June 2013, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

What Does Knute Berger Mean By "Social Justice"?  About two weeks ago, the Seattle-area journalist, speaking on KUOW's Gang of Four show, told us that he was impressed by a local candidate because she believes in "social justice".

No one in the Gang asked Berger what he meant by that, but I imagine he means something like this:

Fight on with us . . . for freedom of the individual, for freedom of religion and conscience, for the abolition of slave labour, for property and possession, for a free peasantry on its own land, for your own homestead and freedom of labour, for social justice, for a happy future for your children, for the right to advancement and education without regard to origin, for state protection of the aged and infirm, . . .

(I'll reveal the author in an update on Tuesday soon.)

Some, remembering a certain song, will think that the candidate holds politically-correct views that allow her to be mean to the people close to her.

Most likely, Berger just means that the candidate is a member of his leftist tribe, that he and the candidate share political enemies, prejudices, and some of the issue positions listed in that quotation.

But I do think he should tell us.

And, although experience shows that this may be too much to ask of our local journalists, I think he should also tell us how the candidate's plans would increase "social justice" — in practice.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 1:59 PM, 30 June 2013   [link]

Defense Attorney Jeralyn Merritt Was Not Impressed by this witness in the George Zimmerman trial.
Rachel Jeantel was a train wreck as a witness.  She did not help the state's case.  She exposed the manipulations of Team Crump.  She was impeached on a few significant matters (see below the fold.)  And she admitted multiple lies.  It was cringe-worthy but you couldn't take your eyes off it.

Most strikingly, she made Trayvon Martin out to be the profiler of Zimmerman.  She said (on direct exam no less by the prosecutor) that shortly after first spotting Zimmerman, Martin described Zimmerman to her as a "Creepy-A*s Cracker" and later, described Zimmerman a few times as "this ni*ga" (as in this ni*ga following him.)
In spite of her attitude, and in spite of her loose connection with the truth, I can't help feeling a little sorry for Jeantel.  The prosecution must have known that she would look like a fool on the stand, but they put her up there, anyway.

If you are wondering about those manipulations, here's an example:  The prosecution took Jeantel's statement "in the presence of Trayvon's mother".  You don't have to be an attorney to understand why that would be wrong.

(In the comments, Merritt makes a general point that isn't new, but is worth repeating:
. . . faulty eyewitness identification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions in this country.  The witnesses aren't lying (usually) but they are mistaken.
And a clever prosecutor (or defender) can exploit the ways our memories often fail.)
- 1:22 PM, 30 June 2013   [link]

Who Helped Edward Snowden?  That's the question that Edward Epstein asks, and partially answers.
Before taking the job in Hawaii, Mr. Snowden was in contact with people who would later help arrange the publication of the material he purloined.  Two of these individuals, filmmaker Laura Poitras and Guardian blogger Glenn Greenwald, were on the Board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation that, among other things, funds WikiLeaks.
In other words, Poitras and Greenwald have been acting more as co-conspirators than as journalists.

Epstein suspects that Snowden may have had other helpers:
This orchestration did not occur in a vacuum.  Airfares, hotel bills and other expenses over this period had to be paid.  A safe house had to be secured in Hong Kong.  Lawyers had to be retained, and safe passage to Moscow—a trip on which Mr. Snowden was accompanied by WikiLeaks' Sarah Harrison—had to be organized.

The world now knows that the misappropriation of U.S. communications intelligence began appearing in the Guardian and other publications on June 5, and Mr. Snowden left Hong Kong for the Moscow airport on June 21.  A question that remains to be answered: Who, if anyone, aided and abetted this well-planned theft of U.S. secrets?
Besides, that is, Poitras and Greenwald.

It looks to me as if it would be possible for the three of them to have done all of this, with a little help from the foundation.  But the orchestration would have been much easier if they had help from some foreign government.

(Epstein doesn't mention Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, who also published some of these leaks.  You can probably get some idea of his political views from his book on Dick Cheney.

Glenn Greenwald is best known in the blogosphere for his "sock puppetry", his pretending to be someone else when commenting.  It is, as many have said, a "venial sin", but it is not a practice that would lead me to put full faith in his journalistic output.  He's on the far left, by American standards.

Here's the Wikipedia biography of Laura Poitras.   Even with the usual Wikipedia caveats, I think we can conclude that she is not an enthusiastic supporter of the War on Terror.)
- 11:12 AM, 30 June 2013   [link]

If You Sometimes Like Crude Cartoons, you may laugh at this one by Michael Ramirez.

(I did.)
- 8:43 AM, 29 June 2013   [link]

President Obama Was Very Popular In Sub-Saharan African In 2009:   And he is still popular there, but less so.

