November 9. 2014

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Roger Simon sets the tone for how we might think about  last week’s results.

… Too bad there’s no time to celebrate.  We almost lost our country.  There’s no time to lose getting it back.

Depending on whether Barack Obama decides to behave like an adult or not in the face of massive defeat, all Hell can break loose in the next few months.  He can subvert Congress and initiate an absurd amnesty program that nobody wants except for perhaps some random aging members of La Raza.  Just as bad, or maybe worse — it involves weapons of mass destruction — he can subvert Congress again and sign a deal with the Iranian mullahs that, on latest reports, relies on our good friends the Russians to police the Iranian nuclear program. How insane is that? Ask any Ukrainian.

And that’s only getting started.  The litany of possible mischief small and large is endless from Obamacare to accusations  of racism (how else could Obama lose?) to that monumental absurdity the “War on Women.”  (That one doesn’t seem to be working out too well lately with the Senate filling up with Republican women.) …

… Okay, now I’m going to celebrate.  But just for a few hours.  In the end, it’s just like tennis.  The minute you think you’re ahead, you start to lose. Stay hungry.



Craig Pirrong at Streetwise Professor has a note of caution.

… Practically, however, I think the results will be fairly barren, and may in fact set the stage for a Constitutional crisis, or crises. Obama is still president, and can block any substantive legislation emerging from the solidly Republican Congress. More ominously, given Obama’s personality, ideological rigidity, and hatred of Republicans (and I do think he viscerally hates them), confrontations are inevitable. Obama will not take his whipping and emerge more conciliatory and willing to compromise. To the contrary, to someone of his narcissistic temperament, yesterday’s repudiation is an existential affront that he must confront. He will channel his inner Alinsky, and attempt to use every executive power to achieve results that he cannot implement through legislation. He will double down on the divisive rhetoric and policies that he has employed in the past couple of years. A Constitutional confrontation over immigration, or some other issue (climate?), could well result when Obama attempts to exert executive power unilaterally.

Perhaps most importantly, his obsession with completing a deal with Iran, which has warped virtually every aspect of American foreign policy (Syria most notably) lays the groundwork for confrontation as he will likely attempt to implement it without Congressional approval. The substantive ramifications of such a deal are also very frightening, because they could lead to an even greater crisis in the Middle East and an intensification of the Shia-Sunni/Arab-Persian conflict that is already the source of chaos and misery. It is beyond bizarre that a man who claims to strive for nuclear disarmament is pursuing, Ahab-like, a deal that would likely lead to the nuclearization of the most unstable and conflict-ridden part of the world. …



Jennifer Rubin posts on Wednesday’s presser.

President Obama is a singularly ungracious and non-self-reflective person. In his press conference today he refused yet again to acknowledge reality.

He tried to downplay the Democrats’ loss of the Senate by talking to the two-thirds of people who did not vote. He tried to insinuate that it was a bipartisan rejection. He reminded us several times that he is still president. (“I’m the guy elected by everybody.”) He boasted about an economy most voters think is rotten. He has, however, learned nothing. After a historic repudiation, he is staying the course and still threatens unilateral action by year’s end on immigration reform. One would have thought his policies were not on the ballot or that his party saw historic losses in consecutive midterm elections. He defiantly announced that he will veto some bills and that Congress won’t like his executive actions. He insisted it had to be his way: “If there are ideas that the Republicans have that I have confidence will make things better for ordinary Americans, the fact that the Republicans [are] suggesting it, as opposed to a Democrat — that’ll be irrelevant to me. I want to just see what works.” In other words he sees no reason to compromise; Republicans must agree with him. …



David Harsanyi on the press conference too.

In his post-midterm press conference today, President Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to taking executive action on immigration, “before the end of the year.” Obama argued that most Americans desire reform and consequently he has an imperative to act. Because, as everyone knows, polls, rather than elections, are by far the best measurement of what the electorate desires.

If Obama moves forward a number of things are bound to happen: First, and most definitely, there will be no way Republican leadership can engage the administration in any meaningful bipartisan legislation for the next two years. With a freshly enraged base, the GOP will be powerless to work with the White House unless it’s willing to risk civil war. Second, kicking off a new round of needless acrimony highlights the fiction that Obama has any intention of recalibrating his strategy and finding common ground moving forward.



An example of perfect puerile presidential petulance comes from the tete a tete with Michael Jordan. Yahoo Sports has the story of Jordan saying The One was a “sh*tty” golfer. We didn’t include any of that in Pickings because it was of little consequence, but then the childish chief narcissist had to respond and it became a story.

“[T]here is no doubt that Michael is a better golfer than I am,” Obama said. “Of course if I was playing twice a day for the last 15 years, then that might not be the case.”

Obama rounded out his response with a final burn on Jordan, whose NBA franchise returned to its original name this season, saying, “He might want to spend more time thinking about the Bobcats — or the Hornets.”

Given the nationwide Republican wave in Tuesday’s elections, perhaps Obama has bigger problems than what His Airness thinks of his golf game.



Scott Johnson of Power Line also posted on the Michael Jordan kerfuffle and then compares that to reactions to the election.

President Obama is a man who does not respond well to criticism. He can’t even fake it. When Michael Jordan recently observed that Obama is a “shitty golfer,” to take just one small example, Obama responded in a Milwaukee radio interview that he gave to lend his magic touch to Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke the day before the midterm elections: “[T]here is no doubt that Michael is a better golfer than I am.” Obama couldn’t leave it at that: “Of course, if I was playing twice a day for the last 15 years, then that might not be the case. You know, he might want to spend more time thinking about the Bobcats — or the [NBA's Charlotte] Hornets.” (Jordan is part of the Hornets ownership group and the team if off to a poor start.)

This unfunny gibe wasn’t enough for Obama. He deepened his critique of Jordan: “I love the man, though. He brought [the Chicago Bulls] a lot of championships. He does like talking trash sometimes, even when he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Obama’s sympathetic radio interviewer found this hilarious. The New York Daily News has posted the entire interview at the link. I’m embedding it below. You can check it out yourself.

I may be wrong about that example, but I’m not wrong about this one. Obama is seething with anger in response to the repudiation he and his policies received in the midterm elections. It comes through loud and clear in the press conference he held to address the results of the midterm elections (White House video below, White House transcript here, Washington Post transcript here). I can also say with certainty Obama rejected the good advice that Peggy Noonan offered him before the votes were counted. Noonan advised him to be gracious in defeat and gave him a good example. (The example was George W. Bush’s, and it was brilliant.) Sorry, but Obama doesn’t do gracious. …



Now even Chris Matthews is fed up. We get this from National Review.

MSNBC host Chris Matthews expressed dismay over President Obama’s post-election press conference on Wednesday, calling him entirely deaf to the millions of Americans who voted against his plan to grant executive amnesty for as many as 6 million illegal immigrants. 

“The people, if you look at the polling, their problem is illegal immigration,” he said. “He says, ‘I’m going to fix the problem.’ He doesn’t mean he’s gonna stop illegal immigration. He’s not going to do anything to stop illegal hiring, which is the magnet for illegal immigration, really. He’s going to basically say, ‘I’m going to deal with them by giving them green cards.’”

“What bothered me about him tonight — he keeps talking about common ground,” Matthews said. “Damnit, there’s very little common ground between left and right! But what there is, is compromise.”

“There’s something in this guy that just plays to his constituency, and acts like there’s no other world out there,” the MSNBC host lamented. “And that’s going to be a collision at the end of this year like you’ve never seen. I do believe it’s will be waving a red flag in front of the bull. I think Mitch McConnell’s headed for a fight with the president.”



Jonathan Tobin has more on the presser.

… Rather than taking a page from Bill Clinton’s book and understanding that he had to adjust his policies and ideas to political reality, Obama seems to think he has no lessons to learn from the voters who broadly rejected the policies that he told us last month were on the ballot yesterday.

Asked several times by members of the press if he was prepared for genuine compromise, all he gave them was the usual boilerplate he’s been employing throughout his presidency about being willing to listen to Republicans if they come up with reasonable ideas. The only problem with that: he believes the only one with reasonable ideas is Barack Obama. …



And Tobin also had lists of the biggest winners and biggest losers in the Wave of 2014. 

The 2014 midterms turned out to be the wave election that Republicans dreamed of and Democrats dreaded. But amid the debris of what turned out to be a stunning repudiation of the administration, there are some people who must be judged to be the big winners and losers on both sides. Here’s my list:

The Winners:

The first and most obvious winner is Mitch McConnell who will be the majority leader in January. Earlier in the year, he looked to be under siege in his race for reelection but ran among the smartest campaigns in the country as he first swamped a Tea Party challenger and then destroyed Alison Lundergan Grimes, the candidate the Clintons helped handpick to oppose him, in the general election. McConnell finally gets his chance to run the Senate and the man in position to put the heat on President Obama even if he won’t have an easy time with some members of his caucus.

Tom Cotton came into 2014 as the most hyped GOP Senate candidate but was thought to have run a lackluster campaign that turned an easy win into a nail biter. In the end, he won his Arkansas seat in a landslide. That puts him back into the conversation as the most highly regarded young (37) Republican and a future leader of his party.

In the course of the last year Joni Ernst …



Boston Herald columnist posts on the results from Hillary’s perspective.

Hillary Clinton put her political clout and even her political future on the line in this election — from Massachusetts to New Hampshire and in races clear across the country — and as the dust settles this morning we’ll see how it paid off.

The news that Republicans took control of the Senate despite Clinton’s best efforts doesn’t bode well for her desire to become the next president of the United States. …

… But don’t worry about Hillary. To explain away any weak points in the national Democratic mosaic, Hillary Clinton has what every political Clinton needs — a fall guy.

That would be President Obama. Expect to see Obama shoulder a lot of the blame for a lot of Democratic woes, thanks to his abysmal job approval ratings and back-to-back scandals, from Obama­care’s stumbling launch, to the renewal of combat operations in Iraq and now Syria, to Ebola … the list goes on.

November 6, 2014

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Next week we can rehash the vote.


Today we spend some time looking at QE (Quantitative Easing). Pickerhead has always thought this was nonsense on steroids. But, some of our regulars have a more favorable view. First up is James Pethokoukis.

