March 2015, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Another EB-5 Visa Scandal:  First, a review from the Wikipedia article.
The EB-5 visa provides a method of obtaining a green card for foreign nationals who invest money in the United States.[1]  To obtain the visa, individuals must invest $1,000,000 (or at least $500,000 in a Targeted Employment Area - high unemployment or rural area), creating or preserving at least 10 jobs for U.S. workers excluding the investor and their immediate family.[1] Initially, under the first EB-5 program, the foreign investor was required to create an entirely new commercial enterprise; however, under the Pilot Program investments can be made directly in a job-generating commercial enterprise (new, or existing - "Troubled Business"[2]), or into a "Regional Center" - a 3rd party-managed investment vehicle (private or public), which assumes the responsibility of creating the requisite jobs.  Regional Centers may charge an administration fee for managing the investor's investment.

If the foreign national investor's petition is approved, the investor and their dependents will be granted conditional permanent residence valid for two years.[2]   Within the 90 day period before the conditional permanent residence expires, the investor must submit evidence documenting that the full required investment has been made and that 10 jobs have been maintained, or 10 jobs have been created or will be created within a reasonable time period.[2]
(Which is accurate, as far as I know.)

You don't have to be an expert on investment, or government, to see weaknesses in this program.  If there is a good business opportunity in a "Targeted Employment Area", then there is no need to pass out visas to encourage investors, even foreign investors, who can just send money.  If the bureaucrats try to enforce the provisions of the law, then the approval is likely to be delayed for years, at a time when many investors think in months, not years.

But there can be a way for people with the right connections to speed up matters, and that's what the Virginia governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, is accused of doing.
Not long before he became governor of Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe received special treatment on behalf of his electric-car company from a top official at the Department of Homeland Security, according to a new report from the department’s inspector general.

McAuliffe was among several politically powerful individuals from both parties, including Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), seeking special visas for foreign investors through a program administered by the department.  But intervention on behalf of McAuliffe’s GreenTech Automotive company by Alejandro Mayorkas, now the department’s No. 2 official, “was unprecedented,” according to the report.
Those who have followed McAuliffe's career, even casually, will find nothing surprising in this story.

Mayorkas appears to have been rewarded for his efforts.  Which tells us something about the Obama administration.

(For the record:  I have long thought that we should simply abolish this program, that it makes no sense economically, and is subject to abuses, of many kinds.

His Wikipedia biography will show you why I am not surprised to see McAuliffe in still another scandal.)
- 8:28 AM, 25 March 2015   [link]

Good Line, Mitt.
While discussing his upcoming charity boxing match with former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield on Fox News, Romney said, “I can fight anybody so long as Candy Crowley isn’t the referee.”
(This Wikipedia biography makes Crowley sound a little odd.)
- 3:20 PM, 24 March 2015   [link]

The House Of Representatives Delivered A Resounding Vote Of No Confidence In President Obama's Policies Toward Iran:  The letter cautioning Obama was signed by 367 members of the House, a more than two-thirds majority.

The reproof was bipartisan; majorities of both parties signed the letter.   Many prominent Democrats signed, including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Chairwoman of the National Democratic Party Debbie Wasserman Schultz, civil rights hero John Lewis, and far-left congresswoman Marcy Kaptur.

Not all Republicans signed the letter.  I was not surprised, for instance, that Justin Amash did not sign.

You can look at the signatures to see whether your representative signed the letter; you can even, as I just did, look to see who in your state's delegation signed.

For Washington state, there are eight signers, in order: Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R, 5th), Suzan DelBene (D, 1st), Derek Kilmer (D, 6th), Rick Larsen (D, 2nd), Dave Reichert (R, 8th), Dan Newhouse (R, 4th), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R, 3rd), and Denny Heck (D, 10th).

The two who did not sign are: Jim McDermott (D, 7th) and Adam Smith (D, 9th).No one who knows even a little about Jim McDermott will be surprised by his refusal to sign.  I was a little surprised that Adam Smith did not sign.

In this area, I don't know of any local journalists who will ask our representatives why they signed, or why they did not sign.  That's unfortunate, because the decision to sign, or not sign, is one of the most important in this Congress, and voters should know why their representatives chose to reprove — or to back — President Obama's increasingly reckless efforts to get an agreement, any agreement, with Iran.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(If you haven't already, you really should read the brief letter.  It's polite — and powerful.)

