March 2015, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

If You Want An Obama Example Of Arrogance And Ineptitude, it's hard to beat the way the administration handled the intelligence captured in the raid on Osama bin Laden.  The military and professionals did their job.  They captured many records, and then made a quick survey to find actionable intelligence.

Stephen Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn describe the incredible blunder that followed.
The United States had gotten its hands on al Qaeda’s playbook—its recent history, its current operations, its future plans.  An interagency team led by the Central Intelligence Agency got the first look at the cache.  They performed a hasty scrub—a “triage”—on a small sliver of the document collection, looking for actionable intelligence.  According to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the team produced more than 400 separate reports based on information in the documents.

But it is what happened next that is truly stunning: nothing.  The analysis of the materials—the “document exploitation,” in the parlance of intelligence professionals—came to an abrupt stop.  According to five senior U.S. intelligence officials, the documents sat largely untouched for months—perhaps as long as a year.
(Emphasis added.)

Here's what should have happened.  First, we should have kept the raid secret as long as possible — and we should have made no mention of the captured documents.   The importance of concealing what you know isn't taught in beginning intelligence courses; it is something any intelligence officer would be expected to know before he had any training.

(Granted, losing the helicopter made complete secrecy impossible, but we didn't have to confirm what our enemies would likely guess.)

Second, we should have exploited that intelligence to pick up — or tag — as many al Qaeda operatives as we could.

Third, long term we should have used the documents to test — and correct — the picture our intelligence agencies had built up of al Qaeda.

Why didn't the Obama administration do these obvious things?  Because, Hayes and Joscelyn argue, Obama wanted to minimize al Qaeda for his re-election campaign.  That's hard to believe, but I'll admit that I can't think of any likely alternative explanations.

Obama wanted to say — and may even have believed — that al Qaeda was no longer much of a threat, and so there was no reason to pursue, aggressively, all those leads.  Not with an election coming up, anyway.

Intelligence officials are so disturbed by this lack of attention to the captured documents that at least a few of them are proposing that the documents be declassified and released.  If the Obama administration won't look at them, they should at least let others have access.

That is, to say the least, an unusual proposal to come from intelligence officers.   That it is being made now shows just how frustrated some of them must be.
- 7:52 PM, 8 March 2015   [link]

Matthew Continetti Argues That Spock Is A Good Model for President Obama.  Or perhaps I should say, an accurate model.
Not only do Spock’s peacenik inclinations routinely land the Enterprise and the Federation into trouble, his “logic” and “level head” mask an arrogant emotional basket case.   Unlike the superhuman android Data, a loyal officer whose deepest longing is to be human, Spock spends most of his life as a freelancing diplomat eager to negotiate with the worst enemies of Starfleet.  He’s the opposite of a role model: a cautionary tale.

Spock cares only for himself.
That last does sound like our president, doesn't it?

I am no expert on Star Trek; I watched some of the TV series years ago, but don't recall seeing any of the movies, in full.  Having said that, I will go ahead anyway and speculate that what Continetti says about Spock is more true of the movies than of the original TV series.

And, if you read the whole article, you'll notice that Continetti takes all his supporting evidence from the movies.
- 7:04 PM, 8 March 2015   [link]

Worth Reading:  Richard Lindzen's op-ed, "The Political Assault on Climate Skeptics".

Briefly, Professor (emeritus) Lindzen believes that climate alarmists have been losing the scientific debate in recent years.  Perhaps as a result, some are turning to more direct attacks.
The latest example began with an article published in the New York Times on Feb. 22 about Willie Soon, a scientist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  Mr. Soon has, for over 25 years, argued for a primary role of solar variability on climate.  But as Greenpeace noted in 2011, Mr. Soon was, in small measure, supported by fossil-fuel companies over a period of 10 years.

The Times reintroduced this old material as news, arguing that Mr. Soon had failed to list this support in a recent paper in Science Bulletin of which he was one of four authors.  Two days later Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, used the Times article as the basis for a hunting expedition into anything said, written and communicated by seven individuals— David Legates, John Christy, Judith Curry, Robert Balling, Roger Pielke Jr. , Steven Hayward and me—about testimony we gave to Congress or other governmental bodies.  We were selected solely on the basis of our objections to alarmist claims about the climate.
Congressman Grijalva is on the far left of the Democratic Party; he is the co-chair (along with Keith Ellison) of the "Progressive Caucus".  As far as I can tell, he has no significant scientific education, or experience.

