Google+

The Campaign Spot

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

Somebody Has to Pay for This Massacre in the Sky



Text  



From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Somebody Has to Pay For This.

By the time you read this, it’s possible the world will know more about what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. But some of the pieces are starting to come together.

1. Pro-Russian separatists have been shooting down Ukranian planes with increasing frequency in recent months — up until now, military transports and cargo planes.

2. Thursday the Russian separatists bragged about shooting down a non-passenger plane shortly before the Malaysian flight disappeared: “In the vicinity of Torez, we just downed a plane, an AN-26. It is lying somewhere in the Progress Mine. We have issued warnings not to fly in our airspace.”

3. The Russian separatists have the kind of advanced surface-to-air missiles and launching system needed to hit an airliner traveling at this high altitude.

4. The Ukrainian government’s security agency released audio of an intercepted phone call, allegedly showing Russian separatists and Russian intelligence officers discussing the shoot-down:

Igor Bezler: We have just shot down a plane. Group Minera. It fell down beyond Yenakievo (Donetsk Oblast).

Vasili Geranin: Pilots. Where are the pilots? . . . 

“Greek”: Is there anything left of the weapon?

“Major”: Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.

“Greek”: Are there documents?

“Major”: Yes, of one Indonesian student. From a university in Thompson.

Militant: Regarding the plane shot down in the area of Snizhne-Torez. It’s a civilian one. Fell down near Grabove. There are lots of corpses of women and children. The Cossacks are out there looking at all this.

They say on TV it’s AN-26 transport plane, but they say it’s written Malaysia Airlines on the plane. What was it doing on Ukraine’s territory?

Nikolay Kozitsin: That means they were carrying spies. They shouldn’t be f…cking flying. There is a war going on.

Could this audio be doctored or falsified in some way? Yes, although it would represent an enormous risk on the part of the Ukrainian government.

Barring some other piece of evidence, Occam’s Razor suggests that Russian separatists thought they were firing their missiles at another Ukrainian plane that wasn’t a passenger airliner . . . and promptly killed 298 people. Reports continue to suggest 23 of the passengers were Americans.*

This is not something random and terrible happening to strangers, citizens of other countries, living lives far from here. This was murder of 23 Americans, guilty of nothing worse than booking a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, who had nothing to do with the dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

Every one of the passengers’ deaths is an outrage; the deaths may also have far-reaching consequences:

About 100 of the 298 people killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash were heading to Melbourne for a major AIDS conference, conference attendees have been told.

Delegates at a pre-conference in Sydney were told on Friday morning that around 100 medical researchers, health workers and activists were on the plane that went down near the Russia-Ukraine border, including former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange.

Russian president Vladimir Putin didn’t order the separatists to shoot down the airliner. But his intelligence agencies and military have provided all kinds of support to these separatists. To borrow P. J. O’Rourke’s metaphor, Putin gave whiskey and car keys — and powerful explosives — to teenage boys. The disastrous consequences were not hard to foresee. You can see it in the absurd, nonsensical, instant justification by one of the speakers that if the plane is labeled “Malaysia Airlines,” it must be a disguise for a spy plane. Putin didn’t commit murder; just reckless endangerment.

There will be a lot of debates and discussions about what the United States can or should do in response to this reckless, deadly decision. But let’s begin by asking, if we had the opportunity to reach out and strike 23 Russian separatists involved in the decision to launch this missile, would we do it? I’d like to think so. Fighting a war is not inherently evil, nor is stupidity, but the combination of the two is a fertile ground for evil. These guys need to be taught a lesson, and it’s not clear who can teach them.

Commercial airliners fly — usually quite high — over dangerous or not-so-friendly parts of the world all the time. Right now commercial jets are avoiding Eastern Ukraine. Should they avoid Syria, too? Iran? Iraq? Afghanistan? If so, you’ve just cut off India and a big chunk of Asia from Europe.

These guys need to pay — and Putin needs to see consequences of his reckless support of these dumb, brutal goons.

Moe Lane:

I never thought that I’d see the day that the US government would just shrug off a no-fooling war crime committed against our citizens.

* UPDATE: As of Friday afternoon, the report is that “at least one”, not 23 Americans were killed in the attack on the plane. The magazine of Stephen Glass and Zach Scott Thomas Beauchamp seems to think citing a report from Reuters constitutes dishonesty. 

Tags: Russia , Ukraine , Malaysian Airlines 17

Some Days, It Feels Like We Don’t Have a President.



Text  



Some days, it feels like we don’t have a president.

