Archive:

August 2015, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



MAO-A And Other Poltiically Incorrect Findings:  I am currently working my way through a book that discusses that, and many other politically incorrect findings.   So far, I've found the book interesting and, mostly, plausible.

And that's as much as I intend to say for now, though no one will prevent you from doing a search, if you re curious.
- 5:19 PM, 8 August 2015   [link]


Score Cards For The Votes On The Iran "Deal"  The Hill has two of them, one for the Senate, and one for the House. If you read my post yesterday, neither will be very surprising.

As I write, 25 of the 54 Senate Republicans have declared against the deal and 25 more are "leaning" against it.  So, as I said, those opposed to the deal will need to pick up at least 13 Democratic votes to override a President Obama veto.

As I write, The Hill does not have a count for the House Republicans yet.  I don't expect a unanimous 246 votes against the deal from the House Republicans — there are too many of them to expect unanimity on almost any vote — but I think they will provide at least 242 votes against the deal.  So, they will need about 48 votes from the Democrats to reach that 290 vote, two-thirds majority.

As I write, 9 House Democrats have declared against the "deal" and 4 are "leaning" against it.  34 Democrats have declared in favor of the "deal", and 14 are leaning that way.  A majority of House Democrats, 127, have not yet said, publicly, whether they support the "deal", or not.

(I said "as I write" because The Hill is continuing to update that article, and their numbers may have changed by the time you read this post.)

As I said yesterday, I think the odds are against a veto override, which, you will recall, requires two-thirds votes in both the House and the Senate.

But I also think that it is possible that we can defeat the "deal", if there is enough public pressure against it.

(Yesterday, I saw some cynical comments, arguing that Senator Schumer took his stand against the "deal" only after he, and the leadership, knew that there would be enough votes in the Senate to uphold a veto without him.  Obviously, I don't think that's true, or I wouldn't say there is still a chance to defeat the "deal".  Sometimes, you can be too cynical.

Tomorrow, I'll be working on a draft of a letter that I will send, with variations, to Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and to Congresswoman Suzan DelBene.  I haven't given up, and I don't think you should, either.)
- 5:03 PM, 8 August 2015   [link]


A New Punch Line For The Elephant Joke:  Way back in 2002, I passed on this joke, from an Isaac Asimov collection.
It is reported that several men of various nationalities were engaged in writing books on the elephant.

A German put out a three-volume tome replete with footnotes, entitled A Short Introduction to the Study of the Elephant.

A Frenchman put out a slim and graceful book entitled The Elephant and His Love Life.

An Englishman put out a heavily illustrated travel guide, entitled Hunting the Elephant in Deepest Africa.

An American put out an advertising brochure, How to Raise Elephants in Your Backyard for Fun and Profit.

And a Jew published a fiery pamphlet entitled The Elephant and Anti-Semitism.
I liked the joke but, like Asimov, thought there might be a better alternative for the punch line. Apparently, my mind has been working on that problem off and on at least since 2002, because, last night, as I was walking back from a summer concert, a better one came to me.

Replace that last line with this one:  And an Iranian mullah published a manifesto entitled Death to America! (and their Elephants).

Bitter, perhaps, but a better punch line, I think.  Especially now.
- 4:08 PM, 7 August 2015   [link]


Senator Schumer Comes Out Against The Iran "Deal"  Here's his very detailed statement, which I found thoughtful, after you get by the obligatory praise for President Obama and Secretary Kerry.  For example, his three-part split is, I think, a good way to organize our thinking about the "deal".
In making my decision, I examined this deal in three parts: nuclear restrictions on Iran in the first ten years, nuclear restrictions on Iran after ten years, and non-nuclear components and consequences of a deal.  In each case I have asked: are we better off with the agreement or without it?
The Wall Street Journal article has most of the facts, but presents the politics almost entirely in terms of ethnicity — which is probably how the White House wants us to think about the Democratic opposition to the "deal".
Sen. Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat expected to be the party’s next leader in the Senate, said Thursday night he will oppose President Barack Obama’s landmark nuclear agreement with Iran.

Mr. Schumer’s break with the president underscored the regional divisions among Democrats over the nuclear accord, which faces resistance in New York and other areas with significant Jewish constituencies.

Already at least five other New York House Democrats have said they would vote against the deal reached last month between Iran and six global powers, which imposes strict limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions.
How does the arithmetic look right now?  Almost everyone expects that the resolution of disapproval will pass both the House and Senate, and that President Obama will then veto it.  To override his veto two-thirds majorities in both houses are required, 67 votes in the Senate, and 290 votes in the House.

As far as I know, all 54 Republicans in the Senate will vote to override, so they need to pick up at least 13 votes from among the 44 Democrats, and 2 independents, Angus King and Bernie Sanders, who caucus with the Democrats.

Similarly, nearly all of the 246 Republicans in the House will vote to override, so they will need to pick up at least 44 of the 188 Democrats.  (There is currently one vacancy.)

