Did John Podesta commit a serious ethics violation?

Richard Pollack of the Daily Caller reports that John Podesta, a key adviser to President Obama, may have violated ethical rules by helping to formulate a new White House policy that seeks to end any future drilling for oil on Alaska’s Artic National Wildlife Refuge. The ethical issue arises because just before he came to the White House, John Podesta was paid $87,000 by a foreign billionaire devoted to preventing energy exploration on American land.

The billionaire is Hansjorg Wyss. According to Pollack, he hired Podesta as a “consultant.”

Wyss had been a major donor to Podesta’s Center for American Progress, contributing $4 million to the group during Podesta’s tenure. He has given than $110 million to activist organizations since 2008 and spent $35 million to set aside from development a large chunk of land in Montana.

Various federal ethics rules, including the highly publicized “ethics pledge” Obama signed into law on his first day in office, preclude political appointees from engaging in issues of interest to a former employer. Political appointees are “not [to] work on any matter” if the work of their previous employer “would raise a question regarding the employee’s impartiality.” The law applies to White House officials.

The prohibition extends for two years. Podesta began working for Obama at the start of 2014.

Wyss, by virtue of his “consulting” payment to Podesta, would seem to be a “former employer” for these purposes. And it appears that Wyss had a strong interest in the issue of protecting Alaska’s coastal plain from oil drilling. Work by Podesta on behalf of an interest of a man who had recently paid him $87,000 would, I think, raise a question regarding Podesta’s impartiality.

Cleta Mitchell, a well-respected attorney who has played a leading role in trying to bring justice to those victimized by IRS targeting, agrees. She says:

So [Podesta] was just doing the bidding of a Swiss billionaire and he’s in the White House to do it. That’s pretty clear. If he didn’t recuse himself then that’s what he’s done.

This Washington Post article suggests that Podesta, rather than recusing himself, was influential in the decision to preclude drilling in Alaska’s Artic National Wildlife Refuge.

Pollack notes that political appointees can avoid violating the ethics problem in question by getting an official waiver. He says it’s unclear whether Podesta ever sought or received a waiver; the White House press operation declined to address the matter. On the facts presented by Pollock, a waiver seems inappropriate.

Podesta is preparing to leave the White House. He is expected to take a top position with Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

With his dubious ethical sense, Podesta will fit right in.

Looks Like the Warmists Were Right After All!

I’ve seen TV weather broadcasts go badly wrong, but this is one that might make even Michael Mann blush—Thermageddon after all!  (About 1 minute long.) (more…)

Hashtag This!

The only real question is, what took Remy so long to mock our brilliant Hashtag diplomacy?  (Actually, he’s been really busy lately—we’ve talked—but there are priorities man!) (more…)

The Kobane victory and the hard work Obama is unwilling to do

ISIS apparently has been defeated in the town of Kobane, Syria to which it laid siege months ago. The Obama administration hopes that this defeat will discourage potential recruits from joining ISIS. According to a senior State Department spokesman, the lesson for those considering enlistment is:

You’re not going to be a part of something great, you’re not going to have a house, you’re not going to have a female slave. If you’re an 18 year old disaffected guy looking for adventure. . .what was glory and conquest is now hundreds of bodies in he the streets of Kobane.

This is a rare instance of sound foreign policy/defense thinking by the administration. The leftist theme of the Bush era — U.S. military intervention helps enemy recruiting — seemingly has been abandoned. You set back enemy recruiting by setting back the enemy on the battlefield. It has ever been thus.

But there’s a fallacy in Team Obama’s triumphalist thinking. We aren’t doing well enough against ISIS to expect its recruitment to suffer materially.

As the editors of the Washington Post contend, preventing the fall of one border hamlet, though a welcome development, should not be viewed as a turning point. ISIS still controls vast amounts of territory in Syria and Iraq. And in Syria, the Post points out, ISIS “faces little pressure from Western airstrikes and is growing stronger rather than weaker.”

If you join ISIS, you can still hope to have that home and the female slave.

According to the Post, 75 percent of our bombing missions in Syria were directed at relieving Kobane. In theory, this might mean that, with ISIS turned back there, our bombing campaign against ISIS in other areas of Syria will become far more robust.

In practice, we shouldn’t count on it. Kobane had received a large amount of media attention. Accordingly, Obama probably figured he needed to throw significant U.S. resources into that fight. In other parts of Syria, not so much.

Anyway, bombing won’t be enough to defeat ISIS in its Syrian strongholds. Foot soldiers are required.

The Kurds provided them in Kobane, but elsewhere we need the Syrian rebel force Obama has talked about training. Yet that training effort is proceeding at “a snail’s pace,” to use the Post’s description. CIA assistance to rebel groups has been so limited that many fighters have defected to more militant Sunni groups including al Qaeda and ISIS, according to the Post.

It’s almost as if Obama doesn’t really want to help Syrian rebels, lest he upset the clerics in Iran who are propping up the Assad regime. This, indeed, is the Post’s conclusion. The editors write:

Mr. Obama has convinced himself that it’s not possible or desirable to create a Syrian force that could defeat the regime of Bashar al-Assad. . . .The adminstration appears to believe that Iran’s cooperation in Syria will flow from a hoped-for deal on its nuclear program — and conversely, that no action can be taken in Syria that might upset Tehran before such a deal is struck.

