Archive:

July 2015, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Fans Of Donald Trump won't like this Gary Varvel cartoon — I think — but most others will, though Democrats and Republicans will like it for different reasons.

(That link won't last, but you should be able to find the cartoon here, soon.)
- 12:57 PM, 24 July 2015   [link]


Most Americans Don't Approve Of The Job President Obama Is Doing:  That's been true for most of his presidency.
Gallup has kept regular track of presidential approval since the Truman administration.   It reports that the most popular postwar presidents were Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton; their job approval ratings were 50 percent or better for at least two-thirds of their tenures.  The least popular presidents were Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter; theirs were below 50 percent for at least two-thirds of their tenures.  Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush fall somewhere in between.

To date, Obama has been unpopular for more than two-thirds of his tenure.  If he stays under 50 percent for the remainder of his term, he will have been unpopular for longer than any postwar leader.

Obama’s numbers have been remarkably stable, typically hovering between 42 and 45 percent approval, outside those honeymoon periods.  This distinguishes him from Truman, Ford, and Carter, whose numbers sunk much lower (as did George W. Bush’s and Nixon’s). The difference is that Obama has retained strong support from Democrats, while other presidents lost substantial intraparty support.
This, in spite of having favorable, sometimes fawning, coverage from most of our "mainstream" journalists.

(Here's an interactive graph summarizing the approval polls, along with a table of results.)
- 12:32 PM, 24 July 2015   [link]


The BBC Interviews The Greatest Gun Salesman In American History:  And fails to congratulate him on his success.

Here's the question, and, after a considerable gap, President Obama's answer:
[JON] SOPEL: But is there an issue that there are be going to be unfinished business?   Perhaps most notably on race and on guns by the time you leave the White House?
. . .
[Barack Obama] You mentioned the issue of guns, that is an area where if you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I've been most frustrated and most stymied it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun-safety laws.  Even in the face of repeated mass killings.

And you know, if you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it's less than 100.  If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it's in the tens of thousands.  And for us not to be able to resolve that issue has been something that is distressing.  But it is not something that I intend to stop working on in the remaining 18 months.
And here's Obama's record:
Gun production has more than doubled over the course of the Obama administration, according to a new report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The manufacturing boom has come in the face of the president’s push to expand background checks and place new restrictions on guns in the wake of high-profile shootings like the recent mass-killing in Charleston, S.C., and the 2012 massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

The numbers paint a picture of gun owners who are concerned about new restrictions on their Second Amendment rights, activists say.
The activists are right; the more Obama talked about gun control, the more Americans decided they should buy guns while they could.

Did Sopel know about this Obama success?  (Which, I assume, Sopel would call a failure.)  If so, it isn't obvious from the transcript.

(Incidentally, the headline shows that BBC editors judged that Obama's routine answer on guns, an answer that he has given certainly dozens, possibly hundreds, of times before, was the most important part of the interview.)
- 9:48 AM, 24 July 2015   [link]


Michael Oren Versus The NYT's Andrew Rosenthal:  This post, a general indictment of the editorial page editor of the New York Times, includes a reference that may escape people who haven't read Oren's Ally.

So here it is, in full:
Most malicious was the op-ed page of the New York Times, once revered as an interface of ideas, now sadly reduced to a sounding board for only one, which often excluded Israel's legitimacy.  The page's contributors accused Israel of ethnic cleansing, brutal militarism, racism of several stripes, and even "pinkwashing"—exploiting its liberal policy toward lesbians and gays to cover up its oppression of the Palestinians.  After a while, I simply gave up trying to debunk such lunacy.  Only once, when an op-ed by Mahmoud Abbas suggested that the Arabs had not rejected the UN's partition plan in 1947, did I feel compelled to phone the page's editor, Andy Rosenthal.

"When I write for the Times, fact checkers examine every word I write," I began.   "Did anybody check whether Abbas has his facts exactly backward?"

"That's your opinion," Rosenthal replied.

"I'm a historian, Andy, and there are opinions and there are facts.  That the Arabs rejected partition and the the Jews accepted it is an irrefutable fact."

"In your view."

"Tell me, on June 6, 1944, did Allied forces land or did they not land on Normandy Beach?"

Rosenthal, the son of a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and famed executive editor, replied, "Some might say so." (about 62 percent of the way through)
(I corrected an obvious typo in the Kindle version.)

Oren may not have realized that the younger Rosenthal has long believed that some contributors to the Times have a right to their own facts.

