Jennifer Rubin tells us what she really thinks of John Kerry:
Time for the discredited John Kerry to resign
ecretary of State John Kerry is getting bashed from all sides these days — Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the U.S. media, the Israeli media, Egypt and even ex-advisers. As chaotic as the Obama administration’s foreign policy may be — actually, because it is so chaotic — Kerry should consider resigning.
We face multiple threats, ranging from the rise of the Islamic State to the bloodbath in Syria to Russian aggression to the Iran talks, which seem to be going Iran’s way. On the merits, Kerry has shown himself to be unfit, and as a practical matter he is now a handicap to the president.
And I love this:
He doesn’t know when he’s out of sync with allies and is a poor judge of our foes’ intentions. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has pointed out that Kerry failed in Russia negotiations, Syria negotiations and “peace talks” between Israel and the Palestinians. Even worse, Kerry doesn’t know or accept that he has failed. A secretary of state this out of touch with reality can’t perform his job.
Now, now. Kerry is moving the process forward and/or keeping it alive, so he is scoring Big Wins among the Washington elites that think the process is the point.
The Times recounts Congressional skepticism about Team Obama's latest Iranian deal, and includes this smile:
Asked whether he could assure Congress that the more than $2 million in assets held outside the United States that Iran will have access to under the extension agreement would not be used to aid Hamas, David S. Cohen, the under secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said he could not “give you that guarantee.”
Geez, we are unfreezing two million dollars. Where is the evil chortle?
OK, this Times story is a big deal:
Ransoming Citizens, Europe Becomes Al Qaeda’s Patron
Kidnapping Europeans for ransom has become a global business for Al Qaeda, bankrolling its operations across the globe.
While European governments deny paying ransoms, an investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have earned at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid just in the past year.
In various news releases and statements, the United States Treasury Department has cited ransom amounts that, taken together, put the total at around $165 million over the same period.
These payments were made almost exclusively by European governments, who funnel the money through a network of proxies, sometimes masking it as development aid, according to interviews conducted for this article with former hostages, negotiators, diplomats and government officials in 10 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The inner workings of the kidnapping business were also revealed in thousands of pages of internal Qaeda documents found by this reporter while on assignment for The Associated Press in northern Mali last year.
In its early years Al Qaeda received most of its money from deep-pocketed donors, but counterterrorism officials now believe the group finances the bulk of its recruitment, training and arms purchases from ransoms paid to free Europeans.
Is that a lot of money? I would have thought so, but ISIS reportedly picked up around $400 million when they conquered Mosul, so who knows? And I suspect there are still plenty of oil sheiks who toss protection money at Al Qaeda. That said:
And business is booming: While in 2003 the kidnappers received around $200,000 per hostage, now they are netting up to $10 million, money that the second in command of Al Qaeda’s central leadership recently described as accounting for as much as half of his operating revenue.
“Kidnapping hostages is an easy spoil,” wrote Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, “which I may describe as a profitable trade and a precious treasure.”
Meanwhile, in a "Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute" echo:
Only a handful of countries have resisted paying, led by the United States and Britain. Although both these countries have negotiated with extremist groups — evidenced most recently by the United States’ trade of Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — they have drawn the line when it comes to ransoms.
It is a decision that has had dire consequences. While dozens of Europeans have been released unharmed, few American or British nationals have gotten out alive. A lucky few ran away, or were rescued by special forces. The rest were executed or are being held indefinitely.
Negotiators believe that the Qaeda branches have now determined which governments pay.
Of the 53 hostages known to have been taken by Qaeda’s official branches in the past five years, a third were French. And small nations like Austria, Switzerland and Spain, which do not have large expatriate communities in the countries where the kidnappings occur, account for over 20 percent of the victims.
By contrast, only three Americans are known to have been kidnapped by Al Qaeda or its direct affiliates, representing just 5 percent of the total.
“For me, it’s obvious that Al Qaeda is targeting them by nationality,” said Jean-Paul Rouiller, the director of the Geneva Center for Training and Analysis of Terrorism, who helped set up Switzerland’s counterterrorism program. “Hostages are an investment, and you are not going to invest unless you are pretty sure of a payout.”
So European nations are financing terror groups with the hope that they can pay for the lives of Europeans today and put at risk the prospective local/native victims of terror tomorrow. Possible hashtag: #BringBackOurGirls(KillTheirs)
Annual gun deaths peaked in 1993. The following year, Congress adopted an assault-weapons ban that capped magazines at 10 rounds. Since the ban expired in 2004, handguns with 15-round capacity or greater have been used in several mass shootings, including the Virginia Tech massacre (55 victims); the attempted assassination of Representative Gabby Giffords (19 victims); and the 2009 Fort Hood massacre (45 victims). Over the past decade, annual gun deaths have crept gradually upward.
If I am following the logic, the lapse of the assault weapons ban, specifically the lapse of a limitation on magazine capacity, has led to an increase in gun deaths. The link is to a Violence Policy Center study showing that, yes, gun deaths have drifted up and now exceed automobile fatalities in 14 states.
And yes, we have been around this track before. When the topic is gun control as expounded by the gun controllers, "Gun deaths" includes suicides. Well, unless the topic is the intersection of mental health and gun control in which case (remembering that in prog-world the mentally ill are victims of the oppressive white patriarchy) the topic shifts to homicides only.
So the VPC delivers a chart noting roughly 30,000 annual gun deaths, of which about 2/3 are suicide. I admit that there may be a link between suicide and access to guns because a suicidal impulse can be transitory but guns are quick and conclusive [links in this post]. However, I am unaware of any study linking the suicide rate to magazine capacity; if we are having an epidemic of people shooting themselves fifteen times and bleeding out, I've missed it.
The reliably partisan Greg Sargent of the WaPo ponders the possible scope as well as the legal and political landscape around Obama's impending executive action on immigration. He delivers this punchline:
Morning Plum: How far can Obama go to ease deportations?
But in the end, I hope the administration makes its decision based solely on what it genuinely determines is legally, rather than politically, possible.
My goodness. With this level of detachment from reality I marvel that Mr. Sargent can find his keyboard in the morning.
OF COURSE the final decision will be determined by the politics. And as to legality, by way of contrast Obama could pardon every person ever convicted junder federal law of marijuana possession, or cocaine trafficking, or human trafficking by late this afternoon. That would surely be legal - does Mr. Sargent hope Obama does it simply because it is legal? Or would it be OK for Obama to weigh political factors in that context?
Yes, Mr. Sargent is talking about prosecutorial discretion frather than executive pardons but the point is the same - the primary constraint on the executive is political rather than legal, which means the politics can not be ignored.
A shootout on the mean streets of Manhattan leaves an NYPD detective and two US Marshalls wounded and an outgunned fugitive dead.
Two federal marshals and one New York City police detective were shot on Monday in Greenwich Village when they went to arrest a man accused of molesting a child in California, the authorities said.
The suspect, whom the authorities identified as Charles Mozdir, was shot and killed in a gun battle that erupted in a smoke shop in the normally placid neighborhood in Manhattan.
Mr. Bratton said the three law enforcement officers were rushed to Bellevue Hospital, where one was in surgery and the others were being treated for their injuries.
The detective was shot twice in the torso, one marshal was shot in the buttocks and the other was shot in the shoulder, said Stephen Davis, a spokesman for the New York Police Department.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who joined Mr. Bratton at a previously scheduled news conference, said that initial reports indicated that the wounds were not life-threatening.
I am not sure how the one marhsall got shot in the buttocks while facing his assailant, but I expect he will have many opportunities to explain this to his colleagues.
The NYPD detective was shot in the chest, where his vest protected him, and in his stomach:
Dong Hwan, who works at Moon Sheen Tattoo, said he saw a flurry of police activity outside his shop.
“One guy was holding his belly,” he said, noting that the man appeared to be shot. Mr. Hwan said that the man emerged from a building, surrounded by police, one of whom with his hands on the man’s stomach.
The fugitive was firing a .32, per the dead-tree Times I read this morning. Here is the WSJ:
As authorities entered the small shop, the suspect pulled out a .32 caliber revolver and fired at the detective and three marshals, New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton said.
"Immediately upon entering, a gunbattle ensued," Mr. Bratton said, after visiting the officers at Bellevue Hospital.
The officers returned fire, killing Mr. Mozdir, officials said. The detective and the two marshals who were shot were listed in stable condition Monday night.
One of the marshals suffered a graze wound to elbow, the second suffered a gunshot wound to the buttocks, and the detective was struck in the abdomen, officials said. The detective, identified by police as 45-year-old Mario Muniz, is a 20-year member of the force.
Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association, the union that represents the detective, said one bullet entered an opening to the right of his bulletproof vest, striking his body.
Another bullet was stopped by the vest, police said. "Obviously the vest saved the officer," Mr. Bratton said.
