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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Ten Years Ago Today . . .



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Ten years ago today, Kathryn Jean Lopez invited readers to enjoy the Kerry Spot.

You can check out that first week here.

Thanks to everyone who started then or started reading somewhere along the way.

Tags: Something Lighter

The New York Times’s Unlucky Number: 475,000



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Also in today’s Jolt:

Disastrous Numbers for the New York Times: The Salary Numbers Leaked

Yeah, the New York Times is in for a world of trouble. Did they pay recently dismissed executive editor Jill Abramson less than her male predecessors? The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta obtains some salary numbers that say . . . yeah, pretty much:

On Thursday, though, Sulzberger said, in a memo to the staff, that this was “misinformation”:

It is simply not true that Jill’s compensation was significantly less than her predecessors. Her pay is comparable to that of earlier executive editors. In fact, in 2013, her last full year in the role, her total compensation package was more than 10% higher than that of her predecessor, Bill Keller, in his last full year as Executive Editor, which was 2010. It was also higher than his total compensation in any previous year.

Let’s look at some numbers I’ve been given: As executive editor, Abramson’s starting salary in 2011 was $475,000, compared to Keller’s salary that year, $559,000. Her salary was raised to $503,000, and — only after she protested — was raised again to $525,000. She learned that her salary as managing editor, $398,000, was less than that of the male managing editor for news operations, John Geddes. She also learned that her salary as Washington bureau chief, from 2000 to 2003, was a hundred thousand dollars less than that of her predecessor in that position, Phil Taubman. (Murphy would say only that Abramson’s compensation was “broadly comparable” to that of Taubman and Geddes.)

[Insert from Jim: Everyone in America just said, "I'm vastly underpaid."]

Murphy cautioned that one shouldn’t look at salary but, rather, at total compensation, which includes, she said, any bonuses, stock grants, and other long-term incentives. This distinction appears to be the basis of Sulzberger’s comment that Abramson was not earning “significantly less.” But it is hard to know how to parse this without more numbers from the Times.

So she started out getting 84 percent of what Keller made; that was raised to 89 percent and eventually 93 percent.

Hey, is 77 cents “significantly less” than a dollar?

Fred Savage, best remembered at the kid from The Wonder Years, did an office-based sitcom for two years called Working. I remember one commercial depicting some co-worker yelling at Savage’s character, “you just accidentally e-mailed the salary figures for every employee at this company to everyone who works here!” Savage looks deeply concerned, and then in the background we see two other suit-clad men suddenly break into a fistfight.

Ramesh sent us to this thought from John Hayward . . . 

After enjoying a frothy mug of schadenfreude over the pickle the New York Times finds itself in, we might reflect that this is really a story about cloistered liberals growing up, and learning how their ideology is a poor fit for the real world, where complex situations cannot easily be reduced to cartoons about patriarchy, sexism, and racism. Can you blame Abramson for wanting to be paid as much as her male predecessor? Was it utterly unreasonable for the top brass at the New York Times to offer valid reasons why he was paid more, or to say that they needed to control payroll costs in a time of financial crisis? Was it out of line for Abramson’s superiors to decide her abrasive manner was alienating the people beneath her, or that her plans for the newsroom were inconsistent with theirs?

Perhaps we see cloistered liberals growing up so rarely that we’re not quite sure how to react. But then he adds:

The fun part will be when the folks at the Times and other liberal writers currently stepping forward to defend them, forget how complicated these decisions are and giddily assault some private-sector operation outside of the sainted media-government axis for violating liberal dogma. It’ll probably happen before the last personal items have been cleared from Jill Abramson’s office.

No, that’s not the fun part. That’s the really infuriating part, because this is the big “teachable moment” and our well-founded cynicism is telling us that those cloistered liberals aren’t actually going to grow up, and they won’t learn anything from the teachable moment.

A wise veteran of presidential campaigns asked me last night, “What fourth-generation large company is run well? Hard to think of many . . .”

Tags: New York Times , War On Women

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Oh Good, Another Government Deal With GM.



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The federal government reached an agreement with General Motors. Well, another one.

Hey, how about the “significant fine” being roughly $10.5 billion, since that’s the amount taxpayers lost on GM stock, since they’re the ones that saved this company that sold defective cars for years and covered it up?

Looks like it will be a smaller sum:

UPDATE: Zero Hedge summarizes it well:

Tags: GM

Eric Shinseki’s Meaningless Claim That He ‘Takes Responsibility’



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The abominable callousness demonstrated at the Department of Veterans Affairs is deadly serious, and warrants more than an all-too-familiar claim of “responsibility” from Eric Shinseki:

Under withering criticism, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki told a Senate committee on Thursday that he was “mad as hell” about allegations of deadly waiting times and coverup at VA hospitals but he doesn’t plan to resign.

The retired Army general faced angry legislators and then aggressive journalists with a consistent message, arguing it was too soon to cast blame and vowing decisive action if an inspector general’s investigation finds proof that VA workers manipulated waiting lists to cover up long delays for veterans seeking health care.

Last month, CNN revealed that at least 40 veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, according to sources inside the hospital and a doctor who worked there. Many were placed on a secret waiting list, the sources said.

Of course, Shinskei is just echoing his boss and other members of the administration:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s declaration that she takes responsibility for the failure to secure our facilities and personnel in Libya — with no word on any actual consequence of this failure — is the most recent example. But the approach began from the very start of this administration.

