The article has headline that shifts the blame away from Obama — "Extending a Hand Abroad, Obama Often Finds a Cold Shoulder" — but read the first few paragraphs, and you'll see that the style Obama uses on us American citizens doesn't work on foreign leaders.
Over porterhouse steak and cherry pie at a desert estate in California earlier this month, President Obama delivered a stern lecture to President Xi Jinping about China’s disputes with its neighbors. If it is going to be a rising power, he scolded, it needs to behave like one.You've got to wonder why "deliver[ing] a stern lecture" and "scold[ing] equals "extending a hand."
Paragraph 3 has Obama trying "to lighten the mood" with Vladimir Putin "by joking about how age was depleting their athletic skills." Putin responded with what the NYT calls "a taut smile": "The president just wants to get me to relax." Including Putin in the self-deprecation that's supposed to be friendly and humorous is — unlike lecturing and scolding — fairly characterized as "extending a hand," but the point is, the article portrays Obama as ineffectual.
Scrolling toward the end:
Mr. Obama differs from his most recent predecessors, who made personal relationships with leaders the cornerstone of their foreign policies. The first George Bush moved gracefully in foreign capitals, while Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush related to fellow leaders as politicians, trying to understand their pressures and constituencies.But what is his style then? Steinberg doesn't say and one must struggle to read between the lines. I would tend to infer that Obama is relying on the way people are supposed to relate to him, which is to love or at least really like him. Others are supposed to respond to his uplifting presence.
“That’s not President Obama’s style,” said James B. Steinberg, Mr. Clinton’s deputy national security adviser and Mr. Obama’s deputy secretary of state.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Thankfully, we don't have that idiot Bush around messing up foreign relations. Obama is so much smarter. [Link]
Thursday, June 13, 2013
A not entirely unreasonable request. [Link]
The FBI and federal prosecutors are using cellphone records in court to try to prove that the five accused men were all nearby when the robbery attempts and planning occurred, as Moss, who is cooperating with the U.S. Attorney's Office, testified.The prosecution had told defense attorneys that they were unable to obtain Brown's cellphone records from the period before September 2010 because his carrier, MetroPCS, had not held on to them.Not so fast, Brown's attorney Marshall Dore Louis argued in court documents filed in Fort Lauderdale days after theNational Security Agency surveillance program was revealed last week.Edward Snowden, a former employee at an NSA contractor, leaked classified information about the program to a newspaper and alleged it may be an illegal government invasion of privacy.Louis argued in court Wednesday that the government should be forced to turn over phone location records for two cellphones Brown may have used because it could prove he was not present for one of the attempted bank robberies, on July 26 on Federal Highway in Lighthouse Point."The president of the United States has recognized this program has been ongoing since 2006 … to gather the phone numbers [and related information] of everybody including my client in 2010," Louis said.U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum agreed to give prosecutors an extra week or two to respond fully after they said they needed more time."There are security procedures that must be followed," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Walleisa said of the special protocols the Department of Justice follows when dealing with information, usually used to identify possible terrorist activity, that may have been secretly obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.Prosecutor Michael Gilfarb told the judge that even if the information is available, it may be irrelevant depending on whether Brown carried a phone.Brown's wife, Vesta Murat Brown, who testified for the prosecution Wednesday morning, told jurors that her husband didn't have a cellphone at the time but sometimes borrowed phones from her, other family members or friends.Local lawyers said they anticipate there will be many more requests for this kind of information now that defense attorneys know the information may have been preserved."If the government is spying on our phone calls, it can't then claim in the same breath that it won't provide those calls when it helps the defense. What's good for the goose, is good for the gander," said David Oscar Markus, a defense lawyer who blogs about the federal justice system in South Florida and first wrote about the unusual request.