I just finished a "brief" (fifteen minutes) NY Times online marketing survey. Their computer would not let me across the finish line until I gave a suitable response to the ethnic bean-counters:
For whatever reason they had no questions about my LGBT status, so I deplore their lack of sensitivity and inclusiveness.
I'VE BEEN LITT UP! The Times leadership on marijuana reform is classic - here is their editorial calling for Federal legalization, and a piece with this polling data on the changing American attitude:
Seventy-eight percent of Americans thought marijuana should be illegal in 1991. That figure fell to 57 percent in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2013, for the first time in over four decades of polling on the issue, prohibition was a minority position. Fifty-two percent said they favored legalizing marijuana use; 45 percent were opposed.
So the Times editors boldly waited until the bandwagon was rolling before jumping on?
Away we go. I am still reeling about solar storms and coronal mass ejections:
Back in 2012, the Sun erupted with a powerful solar storm that just missed the Earth but was big enough to “knock modern civilization back to the 18th century,” NASA said.
The extreme space weather that tore through Earth’s orbit on July 23, 2012, was the most powerful in 150 years, according to a statement posted on the US space agency website Wednesday.
Scientists have analyzed the treasure trove of data it collected and concluded that it would have been comparable to the largest known space storm in 1859, known as the Carrington event.
It also would have been twice as bad as the 1989 solar storm that knocked out power across Quebec, scientists said.
“I have come away from our recent studies more convinced than ever that Earth and its inhabitants were incredibly fortunate that the 2012 eruption happened when it did,” said Baker.
The National Academy of Sciences has said the economic impact of a storm like the one in 1859 could cost the modern economy more than two trillion dollars and cause damage that might take years to repair.
Experts say solar storms can cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything from radio to GPS communications to water supplies — most of which rely on electric pumps.
Real Old Testament stuff. And a lifestyle to match. But when life hands you lemons, keep in mind - this would have solved our carbon emissions problem.
This has me scratching my head. Every article I have seen on password security says that including upper case and lower case letters makes for greater security. OK, that is common sense since there are more possible combinations for a brute force approach to attack.
But how many more combinations? One might say that 26 lowercase letters plus their capitalized counterparts doubles the available symbols.
On the other hand, as a practical matter an uppercase letter is achieved by hitting the "Shift" key prior to the target letter. So one might argue that adding upper case letters really only adds one more symbol, namely, the ocassional insertion of a "Shift" into the password keystroke combination.
That represents more security since passwords are now longer and the length is less predictable. For example, suppose a site requires a six letter password. "abcdef" would qualify. However '[Shift]abcdef' (which would appear as Abcdef) would also qualify even though it is seven keystrokes.
I suppose I should unearth a question here. Let's start with 6 letter passwords, all lowercase. There should be 26^6 combinations, from aaaaaa to zzzzzz.
Adding caps might be modeled as creating 52 possible six-character combinations, so the total available is 52^6, which is 2^6 or 64 times more possibilities than lower case only.
But suppose we model the possibilities as the sum of:
(1) all six letter lower case combos;
(2) all seven stroke combos (six letters plus a shift);
(3) all eight stroke combos (six letters, two shift):
and so on to
(7) all twelve stroke combos (six letters, six shifts)
My common sense is telling me that if the second approach exhausts the possibilities for mingling upper- and lower-case letters it must give the same answer as the first approach, i.e., 52^6.
Hmmph. Normally this sort of problem holds my attention when the alternative is finalizing my taxes; I don't know why I am locked up on this now.
It will be interesting to see how Gruber spins this:
More at Forbes:
In 2012, Obamacare's Architect Agreed With 'Right-Wing' Strategy To 'Gut' Obamacare
And more from Michael Cannon, who was instrumental in promoting the legal interpretation of the ACA that Gruber once backed and now calls "nutty".
SAY ANYTHING: It was a "speak-o"! I expect lefties will fall in behind this while righties fall down laughing. And speaking of speak-os, John Sexton of Breitbart catches Gruber on tape making the same claim in a talk on Jan 10, 2012. What's next - these were hostage tapes and Evil Righties later released Gruber's kids?
I have no idea why this story about illegal fence-scaling at the Spanish border made it into All The News That Fits The Narrative.
At a Spanish Border, a Coordinated Scramble
By CARLOTTA GALL JULY 23, 2014
MELILLA, Spain — More than 1,000 African migrants rushed toward the high fences topped with razor wire. They were met by the Moroccan police, who, with the support of the Spanish military police and a Spanish helicopter, thwarted their plan to scale the fences and enter Europe through this tiny Spanish enclave that clings to northern Morocco.
Worried about a surge in migration, the European Union authorities this year granted Spain 10 million euros, about $13.5 million, to reinforce the fences at Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish enclave. Spanish officials have now covered them with wire mesh to make them harder to scale, creating an ever more elaborate obstacle course.
They attach hooks to their wrists and screws to their shoes for a better grip. Others climb barefoot. And so the game continues.
Once at the fence — actually three fences, two 20-feet high and a middle one that is slightly lower — it is speed that counts, those who have conquered it say. Some jump from one fence to the next, but often make crashing falls. Most of those interviewed said they climbed up and down each to make it over.
That is an interesting data point to set against the classic "Why bother?" argument against tighter border security, as articulated by. e.g., Bill Richardson:
If we have a 10-foot wall, there’ll be 11-foot ladders going over that wall.
There is a bit more background here, including this:
Spain has demanded more EU money to strengthen its borders as thousands of Africans try to enter Ceuta and Melilla, two fenced-off Spanish cities on Morocco's northern tip which have the European Union's only land borders with Africa.
Last year 4,235 undocumented migrants crossed into the two territories, up 49 percent from 2,841 in 2012, although the figure was 15 percent down on 2001 figures, the interior ministry said in a statement.
The flow of desperate Africans heading to Ceuta and Melilla has surged over the past year, with migrants regularly storming the six-metre-high (20-foot) border fences.
Others try to smuggle themselves past checkpoints hidden in the undercarriages of cars or sail across the strait of Gibraltar to mainland Spain in flimsy inflatable dinghies.
The government said on Tuesday however that the number of undocumented migrants reaching Spanish shores by boat eased by 15 percent overall to 3,237 in 2013.
The number was also down 90.7 percent on 2006 figures when 39,180 reached Spain by boat, the ministry added for context.
Their figures for the year read like a week at the Texas border.
Tom Goldstein thinks the latest Obamacare wrangling over subsidies and federally-run exchanges won't sink the ship. I agree. From his summary:
The argument against the administration’s rule is straightforward: if a state refuses to set up an exchange, forcing the federal government to operate it instead, then the subsidies aren’t available. That legal reading of the statute makes some sense, because Congress may have wanted to encourage states to create exchanges with the carrot of promising subsidies for the states’ residents.
The obvious problem - if the potential loss of subsidies was meant to motivate the states, how did it remain a secret, and where was the motivation? Let's cut to AllahPundit, who remarks on the possible political impoact of the latest decisions:
But what about at the state level? There’s a not-so-easy fix for consumers in states that just had their subsidies voided: Their governor and state legislature could get together and create a true state exchange, which would of course be eligible for subsidies. That’s going to put a lot of pressure on Republican governors who opposed creating a state exchange in the first place, especially ones facing reelection this year. Right, Scott Walker?
If that is true in 2014 it should have been true in 2012. Yet I am unaware of any Democratic gubernatorial candidates or Congressional candidates making this argument. By way of contrast, the Medicaid expansion was not fully funded by the Feds, and I recall it was a political football; this, for example, is from Texas.
As much as I like the logic and simplicitiy of following the law as written, a secret incentive that no one knew about and which was discovered after the fact is probably hard to characterize as an incentive.
FROM THE OTHER SIDE: A long discussion of the legal issues at Balkinization for lawyers and those who want to be supports the Administration position.
What Really Drove the Children North
Our appetite for drugs caused the violence that made life unbearable in much of Central America.
In a nation where it is not uncommon to hear the other side of the Rio Grande referred to as "South America," it is amusing to observe the recent wave of self-anointed experts in the U.S. opining authoritatively on the causes of child migration from Central America.
Some of these are talking heads of conservative punditry who seem to know zip about the region and show no interest in learning. They wing it, presumably because they believe their viewers and listeners will never know the truth and don't care. What matters is proving that the large number of unaccompanied minors piling up at the border is President Obama's fault for somehow signaling that they would not be turned back. The origins of the problem are deemed unimportant and the fate of the children gets even less attention.
Thank heaven for four-star Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, who knows something about war and failed states and now heads the U.S. military's Southern Command, which keeps an eye on the region. He has spent time studying the issue and is speaking up. Conservatives may not like his conclusions, in which the U.S. bears significant responsibility, but it is hard to accuse a four-star of a "blame America first" attitude.
To make the "Obama did it" hypothesis work, it is necessary to defeat the claim that the migrants are fleeing intolerable violence. This has given rise to the oft-repeated line that "those countries" have always been very violent.