Many conservatives loved pointing to Europe when its debt crisis seemed to be spiraling out of control. A cautionary tale, they said, of what can happen when government spending goes wild.  But they had the story wrong, or at least incomplete. Europe’s sovereign debt crisis was as much about slow growth as high debt. Anyway, these folks don’t talk much about Europe any more. And maybe that’s because it is now a cautionary tale of what happens when you combine fiscal austerity and tight money. That’s the exact deflationary formula some have been recommending for America the past few years. And as Europe’s experience shows, that would have been an utter disaster. Economist Michael Darda of MKM Partners: …



Power Line’s Scott Johnson posts a reader’s letter with similar thoughts.

… During the Depression, the Fed did nothing like QE and the Treasury wanted to force liquidation of excess assets and inventories and debts. The result is economic cataclysm, especially in a leveraged economy with a fractional reserve banking system. Banks cannot liquidate and satisfy their depositors need for cash. Deposits are borrowings for the bank. They in turn lend out the money they have on deposit to generate a return, and this pays savers a return. But when an economy goes into recession, this system malfunctions because the credit that originally justified the loan can no longer support it. This is the natural course of the business cycle. But the banking system on the way down is equivalent to the problem of a fire in a crowded theater. Everybody cannot get out at once. Not even close. It’s a fire in a vault really. Those lines of depositors waiting to take their money out cannot be satisfied.

It is easy to castigate the Fed and the Treasury for “bailing out” lenders and management teams, but the truth is more complicated. They were backstopping a system which holds the savings for the vast majority of Americans. As for the continuance of QE, I would revert to the Depression data and again observe that the Fed allowed the money supply to collapse by 1/3. This was devastating to the economy. Allowing monetary contraction through forced liquidation (which is the policy antidote to QE) would be beyond cataclysmic – it would make the Depression or today’s Greece a walk in the park. Unemployment would be 30%, people’s savings would be wiped out all at once – and the beneficiaries would be a tiny fraction of wealthy who would be able to buy assets for pennies from desperate sellers.

The primary criticism viz QE is that we are destroying the dollar and sowing the seeds of inflation. Maybe. But we are currently not inflating. At all. Commodity prices are falling or have fallen dramatically – gold, oil, you name it. The dollar has strengthened viz its alternative currencies, including gold and silver. There may be particular areas of price rises, but that means it’s not a uniform monetary phenomenon. Measured inflation is tame. One of the “inputs” which drives inflation is something called monetary velocity, or the speed with which people spend their money on items. As it did in the depression, it has collapsed. During the depression, it was this particular input which was responsible for the collapse in the money supply. You can think of QE as effectively offsetting the decline in velocity. …



Here’s the Power Line post that  the above letter.

We are approaching the end of year six of the regime of Quantitative Easing (QE) engineered by the Federal Reserve under Fed chairmen Ben Bernanke and now Janet Yellen. In place of responsible economic policy to revive economic growth and employment, we have had QE and the explosive growth of job-killing regulations (including Obamacare). In a recent look back at QE, New York Post columnist John Crudele credits QE with some good effects, but adds this inarguable observation, consistent with the avowed goals of QE:

“There’s one more thing that QE accomplished: it has made the stock market soar. Interest rates have remained so low for so long that investors have had no other choice but to move their money into the stock market, thus creating a bubble.

Even those adverse to risk were forced to chase the better yields in stocks, no matter how dangerous that was.

But for every winner in QE there are 99 losers. While the richest 1% of the US population has been loving the rise in stock prices and other QE amenities, Fed policy has been taxing on the masses of savers. …”



For a first, we have an item from Hollywood Reporter. It is an interview with Sharly Attkisson. It is long but interesting. Thankfully it’s the end of the week so there’s time to read it.

Sharyl Attkisson is an investigative journalist who became the story when she quit CBS News after two decades amid allegations that the network refused to run some of her stories that were critical of President Barack Obama. Ahead of the Tuesday release of her book Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington, she spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about her struggles with CBS executives and her assertion that her computers were hacked, possibly by Obama operatives.

Who did you tell at CBS that your computers were hacked?

The first person I spoke to was Washington bureau chief Chris Isham.

Did he believe you?

He appeared to.

Did CBS care? Did they do anything about it?

God, you know, there’s a lot of people there. He seemed to care. He hired a separate computer forensics firm to look at the computers. They, too, agreed that there had been highly sophisticated remote intrusion of my computers. They decided to dig deeper and embark upon a process that spanned a number of months, during which time the situation with the Associated Press and the government spying on Fox News reporter James Rosen was disclosed, as well as Edward Snowden’s NSA information. …



Now for the important stuff. Slate’s Explainer tells us why ghosts say. “Boo!”

… Variations of the word boo—including bo and boh—have been found in books as published as far back as 500 years ago. While the Oxford English Dictionary notes the similarity between bo and the Latin boāre and the Greek βοãv, both meaning “to cry aloud, roar, shout,” it’s unlikely that bo and boo—as nonsensical exclamations—derived  from these words. An etymological dictionary of Scottish from 1808 notes that the sound  might denote “a sound in imitation of the cry of a calf,” or be related to menacing creatures like the bu-kow and the bu-man (a possible ancestor of the modern bogeyman).

The combination of the voiced, plosive b- and the roaring -oo sounds makes boo a particularly startling word. Some linguists argue that the “ooh” or “oh” sounds can be pronounced at a higher volume than other vowel sounds, such as the “ee” in “wheel.” Since boo is a monosyllable, it can also be said very quickly, which may add to its scariness.

If you want to frighten someone in Spain, you can say uuh (pronounced like ooh in English), and in France you can say hou. A Czech ghost might say baf. In most European languages, including non-Romance languages like Polish, the sound boo is also understood as an attempt to scare someone, but it comes in different spellings.* For example, the Spanish version is written as ¡bú! …

November 5, 2014

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Back to the subject of the Wisconsin prosecutor’s harassment of Gov. Scott Walker, Stuart Taylor reports some Democrats are becoming uneasy with the witch hunt.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. has accused District Attorney John Chisholm, a fellow Democrat, of “abuse of prosecutorial power” in the relentless criminal investigation of Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and 29 conservative groups.

Clarke’s forceful public criticism is of Chisholm and the so-called “John Doe” investigation that Chisholm has pursued since 2010 against Walker, his staff and virtually every conservative advocacy group in the state.

Clarke, who has been sheriff since 2002 and is running for re-election on Tuesday as the Democratic nominee, has been elected and re-elected with heavy support both from fellow African-Americans and from conservatives.

Clarke said that he agreed with a petition seeking appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Chisholm. The petition was filed on Sept. 26 by a major Chisholm target, conservative fundraiser Eric O’Keefe.

While Clarke and Chisholm are both Democrats, the iconoclastic sheriff has often clashed with the more liberal Democrats who dominate Milwaukee politics, including Chisholm.

“This will go down as one of the ugliest chapters in Wisconsin political history” Clarke told this reporter. “This is a witch-hunt by a hyper-partisan prosecutor’s office … to go after political adversaries they disagree with.”  …



Jonathan Tobin posts on this year’s race baiting by Dems.

With the midterm campaign coming down to its last days, its been clear for weeks that the only way Democrats believe they can save some of their endangered red-state Senate incumbents is to play the race card. Both Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu and North Carolina’s Kay Hagan have sought to identify Republicans with racism and even, in Hagan’s case, with the killing of Trayvon Martin or the Ferguson, Missouri shooting, in order to mobilize African-American voters. While these tactics are based on outrageous slanders, the decision to play the race card is logical if not scrupulous. … 

… Waving the bloody shirt of Ferguson seems like a good idea to those who believe, not wrongly, that many African-Americans view such incidents as evidence of the enduring legacy of the nation’s history of racism. But the line between sending subtle hints about such issues and outright race baiting has clearly been crossed when, as Hagan did, Republicans are falsely accused of playing a role in killing young African-Americans. Nor did Landrieu do herself any favors by publicly complaining about the treatment of blacks and women in the contemporary south. …

… Thus, even if these tactics work to turn out blacks—and it is by no means clear that it will come anywhere close to the 2012 levels that Democrats desperately need—the party may be doing itself real damage with the public in ways that will harm their presidential candidate in 2016. As with other misleading memes they have beat to death, such as the spurious war on women that Republicans are supposed to be waging, Democrats are finding that they are fast exhausting the electorate’s patience and are running out of ideas. As much as playing the race card seems like a foolproof if unsavory tactic, it may not be as smart a move as they think it is.



How much has the president hurt the Democrats? Michael Barone has answers. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch. 

Before the election results are in, and keeping in mind that there may be some unpleasant surprises for one party or the other — or both — it’s possible to assess how the Democratic Party has fared under the leadership of President Obama. To summarize the verdict: not so well.

By one metric it has done very badly indeed. When Obama took the oath of office in January 2009, there were 257 Democrats in the House of Representatives. Going into this election there are 201 (including two vacant Democratic seats).

Psephologists universally agree Democrats will suffer a net loss of House seats, for reasons explained in an earlier column in this space. That will leave them with a number probably somewhere in the 190s.

That means a loss of something like 60 seats — far more than the parties of George W. Bush after six years (19 seats), and slightly more than Bill Clinton at this stage (47 seats). 

House race results are particularly meaningful because in the past two decades, much more than in the 1970s and 1980s, Americans are voting straight tickets. Party performance in House elections is a pretty good indicator of support of a party and (when it has one) its president. …



Thomas Sowell on voter fraud.

One of the biggest voter frauds may be the idea promoted by Attorney General Eric Holder and others that there is no voter fraud, that laws requiring voters to have a photo identification are just attempts to suppress black voting.

Reporter John Fund has written three books on voter fraud and a recent survey by OldDominionUniversity indicates that there are more than a million registered voters who are not citizens, and who therefore are not legally entitled to vote.

The most devastating account of voter fraud may be in the book “Injustice” by J. Christian Adams. He was a Justice Department attorney, who detailed with inside knowledge the voter frauds known to the Justice Department, and ignored by Attorney General Holder and Company.

One of these frauds involved sending out absentee ballots to people who had never asked for them. Then a political operator would show up — uninvited — the day the ballots arrived and “help” the voter to fill them out. Sometimes the intruders simply took the ballots, filled them out and forged the signatures of the voters.