(That interchange may help you understand why George W. Bush once described Rosenthal to Dick Cheney with a common vulgarism.  Bush didn't realize a microphone was on, which is why we know about the incident.)
- 6:42 PM, 23 July 2015
Correction:  Bush was talking about another Timesman, Adam Clymer, not Rosenthal, when he was caught by that microphone,  But I wouldn't be surprised if he applied the word to Rosenthal privately some times, too.
- 8:53 AM, 24 July 2015   [link]


Worth Reading:  Gretchen Morgenson's column describing how the Manhattan prosecutor persecuted a small community bank that had done nothing wrong, that was, in fact, a victim.

One of the Abacus bank's employees tried to make some fraudulent loans.  A bank officer detected them and stopped the process.  The bank then did the right thing — but dong the right thing hasn't worked out well for them.
Although she didn’t know it immediately, Ms. Sung had stumbled on a fraudulent scheme involving false borrower income verifications and documentation.  The bank began investigating, and Mr. Yu was fired the following Monday.

The discovery put an end to the scheme at Abacus.  But it was only the beginning of a five-and-a-half-year odyssey through the New York State criminal justice system for the Sung family and the community lender the family had built from nothing.

Bank officials uncovered the fraud, fired the mastermind, investigated and reported it to regulators and provided New York State prosecutors with over 900,000 pages of documents.  Yet by May 2012 Abacus was under indictment by a grand jury in New York State Supreme Court.
The Manhattan prosecutor responsible for this injustice?  Cyrus Vance, Jr.  And, yes, he's the son of the late secretary of state — and a Democrat.

(I've admired Morgenson's work for some time.  Here's a sample from her book, which will show you why I admire her work.)
- 3:54 PM, 23 July 2015   [link]


"What A Good Iran Deal Would Look Like"  Michael Oren's opinion piece was published two days ago, before the Kerry/Moniz op-ed that I linked to, just below.   But you can think of it as a reply to Kerry and Moniz.
Proponents of the nuclear deal with Iran claim that it is the best one possible.  They also say that the international sanctions on Iran could not have been maintained indefinitely, and that Europe, Russia and China would soon violate them.  The deal’s advocates have accused Israel and other critics of failing to propose an alternative to the current agreement.  And, most radically, they warn that either America accepts this deal or goes to war.

None of these assertions is true.

Instead of blocking Iran’s path to nuclear weaponry, the deal, in fact, provides two paths.   Under its terms, Iran could develop advanced centrifuges capable of enriching uranium at 20 times the current rate. By repeatedly exploiting the 24-day head start that the deal affords Iran before it has to let international inspectors visit a suspected site, the ayatollahs could cheat and make a bomb well within the deal’s 10-year time frame.
And you wouldn't be entirely wrong to think of it as a reply, because Oren has been arguing against this kind of "deal" with Iran for years.
- 3:02 PM, 23 July 2015   [link]


Here's The Defense Of The Iran "Deal" from Secretaries Kerry and Moniz.  
When President Obama took office, he faced an Iran that had mastered the nuclear fuel cycle, had constructed a covert uranium enrichment facility inside a mountain, was on its way to installing nearly 20,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment, was developing advanced centrifuges and was building a heavy-water reactor that could produce weapons-grade plutonium.  If Iran wanted to develop a nuclear weapon, it was already well down that road and the international community had little insight into its program.  Against this backdrop the president vowed never to let Iran obtain a nuclear weapon.

The deal reached in Vienna this month is not only the best way to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon, it is the only durable and viable option for achieving this goal.  This comprehensive diplomatic resolution has the unified support of the world’s leading powers.  It extends the time Iran would need to develop a nuclear weapon, provides strong verification measures that give us ample time to respond if Iran chooses that path, and takes none of our options off the table.
Opponents will argue with every word of that defense.  I'll be looking for "fact checks" — from both sides, and from supposedly neutral journalists.

So far I think the opponents have the better arguments.

(Here's Ernest Moniz's Wikipedia biography, with the usual caveats.)
- 10:14 AM, 23 July 2015   [link]


Why Those Three Swing States Matter:  Yesterday, I discussed, briefly, the Quinnipiac poll that found that Hillary Clinton is in trouble in Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia.

