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K.C. Shop’s Panties in a Twist after DHS Seizes World Series Lingerie

Credit where it is due, Fox News beat me to the panties-in-a-twist headline, but how can one resist with a story like this? Via Fox:

When two burly men walked into a Missouri women’s underwear store Tuesday, the owners didn’t think much of it — until the pair flashed their Homeland Security badges and confiscated several dozen panties bearing the initials “KC” in honor of the Kansas City Royals.

Danielle Meister, co-owner of Birdies Panties shop, said the undercover agents seized the lingerie, claiming the store violated copyright laws by selling underwear with “Take the Crown” and “KC” printed across the rear. Meister and her business partner, Peregrine Honig, said they wanted to celebrate the success of their hometown team — which on Wednesday night beat the San Francisco Giants to tie the World Series at one game apiece — by designing the panties.

The offending apparel can be seen here.

There are two points to be made here. First, it is probably true that “counterfeit merchandise is a serious problem,” in the words of Major League Baseball spokesman Matt Bourne. And the Department of Homeland Security regularly makes confiscatory visits around major sporting events not because we regard knock-off athletics gear as a national security threat but because U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is housed under DHS. Meister and Honig were in violation of the law, so the visit was warranted. But there remains something a touch cringeworthy about brawny federal agents seizing ladies’ delicates from two hometown fans. “[The agents] did not seem to want to carry out their appointed task that day,” said Meister, recounting the two men professionally required “to stand there and count the panties.” This situation — somewhat like police visits to lemonade stands — is a reminder that the law is always brushing up against concerns about community and the array of human relations that is, in principle, not justiciable.

The second point is more of a suggestion: Several outlets have noted that the current World Series is experiencing record-low television viewership. If the executives at Major League Baseball were truly canny, they would not clamp down on Meister and Honig. They would encourage the gals to sell, sell, sell, and then invite some of their comely customers to advertise their purchase at the games. That would probably increase viewership. At least, among a certain demographic.

Polling for a Georgia (or Louisiana) Runoff

Andrew, maybe I’m missing something. Heck, I’m sure I’m missing something. Nonetheless, it seems to me that any polls conducted prior to Election Day pertaining to a runoff are beyond useless. The electorate for a runoff will no doubt be different. Moreover, if there’s a runoff in Georgia or Louisiana, it would quite possibly mean control of the entire Senate would be on the ballot. That would change voter strategy enormously, it seems to me. It would also attract a kajillion-bajillion dollars of outside money, an army of political activists and a ridiculous amount of media attention. I don’t know what the result would be, of course, but all things being equal, turning a senate race in Georgia into a referendum on the Obama presidency and Harry Reid’s control of the senate might be worth a few points to the Republicans. 

Polls: Orman Still Holds Small Lead in Kansas

Independent Greg Orman continues to lead Republican incumbent Pat Roberts in Kansas’s unexpectedly competitive Senate race, with two new polls showing Orman with a small lead.

The latest Rasmussen survey shows Roberts trailing by five points, the biggest gap in weeks for the Republican, with Orman at 49 percent to Roberts’s 44 percent. Three percent say they will support another candidate, and 5 percent are still undecided.

Meanwhile, a Gravis Marketing survey is more in line with other recent polls, which have shown the race within the margin of error. Orman has a slight edge, 47–45, with a 3 percent margin of error. Another 8 percent are undecided.

Roberts has either led or been within the margin of error in every poll since the beginning of the month, with the exception of the new Rasmussen one.

October 24, 2014

Rep. Jim Jordan Grills HHS Official Over Wasteful Spending While Ebola Work Languished

Republican representative Jim Jordan grilled a top federal health official Nicole Lurie over why the government seems to have expended so much resources on odd types of research while letting work on an Ebola vaccine languish.

The Ohio lawmaker zeroed in on grants provided by the National Institutes of Health for projects such as children’s puppet shows and studies on the health benefits of rerun television. The official, Dr. Nicole Lurie, is responsible for approving and coordinating such grants.

“Might we be a little closer to having a vaccine today if you weren’t allowing all this millions of dollars — $39 million — to be spent on what many Americans view as questionable uses for their tax dollars, particularly in light of the fact that we have an Ebola outbreak in the United States?” Jordan asked.

Lurie explained that two separate vaccines were already in “safety testing.” But Jordan wouldn’t let up. “Might we be further along if that money had not been spent someplace, and could have been applied to the question at hand?” he asked.