As of now, I would agree with the conventional wisdom, that they will not be able to get that many Democrats to defect from their president in either the House or the Senate.  But Schumer's decision improves the odds for a veto override, especially in the Senate.

And there is plenty of time for public opinion to have an effect, since the votes will be in September, at the earliest.
- 7:20 AM, 7 August 2015   [link]


Here's The Latest Story on ISIS's sex slavery.
ISIS fanatics have executed 19 women for refusing to have sex with its fighters, a Kurdish official has said.

He claimed the women were being held hostage in Islamic State's stronghold of Mosul, Iraq, which the terror group seized in June last year.

Meanwhile a UN envoy investigating Islamic State's vile sex trade has said 'girls get peddled like barrels of petrol' and one can be bought by six different men.

She also verified a disturbing ISIS document which suggested the extremists sell the Yazidi and Christian women and children they have abducted, with girls aged just one to nine-years-old fetching the most money.
(Emphasis added.)

The UN envoy, Zainab Bangura, is a "Muslim and former foreign minister of Sierra Leone".

Although investigating horrors like these, where investigators do not have access to the area controlled by ISIS, is difficult, there is no reason to think those charges are false in general, since ISIS boasts about its re-introduction of sex slavery, on a large scale.

Could these atrocities have been prevented if President Obama had left a residual American force in Iraq, as he was urged to do by military leaders?  Most of them, possibly almost all of them, could have been, in my opinion.

(There are, no surprise, people who do not want to believe these stories, in spite of all the documentary evidence and witness testimony.  You can find a few of them by looking at the "Worst" comments after the Daily Mail article.  (Some of those "deniers" may believe the stories — but don't want to see them published in a Western newspaper.)

Bloomberg says that boys, 1-9, are also sold by ISIS.)
- 5:59 AM, 7 August 2015   [link]


RIP, Robert Conquest:  The great historian of Stalinist terror has passed away, after a long, and extrordinarily productive life.

Here's a beautiful tribute from neo--neocon.

Here's a list of his books at Amazon.   (If you can read only one, it should probably be the updated version of his masterpiece, The Great Terror.)

And here's a 1999 Brian Lamb interview, for those who want to get get some idea of how Conquest thought about the world, late in life.

(And, of course, here's his Wikipedia biography, which looks mostly okay to me.)
- 5:45 PM, 6 August 2015   [link]


Donald Trump And Hillary Clinton, Best Friends Almost Forever?   Like many others, John Fund wonders whether to believe what Trump said about Clinton then, or what he says about her now.
Now comes a Washington Post report that Trump jumped into the presidential race after a private phone call with Bill Clinton that was made just three weeks before his announcement.  Clinton encouraged him to play a bigger role in the Republican party.  And while Clinton didn’t specifically urge Trump to run, he was obviously feeding his giant ego.
. . .
The call was one of many conversations the Clintons and Trump have had over the years.  Until his recent criticism of Hillary Clinton as “the worst secretary of state in the history of our nation,” Trump used to be a big Hillary booster, enjoying what the Post calls a “cordial, even cozy, relationship” with her.  Hillary Clinton attended Trump’s 2005 wedding (and Bill attended the wedding reception), and he has showered her Senate campaigns with contributions on four separate occasions as well as being a donor to her 2008 presidential campaign.  In 2012, after Clinton had been secretary of state for over three years, he told Fox News that she was a “terrific woman . . . she really works hard and I think she does a good job.”  He has also said that the 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton over his perjury before a federal judge and obstruction of justice in the Lewinsky scandal was “totally unimportant” and “nonsense.”
Then seems more plausible — but I don't think we can exclude neither; we can't be sure that he wasn't telling the truth then or now.  Then seems more plausible than now because Trump has always been willing to make deals with politicians — and he would often find willing partners in the Clintons.  (I'll leave whether neither is the most plausible of the three up to you.)

The Clintons aren't the only subject where Trump is taking different positions now than he did quite recently, as these examples collected by Karl Rove show.  Here are the first two:
Will the Trump who walks on stage Thursday night be the one who in 1999 told CNN’s Larry King that “I’m quite liberal and getting much more liberal on health care”?  The one who wrote in his 2000 book, “The America We Deserve,” that the U.S. should consider a single-payer health system like Canada’s government-run plan?  That system “helps Canadians live longer and healthier than Americans,” this Trump wrote.  “We need, as a nation, to re-examine the single-payer plan, as many individual states are doing.”  Or will debate viewers instead get the Donald Trump who earlier this year called ObamaCare a “filthy lie” and “total catastrophe”?