That is patently untrue. Central America is significantly more dangerous than it was before it became a magnet for rich and powerful drug capos. Back in the early 1990s, drugs from South America flowed through the Caribbean to the U.S.
Well, "always been very violent" covers a lot more history than is relevant; per UN statistics, the murder rate in Guatamale and El Salvador has been roughly flat for ten years. So why is the surge in unaccompoanied minors ocurring now, rather than two or five years or seven years ago?
But when a U.S. interdiction strategy in the Caribbean raised costs, trafficking shifted to land routes up the Central American isthmus and through Mexico. With Mexican President Felipe Calderón's war on the cartels, launched in 2007, the underworld gradually slithered toward the poorer, weaker neighboring countries. Venezuela, under Hugo Chávez, began facilitating the movement of cocaine from producing countries in the Andes to the U.S., also via Central America.
So by this history the relevant Central American countries have been on a downward spiral for seven years. Again, why the border surge now? And why all the reporting about immigrants surrendering to the Border Patrol and asking for their 'permiso'? Why the UN report that surveyed children held by the Border Patrol and delivered this:
Sixty-two percent of the children did not mention serious harm as a reason for leaving. Eighty-four percent of the children shared hopes for family reunification, better opportunities for work or study, or helping their families as a reason for coming to the U.S.
Forty-three percent of the Honduran children did not mention serious harm as a reason for leaving. Twenty-one percent of the children discussed situations of deprivation. Similar to the children from Guatemala, 80% of the Honduran children shared their hopes for family reunification, better opportunities to work or study, or to help their families as a reason for leaving, but very few gave one of these as the only reason.
I am in complete agreement that our War on Drugs is a disaster that has been crushing South and Central America for decades and ought to be dramatically reimagined ('Mend it, don't end it' is probably the politically expedient catchphrase we are looking for). But as to why the surge is happening now, I have no doubt that Obama's imaginative and compassionate interpretation of the law is encouraging people to come north and hope to benefit from an amnesty, a DREAM II, or something similar.
Our war on drugs has created a flammable (and untenable) situation to our south; Obama is throwing matches. I blame Obama for the current flames, but a real, long-term solution requires a redirection of our drug war as a starting point. (And don't ask about the jobs magnet...)
It's on to the booth review!
In Blow to Health Law, Appeals Court Limits Subsidies
WASHINGTON — In a ruling that could upend President Obama’s health care law, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the government could not subsidize premiums for people in three dozen states that use the federal insurance exchange. The 2-to-1 ruling could cut off financial assistance for more than 4.5 million people who were found eligible for subsidized insurance in the federal exchange, or marketplace.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the court said, subsidies are available only to people who obtained insurance through exchanges established by states.
The law “does not authorize the Internal Revenue Service to provide tax credits for insurance purchased on federal exchanges,” said the ruling, by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The law, it said, “plainly makes subsidies available only on exchanges established by states.”
For many people, their share of premiums could increase sharply, making insurance unaffordable.
Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, and Jonathan Adler of Case Western Reserve University School of Law first made the case against the subsidies, arguing that Congress wanted the subsidies to serve as a reward for states that established their own exchanges. Obamacare's "congressional sponsors created incentives for states to implement much of the law and reasonably expected that states would do so," they wrote.
More on the theory here:
Meanwhile, Adler and Cannon recorded their finding in a Wall Street Journalop-ed in November 2011. The IRS was acting against the plain language of the law, they argued. As Cannon tells it, the duo then decided to do more research, which led them to believe that this was not, as they had called it in the Journal, a “glitch.” Instead, they argue Congress intentionally decided to withhold subsidies from federal exchanges.
Constitutionally, the federal government cannot order states to create the exchanges, so Adler and Cannon contend that Democratic lawmakers intentionally withheld premium assistance to strong arm states into implementing their own exchanges. Though this is not explicitly stated in the law, Cannon and Adler point to a handful of comments that they argue infer subsidies were intended for state-run exchanges – but there is no explicit evidence. Now that 36 states decided not to create their own exchange, Cannon and Adler maintain that the IRS is not carrying out the letter of the law.
For my money that theory makes perfect sense, but libs and judges who believe in a living, breathing Constitution also seem to believe in living, breathing statutues. The text serves only as opaque clues to what is actually legal.
The Times covers yesterday's Medal of Honor ceremony and has me reaching for the blood pressure medication. Their intro is fine:
WASHINGTON — President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor on Monday to an infantryman who by himself held a small outpost in eastern Afghanistan in the battle of Wanat, one of the deadliest conflicts of the nearly 13-year war.
The soldier, Ryan M. Pitts, a former Army staff sergeant, received the medal for conspicuous gallantry after more than 200 insurgents tried to overrun his base in July 2008, a debacle the Army later declared a major strategic failure. But Mr. Pitts, critically wounded and unable to stand, managed to hold his smaller post of boulders and sandbags, defended by only nine Americans, just outside the larger base.
In the end, eight of those nine died under relentless fire, leaving only Mr. Pitts. Another soldier died rushing to his aid, and 27 more were wounded.
“Valor was everywhere that day, and the real heroes are the nine men who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could return home,” Mr. Pitts told reporters in the White House driveway, outside the West Wing, after the ceremony. “It is their names, not mine, that I want everyone to know.” Mr. Pitts then solemnly read the names one by one before quickly walking away.
And the names are... sorry, that is not part of All The News That Is Fit To Print in the self-styled paper of record. Really? Plenty of other news services whiffed as well [e.g., ABC, CBS], but not every media outlet faced a critical shortage of pixels; the WaPo mustered coverage and here is CNN:
Nine soldiers died in the battle. Pitts read their names: Spc. Sergio Abad, Cpl. Jonathan Ayers, Cpl. Jason Bogar, 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, Sgt. Israel Garcia, Cpl. Jason Hovater, Cpl. Matthew Phillips, Cpl. Pruitt Rainey, and Cpl. Gunnar Zwilling.
"Thank you, chosen few," he said.
"Valor was everywhere that day," Pitts told reporters at the White House following the ceremony.
"And the real heroes are the nine men who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could return home,” he added. “It is their names, not mine, that I want people to know."
Pitts, as Obama had in his remarks, named each of the fallen soldiers:
Spc. Sergio Abad, Cpl. Jonathan Ayers, Cpl. Jason Bogar, 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, Sgt. Israel Garcia, Cpl. Jason Hovater, Cpl. Matthew Phillips, Cpl. Pruitt Rainey, and Cpl. Gunnar Zwilling.
“The chosen few," Pitts said.
And the TOTUS came through:
Most of all, Ryan says he considers this medal “a memorial for the guys who didn’t come home.” So today, we honor nine American soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all.
The son who “absorbed love like a sponge;” the expectant father whose dream would later come true, a beautiful baby girl -- Specialist Sergio Abad.
The boy who dominated the soccer fields, and fell in love with motorcycles, and there in that remote outpost took a direct hit in the helmet and kept on fighting -- Corporal Jonathan Ayers.
The photographer whose beautiful pictures captured the spirit of the Afghan people, and who wrote to his family: “Afghanistan is exactly [where]…I wanted to be” -- Corporal Jason Bogar.
The father who loved surfing with his son; the platoon leader who led a dash through the gunfire to that post to reinforce his men -- 1st Lieutenant Jonathan Brostrom.
An immigrant from Mexico who became a proud American soldier, on his third tour, whose final thoughts were of his family and his beloved wife, Lesly -- Sergeant Israel Garcia.
A young man of deep faith, who served God and country, who could always get a laugh with his impersonation of his commander -- Corporal Jason Hovater.
The husband who couldn’t wait to become an uncle; the adventurous spirit who in every photo from Afghanistan has a big smile on his face -- Corporal Matthew Phillips.
The big guy with an even bigger heart, a prankster whose best play was cleaning up at the poker table with his buddies and his dad -- Corporal Pruitt Rainey.
And the youngest, just 20 years old, the “little brother” of the platoon, who loved to play guitar, and who, says his dad, did everything in his life with passion -- Corporal Gunnar Zwilling.
These American patriots lived to serve us all. They died to protect each of us. And their legacy lives on in the hearts of all who love them still, especially their families. Mothers. Fathers. Wives. Brothers and sisters. Sons and daughters.
To you, their families, I know no words can match the depth of your loss, but please know that this nation will honor your soldiers now and forever. And I would ask the Gold Star families from that deployment to please stand -- including Ali Kahler, age 11, and Jase Brostrom, who this week turns 12. Please stand. (Applause.)
That is a shameful job by the Times.
Ron Fournier of the National Journal presses on with his "How To Run A White House" series; today's topic is adjusting the President's schedule in response to crises.
Is the White House Lying or Just Bad at Crisis Communications?
Ordering a cheeseburger with fries while a downed airline smolders may not have been a great decision.
