Friday, February 28, 2014

Obama Warns Russia Against Military Intervention in Ukraine

Obama's credibility is shot.

Frankly, he's a laughing stock on the international stage. Our foreign rivals can rest assured the U.S. won't lift a finger to defend U.S. strategic interests.

At the Wall Street Journal, "Russia Warned Over Unrest in Ukraine's Crimea Region: Troops Seize Airports, Roads Amid Fears Moscow Is Intervening in Ukraine; Kremlin Denies Involvement":

Ukraine's new government appeared to lose control over the restive territory of Crimea on Friday after heavily equipped gunmen—possibly Russian soldiers—surrounded its two main airports and armed checkpoints were established on key roads.

Officials in the West reacted with alarm, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and others working the phones to Moscow. President Barack Obama publicly told the Russians "there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine."

In Kiev, the country's capital, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov went on national television to accuse Russia of "blatant aggression" aimed at provoking a conflict that could lead to the annexation of Ukrainian territory by Moscow.

Top officials in Kiev said the men who had taken over the airport and the roads—who wore unmarked military uniforms and carried automatic weapons—appeared to be Russian soldiers.

Russia denied its forces were involved, and the Russian foreign ministry said what was happening in Ukraine was an internal matter. Russian President Vladimir Putin told concerned European leaders who called him Friday that he opposes any escalation of violence and supports normalizing the situation.

Though the U.S. intelligence community doesn't yet have clarity on the precise nature of troop movements in Crimea, preliminary indications point to a Russian military that is in the process of intervening—despite assurances from Moscow that it would respect Ukraine's territorial integrity, U.S. officials said.

The unrest in Crimea—where Russia maintains a naval base despite ceding control of the territory decades ago—raised the possibility of the de facto partition of Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that gained its independence in 1991...
Continue reading.

More at TCOTs, "Ukraine Recedes Into The Darkness," and the Mad Jewess, "Obama Warned Putin Tonight About Ukraine..."

'Death to Jews' Graffiti Sprayed on Reform Ner Tamid Synagogue in Simferopol

Tweeted the story at Jerusalem Post a little while ago: "‘Death to Jews’ graffiti sprayed on Ukrainian synagogue."

ADDED: From Algemeiner, "Ukraine Synagogue in Crimea Spray Painted With ‘Death to the Jews’."

Kate Moss Photoshoot for Lui Magazine March 2014

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In Blow to Free Speech, U.S. Ninth Circuit Upholds School Ban on Wearing American Flag T-Shirts

I understand that a high school campus is not the public square, and that school administrators must protect the safety and welfare of their students, but if you can't wear an American flag shirt at an American high school because radical leftist reconquista activists students threaten violence, then this isn't a free America anymore. The forces of leftist anti-speech have truly won the day.

At the Heritage Foundation, "Federal Court Upholds School Ban on American Flag T-Shirts."

And don't miss this outstanding analysis from Eugene Volokh, at the Washington Post, "Not safe to display American flag in American high school":

This is a classic “heckler’s veto” — thugs threatening to attack the speaker, and government officials suppressing the speech to prevent such violence. “Heckler’s vetoes” are generally not allowed under First Amendment law; the government should generally protect the speaker and threaten to arrest the thugs, not suppress the speaker’s speech. But under Tinker‘s “forecast substantial disruption” test, such a heckler’s veto is indeed allowed.

The 9th Circuit decision may thus be a faithful application of Tinker, and it might be that Tinker sets forth the correct constitutional rule here. Schools have special responsibilities to educate their students and to protect them both against violence and against disruption of their educations. A school might thus have the discretion to decide that it will prevent disruption even at the cost of letting thugs suppress speech.

Yet even if the judges are right, the situation in the school seems very bad. Somehow, we’ve reached the point that students can’t safely display the American flag in an American school, because of a fear that other students will attack them for it — and the school feels unable to prevent such attacks (by punishing the threateners and the attackers, and by teaching students tolerance for other students’ speech). Something is badly wrong, whether such an incident happens on May 5 or any other day.

And this is especially so because behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated. The school taught its students a simple lesson: If you dislike speech and want it suppressed, then you can get what you want by threatening violence against the speakers. The school will cave in, the speakers will be shut up, and you and your ideology will win. When thuggery pays, the result is more thuggery. Is that the education we want our students to be getting?
A terrible decision.

UCLA Students Reject Israel Divestment Resolution

William Jacobson had this on Wednesday, at Legal Insurrection, "UCLA Student Council rejects anti-Israel divestment resolution."

Also a MSM report at the Los Angeles Times, "UCLA student government votes against divestment from Israel."

The highlight of this is the meltdown of student notetaker Danielle Dimacali, seen in the video (with a transcript) at Elder of Ziyon, "The epic meltdown of an Israel hater at UCLA (NOW WITH MUSIC VIDEO!)."

And see Daniel Greenfield, at Frontpage Magazine, "Leftists Melt Down Over Failure of UCLA Israel Boycott Resolution":
In the comments section at the Daily Bruin, [student notetaker] Danielle Dimacali accused critics of “obvious blatant racist microaggression”.
I must have never learned civility? Am I supposed to remain submissive? No, I just know when to stand up for what I believe in and what I believe is right. I will not silence myself or censor my language to make you feel more comfortable.

For the record, my job ends after the meeting has been adjourned. I used to consider good and welfare as a safe space for dialogue with the council members, some of those who I consider my closest friends. I am just as justified as getting impassioned over something as the public commenters. The heat of the moment and the intense emotions I felt led to the deluge of tears and strong diction. How dare you call me uncivil, you don’t even know me outside of my reaction to something I found extremely upsetting.
Later Danielle claimed that she was reacting to how upset her friends were and wasn’t against Israel.

Twitter was full of equally vocal meltdowns by BDS supporters upset that their latest racist assault on the Jewish State had fallen short of its goals.
The inevitable Hitler "Downfall" parody video is here, "HITLER REACTS to BDS FAIL at UCLA."

And at the Jewish Press, "The flood of anti-Israel hatred on campuses seems to be losing some of its strength." Well, never count these people out.

Still more at Big Government, "Breitbart's Ben Shapiro Crashes UCLA Hearing, Anti-Israel Divestment Fails."

Russian Forces Seize Airports in Crimea in Major Escalation of International Tensions

Charles Krauthammer, as usual, has the best analysis of developments in Ukraine, at the Washington Post, "Putin’s Ukraine gambit."

Personally, I'm just short of astonished at how brazen Putin's moves are. A lot of thought has gone into Russia's exercise of power, cold calculation and strategic planning. It's putting the U.S. on defense. Statements from top U.S. officials sound like squeaks amid the roar of the Russian bear.

I'll have more throughout the day. Meanwhile, a roundup of the news and analysis (in no particular order).

At the Los Angeles Times, "Russian gunmen patrol airports in tense Crimean standoff."

And at the Lede, "Latest Updates on the Tensions in Ukraine," and Telegraph UK, "Ukraine crisis live: Russia admits its troops are moving in Crimea."

More at Toronto's Globe and Mail, "Ukraine pleads for U.S., U.K. help after Russian 'invasion'," and at Foreign Policy, "New Ukraine Government Asks U.N. to Help Ease Crisis."

Finally, at the Trumpet, "Ukraine Crisis: Russia Displays Its Power."

Britain's Nazi Spies in World War II

They got punk'd.

Pretty fascinating, at the Independent UK, "Enemy within: The network of Britons who spied for Hitler during Second World War":
To his circle of fervent recruits, he was “Jack King” – the Gestapo’s man in England. While Britons rallied to war against Hitler in 1940, the masterful Nazi agent toured the country signing up those who could be trusted to show their loyalty to the Fatherland when the time came.

For five years, King evaded detection as he built up a coterie of committed and ruthless British Nazis ranging from provincial engineers, to an astrologer, to a Catholic priest. In return, they provided him with some of the most sensitive secrets of Britain’s war machine, from details of the first jet fighter to the workings of radar countermeasures.