“I don’t believe that would be the case,” she replied. 

“You don’t think $39 million would help us get closer to the development of a vaccine?” the congressman asked.

“The development of a vaccine is a long and complicated process,” she said, before finally saying she is “not in a position to comment on the overall NIH budget.”


New Ga. Poll Shows Nunn Up on Perdue in Hypothetical January Runoff

Three new polls find that Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue remain close in Georgia’s Senate race, quite possibly headed for a January runoff, and the latest CNN/ORC survey offers one of the first glimpses of how the two might fare head-to-head.

According to the CNN poll, in the general election in November, Nunn holds a slight lead over Perdue among likely voters, with 47 percent of the vote to his 44 percent. Libertarian candidate Amanda Swafford receives 5 percent. If no candidate tops 50 percent of the vote, the election heads to a runoff to be held January 6.

Nunn continues to have a small edge in a runoff, with 51 percent to Perdue’s 47 percent. Take the result with a grain of salt: CNN notes that this poll is intended to model general-election turnout, not runoff turnout, which typically looks different.

The CNN/ORC November predictions mirror results from other pollsters over the past two days. An InsiderAdvantage/Fox5/Morris News survey gave Nunn a two-point lead over Perdue, while, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll finds Perdue up by the same margin, with 44 percent support. Neither looked at the results of a potential runoff.

Bring Back Our Girls, in Iraq

I just heard a report from the head of Catholic Media International, who is on the front lines in northern Iraq, six miles from Islamic State–controlled territory. Catholic churches are opening their doors to both Christians and Yazidis, the Christian militia is one of the only things standing between these people and the mass slaughter of men and the sexual enslavement of women. In territories controlled by the Islamic State they are making a living inviting Saudis and others to come in and buy women for sexual use.

Ancient evils are alive today. I was told the Assyrian Aid Society of America is a lead organization on the ground there. I signed up to give them $50 a month. I feel pathetic.  

Dem Rep: Government ‘Happy Talk’ on Ebola Makes Me Worry

Massachusetts representative Stephen Lynch expressed extreme skepticism of the government’s confidence in their ability to control a U.S. Ebola outbreak, claiming the feds’ “happy talk” on the virus makes him very nervous. 

The Democratic lawmaker spoke Friday at a House Oversight Committee hearing on Ebola, where he questioned the government panelists’ rosy assessment of the health system’s preparations for further Ebola cases. He was particularly concerned over surveys showing that the vast majority of American nurses believe neither they nor their facilities are ready for an outbreak. 

“Now I understand we don’t want to panic people,” he said. “But we also don’t need happy talk, in terms of what we’re dealing with. And maybe it’s just me, but lately when a government agency comes before this committee, especially, and tells me ‘There’s nothing to worry about, we got this’ — that’s when I start to worry.”

Greenpeace Fires Official for Condoning Vote Fraud in ‘Ghetto Aurora’

Greenpeace has fired one of its key Colorado officials, Christen Topping, over her comments condoning the creation of fraudulent ballots using that state’s vote-by-mail system. She went beyond that and told filmmaker James O’Keefe the exact street corner in “ghetto Aurora” where he could find ballots in trash cans that could be fraudulently mailed in. She said residents of the “ghetto” were unlikely to vote because they “don’t really care.”

Greenpeace spokesman Molly Dorozenski said Topping’s statements were not in accord with the values of Greenpeace and “her contract has been terminated.”

O’Keefe now wants to know what Alan Franklin, the CEO of Work for Progress, a liberal activist group whose literature clearly states it is working to reelect Democratic senator Mark Udall in Colorado, will respond to his video. Franklin’s state director, Meredith Hicks, told O’Keefe that committing voter fraud using unused ballots was perfectly okay. “That’s not even lying or stealing, if someone throws out the ballot. If you want to fill it out you should do it,” she told O’Keefe on tape.

When the TV station FOX31 in Denver finally reached Hicks yesterday for her reaction to O’Keefe’s video she was apparently nervous. She “initially told FOX31 Denver she knew O’Keefe but then said she didn’t recall” the conversation she had with him just a few days before.  “I don’t have anything to say about that,” she said.

O’Keefe told me he is curious if Franklin will follow the lead of Greenpeace and fire an employee who clearly condones the casting of illegal ballots, and, indeed, thinks it isn’t akin to “lying or stealing.”

Is Disability Insurance Fixable?