* On Feb. 3, 2009, former Sen. Tom Daschle withdrew as President Obama’s nominee for Commerce secretary after it was revealed he’d failed to pay some taxes. “I think I screwed up,” Obama told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I take responsibility for it, and we’re going to make sure we fix it, so it doesn’t happen again.”

Of course, Tim Geithner, who failed to pay more than $40,000 in taxes over a four-year period remained as Treasury secretary, and later we learned that 36 Obama aides owe $833,000 in back taxes.

* After a loud public outcry, Obama said he “took responsibility” for the millions in bonuses paid to AIG executives as part of the bailout. Of course, the bonuses remained.

* Discussing the national debt in Virginia on Aug. 6, 2009, Obama said, “I don’t mind being responsible. I expect to be held responsible for these issues, because I’m the president.” We’ve added $4.4 trillion in new debt since he said those words.

* After ObamaCare passed, the president admitted he hadn’t kept his promises on how the legislation would be handled. He told congressional Republicans that most of the debate had been aired on TV — except for some of the talks close to the Senate vote. “That was a messy process,” Obama said. “I take responsibility.” But it was too late to change anything about the law at that point, obviously.

* Obama said he “took responsibility” for the 2010 midterm results . . . but there was little or no sign that he changed his governing approach, philosophy or policies in response to the lopsided results in favor of the Republicans that year.

* Finally, in summer 2011, the president admitted that he’d misjudged the severity of the economic difficulties facing the country when he came into office: “Even I did not realize the magnitude, because most economists didn’t realize the magnitude of the recession until fairly far into it,” Obama said. “I think people may not have been prepared for how long this was going to take, and why we were going to have to make some very difficult decisions and choices. I take responsibility for that.” But the policies and approach we’ve seen since that declaration of responsibility are the same as what we saw before it; nothing changed.

The new way to avoid taking responsibility is to tell the world you’re “taking responsibility.”

Tags: Eric Shinseki , Barack Obama , Veterans

Clinton Allies Send Davis to Set Up Spin Operation Outside Gowdy’s Committee



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From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Guess Who’s Setting Up a Spin Operation Right Outside Gowdy’s Committee?

Let’s start the Friday off right by exposing something that a bunch of Progressives don’t want you to know. At dinner last night, Larry O’Connor of WMAL mentioned his latest interview with the affable but indisputably ruthless Lanny Davis:

Davis will be heading up something he calls “The Truth Squad,” and will position himself right outside the committee room where Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) will be conducting his investigations into the events of the Sept 11th Benghazi attacks.

Davis joined me and my co-host, Brian Wilson on our morning radio show in Washington DC on WMAL Thursday morning.

Okay, that’s not surprising, a Democratic spin doctor sets up shop to “fact check” the findings and questioning of Gowdy’s special committee. But a guy like Davis — who’s represented the Clinton White House, some unsavory foreign clients and Redskins owner Daniel Snyder — doesn’t come cheap. So who’s putting all this together?

Davis said his partner in the effort is an advocacy group called “Correct The Record”, which is funded by the American Bridge 21st Century PAC.

Davis claimed, “They are funded by thousands of grassroots people all over the country,” said Davis. “It’s a great organization, because all they do is put facts out, and that’s really all I do.”

Who is American Bridge 21st Century PAC? Not quite the common definition of “a great organization” of “grassroots people” that only “puts facts out.” Here’s FactCheck.org’s summary of the organization:

American Bridge 21st Century is a liberal super PAC that conducts opposition research to aid Democratic candidates and organizations.

The group was founded in November 2010 by David Brock, a conservative-turned-liberal activist. After making a name for himself as a self-described “right-wing hit man,” Brock reinvented himself as a liberal crusader. In 2004, Brock founded Media Matters, a liberal website that monitors the media for “conservative misinformation.”

Rodell Mollineau, a former staffer of Sen. Harry Reid, is the group’s president. Its chairwoman is Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland and the eldest child of Robert F. Kennedy.

As a super PAC, American Bridge can accept unlimited donations and is largely funded by major Democratic donors and labor unions. Billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros, a well-known supporter of liberal causes, was the group’s largest donor for the 2012 cycle, contributing $1 million.

So . . . David Brock, a Harry Reid staffer, and a big pile of money from George Soros are getting together to make sure Lanny Davis is standing outside Trey Gowdy’s panel. This is the same David Brock who spoke at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock in March.

This is, in short, a branch of the Clinton Empire:

The “super PAC” Mr. Brock founded, American Bridge, has tapped into a rich network of Clinton supporters. Among them, according to federal disclosures, are George Soros; Steve Bing; Stephen M. Silberstein, a Bay Area entrepreneur; and Susie Tompkins Buell, a friend of Mrs. Clinton’s based in San Francisco.

Last year, Mr. Clinton delivered the keynote address at a fund-raiser in New York for Mr. Brock’s biggest donors. Mr. Brock thanked the former president and Mrs. Clinton for “giving me the gift of forgiveness,” said one person who attended the fund-raiser, which was closed to the news media, but could not discuss the event for attribution.

Two lessons from this. First, never believe Lanny Davis when he tells you he’s working for “a great organization” “funded by thousands of grassroots people all over the country” “because all they do is put facts out.”

Second, the Clinton team must be worried about Gowdy’s special committee, because if they were certain that the panel wasn’t going to find anything, or that it was inevitably going to be seen as a silly, time-wasting partisan circus, they wouldn’t be putting resources into this spin operation right outside Gowdy’s committee room.

