September 2014, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

More On The Rotherham Child Sex Scandal from Sam Schulman.

Here's a telling detail:
Two weeks ago, the British press broke the news contained in Professor Alexis Jay’s “Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham.”  Between 1997 and 2013, Jay estimated, 1,400 young girls in that Yorkshire town were exploited: gang-raped, trafficked to other cities, threatened, beaten, and forced to bring other girls into the network.  The police did not respond to emergency calls from the girls and their families; fathers reported being threatened and even arrested for complaining.  The victims and the authorities knew that “by far the majority of perpetrators” were “Asian,” meaning Pakistani/Kashmiri Muslims, who constitute about 3.7 percent of Rotherham’s population of 260,000.   Members of this group dominate the town’s taxi industry, and therefore had easy access to victims.  The perpetrators were not merely pimps: They also dealt drugs and sold guns.  Yet during the 17-year period she studied, Jay found, “councillors did not engage directly with the Pakistani-heritage community to discuss how best they could jointly address the issue.”
(Emphasis added.)

Especially if you live in one of those American cities with many taxi drivers from similar backgrounds.

There's much more in the article.

And for Americans who think it can't happen here, I'll repeat what I have said before:  it probably already has, on a smaller scale.

(For the record:  I don't think that authorities should have spent much time trying to engage the "Pakistani-heritage community".  I think they authorities should have spent their time arresting and convicting the criminals, even if the criminals happened to belong to that community.)
- 7:28 AM, 8 September 2014   [link]

It's An Old Joke:  But not everyone has heard it, as you can tell from the post.

And, unfortunately, it still makes a valid point.

(How old?  I don't recall exactly when I first read it, perhaps two or three decades ago, and even then it had been around a while.)
- 6:46 AM, 8 September 2014   [link]

In Lawrence Ulrich's Review of the latest Volkswagen Golfs, I found an almost unmentionable fact, some possibly useful information, and some amusing writing.

In order:  Ulrich notes that Americans don't like hatchbacks — but are quite fond of SUVs, which have lift gates, which is the defining characteristic of a hatchback .    Years ago, when I saw my first luxury SUV, I thought, immediately, that it looked like a VW Golf that had been pumped up, making it larger, and a little rounder, but preserving the essential shape.  (By the way, you may not want to tell your SUV-owning friends that SUVs are a sort of large hatchback, if they share the usual American prejudice against hatchbacks.  I've done that just once, and regretted it.)

Ulrich makes these claims about mileage:
Yet while the E.P.A. rules tend to overstate hybrid mileage, they vastly underestimate diesels’ real-world economy.  In my testing, the TDI effortlessly delivered 50 to 53 m.p.g. even as I cruised at 65 to 70 miles per hour and passed dawdlers at will.  And in an admittedly Prius-like run, holding at a resolute 55 m.p.h., the TDI sipped at a wallet-friendly 60 m.p.g.
I wouldn't be surprised to learn that EPA rules favor hybrids, but it does surprise me that they disadvantage diesels, assuming he is right in that claim.

Finally, I have to like a man who can say — in the New York Times — something this politically incorrect:
In stark contrast to a Prius, a car in which I feel my life force oozing away with every mile, the VW isn’t a sluggish chore to drive.  The Golf is richly designed and executed, and it is economical and fun to drive even when you’re running to the drugstore for a prescription.
Car guys, even car guys who work for the Times, don't seem compelled to be politically correct, or to write boring articles.
- 5:13 PM, 7 September 2014   [link]

Michael Hayden, who knows way more about these encounters than I do, explains why it is better if our presidents are briefed in person.
Thursday on "Kilmeade and Friends," Ret. U.S. Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA and NSA, told Fox News Radio host Brian Kilmeade that because President Barack Obama preferred to read his intelligence briefings instead of engaging with officials and asking questions like former President George W. Bush, it was not easy to get the assessments across to the current commander-in-chief.
In short, by reading the intelligence briefs, Obama finds it easier to continue to believe what he wants to believe, regardless of whether what he believes in consistent with the facts.

Obama isn't unusual in believing what he wants to believe — everyone I have ever met makes that mistake from time to time — but it does show, again, one of his weaknesses as an executive:  He doesn't encourage other people to challenge his thinking.  And this is something that every smart executive should learn to do, if they want to succeed.
- 4:48 PM, 7 September 2014   [link]

"That's So Last Year."  If you overheard someone saying that, what would you guess they were talking about?