Jagadeesh Gokhale of the Cato Institute takes on the issue:

According to the Social Security Trustees, the program’s trust fund will be fully depleted in 2016, compelling either a large benefit cut or a large tax hike—neither option being politically popular. Regardless of the program’s insolvency, SSDI creates substantial work disincentives, causing many with medical impairments who could work to withdraw from the labor force and apply for SSDI. . . .

Many beneficiaries express a desire to return to work but fear of losing benefits and health coverage under SSDI’s current benefit rules impedes such a decision. . . . Shifting benefits at the margin toward paying beneficiaries to work rather than to remain out of the work force would encourage beneficiaries with residual work capacities to return to work. That shift would serve as a backstop to reduce the economic loss from wrongful allowances of applicants into SSDI. Such a switch in benefit design can be accomplished without compromising benefit eligibility for those who cannot work. 

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Donetsk: Into Permanent Twilight

It’s often said that what Putin is looking for in eastern Ukraine is a “frozen conflict” such as that on the borders of Moldova (Transnistria) and Georgia (Ossetia and Abkhazia), a permanently unresolved status for “Novorossiya” that will both enable it to act as Moscow’s proxy and contribute to the longer-term destabilization of Ukraine. If there’s one thing that Moscow fears it is the development of a democratic and prosperous Ukraine. Ukraine is in many, many senses (and despite all the obvious difficulties) the nation that Russians regard as being closest to their own country. To see Ukraine — a nation with millions of Russian-speakers, incidentally — succeeding in carving out a future very different from what the Kremlin has in mind either for Ukrainians or its own people would, just by the force of example, represent a profound challenge to the current regime in Moscow.

And that is the real nature of the threat that Ukraine’s reorientation towards the west: It is a threat not to Russia, but to the people who run it.

This story from RFE of the fate of an artist in Donetsk is bad enough in its own right, but its description of a city falling into a permanent twilight is also deeply disturbing.

Donetsk artist Serhiy Zakharov once preferred the bright rays of the July sun to the faint gaze of the midnight moon — at least when it came time to set up his street installations mocking pro-Russian separatists.

“It wasn’t realistic to do it at night, because there weren’t people, just armed separatists driving around,” Zakharov told RFE/RL’s Russian Service from Kyiv, where he’s moved after a month and a half as a captive of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. “I would quickly scope out a location, set up my work, have the photographer take a picture, then we’d call it a day and get out of there.”

Without the time to stencil his images into Donetsk’s many facades, he would construct painted plywood cutouts in advance. But when the artworks — which included former insurgent commander Igor Strelkov holding a gun to his head above the Nike catchphrase, “Just Do It” — went viral, the artist’s situation became more precarious. Tracked down and apprehended outside his studio in early August, Zakharov says that during two stints in captivity separatists fractured his left and right ribs and threatened him with execution three times….

When Zakharov began his guerrilla street art campaign three months ago, the separatist movement felt to him like an unpleasant, but transient, phenomenon. He says that although many supported the separatists, others felt at ease laughing at and photographing his work.

But no one dares criticize the de-facto authorities now.

“By the time I left, the situation had changed,” he says. “It seems that Donetsk has been abandoned, tossed away. People have returned and at the household level things have gotten better. There are some [artillery] volleys here and some shooting there — but for residents this is already something they’ve become accustomed to.”

Today in Gender Gappery

Janet Hook writes in the Wall Street Journal that the gender gap is shrinking, and declining female support for Democrats is hurting them in the Iowa, Colorado, and Arkansas Senate races. The Democrats are indeed in trouble, but there’s little evidence that it’s because the gender gap is shrinking.

As I noted yesterday, though, the gap between Arkansas men and women is about the same as usual, with the men more Republican than the women. The Democrats’ problem is that their base level of support is too low. (Hook looks at the same poll I did but does not compare it to any historical examples.)

Colorado provides some evidence for the shrinking-gender-gap theory: A Suffolk/USA Today poll has Representative Cory Gardner, the Republican, pulling equal support from men and women. If true, it would break from the nearly universal pattern of modern elections. I’d want to see some confirmation before believing it. Quinnipiac has a poll out today showing Gardner doing ten points better among men than women (and winning overall).

In Iowa, it’s the same old story. Hook cites a Marist poll from early October in which men were 12 points more likely to back the Republican than women were.

And she also throws in the Texas governor’s race, where the Republican candidate is narrowly winning among women — who are 13 points less likely to back him than men are. The gender gap isn’t “closing” there.