Tags: Trey Gowdy , Hillary Clinton , David Brock , Benghazi , Lanny Davis

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Wouldn’t Questions About Hillary’s Health Continue Into Her Presidency?



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Permit a supremely cynical thought . . .

For Republicans, the best option in 2016 is to win the presidency. Indisputably.

But if Republicans had to pick a Democrat to win in 2016 . . . one can easily imagine more formidable opponents in the Oval Office than a then-69-year-old who suffered a blood clot that could, in more dire circumstances, “have killed her, or caused severe brain damage, if it had gone untreated.”

(Bill Clinton yesterday said it was “a terrible concussion that required six months of very serious work to get over.” What if she gets a stomach virus again? What if she slips, falls, and gets a concussion again?)

Clinton’s four years of constant travel and stress at the State Department left her appearing exhausted; it’s hard to imagine that the daily grind of one of the world’s toughest jobs would leave her appearing and feeling rejuvenated and energetic. As president, Hillary would live in the spotlight nearly 24-7, and every run-of-the-mill misstatement, memory slip, or loss of balance could (and probably would) be interpreted as a sign of a major health issue. President Hillary Clinton’s health would be a constant distraction, even if she were in perfect health for a woman in her 70s.

A president inevitably makes difficult decisions that disappoint or anger past allies; a neurological problem may be the disappointed allies’ preferred explanation for decisions they deem faulty. You can count on hostile states spreading rumors of ill health and mental impairment in the international arena. And then you have to wonder how her vice president will feel about all this. Of course, all of this assumes that Hillary Clinton’s physical and mental health are indeed fine and at no point in the next six to ten years does any serious issue arise.

This could all make for a very, very messy presidency.

It’s probably nothing.

Tags: Hillary Clinton

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Needs Submachine Guns.



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The problem with trying to parody runaway federal bureaucracies is that reality always catches up with your imagination and attempts to surpass it:

A May 7th solicitation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeks “the commercial acquisition of submachine guns [in] .40 Cal. S&W.” According to the solicitation, the Dept. of Agriculture wants the guns to have an “ambidextrous safety, semiautomatic or 2 round [bursts] trigger group, Tritium night sights front and rear, rails for attachment of flashlight (front under fore group) and scope (top rear), stock collapsible or folding,” and a “30 rd. capacity” magazine.

In my novel, the Department of Agriculture’s Agency of Invasive Species does opportunistically emphasize its centrality to the Reagan administration’s Cold War defense policy and then later to the need for post-9/11 crop security and terrorist threats to agriculture.

But I never thought of having the USDA employees running around with submachine guns. It could have been an action thriller!

Tags: Something Lighter , Department of Agriculture

Delicious: New York Times Accused of Underpaying Top Woman



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From the Thursday Morning Jolt:

Delicious: New York Times Accused of Underpaying Top Woman

A New York Times house editorial, April 10, 2014:

Wage injustice matters to all Americans, regardless of party, and those who stand in the way of fairness do so at their political peril.

The New York Times dismissed its executive editor, Jill Abramson, Wednesday, sending powerful shockwaves through the Acela Corridor media world and no noticeable ripple through the rest of the country. Now, in the predictable post-dismissal recriminations, we learn that the New York Times, valiant crusader against “wage injustice,” was paying its female top editor “considerably less” than previous male top editors. (What, was the Times paying 77 cents for every dollar it paid the men?)

Who knew the Old Gray Lady was fighting a war on women?

As with any such upheaval, there’s a history behind it. Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor, were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs. “She confronted the top brass,” one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was “pushy,” a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect. Sulzberger is known to be believe that the Times, as a financially beleaguered newspaper, has had to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson had also been at the Times for many fewer years than Keller, having spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, accounting for some of the pension disparity. (I was also told by another friend of hers that the pay gap with Keller has since been closed.) But, to women at an institution that was once sued by its female employees for discriminatory practices, the question brings up ugly memories. Whether Abramson was right or wrong, both sides were left unhappy.

Sulzberger’s frustration with Abramson was growing. She had already clashed with the company’s C.E.O., Mark Thompson, over native advertising and the perceived intrusion of the business side into the newsroom. Publicly, Thompson and Abramson denied that there was any tension between them, as Sulzberger today declared that there was no church-state—that is, business-editorial—conflict at the Times. A politician who made such implausible claims might merit a front-page story in the Times.

Naturally, to get the scoop about what’s really going on within the New York Times, you have to read The New Yorker magazine. The poor Times even gets scooped about what’s going on within its own offices.

For what it’s worth, after the New Yorker ran this item, the Times later issued a statement that Abramson’s pay was “directly comparable” to her predecessors. Of course, a small number is “directly comparable” to a big number; any two sums can be “directly compared.”

Ace reminds them that President Obama hasn’t been campaigning on “directly comparable pay.” John Ekdahl collected one painfully ironic Times headline after another.

In another spectacular example of the New York Times leadership refusing to behave in the manner it demands from others, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reported,

[Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of the Times] ordered top news executives and officials not to speak even to colleagues about grounds for rupture with Abramson.

Transparency is for the little people!

Other discoveries from last night:

Tags: New York Times , War On Women

Why GOP Senate Candidates Shouldn’t Be Arguing About McConnell Now



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There’s been a lot of discussion — perhaps too much discussion — about Ben Sasse’s statement that he could “absolutely” vote for Mitch McConnell as GOP leader in the Senate if, as expected, he wins in November.

