April 2016, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
Grim, But Important, Reading: Carolyn Glick's long piece, "Inconvenient genocide".
The Christian communities of Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon are well on the way to joining their Jewish cousins. The Jewish communities of these states predated Islam by a millennium, and were vibrant until the 20th century. But the Arab world’s war on the J ewish state, and more generally on Jews, wiped out the Jewish populations several decades ago.There's far too much in the piece to excerpt or summarize, so I will just add two thoughts that strengthen her argument.
First, in 2007, candidate Barack Obama admitted that genocide was a possible consequence of the Iraq policy he favored. He did not think, then or, apparently, now, that genocide was a reason to reject his plan.
Second, Carolyn Glick notes that John Kerry finally officially admitted that genocide was occuring in the Middle East. But he did so, not because he was ordered to do so by the Obama administration, or on his own initiative, but because Congress required him to do so.
(Here's my March post on this subject.)
- 6:56 PM, 24 April 2016 [link]
How Corrupt Is Brazil's Congress? In the articles on President Dilma's Rousseff's impeachment, I often saw claims that many members of Brazil's Congress were in legal trouble, too. But I hadn't seen any number, until I read this "featured essay", "Brazil’s Giant Problem", in this weekend's Wall Street Journal.
In Brazil’s Congress, where six in 10 members now face some kind of criminal investigation, lawmakers in the lower house have voted to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, a leftist economist whom many blame for fostering corruption and ruining Brazil’s economy. One vote against her came from Congressman Tiririca, a professional clown who won office campaigning that “it can’t get any worse.”(The authors, John Lyons and David Luhnow, believe that it can and almost certainly will get worse)
So, 6 in 10, roughly. Very roughly, since not all of those under investigation are necessarily guilty, and we can be certain that investigators just haven't gotten to some in the 4 in 10 — yet.
(The article makes an interesting argument that Brazil's problems come from a long series of governments that tried to do far too much with the economy. That seems plausible.
If you have been thinking that Dilma Rousseff doesn't sound like a Brazilian name, you're right; she's the daughter of a Bulgarian immigrant, who changed his name, but not to a completely Portuguese version.)
- 5:25 PM, 24 April 2016 [link]
Women Often Think Men Are Slow To Understand Them: And sometimes women are right about that, as you can see in this Wall Street Journal article on the "closeness" between Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Barack Obama.
Chancellor Angela Merkel asked President Barack Obama last year for a personal favor before he left office: Appear with her at Germany’s annual industrial trade fair. Mr. Obama was noncommittal, so she asked him again a few months later. By the third time she asked, Mr. Obama, realizing it was important to her, directed his aides to build a presidential trip around it.Three times! And now, in a communication to the Journal, he's calling her "Angela", not Chancellor Merkel!
He really is clueless some times.
(The rest of the article is mostly — as far as I can tell — what Ben Rhodes wants you to think about the Obama/Merkel relationship. What the reporters say about it supports my tentative conclusion that Merkel has figured out how to manipulate Obama, most of the time.
- 10:39 AM, 24 April 2016 [link]
Steven Hayward's Weekly Collection of pictures.
There's a picture in there for almost everyone.
My favorite? Probably the tally on contested Republican conventions — assuming their numbers are correct. The "Happy Earth Day" cartoon was pretty good, too.
- 9:13 AM, 24 April 2016 [link]
President Obama Was Even Worse On Brexit Than I Expected: He didn't just advise Britain to stay in the European Union; he threatened Britain.
Obama insisted the referendum decision is British voters’ and theirs alone… and then came the bombshell threat. The outgoing President secured tomorrow’s headlines by warning a US-UK trade deal post-Brexit “won’t happen any time soon” and claiming Britain “will be at the back of the queue”.That really is going too far.
Especially since the two economies are so intertwined that a delay in negotiating a trade agreement would cause serious economic problems in both countries.
