Is there a worse state Attorney General, in any state, anywhere, than Kathleen Kane?

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial board endorses Democrats in virtually every electoral contest; there are a few exceptions, in the case of a moderate Republican in a heavily Republican district, but in any actually competitive race in which the Democrat is not an absolutely certifiable loon, the Inquirer will endorse the Democrat. From today’s editorial page:

The truth about Kane
Inquirer Editorial Board | Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2014, 1:08 AM

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane | Michael S Wirtz, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Photographer

The truth can be bent, obscured, or even, to use Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s felicitous phrase, “half-assed.” But Kane’s assessment of the case against five Democratic officials from Philadelphia could not have been more plainly untrue.

In March, when The Inquirer revealed that Kane had aborted an investigation that caught the officials taking money and jewelry from an informant, the state’s top law enforcer flatly declared the matter unprosecutable. Nine months later, however, it’s being prosecuted.

With charges this week against State Reps. Ron Waters and Vanessa Lowery Brown, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has revived a majority of the cases Kane deemed beyond the law’s reach. And Williams has made it clear that this isn’t exactly catching Capone: His office even released snapshots of the meetings at which Waters and Brown allegedly took the money.

Another defendant, former Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes, became the first to plead guilty in the case on Wednesday. So much for Kane’s assertion that “the prosecution would have failed – no doubt.”


The First Street Journal has not been particularly charitable to the Commonwealth’s Attorney General, but that is understandable: we don’t suffer fools gladly, and having a fool for an Attorney General is not a good thing.  If she were just another ambulance-chaser, no one would care, but she is, supposedly, the chief law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania, and she’s not doing the job she asked the voters to give her.

However, this site is very publicly run by conservatives, and we might be expected to oppose Democrats; when the editors of a Democratic newspaper like The Philadelphia Inquirer start publishing editorials telling their readers that Mrs Kane is a liar and just plain unfit for her job,1 that is something else entirely.

  1. The Editors did mince words, saying that she has a “pattern of misrepresentation” rather than just calling her a liar, and that “Such episodes have raised serious doubts about whether Kane can continue to carry out a job that requires maximum public confidence and trust” rather than saying that she is unfit for her job, but we don’t mince words here.

Even when President Obama gets something right, he gets it wrong

From The Wall Street Journal:

U.S. Restores Cuba Ties in Historic Deal
Obama Thaws Half-Century Freeze; Opponents Vow to Fight End to Embargo
By Carol E. Lee, Jay Solomon and José de Córdoba |Updated Dec. 17, 2014 8:03 p.m. ET

The U.S. and Cuba agreed to restore diplomatic ties after a half century of hostility, ending one of the world’s last Cold War standoffs and launching a realignment of the politics of the Americas.

President Barack Obama and Raúl Castro, in synchronized announcements Wednesday, said that their long-estranged countries would restart cooperation on a range of issues and reestablish an American embassy in Havana that closed in 1961 after the Cuban Revolution.

The leaders agreed to a series of landmark diplomatic steps after reaching a deal to free U.S. aid worker Alan Gross, who was imprisoned in Cuba for the past five years. The White House also agreed to return three Cuban agents jailed in the U.S. in exchange for Cuba’s release of one unnamed American intelligence operative who had been held for nearly two decades.

The policy changes fall short of fully lifting the 54-year U.S. embargo against Cuba, which would require an act from Congress. But they forge significant economic ties between the two nations by allowing American financial institutions to open accounts with Cuban counterparts, easing restrictions on the export of U.S. agricultural and telecommunications gear to Cuba and permitting Americans to use credit and debit cards there. U.S. residents will be allowed to send up to $2,000 every three months to relatives on the island—four times the current limit.

More at the original.

I am not at all opposed to changing the status of our policy toward Cuba, even up to the point of full diplomatic relations, for one obvious reason: our current policy toward Cuba, begun during the Cold War to try to make Communist so unpalatable for the Cuban people that they’d somehow overthrow it, has not worked. In the meantime, we’ve had end-runs around the policy, allowing little breaks for individuals, but the Castro regime is still in place. Fidel Castro is no longer in power, due to the infirmity of age, but his brother Raul is now President, and he’ll rule until he croaks.