Theoretically, Mitch McConnell may not even be in the Senate next year; his lead in the polls in Kentucky against Democrat Allison Lundergan Grimes is pretty slim lately. But let’s assume a longtime Republican incumbent with enormous resources and the ability to call in favors from just about anybody in the GOP wins a midterm election in Kentucky, which is usually a pretty safe bet.

At a gathering of Republicans in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, last month, Senator Tim Scott was asked whether he would support McConnell. Scott smiled and said, “I’m going to dodge that question,” — laughter from the audience — “and let me tell you why I’m going to dodge that question: Right now, I don’t know who’s going to be running for leader.”

Few would argue that Tim Scott is a RINO; for many reasons, public declarations of support for a GOP Senate leader in January 2015 are a lousy measuring stick for squish-itude. First, a reminder of who’s running the Senate these days:

Way to go, Nevada. Way to go.

How do you like Mitch McConnell? Well, compared to whom? Any conservative who scoffs, “anyone would be better than McConnell!” hasn’t thought the prospects through very well.

Paraphrasing a good monologue from Jay Nordlinger, conservatives used to lament that Senate minority leader Howard Baker was too soft, and that they needed a leader who was tougher, like Bob Dole. Then Dole disappointed them, and they felt refreshed and reassured at the prospect of Trent Lott. Several gargantuan, pork-laden appropriations cycles later, they warmed to the prospect of Bill Frist . . . and you can see where this is going.

The Senate Republican leader is never the most conservative member of the caucus, and the most conservative member of the caucus will never be the Senate Republican leader. Full stop. It’s the nature of the job; you have to be elected by a majority of your caucus and your role is, ideally, to lead the whole caucus and ideally be trusted by that whole caucus. A party leader has to build consensus, and it’s almost impossible to do if you’re defined yourself through your career at one extreme of the party (say, Susan Collins) or the other (say, Tom Coburn, lifetime ACU rating of 98).

Secondly, the most conservative member of the GOP Senate caucus very rarely wants to run for majority leader. One of the key roles as party leader is to negotiate with leaders of the opposite party and get the best deal you can. When you’re not in negotiations, it’s easy — and, admittedly, sometimes accurate — to say drawing a harder line could have gotten a better deal. Once you’re the leader doing the negotiating, you have the task of arguing that the half of loaf you’ve secured is the biggest fraction of the bread anyone could get — and now some other young whippersnapper is saying he could have gotten a better deal.

Maybe some other Senate Republican will challenge McConnell as leader in January 2015. Maybe (probably) not. There will be more time to worry about and debate this after Election Day — when we know whether or not Republicans will be selecting a Senate majority leader.

Tags: Ben Sasse , Harry Reid , Mitch McConnell

Heck Yeah, the 2014 Midterm Elections Matter!



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Nate Silver contends the 2014 midterms are the “least important” election in years.

Okay, sure, depending upon how many years he means. The stakes in a midterm election cycle are lower than in a presidential cycle. Because of the makeup of the House, redistricting, the particular states that have Senate elections this cycle, and other factors, the range of possible outcomes appears to go from a slightly smaller GOP House majority and a slightly smaller Democratic Senate majority, or a slightly larger GOP House majority and a slim GOP Senate majority.

(I can hear you now: “Okay, Democrats, if they’re so unimportant, then go ahead and concede them!”)

Our Charlie Cooke noted earlier this year that the difference between a Republican Senate and a Democratic one is the difference between two more years of the status quo and President Obama’s winding down with two years of hellacious time with confirmation fights, a slew of unpopular vetoes of GOP bills calling for the Keystone pipeline, lower tax rates, increased military spending, repealing unpopular provisions of Obamacare, and so on.

By some measures, Obama is already a lame duck; he’s extremely unlikely to get any major bills passed with a GOP-controlled House and the press increasingly more interested in Hillary Clinton and the potential GOP contenders. But another GOP wave election would accelerate the sense that Obama’s just running out the clock.

Another drubbing of the Democrats in the midterms would cement Obama’s reputation as a rather overrated political force; while he effectively sold himself in two presidential campaigns, he couldn’t sell his agenda or his allies when he wasn’t on the ballot. Historians who aren’t already in the tank for Obama may conclude that he soared because of his personal charisma and inspiring life story, not a broadly popular agenda or vision.

Beyond that, winning begets winning. Silver writes near the end “this year’s federal elections are mostly in how they’ll set up 2016” — and that sure as heck is important! Republicans are largely persuaded that if they lose in 2016, the American Republic is doomed. If the Democratic nominee loses in 2016, the party may be forced to reevaluate their confidence that demographic changes represent an ever-stronger wind at their back.

Tags: Nate Silver , 2014 Midterms

Ben Sasse Cruises to a GOP Primary Win



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From the midweek Morning Jolt:

Ben Sasse Cruises to a GOP Primary Win; Technical Formality of General Election Will Be Held in November

Hey, remember everything I said about the risk Republicans take by nominating Sid Dinsdale to be their Senate nominee in Nebraska?

Yeah, never mind. By 10 p.m. Tuesday night, the Associated Press called the primary for Ben Sasse. This morning we see Sasse won nearly 50 percent in a four-way race. As the Hotline’s Josh Kraushaar noted, after Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and now Sasse, National Review has the reverse Sports Illustrated cover jinx.