Reports indicate 23 Americans just got killed* by someone when their airliner was blown out of the sky — perhaps pro-Russian separatists.

This is the president who didn’t address the country for three days after the attempted bombing of an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, who gave a “shout-out” to an audience member moments before his first comments on the Fort Hood shooting, and who attended a campaign rally on September 12, 2012, when most Americans awoke to the news of the murder of four Americans in a terror attack in Benghazi, Libya. 

I understand the Obama White House never wants to look like they’re overreacting. They behave as if it’s impossible to underreact.

UPDATE: Around 4:30 p.m. Eastern, Vice President Joe Biden addressed the Netroots Nation political conference. He began by making comments about gay marriage and then awkwardly pivoted to the news out of Ukraine. He said that  there may have been Americans on the plane, and that the government was seeking to confirm that. That seems a bit surprising, since the plane went down five hours ago.

Then he reverted to his usual political remarks.

As of Friday afternoon, the report is that “at least one”, not 23 Americans were killed in the attack on the plane. The magazine of Stephen Glass and Zach Scott Thomas Beauchamp seems to think citing a report from Reuters constitutes dishonesty. 

Tags: Barack Obama

ADVERTISEMENT

What’s the Consequence for Killing American Citizens?



Text  



While we don’t know every detail yet, the preponderance of what we know so far indicates that separatists in Ukraine, backed by Russia, shot a missile, destroying a Malaysian Airlines jetliner. Our Patrick Brennan summarizes:

A Malaysia Airlines flight crashed in eastern Ukraine today, killing all 285 passengers aboard, and the Ukrainian government has accused pro-Russian separatists in the area of shooting it down. A representative of the Ukrainian government claims that it was downed by a ground-to-air missile of the type that Russia has been supplying to separatists in eastern Ukraine, where the Ukrainian government has been trying to suppress militants over the past few months. The militants have denied shooting it down.

The Ukrainian government reports that 23 Americans were aboard the plane, and that more than 300 people were killed in the crash.

The Americans on the plane had no connection to Russia or Ukraine, and took no risks other than booking a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Now they’re dead. It’s quite possible pro-Russian separatists killed our fellow citizens.* What will the consequence be?

* UPDATE: As of Friday afternoon, the report is that “at least one”, not 23 Americans were killed in the attack on the plane. The magazine of Stephen Glass and Zach Scott Thomas Beauchamp seems to think citing a report from Reuters constitutes dishonesty. 

Tags: Ukraine , Russia

We’re Building Extra-Flammable Barracks for the Afghan Army



Text  



More of our tax dollars at work: The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction finds that a significant portion of the U.S.-built buildings for the Afghan military are . . . more flammable than international building codes permit.

The inspector general’s report notes,

In April, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told SIGAR that the decision not to bring all buildings into compliance with [international building codes] will affect 285 buildings, including 83 barracks buildings, four medical clinics, and two fire stations.

Hey, what are the odds of a fire on an Afghan army base, right? It’s not like there’s a chance the Taliban or other warlords will be firing mortars, rockets, and other explosives at them, right?

The justification for the use of a particularly flammable foam is that

the typical occupant populations for these facilities are young, fit Afghan Soldiers and recruits who have the physical ability to make a hasty retreat during a developing situation.

Hopefully, all the patients being treated in those medical clinics will get that memo.

Tags: Afghanistan , Inspector General

Administrator for HUD Grant Program Traded Apartment for Sex



Text  



Your tax dollars at work: The Department of Housing and Urban Development provides grants to programs like Project Reconnect “to help the formerly incarcerated find housing, counseling and jobs once they’re released.” At least, that’s the way it’s designed.

And then sometimes the money gets used like this:

From 2012 until last year, Hart worked for the city’s Housing Department as a caseworker for Project Reconnect, which uses federal dollars to help the formerly incarcerated find housing, counseling and jobs once they’re released. Problem was, Lawrence Hart helped someone who wasn’t even remotely qualified for the program get a Carrollton apartment at a deep discount using U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development dollars: Lawrence Hart. He got the place by using someone else’s name on the application; court docs refer only to a “Person A.”

That was bad enough. But Hart also admitted to federal prosecutors earlier this year that he helped a woman, known only as Person B, get an apartment through Project Reconnect. Here’s how he did it, according to court records: “Hart propositioned her for sex and expedited Person B being placed in an apartment because she agreed to have sex with Hart.” He kicked her out in January 2013, only after the woman broke up with him.

The good news that former caseworker will spend 15 months behind bars, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office, and has also been ordered to pay back $8,619.

