May 2013, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Today's Michael Ramirez cartoon is brilliant.

(Check out Obama's recent Ohio State speech, if you are wondering where Ramirez got the idea for this cartoon.)
- 2:39 PM, 16 May 2013   [link]

Are You Wondering Why The Obama Administration Decided To Investigate The Associated Press?  This post probably describes what motivated that investigation.

(In my opinion, it is likely that the AP got its information from someone very high up in the Obama administration, who was boasting about their success in this case — and I do think the administration is right to investigate the leak; in fact, I would go even further and say that they are obligated to investigate the leak.  But I doubt that this fishing expedition is the right way to go about the investigation, if only because I assume most high-level leakers would not leave an obvious trail in the form of a phone record, or an email.)
- 1:55 PM, 16 May 2013   [link]

Some Of Obama's Poke-In-The-Eye Nominations have been ruled unconstitutional, again.
A second appeals court has joined the D.C. Circuit in ruling that President Barack Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional, concluding that some board actions taken in the wake of those appointments were also invalid.

The issue has far-reaching implications for both the NLRB and other boards, including Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has been a frequent target of conservatives and whose director was a recess appointment.
They were ruled unconstitutional because the Senate wasn't actually in recess.

If President Obama were trying to avoid gridlock, he would show more respect for the Senate (and the House, for that matter).

(You can find some background on the case here.  Please note:  the Senate was holding pro forma sessions when Obama made some of these appointments.  And, if I recall correctly, in some of these supposedly pro forma sessions, the Senate did take some actions.)
- 1:25 PM, 16 May 2013   [link]

Some Tourists have odd interests.
Massachusetts State Police and the FBI are investigating a late-night trespassing incident at the Quabbin Reservoir that has triggered increased patrols at water supply facilities around the state.
. . .
Seven people who claimed to be recently graduated chemical engineering students — five men and two women — will be summoned to Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown for trespassing at the reservoir at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.  Police declined to release the names of those involved in advance of a court date, but said they reside in Northampton, Sunderland, Amherst, Cambridge and New York City.

They also said a preliminary investigation by authorities suggests the individuals originally are from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.
You wouldn't think they would have a very good view of the reservoir at 12:30 in the morning.
- 6:50 AM, 16 May 2013   [link]

For Chris Matthews, The Thrill is gone.
President Obama "obviously likes giving speeches more than he does running the executive branch," Chris Matthews said tonight.

Yes, you read that right:  The MSNBC host who in 2008 felt a "thrill going up my leg" after hearing Obama speak has grown disenchanted.  Tonight's episode of Hardball saw Matthews delivering a rare, unforgiving grilling of the president as severe as anything that might appear on Fox News.
(At least temporarily.)

I suppose we have to give Matthews a little credit for, finally, noticing the obvious.
- 5:25 AM, 16 May 2013   [link]

Are "Mainstream" Journalists Catching On To President Obama?   Perhaps.
Republicans have waited five years for the moment to put the screws to Obama — and they have one-third of all congressional committees on the case now.  Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this president to begin with, are starting to speak out.  And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.
. . .
Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats.  And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.

This White House’s instinctive petulance, arrogance and defensiveness have all worked to isolate Obama at a time when he most needs a support system.  “It feel like they don’t know what they’re here to do,” a former senior Obama administration official said. “When there’s no narrative, stuff like this consumes you.”
I'm partisan enough so that I can't resist stringing all those charges together:  According to some of our mainstream reporters, President Obama is a liar, a bully, shady, aloof, holier-than-thou, petulant, arrogant, and defensive.

No doubt Obama has some good points, too, but none of them are mentioned in the article.

(You would almost think that David Freddoso was right in 2008:
Obama's ethnic pedigree understandably attracts much interest and fascination.   But it is far less interesting than his unusual political pedigree.   He is the product of a marriage between two of the least attractive parts of Democratic politics—the hard-core radicalism of the 1960s era and Chicago's Machine politics. (pp. x-xi)
In 2008, I used that description of Obama to make some predictions about how his presidency would go.  Decide for yourself how accurate those predictions have been, so far.)
- 7:42 AM, 15 May 2013   [link]

BC Surprises Everyone:  Last night, I decided I would watch a few minutes of the election coverage from the Canadian province to my north, enough so that I could see whether the province's National Democratic Party would win, as all the polls predicted.

