Friday, August 19, 2016

Cruising the Web

A feature writer for the Washington Post brags
about her humble bragging about not using air conditioning living in D.C.
There are positive aspects of going without. Fewer house guests. More dinner invitations. That humble-bragging business. Showers. I can’t tell you how rewarding showers feel. And ice cream tastes way better.

Air conditioning made Americans greedy and silly. Once the country got hooked on central air, strange things materialized: windows that don’t open, the office sweater in August, summer colds, Las Vegas, football in Phoenix.

“We don’t use air conditioning because it makes it too hot outside,” says Alan Cox, quoting a vintage survey response, and he’s on to something. Cox wrote the book “Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World” on the negative effects of air conditioning: It uses 5 percent of all our electricity, costs American homeowners $11 billion and wreaks havoc on a planet that did far better before it came along.

“Being in air conditioning most of the time in the summer reduces your tolerance for heat,” he says. Culturally, “there’s been an impact on neighborhoods and communities, resulting in much less outdoor social interaction.”
See this is why people hate feature writers for the Washington Post. They chide us for doing what makes us happier - like staying cool. I've lived in D.C. in the summer without air conditioning. I've lived in L.A. through two pregnancies in the summer without air conditioning. And you know what? It was dang miserable! I spent a lot of time trying to find air-conditioned places like public libraries where I could hang out. I wasn't happier because I had to take several baths and showers a day. And ice cream also tastes good when I'm not sweating and uncomfortable. Imagine that. I just spent two days being miserable because the AC was broken in my classroom and am now very thankful that it's been sorta fixed. And my students are grateful too and better able to concentrate in the wonderful things they're learning.

I hope she enjoys her self-righteous discomfort. Me, I'll take the air conditioning. every time.

If the Clinton Foundation accepting foreign donations would be wrong while she's president, why was it okay while she was Secretary of State? Could it just be that she hoped no one would notice?

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So the Clinton campaign is promising to use the power of the presidency to shut down a website that criticizes her and supports policies with which she disagrees. So glad that the First Amendment doesn't bother her.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign has sent out a fundraising email arguing the website Breitbart News has no “right to exist,” and suggests that if elected, the website will be shut down entirely.

“We’ve had a conservative media in this country for a while,” says the email, sent Thursday and signed by deputy communications director Christina Reynolds. “I don’t always like what they have to say, but I respect their role and their right to exist Reynolds’ acknowledgment that the regular conservative media has a “right to exist,” though, is used to contrast it with Breitbart, which apparently has no such right.

“Breitbart is something different,” she says. “They make Fox News look like a Democratic Party pamphlet. They’re a different breed altogether — not just conservative but radical, bigoted, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic conspiracy peddlers who never have been and never should be anywhere near the levers of power in this country.”

One of the goals of Clinton’s campaign, Reynolds says, is to ensure Breitbart is destroyed.
I don't particularly like what Breitbart has become since Andrew Breitbart's death. But whatever happened to the whole "I disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it" approach? That used to be what true liberals believed. Not Hillary. Remember that she's vowed to overturn the Citizens United decision if elected. And that was, at its base, a case about a film that criticized...Hillary Clinton. What a coincidence!

While a lot of people, not just conservatives, are criticizing Barack Obama for not traveling to tour Baton Rouge, I find that there is something refreshing about a political leader not using a tragedy as a photo op. There is nothing to say that a president can't be concerned about massive flooding and the effect on thousands of people who have lost their homes without having to tour the affected region. And common sense should tell us that police and other officials shouldn't be distracted from the necessary work they are doing now in order to be involved with a presidential visit, something that can take many hours of preparation and manpower. And they don't need Donald Trump and Mike Pence flying in to make their suffering a campaign issue. So I can totally buy the reasons for Obama not coming to Baton Rouge. If course, explaining why he isn't coming and then going out to golf every day while on vacation is just bad imagery and displays an indifference for how his actions appear to other. But Obama has always displayed that and has let very little interfere with his golf game throughout his presidency.

