December 2013, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

A Christmas Story From Ernie Pyle:  In 1943, Ernie Pyle was in Italy, covering the war in his own way.

Among the people he talked to were the examiners who questioned the German prisoners.   From one of them, he got this story.
One of the German kids who came through seemed terribly depressed.  When the examiners strike a case like that, they try to find out the trouble, other than the normal depression over being captured.  But they couldn't seem to get at this boy.

Finally, just to make light conversation, one of them said, "Well, cheer up, at least you'll be able to spend Christmas with us."

Thereupon the boy sat up and said eagerly, "Do you celebrate Christmas, too?"

He didn't know that we knew about Christmas, and apparently he had been brooding over the prospect of spending it with a heathen people.  After that he was bright and chipper.
He may even have gotten some presents from his captors, if there was a kindly chaplain around.

(Pyle calls the soldier a boy, but doesn't give his age.  Eventually, the Nazi regime was drafting boys as young as 16, but I don't believe they had done so in 1943.

Incidentally, Pyle says that most of the prisoners still expected Germany to win.  They were wrong; on any reasonable assessment of military capabilities, they should have recognized that defeat was nearly inevitable after the Battle of Kursk, and the almost simultaneous allied landings in Italy.  In fact, some members of the regime, including the SS head, Heinrich Himmler, did understand that, though most soldiers did not.)
- 8:09 AM, 24 December 2013   [link]

Conspiracy Theorists Will Love this detail.
White House officials said staffers enrolled the president through the District of Columbia exchange and needed to make the transaction in person -- not through the website -- because his personal information is not readily available in the government databases used to verify identities.
(Emphasis added.)

I know I shouldn't encourage the conspiracy theorists, but I am reasonably sure they have already found that detail, and it is funny.
- 7:28 AM, 24 December 2013   [link]

My Apologies To Arizona:  Washington state Democratic legislator Joe Fitzgibbon is not what one would call a good sport, as you can see from his tweet, in reaction to the Seahawk's loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Losing a football game sucks.  Losing to a desert racist wasteland sucks a lot.

He realized that was an error, deleted it, asked people not to take his "trash talk" seriously — which would be easier to do if he weren't a legislator — and then apologized, sort of.

You can decide for yourself how seriously to take his apology by this reaction from another Democratic official:

State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz called the Tweet “a bit harsh,” but says he also has issues with Arizona’s immigration policies.

Translation:  Arizona is a desert racist wasteland, but it was impolite to say that so directly.

(If Dwight Pelz sounds familiar, but you can't quite place him, this may help.  That's right, our state Democratic chairman was, and probably still is, something of a fan of the dictatorial Castro regime, even though their methods might be "a bit harsh".)

So, on behalf of the better sports in this state, I would like to sincerely apologize to Arizonans for Fitzgibbon's nasty slur.  I am reasonably sure that most Washingtonians do not share his views, and I know that most have better manners.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(For those who think that Arizona is all desert, here's the Wikipedia article on the state.

For the record:  According to a news broadcast, Fitzgibbon has posted a longer apology on his Facebook page.  I haven't bothered to look at it, since I think his first reactions were more likely to be genuine.)
- 6:39 AM, 24 December 2013   [link]

Why Did CGI Federal Get The ObamaCare Site Contract?  The bureaucrats at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — which for some reason everyone refers to as "CMS", rather than "CMMS" — do a limited, modified hangout, and explain the decision to the Washington Post.
CGI Federal, the company responsible for building the problem-plagued Web site for the Affordable Care Act, won the job because of what federal officials deemed a “technically superior” proposal, according to government documents and people familiar with the decision.

Not considered in the 2011 selection process was the history of numerous executives at CGI Federal, who had come from another company that had mishandled at least 20 other government ­information technology projects more than a decade ago.  But federal officials were not required to examine that long-term track record, which included a highly publicized failure to automate retirement benefits for millions of federal workers.
So it wasn't entirely the fault of the bureaucrats, who were just following standard procedures.  Or so they claim, while admitting that the procedures could be improved.