He links to a NY Times story making similar points:
Sticking to His Travel Plans, at Risk of Looking Bad
Obama Maintains Schedule Despite World Crises
WASHINGTON — As smoke billowed from the downed Malaysian jetlinerin the fields of eastern Ukraine on Thursday, President Obama pressed ahead with his schedule: a cheeseburger with fries at the Charcoal Pit in Delaware, a speech about infrastructure and two splashy fund-raisers in New York City.
The world is blowing up and Obama is out to lunch - the optics were spot on.
I deplore this value-laden headline:
Clinton Earns $12 Million Speaking, Writing After Service
Hillary Clinton has earned at least $12 million in 16 months since leaving the State Department, a windfall at odds with her party’s call to shrink the gap between the rich and the poor.
Clinton’s income since her resignation as secretary of state in February 2013 is derived mostly from her latest memoir, speeches and paid appearances at corporate retreats, according to an analysis of data compiled by Bloomberg.
I doubt there is a consensus as to whether she earned it, although I am sure she cashed the checks.
The week is young so I can't award a grander prize, but this is the dumbest stat I have seen today. The theme is the violence in Central America prompting unaccompanied minors to flee:
In Honduras, which is considered the most dangerous country in the world, poverty combines with the underlying danger on the streets caused by conflicts between rival gangs and the increasing presence of drug cartels. Being young in Honduras is a risk. According to the National Violence Observatory, more than half of homicide victims in that Central American country are younger than 30. Young people in Honduras have two options: either leave or stay behind and face death.
Hmm - an article about "why all those children are immigrating alone" leans on statistics about the homicide rate for those under 30? Whatever. Since the median age in Honduras is 22, we aren't shocked that a high proportion of homicide victims are under thirty. Nor are we shocked by the suggestion that young people, especially young males, are dangerous, mainly to each other - in the United States (median age of 37) we see from FBI Uniform Crime Statistics that nearly half (48%) of homicide victims in the much safer US were 29 or younger.
Hold the front page - being young anywhere is a risk.
Tyler Cowen takes to the Times to state, well, the obvious:
Income Inequality Is Not Rising Globally. It's Falling.
Income inequality has surged as a political and economic issue, but the numbers don’t show that inequality is rising from a global perspective. Yes, the problem has become more acute within most individual nations, yetincome inequality for the world as a whole has been falling for most of the last 20 years. It’s a fact that hasn’t been noted often enough.
The finding comes from a recent investigation by Christoph Lakner, a consultant at the World Bank, and Branko Milanovic, senior scholar at the Luxembourg Income Study Center. And while such a framing may sound startling at first, it should be intuitive upon reflection. The economic surges of China, India and some other nations have been among the most egalitarian developments in history.
I am feeling strangely (but regrettably, not uncharacteristically) smug since I had noted this as an aside three weeks ago. But enough about me.
Of course, no one should use this observation as an excuse to stop helping the less fortunate.
We have been helping the less fortunate; they just happen to be in China, India, and South America. However:
But it can help us see that higher income inequality is not always the most relevant problem, even for strict egalitarians. Policies on immigration and free trade, for example, sometimes increase inequality within a nation, yet can make the world a better place and often decrease inequality on the planet as a whole.
And some more non-surprises:
International trade has drastically reduced poverty within developing nations, as evidenced by the export-led growth of China and other countries. Yet contrary to what many economists had promised, there is now good evidence that the rise of Chinese exports has held down the wages of some parts of the American middle class. This was demonstrated in a recent paper by the economists David H. Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, David Dorn of the Center for Monetary and Financial Studies in Madrid, and Gordon H. Hanson of the University of California, San Diego.
At the same time, Chinese economic growth has probably raised incomes of the top 1 percent in the United States, through exports that have increased the value of companies whose shares are often held by wealthy Americans. So while Chinese growth has added to income inequality in the United States, it has also increased prosperity and income equality globally.
The evidence also suggests that immigration of low-skilled workers to the United States has a modestly negative effect on the wages of American workers without a high school diploma, as shown, for instance, in research by George Borjas, a Harvard economics professor. Yet that same immigration greatly benefits those who move to wealthy countries like the United States. (It probably also helps top American earners, who can hire household and child-care workers at cheaper prices.) Again, income inequality within the nation may rise but global inequality probably declines, especially if the new arrivals send money back home.
It is not all gravy for the rich! Foreign oligarchs are bidding up real estate (and NBA franchises!) here in the US, which is a bit of a burden for our native .01 percenters, but I suspect few people share their pain.
Elizabeth Warren one-ups God by laying out the Eleven Commandments of Progressivism. Lots of grist for the mill, and a shocking silence on public education reform:
- "We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we're willing to fight for it."
- "We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth."
- "We believe that the Internet shouldn't be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality."
- "We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage."
- "We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them."
- "We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt."
- "We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions."
- "We believe—I can't believe I have to say this in 2014—we believe in equal pay for equal work."
- "We believe that equal means equal, and that's true in marriage, it's true in the workplace, it's true in all of America."
- "We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform."
- "And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturnHobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!"
So progressives are hunky-dory on the state of our public education system? I know they are worried about charter schools, "privatization", and any threat to the teacher's unions, but don't they care even a little bit about the kids being left behind?
But on to the commandments!
"We believe in science..."
"We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage."
Raising the Earned Income Tax Credit would specifically aid the working poor; as the party of Random Redistribution, progressives favor the minimum wage because who the hell knows who benefits?
But we know these science believers will want to hear from the Dismal Scientists at the CBO:
Increasing the minimum wage would have two principal effects on low-wage workers. Most of them would receive higher pay that would increase their family’s income, and some of those families would see their income rise above the federal poverty threshold. But some jobs for low-wage workers would probably be eliminated, the income of most workers who became jobless would fall substantially, and the share of low-wage workers who were employed would probably fall slightly.
People who get a raise will thank (and vote for) progressives. People who lose (or can't get) a job are hapless victims of Cruel Capitalism and will vote for Progressive expansion of welfare and unemployment benefits. It's a Win-Win!
"We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt."
I believe (based on tax returns released during her Senate run) that Ms. Warren was paid "an average of $350,000 per year by Harvard Law School during 2009-2010".
Whatever. I wonder if these progressives believe that subsidizing the purchase of something normally leads to a higher, not lower price. Ms. Warren seems to grasp this with respect to Boeing and the Ex-Im Bank but I don't think these progressives are calling for cut-backs in the many subsidies to higher education, which has surely supported ever-rising tuitions for ever-less-relevant degrees. (Are many engineers and compiuter scientists whinging about their crushing debt, or is just those with unemployable degrees that left them ill-equipped to do anything other than dazzle at dinner parties?)
"We believe—I can't believe I have to say this in 2014—we believe in equal pay for equal work."
"We believe that equal means equal, and that's true in marriage, it's true in the workplace, it's true in all of America."
"Equal means equal"?!? I guess she is referring to gay rights, including gay marriage; obviously, "All of America" excludes employment and college applications, where favored minorities, including self-proclaimed Native Americans such as Ms. Warren, will get preferential treatment with overwhelming progressive backing. Unfavored minorities, of course, can go whistle.
"We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform."
And "reform" means amnesty now followed by border security, uhh, how about never? Does "never" work for you?
"And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturnHobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!"
Religious freedom, and respect for the rights of others to exercise it? Baah! The right to private, mutually benefical contracts, e.g, between employer and employee? Patriarchal exploitation! Women have a right to both their bodies and their bosses' purse. Err, or wallet.
Barry is far too canny a politician to pick a side on the issue of whether a plane crash killing nearly 300, including 23 Americans, is or is not a tragedy. His team will focus-group this eventually and get back to him. But of course, Obama has a hard time with tragic; perhaps he is guided by the old adage that "If you slip on a banana peel, it’s comedy. If I slip on said peel, it’s tragedy".
Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, it looks like it may be a terrible tragedy.
And on the Tex-Mex border Obama is so keen to erase, it looks like it may be a terrible tragedy.
Late last spring Roger Pielke had noted (in the context of a Chinese proposal) that carbon caps are all very well and good until they start to bite, at which point governments change course. For this, Krugman (#AlternativeRealityBased) lambasted him. Caps, taxes, whatever - people don't seem to want to pay today for mitigated climate change in fifty years. (Hence the urgency felt by Greens need to promote the notion that the future is now.)
AND JUST IN TIME! Maybe Australia is helping the world dodge a bullet; from the Climate Depot:
The sun has gone quiet…solar cycle 24 continues to rank as one of the weakest cycles more than a century
'If history is a guide, it is safe to say that weak solar activity for a prolonged period of time can have a negative impact on global temperatures in the troposphere which is the bottom-most layer of Earth’s atmosphere - and where we all live.'
And how is solar activity implicated?