Of course, we can all remember how Bush was excoriated for listening to the same logic about visiting the Gulf Coast after Katrina and instead doing a flyover on his way back from a vacation in Crawford. It would be nice if people started acknowledging that Bush was displaying the same common sense about not visiting at that particular time as Obama and not displaying a racist indifference to the suffering of the many black residents of New Orleans. That was the general trend of the commentary when Bush didn't go visit. Perhaps now, people will realize that we don't need a president to tour disaster areas in order for him to make sure his administration helps those afflicted. I remember when reading Amity Shlaes' excellent biography of Calvin Coolidge how he refused to travel to the areas affected by the terrible flooding of the Mississippi in 1927 during his presidency. He just stated that that wasn't the president's job. Instead he appointed his Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, to oversee federal aid and reconstruction efforts - this is basically the origin of federal emergency aid for natural disasters. I was struck by how unlike modern presidents Coolidge was. He didn't need a photo op to make sure that people were taken care of. I'd like a little more of that attitude today.

Of course, the next president won't have Obama's insouciance for such concerns. Apparently, he's very proud, as Chris Cillizza writes, of not doing certain things just because it's expected of him.
Still, it's worth noting this moment. And that's because it speaks to Obama's unique and long-lasting commitment to not playing by a core rule of modern politics: making at least some decisions based on "how it looks" and/or "how it will play."

Obama has long been a rejectionist on this front. His stubborn refusal to rebut claims regarding what was in the Affordable Care Act badly hamstrung his party's attempt to win the fight for public perception on the law. His unwillingness to say the words "radical Islamic terror" have become a hobbyhorse for conservatives and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. And so on and so forth.

Obama just doesn't like to fake it. If he doesn't want to do something or thinks it's stupid to do it — regardless of whether it actually is stupid — he won't do it.
So he gets really angry that Republicans criticize him for not saying radical Islam and totally rejects the argument that not being able to say it means he doesn't acknowledge what the true problem is.
He's genuinely angry — not an emotion you see all that much from any politician at that level but particularly the usually calm and professorial Obama. And he's angry because in Obama's mind the sort of performance-for-the-sake-of-performance that Republicans are demanding is everything that's wrong with politics.

(Nota bene: For all of you "ALL HE DOES IS PERFORM" readers, I know that is a view of Obama that many people hold. I am not blind to it. But this piece is about how Obama thinks of himself. Not how you or I think of him. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.)

That's why Obama won't break off his vacation in Martha's Vineyard — or stop playing golf on said vacation — to travel to Louisiana. Because he believes he can monitor the situation as well — or better — from where he is. And that the sole reason to go to Louisiana is for the theatrical piece of politics, a piece that he not only rejects but detests.
I never liked the idea that our president was our "Griever in Chief," a phrase we started to hear after the Oklahoma City bombing. So I don't criticize Obama for not going to Baton Rouge as long as the federal government is competently fulfilling its responsibilities to help those in need down there. I just hope that the next time a Republican is president, the same arguments by Democrats to defend Obama today will apply. But somehow I know that they won't.

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I know that talking about Ryan Lochte lying to the world and the Brazilian authorities is a much more important story than anything else going on in the world today. Isn't it nice to have a story to talk about that doesn't matter, but can be twisted to support any ideological take you want to make about it from blaming ugly Americans to blaming Lochte's gender. But Mollie Hemingway has the best take on the lesson of this whole Lochtemess based on a great tweet from the hilarious Justice Don Willett (who is well worth following).
YEP. That’s it. See, the whole drama started, apparently, when Ryan Lochte lied to his mother about what happened to his watch (I think the commode might have won it during the wrasslin’). And then, like all good mothers who like to talk about their sons, she told international television about it.

I’ve used the Olympics to explain all sorts of things to my young children, from the evils of Communism to the dangers of Russian nationalism. I’ve even tried to subtly suggest that Canadians aren’t the friendly neighbors they present as, a task made much more difficult by the fact that one of their godparents is Canadian. I’ve taught them to cheer for all United States athletes, no matter how unAmerican the sport they’re competing in might be. This includes soccer — that’s the extreme I take it to. We’ve also gotten a chance to talk about hard work, the awesomeness of female athletes who compete after birthing babies, and other tangential issues.

They were confused about the Lochte story. I sat the children down and explained that the moral of the story was to never lie to your mother. She will find out. And in the end, you could face three years in a Brazilian prison.

I’m a grown woman and my own mother and I talked about Lochte and she said that was the big takeaway, too. She also noted that if Lochte had just copped to getting into a drunken brawl with a bathroom stall, everyone would have laughed and said, “That’s our Lochte!” And yet because he lied to his mother, he not only won’t get away with the property damage and destruction he may have caused (yay! Justice is served!), he will likely face other consequences.