Such was his success that by 1945, King had built up a list of “hundreds” of Britons whose anti-Semitic zeal and desire for a German victory made them potential “fifth columnists” against their own country. His controllers noted that all held “pro-German sentiments or a potential  fascist political outlook”. The Third Reich was particularly appreciative of the seven subversives – all but one of them British and led by a “crafty and dangerous” fascist named Marita Perigoe – who formed the inner circle of King’s network of homegrown Nazis.

Along with cash and regular supplies of invisible ink, Berlin sent them Iron Crosses in recognition of their services.

What Marita and her comrades did not know was that rather than working for the Gestapo, they were unwitting servants of Britain’s MI5 and thus the targets of one of the most audacious – and hitherto unknown – deceptions of the Second World War.

The scheme – known variously as the Fifth Column or SR Case – is revealed for the first time today in Security Service files released at the National Archives in Kew, west London.

They detail how Britain managed to dupe – and then contain – an entire class of homegrown traitors throughout the war and beyond. Even more remarkably, the operation relied almost entirely on Jack King, an MI5 desk officer drafted in at short notice to pose as the Gestapo’s British kingpin.

The project ran on similar lines to the famous Double Cross system under which the intelligence services turned German agents and then fed misinformation to the Nazi high command throughout the war on subjects including, crucially, the plans for the  D-Day landings.

But while British duplicity has long been recognised as playing a vital role in both shortening and winning the war by misleading the enemy, the willingness of “scores” of Britons to undermine their country and the effectiveness of the Security Service in curtailing their ambitions has, until now, remained unknown...
Continue reading.

'Any day you can see a member of the snarky, self-righteous Gawker media empire peeing his pants in the back of a cab driven by a mustachioed Jeff Gordon is a good day...'

From Mary Katharine Ham, at Hot Air, "Video: Jeff Gordon pranks blogger who said his first “Test Drive” was fake":

America and the Aggressive (Regressive) Left

From Peggy Noonan, at the Wall Street Journal, "Half the country feels—and is—beset by government. That's not progress":
The constant mischief of the progressive left is hurting the nation's morale. There are few areas of national life left in which they are not busy, and few in which they're not making it worse. There are always more regulations, fees and fiats, always more cultural pressure and insistence.

The president brags he has a pen and a phone. He uses the former to sign executive orders. It is not clear why he mentioned the latter since he rarely attempts to bring legislators over to his side. Who exactly is he calling? The most hopeful thing he's done is signal this week what he'll be up to after he leaves. He will work with young minority men. Good. He is a figure of inspiration to them, and they need and deserve encouragement. This also leaves us understanding for the first time the true purpose of his so far unsuccessful presidency: to launch a meaningful postpresidency. I'm glad that's clear.

But to American morale. Here one refers to recent polling data. Gallup in December had 72% of those polled saying big government is a bigger threat to the future than big business and big labor—a record high. This may be connected to ObamaCare, an analyst ventured. Rasmussen this week had only 32% of those polled saying the country is headed in the right direction, with 61% saying we're on the wrong track. Both numbers fluctuate, but the right track is down two points since this time last year and the wrong track up three. Gallup also had only 39% of respondents saying they saw America in a positive position, with less than half thinking it will be better in five years.

None of these numbers are new, exactly, as they reflect long-term trends. But they never lose their power to startle. The persistent blues, the lack of faith, the bet that things won't get better—it just doesn't sound like America.

We are suffering in great part from the politicization of everything and the spread of government not in a useful way but a destructive one. Everyone wants to help the poor, the old and the sick; the safety net exists because we want it. But voters and taxpayers feel bullied, burdened and jerked around, which again is not new but feels more intense every day. Common sense and native wit tell them America is losing the most vital part of itself in the continuing shift of power from private to public. Rules, regulations, many of them stupid, from all the agencies—local, state, federal—on the building of a house, or the starting of a business. You can only employ so many before the new insurance rules kick in so don't employ too many, don't take a chance! Which means: Don't grow. It takes the utmost commitment to start a school or improve an existing one because you'll come up against the unions, which own the politicians.

It's all part of the malaise, the sclerosis. So is the eroding end of the idea that religious scruples and beliefs have a high place that must culturally and politically be respected. The political-media complex is bravely coming down on florists with unfashionable views. On twitter Thursday the freedom-fighter who tweets as @FriedrichHayek asked: "Can the government compel a Jewish baker to deliver a wedding cake on a Saturday? If not why not." Why not indeed. Because the truly tolerant give each other a little space? On an optimistic note, the Little Sisters of the Poor haven't been put out of business and patiently await their day in court...
They're hateful and regressive, and they're indeed destroying this once great nation.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pro-Russia Gunmen Seize Parliament in Ukraine's Crimea

This is getting to be like some real great power politics. Almost like old times, frankly.

At the Washington Post, "Pro-Russia separatists flex muscle in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula":

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — The revolutionary upheaval in Ukraine’s faraway capital has awakened the separatist dreams of ethnic Russians living here on the Crimean Peninsula, where on Thursday pro-Russia gunmen who occupied the regional parliament building were met with an outpouring of support.

A group of men dressed in camouflage and armed with rocket-­propelled grenades entered the building early Thursday in the capital of Ukraine’s Crimea region, according to local reporters, then barricaded themselves inside and raised the Russian flag on the roof — a succinct answer to warnings from the United States and Europe that Ukraine remain united and Russia stand back.
Also at Time, "Gunmen Seize Parliament in Ukraine’s Russian Stronghold":
Since revolutionaries took over Ukraine’s capital a week ago, the ethnic Russian majority in the Crimea has largely refused to recognize the new government. In some Crimean cities, citizens have begun forming pro-Russian militias to resist the new authorities. “There’s not a chance in hell we’re going to accept the rule of that fascist scum,” Sergei Bochenko, the commander of a local militia group in the Crimea, told TIME last week in the city of Sevastopol. He said his battalion was armed with assault rifles and had begun training to “defend our land.”

Resting on the southern tip of the Crimean peninsula, Sevastopol is home to a major Russian military base. Some of its ethnic Russian citizens have appealed for Moscow‘s help to protect them from the new government, which they widely believe to be a fascist force backed by the United States and European Union.

On Thursday, as the siege unfolded in the Crimean capital, Russia received a similar appeal from Yanukovych, Ukraine’s ousted president, who is wanted in his homeland on charges of mass murder after police under his command slaughtered dozens of protesters last week. “As before, I consider myself the rightful head of the Ukrainian state,” he wrote in an appeal distributed to the press. “My allies and I have received threats of revenge, urging me to ask the authorities of the Russian Federation to ensure my personal safety from the actions of extremists,” he added, referring to the revolutionaries.

So far, Russia has refused all appeals to interfere in Ukraine. On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a trip to the E.U. that Russia had “confirmed our principled position of nonintervention in Ukraine’s internal affairs.” But a few days earlier, on Feb. 22, a senior delegation of Russian officials attended a summit of officials from the fallen regime and, in a resolution passed at the summit, called on Ukrainians to form militias to resist the revolutionary government.

“The provocateurs are on the march,” Ukraine’s acting Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, said in reaction to the seizure of the Crimean parliament.
Still more at the Los Angeles Times, "Ukraine's fugitive president turns up in Russia."

Caroline Glick: The Israeli Solution

Caroline writes, at Frontpage:

 photo c1cccbc7-c105-4081-a96e-37b1884e81d2_zps5a489155.jpg
In its annual survey of American Jewry published last October, the American Jewish Committee found that 75 percent of American Jews agree with the statement, “The goal of the Arabs is not a peaceful two-state agreement with Israel, but rather the destruction of Israel.”

And yet, American Jews supported the establishment of a Palestinian state 50% to 47%.

Next week over 10,000 predominantly Jewish Americansupporters of Israel will gather in Washington at AIPAC’s annual policy conference. Given their high commitment to Israel, probably most of those gathered belong to the 47% of American Jews who opposed Palestinian statehood.

Yet at the conference they will embrace the two-state formula. And on March 4 they will go up to Capitol Hill and tell their representatives that they support it.

They will do so not because they are addled. They will do so because for the past 20 years all they have heard is that Israel has no alternative to the two-state plan.