Fashion, right?  To be specific, probably clothes.

And it might be, but it also could be academic ideas, or even politics.  It is no big secret that fashion plays a part in every academic discipline and, some would say, the predominant part in some.

It is not hard to understand why:  Fashion gives us thinking shortcuts; instead of having to look hard at evidence and reasoning, we can just go along with what most of our peers have decided is right this year, this decade, or this century.  We will get along with them, and we will save time and effort.

Similarly, political ideas can receive support not because they are are sound, but because they are fashionable.  And, occasionally, you even see articles that say that.

Example:  In the last year or so, many political pundits have been toying with libertarian ideas, not because those ideas have more or less going for them than they did a few years ago, but because those ideas are fashionable — in some circles.  (For the record, I think there is merit in some libertarian ideas, but not in others — and I haven't changed my mind on that in some time.)

If you understand how fashion often rules our thinking, you will understand why President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry sometimes appeal to fashion when they are discussing events.  For example, recently Obama said: "One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century."  And recently, speaking about Russia, Kerry said: “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext."

Translated, Obama said that's so last century, and Kerry said that's so 19th century.

And each appeared to believe that he had made a complete argument in what he said — and each had, in terms of fashion, in his circle

But neither gave us any reason to think that human nature magically changed when we entered the 21st century, or that everyone agreed with their fashionable views.
- 3:37 PM, 7 September 2014   [link]

First Fallout From the Kent Sorenson scandal.
Jesse Benton, who had worked as the campaign manager for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election bid, said Friday he would resign.

The veteran operative with close ties to the Paul family released a lengthy statement making the announcement.  The Lexington Herald-Leader first reported Benton’s resignation, which is effective Saturday.

The move comes just two days after a former Iowa state senator admitted to accepting $73,000 in concealed payments from former Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign.   In exchange for the money, that individual, Kent Sorenson, switched endorsements from Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., to Paul, a Texas Republican.
Since I don't know anything about Benton's possible role in this scandal, I won't say anything about this resignation.

But I will make this tentative general observation:  Almost every politician attracts at least a few supporters who are sure that their opponents are cheating, and that it is only realistic to cheat, too.  It seems to me, watching Ron and Rand Paul, that they haveattracted more such supporters than most American politicians.

And that is as far as I'll go with that speculation.
- 8:43 AM, 5 September 2014   [link]

Presidential Fashion Faux Pas:  After President Obama was criticized for wearing a tan suit, the Daily Mail collected a set of pictures that showed him, and other presidents, making what they consider to be fashion faux pas.

Some of the pictures are pretty funny, but to me most of them just show our presidents wearing the casual kinds of clothes that most American men wear from time to time.  Which may just show that you should never ask me for fashion advice.

For the record:  I don't see anything wrong with Obama's tan suit.

Also for the record:  George W. Bush was invited to pat that beach volleyball player's rear — a traditional way of saying good luck in that sport — but refused.
- 7:43 AM, 5 September 2014   [link]

In 1940, George Orwell Came Close To Explaining The Appeal Of ISIS:  In his review of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, Orwell wrote:
Also he [Hitler] has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life.  Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all “progressive” thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and avoidance of pain.  In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues.  The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do.  Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades.  However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life.  The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarised version of Socialism.
Change "loyalty-parades" to "religious services", and you will be most of the way to understanding why some are attracted to ISIS.

(Orwell might not have agreed with this extension of his argument.  Like most other intellectuals of his time and place, he tended to underestimate the importance of religion in human affairs.)
- 1:26 PM, 4 September 2014   [link]

Stephen Pellegrini Is An Unlikely Rescuer:  But, when he saw a woman being attacked, he did the right thing.
When he heard screams and saw the blood, Stephen Pellegrini knew he had to do something.

The 52-year-old Renton man was driving to a friend’s house on Beacon Hill Wednesday morning when he spotted two dogs relentlessly mauling a woman near Beacon Avenue South and South Cloverdale Street. He stopped his car and jumped out to help.

