Friday, August 29, 2014

We Don’t Have A Strategy Yet

Too busy working on his golf game. [Link]
Board members and investors will want to know what you are doing to try and get the waters calm.  If you don’t take definitive action, the startup will die or the CEO gets fired.
Same goes for the President of the United States. When the world is crashing around you, that’s not an answer.   The time to answer the question with, “We don’t have a strategy yet.” was a year ago.
  • What is the US strategy for Russia?  They are invading Ukraine and putting pressure on Poland, and Germany.
  • What is the US strategy for Syria?  A civil war has raged for over a year.
  • What is the US strategy for Israel?  Hamas has built tunnels and is launching rockets daily.
  • What is the US strategy for ISIS?  A new terror organization that is well funded and organized is beheading all kinds of people in a Game of Thrones march through the desert to set up a radical muslim caliphate.  By the way, 16% of France agrees with ISIS.
  • What is the US strategy for North Korea?  Always a tense pressure point on the 43rd parallel.
  • What is the US strategy for China?  Last week, a Chinese fighter jet in a show of strength Top Gun barrel rolled a US patrol plane.  They aren’t flexing their muscles for show.  China has some serious underlying economic hurt.
  • There is a massive banking crisis brewing in Europe, what’s the US strategy?
Supposedly, with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, we had an A team working on these problems.  She has pretty much screwed the pooch and I would hate to see how badly she could do as President.  At the same time, where has Obama been?  It’s not just that he is golfing, but goes deeper than that.  It’s not political party differences either, because in a time of crisis, elections shouldn’t matter.  CEO’s and Presidents make decisions for the good of the country; not minutiae or teacher’s pets.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Russia not even trying to hide invasion of Ukraine.

I'm sure it is just a misunderstanding. [Link]
The Associated Press (AP) suggests that "the bold offensive along a new southeastern front" indicates that "separatists are seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea, which also would give them control over the entire Azov Sea." Logistically, it would be near impossible for fighters in the separatist-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk to have reached this front on their own, the mayor of the newly-embattled city of Novoazovsk told AP. The fighters would have to cross a large amount of Ukrainian-controlled territory, whereas Russia could easily send troops from just across the border.
Although Russian regular soldiers were captured in Ukraine on Monday and admitted that they are, in fact, Russian soldiers, the Kremlin continues to deny any involvement, and claims it can't really help the situation. Says President Vladimir Putin:
We, Russia, cannot talk about any cease-fire conditions whatsoever, or possible agreements between Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk. We can only facilitate the creation of an environment of trust in the course of this possible and much needed, in my opinion, negotiation process.
Putin does admit that sometimes soldiers accidentally cross the border.
I'm the response from President Obama will be decisive and strong.

No, really.

Yeah, I don't believe it either.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Well that makes Rick Perry look better

He was going to replace drunken Democrat DA with sober Democrat. [Link]
This should shock nobody.
Gov. Rick Perry personally called a well-known Austin Democrat to discuss her interest in replacing Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg days before the public learned Perry was threatening to withhold state funding from Lehmberg’s office unless she resigned.
Austin defense attorney Mindy Montford, who previously ran as a Democratic candidate for state district judge and district attorney in Travis County, confirmed her conversation with Perry — which took place in early June 2013, to the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV on Sunday.
It should, however, embarrass the excrement of every progressive hyper-partisan who has been using this non-scandal as bitter masturbation fodder.  You see, in the realworld smart politicians know that if you’re trying to remove somebody for, say, being a drunken belligerent trying to use her authority to get out of trouble, and it’s somebody who is not in your party, then you can avoid a lot of agitation by simply replacing said drunken would-be bully with somebody else from the same party.  This is such an obvious point – and something that both Democrats and Republicans do all the time – that you almost have to wonder why the Activist Left apparently didn’t even think that Rick Perry would act accordingly.

Police often provoke protest violence

This is my surprised face. [Link]
The violence that turns a small-town protest into a fiery national spectacle like the one that has played out this month in Missouri is often unwittingly provoked by police, according to researchers at UC Berkeley.
The research team, which studied clashes between police and activists during the Occupy movement three years ago, found that protests tend to turn violent when officers use aggressive tactics, such as approaching demonstrators in riot gear or lining up in military-like formations.
Recent events in Ferguson, Mo., are a good example, the study's lead researcher said. For nearly two weeks, activists angered by a white police officer's fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager have ratcheted up their protests when confronted by heavily armed police forces.
"Everything starts to turn bad when you see a police officer come out of an SUV and he's carrying an AR-15," said Nick Adams, a sociologist and fellow at UC Berkeley'sInstitute for Data Science who leads the Deciding Force Project. "It just upsets the crowd."
Adams said many law enforcement agencies aren't aware that they set the tone of a protest and end up inflaming it.