Israel’s fervent and committed supporters at AIPAC have been told that Israel needs a Palestinian state more than the PLO does. Only by bringing such a state into existence in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem can Israel get the Palestinian demographic albatross off its neck.

These committed supporters of the Jewish state have been sternly lectured that Israel is doomed if it doesn’t give the Palestinians an outlet for their political impulses outside of Israel, because within a year or two there will be more Palestinians than Israelis west of the Jordan.

The same day AIPAC’s delegates meet with members of both houses of Congress, my new book, The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East, will be released by Crown Forum, a division of Random House.

In my book, I show that the demographic time bomb is a dud, and a malicious one at that.

In 1997, the head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics Hassan Abu Libdeh told The New York Times that he was carrying out a census which would serve as a “civil intifada,” that is, as a statistical terror assault.

And he was right. The goal of terrorism is to force a target population to take actions it otherwise would not have taken. The goal of statistical warfare is to manipulate numbers to coerce a target society into taking actions that it would otherwise not take.

The Palestinian census claimed that by 2015, Arabs would be the majority west of the Jordan River. And once Jews were the minority, the Arabs could destroy Israel just by demanding the vote.

The Clinton administration, the US Jewish leadership and theIsraeli Left rushed to embrace the findings, even though they were totally inconsistent with annual Palestinian population surveys the Israeli military government conducted from 1967 through 1996.

All crowed that true, the PLO still supports terrorism, but if Israel didn’t cough up the territories, it would be demographically overwhelmed.

It took seven years until an independent group of Israeli and American researchers studied the PLO data and exposed the fraud at their foundation. The American- Israeli Demographic Research Group showed that the Palestinian data inflated the Arab population by a whopping 50 percent.

The news for Israel has only gotten better in the intervening years. The Jewish fertility rate has increased as the Palestinian rates have collapsed along with those of the Muslim world as a whole. Israeli Jews now have higher fertility rates than the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, (3.04 vs. 2.91 children per woman). Israel’s immigration rate is high and rising. Palestinian emigration rates have skyrocketed over the past decade.

The demographic good news has percolated throughout Israeli society. And with the news, more and more Israeli politicians have come to favor applying Israeli law to all or parts of Judea and Samaria, just as Israel successfully applied its laws to united Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in the past.

Most Likud members of Knesset and all members of the Bayit Yehudi party support partial or full implementation of Israeli law in the areas. 59% of Israeli Jews support such action as well and support doing so unilaterally.

Indeed, even leftist Israelis support Israel’s unilateral application of its laws to parts of Judea and Samaria. For instance, former ambassador to the US Michael Oren supports the unilateral withdrawal from parts of Judea and Samaria. But Oren foresees the retention of the major Israeli settlement blocs under Israeli law. In the absence of a peace deal, such a step can only be taken through the unilateral application of Israeli law to those areas.

In the current Knesset session, members have submitted two bills calling for the application of Israeli law to the large Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria and to the Jordan Valley, respectively.

But while all of this is going on in Israel, Israel’s supporters in the US remain in the dark about the existence of a better – facts based – alternative path for Israel.

In The Israeli Solution, I fill in the blanks that plague the American discourse on Israel and the Palestinians...
Continue reading.

PRE-ORDER at Amazon: The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.

'The battle for control of the U.S. Senate is where the action is this year in American politics...'

I'm getting a kick out of this Alan Abramowitz piece at Sabato's Crystal Ball, "Generic Ballot Model Shows Senate Control at Tipping Point." (Via Memeorandum.)

I've been using the phrase "the Senate is where the action is" for some time now in my analyses of the November midterms, most recently this morning, "Republicans Stronger Than Democrats for November Midterms":
As I've reported many times, analysts don't expect much change in the House of Representatives, and in fact Democrats have little chance of retaking the chamber in the fall. But as I've said, it's the Senate where the real action is, and some experts suggest the Democrats could be looking at losses of close to 10 seats (the GOP needs 6 seats to capture the majority).
So, take a look at Abramowitz's conditional forecasts for the Senate in November based on the generic congressional ballot for U.S. House races:

Generic Ballot September photo AIA2014022701-table2_zpsf37cfc87.png

The conditional forecasts in Table 2 above make clear once again that the fundamentals in 2014 are very favorable for Republicans in the Senate elections. Even if Democrats have a 10-point lead in generic ballot polling in early September, Republicans would still be expected to gain between three and four Senate seats because of the GOP advantage on the seat exposure and midterm party variables. However, a Democratic lead of five or more points in generic ballot polling would give Democrats a better than 50/50 chance of retaining control of the Senate. On the other hand, a Republican lead of five or more points would almost ensure a GOP majority in next year’s Senate.
The predictions are based on the September generic ballot, which is not due for six months. Yesterday's New York Times generic ballot question had the GOP up 42 to 39 over the Democrats, however, so if nothing changes based on the numbers right now, Republicans would be just short of Abramowitz's R+5, and thus sitting roughly on a pickup of the six seats necessary to take the majority in the upper chamber.

As I noted this morning, I doubt there's going to be much change in the national polling environment to change the fundamentals of this modelling (Obama's approval ratings and changes in the unemployment rate, etc.), but we'll see. It's still a long way off until the September-November stretch.

I'll have more, as always.

Many Chinese Couples Say One Child Is Enough — Even Now That They Can Have Two

At the New York Times, "Many in China Can Now Have a Second Child, but Say No":
BEIJING — After three decades of a Chinese policy that limits most families to one child, many families say they will not take advantage of a major change allowing a second child because of the rising cost of child-rearing.

“With two kids you have less money to give them the best,” said Mao Xiaodan, 27, a Beijing lawyer seven weeks into her first pregnancy who has dismissed the prospect of a second child. She said she was concerned about stratospheric housing prices and the high cost of schooling. “My husband’s co-worker has twins,” she said, “and just paying for elementary school has nearly bankrupted him.”

Under the new policy, the most significant overhaul of China’s family planning rules in 30 years, married couples in which just one parent is an only child can also have a second baby. The previous rules allowed two children for couples in which both parents are only children. The old policy also made exceptions for China’s officially recognized ethnic minorities and rural couples whose first child was a girl or disabled.

The government estimates that the change will allow an additional 15 million to 20 million couples to expand their families, helping to stem a plummeting birthrate that experts say has left China with a dangerous demographic imbalance in both age and sex. But only about half of those couples are willing to have two children, according to research by the National Health and Family Planning Commission cited in state news media.

In interviews, many couples blamed the rising cost of living for their reluctance to have more than one child. Some cited a persistent cultural norm that requires husbands to provide an apartment, a car and other material riches to a bride, demands that can push an extended family deep into debt.
The Chinese government should get out of the child regulation business. It's a massive violation of human rights. If families decide they want just one baby, then it's their choice.

More here. (State planners screwed up, by the looks of it. Chinese demographic numbers are so messed up there won't be enough new births to correct the imbalance against young people and women.)

Republicans Stronger Than Democrats for November Midterms

This is a "generic ballot" poll on party prospects for the November elections to the House of Representatives, at NYT, "G.O.P., Though Deeply Split, Has Election Edge, Poll Shows." (At Memeorandum.)

The poll finds that 42 percent say they'll support GOP candidates in November and 39 percent like the Democrats -- a statistically insignificant result since it's within the polls margin of error. But here's the findings on the ObamaCare clusterf-k: The nationwide poll was conducted Feb. 19 to 23 by landline and cellphone among 1,644 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for all adults and plus or minus 6 points for Republicans, Democrats and independents. The survey comes more than eight months before Election Day, and less than a quarter of those who responded said they were paying a lot of attention to the 2014 election, meaning that each party has ample opportunity to sway voters.

One issue, though — the Affordable Care Act — seems to have solidified some opposition to Democrats, and historical trends such as an older, whiter midterm electorate are also favorable to Republicans.

“It seems all the Democrats are for Obamacare, and I think this is a really bad deal,” Larry Walker, an independent voter from Torrance, Calif., said in a follow-up interview.