Tags: HUD , Fraud , Government Waste

ADVERTISEMENT

The Obama Administration Will Never Walk Away from Iran



Text  



From the Thursday Morning Jolt:

The Obama Administration Will Never Walk Away from the Negotiating Table with Iran

On Monday, the word was that the West’s negotiations with Iran weren’t going well:

The mood of the talks has gone from optimistic weeks ago, as Iran made concessions on items such as the future of its Arak nuclear reactor, to pessimistic in recent days as it becomes clear a giant gap remains on the crucial question of how much capacity Iran will retain to enrich uranium for what it insists is a peaceful nuclear program.

Yet as the deadline approached, President Obama and his team have decided things are going well enough to extend the deadline . . . 

President Obama said Wednesday that there had been “real progress in several areas” in negotiations with Iran over its disputed nuclear program, and he hinted that he might extend the talks beyond the deadline on Sunday in order to reach a final agreement.

“We have a credible way forward,” Mr. Obama told reporters during a short briefing at the White House, although he said there were some “significant gaps” between the two sides and more work to do before a deal could be struck.

“Over the next few days, we’ll continue consulting with Congress, and our team will continue discussions with Iran and our partners as we determine whether additional time is necessary to extend our negotiations,” Mr. Obama said.

If you’re always willing to extend the deadline, then it’s not really a deadline, now is it? On paper, we’re watching negotiations between two parties with diametrically opposed interests — we want the Iranians to have as little of a nuclear program as possible, they want one as big (and easily switched to military applications) as possible. But in practice, we’ve got two parties with the same interest: the Obama administration wants negotiations to continue, so they can claim their approach is working, and the Iranians want negotiations to continue so that their program keeps advancing and those centrifuges keep spinning. So both sides want the talks to go on indefinitely. At this point, we’re negotiating about the conditions for continuing negotiations.

What would it take for President Obama, John Kerry, and the rest of his administration to conclude, “These guys aren’t serious about a deal, they’re stalling for time, we’re playing into their hands by continuing these negotiations”?

It seems that as long as the Iranians don’t reach across the table and behead the other negotiators, this administration is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I’ve gotten spam offers that seem more reliable than the Iranians’ promises.

This is not like negotiating with Don Corleone.

Eli Lake points out one more aspect of the negotiations where time is not on our side:

As U.S. and allied negotiators try to hammer out a nuclear deal with Iran this week in Vienna, they will have less economic leverage on their Iranian counterparts than they had a year ago.

That is the conclusion of a new study from Roubini Global Economics and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, two groups that have analyzed Iran’s economy — and the international sanctions imposed on the country’s banks, oil exports and leading regime figures.

Their report concludes that in the last year as the United States and other Western countries have begun to ease some of the sanctions on Iran as an inducement to negotiate an end to the country’s nuclear weapons program, the Iranian economy has begun to recover.

. . . the economic sanctions that President Obama has credited with forcing Iran to begin these negotiations have appeared to lose their bite, according to the study that is scheduled to be released Monday.

The lies of this administration will hurt all of us, but perhaps none are more damaging than the lies they tell themselves about how well their policies are working.

Tags: Iran , John Kerry , Barack Obama

IG: Afghans Aren’t Using U.S.-Provided Transport Planes, Don’t Need Another



Text  



The independent special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction is warning Pentagon leadership that the Afghan air force doesn’t need all the C-130 transport planes provided by the U.S. in $100 million–plus deal, and is urging the Pentagon to halt the delivery of another one without a detailed review of the policy.

Special Inspector General John F. Sopko writes:

We analyzed flight data for the two AAF C-130s currently in Afghanistan and found that they are being underutilized, which raises questions about whether additional aircraft are truly needed. Lastly, during my visit last month, I was informed about support problems associated with training, spare parts, and maintenance for the two C-130s currently in the inventory.

Sopko’s report states that not delivering a single C-130 could save the U.S. taxpayer up to $40.5 million. The third C-130 is scheduled to be delivered next month.

Are the Afghans really using this plane? If not, do they need another?

The inspector general’s report also states that the Department of Defense has been unable to provide documentation to support its decision to purchase the C-130s, detailing that:

a U.S. Air Force team raised concerns that the C-130 would be too complex and costly for the AAF. Notwithstanding those concerns,on January 4, 2013 the Deputy Secretary of Defense directed the Secretary of the Air Force to provide four C-130s to the AAF — two in 2013 and two by the end of 2014.

