July 2014, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

The New York Times Is Afraid Of Chris Christie:  We know that because we have seen their absurd over-coverage of the "bridge gate" scandal, which, it appears, Christie knew nothing about.

And we can see that fear again in this front page story.  The headline — "Christie to Test Presidential Hopes in Iowa Trip" — is unobjectionable, but the sub-head — "Political Baggage is Seen as Hurdle for Campaign" — shows those fears.

The first two paragraphs are, again, unobjectionable, the third is transitional, and the fourth and fifth again show those fears:
There are plenty of reasons for skepticism of the Christie strategy:  Three investigations are still churning, with no end in sight, and the sheer volume of embarrassing revelations about the Christie administration's conduct and culture could ultimately doom his presidential chances.

The governor's rivals are already raising pointed questions about his leadership, including his financial management in New Jersey.  And it is not clear that personality and charisma still matter in a party that has become so defined by conservative ideology.
I think most people will understand why the Times is afraid of Christie; he has shown that he can win in a state where Democrats have a big registration edge (1,787,480-1,084,757, according to the 2014 Almanac of American Politics), and he has shown that he can achieve some of his legislative goals, in a state where Democrats have big edges in both houses of the legislature (24-16 and 48-32).

And so they attack him, on the front page, preparing for a trip that he hasn't even made yet.

(Are they right to be so afraid of Christie?  Is he a big threat to the Democrats?  It is hard to say at this point, because we don't know who his opponents are likely to be for the Republican nomination, and how they will run their campaigns.  As I have said before, campaigns with more than two candidates are much harder to predict than campaigns with just two.  And, right now, we don't even know how many will make serious runs, though we can be almost certain there will be more than two.

Here's the usual Wikipedia biography, with more than the usual number of caveats.)
- 2:35 PM, 16 July 2014   [link]

I Probably Shouldn't Like this cartoon — but I do.

(I wouldn't share it with a young mother, unless I was sure that she has a sense of humor that would allow her to appreciate it.)
- 1:11 PM, 15 July 2014   [link]

"Bulworth II"  James Taranto has some fun with Obama's latest gaffe:
"I'm just telling the truth now," Obama declares, falsely.
The emphasis, for those who disagree with Obama, is on the now, with its implicit confession that Obama wasn't telling the truth in the past.

Those who agree with Obama might see the now as just an intensifier, just a way of emphasizing what Obama was saying at the time, equivalent, perhaps to "Now listen to me", or some similar phrase.

It won't surprise you to learn that I lean toward the first interpretation.  Obama has had years of training in using words, so it seems more reasonable to think that usually he will understand what he is saying, will understand even what he is implying.
- 11:07 AM, 16 July 2014   [link]

Two Pieces On Israel's "Iron Dome" Missile Defense System:   From the Washington Post, how it makes Israelis feel.
I can’t even explain with words how great it is,” said Sivan Hadad, 32, who has lived her entire life in Ashkelon and had grown accustomed to staying indoors when the rockets started flying. “Now I can go out.  I still get scared, but not like before.”

To Israeli security officials, the success of Iron Dome is akin to that of the separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank, which they say helped bring an end to an onslaught of suicide bombings in the early 2000s.
From Trent Telenko, some numerical analysis.
Iron Dome combined with Israel’s “Shoot to kill” Border Fence has turned the “Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism” on its head.  The contest by Israel and Hamas is now one of affordable to an advanced nation state attrition of robots versus an unsustainable level of human and economic attrition that even suicidal-irrational opponents can take, without being overthrown by their followers.
There are, of course, ways to defeat missile defense systems — but most of them require more technical sophistication than Hamas has shown, so far.
- 4:41 PM, 15 July 2014   [link]