The Trump who shows up Thursday night could be the one who in 1999 told NBC’s “Meet the Press” during a conversation on abortion that “I’m very pro-choice.”  Or it could be the Trump who told Bloomberg Politics in January that “I’m pro-life and I have been pro-life,” and who now says he’s willing to shut down the federal government to defund Planned Parenthood.
There's nothing wrong with a candidate changing his positions on issues; in fact, we should worry about those who never do.  But the candidate should, at the very least, explain why he has changed.  And we are entitled to doubt the reality of those changes if they seem a little too convenient, a little too obviously related to whatever office he is running for, now.

That's especially true when the candidate does not have a stellar reputation for integrity, for telling the truth even when it may hurt him in a business deal, or an election.

(I don't think there has been any explicit deal between the Clintons and Trump; I do think that Bill Clinton certainly understands how Trump might disrupt the Republican Party, and that Trump may not mind doing that, if he gets a lot of attention along the way.)
- 4:25 PM, 6 August 2015   [link]


Why The John Bolton Op-Ed?  On Monday, somewhat to my surprise, I found an op-ed in the New York Times opposing the Iran "deal", by former UN ambassador John Bolton.

It could be, I thought, a reply to the tepid editorial endorsement of the "deal" that the Times had published earlier.  And I have respected John Bolton, a sometimes undiplomatic diplomat, for years, and so I was looking forward to reading it.

But then I had a horrible suspicion.  As I mentioned in this post, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren had had a strange experience with the editorial page editor at the Times, Andrew Rosenthal.  Rosenthal was unwilling to correct serious factual errors in an op-ed by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, unwilling even to admit that they were errors.

What I didn't mention in that post is what happened next.  Oren reached out to Israel's president, Shimon Peres, and asked him to write an op-ed for the Times.  Peres did, and it was sent to the Times at the last minute.  But Rosenthal chose not to use it.  Instead, he ran an op-ed by a rightist member of Israel's parliament, Danny Danon.

Why him, instead of Peres?  In order, Oren believes, to discredit the Israeli side of the argument, by making the Israelis look extreme.

And so, with that incident in mind, I wondered whether the Times had chosen Bolton for similar reasons, chosen him hoping that he would make an extreme case against the "deal".

If so, they may have been disappointed, though I may not be the best person to judge whether what Bolton wrote will strike many readers as extreme.  Here's a sample:
Unfortunately, the mechanism to address violations is as flawed as the deal's underlying logic.   For the president's predictions of Iranian behavior to come true (and they are central to successful implementation), Tehran must recognize the inevitability of the pain their country will suffer for straying from compliance.

Yet the very language of the Vienna deal demonstrates the opposite.  In two provisions (Paragraphs 26 and 37), Iran rejects the legitimacy of sanctions coming back into force.  These passages expressly provide, in near identical words, that "Iran has stated that if sanctions are reinstated in whole or part, Iran will treat that as grounds to cease performing its commitments under the JCPOA" — Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — "in whole or in part."
In short, Iran has told us that, if we try to re-impose sanctions when they violate the "deal" — as they will — they are free to scrap all or part of the deal.

(In my opinion, Bolton avoided the trap of looking too extreme, but may have been too technical, and less focused than he should have been on the "deal" itself.)
- 11:01 AM, 6 August 2015   [link]


John Hinderaker Is Unimpressed By President Obama's Speech Defending The Iran "Deal"  To put it mildly.
Today President Obama gave a speech at American University, urging acceptance of his nuclear deal with Iran.  It was the usual exercise in deception and demagoguery, and he skated up to the edge of accusing opponents of the deal–a majority of Americans, apparently–of treason.
Hinderaker follows that with detailed criticisms, solid criticisms, as far as I can tell.  (I did not listen to the speech.  Though I have heard and read parts of it, I have not yet had time to study it.)
- 9:53 AM, 6 August 2015   [link]


Here Are The CBS Guesses on how much the presidential candidates are worth.

There are some mild surprises, at least to me, in that list.  I would not have guessed, for instance, that Bobby Jindal had done as well as he apparently has, from investments.  (As far as I can tell, he has never held a job with exceptionally high pay, but he does have "26 investment accounts".)
- 9:36 AM, 6 August 2015   [link]


Glenn Reynolds Recycled this post.   And the Instapundit was right to do so because President Obama is again trying, shamelessly, to re-write history.
Yes, I keep repeating this stuff.  Because it bears repeating.  In Iraq, Obama took a war that we had won at a considerable expense in lives and treasure, and threw it away for the callowest of political reasons.  In Syria and Libya, he involved us in wars of choice without Congressional authorization, and proceeded to hand victories to the Islamists.  Obama’s policy here has been a debacle of the first order, and the press wants to talk about Bush as a way of protecting him.   Whenever you see anyone in the media bringing up 2003, you will know that they are serving as palace guard, not as press.
As Reynolds would say, read the whole thing.

I do disagree with Reynolds on one point.  I think Obama's decisions in Iraq have been governed more by his ideology than by political considerations.