Later I saw this post by law professor Ann Althouse which begins, somewhat to my surprise, by minimizing the findings.
Here's the 2012 Electoral College map.  Those 3 states are only 28 electoral votes, nowhere nearly enough to swing the election, which Obama won 332 to 206, but those are the swing states Quinnipiac polled and Hillary lost all of them, to each of the 3 Republicans who were polled.  It's not as though Rubio, Walker, and Bush have become particularly strong in these places.  It seems to be anti-Hillary:
All that's true, but shows a misunderstanding of the electoral map in 2012.

Here's the fundamental point:  States generally move together from one election to another.  (There are exceptions.  George W. Bush carried the popular vote in the three Northwest states — Washington, Oregon, and Idaho — in the 2000 election, but lost the popular vote here in 2004, even though he did better, nationally.)  That's especially true of similar states; for instance, a Republican who wins Maine is almost certain to win New Hampshire as well.

Suppose Mitt Romney had done well enough in 2012 to win Iowa, which he lost by less than six points (51.99 to 46.18 percent).  Would he also have done well enough to win Ohio, which he lost by less than three points (50.58 to 47.60 percent)?  Almost certainly.  Suppose Romney had done well enough to win Virginia, which he lost by less than four points (51.16 to 47.28 percent).  Would he have also done well enough to win Florida, which he lost by less than one point (49.90 to 49.03 percent)?  Again, almost certainly.  (Similarly, if he had won Colorado, he might have won Nevada, as well.)

Ohio and Florida have, respectively, 18 and 29 electoral votes.  If Romney had won all five states, Colorado, Iowa, Virginia, Ohio, and Florida, in addition to the states he did win, he would have had a narrow majority in the electoral college (277 votes) and would be president today.

(Some might argue that Romney put more resources into Florida and Ohio than the smaller states, but so did Obama.

I suppose most of you realize that Quinnipiac chose those three states because they represent different areas of the country, but I'll mention it, anyway.)
- 9:43 AM, 23 July 2015   [link]


The White House Uses The NYT To Communicate With Defense Secretary Ashton Carter:  When I ran across this article on the failure of the Obama administration to close Guantánamo, I was puzzled by the first paragraph — and then enlightened by the second.
President Obama is enjoying a winning streak lately, with the Supreme Court reaffirming his signature health care law and Iran agreeing to curbs on its nuclear program.  But one longstanding goal continues to bedevil him: closing the wartime prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The administration’s fitful effort to shut down the prison is collapsing again.  Ashton B. Carter, in his first six months as defense secretary, has yet to make a decision on any newly proposed deals to transfer individual detainees.  His delay, which echoes a pattern last year by his predecessor, Chuck Hagel, is generating mounting concern in the White House and State Department, officials say.
(Puzzled because I couldn't see why a story that said nothing was happening would be the lead story in the Times.)

The White House was using the Times to tell Secretary Carter they really, really want him to act on this matter.  Which tells us two things.  First, the ordinary channels weren't working; for whatever reason, President Obama didn't think he could just phone Secretary Carter and ask him to act on this, and have that be the end of it.

Second, since Ashton Carter is a smart man who has known since 2008 at the latest that Obama really wants the prison closed, it seems nearly certain that Carter has been unable to come up with a workable alternative, another place to put the jihadists we sometimes capture in this war.  I'm not criticizing Carter for that; I can't think of one, either, even when I put aside my belief that keeping enemy prisoners out of action during a war is almost always a good idea.

But Obama and his aides refuse to accept that reality.

(Using newspapers in this way is not new; I suspect you could find examples in the John Adams administration, and perhaps even in George Washington's.  But it is always a little troublesome, and more than a little troublesome when it suggests that the White House and the Defense Secretary disagree on defense policy.)
- 7:01 PM, 22 July 2015   [link]


Here's That Quinnipiac Poll Of Three Swing States:  Some highlights:
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is behind or on the wrong side of a too-close-to-call result in matchups with three leading Republican contenders, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in Colorado, Iowa and Virginia, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released today.

Perhaps the biggest loser, however, is Donald Trump, who has negative favorability ratings of almost 2-1 in each state, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds.  The Swing State Poll focuses on key states in the presidential election.

In several matchups in Iowa and Colorado, another Democratic contender, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, runs as well as, or better than Clinton against Rubio, Bush and Walker.  Vice President Joseph Biden does not do as well.

Clinton gets markedly negative favorability ratings in each state, 35 - 56 percent in Colorado, 33 - 56 percent in Iowa and 41 - 50 percent in Virginia.
It's early, but those numbers are, to say the least, interesting.  As usual, I urge you to look at the numbers, rather than articles about the numbers.