(I brushed up a little bit on the issues and candidates and learned that the ruling Liberals, who, I must repeat, are not associated with the federal Liberal Party in Canada, had been tarred by scandals and had a new and untested leader, Christy Clark.  Moreover, the province's once almost-dead Conservative Party had shown signs of life, and was likely to take votes away from the Liberals.) As I watched, the CBC broadcasters went from mild surprise that the Liberals had a lead in the early returns to considerable surprise as the later results added to the Liberal lead.

How big a surprise was this for the pollsters?  About 14 points.
Mainstream pollsters also wound up with egg on their face.  Not a single one gave an inkling the NDP would squander the solid lead they enjoyed in the polls right up to voting day.

On the eve of the election, Angus Reid had the New Democrats ahead by nine percentage points.  Instead, the party finished five points behind the Liberals, an astonishing swing of 14 points.
Which is way too large to be explained by sampling error.

What happened?  There's a clue in the Wikipedia article, which I will trust for the moment.  The Liberal share of the vote did decline, by 1.42 percent to 45.82 percent, but the NDP support declined even more, by 2.66 percent to 42.15 percent.

But the polls were very close on the third and fourth parties, the Greens and the Conservatives; each received about 1 percent less than the polls predicted.

So the polls underestimated the support for the ruling Liberal Party (which by BC standards is "conservative") and overestimated the support for the socialist NDP, but got the other parties about right.

Probably, the most obvious explanation for the Liberal win is correct.  In spite of the scandals and the new leader, the voters chose not to give control of the government to the NDP, which had been disastrous when it was last in power, and didn't seem to have learned from its failures.

Why didn't the pollsters pick that up?  They don't seem to know, and neither do I.

On the whole, the Liberal win is likely to mean better relations between British Columbia and their neighbors than an NDP win would have.

(Oh, and one more mild surprise:  Christy Clark chose to run in a swing riding — and lost.  So some back bencher will have to resign so they can have a special election and put her in the Legislative Assembly.)
- 5:57 AM, 15 May 2013   [link]

The Polls Closed 18 Minutes Ago In British Columbia:   Didn't know they were having an election?  Then you probably don't live in Canada, since the provincial election has drawn very little attention elsewhere.

But there are some interesting lessons in the election, especially for Americans.

The socialist New Democratic Party has been leading in all the polls, and they are expected to defeat the ruling Liberal Party.

At this point you may be wondering what happened to Canada's ruling Conservative Party.   Don't they have a chance in this election?

No.  In fact they last won a single seat in the Legislative Assembly (as they call their provincial parliament) in 1978.

But things are not as bad for conservative voters as that might suggest.  Canada's parties are far more decentralized than the parties in the United States and, although the British Columbia Liberal Party has the same name as the national party, it has been "completely independent of the federal Liberals" since 1987.

This Wikipedia article describes the party as both "conservative" and "neoliberal".  By American standards, the party would be center right.

Which for real conservatives makes it preferable to the leftist NDP.

But, if they would rather vote their heart, the Conservative Party of British Columbia has had a small revival in recent years and is offering candidates in more ridings (districts) than it has in the past.

If I were voting in this election, I might vote tactically.  If I were in a riding that was closely balanced between the Liberal and the NDP candidates, I would vote for the Liberal, as long as the candidate wasn't completely obnoxious.  In a riding where there was no doubt about who would win, I would vote for the Conservative candidate, if one was available.

(There are many other parties to choose from, though not all of them are running candidates.  The Platinum Party of Employers Who Think and Act to Increase Awareness has a great name, and some may like the Work Less Party of British Columbia for the same reason.)
- 8:18 PM, 14 May 2013   [link]

Rooseveltian, Kennedyesque, Johnsonian, Nixonian, And Clintonian:  All of those are adjectives that could be used to describe a president's use of the Internal Revenue Service against political enemies.