These were illegal votes for Democrats, which may well be why Eric Holder sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil. …



Ed Meese and Ken Blackwell with a column in USA Today on how to prevent election fraud. 

Once upon a time, Americans got together on Election Day, went to the polls, and chose our leaders. Voting on the same day helped bind us together as self-governing citizens in a free republic. It even felt like a national holiday — Independence Day without the fireworks.

Except for those traveling or who are infirm and who can use absentee ballots, Election Day puts everyone in the same boat. As a civic exercise in equality, it is unparalleled. It has the added advantage of making vote fraud more difficult, since there is a very short window in which to commit it.

But over the past few decades, election laws have been relaxed in the name of convenience, with “reforms” such as early voting, same-day registration, Sunday and evening voting hours, no-excuse absentee voting and allowing out-of-precinct ballots. All of these increase the possibility of vote fraud.

At the same time, despite a clear mandate in the National Voter Registration Act (also known as the Motor Voter Law) to keep accurate registrations, the system has grown lax; election authorities have left millions on the voter rolls who should not be there.

A 2012 study by the PewCenter on the States found 1.8 million deceased people were registered to vote, and 24 million invalid or inaccurate registrations. An American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) review of voter rolls around the nation in 2013 found more than 200 counties with more voters registered than age-eligible, legal residents. The ACRU has won historic consent decrees in federal court requiring two Mississippi counties to clean up their voter rolls and is now litigating in Texas. …



Ilya Somin on the fact that liberal cities are the ones with less affordable housing.

… Why do liberal cities enact policies that often making housing unaffordable for the poor and much of the middle class? The cynical explanation is that “limousine liberal” voters only pretend to care about affordable housing for the poor and the middle class, but in reality adopt zoning restrictions to keep home prices up and prevent the riffraff from living near them. Such motives may be present in some cases. But, on most issues, there is little correlation between political views and measures of narrow self-interest. It is therefore likely that most voters in liberal cities do genuinely care about affordable housing and the interests of the poor.

The virus that plagues our body politic is not selfish voting, but ignorant voting. Like their conservative counterparts, most liberal voters don’t think carefully about the possible negative side effects of their preferred policies. Just as most of them do not realize that rent control diminishes the stock of housing, they also may not realize that zoning restrictions diminish it, and thereby increase housing costs.

Conservative voters have their own characteristic patterns of economic ignorance. Both sides tend to ignore or even blatantly misinterpret evidence that cuts against their preferred views – especially if the evidence or the reasoning behind it is counterintuitive. To a considerable extent, the high cost of housing in liberal cities is yet another negative effect of widespread political ignorance. …

November 4, 2014

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You want the truth about what the election is about? Krauthammer has answers.

… First, like all U.S. elections, it’s about the economy. The effect of the weakest recovery in two generations is reflected in President Obama’s 13-point underwater ratings for his handling of the economy.

Moreover, here is a president who proclaims the reduction of inequality to be the great cause of his administration. Yet it has radically worsened in his six years. The 1 percent are doing splendidly in the Fed-fueled stock market, even as median income has fallen.

Second is the question of competence. The list of disasters is long, highlighted by the Obamacare rollout, the Veterans Affairs scandal and the pratfalls of the once-lionized Secret Service. Beyond mere incompetence is government intrusiveness and corruption, as in the overreach of national security surveillance and IRS targeting of politically disfavored advocacy groups.

Ebola has crystallized the collapse of trust in state authorities. The overstated assurances, the ever-changing protocols, the startling contradictions — the Army quarantines soldiers returning from West Africa while the White House denounces governors who did precisely the same with returning health-care workers — have undermined government in general, this government in particular.

Obama’s clumsy attempt to restore confidence by appointing an Ebola czar has turned farcical. …



John Fund writes on the voting of non-citizens.

Could non-citizen voting be a problem in next week’s elections, and perhaps even swing some very close elections?

A new study by two OldDominionUniversity professors, based on survey data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, indicated that 6.4 percent of all non-citizens voted illegally in the 2008 presidential election, and 2.2 percent in the 2010 midterms. Given that 80 percent of non-citizens lean Democratic, they cite Al Franken ’s 312-vote win in the 2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate race as one likely tipped by non-citizen voting. As a senator, Franken cast the 60th vote needed to make Obamacare law.

North Carolina features one of the closest Senate races in the country this year, between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis. So what guerrilla filmmaker James O’Keefe, the man who has uncovered voter irregularities in states ranging from Colorado to New Hampshire, has learned in North Carolina is disturbing. This month, North Carolina officials found at least 145 illegal aliens, still in the country thanks to the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, registered to vote. Hundreds of other non-citizens may be on the rolls.

A voter-registration card is routinely issued without any identification check, and undocumented workers can use it for many purposes, including obtaining a driver’s license and qualifying for a job. And if a non-citizen has a voter-registration card, there are plenty of campaign operatives who will encourage him or her to vote illegally. …



According to John Fund, the campaign manager caught in the James O’Keefe NC sting has resigned.

Guerrilla filmmaker James O’Keefe has prompted investigations into political operatives he caught on camera advising non-citizens they could vote. The North Carolina Board of Elections is looking into whether they broke state law.

Meanwhile, Greg Amick, the campaign manager for the Democratic candidate for sheriff in Charlotte, N.C., has left his position. Amick told an O’Keefe investigator that her non-citizen status was no problem: “As long as you’re registered to vote, you’ll be fine.” …



Stephen Hayes says this election is about everything.

… Not only is this election not about nothing, it is being fought over exactly the kinds of things that ought to determine our elections.

It’s about the size and scope of government. It’s about the rule of law. It’s about the security of the citizenry. It’s about competence. It’s about integrity. It’s about honor.

It’s about a government that makes promises to those who have defended the country and then fails those veterans, again and again and again. It’s about a president who offers soothing reassurances on his sweeping health care reforms and shrugs his shoulders when consumers learn those assurances were fraudulent. It’s about government websites that cost billions but don’t function and about “smart power” that isn’t very smart. It’s about an administration that cares more about ending wars than winning them, and that claims to have decimated an enemy one day only to find that that enemy is still prosecuting its war against us the next. It’s about shifting red lines and failed resets. It’s about a president who ignores restrictions on his power when they don’t suit him and who unilaterally rewrites laws that inconvenience him. It’s about a powerful federal agency that targets citizens because of their political beliefs and a White House that claims ignorance of what its agents are up to because government is too “vast.” In sum, this is an election about a president who promised to restore faith in government and by every measure has done the opposite. …



Kevin Williamson gives a hearty goodbye to Wendy Davis and her Texas fail.

Acknowledging the admittedly remote risk that I am giving a hostage to fate by writing these words, I note that the implosion of Wendy Davis’s ugly and vacuous gubernatorial campaign in Texas has been a satisfying spectacle. On Tuesday, it is all but inevitable that Greg Abbot’s campaign and Texas voters are going to beat Wendy Davis like a circus monkey, and it will be her second significant defeat in the campaign: She ran triumphantly unopposed in the New York Times primary, with Robert Draper all but kissing the hem of her garment, but she took a beating in the Rio Grande primary, with her penniless nobody opponent outperforming her in critical border counties that had gone heavily for Barack Obama in the presidential elections.

Bipartisan lesson: If you are going to run a horsepucky media creation as a single-issue candidate, pick a single issue that doesn’t stack voters up against you four to one.

Wendy Davis is a fanatic as Winston Churchill defined the word: “One who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” Her candidacy was the product of abortion fanaticism and almost nothing else. …

… Strangely enough, marijuana reform is a notable locus of fanaticism. You’d think that of all the single-issue enthusiasms across these fruited plains, the marijuana-legalization crusade would be one of the more laid-back. It isn’t. If you think that the gay-marriage obsessives or the Chicken Littles of climate change are fanatics and bores, spend a few hours with the potheads. Marijuana — or  cannabis, or hemp, or whatever particular nomenclature the individual factionalist with whom you are speaking insists upon — will, if the ganja gang is to be believed, cure cancer, replace fossil fuels, prevent global warming, transform the economy, balance the budget, lower taxes, win the war on terror (“Duuude, I could go for some falafel . . . ”), lower health-care costs, eliminate kitchen drudgery, turn a sandwich into a banquet, and find that slipper that’s been at large under the chaise lounge for several weeks. I agree with the potheads on the basic policy, but even so, it is all but impossible to have a conversation with them about the subject, especially one that considers the possible downsides associated with having a legal free market in marijuana, such as an increased difficulty in getting correct change at 7-Eleven, longer lines at Taco Bell, increased incidence of Phish concerts, etc. …



George Will writes on some of the little noticed items on Tuesday.

… Because Senate control is at issue, insufficient attention has been paid to 2014’s most important election, which is in the worst-governed state. Illinois incumbent governor is Pat Quinn, a compliant time-server who floated up from lieutenant governor when Rod Blagojevich became the fourth of the previous nine governors to be imprisoned. The state has high unemployment, low growth and more than $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. If voters ratify the state’s trajectory by reelecting Quinn, he will accelerate the downward spiral by continuing policies that have produced it, beginning by making “temporary” tax increases permanent. Republicans will win if their candidate, businessowner Bruce Rauner, wins and delivers, among other things, a campaign to term-limit the state legislators who, collaborating with government employee unions, buy job permanence using money looted from taxpayers.

Republicans also will win if Quinn wins, thereby making Illinois a scary example to the nation of the terrible toll taken by the “blue model” of governance. Although U.S. law allows a one-party city like Detroit to go bankrupt, there is no provision for state bankruptcies. Hence a Quinn victory would provide, perhaps within his next term, hair-raising excitement for the states’ masochistic electorate as lenders recoil from America’s Argentina. …

… We govern through parties, and this autumn President Obama’s has repudiated him. Tuesday will supply evidence of not only how little pulse Obama’s presidency still has but also how much damage he has done to his party. Before he led it to its 2010 debacle, it controlled 62 state legislative chambers to the Republicans’ 36. Entering Tuesday, Republicans led Democrats, 59 to 39. (Subtract two chambers because Nebraska’s legislature is unicameral and nonpartisan.) Can Democrats stop the hemorrhaging? …



Peter Wehner posts on the damage done to the Dems. 