There’s a terminological problem here: Sometimes people use the phrase “gender gap” just to mean the margin by which women support Democrats. In some races that gap disappears or even inverts. But you can easily trip yourself up when you analyze the gap this way. Here’s Hook: 

There has long been a gender divide in U.S. politics, with women more inclined to support Democrats and men more inclined to support Republicans. One rare exception came in 2010, when the GOP gained 63 House seats and six in the Senate as women backed Republicans, 49% to 48%, exit polls showed. Four years earlier, Democrats held a 55%-43% advantage.

The 2010 election wasn’t a “rare exception”: Women remained “more inclined to support Democrats” than men, by six points. That was a larger gender gap than in the 2006 elections, when it was four points.

Overall it looks like the Democrats’ problem this year is weak support among men and women alike. The gender gap is staying in place.

Charlie Baker Up Nine in New Mass. Gov Poll

One poll is just one poll, our inner Nate Silver should remind us, but Republican candidate Charlie Baker now appears to have a solid lead over his Democratic opponent in the Massachusetts governor’s race: He’s up by nine points on attorney general Martha Coakley in the latest poll from the Boston Globe. He was tied in last week’s survey by the paper; in another weekly poll released earlier this week, he’s also moved ahead.

Baker, a former state cabinet member under Governors Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci and later a health-insurance executive, is now leading Coakley by 4.5 points in the Real Clear Politics average of polls.

Coakley is attending a fundraiser today in Boston with Hillary Clinton, Governor Deval Patrick (the relatively popular chief executive who beat Baker in 2010) and Senator Elizabeth Warren. In the great tradition of the Boston Garden and Fenway Park, the press have been given superb obstructed-view seating:

Grover Norquist on Rand Paul’s Foreign Policy Speech: ‘I Think I Just Heard Ronald Reagan’

Conservative anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist praised Senator Rand Paul’s foreign-policy speech on Thursday, comparing the Kentucky Republican’s vision favorably to that of President Ronald Reagan.

Seeking to silence critics who call him an isolationist, the likely 2016 presidential candidate rebranded his foreign policy as “conservative realism” during a speech at the Center for the National Interest. He focused particularly on the 2011 U.S. intervention in Libya, which he said created a “jihadist wonderland” and was not in our national interest.”

The speech impressed Norquist, with several reporters overhearing the Americans for Tax Reform president liken Paul’s foreign-policy outlook to President Reagan’s:

Paul’s more hawkish critics pounced on Norquist’s praise. “No, that was George McGovern,” Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol tweeted in response to Norquist’s statement. 

Why Is Eric Holder Assertiing Privilege over
E-mails with His Wife?

In Judicial Watch’s FOIA dispute with the Department of Justice over Fast and Furious documents, there are some curious developments. The Department of Justice produced a so-called Vaughn index this week, which detailed the documents that had been withheld as exempt from disclosure under FOIA and explained, in brief detail, the basis for the withholding. This is standard operating procedure in FOIA litigation. What is hardly standard is that DOJ has withheld as exempt from disclosure maybe a dozen or so e-mails sent by Holder to his wife’s e-mail address. These documents are designated as exempt from disclosure under the “deliberative process” privilege, which protects the internal pre-decisional communications of the government. Thus, for instance, before an agency regulation is adopted, the privilege protects from disclosure all the internal communications of agency staff about the content of the regulation.

So how on earth could a communication between Eric Holder and his wife, a non-governmental physician, be exempt from disclosure? There are a couple of possible explanations. First, the most innocuous one, is that Holder simply used his wife’s e-mail address to e-mail some document from his work address to himself at some other location (home, vacation, etc.). This would not be an earthshattering invocation of the exemption, although it might raise questions of whether Holder has waived the exemption by sharing privileged communications outside the government. Looking at the index, there is some reason to suspect that this is what occurred. For instance, the government withholds all or part of an e-mail from Holder addressed to his wife and his mother on privacy grounds (to protect personal information, such as personal e-mail addresses). That email (entry 15332 on the index) appears from the description to just be forwarding PDFs of letters from Congress. Holder may have simply forwarded them to family e-mail addresses to print for himself. While you can question whether Holder is careless in his handling of federal documents, there is nothing particularly controversial about the claim of a FOIA exemption here if this turns out to be the case.