The loss of endorsement income or possible stint in the Brazilian hoosegow shouldn’t make him feel as bad as the disappointment he has caused his mother to feel.

Jed Babbin details
how dangerous and shocking it is that the Obama administration has corrupted intelligence gathering.
The report is based, in part, on a survey of CENTCOM intelligence analysts. The survey found that after the mid-2013 departure of CENTCOM commander Marine General James Mattis, imposed management changes made the environment toxic for intelligence analysts. Forty percent of the analysts reported that they had experienced management attempts to distort or suppress intelligence within the past year.

The report also says that despite receiving the survey results in December 2015 as well as whistleblower complaints, “…neither CENTCOM, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, nor the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) took any demonstrable steps to improve the analytic climate within CENTCOM.”

For a bureaucratic underling to tell his boss what the boss wants to hear is par for the course in mismanaged organizations. But this is vastly worse.

We don’t know the origin of the “management changes” that were imposed on the CENTCOM intelligence operation in 2014, but the fact that the most senior generals and civilians at CENTCOM — as well as the Defense Intelligence Agency, the DNI, and the Undersecretary for Intelligence — knew about the problem and did nothing to fix it is evidence that they were either directed by their bosses to leave the disease uncured or they were afraid to fix the problem because their bosses didn’t want it to be fixed.

Their bosses are few: Defense Secretary Carter, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and President Obama.

Whoever the source of the direction or fear was they have done the nation great harm. Policymaking on the basis of false information — for that is what was done — makes our nation and our allies far less secure and paints a false picture for the public.

Let’s make this perfectly clear: anyone who either participated in falsifying intelligence or allowed or caused it to happen is unfit for their job. Any military officer who did should be discharged and never permitted to participate in intelligence operations again in any capacity. The same goes for any civilians involved up to and including the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Advisor, the USD(I), the DNI, and the DIA chief.

President Obama is no less unfit, but he can’t be fired. Fortunately, the Constitution removes him next January.
Does anyone think that things will shift in either a Clinton or Trump presidency? Apparently, Bill Clinton openly stated when he was president that there were certain facts the president doesn't need to hear because he would be constrained to act. And, as Fred Fleitz, a former CIA officer and adviser to the State Department and House Intelligence Committee, there is a long history of intelligence officials not giving information that they felt would support actions with which they disagreed. He saw in his history in the CIA that leftists within the intelligence committee wanted to present information in such a way as to block Reagan's policies.
I saw this constantly during my 19 years as a CIA analyst. CIA officers frequently tried to undermine CIA directors Casey and Gates because they disagreed with President Reagan’s policy goal of defeating the Soviet Union. Several testified against Gates’s nomination to be CIA director in 1991 by lodging false claims that he and Casey had politicized intelligence. Former senator Warren Rudman, a moderate Republican who headed President Clinton’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, described these attacks by CIA analysts as “an attempted assassination, an assassination of [Gates’s] character . . . McCarthyism, pure and simple.”

The liberal tilt within the CIA, especially in the Directorate of Intelligence (the analysis office), grew worse during the Clinton years as personnel were hired and promoted to support Clinton-Gore policy objectives. These included wasteful initiatives such as the DCI Environmental Center, launched at the same time the CIA was dangerously downplaying counterterrorism analysis.

Unfortunately, the intensified liberal tilt at the CIA during the Clinton years was not reversed by the George W. Bush administration. Bush kept on Clinton’s CIA director, George Tenet, who had no interest in cleaning house or taking steps to ensure that CIA analysis would be balanced and not politicized. When his successor, Porter Goss, tried to clean up the agency, CIA careerists fought back aggressively by leaking to Congress and the media, eventually forcing Goss out.

As a result, intelligence careerists often paid no price for engaging in blatantly political activities to undermine the Bush administration. One officer in the CIA inspector general’s office was fired after she admitted she’d leaked classified information on Bush counterterrorism programs to a Washington Post reporter. In 2005, several intelligence officers attempted to sabotage John Bolton’s nomination to be U.N. ambassador — an act of political skullduggery for which they were never punished.

