Friday, April 17, 2015

Don't make me do it without the Hez on

From what I've been told, the reason we need to sign a nuclear deal with Iran is because the only alternative is war. So what's the deal with this development, then?
According to a Channel 2 report Monday, Israel has observed an increase in Iran weapons shipments to Hezbollah members — in Lebanon and on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Iran has also sent weaponry to Hamas rulers in Gaza and is even attempting to arm Hamas members in the West Bank, the report said.

“Israel warns: Iran is acting in recent days and weeks to prepare and arm Hezbollah for conflict with Israel, on a large scale,” Channel 2’s diplomatic correspondent Udi Segal tweeted later Monday.

The TV report said Israel was alarmed that the sanctions relief Iran would enjoy if it reaches a deal on its nuclear program would free up “billions of dollars” for further such weapons shipments, and for Iranian support for terrorism. The TV report said the officials added that it was “hard to see” how the deal, so firmly backed by the US, could help the interests of Israel and other US allies.
But see, the Iranians (and the Cubans, for that matter) are no longer on the list of terrorist states. Hezbollah is some sort of chowder and marching club now. It's all good. Just so you know.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Election results from Potemkin

I'm often reminded that Democrats understand social media and use it well. Yes, they're quite good at it:
Although Hillary Clinton boasts a robust 3.6 million Twitter followers, not even a vast right-wing conspiracy would be able to interact with 2 million of them.

According to two popular online measuring tools, no more than 44 per cent of her Twitter fan base consists of real people who are active in using the social media platform.

And at least 15 per cent – more than 544,000 – are completely fake., the oldest publicly available Twitter-auditing tool, reports that 44 per cent of the former secretary of state's followers are 'good'; 15 per cent are 'fake'; and 41 per cent are 'inactive,' meaning that they never tweet or reply to any tweets.
Why does this matter? Allow John Hayward to explain:
There are all sorts of problems with analysis based on these metrics, beginning with the obvious matter of whether those comments, links, and re-Tweets connote approval. The total buzz level is interesting – an ignored campaign launch is probably worse than one attracting a great deal of negative attention, because the most important thing on Day One is to get noticed – but other than Facebook “likes,” it’s tough to separate positive and negative online chatter, or real people talking from bot-generated traffic mirages.

When someone creates an algorithm that can weed out sarcasm - the stalwart conservative who says “I love Hillary!”, or the liberal activist who declares “Ted Cruz would make a GREAT president!”, as an ironic joke to their friends – then artificial intelligence will have truly arrived.
This is obvious to anyone who thinks about it for even a moment. I don't spend a lot of time on Twitter but my Facebook feed is a pretty good indicator of how the dynamic works. None of my conservative friends have said a word about Michele Bachmann for months, but they don't need to -- every utterance Bachmann might make, along with others she hasn't made, is on my feed because my lefty pals make sure I know about it. I also get regular updates from them about what Ted Nugent is thinking, too. I do appreciate them keeping me informed.

It's possible that the Hillary campaign launch is the start of a great wave of support that will sweep her into office. It's also possible that no one cares what she says. Don't take the breathless reportage too seriously.

The Real Minimum Wage

The real minimum wage has remained unchanged -- it's zero. There are some people who don't seem to understand that:
Low-wage workers — and their sympathizers — had their say coast to coast on Wednesday.

Thousands of workers and protesters from New York City to Los Angeles walked, marched and shouted their demands in front of fast-food locations and on several major college campuses for $15-an-hour wages. No arrests were reported. At least one McDonald's in New York City was temporarily closed by protesters. Several McDonald's stores kept drive-throughs operating, even while the restaurants were temporarily locked.
Recent technology enhancements by White Castle and McDonald’s show that even traditional quick-service burger chains are considering letting patrons customize their orders.