Let's Stipulate That The Obama Presidential Library — whenever it is built — will not look like an outhouse, that the float depicting it that way was in poor taste, and that the float was inappropriate for a 4th of July parade.  But even if you stipulate all three things, Eric Holder's reaction is still absurdly over the top.
A quick recap for the happily uninitiated: The “controversial float” in question was one of many included in this year’s Independence Day parade in Norfolk, Neb.  The entry, which featured a zombie standing on an outhouse marked “Obama Presidential Library,” was created by a veteran named Dale Remmich, and was designed, Remmich claims, to express the “political disgust” that he feels at the Obama administration’s mismanagement of the Department of Veteran Affairs.  As is the habit now, pictures of the float were quickly pushed around the Internet, attracting the attention and disapprobation of such august institutions as the Washington Post, CBS, ABC, and the Huffington Post — and, it seems, the interest of the United States Department of Justice.  This week, the World-Herald reports, the DOJ “sent a member of its Community Relations Service team, which gets involved in discrimination disputes, to a Thursday meeting about the issue.”  Present at the summit were the NAACP, the mayor of the Nebraska town in which the float was displayed, and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which sponsored the event.

Now for the obvious question: Why?  What, exactly, was the problem here?   Nobody was killed.  Nobody was maimed.  Nobody had their material or spiritual interests injured, nor were they stripped of their livelihoods.  No federal or state laws were broken. Indeed, not even private rules were broken.  More to the point, there was no “discrimination dispute” of the sort with which the DOJ likes to concern itself.  Instead, a few free people were vexed because a politician that they like was depicted in an unflattering light.
That reaction was rather revealing, don't you think?  When Eric Holder sees criticism of President Obama, he suspects racism, and investigates, even though no laws were broken, and there is no evidence of racism (unless you think zombies are a race).
- 4:03 PM, 15 July 2014   [link]

Three More Pinocchios for President Obama.
We make no judgement on which side has the surplus of “serious ideas,” but the president is engaging in rhetorical overkill.  Certainly this congressional session has resulted in few major laws.  Perhaps he could make a case that Republicans have blocked many bills that he has sought—or even that his most prized initiatives have been stymied.

But to claim that “every serious idea” has been blocked is going too far–given that the president lauded at least three bills as aiding the middle class.
And, with the cooperation of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has blocked many bills passed by the Republican House.

Will Obama give up this particular bit of rhetoric?  Probably not.  Certainly not, if he thinks it is working.
- 7:45 AM, 15 July 2014   [link]

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?  To escape from Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley's threatened lawsuit.
Rep. Bruce Braley (D., Iowa) threatened to sue a homeowners’ association after a chicken crossed onto his vacation home property in Iowa, again raising concerns that the Senate candidate is out-of-touch with farmers in the state, the Iowa Republican reports.
This isn't just any old chicken.  It is one of four belonging to Air Force veteran (and grandmother) Pauline Hampton, who uses her chickens to treat children with mental health problems.  In other words, it's a therapy chicken.

As you can imagine, Iowa Republicans are delighted by this incident, and hope that it will help Joni Ernst win the open Senate seat.  (Polls show them close.)
- 7:25 AM, 15 July 2014   [link]

Did You Know Gilbert And Sullivan's "The Mikado" Was Racist?  At least when done by white actors, according to Seattle Times editorial columnist Sharon Pian Chan.
Set in the fictional Japanese town of Titipu — get it? — the opera features characters named Nanki Poo, Yum-Yum and Pish-Tush.  It’s a rom-com where true love is threatened by barbaric beheadings.

All 40 Japanese characters are being played by white actors, including two Latinos. KIRO radio host Dave Ross is in the cast.

It’s yellowface, in your face.
Oddly enough, Chan recognizes that Gilbert and Sullivan set the play in Japan because they "wanted to poke fun at Victorian society in England".  (She also thinks that no one in England knew much about Japan then, which is pretty silly.)

I don't know how to explain this to Chan, but actors and actresses often put on make-up so that they can appear to be someone other than who they are.  In "The Pirates of the Pinafore", actors wear make-up that makes them look like pirates; in "H. M. S. Pinafore", actors use make-up to make them look like seamen.

And, as we all (well, almost all of us) know, in Shakespeare's time boys often used make-up so that they could play women's parts.