How much damage is Barack Obama doing to the Democratic Party? According to the respected political analyst Stuart Rothenberg, the answer is quite a lot. According to Rothenberg, “President Barack Obama is about to do what no president has done in the past 50 years: Have two horrible, terrible, awful midterm elections in a row.”

Mr. Rothenberg compares Obama to the worst midterm numbers of two-term presidents going back to Harry Truman. He concludes that it’s likely that over the course of two midterm elections, Democrats will lose somewhere in the range of 68-75 House seats range and 11-15 Senate seats. …



Jennifer Rubin spots some sore losers.

If you have been watching or reading the caterwauling in the mainstream media about the midterms, you will have discovered it goes something like this: There is no GOP wave. Well, there is a GOP wave, but Republicans are not running on anything. Well, the Republicans ARE running on something, but they will kill each other. Maybe they won’t kill each other, but the majority will be so big that it will fall apart. Even if it does not fall apart, the Democrats will get the Senate back in 2016.

It is more than sore loser-itis in anticipation of a loss they fear will be impossible to spin. It is evidence of a party and a liberal movement out of gas, barren of ideas and desperate to scare its own base with race-baiting and gender victimization. Even the New York Times sounded shocked: “The images and words they are using are striking for how overtly they play on fears of intimidation and repression.” Welcome to what is left of “hope and change.”

It seems fitting that embattled Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) finishes the race accusing her fellow citizens of racism. (“I’ll be very, very honest with you. The South has not always been the friendliest place for African Americans. It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”) Who wouldn’t want to vote for a pol who thinks them so despicable, huh? …



Michael Goodwin notices the president and his staff always blame someone else. 

In the New York Times the other day, anonymous aides to President Obama trashed Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Kerry was mocked mercilessly, with officials joking “that he is like the astronaut played by Sandra Bullock in the movie ‘Gravity,’ somersaulting through space, untethered to the White House.”

A week before that, The Times reported that, despite Obama’s public efforts to calm fears over Ebola, he was privately seething at health aides’ bungling. In a bid to separate him from the incompetence of his administration, the leakers claimed Obama was “visibly angry” and “demanded a more hands-on approach” from his team.

Then there was the story about Pentagon boss Hagel firing off a memo to national security chief Susan Rice that faulted America’s Syrian policy. Then there was a story about — oh, never mind, you get the picture.

The extraordinary pile-up of crises has turned the usual White House blame game into something more lethal: a shootout in a lifeboat. The presidency is sinking, but we are expected to believe that only the president is blameless. …



Power Line tells us one of Louisiana’s most famous crooks, Edwin Edwards, is running for office again.

I think it is Glenn Reynolds who may have first come up with the slogan that the Democratic Party is nowadays a criminal conspiracy masquerading as a political party, which is fitting for their candidate for Louisiana’s 6th House district: Edwin Edwards!

He’s only a convicted felon, and after serving nine years in federal prison he’s back in he game, a spry age 87 adorned by his 35-year-old (third) wife, whom he met while in prison when she became his pen pal. …

November 3, 2014

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It was the best of times it was the worst of times, . . . .  Today we celebrate the best of our species and then we pull back the curtain on some of the worst. First, what makes us human? Nautilus says it is our willingness to cooperate. Given the item that runs second today, you might want to immerse yourself in this piece.

Tales about the origins of our species always start off like this: A small band of hunter-gatherers roams the savannah, loving, warring, and struggling for survival under the African sun. They do not start like this: A fat guy falls off a New York City subway platform onto the tracks.

But what happens next is a quintessential story of who we are as human beings.

On Feb. 17, 2013, around 2:30 a.m., Garrett O’Hanlon, a U.S. Air Force Academy cadet third class, was out celebrating his 22nd birthday in New York City. He and his sister were in the subway waiting for a train when a sudden silence came over the platform, followed by a shriek. People pointed down to the tracks.

O’Hanlon turned and saw a man sprawled facedown on the tracks. “The next thing that happened, I was on the tracks, running toward him,” he says. “I honestly didn’t have a thought process.”

O’Hanlon grabbed the unconscious man by the shoulders, lifting his upper body off the tracks, but struggled to move him. He was deadweight. According to the station clock, the train would arrive in less than two minutes. From the platform, O’Hanlon’s sister was screaming at him to save himself.

Suddenly other arms were there: Personal trainer Dennis Codrington Jr. and his friend Matt Foley had also jumped down to help. “We grabbed him, one by the legs, one by the shoulders, one by the chest,” O’Hanlon says. They got the man to the edge of the platform, where a dozen or more people muscled him up and over. More hands seized the rescuers’ arms and shoulders, helping them up to safety as well.

In the aftermath of the rescue, O’Hanlon says he has been surprised that so many people have asked him why he did it. “I get stunned by the question,” he says. In his view, anybody else would’ve done the same thing. “I feel like it’s a normal reaction,” he says. “To me that’s just what people do.”

More precisely, it is something only people do, according to developmental psychologist Michael Tomasello, codirector of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. …


… There are no fossils of ancient hominid brains or other physical evidence that might tell us when and how our ancestors first put their minds together to collaborate. Without such clues, the question of why we alone became a collaborative species is difficult to answer, says Hare, who is now a professor at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at DukeUniversity. “Figuring out what makes us unique is hard as hell,” he says. “But it’s much easier than the next question, which is the real issue, the Higgs boson of evolutionary anthropology: How did we get that way?”

In the absence of physical evidence, Tomasello proposes one possible scenario. During the Pleistocene, about 1.5 million years ago, the climate became very bumpy, with frequent temperature swings that forced our ancestors to work together to access new sources of food. Perhaps we became scavengers, joining forces to ward off bigger, tougher meat-eating competitors. Under these circumstances, any genetic variation that made it easier to collaborate—maybe by more accurately reading someone else’s intentions, seeing the whites of their eyes, or simply being more relaxed about sharing food—presumably would have helped those individuals survive, and would have spread through the population.

Hints as to how this might have happened emerge from a surprising place: a fox-breeding farm in Siberia. In the 1950s the Russian biologist Dmitri Belyaev was interested in how dogs might first have been domesticated. He paired the most docile, friendly foxes he could find, then chose the gentlest from each litter and bred them. In a mere 10 generations, the young foxes acted like puppy dogs. The first time they met a human, they wagged their tails and tried to leap into people’s arms to lick their faces. …


… Ultimately, Tomasello’s research on human nature arrives at a paradox: our minds are the product of competitive intelligence and cooperative wisdom, our behavior a blend of brotherly love and hostility toward out-groups. Confronted by this paradox, the ugly side—the fact that humans compete, fight, and kill each other in wars—dismays most people, Tomasello says. And he agrees that our tendency to distrust outsiders—lending itself to prejudice, violence, and hate—should not be discounted or underestimated. But he says he is optimistic. In the end, what stands out more is our exceptional capacity for generosity and mutual trust, those moments in which we act like no species that has ever come before us.



Now, a look at our seamier side from Wired

The campuses of the tech industry are famous for their lavish cafeterias, cushy shuttles, and on-site laundry services. But on a muggy February afternoon, some of these companies’ most important work is being done 7,000 miles away, on the second floor of a former elementary school at the end of a row of auto mechanics’ stalls in Bacoor, a gritty Filipino town 13 miles southwest of Manila. When I climb the building’s narrow stairwell, I need to press against the wall to slide by workers heading down for a smoke break. Up one flight, a drowsy security guard staffs what passes for a front desk: a wooden table in a dark hallway overflowing with file folders.

Past the guard, in a large room packed with workers manning PCs on long tables, I meet Michael Baybayan, an enthusiastic 21-year-old with a jaunty pouf of reddish-brown hair. If the space does not resemble a typical startup’s office, the image on Baybayan’s screen does not resemble typical startup work: It appears to show a super-close-up photo of a two-pronged dildo wedged in a vagina. I say appears because I can barely begin to make sense of the image, a baseball-card-sized abstraction of flesh and translucent pink plastic, before he disappears it with a casual flick of his mouse.

Baybayan is part of a massive labor force that handles “content moderation”—the removal of offensive material—for US social-networking sites. As social media connects more people more intimately than ever before, companies have been confronted with the Grandma Problem: Now that grandparents routinely use services like Facebook to connect with their kids and grandkids, they are potentially exposed to the Internet’s panoply of jerks, racists, creeps, criminals, and bullies. They won’t continue to log on if they find their family photos sandwiched between a gruesome Russian highway accident and a hardcore porn video. Social media’s growth into a multibillion-dollar industry, and its lasting mainstream appeal, has depended in large part on companies’ ability to police the borders of their user-generated content—to ensure that Grandma never has to see images like the one Baybayan just nuked. …

… This work is increasingly done in the Philippines. A former US colony, the Philippines has maintained close cultural ties to the United States, which content moderation companies say helps Filipinos determine what Americans find offensive. And moderators in the Philippines can be hired for a fraction of American wages. Ryan Cardeno, a former contractor for Microsoft in the Philippines, told me that he made $500 per month by the end of his three-and-a-half-year tenure with outsourcing firm Sykes. Last year, Cardeno was offered $312 per month by another firm to moderate content for Facebook, paltry even by industry standards.


Here in the former elementary school, Baybayan and his coworkers are screening content for Whisper, an LA-based mobile startup—recently valued at $200 million by its VCs—that lets users post photos and share secrets anonymously. They work for a US-based outsourcing firm called TaskUs. …

… Given that content moderators might very well comprise as much as half the total workforce for social media sites, it’s worth pondering just what the long-term psychological toll of this work can be. Jane Stevenson was head of the occupational health and welfare department for Britain’s National Crime Squad—the UK equivalent of the FBI—in the early 2000s, when the first wave of international anti-child-pornography operations was launched. She saw investigators become overwhelmed by the images; even after she left her post, agencies and private organizations continued to ask for her help dealing with the fallout, so she started an occupational health consultancy, Workplace Wellbeing, focused on high-pressure industries. She has since advised social media companies in the UK and found that the challenges facing their content moderators echo those of child-pornography and anti-terrorism investigators in law enforcement.

“From the moment you see the first image, you will change for good,” Stevenson says. But where law enforcement has developed specialized programs and hires experienced mental health professionals, Stevenson says that many technology companies have yet to grasp the seriousness of the problem. …



For needed comic relief, here’s Andrew Malcolm with late night humor.