And the same informants, who are mostly not identified, are careful to make this partisan point:  CGI Federal got on to a "good contractor" list, during the George W. Bush administration.  So you can just put aside any suspicions you may have harbored about possible political influence on the choice.  (I may be too suspicious, but I haven't been able to do that, entirely.)

There is one fascinating detail:
"I deliberately stayed out of contracting,’’ said Leslie Norwalk, the agency’s acting administrator under President George W. Bush. “If that had changed, I would have heard rumblings.’’
So Norwalk deliberately avoided doing the most important part of her job.  And she thinks that others have followed the same policy.

Admittedly, there are risks to having a political appointee choose a contractor — but there are also risks, larger risks in my opinion, to not supervising a decision this important.

(Some sympathy for CGI Federal:  From what I have read about the project, it may well have been an impossible task, as designed and supervised by the Obama administration.   A more competent firm might have produced a site with fewer problems, but I doubt whether any firm could have built the whole thing, and had it work right, on time.  A more cautious firm might have recognized that and either refused to bid, or bid high enough to make it almost certain that they would not be chosen for the contract.)
- 1:58 PM, 23 December 2013   [link]

Britain's GCHQ Does Much The Same Kind Of Work That America's NSA Does:  And for that reason, I think they made a mistake with their headquarters building.

GCHQ headquarters

Intelligence agencies should be housed in buildings that look as anonymous as possible.

(Here's the Wikipedia article on the General Communications Headquarters agency.  For obvious reasons, I have no idea how accurate it is.

The NSA buildings are better, but still too distinctive, in my opinion.  The designers should have remembered the joke that NSA stands, not for "National Security Agency", but "No Such Agency".)
- 7:09 AM, 23 December 2013   [link]

Glenn Reynolds Recycles An Old Cold War joke (link fixed).
A lot of people are saying that 2013 was President Obama's worst year. Roll Call headlined, "Subdued Obama Hopes For Better 2014."  The Hill reported, "Obama names health care rollout his biggest mistake of dismal year."  Most people seem to think it was.   But I think it was average, in the manner of the old Soviet joke:

Ivan: So how was your day?

Boris: Average.

Ivan: What do you mean, average?

Boris: Worse than yesterday, better than tomorrow.  So, average.
Is Reynolds right?  Will 2014 be even worse than 2013 for Obama?  Maybe.   It is hard to think of any area, foreign or domestic, where he is likely to gain any great success.  And it is easy to think of areas, both foreign and domestic where more bad news should be expected.

(One exception:  As of now, I expect the American economy to continue to improve, though not at a rapid rate.  Some of that improvement, I believe, will be due to the brakes put on spending and regulation by the Republican-controlled House.)

And, though our "mainstream" journalists have not become attack dogs toward the Obama administration, they are less and less eager to be Obama's lap dogs.

So there will be more bad news for Obama in 2014, and it will be covered with less bias than in past years.

(In part whether 2014 will be "worse" for Obama depends on whether you are measuring by the absolute level, or the amount of the decline.  Right now, I don't expect Obama to lose as much in the polls in 2014, as he did in 2013, but I would not be surprised to see his approval ratings lower in December 2014 than they are now.)
- 6:37 AM, 23 December 2013   [link]

Ruth Walker Should Go Back To Britain:  For years, I have known that many of our new citizens took the oath with fingers crossed, figuratively, known that many of them had no allegiance to this country, and that a few were actually our enemies.

But, until now, I had never heard of one taking the oath with fingers crossed, literally.
Last week I went from being a person subject to suspicion, retinal photographing, fingerprinting, and interviewing, whenever I entered the US to someone who was welcomed.  I am a white, British, professional, employed by the federal government, who has lived in the US on various visas for 26 years.  My relief was probably nothing compared with what it would have been if I had darker skin, an Arabic name, or marginal employment.
. . .
After we had signed our certificates (the men with the briefcase having finally shown up), we raised our right hands to recite the oath of allegiance.  This involved promising to "entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty", and to "bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law", and sneakily covered the possibility that one might recite these words without the desired intent by adding that "I take this obligation freely and without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion so help me God".