But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has strongly rejected cooperation with the United States on regional security. Nor will traditional U.S. allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, consent to a new Syrian order sponsored by Iran.

Obama, by contrast, seems prepared to consent to just about anything Iran wants — Israel, the Saudis, the lives of tens of thousands of Syrians, and the fight against ISIS be damned.

Is the Obama Administration Funding Opposition to Netanyahu?

We wrote here and here about the fact that the Obama administration is actively working to defeat Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu in that country’s upcoming election. Obama’s national field director, Jeremy Bird, has traveled to Israel to organize the opposition to Netanyahu. He is working in conjunction for the foreign-funded organization “One Voice,” which is leading the campaign to unseat Netanyahu and elect a leftist government.

That One Voice collaborates with Barack Obama’s State Department is no secret. The U.S. Department of State is listed as a “partner” of One Voice on that organization’s web site, along with Britain’s Labour and Conservative Parties, Harvard University, Google, the Association of British Muslims, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and others.

Today Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Lee Zeldin wrote to John Kerry, asking whether American taxpayer dollars are going toward the effort to unseat Israel’s government:

20150129 Letter to Secretary Kerry

As the letter notes, One Voice has received two cash grants from the Obama State Department in 2014. Cruz and Zeldin make a number of very reasonable requests for information from the State Department, but they’ll never get it. There is only one play in the Obama playbook: stonewall.

In the meantime, Obama says it would be “inappropriate” to meet with Netanyahu when the Prime Minister is in the U.S. in March, given the proximity of the Israeli election–an election that Obama is trying to sway toward Netanyahu’s opponents. The man deserves a place in the hypocrisy hall of fame.

The Number One Mystery of Deflate-gate

Is Deflate-gate the dumbest story in the history of sports, or what? I suppose it is remotely possible that someone associated with the Patriots might have deflated some footballs, or perhaps it was sabotage by the Colts–after all, the Patriots played much better after halftime when the balls were re-inflated. But speculation about such skulduggery is hardly necessary.

The NFL has been closemouthed about the facts its investigation has revealed so far, but according to NBC’s Pro Football Talk, the underinflation was minimal:

As one league source has explained it to PFT, the football intercepted by Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was roughly two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum. The other 10 balls that reportedly were two pounds under may have been, as the source explained it, closer to one pound below 12.5 PSI.

If you inflate a ball to 12.5 psi at 69 degrees and let it cool to 50 degrees, the outdoor temperature at game time, it will lose a pound of pressure:

Recent news reports reveal that the balls used by the Patriots were not under inflated by 2 psi but only by about 1 psi. The only ball with a 2 psi drop was the one handled by the Colts!!

Repeating the calculations above using a 1 psi loss results in an initial temperature of 69F and not 91F. A locker-room temperature of 69F seems well within normal range. No additional pressure loss due to humid air is necessary.

Additionally, the written report by HeadSmart™Labs on their ACTUAL testing of 12 footballs indicated an average pressure loss of 1.1 psi due to the inside/outside temperature differential alone and another pressure loss of 0.7 psi due to the wetting of the balls. Natural conditions alone explain “deflategate.”

It probably happens all the time that balls inflated to 12.5 psi are more like 11 or 11.5 psi under playing conditions, but no one ever tests them. Until now.

As Deflate-gate has spun out of control, the most hilarious development has been the identification of a “person of interest”–a man on the Patriots’ equipment staff who carried two bags, each containing a dozen balls, after they had been tested by the referees, to the playing field. Surveillance video–I’m not making this up–shows that on his way to his destination, he ducked into a men’s room, from which he emerged 90 seconds later.

The internet went into a tizzy. Is 90 seconds enough to deflate 12 footballs?

So a man enters a bathroom, closes the door, and comes out a minute and a half later. Hmm. Ted Wells, give me a call. I think I can solve the mystery.

As we have said before on much more serious occasions, we live in a world gone mad.

John McCain Speaks For Me On CodePink

This morning the Senate Armed Services Committee conducted a hearing at which Henry Kissinger was a witness. When Kissinger entered the committee chamber, a ragtag group of ten or so CodePink members stood up, holding signs and chanting “Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes.” One of them dangled a pair of handcuffs. The demonstrators were virtually standing over Kissinger, as for some reason the Capitol Police were absent or were slow to act.

John McCain was presiding over the hearing. When the disturbance died down, he let the CodePink miscreants have it with both barrels. “Low-life scum” is, in my view, a fair assessment of their character:

This persecution of Kissinger has been going on for decades. It has something to do with Vietnam, apparently. Quite a few years ago, Kissinger spoke at the Annual Dinner of the Center of the American Experiment here in Minneapolis. I was astonished, even then, to see a little group of “war crimes” protesters show up in front of the venue. How long can these leftists continue to hate? Forever, seemingly.

On this one, John McCain deserves the thanks of civilized people everywhere. Well done, Senator McCain!