You'll see the fourth adjective, "Nixonian", most often used that way, but there is a strong argument that Nixon deserves it the least of the five.

Let's start with an example from the first president in that little list:
Although Nixon was notorious for treating the I.R.S. as though it were his private domain, the records show that Franklin Delano Roosevelt may have set the stage for the use of the tax agency for political purposes by most subsequent Presidents.

One of the most brazen instances of a political vendetta during a Presidency was the Roosevelt Administration's attack on Andrew Mellon.  No historian has been able to determine why Mellon so enraged F.D.R., but there is speculation that the New Deal President saw the millionaire who served as Republican Treasury Secretary from 1921 to 1932 - a time of Wall Street excesses followed by the Great Depression - as the symbolic enemy.   Nor has a document emerged that directly links Roosevelt to the decision to go after Mellon.
But go after him, the Roosevelt administration did — with, we can be certain, at least the tacit approval of FDR himself.

The Roosevelt administration didn't just try to hurt its political enemies with the IRS, it also helped its friends, from time to time.

The Kennedy administration followed the Roosevelt example, and took it further, even targeting whole classes of churches.
On many occasions, the pressure to use the agency as an instrument to curb dissent came from the White House.  John F. Kennedy mobilized the I.R.S. against the right-wing, fundamentalist Christian ministers who had been so critical of his religion during his Presidential campaign and his first months in office.
(In every election during my life time, many churches have violated the law by open electioneering.  In recent elections, this has been especially common in the black churches that routinely support Democratic candidates.  As far as I know, no Republican administration has targeted these churches.)

The Kennedy administration used the IRS (and other federal agencies) against its political enemies in many ways.  If you want a fairly complete compilation of their sins, you might want to find a copy of Victor Lasky"s It Didn't Start With Watergate.

For example:
Specifically, on his return to California following his 1960 political defeat, the man who lost the presidency by a handful of votes found himself being audited by the Internal Revenue Service.  As did Robert H. Finch, one of his 1960 campaign managers.  The experience wasn't too pleasant for either Nixon or Finch, involving, as it did a time-consuming search for documents of all kinds, but in the end their tax returns were found to be in order. (p. 55)
Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy's successor, used the IRS in similar ways against his political enemies.

And Nixon?  According to Lasky, John Dean prepared a silly "enemies list" of McGovern supporters, and sent a request to the IRS to have some on it investigated.  Nixon didn't know about the list — and Nixon's Treasury Secretary, George P. Schultz, told the IRS Commissioner, Johnnie Walters, to ignore it. (pp. 332-333)

If you look carefully at the Nixon impeachment counts, you'll see that he was accused of trying to use the IRS against his political opponents, not of using the IRS against his political opponents.

As Mickey Kaus reminds us, we can add Bill Clinton to that list of presidents who have used the IRS against their political opponents.
I always thought the number of Bill Clinton enemies audited by his Internal Revenue Service was a bit high to be coincidental.
Take a look at some of his partial lists, if you want to see why Kaus came to that conclusion.

If we were picking a president's name to turn into an adjective suggesting improper use of the IRS and other federal agencies, we would probably decide that Rooseveltian or Kennedyesque would be a better choice than Nixonian.

Finally, a brief point about the current IRS scandal:  Many officials in the IRS and the Obama administration would know about these other, non-Nixon scandals, and would know that the administrations that committed those abuses mostly got away with them.

(What about the other post-war presidents?  Did Truman, Eisenhower, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41,or Bush 43 use the IRS against their political enemies?  Not that I know of, but I won't say that means it didn't happen.

Thanks to commenter "Grurray" for that link to the informative, if dated, catalog of IRS abuses.)
- 2:11 PM, 14 May 2013   [link]

The Last Labour Government In Britain Decided Their Nation Needed To Be More Diverse:  And so they encouraged mass immigration.
Labour sent out ‘search parties’ for immigrants to get them to come to the UK, Lord Mandelson has admitted.