Now there are precedents for Chan's views, but I am not sure she would like all of them.  For instance, the Nazis would have objected to Jews playing parts written for Gentile characters.   And you can probably think of similar examples, with just a little effort.

(For the record:  Everything else being equal, which it almost never is, I am more impressed by actors and actresses giving performances where they are not type cast, where they appear on stage very different from the way they look on the street.)
- 4:26 PM, 14 July 2014   [link]

The Manufactured Issue Of Birth Control:  As far as I know, it was first raised by Democratic operative (and ABC anchor) George Stephanopoulos in a 2012 Republican debate.
During Saturday's Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, hosted by ABC, co-moderator George Stephanopoulos bizarrely pressed candidate Mitt Romney on whether the former Massachusetts governor believes the U.S. Supreme Court should overturn a 1965 ruling that a constitutional right to privacy bars states from banning contraception. (Video below)

Romney, befuddled by the off the wall nature of the question on such an issue that is not on any state's legislative agenda, eventually observed that it was a "silly thing" for the ABC co-moderator to ask such an irrelevant question.  Stephanopoulos's odd persistence which dragged on the discussion with Romney for more than three and a half minutes inspired a number of boos from the audience before Ron Paul and Rick Santorum were then allowed to weigh in.
Stephanopoulos has claimed that he got the idea from a Santorum interview — and he is probably telling the truth about that.  But what Stephanopoulos has not done — in my opinion — is tell the truth about his motives.  Note that he directed this question, not to Santorum but to Romney.  I think it nearly certain that Stephanopoulos was trying to drive a wedge between Romney and religious conservatives, by raising the issue, and was preparing the ground for more use of the "war on women" strategy that Democrats have been using for years.

With some success.

Similarly, I think that the ObamaCare regulations that Kathleen Sibelius drew up were intended to provoke a legal and political fight over birth control.   Sibelius may be a terrible administrator, and a person with an odd mix of beliefs, but her record shows that she is a canny politician.

(As any honest insurance person can tell you, routine birth control is an almost perfect example of something that should not be covered by insurance.  The costs are low and predictable, so there is no reason to insure against them.  Insurance, that honest insurance person would tell you, is for large and unpredictable costs.  The argument is sometimes made that paying for birth control saves money as preventive care, but even that is dubious, except for the poorest.)

For this strategy to work, the Democrats have needed the cooperation of "mainstream" journalists — and they have had that cooperation, especially in this area.  Some of the journalists, I suspect, are cooperating cynically; they know this is not a real issue.  Others appear to have swallowed the Stephanopoulos/Sibelius bait pole, hook, line, and sinker.

(As a practical matter, the issue has been dead since the 1965 Supreme Court decision, Griswold v. Connecticut.

Here's an example of Sibelius's odd mix of beliefs:  She is in favor of abortion at every stage in a pregnancy, even after viability — and she is opposed to capital punishment.  This combination isn't unusual among elected Democrats, but it is hard to justify by any rational argument.)
- 1:25 PM, 14 July 2014   [link]

The Pun Makes this New Yorker cartoon work, at least for me.
- 10:00 AM, 14 July 2014   [link]

Are Macroeconomic Models Good Guides To Policy Decisions?  If you ask Paul Krugman, he would say yes, and that our slow growth is the result of not following the guidance of the models he prefers.  John Cochrane is dubious.
New Keynesian models have also produced attractively magical policy predictions.   Government spending, even if financed by taxes, and even if completely wasted, raises GDP.  Larry Summers and Berkeley’s Brad DeLong write of a multiplier so large that spending generates enough taxes to pay for itself.  Paul Krugman writes that even the “broken windows fallacy ceases to be a fallacy,” because replacing windows “can stimulate spending and raise employment.”

