February 2015, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

The University of Westminster, "Campus Of Hate"  On Thursday, I speculated that "Jihadi John" (Mohammed Emwazi) has been radicalized at his alma mater, that he had become an Islamic extremist at the University of Westminster.  I didn't base that speculation on anything I knew about the university, just on a pattern often found.

Yesterday, the Daily Mail published an article that provides more direct evidence for my speculation.
Mohammed Emwazi might have been born in Kuwait. But his murderous alter ego was made in Britain.

With hindsight, the road to Raqqa — the Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold — was clearly signposted.

He grew up in the streets around Ladbroke Grove, in the inner suburbs of West London — an area that has become a breeding ground for Islamic militancy and home-grown terror suspects.

He was befriended by Cage, the so-called campaign and human rights group, whose leading light is someone who has expressed support for the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate and for the principle of death by stoning for adultery.

And, perhaps most significantly of all, he went to the University of Westminster, where, according to a report published yesterday, no fewer than 22 events have been held since March 2012, providing a platform for speakers with a history of extremist views or involvement with extremist organisations.
(Paul Bracchi is probably referring to a report, or perhaps an update of an earlier report, by Student Rights, a group opposed to extremism on British campuses.)

There's much more evidence about the Islamic extremism on the campus in the article.  If Bracchi is even roughly correct, a Muslim on that campus would have to struggle, hard, to avoid that extremism.

You can find the same climate of hate, in milder forms, at some American universities.

(If you prefer to see the same argument in a less tabloid presentation, you can read this Washington Post article.

The university put up an apparently official statement on their web site, saying they were sorry if one of their alumna was a murderous terrorist.  But the statement is not signed, which strikes me as extremely odd, and, possibly, cowardly.)
- 11:42 AM, 28 February 2015   [link]

Mark Hyman Brings A Little Diversity To Seattle-Area TV:   Some weeks ago, I tuned in to a local TV station, KOMO 4, early on a Saturday morning and was startled to hear an intelligent, conservative, commentary.  I have gotten so used to the bland uniformity of our local TV news — where it is nearly impossible to distinguish one news reader from another by what they say — that I didn't catch the man's name or web site, the first time I saw him.

(The stations would tell you that they are quite diverse, and they would be right if you judge diversity by skin color, ethnicity, hair styles, or other visible clues.  But they lack diversity of ideas; almost all our local news readers are not-very-well-informed "progressives", as they are usually called here.  (Reactionaries would be a more appropriate term, since they adhere to so many 19th century ideas.)  They almost certainly do not have much religious diversity either, as far as I can tell.)

A quick search of the station's web site did not turn up any clues, so I waited for another Saturday to learn who he was, and how this dissident commentary happened to be on a local station, how this diamond had appeared among all the usual mud and sand.

The man is Mark E. Hyman, and his commentary web site is Behind the Headlines.

If you live in this area, you can sometimes see his commentaries if you tune into KOMO 4, starting at about 5 minutes after 6 on a Saturday morning.  They are usually worth listening to, especially if you are a leftist, and thus likely to have little exposure to dissident ideas, dissident within our local newsrooms, that is.

But, since KOMO 4 refuses to link to him, or even introduce his commentaries, I would suggest that you go directly to his site instead, even if you live in this area.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Some will naturally wonder why Hyman's commentaries appear here.  That's because KOMO was bought by a conservative broadcasting company, Sinclair.  So far the purchase seems to have little effect on KOMO's policies, other than those commentaries.  Which is unfortunate because most of our local TV news coverage is, frankly, pretty terrible.  Oh, the stations tell us the scores, show us the sports highlights, warn us of traffic problems, and give us weather forecasts, but their coverage is often terrible on more important subjects.  They will, for example, routinely fail to tell us totals or changes when discussing state budget fights, making me wish, at times, that the sports guys would cover politics, because at least they would give us the scores.

Some would claim that our local TV news simply reflects the area, that we have "progressive" news stations because the area is dominated by "progressives".  That would be true, if you were only speaking of Seattle itself, but Seattle has about one-third of the population of King County, and an even smaller part of the metropolitan area.  Many parts of that area — outside Seattle — are moderate politically; some are even conservative.  In 2012, for example, Mitt Romney received more than 40 percent of the vote in each of the three counties just outside King: Snohomish, Kitsap, and Pierce.  And, though I haven't bothered to calculate it, probably did at least that well in the portion of King outside Seattle.  It is, I think, foolish for our broadcasters to ignore a minority that large.)
- 3:51 PM, 27 February 2015   [link]

Pay For Performance?  That's what these bonuses to Lois Lerner look like to me.
Former IRS official Lois Lerner received $129,300 in bonuses between 2010 and 2013, records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show.

