June 2015, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

If It's Good News, Obama Deserves Credit; If It's Bad News, Someone Else Deserves Blame:  Yesterday and today, I saw a story and an editorial that demonstrated, once again, how our "mainstream" journalists distribute blame, and credit.   Yesterday, I saw a story on a local TV station (Q13) about the coming job losses at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.   So far, all we have is rumors, but they appear to be expecting job losses in the "thousands", which will be tough on that area.

And who deserves blame for those job losses?  According to the pleasant young woman who did the TV story, the "military".  Who, as everyone should know, are following President Obama's orders and, if they had their druthers, would almost certainly choose more jobs, not fewer.

Today, we got the opposite from the editorial writers at the New York Times.  Their lead editorial (which I am deliberately not linking to) is headlined:  "After Mr, Obama's Big Trade Victory".  That victory belongs far more to Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell than to President Obama, for reasons that I explained, partly, here.

The Times doesn't even mention Boehner and McConnell in the editorial.

(Hope springs eternal.  At the end of the editorial, the Times hopes that Obama can "strike better agreements that benefit the economy, raise labor and environmental standards and strengthen American relations with other countries".  (I have no idea why they left out finding a cure for cancer from that list.)  They are asking this negotiating miracle from a man who has shown he can not negotiate, productively, even with the members of his own party in Congress.)
- 2:11 PM, 24 June 2015   [link]

School Kids With ADHD Do Better If They Fidget:  That's the conclusion of two small, but "suggestive", studies.
School children with ADHD should be encouraged to fidget in class, two new studies suggest.

The research showed that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder perform better on cognitive tasks when allowed to fidget or move more freely than is typically allowed in many classrooms.  The theory: Moving increases their alertness.
But, kids without ADHD did worse when given the same freedom to fidget.

Caveats:  The studies were small and have not, as far as I know, been replicated.   And I have never been happy with the state of our knowledge about ADHD, never been sure how much researchers really understood the condition, and never been sure how accurate those diagnoses are.
- 10:59 AM, 24 June 2015   [link]

"Judge Sues Neighbors After Donkey Attack"  That's a headline in the "B" section of yesterday's Seattle Times.  I glanced at it, chuckled, thinking it couldn't have been much of an attack by a harmless animal like a donkey, and wondering why a judge would sue neighbors.   And then I read the article, which, in its on-line version describes the attack as "brutal", which it was.
A King County judge is suing her Carnation neighbors for unspecified damages after she was violently attacked by a donkey in February 2014.

Superior Court Judge Julie Spector remains friendly with her longtime neighbors, Timothy and Mary Nelson, but filed the civil suit because the couple’s insurance company wouldn’t agree to pay Spector a large-enough settlement to resolve the case out of court, her attorney, Dan Mallove, said Monday.
So the judge's quarrel is with their insurance company, not her neighbors.

And, after I got over how wrong my first impression had been, I remembered that donkeys are sometimes used to guard sheep from predators.
- 10:31 AM, 24 June 2015   [link]

The Confederate Battle Flag Shows Up in many unexpected places.

For example:
Back in 2012, as Napoli lost four-one to Chelsea in the quarterfinals of soccer's Champions League quarter final, a number of fans noticed something unusual hanging in the Italian club's end of the stadium: A Confederate flag.

Yes, a flag used by soldiers fighting for the Confederacy during the American Civil War was now being flown almost a century and a half later by a bunch of Italian soccer fans in a West London soccer stadium.

Many who saw the flag were understandably perplexed.  What, exactly, was the Italian link to the American South?
And there are more examples in the article.

If you conclude from that light-hearted article that I don't think an old flag is our biggest problem right now, you are right.  I've never been fond of Confederate symbols, but I don't think they are terribly important, now.

(Technically, the flag usually called the Confederate flag is actually Robert E. Lee's battle flag; for many more details on the various flags used by the Confederacy, see this article.)
- 11:08 AM, 23 June 2015   [link]

Now There Are Some Hard Working Employees!  Impossibly hard working, some would say.
Timesheets for employees of Amtrak are riddled with abuse, according to a recent audit report, with cases of workers claiming over 40 hours of work in a single day.