If you look hard at New-Keynesian models, however, this diagnosis and these policy predictions are fragile.  There are many ways to generate the models’ predictions for GDP, employment and inflation from their underlying assumptions about how people behave.   Some predict outsize multipliers and revive the broken-window fallacy.  Others generate normal policy predictions—small multipliers and costly broken windows.  None produces our steady low-inflation slump as a “demand” failure.
In my opinion, Cochrane, and other economists with similar views, have had the better of this debate; our economy has recovered slowly, not because we are running far too small deficits, and too high interest rates, but because of an accumulation of problems that, like barnacles, restrict movement.

Incidentally, this implies that neither President Obama, nor former President George W. Bush, bears most of the responsibility for our recent slow growth.  (I would say that, overall, Bush's policies were neutral, and that Obama's polices have been a minus, adding to the even bigger minus from problems that accumulated over the decades.)

Cochrane provided a neat little graph to illustrate the op-ed, but the Journal chose not to use it.

(Here's a Wikipedia article on economic multipliers, if you need one.)
- 9:33 AM, 14 July 2014   [link]

Cartoonist Michael Ramirez has his suspicions about Obama's border policies, as you can see in this cartoon, and this cartoon.  (Reagan fans will like the reference in the second cartoon.)

Amusingly, cartoonist Glenn McCoy gave us a very similar cartoon to Ramirez's second.

(I think the first is the best of the three, and that Ramirez's second cartoon is better than McCoy's, because it makes the point in a more restrained way.)
- 8:46 AM, 14 July 2014   [link]

Washington Post Editorials:  Though I buy the New York Times almost every day, I almost never give their editorials more than a quick glance.   Over the years, I have learned that many of their editorials will be just partisan rants.

In the last year or two, I have started reading Washington Post editorials fairly regularly, not because I agree with them, though I sometimes do, but because many of their editorials make rational arguments, arguments that at least attempt to treat opposing views fairly.

For example, today's editorial includes a balanced discussion of the argument over Medicaid expansion, and some facts that may surprise you.

For example:
Even if this doesn’t happen, demographic trends — also ignored by the White House report — are devastating for states.  Medicaid’s cost structure is peculiar.  Children and adults under 65 represent three-quarters of beneficiaries but only one-third of costs.  The quarter who are aged and disabled represent two-thirds of costs.  They are especially sickly and poor.  More than 60 percent of nursing home residents have Medicaid.
Unfortunately, most of our "mainstream" journalists are still more likely to take their cues from the Times than the Post.

(In this area, and I assume in most of the nation, there are legal advisors who tell older people, even older people who are relatively well off, how to qualify for Medicaid.  So, some of those older people on Medicaid are officially poor, but not actually poor.)
- 7:29 AM, 14 July 2014   [link]

"The Alfa Romeo 4C Looks Like It Drinks Unicorn Blood"   That sentence, in a review of the Italian sports car, makes sense, in context:
The initial brace of 4Cs will come in the Launch Edition trim, with phenomenal-looking wheels (18 inches in the front and 19 inches in the back) to go with the hard-core suspension calibrations (double-wishbone front and rear struts with rear aluminum subframe) and carbon-fiber cosmetics.  Especially on the big rims, the Alfa's stance is beyond lurid: 46.6 inches tall and 73.5 inches wide, as compared with a Porsche Cayman S (51/70.9).

The risk in a small, high-style car is a kind of emasculation, a vague cuteness.  The 4C looks like it drinks unicorn blood.
So, instead of looking cute, the 4C looks powerful and evil, to Dan Neil, anyway.

(Neil is probably making a Harry Potter reference.

I enjoy Neil's car reviews, mostly for his uninhibited writing style.)
- 7:12 AM, 13 July 2014   [link]

You'd Think The Seattle City Attorney Would Know the rules — and the federal law:
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes issued an apology Friday for violating the city’s drugfree workplace policy this week when he returned to his city office with recreational marijuana.

On Tuesday, Holmes drew significant attention when he was among the first people in Seattle to buy 2 grams of recreational marijuana -- 1 gram for posterity and one “for personal enjoyment,” he said.  Voters approved recreational marijuana with the passage of Initiative 502 in November 2012.

The day after Holmes held his marijuana for news cameras, a memo went to city employees reminding them city buildings are still a drug-free workplace.