 

The Deputy Secretary of Defense in January 2013 was Ashton Carter. In December of that year, he was replaced by Christine Fox as the acting deputy defense secretary. Previously, she had the director of cost assessment and program evaluation in the Office of the Secretary of Defense — one of the most senior civilian positions at the Pentagon. She’s also known for inspiring Kelly McGillis’s character in Top Gun.

When Fox retired in May, President Obama said:

Last year, she graciously agreed to return to the Department of Defense shortly after she had officially retired in order to ensure that Secretary Hagel and I had the support we needed in a challenging time. She provided steady leadership in the wake of sequester and developed an approach to the budget that puts our military on a path toward restored readiness.

NOTE: This report initially referred to the IG as part of the Pentagon, but it is an independent agency with jurisdiction over any agency doing reconstruction in Afghanistan.

Tags: Afghanistan , Government Waste , President Obama

Intriguing New Polling Numbers in Iowa, Colorado, and Michigan



Text  



Apparently the polling world saved up all of its intriguing results for Wednesday!

First, NBC News in Iowa . . . 

The closely watched Iowa Senate race between Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley is locked in a dead heat, a new NBC News/Marist poll shows, while New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has an eight point lead over likely Republican challenger Scott Brown.

In Iowa, Ernst and Braley each have the support of 43 percent of registered voters. But both candidates remain unknown to many in the state; 14 percent of voters are undecided about who they support in the race, and about a third say they are unsure about their opinion on the candidates or have never heard of them.

NBC also finds former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown trailing incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen by 8, also among registered voters. It will be interesting to see if a likely voter screen improves either Ernst or Brown’s positions.

Then Quinnipiac, out in Colorado . . . 

Despite stronger voter optimism about Colorado’s economy than found in many states, the race for governor is tied, with 43 percent for Democratic incumbent John Hickenlooper and 44 percent for former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, the Republican challenger, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Voters give Gov. Hickenlooper a split job approval rating, with 48 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving, compared to a 52 – 39 percent approval rating in an April 23 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University.

Wait, there’s more. A Democratic polling firm in Michigan finds their preferred Senate candidate, Gary Peters, with 39.5 percent and Republican Terri Lynn Land with 37.3 percent.

Tags: Iowa , Colorado , Michigan

Rothenberg: Cory Gardner ‘May Be the Best GOP Challenger in the Country’



Text  



The midweek edition of the Morning Jolt features a curious memory lapse by Charlie Crist, a diagnosis of the comics industry’s rut, and then this reasonably cheery assessment of the GOP’s odds in the midterm elections:

Rothenberg: A GOP Gain of At Least 6 Senate Seats ‘Seems Very Possible’

Not much that Roll Call’s Stu Rothenberg writes in his latest column is all that surprising, but it’s nice to have our impressions confirmed by somebody outside the vast right-wing conspiracy.

Aside from a largely dismissed (on both sides of the aisle) New York Times/Kaiser Foundation April poll showing Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., with a double-digit lead over his challenger, Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, surveys in the state have shown the race close for months. Some have had Pryor ahead, while others have shown Cotton leading.

My own reporting on the race leads me to believe that the contest is a statistical dead heat, though with Cotton holding a small advantage. (Not all of the polls, public and private, show this, of course.) . . . 

Barack Obama carried Iowa twice, so Democrats ought to have a narrow but clear advantage to hold retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin’s open seat. But the combination of an interesting Republican nominee, Joni Ernst, and Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley’s early missteps has smart Democrats fretting about the contest.

Polling shows the race extremely close now, and while Braley, a trial lawyer and four-term member of Congress, was expected to be the better campaigner in the contest, that has not been the case.

Finally, he notes, Colorado’s Cory “Gardner may well be the best GOP challenger in the country, and we are moving the race to Tossup/Tilts Democrat, which better reflects the overall competitiveness of the contest.”

What does this all mean? It means that if Republicans work their butts off for the next four months, and avoid any stupid mistakes, they’ll take the Senate.

Gardner’s in the hunt!

Tags: Senate Republicans , Cory Gardner

Texas Republican Greg Abbott Announces $35.5 Million in Cash on Hand



Text  



Remember this headline from January?
 

Looks like Republican Greg Abbott will have to get by with a mere $35.59 million cash on hand for the fundraising period ending on June 30th. Of course, that’s the highest cash on hand amount ever reported by a Texas candidate. And the gubernatorial candidates who preceded Abbott — Rick Perry and George W. Bush — were no slouches in the fundraising department. 