This morning you’re seeing some folks celebrating this result as a win for the Tea Party over the Establishment, and while that’s not quite wrong, the usual lines were a little blurred. Sasse went to Harvard, Oxford and Yale; already worked on Capitol Hill; and President Bush appointed him as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

His first prominent rival, Shane Osborn, had a distinguished military record; he was the pilot on that plane that the Chinese forced down at the beginning of the Bush administration. Osborn probably immolated himself by going negative and delivering the negative message personally.

Dinsdale was the wealthy banker running as the outsider, but his bank had helped nudge Ben Nelson to support Dodd-Frank. Maybe not the worst sin for a GOP candidate, but a reason to be wary of the guy who’s touting himself as a pragmatist who can reach a deal.

Sasse’s win is good news for conservatives and it’s very good news for National Review. Sasse ran ads featuring the NR cover early to establish his conservative bona fides. Besides being a heavy favorite in November, Sasse is very much a health-policy wonk, who will have something to say on Obamacare beyond “repeal it, it stinks.”

Tags: Ben Sasse , Nebraska

The Harvard Satanists Are Offended That We’re Offended.



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Let’s close out the day with some mockery of Harvard Satanists:

Dear Harvard Satanists: Go to Hell. I Hear You’re a Fan of the Management.

There are quite a few Christians (and non-Christians) who have offered thoughtful, sensitive, and intellectual responses to the aborted attempt to hold a satanic ritual on the grounds of Harvard University. See Kathryn Jean Lopez, Jonah Goldberg, and A. J. Delgado.

This morning, what I offer . . . is not thoughtful, sensitive, or intellectual. But it needs to be said, and I suspect most of you will enjoy it.

The news Monday night:

A reenactment of satanic rituals known as a “black mass” that had been scheduled for Monday evening on the Harvard campus was abruptly canceled amid a chorus of condemnation from Catholic groups and university officials and students.

Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the New York-based Satanic Temple, said in a phone interview that the event was canceled because organizers no longer had a venue.

Wait, they were New York-based satanists? And they expected a warm welcome in Boston? Perhaps they figured their pentagrams and horns would be less provocative than Yankees caps.

“Everyone involved, outside of the Satanic Temple, got really scared,” Greaves said.

Scared? Scared? You worship the embodiment of evil traditionally depicted with horns, fangs, claws, red skin, and/or as Willem Dafoe, and you’re scared? Of Christians? Of nuns? What the hell kind of Satanists are you?

“And I don’t necessarily blame them, because I understand that they were getting a lot of vitriolic hate mail, and I don’t think they expected it.”

What the [bleep] were you expecting? A lot of thumbs up and “attaboys”?

You just put out a public statement that you “didn’t expect” this kind of reaction? You realize what response you’re asking for, aren’t you?

“Vitriolic hate mail”? Wait, you aim to perform — I’m sorry, simulate the performance of — a tribute to the embodiment of evil that may or may not include the desecration of the Holy Communion, and you didn’t expect vitriolic hate mail?

Yes, part of your problem is that you’re morally inverted, and part of your problem is that you have no capacity to appreciate or respect a faith that you don’t personally practice. But another big part of your problem is that you’re really, really stupid.

But in a statement later on Monday evening, the cultural studies club said it was no longer sponsoring the mass after plans to hold it at the Middle East club in Central Square in Cambridge fell through.

The cultural studies club did not respond to an inquiry asking why it had decided to move the mass.

Ah, “the Middle East club” wasn’t such a good venue after all? Who could have seen that coming? Perhaps somebody called our Muslim friends, as I had suggested. They tend to get a little excitable when they think somebody’s mocking their faith, and they’re not as laid back and patient as we Christians are. When they turn the other cheek, it’s usually because they’re yelling about the new fatwa in a different direction.

Yeah, it’s a shame that all this hullabaloo could put the kibosh on somebody’s look-at-me-I’m-angry-at-my-parents performance art, but let’s face it, you anti-religious types took the easy shots at the pacifist Christians for a long time, and got way too comfortable doing it. Everybody knows you guys — with the possible exception of Bill Maher — don’t dare mock the Muslims, and everybody knows why. Back when he was anchoring “Weekend Update,” Dennis Miller joked that the last name of Salman Rushdie comes from an ancient word meaning “someone who is in a rush to die.”

You let’s-mock-religion guys set up the incentives for the faithful with your own behavior. If a religious person responds the way the loudest Muslims do, everybody’s too scared to mock them. If a religious person responds in the nice and tolerant way the Christians and Jews traditionally do, they’re the butt of every joke and everybody’s favorite punching bag. The satirists of organized religion must be astonishingly slow-witted if they thought other religions wouldn’t notice their habits of self-censorship.

“The Satanic Temple has informed us that they will stage their own Black Mass ceremony at an undisclosed private location to ‘reaffirm their respect for the Satanic faith and to demonstrate that the most powerful response to offensive speech is to shame those who marginalize others by letting their own words and actions speak for themselves,’” the studies club said.

You know, at this point it feels like there’s some malfunctioning automated political-correctness phrase-maker at work. What’s the offensive speech? Who’s supposed to be shaming who? Are we supposed to be ashamed because we don’t like them mocking our faith? We’re marginalizing them? You’re already marginalized, you’re friggin’ satanists.