(How serious is the threat? It depends on who is elected president this November. If it is Cruz or Kasich, the threat is empty, and may be empty if Clinton is elected, It's hard to know what Comrade Bernie might do, since this wasn't covered in Marx's writings.
And if it is Trump, who knows? Most likely he would choose the course that gives him the most attention, as he almost always does.)
- 4:17 PM, 23 April 2016 [link]
First, A Cartoon That Combines Passover and politics.
Second, for those who would like a break, any break, from politics, a cartoon showing a daughter disciplining her father.
- 1:42 PM, 23 April 2016 [link]
My Apologies To Britain: For President Obama's interference in your referendum.
I don't know of any polls on the subject, but I am reasonably certain that most Americans who are aware of the Brexit issue believe that this is something you should decide without us butting in. And that we should be reluctant to give advice, even if asked.
Unfortunately, there is no way under the American Constitution to restrain a president who wants to meddle in this way, no way to remove him from office with a vote of no confidence (which he would lose).
So all we can do is apologize, just as we did when he treated Canada so badly over the Keystone XL pipeline. And assure you that most Americans do not agree with his meddling in your election.
(This may be as good a time as any to correct one error made by Boris Johnson, among others. There is good reason to believe that Obama would give up American sovereignty — if he could.)
- 8:58 AM, 22 April 2016 [link]
This Sidney Harris Cartoon Has Been A Favorite Of Mine For Years: And it just occurred to me that it is a good description of the fiscal plans of three of our presidential candidates.
(I am old-fashioned enough to think that candidates shouldn't make absurd promises, for instance promising to cut taxes, preserve entitlements, and pay off the national debt in eight years. Or to give everyone free almost everything, paid for by taxes on a tiny number of people.
The third candidate is left as an exercise for the reader.)
- 8:29 AM, 22 April 2016 [link]
If You Smell Something, Say Something: That's one bit of practical advice I took from this longish — and fascinating — New York Times article, "How ISIS Built the Machinery of Terror Under Europe’s Gaze".
The taxi driver who took the terrorists to the Brussels airport noticed a "strong odor" from the men's bags. And the owner had noticed a strong odor from the apartment where the bombs were being constructed.
But the heart of the article is not in useful details like that, but in its discussion of how ISIS built up their network, and tested it with small terror attacks — attacks that the authorities kept saying were the work of individuals.
For much of 2012 and 2013, the jihadist group that eventually became the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, was putting down roots in Syria. Even as the group began aggressively recruiting foreigners, especially Europeans, policy makers in the United States and Europe continued to see it as a lower-profile branch of Al Qaeda that was mostly interested in gaining and governing territory.(Emphasis added.)
Note that Rukmini Callimachi is blaming "policy makers", not intelligence analysts, for that mistake. And I think we all know which "policy maker" is at the head of her list.
(Here'one thing I hope authorities are doing, here and in Europe: Training men and dogs to recognize the smells of TATP and the acetone and peroxide used to make it, and having chemical engineers design detectors that can recognize the substances. All this should be done quietly, even secretly if possible.)
- 4:33 PM, 21 April 2016 [link]
John Lott Welcomes the change in the 20 dollar bill:
An expert on the Second Amendment and sometime contributor to these pages, Mr. Lott notes that Tubman’s life is a rebuke to PC assumptions. As Mr. Lott tweeted after Mr. Lew made the announcement, “On $20 bill, Ds replace Andrew Jackson, a founding father of D Party, w Harriet Tubman, a black, gun-toting, evangelical Christian, R woman.”And so do I for the same reason; in fact I had planned to write a post noting that she was, almost certainly, a Republican, before I saw his more comprehensive tweet.
- 3:32 PM, 21 April 2016 [link]
That Old Fake Farm Tax Dodge: Going, no surprise, to Donald Trump:
Donald Trump has found a solution that cuts both his grass and his tax bill: Goats.It's probably legal, if not particularly ethical.
And it really makes me want to see his federal tax returns. (There's a hint about some of the things we might learn from them near the end of the article.)