(His Wikipedia biography, which I linked to above, is significantly more critical of him than the biography in the 2014 Almanac of American Politics.   The Wikipedia authors have much more to say about his ties to extremist groups, beginning at least when he was in college.  It would be interesting to know to what extent he still sympathizes, if silently, with the radical groups to which he once belonged.)
- 4:05 PM, 5 March 2015   [link]

Clinton Email System Built For Privacy, Not Security:  This Bloomberg article looks like a good summary of the security risks in the Clinton's private email system.
A week before becoming secretary of state, Hillary Clinton set up a private e-mail system that gave her a high level of control over communications, including the ability to erase messages completely, according to security experts who have examined Internet records.

“You erase it and everything’s gone,” Matt Devost, a security expert who has had his own private e-mail for years.  Commercial services like those from Google Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. retain copies even after users erase them from their in-box.

Although Clinton worked hard to secure the private system, her consultants appear to have set it up with a misconfigured encryption system, something that left it vulnerable to hacking, said Alex McGeorge, head of threat intelligence at Immunity Inc., a Miami Beach-based digital security firm.
We should assume that hostile nations — and probably some friendly nations — have been reading those Clinton email messages, for years.

You don't have to be an expert on foreign policy to understand how much of an advantage that would give them, in their negotiations with the United States.

(What the Clintons did was imprudent, risking, as it did, our national security secrets.   But it is not entirely clear to me that it was illegal, or even against formal policy, at the time they began doing it.

If President Obama, and his national security advisors, didn't know about this private email system — and its potential security risks — then they weren't doing their jobs.  That White House lawyers are saying they didn't know about the system suggests, very strongly, that they believe it was illegal.)
- 2:58 PM, 5 March 2015   [link]

SDI Against Mosquitoes:  When I heard news accounts about this mosquito killer, I thought they sounded familiar.
It's been called the world's deadliest bug, a carrier of malaria and a campground crasher.   But this blood sucker may have just met its fate in a futuristic WMD -- a weapon of mosquito destruction.

It's called a Photonic Fence and it uses lasers to zap mosquitoes out of the sky before they can reach your skin, as long as you are standing within the protected area.
And I was right.
The original idea incorporates laser technology that stems from the SDI, scaled down to insects.[5]  Although the malaria-carrying parasite is gone from most developed nations, it is getting worse in undeveloped countries, and it is also becoming more resistant to drugs.[6]  Rather than continue with drugs or other pesticides, the mosquito laser takes a more direct approach by instantly killing mosquitoes or burning off their wings and rendering them harmless.  One of the design goals was to minimize collateral damage to other species and the environment.

The laser, humorously referred to by some as a WMD (Weapon of Mosquito Destruction),[7] works effectively at a range of 100 feet (approx. 30 meters).[4]  Although the team at Intellectual Ventures is confident in the effectiveness of the laser, they do not expect it to eliminate malaria altogether.   They believe several technologies must be combined for maximum eradication and minimal cost.[8]
. . .
The team includes several scientists that previously worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  [Lowell] Wood worked with Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb, and architect of the SDI anti-missile Laser program.[4]  Currently there are several scientists involved with the project, including scientist Jordin Kare, PhD, and principal investigator Eric Johanson (Eric) .  These scientists’ knowledge spans several fields; the scientists include engineers, an insect physiologist, an optical specialist, a computational modeling scientist, and an epidemiologist.[9]
They claim to be able to be able to distinguish between mosquitos and other insects, and even ' between harmless male mosquitoes and female mosquitoes.

I have no opinion on the practicality of the gadget — but I would love to see one in operation.

(Here's the company site, and here's the Wikipedia article on malaria, if you want to get a rough idea of how serious a problem it is, in much of the world.)
- 10:42 AM, 5 March 2015   [link]

Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address:  150 years ago today, Lincoln gave what I have long thought to be his greatest speech, his second inaugural address:

At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first.  Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper.  Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented.  The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all.  With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war.  All dreaded it, all sought to avert it.  While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest.  All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war.   To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.  Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained.  Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease.   Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.   Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.  It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged.  The prayers of both could not be answered.  That of neither has been answered fully.  The Almighty has His own purposes.  "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh."  If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?  Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.  Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
The speech begins with a lawyerly discourse, turns philosophical, then darkly religious, and ends with the sunshine of the "Malice toward none" sentence.  That's an extraordinary range for such a brief speech.

And it is an extraordinary speech to make near the end of a bitter, and horribly destructive, civil war.  Most wars end grimly, and that is especially likely to be true of civil wars.
- 3:57 PM, 4 March 2015   [link]

Tu Quoque On Hillary Clinton's Emails:  As we learned that Clinton had tried to keep her public emails private as secretary of state, it was inevitable that one of her defenders would use the ancient tu quoque defense, inevitable that one her defenders would point out that other politicians also had not been completely public with their emails.