These whiny entitled trustafarians are offended that we’re offended when they announce they’re going to act out a ceremony mocking and desecrating our connection to the Divine. Expecting us to not only permit it legally but take it all in with a smile like a bent-over fraternity pledge suggests that they have a bigger entitlement issues than the federal budget.

To hell with that!

Tags: Something Lighter

Examining the Website of the USDA’s Agency of Invasive Species



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Greeting Morning Jolt readers today . . . 

You Must Check Out the Website of the USDA’s Agency of Invasive Species

Forgive me, dear readers, but the book publication date is about three weeks away and I must turn into a relentless self-promotional machine.

Thankfully, I can direct readers to the website of the subject of the book, the sordid and twisted history of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agency of Invasive Species, and its serving as a metaphor for the growth of the federal bureaucracy over the past 30 years. The recently redesigned website for the USDA AIS can be found at TheWeedAgency.com.*

There you can learn more about the agency’s staff, official statements, logo changes through the years, and headquarters:

Hidden somewhere on the site is the book’s first 32 pages.

(Minor detail: My book is a novel, a work of fiction set against the backdrop of recent Washington history, and the USDA Agency of Invasive Species does not, technically, exist.)

If you have already pre-ordered, thank you very much. I have wanted to write fiction for a long time, and I figure each sale gets me closer to the opportunity to do this again. I was asked by the good folks Crown Forum/Random House to take one of the world’s driest, most infuriating topics — the federal bureaucracy, and how it works (or doesn’t work) — and turn it into a fast-moving comic satire in the tradition of Christopher Buckley, P. J. O’Rourke, and Yes, Minister. Either I succeeded, or enough well-known people feel the need to say nice things about me:

“A conservative comic romp through the toughest corridors of federal bureaucracy . . . a fun glimpse into the fake-but-accurate world of bureaucratic infighting.” — Jake Tapper, CNN Anchor and Author of The Outpost



“Jim Geraghty is smart, funny, compelling, entertaining . . . and his book does real damage to liberals if thrown hard enough.” — Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana

The Weed Agency brilliantly captures the absurdity of the real Washington. It is, as they say, funny because it’s true.” — Jonah Goldberg, author of The Tyranny of Clichés



“Geraghty captures the hilarious realities of Washington waste brilliantly. And we all need to laugh at Washington to stop from crying.” — S. E. Cupp, author of Losing Our Religion and CNN Host

“No matter your politics, Jim provides an entertaining look at just how the good intentions of a federal law or regulation can get misused over time to become more of a problem than a solution. Interestingly, lock any two veteran Washington politicians from opposite parties in a room and they’ll admit that some federal agencies need to be reined in. Like anything with Washington these days, sometimes all it takes is a little sunlight to grab their attention.” — Chuck Todd, NBC News

“Jim Geraghty absolutely nails it. You’ll want to believe this book is fiction, but in your heart you know so much of it — too much of it — is all too hilariously real.” — Brad Thor, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Order

If you haven’t ordered a copy yet, and you’re on the fence . . . well, think of this as an easy way to say “thanks” if you’ve liked anything I’ve done for the past few years on this newsletter, or the past ten years blogging at NR (my official ten-year anniversary is Friday). It’s pretty cheap; only $13 cover price, $9.75 on Amazon, $9.99 on Nook, and $7.99 on Kindle.

If you feel like pre-ordering in the near future, I am contemplating asking everyone to order it on the same day — say, the official publication date, June 3. (You may see copies on bookstore shelves before the “official” publication date.) Your kindness in response to NR Publisher Jack Fowler’s imperative to purchase the book already drove it to rank around 1,700 on Amazon a few weeks ago. If everyone bought, say, the morning of June 3, the book could — briefly, at least! — rank even higher:

While Amazon keeps their exact formula for picking the top books under wraps, it is clear that it weighs heavily on how many books you can sell in a short period of time.

In fact, a recent campaign by Seth Godin for his book We Are All Weird was able to hit the #2 spot on Amazon by selling less than 2000 copies of his hardcover in a day.

Another author I worked with was able to generate 500 sales of his book in a single day and this put him in the top 100 on Amazon.

On the other hand, you might forget to order on June 3. So maybe I should urge you to go ahead and make that purchase right now.

Tell you what, since you’re doing me a favor, you pick the time and place that’s most convenient for you. The good news is that all sales up to one week after the official publication date count towards getting on the bestseller lists. So if you buy before June 10, you’re helping me out a lot.

* Right around here, discerning and wise readers said, “Hey, wait a minute, if it’s a federal agency, why doesn’t it have a .gov address?”

** More discerning readers are remembering November has 30 days.

Tags: Something Lighter , Shameless Promotion

Environmentalist Billionaire Made His Fortune From Asian Coal Mines



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It’s a safe bet that environmentalist billionaire and big-time Democratic donor Tom Steyer has a bigger carbon footprint than you do:

Steyer, 56, stepped down as co-managing partner of Farallon in 2012 to devote himself to full-time activism because, as he later wrote, he “no longer felt comfortable being at a firm that was invested in every single sector of the global economy, including tar sands and oil.”

But he has provided few details of the extent of those fossil fuel investments or how he profited from them. He said in July 2013 that when he had left Farallon, which manages much of his estimated $1.6 billion wealth, he had instructed the fund to divest his holdings in fossil fuels. Neither he nor Farallon has said whether that process has been completed. Farallon declined to comment.

A spokesman for Steyer declined to comment for this article.