- 8:42 AM, 24 March 2015
Correction:  Derek Kilmer did sign the letter, which makes more sense, from what I know about the 6th district.  Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader for spotting the name, which I had somehow missed, on three separate readings of the list.  I've corrected the text above.
- 6:41 AM, 25 March 2015     [link]

Worth Reading:  (Though I must warn you that you may find it difficult to read her description of the massacre; I certainly did.)  Kathy Platoni's Wall Street Journal op-ed, "The Army’s Fort Hood Disgrace".

The Army knew that Nidal Hasan was dangerous, and did nothing.  And then after the massacre the Army protected those who had failed, while doing little for his victims.
Both an instructor and a colleague referred to Hasan as a “ticking time bomb.”  But his shocking conduct was ignored.  Officer-evaluation reports “sanitized his obsession with violent Islamist extremism into praiseworthy research on counterterrorism,” a 2011 congressional review states.  Political correctness, to which the military continues to bow, led many to fear that reporting Hasan would result in career-ending charges of racial or religious discrimination.

It is a gross miscarriage of justice that no one who supervised the shooter—overlooked his behavior and promoted him—has been held accountable.  That the massacre is still labeled an incident of workplace violence committed by a disgruntled employee is delusional and contemptible.  Because the massacre was not recognized as a terrorist attack, victims were deemed ineligible for combat-injury benefits, the Purple Heart, and its civilian counterpart, the Defense of Freedom medal.  Three successive defense secretaries refused to change this designation, and five years passed.
Thanks to congressional pressure, the victims are now finally getting some of what they are entitled to.

Although Platoni doesn't mention him, there is no doubt that President Obama deserves some of the blame for the way the Army protected those who had failed, and failed those it should have protected.

But we must also recognize that the FBI and the Defense Department should have detected and removed this threat while George W. Bush was president.
- 6:48 PM, 23 March 2015   [link]

The Great Unanswered Question About The Oso Mud Slide:   Yesterday, I looked through my posts on Oso and was struck by one unanswered question:   Why did Snohomish County ignore the dangers in the area?

As I mentioned last April, they were told, by experts, that the area was dangerous.  But they did not act on a proposal to buy out the home owners in the threatened area.  Instead, they continued to issue building permits in the area.

I suspect, though I have no direct evidence of this, that we know so little because some of those who know more have clammed up — on the advice of attorneys.

And there are, no surprise, lawsuits about the mud slide coming to our courts.

But it is also possible that our local journalists simply aren't asking the questions I would ask about the tragedy.
- 2:41 PM, 23 March 2015   [link]

The Troy Kelley Plot "Thickens"  Last Monday, as I mentioned on Thursday, federal agents raided the home of the Washington state auditor, Democrat Troy Kelley, and searched it for about five hours.  (Kelley was away on vacation at the time.)

Area journalists have been trying to find out what this is all about, and strongly suspect that Kelley is in trouble for business dealings that led to a federal civil suit.
Kelley has maintained a fairly low-profile as state auditor since taking office in 2013.   He was elected after a campaign during which his opponent dredged up past lawsuits and allegations of misappropriated funds.  It all related to Kelley’s work in the real estate title and escrow business.

In a videotaped deposition in 2010 Kelley was asked by attorney Scott Smith about a series of unusual bank transfers involving nearly $4 million.

The money was swept from three business accounts and then moved from bank to bank.

Eventually records showed the money ended up in an account linked to an offshore bank in Belize — a known tax haven.  Asked in the deposition if he intended to pay taxes on the money, Kelley said he would “On advice of counsel, when he tells me to.”
I am no expert on the escrow business, but that does sound a little unusual.  (I don't know what Austin Jenkins means by "linked to", though I can think of some possibilities.)

The federal authorities are especially interested in a long-time associate of Kelley's, Jason Jerue.
Eleven days before federal agents searched state Auditor Troy Kelley’s Tacoma home on March 16, they demanded records related to a state employee and longtime business partner of Kelley’s whose name appears in an acrimonious lawsuit tied to Kelley’s past business dealings.