Some perspective:  George W. Bush carried two of the three (Colorado and Virginia) in 2000, and all three in 2004.  Barack Obama carried all three in both 2008 and 2012, though not by large margins — 5, 6, and 4 percent — in 2012.

The registration data from two of the three states shows how closely they are divided.   Colorado: 1,151,198 Democrats, 1,157,373 Republicans, and 1,338,394 independents/other.   Iowa: 689,794 Democrats, 672,308 Republicans, and 792,392 independents/other.  Virginia does not register voters by party.

(I'm using registration numbers from the 2014 Almanac of American Politics, because it's handy.  It would be interesting to see how the numbers have changed in both states since the book was published.)
- 12:56 PM, 22 July 2015   [link]


What Explains The Venezuelan Regime's Economic Mismanagement?  Venezuela has enormous oil reserves and is producing and selling its oil at historically high prices (though those prices are lower now than they were a few years ago, thanks mainly to the increase in oil production in the United States, and elsewhere).

Given those resources, how do you explain these problems and policies?
Venezuela's embattled government has taken the drastic step of forcing food producers to sell their produce to the state, in a bid to counter the ever-worsening shortages.

Farmers and manufacturers who produce milk, pasta, oil, rice, sugar and flour have been told to supply between 30 per cent and 100 per cent of their products to the state stores.   Shortages, rationing and queues outside supermarkets have become a way of life for Venezuelans, as their isolated country battles against rigid currency controls and a shortage of US dollars – making it difficult for Venezuelans to find imported goods.
Why is the Maduro regime pursuing polices that are nearly certain to make the problems worse?

There is a small answer to that question:  No doubt many in the regime are profiting from those policies and want to keep the dollars flowing into their overseas bank accounts.

But that answer seems insufficient, since a country with that much oil wealth (and many other resources) can tolerate a fair amount of corruption, and still function reasonably well.

So I've looked for a large answer, and this is the best I've found.
The Venezuelan Economy has been run in the last few years with a limited, random and incoherent set of principles, that reminds me a lot of Santería, which is composed of a set of beliefs taken from various religions, which are some times incoherent and even contradictory and which are based on hope, spiritual beliefs and ideas with little fundamentals.   Thus, we can characterize the current policies as Santero Economics, as the policies are equally incoherent, based on hope and many times go against each other, with no relation to known economic principles and fundamentals.
. . .
At the core of Santero Economics beliefs is that deficit spending, salary increases and increases in the monetary supply have little to do with inflation, which is a political phenomenon.  Thus, at the core of the problem is the economic war being waged by the oligarchs.  The solution is simply to import more stuff, control more of the economy and try to bypass the current private sector.  It makes no sense to change the Bs. 6.3 per US$ exchange rate, because all of those imported products would have increased prices.
Note, please, that I am saying that's the best answer I've found, not that Miguel Octavio is right in his analysis.  I don't know enough about the Venezuelan economy and the government's policies to be certain.  But his theory makes more sense to me than any other I've seen.

For what it's worth, Venezuela's president, Nicolás Maduro, is poorly educated — he didn't finish high school — and is said to believe in a rather odd religious sect.

(Here's the Wikipedia article on Santeria.   It's probably roughly correct.)
- 9:18 AM, 22 July 2015   [link]


If, Like Me, You Thought The Iran "Deal" Couldn't Get Any Worse, you were wrong.
Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Congressmen Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) issued a press release today on a startling discovery they made during a July 17 meeting with International Atomic Energy Agency officials in Vienna: There are two secret side deals to the nuclear agreement with Iran that will not be shared with other nations, with Congress, or with the U.S. public.

One of these side deals concerns inspection of the Parchin military base, where Iran reportedly has conducted explosive testing related to nuclear-warhead development.  The Iranian government has refused to allow the IAEA to visit this site.  Over the last several years, Iran has taken steps to clean up evidence of weapons-related activity at Parchin.

The other secret side deal concerns how the IAEA and Iran will resolve outstanding issues on possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Iran’s nuclear program.  In late 2013, Iran agreed to resolve IAEA questions about nuclear weapons-related work in twelve areas.  Iran only answered questions in one of these areas and rejected the rest as based on forgeries and fabrications.
So the UN just approved a "deal" that has two secret parts that almost no one at the UN can even read, and President Obama is asking Congress to do the same.