This bizarrely archaic piece of ceremony seemed to bear no relationship to reality, and to leave no room for freedom of religion, freedom of speech for those who opposed war, or loyalty to the country of our birth, whether legal or emotional.  We pledged allegiance to the American flag, which apparently stands for "liberty and justice for all", trying not to think of those many citizens and other human beings who had been arbitrarily deprived of these in this country.   Paranoid that there might be hidden cameras watching us, I reluctantly mouthed the words with my fingers crossed in my pocket.
It is odd to hear objections to "archaic" ceremonies from a British citizen.  (Miss Walker doesn't mention giving up her British citizenship, so I assume she is now a citizen of both countries.)

But I think you can understand her objections to the ceremony if you remember that class prejudice is stronger in Britain than here, and that the ceremonies are very much middle-class events.

For some years, I have been arguing that we give too little attention to values when we decide whether to admit a person to citizenship.  Walker's snarky piece illustrates, in a small way, my argument.

(Walker was puzzled by the elected officials at the ceremony, apparently never having heard that our politicians see these ceremonies as good places to troll for votes.)
- 5:19 AM, 23 December 2013
Amusingly, one of the commenters on the article found an American, Mike Marqusee, who had very similar objections to Britain's naturalization ceremony.  And, like Walker, Marqusee makes it clear that he is not loyal to his adopted country — though he does it with less snark than she does.

In a comment to her own piece, Walker explains that she finally applied for American citizenship because she was "in danger of losing a job that I love if I didn't become a citizen".   That's an understandable, if not particularly admirable, motive.
- 12:57 PM, 23 December 2013   [link]

Why Did The NYT Publish this op-ed, by Jenny Beth Martin from one of the Tea Party groups?

If you don't want to read it, the op-ed is titled "John Boehner’s Betrayal", which will give you a good idea of the contents.

Our newspaper of record could have published it because they agree with some of the Tea Party criticisms of our current fiscal policies, or because they respect these groups, and think they ought to have a say in the national debate.

Neither seems likely.

Instead, I think the Times published it in hopes of causing more problems for the Republican Party, by dividing some activists from elected officials.  It was published, I believe, out of malice.

(In 2008, some "mainstream" journalists gave strange respect to Ron Paul and his followers, and I think there too the motive was obvious:  The journalists were helping Paul because he caused problems for the Republican Party.)
- 6:44 PM, 22 December 2013   [link]

Those Lousy Questions At Obama's Press Conference:   Yesterday, I made the mistake of listening to most of the Obama press conference and was depressed, as usual, by the quality of the questions.  So depressed that, after one question, I was actually feeling sympathetic toward Obama.

Charlotte Hays had a similar reaction.
A press conference is always a good opportunity to see the president, to get a read on his mood.  But you wish you could tweet questions to the ladies and gentlemen of the press.  They don’t seem to grasp the idea that a press conference, used right, can be an opportunity to obtain in-for-ma-tion.  When, for example, the president said that he had met “every other week or every three weeks” with “folks” to prepare for the implementation of Obamacare, you wanted to know more.  Who were these folks?  Was it every three weeks or every other week, Mr. President?  And didn’t you feel overworked at that frenetic pace?
Mary Katharine Ham, helpful as always, provides some questions the reporters could have asked, starting with this one:
1. Hey, from where do you derive the legal authority to change large parts of this law passed by Congress?  And, if you believe you have the legal justification for it, what’s to stop a future president from simply deciding he won’t enforce large parts of it?
That's much better than any of the questions I heard yesterday.

(The question that made me feel sympathetic toward Obama was whether 2013 had been his worst year, if you are wondering.  I can not think of any answer to that question that would provide us useful information.)
- 1:05 PM, 21 December 2013   [link]

Politico Must Think this commutation is suspicious.
One of the eight federal prisoners granted sentence commutations by President Barack Obama Thursday is a first cousin of Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass), one of the president's most devoted supporters on the national political scene.

Reynolds Allen Wintersmith Jr. was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted in Illinois federal court in 1994 of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute cocaine and cocaine base and possession with intent to distribute crack.  He was 19 at the time of his arrest and 17 at the time he got involved running drugs for the Gangster Disciples gang.  He is 39 today and has spent the past 19 years in prison.
The news organization got denials that the relationship had anything to do with the commutation from Governor Patrick and the White House, and tried to get one from Wintersmith's attorney, MiAngel Cody.