Finally, if history is a guide, it is safe to say that weak solar activity for a prolonged period of time can have a negative impact on global temperatures in the troposphere which is the bottom-most layer of Earth’s atmosphere – and where we all live. There have been two notable historical periods with decades-long episodes of low solar activity. The first period is known as the “Maunder Minimum”, named after the solar astronomer Edward Maunder, and it lasted from around 1645 to 1715. The second one is referred to as the “Dalton Minimum”, named for the English meteorologist John Dalton, and it lasted from about 1790 to 1830. Both of these historical periods coincided with below-normal global temperatures in an era now referred to by many as the “Little Ice Age”. In addition, research studies in just the past couple of decades have found a complicated relationship between solar activity, cosmic rays, and clouds on Earth. This research suggests that in times of low solar activity where solar winds are typically weak; more cosmic rays reach the Earth’s atmosphere which, in turn, has been found to lead to an increase in certain types of clouds that can act to cool the Earth.
For some, it's complicated; others with less appreciation for nuance have it all figured out.
And do let me add: even if it is true that the current solar cycle is providing a countervailing push to the effect of our carbon dioxide emissions, that solar cycle will eventually change. Based on the two cool periods mentioned above, a fifty year respite would be ample time to segue to new technology and transition to a much lower carbon footprint globally. Although he was speaking in a different context, noted socialist "Lefty" Gomez observed that "I'd rather be lucky than good."
Though Scorned by Colleagues, a Climate-Change Skeptic Is Unbowed
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, says he remembers the morning he spotted a well-known colleague at a gathering of climate experts.
“I walked over and held out my hand to greet him,” Dr. Christy recalled. “He looked me in the eye, and he said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Come on, shake hands with me.’ And he said, ‘No.’ ”
Dr. Christy is an outlier on what the vast majority of his colleagues consider to be a matter of consensus: that global warming is both settled science and a dire threat. He regards it as neither. Not that the earth is not heating up. It is, he says, and carbon dioxide spewed from power plants, automobiles and other sources is at least partly responsible.
“I detest words like ‘contrarian’ and ‘denier,’ ” he said. “I’m a data-driven climate scientist. Every time I hear that phrase, ‘The science is settled,’ I say I can easily demonstrate that that is false, because this is the climate — right here. The science is not settled.”
Dr. Christy was pointing to a chart comparing seven computer projections of global atmospheric temperatures based on measurements taken by satellites and weather balloons. The projections traced a sharp upward slope; the actual measurements, however, ticked up only slightly. [Ronald Bailey of Hit and Run provides the sort of chart omitted by the Times]
That suggests to some that maybe the science is not so settled:
Such charts — there are others, sometimes less dramatic but more or less accepted by the large majority of climate scientists — are the essence of the divide between that group on one side and Dr. Christy and a handful of other respected scientists on the other.
“Almost anyone would say the temperature rise seen over the last 35 years is less than the latest round of models suggests should have happened,” said Carl Mears, the senior research scientist at Remote Sensing Systems, a California firm that analyzes satellite climate readings.
“Where the disagreement comes is that Dr. Christy says the climate models are worthless and that there must be something wrong with the basic model, whereas there are actually a lot of other possibilities,” Dr. Mears said. Among them, he said, are natural variations in the climate and rising trade winds that have helped funnel atmospheric heat into the ocean.
However, this dispute spills over into the public policy arena:
Dr. Christy has drawn the scorn of his colleagues partly because they believe that so much is at stake and that he is providing legitimacy to those who refuse to acknowledge that. If the models are imprecise, they argue, the science behind them is compelling, and it is very likely that the world has only a few decades to stave off potentially catastrophic warming.
And if he is wrong there is no redo.
As promised, this leads to a mashed metaphor:
“It’s kind of like telling a little girl who’s trying to run across a busy street to catch a school bus to go for it, knowing there’s a substantial chance that she’ll be killed,” said Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “She might make it. But it’s a big gamble to take.”
Ahh, hmm, so not in front of the kids with this science-y stuff? Our public policy leaders are little girls trying to cross the street? OK, they don't always make crossing the street look easy, but they are adults who are expected to make decisions under uncertain circumstances all the time. Just for example, we have building codes that contemplate earthquakes and floods, even though the timing and severity of such natural disasters is unpredictable. Any responsible cost/benefit analysis would include the probabilities of a disaster weighed against the costs of mitigation; our leaders ought to be able to wrestle with some uncertainty on both sides of that scale.
The Times includes this perspective from Dr. Christy:
By contrast, Dr. Christy argues that reining in carbon emissions is both futile and unnecessary, and that money is better spent adapting to what he says will be moderately higher temperatures. Among other initiatives, he said, the authorities could limit development in coastal and hurricane-prone areas, expand flood plains, make manufactured housing more resistant to tornadoes and high winds, and make farms in arid regions less dependent on imported water — or move production to rainier places.
Dr. Christy’s scenario is not completely out of the realm of possibility, his critics say, but it is highly unlikely.
I would add two things. First, a friend of mine who has been involved in the climate debate for twenty years recently mentioned to me that he has lost interest in the policy debate, which has hit a de facto dead end; his focus now is on adaptation.
Second, as to the implausibility of achieving the UN blessed goal of limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees celsius, the recent UN study should be titled "Good Luck With That".
If we are to bring Hope and Change to the climate debate, I suggest we hope Dr. Christy is right and change the focus to adaptation, because we (i.e., the US, China and India) are not on a plausible path to deep carbon cutbacks.
The NY Times notes that the border surge of unaccompanied minors has scrambled Obama's plan to wave in by executive action and prosecutorial discretion the illegal undocumented future Democrat minors already here:
Border Crisis Casts Shadow Over Obama’s Immigration Plan
WASHINGTON — The crisis on the border with Mexico has overtaken President Obama’s plans to use executive action to reshape the nation’s immigration system, forcing him to confront a new set of legal, administrative and political complications.
Inside the West Wing and at the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, administration lawyers are working to find consistent legal justifications for speeding up the deportations of Central American children at the border while preparing to ease up on deportations of long-settled immigrants in the country’s interior.
The challenge, according to lawyers inside and outside the government, is to somehow avoid being arbitrary in deciding who must go and who can stay.
“It’s legally complicated,” said Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the domestic policy council at the White House and Mr. Obama’s top immigration adviser. “That was always going to be true. It’s just in higher relief now.”
"It's complicated" - that could be on every White House press release.
One day the NY Times and Team Obama may become aware of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Until that day, we will be treated to comic fodder such as this:
White House officials, without providing specifics, said the most likely executive actions that Mr. Obama will announce at the end of the summer were consistent with the administration’s efforts to move away from deporting unauthorized immigrants who have been in the country for years and have not otherwise broken the law.
Officials said the current crisis on the border fit that approach. By shifting resources away from long-established families, they said, law enforcement can better focus on processing the asylum claims of recent immigrants and deporting those who do not qualify to stay in the United States — a rationale that Peter J. Spiro, an immigration specialist at Temple University Law School, said had long been the basis of the nation’s current immigration system.
“There’s this longstanding distinction between undocumented immigrants who are inside the United States versus those who are outside trying to get in,” he said.
So we will move to a system where these undocumented, unaccompanied minors will be deported if caught near the border. But if they can make it inland (or get a court summons and then flee rather than appear in court) they can run out the clock and, after a few crime-free years, be eligible for a compassionate waiver from President Clinton. And this approach will deter a surge of illegals at the border because... they are all knuckleheads? C'mon, they have been following Obama's Executive Inaxction on immigration.
Either Obama thinks the parents and children in Central America are stupid or he thinks we are. Or both.
We have a new Thor, and he is a she? I could care less (or couldn't - I've heard it both ways) except that I will never be able to explain "Adventures In Babysitting" to my grandkids. Or the Marvel movies, but those are inexplicable anyway.
And as always, the world wonders - is it good for Hillary? Or is she threatened by the emergence of another strong (albeit utterly unqualified) woman?
In New York City, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) convention, promising that her husband would act on his own to fix the broken immigration system.
“So make no mistake about it, we have to keep on fighting as hard as we can on immigration,” she said as the crowd cheered. “And as my husband has said, he’s going to do whatever administrative action it takes to fix this broken system.”
Obama reminded the attendees that they couldn’t wait for Congress to act on their future and urged them to seize opportunities on their own.
“We cannot afford to wait on Congress to lift up our next generation. We can’t afford to wait on anybody when it comes to our kids’ future,” she said. “Your grandparents and parents didn’t wait for opportunities to come to them. No, they packed up their families and moved to this country for a better life.”
The First Lady reminded them of the history of social injustices that Latinos suffered in America which inspired the founder of LULAC to start his organization in 1929.
“Back then, Latinos were being brutalized and killed by police and lynched by the KKK,” she said. “‘No Mexicans Allowed’ signs hung outside of restaurants and storefronts. Latinos often couldn’t own property or serve on a jury. And if you walked into a public building, you’d often see not two water fountains, but three -- one white, one black, and one brown.”