Conan: President Obama said he hugged and kissed some of the nurses who treated Ebola patients. Man, that guy will do anything to get out of that job right now.

Fallon: The CDC is trying to calm people saying you can’t get Ebola sitting next to someone. But you could give it to someone sitting next to you. So, don’t worry. But, you know, worry.

Conan: NFL teams got a league newsletter informing them of the dangers of Ebola. Meanwhile, Ebola has received a letter about the dangers of the NFL.

November 2, 2014

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Looking past the “chickenshit remark”, David Harsanyi spots the really dangerous and insidious comment in The Atlantic article.

… But you know what is unmistakably anti-Israel? Gloating over how the United States has strong-armed Israel into living with a nuclear Iran, which seems like significant news to me:

This official agreed that Netanyahu is a ‘chickenshit’ on matters related to the comatose peace process, but added that he’s also a ‘coward’ on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat. The official said the Obama administration no longer believes that Netanyahu would launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to keep the regime in Tehran from building an atomic arsenal. ‘It’s too late for him to do anything. Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.’

At the United Nations a few years, Obama reportedly offered to do whatever it took to prevent Iran from producing atomic weapons in exchange for Israeli assurances that it would not attack Iran’s nuclear sites before the presidential election in 2012. (And to think, Obama officials have the audacity to whine about Netanyahu’s “near-pathological desire for career-preservation.”) One side kept its promise. Obama has repeatedly vowed, since his first run for president, to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Maybe that promise that never should have been made. Now, though, the administration claims it’s too late. Now it claims American pressure helped dissuade Israel from defending itself. And now, there is nothing Israel can do about it.

Knowing this, why anyone would expect Israel to trust John Kerry or Barack Obama to forge a peace deal with a Fatah-Hamas unity government is a mystery.

Israel isn’t completely innocent in this mess, of course. Cabinet member Moshe Ya’alon, for instance, was quoted referring to Kerry as “obsessive and messianic” earlier this year. But Ya’alon has since apologized a number of times. …



Roger Simon noticed the same thing.

… But there is something of importance in Goldberg’s article.  Like me (we’re on paragraph 5 here), he buried his lede. I learned about this through a tweet by Brian Faughnan: Buried lede in that piece on Bibi: WH thinks Iran’s nuke program pretty damn far along.  Faughnan is referring to the following from Goldberg:

The official said the Obama administration no longer believes that Netanyahu would launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to keep the regime in Tehran from building an atomic arsenal. “It’s too late for him to do anything. Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.”

Goldberg goes on to explain this proves Bibi is a “chickensh*t” (no, I’m not afraid to use profanity; read my novels. But those are the rules of this site…) because he didn’t act against the mullahs two years ago, but what it really shows, to people genuinely interested, is that the administration assumes Iran is too close to the bomb to make an attack worth it.  That is far more interesting and, needless to say dangerous, than anybody’s opinion about Benjamin Netanyahu. …



David Bernstein in Volokh Conspiracy has more.

Jeffrey Goldberg has quoted an anonymous Obama Administration official as calling Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a “chickenshit” because Bibi refuses to make bold moves for peace that might endanger his electoral prospects.  Putting aside the incorrect use of the word chickenshit (which is not synonymous with “a chicken”), and the fact that it’s foolish to base a diplomatic strategy on assuming politicians won’t act like politicians, I think the underlying dynamic here reflects not just the general antipathy the Obama and Netanyahu administrations have for each other, but the continuing fallout from the Obama Administration’s initial gross misreading of the Israeli political scene.

Very succinctly, the Obama Administration came in to office thinking it could either force Netanyahu to make concessions, or force his government to fall.  Both the Shamir and the first Netanyahu governments made concessions and ultimately got tossed out by the voters after tensions rose with the U.S., so this was not a completely unreasonable  assumption.

However, Obama and his advisors missed several contrary factors.  The Israeli public never liked Obama, never trusted him due to his well-known associations with various anti-Israel leftists such as Rashid Khalidi. Israelis’ impressions were solidified by major blunders made by the Obama Administration, which did not get much attention in the U.S., but did in Israel. …



As does Jennifer Rubin.

… But Obama should have also already learned that challenging Netanyahu and insulting the Jewish state in this manner has one definite side effect: strengthening the prime minister’s political position at home. The same thing happened after Obama’s attacks on the status of Jerusalem in his first term. The administration thought it could topple Netanyahu soon after his election in February 2009 and failed, but even after his election to another term in 2013 as well as the absence of any viable alternative to him, they are still clinging to the delusion that the Israeli people will reject his policies. But that isn’t likely to happen for one reason. The overwhelming majority of Israelis may not love the prime minister but they share his belief that there is no Palestinian peace partner and that turning the West Bank into a sovereign state that could be controlled by Hamas and other terrorists just like Gaza would be madness. They also oppose efforts to divide their capital or to prohibit Jews from the right to live in some parts of the city.

Netanyahu won’t back down. In the wake of the summer war with Hamas that further undermined an Israeli left that was already in ruins after 20 years of failed peace processing, Netanyahu was clearly heading to early elections that would further strengthen the Likud. Obama’s attacks will only make that strategy more attractive to the prime minister. But whether he is reelected in 2015, 2016, or 2017, few believe Netanyahu won’t be returned to office by the voters for his third consecutive and fourth overall term as Israel’s leader. Though a lot of damage can be done to Israel in the next two years, that means Netanyahu is almost certain to be able to outlast Obama in office and to enjoy what will almost certainly be better relations with his successor whether it is a Democrat or a Republican. Waiting out Obama isn’t a good strategy for Israel but it may be the only one it has available to it and will likely be rewarded with a honeymoon with the next president. …



Seth Mandel also noticed the real meat of the article. 

The silliness of President Mom Jeans calling an Israeli special forces veteran “chickens–t” was what first dominated the reactions of the Obama administration’s frat-house taunts directed at Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. But the larger strategic impact of the insult, as passed through what Matthew Continetti has termed the “secretarial” press, this time via Jeffrey Goldberg, soon became apparent. And it has now been confirmed by a major story in the Wall Street Journal.

It was easy at first to miss anything but the string of insults directed from Obama to Netanyahu, including the casual accusation of autism. (It’s arguable whether this represented a new low for the president, who has a habit of demonstrating his grade school playground vocabulary.) But once the initial shock at the further degrading of American statecraft under Obama wore off, it was easy to see the real purpose of the story. The Obama administration wanted to brag through its stenographer that the president had protected the Iranian nuclear program from Israel:

I ran this notion by another senior official who deals with the Israel file regularly. This official agreed that Netanyahu is a “chickenshit” on matters related to the comatose peace process, but added that he’s also a “coward” on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat. The official said the Obama administration no longer believes that Netanyahu would launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to keep the regime in Tehran from building an atomic arsenal. “It’s too late for him to do anything. Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.”

If Iran goes nuclear, those words will be the perfect description of the Obama administration’s fecklessness: “Now it’s too late.” …



Perhaps the strangest thing about Israeli/American problems now is that Israel has more Arab friends now than ever before. Evelyn Gordon writes on how obama’s policies are so twentieth century. 

The inaugural session of the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate took place last week, with scholars coming from around the world to participate in two days of discussion on a plethora of topics. Hisham Melhem, the Washington bureau chief for Al Arabiya News, subsequently published a lengthy summary of the proceedings on Al Arabiya’s website, and reading it, I was struck by the absence of certain topics one might expect to feature prominently. Egypt, Iran, oil, ISIS, Turkey, Russia, the U.S., and Islamic extremism were all there. But in 1,700 words, the Palestinians weren’t mentioned once, while Israel appeared only in the very last paragraph–which deserves to be read in full:

Finally, it was fascinating to attend a two day conference about the Middle East in times of upheaval in which Israel was mostly ignored, with the only frontal criticism of her policies delivered by an American diplomat.

And this explains a lot about the current U.S.-Israel spat. President Barack Obama entered office with the firm belief that the best way to improve America’s relations with the Muslim world was to create “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel, and for six years now, he and his staff have worked diligently to do exactly that. Nor was this an inherently unreasonable idea: Even a decade ago, Arab capitals might have cheered the sight of U.S. officials hurling childish insults at their Israeli counterparts. …



Zev Chafets says chickens know who’s a lame duck.

… A “senior White House official” told Atlantic correspondent Jeffery Goldberg that the Israeli prime minister is “a chickens***,” because he is afraid to make peace according to American specifications. “The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat.” The anonymous official said fearlessly. “[Netanyahu] is not Rabin. He’s not Sharon. He’s certainly no Begin. He’s got no guts.”

This American nostalgia for Menachem Begin made me laugh out loud. Having served as one of his press spokesmen for five years I vividly recall the campaign of personal vilification waged against him by the Carter administration.

We constantly heard reports of senior White House officials calling Begin a terrorist, a fascist, a war monger, a lunatic and a delusional religious fanatic. All off the record, of course. …

… At the moment, Barack Obama and his anonymous senior officials may be madder than wet hens. But they are lame ducks who are likely to be lamer after next Tuesday’s election.

There is no reason to give in to U.S. pressure. After all, not even a chicken is scared of a lame duck.

October 30, 2014

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Now even the liberal media folks are in on the jokes; the jokes that the country’s joke president picked for our government. Politico writes on the Susan Rice and Chuck Hagel calling them the “Team of Bumblers.”

When President Obama, after months of equivocation over how to respond to the takeover of parts of Iraq and Syria by radical militants, announced in September that the United States would “lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” the White House swung quickly into action, sending proposed legislation to train and equip Syrian rebels to Capitol Hill that same day.

Unfortunately, the White House failed to consult with the Pentagon—which would be doing most of the rolling back—on the timing or details of the announcement.