The memo said violations of the city's drug-free workplace policy may subject an employee to disciplinary actions.  It also said that marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law and possession on city premises must be prohibited.
He's probably safe from arrest.  We have an odd situation here in Washington state; everyone agrees that marijuana is illegal under federal law — and no one expect the feds to enforce that law, in Washington state.

Unless, if I may be a little snarky, a marijuana user happens to be a supporter of Republican candidates.

(The Seattle police have their own opinion of his purchase.)
- 6:08 AM, 13 July 2014   [link]

Does The Obama Administration Want Good Relations With Germany?  You really have to wonder after the latest spy disclosure.
The latest blow-up between the United States and Germany over spying suggests that the Obama administration has not been observing the president’s pithiest foreign policy maxim, “Don’t do stupid [stuff].”  For a year relations with Berlin have been strained by disclosures of National Security Agency surveillance of German communications and the subsequent refusal of the Obama administration to accept Chancellor Angela Merkel’s demand for a no-spying agreement.  When it was revealed last fall that Ms. Merkel’s cellphone had been monitored, President Obama rightly stopped the operation; he had previously ordered a review of foreign spying.

Yet now German investigators appear to have uncovered at least one and possibly two U.S. espionage operations in Berlin using human sources, including an employee of Germany’s intelligence agency who allegedly handed over documents in exchange for cash.
After the Snowden revelations damaged relations between the United States and Germany — as they were intended to do — it was obvious that we should try extra hard to avoid any more spying revelations.  A competent president would have ordered our spy agencies, especially the CIA, to look hard at our operations in Germany, and end any that offered little in the way of intelligence, and risked much in the way of embarrassment.  (In some cases, it would also have been right to tell the German government, secretly, about operations we had stopped.)

Apparently, that obvious damage control wasn't done, though it is possible that some CIA agent just wasn't following orders.

The Washington Post gives Obama this good advice:
Ms. Merkel is known both for her pro-American inclinations and for her sensitivity to German public opinion, so her decision to take the extraordinary step of ordering out the CIA station chief shows just how damaging the latest spying revelations have been.  Her intent seems to be to induce Mr. Obama to take seriously a matter that, in German eyes, he has brushed off.   The correct response would be for him to act quickly and forcefully to repair the damage.
(Emphasis added.)

Judging by past performance, he is unlikely to take that advice.

(For the record:  I suppose that Obama would rather have good relations with Germany than not — but I don't see any reason to think that he will do much to improve relations, much less "act quickly and forcefully to repair the damage".)
- 8:41 AM, 12 July 2014   [link]

Heat Advisory For This Area:  All through the weekend.
With a very hot air mass in place and plenty of sunshine, high temperatures across the Puget Sound region will be in the upper 80s to low 90s for at least the next week.  And there is not much relief expected at night as overnight lows are only forecast to drop into the mid 60s.

As a result, the National Weather Service has issued a Heat Advisory for much of the Puget Sound region throughout the weekend and into Monday morning.
Such temperatures are rare here, even in the summer, so people here are less adapted to them than people in much of the country.  Air conditioning is not universal, and people here have less experience with this kind of weather than people living in, for example, Phoenix.

This weather is coming at a particularly bad time for the fire fighters east of the Cascades.

(So far, this hot weather hasn't bothered me much, but I did want to explain why you are unlikely to see many afternoon posts here, for the next few days.)
- 7:48 AM, 12 July 2014   [link]

Collins Versus Rove On The Border Crisis:  Yesterday, coincidentally, Gail Collins and Karl Rove each published columns partly on the crisis on the border, the tens of thousands of children illegally (and dangerously) entering the United States.

Writing in the New York Times the columnist (and former editorial page editor) blames George W. Bush, while claiming she isn't blaming Bush:
The situation is terrible.  More than 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the border since last fall.  The administration is supposed to provide them with access to counsel and supervision by the Department of Health and Human Services, while they are taken through the required legal channels.  There's a two-year waiting list to see an immigration judge.