Unfortunately, getting the policy right doesn’t mean that the way he did it was wise.

President Nixon, with his strongly anti-Communist reputation, was able to change our relationship with the people’s Republic of China, enabling President Carter to later establish full diplomatic recognition. Something along those lines would have worked better. Given that there is no conservative Republican President on whom President Obama could have built a change in the policy, his better option would have been to go to people like Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), both descendents of Cuban immigrants, and tried to get them on board with policy changes. Since congressional approval is required to lift fully the embargo, the President will need some help, and with the Republicans taking control of both Houses of Congress on January 3rd, he needs Republican help. Taking his proposed policy changes to some congressmen before he just announced his policy changes might have gotten him that; the way he did things guarantees that he won’t.

I sure hope that the police officer wasn’t white . . .

. . . and that the perp wasn’t black, or we’ll have Al Sharpton in Pennsylvania!

Man fatally shot by police in Mayfair
Aubrey Whelan and Emily Babay | Last updated: Monday, December 15, 2014, 6:09 AM

A Frankford man was shot and killed by a Philadelphia police officer early Monday, police said, during a traffic stop and struggle in which the man tried to get to a handgun in his vehicle.

Several witnesses were being interviewed at the department’s homicide unit Monday morning after the 2:45 a.m. traffic stop in Mayfair that led to the struggle.

Police said two uniformed 15th District officers stopped the man, 26, on the 6700 block of Frankford Avenue because he was driving without headlights on, police said, citing preliminary information.

When the officers approached the car, a Dodge Charger with Florida plates, they saw a handgun on the center console of the car, police said.

The officers asked the man to get out of the car, and when he did so, the struggle began, police said.

The man was able to break free from the officers and forced his way to the passenger side of the vehicle, police spokesman Lt. John Stanford said, and tried to retrieve the gun.

That’s when one of the officers fired his own gun, hitting the man once in the head, police said. The man, whose identity has not been released, was pronounced dead at the scene at 3:05 a.m.

Police said the gun in the car, a .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol with eight live rounds, had been reported stolen in July 2013.

The man has four prior arrests, two for attempted murder, police said.

A bit more at the link, but no indication concerning the races of either the police officers or the dead thug.

We do know that, if the dead thug isn’t black or the police officers aren’t white, this will be an entirely local Philadelphia story.

Frack, baby, frack!

One thing I love about the internet is that it is forever! Here’s the tweet that put me on the right path:


Which I followed to the story, in Time magazine:

Why Michele Bachmann’s $2-a-Gallon Gas Promise Is a Fantasy
By Bryan Walsh @bryanrwalsh | Aug. 18, 2011 | 2 Comments

Since virtually the entire field of Republican presidential candidates has decided to abandon science— with the exception of Jon Huntsman, whose negligible support has to be measured with an electron microscope — I could easily spend the next 15 months shooting down every false statement they make about climate change, energy policy or evolution. I’ll pass, though — Climate Progress has that thankless job pretty much covered. One of the reasons I eventually migrated into science and environment writing — after an early career profiling Filipino boxers — is that I find politics and political reporting utterly maddening. So I’ll mostly remain a spectator.

But on Wednesday Michele Bachmann said something that’s just very, very wrong. Which isn’t unusual in and of itself but is something that needs to be debunked. At a campaign stop in South Carolina, the Minnesota Representative took on the high price of gasoline:

The day that the President became President, gasoline was $1.79 a gallon. Look at what it is today. Under President Bachmann, you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again. That will happen.

So Bachmann has promised to bring gasoline below $2 a gallon — a 56% decrease from the current average price of $3.58 a gallon.

