Saturday, May 26, 2018

Saturday Snickers

It’s Saturday so Steve Hayward has once again posted at Power Line his compilation of cartoons, captioned photos, posters and snark. Herewith some favorites described.

If you missed the Hillary at Yale cartoon at Lucianne.com, it shows up again here, and is a hoot.

Photo of a flushing toilet, with blue-tinted water swirling down, captioned:
I found the blue wave
that Democrats keep 
talking about
Photo of James Comey, James Clapper, and John Brennan, sitting at a table, labeled respectively:
Leaky     Sneaky     Freaky
A poster with the following text:
Democrat Dictionary:
1. Illegal Immigrants  -  Dreamers
2. Trump Supporters. -  Deplorables
3. MS-13 killers  -  Human Beings
4. Human Beings in the Womb. -  Not Human Beings
5. Hamas Terrorists  -  Protestors
6. Law Abiding NRA Members  -  Terrorists
Two great put-downs of the hat worn to the royal wedding by Prince Charles’ Camilla. The first photoshopped to be a tray of antipasto, the second captioned:
Somewhere ...
A ceiling is missing
its insulation
A photo of the Queen looking grumpily at bride Meghan Markle, captioned:
When you’re plotting a car crash, but
remember you’ve already used that idea once
before.
Two photos, the top one of five smiling, cheerful women, labeled as the Defense Ministers of Albania, Netherlands, Germany, Norway, and Italy. The second a photo of an unsmiling Marine Gen. Mattis, the U.S. SecDef, in cammies, captioned:
“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
An Arizona welcome sign, which normally says  “Arizona, the Grand Canyon State Welcomes You.” It has been photoshopped to add the following: “We truly apologize for John McCain & Jeff Flake.”

The 🔑 #Inside Man

Power Line’s Scott Johnson links to Spygate stuff deemed important by National Review’s Andrew McCarthy, who along with WSJ’s Kimberley Strassel, has been all over this story. McCarthy echoes Tweets by a pseudonymous “Undercover Huber” who writes:
So, it turns out that PETER STRZOK (who is probably flipped and cooperating with @justice OIG Horowitz), was running the “Crossfire Hurricane” counterintel investigation across “divisions”, “multiple agencies” and with “foreign governments” in Dec 2016
He’s the 🔑 #Inside Man
Johnson concludes:
What we have here for anyone with eyes to see is the slow uncovering of the biggest scandal in American political history.
Personally, I’ll leave drawing those sweeping generalization for historians with 20-20 hindsight. We’ve had some doozies in our “political history” so is it “biggest?” Hard to say. I’m comfortable with saying it is definitely big, and ugly.

Overdue, But Welcome

The New York Times reports President Trump has used a series of executive orders to ease the firing of federal workers. This action is, to my personal knowledge, some 40 years overdue.

In the mid-1970s my university loaned me to the Feds for two years, the civil service was then littered with what the wags of the day called “dud fireworks.” That is, they don’t work and you can’t fire them.

The cynical CW at the time was every federal supervisor attempts to fire one loser, no federal supervisor ever tries to fire a second loser. What supervisors learned in the first attempt was the effort took most of their time for nearly 3 years while their other work was neglected.

Thus the supervisors’ own performance appraisals suffered as their managers “knew better” than to waste time trying to fire someone with civil service protections. While theoretically possible, it was purpose-designed to be impractical and onerous.

In my small federal office of five professionals, including the boss, one was a total loser, another had both OCD and a savant’s knowledge of the multi-volume, constantly evolving Federal Personnel Manual. It was an odd group that included two ex-Roman Catholic priests.

In nearby units I saw losers who spent their days reading novels or newspapers, doing no federal work, required only to be present to be paid. I shared an office with a guy who treated us as his “day job” while his heart was in his real gig which occupied much of his at-work time and attention. Our boss knew and ignored his non-performance - shrugged it off with “the system is screwed-up.”

This is the FUBAR culture the President is trying to change, the swamp he’s attempting to drain. It needs doing.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Epiphany at Harvard

John Hinderaker, senior contributor at Power Line, quotes an editorial from the Harvard Crimson that is very encouraging, as well as unexpected. They write:
Much more work is needed in expanding the conversation and prioritizing ideological diversity on campus. Startlingly, just around 1.5 percent of respondents to The Crimson news staff’s survey of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences identify as conservative or very conservative, compared to 83.2 percent who identify as liberal or very liberal.