Until now, most of the conservative ire against Steyer has focused on Farallon’s energy investment record in the United States. Little attention has been paid to foreign investments such as its forays into Asian coal.

During Steyer’s tenure, Farallon helped finance coal project acquisitions in Indonesia and Australia valued at more than $2 billion and covering some of the region’s biggest mines, some of which swiftly ramped up production afterward, according to a close examination by Reuters of company disclosures and interviews with people involved in the deals.

Of course, Steyer made clear that this year he would not run ads against Democrats who voted to build the Keystone Pipeline — even though that’s at the heart of his objection to Republicans. Democratic strategist Chris Lehane, who advises Steyer, told The Hill that Steyer’s group would not run ads against Democrats, even if they support Keystone. “We aren’t going to go in to try to undermine and hurt Democrats.”

To sum up, it’s okay for him to make a fortune from Asian coal mines, and it’s okay for Democrats to vote to build the Keystone Pipeline; all of our environmental problems can be blamed on Republicans and you eating a Big Mac today.

The only thing that’s green in this picture is the background.

 

 

Tags: Tom Steyer , Global Warming , Democrats

Don’t Do That, Congressman!



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Also from today’s Jolt… Rep. Joe Garcia, Democrat of Florida, may be the nicest guy on the world and/or not so bad on the issues.

But this video, found by America Rising, depicting him doing something phenomenally embarrassing… well, I just feel sorry for the guy.

I’m pretty sure whatever he’s ingesting is not, in fact, approved by Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative. Even though it is organic.

Tags: Joe Garcia , Something Lighter

Why Conservatives Have Well-Founded Doubts About Sid Dinsdale



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From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Why Conservatives Have Well-Founded Doubts About Sid Dinsdale

Nebraska Republicans pick their Senate and gubernatorial nominees today; a lot of conservatives outside the state will be watching the Senate primary results closely.

To a lot of grassroots conservatives, President Obama and his allies are about as bad as it gets. They’ve managed to steer the country pretty darn far down the wrong path in the past five-and-a-half years. They’re wildly ambitious, shamefully arrogant, politically ruthless and dangerously close to, as President Obama put it (perhaps by accident) “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

To many of America’s apolitical folk, the fury of the conservative grassroots is a bewildering, not-quite-rational, discomfort-inducing overreaction – or at least it was. But the evidence is starting to pile up, and Obama’s approval rating continues to slide and sputter.

Obama and his allies will promise the moon –  “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan!” – and then deliver the opposite, and then shrug off the complaints as naysayers. If a part of a law becomes politically inconvenient, they’ll ignore it.

They’ll talk about the need for open government and then be more secretive than any preceding administration. They’ll talk about the need for clean government and then go to unprecedented lengths to reward donors.

They’re just flat-out nasty. IRS abuses. Lying to the American public about the cause of the Benghazi attack. Presiding over an out-of-control NSA that makes a mockery of the Fourth Amendment. Attempting – and perhaps succeeding – in intimidating Supreme Court justices. They do what they want and attack anyone who stands in their way. “Don’t think we’re not keeping score, brother.”

This is why a lot of Republicans aren’t interested in a deal with President Obama on immigration. They simply don’t trust him to keep his end of the bargain once the bill is signed into law. They’re not willing to go along with any Obama plan that requires GOP concessions now in exchange for Obama concessions later.

This conservative grassroots distrust developed early – “All statements from Barack Obama come with an expiration date, all of them” and so the backlash against Republicans who sought to make a deal with Obama came early and furiously: Arlen Specter. Charlie Crist. Dick Lugar.

Now there’s Sid Dinsdale. He may not deserve a spot alongside Specter and Crist, but there’s some past evidence to suggest that Dinsdale’s willing to make a deal with the administration. If an article from American Banker from December 2010 is correct, Dinsdale’s bank helped persuade Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a Democrat, to sign on to the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill. (The law’s a mess, and only about half its regulations have been written, four years after its passage.) The president of the bank said at the time that because Congress was certain to pass a banking regulation bill, they preferred to have a hand in shaping it rather than fighting it every step of the way.  For what it’s worth, Dinsdale denies personally lobbying Nelson. However, a lot of conservatives have a hard time believing that Dinsdale’s bank would expend much effort lobbying for a policy result he strongly opposed.

The Omaha World-Herald, endorsing Dinsdale, stated he was a “pragmatist” and saluted his willingness to reach out to the other side of the aisle. Yes, that’s precisely what a lot of conservatives fear; sometimes no deal is better than a bad deal.

Apparently Dinsdale has a shot at winning today:

Sasse remains the favorite, but strategists in the Cornhusker State say Dinsdale has a chance to pull the upset thanks in part to staying off the airwaves and out of the fray until the race’s final weeks—a decision that kept him out of the crosshairs of his opponents. Sasse’s campaign has targeted him more aggressively of late, redirecting fire that it (and Sasse’s outside allies) had previously aimed at Osborn. Most of the advertising in play this past week has been either for or against Dinsdale.

In a state with notoriously fickle voting habits, Dinsdale is betting his late-breaking, local campaign will appeal to a plurality.

“Nebraskans know the Dinsdales from the community bank franchises and their agribusinesses,” said Dinsdale campaign strategist Sam Fischer (who is also a nephew of the state’s junior U.S. senator). He pointed to Pinnacle Bank locations across the state as being known for their community involvement, from banking to supporting local Little Leagues.  