As usual, I am not sure how much of his own fairy tales Obama believes, and also as usual, I hope that he is lying to us, rather than living in a fairy tale world.

(Do I think some of our "mainstream" journalists are living in that same fairy tale world?   Absolutely.)
- 4:07 PM, 5 August 2015   [link]


Fun With NYT "Corrections"  I've been looking at that section of our newspaper of record regularly recently, and have been mostly amused by what I have found.

Two recent examples, the first from Monday:
An article on Thursday about a new United Nations report on population trends referred incorrectly to the part of the world with the highest life expectancy in 2010-15.  It is Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, not all of China.
You still run into people, from time to time, who think that all Chinese look alike, but Hong Kong should be easy to distinguish from the rest of China.  (And the idea that the nation of China would be tops in life expectancy should surprise almost everyone who knows even a little about that country.)

And the second from Tuesday:
An article on Sunday about the ferocious start to the fire season in the West misstated, in some editions, the amount of land that was destroyed by wildfires.  It is 3.6 million — not billion — acres.
For fun, calculate how many square miles there are in 3.6 billion acres.  You may be able to do it in your head, roughly, if you remember that there are 640 acres in a square mile.  (You can find the official area of the United States here, for comparison.)

Why "mostly"?  Because these mistakes make me wonder about the people who write and edit the New York Times.  Whether we like it or not, we have to depend on our newspapers for many of our facts, and so we should worry when they make those kinds of mistakes.

(Quibble:  I would say those acres were "burned", not "destroyed".)
- 10:37 AM, 5 August 2015   [link]


Why Will There Be Ten Candidates In The Republican Debate Tomorrow Night?  Because, seventeen is too many for the time allotted, as almost anyone can figure out.

Why those ten?  Because, James Taranto explains, of federal rules, not the Fox network.
Actually it’s the culmination of federal regulation of campaigns—specifically, Section 13 of Part 110 of Subchapter A of Chapter 1 of Title 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which mandates:   “For all debates, staging organization(s) must use pre-established objective criteria to determine which candidates may participate in a debate.”  Such organizations also may not “structure the debates to promote or advance one candidate over another.”

Those rules expressly apply to news organizations, as well as to 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) nonprofits that “do not endorse, support, or oppose political candidates or political parties”—the only other type of group that is permitted to stage a debate.  (A further restriction is that news organizations may stage debates only “provided that they are not owned or controlled by a political party, political committee or candidate.”  That would exclude Bloomberg News if Mike Bloomberg were running for federal office.)

Thus Fox would be violating the regulation if it were to exclude Trump on the ground that he isn’t a serious candidate.  No matter how strongly one agrees with that premise—and this columnist very much does—it is not an objective criterion.
I would say ten is too many, too, but that number may be better from my point of view.  As I have been saying, for years, I think these debates are lousy ways to evaluate the candidates in general elections, or primaries.  In fact, I'll go further and say that they are worse than useless, that they are likely to help the less honest and serious candidates, the candidates who can compress their arguments into glib, and often dishonest, sound bites.

So, if most watchers decide that tomorrow night's debate was not serious, I'll be mildly pleased.

(It would be different if the debates used the format of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, or some other, equally serious, format.

For the record:  I will admit that I still see no obvious alternative to these "debates", no entertaining way, for example, to judge the candidates, publicly, on their listening abilities.

Do the regulations Taranto cites violate the 1st Amendment?  I think so.  They certainly violate the spirit of the 1st Amendment.)
- 9:39 AM, 5 August 2015   [link]


How Did Villagers In Zimbabwe React To The Killing Of Cecil The Lion?  If they knew about it, they celebrated, says Goodwell Nzou, who grew up in a Zimbabwean village, "surrounded by wildlife conservation areas".
When I was 9 years old, a solitary lion prowled villages near my home.  After it killed a few chickens, some goats and finally a cow, we were warned to walk to school in groups and stop playing outside.  My sisters no longer went alone to the river to collect water or wash dishes; my mother waited for my father and older brothers, armed with machetes, axes and spears, to escort her into the bush to collect firewood.

A week later, my mother gathered me with nine of my siblings to explain that her uncle had been attacked but escaped with nothing more than an injured leg.  The lion sucked the life out of the village:  No one socialized by fires at night; no one dared stroll over to a neighbor’s homestead.

When the lion was finally killed, no one cared whether its murderer was a local person or a white trophy hunter, whether it was poached or killed legally.  We danced and sang about the vanquishing of the fearsome beast and our escape from serious harm.
Nzou wonders why so many Americans care about "Cecil", but not about ordinary people in Zimbabwe.  And so do I.

Our ancestors eliminated many of the animals that compete with us for food, including most of our top-predator competitors, which sometimes saw us as food.  If our ancestors had not done that, we would live far poorer and more dangerous lives.

Villagers in Africa know those basic facts, but many in the urban West no longer do.