Amazing, absolutely amazing.
- 7:07 AM, 22 July 2015
Update:  The White House admits there are secret side "deals".
National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Wednesday acknowledged the existence of so-called “side” agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Rice said the deals involve Iran accounting for past military uses of its nuclear program, but rejected GOP assertions that this represented “secret” side deals to the Iranian nuclear agreement.

Rice said the documents between Iran and the IAEA are not public, but the administration has been informed on their contents and will share details with members of Congress in a classified briefing on Capitol Hill.

“We’re satisfied with them and we will share the contents of those briefings in full in a classified session with the Congress,” she told reporters.  “So there's nothing in that regard that we know that they won't know."
(Emphasis added.)

If Rice is speaking accurately, the administration does not have copies of those two agreements, but has been "briefed" about them and will, some time, repeat that briefing, in a secret session, to a few members of Congress.

Her promise is unlikely to satisfy skeptical members of Congress, or the attentive public.
- 7:29 AM, 23 July 2015   [link]


Bill Watterson, Social Critic:  Finding that copy of Calvin et Hobbes that I had forgotten I had, inspired me to look at some of his other collections, and that, in turn, reminded me that Watterson occasionally used his strip for some very sharp commentary.

For instance, here's the dialog from a strip in this collection.
Calvin: I'm writing a fund raising letter.

The secret to getting donations is to depict everyone who disagrees with you as the enemy.   Then you explain how they're systematically working to destroy everything you hold dear.

It's a war of values!  Rational discussion is hopeless!  Compromise is unthinkable!  Our only hope is well-funded antagonism, so we need your money to keep up the fight!

Hobbes: How cynically unconstructive.

Calvin: Enmity sells. (p. 64)
That's way better than the average editorial on the same subject.

(Perhaps if I had paid more attention to Watterson's biography, I would have been less surprised by those critiques.)
- 5:28 PM, 21 July 2015   [link]


The Crime Of "Insufficient Clapping"  Paul Kengor finds an echo of past Soviet practices (and quotes a great story from Solzhenitsyn) in the treatment that quarterback Brett Favre received after the Espy awards..
In a truly surreal display, NFL great Brett Favre is being denounced by the left’s new cultural commissars for not clapping long and hard enough at ESPN’s ESPY awards, as Bruce/“Caitlyn” Jenner received a “Courage” award for his efforts to become a woman.  Oddly, Favre did applaud – not doing so would have been a grave heresy to America’s new church of progressive inquisitors.  His sin was not applauding enthusiastically enough.
I found that hard enough to believe that I had to check the New York Post story that Kengor cites, to see if that really happened.

It did.

Favre won't get ten years in the Gulag for that crime, as the Soviet official did, but the precedent does make one wonder just how he will be punished.

(By the way, the ten-year sentence shows that the secret police regarded it as a real crime, since those who had done nothing — typically received only five-year sentences.

My own, politically incorrect, theory is that we should find out what responsibility, if any, Jenner bears for that car accident that took a woman's life before we give him any awards.  Usually, the driver that smashes into another car from behind is at fault, even if he is part of a chain reaction.  And it is easy for a driver who is towing a heavy load, as Jenner was, to underestimate the safe following distance.)
- 3:45 PM, 21 July 2015   [link]


Cuba Is A Communist Dictatorship:  That's not, or at least should not be, a matter of dispute since it is a central part of the Cuban constitution.
Cuba has had a communist political system since 1959. Cuba is constitutionally defined as a Marxist–Leninist "socialist state guided by the principles of José Martí, and the political ideas of Marx, the father of communist states, Engels and Lenin."  The present Constitution also ascribes the role of the Communist Party of Cuba to be the "leading force of society and of the state" and as such has the capability of setting national policy.[1]
But that fact wasn't mentioned in any of the news reports I saw yesterday on the restoring of full diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.  (I watched, in order, BBC America, ABC, NBC, and CBS.  This morning I saw another story on the Fox affiliate, Q13.)

All of the stories mentioned the trade embargo; none of them added that it has never applied to food and medicine, which we have continued to sell to Cuba, all during the embargo.  None of the stories mentioned the long history of Cuban interventions in other countries, including Angola, Ethiopia, and many others.

None of the stories mentioned the extensive Cuban spying in the United States or even the murders of the Brothers to the Rescue, who were flying in international waters.