Dinsdale’s campaign is also putting his father’s household name to use, featuring Roy Dinsdale in some of the campaign ads.

Young said that kind of Main Street messaging is what resonates with Nebraskans, not outside ads.

“It’s a small enough state, you can win a campaign with grassroots here,” Young said. “There’s a lot of other means of messaging that carry weight.”

NR’s enthusiasm for Sasse is clear. If Dinsdale wins the primary tonight, he would be the heavy favorite in November; if elected, he would still be a Nebraska Republican and he would probably vote the right way most of the time. But there would still be that nagging doubt that he might want to reach a deal with an administration that so many conservatives find impossible to trust.

The man is behind the bank, and the bank is behind the man.

Tags: Ben Sasse , Sid Dinsdale , Nebraska

In Illinois, 67% Oppose Spending $100 Million on Obama Presidential Library



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The people of Illinois may still feel fond of their former resident, President Barack Obama. They’re just not eager to spend $100 million to host his presidential library:

A new poll from Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller reveals that a whopping 67 percent of prospective voters here in Illinois oppose the Michael Madigan-sponsored plan to earmark $100 million for Barack Obama’s presidential library and museum.

Results showed that just 29 percent of likely voters approve of the state-financing proposal, which Illinois House Speaker Madigan successfully pushed last month amid vocal opposition from Republicans and just about everyone who thinks that offering nine figures as bait to attract the library here is perhaps not such a great idea given how strapped for cash we are. Also: Obama, a fundraising machine with an arsenal of super-rich Democratic donors, is likely going to sign off on Chicago as the location, with or without the $100 million in taxpayer money. (Take that, Honolulu.)

Federal tax dollars partially foot the bill for all presidential libraries: “These libraries — now 13 in all — cost taxpayers $75 million to operate in the last fiscal year.” That’s for maintenance and operating it once its open; private donors cover the construction costs.

 

Tags: Barack Obama , Illinois

The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats, Part Six



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Senator Claire McCaskill, discussing a tax bill in 2011:

“It’ll maybe save me some money but cost my husband money — and that sounds like a good equation to me,” she quipped, referring to her husband, Joseph Shepard, a wealthy businessman. “We file separately, and I would be considered middle class — upper middle class. … I’m not at his level, but I think it’s fair. It will cost him money, but it’s the right thing to do.”

McCaskill is way, way, way beyond most people’s definition of “middle class” with her $174,000 annual salary. Of course, because of her husband’s wealth, McCaskill lives a lifestyle well beyond a $174,000 salary… 

The Missouri Democrat bought the development’s priciest unit yet for $2.7 million in early February, Washington Business Journal reports… The condos at CityCenterDC come with features like Miele appliances in the kitchen and adjustable wardrobe systems in the bedrooms. The building includes amenities such as a party room with private wine storage and a fitness center with private spa services.

McCaskill also recently unloaded her previous Washington apartment, a two-bedroom unit in a Massachusetts Ave., NW, building she purchased shortly after she was sworn in to her first term in 2007. Her old place sold for about $750,000 and nearly $123,000 above its assessed value, according to DC property records…

McCaskill’s husband, Joseph Shepard, is a St. Louis developer whose companies received nearly $40 million in federal housing subsidies between 2007 and 2011.

McCaskill’s most recent financial disclosure form estimates her net worth to be between $15 million to $26 million. In 2011, she got in some hot water over her private plane and need to pay back $287,273 for four years of unpaid taxes on the single-engine turbo-prop Pilatus PC-12. After paying the back taxes, she boasted, “This problem came to light because of the kind of transparency that I have worked for.”

The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats, Part One: Harry Reid.

The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats, Part Two: Mary Landrieu.

The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats, Part Three: Mark Begich.

The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats, Part Four: Elizabeth Warren.

The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats, Part Five: Hillary Clinton.

 

Tags: Claire McCaskill

Five Years Later, the Federal Government Is Still Spending Stimulus Money



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Also in today’s Morning Jolt:

Five Years Later, the Federal Government Is Still Spending Stimulus Money

The U.S. government is still spending money that it classifies as part of the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” a.k.a. the stimulus, signed into law February 19, 2009.

 

For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs is spending $219,117.11 to remove a dumbwaiter elevator near the Biomedical and Dietetics Area on the second floor in the Miami Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.

 


The expenditures go on, even though Recovery.gov is no longer updating its information: “When Congress passed the Federal Government’s Fiscal Year ‘14 Omnibus Spending Bill in January 2014 it included a clause repealing Section 1512 of the Recovery Act which required recipients of ARRA awards to report quarterly on the status of those awards. The result was the recipients reported for the last time January 1–14, 2014.”

Tags: Stimulus

President Drone-Strike Wishes He Could ‘Reach Out’ in Nigeria



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In between Democratic Party fundraisers in California last week, President Obama told an audience, ”Every day when I wake up and I think about young girls in Nigeria or children caught up in the conflict in Syria, when there are times in which I want to reach out and save those kids.”

You might think the president who joked about his authority to kill the Jonas Brothers with a drone strike if they got too close to his daughters might have an actual ability to “reach out” and, if not save the abducted girls, rain a little hellfire upon their captors. After all, during Obama’s presidency, he’s authorized roughly 400 drone strikes that have killed an estimated 2,700 to 4,100 people.

Tags: Barack Obama , Nigeria , Drones

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