Mr. Obama’s approval rating is now at 41 percent, with 51 percent of Americans saying they disapprove of his performance, his worst standing in the past two years, with the exception of a CBS News survey last November in the midst of the troubled rollout of the new health care law. Such ratings amount to an early political alarm for Democrats on the ballot this year. When a party controls the White House, its performance in midterm congressional elections typically tracks closely to the popularity of the sitting president in the fall.
There's much in there that's unfavorable to the Republicans, but frankly 2014's looking to be a referendum on the Democrat Party's performance on the economy and healthcare, and they're not coming up roses.

Here's the raw survey questionnaire at the New York Times, "Complete Results: New York Times/CBS News February Poll." President Obama's job disapproval on the economy is 57 percent. And the level of dissatisfaction with the way things are going in Washington is nearly off the charts. Almost half of those polled said they were "dissatisfied but not angry" (49 percent), and then another 30 percent are "angry" (a total of 79 percent unhappy campers). Also, on another measure, 37 percent are "very disappointed" with the Obama presidency, while 22 percent are "disappointed" (a total of 59 percent who are "disappointed" with this administration). And in separate questions, voters said that both parties needed to do much more to address "the needs and concerns of middle class voters" (75 percent said Republicans should do more and 69 said Democrats should do more). Finally, exactly half thought Congress should make changes to ObamaCare "to make it work better" while 42 percent thought it should be "repealed entirely."

In sum, basic bread-and-butter issues are driving voter concerns this year, and neither party is seen well among respondents. But Democrats are most vulnerable on issues that rank front-and-center with the electorate, the economy, economic mobility, and healthcare. As I've reported many times, analysts don't expect much change in the House of Representatives, and in fact Democrats have little chance of retaking the chamber in the fall. But as I've said, it's the Senate where the real action is, and some experts suggest the Democrats could be looking at losses of close to 10 seats (the GOP needs 6 seats to capture the majority). I don't see anything at this poll that's likely to dislodge those expectations, and certainly vulnerable incumbents like Kay Hagan are literally running away from questions on the Democrats' once-marquee issue, ObamaCare. See United Liberty, "NC Senate: Kay Hagan runs away from reporters asking about Obamacare."

RELATED: My ideologically-addled antagonist Martin Longman, of BooMan Tribune, is having illusions of Democrat victory in November, "Curtis Gans Says the Dems Can Win in November." Gans (cited there) is a progressive political analyst who's got an interesting (if deeply flawed) piece up at the far-left Washington Monthly, "Midterm Signals and Noise: Why Democrats Could Do Better in November Than Everyone Thinks." After his discussion of the "signals and noise," here's what Gans says on the Democrats' surprisingly (fantastically) good chances for the fall:
Despite current conventional wisdom, such an election [Democrat wave election] is not only possible but probable, but only if three signals occur - if September polls, the polls taken when people are paying attention to the upcoming election, show a substantial improvement in Obama’s approval rating and an equally substantial increase in public support of the Affordable Care Act, and if the economy does not relapse into recession.
Gans has been smoking double-dipped Thai sticks until they're coming out his ears. None of these three things is going to happen. There is no miracle that will lift Obama's public opinion numbers into the plus-50 range (an approval level he'd need to change voters' electoral behavior). He may get back into the high-forties, but for him to gain majority approval again, we'd need robust economic growth with a substantial drop in the unemployment rate, which isn't likely. (It doesn't matter if the economy has a "relapse back into recession," since voters are already angry about the economy right now. They'll only be further enraged should the unemployment rate head north once again --- which is not a foregone conclusion considering Obama's record of economic mismanagement). And while the opinion trends on ObamaCare have probably bottomed out, recall, as Megan McArdle has pointed out, even worse news on the law's mangled roll-out may be yet to come.

Those are the key factors I'm expecting to influence the November results. All the rest is noise, hilariously so in the context of the predictive model of Curtis Gans, and apparently Martin Longman as well.

The Democrats are going to get hammered. I can't see any realistic scenario in which the factors highlighted at the Times poll, or those "three signals" cited by Gans, show a dramatic and politically significant turnaround. If it's going to be a "wave election," it's going to be a GOP wave. Screw the leftist bastards. Democrats rammed the ObamaCare monstrosity down the throats of the American public on a straight party-line vote. Now all they can do is lie about how the Republicans are exploiting ObamaCare "insurance losers" and inventing ObamaCare "horror stories."

It's not going to be pretty, but I'll have more later, as always.

Canadian Woman Gets Smacked in Face by Whale's Tail

You gotta love it. Apparently she was unhurt.

At BuzzFeed, "Watch a Girl Get Smacked In the Face By a Whale."

Also at CBC, "Hamilton woman gets slapped by a whale."

Emily Ratajkowski Sports Illustrated Body Paint 2014

Click around at the link to view Ms. Emily's SI photographs. She's lovely.

There's voting too, for Sports Illustrated's swimsuit "rookie of the year."

Religious-Freedom Bills Proliferate in Statehouses

Well, Jan Brewer couldn't take the heat, but a lot of these bills are being signed into law and will ultimately wind up in court for adjudication.

At the Wall Street Journal:
Arizona has become a major flashpoint in the national debate over the boundaries between religious freedom and discrimination, as legislators there push to enact a new law that would allow business owners to deny service to customers for religious reasons.

But the state is hardly alone in mulling more explicit protections for religious business owners and individuals, whose objections to same-sex marriage have come into increasing conflict with newer laws expanding the rights of gays and lesbians.

Here’s a roundup of various religious-liberty measures circulating in other statehouses. Most have yet to pass a single chamber and a number have been tabled. Some deal specifically with the rights of businesses or students, while others are more broadly worded. In at least two states, the issue may go before voters as a ballot initiative...
Keep reading.

And see TPNN, "Several Other States Follow AZ’s Lead, Propose Religious Rights Legislation."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Vetoes Controversial Religious Freedom Law SB 1062

At the Arizona Republic, "BREAKING: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoes Senate Bill 1062."

This morning's Los Angeles Times has a great piece on the enormous political backlash over the bill, which was obviously much too great for Brewer to withstand, "On gay issue, Arizona may heed national outcry this time":
TUCSON — When Arizona took controversial stands in the past — refusing to create a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and enacting a tough anti-illegal immigration law — state leaders shrugged off the criticism from out of state as the meddling of outsiders.

But now, after the Legislature passed a measure to bolster the rights of business owners to refuse service to gays and others on the basis of religion, Arizona leaders seem to be listening to a national outcry and are urging the governor to veto the bill.
So what's different this time?

Political insiders and observers say the change can be attributed to a number of forces at work: a growing acceptance of gay rights sweeping the nation, the power of social media and an economic backlash unleashed by the passage of the anti-illegal immigration law that is still fresh in the minds of those in the business community.

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has said she has not made a decision on the bill, SB 1062, which the GOP-dominated Legislature approved last week. But some of her longtime advisors have said they believe she will veto the measure because of the negative reaction to the bill inside and outside the state.

Barrett Marson, who heads a public relations outfit in Phoenix, recalled that an uproar arose against Arizona in the 1990s when voters rejected a referendum to create a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. But there is a significant difference between then and now.

"That was pre-Internet," Marson said.

Much of the outrage about SB 1062 spread via social media, especially Twitter. Republican leaders, such as former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Arizona's U.S. senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, have taken to Twitter to urge Brewer to veto the bill.

They have joined a loud chorus on social media — including celebrities such as Judd Apatow as well as Arizona business owners and residents — that has tweeted against the measure.

The tweets opposing the legislation are so numerous they have overshadowed the few who have taken to Twitter in support of the bill. Proponents say the measure is not discriminatory but intended to protect religious freedom. "Would you force a Muslim butcher to slaughter pigs b/c you want bacon?" read one tweet.

Arizona also became a target of criticism after Brewer signed the anti-illegal immigration measure, SB 1070, into law in 2010. But the outcry then wasn't as  great as the current controversy, partly because the immigrant rights lobby wasn't as powerful as today's gay community and its supporters, Marson said.

"Certainly there was a short-term economic hit from 1070 … but there aren't many illegal immigrants who are CEOs or management of Fortune 500 companies," he said.

The "economic hit" Marson referred to was boycotts of Arizona businesses following SB 1070. Shortly after SB 1062's passage last week, businesses and companies took to the Internet, saying they still welcomed gay, lesbian and transgender customers.