And, just as you would expect, the reporter, Adam Edelman, found mostly Republicans (four out of five) for his examples.

Even so, Edelman did not find another politician who used private email for all of his official emails.  Nor did he mention that another presidential contender, Jeb Bush, had released all of his official emails, as part of his campaign.

(Mollie Hemingway — who is not a fan of the Clintons — notes that they have a habit of misplacing or losing official records.)
- 9:28 AM, 4 March 2015   [link]

Whatever Else You May Think Of Carly Fiorina, there is no doubt that she is turning out to be a superb critic of Hillary Clinton.
Whatever she was in her rookie run in 2010 against Barbara Boxer, she has upped her game to a new level.  And she is solving the problem of how to run against Hillary Clinton, who is planning to run as the symbol of womanhood, immunizing herself against critiques of all kinds by calling them wholesale attacks on her gender in general, and thus on all women alive.

How to defuse it?  Have the toughest critiques come, coolly and civilly, from a woman, who is in all ways her equal.
(I'd say her superior, but I understand the point that Noemie Emery is trying to make.)

I haven't searched, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Clinton defenders have already claimed that Fiorina isn't a real woman.  Or is a traitor to women, or something similar.

(Here's Fiorina's Wikipedia biography, with the usual caveats.  Unlike Clinton, she has held a wide variety of jobs, including secretary, receptionist, real estate broker, and English teacher in Italy.)
- 9:04 AM, 4 March 2015   [link]

Sex Ed Curriculum Designed By A Sex Deviant?  That appears to be what happened in Canada's largest province, Ontario.
TORONTO - Despite efforts by the Liberal government to distance itself from suggestions that disgraced bureaucrat Benjamin Levin had a hand in crafting the sex-ed curriculum, there’s ample evidence he put his fingerprint on what Ontario children learn in the classroom.

Levin — a former deputy education minister who is expected to plead guilty to child porn-related charges Tuesday — repeatedly highlighted his role as overseeing curriculum issues.

In a 2009 newsletter, the then-deputy minister said he was “responsible for ... everything that they do” and to “implement” the “new” approach.
Traditionalists in Canada have been unhappy with the new curriculum for some time, and now they have one more reason to be suspicious.

By way of Mr. Fur.
- 9:24 AM, 3 March 2015   [link]

President Obama Spoke Again On The Keystone XL Pipeline; As Usual, President Obama Didn't Tell The Truth:  I know.  The sky is blue, the Pope is Catholic; there are glaciers on Mt. Rainier, et cetera.  Nothing new here, you may be thinking.

But this time he earned another Four Pinocchios from Glenn Kessler, who seems a little peeved at our prevaricating president.
When Obama first started making the claim that the crude oil in the Keystone pipeline would bypass the United States, we wavered between Three and Four Pinocchios — and strongly suggested he take the time to review the State Department report.

Clearly, the report remains unread.

The president’s latest remarks pushes this assertion into the Four Pinocchios column.  If he disagrees with the State Department’s findings, he should begin to make the case why it is wrong, rather than assert the opposite, without any factual basis.  Moreover, by telling North Dakota listeners that the pipeline has no benefit for Americans, he is again being misleading, given that producers in the region have signed contracts to transport some of their production through the pipeline.
I can understand Kessler's feelings; years ago, I became peeved at Obama because he appeared to think that I would believe so many impossible things before — and after — breakfast.  (Perhaps, unlike the White Queen, I just haven't had enough practice.)  He was treating me — and you — as fools.

What's the best thing we can say about Obama's habit of making false statements about the pipeline?  That he has a reckless disregard for the truth on this issue, that, at best, he has not taken an hour or so to find out the facts.

You can decide for yourself how probable that best explanation is.

(Here's the State Department report in case you, unlike President Obama, want to read it.  It's 150 pages long, but you don't have to read the whole thing.)
- 2:40 PM, 2 March 2015   [link]

You Can Take The Man Out Of Chicago, But You Can't Take Chicago Out Of The Man:  Which explains why President Obama has treated ambassadorships as just another patronage job.
Career diplomats are finding that they can't advance to top State Department posts such as ambassadorships because President Obama has stuffed political appointees into those jobs, the most ever in his second term.
Some of Obama's ambassadors have been not just rich donors, but unprepared rich donors, such as George J. Tsunis, who Obama nominated to represent us in Norway.