If I were to guess, I would say that the relationship helped Wintersmith, but not because Patrick or the White House intervened.  Instead, some low-level attorney noticed the relationship and included Wintersmith on the list.

(The Gangster Disciples are and were an exceptionally nasty street gang.)
- 10:14 AM, 20 December 2013   [link]

Was The ObamaCare Site Security-Ready When It Opened?   Not according to Teresa Fryer, the chief information security officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
In another security bombshell, Fryer told congressional interviewers that she explicitly recommended denial of the website’s Authority to Operate (ATO), but was overruled by her superiors.  The website was rolled out amid warnings Fryer said she gave both verbally and in a briefing that disclosed “high risks” and possible exposure to “attacks”.

Fryer also said that she refused to put her name on a letter recommending a temporary ATO be granted for six months while the issues were sorted out.

"My recommendation was a denial of ATO," Fryer told Democrats and Republicans who sat in on the day-long interview.  According to Fryer, she first recommended denying the ATO to CMS chief information officer Tony Trenkle based on the many outstanding security concerns after pre-launch testing.
According to this post, Trenkle wouldn't sign the letter either, and resigned shortly afterwards.

So the two people who should be in the best position to know told their superiors in the Obama administration that the security of the site was questionable, questionable enough so that the site should be delayed.  Anyone familiar with the federal bureaucracy, or bureaucracies generally, will recognize how extraordinary these protests were.

I don't want to make this argument too strong, without knowing more.  Fryer and Trenkle may have known about serious security vulnerabilities, or they may have been worried about inadequate testing in some areas, or something in between.  But, because Fryer and Trenkle must have known how unwelcome their recommendations were, I would have taken their warnings very seriously.

(In September, I argued that it might not be possible, in practice, to make the site secure.   So far, I haven't seen any reason to change any of the arguments I made then.)
- 9:28 AM, 20 December 2013   [link]

A Quintuple Dipper Wants To Be a sextuple dipper.
There are double dippers and then there is Patrick DeBlasio, a man with five public jobs in New Jersey.  He now wants one more.

DeBlasio wants to increase his workload by adding at least 10 hours a week as Highlands' new chief financial officer.
Here, for me, is the best part:  Even if DeBlasio gets that sixth job, and it looks as if he will, he will not set a New Jersey record.  In 2012, one Edwin Kerwin had nine public jobs.

(DeBlasio is probably a Democrat, given the party balance on the Highlands Borough Council, and is probably not related to New York mayor-elect Bill de Blasio.)
- 7:39 AM, 20 December 2013   [link]

From Ohio, Bad News For President Obama, Good News for Governor Christie and Hillary Clinton.
President Barack Obama's job approval rating among Ohio voters is a negative 34 - 61 percent, his lowest score in any Quinnipiac University poll nationally or in any state, according to a poll released today [November 27].

President Obama's previous low in Ohio was a negative 40 - 57 percent in a June 26 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.  His previous low in any state was a negative 36 - 59 percent in Colorado November 20.
. . .
Obama is not honest and trustworthy, Ohio voters say 57 - 39 percent, also his lowest score on honesty in any Quinnipiac University poll.
. . .
Clinton would make a good president, Ohio voters say 54 - 40 percent, the best score of any contender measured here, followed by Christie 44 - 32 percent.  No other candidate gets a positive score, with Kasich at a negative 32 - 49 percent.

"Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are the 2016 leaders to Ohio voters, locked in a statistical tie," [Peter A.] Brown said.  "Ms. Clinton easily defeats a bevy of other potential GOP aspirants.  Interestingly, when voters are asked whether she would make a good president, more say yes, than say they would vote for her.  Conversely, Vice President Joseph Biden is not presidential material in the eyes of Ohioans.  Only 28 percent think he would be a good president.
Quinnipiac found that the young are the least likely to find Obama trustworthy; only 31 percent of those 18-29 see Obama as honest and trustworthy, while 63 percent do not.  (The relationship isn't linear; those 65 or older trust Obama less than the two middle age groups.)