Marriott, American Airlines and Apple are among the companies and businesses that have come out against the bill.

Some of the same foes of the legislation have threatened to boycott Arizona if the bill becomes law, and that possibility worries these businesses — some remembering the sting of the SB 1070 boycotts.
More at Memeorandum.

'The vast majority of uninsured Americans do not know they must sign up for health insurance by March 31 or pay a fine, according to a new poll...'

That would be the Kaiser Family Foundation "Health Tracking Poll" for February 2014, blogged at Jammie Wearing Fools, "Kaiser Poll: 76% of Uninsured Unaware of ObamaCare Sign-Up Deadline."

Click through for the survey, aggregated at Memeorandum. Among the findings:
While most Americans (54 percent) continue to say they haven’t been impacted by the law one way or another, the share saying they’ve been negatively affected has inched up in recent months (29 percent in February, up from 23 percent last October) and continues to outpace the share saying they’ve personally benefited from the law (17 percent)....

When it comes to next steps on the law, a majority say it should be kept in place, including 48 percent who want Congress to work to improve it and 8 percent who say it should be kept as is. Fewer say Congress should repeal the law and replace it with a Republican-sponsored alternative (12 percent) or repeal it and not replace it (19 percent). Like opinions on the law overall, views about next steps are deeply divided by political party identification, with most Democrats preferring to keep the law in place and a majority of Republicans wanting to see it repealed. Among independents, more than half want Congress to keep the law as is or work to improve it, while a third prefer to see it repealed.
Kaiser Poll photo majority-wants-congress-to-keep-health-care-law-in-place-polling_zps031c83cb.png

Keep reading.

The main takeaway for me is the enormous uncertainty that still surrounds this legislation. Opinion on ObamaCare is still very much in flux, and it's especially interesting that the majority have no personal experience with the law, which means as more costs are spread around, and quality of care deteriorates as people are shuffled into those narrow-networks (which people oppose), support is likely to decline. Also especially interesting is the number of those uninsured who oppose the law. Young Americans are especially unhappy about ObamaCare. Indeed, the Harvard Institute of Politics poll last December saw younger Millennials jonesing to recall President Obama from office (although we can't do that through the ballot box).

In any case, political campaigns have a way of shaping public opinion on the issues and it's obvious that most Democrats running for reelection would rather not talk about ObamaCare. So, overall the ball's in the GOP's court. The public's not all that big on ObamaCare repeal. But key demographics don't like it and thus overall numbers could shift in the GOP's direction as implementation proceeds (disastrously).

Very fluid all around --- and you gotta love the level of ignorance on the individual mandate! We'll be getting a lot more horror stories throughout the year on the tax penalties, although the hilarious big meme among idiot Democrats claims that Republicans are pushing "fake" horror stories for the November run-up. Progressives, heh. They're so stupid it almost hurts, lol.

Mercedes-Benz to Base Its Regional Office in Long Beach

I saw this in the news rack for the Long Beach Register while out to lunch the other day, and now here it is at the parent newspaper, the O.C. Register:
Since Mercedes-Benz USA announced plans to lease a 1.1 million-square foot Boeing plane factory in July, the luxury automaker has kept its plans for the former Long Beach facility a tightly guarded secret.

But an executive with Irvine-based Sares-Regis Group, which is the landlord for the 52.2 acres at 4501 E. Conant St., said that Mercedes-Benz plans to use the facility as its vehicle preparation facility and regional office for the western United States, and as a training center.

With the exception of the main airplane hangar, the fenced-in plant has been mostly turned into a huge parking lot with fresh concrete laid along Conant.

Larry Lukanish, a senior vice president with Sares-Regis, also says Mercedes-Benz will test, inspect, customize and prepare new cars for transfer to dealerships.

Sares-Regis, which bought the property in July 2012, plans to turn the property over to Mercedes-Benz USA on March 1 to begin a 15-year lease, Lukanish said.

Chicago-based Boeing Co. shuttered the facilities at the corner of Conant and Lakewood Boulevard in 2006, when the last 717 commercial jet rolled off the line. Boeing inherited the plane when it acquired McDonnell Douglas Corp. in 1997. The plane was originally called the MD-95 but never caught on with major airlines. The hangar is still on the property, which has a large “Fly DC Jets” sign on top. The factory, which employed thousands for decades, once built some of the world's most popular airlines, including the DC-3, DC-8 and MD-80.

Several outbuildings were demolished and tunnels under Lakewood Boulevard were filled, Lukanish said. The hangar interiors remain unchanged with the exception of painting, removal of old cranes and a mezzanine structure.

Mariella Kapsaskis, a spokeswoman with Mercedes-Benz USA's corporate headquarters in Montvale, N.J., confirmed portions of Lukanish's disclosure. She said in a statement that the car manufacturer would be consolidating its Western regional offices, its training and performance center and vehicle preparation center under a single roof in Long Beach as a means of improving overall efficiency. This includes its regional office in Irvine and its vehicle preparation center in Carson.

She couldn't comment on whether those two offices would be closed or how many employees would be affected.

Beyond California, the other regional offices are located in Jacksonville, Fla.; Parsippany, N.J.; and Rosemont, Ill.
Well, I drive by the facility everday, which is right next to my campus. I've been meaning to take some pictures but I just never stop and make the time. (Besides, it's been a demolition site mostly, since part of the facility included an old hanger that was torn down to make way for the huge concrete lot they've created on the grounds.) It'll be opening soon though, so I'll update when I get the chance to take some pics.

More here.

RELATED: From last summer at LAT, "Mercedes-Benz leases old Boeing jet factory in Long Beach."

Bitcoin Virtual Currency Market Crashes

Funniest thing, but a student on Monday said that he'd invested in Bitcoin. I forgot exactly how this came up during discussion. Mostly we were talking about state sovereignty and one of my students got on the topic of a "cashless economy," and then the young guy in the back started in with Bitcoin. We talked about it for five minutes or so, heh.

And then here comes the news from yesterday morning, "Shutdown of Mt. Gox Rattles Bitcoin Market: Closure Raises Concern About the Future of Unregulated Virtual Currency."

And at LAT, "Bitcoin virtual currency is on the verge of collapse":
It was supposed to revolutionize the global monetary system. Instead, the bitcoin virtual currency that has captured the imagination of investors and financiers is on the verge of collapse.

In a stunning blow to a novel way to buy products and services, the world's largest exchange for trading bitcoin currency shut down Tuesday, triggering a massive sell-off and sending many prospective investors away — perhaps for good.

"This is extremely destructive," said Mark Williams, a risk-management expert and former Federal Reserve Bank examiner. "What we're seeing is a lot of the flaws. It's not only fragile, it's fragile as eggshells."

The mysterious circumstances that triggered the failure of the exchange, Mt. Gox in Tokyo, is only adding to the renewed anxiety over the virtual currency, which just a month earlier had been gaining momentum and supporters.

After saying users could not withdraw their funds, Mt. Gox suddenly ceased all operations, including shutting down its website. Mt. Gox users may have lost more than $300 million worth of bitcoins in what was the latest and biggest in a series of recent setbacks for the virtual currency.

The currency exists only online, and its value is based on an algorithm. Investors buy bitcoins with dollars, euros and other real currency. A purchase with bitcoins typically involves transferring an amount from the buyer's bitcoin "digital wallet" to the seller's wallet on the Internet.

The blow to bitcoin's credibility has highlighted all the fears critics have been trying to raise. Because it is unregulated and anonymous, there is probably no way for users to know who may have seized the thousands of missing bitcoins — and no way to recover them.

This sudden reversal of fortune is particularly painful for enthusiasts who believed just a few weeks ago that bitcoin was on the cusp of mainstream acceptance because of growing support from venture capitalists, banks and regulators.

Instead of triumph, the bitcoin community is now focused on repairing the damage. Mt. Gox is nothing more than a "collapsed tower of toxic sludge," said Williams, who is also a finance professor at Boston University School of Management...
Well, I described Bitcoin as a "fad" on Monday, and that might be the perfect word for it in the end.

Still more here.

So, I watched 'The Bachelor' With the Wife Last Night...