In June, media reports in Texas stated Davis had raised “at least $16 million.”

Game off?

‘A Restless President, Weary of the Obligations of the White House . . .’



Text  



Also in today’s Jolt:

Rest Easy, Americans; President Obama Is Enjoying His Dinner Parties More

Julie Hirschfeld Davis, covering the White House for the New York Timeslays out how President Obama is spending his evenings:

In a summer when the president is traveling across the country meeting with ordinary Americans under highly choreographed conditions, the Rome dinner shows another side of Mr. Obama. As one of an increasing number of late-night dinners in his second term, it offers a glimpse into a president who prefers intellectuals to politicians, and into the rarefied company Mr. Obama may keep after he leaves the White House.

Sometimes stretching into the small hours of the morning, the dinners reflect a restless president weary of the obligations of the White House and less concerned about the appearance of partying with the rich and celebrated. Freewheeling, with conversation touching on art, architecture and literature, the gatherings are a world away from the stilted meals Mr. Obama had last year with Senate Republican leaders at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington.

In Paris, the president was up again until nearly midnight enjoying, among other things, Drappier Champagne.

“Bonsoir,” Mr. Obama said as he entered the small Restaurant Helen, according to Frédéric Pescatori, an investment manager who was dining next to the president’s party. Mr. Pescatori added that the president “seemed quite relaxed and glad to be with friends, without stress.”

I’m glad he can get away from the stress of the job. (If you’re wondering, Drappier Champagne isn’t particularly expensive.)

A shame he’s so “weary of the obligations of the White House”; a lot of us put a lot of effort trying to free him from those obligations in 2012.

Tags: Barack Obama

Hey, Could We Poll Some Likely Voters Someday Soon?



Text  



NBC News is out with some interesting, but frustrating, new polls in Colorado and Michigan. The polls put Democrats ahead in both Senate races, which is a perfectly plausible result, but the poll only surveyed registered voters. Hey, guys, early voting starts in mid-October in Colorado. It’s mid-July. Is it too much to ask for a likely voter screen? Somehow other pollsters manage to do this!

Also note this result:

In Colorado, 52 percent of voters view the law as a bad idea — including 46 percent who hold that position strongly. That’s compared with just 37 percent who believe the law is a good idea.

Michigan voters think similarly — 50 percent see it as a bad idea, 32 percent a good idea.

“Democrats’ strength is women, and Republicans’ strength is health care,” says Marist pollster Barbara Carvalho.

President Obama also is unpopular in these two states he carried in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential races: In both, just 40 percent of registered voters approve of his job.

Tags: Polling , Colorado , Michigan

‘We’re All Becoming Border States Now.’



Text  



From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

‘We’re All Becoming Border States Now.’

Hundreds of illegal immigrant children reach . . . Massachusetts?

DARTMOUTH, Mass. Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson said Monday that he’s dealing with a problem in Dartmouth that shouldn’t be his responsibility.

It’s not a new theme for him. He’s sounded the alarm about illegal immigrants before, but now he says it’s getting closer and closer to home.

Illegal immigrants come across the border in the American Southwest. When they are detained, the wave of humanity has overwhelmed local capacity. The illegal immigrants are being sent all over the country, including Massachusetts.

“We’re all becoming border states now. We want to know, what are the trends? What’s happening? What can we expect? We know there are going to be more coming here from Texas. We’ve already got two groups coming off the planes here,” Hodgson said.

It’s not just Bristol County; north of Boston in Essex County:

Lynn is a municipality on the brink. Key department officials say a recent influx of illegal immigrant children and families in the city is stressing almost every service from trash collection to healthcare.

“We have been aware of the unaccompanied children issue for quite a while, and we were able to absorb a lot of these children early on,” said Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. “But now it’s gotten to the point where the school system is overwhelmed, our health department is overwhelmed, the city’s budget is being sustainably altered in order of accommodate all of these admissions in the school department.”

Flanagan Kennedy says the first contact for immigrant arrivals in the city is the school system.

The amount of new foreign born student admissions has nearly doubled in the last two years. This school year alone saw more than 600 new admissions. Among those students, 248 were from Guatemala. Flanagan Kennedy says of those 248 children, 126 were illegal, undocumented minors.

And apparently not all of them are actually under 18:

“Some of them have had gray hair and they’re telling you that they’re 17 years old and they have no documentation,” Jamie Cerulli, the Lynn mayor’s chief of staff, tells NRO. “If my children went to the public schools, I’d be very uncomfortable with all of these unaccompanied minors [that] are placed in the ninth grade.”