Last month, White Castle added two touch-screen ordering kiosks at a renovated restaurant in its hometown of Columbus, Ohio. It is the only restaurant in the family-owned, 406-unit chain to feature the kiosks, which are part of a pilot project. The large screens allow customers to order their burgers exactly as they like them in the privacy of the kiosk area, says White Castle vice president Jamie Richardson.
People are used to using self-service -- at the gas pump, in grocery stores. The software gets better and more intuitive as we move forward in time. And it's not just happening in Slider City:
McDonald’s is testing a similar system at a store in Laguna Niguel, California. Customers there can order from iPads at every table, choosing from among more than 20 toppings and sauces to create custom-made burgers that are grilled to order. Company representatives, who did not respond to requests for comment for this story, told Technomic in December that the kiosk test will help McDonald’s gauge how customers feel about the customization experience.

Quick-service burger chains are following the rest of the restaurant industry’s lead, as several other concepts have jumped on the kiosk and tablet-ordering bandwagon. Both Chili’s and Applebee’s recently announced that they are adding tablets throughout their restaurants, allowing customers to order and pay at their tables.
And if you're wondering why these things are happening, consider the following:
“Younger customers are starting to expect more from brands, and kiosks are already popular in Europe and other countries. It also creates better efficiency between the customer and the back of the house, and reduces order errors,” says Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic.
Hard to imagine someone making minimum wage would be responsible for an order error, but there you have it.

If you go back to the original article from USA Today, you see who is really driving this latest foray into social justice:
"It's something different," said Kendall Fells, organizing director of Fight for $15, which is funded by the Service Employees International Union. "This is much more of an economic and racial justice movement than the fast-food workers strikes of the past two years."
Here's a hint, folks -- SEIU isn't doing this out of the goodness of its heart. They think they'll be getting some of that sweet, sweet $15/hour money that's going to be falling from the sky. It's a miscalculation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I got yer oversight right here, pal

Most of us learned about Hillary Clinton's private email server only this year. It turns out there were questions well before:
WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton was directly asked by congressional investigators in a December 2012 letter whether she had used a private email account while serving as secretary of state, according to letters obtained by The New York Times.

But Mrs. Clinton did not reply to the letter. And when the State Department answered in March 2013, nearly two months after she left office, it ignored the question and provided no response.

The query was posed to Mrs. Clinton in a Dec. 13, 2012, letter from Representative Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Mr. Issa was leading an investigation into how the Obama administration handled its officials’ use of personal email.
Issa was investigating many things, but he never got much response from anyone in the Obama administration, and no one else seemed very curious about that lack of response. If anything, people wanted Issa to go away. Consider this response to his oversight from Michael Hirsh, writing for the Atlantic back in 2012:
I'm sorry, but can we talk turkey -- I mean, Darrell Issa -- for a moment? Is there any fair and balanced news commentator (honest ones, that is, not the Fox News version) who doubts what this guy is all about? Rep. Issa himself has made no pretense of his intentions: Nail Barack Obama first, raise Issa's profile second (or maybe that's first), and get at the truth last.
Nothing like a little ad hominem in the first line of the article. We're going to have a lot of our betters instructing us on appropriate lines of inquiry going forward. Better get your minds right and get ready for Hillary.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A modest proposal

If Hillary really wanted to make her lunch break interesting, she should have stopped at Memories Pizza.

Mau-mauing in Maumee

What kind of presidential candidate stops in a Chipotle for lunch and doesn't say a word to the customers? Our monarch in waiting:
Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign is all about “everyday Americans,” she made clear in announcing it on Sunday.

On Monday, she showed how unassuming she herself could be.

Driving to Iowa for her first campaign swing, Mrs. Clinton’s van — with two aides and Secret Service agents aboard — pulled into a Chipotle restaurant for lunch in Maumee, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo.

And no one recognized her.

Maybe it was the dark sunglasses. Or maybe she had a certain je ne sais — qui?

But nobody took notice of the celebrity in front of the counter. Fellow patrons paid her no more attention than a driver would get from a toll taker.
I guess we're supposed to be impressed by this, but somehow it strikes me as quite odd that a presidential candidate wouldn't want to talk to the other customers. Perhaps she's not very good at it.