192 cities studied

His team reached its conclusions by analyzing Occupy protests in 192 U.S. cities in 2011. The researchers sifted through thousands of news reports about the protests, which were sparked by concerns over economic inequality, and isolated patterns of violence and their apparent causes.
Some of the most contentious Occupy protests happened in Oakland, where the fallout is still being scrutinized.
In one October 2011 protest over the clearing of an Occupy encampment outside Oakland City Hall, officers fired tear gas and projectiles into crowds, injuring several activists. One of them, Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, was critically hurt and settled a lawsuit against the city in March for $4.5 million.
Oakland police later tried to address concerns about heavy-handed tactics, seeking to head off unruly protests with early crowd-control measures such as issuing tickets for jaywalking.
But finding the appropriate balance between being too aggressive and not aggressive enough hasn't been easy.

Unmockable

I do not think that means what you think it means. [Link]
At last, we know the reason why comedy writers don’t make fun of President Obama much.
It turns out the man is completely unmockable.
We learn this from Jim Downey, the longtime “Saturday Night Live” specialist in political japery. “If I had to describe Obama as a comedy project, I would say, ‘Degree of difficulty, 10 point 10,’” the writer says in the expanded new edition of the “SNL” oral history book, “Live from New York.”
“It’s like being a rock climber looking up at a thousand-foot-high face of solid obsidian, polished and oiled,” Downey says. “There’s not a single thing to grab onto — certainly not a flaw or hook that you can caricature. [Al] Gore had these ‘handles,’ so did Bush, and Sarah Palin, and even Hillary had them. But with Obama, it was the phenomenon — less about him and more about the effect he had on other people and the way he changed their behavior. So that’s the way I wrote him.”
Oh really?
The charter Choom Ganger, confessed eater of dog and snorter of coke. The doofus who thinks the language spoken by Austrians is “Austrian,” that you pronounce the p in “corpsman” and that ATMs are the reason why job growth is sluggish. The egomaniac who gave the queen of England an iPod loaded with his own speeches and said he was better at everything than the people who work for him. The empty suit with so little real-world knowledge that he referred to his brief stint working for an ordinary profit-seeking company as time “behind enemy lines.” The phony who tells everyone he’s from Chicago, though he didn’t live there until his 20s, and lets you know that he’s talking to people he believes to be stupid by droppin’ his g’s. The world-saving Kal-El from a distant solar system who told us he’d heal the planet and cause the oceans to stop rising. The guy who shared a middle name with one of the most hated dictators on earth.
Nope, nothing there to mock. No way to get a grip on this polished, oiled obsidian.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Submit

This will all be over quicker if you just submit. [Link]

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?


Monday, August 18, 2014

Police Militarization over a less violent public

Violence has been going down, so why do we need militarized police? [Link]
Over the past generation or so, we’ve militarized our police to protect a public that has broadly become less and less violent.
It all starts back in 1990, a time when the country found itself with less demand for military equipment abroad and new use for it back home. Within our shores, the drug wars were escalating; gang violence was surging; and sociologists were warning of sociopathic child “superpredators.” At the same time, the military was starting to shrink as the Cold War ended. Put two and two together and you get the 1033 program, which transferred assets from the military to the police. (Here’s a capsule history.) 
A bigger flush of money and equipment followed in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Times reports, when the federal government equipped local police outfits to be the front line of the Global War on Terror:
Department of Homeland Security grant money paid for the $360,000 Bearcat armored truck on patrol in Ferguson, said Nick Gragnani, executive director of St. Louis Area Regional Response System, which administers such grants for the St. Louis area. 
Since 2003, the group has spent $9.4 million on equipment for the police in St. Louis County. That includes $3.6 million for two helicopters, plus the Bearcat, other vehicles and night vision equipment. Most of the body armor worn by officers responding to the Ferguson protests was paid for with federal money, Mr. Gragnani said.
“The focus is terrorism, but it’s allowed to do a crossover for other types of responses,” he said. “It’s for any type of civil unrest. We went by the grant guidance. There was no restriction put on that by the federal government.”
But here’s the thing. Since 1990, according to Department of Justice statistics, the United States has become a vastly safer place, at least in terms of violent crime. (Drug crime follows somewhat different trends, though drug use has been dropping over the same time period.) The number of murders dropped to 14,827 in 2012 from 23,438 in 1990. The number of rapes has plummeted to 84,376 from 102,555. The number of robberies, motor-vehicle thefts, assaults — all have seen similarly large declines. And the number of incidents has dropped even though the country has grown.