Here is the text of her speech. She does assure the crowd that Congress can be bypassed. However, as presented by Breitbart it reads as if she is exhorting the current generation to pack up their familes and move to the US, as their forebears did. However, she is talking about the importance of seizing the educational opportunities available in the US:
Now, I know that education is one of so many pressing issues on your plates right now. And with a broken immigration system hurting so many of our families and neighbors — (applause) — some of you may be wondering why I decided to focus on education today. But what I know from my own life experiences, is that if we truly want to lift up our next generation, we must tackle all of these challenges at the same time. And that is actually one of the greatest lessons of LULAC’s history.
LULAC initially formed back in 1929 in response to horrific violations of Latino civil rights. Back then, Latinos were being brutalized and killed by police and lynched by the KKK. “No Mexicans Allowed” signs hung outside of restaurants and storefronts. Latinos often couldn’t own property or serve on a jury. And if you walked into a public building, you’d often see not two water fountains, but three — one white, one black, and one brown.
But LULAC didn’t just focus on these pressing crises; all along, they were investing in education too. Yes, those early leaders traveled from town to town to organize local councils to right those injustices, once being run out of town at gunpoint. And they rallied the Latino vote, even in the face of poll taxes and voter intimidation. But they also sued to desegregate their schools. They also organized parents into neighborhood committees, launched boycotts to protest terrible learning conditions for their children. They sold tamales and held dances to raise scholarship money.
So make no mistake about it, we have to keep on fighting as hard as we can on immigration. (Applause.) And as my husband has said, he’s going to do whatever administrative action it takes to fix this broken system. (Applause.)
But we cannot afford to wait on Congress to lift up our next generation. We can’t afford to wait on anybody when it comes to our kids’ future. Your grandparents and parents didn’t wait for opportunities to come to them. No, they packed up their families and moved to this country for a better life. Felix didn’t wait for Texas to set up a program to teach kids English. No, he hired those teachers himself.
So today, we have got to live up to those examples and reignite that hunger for opportunity — that hunger for education –- across all of our communities. And we all have a role to play in this endeavor. Parents have to be reading to their kids from an early age and making sure they go to school every day and do their homework every night. Our young people, you have a role to play as well. You have to make education your number-one priority and be role models for those around you. (Applause.)
Now, one might argue that she is making a not-so-coded call for de facto open borders. But she might just as plausibly be an inept public speaker (I certainly can't rule that out.) And as a factual matter, the Washington Times is simply wrong when they report that
Shortly after [the exhortation about Congressional irrelevance], Mrs. Obama began to list the civil rights offenses that plagued the Hispanic community at America’s hands in recent decades.
The ghastly history (And has anyone ever heard the "three water fountains" story before? I'll give it an "Anything Is Possible".) was presented in the intro.
Well. If Michelle and her brain trust hope to persuade the Hispanic community to stop railing about immigration reform and start railing about education reform, that may simply take Team Obama out of the frying pan and into the fire.
The WaPo weighs Obama's disengagement with the border crisis as well as the political crosscurrents sweeping him under:
Border crisis scrambling the politics of immigration policy
Until now, the politics of immigration have been seen as a no-lose proposition for President Obama and the Democrats. If they could get a comprehensive overhaul passed, they would win. And if Republicans blocked it, the GOP would further alienate crucial Hispanic and moderate voters.
But with the current crisis on the Southwest border, where authorities have apprehended tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children since October, that calculus may be shifting.
Republicans and even some Democrats have accused Obama of being insufficiently engaged in a calamity that many say he should have seen coming.
They highlight the politically challenging and contradictory position in which Obama finds himself (yes, that is a passive voice tribute to Obama...):
Obama’s goal now is to make clear to adults in Central America that there is no payoff for sending their children on the dangerous journey northward, said Cecilia Muñoz, the White House domestic policy director. “He feels intensely a responsibility to prevent an even greater humanitarian crisis,” she said.
Oh, stop it, you're killing me...
That, however, means speeding the deportation of most of those who have already arrived, which many in Obama’s own party are resisting.
“It is contrary to everything we stand for as a people to try to summarily send children back to death . . . in a place where drug gangs are the greatest threat to stability, rule of law and democratic institutions in this hemisphere,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said in Nashville, where the National Governors Association was meeting.
Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) agreed in an interview: “I would like to see him place greater emphasis on the interests of these children who are refugees from extreme violence and instability in their home countries” instead of “an acceleration of the deportation process at the expense of these children.”
So in actuality Obama has to persuade Central American parents to keep their kids at home even though they will ultimately be welcomed into the US if their parents do choose to send them north. Good luck messaging that.
The WaPo includes this passage describing an Obama meeting with immigration advocates:
Two weeks ago, with Republicans criticizing the administration’s handling of the border crisis, Obama gathered advocates for another private meeting at the White House.
The session grew heated when some of them criticized the administration’s tough posture toward the children on the border, according to several people who attended.
Marshall Fitz, immigration policy director at the Center for American Progress, said that Obama, a former community organizer, told the group that “in another life, I’d be on the other side of the table.”
Compassionate progressives are surprised:
But O’Rourke added that he has been surprised by the anger he has heard toward the immigrants from many of his El Paso constituents, who “feel like we can’t take care of everyone, and these children and their families are gaming the system.”
Gaming the system? Really?
The WaPo reminisces about Team Obama's competence:
The emergency has also renewed questions about the administration’s competence, reminiscent of those raised during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, last year’s botched rollout of the health-care law and more recent revelations of mismanagement that jeopardized care of patients at veterans hospitals.
The good news is the VA debacle is off the front page.
The WapO provides a "Where Was Obama" wrap-up:
There is also the question of whether the Obama administration ignored the signs as the emergency was developing.
As far back as May 2012, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) warned Obama in a letter that “there is a surge of unaccompanied illegal minors entering the United States. Apart from being part of an obvious humanitarian crisis, these unaccompanied illegal minors have left the federal government scrambling to triage the results of its failed border security and immigration policies.”
At last week’s governors meeting, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) said the administration was “asleep at the switch.”
A Republican Governor can be dismissed as a partisan hack. However...
Some border-state Democrats have joined the criticism.
“The numbers have spiked recently, but this is not a new development,” said Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.). “It seems to me that the administration just wasn’t paying close attention and could have acted sooner.”
Barber noted that 30 percent of apprehensions of illegal immigrants are made in his Tucson-area district, as are up to 47 percent of cartel drug-running arrests. His constituents, who already live in fear for their safety, are now seeing law enforcement agents diverted to child care.
“They’re doing a great job, but it’s not their job, and it’s allowed the front line to be thinned even further,” Barber added.
Yet even some Democrats say Obama has not appeared to be as engaged as they would like.
When the president made a fundraising swing through Texas without going to the scene of the crisis, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) complained on MSNBC: “He can’t even go 242 miles to the Texas border? Border community leaders want to see him down there on the border. And I think the optics and the substance of it is that he should show up at the border.”
A poor little rich boys club of Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates get space in the Times to lecture the rest of us on the need for immigration reform.
I hate to single out one passage as 'Stupidest' amongst so many worthy entries, but this stands (slightly) apart:
The three of us vary in our politics and would differ also in our preferences about the details of an immigration reform bill. But we could without doubt come together to draft a bill acceptable to each of us. We hope that fact holds a lesson: You don’t have to agree on everything in order to cooperate on matters about which you are reasonably close to agreement. It’s time that this brand of thinking finds its way to Washington.
Other lessons might be that the parties need to trust each other, and the deal has to be enforceable in the courts. Neither Obama nor Holder will enforce the border security provisions of a comprehensive deal with any conviction; the Administration is more likely to be filing amicus briefs on behalf of various immigrant advocacy groups denouncing vafrious enforcement provisions as "racist".
Obama’s Understated Foreign Policy Gains
It’s been a pretty good couple of weeks for American foreign policy. No, seriously.
Uh huh. A few more good weeks like this and we can just flip the keys to the Chinese, or Russians, or anyone interested, and call it an era.
Several Democrats also questioned Obama’s decision to not visit the border.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said he was “floored” to see Obama drinking beer and playing pool during a visit to Denver on Tuesday but then opting not to visit the border.
“If they are worried about putting a face, the president's face, to this human crisis, humanitarian crisis, I think it's worse if he doesn't even show up,” Cuellar told MSNBC.
“Either way, he's going to be tied into this humanitarian crisis. He either can roll up his sleeves and go down to the border, or he can just look aloof and detached and not go to the border, send surrogates down there, and say that he's got everything under control.”
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), who leads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” program, told USA Today that if she were advising President Obama, “I’d advise him to go to the border.”
This 'no photo ops at border' is one more red line Obama will be abandoning soon enough.
A very interesting chart shows the impact of various lifestyle choices on the life expectancy of 75 year olds.