In a stunning confirmation that the Blair and Brown governments deliberately engineered mass immigration, the former Cabinet Minister and spin doctor said New Labour sought out foreign workers.

He also conceded that the influx of arrivals meant the party’s traditional supporters are now unable to find work.
According to another Labour insider, Andrew Neather, one of the purposes of the policy was to "rub the Right’s nose in diversity".

There are parallels to these Labour policies in many other countries, including the United States.

(Peter Mandelson has had, to say the least, an interesting political career.)
- 9:12 AM, 14 May 2013   [link]

"Indoor Pot Production Leaves Giant Carbon Footprint"  Here's another dilemma for our Greens, most of whom favor marijuana use, strongly.
Marijuana growing is not a green industry.

Done mostly indoors in Washington, pot production often uses hospital-intensity lamps, air conditioning, dehumidifiers, fans and carbon-dioxide generators to stimulate plants and boost their potency.

The power-hungry crops rival data centers or server farms in intense use of electricity, according to a peer-reviewed study last year in the journal Energy Policy.  One kilo, or 2.2 pounds, of pot grown indoors, the study says, leaves a carbon footprint equivalent to driving across the country seven times.  Producing one joint is equivalent to leaving a light bulb on for 25 hours.
(I'm particularly charmed by their use of "carbon dioxide generators".)

Why not grow it outside?  The security problems are worse when it isn't grown in a closed building, as the article explains.  And it is easier to grow more potent marijuana indoors.

(Oddly, the article doesn't mention the little problem of federal laws, except for this promise from Governor Jay Inslee:
Inslee did address the subject on a radio show earlier this year.  He said he assured U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that Washington will keep its weed from leaking into other states, and there may be security reasons for keeping pot production under lights, behind locked warehouse doors.
If there is a practical way Governor Inslee can keep our marijuana from "leaking into other states", he hasn't shared it with us.)
- 7:47 AM, 14 May 2013   [link]

Poke-In-The-Eye Nominations And Gridlock:  In this thoughtful post, Jazz Shaw argues that President Obama mostly deserves to have his nominations confirmed.
But with all that said, confirmations are something that have to happen in every administration.  I’ve certainly been criticized here for saying it before, but Obama did win the election, and he’s only going to nominate people who reflect his views.  If we want better nominees who agree with us, we need to do a better job of winning presidential elections.
I won't quarrel with Shaw's general principle, nor will I quarrel with his observation that both parties have politicized these confirmation fights in recent years.  (In my opinion, the worst part of this politicization is the delays, where a party attempts to win on a nomination by wearing the other side out, rather than with a direct vote.)

That said, a president can deliberately provoke a confirmation fight — and many presidents have done just that.  To provoke a confirmation fight, a president will nominate a poke-in-the-eye candidate, a man or woman who is not just disagreeable to the other party, but painful to them.

To see how this works, consider an opposite example, Robert Gates.  After the Republicans lost the 2006 election, George W. Bush could have chosen a new Secretary of Defense who annoyed Democrats, or worse.  Instead, he brought in an experienced, respected, and, above all, bland man, Robert Gates.

Bush showed that he was not trying to provoke a nomination fight with the Democrats.  And Barack Obama showed that he was not trying to provoke a nomination fight with the Republicans when he asked Gates to stay on, and then followed him with Leon Panetta.

(Panetta was not the worst choice, but Obama should not have accepted his condition, that he be able to spend his weekends in California.)

But then, having lost the House in 2010 and 2012, Obama decided to go for a poke-in-the-eye nomination, Chuck Hagel, for Secretary of Defense.  Obama picked a man that he should have known was unacceptable to many Republicans.

(It is possible that Obama did not know that when he made the nomination, but Republicans made it clear immediately afterward that Hagel was not their favorite for the position.   When that happened, Obama could have withdrawn the nomination.)

And Obama made similar poke-in-the-eye choices when he nominated Thomas Perez for Labor Secretary, and Gina McCarthy to head the scandal-plagued EPA.