Haven't been watching it this season, with the Olympics and who knows what else has been on.

But last night's show was pretty good, especially the location at Saint Lucia.

Here's a recap, at the Kansas City Star, "The ‘Bachelor’ dumped again, but not by KC’s Nikki Ferrell." And at People, "Chris Harrison on The Bachelor: 'Essentially, Juan Pablo Was Dumped'."

My wife and I like Clare, and no doubt she's in love with him. He should give her the final rose and propose, but well see. (Video from earlier on the show, "The Bachelor - Juan Pablo Has a Serious Talk with Clare.")

Harriet Harman and British Labour's Ties to Criminal Paedophile Information Exchange

Well, I promised an update Sunday when I posted on this, "Britain's Leftist Apologists for Pedophilia."

Yesterday, while checking Louise Mensch's feed on Twitter, it looked like all hell was breaking loose with Britain's Labor Party, with all kinds of calls for the resignation of Shadow Deputy Prime Minister Harriet Harman.

And here's the story at London's Daily Mail, which has broken this investigation wide open, "But they still won't say sorry: Labour's Harman and Dromey finally break their silence over links to paedophile group," and "Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman expresses 'regret' over links to paedophile lobby – but STILL won’t apologise."

As usual, I tweeted a piece to Robert Stacy McCain, and then later he had this, "The UK Left’s Pro-Pedophile Past."
 photo BhRfNIFCYAALv5C_zps03fb4700.png

'Saddle Ridge Hoard' — California Couple Finds Buried Treasure Worth $10 Million in Their Backyard

What a story.

At the San Francisco Chronicle, "Gold Country couple discovers $10 million in buried coins."

Read it at the link, with photos. The coins were in mint condition. It's a tale straight out of the Old West.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Former CNN Correspondent Miles O'Brien Left Arm Amputated After Accident

Well, thank God he's alive. I always liked him. He had (has) a love for his craft, as well as science, that I always appreciated.

Saw this first at London's Daily Mail, "Former CNN journalist's arm amputated after minor injury caused by falling TV equipment developed rare complications."

And also at CNN, "Former CNN correspondent Miles O'Brien has arm amputated after accident."

And go straight to O'Brien's blog, "'Just a Flesh Wound'":
I wish I had a better story to tell you about why I am typing this with one hand (and some help from Dragon Dictate).

A shark attack would be interesting. An assassination attempt would be intriguing. Skydiving mishaps always make for good copy. An out-of-control quad copter that turns on its master would be entertaining (and would come complete with a grim, potentially viral, video).

No, the reason I am now one-handed is a little more prosaic than those scenarios.
Keep reading.

Smokin' Nina Agdal in New Accessorize Campaign

At London's Daily Mail, "EXCLUSIVE: So THAT'S what Leo DiCaprio sees in her! Nina Agdal looks incredible in new Accessorize campaign... but reveals she's partial to a burger."

She did the hot Carls Jr. ad last year, so it makes sense.

And of course, she's on the cover of the new Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, "Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge, Chrissy Teigen Land Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover."

Comcast and Netflix Get Together and Solve Their Own Problem

I didn't quite fully understand the big deal about his story earlier, at WSJ, "Netflix to Pay Comcast for Smoother Streaming: Deal Ends Standoff, Might Serve as Precedent for Relations With Other Broadband Suppliers" (via Google). Also at the Verge, "Netflix is paying off Comcast for direct traffic access."

But Holman Jenkins has an excellent primer on the (significance of the) deal, "How the Internet Was Meant to Be":
Netflix's NFLX +1.35%  Reed Hastings routinely touted their ideal to gain leverage over downstream carriers like Comcast. CMCSA -0.74%  Then a federal court in January invalidated Washington's net-neut rules and he rushed out a statement of the obvious to reassure shareholders, saying in essence: Never mind! Comcast et. al. don't really have an economic or political incentive to block our service. Just the opposite. Consumer expectations of the Internet are set. Carriers must supply unimpeded access to every kind of web content or else.

The net-neut zealots would have been wise at this point to declare victory, if not admit they had been praying to a false god all along. Now they've been thrown into fresh confusion by Mr. Hastings's deal this week with the ultimate devil symbol, cable giant Comcast.

Mr. Hastings's agreement with Comcast does not actually violate the letter of net neutrality, but it does violate the big hazy ideal of a single vast pipe through which anonymous ones and zeros democratically and communally flow. In essence, Netflix will pay to dump its bits directly into Comcast's last-mile network, rather than by way of an Internet backbone supplier. But let's wipe away our tears. The deal is a triumph of the Internet's nonideological adaptability and flexibility.

Netflix faced a problem: stuttering video performance because of upstream bottlenecks that belied the high-speed downstream service customers are paying for. Why? At bottom, the happy equilibrium of the old two-way Internet has gone bye-bye thanks to a one-way video deluge stemming mainly from YouTube and Netflix.

Now in other newspapers you can read experts fretting that the cost of Netflix's solution will be "passed along" to Netflix's customers. This is idiotic. All businesses collect their costs from their customers or they aren't long in business. But the real question here wasn't who bears the cost. It was who bears the incentive to handle traffic efficiently.

Cogent Communications, CCOI -5.57%  a content delivery network, was getting paid by Netflix to deliver loads of content to Comcast, without any incentive to care about Comcast's capacity to receive it.

So Comcast could either accept an unlimited obligation to accommodate whatever traffic Netflix and its intermediate partners wanted to send, however inefficiently they wanted to send it—as, in fact, happened after Mr. Hastings in September decided every Netflix customer would get its new "SuperHD" feed.

Or Comcast could resist a blank check being drawn on its network in the only way available to it—by letting traffic back up at its interconnection point until Cogent and Netflix cried uncle.

A better solution was shriekingly obvious: Let Comcast and Netflix transact directly. Because Netflix would be helping to pay for the costs it imposes on Comcast, Netflix would have proper incentive to deliver its services efficiently. This would benefit Netflix customers and everybody else trying to send traffic through the backbone.

But if the net-neut crazies are flummoxed, the media are desperately confused about what just happened, saying it amounts to proof of Comcast's overweening power...
Keep reading.

RELATED: At LAT, "Comcast strikes deal to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion."

George Harrison's Birthday — 'Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)'

George Harrison would have been 71 today.

Check the Wikipedia entry for "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)," which I listened to on the way home at the Sound L.A.

RELATED: At Rolling Stone, "Beach Boys' Mike Love Honors George Harrison With Unreleased Track."

How the Founding Father Used to Pound Back the Booze

This is great, at Reason, "George Washington: Boozehound":
Reason TV's Meredith Bragg informed us of George Washington’s whiskey production. He didn’t tell us, however, about Washington’s alcohol consumption, which was, at times, prodigious. That consumption by Washington and his fellow founding fathers has been whitewashed—sometimes literally—from American history by the intervening Temperance movement, whose effects still drive us. For instance, the classic picture of Washington taking his farewell from his troops at Fraunces Tavern in New York—which, of course, involved a toast—was painted with a serving flask clearly visible. This container was painted out of these same pictures later, in the nineteenth century, reminiscent of Soviet photos with purged former leaders excised.

It is impossible for Americans to accept the extent to which the Colonial period—including our most sacred political events—was suffused with alcohol. Protestant churches had wine with communion, the standard beverage at meals was beer or cider, and alcohol was served even at political gatherings. Alcohol was consumed at meetings of the Virginian and other state legislatures and, most of all, at the Constitutional Convention.

Indeed, we still have available the bar tab from a 1787 farewell party in Philadelphia for George Washington just days before the framers signed off on the Constitution. According to the bill preserved from the evening, the 55 attendees drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight of whiskey, 22 of porter, eight of hard cider, 12 of beer, and seven bowls of alcoholic punch.

That's more than two bottles of fruit of the vine, plus a number of shots and a lot of punch and beer, for every delegate. That seems humanly impossible to modern Americans. But, you see, across the country during the Colonial era, the average American consumed many times as much beverage alcohol as contemporary Americans do. Getting drunk—but not losing control—was simply socially accepted...
RTWT (via Instapundit).