Pensioners halve their odds of living another decade if they smoke, drink, eat little fruit and avoid exercise, a major study has found.
Researchers have created a groundbreaking 'health calculator' which 75-year-olds can use to show their chances of living to 85 - and some of it makes for grim reading.
It shows that 75-year-old men with the worst lifestyle habits have just a 35 per cent chance of living another decade, while those odds soar to 67 per cent for healthy people.
The four categores are alcohol consumption (low, moderate and high), exercise, smoking, and eating fruit.
The approximate marginal impact of each of the four activities is interesting.
Being in the low alcohol consumption rather than the high group increases a 75 year old man's odds of living to 85 by about 3%.
The physically active improve their odds by 6%.
Being in the non-smolking category improves a man's odds of living another decade by 17% (I suspect that "smoking" is over one's lifetime, so it is not enough to quit smoking at 75, although that would probably be a good idea. I'll even bet that a similar caveat applies to the other categories, although it is never too late to take steps to improve one's health. Well, unless you are already dead or comatose.).
Finally, eating fruit leads to a 6% improvement.
I am shocked at the non-consequentiality of alcohol. Maybe there is a survivor bias effect at work - perhaps a lot of truly heavy alcohol abusers managed to kill themselves before reaching an age suitable for the study.
Eduardo Porter of the NY Times discusses a new UN report on climate change detailing the actual steps needed to stay within the 2 degree Centigrade temperature elevation to which world leaders paid lip service a few years ago. He doesn't say it but I will - it may be doable, but we aren't going to do it.
From the Times:
Here’s what your future will look like if we are to have a shot at preventing devastating climate change.
Within about 15 years every new car sold in the United States will be electric. In fact, by midcentury more than half of the American economy will run on electricity. Up to 60 percent of power might come from nuclear sources. And coal’s footprint will shrink drastically, perhaps even disappear from the power supply.
This course, created by a team of energy experts, was unveiled on Tuesday in a report for the United Nations that explores the technological paths available for the world’s 15 main economies to both maintain reasonable rates of growth and cut their carbon emissions enough by 2050 to prevent climatic havoc.
Within fifteen years the US will have that much installed nuclear capacity? Odd, since the political will to build new facilities seems to be nil. This is from the World Nuclear Association:
In the USA there are plans for 13 new reactors, and two combined construction and operating licences for these were issued early in 2012 while five more are under review. All are for late third-generation plants, and a further proposal is for two ABWR units. it is expected that some of the new reactors will be on line by 2020.
A whole lucky 13 new plants? That hardly expands our base. From Wikipedia:
Nuclear power in the United States is provided by 100 commercial reactors (65 pressurized water reactors and 35 boiling water reactors) licensed to operate at 65 nuclear power plants, producing a total of 790 TWh of electricity, which was 19.2% of the nation's total electric energy generation in 2011. The United States is the world's largest supplier of commercial nuclear power.
The notion that the numbers won't add up is hardly news. This is from Roger Pielke's blog late this spring:
I did a lot this math in The Climate Fix and in various peer reviewed papers, but you don't need to believe me. Here is Caldeira et al. in Science in 2003:
To achieve stabilization at a 2°C warming, we would need to install ~900 ± 500 MW [mega-watts] of carbon emissions-free power generating capacity each day over the next 50 years. This is roughly the equivalent of a large carbon emissions-free power plant becoming functional somewhere in the world every day. In many scenarios, this pace accelerates after mid-century. . . even stabilization at a 4°C warming would require installation of 410 MW of carbon emissions-free energy capacity each day.
Get that? A nuclear power plant-worth of carbon-free energy per day, every day until 2050.
I have not attempted to compare the latest UN figures with the 2003 paper mentioned above, but still. The 60% figure cited by Mr. Porter is from what the UN calls the "High Nuclear" scenario. In their base case, nuclear electricity rises from 21% to 30% of all electricity, but electricity uses also greatly expands (replacing petro-based transportation as well as residential heating and cooking). From the UN report:
To meet demand, net electricity generation grows by nearly 75% relative to 2010, as shown in the middle right panel of Figure 6. At the same time, a gradual shift in the mix of generation sources results in nearly complete decarbonization of electricity by 2050, with a CO2 intensity of 18 gCO2 per kWh (5 gCO2 per GJ), a 95% reduction from its 2010 value. The 2050 generation mix is a blend of 40% renewables (hydro, solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal), 30% nuclear, and 30% fossil fuel (coal, natural gas) with CCS (CCS = carbon sequestration).
If nuclear rises from 20% to 30% of electric output and electric output rises from 100 to 175 units, then nuclear capacity increases from 20 units to 52.5 units. If we are going to more than double our nuclear capacity in the next fifteen years, 13 new plants to supplement the 100 online will hardly be a credible start.
Mr. Porter is droll here:
[The report] offers a sobering conclusion. We might be able to pull it off. But it will take an overhaul of the way we use energy, and a huge investment in the development and deployment of new energy technologies. Significantly, it calls for an entirely different approach to international diplomacy on the issue of how to combat climate change.
“This will require a heroic cooperative effort,” said Jeffrey D. Sachs, the Columbia University economist who directs the Sustainable Development Solutions Network at the United Nations, which convened the multinational teams.
Yes, international cooperation is sky-high just now.
The teams, one in each of the 15 countries, looked at what would be necessary to keep the atmosphere from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius, 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above the preindustrial average of the late 19th century, a target that most of the world committed to at the climate summit meeting in Copenhagen five years ago. To do so, CO2 emissions from industry and energy use would have to fall to at most 1.6 tons a year for every person on the planet by midcentury.
That is less than a tenth of annual American emissions per person today and less than a third of the world average. And we haven’t quite figured out how to get from here to there.
But don't stop believing!
Most important, the assessment offers an opportunity to end decades of inconsequential horse-trading over climate change and to start addressing the problem for real.
Five years since political leaders from countries around the world committed to do whatever it took to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees above the preindustrial average, no one had taken the trouble, until now, to evaluate how that might be achieved.
Lacking any understanding of the feasibility of the exercise, governments postured and jockeyed over which country should be responsible for what, offering as little as they could get away with in actual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, whether the collective effort met the two-degree commitment or not.
“If governments don’t have any idea of what two degrees means in their countries, how can they commit to two degrees?” asked Guido Schmidt-Traub, executive director of the Sustainable Development Network.
Oh, stop - the governments knew what their 2 degree commitment meant - increased donations and decreased gnawing on left-wing politicians from energetic Greens. The reality-based community has never been pafrticiularly interested in the realities of achieving their aspirations.
And the obvious political problem with delivering a specific roadmap is that the unreality of the exercise will quickly set in. So is it time to bring on the geoengineers? Oh, sure, because confidence in Big Government is also sky-high.
Not to be all negative, of course.
Tom K. Wong at the Center for American Progress puts on his thinking cap and tries to resuscitate Team Obama's claim that the current crisis on our southern border is not due to Obama's slack deportation policy. I certainly appreciate the effort (and the links to some data) since I had a passing thought to attempt something similar myself.
However... as analysis, the CAP piece fall short. It succeeds in demonstrating the unremarkable conclusion that children are more inclined to flee dangerous countries than safe ones. But why the border influx now, as opposed to two, five, or seven years ago? Presumably something has changed; Team Obama claims it is the level of violence, and his critics insist it is US policy.
So, is it the level of violence in the key Central American countries that has changed? CAP does not address that point, but we get a hint from the UN figures on national homicide rates to which they link. This is from "Homicide counts and rates, time series 2000-2012":
My sophisticated eyeballometric assessment is that the homicide rate in El Salvador spiked in 2005 from about 40 (per 100,000) to about the mid-60's and was roughly steady there until falling back to the 40's in 2012 (if we can even believe these numbers...). That hardly suggests that children emigrating from El Salvador should have surged in 2013 or 2014. However, we can add this from a recent State Department travel warning:
Although Salvadoran police statistics show a decrease in annual homicides during 2012 and 2013, the homicide rate has been rising steadily since August 2013. From mid-February through April 2014, El Salvador has experienced an average of almost 10 people killed per day - the highest homicide rate since 2011.
Guatemala has been roughly stable in the mid 30's (per 100,000) to low 40's for years, which is also inconsistent with a recent surge in violence-motivated emigration.
Honduras, on the other hand, is spiraling from bad to worse: the homicide rate was in the 50's or 60's until 2008, after which it has spiked into the 90's as of 2012. However, this travel advisory from the State Department is interesting - although they note that the violence has been extreme for years, they also estimate a homicide rate of 79 in 2013, down a bit from the 2012 UN figure (which may or may not be from comparable sources).
Now an obvious caveat is that these numbers end in 2012, so maybe things really have gotten worse recently. Per the FTI Consulting report cited by CAP, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are all violent with an unfavorable trend, which gives Team Obama a whiff of support. Whether their data is more current than the UN figures is not clear.