It's an obvious point, but deserves repeating: This Trump tax break means that ordinary citizens of New Jersey have to pay more in property taxes. (The goats are probably happy with the arrangement.)
(Other famous people in New Jersey have used this dodge, notably that tribune of the working man, Bruce Springsteen.)
- 7:24 AM, 21 April 2016 [link]
Another Story from Bob Dole's collection:
Eleanor Roosevelt once left the White House to visit a prison in Baltimore. Her departure was so early in the morning that she decided not to disturb her husband. Shortly after he got up, he contacted Mrs. Roosevelt's secretary to ask where his wife was. She replied, "She's in prison, Mr. President."
- 6:39 AM, 21 April 2016 [link]
Michael Hayden's Chapter 2 Switcheroo: As I mentioned last month, I've begun working through Michael Hayden's Playing to the Edge.
Working is not exactly the right word, since I have found the book enjoyable to read. But it does often make me think — hard.
That happened to me about half way through Chapter 2, "A National Treasure . . . For How Much Longer?", where he describes how he began as Director of the National Security Agency. For instance, he tells of walking around the halls, just trying to figure out who was doing what, almost as if he were a spy, and mentions this warning from a predecessor, Bobby Inman:
They'll want to put you in a sedan chair, carry you around like Pharaoh, and keep you as far away from decisions as possibleAll that was interesting to someone, me for instance, who is fascinated by bureaucracies and how to get them to do what they should do, and not do what they shouldn't. And the little stories should keep those who don't share that fascination, happy.
But then I ran into his description of a conflict that had lasting consequences. Most in the NSA were pushing a set of programs called "Trailblazer", which were supposed to improve the agency's capabilities in various ways.
But there was an alternative, "Thin Thread", backed by a "group of talented technologists".
When Hayden chose not to make Thin Thread the "program of record", he alienated that group.
But the developers of Thin Thread, Bill Binney Kirk Wiebe, and Ed Loomis, were messianic in their approach, and they had an ally in Dianne Roark, a staffer from HPSCI (House Permanent Committee on Intelligence) who monitored the NSA accountHayden told everyone at NSA not to go outside the chain of command, and there was a bureaucratic war, which ended with Binney and company as permanent enemies of Hayden and his superiors, including President Bush
I think Hayden is being reasonably honest in his description of what happened, but I'll have to study that part of Chapter 2 a little more, and I would really like to see, if possible, what Binney and company have to say.
That was quite a switcheroo after the first part of the chapter.
(If you are wondering how anyone could be fascinated with bureaucracies, take a look at "Yes Minister" in either book or TV form. (I believe the TV episodes are available on the net.) Or, if you are feeling ambitious, find a copy of James Q. Wilson's Bureaucracy.)
- 8:47 PM, 20 April 2016 [link]
Worth Saving And Studying: Isabel Sawhill's review of the research on Pre-K education.
Here's how she begins:
In this tumultuous election year one wonders whether reasoned debate about education or other policies is still possible. That said, research has a role to play in helping policymakers make good decisions - if not before than after they are in office. So what do we know about the ability of early education to change children's lives? At the moment, scholars are divided. One camp argues that pre-k doesn't work, suggesting that it would be a mistake to expand it. Another camp believes that it is one of the most cost-effective things we could do to improve children's lifetime prospects, especially if they come from disadvantaged homes.Sawhill continues with a compact, and from what I know, fair description of the research on the subject.
(I am recommending this piece, in spite of the fact that I disagree with her conclusions, because I think it will give most readers a better understanding of the claims you often see on this subject.)
- 5:48 PM, 20 April 2016 [link]
Will Hillary Clinton Be Indicted Before The Election? (It's a good time to ask that question, now that she is almost certain to get the nomination.)
Probably not, says Daniel Halper.
Indicting the Democratic nominee for president would once again pit the Clinton machine versus Team Obama, setting off a battle royal that would in all likelihood tarnish the reputations of everyone involved.Faced with these two horrible choices, Halper thinks the Obama Justice Department will delay until after the election. I think he's right, and think I should have come to the same conclusion, when I wrote this post, at the beginning of April.