Hillary has received a certain amount of attention, of course. America's Greatest Newspaper greeted her candidacy with trademark subtlety:

If you squirt enough water into her mouth, you win a teddy bear on the midway
And in Brooklyn, the street art isn't particularly flattering, either:

There are other things you can't say, but we can't tell you what they are because we can't say them, either
Of course, you'd imagine there are alternatives to the Queen, but who do you want? Maybe you want the former governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley:

Ah, yup
Or perhaps a purer example of current thinking, Bernie Sanders:

Hair care products are the Enemies of the State!

I'd really rather not be thinking about the presidential campaign, but those days are over now.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ready for Vermin?

So I heard that someone announced they are running for president yesterday. Unless they were at the Masters, I missed it. However, we have an early favorite already:

He is a Democrat, by the way. And if you vote for him, you get a pony. You will have to buy your own toothbrush, though. And you'd better, because he treats gingivitis like Al Gore treats global warming. Make sure you stay to the end, in which he announces his candidacy to the tune of the "Chicken Dance," thereby guaranteeing plenty of support at Wisconsin weddings.

Shoulda let Chuy have it

Be careful what you want, because you might get it:
Rahm Emanuel won’t get much time to savor Tuesday’s victory over Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in Chicago’s runoff election. Standard & Poor’s is looking to downgrade its rating of the city if it doesn’t do something about its pensions crisis. . . [.]
Moody's has already downgraded the debt. It's an intractable problem, unless you think the Feds are really going to bail Rahm out. Let's see how that works.

Friday, April 10, 2015


My hometown finally has an interstate highway:
Gov. Scott Walker announced today U.S. 41 has officially been added to the Interstate System as I-41.

Installation of about 3,000 new signs will take place beginning this summer and into November.

The Federal Highway Administration officially approved the interstate designation, a final step in a process begun nearly 10 years ago, according to Walker's office.

Technically, U.S. 41 will still exist but run concurrently with I-41 for its entire route. It begins at the I-94/U.S. 41 interchange about a mile south of the Wisconsin-Illinois border, follows I-94 north to the Mitchell Interchange, I-894 and U.S. 45 around Milwaukee and then joins U.S. 41 north to Green Bay, where it ends at the I-43 interchange.
For anyone growing up in the Fox River Valley of Wisconsin, Highway 41 has always been the primary way to get to the area and also the means of escape. To a certain extent the designation doesn't really change that much, but it's always been a bone of contention that the Valley wasn't part of the interstate highway system. The original system looked like this:

Nothing for you, Northeastern Wisconsin
As the highway system was originally developed, the Fox River Valley was left off the main highway system, which was always an odd thing. Many of us speculated that the omission was payback for the trouble that Sen. Joseph McCarthy caused during the 1950s, but there was never any hard evidence of that. McCarthy was from Appleton.

As the system expanded, other roads were added to the system, including I-43, which runs from Beloit to Green Bay via Milwaukee. This took place in the 1970s and became a bone of contention, because it meant that the highway system still left three cities without an interstate -- Appleton, Oshkosh, and Fond du Lac. I-43 runs from Milwaukee to Green Bay while hugging the shore of Lake Michigan. Later on in the 1990s, U.S. Highway 51 was designated as I-39, which now runs north-south down the middle of the state, from Wausau, WI to Bloomington, IL, through towns like Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids, parallel to the Wisconsin River. Still, there was nothing for the Valley towns, even though U.S. 41 has always carried significantly more traffic than either I-39 or I-43.