(Any man who is willing to take on a lion, armed only with a machete, an axe, or a spear, has my respect.)
- 6:56 AM, 5 August 2015   [link]


Stephen Harper's Winning Strategy:  The Canadian Prime Minister has just called for a new election, which will be held on October 19th.

That makes this a good time to remind everyone, but especially American conservatives, of why Harper and his party won in 2006, 2008, and 2011.

In short, Harper unified Canadian conservatives — and kept his opponents divided.  In 2003, he unified the two conservative parties in Canada, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party.  In 2004, he made big gains against the ruling Liberal Party; in 2006 and 2008, he was able to win enough seats so that he could form minority governments; and in 2011, he won an absolute majority in the Canadian House of Commons.

But — and here is the key point — he won that 2011 majority with less than 40 percent 0f the popular vote.  (To be precise, 37.65 percent.)

Why?

Because the opposition was divided into three main parties, the generally leftist Liberals, the socialist New Democrats, and the separatist Bloc Québécois.   Those three parties received, respectively, 26.26, 18.18, and 9.98 percent of the popular vote.   (The Green Party won 6.78 percent, and one seat.)

There's nothing novel about Harper's strategy, but there are many activists — in both American parties — who reject it, who think that dividing their own party to achieve ideological purity is the path to victory.

It's not, and it is an especially bad strategy for a party that has fewer voters than the other party.  For almost all my life, that's been the Republican Party, though they came close to equality in the early 2000's.

(Could Harper pull off another victory?  Very possibly, though he has been behind in some recent polls.  But he has had one piece of luck; the Liberals have chosen a leader, Justin Trudeau, who is a less formidable opponent than his father was.  If you wish Canadians well, you will hope, and perhaps even pray, that he never becomes their prime minister.)
- 4:32 PM, 4 August 2015   [link]


According To Reuters, The Obama Administration Distorted The 2015 Human Trafficking Report:  Their conclusion is based, almost entirely, on interviews with the people who wrote the report, before it was "edited" by political appointees at the State Department.
In the weeks leading up to a critical annual U.S. report on human trafficking that publicly shames the world’s worst offenders, human rights experts at the State Department concluded that trafficking conditions hadn’t improved in Malaysia and Cuba.  And in China, they found, things had grown worse.

The State Department’s senior political staff saw it differently — and they prevailed.

A Reuters examination, based on interviews with more than a dozen sources in Washington and foreign capitals, shows that the government office set up to independently grade global efforts to fight human trafficking was repeatedly overruled by senior American diplomats and pressured into inflating assessments of 14 strategically important countries in this year’s Trafficking in Persons report.
(Emphasis added.)

In short, John Kerry and company made the report less accurate, to avoid problems with some countries.

Or, to put it even more bluntly, the Obama administration is minimizing slavery in some countries, for political reasons.

Is that charge true?  Probably, though I will concede that there is no easy way for a person with no contacts with those human rights experts to check that Reuters conclusion.

On the other hand, it is no secret that the Obama administration has paid less attention to human rights in other countries than its predecessor did.

(Here's the 2015 report.   Some of you may appreciate this "trigger warning":  The report begins with a statement from, and a picture of, the editor in chief, Secretary John Kerry.

Here's an index to all the reports, beginning in 2001.)
- 3:28 PM, 4 August 2015   [link]


This Lawsuit Is No Surprise:  Though the immediate target is mildly surprising.
Former sportscaster Craig James has filed a lawsuit against Fox Sports in a Texas court over their firing him in 2013 because of comments he made criticizing homosexuality.

Filed in Dallas County District Court on Monday, James accused Fox Sports of dismissing him over expressing his sincere religious beliefs on the matter of sexual ethics.

"Through the actions of its executives, including its president and vice president of communications, Fox Sports hired Craig James as a sportscaster, then terminated him for his religious beliefs — religious beliefs he expressed before working there, more than a year prior," read the suit, in part.
Fox Sports is denying the charges, as you would expect.

Whatever the facts may be in this case, we should expect similar lawsuits in the future.   (And I wouldn't be surprised to learn that similar suits were never filed in recent years, because the news organizations chose to settle them, quietly, out of court.)

My reasoning is simple:  People with traditional religious beliefs on abortion and homosexuality would be unwelcome in many, probably most, news organizations — but our civil rights laws almost all give the same protection to religious minorities as they do to racial minorities.

With the heightened emphasis on abortion from the right, and homosexuality from the left, collisions between those news organizations and those individuals are inevitable.  And some of those collisions will end up in court.

(I think it likely that some other kinds of businesses may face similar lawsuits, for similar reasons.   I don't think I will shock any of you if I say that I would advise any evangelical or traditional Catholic to hide their religious beliefs if they were applying for a job at, for example, Apple or Google.)
- 1:26 PM, 4 August 2015   [link]


Meta-Meta-Post:  This morning, I heard several talk show hosts discussing the news coverage of Donald Trump.  Their discussion could be called a "meta-discussion", since they were discussing other discussions.  And, since I am discussing their discussion, this post could, in turn, be called a "meta-meta-discussion".