All the stories but one showed us the Cuban soldiers goose stepping as part of the ceremony of raising the Cuban flag in Washington.  The goose stepping suggested, to anyone who knows a little history, that this was not a pleasant regime, but the reporters appear to have missed even that obvious clue.

(The worst story?  I would say it was a tie between BBC America, which has been openly campaigning for this, for years, and David Muir's interview of a Cuban official.   Both were pure propaganda, the first subtle and fairly clever, the second crude and fairly stupid.)
- 7:14 AM, 21 July 2015   [link]


You'll Probably Enjoy Visualizing This Seattle Times Headline As Much As I Did:  If, that is, you are into monster trucks.

It's a big headline, appropriately, since it is over their lead article: "NEW FLEET STIRS THE FOOD-TRUCK POT".  (That's the print version; the Internet version adds "California-owned".  For reasons that escape me, the first two words in the print version are in red.)

So you begin by picturing a very large pot full of food trucks, and then add more trucks, trucks that are somehow stirring that pot.  (By driving around in it, perhaps?)

I really wish I had enough drawing skill to produce that cartoon.

More than once, I've offered to help our local monopoly newspaper with metaphors, but no one there has taken me up on those offers.

(More seriously, I would advise most of you to avoid using that metaphor.   The problem with it is simple; most of the time when we stir a pot, we are doing what any cook would do, and our stirring improves the dish, and may even be necessary to make the dish come out right.)
- 12:47 PM, 20 July 2015   [link]


Do You Want "Just The Facts" From The New York Times?  Forget it, says their public editor, Margaret Sullivan.
I often hear from readers that they would prefer a straight, neutral treatment — just the facts.  But The Times has moved away from that, reflecting editors’ reasonable belief that the basics can be found in many news outlets, every minute of the day.  They want to provide “value-added” coverage.

Often, that works well, but not always.
(Her column describes an article on the firing of Ellen Pao, where it worked badly.)

As someone who glances as their "Corrections" section fairly regularly, I'd say the newspaper would do well to spend a little more effort on getting the facts right, the first time.  (Take a look at the rest of the corrections in the link in the post below for more examples, if you need them.)

And, many corrections that should be made, aren't.  If they spell your name wrong, they will probably correct that; if they misstate what a graph shows, they probably won't correct that.  And, if you are a leftist opinion writer, you can often say whatever you like, without correction, or even a published letter in reply.

(Note, by the way, that Sullivan is admitting that the Times is providing added value or, some would say, editorializing, in the news articles — even though they know many readers do not want that.

For those who don't read the Times regularly, this reminder:  Our newspaper of record often sets the agenda for other news organizations, including the networks.  What you see on, for instance, CBS, often comes, fairly directly, from the Times.)
- 10:53 AM, 20 July 2015   [link]


Senator Ted Cruz Represents The State Of ____:  If you automatically filled that in with "Texas", you know more than an anonymous New York Times editor.
Corrections

Because of an editing error, an article on Thursday about a congressional investigation of Planned Parenthood over the issue of fetal tissue donations misidentified, in some editions, the state represented by Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican contender for president who condemned the organization.  It is Texas, not Florida.
Well, they got it right on the second try.

(Here's a mischievous thought:  Could that editor have confused Cruz with Marco Rubio?  Do all those Cuban-American Republicans look alike to that editor?)
- 8:12 AM, 20 July 2015   [link]


Citizens For A Nuclear Free Iran Has Been Running A TV Ad Against The Iran "Deal"  Here's the group's web site, where you can see the ad (and share it, if you like).

The "Advisory Board" consists of Evan Bayh, Mark Begich, Shelley Berkley, Mary Landrieu, and Joe Lieberman, all Democrats.

I'll be looking for evaluations of the accuracy of the many claims in that ad, and plan to do my own, at some point.

Meanwhile, I suggest that everyone — regardless of what side they are one — take a look at the ad.
- 11:02 AM, 19 July 2015   [link]


Michael Oren On Obama's Decline:  As I work through Oren's Ally, I keep finding sharp observations embedded in his descriptions of the hectic life of an Israeli ambassador to the United States.