The audit released by Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) Thursday found examples of abuse in the overtime system, which totaled nearly $200 million in overtime pay last year.
. . .
One such trend was employees claiming the impossible feat of working 48 hours in a single day.

“Employees reported 1,357 days in which they worked more than 24 regular and overtime hours,” the OIG said. “Ten employees reported working at least 40 hours in a day.”
Software folks will be mildly surprised to learn that the payroll software didn't have a "sanity check" against such impossible hours.  But only mildly.

And a great many people will wonder what supervisors were doing while these hours were being reported.  (Assuming the supervisors weren't doing it, too.)
- 10:36 AM, 23 June 2015   [link]

As Communism Was Collapsing In Eastern Europe, Greek Prime Minister Tsipras Was Becoming A Convert:  Like many a boy, Alexis Tsipras was influenced by a girl.
The strong-willed Betty has been by Tsipras' side for more than 20 years.  The pair met and fell in love at their Athens high school Ampelokipoi in 1987.

While Alexis was a sports enthusiast who played in a volleyball team and wore his hair in something of an Elvis quiff, Betty was already focused on politics.

As a teenager she was a signed up member of KNE, the youth wing of the pro-Kremlin KKE communist party.

A knee injury which took Tsipras off the sports field gave her the excuse she needed to persuade him to attend some of their gatherings.

He was soon hooked and within a year they were the joint leaders of a sit-in protest against educational reforms.
The two of them met and fell in love when they were both 13.  They turned 15 the year the Berlin Wall was torn down.  They turned 17 the year the Soviet Union collapsed.   They must have seen pictures of people celebrating their new freedoms after those events, but neither Tsipras nor his "registered partner", Peristera Batziana ("Betty"), gave up their leftist faith.  They even gave one of their two sons the middle name of "Ernesto", after Che Guevara.

We can speculate that Tsipras was blinded by love, but it is hard to explain why those great events had, apparently, so little effect on "Betty".

(She has a degree in electrical engineering (Daily Mail) and is an "electrical and computer engineer" (Wikipedia), so she almost certainly is smarter than average, and she must have sometimes had to reject theories on the basis of evidence, as any engineer would.)
- 7:45 AM, 23 June 2015   [link]

Gossip And News From Greece:  This Daily Mail article has both:
[Greek Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras' stubborness ha sbeen backed by his partner and according to reports she said that she would leave him if he caves in to the requests of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission - the so-called Troika - for Greek austerity.

France's President François Hollande last week told a newspaper about how the Greek prime minister confided in him.

‘[Tsipras] informed me,’ Hollande is quoted as saying in the French weekly Le Canard enchaîné, ‘that if he gave in to too many of the Troika's demands, he risked not only losing his party but also his partner, who is a militant and is much farther Left of him’.
. . .
Putin has been cosying up to the extreme Left politician since Tsipras came to power giving rise to speculation that Russia may provide financial aid to Greece.

Russia has promised Greece hundreds of millions of dollars a year in investment if it agrees to build a pipeline that would carry Russian gas to Europe through Turkey.

Tsipras has been able to play on European fears that Athens could withhold approval of sanctions against Russia when the current ones expire next month. Under European Union rules, all 28 member nations have to approve such actions.
From Putin's point of view, Greece is an almost perfect client state: strategic location, member of NATO and the European Union, shared Orthodox heritage, and small enough so that Russian aid could make a big difference, without damaging Russia's own finances.

(Here's Tsipras's Wikipedia biography, with more than the usual caveats.  He is Greece's 186th prime minister, which shows that many of them didn't last long.)
- 6:23 PM, 22 June 2015   [link]

The Hillary Non-Paradox:  Andrew Ferguson sees a paradox.
When news broke this spring about Bill and Hillary Clinton’s appetite for other people’s money and their indifference to other people’s rules, I was rereading my way through a shelf of old Hillary biographies.  My memory thus was doubly stimulated.  In the fresh revelations, as in the books, the traits of the Clintons were spread out for a new generation to marvel at: the furtiveness, the shifting accounts of hazy events, the parsing of language, the bald and unnecessary denial of often trivial facts (did she have two phones or one?).   Her admirers, old and young, veteran and novice alike, were faced with the Hillary Paradox.