Delving deeper into the realm of conjecture, it is possible, though less likely, that the government is asserting some sort of spousal communications privilege as an overlay to the deliberative process privilege. Normally, sharing privileged documents with persons unprotected by the privilege waives the privilege. But the government might be contending that there is no waiver here because confidential communications between spouses are protected (in many states) from disclosure in civil litigation and thus are exempt under FOIA. This would be a novel FOIA claim, to be sure, and would likely be met with some skepticism by a federal judge. And given that the privilege logs do not cite the spousal communications privilege, it seems unlikely that the government has ventured down this uncertain road.

The final explanation is that this is simply a baseless claim of deliberative-process exemption. But the career professional DOJ lawyers handling this case (who I once had the privilege of supervising during the Bush administration) are not likely to go for such a ruse. Yes, they ultimately answer to the attorney general, but they have their own professional obligations to the courts and are not likely to risk those for a silly and baseless claim to protect the outgoing AG. 

The government will have an opportunity to explain itself shortly, when it submits an affidavit substantiating its exemption claims. While there are certainly reasons to raise an eyebrow or two at these particular assertions of the privilege, it may turn out to be much ado about nothing.

Debate Audience Laughs at N.Y. Dem for Invoking ‘War on Women’

In the latest sign that the Democrats’ fear-mongering on “women’s issues” is wearing thin, a debate audience broke into laughter on Thursday after Democratic candidate Martha Robertson accused GOP congressman Tom Reed of being part of the “war on women.”

“Tom Reed, you’re part of the war against women,” Robertson began, prompting an immediate outburst from the audience. The flustered candidate was forced to ask for more time to complete the question.

The congressional race in upstate New York’s 23rd congressional district is all but won for Reed, and the DCCC canceled a $465,000 ad buy in the district for the final two weeks of the campaign. 

Via Legal Insurrection.

John Kasich, Obamacare, and 2016

What the governor of Ohio got wrong, and what conservatives should do about Medicaid: my new column for Bloomberg View.

McCarthy: Ignoring Islamic Extremist Ties in Recent Attacks ‘Paralyzes Our Intelligence and Law Enforcement’

Friday Links

From c. 1260, the weasel/scorpion method of pregnancy prevention, plus other dubious medical advice.

Why blackmail is called “blackmail”, plus the origin of the lesser known “buttockmail.

Best biology photographs of 2014. And from earlier this year, 2014 Wellcome Image Awards winners in science photography.

Feast your eyes on this beautiful linguistic family tree.

How I killed the Spider: a tale of Immense bravery.

From 1803, the Ottoman Empire’s first map of the newly minted United States.

No-Rules NASCAR: If you stripped away all the rules of car racing and had a contest which was simply to get a human being around a track 200 times as fast as possible, what strategy would win?

ICYMITuesday’s links are here, including Asimov’s just-published 1959 paper for DARPA, a zombie-proof log-cabin kit, the world’s oldest genitals, and Stage 6 Alzheimer’s patient Glen Campbell’s final song to his wife: I’m Not Gonna Miss You.

Join the National Review Wine Club and Save $100 — And Get Two Free Bottles of Pinot Noir!

Why not get amazing wines delivered right to your door by joining the National Review Wine Club!  Join today and you’ll save $100 on 12 world-class wines. Plus, you’ll get two bottles of elegant Gracenote Pinot Noir worth $50 at no additional cost. For more information, click here.

Ebola Case Diagnosed in New York City

From the Wall Street Journal this evening:

A physician who had returned to New York City 10 days ago after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the disease, according to an official familiar with the findings.

Craig Spencer, a 33-year-old physician who worked with Doctors Without Borders and lives Upper Manhattan, is the fourth person to be diagnosed with the deadly disease in the U.S.

Dr. Spencer was diagnosed with the disease after treating patients in Guinea. He reported a fever and gastrointestinal problems Thursday morning and had quarantined himself in his Upper Manhattan apartment. He was rushed to Bellevue Hospital Center in an exposure suit, where he was quarantined in a specially designed hospital room.

… City officials said detectives were tracing Dr. Spencer’s contacts to determine whether anyone else is at risk of becoming ill. His girlfriend also was being tested for the disease. City officials said Dr. Spencer was communicative and cooperative about his whereabouts and contacts.

”Our understanding is very few people were in direct contact with him,” the mayor said. “The patient is in good shape and has gone into a great deal of detail. We have a lot to work with.”

Stay safe and healthy, New Yorkers.



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