For example, here's how Oren describes the decline in Obama's stature that he was seeing by 2011.  Oren begins by describing how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had become stronger over that same period of time, and then turns to President Obama, criticizing first his personality, and then his core beliefs.
Barack Obama's standing, by contrast, crested.  Given his near deification two years earlier, such a decline was inevitable.  Further accelerating the president's descent was the intractable split between Democrats and Republicans, the incessant battles over health care, and the economy's languor.  But his personality, too, played a part.  Ever cerebral, he seemed to prefer contemplation to leadership—"the Analyst in Chief", critics called him— and ideas to hands-on action.  The coldness I detected in his autobiography and the insularity he still displayed hampered him from establishing cross-the-aisle understandings or even enduring friendships within his own party.  A similar chill distanced him from traditional American allies—not only Israel—whose ambassadors complained to me of the administration's unprecedented aloofness.  "Obama's problem is not a tin ear," one of my European colleagues lamented, "it's a tin heart."

Throughout, I continued to observe Obama's ambivalence about America's place among nations and its use of power.  Rhapsodic in his speeches about his countrymen's can-do approach, he evinced less enthusiasm about flexing their might.  "Whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower," he declared.  Such words—unimaginable in the mouths of John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, or Bill Clinton— discomfited Israelis and others overseas who viewed as miraculous the fact that the world's greatest democracy was also its strongest state.
If you are ambivalent about American power, you really ought to spend a little time thinking about what the world would be like without it.  (Or watching John Sullivan and Dinesh D'Souza's video.)

(Those paragraphs can be found about 59 percent of the way through the book.  I'm reading it in the Kindle version, so I have to give you percentages, rather than page numbers — at least until I figure out how to get page numbers out of the Kindle version, assuming that's possible.

And I want to draw your attention to Oren's writing skill, again.  He understands that, as a former ambassador and a current member of the Israeli parliament, he can not criticize the thin-skinned Obama as bluntly as he might were he an American commentator.  So, he saves the sharpest attacks for anonymous critics, a European ambassador, and Obama himself.

For the record:  I do not think that Obama is "cerebral".)
- 2:00 PM, 18 July 2015   [link]


"Iran Will Cheat.  Then What?"  Good question, Mr. Ross.

After some obligatory praise for parts of the Iran "deal", Dennis Ross comes to one of its central problems, enforcement.
Given Iran’s track record, it will likely cheat along the margins to test the means of verification and see how it might be able to change the baseline—and there needs to be a penalty for each such act of non-compliance and preferably not only by the US.

I say this because deterrence is going to be even more important as a result of this deal.   Indeed, for me the greatest single problem with the agreement is that Iran is going to be left as a threshold nuclear state at the end of fifteen years.  The agreement requires Iran to dismantle none of its enrichment infrastructure and starting in year 15, it can have as large a nuclear program as it wants.  The gap between threshold and weapons status is small and will not take long to bridge.

As such, deterrence is what will matter.  Iran must have no doubts that if we see it moving toward a weapon that would trigger the use of force.  Declaring that is a must even now.  Proving that every transgression will produce a price will demonstrate that we mean what we say.
(Emphasis added.)

To put it less diplomatically, Iran's leaders must be made to understand that when they cheat in small ways, they will be punished, and if they get close to an atomic bomb, the United States will make war to prevent them from building one.  The immediate punishments for small violations will, Ross thinks, make the greater threat more believable.

We might be able to make them believe those things if a President John McCain, or even a President Mitt Romney, were in the Oval Office, but I see no hope that we can with the current occupant.

(Dennis Ross has a doctoral degree from UCLA, where he wrote his dissertation on "Soviet decision-making".  He served in the Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama administrations, often in high positions concerned with the Middle East.)
- 10:43 AM, 18 July 2015   [link]


When They Searched Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez's House, The Police Took Out Two Women In Handcuffs:  His mother, and one of his sisters, I guessed.  Which left me wondering where his father was.

Here's a likely explanation.
The Muslim murderer of four US Marines came from an abusive and violent home where his mother was physically and verbally abused by her husband.

Court documents obtained by Daily Mail Online reveal that Muhammad Youssuf Abdulazeez was also victim of beatings by his father that were carried out 'without provocation or justification.'

The Kuwaiti born gunman was caught up in the messy divorce in his senior year at high school in 2009.
As you would expect, his mother asked for a restraining order, and for her husband to be removed from their home.

Kind of adds a twist to those pictures of a happy family most of us have seen, doesn't it?