Women rising in Algeria

Good. [Link]
Women make up 70 percent ofAlgeria’s lawyers and 60 percent of its judges. Women dominate medicine. Increasingly, women contribute more to household income than men. Sixty percent of university students are women, university researchers say.
In a region where women have a decidedly low public profile, Algerian women are visible everywhere. They are starting to drive buses and taxicabs. They pump gas and wait on tables.
Although men still hold all of the formal levers of power and women still make up only 20 percent of the work force, that is more than twice their share a generation ago, and they seem to be taking over the machinery of state as well.
“If such a trend continues,” said Daho Djerbal, editor and publisher of Naqd, a magazine of social criticism and analysis, “we will see a new phenomenon where our public administration will also be controlled by women.”
The change seems to have sneaked up on Algerians, who for years have focused more on the struggle between a governing party trying to stay in power and Islamists trying to take that power.
Those who study the region say they are taken aback by the data but suggest that an explanation may lie in the educational system and the labor market.
University studies are no longer viewed as a credible route toward a career or economic well-being, and so men may well opt out and try to find work or to simply leave the country, suggested Hugh Roberts, a historian and the North Africa project director of the International Crisis Group.
But for women, he added, university studies get them out of the house and allow them to position themselves better in society. “The dividend may be social rather than in terms of career,” he said.
This generation of Algerian women has navigated a path between the secular state and the pull of extremist Islam, the two poles of the national crisis of recent years.
The women are more religious than previous generations, and more modern, sociologists here said. Women cover their heads and drape their bodies with traditional Islamic coverings. They pray. They go to the mosque — and they work, often alongside men, once considered taboo.
Sociologists and many working women say that by adopting religion and wearing the Islamic head covering called the hijab, women here have in effect freed themselves from moral judgments and restrictions imposed by men. Uncovered women are rarely seen on the street late at night, but covered women can be seen strolling the city after attending the evening prayer at a mosque.

Rational Scientology

Richard Dawkins as L Ron Hubbard. I wonder when Dawkins will buy a ship? [Link]
My man in the pub was at the very low end of what believers will do and pay for: the Richard Dawkins website offers followers the chance to join the ‘Reason Circle’, which, like Dante’s Hell, is arranged in concentric circles. For $85 a month, you get discounts on his merchandise, and the chance to meet ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science personalities’. Obviously that’s not enough to meet the man himself. For that you pay $210 a month — or $5,000 a year — for the chance to attend an event where he will speak.
When you compare this to the going rate for other charismatic preachers, it does seem on the high side. The Pentecostal evangelist Morris Cerullo, for example, charges only $30 a month to become a member of ‘God’s Victorious Army’, which is bringing ‘healing and deliverance to the world’. And from Cerullo you get free DVDs, not just discounts.
But the $85 a month just touches the hem of rationality. After the neophyte passes through the successively more expensive ‘Darwin Circle’ and then the ‘Evolution Circle’, he attains the innermost circle, where for $100,000 a year or more he gets to have a private breakfast or lunch with Richard Dawkins, and a reserved table at an invitation-only circle event with ‘Richard’ as well as ‘all the benefits listed above’, so he still gets a discount on his Richard Dawkins T-shirt saying ‘Religion — together we can find a cure.’
The website suggests that donations of up to $500,000 a year will be accepted for the privilege of eating with him once a year: at this level of contribution you become a member of something called ‘The Magic of Reality Circle’. I don’t think any irony is intended.
At this point it is obvious to everyone except the participants that what we have here is a religion without the good bits.

Michael Brown Autopsy

The evidence does not match the witness stories. [Link]
Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was killed by a police officer, sparking protests around the nation, was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, a preliminary private autopsy performed on Sunday found.
One of the bullets entered the top of Mr. Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when it struck him and caused a fatal injury, according to Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, who flew to Missouri on Sunday at the family’s request to conduct the separate autopsy. It was likely the last of bullets to hit him, he said.
Mr. Brown, 18, was also shot four times in the right arm, he said, adding that all the bullets were fired into his front.
With that, the police still handled the aftermath poorly, escalating tensions rather than defusing them.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Drink up!