On the other hand, Obama still has almost unanimous support from blacks; only 6 percent say he is not honest and trustworthy, while 91 percent say that he is.

This Ohio poll shows that Obama can go still lower in national polls.  (Yes he can!)

As for the presidential match-ups, you should add the it-is-still-early caveat to these findings.  But they do tell us something.

By way of Tom Bevan.

(Yes, I am late getting to this poll, but I just now saw it.)
- 6:51 AM, 20 December 2013   [link]

Althouse On The Duck Dynasty controversy.

I'll just add that, as far as I can tell, Phil Robertson has about the same views on sex as Pope Francis, though Robertson may express his views in a more colorful way
- 12:44 PM, 19 December 2013   [link]

John Podesta's Link Of "Jonestown" To Republicans (for which he has now apologized) is ironic, says Jim Geraghty.
John Podesta, soon to become a White House adviser, recently called the Republican Party “a cult worthy of Jonestown.”  Today he apologized.

It’s an interesting metaphor, increasingly common — how often have you heard references to “drinking the Kool-Aid”? — but it’s worth recalling Jim Jones was, before his horrific, sadistic end, an increasingly influential figure in California politics, particularly Democratic Party politics.
Jones was an influential figure for several reasons, but, most of all, because he could deliver votes, legally and illegally.
Jones basked in the glow of praise his People’s Temple garnered from gullible politicians, and San Francisco mayor George Moscone, later tragically assassinated in 1978, even appointed him to San Francisco’s housing commission.  Jones had been responsible for an incredible vote-harvesting operation that may have made the difference in Moscone’s narrow 4,000-vote victory over conservative John Barbagelata in 1975.
Why else was he influential?  Because of his mixture of beliefs.  He was a communist all his adult life, but made his living in churches, beginning as Methodist student pastor.  He was a genuine integrationist — and exploited blacks more than whites.  Almost any political figure could find some part of his beliefs that they could agree with, and many on left (and a few on the right) did.

But, above all, it was his ability to deliver votes that made him acceptable to vote-seeking politicians.

(If you read the whole Fund post, you'll see that, at one time, the New York Times did not consider vote fraud "mythical".

Here's the Wikipedia article on the Jonestown massacre, in which almost a thousand people died.)
- 9:29 AM, 19 December 2013   [link]

The Case Of The Arrested Indian Diplomat:  First a review of the basic facts, for those who have not been following this case:  Devyani Khobragade, a mid-level Indian diplomat, was posted to New York City, one of the most expensive places in the world to live.  In November 2012 Khobragade hired an Indian national, Sangeeta Richard, to be a nanny and general domestic servant.

But there was an obvious problem.  Indian diplomats, even a Deputy Consul General, are not paid very much.  (According to this Daily Mail article, Khobragade was earning $6500 a month.)

So Khobragade did what other, perhaps many other, Indian diplomats have done:  She prepared false papers for Richard, with a salary that met American standards ($4,500 a month) but was beyond Khobragade's ability to pay.  At the same time, she prepared a secret contract, with a much lower pay rate ($3.31 an hour, according to some accounts).   Richard accepted this bargain — which was probably much better than she could get in India — and was admitted to the United States.

Richard began work in New York in November 2012.  The arrangement broke down just a few months later.
In March 2013, problems started between Khobragade and Richard when the latter allegedly started pressuring her employer to allow her to work outside on her off days.  Khobragade turned down Richard’s requests citing the fact that it was illegal according to her visa status and also since she had an official passport.  On June 21, Khobragade went to New Jersey and when she returned two days later, Richard was found to be missing.[9]

On June 24, 2013 Khobragade reports the matter to Office of Foreign Missions (OFM) which asks her to report to the police.  New York City Police Department though refuses to entertain her, saying only a family member can file missing person complaint.  The maid's husband is alleged to refuse to cooperate.  On July 1, 2013, Khobragade claims that she gets a call from an unidentified woman who informs her that Richard won't petition the court if her employment is terminated and she is compensated for 19 hours of work per day.  The next day Khobragade informs in writing to both OFM and NYPD about the call.  On July 5, 2013, Khobragade registers a complaint of harassment, extortion and blackmailing with NYPD.  She also filed a complaint against the maid and her husband back in India with New Delhi police.  Three days later Khobragade, allegedly, was called to an immigration lawyer's office where she is asked by the maid to shell out $10,000, convert her official passport into an ordinary one and help with her visa which would allow her to live in the US[10].
(Please note the "allegedly", which probably applies to all the charges and counter-charges.  Note also that Khobragade's lawyer is claiming that Khobragade did pay Richard more than the minimum wage, though few seem to believe him.)