Part of the backlog is because of a law passed at the end of the George W. Bush administration.  We are not going to complain about this law, since it was aimed at combating child sex trafficking.  If you're going to rant about George W. Bush, you should really focus on the invasion of Iraq and the ruining of the economy.
Collins does not, anywhere in the column, even consider the possibility that President Obama's policies, specifically his amnesty for children, had anything to do with this flood of underage illegals.

Karl Rove takes up that question, and provides some numbers:
To deflect criticism over the crisis, Team Obama is falling back on an old tactic.  They are blaming President George W. Bush.  His sin?  The bill he signed in December 2008 that gives additional protections to minors who might be victims of sex trafficking to avoid being sent back to a pimp or madam.

That won't fly.  According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, less than 4,000 unaccompanied Central American minors were apprehended each year over the past decade.  Then Mr. Obama halted deportations of some young illegals in June 2012 and the number of apprehensions jumped to 10,146 in that fiscal year.  It then doubled to 20,805 last fiscal year and reached 39,133 by mid-June of this year, with 3½ months left in the fiscal year.

If Mr. Bush started all this, why did it take until 3½ years after he left office for the number of unaccompanied Central American minors crossing our borders to surge?  The rush of child illegals began when Mr. Obama suspended enforcement of existing immigration laws shortly before the 2012 election.  That helped him win Hispanic voters, but the result of ignoring the nation's laws can be seen across the entire southwest border.
The journalist couldn't be bothered to investigate; the political operative did the work, and won that argument.  (Incidentally, the law was first passed in 2000, and signed by then-President Bill Clinton.  It was renewed three times under George W. Bush.)

But we shouldn't let this Rove victory distract us entirely from the immense human tragedy on our border.  Peggy Noonan is right to condemn Obama for his callous political tactic:
There is every sign he let the crisis on the border build to put heat on Republicans and make them pass his idea of good immigration reform.  It would be "comprehensive," meaning huge, impenetrable and probably full of mischief.  His base wants it.  It would no doubt benefit the Democratic Party in the long term.

The little children in great danger, holding hands, staring blankly ahead, are pawns in a larger game.  That game is run by adults.  How cold do you have to be to use children in this way?
Cold, indeed.

(Some on the left have argued that these children are being forced out of their countries because of violence there.  Charles Krauthammer dismisses that idea in a paragraph; Tom Maguire shows that the numbers behind one such argument are dubious.  On some level, we can be certain that these illegals are both being pushed out of their home countries, and pulled into the United States.  If it weren't better here, they wouldn't be coming.

But it is also true that they wouldn't be spending large sums (by their standards) and risking their lives, if they didn't believe that they would be able to stay here.  And that belief can be traced directly to Obama's amnesty.)
- 3:31 PM, 11 July 2014   [link]

President Obama,   line cutter.
The president was seen cutting the line at Austin's Franklin Barbecue Thursday afternoon, while in town to raise money for the Democratic Party.

Lives at the eatery are infamously long, and have been known to stretch as long as three hours wait.  But Mr Obama did no waiting today, as he showed up at the restaurant, shook a few hands and made his way straight to the register to order more than $300 worth of meat.
To be fair, Obama did treat some of the people in line — but he didn't ask them if that would be a fair exchange, before he cut in line.

(I might not have mentioned this line cutting, were it not for the strange grin Obama has, a grin even more extreme than the one he has in this discussion of the humanitarian crisis on our southern border.  Both seem more than a little creepy, in the circumstances.)
- 9:15 AM, 11 July 2014   [link]

Israel Is Trying To Spare Civilians in Gaza.

For example:
Israel’s defense minister admits his forces have targeted “terrorists’ houses” as well as “arms, terror infrastructures, command systems, Hamas institutions, [and] regime buildings.”   The houses belong to Hamas military leaders.  An Israeli official boasts that “there's not a single Hamas brigade commander that has a home to go back to.” Israel’s legal rationale for targeting these homes is that they were “terror command centers” involved in rocket fire or other “terror activity.”  But while Israel has tried to kill commanders in their cars (and has succeeded), it has avoided unannounced strikes on their homes.