The Congressional Research Service had a helpful report outlining the legal issues and the scope of the immigration problem over time. This picture is worth a thousand words:
The surge from the three Central American countries clearly began in 2012 and has escalated dramatically. June 15 2012 was when Obama exerted his executive authority (and prosecutorial discretion) to implement his version of the DREAM Act.
Well. There is no reason that unaccompanied children can't both be fleeing violence and hoping to benefit from a new and relaxed attitude towards law enforcement in the US. But since even Team Obama seems to have abandoned the notion that this is all about Central American violence (leaving the Times editors to hold the fort alone) I am going to stick with the idea that if newly arrived illegals are running towards the Border Patrol and asking for their permiso, they have an idea that our enforcement is lax.
I should also note that the new emerging theme is to Blame Bush for an anti-trafficking law passed in late 2008 with overwhelming bipartisan support (and through a Dem-controlled Congress).
Hedge fund hero Tom Steyer has pledged to donate as much as $100 million to "Green" candidates, so he is the latest progressive hero. On Sunday the Times engaged in a bit of pre-emptive hand-wringing about the fact hat he made part of his fortune from invesgtments in coal (better to cover this on a non-news holiday weekend than in the heat of the fall campaign).
The Powerline guys get a nod and a link but I found this admission from the Times to be shocking - they quote a friendly expert admitting thst Obama's war on coal will sock it to the middle class. Ooops!
Here we go. First, the set-up:
“I am disappointed, I have to say,” said Dale Jamieson, a professor of environmental studies at New York University, who said he admired Mr. Steyer’s campaign to curb climate change. When it comes to large-scale investments in coal, Professor Jamieson said, “you can’t undo what you’ve done in the past.”
And a bit later the throat punch:
But detractors see hypocrisy: As coal linked to Mr. Steyer’s previous investments burns in Asian power plants, he is spending a fortune earned from those investments to pursue a green agenda that would shutter similar plants in the United States.
“If my side wins, it will create real costs for ordinary working people,” said Professor Jamieson of N.Y.U. “Hits to their welfare will not be compensated by stacks of money.”
Unlike Mr. Steyer, he said, “they won’t have options.”
I'm reeling. Sure, Republicans say that sort of thing, but the Times? And it is not as if Obama has been candid about the inevitable intrusion of reality on his fine designs. Here he is announcing the latest risky coal scheme:
Now, special interests and their allies in Congress will claim that these guidelines will kill jobs and crush the economy. Let's face it, that’s what they always say.
But every time America has set clear rules and better standards for our air, our water, and our children’s health – the warnings of the cynics have been wrong. They warned that doing something about the smog choking our cities, and acid rain poisoning our lakes, would kill business. It didn’t. Our air got cleaner, acid rain was cut dramatically, and our economy kept growing.
These excuses for inaction somehow suggest a lack of faith in American businesses and American ingenuity. The truth is, when we ask our workers and businesses to innovate, they do. When we raise the bar, they meet it. When we restricted cancer-causing chemicals in plastics and leaded fuel in our cars, American chemists came up with better substitutes. When we phased out the gases that depleted the ozone layer, American workers built better refrigerators and air conditioners. The fuel standards we put in place a few years ago didn’t cripple automakers; the American auto industry retooled, and today, they’re selling the best cars in the world, with more hybrids, plug-in, and fuel-efficient models to choose from than ever before.
In America, we don’t have to choose between the health of our economy and the health of our children. The old rules may say we can’t protect our environment and promote economic growth at the same time, but in America, we’ve always used new technology to break the old rules.
So making coal power more expensive to prompt a shift away from coal power won't actually make power more expensive. Uh huh.
I am not a big follower of women's tennis, since most matches involve a showdown between unpronounceable and unknown, but this one was mercifully short. Actually, it was over before I sat down to watch, but I did get to see a few sniffles and smiles during the trophy presentation.
The big boys battle tomorrow, and if it takes less than three hours I'll be shocked. Of course, more than three hours and I'll be bored - thank heaven for TiVo. Otherwise it becomes breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack at Wimbedon, and who has the time or inclination?
HMM: Since my chosen topic seems to be "Sports I Would Never Normally Watch, But How Often Does It Rain On The Fourth of July?", let me just add that I enjoyed both World cup soccer games Friday.
The France-Germany game had a certain hypnotic beauty - Pink Floyd would have made a great soundtrack and I am sure the rating in Colorado were sky high - but gthe pace demonstrated the problem and power of European unions, since the players sauntered as if they were getting paid by the hour.
By way of contrast, the Columbia-Brazil game looked like a mash-up of soccer, hockey, Broadway, and mixed martial arts. The performers seemed to be in line for a bonus every time they thumped the ball or each other and gthe pace seemed unsustainable. A few games like that could make me a fan.
From the Times, helpfully buried on the Fourth of July (presumably because they didn't want to wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas):
Obama’s Blueprint for Fighting Terrorism Collides With Reality in Iraq
WASHINGTON — Speaking at West Point in May, President Obama laid out a blueprint for fighting terrorism that relies less on American soldiers, like the cadets in his audience that day, and more on training troops in countries where those threats had taken root.
But this indirect approach, intended to avoid costly, bloody wars like the one the United States waged in Iraq, immediately collided with reality when a lethal jihadi insurgency swept across the same Iraqi battlefields where thousands of Americans had lost their lives.
The seizing of large parts of Iraq by Sunni militants — an offensive hastened by the collapse of the American-trained Iraqi Army — stunned the White House and has laid bare the limitations of a policy that depends on the cooperation of often balky and overmatched partners.
While the militants from ISIS have moved swiftly to establish a caliphate from eastern Syria to central Iraq, the White House is struggling to repel them with measures that administration officials concede will take months or longer to be effective.
The Times goes easy on Obama here:
Last week, Mr. Obama announced a plan to spend $500 million to train and equip rebels in Syria. But the Pentagon has only begun detailed planning for the program, and officials said it would be months, or even more than a year, before the fighters would be battle-ready.
Obama announced that Assad must go and that we would provide aid to the moderate oppositio years ago, although lethal aid has only been publicly on offer for a year. That said, training and equiping the moderates now should be easy, since the few surviving non-radicalized rebels could fit in a pickup truck.
Some administration officials are also suggesting that Iran could be a partner in a post-war Syria, helping to ensure security there during a transition period, after which Assad would negotiate his own departure.
Because if Assad throws in with the US and helps crush ISIS he will naturally expect to be rewarded with an early retirement. Wow.
The past is not dead. It is not even past, as earnest historians (presumably progressive) attempt to revise the Declaration of Independence. From the Times:
Every Fourth of July, some Americans sit down to read the Declaration of Independence, reacquainting themselves with the nation’s founding charter exactly as it was signed by the Second Continental Congress in 1776.
Or almost exactly? A scholar is now saying that the official transcript of the document produced by theNational Archives and Records Administrationcontains a significant error — smack in the middle of the sentence beginning “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” no less.
The error, according to Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., concerns a period that appears right after the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the transcript, but almost certainly not, she maintains, on the badly faded parchment original.
That errant spot of ink, she believes, makes a difference, contributing to what she calls a “routine but serious misunderstanding” of the document.
The period creates the impression that the list of self-evident truths ends with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” she says. But as intended by Thomas Jefferson, she argues, what comes next is just as important: the essential role of governments — “instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” — in securing those rights.
“The logic of the sentence moves from the value of individual rights to the importance of government as a tool for protecting those rights,” Ms. Allen said. “You lose that connection when the period gets added.”
The story reviews her very impressive detective work and concludes with her perspective:
“We are having a national conversation about the value of government, and it does get connected to our founding documents,” she said. “We should get right what’s in them.”
Oh, brother. Progressives are about to ener their Blue Period and righties are about a week away from being labelled 'period deniers'.
I should add something about 'who controls the present controls the past and who controls the past controls the future'. But the future is now!
ERRATA: The text in question is in italics:
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
IN OTHER NEWS: A timely surprise for libs was found in a recently discovered version of Lincoln's handwritten Gettysburg Address:
...testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure without national single payer health care.
Politico reports on an interesting poll result:
A plurality of voters think Barack Obama is the worst president since World War II, a new poll says.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, 33 percent of voters think the current president is the worst since 1945.
Obama’s predecessor, former President George W. Bush, came in at second-worst with 28 percent, and Richard Nixon was in third place with 13 percent of the vote. After Jimmy Carter, who 8 percent of voters said was the worst president in the time period, no other president received more than 3 percent.
So apropos of the current administration, let's recall what the urologist said to the luckless guy with a kidney stone - this too shall pass.
A FREEDOM FOURTH BUCK-ME-UPPO! This re-invigorates my faith in the Vox Populi:
Thirty-five percent of voters said Ronald Reagan was the best president since World War II, receiving nearly twice as many votes as any other former president.