Modern Hatfields & McCoys. [Link]
I love cats, but indoor cats, spayed and neutered cats. Feral cats are a nuisance, just like Muscovy ducks are.All winter, Peter Marra’s children had been pestering him to get a cat. It was ironic, he thought as he walked up the snowy path to his modern farmhouse in Takoma Park, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. Especially now, when the country’s cat lobby had him pegged as the Josef Mengele of felines. In his years as a research scientist at the Smithsonian Zoo’s Migratory Bird Center, Marra had produced many studies on different threats to bird life, like glass buildings and wind turbines, but none received as much attention as those featuring cats. Since its publication in the January issue of the journalNature Communications, his team’s paper, “The Impact of Free-Ranging Domestic Cats on Wildlife of the United States,” which placed the number of birds felled by felines at 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion per year, had been picked up by most major media outlets, including the New York Times. Marra was proud, although when he saw the front-page headline, “That Cuddly Kitty Is Deadlier Than You Think,” accompanied by a photo of a tabby with its jaws clenched around the neck of a rabbit, he braced himself for an onslaught.Sure enough, the reaction from Alley Cat Allies, the country’s most powerful cat group, was swift and furious. “This study is part of a continuing propaganda campaign to vilify cats,” railed the group’s president, Becky Robinson, in a press release that, to the Smithsonian’s intense displeasure, made use of an incident in which one of Marra’s researchers was accused of cat poisoning to bolster a long-running claim that his group’s work was “a veiled promotion by bird advocates to ramp up the mass killing of outdoor cats.”Within hours, comments on the Times’ website numbered in the thousands. There were the unabashedly ignorant: “I’m sorry. I must have missed the news flash that we’re having a shortage of birds.” The crazies: “My best friend is a CAT. How dare you suggest that CATS are killers.” The conspiracy theorists: “This stinks of anti-cat sentiment.” And the truthers: “If this is so, where are the close to 15 billion eviscerated carcasses?”All day, hate mail had been pouring in, and as Marra opened the door, he glanced cautiously over his shoulder. “You cat-murdering bastard,” a late-night caller told the author of a similar study. “We’ve got you in our sights.”Inside, his children were watching television. “Daddy, look at the cute kitty,” his daughter said, twisting toward him as a kitten appeared onscreen, playfully batting at something with its paws. Ah, yes, America’s favorite pet.
A: Everyone. [Link]
My first response to this was “Cry me a river”…Dozens of lawmakers and aides are so afraid that their health insurance premiums will skyrocket next year thanks to Obamacare that they are thinking about retiring early or just quitting.The fear: Government-subsidized premiums will disappear at the end of the year under a provision in the health care law that nudges aides and lawmakers onto the government health care exchanges, which could make their benefits exorbitantly expensive.… but that’s not fair. More accurate to say “Cry me a river, Democrats.” I really do feel bad for any Republican staffer or legislator in a cleft stick over this, and do you know why? It’s because NO REPUBLICAN VOTED FOR OBAMACARE. It’s not their fault. But Democrats either voted for this mess, or endorsed it after the fact – and ‘caucusing with the Democrats’ does, in fact, count as ‘endorsing’ in this context. So does ‘working for a Democrat.’ This is Obamacare. This is what they voted for; if it turns out that it’s actually a hot, steaming mess of pure stupidity and failure, well, we in the Republican party weren’t shy about saying that at the time.Guess it should be repealed, huh?
All one big happy family. [Link]
Let's start by going through the Post's article to create a list of journalists married to or closely related to officials within the Obama administration. The size and scope of this is bad enough. But what is most troubling is how high up this incest occurs in the worlds of both the media and the Obama administration:...