Did any of you have anything interesting to say?

That's an awkward question, but I think one talk show host and I have come to the same conclusion about the coverage of Donald Trump, the host more tentatively than I:  "Mainstream" journalists are giving Trump all this coverage, partly because some of them think he will harm the Republican Party.

(I thought the same was true of the coverage "mainstream" journalists gave to Ron Paul in 2008.)

Are those journalists right?  Probably, but it may not be long-term harm.

(Those who haven't met many "metas" may want to read explanations here, and here.)
- 12:56 PM, 4 August 2015   [link]


The More Americans Hear About The Iran "Deal", the less they like it.

To show that, Scott Clement updates a post from last week, putting the update at the very beginning:
Update: A new poll shows even worse numbers for the Iran deal.  The Quinnipiac University poll shows 57 percent against and just 28 percent in support.  The two-to-one negative split is by far the worst poll yet for the deal.

Below is our post from last week summarizing the deal's declining poll numbers.  As you will read, polls like this -- that don't provide details of the deal -- have shown less public support for it.  But this is clearly the worst one yet.  (Quinnipiac, for what it's worth, asked a more-detailed question in April and found nearly two-to-one support.)
Scroll down to the first-negative-marks graph to see the poll changes since February.  Like Clement, I wish the pollsters would use the same questions, or that one of the pollsters had asked the same question regularly, at least once a month.  Unlike Clement, I am not impressed by the more detailed questions, for reasons you can see in this question:
By contrast, the Post-ABC poll finding greater support asked about a deal that would "lift economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran agreeing not to produce nuclear weapons.   International inspectors would monitor Iran’s facilities, and if Iran is caught breaking the agreement economic sanctions would be imposed again."
That's how President Obama and John Kerry might describe the "deal"; that's not how the Iranian regime describes it, or even how neutral observers describe it, given the "breakout" after a period of years, and the limits on inspections.

And that certainly isn't how opponents here in the United States would describe the "deal'.

It is, granted, hard to think of a brief, and reasonably accurate way to describe the agreement, hard to think of how to phrase that question so that most can understand it.  But I still think they could have done better.

Judging by this post, President Obama has decided to defend the "deal" — by attacking its opponents, a tactic he uses regularly.
- 3:59 PM, 3 August 2015   [link]


Worth Reading:  Senator Tom Cotton and Congressman Mike Pompeo's op-ed describing, as far as possible, those secret parts of the "deal" with Iran.

Here's how they begin, and end.
For those of us who are elected officials, few votes will be more consequential than whether to approve or disapprove the nuclear agreement President Obama has reached with Iran.  Yet the president expects Congress to cast this vote without the administration’s fully disclosing the contents of the deal to the American people.  This is unacceptable and plainly violates the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act—a law the president signed only weeks ago.

During a recent trip to Vienna to meet with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the organization charged with verifying Iran’s compliance, we learned that certain elements of this deal are—and will remain—secret.  According to the IAEA, those involved with the negotiations, including the Obama administration, agreed to allow Iran to forge the secret side deals with the IAEA on two issues.
. . .
When he announced his nuclear deal with Iran on July 14, President Obama said, “This deal is not built on trust, it is built on verification.”  Those words are hollow unless Congress receives the full text of all documents related to the nuclear agreement.
According to the op-ed, John Kerry has not seen any part of those secret agreements.  One or more of the negotiating team may have seen parts of them, but no one in the United States has their full texts.

What kind of person signs a large, complex agreement when they can't see the whole thing?  Well, we know the answer to that, someone like John Kerry and Barack Obama.

There are a variety of sayings to describe this kind of behavior, old ones like buying a pig in a poke, and newer ones like signing a blank check — none of them complimentary.

(For the record:  There is another kind of person who might a sign an agreement with parts hidden from him: a man who never intends to keep his side of the agreement.  Sadly, I think that President Obama is determined to keep our side of the agreement, even if Iran cheats — and even if Congress overrides his veto.)
- 1:07 PM, 3 August 2015   [link]


Here's A Collection Of Jokes, making the point that I made five days ago in this post, that the animals who might have been killed by Cecil the lion, won't miss him.

But they have many pictures, which I didn't include in that post.

(The last one catches a very funny mistake by CNN.)
- 11:06 AM, 3 August 2015   [link]


That Private Email System Was A Bad Idea — Even For Hillary Clinton:  Most of the criticism of Clinton's email system has focused, rightly, on what it has done to the government, and the nation.  It was set up, obviously enough, to hide things that shouldn't have been hidden, and it added serious security risks, since there is a good chance it was penetrated by hostile governments.  (And possibly by friendly ones, such as the French government.)