The last time Israel targeted buildings in Gaza, a year and a half ago, it used leaflets and phone calls to warn residents to get out beforehand.  It also fired flares or low-impact mortars (known as a “knock on the roof”) to signal impending strikes.  Human rights groups didn’t accept these measures as protection from legal responsibility, but they did hail them as progress.  Israel claims to be applying the same measures today.
(Emphasis added.)

As far as I know, what William Saletan says is accurate; as far as I know, very few news accounts in most of the world will even mention these Israeli efforts to reduce civilian casualties.

Nonetheless, Israel is right to try to reduce those civilian casualties, for practical diplomatic reasons, as well as humanitarian reasons.
- 8:49 AM, 11 July 2014   [link]

Did John Kerry Set Off The Violence Between Israel And Hamas?  That's what Lee Smith thinks.
At a time of relative peace and quiet, the White House put the Israelis and Palestinians under the spotlight with a buzzer set to go off at the end of April.  What both soon realized was that whatever they decided, the Americans weren’t going to be around to give them cover.  Both Jerusalem and Ramallah started looking for ways to protect their flank and mapped a route separate from that of the White House.
But, judging by his own discussion, it would be more accurate to say that Obama and Kerry made violence more likely.

That result was what any competent diplomat would have expected.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton deserves credit for not trying to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the center of her efforts.  It takes enormous arrogance to believe, as Obama and Kerry apparently did, that they could succeed where so many American diplomats, starting with Ralph Bunche, had failed.  (Bunche did negotiate a truce, after Israeli victories, but not a peace agreement.)  And some of those diplomats were pretty darn good at their trade.)

(I can think of several strategies that might yield peace between the Israelis and Palestinians — but none that would be acceptable to the "international community".)
- 2:16 PM, 10 July 2014   [link]

Smart Pilot:  And, if he paid for them out of his own pocket, I hope he gets reimbursed for the pizzas.
A Frontier Airlines pilot treated passengers to a pizza party on Monday after their flight was experiencing a dreadful delay and had run out of food.
. . .
Traveling from Washington, D.C., to Denver, the plane had been diverted to Cheyenne, Wyoming, due to a series of storms in the area, CNN reports.

After realizing that the plane’s food supplies had been completely depleted, the pilot made the decision to order out … and the passengers reaped the benefits.
Luckily for the passengers, he was able to find a Dominos that could handle a big order, on short notice.

(I think I would rather have pizza than the usual airline food.)
- 5:45 AM, 10 July 2014   [link]

Best Obama Joke Ever?  And from Obama himself.   When asked why he wasn't visiting the border to see the illegal immigrant crisis, he said: "I'm not interested in photo ops, I'm interested in solving a problem."

That certainly makes my top ten list of Obama jokes.

If you have an apolitical friend who doesn't get that joke, refer them to this post.

(Here's the context, for the curious.)
- 5:26 AM, 10 July 2014   [link]

"Udall Will Not Attend His Fundraiser Featuring Obama"  That headline almost says it all.
Senator Mark Udall will not return to Colorado as planned to be with President Barack Obama, who is helping to raise funds for the incumbent Democrat.

The Udall campaign said the Senator initially planned to appear with the president at a fundraising lunch in Denver on Wednesday, but not on stage at an official White House speech in Cheesman Park earlier in the day.
As you probably know, Udall is in a close race for re-election.
- 5:04 AM, 10 July 2014   [link]

German Journalist Says Obama's Foreign Policy Is Too "European"   And in the New York Times, no less.