Extreme Sports Boost USA at #Sochi

Must admit I was getting a kick out of the slopestyle.

At USA Today, "Extreme sports mark changing of U.S. Olympic guard":
SOCHI - For the U.S. team, the Sochi Games signified an end of an era. Goodbye, ice queens. Hello, flippie hippies. See you later, pucks and sticks. Nice to meet you, slopes and rails.

As 17 days of competition came to a close Sunday, this much was clear: The face of the Winter Olympics no longer wears skates. Twelve of the USA's 28 medals came from freestyle skiing and snowboarding, including six of nine gold.

The U.S. Olympic team had never won a medal on every day one was awarded in the Winter Games, and through 14 days in Sochi, the Americans were poised to do that. But the men's hockey team failed to show up in Saturday's bronze medal game, losing to Finland 5-0.

If only the kids in baggy pants with a language all their own had competed in the Games' final days, perhaps the USA could have gone out with more of a bang. Instead, Russia ended this cold war with a flourish — sweeping the podium in the men's 50-kilometer cross-country ski race Sunday and winning gold in four-man bobsled to secure the top spot with 33 overall medals and 13 golds.

For decades, figure skating was the marquee event of the Games. In Sochi, the U.S. men and women figure skaters had their worst collective finish since 1936. Speedskating has been the USA's most successful winter sport. But the short-track team left with one medal and the long-track team exited empty-handed, complaining about their suits.

In contrast, the Americans dominated the action sports events — slopestyle skiing and snowboarding and halfpipe skiing — that made their debut. When the next Winter Games is held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018, Americans are again expected to be strong in the extreme sports. If more events are added to the program — perhaps big air and a team snowboard cross event — the U.S. medal haul likely will grow as well.

"When you look at the impact that adding the sports has had on the Winter Games, it's made the Games more popular from a broadcast standpoint and for the people who are here," U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said.
Keep reading.

The Truth About the U.N.

From Danny Ayalon. It's starts out a little unfocused at the beginning, but it's good.

Rousing the Americans from their slumber

From Caroline Glick:
In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times Wednesday, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton warned his countrymen of the disaster that awaits them if President Barack Obama does not change the course of US Middle East policy.

Bolton warned that Obama’s three-pronged policy, based on three negotiation tracks with Iran, Syria, and the Palestinians and Israel, will almost certainly fail in its entirety.

In his words, “Iran will emerge more powerful, verging on deliverable nuclear weapons, while still financing and arming terrorists worldwide. [Syrian President Bashar] Assad seems likely to survive, which is bad enough by itself, but it will be compounded by the affirmation it affords Iranian and Russian strength. Israel will trust Wash – ington even less than now, and ironically, Palestinians will be even more anti-American, because Obama will not be able to deliver to them the Israeli concessions he predicted.”

Bolton concluded mournfully, “[T]he increasing danger is that only another 9/11, another disaster, will produce the necessary awakening. There is tragedy ahead for our country if we continue on this course.”

Writing for Strafor the same day, strategic analyst George Friedman explained why Bolton’s warning will be ignored by the public.

Friedman noted that in previous years, recent events in  Venezuela, Ukraine, Russia and beyond would have been the subject to intense public concern. But, he wrote, “This week, Americans seemed to be indifferent to all of them.”

Friedman argued that this popular indifference to foreign policy is not driven by ideological attachment to isolationism, as was the case in the 1930s. “It is an instrumental position,” not a systematic one, he explained. Because he sees no deep-seated attachment to isolationism among the American public, Friedman argued that their current indifference will likely end when circumstances change.

Friedman’s analysis of the American mood is probably right. And Bolton is certainly right about the dangers inherent to that mood.

Every day the US is subject to greater humiliations and challenges to its power and prestige.

Declarations from Iranian leaders rejecting the dismantling of their nuclear installations, coupled with threats to attack US installations and Israel, bespeak contempt for American power and convey a catastrophic erosion of US deterrent capabilities against Tehran.

As subjects of intense US appeasement efforts, the Palestinians are second only to Iran. And as is the case with Iran, those efforts come at the direct expense of Israel, the US’s most important ally in the Middle East.

Yet like the Iranians, the Palestinians greet US efforts with scorn. Every day Palestinian leaders pile on their incitement against Israel and Jews and their derisive condemnations of the Obama administration’s efforts to force Israel to cater to their every whim.

Since 1979, Egypt served as the anchor of the US alliance structure in the Arab world. It shared the US’s opposition to Islamic terrorism, and waged a continuous campaign to defeat the forc – es of jihad in Egypt, while remaining outside the circle of war against Israel.

When protests began in Egypt three years ago, rather than stand with its ally, Obama dumped Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and sided with the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood.

After winning a popular election, the Brotherhood immediately set about transforming Egypt into an Islamic, pro-jihadist state. And yet, the administration opposed the military’s decision to oust the Brotherhood from power last summer even though the move prevented the most strategically vital Arab state from becoming the cen – ter of the global jihad. It then cut US military aid to Egypt.

So now the military regime is renewing its ties with Russia, after ditching Moscow for Washing – ton in 1974.

AND SO it goes, throughout the world...
Continue reading.

Venezuelan Media Ignores Protests

At WSJ, "Venezuela Media Largely Ignored Protests: Free-Speech Advocates Say Black Out Points to State Intimidation (via Google):

CARACAS—As some of the biggest anti-government protests in months gathered momentum across the country earlier this week, Venezuela's largest private television networks largely broadcast soap operas and entertainment shows.

When the demonstrations turned violent in Caracas and three people died, the coverage was largely blacked out, press-freedom organizations and journalists said Friday. Government officials appeared on state television to accuse opposition leaders of instigating violence to topple the state.

One private television station offering live coverage, NTN24, based in Colombia but widely seen on cable here, was taken off the air in the midst of covering the bedlam on Wednesday. President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday explained that the plug was pulled "to defend the right to tranquility, and no one is going to come here from abroad to ruffle the psychological condition of Venezuela."

Some TV networks, among them Televen and Venevision, did offer reports later in the day. But many locals said they turned to social media during the day to fill the void and remain informed. Officials at Televen and Venevision didn't return calls seeking comment.

Free-speech advocates say that the lack of news coverage demonstrates that privately owned media outlets, particularly the country's biggest TV networks, are being intimidated by the state. Restrictions on what can be covered, coupled with the recent purchases of once-critical news outlets by buyers allied with the government, have resulted in coverage either friendly to Mr. Maduro or indifferent to his governing style, said Marianela Balbi, director of the Press and Society Institute of Venezuela, a press freedom group.

"We think that day was a point of no return for the press," said Ms. Balbi. "Quite simply what happened was that there was no information about the violence, no video images, no live coverage when this was happening in other cities, when people were being hurt, killed."

Obama Consciously Engineering America's Decline

An essay at Commmentary (via Blazing Cat Fur).

And check out Megyn Kelly's interview last night with Rep. Buck McKeon, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee:

Background at NYT, "Pentagon Plans to Shrink Army to Pre-World War II Level."

Monday, February 24, 2014

Phyllis 'Sally' Carter Killed by Rolling Car in Horrific Parking Garage Accident

What a tragedy.

I saw Instapundit's brief post, "A BIT OF ADVICE."

Glenn doesn't link it, but here's the story at Knoxville News, "Maryville woman identified in garage fatality caused by rolling car."

It happens. Last semester I completely forgot to put my van in park AND to set the brake. I don't know what I was thinking, but the department secretary ran over to my office to ask if I owned a Honda Odyssey. I said yes and she said "You better get out to the parking lot. Your van's rolling away."

Luckily it's a flat parking lot and the van just rolled back out from the parking stall and was blocking the drive. A colleague of mine said hello to me as I was walking in the building and she realized it was my van. She called the department. What a blessing.

Weird that, especially since I always set the parking brake, but it happens.

Be careful out there. And prayers for Mrs. Carter's family.

Behind the Turmoil in #Venezuela

From Mary O'Grady, at the Wall Street Journal (via Google):

The bloodshed in Caracas over the past 12 days brings to mind the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, where President Obama greeted Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez with a huge grin and a warm handshake. A couple of months later the State Department attempted to force Honduras to reinstall pro-Chávez president Manuel Zelaya, who had been deposed for violating the constitution.