The federal grand jury subpoena served at the Auditor’s Office sought various records associated with Jason Jerue, 45, an office employee who previously worked as vice president of Kelley’s real estate document business, according to court records.  Those same records include a declaration from another former employee of Kelley’s, who said Jerue destroyed documents associated with the business shortly after legal troubles surfaced.

The subpoena, dated March 5 and released late Friday by the Auditor’s Office, requested emails between Jerue and other office employees relating to Jerue’s past employment at Post Closing Department, Kelley’s company that became embroiled in a federal lawsuit with a former client, Old Republic Title.
Could that "former employee" be the person who triggered this investigation?  Quite possibly.

In 2012, James Watkins, Kelley's Republican opponent, tried to raise these issues, but was unable to get much attention from our journalists.

For those unfamiliar with Washington state politics, I should add that large financial scandals are unusual here.  (Small ones are fairly common in Seattle.)  In fact, one local reporter went back to 1980 and "gamscam" in his search for a possible parallel.

(For the record:  Kelley is proclaiming his innocence, and says he is fully cooperating with federal authorities.

There's not much in this stub Wikipedia article, but I would guess that he earned a law degree from Buffalo, given his position in the National Guard.)
- 1:59 PM, 23 March 2015   [link]

The First "Bush Boy" Announces For President:  By "Bush Boy" I mean the candidates who got their start, or a big boost, by working for or with a member of the Bush family.  And by that standard, Ted Cruz is a definitely a Bush Boy.
Between 1999 and 2003, Cruz served as the director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission, an associate deputy attorney general at the United States Department of Justice, and as domestic policy advisor to U.S. President George W. Bush on the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign.
Cruz was appointed Texas solicitor general by Greg Abbott, a long-time Bush ally.

You may not want to share this thought with people who get their political ideas from Matt Drudge.

(For fun, you may want to try to identify more "Bush Boys" who are likely to run for president.  Jeb Bush is the easiest, but there are others.)
- 10:48 AM, 23 March 2015   [link]

It's Been One Year Since The Deadly Oso Mud Slide:  If you need a review, this Wikipedia article is a good place to start.
On Saturday, March 22, 2014, at 10:37 a.m. local time, a major landslide occurred 4 miles (6.4 km) east of Oso, Washington, United States, when a portion of an unstable hill collapsed, sending mud and debris across the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, engulfing a rural neighborhood, and covering an area of approximately 1 square mile (2.6 km2).  Forty-three people were killed.[2]
Tomorrow, I may have more on what we have learned in the year since the disaster.
- 6:32 PM, 22 March 2015   [link]

Yes, The World Is Getting More Violent:  After decades of getting more peaceful.
If you were watching the news last year, it was hard to escape the impression the world was falling apart.  Now the data is in.  And yes, it turns out the world’s most violent conflicts got a lot bloodier in 2014 — almost 30 percent bloodier, in fact.

According to an analysis of data from the world’s 20 most lethal wars last year, at least 163,000 people died in conflict.  That compares to just under 127,000 in the 20 worst wars the previous year, a rise of 28.7 percent

. That’s a pretty disturbing spike by anyone’s terms.  And if you look at the first few months of 2015, the violence doesn’t seem to be waning.

What’s even more worrying is that this seems to be part of an ongoing trend that now goes back eight years.  According to the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), global violence — as defined by a range of measures from conflict deaths, to displaced persons, to homicide rates — has been rising since 2007. This news is in many ways surprising because up to 2007, the data suggested the world was becoming a much safer place.
Reuters correspondent Peter Apps seems befuddled by this increasing violence.

I'm not; it's what I expected when the Democrats won control of Congress in 2006, and what I predicted when Barack Obama was elected in 2008.

Nor is the pattern of increasing violence hard to understand.  For decades, the United States was the "world's policeman", keeping order in much of the world.  The modern Democratic Party is not comfortable with that role — understandably, since a policeman's lot is not a happy one — and has been trying to get us to give it up.

When policemen go on strike, or even start slacking off, crime, including violent crime, usually increases.

That's not too hard to understand, is it?