That's the conclusion I draw from this Washington Post article, and the more recent polls that Max Fisher links to.

(You'll note that Obama is very unpopular in the predominately Muslim countries of North Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.)

Fisher summarizes Gallup data on approval of US leadership in three African countries, Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania, as follows:
As you can see, attitudes improved substantially after Obama entered office in 2009, although they were also relatively high for President George W. Bush, who received generally low marks elsewhere in the world.  And they have since dropped a bit, though remain far higher than anywhere else.
Which shows, again, that you should study the charts before you read the articles.

In Senegal, approval of US leadership was at 76 percent in 2008, rose to 87 percent in 2010, and then fell to 80 percent in 2012.

In South Africa, approval of US leadership was at 83 percent in 2008, rose to 92 percent in 2010, and then fell to 76 percent in 2012.

In Tanzania, approval of US leadership was at 62 percent in 2007, rose to 89 percent in 2009, and then fell to 70 percent in 2012.  It is likely, considering the trends, that the approval there would have been 10-15 points higher in 2008 than in 2007.

So, in Senegal, approval is just 4 points higher than it was in 2008, in South Africa, it is 7 points lower, and in Tanzania, it is probably about 5 points lower.

If that Gallup data from those three nations were all I had to work with, I would tentatively conclude that President Obama is now a little less popular in sub-Saharan Africa than President Bush was in 2008.  (Senegal has a population of about 13 million, South Africa about 53 million, and Tanzania about 45 million.)

The sharp rise in Bush's popularity in those African countries, in the later years of his presidency, is best explained, I believe, by PEPFAR, which is generally credited with saving more than 1 million African lives.
- 8:22 AM, 29 June 2013
There's much more on the difference PEPFAR has made in this Washington Post article — and the disappointment in African nations now that Obama is cutting back on funds for the program.
-10:36 AM, 1 July 2013   [link]

John Good Was A Prosecution Witness In The Zimmerman Trial:  But it didn't work out that way.
The State seems to have suffered the most destructive of its own witnesses to date in calling John Good to the stand.  Good was composed, coherent, and direct through his extensive testimony, the entirety of which was entirely consistent with the defense’s theory of lawful self-defense.
So, why did the prosecution call him, rather than the defense?  Beats me, though I have already seen speculation that the prosecution is trying to throw a case they think they can't win.

Or, perhaps knowing that Good would testify, they thought they might as well put him on, and try to reduce the damage.  For an informed opinion, talk to your favorite trial lawyer.
- 3:05 PM, 28 June 2013   [link]

The Second Shoe Finally Drops:  Jon Corzine has been hit with a civil suit.
Financial regulators are taking aim at Jon Corzine for his role in the 2011 collapse of brokerage MF Global, announcing on Thursday that they are filing civil charges against the former New Jersey governor and senator.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission said it is suing Corzine, who was MF Global’s chief executive, and the firm’s former Assistant Treasurer Edith O’Brien for the unlawful use of about $1 billion in customer funds that “harmed thousands of customers and violated fundamental customer protection laws on an unprecedented scale.”
It is probably just a coincidence that the CFTC waited until well after the 2012 election.

Politico, living up to its name, has more on the political reactions to this suit.

More here, including an almost identical metaphor — which I had not seen when I began writing this post.

(Here's a picture that may show up in Republican ads.)
- 2:48 PM, 28 June 2013   [link]

President Obama Wasn't Very Diplomatic In His Visit To Senegal:   You don't have to know much about Senegal to understand that it isn't the best place to promote gay marriage.  If, for example, you just read this Wikipedia article on the country, you would learn that almost all Senegalese would find gay marriage offensive, for religious reasons.
Islam is the predominant religion in the country.  Islam is practiced by approximately 94 percent of the country's population; the Christian community, at 5 percent of the population, includes Roman Catholics and diverse Protestant denominations.  One percent have animist beliefs, particularly in the southeastern region of the country.[1]   Some Serer people follow the Serer religion.
So no one should be surprised by this reaction.
During his first visit to Africa as president, Barack Obama took the opportunity to champion same-sex marriage, despite the fact that he was speaking in a country where homosexuality is forbidden and a punishable crime.

Senegalese President Macky Sall rebuffed Obama’s urging by saying that although his country is “very tolerant,” it is not ready to decriminalize homosexuality.
Ordinarily, American presidents use visits to foreign countries to promote American interests, usually by looking for areas of agreement with those countries; Obama chose to insult his hosts, in order to pander to his base back in the United States.