We have a lawless administration that is ignoring state governments:

Nebraskans are anxious to learn what Gov. Dave Heineman finds out about the approximately 200 children from Central America illegally being housed in the state.

Heineman tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KFAB in Omaha that this issue came as a surprise to him. Heineman says he immediately started making calls and learned that once the children leave the Department of Homeland Security they are handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Heineman says he spoke with a key policy advisor with that department and asked who they were, where they were staying and who is paying their bill. He was told they have no intention of sharing any information with him.

“I can’t believe in America that we have a federal government who is essentially secretly transporting them to Nebraska, they are illegal immigrants, and they won’t tell us who they are,” Heineman tells KFAB.

Look, citizens of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. We thought our president would send this message to you, but apparently he’s too busy with his fundraisers, issuing statements on LeBron James signing with the Cavaliers, golfing with sportswriter Michael Wilbon Saturday, and looking forward to his Martha’s Vineyard vacation.

So somebody has to say this: You have to take care of your own kids. You may have heard us complaining that our federal government is becoming a nanny state, but we didn’t mean that our government is actually running a nanny service.

We understand that gang violence, drug cartels, and other criminals are making your countries terrible places to live. We’re really sorry to hear that. We’ve also given your government quite a bit of money to make life better down there. Honduras, we gave you $83 million in foreign aid in 2013. El Salvador, $46.8 million. Guatemala, $106 million. If the money wasn’t spent well, take it up with your government. Some of you might say that’s not enough, but we’re not obligated to give you anything. There are a hell of a lot of Americans who think that money could be better spent back here.

You have to fight to make your country a better place to live so that your fellow countrymen will want to stay there. We can’t fight your battles for you. In fact, this is a particularly bad time to ask. You may have heard, twice in the past 13 years we went into far-off countries with unstable governments and warlords and drugs, determined to give the oppressed locals a better future, we spent way too much in blood and treasure, the populace turned out to be a bunch of ingrates, and the local leadership ran the place into the ground.

Alternately, we can try the Semisonic “Closing Time” approach: You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here. There are 202,000 square miles in Central America.

Tags: Immigration , Illegal Immigration , Barack Obama

We’ll See if Other Polls Show John Kasich Sliding



Text  



The Ohio Democratic party is touting a PPP poll showing their gubernatorial candidate, Ed Fitzgerald, down by only a point to incumbent Republican John Kasich.

The only head-to-head polling in Ohio showing Fitzgerald up in the past two years is PPP’s. As the Cleveland Plain-Dealer notes:

Other independent polling, though, has found a wider gap in the gubernatorial race.

A survey in May by Quinnipiac University found Kasich had a 15 point lead; 50 percent said they would pick him, while 35 percent favored FitzGerald. In June, a poll done for Opportunity Ohio found Kasich eight points ahead at 47-39 percent.

There hasn’t been a ton of independent polling recently, so it’s possible Kasich’s numbers have softened; we’ll see this trend either confirmed or contradicted in the coming weeks.

Perhaps Ohioans are glum because LeBron James is coming back.

Tags: John Kasich , Ed Fitzgerald

‘How Do You Defend Inaction in the Face of a Crisis?’ You Don’t, Sir.



Text  



Also in today’s Jolt . . . 

Congressional Democrat Assesses Obama on Border Crisis: ‘How Do You Defend Inaction in the Face of a Crisis?’

Oh, good. The Democratic party is suddenly awakening to the fact that just maybe Americans aren’t comfortable with an unsecure border and mass illegal immigration.

Until now, the politics of immigration have been seen as a no-lose proposition for President Obama and the Democrats. If they could get a comprehensive overhaul passed, they would win. And if Republicans blocked it, the GOP would further alienate crucial Hispanic and moderate voters.

But with the current crisis on the Southwest border, where authorities have apprehended tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children since October, that calculus may be shifting.

The president’s own party is deeply divided over what must be done now — particularly on the sensitive question of deporting children who have traveled thousands of miles and turned themselves in to U.S. authorities to escape from the desperate situations they faced in countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

The emergency has also renewed questions about the administration’s competence, reminiscent of those raised during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, last year’s botched rollout of the health-care law and more recent revelations of mismanagement that jeopardized care of patients at veterans hospitals.

I believe the technical term used by political scientists that best expresses the moment of revelation within this phenomenon is “DUH!”

Elsewhere in that article, we see congressional Democrats tearing into the president in a way that would have been unthinkable in his first term. Welcome to the life of a lame duck, Mr. President.