(For the record:  I'd much rather some other nation, or group of nations, police the world.  But I don't see any that are willing and able to do what the United States has done since World War II.)
- 5:18 PM, 22 March 2015   [link]

The Clintons And Obama Show How An Endless Pursuit Of Office Can Distort A Person:  Jim Geraghty thinks that the Clintons are motivated by both power and money, but that President Obama is motivated mostly by a desire for power.
The Clintons had enormous power, and considerable wealth.  But mere considerable wealth wasn’t enough; they wanted enormous wealth.  Mogul wealth.
. . .
Barack Obama is comfortable, and certainly enjoys taxpayer-funded travel and vacations, but he seems like a man driven primarily by power.  He enjoys a net worth of about $12.2 million.  And surely he intends to cash in with book deals and lucrative speaking contracts and the works after he leaves office.

But you get the feeling that Obama’s a guy who’s driven by the need for power.  It’s what defines his presidency: unilateral military action, the executive order on immigration, the unilateral decision to restore relations with Cuba, shutting Congress out of negotiations with Iran, the recess appointments, the secrecy, the budget brinksmanship and daring his opposition to shut down the government, the discussion of raising taxes through an executive order . . . Obama doesn’t think he was put on Earth to live the high life.  He was put here to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.”
I think Geraghty is right about the difference in motivations.
- 3:40 PM, 22 March 2015   [link]

Professor Althouse For Mayor!  (Of Madison, Wisconsin.)

She is better qualified, by one traditional standard, than either of the two principal contenders, as we can see from her reply in this comment:
"Write yourself in, Ann..."

That wouldn't be polite.

Also, I would hate to hold any elected office.
Which was traditionally considered almost a requirement for office.  A candidate was supposed to reluctantly accept the wishes of the people, while pretending that he would really rather be doing something else.  It was common, for instance, for candidates not to attend the presidential nominating conventions until after they had won the nomination.

We don't see such sentiments often these days; we don't even see many candidates pretend that they are not seeking office.

And that is, I think, unfortunate.  We could use a few more elected officials who are serving because they think it their duty, and a few less who are fulfilling their lifetime ambitions.

(For the record:  I am joking, mostly, about her being mayor.  From what I can tell from her posts, she is a decent person, who does not deserve to be punished by having to serve as mayor, especially of that politically correct city.  But she might be better for the city than the incumbent, Paul Soglin, or his principal challenger, Scott Resnick.

You can get some of the flavor of politics in Madison from Resnick's title; in most cities he would be a councilman or alderman, but in Madison he is a non-sexist "alder".  And they don't mean the tree.)
- 3:19 PM, 22 March 2015   [link]

Bipartisan House Majority Opposes Obama's Iran Policies:   That isn't the headline The Hill used on this story.
A bipartisan letter on Iran signed by 360 members of Congress will be sent to President Obama on Thursday, one of its House signers said.

The letter, like one 47 Senate Republicans sent to Tehran's leaders, reminds the administration that permanent sanctions relief on Iran as part of a deal to rollback its nuclear program would require new legislation from Congress.
But it could have been.

There are 435 members of the House.  In the 2014 election, Republicans won 247 seats, Democrats, 188.  If we assume that 240 Republicans signed that letter, which is a reasonable guess, then Democrats must have provided the other 120 signatures.  So almost two-thirds of the House Democrats signed that letter.

But, whatever the exact numbers, we can be certain that majorities of both parties signed that letter; both parties reminded Obama of some limits to his negotiating power.  (And reminded the Iranian regime that dropping permanent sanctions will have to pass the US Congress.)

The letter was drafted by two party leaders (or, their staffs), the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce, and the ranking Democrat, Eliot Engel.

Royce and Engel don't agree on much else, which makes their cooperation even more striking.

(Here's their press release, along with the text of the letter.  It's just six paragraphs long, and definitely worth reading.)
- 4:21 PM, 21 March 2015
Update:  The total number of signers is now up to 367, which slightly strengthens my argument.  The first four signers are Ed Royce, Eliot Engel, Speaker John Boehner, and the second ranking Democrat in the House, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.   The article includes the letter and all the signers, so you can check to see if your own member signed.  Note that the layout is carefully — and, I am sure, intentionally — bipartisan.
- 3:26 PM, 23 March 2015   [link]

Yes, Hillary Clinton Did Say That American Adults Need Time At Camp, Too:  But she was speaking to camp associations, so that's understandable.

On the other hand, I'll admit that I find it more than a little bit creepy to have Hillary Clinton talking about a "fun deficit".