Over a three-year period, Lerner, the head of the tax-exempt division at the heart of the IRS targeting scandal, received a 25 percent retention bonus—averaging $43,000 a year—on top of her regular salary.
Though I suspect that the performance for which she was paid was her targeting of grass roots conservative groups.
- 9:25 AM, 27 February 2015   [link]

What Do Alaskans Do During Their Long Winters?   Knit.   During their rainy times, Oregonians brew beer.  Washingtonians, I am pleased to say, exercise (or at least prepare to exercise by buying equipment).

Those facts, and many more can be found in this semi-serious examination of what kinds of stores are especially popular in each of the 50 states.

(Semi-serious because there are obvious methodological problems.  For instance, the number of stores is only a rough indication of how many items of a particular kind are sold in a state.  You can probably think of other problems yourself, if you want to spend the time.  But the map is still fun to look at for a minute or two — and does tell us something about our states.)
- 9:07 AM, 27 February 2015   [link]

"Jihadi John" is Mohammed Emwazi.
LONDON — The world knows him as “Jihadi John,” the masked man with a British accent who has beheaded several hostages held by the Islamic State and who taunts audiences in videos circulated widely online.

But his real name, according to friends and others familiar with his case, is Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton from a well-to-do family who grew up in West London and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming.  He is believed to have traveled to Syria around 2012 and to have later joined the Islamic State, the group whose barbarity he has come to symbolize.
It would be interesting to know whether he was radicalized at the University of Westminster, where he earned his degree.  So many leaders of al Qaeda and ISIL appear to have become extremists while attending a university in the West that I hope someone will check into that possibility.

Obviously, he was not a desperate and impoverished man, when he chose to become an Islamic extremist.  It shouldn't be necessary to say that — except that the news that Islamic extremists are not necessarily desperate and poor hasn't reached everyone on the left, including some in our State Department.

(News from nowhere:  This article, and a derivative one from the BBC, read oddly, because they don't say how the news organizations learned his identity.  Both tell us that the American and British security services had figured out who he was by last September at the latest, but don't tell us why the Post decided to interview those who knew him in Britain.  Most likely there was a leak, perhaps deliberate, perhaps unintentional.)
- 3:29 PM, 26 February 2015   [link]

Who Pays Extra For Wi-Fi?  People who stay in luxury hotels.
Coffee shops, airports, public buildings and even budget hotels have all succumbed to pressure to offer Wi-Fi connections free.  One big hotel chain, Hyatt Hotels, began offering free Wi-Fi for all guests as of Valentine’s Day, calling it a “basic expectation” of travelers.

But most full-service and luxury hotels are resisting mightily, raising their fees, instituting upcharges for “high-speed” service and generally making Wi-Fi the hotel equivalent of airline baggage fees.

The add-on charges for in-room Internet service let hotels advertise a lower price and then boost per-night revenue by 5% to 10%.  (The cost can be just as much or more as getting Wi-Fi on an airplane.)
(Budget motels have been offering Wi-Fi at no extra charge for years.)

The mark-ups are extraordinary, with a few hotels charging as much as thirty dollars a day.  (The article doesn't give cost estimates for providing the service, but I doubt that the marginal cost of providing Wi-Fi could be much higher than a nickel or dime a day, per room.)

Presumably, the high-end hotels are getting away with these charges because most of their clients are not especially price sensitive.  But if you are price sensitive, beware.

(There are security considerations, too.  Everything else being equal, I would rather access the Internet from a private hotel room than a public coffee shop.)
- 7:40 AM, 26 February 2015   [link]

The Clintons And Foreign Money, Again:  Here's the Washington Post story on the latest Clinton scandal.
The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration, foundation officials disclosed Wednesday.

Most of the contributions were possible because of exceptions written into the foundation’s 2008 agreement, which included limits on foreign-government donations.

The agreement, reached before Clinton’s nomination amid concerns that countries could use foundation donations to gain favor with a Clinton-led State Department, allowed governments that had previously donated money to continue making contributions at similar levels.
(How many millions?  The Post doesn't say.)