These statistics do not reflect America: 35 percent of Americans identify as conservative, 23 times the fraction of the faculty survey’s respondents, and 26 percent identify as liberal. This stark divide has harmful effects on the University’s ability to train our nation’s leaders, and it risks alienating current and potential conservative students. It has also likely contributed to the declining trust of Americans in higher education, which has deleterious effects. 
I'm impressed at this degree of realism. Maybe Harvard University's lofty reputation is, to some degree, merited after all.

Political Humor

There is a great Branco cartoon leading off the Lucianne.com compendium today. It's based on what should have been said at a real event. Always cautious about copyright issues, I'll describe it for you and quote the voice balloon.

Picture a grumpy Hillary giving the commencement address at Yale, holding aloft a Russian ushanka hat - this much actually happened. The voice balloon is where the cartoon diverges from her text, it has her saying:
I tried to rig an election,
I spied on my opponent,
I gave Russia U.S. uranium,
I bought fake intel from them,
And all I got was
This lousy hat.
Only a slight exaggeration. Russians paid the Clinton Foundation big bucks to facilitate the uranium sale, she "gave" them nothing.

Sitting and Standing

During 2 years as a young academic on loan to the Feds in DC, I learned an adage that has explained many things since: Where you sit determines where you stand. Unpacking this, where you are on the organization chart (or in society) determines your views on many issues. That is, your views are related to your self-interest.

For example, Lucianne.com links to two related stories, the first from The Hill quotes the president of the Border Patrol's union calling the deployment of the National Guard to the border a "colossal waste of resources." The second from the Washington Examiner reports:
As of Friday, National Guard troops assisted U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents in apprehending 4,116 illegal immigrants, turning back 1,182 people, and seizing 3,486 pounds of marijuana since April 15, according to new DHS data first obtained by the Washington Examiner.
Who is lying? Probably both sides are exaggerating, if not lying. They obviously "sit" in different places.

The union president wants to protect jobs for his members; he would rather the Feds hired more border agents. He doesn't want to see the military get a semi-permanent role on the border as he can't enroll troops as members.

The Department of Homeland Security reports to the President and is duty-bound to support his policies, one of which is sending the Guard to the border. So they need to say it's working.

As usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle. I believe the Guard have helped, sometimes quite a lot. Border Patrol agents are, however, more useful as they have arrest and detainment powers while troopers don't.

The main advantage of the National Guard is the President can call them up w/o going to Congress. Hiring new BP agents - beyond those already authorized and funded - requires legislation which in the current environment is quite hard to get.

VDH Considers Germany

Writing for the Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas publication, historian Victor Davis Hanson looks at today’s Germany and sees uncomfortable parallels with 1870, 1914, and 1939. I’ll grant that the parallels he identifies are real.

What makes the parallels less meaningful is the total unpreparedness of the German military this time around. In those other eras, German arms responded by gobbling up surrounding countries.

Perhaps today’s notoriously underfunded, undermanned and unserious Bundeswehr could defeat tiny Luxembourg. No larger neighbor need feel especially threatened.

Which is not to say Germany can’t make mischief in central Europe. Dropping the U.S. and choosing Russia as its territorial guarantor would certainly upend NATO and the EU.

As VDH notes, when Germans “feel aggrieved,” many ugly and unfortunate things become possible, (e.g., the Holocaust). One troubling thing they’ve done this time around is mass Islamic immigration, which in Germany and France begins to resemble a twenty-first century Holocaust outsourced to Islam.

Actors Formerly More Enjoyable

Stephen Green who guest-blogs at Instapundit, posts a Tweet by one Stephen Kruiser which just may be the smartest thing anyone has written in the past week. Kruiser writes:
Actors were more enjoyable when they had publicists who didn’t let them speak to the public & reveal how stupid they were.
Being someone the camera “likes” and having the ability to produce on demand the believable appearance of a particular emotional state are quite specific traits. These traits are not necessarily highly related to intelligence, common sense or sanity.

Are they valuable and scarce characteristics? Certainly. Are they markers of great wisdom and insight? Not even close, as evidenced by the generally chaotic and often self-destructive lives actors lead off-screen/stage.

Many were politically naive libertines when my father encountered them in the Hollywood of the 20s and 30s, most are no better today. “Grown-up pretty children” playing make-believe while the cameras roll.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Perhaps Dramatically So

Sean Trende (love the name) writes political analysis for RealClearPolitics and is based outside the Beltway in Trump-loving "flyover" country. He has posted his overview of the 2018 House election from that vantage point < 6 months before the polls close. He considers 3 factors important:
1. Trump’s job approval has increased.
2. The generic ballot has moved.
3. Special elections are an unproven metric.
After considering each factor, Trende concludes:
Can we say with certainty how the Battle for the House will play out? Absolutely not. Six months is several lifetimes in politics. But there is little doubt that the Republicans’ chances have improved over the past five months, perhaps dramatically so. That is noteworthy, and the CW should adjust accordingly.
Reluctantly, the reported CW is changing; no doubt generating massive heartburn among the chattering classes.