Friday, June 07, 2013
The NSA and FBI lie with numbers. [Link]
Every year, the Justice Department gives Congress a tally of the classified wiretap orders sought and issued in terrorist and spy cases – it was 1,789 last year. At the same time, it reports the number of demands for “business records” in such cases, issued under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. And while the number of such orders has generally grown over the years, it has always managed to stay relatively low. In 2011, it was 205. There were 96 orders in 2010, and only 21 in 2009.Thanks to the Guardian’s scoop, we now know definitively just how misleading these numbers are. You see, while the feds are required to disclose the number of orders they apply for and receive (almost always the same number, by the way), they aren’t required to say how many people are targeted in each order. So a single order issued to Verizon Business Solutions in April covered metadata for every phone call made by every customer. That’s from one order out of what will probably be about 200 reported in next year’s numbers.The public numbers are the one bit of accountability around the surveillance court, and the Justice Department used them to misdirect the public away from a massive domestic NSA spying operation that, as several Senators approvingly noted today, has been running for seven years.In 2011, Acting Assistant Attorney General Todd Hinnen relied on the same misleading numbers when he told the House Judiciary Committee that “on average, we seek and obtain section 215 orders less than 40 times per year.” Congressman James Sensenbrenner rightly took Hinnen to task today for juking the stats. “The Department’s testimony left the Committee with the impression that the Administration was using the business records provision sparingly and for specific materials,”Sensenbrenner writes (.pdf). “The recently released FISA order, however, could not have been drafted more broadly.”Leaks reveal the truth in small slices. In 2006, a technician at an AT&T switching center in San Francisco followed some fiber optic splices straight into an NSA wiretapping program parked on the backbones of the internet. Now someone with access to a single Patriot Act order served on Verizon Business Solutions leaked it to the Guardian, so today’s news is that the FBI and the NSA are engaged in wholesale spying on Verizon customers. But the whole pie is certainly bigger than that.There are hints of broader surveillance in the Verizon order. In addition to call records, the order demands cell phone data, like customers’ IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) number and another identifier that reveals the make and model of the phone. The mobile data is a non sequitur in that particular order, because Verizon Business Services isn’t a mobile carrier; it’s the long distance and landline business Verizon acquired as MCI in 2005.The obvious conclusion is that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court uses the same catchall boilerplate order over and over again, just changing the company name and the date. The court that’s supposed to be protecting Americans from abusive domestic surveillance is not only failing in that duty, it’s also lazy.
Wednesday, June 05, 2013
It's not just the IRS. EPA charging conservative groups for FOIA requests, but not liberal groups. [Link]
Is the scandalpalooza picking up scandal #5? (Benghazi, IRS, DOJ/Press, Fast and Furious). This time something smells rotten at the EPA. The Environmental Protection Agency is facing Inspector General and Congressional probes regarding political targeting of conservative groups.
The EPA is not preventing groups from becoming tax exempt, but charging conservative groups for information while giving freebies to liberal groups. The fees applied to Freedom of Information Act requests -- allegedly, the EPA waived them for liberal groups far more often than it did for conservative ones.
Two committees within the House of Representatives are investigating the charges, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (the oversight committee is also holding hearings on the Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups).
"I don't think it is fair at all. It is not fair to the American taxpayer -- the American taxpayer should expect and demand that the EPA treats everyone equally in regard to these requests," said Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tim Murphy, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. "This cannot be tolerated. As we see more federal agencies with this kind of bias, it is and should be a concern for all of us."That is precisely what the FOIA was passed to prevent. But the EPA records provided to the CEI in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demonstrate an ongoing pattern of making it far more difficult and expensive for limited-government groups to access public records,.
Research by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank, claims that the political bias is routine when it comes to deciding which groups are charged fees. Christopher Horner, senior fellow at CEI, said liberal groups have their fees for documents waived about 90 percent of the time, in contrast with conservative groups that it claims are denied fee waivers about 90 percent of the time.
"The idea is to throw hurdles in our way," charged Horner, who says he decided to look into the fee structure after the EPA repeatedly turned down his group for waivers.Not surprisingly, the EPA has denied any favoritism.
"In 20 cases of ours, since the beginning of last year, we were expressly denied, or denied by them simply refusing to respond, in 18 out of 20 cases," said Horner, explaining that the batting percentage for fees waived in favor of liberal groups is overwhelming.