(You won't hear or see much, if anything, about this part of Senegalese history, in the accounts of Obama's visit.
It was only in the 1850s that the French began to expand onto the Senegalese mainland (by now rid of slavery and promoting abolitionist doctrine),[17] adding native chiefdoms such as Waalo, Cayor, Baol, and Jolof.  Senegalese chiefs' resistance to the French expansion and curtailing of their lucrative slave trade was led in part by Lat-Dior, Damel of Cayor, and Maad a Sinig Kumba Ndoffene Famak Joof, the Maad a Sinig of Sine, resulting in the Battle of Logandème.
(Emphasis added.)

When Europeans began to visit sub-Saharan Africa, they found a thriving slave trade.  They plugged into it, and expanded it greatly when they learned that it was more profitable to cultivate first sugar and then cotton with slave labor.  Then, when European nations, Denmark, Britain, France, and others, decided that slavery was wrong, they began to suppress it, first in the Atlantic, and then on land and in the Indian Ocean.

Needless to say, these historical facts are exceedingly incorrect, politically, so you won't see them in many news stories on the visit.)
- 8:34 AM, 28 June 2013   [link]

Worth Reading:  Bjorn Lomborg's critique of President Obama's climate change plan.

Here are the first two paragraphs:
President Obama's new climate policies outlined Tuesday include both brilliant and useless ideas.  The confusion stems from Obama's unwillingness to confront three climate fantasies:
  • Renewables are a major part of the solution today.  No, they are almost trivial.   Today, the world gets 81% of its energy from fossil fuels – by 2035, in the most green scenario, we will still get 79% from fossil fuels.  Wind and solar will increase from 0.8% to 3.2% -- impressive, but not what is going to matter.
Lomborg is more diplomatic than I would be.  I would say Obama's ideas are obvious and destructive, rather than "brilliant and useless".

(Careful readers will notice that Lomborg doesn't mention nuclear power as one of the ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  That's consistent with his past practice.  Some years ago I asked him about that omission.  As I recall, he told me that he didn't discuss nuclear power because he had enough problems, without adding to them by discussing nuclear power.)
- 7:35 AM, 28 June 2013   [link]

6,000 Or 4,500?  The accounts of the audience size for President Obama's speech in Berlin on the 19th differed.  Some said that 6,000 listened to him, others just 4,500.

The confusion is understandable because 6,000 were invited — but only 4,500 came.
Officials said 4,500 people were present, fewer than the 6,000 tickets distributed — perhaps reflecting the scorching heat.
And, perhaps also, though Jackie Calmes does not consider this directly, reflecting a certain disenchantment with Obama among German elites.  The article does not describe how the 6,000 were selected, but I think we can be reasonably certain that few of them are average Germans.  They are people whose invitations would be known, and whose absences would be noted.

But one out of four of these German dignitaries decided not to come, anyway.

(Having said that, we should not make the mistake of comparing this crowd to the 200,000 or so who came to his campaign speech in 2008.  That was not an invitation-only event.)
- 5:48 AM, 28 June 2013   [link]

"Immigration Bill Is Riddled With Pork"  That's the Breitbart headline for this USAToday article.

And if you read even a few paragraphs from the article, you'll probably decide that the Breitbart headline is more accurate than the original.  (Though I would have said "filled", rather than "riddled".)
A compromise immigration measure that would dramatically increase border security also contains provisions sought by industries that use cultural-exchange programs to recruit youngsters from overseas to work as au pairs, camp counselors and in an array of other seasonal jobs.

One provision tucked into the deal brokered by Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota, for instance, would allow Alaska's seafood processors to employ foreign youngsters on a summer-work travel program — overturning a ban the Obama administration put in place last year to protect foreign exchange students from jobs the U.S. government deems dangerous.
This is, of course, a big gift to the fishing industry in Alaska.

But perhaps those foreign exchange students can get bit parts in the "Deadliest Catch", or some similar program.

Unfortunately, this kind of pork is exactly what we should expect, in any complex, must-pass bill, for two reasons:  Some of the pork may have been used to buy, or at least solidify, a vote or two.  And other parts of the pork come from senators who are taking advantage of the must-pass nature of the bill.
- 6:28 PM, 27 June 2013   [link]

"So This Is A Working Lunch."  Men will like this cartoon more than women, I suspect.

But I'll try to find one to balance it in the next week or so.
- 6:12 PM, 27 June 2013   [link]

Terrorist Supporter Sheikh Abdulla bin Bayyah Visits The White House:  At the invitation of the White House.
President Obama’s top national security advisers have just hosted Sheikh Abdulla bin Bayyah at the White House.  As vice president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) in 2004, bin Bayyah endorsed a fatwa calling for the killing of American troops and other personnel serving in Iraq.