According to multiple sources, behind the scenes a few things went badly awry in the launch of Obama’s new policy. First, the Pentagon was surprised by the president’s timing, according to a senior defense official. “We didn’t know it was going to be in the speech,” he said, referring to Obama’s Sept. 10 address to the nation. Second, the White House neglected to give Pentagon lawyers a chance to revise and approve the proposed legislative language before it went to the Hill, which is considered standard practice. Staffers working for Rep. Buck McKeon, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said they were appalled by what they saw: …

… Indeed, the Syrian-rebel incident recalled a more famous instance of White House surprise tactics a year earlier, when after a stroll on the White House lawn with chief of staff Denis McDonough, Obama embarrassed Kerry by abruptly deciding to ask for congressional approval for bombing the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad—only hours after Kerry had publicly declared that Assad was facing imminent action. (Ironically, after Congress quickly balked at approval, humiliating Obama, it was Kerry who rescued the president by securing an agreement with Russian help to force Assad to dismantle the chemical weapons that had prompted the threatened U.S. strike in the first place.)

In their recent memoirs, former defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta also have described the White House-centric foreign policy of the Obama administration—in Panetta’s case, a White House that he said was so “eager to rid itself of Iraq” it rejected Pentagon advice about the need for residual troops in Iraq after 2011, opening the way for ISIL. Gates was even more pointed, writing that “suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials—including the president and vice president—became a big problem for me.” …

… McKeon himself says he was astonished when Rice found no time to sit down with him after he returned from a trip to the Middle East and meetings with key foreign leaders, and later when he realized that the White House had sent the administration’s request to arm the Syrian rebels to his committee without getting prior input from the Pentagon on the legislative language. Rice is rarely heard in public except when she very occasionally appears on the Sunday talk shows—and then more times than not, it seems, in a bumbling way. (Most recently, by saying Turkey would supply bases for strikes against ISIL, only to be undercut by Ankara’s denial hours later; that followed a much-criticized performance describing former Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl’s Army service as “honorable” despite the murky circumstances of his disappearance and capture; and her now-infamous explanation of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, after which she was blasted by Republicans for appearing to play down terrorism links.) …

… But what might be missing most from the administration—at least according to its critics—is a forceful strategist who is able to push the president (who remains, for the most part, his own No. 1 strategist) to be more decisive. It is not unreasonable to suppose that Rice feels somewhat snake-bit by her long and traumatic public trial over Benghazi, and the difficulties she has long had in her dealings with Capitol Hill. After her TV appearance on Benghazi, she sought to preserve her candidacy for secretary of state with a series of strikingly unsuccessful meetings on Capitol Hill in which she failed to impress even moderate Republicans such as Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. She also found herself facing resistance from foreign-policy elites who questioned her temperament and her record, including her past close relations with African dictators such as Paul Kagame of Rwanda. …



Bret Stephens, in a timely piece, writes on the crisis in our relationship with Israel.

… The latest eruption of pettiness—when marriages are in trouble, it’s always the petty things that tell—was the very public refusal of John Kerry and Joe Biden to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon during his visit to Washington last week. Mr. Yaalon was quoted earlier this year saying some impolitic things about the U.S. secretary of state, including that he was “obsessive and messianic” and that “the only thing that can save us is if Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us alone.”

The comments were made privately but were leaked to the press. Mr. Yaalon apologized for them. His meeting with Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon last week was all smiles. Asked by the Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth about the Kerry kerfuffle, he replied, “We overcame that.”

Or not.

“Despite the fact that Yaalon’s requests to meet with the senior members of the Obama administration were declined over a week ago, Washington waited until the visit ended before making the story public in order to humiliate the Israeli defense minister,” Ha’aretz reported. …



An article in The Atlantic shows how timely Bret Stephens was. John Hinderaker posts;

In case you missed it, the Obama administration (a “senior administration official”) has gone on record calling Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit.” Somehow, that seems like a poor–not to mention vulgar–turn of phrase. The Netanyahu family is not known for its “chickenshit” qualities. Let’s just say that in his youth, Benjamin did not belong to a “Choom Gang.” …



Hinderaker has more.

… But consider: the “senior Obama administration official” made the comment in a conversation with a reporter, Goldberg, who was working on a story about the strained relationship between the Obama and Netanyahu governments. He must have known that the “chickenshit” characterization would be quoted, albeit anonymously. He must have wanted it to be quoted. He must have known that it would garner a great deal of attention. And Goldberg, who spends a lot of time talking with members of the Obama administration about Israel, considered the remark “representative” of the ways in which members of the two governments talk about each other.

So was the Obama administration’s repudiation of the senior official’s remarks merely pro forma? It would seem so. Today reporters asked both John Earnest, on behalf of the White House, and Jen Psaki, on behalf of the State Department, whether the administration will try to identify the senior official and set him straight. The answer? No, of course not. …



And Jennifer Rubin comments.

… The immature and deplorable insult is nothing all that new. Whether it is former negotiator Martin Indyk accusing Israel of killing the peace process or the president off-mike complaining about having to deal with Netanyahu constantly, the administration’s animosity is never far from the surface. That such a senior official could feel so confident in his slur says volumes about the environment at the White House. Even more telling, a White House spokesman would only say that the comments were “inappropriate and counterproductive,” not false or unfair or outrageous.

This is yet one more reason to rebuke the president, his foreign policy and his staff. If the president were truly upset about the speech, he would find the staff member who made the remarks and fire that person. By the White House’s initial statement, however, it seems like business as usual around there. …

October 29, 2014

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Looks like the GOP will have some good results next week. With an example of Colorado, John Fund reminds us we have to have a win large enough to cover the margin of Dem voting fraud.

Many liberals are adamant there is no threat of voter fraud that justifies efforts to improve the integrity of elections. “There is no real concrete evidence of voter fraud,” tweeted Donna Brazile, former acting chair of the Democratic National Committee, this week. “It’s a big ass lie.”

James O’Keefe, the guerilla filmmaker who brought down the ACORN voter-registration fraudsters in 2010 and forced the resignation of NPR executives, politely disagrees. Today, he is releasing some new undercover footage that raises disturbing questions about ballot integrity in Colorado, the site of fiercely contested races for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, and the governorship. When he raised the issue of filling out some of the unused ballots that are mailed to every household in the state this month, he was told by Meredith Hicks, the director of Work for Progress, a liberal group funded by Democratic Super PACS.: “That is not even like lying or something, if someone throws out a ballot, like if you want to fill it out you should do it.” She then brazenly offered O’Keefe, disguised as a middle-aged college instructor, a job with her group.

The video of O’Keefe’s encounters with other operatives is equally disturbing.  He has a conversation with Greenpeace employee Christina Topping, and suggests he might have access to unused ballots from people who have recently moved out of college fraternity houses. “I mean it is putting the votes to good use,” she responds. “So really, truly, like yeah, that is awesome.”

Colorado secretary of state Scott Gessler, along with several county election clerks, have raised warning flags that a new state law that automatically mails a ballot to everyone is an engraved invitation to commit fraud. “Sending ballots to people who did not even ask for them or have moved out of state is asking for trouble” he told me. …



Andrew McCarthy covers Ron Klain’s first job for the administration – the Solyndra bust. The denouement (bankruptcy) was coming just days before the elections and the fixers managed to put it off until the day after the election. Here’s the end of McCarthy’s piece.

… This is where the Energy Protection Act’s only sensible aspect is supposed to kick in. The law stipulates that, in the event a company in which the government has invested the public’s money goes bust, taxpayers must be prioritized over company stakeholders when any remaining assets of the bankrupt business are sold. That should have happened with Solyndra. But remember, this is the lobbyist-laden, crony-socialist Obama administration we’re talking about.

OMB officials fully understood that there was no economic sense in the Solyndra restructuring proposal. The government loan put the public first in line for proceeds on the sale of Solyndra assets. With the company hurtling toward inevitable bankruptcy, an immediate liquidation under the original loan terms would net taxpayers a much better deal — about $170 million better. As congressional investigators later learned, so compelling was the argument against restructuring (i.e., the argument for faithfully executing the law) that OMB feared “questions will be asked” if the Department of Energy proceeded with it.

Yet the Obama DOE permitted the Solyndra backers to renegotiate the terms anyway. Preposterously, DOE rationalized that the restructuring was necessary “to create a situation whereby investors felt there was a value in their investment.” Of course, when commerce is not rigged by the government, the value in an investment is the value created by the business in which the investment is made. Here, Solyndra’s business operations produced only losses. New investment in the failing company could be enticed only by an invalid restructuring that prioritized investors over taxpayers — the kind of scheme from which faithful enforcement of the Energy Policy Act is supposed to protect the public.

In February 2011, in exchange for lending some of their own money, Solyndra stakeholders were given priority over taxpayers with respect to the first $75 million in the event the company filed for bankruptcy. A few months later, Solyndra did precisely that.

Negotiations over the restructuring deal had begun in 2010. The time they bought helped delay Solyndra’s implosion beyond the midterm elections. Yet with collapse looming, the company still decided that autumn to lay off nearly 20 percent of its work force. On October 25, 2010, just a week before the midterms, Solyndra CEO Brian Harris alerted the Obama DOE that in three days, the company would shut down its original factory and begin shedding employees and contractors.

The day before that scheduled October 28 announcement, panicked White House energy adviser Heather Zichal e-mailed the redoubtable Ron Klain — as well as Valerie Jarrett and Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer — explaining: “Here’s the deal: Solyndra is going to announce they are laying off 200 of their 1,200 workers. No es bueno.”

Republicans on a House committee investigating Solyndra subsequently learned that DOE pressured the company to delay the announcement. It was finally made on November 3 . . . the day after the midterm elections.

Well, well, well. Here we are just two weeks before the 2014 midterms and Ron Klain is back to manage another crisis — an infectious-disease outbreak. Sure he’s a political fixer, not an epidemiologist, but rest assured that Klain will keep us promptly apprised of all Ebola developments without ever glancing at a calendar or a poll.



Dan Henninger thinks Klain may be the last fixer.

In “Pulp Fiction,” a movie about crime, there is a character named The Wolf. The Wolf is known as a “cleaner.” His line of work is cleaning up the mess made by incompetent criminals. As played by Harvey Keitel, the cleaner is a man of focus, competence and authority. I thought of the cleaner when President Obama called in Ron Klain.

Mr. Obama said Mr. Klain would be the Ebola czar. But the rest of the Beltway political community said he was something else. Some said Mr. Klain was a famous political operative. Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, called him an “implementation expert.” Those who have been around politics too long said Mr. Klain was a fixer.

Political fixer is not an entirely dishonorable profession. Presidents, governors, mayors—nearly all at some point need someone who can hose down the blood, do the laundry and get the boys back to doing business as usual.