One big uncertainty is how soon the FBI will present its findings to the Justice Department, findings which will, almost certainly, leak immediately.
(Here's a lucid explanation of the issues from John Bolton. I think the article would be especially informative for those who have never had to work with classified materials.)
- 2:16 PM, 20 April 2016 [link]
Dietary Cure For Type 2 Diabetes? A small experiment gives reason for hope .
Many experts believe Type 2 diabetes is an incurable disease that gets worse with time. But new research raises the tantalizing possibility that drastic changes in diet may reverse the disease in some people.(By "nearly half", I assume they mean 14 of the 30.)
The researchers speculate that the diet may "reset" a person's metabolism, so it operates as it did before the onset of the diabetes.
(Here's the usual Wikipedia article on the disease.)
- 11:13 AM, 20 April 2016 [link]
Donald Trump Won A Big Victory In The New York Primary; Donald Trump Came In Third In The New York Primary: Oddly enough, both of those statements are true.
He won 90 delegates, with 60 percent of the Republican vote. (John Kasich won 5; Ted Cruz was blanked out.)
But when you look at the statewide vote for the Democrats, as well as the Republicans, you'll see that he came in third. Trump received 518,605 votes, Bernie Sanders 752,744, and Hillary Clinton 1,037,349.
(Those numbers will change, but probably not by much, when the official results are published.)
New York state has 2,731,688 registered Republicans, so he won that big victory with support from about 19 percent of the state's Republicans — and with fewer total votes than Ted Cruz received in Wisconsin, a state with less than 30 percent of New York's population.
(I probably should add that the turnout in the Democratic primary was not impressive, either.)
- 10:11 AM, 20 April 2016 [link]
Pepper And Salt made me smile.
- 9:15 AM, 20 April 2016 [link]
The 30 Republican Primaries In New York State : Because of the way the New York Republican Party has chosen to select delegates, it is best to think of today's primary as not 1 election, but 30. Almost all the delegates are selected by votes in the 29 congressional districts. If a candidate wins an absolute majority in a district, he gets all three delegates; if not, the first and second split them, 2 and 1. (And there are a few delegates allocated by the statewide vote, by a similar rule.)
Now, just to complicate matters further, note that the districts do not have anywhere near the same number of Republicans, so a Republican candidate might win a district in, for instance, the Bronx with far fewer votes than he would need in an upstate district.
As a result of these rules, it is entirely possible — though unlikely — for a candidate to come in third in the popular vote, and win a majority of the delegates. And it is possible, and fairly likely, for a candidate to win just a little over 50 percent of the statewide vote, and more than 80 percent of the delegates.
- 4:59 PM, 19 April 2016 [link]
Another Week, Another Unflattering Piece In The NYT About Donald Trump: This time it's about another Trump defeat, "Tenants Thwarted Donald Trump’s Central Park Real Estate Ambitions".
After you read about the fight, and the rough (and possibly illegal) tactics Trump used, you'll probably be on the side of the tenants — and you'll probably agree with one of them, Madelyn Rubinstein, on the outcome: “Oh, absolutely, we won.”
Trump disagrees since, in his view, he always wins — even when he loses.
How many more stories like this one does the Times have in its archives? Probably enough to run one a week until the beginning of November.
And I wouldn't be surprised if they did just that.
(Judging by the article, Trump's description of the fight in "The Art of the Steal" may not be 100 percent accurate.)
- 3:27 PM, 18 April 2016 [link]
There Are About 1 Billion Dogs In The World; About 250 Million Of Them Are Pets: The rest don't belong to human families, but are "village dogs".
But there are about a billion dogs on Earth, according to some estimates. The other 750 million don’t have flea collars. And they certainly don’t have humans who take them for walks and pick up their feces. They are called village dogs, street dogs and free-breeding dogs, among other things, and they haunt the garbage dumps and neighborhoods of most of the world.There's much more in James Gorman's article, and, I imagine, much, much more in the Coppingers' book.