It is good for you, even if they don't want to admit it. [Link]
So the more you drink—up to two drinks a day for woman, and four for men—the less likely you are to die. You may have heard that before, and you may have heard it doubted. But the consensus of the science is overwhelming: It is true.
Although I dispute many of the caveats offered against the life-saving benefits of alcohol, I will endorse two. First, these outcome data do not apply to women with the “breast-cancer gene” mutations (BRCA 1 or 2) or a first-degree (mother, sister) relation who has had breast cancer, for whom alcohol consumption is far riskier. Second, drinking 10 drinks Friday and Saturday nights does not convey the benefits of two or three drinks daily, even though your weekly totals would be the same: Frequent, heavy binge drinking is unhealthy. But then you knew that already, didn’t you? If you don’t distinguish binge drinking from daily moderate drinking, that would be due to Americans’ addiction-phobia, which causes them to interpret any daily drinking as addictive.
The global summary of alcohol’s benefits raises a key question: How much do you have to drink regularly before you become as likely to die as an abstainer? We’ll see below.
First, let’s address some typical objections to these findings. Of course, abstainers may not drink because they are already ill. Thus the meta-analysis relied on studies that eliminated subjects who are abstaining due to illness, or else contrast drinkers with lifetime abstainers. Additionally, objectors note, drinkers showing such longevity may be wine-sniffling, upper-middle-class professionals (virtually no study has ever found that the type of alcohol consumed impacts these results), people who exercise, eat right, and don’t smoke. To counter this argument, researchers from the prestigious Harvard Health Professionals Study published a paper which found that even men with four healthy life factors (diet, weight, non-smoking, exercise) had one-third to one-half the risk of suffering a heart attack if they had one to two drinks daily, relative to comparable men in each category who abstained.
Now let’s turn quickly to four special topics—biological mechanisms; cognitive benefits of drinking; the resveratrol myth; and the answer to our key question: If you drink just a little too much alcohol, doesn’t your death rate shoot up way over that of abstainers? (This is the so-called “J–shaped curve.”)

Congress under pressure from left and right to 'demilitarize' police

Good. [Link]
Groups on the left and right are uniting behind calls to end what they say is the rise of a "militarized" police force in the United States.
They say the controversial police tactics seen this week in Ferguson, Mo., are not isolated to the St. Louis County police department and warn the rise of heavily armed law enforcement agencies has become an imminent threat to civil liberties.
“What we're seeing today in Ferguson is a reflection of the excessive militarization of police that has been happening in towns across America for decades,” said Kara Dansky, senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The ACLU is aligned with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and groups on the right who are calling for an end to a controversial Defense Department program that supplies local police departments with surplus military equipment, such as armored tanks, machine guns, and tear gas.
According to the Defense Logistics Agency, more than $4 billion in discounted military equipment has been sold to local police departments since the 1990s.
“Why are those guns available to the police?” asked Erich Pratt, spokesman for the conservative Gun Owners of America. “We don't technically have the military operating within our borders, but they're being given the gear to basically operate in that capacity.”
The Gun Owners of American and the ACLU are both backing a forthcoming bill from Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) that would curtail the sale of DOD weapons to local police departments.
Johnson announced the legislative effort on Wednesday, telling colleagues in a letter that, “our main streets should be a place for business, families, and relaxation, not tanks and M16s."
“As the tragedy in Missouri unfolds, one thing is clear. Our local police are becoming militarized,” Johnson's office said in a statement. 
Critics say the Pentagon program is “blurring the lines” between the police and the military in dangerous ways.
“When you begin to confuse and blur the lines between the military and police, you get unnecessary violent confrontations, such as what we're seeing in Ferguson,” said Tim Lynch, a criminal justice expert at the libertarian Cato Institute.
But Jim Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, defended the program, saying it has helped law enforcement keep up with criminals.
"All police are doing is taking advantage of the advances of technology in terms of surveillance, in terms of communication and in terms of protective equipment that are available to criminals on the street," Pasco said.
The issue of military-style police departments was thrust into the spotlight this week as media outlets began broadcasting footage of officers in Ferguson squaring off with protesters.
Police have been using military-style armored tanks and machines guns to deal with the demonstrations, which began after the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer in a street confrontation.
The images of Ferguson have drawn comparisons to war zones such as Iraq or Afghanistan. President Obama warned law enforcement officers Thursday to stop “bullying” protestors.
“They're turning Americans into the enemy,” said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director for the ACLU's Missouri branch. “We are not the enemy. We are citizens, we are protestors, we are Americans. We don't deserve to be treated like we are at war.”
Lynch noted a SWAT team in Atlanta recently threw a flash bang grenade into the crib of a toddler by accident, sending the child into a coma.
“Acting like soldiers in war zones is not appropriate for American communities,” Dansky said.
Military style tactics are becoming more and more common for police departments around the country, according to Adam Brandon, spokesman for the conservative group FreedomWorks.
Brandon said he often “can't tell the difference” between police officers and the military.
“When I think of a police officer, I typically think of a guy in a blue uniform, he's got a badge, you can see his face,” Brandon said. “But when I see pictures of police today, they look more like special forces units than normal police officers.”
“This is an unnerving trend that I keep seeing in American society, where police officers are getting over-militarized, their tactics are getting more and more aggressive.”
ACLU's Dansky said the show of strength by police departments tends to escalate the problems that they are trying to contain.
“When people see what looks like a tank in their neighborhoods, they start to think they are under siege,” she said. “It's an excessive show of force. It tends to put people in harm’s way and exacerbates the risk of violence.”
These things need to happen:

  • Training to deescalate situations instead of intimidating people
  • Training to view people who aren't cops as Us instead of Them
  • Always-on cameras that can't be erased or 'lost' to protect cops and citizens
  • Removing the paramilitary gear which fosters an occupying army mindset
  • Shutting down most SWAT teams as very few cities or towns actually need them and they get overused

How should police respond to protests?

I think we can all agree that how Ferguson was handled was wrong. [Link]
We then have an incident that represents all of these problems in a very concentrated form — an unarmed black man was killed by a (reportedly) white police officer who had stopped him as he was walking home. The police have since refused to release the officer’s name. They’ve said they have no intention of releasing the autopsy performed on Michael Brown. Police Chief Thomas Jackson refused to even say how many shots were fired at Brown. (He claimed he didn’t know, though that would be pretty easy to figure out.) Though the police department has body cameras, it hasn’t required its officers to actually wear them. All of this only adds to perception of a Ferguson Police Department that is detached, unaccountable, opaque, and unconcerned with how it is perceived by the community it serves. (Gassing, arresting, and threatening journalistsdoesn’t help with the perception that they feel they’re above transparency.) The police then showed up at a peaceful protest with military vehicles and weapons. If a town’s citizens are reminded over and over again that the law has no respect for them, we shouldn’t be surprised if they begin to lose respect for the law. This isn’t an excuse for the looting and rioting. But it does contextualize what we’ve seen.
This raises a question I’ve seen on Twitter and Facebook from a number of people — how should police respond to protest? And how should they respond when protests turn violent?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Welcome back to the 50's

When do they take out the attack dogs and water hoses? [Link]
The protests were peaceful for many hours, and turned chaotic when police shot rubber bullets, tear gas (or another form of noxious gas), used an LRAD sonic weapon to blast the crowd with painful sound, and assaulted protesters.
Livestreams: onetwothree.
From the Los Angeles Times:
"Hands up! Don't shoot!" demonstrators chanted as they walked down West Florissant Avenue in a permitted march. Some young men at the back of the group raised their middle fingers as they passed a Ferguson Police Department officer, shouting profanities at him. About 30 demonstrators, who were almost all black, sat down in the middle of an intersection near a line of about a dozen riot police, who were all white.
Huffington Post reporter Ryan J. Reilly and Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery were arrested. They were among reporters live-tweeting events in Ferguson this afternoon, and ducked into a McDonalds to recharge their smartphones and other devices. Subsequent tweets indicated they were taken into police custody. Lowery confirms: "Was arrested. Also Ryan Reilly of Huff Po. Assaulted and arrested. Officers decided we weren't leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn't have been taping them." Both journalists have been released, possibly thanks to a phone call from Matt Pearce of the LA Times to the Ferguson police chief, asking why the men were being held.
"Ferguson chief tells me Lowery and Reilly's arresters were 'probably somebody who didn't know better," tweeted Pearce. Here is video of the arrest.
I would hope this will be the catalyst to change the militarization of policing in America, but I fear it will require more incidents like this.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This is why people think there is media bias.

Why you never see the 'D' when there is a scandal. [Link]
It is such common sense as to be undeniable that basic journalism requires a party label to be affixed to a story about an elected public official, the president excepted. It is the DNA of the “who” in a news report. “Senator Robert Byrd, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, died today.” Take out “Democratic” and try that sentence. It doesn’t work. “Mike Lee, GOP senator from Utah and God’s gift to mankind, coasted to reelection last night.” Ditto.

It follows that the rule applies to stories about political scandal, precisely because it’s just that — politics. But what happens when that cardinal rule is applied to one party but ignored for the other? Favoritism? Bias? No, it’s far worse than just that. It is a commitment to abide by the rules of journalism with one party and then a deliberate attempt to protect the other, even if it means violating the most basic rules of news reporting.

Now wait a minute, Bozell. What about another possibility? Why can’t it be an honest mistake? Cannot we believe that even if such an egregious violation is committed it might not just be an accident, a reckless, sloppy oversight? If it happened once, fine. Stunning but fine. Twice? I don’t believe in coincidences. The record, however, shows it is much worse than that.