The most notorious example of partisan political activity by U.S. intelligence officers occurred just before the 2004 presidential election when Paul Pillar, the CIA’s national intelligence officer for Near East and South Asia, while giving a speech at a dinner on September 21, criticized President Bush and CIA director Tenet for ignoring critical intelligence that he claimed might have prevented the Iraq War. Incredibly, CIA management had cleared Pillar’s comments, saying that the substance of his remarks, but not the speaker or the audience, could be disclosed. The late columnist Robert Novak, who attended the dinner, sparked an uproar when he reported Pillar’s identity and the dinner anyway. Clearly, Pillar’s presentation was intended to affect the outcome of the 2004 presidential election....

Politicization of America’s intelligence agencies by the Left has grown worse during the Obama years. Recall that the CIA drafted the politicized (and later discredited) 2012 talking points on the Benghazi terrorist attacks. Additionally, the agency now uses racial, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, socioeconomic status, and other quotas for CIA hiring and promotions.

Significant examples of politicization in other intelligence agencies since 2009 include the congressional testimony of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. During a briefing to the House Intelligence Committee in February 201, Clapper tried to downplay the Muslim Brotherhood as a radical Islamist group, saying: “The term Muslim Brotherhood is an umbrella term for a variety of movements. In the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.”

Charles Krauthammer lays out how Obama's preference for limited American engagement in the Middle East has paved the way for the increased role of Russia and Iran there.
This week Russian bombers flew out of Iranian air bases to attack rebel positions in Syria. The State Department pretended not to be surprised. It should be. It should be alarmed. Iran’s intensely nationalistic revolutionary regime had never permitted foreign forces to operate from its soil. Until now.

The reordering of the Middle East is proceeding apace. Where for 40 years the U.S.–Egypt alliance anchored the region, a Russia–Iran condominium is now dictating events. That’s what you get after eight years of U.S. retrenchment and withdrawal. That’s what results from the nuclear deal with Iran, the evacuation of Iraq, and utter U.S. immobility on Syria.
The result has been to make Putin a dominant player in the region, something that hadn't been true for decades. And he's also increasing his power in Europe while everyone else looks on and tsks tsks.
Consider what Putin has achieved. Dealt a very weak hand — a rump Russian state, shorn of empire and saddled with a backward economy and a rusting military — he has restored Russia to great-power status. Reduced to irrelevance in the 1990s, it is now a force to be reckoned with.

In Europe, Putin has unilaterally redrawn the map. His annexation of Crimea will not be reversed. The Europeans are eager to throw off the few sanctions they grudgingly imposed on Russia. And the rape of eastern Ukraine continues.

Ten thousand have already died and now Putin is threatening even more open warfare. Under the absurd pretext of Ukrainian terrorism in Crimea, Putin has threatened retaliation, massed troops in eight locations on the Ukrainian border, ordered Black Sea naval exercises, and moved advanced anti-aircraft batteries into Crimea, giving Moscow control over much of Ukrainian airspace.

And why shouldn’t he? He’s pushing on an open door. Obama still refuses to send Ukraine even defensive weapons. The administration’s response to these provocations? Urging “both sides” to exercise restraint. Both sides, mind you.

And in a gratuitous flaunting of its newly expanded reach, Russia will be conducting joint naval exercises with China in the South China Sea, in obvious support of Beijing’s territorial claims and illegal military bases.

Yet the president shows little concern. He is too smart not to understand geopolitics; he simply doesn’t care. In part because his priorities are domestic. In part because he thinks we lack clean hands and thus the moral standing to continue to play international arbiter.

And in part because he’s convinced that in the long run it doesn’t matter. Fluctuations in great-power relations are inherently ephemeral. For a man who sees a moral arc in the universe bending inexorably toward justice, calculations of raw realpolitik are 20th-century thinking — primitive, obsolete, the obsession of small minds....

At the heart of this disorder is a simple asymmetry. It is in worldview. The major revisionist powers — China, Russia, and Iran — know what they want: power, territory, tribute. And they’re going after it. Barack Obama takes Ecclesiastes’ view that these are vanities, nothing but vanities.

In the kingdom of heaven, no doubt. Here on earth, however — Aleppo to Donetsk, Estonia to the Spratly Islands — it matters greatly.
I never understood how progressives could assume that all of history is moving toward better times and everyone should realize that such progress is inevitable. It has never been. Good people and countries have to make the effort to achieve that progress. Complaining that Putin is simply acting in a 20th century way in 21st century world won't stop him. And it won't stop ISIS and similar evil groups from acting in an 8th century way in the 21st century.

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