Being Too Picky

Lucianne.com links to a report in The Washington Times which quotes SecDef and former general Mattis as follows:
We are no longer receiving people from the society who are as much in step with the qualities that our institution must have for success on the battlefield.

More than 70 percent of 18- to 24-year-old males and females cannot qualify to be a private in the Army. … I’m told it’s 72 percent, it’s unfortunately going up.

This is combination of illicit drug abuse, illicit drug use, obesity is probably the biggest one, morals, you know, just arrests, that sort of thing and there are other reasons.
I don't write to dispute what Gen. Mattis says, I'm sure he is essentially correct. Rather I write to make a friendly suggestion.

Former arrests and illicit drug use never kept the French Foreign Legion from enrolling low-life rascals and turning them into acceptable infantry. And obesity is nothing that a lean diet and hard exercise can't reverse in young people.

True, for most of their history the Legion was garrisoned abroad, kept away from the good folk of Metropolitan France. No reason we couldn't do the same with units of our forces, Puerto Rico or the Northern Marianas come to mind as base locations.

Our military has been spoiled by its volunteer-only status. They want to enlist sterling citizens when traditionally standing armies were filled with losers and ne'er-do-wells. The only time the cream of American youth volunteered en masse was for truly patriotic wars, following Pearl Harbor or the sinking of the Lusitania.

Molotov-Ribbentrop Redux?

I’m reading a good RealClearWorld story about Europe’s negative reaction to the U.S. pulling out of the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran, when it turns “very interesting, but not funny.” See their conclusion:
For Germany it means putting some irons in the fire that have nothing to do with Europe whatsoever. That means economic and energy connections to Russia. That means at least giving Russian demands a hearing. That means taking Russian strategic interests into account as concerns the countries between Germany and Russia.

OK, maybe that does sound a bit like a Molotov-Ribbentrop redux.

Never forget that the founding concept of the EU and NATO were to keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down. All three of those pillars are gone.

History is moving on.
Germany hasn’t been “down” for some years, maybe the Americans are no longer perceived to be “in.” Don’t be surprised to see the Russian bear sniffing around Europe.

This will make the Visegrad countries very nervous indeed. They keep getting ground down between the Russian and German millstones (apologies for mixing metaphors).

Counterintel Against Trump

Investigative reporter Sheryl Attkisson writes at The Hill she’s identified eight signs there was skullduggery at the crossroads or, as she puts it less theatrically, “a counterintelligence operation deployed against Trump for political reasons.” The eight indicators are the following, see her column for details.
Code name
Wiretap fever
National security letters
Unmasking
Changing the rules
Media strategy
Leaks
Friends, informants, and snoops
Attkisson’s column is worth your time to read the whole thing.

Russians Responsible for MH 17 Shoot-down

The Washington Post reports Dutch investigators have determined that the missile which shot down a Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine in 2014 came from a convoy of Russian military vehicles. Shared involvement of Ukrainian rebels is possible too.

The plane crash killed Dutch tourists headed for holiday fun in Malaysia. The Netherlands is not amused.

Expect lawsuits and possible prosecutions in the international criminal court based in The Hague. Also a further worsening of EU-Russian relations.

It’s Historic

The website DC Whispers has a summary of the current state-of-play in Washington, DC, that is definitely worth sharing with you.
The Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign, infiltrated the campaign, colluded with foreign powers to attack the campaign, then worked to damage a newly elected president and ultimately overthrow an entire administration. Those collective actions are now known as “Spygate” and the Establishment Media is desperate to insulate Mr. Obama from being directly implicated in what is quickly turning into the single greatest political scandal in U.S. history.
Wow! Perhaps President Obama will make history beyond being the first mixed-race president. It could put the Obama mug shot alongside those of Grant, Harding and Nixon.

Instigating “the single greatest political scandal in U.S. history”? That’s huge, or in the current parlance “yuuuuge.”

A Master Class in Bargaining

Drudge Report links to CNBC reporting President Trump has cancelled the Singapore summit with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. The report includes the text of the letter Trump sent Kim explaining his belief that, given angry statements by the Norks, the meeting would not be useful at this time.

I guess we know who is the master negotiator, as Scott Adams described Trump. Sweet talk about a Nobel Peace Prize apparently hasn’t gone to Trump’s head, as some had feared.