On Friday, September 29, 2006, Representative Mark Foley of Florida resigned after ABC News exposed him for having sent explicit e-mails to male House pages. That evening and on the next day’s morning news shows, ABC, CBS, and NBC all tied Foley to the GOP. “This is more than just one man’s downfall,” Today co-host Matt Lauer solemnly declared on NBC. “It could be a major blow to the Republican party.”

On March 10, 2008, news broke that New York governor Eliot Spitzer had been linked to a prostitution ring. It took NBC News four nights to acknowledge Spitzer’s party affiliation. In its first two days of coverage, Matt Lauer’s Todayshow ran 18 segments on the scandal and never once identified him as a Democrat.

But what happens when a Republican elected official is linked to a prostitute? In July 2007, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana was revealed as a client in the phone records of the so-called D.C. Madam. Every broadcast network ran stories on the scandal and every story underscored that Vitter was a Republican.

The previous month, Senator Larry Craig of Idaho had been arrested at the airport in Minneapolis for the infamous toe-tapping men’s-room solicitation. When the news became public in August, the networks jumped on the story. Every morning and evening news show pointed out he was a Republican. On NBC’s Today, Lauer drilled further, tying him ideologically to conservatives. “Can the right wing withstand yet another scandal involving one of its own?”

On June 16, 2009, Senator John Ensign of Nevada admitted to an extramarital affair. In the following day’s reports, all three broadcast networks covered the scandal and all three reported that he was a member of the GOP. One week later they were back in action, this time giving major attention to the story that South Carolina governor Mark Sanford also had admitted to cheating on his wife. Again the perfunctory declaration that he was a Republican.

Four years later, after weeks of tumultuous scandal involving allegations of multiple cases of sexual harassment involving numerous women, on August 22, 2013, San Diego’s Democratic mayor (and former congressman), Bob Filner, finally resigned. All three networks covered the story in both their morning and evening broadcasts, but only CBS mentioned his party affiliation.

Still not convinced? Okay, so we’ll continue.
Journalistic malpractice.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A better world?

A might have been if Hillary had won instead of Obama. [Link]
Well, Kevin Drum tickled my counterfactual fancy this morning with the following aside: “I don't have any problems with Hillary's domestic policy. I've never believed that she 'understood' the Republican party better than Obama and therefore would have gotten more done if she'd won in 2008, but I don't think she would have gotten any less done either. It's close to a wash.”
I’m actually going to disagree a bit here. I think that Hillary Clinton would have been more cautious when dealing with Republicans, and therefore ultimately more successful in some ways. At the very least, she would not be facing the same level of vehement opposition in Congress.
I think liberals really do not understand emotionally the extent to which the Tea Party was created by the Affordable Care Act and the feeling that its government was simply steamrolling it. From the Tea Party's perspective, you had an unpopular program that should have died in the same way, and for the same reasons, that Social Security privatization did: because sensible politicians saw that, no matter how ardently they and their base might desire it, this was out of step with what the majority of the country wanted (and no, you cannot rescue the polls by claiming that the only problem with the law was that it wasn’t liberal enough; when you dig down into what people mean when they say that, the idea that there was ever a majority or a plurality that was secretly in favor of Obamacarecollapses).
The rage was similar to what progressives felt as they watched George W. Bush push the country into a war in Iraq. That defined and animated the anti-war movement (which is why said movement collapsed when Bush left office, and not, say, when Bush agreed to a staged withdrawal of our forces). Yes, those people would still have hated Republicans, even if there had been no Iraq War. But they would not have been as passionate, as organized or as powerful without it.
Liberals tend to write off this anger as racism, as irrational hatred of Barack Obama, or as perverse joy in denying health care to the poor, but at its root, it’s the simpler feeling that your country is making a mistake and you can’t stop it because the people in charge are ignoring the obvious. Yes, a lot of money and energy was poured into the Tea Party by rich backers, but rich backers cannot create a grassroots campaign unless the underlying passion is there in the voters (paging Karl Rove and Crossroads). The Obama administration created that passion with Obamacare.
I think that Hillary Clinton would have pulled back when Rahm Emanuel (or his counterfactual Clinton administration counterpart) told her that this was a political loser and she should drop it. I’ve written before about how my Twitter feed filled up with comparisons to 1932 the night that Obama took the presidency, and it’s quite clear to me that the Obama administration shared what you might call delusions of FDR. It thought that it was in a transformative, historical moment where the normal rules of political caution didn’t apply. The administration was wrong, and the country paid for that.
That’s not to say that Republicans would have somehow been all kissy-kissy with Clinton -- they weren’t very nice to her husband, after all. She would of course still have faced stiff opposition in Congress, because the partisan divide in this country is getting wider and congressional districts are getting more polarized, which makes it harder and harder to do deals across the aisle, or even treat each other with a modicum of decency. But I doubt she would have had the debt ceiling debacle or the deep gridlock of the last four years, because it was Obamacare that elected a fresh new class of deeply ideological Republicans who thought they were having their own transformative political movement, and they were willing to do massive damage to their party, their own political fortunes and, in my opinion, to the country in order to take a stand against “business as usual” -- business that included legislating or paying our bills.
Of course, in my counterfactual, Hillary also probably wouldn’t have proposed ambitious health-care reform; she’d have done something more modest, like a Medicaid expansion. Progressives might well say that they’d rather have the first two years of the Obama administration, followed by gridlock, than steadier but more modest achievements by a Hillary Clinton administration. And that doesn’t even get us into foreign policy, where the differences were deeper and more passionate.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Who's obstructionist?