Tsunis did not do well when questioned by Arizona Senator John McCain.
To recap: Tsunis described Norway as having a president (“apparently under the impression that the country is a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy,” as the Local Norway's News notes dryly).   And he characterized the anti-immigration Progress Party as being among “fringe elements” who “spew their hatred” and have been denounced by the government.

That prompted McCain’s disbelieving answer: “The government has denounced them?  The coalition government — they're part of the coalition of the government.”
(Incidentally, that's the kind of questioning all our senators should do.)

Some ambassadors have been even worse.  Bundler Cynthia Stroum raised $500 thousand for Obama's 2008 campaign, was named ambassador to Luxembourg, and resigned after reports of her cruelty to staff. Not so incidentally, Stroum was working for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at the time.

Career diplomats were resigning or asking for transfers to Iraq or Afghanistan, rather than work for Stroum.

As far as I know, the Obama campaign did not return her donations.

For the record:  Over the years, some political appointees have been fine ambassadors; a few have even been superb.  (For example, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a very good ambassador to India.)  But the successes were men (and women) who were prepared for their jobs, and who saw them as difficult jobs, not as rewards for donations.

(Michelle Obama often speaks fondly of her father, Fraser Robinson, but she doesn't often mention that he had a patronage job with the city of Chicago, a job that depended on him getting out the vote in his precinct.)
- 8:44 AM, 2 March 2015   [link]

Terror Or Backlash?  Which should our law enforcement people worry about most?  According to United States Attorney Benjamin Wagner, an Obama appointee, it's backlash.

Here's what he said at President Obama's recent “Summit on Countering Violent Extremism”:
The U.S. Attorney explained that “the Muslim community can play an important role in helping law enforcement separate radical noise from radical action, and when it’s something to be worried about and when it’s not.   If the community can be successful in stepping in first, law enforcement will never have to be involved.”   But [Sacramento Bee reporter Steve] Magagnini pressed the point: “Are Californians in danger from the Islamic State and al-Qaida?”

“I would say it’s not a very high threat,” Wagner responded.  “It’s important that people be alert without being frightened.”  The U.S. Attorney and Obama appointee acknowledged that ISIS has been urging people to “take action in your own communities, attack police, government buildings.”  However, “there are limits to how much one person can do to arm people, mobilize and do damage without law enforcement intercepting it.”  Then the U.S. Attorney made clear his real priorities.

“What I’m more concerned about is some sort of backlash crime here – something gruesome will happen in Syria and someone will take revenge on the local community.”
(Emphasis added.)

Perhaps Wagner's stated priority can be explained by a meeting he had had earlier with local Muslim leaders in Sacramento, California.  He may just have been repeating what he had told them.  But I fear that he was being honest, that he is more worried about backlash attacks — which have been almost non-existent in the United States — than terror attacks, of which we have had too many.

He is an Obama appointee, so it would not be surprising if he held such beliefs, and not be terribly surprising if he acted on them, if he spent too much time looking for backlash attacks, and not enough time looking for terror attacks.

(Note, by the way, his reliance on surveillance to detect threats.  Presumably, he mostly means the kind of electronic surveillance that NSA does.  But that kind of surveillance, like any other kind, can be evaded by clever terrorists.)
- 7:06 AM, 2 March 2015   [link]

What Country Is Tupperware's Biggest Market?  I wouldn't have guessed it, on the first or second try.  (I might have got it by the tenth, if I had thought of going by population.)

It's Indonesia.
The party had the feel of 1960s America, almost.  A group of women, thrilled to get a break from the daily routine of hanging laundry and shuttling their children to and from school, sat in a circle, listening to a friend hawk plastic storage bowls in a dizzying array of pastels.

Some shushed babies on their laps; others occasionally leaned in for juicy pieces of news.

The women were, in fact, at a modern-day Tupperware party in the company’s biggest market.  The twist?  That market is halfway around the world from the product’s Massachusetts birthplace — in Indonesia.
Indonesia passed Germany, two years ago.

There's much more in the article, most of it quite interesting.

(Here's the company's site.)
- 4:46 PM, 1 March 2015   [link]

Two Thoughts from Will Rogers:
The great comedian Will Rogers gave voice to widespread doubts concerning American's diplomatic performance.  The United States has never lost a war or won a conference," he declared.  Rogers also claimed to be clairvoyant on the subject of future wars.  If you want to know when a war might be coming," he told audiences, "you just watch the United States and see when it starts cutting down on its defenses.   It's the surest barometer in the world." (p. 122)
If you are like me, you'll think that neither of those is completely true — but that there is some truth in both of them.

(His Wikipedia biography includes many of his better-known jokes, including this one: "Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for.")
- 4:11 PM, 1 March 2015   [link]