As the charges and counter-charges went back and forth, United States authorities finally did something very stupid; they arrested Khobragade, strip-searched her, and put her in jail.   The authorities were following standard procedures, but this enraged the Indian government, which immediately began to retaliate in various ways.

What should have happened, instead?  US authorities should have told the Indian government, secretly, that both women would have to go back to India, because both had committed crimes under American law.  If the Indian government did not respond to this message from ordinary diplomats, then Secretary of State John Kerry should have intervened, secretly, and, if he failed, President Barack Obama.  (As far as I can tell, neither man even knew about the dispute until the arrest.

This sensible approach would have required our diplomats to behave diplomatically, which is not too much to ask of them.

Oh, and if we value good relations with India — as we should — we should have followed the incident with some public display of good will toward that largest democracy.

(There's some interesting background, from an Indian perspective, here.)
- 7:19 AM, 19 December 2013   [link]

Andrew Malcolm's Weekly Collection of jokes.

Here's his favorite:
Leno: Hundreds of world leaders gathered at Nelson Mandela’s services the other day.   President Obama said it was strange to hear them in person instead of on wiretaps.
I liked it, too, and I like these two, as well:
Fallon: At Nelson Mandela’s service Obama came under fire for shaking hands with Cuba’s Communist leader Raul Castro.  People were like, “Why would you want to be seen with that guy?”  Then Castro said, “I didn’t!  But all of a sudden he was shaking my hand!”

Conan: Scientists have found that insects can recognize human faces.  So, I don’t kill insects.  I wound them and say, “Remember this face and warn your friends!”
The first is obvious, but sometimes you have to say the obvious.  The second I liked because it is so weird.
- 1:00 PM, 18 December 2013   [link]

John C. Beale Has Been Sentenced to 32 months in jail.  (And some restitution.)
Beale, 65, admitted in September that he had skipped out on work for years by telling a series of supervisors, including top officials in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, that he was doing top-secret work for the CIA.  He was paid for a total of 2 ½ years of work he did not perform since early 2000 and received about $500,000 in bonuses he did not deserve, according to his plea agreement.
He seems to have trying to see how much he could get away with.
He lied about contracting malaria to obtain a reserved parking space that cost the EPA $8,000 over three years.  He took trips to visit his family in Los Angeles for which he charged the government more than $57,000.
Some picky people, most of them Republicans, are wondering how he was able to get away with these scams, for so long.  A few are even suggesting that his supervisor, and now head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, may have been at fault for letting them go on for so long.

(You can find more about his career and his crimes, here.   It appears that he was, in his earlier years with the agency, an effective and productive employee.  I haven't seen any explanation for his decision, at some point, to start acting out his Walter Mitty fantasies.)
- 10:35 AM, 18 December 2013   [link]

Strong Language from Chancellor Merkel.
In an angry exchange with Barack Obama, Angela Merkel has compared the snooping practices of the US with those of the Stasi, the ubiquitous and all-powerful secret police of the communist dictatorship in East Germany, where she grew up.

The German chancellor also told the US president that America's National Security Agency cannot be trusted because of the volume of material it had allowed to leak to the whistleblower Edward Snowden, according to the New York Times.
Note, please, that she is making two distinct complaints.

She is objecting to the NSA spying on her — and she is saying that the NSA can not be trusted to keep secrets.  Given the Snowden fiasco, she has a point on the second.  It hasn't gotten much attention here, but Snowden has revealed the names of many British agents.

(Here's the Wikipedia article on the Stasi.  It looks reasonably accurate to me, but I am no expert on the organization.)
- 8:00 AM, 18 December 2013   [link]

Great Joke!  Today's editorial in our local monopoly newspaper, the Seattle Times, included this sly joke:

President Obama is arguably the most tech-savvy politician in modern history.