The paradox is a problem only for her admirers, and as it happens I read only books about the Clintons that are written by their admirers, on the general principle that you can learn more about someone from his friends than from his enemies.  Besides, with a few notable exceptions—most recently, Peter Schweizer’s Clinton Cash and Daniel Halper’s Clinton, Inc.—books written by skeptics and detractors are almost psychotically hostile to Mrs. Clinton.  I don’t need any encouragement.

The Hillary Paradox consists of two perceptions that are irreconcilable.  The first is that Hillary Clinton is a person of uncommon decency, compassionate and deeply committed to justice.  The second is that many of her actions over many years are the work of a person who couldn’t possibly be uncommonly decent.  How could someone with a wonderful reputation so often behave disreputably?
There's more on how her admirers have tried to reconcile those two aspects, how they have refused to let less admirable actions change their conclusions about what kind of person she is.

But I don't think there is truly a paradox.  Last year, I noted with amusement that she had described the American political system as "probably the most difficult, even brutal, in the world".  (Which would surprise people living in, for instance, Syria or central Africa.)

But what if she and her admirers believe that, at least in part?  Then she and they could combine high ideals with harsh actions.  If you believe you are threatened by a "vast right-wing conspiracy", then many harsh actions become understandable, perhaps even acceptable, just as they do in war time.

If she and they do hold those views then, if she is elected president, she may be even more divisive than President Obama has been.

(The article gives a good overview of earlier Clinton scandals, including some details on her cattle futures trading, details which I had somehow missed.  Or forgotten.

You may want to share the article with younger friends and relatives, who are unlikely to be unfamiliar with most, or perhaps even all, of those earlier scandals.

Many of you will speculate that she has a Manichean view of the world, an idea that seems plausible to me, as long as you don't push it too far.)
- 3:14 PM, 22 June 2015   [link]

Chris Cillizza Thinks President Obama Has Given Up On "Hope And Change"  But, as usual (always?), it's not Obama's fault.
In a speech at a California fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee last week, President Obama offered a remarkably candid assessment of how he has tried — and failed — to change Washington. Two paragraphs, in particular, stand out.

“I am frustrated, and you have every right to be frustrated, because Congress doesn’t work the way it should,” Obama said, describing a conversation with a disenchanted voter.   “Issues are left untended.  Folks are more interested in scoring political points than getting things done, not because any individual member of Congress is a bad person — there are a lot of good, well-meaning, hard-working people out there — but because the incentives that have been built into the system reward short term, reward a polarized politics, reward being simplistic instead of being true, reward division.

“And as mightily as I have struggled against that, I told him, you’re right.  It still is broken.  But I reminded him that when I ran in 2008, I, in fact, did not say I would fix it; I said we could fix it.  I didn’t say, ‘Yes, I can’; I said — what? . . . ‘Yes, we can.’ ”
So, if things didn't get fixed, it's our fault, especially those folks in Congress.

In Obama's view, he didn't over promise; we under delivered.
- 10:24 AM, 22 June 2015   [link]

Worth Reading:  Larry Getlen's discussion of former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren's new book.

Two samples:
Having spent years writing about Middle Eastern history, Oren paid special attention to the little-known Sen. Obama when he launched his presidential campaign, and says that Israelis were “confused” by America’s enthusiasm for the candidate.

“Accustomed to leaders like [John] McCain, crusty old soldiers and seasoned pols, they could not understand why Americans would choose a candidate lacking in any military, administrative, or foreign-policy experience,” he writes.  Israel chose leaders based on experience rather than appearance, such as “portly Ariel Sharon, diminutive Ehud Barak, and Menachem Begin, who was both follically and visually challenged.”
. . .
But even Oren was surprised, around the time of Obama’s inauguration, by the assessment of his former Columbia University roommate, David Rothkopf, who had served as undersecretary of commerce, and who told him, “The first thing Obama will do in office is pick a fight with Israel,” a statement that caused Oren to “nearly spill my curry.”

“The previous administration was perceived as too pro-Israel,” said Rothkopf, “and Obama’s policy will be ABB” — Anything But Bush.