Or used to.

Ron Klain may be the last fixer. …



Hillary was campaigning for Martha Coakley in MA and decided to see if she could sound dumber than Fauxchahontas – Elizabeth Warren. We’ll look at this from a few directions. Jonathan Tobin is first.

It didn’t take long for Hillary Clinton’s handlers to start walking back the putative 2016 Democratic presidential nominee’s latest whopper. While campaigning alongside Senator Elizabeth Warren — the Democrat most members of her party’s base really like — Clinton tried to play can you top this with the popular left-winger by telling her audience, “Don’t let anybody tell you that corporations and businesses create jobs.” It’s hard to imagine a more mind-boggling confession of her ignorance of basic economics. But even after her staff tried to explain it as merely opposition to certain tax breaks or “trickle down economics,” it’s hard to explain what she was thinking. …

… This is, of course, the same Hillary who likes to pretend to be the adult in the room on economic as well as foreign policy issues. But as she proved during her time as secretary of state, Clinton is a political chameleon with no core beliefs other than her own personal ambition. Just as she gladly went along with President Obama’s decision to cut and run from Iraq and ultimately from Afghanistan and stay out of Syria even though she supposedly disagreed with much of this, when placed in Warren’s orbit in front of an audience of rabid liberals, Clinton is ready to stake out a position that seems to assert that only government is responsible for job creation.

Rather than a misstatement or a gaffe or even a late life avowal of neo-socialist claptrap her nonsense about corporations not creating jobs is testimony to her inauthentic nature. …



More from Jennifer Rubin.

… This latest gaffe confirms that when Clinton’s lips move she is telling us what she thinks her base wants to hear, not sharing any original or sincerely felt position of her own. Moreover, her utter lack of spontaneity has now become a primary characteristic. As one Capitol Hill Republican put it, “She overcompensates when she’s in uncomfortable territory.” Like trying to be a populist. Or trying to attack the corporations whose trough she has fed on for millions of dollars in speaking fees. Or trying to appear nonchalant about a challenger from her left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who actually believes anti-business rhetoric.

How is it that Clinton is, well, such a bad politician? Remember in 2008 she wasn’t all that scintillating, appearing stiff and remote and running on experience in a “change” election. For decades Bill Clinton had been the politician and she, the operator behind the scenes. Electoral politics most obviously had not been her own life’s calling. As we age, old habits of mind become more ingrained. Whatever tendencies one has magnify and whatever limitations one suffers from become more impervious. Then, consider that for nearly six years as secretary of state and former secretary of state she has perfected the art of saying not very much at all. No wonder her public performances are so painful to watch. …



And Ed Morrissey with his case backed by some numbers.

… The miminum-wage bill for which Hillary Clinton voted passed in 2007 and took effect in stages, beginning that summer.  The Household Survey of the BLS showed that the US economy had 146.063 million jobs in June 2007, just before the increase took place. Last month’s data showed that the US economy had 146.6 million jobs — an increase of less than 500,000 in over 7 years, not “millions of jobs” as Hillary claims here. In fact, the 146.6 million is the highest it’s ever gotten since the passage of that law. In the same period, the civilian workforce participation rate has gone from 66% to 62.7%. On a population basis, there are a lot fewer people working after the last minimum wage hike, not more, and wages are actually down, not up.

Compare this to the “trickle-down” era of the Reagan presidency. When Reagan took office in January 1981, the US economy had 99.995 million jobs and the participation rate was 63.9%. By the end of his presidency in January 1989, the US economy had grown more than 16 million jobs (116.708 million total) and the participation rate had leaped to 66.5%. That covers nearly the same length of time since the last minimum wage hike (96 months vs 89 months), but both include about five years of technical economic recovery.

Obviously there were other factors in play here, so lets focus on something more directly affected by minimum-wage hikes — teen unemployment, which is where minimum-wage hikes have the most impact. When Reagan took office, teen unemployment was 19.1%, but it dropped to 16.4% by the end of his presidency. In June 2007, it was at a similar level, 16.3%. Today it’s 20%, and has been bouncing in 2014 between 19% and 21%. Don’t forget that these figures are more than five years into a supposed recovery. …

October 28, 2014

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Interesting item in the NY Times Magazine asking if age is nothing but a mind set. Or course, you can take it too far, but some of these studies are good food for thought.

One day in the fall of 1981, eight men in their 70s stepped out of a van in front of a converted monastery in New Hampshire. They shuffled forward, a few of them arthritically stooped, a couple with canes. Then they passed through the door and entered a time warp. Perry Como crooned on a vintage radio. Ed Sullivan welcomed guests on a black-and-white TV. Everything inside — including the books on the shelves and the magazines lying around — were designed to conjure 1959. This was to be the men’s home for five days as they participated in a radical experiment, cooked up by a young psychologist named Ellen Langer.

The subjects were in good health, but aging had left its mark. “This was before 75 was the new 55,” says Langer, who is 67 and the longest-serving professor of psychology at Harvard. Before arriving, the men were assessed on such measures as dexterity, grip strength, flexibility, hearing and vision, memory and cognition — probably the closest things the gerontologists of the time could come to the testable biomarkers of age. Langer predicted the numbers would be quite different after five days, when the subjects emerged from what was to be a fairly intense psychological intervention.

Langer had already undertaken a couple of studies involving elderly patients. In one, she found that nursing-home residents who had exhibited early stages of memory loss were able to do better on memory tests when they were given incentives to remember — showing that in many cases, indifference was being mistaken for brain deterioration. In another, now considered a classic of social psychology, Langer gave houseplants to two groups of nursing-home residents. She told one group that they were responsible for keeping the plant alive and that they could also make choices about their schedules during the day. She told the other group that the staff would care for the plants, and they were not given any choice in their schedules. Eighteen months later, twice as many subjects in the plant-caring, decision-making group were still alive than in the control group.

To Langer, this was evidence that the biomedical model of the day — that the mind and the body are on separate tracks — was wrongheaded. The belief was that “the only way to get sick is through the introduction of a pathogen, and the only way to get well is to get rid of it,” she said, when we met at her office in Cambridge in December. She came to think that what people needed to heal themselves was a psychological “prime” — something that triggered the body to take curative measures all by itself. Gathering the older men together in New Hampshire, for what she would later refer to as a counterclockwise study, would be a way to test this premise. …


… Langer did not try to replicate the study — mostly because it was so complicated and expensive; every time she thought about trying it again, she talked herself out of it. Then in 2010, the BBC broadcast a recreation, which Langer consulted on, called “The Young Ones,” with six aging former celebrities as guinea pigs.

The stars were squired via period cars to a country house meticulously retrofitted to 1975, right down to the kitschy wall art. They emerged after a week as apparently rejuvenated as Langer’s septuagenarians in New Hampshire, showing marked improvement on the test measures. One, who had rolled up in a wheelchair, walked out with a cane. Another, who couldn’t even put his socks on unassisted at the start, hosted the final evening’s dinner party, gliding around with purpose and vim. The others walked taller and indeed seemed to look younger. They had been pulled out of mothballs and made to feel important again, and perhaps, Langer later mused, that rekindling of their egos was central to the reclamation of their bodies.

The program, which was shown in four parts and nominated for a Bafta Award (a British Emmy), brought new attention to Langer’s work. Jeffrey Rediger, a psychiatrist and the medical and clinical director of Harvard’s McLeanHospital, was invited by a friend of Langer’s to watch it with some colleagues last year. Rediger was aware of Langer’s original New Hampshire study, but the made-for-TV version brought its tantalizing implications to life.

“She’s one of the people at Harvard who really gets it,” Rediger told me. “That health and illness are much more rooted in our minds and in our hearts and how we experience ourselves in the world than our models even begin to understand.” …



Scientific American says we might see more propeller driven aircraft.

The debut of propeller-driven aircraft kicked off a global aerospace technology boom that continues to this day. But since the emergence of the jet aircraft engine during World War II, research into propeller-powered flight has often taken a backseat to the turbofan technology that carries jetliners faster and farther. Speed and range come at a cost, however, and both rising fuel prices and increased demand for regional air travel have changed the economics of flight over the past 10 years. Now airlines are once again looking to smaller, more efficient turboprop planes to handle shorter routes, driving the development of a new generation of prop-driven aircraft technologies poised to take wing by the end of the decade. …

… Among those paving the way for a new generation of turboprops, General Electric Aviation’s Dowty Propellers is exploring anew the interactive effects among the propeller, engine nacelle and aircraft wing. Using computational fluid dynamics tools that were not available even a few years ago, engineers at the Gloucester, England–based firm are not only designing blades with new efficiency-enhancing shapes but rethinking the layout of the propeller as a whole.

“The computational power that’s avail- able now has really made the difference,” says Dowty’s Jonathan Chestney, noting that researchers can analyze data on an individual-blade basis. “It’s an exciting time for us,” he remarks. “We’re able to see much more detail, like a scientist who just got a microscope for the first time.” …



We have had items before on China’s aircraft carrier. War is Boring says things are not going well with the craft.

There’s no more of a conspicuous and potent symbol of China’s growing naval power than the aircraft carrier Liaoning.

But the 53,000-ton, 999-foot-long carrier could be dangerous to her crew and prone to engine failures. If so, that makes the vessel as much of a liability as an asset to Beijing.

The ex-Soviet carrier once went by the name Varyag until a cash-strapped Ukraine sold the ship to Beijing in 1998. The Chinese navy has since invested considerable resources into modernizing the warship and testing her at sea.

But on at least one occasion during recent sea trials, Liaoning appeared to suffer a steam explosion which temporarily knocked out the carrier’s electrical power system. …

… Engine failures are not an unknown phenomenon aboard ex-Soviet carriers. The 40,000-ton displacement Indian carrier Vikramaditya—first a Soviet Kiev-class carrier commissioned in 1987 and sold in 2004—temporarily shut down at sea after a boiler overheated two years ago.

The 50,000-ton Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov also goes nowhere without a tug escort in case her engines break down while underway. …

October 27, 2014

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Scott Walker’s administration in Wisconsin has succeeded in bringing to heel the teacher’s unions, and that has created for him the undying enmity of the left. Where they have some residual power they have become gangsters.  George Will takes a look at the state’s upcoming election. 