Brows were knitted throughout the Americas. Why did the U.S. president favor the Venezuelan dictator, protégé of Fidel Castro, over Honduras, which still had a rule of law, press freedom and pluralism?

Fast forward to last Wednesday, after four peaceful student-protesters had been confirmed as having been killed by the government's armed minions. Mr. Obama took notice, pronouncing the brutality "unacceptable." That must have been comforting to hear amid the gun shots and pummeling on the streets of Caracas.

That same night the government of Nicolás Maduro —Chávez's handpicked successor—unleashed a wave of terror across the country. According to Venezuelan blogs and Twitter posts, the National Guard and police went on a tear, firing their weapons indiscriminately, beating civilians, raiding suspected student hide-outs, destroying private property and launching tear-gas canisters. Civilian militia on motor bikes added to the mayhem. The reports came from Valencia, Mérida, San Cristóbal, Maracaibo, Puerto Ordaz and elsewhere, as well as the capital.

Venezuela has promised 100,000 barrels of oil per day to Cuba, and in exchange Cuban intelligence runs the Venezuelan state security apparatus. The Cubans clearly are worried about losing the oil if their man in Caracas falls. Opposition leader Leopoldo López, who heads the Popular Will political party, spent several years building a network of young recruits around the country. Last week's unrest is a testament to that organization, and it is why the 42-year-old Mr. López is now behind bars.

In Ukraine, the European Union has pressured the government to reach a compromise with the opposition. Venezuelans are getting no such help from the neighbors. Only Colombia, Chile and Panama have objected to the crackdown. The rest of the hemisphere doesn't have even a passing interest in human rights when the violations come from the left. The Organization of American States is supposed to defend civil liberties, but since Chilean Socialist José Miguel Insulza took the OAS helm in 2005, it has earned a disgraceful record as a shill for Cuba.

Venezuelans seeking change face daunting odds. The crowds in the streets of Caracas in recent days have not been significantly bigger than in many prior-year protests, including 2002, when a march in Caracas almost unseated Chávez.

This time the repression has been fierce. Besides injuries and death, hundreds have been detained and it would not be surprising if many are given long sentences. Mr. Maduro needs scapegoats for the violence he unleashed. Iván Simonovis, the former head of the Caracas Metropolitan Police, has been a political prisoner since 2004. Chávez made him take the fall for the 17 people killed in the April 2002 uprising even though video evidence points to chavista snipers. Photos of the once-fit policeman, frail and gravely ill from the inhuman circumstances of his long incarceration, are chilling.

Another problem is the division within the opposition. The governor of the state of Miranda, Henrique Capriles, represented a broad coalition of anti-chavista parties when he ran for president in 2013. But when he conceded to Mr. Maduro amid strong evidence that the election had been stolen, Mr. López and other members of the opposition broke with Capriles supporters.

Students have also been hamstrung by a communications blockade. The government controls all Venezuelan television and radio airwaves. When the violence broke out, it forced satellite providers to drop the Colombian NTN channel. Internet service has been cut in many places.

Getting the very poor on board for a regime change is a challenge. Some still see chavismo as their government, even if they have no love for Mr. Maduro and suffer from high inflation. Others don't dare speak out, for fear of losing state jobs or their lives. The barrios are terrorized by the chavista militia...

Ukraine Seeks Arrest of Ousted Leader Yanukovych

At WSJ, "Ukraine Issues Arrest Warrant for Ousted President Yanukovych: Acting Government to Open Criminal Case Into 'Mass Murder' of Civilians":

BALAKLAVA, Ukraine—Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was on the run Monday from a new government, which issued an arrest warrant for him on allegations of ordering the "mass murder" of protesters on the streets of Kiev last week.

Opposition parties—who over the weekend gained control of parliament and voted to dismiss Mr. Yanukovych—now want the toppled leader held accountable for deadly clashes in Kiev that left more than 80 protesters and police dead. Ukraine's acting interior minister, Arsen Avakov, used his Facebook page Monday to deem Mr. Yanukovych an officially wanted man.

"As of this morning, a criminal case has been opened based on the mass murder of civilians," Mr. Avakov wrote in his post. "Yanukovych and some other officials have been put on the wanted persons list."

The transformation of Mr. Yanukovych from the country's elected leader to a hounded runaway has been stunning in its speed. Within four days, he has gone from an embattled Ukrainian leader negotiating with foreign diplomats to a full-fledged man on the run, the subject of swirling rumors about fanciful escape attempts via helicopter, private jet and boat.

The 63-year-old deposed president dropped out of sight after he was last publicly seen Saturday in a video, in which he denounced his removal from power as a coup and declared himself Ukraine's legitimately elected president.

Amid the hunt for the ousted leader, opposition protesters fresh from their experience in a veritable war zone on the streets of Kiev have been thrust into the task of putting together a government in the wake of Mr. Yanukovych's departure.

Spanish Leftist Alba González Camacho Convicted for Threatening Political Leaders on Twitter

Well, if she was a Nazi you'd never hear the end of this.

At the New York Times, "In a First for Spain, a Woman Is Convicted of Inciting Terror Over Twitter":

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MADRID — The line between youthful rebelliousness and something more dangerous is not always clear. But in her angry musings on Twitter, Alba González Camacho, 21, who describes herself as a “very normal girl,” sailed across it. After she posted messages calling for a far-left terrorist organization to return to arms and kill politicians, Spain’s national court convicted her of inciting terrorism using a social media network.

It was the first verdict of its kind involving Twitter posts in Spain, and the case has touched on issues of where precisely the cultural, political and legal red lines lie in a country that not long ago lived under both the grip of Fascist dictatorship and the threat of leftist terrorism.

The case is also one of a recent handful that have pushed social media into courtrooms worldwide and raised issues of the limits of speech in the ether of the Internet. In January, two people received prison sentences in Britain for posting threatening messages against a feminist campaigner. The same month, a federal judge in the United States sentenced a man to 16 months in prison for threatening on Twitter to kill President Obama.

Ms. González Camacho, a student in southern Spain, says she is unaffiliated with any political organization. But she had invoked a group known as the Grapo, which killed more than 80 people, mostly in the late 1970s and 1980s, when Spain was returning to democracy after the lengthy Franco dictatorship. Although the Grapo never officially disbanded, security officials here consider it to have long lost its operative capability.

The group’s dormancy did not matter to the judge, who accepted the prosecution’s argument, which said that Ms. González Camacho had posted “messages with an ideological content that was highly radicalized and violent,” violating an article in the Spanish Constitution that prohibits any apology for or glorification of terrorism.

One of the messages called for the murder of the conservative prime minister, Mariano Rajoy. “I promise to tattoo myself with the face of the person who shoots Rajoy in the neck,” she wrote. Another singled out Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, the justice minister, comparing him to a Nazi.

Eduardo Serra, a former Spanish defense minister, said that while far-left groups like the Grapo no longer presented any threat to Spanish society, “Terrorism is terrorism, and it just can’t be glorified.”

With no past criminal record, Ms. González Camacho was sentenced to one year in prison but will avoid jail time under a plea bargain.

She is studying to become a social worker in Jaén, in southern Spain, and declined to be interviewed, saying the case had brought her and her family enough trouble. But in an email exchange, she said that the intention of her Twitter posts was to fight “a system in which a minority lives on the back of the death, misery and exploitation of a majority,” in a country where the euro crisis has sown widespread economic despair.

“The truth is that I’m a very normal girl, who has never landed herself in any kind of problem,” Ms. González Camacho said by email. “But if I tell you everything that I’m fed up with, I would never stop.”

“I never imagined something like that could happen to me because you find a lot of nonsense on the Internet, including worse than mine,” she wrote about her conviction. “But it seems that here that the prosecution is only for those from one side — the Fascists can say whatever they want, and nothing will ever happen to them.”
Oh yeah, she's "very normal." No doubt millions of 21-year-old European sweeties would love to tattoo leftist revolutionary murderers on their faces.

But hey, crickets. She'll spend not a day in jail for her terrorist escapades. It's all just stuff on the Internet, ha!