“The female was rolling around and covered in blood,” said Pellegrini, noting that several people were standing around without offering to help the woman.
Pellegrini stopped, fought off the dogs, and with the help of a man and a woman, rescued the victim.  (She is now in the Harborview Medical Center (which handles serious trauma cases) in serious condition.)

Unlikely?  Yes.  Pellegrini says he "has several medical issues, including heart problems".  But that didn't stop him from rescuing a stranger.

(Beacon Hill is one of Seattle's nicer neighborhoods.)
- 12:51 PM, 4 September 2014   [link]

If You Can't Say Anything Nice About President Obama, Then You Shouldn't Say Anything At All:  That's what America's political scientists have, in effect, decided.
This past weekend, the American Political Science Association (ASPA) held its annual meeting in Washington, DC.  It was a huge affair, involving 53 “divisions” and 60 “related groups,” and featuring more than one thousand separate panels.  Here is the kicker: this year, there were no sessions at all devoted to an assessment of the foreign policy of Barack Obama, and not one panel was dedicated to an examination of Obama’s domestic policy.

There was, to be sure, a session entitled Author Meets Critics: Lebovic’s “Flawed Logics: Strategic Nuclear Arms Control from Truman to Obama, and there was another entitled Obama, Bush, and Grand Strategy.”  But Obama was mentioned by name in the title of only one of the papers delivered at the latter panel: “Grand Strategy Constraints and Feedback During the GW Bush and Obama Administrations.”  And its focus was a technical question.  There was also a panel entitled Authors Meet Critics: “The Obama Effect: How the 2008 Campaign Changed White Racial Attitudes.”  From a left-liberal perspective, those were the days!
I say, "in effect", because I don't think the organizers got together and decided not to have panels on the Obama administration, but that individual political scientists (who are mostly leftists) were not, shall we say, attracted to Obama-related subjects.

And one can understand why not.

In this area, where our local "mainstream" journalists were filled with "Obama mania" in 2007 and 2008, I have seen a similar drift away from even mentioning his administration, and its actions and inactions.  Like political scientists, our journalists appear to have, in effect, decided that if you can't say anything nice about Obama, . . .

(Two examples of that Obama mania:   Knute Berger, who edited one of the two "alternate" newspapers, and now contributes to a magazine and a web site, was an Obama delegate to the state convention.  He and Lynne Varner, then an editorial writer for the Seattle Times, attended the 2009 Obama inauguration, not to cover it, but to join in the celebration.)
- 10:22 AM, 4 September 2014   [link]

What Did President Obama Say About ISIS Yesterday?   Here's the White House transcript:

And here's the concluding paragraph from his prepared statement:
Whatever these murderers think they’ll achieve by killing innocent Americans like Steven [Sotloff], they have already failed.  They have failed because, like people around the world, Americans are repulsed by their barbarism.  We will not be intimidated.   Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists.  And those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget, and that our reach is long and that justice will be served.
ABC reporter Ann Compton asked him what his response to ISIS would be.  Obama summarised what has been done so far, and gave two "bottom lines":
So the bottom line is this:   Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so that it’s no longer a threat not just to Iraq but also the region and to the United States.   In order for us to accomplish that, the first phase has been to make sure that we’ve got an Iraqi government that's in place and that we are blunting the momentum that ISIL was carrying out.  And the airstrikes have done that.
. . .
And so the bottom line is this, Ann -- it’s not only that we’re going to be bringing to justice those who perpetrated this terrible crime against these two fine young men.  More broadly, the United States will continue to lead a regional and international effort against the kind of barbaric and ultimately empty vision that ISIL represents.  And that's going to take some time, but we’re going to get it done.  I’m very confident of it.
Compton then asked a follow-up question:
Q  Did you just say that the strategy is to destroy ISIS, or to simply contain them or push them back?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Our objective is to make sure that ISIL is not an ongoing threat to the region.  And we can accomplish that.  It’s going to take some time and it’s going to take some effort.  As we’ve seen with al Qaeda, there are always going to be remnants that can cause havoc of any of these networks, in part because of the nature of terrorist activities.  You get a few individuals, and they may be able to carry out a terrorist act.