The early-morning paramilitary-style raids on citizens’ homes were conducted by law enforcement officers, sometimes wearing bulletproof vests and lugging battering rams, pounding on doors and issuing threats. Spouses were separated as the police seized computers, including those of children still in pajamas. Clothes drawers, including the children’s, were ransacked, cellphones were confiscated and the citizens were told that it would be a crime to tell anyone of the raids.

Some raids were precursors of, others were parts of, the nastiest episode of this unlovely political season, an episode that has occurred in an unlikely place. This attempted criminalization of politics to silence people occupying just one portion of the political spectrum has happened in Wisconsin, which often has conducted robust political arguments with Midwestern civility.

From the progressivism of Robert La Follette to the conservatism of Gov. Scott Walker (R) today, Wisconsin has been fertile soil for conviction politics. Today, the state’s senators are the very conservative Ron Johnson (R) and the very liberal Tammy Baldwin (D). Now, however, Wisconsin, which to its chagrin produced Sen. Joe McCarthy (R), has been embarrassed by Milwaukee County’s Democratic district attorney, John Chisholm. He has used Wisconsin’s uniquely odious “John Doe” process to launch sweeping and virtually unsupervised investigations while imposing gag orders to prevent investigated people from defending themselves or rebutting politically motivated leaks. …



Pajamas Media has more from Wisconsin.

A document dump attempts to create an impression of scandal around Scott Walker, though none exists.

In order to understand the latest turn of events in embattled Wisconsin, it is necessary to review recent history.

Before running for the governorship in 2010, Scott Walker served two terms as MilwaukeeCounty executive. Milwaukee County is a Democratic Party stronghold, one of the three most resolutely Democratic of the state’s 72 counties (the other two: Dane, the seat of state capital Madison and main campus of the University of Wisconsin; and Menomonee, populated almost entirely by Menomonee Indians). In 2009, one of Walker’s staffers reported some apparent financial irregularities to him concerning a veterans’ charity which he ran, and Walker asked the county district attorney to look into them.

What is called a “John Doe” probe was launched, and indeed an aide was caught embezzling funds from the charity, prosecuted, and convicted. But in the course of the investigation, two other staffers (including, ironically, the one who had reported the irregularities in the first place) were also caught engaging in non-official tasks on government time using government computers. These are technical violations of state law concerning political activities whose enforcement is often controversial and widely believed to be highly partisan. In this case, there were again prosecutions. …



Fresh from gangster government in Wisconsin, we turn for a look at the gangster in DC. Seth Mandel writes on the presidency. 

It is rare that several seemingly unconnected stories on quite different topics can turn out, when read together, to make a cohesive and profound point on the nature the American presidency. But that is the case today. The first story is Jeff Shesol’s piece in the New Yorker on the newfound humility of the followers of President Obama, once the lightbringer and redeemer but now, astonishingly to them, human. And although there is a point hidden in this tale of political woe, it is a point Shesol misses.

The piece is headlined “Obama and the End of Greatness.” The story is a close relative of the “America the ungovernable” narrative, in which failed Democratic presidents inspire liberal commentators to decide that if someone like Obama can’t succeed, the job is too difficult for one man. That narrative is false, of course; Obama is simply not very good at his job and has personality traits that compel him to lash out and blame others instead of changing course. The Shesol conceit is similar: Obama turned out not to be a great president but perhaps we don’t need or can’t have or shouldn’t expect great presidents at all.

This, too, is wrong. But it’s wrong in an interesting way. Obama was the one who raised expectations, and his followers merely echoed his vainglorious messianic pronouncements. Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine the country agreeing on a “great” modern president if only because the two major parties have moved so far apart that they now view governing in completely different ways. …



Peter Wehner says the Dems are trying to hide from the president, but the vain man will not let them. 

One of the more amusing things to observe as we get closer to the midterm elections is the great push-and-pull that’s going on between Democratic candidates and the president.

A nearly endless number of Democrats are distancing themselves from Mr. Obama, including those who have voted with him 99 percent of the time. Perhaps the most comical performance so far was by Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat in Kentucky who’s challenging Mitch McConnell. Ms. Grimes has repeatedly refused to say whether she voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 and 2012, including invoking a high constitutional principle to keep her sacred little secret.

It’s now gotten to the point where even the chairwoman of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, distanced herself from the president of her own party. And here’s what really wonderful about this: Mr. Obama won’t let Democrats run from him. He’s like their hound of heaven. …



Wehner also posts on the “madder than hell” president.

What we have here is a chief executive who obsessively blames others (through planned leaks or public statements, or both) for failures that occur on his watch. In the case of our intelligence agencies, they made it crystal clear after the 60 Minutes interview that the president had been warned about ISIS but simply ignored those warnings. So the fault was his, not theirs.

Beyond that, though, it doesn’t seem to have dawned on Mr. Obama that he’s the chief executive, that agencies and individuals answer to him and to his White House. And that when these failures occur, it’s actually his responsibility. It’s part of the job description of being president. But Mr. Obama doesn’t seem to get it. When things go wrong, he reverts to a most peculiar habit, in which he speaks almost as if he’s an outside observer of his own administration. He complains about things going wrong as if he has no capacity to correct them. He seems to defer to others rather than exercise control over them, and then he seethes when things aren’t done right. As a result, Mr. Obama has spent much of his presidency madder than hell. See for yourself. …



Power Line posts on the hapless help offered to the Dem senate candidate in Iowa.

… Michelle is an amateur politician. Before President Obama’s presidency sank, she was a natural at stirring up friendly crowds with rants on behalf of her husband. This skill doesn’t easily translate into boosting the candidacy of strangers. In short, her mistakes, though embarrassing, were excusable.

By contrast, Obama’s press operation is staffed by professionals. Yet it too can’t do right by Braley. Yesterday, it released via email a transcript of Michelle Obama’s appearance in Iowa on behalf Braley. Unfortunately for the beleaguered candidate, the subject line of the e-mail referred to him as the “Democratic candidate for governor.”

The White House’s subliminal message seems to be: Bruce Bailey, won’t you please come home.

Senate Democrats aren’t amused. One senior aide told the National Journal that “the ineptitude of the White House political operation has sunk from annoying to embarrassing.” Another Senate official told the Washington Post that Obama’s comments thrusting himself into the election were “not devised with any input from Senate leadership.” No kidding. …



Jennifer Rubin posts on Axelrod’s latest excuse for the president’s latest fail.

President Obama’s former adviser David Axelrod is quoted as explaining Obama’s chronic emergency-response failure thusly: “There’s no doubt that there’s a theatrical nature to the presidency that he resists. Sometimes he can be negligent in the symbolism.”  I don’t buy it.

The candidate who modeled his presidency on Abraham Lincoln, who accepted the Democratic nomination in Denver beside Greek columns and who ran on “Hope and Change” knows a thing or two about theatrics and symbolism. Axelrod would have us believe Obama is just too smart and too methodical for his own good. (“He responds in a very rational way, trying to gather facts, rely on the best expert advice, and mobilize the necessary resources.”) Oh, puleez.

Let’s look at three other explanations that correspond to reality.

First, Obama has surrounded himself with sycophants who won’t tell him he is wrong. As Ron Fournier pointed out, “What of the two advisers without a specific portfolio: Valerie Jarrett and Dan Pfeiffer? They’re blindly loyal to Obama, gatherers of power, shielded from blame, and accountable to nobody but the president. Their biggest admirers acknowledge privately that Obama won’t change course unless Jarrett and Pfeiffer change work addresses.” If you don’t know trouble is coming, your closest aides say reaction is just carping from Republicans and you have an exaggerated sense of your own skills, you tend not to expect trouble or take it seriously when it comes. …



And Rubin wonders if he is trying to sink fellow Dems.

It is a measure of President Obama’s unbridled ego that in an election in which he is dragging his party down to defeat, he insists on reminding voters that those struggling to swim against the tide and away from him are really his supporters. In an interview with Al Sharpton (apparently the MSNBC audience and a sycophantic host provide the president a safe venue — or so he thought), Obama proclaimed: “A lot of the states that are contested this time are states that I didn’t win. And so some of the candidates there — it is difficult for them to have me in the state because the Republicans will use that to try to fan Republican turnout. The bottom line though is, these are all folks who vote with me, they have supported my agenda in Congress. . .  . This isn’t about my feelings being hurt, these are folks who are strong allies and supporters of me.” He is absolutely correct; these are people who supported every major initiative and dutifully stuck with their majority leader. But why say it?

Not only does Obama thereby remind everyone in those red states that, as he said earlier, his policies are “on the ballot,” but he also impugns the candidates’ honesty, essentially telling voters that these candidates are running on a false claim of independence. Surely he must know all this, and yet he apparently can’t bear to see fellow Democrats disclaiming their association with him.

You can see a mile away the rationalization for a big loss: These Democrats shouldn’t have run from the president. …



Charles Cooke has more on Dem mishaps.

… Were an alien visitor to have descended from the heavens in order to survey this election season, he would likely have concluded that the American Left struggles to find proficient representatives. In Montana, the Democratic party lost its first candidate to a plagiarism scandal and, inexplicably, chose as his replacement an erratic Communist sympathizer whose idea of a fun afternoon is to record and post rambling black-and-white videos of herself to her YouTube page. In the course of her many “vlogs,” Amanda Curtis has mocked women who believe that they will be given a chance against sexual predators if they are armed; disdained “the family,” “natural law,” and “Christians”; and confessed how difficult she finds it not to “punch” fellow lawmakers in the face. She is currently losing by 19 points, and it is only by the grace of pronounced media bias that she has not been transformed into the public face of the entire party.

In Massachusetts, meanwhile, poor old Martha Coakley has doggedly continued to be . . . well, to be Martha Coakley, with all that that entails. Whatever it was that inspired the Democratic party in one of the bluest states in the country to give the woman who almost sank Obamacare a second shot, the powers-that-be will almost certainly now be bitterly regretting their choice. Republican Charlie Baker is winning by nine points.

Even in the closer races, it is Democrats, and not Republicans, who have injured themselves. Iowa’s Bruce Braley kicked off his campaign insulting the voters of his state by loftily informing a room full of trial lawyers that Senator Chuck Grassley was just “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.” …