Jokesters will appreciate several subtle touches in that short sentence.  The writer slipped in that qualifier, "arguably", which seems to soften the statement, but doesn't.   (And, in a world with more than seven billion people, there must be a few who would believe that argument — though they would be outnumbered by those who think Obama is Santa Claus, and heavily outnumbered by those who think Obama is the Antichrist.)

Jokesters will also appreciate another qualifier, "in modern history".  That implies that somewhere in the past, say in the 15th century, there was a politician who was more savvy about tech than Obama is now.

If you had to explain why this is funny — and every jokester has that unpleasant experience from time to time — how would you do it?

If your audience were not from this state, you might ask them to think about Obama's education, his job experience, and the books he says he has read.  None of them show any reason to expect him to be tech-savvy.

If the audience were from this state, I would just ask them to compare his work history with that of our junior senator, Maria Cantwell, or our newest congresswoman, Suzan DelBene. I'm not a big fan of either lady, but I would bet ten dollars to a doughnut that both of them are far more tech-savvy than President Obama.

And if both arguments failed?  Then you might have to go to the clincher, and ask them whether a man who was tech-savvy would not have realized how many big software projects, especially big government software projects, are late, flawed, or both.  I think almost anyone who knew anything about such projects would have recognized that there was a good chance that the ObamaCare site would be both late and flawed.

Although it is a great joke, it is hard to figure out why it is in the middle of that particular editorial.  Perhaps some dissident on the board slipped it in, in order to suggest that the readers not take the rest of the editorial seriously.

There is, of course, the possibility that whoever wrote that sentence does not realize just how funny it is, that it wasn't an intentional joke.  If it were still 2007 or 2008, when so many journalists were swooning over Obama, I could, just barely, believe that the joke was unintentional.  But anyone who has been paying attention since then must have noticed one or two flaws in our president's record, one or two reasons to think that he is not, after all, some mystical "lightbringer".  So, although we can't exclude that possibility entirely, I think we have to conclude that the sentence was, almost certainly, intended as a joke.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(If you would like an example of a tech-savvy modern politician from outside Washington state, you could try Harrison Schmitt, an astronaut with a Ph.D. in geology.)
- 7:51 PM, 17 December 2013   [link]

"Terrible Twos Who Stay Terrible"  This New York Times article reminds us of how violent toddlers are — and how a few, almost all boys, stay violent as they grow older.
To understand the violent criminal, says Richard E. Tremblay, imagine a 2-year-old boy doing the things that make the terrible twos terrible—grabbing, kicking, punching, biting.

Now imagine him doing all this with the body and resources of an 18-year-old.

You have just pictured both a perfectly normal toddler and a typical violent criminal as Dr. Tremblay, a development psychologist at University College Dublin in Ireland sees them . . .
Tremblay doesn't know why some boys do not outgrow that violent stage.  (There's a hint at part of the answer in my 9:18 post this morning.)

I recall from my own experience growing up in a small farm town in eastern Washington state that we boys mostly gave up fighting as we grew able to do real damage to each other.   But I don't recall how or why we decided to grow up, a little.

(Fun (and mildly disturbing) quote from psychology professor Brad J. Bushman:  "Thank God toddlers don't carry weapons.")
- 2:18 AM, 17 December 2013   [link]

Here's A Current World Temperature Chart:  

Monkton's December 2013 temperature chart

And here's the post where I found it.

On any objective test of newsworthiness, the fact of 17 years 3 months with no global warming is surely of more than passing interest to audiences who have been terrified, over and over again, by the over-confident proclamations of the true-believers that catastrophic global warming was the surest of sure things.

This long-term temperature stability should make everyone less confident in the computer simulations that predict catastrophic global warming, but, as far as I can tell, this stability has had little effect on either side in the debate.  (In my own case, the stability has moved me from mild skepticism about the usefulness of the models to moderate skepticism.)