But let's turn the problem around and look at it from Clinton's point of view.  Suppose you were a loyal staffer who knew even a little about email systems, and she had asked you whether she should set up this server.  What would you have recommended, assuming that your goal was to further her political career?

You don't have to be a computer expert to see why the server was a bad idea, if furthering her career is all you care about.  Here's a fundamental fact about email:  Messages almost always flow between two or more computers, and are saved on all of them.  For instance, her messages to State Department underlings would end up on State Department computers, as well as her own.  It is impossible, in that situation, to keep the existence of the server, and most of the emails flowing through it, private.  Within a week, at the very most, some technicians would have noticed that her emails were not originating from a government computer.

So, it wouldn't be possible to keep her server and emails private, as she was apparently trying to do.  (In fact, what is surprising is that it was kept from the public as long as it was.)

Second, protecting systems from hackers is not easy,  And, again, you do not have to be a computer expert to know this.  The commercial grade protection on the system, which might be adequate for a small business that didn't handle a lot of cash, would be completely inadequate for a system that stored top government secrets.

If you were that Hillary staffer, you should have warned her that it would be difficult to protect the system, might even be impossible, without hiring an expensive expert to give it more than routine checks, on some regular schedule.

So that staffer should have told her that it was a bad idea, that the server and many of the emails would eventually become public knowledge, and that the public would be unhappy about the risks she was running with our security.

And, who knows?  Perhaps some staffer did give just that advice.  If so, she didn't take it.  If not, she needs smarter staffers,

Using the system for government emails may have been a crime; it was certainly a blunder*.

(For the record, Clinton could have set up a private server for private political business, and kept most of her government messages on State Department computers.  She probably could have gotten away with that, if she had been careful about the compartmentalization.

Here's s sharp video review of the scandal from Mark Hyman.   I'm not sure I would say her use of the private server was illegal, as he does, but that's because I am not a lawyer, much less one experienced in this area of the law.

*That line is often attributed to Talleyrand, probably incorrectly.   The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 3rd edition, gives credit to Antoine Boulay.)
- 8:26 AM, 3 August 2015   [link]


Which Party Do Americans Think Is The More Patriotic?  The Republican Party.
The most recent poll to ask about perceptions of the patriotism of the two major political parties found more Americans considered the Republicans to be the more patriotic party (43%) than thought the Democrats were (29%).  However, earlier polling suggests that questions that explicitly offer respondents the option of saying both parties are equally patriotic will result in a strong majority choosing this third option.
(Kathleen Weldon is citing first a 2010 poll and then a 2004 poll, when she says "most recent", and "earlier".)

In recent years, there have been more Democrats in the United States, so that finding doesn't match the partisanship split.

Two findings on pairs of recent leaders are of interest, though Weldon misreads the polling on the second pair.
Whatever their feelings about the parties, Americans in recent years have consistently viewed Republican presidential candidates as more patriotic than Democratic ones.  Sometimes the gap in perception is substantial, such as the 35 percentage point difference between those saying McCain and Obama were very patriotic.

Among current contenders for the presidency, however, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are seen by about equal proportions of the country as being patriotic, while much of the public is still undecided about the patriotism of lesser-known figures in the race.
It's true that about equal proportions of the sample of registered voters — 70 percent and 68 percent, respectively — describe Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton as "patriotic", but it is also true that more than a quarter of the sample — 28 percent — reject that description for Clinton while only 16 percent do so for Bush.  (The two other Republicans in the poll, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, drew almost the same proportion of no's as Bush, 15 and 14 percent, respectively.)

(The poll was taken in 2015, but she doesn't say exactly when.  That might matter, because of the way Clinton's approval ratings have been falling.)

Weldon ends by saying that Americans "do not choose presidential candidates primarily on this characteristic", patriotism,  True enough, as long as you add a "most" qualifier and emphasize "primarily".  We did, after all, elect Barack Obama, twice.

(Yes, this post really should have been put up on or around July 4th.  But, for some reason, I missed the Weldon post, though I look at that site, regularly.

Two minor technical points:  It looks to me as if that 2015 Bush/Clinton poll found that about half of the Democrats are unwilling to say that any current Republican is patriotic.

Second, if you allocate the undecideds to Bush and Clinton, according the split among those who did have opinions, his advantage increases to 11 percent, 82-71.)
- 6:23 AM, 3 August 2015   [link]


"Iran's Leader Has A New Book Out"  And it is notable for its frankness.

Some samples:
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has published a new book called “Palestine,” a 416-page screed against the Jewish state.  A blurb on the back cover credits Khamenei as “The flagbearer of Jihad to liberate Jerusalem.”
. . .
Khamenei claims that his strategy for the destruction of Israel is not based on anti-Semitism, which he describes as a European phenomenon.  His position is instead based on “well-established Islamic principles.”