Now, there are a few things wrong with this. For one, the $1.79-a-gallon figure that Bachmann cites is from December 2008, before Barack Obama actually took office. (When Obama was inaugurated, gas cost $1.81 — not a big difference, I know, but how hard would it have been to get the right figure? The data are right here.) More important, though, is the reason that gas was — comparatively speaking — so cheap a few years ago. It wasn’t because the U.S. was suddenly pumping more oil, or because the Saudis had decided to flood the market, or because the head of ExxonMobil lost his mind and started to give all Americans a 2-for-1 deal on gas. The U.S. — and the world — was in the depths of the worst recession since the 1930s, depressing demand for everything from data centers to electricity to driving. It’s Econ 101: precipitous falls in demand usually trigger precipitous falls in price, which is what happened to gas prices, dropping from a high of $4.05 a gallon in mid-July 2008 to a low of $1.69 a gallon at the end of December that year. If you see sub-$2-a-gallon gas again, I strongly suggest that you stock up on bottled water and canned tuna, because the economic end times may be at hand.

Of course, the other way to cut prices is to increase supply, and Bachmann and other politicians argue that we could do so by opening up more territory for oil exploration in the U.S. — a policy known in 2008 as “Drill, baby, drill.” She’s right — up to a very, very, very small point. For one, the U.S. under Obama is already producing more oil than it did before he took office. Thanks in part to new shale oil deposits, the U.S. produces a million and a half barrels of oil more today than it did in 2005 — yet during that same time period, gas has gone from about $2 a gallon to $3.50, with large spikes in between. And even if we opened up everything to drilling, it wouldn’t make much difference at the pump. A 2009 study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that opening up drilling areas off the East Coast, West Coast and the western coast of Florida would yield 500,000 extra barrels of oil a day by 2030. That might sound like a lot — except the world consumes 89 million barrels of oil a day, and by then will almost surely be using much more. Five hundred thousand barrels is a drop in your gas tank. Assuming OPEC simply reduced its own production to account for increased American drilling — which it would — prices at the pump might drop a whole 3 cents a gallon.

More at the link. But it’s great seeing a liberal proved wrong! :)

For some, gasoline has fallen below $2
By Chris Isidore @CNNMoney December 3, 2014: 6:59 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) Remember how excited you were when the price of gasoline dropped below $3 a gallon? Now, for a few lucky drivers, its price has fallen below $2.

A gallon of regular unleaded gasoline drops below $2 at this OnCue in Oklahoma City. (Photo: Vince Voit)

The lowest gas in the nation could be found at the OnCue gas station on 44th and Shields in Oklahoma City. Regular gas was selling for just under $2 there on Wednesday. According to Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service and, other parts of the nation will soon see similarly cheap gas prices.

Rural Virginia, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas and maybe New Mexico could be joining Oklahoma in having some gas prices drop below the $2 mark, he said. A smattering of gas prices below $2 could be seen in those states by the weekend.

More at the link.

Naturally, CNN Money tells us that falling gasoline prices is a bad thing, because, heaven forfend! Russia and Vladimir Putin depend on $100 a barrel oil prices for the government budget, and now they will have to cut spending . . . perhaps on things like invading Ukraine? Venezuela, another nation which depends on oil sale revenues, but in which the socialist government can’t even keep toilet paper in decent supply, will lose money. Apparently Margaret Thatcher was right, and the socialists really are running out of other people’s money!

Of course, the dramatic decline in oil prices has led to lower profits for the oil companies, which has led to a drop in the stock market. That impacts middle class Americans, who are seeing a drop in the value of their 401(k) retirement plans,1 but one the opposite side of that equation, the middle class, like everyone else, is spending less at the fuel pump, which makes up for some of the stock value losses. For poorer Americans, it’s a net win all around.

Of course, for the environmentalist whackos, it’s a horrible, horrible thing, and that pleases your Editor no end.

Hydraulic fracturing technology, or “fracking,” has proved the wisdom of Sarah Palin’s “drill, baby, drill” statement. The increase in supply, along with lowered demand due to higher efficiency technologies, has led to dramatically decreasing fuel prices. Had we been smart enough to have elected John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008, and added new drilling areas, along with the Keystone XL pipeline, and hydraulic fracturing to get more out of existing oil and natural gas fields, the drop in prices might have come a couple of years earlier, and the US might have become the world’s number one oil and gas producer sooner.