So, yes, Republicans should delay fewer nominations — and Obama should not go out of his way to provoke Republicans, as he has been doing in his second term.

(I borrowed the "poke-in-the-eye" phrase from this Glenn Thrush article.)
- 5:07 PM, 13 May 2013   [link]

Australia's Capital, Canberra, Is Celebrating Its 100th Birthday with a "skywhale" balloon that has to be seen to be believed.
This spectacular monster was actually created to celebrate the capital’s centenary, although some failed to detect the link between 100 years of Canberra and a hot air balloon that looks like something Benny Hill might have hallucinated if he’d been an opium-addicted marine biologist.
In fact, even after you have seen it there, you might have trouble believing it, so here's some coverage from the Australia Broadcasting Corporation, with video, and more pictures.

(As a science fiction fan, I kind of like the balloon, although I have been unable, so far, to think of any connection between the beast and Canberra's centenary.

But I do think it might inspire a science fiction writer.  I'd suggest explaining it with genetic engineering, since it doesn't look at all natural.)
- 8:31 AM, 13 May 2013   [link]

More White House/News Media Family Connections:  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Ben Rhodes, the White House speechwriter and foreign policy advisor, has a brother in an influential position — president of CBS News.

There are more family connections, as we learn from an interview on Fox News.
RICHARD GRENELL: I think the media's becoming the story, let's face it.  CBS News President David Rhodes and ABC News President Ben Sherwood, both of them have siblings that not only work at the White House, that not only work for President Obama, but they work at the NSC on foreign policy issues directly related to Benghazi. Let's call a spade a spade.

Let's also show you why CNN did not go very far in covering these hearings because the CNN deputy bureau chief, Virginia Moseley, is married to Hillary Clinton’s deputy, Tom Nides.  It is time for the media to start asking questions why are they not covering this.  It's a family matter for some of them.
As you almost certainly know, ABC's George Stephanopoulos got his start as a Clinton aide.

And there are more such connections, which don't seem to embarrass these news organizations, at all.

Rhodes describes himself as foreign policy realist.  Whether the advice he gives to President Obama is realistic or not is a matter for another post — but he does seem to have used his connections realistically.

(Ben Rhodes has another useful connection; his wife, Ann Marie Norris, is a "Senior Foreign Policy and Defense Adviser" to Senator Barbara Boxer (Democrat, California).

There's a small story from the Clinton years that shows how these connections can turn into jobs.  When the Monica Lewinsky scandal was about to break, President Clinton suggested of one of his aides that they send her to CNN to get her out of the way.  He seemed certain, in the report that I saw, that he could get her a job there, with just a phone call to the president of CNN, in spite of the fact that Lewinsky had no obvious qualifications for a job at the news organization.)
- 7:26 AM, 13 May 2013   [link]

Global Warming in Minnesota.

(As usual, here's my disclaimer, with my usual apology for not having updated it.)
- 6:40 AM, 13 May 2013   [link]

Those IRS Officials Knew Suspicious Behavior when they saw it.
The Internal Revenue Service's scrutiny of conservative groups went beyond those that had "tea party" or "patriot" in their names—as the agency admitted Friday—to also include ones that raised concerns over government spending, debt or taxes, and even ones that lobbied to "make America a better place to live," according to new details of a government probe.
If wanting to "make America a better place to live" isn't suspicious, I don't know what is.
- 6:29 PM, 12 May 2013   [link]

Barry Swegle Won't Win any good neighbor awards.
A man angry at his neighbors went on a rampage in a bulldozer Friday on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, damaging four homes, knocking one off its foundation and cutting power to thousands of people, authorities said.

Barry Alan Swegle was booked into the Clallam County Jail for investigation of malicious mischief following the incident in Port Angeles, 65 miles west of Seattle.
According to other stories I've seen, Swegle and his neighbors have had some kind of property dispute, for years.