One such principle is that a land that falls under Muslim rule, even briefly, can never again be ceded to non-Muslims.  What matters in Islam is ownership of a land’s government, even if the majority of inhabitants are non-Muslims.
So, Israel first, but, eventually, "large parts of Russia and Europe, almost a third of China, the whole of India and parts of The Philippines and Thailand".

Wouldn't it be great if some reporter asked Obama about this book?

(Amir Taheri doesn't say whether the book was published before the Iran "deal", or whether the regime was polite enough to wait until after.  Probably not.)
- 6:15 PM, 2 August 2015   [link]


First Thoughts On Dershowitz's Latest Book, The Case Against The Iran Deal:  On Friday afternoon, I heard about the book when Michael Medved interviewed Dershowitz; on Saturday morning I downloaded it; and on Saturday afternoon, I read the first 20 pages or so.

So far, so good.

Although the book was — obviously — rushed, it is well written, and takes what I think is the right attitude toward the "deal".  Dershowitz appears to be writing more in sorrow than anger — which is likely to make his argument more persuasive.  Moreover, it is clear even in those first pages that Dershowitz has been thinking, and writing, about this problem for years, so you can see the book as the product of weeks of writing — or many years of study.

So far, so bad.

According to Dershowitz, there is not much reason for hope.  Even if the Congress can block parts of the "deal" — odds are against that right now, from what I can tell — and a president comes in who will reject the "deal", we have already suffered dangerous losses, losses that will be very difficult to reverse.  (For instance, it is unlikely that we will be able to "re-freeze" those Iranian assets, usually valued at about $100 billion.)

One telling point:  Like Michael Oren, in Ally, Dershowitz wanted very much to believe that President Obama would use force, if necessary, to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  Dershowitz wasn't sure whether to believe what Obama said about his willingness to use force, again and again, before the 2014 election; Dershowitz is now certain that, even if Obama had been willing to use force before then, he took force off the table after that election, guaranteeing that we would get a worse deal than we could have gotten if the Iranians feared us.

It is, I think, nearly certain that the Iranians came to the same conclusion, that they did not have to fear an American attack, some years before Professor Dershowitz.

(To be fair, it is certainly possible that the Iranians came to that conclusion during the Bush administration, especially after the 2006 election.)

There is one inescapable problem with the book:  Dershowitz must rely on public sources, and we know that much is being hidden from us.  We know that there are at least two secret agreements that none of the American negotiators have read (unless our spies are better than I think), and we know that much of the evidence on the "deal" that is being presented to Congress is being hidden behind "Secret" classifications.

I don't know whether I will be able to give you, after I have read and studied the book, an informed guess on how what is hidden affects his overall arguments, but, if I can, I will.

(Here's the Wikipedia article on Dershowitz, with way more than the usual caveats.)
- 2:56 PM, 2 August 2015   [link]


Pictures Of The Illegal Immigrant "New Jungle" Outside Calais:   The Daily Mail has them, including several pictures of an Ethiopian Orthodox church.
Hundreds of migrants desperate to move to Britain have caused major disruption in Calais over the last week.

There have been more than 4,200 attempts by migrants to enter the tunnel in the past four nights as they look for ways to enter the country illegally.  On Tuesday night, one man was killed after hundreds stormed the barriers.

But not all of the 3,000 migrants estimated to be holed up in the French port are so desperate to leave.  In fact, some are putting down roots.

In the 'New Jungle' camp - a sprawling 200,000 sq m settlement erected next to the Calais ring road - men and women have come together to build a school, church and even a shopping centre.
(And four mosques.)

You'd have to know more than I do about French laws and policies to explain why the French government tolerates this semi-permanent camp, and more than I do about British laws and policies to explain why these illegals think they can make a life in Britain.

(It's places like that "New Jungle" that make me, along with others, wonder whether we should pay more attention to The Camp of the Saints, not for its details, but for its general prediction.)
- 1:47 PM, 1 August 2015   [link]


If They Didn't Have The Recording, many of us would suspect that this story from Britain couldn't be true.
A man dialled 999 to ask police to arrest his girlfriend and her cat after she allowed her pet to eat his bacon.

West Yorkshire Police confirmed that man wanted his girlfriend and her cat detained following the incident.

During the amazing recording, the call handler calmly asks the man what action he wants to be taken.

He replied: 'I want to press charges'.

He is then asked: 'Against who?  Your girlfriend or the cat?' and responds with: 'Both of them.'

The call handler then says: 'we don't arrest cats' before going on to explain that a cat eating bacon is not a criminal offence.
(999 is the British equivalent of the American 911, as you probably guessed from the context, if you didn't know already.)

But in a nation with a population of about 65 million, there is room for at least one person who thinks the police should help settle this lover's quarrel.   (Assuming he and his girlfriend are still lovers.)

(As I understand it, the people of Yorkshire at one time had a reputation for being serious, hard working, and, if anything, a little dour.)
- 1:11 PM, 1 August 2015   [link]