Jeffrey Sterling convicted; his accomplice remains free

Jeffrey Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, was convicted of espionage today. He was charged with telling a journalist about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. The journalist was James Risen of the New York Times.

Scott has written extensively about this case, focusing on Risen’s disclosure of Sterling’s secrets and the government’s unwillingness to require the journalist to testify in the case. Fortunately, Sterling was convicted without Risen’s testimony. But since this outcome wasn’t assured, the government should have forced Risen to testify or go to jail. For that matter, Risen should have been prosecuted. He was, after all, Sterling’s accomplice.

Eric Holder had this to say following the verdict:

This is a just and appropriate outcome. The defendant’s unauthorized disclosures of classified information compromised operations undertaken in defense of America’s national security. The disclosures placed lives at risk. And they constituted an egregious breach of the public trust by someone who had sworn to uphold it.

As this verdict proves, it is possible to fully prosecute unauthorized disclosures that inflict harm upon our national security without interfering with journalists’ ability to do their jobs.

But Sterling’s disclosures would not have “compromised operations undertaken in defense of America’s national security” and would not have “placed lives at risk” if Risen hadn’t published them. Even the New York Times, Risen’s employer, declined to run Risen’s story; he used Sterling’s material in a book.

Unlike Sterling, Risen took no oath to uphold the public trust. But one can violate the law without having taken such an oath. As Scott says: “if Sterling violated the Espionage Act, it is even clearer that Risen did so too. He is subject to the same criminal liability as Sterling and other citizens for violation of the Espionage Act.”

Holder is correct that it is possible successfully to prosecute unauthorized disclosures that harm our national security without getting journalists to divulge their sources. But it’s also possible for such a prosecution to fail for want of the journalists testimony. That it didn’t happen in Sterling’s case doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

Nor was it a foregone conclusion that it wouldn’t happen in the Sterling case. If the offense is as serious as Holder says — and it is — why not use every avenue possible to force the accomplice to testify?

But a more basic question is, why shouldn’t the government “interfere with journalists’ ability to do their jobs” when, as here, doing the job means “inflict[ing] harm upon national security”? Stated differently, is it the legitimate job of journalists to harm U.S. national security in the manner that Risen did?

The New York Times didn’t view its journalistic mission as requiring it to jeopardize national security by running Risen’s story. Eric Holder seems to believe otherwise. Why?

Scott Walker’s big Iowa challenge

Four years ago, the popular just-retired governor of an Upper Midwest state was pinning his hopes of a presidential run on neighboring Iowa. Those hopes came to an end when Tim Pawlenty withdrew from the presidential race after a poor showing in the Iowa straw poll.

It seemed like a case of being knocked over by a feather. However, Pawlenty needed to do well in Iowa, and was outflanked on the establishment side by the much better-funded Mitt Romney and on the right by Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. I think he correctly read the handwriting on Iowa walls.

Now, another popular Upper Midwest governor needs to do well in Iowa. Accordingly, Scott Walker came to Des Moines this weekend hoping to translate a huge volume of good will into support for a presidential bid.

By all accounts, Walker’s appearance at the Iowa Freedom Summit, hosted by conservative congressman Steve King, went well. According to The Hill:

The Wisconsin governor, in rolled-up shirtsleeves, paced the stage as he blasted big government and touted a long list of conservative reforms he’s pushed through in blue Wisconsin. The governor also showed a rhetorical flourish that’s largely been absent from his previous campaigns, drawing the crowd to its feet multiple times.

“There’s a reason we take a day off to celebrate the 4th of July and not the 15th of April,” he said, almost yelling as his voice grew hoarse. “Because in America we value our independence from the government, not our dependence on it.”

Walker’s speech had something for every element of the activist crowd. The governor touted his three victories over Democrats and recall win as well as his state-level education reforms. Each new policy he helped pass drew cheers: Voter ID laws, education reforms, tax cuts and defunding Planned Parenthood.

Talk to almost any Republican, and Walker will be on his or her shortlist for the presidential nomination. But that probably isn’t good enough. He needs an early primary or caucus victory, or at least a strong second place showing. And he probably won’t be able to survive a middle of the pack finish in a state where he can reasonably be expected to do better.

Given its proximity to Wisconsin, Iowa looks like such a state, just as it was for Pawlenty.

By virtue of the ability to fire up activists that he displayed this weekend (for example), Walker seems better equipped to wow Iowa conservatives than Pawlenty was. But he faces the same structural problem.

Walker is unlikely to be the preferred establishment candidate — that niche presumably will belong to Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney, either/both of whom surely will be better financed. And Walker will be hard-pressed to outflank Ted Cruz and perhaps Rand Paul on the right.

Furthermore, Mike Huckabee (and maybe even Rick Santorum) presumably will have the edge with Iowa evangelical voters. Huckabee and Santorum, not coincidentally, are the winners of the most recent Iowa caucuses.

If Walker is lucky, Bush and Romney will both run (along, maybe with Chris Christie), splitting the “establishment” vote; Santorum will be strong enough to peel away support from Huckabee among evangelicals; and Rand Paul will erode Ted Cruz’s support among Tea Party voters.