It does seem that he might have found a better way to resolve that dispute.
- 6:12 PM, 12 May 2013   [link]

The NYT Knows How To Lie With Statistics:  Yesterday's lead story, "Heat-Trapping Gas Passes Milestone, Raising Fears", was illustrated by a chart that would have delighted Darrell Huff, the author of that little classic, How To Lie With Statistics.

Suppose you want to make the changes in a chart more dramatic.  As Huff explained, one of the most common tricks is to chop off the bottom.  Suppose, for instance, your company has increased its profits from $180 to $400 million in the last ten years.  That pleasant result will look much more dramatic if you set the bottom of the chart at $180 million, rather than zero.

And that's just what the New York Times did, in showing the rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  It has, they say, been bouncing around between 180 and 280 parts per million — that's right, per million — for hundreds of thousands of years, but it has just now reached one of those round numbers that get journalists excited, 400 parts per million.

And so to make that more dramatic, the Times chart is chopped off at the bottom; instead of showing the values on a zero to 400 parts per million scale, it shows them on a 180 to 400 parts per million scale.

And it does look way more dramatic that way.

You will, probably, not be surprised to learn that the article does not mention an inconvenient truth, that the earth has not warmed in the last fifteen years, or that the article includes this:
Climate-change contrarians, who have little scientific credibility but are politically influential in Washington, point out that carbon dioxide represents only a tiny fraction of of the air — as of Thursday's reading, exactly 0.04 percent.
(Emphasis added.)

The reporter on this story, Justin Gillis, may not be as open-minded on this subject as one would like.

(There are times when chopping off a chart would be appropriate — but this isn't one of them.)
- 5:20 PM, 12 May 2013   [link]

Meet A "Snowflake" Baby:  Cute, isn't she?
One local family has a baby girl who was once the frozen embryo of an Arizona couple.

Ten-month-old Ashley is a giggling, curious baby. Her mom said she's a miracle, a child she carried in her womb, who isn't genetically related to her or her husband.  After discovering they couldn't have their own biological children, Samantha and Jordan Fife used traditional, costly adoptions for their two older girls, Michaela, 6, and Heidi, 3.
(By "local", they mean in Brush Prairie, Washington.)

And then the Fifes learned about these "snowflake" babies, and now have one more child to love.

It's a little strange to think of a baby being born nine months after it was adopted, or for those who insist on the legal meaning of the word, "adopted".

There's a little more in this Wikipedia article, and more at a site that arranges these adoptions, Nightlight.

Naturally, the Obama administration doesn't support these adoptions.

(Interestingly, there is a religious split on these adoptions.
The donation of embryos is a growing trend, with popularity in some religious communities, including evangelical Christians and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  However, the Catholic Church cautions against embryo adoption, saying embryos should not be created in labs.
I don't happen to have a Catholic theologian handy, but I suspect that one would say that it was wrong to create these embryos — and even more wrong to discard them.)
- 3:13 PM, 12 May 2013   [link]

Happy Mother's Day!  To all the mothers out there.

Mother's Day duck, 2012

(This mother duck has six more ducklings, besides the three you see in the picture, to look after.  But she still has time to take a brief break to preen her feathers, as she was doing just before I snapped this picture.)

Recycled from last year.

And, if you need more ducks, and some flowers, you can find them here.

(I do have a mother duck picture from this year, but not one I particularly like.)
- 9:13 AM, 12 May 2013   [link]

Kudos To Instapundit Glenn Reynolds:  When President Obama joked about using the Internal Revenue Service against his foes, Reynolds told Obama that there are some things a president shouldn't joke about.

Reynolds was right.  (And he has links to more information, at his site.)

Right now, I don't think that President Obama, or anyone directly under him, asked the IRS to audit conservative groups.  But I do think that Obama's loose talk might have inspired some mid-level IRS people to do what they thought their president wanted them to do.