Oren spilled nothing, then, when he heard that Obama’s first foreign phone call was reportedly to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, “assuring him of America’s commitment to rebuild war-struck Gaza and pursue peace.”
Some Americans were "confused" by the same thing.

And many Americans have come to the conclusion that ABB is not a sound basis for an American strategy.
- 8:04 PM, 21 June 2015   [link]

Father Knows Best?  Today, one of the local stations (Joe TV) has been has been running re-runs of that old program to celebrate Father's Day, on its old TV sub-channel.

Which strikes me as ironic because every day the other sub-channels carry program after program that suggest that fathers do not know best.

And I have thought for many years that none of our networks could make a program with that name, and use the name straight, without a sneer, even though it is not hard to find fathers who do know best, more often than not.

Happy Father's Day to all of those fathers.
- 7:31 PM, 21 June 2015   [link]

Danish Treat:  By a very narrow margin.
Denmark's opposition parties have beaten the governing coalition after a close general election.

The centre-right group led by ex-PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen beat Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt's centre-left coalition, although her party is the largest.

Ms Thorning-Schmidt has now stood down as Social Democratic Party leader.

The right-wing, anti-immigration Danish People's Party will become the second-largest in parliament.

With almost all votes counted, the centre-right bloc led by Mr Rasmussen had secured the 90 seats needed to form a government in the 179-seat parliament.
(Here's the Wikipedia scorecard.  (Which will probably be revised and extended in the next week or so.)  If you are like me, you may need an explanation of Rasmussen's Venstre party.
. . . full name Venstre, Danmarks Liberale Parti (English: Left, Denmark's Liberal Party), is a conservative-liberal[6][7] and agrarian[8] political party in Denmark.  Founded as part of a peasants' movement against the landed aristocracy, today it espouses an economically liberal pro-free market ideology.[9]
I hope that isn't completely confusing.

The leading vote winners — though by tiny margins — in both the Faroe Islands and Greenland were from separatist parties.  Each won one of two seats.  Americans may be amused to learn the party in the Faroe Islands used to be known as the Republican Party, but has now shortened that to just "Republic".)
- 3:23 AM, 19 June 2015   [link]

Cartoonist Michael Ramirez has the right reaction to the mass murder in Charleston.

(Though I must warn you that some of the commenters after the cartoon don't.)
- 2:49 PM, 19 June 2015   [link]

Here's an example of one of stories that the Daily Mail will publish — but "mainstream" American news organizations wouldn't.
Of all the schools in all the towns in all the world, why did Michelle Obama visit a girls’ school in the Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets this week?

She says it was her own choice to make a speech on education at the Mulberry School for Girls.  But was it?

I doubt the First Lady had ever heard of the school before this trip, and probably couldn’t point to Tower Hamlets on a map.  My guess is that the venue was chosen deliberately by the Department for Education to showcase our new, rigorously enforced State religion: ‘Celebrating Diversity’.

Actually, if that was what they intended, they couldn’t have chosen a worse example.  The Mulberry School is probably one of the least diverse schools in Britain.  And that includes Eton.

More than 90 per cent of the pupils are Muslim, from a predominantly Bangladeshi background.  That make-up pretty much reflects the demography of the surrounding area.
If you need a visual illustration of his point, compare the clothes worn by the Michelle, Sasha, and Malia Obama to the clothes worn by those girls.

(If Tower Hamlets seems vaguely familiar, that's probably because you have read about the extensive vote fraud there.)
- 8:32 AM, 19 June 2015   [link]

Ordinarily, American Politicians Court Journalists:  Whatever the politicians may think of the journalists in private, they recognize that the people who buy ink by the barrel, sell TV time by the billions, and put up billions of words and trillions of pixels on the Internet can do much to help — or harm — a candidate.

And so American politicians ordinarily try, at least, to make it easier for the journalists to do their jobs.

Which is what makes the current Hillary Clinton campaign treatment of journalists so interesting; she, and her staff, have gone out of their way to offend many journalists.  Not by picking fights with them, publicly, as a Republican candidate might do when faced by a leftist journalist, but by making it harder for the journalists to do their jobs..