This is classical Bargaining 101. The party which appears to want or need the agreement less, normally ends up with the better deal.

Trump just signalled he isn’t desperate for a deal with Kim, after waxing rhapsodic about the many benefits North Korea could achieve out of it. Notice how he has said little about what we hope to gain.

I expect the next thing we’ll hear is that trade sanctions on China just got tougher, signalling to China we don’t appreciate them telling the Norks to play hardball. This multi-partnered “dance” will be a master class in bargaining ... watch and learn.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Bad FIRST STEP

Congress is trying to pass legislation (e.g., FIRST STEP) to reduce prison populations. One blog I read suggests the supporters are a malign coalition of Democrats and pro-drug libertarian Republicans. It is a bad idea.

A recent Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics report on prisoner recidivism summarizes what happens to released felons.
Five in 6 (83%) state prisoners released in 2005 across 30 states were arrested at least once during the 9 years following their release. The remaining 17% were not arrested after release during the 9-year follow-up period.

About 4 in 9 (44%) prisoners released in 2005 were arrested at least once during their first year after release (figure 1). About 1 in 3 (34%) were arrested during their third year after release, and nearly 1 in 4 (24%) were arrested during their ninth year.
The data suggests releasing felons from prison is a high-risk, low-reward proposition. Congress has better things to do with their time than deinstitutionalizing habitual criminals.

New NFL Pre-Game Rules

Full disclosure: if I watch the Super Bowl, it is the only NFL game I'll see that year. Most years in early February I'm where viewing isn't convenient so I view the ads later online.

That said, when players began disrespecting the national anthem, I figured the kneeling would hurt ratings as NFL fans of my acquaintance tend to be "small p" patriots, even if they aren't Boston fans. It had exactly that effect.

Now ESPN reports the owners association has promulgated new rules for the next season.
NFL owners have unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they prefer, it was announced Wednesday.
With the near universal presence of video cams, you can bet there will be those who pore over pre-game images to determine and publicize who remained behind in the locker room. Such negative publicity will, at minimum, hurt abstaining players' endorsement earnings. Maybe their free agent chances too.

If more than a few players choose the late-entry option, it's likely TV ratings and ticket sales will continue to sag. The owners face an ironic dilemma, one with no obvious solutions. Many of their players don't like the fans and that feeling is somewhat reciprocated.

Democrats’ White Problem

The Washington Post carries a discussion of the racial sorting in politics that has taken place in the last 40 years. Whites have become more Republican, except for college educated whites. The latter group doesn’t help Democrats much because they tend to live in states which were already voting Democratic.

The author notes that as a group, whites are more economically conservative and socially liberal than non-whites, who are somewhat the reverse. Although he doesn’t explore the issue, this creates a difficulty for Democrats as pursuing the socially liberal positions which attract educated whites can push away the socially conservative non-white voters who make up a majority of their coalition.

Another factor the author ignores is the tendency of people to become more conservative as they grow older. Ours is an aging society, whose birth rate is below replacement. As the electorate ages, expect increasing conservatism which creates a Republican bias.

The drift to tribal/racial politics in the U.S. has been gradual but relatively consistent since 1970. Will it continue? A number of factors suggest it could.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What Are They Hiding?

Liz Sheld writes at her Hot Mic blog at PJ Media about the documents Congress wants, which the DOJ and FBI won't give them.
Trump meets with DOJ, FBI about slow-walked documents, Kelly will set up meeting to review documents.

You've got to wonder what is in these documents that the DOJ and FBI will not turn them over to Congress. For months, they have resisted turning over documents rightfully requested as part of the congressional oversight.
The biggest secret Rosenstein and company could be concealing is that President Obama knew exactly what they were doing. That he had directed them to spy on the opponent's political campaign.

We need to force the foot-draggers to decide between their own fate and that of the former President. Some, I think, will immolate to protect Saint Barry. If we're lucky, others will cop a plea.

Good Advice

Instapundit Reynolds posts a Tweet by Kanye West about smart phone use. This is the second really smart thing West has been quoted as advocating. I begin to think he may become a serious influence in this society. Here is what he wrote:
Look at your phone as a tool not an obligation.
Would you walk around with a hammer in
your pocket? You would pick up a hammer
when you needed it  you would never be
addicted or obligated to it. Use your phone
like a hammer only pick it up when you need
it.
N.B., I'd include in the "need it" category your phone's use as entertainment, for example in a doctor's waiting room. It carries fewer germs than the People magazine someone sick with flu or strep put down just as you entered.