In the larger scheme of things, whether or not a road is part of the interstate highway system doesn't matter that much. There are giant superhighways in the Los Angeles area that are simply designated as state roads. Still, there is a value in being able to say that your town is important enough to be part of the system. There are plenty of towns that got bypassed when the original system was under construction and the towns that were off the main highway lost access to all the travelers who were passing through the area. This was one of the themes of the Disney/Pixar movie Cars and it represented a real issue. While the Fox River Valley towns hardly withered on the vine in the absence of an interstate highway, people back home always found it troubling. It really bothered my dad, to use one example. Those days are over now. My dad has been gone for nearly 25 years, but somehow, somewhere, I think he's smiling.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Harf and Henry

It's difficult these days to bring up Henry Kissinger's name without having someone start shrieking "war criminal." As far as I know, George Shultz isn't a war criminal, but I'm sure he is now, after collaborating with Kissinger on an op ed in the Wall Street Journal that is critical of President Obama's Iran policy. Here is the key point, I think:
The agreement’s primary enforcement mechanism, the threat of renewed sanctions, emphasizes a broad-based asymmetry, which provides Iran permanent relief from sanctions in exchange for temporary restraints on Iranian conduct. Undertaking the “snap-back” of sanctions is unlikely to be as clear or as automatic as the phrase implies. Iran is in a position to violate the agreement by executive decision. Restoring the most effective sanctions will require coordinated international action. In countries that had reluctantly joined in previous rounds, the demands of public and commercial opinion will militate against automatic or even prompt “snap-back.” If the follow-on process does not unambiguously define the term, an attempt to reimpose sanctions risks primarily isolating America, not Iran.

The gradual expiration of the framework agreement, beginning in a decade, will enable Iran to become a significant nuclear, industrial and military power after that time—in the scope and sophistication of its nuclear program and its latent capacity to weaponize at a time of its choosing. Limits on Iran’s research and development have not been publicly disclosed (or perhaps agreed). Therefore Iran will be in a position to bolster its advanced nuclear technology during the period of the agreement and rapidly deploy more advanced centrifuges—of at least five times the capacity of the current model—after the agreement expires or is broken.
So what is the the position of the State Department? Watch the video and see:

Our country's in the very best of hands.

Shirley judges that democracy doesn't matter much

So on Tuesday voters in Wisconsin amended the state constitution to change how the chief justice of the state supreme court is selected. Previously the chief justice was chosen strictly by seniority. The new rule allows the justices themselves to vote for their chief.

Shirley Abrahamson is the chief justice, based on the old system. The new system will bring the end of her term, as Abrahamson is a liberal and the majority of the justices are conservative. Abrahamson doesn't like that much, so the will of the voters be damned:
Abrahamson, 81, argued in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Madison that the change should not be applied until after her current term ends in four years or if she leaves before then.

To have the selection process change immediately would shorten the 10-year term of office to which Abrahamson was elected as chief justice, she argued, and would therefore violate her constitutional rights to due process and equal protection rights.
She also is asking for a temporary restraining order to block the other six justices on the court from taking any action to remove her as chief justice.

The lawsuit names the other members of the court and top state officials charged with implementing the amendment. It was brought on behalf of Abrahamson and a handful of state residents who voted for her. Their votes, the lawsuit argues, will be “diluted and results of the 2009 election undone long after-the-fact, while the Wisconsin court system’s leadership will become unsettled.”
Why does this matter? The chief justice sets the agenda in court and Abrahamson has been using her power to delay rulings that she doesn't particularly like. Since she doesn't like the result of the vote, she figures she can delay that, too, apparently.

The notion that she ran for Chief Justice is absurd. You can only run for office as a justice. Had her opponent prevailed in 2009, that individual would not have become chief justice, so it's absurd to argue that she was running for that position. And the term of her office won't be shortened; she was elected to a 10-year term as a justice, so she will remain on the state supreme court. She just won't have control of the agenda.

Just so we're clear

Whether you are a police officer or not, you don't get to shoot someone in the back and claim self-defense.