Michele Bachmann was right in 2011, and Bryan Walsh was wrong.

  1. Full disclosure: this impacts your Editor, too, but since he cashed out in September, at a market high, to buy our retirement property, there was far less in our funds to lose. Further, I look at a drop in stock prices as a buying opportunity.

#COP20Lima : The seriousness of unseriousness

Via William Teach of The Pirate’s Cove, I found this article in The New York Times:

Climate Deal Would Commit Every Nation to Limiting Emissions
By Coral Davenport, December 14, 2014

Representatives applauded at the approval of an agreement reached in Lima, Peru, on Sunday to reduce the global rate of greenhouse gas emissions. (Credit Cris Bouroncle/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

LIMA, Peru — Negotiators from around the globe reached a climate change agreement early Sunday that would, for the first time in history, commit every nation to reducing its rate of greenhouse gas emissions — yet would still fall far short of what is needed to stave off the dangerous and costly early impact of global warming.The agreement reached by delegates from 196 countries establishes a framework for a climate change accord to be signed by world leaders in Paris next year. While United Nations officials had been scheduled to release the plan on Friday at noon, longstanding divisions between rich and poor countries kept them wrangling through Friday and Saturday nights to early Sunday.

The agreement requires every nation to put forward, over the next six months, a detailed domestic policy plan to limit its emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases from burning coal, gas and oil. Those plans, which would be published on a United Nations website, would form the basis of the accord to be signed next December and enacted by 2020.

That basic structure represents a breakthrough in the impasse that has plagued the United Nations’ 20 years of efforts to create a serious global warming deal. Until now, negotiations had followed a divide put in place by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required developed countries to act but did not demand anything of developing nations, including China and India, two of the largest greenhouse gas polluters.

“This emerging agreement represents a new form of international cooperation that includes all countries,” said Jennifer Morgan, an expert on international climate negotiations with the World Resources Institute, a research organization.

More at the link. I included the photograph from the Times article to emphasize just how unserious this was; serious negotiators wear suits and ties, not jeans and wrinkled shirts at international conferences. Thomas Friedman, an Op/Ed columnist from the Times, wrote:

Continue reading ‘#COP20Lima : The seriousness of unseriousness’ »

Rule 5 Blogging: Vive la France!

It’s the weekend and time, once again, for THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL’S version of Rule 5 Blogging. Robert Stacey Stacy McCain described Rule 5 as posting photos of pretty women somewhat déshabillé, but, on this site, our Rule 5 Blogging doesn’t put up pictures of Vanessa Paradis in her summer clothes, but women, in full military gear, serving their countries in the armed forces. The terribly sexist authors on this site celebrate strong women, women who can take care of themselves and take care of others, women who have been willing to put their lives on the line in some not-so-friendly places, women who truly do have the “We can do it!” attitude.

The Wehrmacht rolled over the main French armies in a blitzkrieg attack in the spring of 1940, but some Frenchmen and women continued the fight in the only way available to them: an underground resistance. Here are some of the French resistance fighters.


Continue reading ‘Rule 5 Blogging: Vive la France!’ »

From Around the Blogroll

Kentucky basketball whips North Carolina to pass first test without Poythress
By Jerry Tipton | December 13, 2014

Kentucky’s Marcus Lee battled for a rebound in the first half against North Carolina. (Mark Cornelison, staff photographer, Lexington Herald-Leader)

When Karl-Anthony Towns stepped to the foul line to try to extend a 16-point lead Saturday, a Kentucky fan could be heard calling out to Roy Williams.”Hey, Roy!” he yelled at the North Carolina coach. “How about ‘dem Cats?!”

By then (4:56 left), No. 1 Kentucky was well on the way to a heady 84-70 victory over the Tar Heels and, maybe more importantly, showing that the sudden loss of Alex Poythress less than 48 hours earlier might not be problematic. It certainly wasn’t in game one of the post-Poythress portion of the season.