There's a good general treatment on how far we can trust computer simulations, here.  Key quote from statistician George Box: "all models are wrong, but some are useful".  I am beginning to wonder whether any of these general climate models is useful, whether any of them make accurate enough climate predictions to guide our policy decisions.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(A couple of notes for those who don't read these charts regularly:  These temperatures come from satellites, as processed by the Remote Sensing Systems company.  As is now almost always the case with these temperature charts, the temperatures are shown as deviations from some long-term average, or some starting point.)
- 12:52 PM, 17 December 2013   [link]

School Shooters And Divorce:  You may have noticed this connection, even though it doesn't get much notice from our "mainstream" journalists.
Another shooting, another son of divorce. From Adam Lanza, who killed 26 children and adults a year ago at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., to Karl Pierson, who shot a teenage girl and killed himself this past Friday at Arapahoe High in Centennial, Colo., one common and largely unremarked thread tying together most of the school shooters that have struck the nation in the last year is that they came from homes marked by divorce or an absent father.
And not just school shootings.  W. Bradford Wilcox has found that "boys living in single mother homes are almost twice as likely to end up delinquent compared to boys who enjoy good relationships with their father".  That's consistent with many similar findings.

(I have wondered for years whether the "American Taliban", John Walker Lindh, converted to Islam and joined the terrorists as a reaction to the long and painful break up of his parents' marriage.)
- 9:18 AM, 17 December 2013   [link]

Today's New Yorker cartoon has no obvious political point — but it's quite funny.
- 8:29 AM, 17 December 2013   [link]

President Pinocchio:  Obama leads Kessler's round-up of the biggest lies for this year.
President Obama ended up with three of the most misleading claims of the year.  But, despite the urging of some readers, his statement that “I didn’t set a red line” on Syria is not among them.  We had looked closely at that claim and had determined that, in context, it was a bungled talking point, so that statement actually earned no rating.
For Kessler, the top lie is the same as PolitiFact's lie of the year: “If you like your health-care plan, you can keep it."

But I am inclined to agree with Jonah Goldberg, who argues that lie was matched by two other Obama lies.
"Obamacare was sold on a trinity of lies."

That ornate phrase, more suitable for the Book of Revelations or perhaps the next installment of "Game of Thrones," comes from my National Review colleague Rich Lowry.  But I like it.  Most people know the first deception in the triumvirate of deceit: "If you like your health insurance you can keep it, period."  The second leg in the tripod of deception was "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor."

But the third plank in the triad of disinformation hasn't gotten much attention: Obamacare will save you, me and the country a lot of money.  This lie took several forms.
One of them being that ObamaCare would save the average family $2,500 a year in premiums.

There were other lies, but those were the big three, and I am inclined to see the last of the three as the most important, because it is the bottom line.  Many families would be willing to give up a health care plan, or a doctor, if they could save that much money on premiums.

President Obama has had a casual way with truth all through his political career, but until recently he has not often been called on his deceptions by our "mainstream" journalists.   So why have some of them now become more critical, more willing to say that he has not been telling the truth?

Partly because they could not, completely, ignore the evidence.  And partly because many feel that he lied to them about matters important to journalists.
What makes the current festering feud between the press corps and Jay Carney of news interest is the now-familiar disparity between Obama's over-blown promises and his chronically underwhelming delivery on those vows.

Sentient Americans will remember Obama's vow that his would be the most transparent presidential administration in history.  Yeah, right.  Remember how ObamaCare was going to be written wide-open on C-SPAN?  Uh-huh.
That lack of transparency may not matter much to you or me — but it does, very much, to working journalists.

This growing recognition among the public, and even among our "mainstream" journalists, that Obama is often deceptive, often over promises, is having a predictable consequence.
President Obama is ending his fifth year in office matching the worst public approval ratings of his presidency, with record numbers of Americans saying they disapprove of his job performance and his once-hefty advantages over Republicans in Congress eroded in many areas, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
As I have argued in the past, a politician — especially one with the support of "mainstream" journalists — can often fool the public for a while.  But eventually some citizens, often a majority, will catch on, will notice that he has not delivered what he said he would in his campaign speeches and ads.

That is even true, to some extent, of "mainstream" journalists, when they are covering leftist politicians.  Some of those journalists will, eventually, catch on, and of those that do, some will even share what they have learned with the public.
- 7:42 AM, 17 December 2013   [link]