(Was Obama entirely joking in 2009?  Or was that joke partly a little hint to his political opponents?  I think it might have been.  That kind of hint wouldn't seem wrong to any modern graduate of the Chicago school of politics.)
- 12:38 PM, 11 May 2013   [link]

Three Cartoons From The New Yorker:  From Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  I think fans of the performing arts will like the first best, technologists the second, and investors the third.
- 10:09 AM, 10 May 2013   [link]

A "Facility", Not A Consulate:  In the post below, Noonan makes an error that was almost universal at the time of our attack on our facility in Benghazi.  It was not, despite what most news stories said, a consulate.   What exactly it was is still unclear, which is why it is now often referred to as a "facility".  Since we don't know exactly what the compound was being used for, we give it a vague name.

Most likely, it was there to provide occasional diplomatic support to a nearby CIA station, but we don't really know, officially.

(There has been much speculation about the reasons for Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens' visit to the facility the night he was murdered.  I hope that we learn those reasons in the course of these hearings, but I don't expect that we will.)
- 9:50 AM, 10 May 2013   [link]

Worth Reading:  Peggy Noonan's take on Benghazi.

What happened in Benghazi last Sept. 11 and 12 was terrible in every way.  The genesis of the scandal?  It looks to me like this:

The Obama White House sees every event as a political event. Really, every event, even an attack on a consulate and the killing of an ambassador.

Because of that, it could not tolerate the idea that the armed assault on the Benghazi consulate was a premeditated act of Islamist terrorism.  That would carry a whole world of unhappy political implications, and demand certain actions.  And the American presidential election was only eight weeks away.  They wanted this problem to go away, or at least to bleed the meaning from it.
As you may recall, Noonan endorsed Obama in 2008, which makes her disillusion even more interesting.

(I can't say that I understood her thinking in 2008.  If I had to guess, I would say that she was weary of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and blamed them on Bush and the Republicans.  I would also guess that, like some libertarians who backed Obama, she paid too much attention to some of what he said, and too little attention to what he had done, and not done.)
- 9:34 AM, 10 May 2013   [link]

The Koch Brothers Are Libertarians, Not Conservatives:   I haven't followed them closely, but I know that.  I knew, for example, about this little hint in a brief Wikipedia biography.
Koch was the Libertarian Party's vice-presidential candidate in the 1980 presidential election, sharing the party ticket with presidential candidate Ed Clark.
That's right; the younger brother ran against the conservative Reagan/Bush ticket in 1980.

There is much more evidence of their libertarian views available, to anyone who wants to look.

However, now that the Koch brothers are considering buying the Los Angeles Times, their enemies on the left are calling them conservatives — and the New York Times is echoing that claim.
An effort by conservative billionaires to take over the Los Angeles Times and seven other newspapers is setting off a firestorm of opposition here.
By my quick count, "conservative" appears two more times in the article, "right-wing" once, and "libertarian" not at all.

Leftists often confuse libertarians and conservatives — which is a pretty amazing mistake, when you think about it.

I'm not familiar with the second reporter on the story, Christine Haughney, but the first, Adam Nagourney, has been around long enough to know some of the differences between libertarians and conservatives.

(I'll be sending an email to Times, asking them to make a correction.)
- 8:59 AM, 10 May 2013   [link]

If You Had A Chance To Talk To A Man Who Walked On The Moon, Would You Take It?  I would.  But President Obama didn't.  Instead, he ignored Buzz Aldrin on a long Air Force 1 flight, and then used Aldrin as a prop in a photo-op.

Leftists are often embarrassed by the Apollo program and the moon landings, because they were an American victory.

Obama may not have wanted to listen to Aldrin, knowing that Aldrin disagreed with him on space policy.  (Our president is not a good listener.)

Even so, it is a strange man who doesn't even want to chat with Buzz Aldrin for a few minutes about that moon landing.

(Bryan Preston has a little more, including a photo showing Aldrin's reaction.)
- 7:02 AM, 10 May 2013   [link]

Glenn Kessler On What We Have Learned From The Benghazi Hearings:  The Washington Post "fact checker" has written a post that is instructive on two levels.

First, Kessler gives us a useful summary of what's new, and what isn't.  For example:
So it is not new that there was no protest.  That’s been officially well established.   It is also not new that many officials knew it was a terrorist attack.