But even with a convincing victory over No. 21 North Carolina, UK Coach John Calipari advised the Big Blue Nation to proceed cautiously.

“I’m going to tell you, the biggest issue (remains) with us missing Alex,” Calipari said. “And it doesn’t go away. Don’t think, well, they played well without Alex.”

Somewhere, sometime, maybe against UCLA next Saturday or at Louisville the following Saturday, Kentucky will need an athletic play that can’t be scripted or taught.

“Trey doesn’t do that,” Calipari said of Trey Lyles, who started in Poythress’s place against North Carolina. “Trey’s a totally different player. Karl does some of it, but not like Alex does.”

Poythress could do that. But he’s gone after tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament in practice Thursday. To compensate, Calipari said, Kentucky must become more efficient on offense and even better on defense.

“So we’re not in the position to have to have that play,” he said. “Because it’s not there anymore.”

Read more here:

UK is undefeated and ranked number one in the nation, with one more currently ranked team on its schedule, the #4 University of Louisville Cardinals on December 27th.

And now, on to the blogroll!

This is what Senator Feinstein was trying to accomplish

From the Associated Press, via The Philadelphia Inquirer:

U.S. officials must be prosecuted, U.N. says
John Heilprin, Associated Press | Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2014, 1:08 AM

GENEVA, Switzerland – All senior U.S. officials and CIA agents who authorized or carried out torture like waterboarding as part of former President George W. Bush’s national security policy must be prosecuted, top U.N. officials said Wednesday.

It’s not clear, however, how human-rights officials think these prosecutions will take place, since the Justice Department has declined to prosecute and the United States is not a member of the International Criminal Court.

Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said it’s “crystal clear” under international law that the United States, which ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 1994, now has an obligation to ensure accountability.

“In all countries, if someone commits murder, they are prosecuted and jailed. If they commit rape or armed robbery, they are prosecuted and jailed. If they order, enable or commit torture – recognized as a serious international crime – they cannot simply be granted impunity because of political expediency,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hopes the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques at secret overseas facilities is the “start of a process” toward prosecutions, because the “prohibition against torture is absolute,” Ban’s spokesman said.

More at the link.

The lovely Senator Feinstein is trying to get some sort of revenge against President Bush, Vice President Cheney and the people fighting the Islamists around the world. This statement by the Secretary-General increases the chances that senior Bush Administration officials might be arrested if they traveled abroad.

Of course, the proper response of any President who had any actual balls — we recognize that this excludes President Obama — should be, to any country which attempts to seize or arrest any American on these charges is that that country must release our people, immediately, or it will become a radioactive black hole in the ground.

Once the Republicans take control of the Senate in January, they should inform the Democratic Minority Leader that Senator Feinstein will no longer be allowed to serve on the Intelligence Committee, and her security clearance should be revoked.

The left and the working class

From the Op/Ed page of The New York Times:

Have Democrats Failed the White Working Class?
By Thomas B Edsall | December 9, 2014

Why don’t white working-class voters recognize where their economic interests lie? Somewhat self-righteously, Democrats keep asking themselves that question.

A better question would be: What has the Democratic Party done for these voters lately?

Not much!

At work and at home, their lives are worse than they were a generation ago. Their real incomes have fallen, their employment opportunities have diminished, their families have crumbled and their ties to society are fraying.

This is how daily life feels, to many in the white working class. Unlike blacks and Hispanics, whites are not the beneficiaries of affirmative action programs designed to open doors to higher education and better jobs for underrepresented minorities; if anything, these programs serve only to limit their horizons.

Liberal victories in the sexual and women’s rights revolutions – victories that have made the lives of many upscale Democrats more productive and satisfying — appear, from the vantage point of the white working class, to have left many women to struggle as single parents, forced to cope with both male defection from paternal responsibility and the fragmentation of a family structure that was crucial to upward mobility in the postwar period.

