Why NYT Reporter James Risen Will (Probably) Go To Jail: And why he should.
Here's the lead paragraph, which sets the scene:
After nearly four years of procedural delay, the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling is set to open shortly. Sterling was indicted at the end of 2010 for leaking information about a top-secret CIA operation to James Risen of the New York Times in violation of the espionage statutes. It is difficult to regard Sterling as in any sense a whistleblower, though, predictably, he calls himself such. He appears to have given Risen CIA secrets as a way to settle scores with the agency in a dispute over the presence of classified information in memoirs he sought to publish and also for being the victim of what, following a poor performance review, he claimed was racial bias.Risen will be called to testify, and he has promised that he will remain silent. When he refuses to testify, the judge will probably toss him in jail — as he would any other citizen who refuses to testify. (There are exceptions for spouses, and for clergy and lawyers, in some situations.)
It will be difficult for our journalists to cover this case fairly, so, if you follow this case, you will want to look for more from Schoenfeld, and others who share his respect for our laws, and our security.
- 1:45 PM, 27 August 2014 [link]
Worth Reading: Donald McNeil's longish article on how the Bush administration fought AIDS in South Africa, and how the gains made there are now threatened.
South Africa has 2.4 million people on antiretroviral drugs, far more than any other country, and adds 100,000 each month. Five years ago, 490 clinics gave out those drugs; now 3,540 do. Only 250 nurses were trained to prescribe them then; now 23,000 are. (The figures, from the end of 2013, are the most recent available.)That almost clandestine approach shows, I think, just how subtle the Bush administration could be, when it needed to be. Rather than quarrel with President Thabo Mbeki — which almost certainly would have had bad results — they went around him, quietly.
- 2:21 PM, 26 August 2014 [link]
If You Would Like To See A Cynical Explanation For The Attention the Obama administration is paying to Ferguson, you can find one here.
The racial unrest caused by tensions over the shooting of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., could be a rallying cry for Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts, according to the voter education committee chair for the Democratic Southern caucus.There are many precedents for this kind of calculation; for example, many believe that David Dinkins was elected mayor of New York in 1989, thanks to Al Sharpton's exploitation of the murder of Yusuf Hawkins.
- 1:38 PM, 26 August 2014 [link]
Victor Davis Hanson Reminds Us, Once Again, that the Obama we see in the Oval Office is not the Obama we were promised in 2008.
For those who are “shocked” at the present meltdown, of a magnitude not seen since the annus horribilis of 1979, in their defense: Obama certainly did not campaign on a new health-care plan that would force Americans to give up the doctors they liked and their existing coverage, while raising premiums and deductibles, while giving exemptions for insiders and cronies, and while raising the deficit.All that is true, but I think Hanson fails to give Obama's acting ability the credit that it deserves. Obama was selling arguments that were, often, internally inconsistent, and, more often than not, inconsistent with Obama's political record, and personal history.
Example: A man who truly wanted to bring people together would never have spent years belonging to Reverend Wright's church.
It is also true that Obama could not have succeeded if so many journalists had not supported him, some because they believed what he was saying (which required them putting their critical facilities aside), others because they wanted victory for their party so much, and still others from a mixture of those two.
Their failure is one of the reasons Americans continue to lose faith in "mainstream" reporting; more and more we recognize that, on some subjects, and with some political figures, our "mainstream" journalists simply can not be trusted.
But it is still true that Obama's performance in 2008 showed real acting talent, showed his gift for reading implausible lines, plausibly — and all of us should recognize that gift.
(Another example from earlier in Obama's career: At Harvard Law, Obama would often speak in a meeting in such a way that both sides thought that he was agreeing with them. The people he was fooling were not stupid, and, if students, were being trained to analyze words with great care, or, if faculty, had years of training and experience in that arcane art.)
Those who oppose Obama should not underestimate that ability; those who support him should take a long look at what he has done, and pay a little less attention to what he says.
(Minor correction: Hanson describes John F. Kennedy as a "Northern liberal". That wasn't how Kennedy would have described himself, nor is it a good description of Kennedy's policies at the time. Now, of course, his policies would be considered conservative.
Obama is not the only recent president with acting ability; besides the obvious example, Reagan, I would add Bill Clinton, who was pretty good before he became president, and worked to get better by taking acting lessons from a famous acting coach, Michael Sheehan.
As I recall, Clinton was getting lessons about once a month from Sheehan, who, no doubt, helped Clinton fake sincerity, effectively.)