James Taranto has a small collection of recent Clinton offenses against journalists.  Here's the one I found the most interesting.
Driving through New Hampshire in the rain without knowing where you're headed is an unnerving experience, but that's where I found myself this morning after Hillary Clinton's staff said I wouldn't be allowed to do my job reporting on her campaign.

At the Clinton camp's request, a group of journalists set up a traveling 'pool' so a single print reporter can be everyone's eyes and ears at events where a room is too small to fit a crush of questions from a larger group.

Plus it saves more than a dozen news organizations the expense of having to be on the campaign trail every time Clinton decides to speak.

On Monday I was the designated 'pooler,' tasked by this informal group of my colleagues with going to two events in New Hampshire.
But then someone, Clinton or someone acting for her, decided that David Martosko of the Daily Mail was unacceptable, and decided that too late for him to be replaced by a substitute "pooler".  They gave him excuses for this treatment, which you can read if you like, but I think almost everyone even moderately familiar with the Daily Mail will conclude that she and her campaign just don't like the stories about the Clintons that have appeared on that newspaper's web site.

And chose this petty way of showing that dislike.

Which strikes me as irrational as poking a bunch of pit bulls with a stick.

(The newspaper has a large American presence:
OK, so is owned by the Daily Mail newspaper from England but the US content is not EDITED by that newspaper, it is edited in New York and currently has nearly 200 employees growing at about 50% a year – and more US online readers than every big city newspaper in America other than the New York Times.
Partly, of course, because of its willingness to cover American stories that American news organizations won't.)
- 7:59 AM, 19 June 2015   [link]

Appalling, But Worth Reading:  Sidney Blumenthal's email to Hillary Clinton, celebrating the downfall of the Libyan regime.  You'll notice that he doesn't seem to be concerned about the Libyans, or the least bit prescient about what will happen in Libya after the regime collapses.
- 2:12 PM, 18 June 2015   [link]

On A Different (And Much Lighter) Note, here's my semi-serious suggestion for the woman to be on the new ten-dollar bill.  I think it wouldn't hurt us to be a little French and choose Marilyn Monroe.
In the decades following her death, she has often been cited as both a pop and a cultural icon as well as the quintessential American sex symbol.
There's no reason that at least one of our bills can't be attractive.
- 12:05 PM, 17 June 2015   [link]

Mass Murder In Charleston:  And you probably know as much about it as I do, since I've been out grocery shopping this morning.

Here's what Governor Nikki Haley had to say.
“We woke up today,” Haley said, fighting back tears, “and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken.  And so we have some grieving to do. And we’ve got some pain we have to go through.  Parents are having to explain to their kids how they can go to church and feel safe.  And that’s not something ever we thought we’d deal with.”
There's nothing I have to add to that.
- 11:02 AM, 18 June 2015   [link]

"Transgender" Teenager Versus TB Tests:  Today's New York Times put a teenager who had a "sex-change" operation while still in high school on the front page.

It wasn't quite their lead story; although the picture was at the top center of the front page, the story itself was in the middle of the page, and so would be the first story most readers would look at.  The Times has been using this odd layout frequently lately, often for what I think of as "leftist morality lessons", stories intended to reinforce leftist thinking.

And that, I think, is why this story, of no great importance, is being treated as if it were.

In contrast, there was a story in yesterday's Wall Street Journal on the search for new TB tests that was enormously important.
As U.S. health officials treat an Indian woman who entered the country with drug-resistant tuberculosis, scientists at Texas A&M Health Science Center are trying to develop faster and more accurate ways to diagnose the infectious disease.

The timely detection of TB remains one of the greatest difficulties in dealing with the condition.  The main symptoms, like long-lasting cough and fever, are common to other illnesses.  The bacteria are also slow-growing.  That’s why patients with TB often aren’t diagnosed until they’ve had the infection for many months, risking infecting others.  The increase in drug-resistant versions of the bug adds to the urgency in detecting TB more quickly.
Scientists, as you'll learn if you read the whole article, are also looking hard for faster ways to discover which antibiotics can be used to treat cases of tuberculosis.  (And there are strains of TB where no antibiotics work.  Fortunately for us, so far those strains are extremely rare in the United States.)