The video makes it pretty clear that Walter Scott was murdered. And it's pretty clear that Michael Slager, a North Charleston, SC, police officer, was the murderer. You can watch the video at the link. It's pretty hard to watch, but it's also quite clear what happened.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Shirley you jest

A new chief justice will be coming to the Wisconsin Supreme Court:
In a result befitting politically polarized Wisconsin, voters on Tuesday re-elected a State Supreme Court justice seen as liberal, but passed a constitutional amendment that will most likely lead to the installation of a conservative chief justice.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley handily defeated Judge James Daley of Rock County and conservatives who wanted to increase their majority on the officially nonpartisan court, The Associated Press reported. The vote on the amendment was closer.
The current chief justice is Shirley Abrahamson. The New York Times explains the significance:
Conservatives generally lined up in favor of the constitutional amendment, which proposed having members of the court vote for the chief justice, rather than automatically installing the longest-serving judge in that position. The practical effect will most likely be the demotion of Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, 81, who has served on the court since 1976 and is viewed as part of its liberal minority.
The chief justice sets the agenda. Having one of the conservative judges set the agenda will change politics in Wisconsin.

Bo Ryan sets the narrative

It doesn't change the result, but Bo Ryan may have changed college basketball a bit with his post-game comments following Duke's 68-63 win over the Wisconsin Badgers. Ryan didn't follow the script and praise Duke for a superior performance. Instead, he mentioned a few things:
When asked specifically about the officials, Ryan did not address his concerns directly. But it was in another moment, when discussing his juniors and seniors, that the Wisconsin coach began to make reference to a game that was played with a lot of hand and body contact.

"This group was so together and enjoyed each other's company, could needle with each other. They did a lot of good things. I mean, again, if you go through all the things that this team did as a team, the offensive efficiency I mentioned, fewest number of fouls in the country, fewest number of turnovers. Do you know what it takes to have the fewest number of turnovers? A lot of discipline, a lot of work goes into that. If you've ever tried to play the game, it's not as easy as taking care of the ball as you think. But this group just set another standard of taking care of the ball. Playing defense with their feet. Things like that. Not their hands. Sometimes hands are allowed more than others. You know how the game goes. Like I said before, you always got to adjust."
And the narrative took root:
The 2014-15 college basketball season will be remembered for Kentucky’s undefeated run to the Final Four. It will be remembered for Duke’s 1,000th win and fifth national championship under Coach K. Above all, it will be remembered as one of the most horrid officiated seasons in sports history, culminating in a title game with equally horrible calls.
A writer for the Washington Post agreed:
If you thought all the whistles were going in favor of Duke this NCAA tournament, you were right.

One of the most contentious subplots to Duke’s 68-63 victory over Wisconsin, the fifth NCAA championship for the ACC school, was the juxtaposition of fouls. Specifically, how Duke became a darling of the referees during the second half.

After the initial 20 minutes, Duke had been whistled for seven fouls and Wisconsin just two. That isn’t unusual — the Badgers typically defend without sending opponents to the free throw line — but coach Mike Krzyzewski wasn’t going to let the game’s three referees enter the half without a thorough haranguing.
As did USA Today:
Two minutes, probably dozens of views of multiple angles of replays and three highly trained officials, deemed good enough to be reffing in the biggest game of the year, disagreed with all three CBS analysts, all of Twitter and every American watching. Even a non-delusional Duke fan had to know this ball was out on Winslow.

But, alas, the three men who needed to know didn’t. Duke retained the ball up 63-58, hit a three pointer on its next possession, went up 66-58 and basically clinched the game with 1:24 remaining. It was an ugly game with a fun back-and-forth pace, but it didn’t deserve to be decided by officials who couldn’t tell what was plainly obvious.
Even Paul Mirengoff at Powerline noticed:
The refs blew another key out-of-bounds call, failing to notice that Winslow was out of bounds when he made a pass that led to a three-point play (the old-fashioned way) by Okafor. And Duke caught another enormous break when the ref called a blocking foul on an obvious charge by Winslow. Had the proper call been made, Winslow would have fouled out.
As did a lot of other people:

I'm a Badger fan. I don't think the Badgers did enough to win the game. Still, you have to wonder. I think the larger problem is the world of big time sports is too insular. Beyond that, Mike Krzyzewski has concentrated a lot of power in his hands -- since he's the majordomo of USA Basketball, he has enormous advantages and access that other programs cannot approach.