"Earth Justice was batting 17 out of 19, the Sierra Club was the worst, at 70 percent granted, 11 out of 15. You add up some other groups and we found that 75 out of 82 groups granted, because these are the groups that the EPA has decided are the favored groups."
The EPA told Fox News:
"The Office of Inspector General received from the Environmental Protection Agency the official request to look into this matter just over a week ago, so the request is currently under review by the OIG at this early stage."As in the case of the IRS, this seems like an attempt by some people in the Obama administration to bring political debate to a screeching halt.
"This is no different than denying a group that you don't agree with ... whether you are the IRS or the EPA, their tax-exempt status," said Horner.
"You're talking about essentially making or breaking them, or at a minimum, snuffing out their ability to pursue their objectives."
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Monday, June 03, 2013
Institutional Leviathan. [Link]
Brian Cates at Big Journalism recalls how another post-9/11-attempt at pushback from the leftagainst President Bush helps to place the Obama administration’s IRS scandal into context:The reason the IRS scandal is so awful is that the power of the Federal Government was used by political partisans to single out citizens for abuse based on their completely legitimate political views.The AP/Fox News scandals are also important because abuse of Federal power threatens a free press, something that is vital to the survival of a democratic republic.And it definitely puts a burr under the saddle of Liberals that they can’t use their usual tu quoque arguments to try to head off any consequences for what’s been done.Their usual ‘Bush/Republicans Did It Too’ argument can’t be used.When did Bush’s administration:
- lie about a terrorist attack?
- go after the Left with the IRS?
- spy on reporters using the DOJ?
- kill American citizens with no due process through drone strikes?The things Progressives fear-mongered about, that Bush was going to have people thrown in jail for checking out the wrong library books, didn’t happen.Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Liberals want to pretend the things that are coming to light only now, that went on from 2009-2013 are nothing, a sideshow, a circus, just a political witch hunt. Well it was a witch hunt.Federal bureaucrats used the power of their offices to suppress & single out citizens & groups based on their political views when they weren’t busy spying on reporters. This is a subversion of the entire American governmental system.Our electoral system has government power as the PRIZE of winning elections after arguments have been made on a level playing field. You cannot have a system in which one party is entrenched and using the power of Federal agencies to suppress all other political parties. Whatever kind of governmental system that would be, it would not be an American or a Constitutional one.* * * * * * *What Progressives claim Conservative will do in abusing State power to thwart their Utopian aims, Progressives will THEMSELVES do to ADVANCE those same Utopian goals.Liberals spent 8 long years claiming Bush wanted to target them & suppress their speech and their views by using State power. Then a Progressive administration turned around and *did* what they accused Bush of wanting to do.Or as Jonah wrote back in 2006:Liberals are geniuses at unleashing social panics because A) it never occurs to them that their motives are anything but pure and B) because they are almost exclusively focused on short term tactics. And yet they are invariably shocked when these moral frenzies come back to bite them. McCarthyism was a direct consequence of both the Red Scare and the Brown Scare. And when the tactics they mastered were turned on them, they acted as if they came from nowhere.More after the page break.Peggy Noonan, an Obama booster in the fall of 2008, wrote yesterday on the current IRS scandal, which began after Obama “joked” about siccing the IRS on his enemies in 2009:The politicization of government employees wouldn’t have worried a lot of us 40, 30 or even 20 years ago. But since then, as a country, we have become, as individuals, less respectful of political differences and even of each other, as everything—all parts of American life—has become more political, more partisan, more divided and more aggressive.There has got to be some way to break through this, to create new rules for the road in a situation like this.Because people think the IRS has always, in various past cases, been used as a political tool, they think we’ll glide through this scandal too. We’ll muddle through, we’ll investigate, the IRS will right itself, no biggie.But when a scandal is systemic, ideological and focused on political ends, it will not just magically end. Agencies such as the IRS are part of what Jonathan Turley this week called a “massive administrative state,” one built with many protections and much autonomy.If it is not forced to change, it will not.Which gets us to the part about imagination. What does it mean when half the country—literally half the country—understands that the revenue-gathering arm of its federal government is politically corrupt, sees them as targets, and will shoot at them if they try to raise their heads? That is the kind of thing that can kill a country, letting half its citizens believe that they no longer have full political rights.As Noonan writes, “Those who think this is just business as usual are ahistorical, and those who think nothing can be done, or nothing serious should be done, are suffering from Cynicism Poisoning.”In a follow-up blog post yesterday, Noonan writes of another difference between this IRS scandal, and the previous ones, involving Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon:In previous IRS scandals it was the powerful abusing the powerful—a White House moving against prominent financial or journalistic figures who, because of their own particular status or the machineries at their disposal, could pretty much take care of themselves. A scandal erupts, there are headlines, and then people go on their way. The dreadful thing about this scandal, what makes it ominous, is that this is the elites versus regular citizens. It’s the mighty versus normal people. It’s the all-powerful directors of the administrative state training their eyes and moving on uppity and relatively undefended Americans.That’s what makes this scandal different, and why if it’s not stopped now it will never stop. Because every four years you can get yourself a new president and a new White House, but you won’t easily get yourself a whole new administrative state. It’s there, it’s not going away, not anytime soon. If it isn’t forced back into its cage now, and definitively, it will prowl the land hungrily forever.Nixon’s and Clinton’s enemies lists were studded with media figures whose ideologies were the opposite of each president. But today, as the late Andrew Breitbart liked to remind his readers, we are the media — everyone is a potential journalist; and anyone can start a local tea party chapter or conservative group. This is largely due to the democratizing power of the Internet, which puts powerful tools once reserved for the elite into anyone’s hands, often, as in the case of Blogger.com, for free.
Education needs to change. Is this the answer? [Link]
Something's got to give. Education is going to change, the question is how and when. Think about it: Today's job market—whether you're designing new drugs, fracking for oil, writing mobile apps or marketing Pop Chips—requires graduates who can think strategically in real time, have strong cognitive skills, see patterns, work in groups and know their way around highly visual virtual environments. This is the same generation that grew up playing online games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, but who are almost never asked to use their online skills in any classroom.MOOCs will inevitably come to K-12 education too. Everyone knows great public school teachers. But we also all know the tenured type who has been mailing it in for years. Parents spend sleepless nights trying to rearrange schedules to get out of Mr. Bleh's fourth-period math class. Online education is about taking the "best in class" teachers and scaling them to thousands or millions of students rather than 25-30 at a time.The union-dominated teaching corps can be expected to be just as hostile as college professors to moving K-12 to MOOCs. But a certain financial incentive will exist nonetheless. I noted this in a talk recently at an education conference where the audience was filled with people who create education software and services.I began by pointing out that in 2011 only 7.9% of 11th graders in Chicago public schools tested "college ready." That's failure, and it's worse when you realize how much money is wasted on these abysmal results. Chicago's 23,290 teachers—who make an average salary of $74,839, triple U.S. per capita income and 50% more than median U.S. household income—cost Chicago taxpayers $1.75 billion out of the city's $5.11 billion budget.Why not forget the teachers and issue all 404,151 students an iPad or Android tablet? At a cost of $161 million, that's less than 10% of the expense of paying teachers' salaries. Add online software, tutors and a $2,000 graduation bonus, and you still don't come close to the cost of teachers. You can't possibly do worse than a 7.9% college readiness level.When I made this proposal, only slightly facetiously, in a roomful of self-described education entrepreneurs, it was if I'd said that Dewey had plagiarized his decimal system. I was upbraided for not understanding the plight of teachers. The plight of students, as is too often the case in discussions of education, didn't seem to rate the same concern.