But what we can do is to make sure that the kind of systemic and broad-based aggression that we’ve seen out of ISIL that terrorizes primarily Muslims, Shia, Sunni -- terrorizes Kurds, terrorizes not just Iraqis, but people throughout the region, that that is degraded to the point where it is no longer the kind of factor that we’ve seen it being over the last several months.
Reuters correspondent Steve Holland asked a set of four questions, including these two:
Q.  Just following up on Ann -- will you have this military strategy on ISIS ready for discussion with NATO allies this week?  And in your view, what should NATO be prepared to do to take on Islamic State?
Here are the last two paragraphs of Obama's reply:
And to go back to what I said earlier to Ann, we know that if we are joined by the international community, we can continue to shrink ISIL’s sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its financing, its military capabilities to the point where it is a manageable problem.  And the question is going to be making sure we’ve got the right strategy, but also making sure that we’ve got the international will to do it.  This is something that is a continuation of a problem we’ve seen certainly since 9/11, but before.  And it continues to metastasize in different ways.

And what we’ve got to do is make sure that we are organizing the Arab world, the Middle East, the Muslim world along with the international community to isolate this cancer, this particular brand of extremism that is, first and foremost, destructive to the Muslim world and the Arab world and North Africa, and the people who live there.  They’re the ones who are most severely affected.  They’re the ones who are constantly under threat of being killed.  They’re the ones whose economies are completely upended to the point where they can’t produce their own food and they can’t produce the kinds of goods and services to sell in the world marketplace.  And they’re falling behind because of this very small and narrow, but very dangerous, segment of the population.  And we’ve got to combat it in a sustained, effective way.  And I’m confident we’re going to be able to do that.
So, in his prepared statement, Obama says that he wants to bring the killers to justice, that he wants, in other words, to use a law enforcement strategy against ISIS.  In his answer to Compton he says he wants to "degrade and destroy" ISIS, two different things, unless you assume he means, in that order.  But then in his follow-up, he says he wants to degrade the organization.  Finally, in his answer to Holland, he says that he wants to reduce ISIS to a "manageable problem" and to "isolate this cancer".  (Ordinarily, physicians try to destroy cancers, not isolate them.)

If you find all this confusing, you're not alone.

(Obama's long, convoluted answers at press conferences have encouraged, I suspect, reporters to ask long, multiple questions, which leads Obama to give even longer, and more convoluted answers.)
- 7:04 AM, 4 September 2014   [link]

Just In Case You Missed this Greenpeace scandal, here it is:
For two years, Pascal Husting’s employer chartered a jet to shuttle him most weeks between his home in Luxembourg and his office in Amsterdam.

Such trips are common for executives at major international corporations in Western Europe.

But Mr. Husting isn’t working for a corporation.  He is the international program director for Greenpeace, the nonprofit that is arguably the world’s most high-profile environmental advocacy organization.
Hustings is now in trouble with the organization and its donors, but has not lost his job.

This is almost as funny as the contrast between Al Gore's preachings, and his practices.

(Hustings was given this special deal because he was "unable to relocate his family to Amsterdam", which seems pretty odd in itself.  You would think that, somewhere in a city the size of Amsterdam, he would be able to find a suitable apartment.)
- 6:02 AM, 4 September 2014   [link]

Worth Reading:  Bret Stephens's column on Obama being "enraged" against Israel, but merely cool toward our enemies.

Here are the first two paragraphs:
Barack Obama "has become 'enraged' at the Israeli government, both for its actions and for its treatment of his chief diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry."  So reports the Jerusalem Post, based on the testimony of Martin Indyk, until recently a special Middle East envoy for the president.  The war in Gaza, Mr. Indyk adds, has had "a very negative impact" on Jerusalem's relations with Washington.

Think about this.  Enraged.  Not "alarmed" or "concerned" or "irritated" or even "angered."  Anger is a feeling.  Rage is a frenzy.  Anger passes.  Rage feeds on itself.  Anger is specific.  Rage is obsessional, neurotic.
Anti-Israel obsessions are common on the left, especially in Europe, so in a way this isn't surprising.  Nor is it surprising to see Obama merely cool toward our enemies, for similar reasons.

What is a little surprising, even now, is that Obama does not understand that this obsession is counterproductive — if he is seeking concessions from Israel (and support for his policies toward Israel in Congress).
- 9:09 AM, 3 September 2014   [link]

What's Secretary Of State John Kerry Doing These Days?   Kiteboarding.
The world is on fire.  But don’t go telling that to Secretary of State John Kerry, spending Labor Day on Nantucket, kiteboarding in his stylish bloomers before a late dinner at the Chanticleer.