Now that she is no longer secretary of state, that agreement doesn't apply, and the foundation has been accepting all kinds of money from foreign nations.  You don't have to be a cynic to suspect that some of those nations do not have entirely pure motives.

Again?   Sure, though younger readers may not have heard about "Chinagate", as the scandal is usually called.
The 1996 United States campaign finance controversy was an alleged effort by the People's Republic of China to influence domestic American politics prior to and during the Clinton administration and also involved the fund-raising practices of the administration itself.

While questions regarding the U.S. Democratic Party's fund-raising activities first arose over a Los Angeles Times article published on September 21, 1996,[1]   China's alleged role in the affair first gained public attention when Bob Woodward and Brian Duffy of The Washington Post published a story stating that a United States Department of Justice investigation into the fund-raising activities had uncovered evidence that agents of China sought to direct contributions from foreign sources to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) before the 1996 presidential campaign.  The journalists wrote that intelligence information had shown the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. was used for coordinating contributions to the DNC[2] in violation of United States law forbidding non-American citizens or non-permanent residents from giving monetary donations to United States politicians and political parties.  A Republican investigator of the controversy stated the Chinese plan targeted both presidential and congressional United States elections, while Democratic Senators said the evidence showed the Chinese targeted only congressional elections.  The Chinese government denied all accusations.
Most Republicans believe that the Chinese government traded millions in illegal campaign contributions for billions in American military technology, and influence on American foreign policy.  There is much evidence to support that unpleasant conclusion.

The Wikipedia article omits this famous quotation, from one of the intermediaries:
For all of his notoriety, history may remember Johnny Chung for having coined a phrase.   It was Chung who said, "The White House is like a subway: You have to put in coins to open the gates."  Chung ought to have known: He ponyed up hundreds of thousands of dollars to get into the White House some 50 times between February 1994 and February 1996 -- and he paid his fare, but not in coin.  Chung wrote 12 checks to the Democratic National Committee totaling $366,000 (the DNC has since returned the money); one check for $10,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; and five checks for (a total of) $10,000 to five other Democrats.
If either of the Clintons felt guilty about this exchange, it is not apparent from what they have said, publicly.  So it isn't surprising to see them doing the same thing, though more discreetly, through a charitable foundation.

There are other benefits to using a charitable foundation as an intermediary.  For example, John Hinderaker is probably right to suspect that the foundation has been used as a "slush fund" for the Clintons.

(Two technical points:  The Wikipedia article on Chinagate has varied considerably over the years because, I assume, of a struggle between pro-Clinton and anti-Clinton contributors.   At one point, the former had actually erased "Chinagate" from the article, making it harder to find.

This may seem odd, but Clinton operatives may be responsible for the Post article.   During some of the scandals while Clinton was president, they deliberately leaked damaging information that they knew was bound to come out, anyway.  They believed, correctly in my opinion, that they could limit the damage that way.)
- 6:38 AM, 26 February 2015   [link]

Jihadis Who Don't want jobs.
Six men detained for more than 12 years at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and then sent to Montevideo have upset Uruguay’s government after officials offered them jobs — and they said no.

President Jose Mujica agreed to help resettle the ex-inmates as a goodwill gesture, The Associated Press reported.  But a labor union in the country said the men have turned down several job offers.  And now Mr. Mujica is characterizing them as somewhat lazy.
They don't appear to be interested in regular jobs, anyway.

By way of Mr. Fur.
- 8:02 AM, 25 February 2015   [link]

Two Editorial Cartoons To Start Out Your Day:  One from Michael Ramirez on President Obama's jobs for jihadis program.

And one from Gary Varvel on "handsy" Joe Biden.

(Here's an explanation of Biden's behavior:
That’s called social intelligence, and according to David Givens, who heads the Center for Nonverbal Studies, the veep doesn’t have it.

“His social intelligence is not quite to the point of being good enough for the vice president,” said Givens.  “His emotions get expressed beyond the comfort zone of a lot of people.”
News you may be able to use:  According to another expert (or, possibly, "expert"), that "comfort zone" is about 9 inches.  Anyone who gets closer than that, without an invitation, makes most of us uneasy.  From my own experience, I know that the comfort zone varies by age, sex, ethnicity, et cetera, but 9 inches may be about right — as an average, here in the United States.)
- 7:39 AM, 25 February 2015   [link]