“The numbers have spiked recently, but this is not a new development,” said Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.). “It seems to me that the administration just wasn’t paying close attention and could have acted sooner.”

But Rep. Pete Gallego, a Texas Democrat whose district includes more than 40 percent of the U.S.-Mexico border, said he was less concerned about Obama skipping a Rio Grande Valley photo opportunity than he is about a lack of engagement in Washington.

“Rather than going to the border, I’d rather he invite some people over and start a conversation about how we are going forward,” Gallego said in an interview. “How do you defend inaction in the face of crisis? How is that defensible for anybody?”

Oh, and NBC’s Ron Allen checked in with an immigration court to see how it’s handling children who cross the border. The results will not surprise you:

Based on a day spent observing an immigration court in New York City, most of them can breathe a little easier: No one appears to be ordered out of the country any time soon . . . 

On this morning, most appearances lasted only a matter of minutes. After some brief judicial banter, and official business, Schoppert instructed just about every defendant to try to find a lawyer, and report back to court in February. He essentially put the “removal process,” on hold, and allowed these young migrants to get on with their new lives in America.

Diego’s attorney Merrill Clark was optimistic about his future. “He’s going to be legalized,” Clark insisted. “I haven’t lost a case like this one yet.”

If you can enter the country illegally and stay as long as you like without consequence, we don’t have an immigration system.

Tags: Immigration , Illegal Immigration , Barack Obama , Congressional Democrats

Bad News for New York Friends, Good News for North Carolina Ones



Text  



Unfortunately, my event to discuss The Weed Agency and the federal bureaucracy at the Union League Club in New York City that was scheduled for Thursday is canceled. I may be attending the club’s Book Fair on December 4, and may also be holding an evening event early in 2015. . . . 

The good news for friends in the Raleigh, N.C., area is that I’m scheduled to speak on Monday, July 28, 2014, at the John Locke Foundation’s Shaftesbury Society Luncheon.

The John Locke Foundation is at 200 W. Morgan Street, Suite 200 in Raleigh. The event begins at noon and costs $10; you can either bring your lunch or purchase a lunch there.

You know the drill: The Weed Agency is . . . $9.93 on Amazon, $7.99 on Kindle, $9.93 at Barnes and Noble, $9.99 on Nook, and IndieBound can steer you to an independent bookseller near you. If you buy it in the store, it’s a $13 cover price.

Tags: The Weed Agency , Something Lighter

Public Disapproval of Obamacare Proving Intractable



Text  



Since the beginning of the year, the highest level of approval that any pollster has found for Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act was 48 percent, in the ABC News/Washington Post poll in late March. The lowest level of disapproval any pollster found was 43 percent, in the AP poll in March. Even in those polls, a larger percentage disapproved of the law than approved. The last time a pollster found more people approving it than disapproving it was CNN’s poll in January 2013.

As you can see, the aggregate is stable — disapproval in the low to mid-50s, approval in the low to mid-40s:

Tags: Obamacare , Polling

Hamas, Israel, and Those So-Convenient ‘Militant Wings’



Text  



From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Hamas, Israel, and the Convenience of ‘Militant Wings’

Drones: So cheap and easy, even Hamas can use them:

Israel’s military said it shot down a drone along the country’s southern coast on Monday, marking the first time Palestinian militants have used such an aircraft in their latest confrontation with Israel.

The drone took off from the Gaza Strip and was downed by a Patriot surface-to-air missile near the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, the military said.

Israel didn’t comment on the specifications of the drone or whether it was armed.

“We had it in our sights the moment it took off, and we chose where to intercept it,” military spokesman Lt. Col Peter Lerner said. The wreckage of the drone fell into the Mediterranean, reported Israel Radio.

The Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, claimed responsibility for the drone and said it would continue its “surprises.”

Ah, the “military wing.” Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal told Al-Jazeera last month, “Hamas is comprised of a political wing and a military wing.”

Really? Because from over here, it looks like a public-relations wing and a convenient-scapegoat wing. “Oh, it wasn’t us that fired those rockets! It was our militant wing!” Militant wings are the evil twins of geopolitics. If your organization has a military wing — as opposed to an actual, declared, uniforms-and-everything-military — you’re probably a troublemaker. You notice the good guys in life rarely have a militant wing. “I’m with a hardline faction of the Red Cross.” “I’m with Mother Theresa’s paramilitary branch.”

These groups really seem to think that the political wing can’t be blamed for what the militant wing does. Guys, you’re two halves of the same chicken. Colonel Sanders just sees one bird.