(Although his mother was probably telling the truth in the court filing, we have to remember that both men and women sometimes fib in divorce cases.)
- 4:32 PM, 17 July 2015   [link]


Heather's Heresy:  In May, Heather MacDonald wrote a much discussed op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, "The New Nationwide Crime Wave". (I'll be discussing two of her pieces in the Journal, and a Journal editorial.   You can find links to all three here.)
The nation’s two-decades-long crime decline may be over.  Gun violence in particular is spiraling upward in cities across America. In Baltimore, the most pressing question every morning is how many people were shot the previous night. Gun violence is up more than 60% compared with this time last year, according to Baltimore police, with 32 shootings over Memorial Day weekend.  May has been the most violent month the city has seen in 15 years.

In Milwaukee, homicides were up 180% by May 17 over the same period the previous year.  Through April, shootings in St. Louis were up 39%, robberies 43%, and homicides 25%.  “Crime is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said St. Louis Alderman Joe Vacarro at a May 7 City Hall hearing.
. . .
The most plausible explanation of the current surge in lawlessness is the intense agitation against American police departments over the past nine months.

Since last summer, the airwaves have been dominated by suggestions that the police are the biggest threat facing young black males today.  A handful of highly publicized deaths of unarmed black men, often following a resisted arrest—including Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., in July 2014, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014 and Freddie Gray in Baltimore last month—have led to riots, violent protests and attacks on the police.  Murders of officers jumped 89% in 2014, to 51 from 27.
In other words, President Barack Obama and former attorney general Eric Holder, along with others, may have caused crime to increase in our large cities.

In June, she followed that with an op-ed, "Explaining Away the New Crime Wave", which softened her argument, somewhat.

When I saw the May op-ed, I thought it interesting and certainly correct for Baltimore.  But it was hard to tell, just from her examples, whether it deserved that "Nationwide" in the title.  I recall hoping that criminologists would take up her argument, and evaluate where it was true, and where it wasn't.

That was silly of me, since most criminologists have, for decades, been able to ignore mere statistics in favor of political correctness.  I should have expected what has happened, as an editorial in today's Journal tells us:
Academics claim to revere open debate but often recoil when they see the genuine article.  Witness the campaign some scholars—loosely defined—are waging against Heather Mac Donald for challenging university pieties about a recent surge in violent crime.

The Manhattan Institute scholar has argued in these pages that political agitation after the Ferguson, Missouri, riots has left many law enforcement officers reluctant to engage in proactive policing, thus contributing to the crime spike in some cities.  Ms. Mac Donald’s articles have incurred the wrath of the American Society of Criminology (ASC), the professional organization for academic criminologists.
And so now they are asking their members not to evaluate her arguments, but to refute them.

And if a criminologist, without tenure, found that she was partly right?  He or she would be wise (if, perhaps a little cowardly) to not share their findings with anyone other than their most trusted colleagues.

(Here's a snarky commentary on her first op-ed, which commits some of the same mistakes the writer accuses her of.)
- 4:06 PM, 17 July 2015   [link]


Two Speculations About Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez:   His father is Palestinian.  When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, many Palestinians (including Yasser Arafat) welcomed the invasion.  As they saw it, Saddam hated Israel almost as much as they did.

After the war, those living in Kuwait were, naturally, unwelcome in Kuwait.

That is probably why his father was allowed to immigrate to the United States.  He was a refugee from Kuwait.  Probably.

Second, Abdulazeez failed at finding a job, in spite of his 2012 degree in electrical engineering.
He graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.  He worked from April 2009 to April 2010 as an intern with the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federally owned corporation that provides electricity to 9 million people in the southeast.  He also had internships at Mohawk Industries and Global Trade Express.
Three internships and no permanent job offer?

That failure may have contributed to his radicalization.  And vice versa.  It is easy to believe that his growing radicalization offended those he worked with, and gave them a reason not to offer him a permanent job.

(It is also possible, of course, that he was offered a job, but did not accept it, for whatever reasons.)

Those are speculations, I repeat, but I think they are reasonable speculations.

- 9:35 AM, 17 July 2015
Update:  Abdulazeez did have a job; he had worked at Superior Essex for "two to three months".
A company employee approached the Williamson County Sheriff's office and told authorities that the suspected shooter worked at the plant, the source said.  Superior Essex is a technology manufacturing company that, according to its website, designs, produces and supplies wire and cable products.
. . .
The employee said he believed Abdulazeez has worked at the company for two to three months, and that he never said anything much about his personal life.
Abdulazeez was a "shift supervisor" there.

I assume we will soon know more about what he was doing between the time he graduated from college, and yesterday.
- 10:35 AM, 17 July 2015   [link]