Bin Bayyah is the principal deputy to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief sharia jurist and the driving force of the IUMS.  In addition to being behind the 2004 fatwa, Qaradawi also promotes suicide bombing against Israel.
He doesn't sound as if he is a friend of ours, or of civilization, generally.

According to Andrew McCarthy, the Obama White House earlier invited a follower of the "Blind Sheikh", Omar Abdel Rahman, to visit the White House.  (You remember the "Blind Sheikh"; he's the man who, among other things, plotted the first attack on the World Trade Center, hoping to kill 250,000 people.)

There are sometimes good reasons to talk to even our worst enemies, if only to divide them.   There are seldom good reasons to talk to them openly, and there are almost never good reasons to invite them to the White House.  Moreover, according to McCarthy, such meetings may even violate American law.

(More from Steven Emerson and John Rossomando.)
- 1:33 PM, 27 June 2013   [link]

Democrat Tammy Duckworth Attacks another IRS scandal.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who lost both legs and damaged her arm while serving in Iraq with the National Guard, offered a blistering denunciation of a contractor who used his friendship with an IRS official to win contracts reserved for the businesses of service-disabled veterans.

Strong Castle’s Braulio Castillo received the service-disabled designation because he injured his ankle while attending a military prep school before going to college.
How badly was Castillo injured in prep school?  Not badly enough to prevent him from playing football at the University of San Diego.

His friend at the IRS, Greg Roseman, is pleading the 5th, and refusing to testify before Congress.

(It probably won't surprise you that Castillo benefited from minority set-asides, too, but the crudeness of the messages between Castillo and Roseman may.)
- 12:51 PM, 27 June 2013   [link]

If You Want To Follow The George Zimmerman Trial, you should spend some time at Le-gal In-sur-rec-tion where attorney (and cartoonist!) Andrew F. Branca is covering it almost non-stop.

(I have paid less attention to the trial than some others because I don't think any general conclusions can be drawn from the case -- regardless of whether the prosecution story or the defense story is closest to the truth.  But I agree that either one is an interesting story.)
- 9:12 AM, 27 June 2013   [link]

An Obama Advisor Calls For A "War On Coal"  Journalists immediately attribute the phrase to Republican leaders.

Forgetting, perhaps, that President Obama, in the 2008 campaign, promised to bankrupt any new coal plants.  Which might not be a war, even metaphorically, but isn't a sign of friendship toward our largest source of electricity.

So the advisor, Daniel Schrag, was just saying what Obama had said, years before, but a little more vividly.

(For the record:  I have long thought that we should be building more nuclear base power plants and fewer that burn coal.  But we shouldn't forget that the electricity we get from those coal plants benefits us enormously, and that those coal plants are much cleaner than they once were.)
- 7:32 AM, 27 June 2013   [link]

"What Are Climate Models Missing?"  That's the title of this brief (less than two pages) and very provocative article behind the Science magazine pay wall.

I plan to write a substantial post on it, but before I do, I'd like to hear reactions to it from some of you, especially if you have experience with computer models and simulations.

You should be able to find it in any decent library if, like most of us, you don't happen to have a subscription to the magazine.  It's in the 31 May edition.

(You can read large chunks of it, with commentary from a climate scientist, here.

The article is in the "Perspectives" section, which makes it something like a newspaper op-ed, I suppose.)
- 3:02 PM, 26 June 2013   [link]

The Sheriff's Sergeant And The Bikini Baristas:  Here's a small example of a law enforcement officer getting corrupted by contact with criminals.  (Allegedly, for the legal sticklers.)
Everett police have arrested a Snohomish County sheriff's sergeant for allegedly tipping off bikini baristas and coffee stand owners and managers about police investigations.

Police conducted a series of raids in Everett, Kent, Edmonds and Snohomish on Tuesday afternoon, said Deputy Chief Dan Templeman with the Everett Police Department.

Several other young women were arrested during the raids on suspicion of prostitution and lewd conduct.
The names of two of these stands, "Java Juggs" and "Twin Peaks" do suggest that coffee is not all that they sell.

(For those not familiar with this area:   Snohomish County is just north of King County, and is part of the metropolitan Seattle area.)
- 6:43 AM, 26 June 2013   [link]

It's a Win For The Blue Ties in Australia!

The BBC explains why Kevin Rudd defeated Julia Gillard in the leadership vote, and will, almost certainly, become prime minister.
Shortly before the vote, a key power-broker, Bill Shorten, switched his support to Mr Rudd saying Labor stood a better chance in the polls with him.

Many people do not think Mr Rudd will win the election but he may mitigate the losses and shorten the time Labor could spend in opposition if the party loses, our correspondent says.