- 1:15 PM, 26 August 2014 [link]
President Obama Is Half Way To The "Coveted" EGOT: As I learned from this fawning Parade article.
On Saturday, August 16, Obama walked away from the Creative Arts Emmys with a statuette for Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program for his comedic work in Funny or Die’s “Between Two Ferns” video with Zach Galafianakis.So, perhaps he can continue his career in Hollywood, after his current gig runs out.
Those awards, like his Nobel Peace Prize, have two effects on me: They make me laugh, and they make me doubt all the other awards given out by the same organization.
("Reporter" Ashleigh Schmitz was hoping that Obama would show up at the Emmy Awards ceremony. He didn't.)
- 7:29 AM, 26 August 2014 [link]
It's A Great Quote, But James Farley Didn't Say It: Probably.
Here's a persuasive discussion of the question from Walt Crowley:
Cross posted at Sound Politics.
Incidentally, I discovered that the quote was dubious some years ago, not by any great feat of research, but with a simple search, when I was hoping to use the quote, and wanted a source.(James Farley is worth study, because of his skill as an executive and political organizer, his part in FDR's political career, and the reasons he broke with FDR.)
- 2:23 PM, 25 August 2014 [link]
Water Problems Of The Very Rich And Famous: In Montecito, California.
Ann Louise Bardach starts with an easy example:
Many mornings, just before 7 a.m., a large tanker truck pulls up to the grand gates of Oprah Winfrey’s 40-acre estate in Montecito, California. Inside is neither merchandise nor produce – just water.Bardach continues with a more general discussion, with lots of details, but fewer summaries than I would like.
Still, many of the details are interesting.
For example, you don't have to be a populist — I'm not — to be disturbed by the amounts of water that some of these rich folks use, in a state that is suffering so much from drought. (The top three users "in 2012/13 guzzled close to 30 million gallons alone".)
But, rather than complain, I came up with a solution for these rich folks, a solution that they can easily afford. (And might even save them money in the long run.) According to Bardach, Montecito has "less water than any other part of the central coast of California". Which is probably true if you are talking about fresh water. But Montecito is on the Pacific Ocean, and so could have its own desalination plant. They might even be able to build one powered by solar energy, if they want to bow down to Green idols (and I imagine that some of them do).
Unfortunately, it might be hard to get environmental permits for a desalination plant, because of our laws, and court rulings. But there isn't anything technologically impractical about this solution.
(Santa Barbara County is considering reviving a desalination project. Bardach says it could be built in as little as two years. I suspect one could be built, in months, but have no idea how long getting through the permits, and the almost certain lawsuits would take.)
- 1:03 PM, 25 August 2014 [link]
Colbert King Is Sure That President Obama's National Security Team has put Obama on the spot.
But when the Islamic State is painted as a greater threat to the United States than al-Qaeda, and in public pronouncements, by the secretaries of state and defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the attorney general, Obama is left with little choice: Either he must confront this jihadist organization or be seen as turning his back on his most senior foreign policy and military advisers.But King isn't sure whether they are "freelancing", or acting on Obama's orders.
I don't know either, but I am inclined to think, as I said yesterday, that they are trying to get him to make a decision to strike ISIS, hard.
At some point, Obama should decide whether to go with Kerry, Hagel, and the others, or pull them back into line with his own, more cautious, pronouncements. The first seems unlikely, given his rigid determination not to emulate George W. Bush's policies, even Bush's successful policies. The second seems more likely, now that he has returned to Washington.
So, most likely we will see a softening of the rhetoric, combined with a moderate, or even small, increase in air strikes.
- 8:24 AM, 25 August 2014 [link]
The New York Times Is Hosting A Conference On Farming: But they haven't invited any farmers to speak.
Consider this panel planned for November hosted by the New York Times. The panel, titled "Food For Tomorrow: Farm Better, Eat Better, Feed the World" includes exactly zero farmers on the panel. That's right, not one farmer has been asked to speak about...FARMING.The panel does have an executive chef, Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns. To be fair, he almost certainly knows some farmers.
(When I looked at the speakers, I thought, at first, that they didn't have any agricultural scientists, either. But it turns out that one of them, Danielle Nierenberg, does have a masters degree in "agriculture, food, and environment" from Tufts, so I suppose you could call her an agricultural scientist, though I think "activist" would be more accurate. As far as I can tell, she has never done any original research.)
- 6:29 AM, 25 August 2014 [link]