Too samples from Clement Wergin's op-ed:
I have long been a critic of the German foreign policy debate — of its freeloading on the American security umbrella, coupled with moral grandstanding whenever Americans did things their way; of too much analysis of past events and not enough thinking about how to get things right in the future; of its tendency to take words as a substitute for deeds.  That's why I have usually given the Americans the benefit of doubt:  At least they took on problems that no one else was willing to tackle.
. . .
Ultimately, the measuring stick for a successful foreign policy is not how many nice and convincing speeches a leader makes, but whether he succeeds in getting things to go his way.  And in this respect, Mr. Obama's foreign policy was simply not enough.
You will probably want to read the whole thing.
- 1:27 PM, 9 July 2014   [link]

What Do Retirees Want?  Seattle's Deb Greene knows.
Later in the day, Deb Greene, a 65-year-old retiree, was the first to buy legal recreational pot in Seattle.  “It’s incredibly liberating,” she said.  “It’s the dream of every retiree, sleep in and smoke a bowl.”
I think she's joking, but it's Seattle, so I can't be sure.

(I don't know whether anyone has told her that she can cut her risk of lung cancer by switching to the marijuana brownies, which will get her just as high.)
- 1:07 PM, 9 July 2014   [link]

Mitt Romney Slogan for 2016?

Actually he wasn't right about everything, but he was right about many more things than his opponent, and I suppose that slogan is better than an obvious alternative:  "I told you so."

Romney is too classy to use either, of course, but that doesn't mean his supporters can't use them.
- 10:11 AM, 9 July 2014   [link]

Fracking For The US, But Not The EU?  That appears to be the negotiating position of the European Union.
The European Union is pressing the United States to lift its longstanding ban on crude oil exports through a sweeping trade and investment deal, according to a secret document from the negotiations obtained by The Washington Post.

It's not entirely surprising.  The EU has made its desire for the right to import U.S. oil known since the U.S. started producing large amounts of it in the mid-2000s.  It signaled again at the outset of trade negotiations, and its intentions have become even more clear since.
(Minor correction:  The United States has produced "large amounts" of oil since the beginning of the industry.  Thanks mostly to fracking, we are now producing even larger amounts, and have retaken the lead in oil production from Saudi Arabia.)

France has banned fracking since 2011; Germany is about to pass a ban on fracking — but both still need oil and, everything else being equal, most Europeans would rather get it from the United States than from Russia and the Middle East.

This combination is silly as economic policy — but makes sense politically; the Greens get a symbolic victory, but Germany and France do not actually have to give up using the oil that comes from fracking.

(Britain is going ahead, or perhaps I should say, planning to go ahead, with fracking on a large scale.   If you read the full article, you'll notice one great difference between the rules there and the rules in the United States.  In Britain, as in almost all of the world outside the United States, the individual landowner does not get a large share of the profits when oil or gas is found underneath his land.

The article is based on a "secret" document the Post obtained.  I would guess that they obtained it from a Green, probably in the US delegation.)
- 7:47 AM, 9 July 2014   [link]

"Catastrophic"  On weekday mornings, I often catch a few minutes of the BBC's "World News" on our local PBS station, KCTS.  I do that mostly to get some idea of what the European left is thinking about, though the program sometimes has interesting coverage of parts of the world that get little attention here, but still interest me.

This morning, their lead story was about a disaster, a disaster they described as "catastrophic".  They devoted the first ten minutes, and perhaps a little more, to this disaster — the Brazilian loss to Germany in the World Cup, 7-1.

(You can see some samples of BBC's coverage of this "catastrophic" event here and here.)

As I watched, a slightly mischievous thought occurred to me:  What if that one-sided loss was simply the result of chance?  If matches between roughly equal teams are decided by a few lucky plays, then, very occasionally, one of the teams should win by a large margin.

It is entirely possible that, were Germany and Brazil to play a seven game series (with no ties allowed), the result would be 4-3.

This mischievous thought won't surprise most American fans, since most of our sports do use series of games to decide championships, where possible.

(Those who know even a little math may want to explore how long a series should be, in order to identify the best team, for various differences in skill.  Suppose, for instance, that you knew that one team of two should defeat the other team 55 percent of the time.   How many games would the two teams have to play before you identified the better team with 95 percent probability?)
- 6:29 AM, 9 July 2014   [link]