It's still early. We need experiments. Much as early movies were made with cameras in front of Broadway shows, current MOOCs are mainly professors droning into a camera. There will always be a place for real, live teachers in classrooms, perhaps more as tutors than lecturers. But online education is going to happen—and it has the potential to be the next great export market. The smart teachers, the good ones, would be well-advised to embrace the change.
Friday, May 31, 2013
First, old weapons finding new life in Syria. [Link]
Second, using aircraft carriers as 3D printing factories. [Link]Watch enough YouTube videos of the fighting in Syria, and you’ll start to notice it: a long-tubed gun, mounted on the back of either a jeep or large, fast pickup. Usually it’s blasting bunkers, blockhouses, fortified positions, or places where snipers are hiding. It even goes after tanks. And whenever it fires, the gun seems to kick up way more hell behind it than what it sends out the barrel’s front end. It’s theM40 106mm recoilless rifle, an American-made, Vietnam-vintage weapon that got dropped from the Army and Marine inventory back during the early 1970s. Until recently, the 106mm hadn’t seen much action in the irregular wars that have swept the globe. Then M40s somehow came into the hands of rebels in Libya and Syria. Suddenly, the 106mm – light, cheap, easily transportable, simple to operate, and packing a punch all out of proportion to its modest size — has emerged as a possible Great Asymmetric Weapon of the Day.Although the U.S. military no longer officially uses the M40, they still keep some around. A few found their way to Afghanistan where they were put to use by certain Special Forces units. The Danish and Australian armies, which acquired them from the U.S. decades ago under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, used them extensively during their ground operations there.In Libya, the M40 was used primarily in urban warfare, killing tanks and fortified positions. How exactly it found its way into the hands of the rebels there is a bit of a mystery. The M40s showed up in Libya along with thousands of brand new Belgian FN rifles, apparently from Western arsenals. That lead many to suspect they were supplied by Western intelligence. The M40s currently being seen in Syria might be coming either from the same sources that supplied the Libyan rebels or even from the Libyans themselves.There is also a strong possibility that these weapons might actually be of Iranian origin. Iran’s state-owned weapons arsenal, the Defense Industry Organization, has been manufacturing what was originally a licensed-version of the M40. Now called the “Anti-Tank Gun 106,” it is being offered on the open market, and are probably being supplied to the Syrian Army, which have since lost them to the rebels.While the M40 makes a big comeback in the Middle East, dozens of other armies all over the world never stopped using it. The Danish and Australian armies have used the 106mm in Afghanistan with excellent results. It turns out that in many instances they have outperformed the expensive, high tech, anti-tank rockets like the TOW, the Javelin and others that were supposed to replace the M40 four decades ago.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
New Obamacare required injury codes. [Link]
The new codes, Sen. Paul explained, include classifications for "injuries sustained from a turtle," "walking into a lamppost" and "injuries sustained from burning water skis.""Your government just wants to take care of you," he added, criticizing the new law's 9,000-plus pages of new regulations. "They don't think you're smart enough to make these decisions."Physicians currently have about 18,000 medical diagnostic codesto choose from to help them inform insurers of their patients' ailments. However, as Paul (himself a physician) notes, Obamacare includes a mandate for 140,000 of those codes -- and some of them sound downright ridiculous."Included among these codes," the senator continued, "will be 312 new codes for injuries from animals; 72 new codes for injuries just from birds; 9 new codes for 'injuries from the macaw."'"The macaw?" he asked. "I've asked physicians all over the country, 'Have you ever seen an injury from a macaw?"'He continued, adding that he had found "two new injury codes under Obamacare for 'injuries sustained from a turtle."'"Now, you might say, 'Well, turtles are dangerous' -- but why do you have to have two codes?" he asked. "Your doctor has to inform the government whether you've been struck by a turtle or bitten by a turtle."He added: "There is a new code for ... walking into a lamppost. There's also a code for 'walking into a lamppost, subsequent encounter.'""I guess that's if you don't learn," he added. "[T]here is [also] a code ... for 'injuries sustained from burning water skis."'