A poll published earlier this month suggested that three cabinet ministers would lose their seats under Ms Gillard, but would retain their seats if Mr Rudd was leading the party.
Apparently, even knitting a kangaroo for Kate's baby, in an elaborate photo session, was not enough to save Gillard.

I was not surprised to see Gillard ousted, given her terrible poll numbers, but I was a little surprised that the power brokers in the Australian Labor Party couldn't find a compromise candidate.

The federal election will probably be held on 14 September, and must be held no later than 30 November.

(Australian politicians must be an unsentimental lot; they are much more likely to oust leaders than their counterparts in Britain or Canada.)
- 5:19 AM, 26 June 2013   [link]

How Dangerous Is Caracas, Venezuela?  This dangerous.
Governments and international organizations accredited to Venezuela are increasingly having a hard time to appoint diplomats and representatives to Venezuela as many are reluctant to live in Caracas due to high crime rates.

Several foreign governments have redoubled security measures for their diplomatic offices and officials.  Some officials have been even asked to refrain themselves from traveling with their relatives; preference is given to single officials willing to comply with a strict safety protocol, diplomatic sources said off the record.
The translation isn't smooth, but you should be able to understand it, anyway.

(As far as I can tell, no one really knows how bad the crime rate in Caracas really is.  It may have the highest murder rate in the world, for major cities, or it may only be among the top twenty or so.)
- 2:08 PM, 25 June 2013   [link]

Radical Buddhists:  In Myanmar.  And for a change, the main victims are Muslims.
- 1:36 PM, 25 June 2013   [link]

What's The Most Important Issue In Australia?   Blue ties.

Well, perhaps not the most important issue in Australia, but the issue does seem important to Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

(Two questions occur to me, one serious and one frivolous:  Do blue ties clash with red hair?  And, does Gillard know that President Obama often wears blue ties?)
- 10:19 AM, 25 June 2013   [link]

Well, I Think We Know Why he wants to stay in the United States. But I would just as soon send him back to Mexico.
- 9:45 AM, 25 June 2013   [link]

Some Lessons From "Boston Wrong"  The trial of "Whitey" Bulger, mob boss and brother of former president of the University of Massachusetts and former president of the Massachusetts Senate, "Billy" Bulger, should remind us of some unpleasant facts of life.

You can get the short version of Whitey Bulger's career from this Debra Saunders column, a longer version from this Wikipedia article, and an even longer version from Howie Carr's book. For this post, a few quotes from the Saunders column will be enough to illustrate my points:
The Boston I left had a wrong side, too — a culture that looked away when organized crime terrorized young and old.  Boston Wrong has been on parade this month during the long-awaited trial of James "Whitey" Bulger, 83, on 32 federal counts of racketeering, extorting drug dealers and stockpiling firearms and murder — and 19 counts for murders committed in the 1970s and 1980s, including the strangling death of two 26-year-old women.
. . .
Supporters claimed that Whitey kept drugs out of Southie.  They hailed him as a Robin Hood-like hero.

Jokes and myths couldn't cover up the corruption and fear.  For decades, federal law enforcement, local cops and the Massachusetts political structure protected Whitey.   According to FBI files, he informed on his rivals, while law enforcement went easy on his Winter Hill Gang.  When an informant told Boston FBI he saw Whitey kill someone, the informant turned up dead.  These "tipoff murders" happened more than once.
. . .
The Bulgers made a career by playing on Billy's Irish charm and excusing Whitey's violence as if it's embedded in a fierce and defiant Irish code.
Lesson 1:  The Bulgers, and their supporters, played the "ethnicity" card with considerable success, just as many politicians, and more than a few criminals, use the race card, now.  In both cases, the card is used because it is so often a winning card.

Lesson 2:  Charm can often substitute for performance.  Billy Bulger is a charming man, and his brother could also be charming, on occasion.  That charm made some people — not all, but some — overlook what the two were doing.

Lesson 3:  Law enforcement officers who work directly with criminals often become corrupted.  Police officers and FBI agents recruited Whitey Bulger as an informant, and ended up as his protectors.

Lesson 4:  Problems in bureaucracies — and the FBI is a bureaucracy, as are almost all large police forces — can persist for decades.  In theory, those FBI agents in Boston were working for a whole series of presidents and FBI directors; in fact, they were working for Bulger, and themselves.

All four of these lessons illustrate problems that can not be solved, can only be controlled.  And sometimes even that with great difficulty.

(One of the many things I admire Mitt Romney for is that he forced Billy Bulger out of his presidency of the University of Massachusetts.)
- 9:01 AM, 25 June 2013   [link]