This bleak view emerges from two recently published works, “Labor’s Love Lost,” by Andrew Cherlin, a professor of public policy at Johns Hopkins, and “Was Moynihan Right? What Happens to the Children of Unmarried Mothers,” a research report by Sara McLanahan and Christopher Jencks, sociologists at Princeton and Harvard, respectively.

More at the link. We have previously noted that, despite what the official economic numbers might say, polls indicate that 72% of the public believe that we are still in a recession. The official, U-3 unemployment rate, the big number that draws the most attention, remained steady at 5.8% in November, but here are numbers behind the numbers that need attention. For high school graduates 25 years of age or older, with no college, the U-3 rate is 5.6%, but for those over 25 who didn’t complete high school, it is 8.5%; that’s a big number, and remember, it only counts those who are actively looking for work. The U-6 unemployment number1 is 11.4%.

In other words, when we have noted that the “white working class” has deserted the Democrats, it is because they can feel the failure of the Democrats’ policies in their wallets, and in their bones.  Despite the wholly misleading official unemployment number, there are fewer full-time jobs than before the recession began. The Obama Administration’s and the Democrats’ moves to normalize the status of illegal immigrants, opposition to which the left see as racist, simply increases the supply of non-college educated workers vis a vis the demand for such workers, and working class people — white or not — can see that.

Continue reading ‘The left and the working class’ »

  1. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the U-6 unemployment rate as “Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force,” and “Persons marginally attached to the labor force are those who currently are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months. Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached, have given a job-market related reason for not currently looking for work. Persons employed part time for economic reasons are those who want and are available for full-time work but have had to settle for a part-time schedule.”

We told you so! Opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline is costing some people their lives.

We have previously noted that the oil industry’s response to government delays in permitting pipelines simply led to more oil being shipped by rail:

Boom! North America’s Explosive Oil-by-Rail Problem
By Marcus Stern and Sebastian Jones, Reporting for InsideClimate News

Regulators in the United States knew they had to act fast. A train hauling 2 million gallons of crude oil from North Dakota had exploded in the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people. Now they had to assure Americans a similar disaster wouldn’t happen south of the border, where the U.S. oil boom is sending highly volatile crude oil every day over aging, often defective rails in vulnerable railcars.

On the surface, the response from Washington following the July, 6, 2013 explosion seemed promising. Over the next several months, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued two emergency orders, two safety alerts and a safety advisory. It began drafting sweeping new oil train regulations to safeguard the sudden surge of oil being shipped on U.S. rails. The railroad industry heeded the call, too, agreeing to slow down trains, increase safety inspections and reroute oil trains away from populous areas.

But almost a year and a half later—and after three railcar explosions in the United States—those headline-grabbing measures have turned out to be less than they appeared. Idling oil trains are still left unattended in highly populated areas. The effort to draft new safety regulations has been bogged down in disputes between the railroads and the oil industry over who will bear the brunt of the costs. The oil industry is balking at some of the tanker upgrades, and the railroads are lobbying against further speed restrictions.

And rerouting trains away from big cities and small towns? That, too, has been of limited value, because refineries, ports and other offloading facilities tend to be in big cities.

InsideClimate News, The Weather Channel, and The Investigative Fund have monitored the regulatory response to oil train explosions this year, focusing on whether the agency that oversees the railroads—the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)—is able to ensure that the nation’s aging railroad infrastructure can safely handle its latest task: serving as a massive, rickety network of pipelines on wheels.

We found that regulators don’t have the resources to catch up with—let alone, get ahead of—the risks posed by exploding oil trains. That has left the FRA politically outgunned by the railroad industry, leaving it largely to police itself.

There is a lot more at the link. But we noted that “while rail transportation is very safe, accidents do happen, and people get killed. Pipelines can also leak or break, but they have normally not involved anyone being killed. Pipelines are generally safer, and can be made safer still, but nothing is completely risk-free.”

An obvious, if very uncomfortable, question for the vociferous opponents of the Keystone XL Pipeline project: how many lives is it really worth to stop oil pipeline construction?