There are many adjectives, some of them positive, I could apply to her, but "fun" is not one of them.
- 12:53 PM, 20 March 2015   [link]

Joke Or Threat?  While browsing through Bob Dole's Great Political Wit, I came across a joke that Hillary Clinton had used at a National Prayer Luncheon:
In the Bible, it says they asked Jesus how many times you should forgive, and he said seventy times seven.  Well, I want you all to know that I'm keeping a chart. (p. 120)
Well, that is funny, though perhaps inappropriate for that event.  But I think the answer to my question is joke and threat.

(The book is pretty good.  I think most people who are interested in politics would find jokes and stories in it that they liked.)
- 8:03 AM, 20 March 2015   [link]

Washington State Auditor Audited:  Rather forcefully.
Agents from the U.S. Treasury Department served a search warrant Monday at the Tacoma home of state Auditor Troy Kelley, according to information obtained by The News Tribune.

The nature and purpose of the search were unclear Wednesday. Searches of federal court records found no sign that Kelley has been indicted or charged with anything illegal.
. . .
Agents clad in bulletproof vests spent five hours at Kelley’s home, from 9:25 a.m. to 2:20 p.m., said Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool.  Police were notified that the search would take place.
He's a Democrat, though the article doesn't mention that.

The raid took place when Kelley was out of town.  Deliberately, perhaps?

Treasury agents suggest that he may have a tax problem, though that isn't the only possibility>

(The comments following the article are definitely worth reading.  I regret to say that I can not give you any evidence, one way or another, on the charges made in the comments.)
- 1:35 PM, 19 March 2015   [link]

Whenever I Think About The Difficulties Of Negotiating With Nasty Regimes, I think about the 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact, more formally the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which led directly to World War II.

And, of course, about the famous David Low cartoon, published weeks after the pact, and after the invasion of Poland.

Not so incidentally, Low was attacked for his views before World War II.
His works are featured in many British history textbooks. One of Low's most famous cartoons, Rendezvous, was first published in the Evening Standard on 20 September 1939.  It satirises the cynicism which lay at the heart of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, depicting Hitler and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin bowing politely before each other after their joint invasion of Poland, but nevertheless greeting each other respectively as "the scum of the earth" and "the bloody assassin of the workers".[5]   On 1 September, the Germans invaded Poland from the west and, on 17 September, the Soviets invaded from the east.

The Harmony Boys of 2 May 1940[6] depicts Hitler, Stalin, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, and Spanish dictator Francisco Franco "harmonizing" and getting along quite well.  When this cartoon was published, the German invasion of the Soviet Union was still more than a year in the future.

His satirical works met much criticism in the British public eye.  The British press called him a "war monger," and many citizens felt disdain for his depictions of appeasement.
(Emphasis added.)

The pact is usually seen as a victory for Hitler, which it was, short term.  But I think you can argue that Stalin won, in the long run.

(You can find many David Low cartoons with an image search on his name.)
- 8:53 AM, 19 March 2015   [link]

Jonah Goldberg Restates The Obvious about the Iranian regime.
It has been an Iranian tradition since 1979 to end Friday prayers with chants of “Death to America!”

In a purely rational world, that would be all one needed to know that Iran is not a reliable negotiating partner.  Alas, we do not live in such a world.  But there’s more evidence.  Iran, according to our State Department, has been the chief exporter of terrorism for the last three decades.  It has worked closely with al-Qaeda, facilitating its attacks on America and our allies.  Most of the September 11 hijackers traveled through Iran with the help of the Iranian government.  U.S. judges have ruled that Iran was an accomplice in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa and the September 11 attacks. During the Iraq War, Iran was responsible for numerous American deaths.

And it’s not like any of this is ancient history.  Indeed, in 2012, the Treasury Department designated the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security as a major promoter of terrorism and violator of human rights.

Right now, via its brutal proxies, Iran is manipulating events on the ground in four Arab capitals — Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, and Sanaa.  Whatever success there has been against the Islamic State in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit has been thanks to Iranian advisors operating in Iraq and the Shiite Muslim militias they control.  On Sunday’s Meet the Press, retired admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he fears Iran more than Islamic State.
As George Orwell famously wrote, sometimes ". . . the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men."

We can be grateful to Goldberg for restating the obvious, in his defense of Senator Tom Cotton, but we ought also to think seriously about the difficulties of negotiating with Iran (and similar regimes).