The Israeli Defense Forces Twitter feed declared this morning that: “Since July 8, 38 rockets fired from Gaza have fallen within Gaza. Hamas fires from civilian areas . . . and hits its own people.” They’ve also released video of three airstrikes called off because of risk to civilians.

Hamas uses its own people as human shields, in an effort to get international sympathy. How does Hamas continually sell this strategy to the Palestinians? Remember, they’ve won elections! How do you win at the ballot box with the slogan, “To protect ourselves, we’re going to use you and your children as human shields!”? You’re really awful, Fatah; you lost an election to an alternative that promises to get the voters killed!

They’ve kept the slogan; the IDF is touting this July 13 video from Al Aqsa TV, Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri, declaring, “We aren’t leading our people today to destruction. We are leading them to death.” Way to answer your critics, Hamas! See, that’s completely different!

Of course, Fatah and Hamas are all buddy-buddy now. They’ve put aside their differences and united . . . in favor of using women and children as human shields.

Wouldn’t you love to see a Hamas leader on Dr. Phil? “How’s that workin’ out for you, Hamas?” Has any Palestinian leader contemplated, “Hey, maybe we need to rethink this calculus? Because throwing the women and children in front of the missiles hasn’t really worked for the past generation.”

Tags: Israel , Hamas

Our Chronically Relaxed President Approaches Vacation Time



Text  



The morning’s news:

The White House late Wednesday confirmed that President Obama and his family will return to Martha’s Vineyard for two weeks of vacation in August.

I’m sure everyone who has griped and will gripe about folks on therRight griping about the president’s vacation denounced this cinematic scene, right?

Does the president really need to relax these days? As mentioned in the Jolt . . . 

President Obama was offered weed in that pool hall in Colorado. Kind of superfluous, isn’t it? Does this look like a guy who needs to relax more?

Forget the relaxants, does anyone have any stimulants to offer him? Sure, caffeine might make him jittery, but right now the guy with the highest-pressure, biggest-consequence job in America is showing all the stress of a late-night radio DJ. He’s got less anxiety than a mid-decade Matthew McConnaughey character. If only the country was doing “alright, alright, alright.”

We know why the president turned down the pot he was offered, of course: Michelle won’t let him have the brownies. The choom’s fine, but she draws the line at the sugar and calories.

There’s a humanitarian crisis on the border, the Middle East is burning down, the midterms look set to be disastrous for Democrats, and Obama’s still convinced he’s LeBron James. If he means cramping when everything is on the line, then yes. Congressional Democrats would probably say LeBron is the better teammate. Ironically, LeBron James is feeling more pressure than the president of the United States right now. But LeBron probably spends more time worrying about the future. President Obama isn’t LeBron James. He’s the Brazilian goalie.

Obama’s got two and a half years left in office, and he’s got high school senioritis. He’s doing more fundraisers than Jerry Lewis.

This morning Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Sheldon Adelson call for comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Finally, the little guys are making the case that amnesty can work for them! You know, the day the Gates Foundation says to its founder, “Sorry, clean out your office — Carlos Slim is willing to do your job for less” then we can talk about the cost-benefit analysis of legalizing those who came here illegally.

The Daily Mail apologized to George Clooney for false reporting . . . and Clooney rejected the apology. The poor guy, such a victim. He’s got it rough. He lectured the newspaper “the coverup is always worse.” Then he went to another Obama fundraiser.

Tags: Barack Obama

Swell: Audit Reveals VA ‘Systematically Overpaying’ up to 13,000 Staff



Text  



Big, busy Jolt to close out the week. I have to parcel it out in sections . . . 

And You Thought You Had Heard All of the Bad News from the VA!

Hey, remember the VA?

The scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs is systematically overpaying clerks, administrators and other support staff, according to internal audits, draining tens of millions of dollars that could be used instead to ease the VA’s acute shortage of doctors and nurses.

The jobs of some 13,000 VA support staff have been flagged by auditors as potentially misclassified, in many cases resulting in inflated salaries that have gone uncorrected for as long as 14 years.

Rather than moving quickly to correct these costly errors, VA officials two years ago halted a broad internal review mandated by federal law. As a result, the overpayments continue.

Moreover, in the two years since thousands of misclassified jobs were identified, hundreds of additional positions have been filled at improperly high salaries. Internal VA documents obtained by The Huffington Post show that between September 2013 and May 2014, for instance, overpayments in annual salaries for the latter jobs alone came to $24.4 million, not counting benefits.

Tags: Veterans Affairs

Pages

Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review