How important is TB, now?  This important:
One-third of the world’s population has tuberculosis, though many carry it without displaying any symptoms.  Between 1.5 and 2 million people a year die from it, the World Health Organization says.

Latently infected people cannot pass the disease on to others unless the tuberculosis, which can lie dormant in people for years, flares into acute disease, sometimes during a period of weakened immunity.
I'd say that's many orders of magnitude more important than a single teenager getting a drastic (and likely to be ineffectual) treatment for gender dysphoria.

(If you are interested in the "transgender teenager" story, do a search on the name he/she is using now: "Katherine Boone", or just go to the New York Times site.)

Here's the usual Wikipedia article on tuberculosis.)
- 2:24 PM, 17 June 2015   [link]

If Belonging To A Particular Race Gives A Person Advantages, then some people will fake belonging to that race.  One of my favorite examples comes from years ago in Los Angeles.  The schools decided that they needed to mix the races more, and to do that they were moving black teachers to mostly white schools, and white teachers to mostly black schools.

Many teachers figured out, immediately, that they could stay where they were, as many of them wanted to do, if they fibbed about their race on the forms the schools were using to determine who should be moved.  Enough teachers did this so that the schools actually had to set up an official race classification board to check the teachers.

Similarly, two brothers in the Boston fire department — who looked completely Irish — claimed they were black because they had a black great grandmother, or something like that.   (Their claim ended up in court.  I think they lost, but I could be wrong.)

There is obviously a risk to such claims, but the clever and unscrupulous may succeed in using them.  Howie Carr reminds us of one of the most successful, Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Rachel Dolezal is Elizabeth Warren on steroids.

Granny was a fake Indian until she got what she wanted — tenure — and then she went back to being “Okie down to her toes,” as she put it.

On the other hand, Rachel — and may I call her “Racial”? — is a nut case.  She really believes she’s black.

Granny’s box-checking resembled a mob hit man’s crimes.  She did it for profit, for financial gain, period.  Racial is like a serial killer; she can’t help herself.  It’s the difference between a professional arsonist and a firebug.

Granny claimed her parents had to elope because of the anti-Indian racism.  (Forget the fact that they got married in the biggest church in the next town over, then immediately returned to their own tank town that same evening for a big wedding reception.)
And some, as Carr says, will do it out of some inner compulsion, as Dolezal apparently did.   (She hasn't, as far as I can tell, profited from her attempt to pass.  And the people most hurt by her actions are her own family.)

As far as I can tell, almost no one on the left is bothered by Warren claiming to be part Indian (1/32 Cherokee) when she wasn't.  Instead, they have chosen to accept her story, in spite of her having lied about her heritage and her past, again and again.

(When I glanced through Warren's career, it looked to me as if she had also benefited from her first marriage, that she had used it to pay for her law school education, and then abandoned that husband to hook up with a law professor.  (You may have noticed that she isn't often seen with her children, which probably tells you something.)

Incidentally, though I linked to that Wikipedia article, you should distrust it, on everything except the most basic facts about her life.  Her birth date is probably correct; what they say about her research is almost certainly misleading, at best.)
- 9:26 AM, 17 June 2015   [link]

Animal Killers:  The Washington Post has a set of charts to remind us, if we had forgotten, that Americans are almost 30 times more likely to die from an insect sting, than from a shark attack.

That's true, but Christopher Ingraham doesn't discuss this point:  There are many, many more stinging insects than sharks, so our dangers from any individual animal are much greater if that animal is a shark than a bee, a hornet, or a wasp.  (How many more?  We count sharks in the thousands; if we could count stinging insects, we might need to use billions.)

People who are allergic to insect stings should take extra precautions.  Here's what the Center for Disease Control advises for people who work outside.
Workers with a history of severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings should carry an epinephrine autoinjector and wear medical ID jewelry stating their allergy.
And I assume they would give similar advice to others with that allergy who spend much time where there might be stinging insects.

(Ingraham says about 20 people are killed each year by "cows".  He should say "cattle", so as to include bulls, which are far more dangerous than cows.)
- 7:06 AM, 17 June 2015   [link]