Talk about fiddling while Rome burns.  Let them eat … whatever they want, as they can pay for it with their EBT cards.
Which is better for everyone than Kerry trying to negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

(There may be places in the world where Kerry can be useful.  He at least helped put together an agreement between the presidential candidates in Afghanistan.  If that agreement over the disputed election holds, then he will have done something right as secretary of state.)
- 8:39 AM, 3 September 2014   [link]

If You Like Bad Puns, okay, really bad puns, you'll like this New Yorker cartoon.

(If the pun isn't obvious, look here.)
- 12:56 PM, 2 September 2014   [link]

Double Standards At The New York Times:  Our newspaper of record refused to allow this pair of pictures in an ad attacking radical Islam.

ISIS and Hamas terrorist murders

While, almost simultaneously, demanding that the Obama administration release pictures that — as the Times sees it — show Americans torturing prisoners.

(Breitbart calls it "censorship"; I think it best to reserve that term for government actions, though the looser meaning is common in political arguments.)
- 12:42 PM, 2 September 2014   [link]

Maybe Michelle Obama just doesn't like men.

Some will immediately protest that she married a man, but you don't have to pay a lot of attention to know that the two are, shall we say, not as close as many married couples.  I was genuinely surprised to see how often they flew on different airplanes, when they could have shared one, by making a day or two change in one of their schedules.

Perhaps this is too harsh, but from the outside it looks more like an uncomfortable political alliance than a marriage.

By way of the Instapundit.

As I recall, first ladies usually have mostly women on their staffs, but I can't recall any others who had only women working for them.  Laura Bush, for example, had journalist Andrew Malcolm working for her during the 2000 campaign.

(It is no secret that women and men in American are finding it harder to get along since traditional understandings broke down decades ago, but it is not much discussed — outside the black community — that these differences are especially sharp, there.)
- 10:34 AM, 2 September 2014   [link]

President Obama Was Given Briefs On The Rising Threat of ISIS.
President Obama was given detailed and specific intelligence about the rise of the Islamic State as part of his daily briefing for at least a year before the group seized large swaths of territory over the summer, a former Pentagon official told Fox News.

The official -- who asked not to be identified because the President's Daily Brief is considered the most authoritative, classified intelligence community product analyzing sensitive international events for the president -- said the data was strong and "granular" in detail.

The source said a policymaker "could not come away with any other impression:  This is getting bad."
But no one knows whether he read them.
The hosts of Fox & Friends wondered Tuesday morning if President Barack Obama even read his intelligence briefing from last year about the growing threat of the Sunni militant group ISIS, or if he left it sitting on his desk and subsequently was uninformed about the danger that has now metastasized across Syria and northern Iraq.
The Fox story says that he "is known to personally read the daily brief", but it also says that: "Obama generally was not known to come back to the intelligence community with further requests for information based on the daily report".  So, if he reads them — and I would like to think that he reads some of them — he doesn't think about them.  Any serious commander will always have questions about intelligence reports, because he will know that some of them are wrong, at least in part.

(One of the reasons for personal briefings rather than written reports is that personal briefings are much harder to ignore.)
- 9:55 AM, 2 September 2014   [link]

"Bush Thought Obama Had 'No Clue'"  That's how President Bush assessed the Democratic candidate.

From a book by Bush speechwriter Frank Latimer:
After one of Obama's blistering speeches against the administration, the president had a very human reaction: He was ticked off.  He came in one day to rehearse a speech, fuming.  "This is a dangerous world," he said for no apparent reason, "and this cat isn't remotely qualified to handle it.  This guy has no clue, I promise you."  He wound himself up even more.  "You think I wasn't qualified?" he said to no one in particular.  "I was qualified."
Unlike Barack Obama.

Bush was correct, of course, as even a few "mainstream" journalists are beginning to recognize.  What troubles many of us is that, in spite of Obama's time in the Oval Office with access to all the intelligence that the US government can produce, the cat still doesn't seem to have a clue.

Bush is a smart man, much smarter than his enemies believed.

(Latimer also describes Bush's candid views on Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.  I think he was right on both.)
- 7:28 AM, 1 September 2014   [link]