I do think you'll start to see a little more scrutiny of the Dukies after this game. It's not good if people think the fix is in. Right now, a lot of people beyond the sphere of Badgerdom are feeling that way.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Gino harshes the narrative

Our pal Gino asks a sensible question in light of the the UVa rape story that apparently isn't actually a story, but rather a fable:
the template: college is dangerous, girls are raped at alarming rate by drunken predator frat boys.

some questions need to be reported on:

if this was true, why are we incurring so much debt to get our girls into college?
If the 1 out of 5 women are victims of some form of sexual assault story were true, let's consider what it would mean. Someone I know well currently attends college. The college he attends has about 1400 students. Of this student body, about 58% are female. Let's do the math:

If this school has 1400 students it would have about 812 women on campus.

If 1 of 5 were victims, it would mean that 162 women on this campus were victims. It would be parental malpractice to send a daughter to college if that were true. And it would be especially foolish to take out $25-30K of loans for the experience.

For what it's worth, people are starting to figure it out:
Members of the Virginia Tech football team have been accused of acting disrespectfully at a campus sexual assault awareness event.

Players were required to attend a Take Back the Night event on March 26. The event was organized by a campus female activism group and featured sexual assault survivors speaking about their experiences as victims. Multiple attendees accused the players of infringing upon the "safe space" the event is intended to foster, according to The Roanoke Times.

Take Back the Night is a national organization that seeks "to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence."

Several attendees wrote letters to the student newspaper, the Collegiate Times, complaining about the players' behavior. The players arrived late, said they did not know why they were attending the event and spent much of the time looking at their phones, the letters said.
Instapundit shares a mordant comment:
UPDATE: From the comments: “I was born and raised in Cuba. I have certain memories of staged rallies.”
I'll bet.

Greece fire

The technocrats aren't happy with the Greek government, the invaluable Walter Russell Mead says:
Brussels insiders say that EU patience with the Greek circus is running out; there are reports that the EU will start to pressure Prime Minister Tsipras to dump the left wing of his party and build a new coalition that will embrace a more conventional approach to Greek’s debt issues.
Apparently flinging poo at the burghers isn't what they had in mind. Mead gets it:
EU impatience with the Greek clown show is understandable. Condescending, arrogant, clueless, incompetent, the Greek government has made itself a global laughingstock as it stumbles from mishap to mishap, spewing bile and seeking handouts. Meanwhile, Greece’s debt clock is ticking, and the longer the clown show continues the more likely it is that a crisis will erupt, and turn the farce into a tragedy.
The German bankers and the Belgian technocrats like things orderly and that's not how the modern Greeks roll. And such behavior is at the root of the problem.
One doesn’t know where or how this will end. European monetary union has turned into something Greeks have no trouble recognizing: a bed of Procrustes. Brussels is becoming a machine for forcing round pegs into square holes. This cannot go on forever; something will have to give. In the short term, the odds of a Grexit, a Greek exit (either formal or informal) from the eurozone are going up as Brussels and Athens grow weary of one another. In the longer term, the costs to the European project, one of the most hopeful and important undertakings in the history of the human race, continue to grow.
And therein lies the problem -- the European project is itself a matter of forcing round pegs into square holes. It's always been problematic to assume that a Spaniard will see things the same way that a German does, or that a Frenchman will agree with anyone. There are centuries of assumptions and world views associated with every country in Europe and in many cases the only thing that they share is geography. We'll continue to keep an eye on this one.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Go Badgers

One more powerhouse to beat.

A useless apology

You can read about how and why Rolling Stone has retracted their article about a rape at the University of Virginia here.

It doesn't mean a thing, though. Until and unless our betters in the media start to examine their own biases, nothing is going to change. And they have no incentive to do so.