What is new is that [former U.S. deputy chief of mission Gregory] Hicks has put a human face on previous reporting.  He also disclosed he spoke directly to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton the night of the attack, presumably relaying his conclusions.
Second, Kessler gives us an example of the extreme reluctance of "mainstream" journalists to draw the obvious conclusions from what we knew before, and what we learned in the hearings.
One generally presumes that top government officials have access to classified information and firsthand accounts not available to the media.  But in this case either their judgments were colored by media accounts as well — or they took advantage of the media’s reporting to obscure some politically difficult news.
In that paragraph, Kessler first offers an alibi for the administration — blaming news sources — and then, realizing the alibi is not plausible, says they decided to "obscure some politically difficult news".

Similarly, when Mark Sanford told everyone he had been hiking on the Appalachian Trail, he was just trying to "obscure some politically difficult news".

What makes that paragraph even sadder is that Kessler follows it with some intelligent comments on how the administration often implied that an obscure video had lead to a protest and an attack on our "facility" in Benghazi, without actually saying that it had.

I suppose that we have to give Kessler some credit for going as far as he has, but only some credit.

Tom Bevan, unlike Kessler, recognizes the obvious:
So, while we may not have been treated to any “bombshell” revelations Wednesday, the testimony of Thompson, Hicks and Nordstrom and a fair reading of the record leads to an obvious conclusion: The president and his administration clearly misled the public about what happened on Sept. 11, 2012.
There are still many mysteries about Benghazi, but that conclusion is one that any reasonable person, not blinded by partisanship, should accept.
- 6:43 PM, 9 May 2013   [link]

Native Americans Aren't:  If, by "Native", you mean not that you were born here, but that all of your ancestors were born here , too.   Although the dates of the settlement of the Americas are much debated, there is no doubt that all of our ancestors came from somewhere else.  Including the ancestors of Native Americans.

But those scientific findings appear not to have reached the Obama White House.

Incidentally, many tribes in the Americas arrived at what we think of their ancestral homelands long after the Americas were settled.  The Apache, for instance, arrived in Southwest "sometime after AD 1000", in other words, about the same time that Norse explorers were settling Greenland, and exploring a little bit of the North American coast.

(There are tribes that assert that they always lived where they were found by settlers.   Their beliefs deserve the respect you give to religions other than your own — but you should know that there is no archaeological evidence to support them.)
- 3:14 PM, 9 May 2013   [link]

Are Choco Pies Undermining The North Korean Regime?   Possibly.
World leaders have tried aid, lectures, sanctions and engagement.  But the long-term future of North Korea may be partly determined by a small, round, sugary snack from the South given as a reward to North Korean workers, say analysts.

"Choco Pies are an important mind-changing instrument," said Andrei Lankov, author of The Real North Korea and a leading expert on the country.

"It has become a symbol of South Korean prosperity – and North Koreans read it.  They are suffering and starving, but thanks to Choco Pies, DVDs and large-scale labour migration to China, people don't buy the old story [that the South is even poorer] and the government does not sell it any more."
It's a sweet thought, and may be true.

(If this Wikipedia article is correct, Choco Pies were invented here in the United States, and then copied by Japanese and Korean companies.)
- 7:08 AM, 9 May 2013   [link]

Is The Accused Cleveland Kidnapper, Ariel Castro, A Registered Democrat?   Probably.
According to voter registration records, Ariel Castro, the Cleveland kidnapper, is a registered Democrat.  He was also the alleged leader among the three Castro brothers, who were arrested this week, and the owner of the house at 2207 Seymour Ave., where the three abducted local women had been kept in captivity for over a decade.
I haven't checked those records, but, given what we know about Castro, he is likely to be a Democrat.  Or at least registered as one.

Among other things, he was probably a member of a public employees union while he was driving that school bus — and members of those unions are very likely to be Democrats, especially in large cities.

(He was able to keep his job as a bus driver after some odd events, which suggests that he had some job protection from union membership.)
- 6:38 AM, 9 May 2013   [link]