(The article says 250 million pet dogs; the book description at Amazon says 200 million — which will give you an idea of just how approximate those numbers are.)
- 1:43 PM, 18 April 2016 [link]
Congratulations To Donald Trump For Breaking 40: Minus 40, that is, in his net approval rating. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, he was rated very unfavorable by 53 percent, somewhat unfavorable by 12 percent, very favorable by 11 percent, and somewhat favorable by 13 percent.
So he has reached -41. In its own perverse way, that's quite an achievement.
I've been expecting him to break minus 40, and have been trying to figure out how much lower he will go. Minus 100 is the theoretical maximum, of course. I don't think he'll come anywhere near that, but I think minus 50 is within his reach.
Republicans who are interested in choosing a candidate who can, like, win, will be interested in the contrasting match-ups between Clinton and Trump, and Clinton and Kasich. Clinton beats Trump by by 11 points (50-39); Kasich beats Clinton by 12 points (51-39). (Cruz loses by 3 points to Clinton, but by 12 points to Sanders.)
(Minor technical point: These results aren't exactctly comparable to polls which just ask for approval/disapproval. The ones I have seen have been showing similar results, an increase in net disapproval ratings for Trump to levels that are simply astonishing for a presidential candidate.)
- 9:05 AM, 19 April 2016 [link]
Occasionally, You Encounter Drivers who appear to have this theory about traffic flow.
(In contrast, here's a buyer attempting to make a rational decision.)
- 8:15 AM, 19 April 2016 [link]
Another (Small) Reason To Think Donald Trump Is Not Actually A Republican: Two of his children aren't registered as Republicans, and so won't be able to vote for him, tomorrow.
Mr. Trump’s children have been a frequent presence on the campaign trail, and last week Ivanka appeared to introduce her father at a rally on Long Island just weeks after giving birth to her third child. Neither Eric nor Ivanka, however, is registered to a political party, Yahoo News reported last week, and New York has a closed primary, meaning only those who are registered as a Democrat or Republican can vote in that party’s contest.Since his children are an obedient lot, you would assume they would follow their father's lead, if he had given it to them.
Incidentally, in states like New York, you give up half your voting rights by not registering with a party. (There can be financial reasons for doing that, especially if you often need favors from elected officials of both parties, but you miss out on half the fun.)
(Some have been crediting Trump with being a good father, judging by the behavior of his children. Perhaps, but the children must also be aware that he can change his will at any time. If you think that's too cynical, look at the last part of the article.)
- 7:40 PM, 18 April 2016 [link]
Bye Bye, Dilma Darlin'? Yesterday, as Brazil's lower house voted to impeach President Dilma Rouseff, some members said — in Portuguese, of course — "Bye, darlin'", as they voted.
Which seems unnecessarily mean to me, but does give us one more reminder of just how angry many Brazilians are, fairly or not.
As far as I can tell, Rousseff is not notably more dishonest or corrupt than the average Brazilian politician, but she had the misfortune to be in office as the economy collapsed, and as massive scandals broke. No doubt she shares some blame for both, but probably not as much as is being heaped on her.
But when your approval rating is at, or approaching, single digits, that is likely to happen.
Given the size of the vote against her in the Chamber of Deputies, 367-137, it seems likely that the Brazilian Senate will vote to try her. (It takes a simple majority to begin a trial, a two-thirds majority to remove her from office.)
- 5:34 PM, 18 April 2016 [link]
How Were The Republican Delegates Chosen In Colorado? By Republican voters, in an open process.
Party conventions are open processes. Delegates to these gatherings are not handpicked by party bosses. They are regular Republicans who participate because they have the time and interest to do so. The Cruz team put in the effort to organize regulars loyal to its candidate; the Trump campaign failed to do so. Consider, for instance, the Colorado convention held earlier this month. Delegates to that convention were chosen at precinct caucuses held on Super Tuesday—and any registered Republican was invited to attend. That the Trump campaign failed to get its supporters to those caucuses is not the fault of the Cruz campaign, the Colorado Republican party, or anybody else except the Trump campaign.There's much more on the nitty-gritty of selecting delegates in Jay Cost's article, but I think that answers the main objection to the Colorado results.