It's not the House. [Link]
The Senate has not voted on jobs bills sent by the House, any “fix” for Obamacare or a domestic energy development bill. The Senate will not take up a real vote on the Keystone XL pipeline. It will not take up Iran sanctions. It did pass Veterans Affairs legislation and Iron Dome funding, not exactly difficult votes. Other than that, not much of consequence has gone on in the Senate, but not because of Republican objections. The GOP would love to take up many of these subjects, debate them and offer amendments; it is Reid who either won’t take up meaty issues or won’t allow any minority amendments, a practice he has taken further than any modern Senate leader. Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said succinctly: “Well, if you look at the last six years, the president and his people, I think, believed they got just about everything they wanted legislatively the first two years.”
In essence, the Senate has become an adjunct of the White House. Reid’s side comes up with no innovative (or even non-innovative) initiatives of its own and doesn’t allow any from the GOP. It changed the Senate rules to rubber-stamp Obama appointees and won’t allow votes on things that will make the White House uncomfortable. It is not that the Senate has been unproductive; that would be an improvement. Rather, it has been counterproductive time and again. It propagates nasty partisanship. “The Senate majority did not want the president to be challenged on anything, which of course leaves him free to pursue his agenda through thebureaucracy, all of whom work for him,” McConnell said. He pointed out, “And of course that serves the president’s purpose because it gives him a Congress to run against and it gives him the freedom of his bureaucrats to pursue his agenda, largely unimpeded by the kind of restrictions on the spending process that Congress would normally write in to appropriation bills if they ever passed them.”


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The perils of unexamined legislation

Judges rule ACA actually means what it says. [Link]
This result isn’t entirely shocking. As Jonathan Adler, one of the architects of the legal strategy behind Halbig, noted today on a conference call, the government was unable to come up with any contemporaneous congressional statements that supported its view of congressional intent, and the statutory language is pretty clear. Members of Congress have subsequently stated that this wasn’t their intent, but my understanding is that courts are specifically barred from considering post-facto statements about intent.
When you read through the ruling, it’s easy to see the many ways in which the law’s architects brought this on themselves. The law was highly complex, badly drafted and highly controversial. When a Republican won a special election for the Senate in Massachusetts (!), the Democrats had to push it through on a straight party-line vote with some adroit parliamentary maneuvering -- which gave them a health-care law, but one that was badly put together and couldn’t be substantially amended. The gaping holes were patched with administrative fixes, like an Internal Revenue Service ruling that held federally established exchanges to be equivalent to an exchange established by the state. But the vast scale of the law meant that the administrative gymnastics that held it together might not be sustainable.
For example, the core of the government’s case is that Congress cannot have meant to leave federal exchanges without subsidies, because without the subsidies, the insurance markets in states with federal exchanges would inevitably enter into a death spiral. And obviously Congress wouldn’t do that.
The problem, as the justices point out in their brief, is that the government has done just that. Federal territories are subject to the mandates, but they don’t get subsidies. So clearly the IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services think that, at least in some cases, Congress would and did enact exactly the system -- guaranteed issue, community rating, but no subsidies -- that the government lawyers are claiming they would never consider.
Courts are cautious about fatally damaging major laws, and if this ruling stands, it would be pretty damaging. Most of the people who bought new insurance on the exchanges qualified for subsidies; many of them will exit if the subsidies are withdrawn, and those most likely to exit are the young and healthy. Which brings us back to the specter of an insurance market death spiral in states with federal exchanges.
That’s not a guaranteed outcome -- I’ll write more about the possible permutations later today. But even if it’s not guaranteed, it’s certainly a risk. So this is a major ruling, which will potentially have major impact on a major law. And that itself is always a bit surprising. The Fourth Circuit reached the opposite result, in another ruling released today: “the court is of the opinion that the defendants have the stronger position, although only slightly.”
So what happens next? In the short term, the case probably goes to an en banc hearing in front of the full appeals court, sometime in the fall, and then quite possibly to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the administration says the subsidies will continue to flow, though it’s not clear upon what they are basing that -- whether it expects a stay of the decision pending en banc review, or whether it is signaling their intention to ignore the ruling until the appeals are exhausted.
This quote seems appropriate:
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - - that's all."
(Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6) 