It is not impossible to negotiate, productively, with such regimes, but you must have negotiators who are exceptionally well informed and skillful.  Alas, President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry are neither — but seem unaware of their deficiencies.
- 8:20 AM, 19 March 2015   [link]

It's Not Important, Or Surprising, but it is interesting to learn that Marian Robinson, Michelle Obama's mother, cared about the color of Barack Obama's skin, as well as the content of his character.
A new biography of Michelle Obama has revealed that her mother was initially suspicious of her future son-in-law because he was of mixed race.

Barack Obama's father was from Kenya and his mother was a white woman.  His parents met in Hawaii although his father abandoned his family when the future president was aged just two.
. . .
As part of his research into Mrs Obama's life, Mr Slevin uncovered an interview with WTTW's 'Chicago Tonight' show where Mrs Robinson addressed the issue of race.

She told the interviewer that his mixed-race heritage did not worry her.  'That didn’t concern me as much as had he been completely white.'
In the 20 second video that the Daily Mail includes in the article, Robinson says: "I guess that I worry about race mixing because of the difficulties", not out of "prejudice".

Of course it doesn't have to be one or the other.

(I find these tidbits interesting because, whatever it may have been in the beginning, the Obama marriage now reminds me of one of those arranged royal marriages that were once so common in Europe (and elsewhere).  Sometimes the couples in those marriages couldn't stand each other, sometimes they tolerated each other, sometimes they liked each other, and, very rarely, they loved each other.  But the marriages tended to be stable, as long as the political situation that produced them was stable.)
- 7:09 AM, 19 March 2015   [link]

How Bad Have Things Gotten in Venezuela?  So bad that even major league baseball teams are pulling out.
After 15 years of having a recruitment center in the country, the Seattle Mariners are packing their bags and leaving town for the Dominican Republic.

It’s the latest Major League Baseball team to abandon Venezuela (sixteen in the last decade), leaving only four MLB franchises in the Venezuelan Summer League (VSL), a league dedicated to finding possible prospects for the big league up north.
They aren't leaving because there is a lack of baseball talent in Venezuela; they are leaving because there is a lack of law and order.

(Venezuela has about three times as many people as the Dominican Republic.)
- 1:57 PM, 18 March 2015   [link]

Andrew Malcolm's Weekly Collection of jokes.

Vladimir Putin's unexplained absence drew some attention from the joke writers.
Conan: Vladimir Putin is back in public after a mysterious 10-day absence.  Putin said, “It took me that long to recover from ‘The Bachelor’ finale.”

Meyers: After his mysterious absence, Putin appears in public for the first time in nearly two weeks.  You know what that means: Boob job.
Those two are as good explanations as most of the others I've seen.

There were two other jokes that I especially liked:
The staff exodus in this administration has begun.  Pretty soon, the only one left reporting to Valerie Jarrett will be President Obama.
. . .
Meyers: Nancy Pelosi says she was "near tears" during Prime Minister Netanyahu's recent speech to Congress because it insulted American intelligence.  Please nobody tell Nancy Pelosi about 'The Bachelor.'
But that's probably just my partisanship showing.

(I'm not sure what prompted the jokes about "The Bachelor".  I'm compulsive enough so that I actually did a brief search, but didn't find an obvious answer.)
- 1:17 PM, 18 March 2015   [link]

Netanyahu's Party Won 23 Percent of The Israeli Vote; Netanyahu's Party Won A "Crushing Victory"  The first is certainly true; the second is the opinion of the Times of Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party was the clear winner in Tuesday’s election, a near-final tally showed early Wednesday morning, defeating the Zionist Union by a margin of some six seats.

That margin was far more decisive than TV exit polls had predicted when polling booths closed at 10 p.m. on Tuesday.  All three TV polls had put Likud and Zionist Union neck-and-neck at 27 seats, albeit with Netanyahu better-placed to form a coalition.
(I would probably say "solid", rather than "crushing", but I am no expert on Israeli politics.)

That combination may seem strange to Americans, who are used to plurality elections where a victory to be "crushing" usually requires at least 55 percent of the popular vote.

But it makes sense in a proportional system, like Israel's.  Netanyahu's new coalition government is likely to be a bit larger than his previous coalition — and that's what counts.