I haven't checked, but I suspect Matt Drudge won't be linking to this article, with a headline like this: Republican delegates from Colorado chosen by Republican voters in open process.
But it's true.
(For the record; In general I prefer primaries to caucuses, and open primaries at that, And I would prefer to have runoff elections when no candidate receives a majority. I'd be pleased if some state parties experimented with an "instant runoff" system, since I think that might solve a number of problems.)
- 2:12 PM, 18 April 2016 [link]
Steven Hayward Didn't Include this image in his latest set of pictures.
But he might have, since it has drawn a certain amount of attention recently from lawyers working for Comrade Bernie Sanders.
(They may have been wiser not to draw attention to the shirt — and the issue.)
- 12:51 PM, 18 April 2016 [link]
Steven Hayward's Weekly Collection of pictures.
My two favorites were toward the end; I liked the book comparison and the couple leaving the voting booths about equally.
- 10:56 AM, 18 April 2016 [link]
Follow-Up On Jan Böhmermann's Anti-Erdogan Poem: On Thursday, I noted that a German comedian had offended Turkish President Erdogan, crudely and deliberately.
Now the quarrel between the two will get more exciting.
Germany approved Turkey’s request for a criminal investigation into a German comedian for reciting a crude poem on air about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday, in a rare decision that divided her government and sparked an outcry that she was putting relations with Ankara above press freedom.Böhmermann could receive a three-year prison sentence under the 1871 law. (Merkel has asked that the law be repealed, next year.)
(The Journal article on Merkel's decision was, I thought, better than the article in the New York Times. But the Times also carried this commentary by Anna Sauerbrey, which is worth linking to, if only for its lead sentence: "Though it’s a fact often overlooked by the rest of the world, Germany is a funny place — seriously." You can decide for yourself whether she has a good argument for that conclusion.).
- 4:07 PM, 17 April 2016 [link]
Sometimes The Best Thing An American President Can Say Is Nothing: For example, on "Brexit", Britain leaving the European Union.
But President Obama isn't going to follow that sensible policy; instead he plans to wade right into the 23 June referendum campaign.
President Barack Obama will put himself in an unusual, and risky, position next week in London: smack-dab in the middle of the heated British debate over whether to remain part of the European Union.Naturally, Obama's interference has drawn criticism from those who favor Brexit, notably the mayor of London (and possible future prime minister), Boris Johnson.
Mr Johnson today told the Standard: 'I honestly don't mind the idea of him joining the debate.(Actually, I can imagine Obama favoring such a policy — if he thought it had any chance of being adopted here.)
No one in Britain has asked me for my opinion on the European Union, so I won't give even my tentative thoughts on Brexit. But I will note that Europeans seem to be voting with their feet, as turnout for the EU elections continues to decline.
(I don't know whether Obama's interference will make a difference — either way. He hasn't shown much ability to move public opinion here, so, if I had to guess, I'd say it won't.)
- 3:03 PM, 17 April 2016 [link]
You Gotta Be A Bull Fight Hero: To get along with the beautiful Madagascar girls.
Nothing says “I love you” in Madagascar like hanging on to a snorting, bucking bull. That’s the object of savika, a bull-riding sport dating to the 18th century whose name means “embrace” in the local Malagasy language.It is almost illegal to mention this in our modern culture, but men admire bravery in men — and so do women, especially young women looking for husbands.
There's a reason people still play that song.
(It is no accident that, as Tom Wolfe reminded us, the most prestigious sport on most campuses, football, is also the most dangerous.)
- 10:38 AM, 17 April 2016 [link]
Be Ready For This Situation if you have a job interview.
- 9:36 AM, 17 April 2016 [link]