Monday, July 21, 2014

11 Commandments

A good rebuttal. [Link]
Elizabeth Warren, best known for being a super white lady who pretended to be Indian to fulfill an EEOC requirement, is trying to establish herself as the “Youthful” alternative to Hillary Clinton for a presidential run. This is understandable since Clinton was born in ’47 and Warren was born in ’49, and that’s like seven Prog years.
Anyways, Warren gave a speech and listed off the 11 Commandments of Progressivism.
http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/elizabeth-warren-s-11-commandments-of-progressivism-20140718
Since I despise Progressivism to the very core of my being, let’s take this opportunity to go through these commandments together. As we’ll see, most of them sound all nice and fluffy but are actually pure evil, sort of like pulling a bunny slipper over a jackboot. Each one of these is so ridiculous that responding to it would take a thesis, so I’ll just hit the broad philosophical points.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Border Crisis

Peggy Noonan. [Link]
It's like you live in a house that's falling apart. The roof needs to be patched and there are squirrels in the attic, a hornet's nest in the eaves. The basement's wet. The walkway to the front door is cracked with grass growing through it. The old boiler is making funny sounds. On top of that it's always on your mind that you could lose your job tomorrow and must live within strict confines so you can meet the mortgage and pay the electric bill. You can't keep the place up and you're equal parts anxious, ashamed and angry. And then one morning you look outside and see . . . all these people standing on your property, looking at you, making some mute demand. Little children looking lost—no one's taking care of them. Older ones settling in the garage, or working a window to the cellar. You call the cops. At first they don't come. Then they come and shout through a bull horn and take some of the kids and put them in a shelter a few blocks away. But more kids keep coming! You call your alderman and he says there's nothing he can do. Then he says wait, we're going to pass a bill and get more money to handle the crisis. You ask, "Does that mean the kids will go home?" He says no, but it may make things feel more orderly. You call the local TV station and they come do a report on your stoop and then they're gone, because really, what can they do, and after a few days it's getting to be an old story.
No one's in charge! No one is taking responsibility. No one who wants to help has authority, and no one with authority is helping.
America is the house that is both falling apart and under new stress. Those living within it, those most upset by what they're seeing, know America has big problems—unemployment, low workforce participation, a rickety physical infrastructure, an unsound culture, poor public education. And of course discord of all sorts—a lot of mad squirrels running around the attic. They know America can't pay its bills. They fear we're living on the fumes of greatness. They want us to be strong again. Watching our border collapse doesn't look like a harbinger of progress.
Here it must be said that those who live comfortable lives can afford to roll with the historical punches. But people who are not affluent live closer to the ground, and closer to the country's deterioration. The rougher America becomes, the more they feel the abrasion. They're not protected.
And they know no one wants to be in charge, wants to seize this thing and take responsibility. The mind-boggling fact is that everyone in charge more or less suggests they're powerless to do anything. And the children keep coming.
And
Give the president points for honesty. He doesn't want to enact an "I care and am aware" photo-op. He will pay a political price, but it is clearly a price he is willing to pay. He never has to face a voter again.
The latest border surge has been going on for at least two years. Children and others are coming because they believe that under the president's leadership, if they get here they'll get a pass to stay. (They're probably right.) This was predictable. Two years ago Texas Gov. Rick Perry wrote the president that the number of unaccompanied children was spiking sharply. He warned that unless the government moves, other minors would attempt the journey and find themselves in "extremely dangerous situations." The generally agreed-upon number of those who've come so far this year is 50,000. Now government estimates are rising to at least 90,000 by year's end.

***

Meanwhile some in the conservative press call the president incapable, unable to handle the situation. But he is not so stupid he doesn't know this is a crisis. He knows his poll numbers are going to go even lower next month because of it. He scrambled Wednesday to hold a news conference to control a little of the damage, but said nothing new.
There is every sign he let the crisis on the border build to put heat on Republicans and make them pass his idea of good immigration reform. It would be "comprehensive," meaning huge, impenetrable and probably full of mischief. His base wants it. It would no doubt benefit the Democratic Party in the long term.
The little children in great danger, holding hands, staring blankly ahead, are pawns in a larger game. That game is run by adults. How cold do you have to be to use children in this way?