But this scenario feels like drawing to an inside straight.

What Walker really needs to do is stand out from the crowd. He’s already well-regarded across the Republican spectrum; now he must set hearts a-flutter on a large scale.

It won’t be easy to become the undisputed Iowa heartthrob. Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio are terrific speakers, and the latter two are (like Walker) fresh faces. None of three can match Walker’s record of governing successfully (though Bush, Christie, Rick Perry, and Bobby Jindal arguably can). But since when is such a record required of a heartthrob, especially among Iowa Republican caucus goers?

In 2011-12, a poorly-funded Santorum broke out in Iowa, and not just among evangelicals, partly through sheer persistence. He wasn’t flashy, but to many he seemed compelling. And he was always around.

But Santorum was running in a much weaker field. And Santorum had no job. Walker still has to govern Wisconsin.

In sum, Walker faces a daunting challenge. The Hill’s report suggests that he could catch fire in Iowa.

Walker isn’t the only Republican who could, but he’s the one I think I’ll be rooting for. At a minimum, Walker deserves to make it into the top tier and obtain the scrutiny of Republicans in a cross-section of states.

Obama Campaign Team Working to Defeat Netanyahu

There is only one world leader whom Barack Obama despises: Benjamin Netanyahu. And now, Obama is putting his campaign organization where his mouth is. Susan Goldberg at PJ Media picks up on a previously untranslated story from Israel’s left-wing newspaper, Haaretz:

A summary of the article is provided by IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis):

Haaretz reporter Roi Arad revealed in an article in the Hebrew edition today [January 26] that the foreign funded organization, “One Voice”, is bankrolling the V-2015 campaign to defeat Binyamin Netanyahu’s national camp in the March 2015 Knesset Elections.

One indication of the generous financing is that it has now flown in a team of five American campaign experts (including Jeremy Bird, the Obama campaign’s national field director) who will run the campaign out of offices taking up the ground floor of a Tel Aviv office building.

V-2015 is careful not to support a specific party – rather “just not Bibi”. As such, the foreign funds pouring into the campaign are not subject to Israel’s campaign finance laws.

Obviously Obama’s national field director would not go to Israel to try to defeat Netanyahu without Obama’s approval and encouragement. As for “One Voice,” what do we know about it other than the fact that it is foreign funded? Breitbart says that “One Voice” is “reportedly funded by American donors,” but is there any assurance that Iran, for example, is not contributing to or controlling “One Voice?”

Be that as it may, President Obama’s interference in Israel’s election is shocking.

You Knew This Was Coming [With Comments by John]

Oh what the heck, we might as well hit for the cycle today.

Headline in the Puffington Host this afternoon:

Is Climate Change To Blame for the Northeast Snow Storm?

You can guess the answer: Of course it is, you ninny, because climate change does everything, remember.  I’m sure the connection between climate change and the New England Patriots’ under-inflated footballs is mere moments away.

JOHN adds: The key point here, of course, is that the warmists’ models didn’t predict that global warming would cause more snow. Rather, the models told us that snow would soon be a thing of the past. Thus, we had this wonderful article in the New York Times, “The End of Snow?” And that wasn’t ancient history: the article appeared just one year ago.

The IPCC, the United Nations’ pro-global warming lobbying group, declared unequivocally in 2001 that warming would mean fewer heavy snowfalls. This is a screen shot from the IPCC’s 2001 report, courtesy of Climate Depot:

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 7.25.05 PM

Only it turned out that–heh–the current decade is the worst ever recorded for major impact snowstorms on the East Coast, with 14, even though it is only half over. So now the alarmists are changing their tune, and blaming snowstorms on global warming. (The same thing is going on in Germany.) This is a perfect illustration of why global warming alarmism is not science. If you are doing science, you come up with a theory and you identify implications of that theory–if the theory is correct, then what facts will be observable? If those facts are not observed, the theory has been proved wrong. When no state of affairs can ever be deemed inconsistent with a theory, then the theory is not a scientific theory at all, but rather a religious or spiritual belief. Or possibly just a hoax.

Hottest Year Claim Becomes Hot Potato

Oh, well, since I’m on a climate jag today, might as well pass along the following clarification offered by environmental reporter stenographer Seth Borenstein of the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a story Jan. 16, The Associated Press reported that the odds that nine of the 10 hottest years have occurred since 2000 are about 650 million to one. These calculations, as the story noted, treated as equal the possibility of any given year in the records being one of the hottest. The story should have included the fact that substantial warming in the years just prior to this century could make it more likely that the years since were warmer, because high temperatures tend to persist.

The story also reported that 2014 was the hottest year on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA, but did not include the caveat that other recent years had average temperatures that were almost as high — and they all fall within a margin of error that lessens the certainty that any one of the years was the hottest.

An earlier version of the story quoted Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis as noting that the margin of error makes it uncertain whether 2014 was warmest, or the second, third or sixth warmest year. She said that regardless, the trend shows a “clear, consistent and incontrovertible” warming of Earth. That reference to the margin of error was dropped in later versions.