(Carl Bialik and Harry Enten (who are both pretty good with numbers) missed badly in their prediction.  The Huffpollster(s) says the pre-election polls weren't as bad as some people are saying.)
- 8:11 AM, 18 March 2015   [link]

The Least Transparent Administration Ever?  That might be too strong, but the Obama administration is certainly the least transparent in recent years.
For the second consecutive year, the Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn't find documents, and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy.

It also acknowledged in nearly 1 in 3 cases that its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law - but only when it was challenged.
Administration spokesman Josh Earnest said: "We actually do have a lot to brag about."

And, in a perverse way, he's right.

(The leaders of the Associated Press have had it with the Obama administration, and for good reason.  One of the breaking points was when Obama decided that photographs from inside the White House could come only from official White House photographers.)
- 6:32 AM, 18 March 2015   [link]

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

And if you would like to go beyond the green beer, the pinches for those not wearing green, the rivers dyed green, and, this year, the complaints that those who celebrate a particular kind of sins are not allowed in all the parades, you may want to read this Wikipedia biography of the saint.  We know little about the man for certain, but what little we do know is fascinating.

(Recycled from 2008, and if you still haven't read that article on St. Patrick, let me urge you to do so.)
- 3:01 PM, 17 March 2015   [link]

Two Reactions From Leftists On Ferguson:  Yesterday evening, I said that pragmatic leftists would drop Ferguson now that the story had been spoiled by the shootings of the police, and the arrest of one of the demonstrators, Jeffrey Williams.

Today, the Washington Post published a column by Jonathan Capehart, in which he gives up on Ferguson because "'Hands up, don’t shoot’ was built on a lie".
What DOJ found made me ill.  Wilson knew about the theft of the cigarillos from the convenience store and had a description of the suspects.  Brown fought with the officer and tried to take his gun.  And the popular hands-up storyline, which isn’t corroborated by ballistic and DNA evidence and multiple witness statements, was perpetuated by Witness 101.  In fact, just about everything said to the media by Witness 101, whom we all know as Dorian Johnson, the friend with Brown that day, was not supported by the evidence and other witness statements.
(DOJ = Department of Justice.  Capehart is referring to one of two recent reports on Ferguson, specifically the one that exonerated — let me repeat that — exonerated Officer Darren Wilson.)

Capehart does not mention the shooting of the two officers, nor the arrest of Jeffrey Williams, but I suspect those events help explain the timing of his column.

And Capehart is quite frank about his desire for another story that will support his conclusions.

In contrast, as I also predicted, radical leftists are not planning to give up on Ferguson.  It is too good a story for them — even though it happens not to be true.

(Kudos to Capehart for naming the source of many of the falsehoods.)
- 12:27 PM, 17 March 2015   [link]

Interested In The Israeli Election?  Here's the Wikipedia scorecard.

Which will, as they warn you, change as the returns come in.

I don't have any special insight into the election, so I will just remind you that Israel has a relatively pure form of proportional representation.   Israelis vote for party lists, not individual candidates.

In past elections that system sometimes gave small parties great power.
The use of multiple-member districts enables a greater variety of candidates to be elected.   The more representatives per district and the lower the minimum threshold of votes required for election the more minor parties can gain representation.  In emerging democracies, inclusion of minorities in the legislature can be essential for social stability and to consolidate the democratic process.[2]:58

Critics, on the other hand, claim this can give extreme parties a foothold in parliament, sometimes cited as a cause for the collapse of the Weimar government.  With very low thresholds, very small parties can act as "king-makers", holding larger parties to ransom during coalition discussions.  The example of Israel is often quoted,[2]:59
To make that less likely, the Israelis raised the threshold.
The 120 seats in the Knesset are elected by proportional representation in a single nationwide constituency.  The electoral threshold for the 2013 elections was 2%, but on 11 March 2014 the Knesset voted to raise the threshold to 3.25%.  The change may exclude many of the smaller parties, and could result in some mergers.  The vote was boycotted by the opposition.[9]  In almost all cases, this is equivalent to a minimum party size of four seats, but on rare occasions a party can end up with three.[10]
Which, no surprise, made many smaller parties join in alliances.

There are also "surplus-vote" agreements covering most of the major parties.

(I don't know what happens if two coalitions form, each with 60 votes.)
- 5:30 AM, 17 March 2015   [link]