This pretty much a complete rout for the talking point.  The climatistas are clearly having a bad week.  Kudos to Marc Morano for keeping the heat (heh) on about this.

Russian Roulette, anyone?

Some Republican Senators are contemplating an attempt to change the rules for confirming Supreme Court Justices. Under their proposal, confirmation could occur with only a bare majority, as it now can for lower court judges and cabinet members. Lamar Alexander and Roy Blunt are behind the push for this change.

I find no merit in it. Sure, the change would make it easier for a Republican president to have Supreme Court nominees confirmed. But when will we have a Republican president? No one knows.

It’s clear, on the other hand, that we will have a Democratic president until 2017. Why make it easier for Obama high court nominees to be confirmed? It seems insane to do so.

Republicans, to be sure, have enough votes to block an Obama nominee, but only if nearly every Republican is on board. It’s far from clear that Senate Republicans would rally to defeat an Obama nominee unless he or she has an egregious record. Lisa Murkowski, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain (to name three Senators) tend to defer to the president in these matters. Mark Kirk faces a very tough re-election campaign in a dark blue state.

In 2017, Republican representation in the Senate is likely to decrease, and it’s possible that Democrats will have a majority. Thus, any hope of blocking the nominees of Hillary Clinton (or any Democratic president) would very likely depend on retaining the filibuster.

If Republicans win the White House and keep control of the Senate, they can consider abolishing the filibuster. At that point, there will be an obvious upside to doing so. Right now, an upside is lacking.

It’s possible that in 2017 Republicans will control the White House but not the Senate. In this scenario, the GOP will be better off if there is no filibuster because Supreme Court nominees could be confirmed with only minimal support from Democratic Senators. However, if Republicans abolish the filibuster now, what is to prevent Democrats from reinstating it in 2017, assuming (as we do in this scenario) they control the Senate at that point?

So far, I haven’t discussed the merits, partisan politics aside, of allowing Supreme Court nominees to be filibustered. Alexander and Blunt point out that for nearly all of our history, Justices could be confirmed with only a majority of the Senate vote.

But Supreme Court Justices weren’t always as important as they are today. These days, with presidents so assertive in expanding executive power and Justices so immodest about asserting theirs, Anthony Kennedy is probably the second most powerful man in America. As such, there’s a good case, partisanship aside, for requiring confirmation by a super majority.

The effect of a super-majority requirement is to deter presidents from nominating “extremist” would-be Justices (or at least would-be Justices who have shown themselves to be extreme). That’s a mixed blessing. One man’s extremist is another’s brilliant jurist. Conservatives don’t want a Court of nine Ruth Ginsburg’s and liberals don’t want a Court of nine Antonin Scalia’s. But who wants a Court of nine Sandra Day O’Connor’s?

The Alexander-Blunt proposal doesn’t require us to adjudicate this or other questions of jurisprudence. Common sense is a sufficient guide. The modern Supreme Court is too important for a game of Russian roulette.

Advice to Climatistas: Stop Sniffing Model Glue

Science Daily summarizes a new study in Geophysical Research Letters, one of the leading climate science journals, about how climate models are struggling (to put it mildly) to explain decade-by-decade climate variability.  On the one hand, the study seems to attempt to downplay the significance of the recent temperature “pause,” but at the price of inadvertently undermining the climate models themselves.  At least that’s how I read this summary:

A new Duke University-led study finds that most climate models likely underestimate the degree of decade-to-decade variability occurring in mean surface temperatures as Earth’s atmosphere warms. The models also provide inconsistent explanations of why this variability occurs in the first place.

These discrepancies may undermine the models’ reliability for projecting the short-term pace as well as the extent of future warming, the study’s authors warn. As such, we shouldn’t over-interpret recent temperature trends.

“The inconsistencies we found among the models are a reality check showing we may not know as much as we thought we did,” said lead author Patrick T. Brown, a Ph.D. student in climatology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

Don’t know as much as we thought we did?  But settled science!  And 97 percent!

There’s more:

“When you look at the 34 models used in the IPCC report, many give different answers about what is causing this decade-to-decade variability,” he said. “Some models point to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation as the cause. Other models point to other causes. It’s hard to know which is right and which is wrong.”

Hopefully, as the models become more sophisticated, they will coalesce around one answer, Brown said.  (Emphasis added.)

In other words: “C’mon people—we need to get our story straight!”

P.S. There’s this curious bit in the middle of this summary:

To conduct their study, they analyzed 34 climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its fifth and most recent assessment report, finalized last November.

The analysis found good consistency among the 34 models explaining the causes of year-to-year temperature wiggles, Brown noted. The inconsistencies existed only in terms of the model’s ability to explain decade-to-decade variability, such as why global mean surface temperatures warmed quickly during the 1980s and 1990s, but have remained relatively stable since then.

So let’s see if we have this straight: we can explain annual changes fairly well, but can’t get longer-term changes right?  Isn’t this exactly the opposite of what you’d expect—unless it means the annual model runs are being tweaked to match up with the temperature record of the individual year in question?  This sounds like doing the TV weather forecast a day later.