June 2015, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
Yesterday Was The 800th Anniversary of The Sealing Of The Magna Carta: The New York Times "celebrated" by running an op-ed titled "Stop Revering Magna Carta", by law professor Tom Ginsburg.
Which you can read if you like. Or, you can read one of the many replies to Professor Ginsburg, such as this one.
But I think you will be better off if you spend your time reading Brendan O'Neill's tribute, instead.
Not surprisingly, given it was written 800 years ago, there’s much in Magna Carta that sounds alien to our 21st-century ears. From its heartfelt plea for ‘standard measures’ of wine and ale ‘throughout the kingdom’ to its rumination on what should happen to a man’s fortunes should he die while in debt to Jews, the medievalism of the document sings through its 63 clauses. And of course, as many historians point out, it’s a very historically specific document, designed to prevent a brewing civil war between influential rebel barons and a tyrannical king, John. Some sniff that Magna Carta was simply a wartime treaty, merely securing rights for stroppy 13th-century barons rather than for man- (far less woman-) kind.As O'Neill goes on to demonstrate.
(They celebrated it in style yesterday, as you can see from this set of pictures. If you go all the way to the end, you'll notice that the BBC likes Loretta Lynch more than they like Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.)
People sometimes say King John signed the Magna Carta; actually, he stamped it with his seal.
Trivial, but interesting: Tennessee's constitution has "passages" taken "pretty much verbatim" from the Magna Carta. I would guess that is true of some other state constitutions, too.
If you are feeling ambitious, or just curious, you can read descriptions of the clauses, here.)
- 1:11 PM, 16 June 2015 [link]
It Was Just A Small, Intimate Party — For 500 People: So it's understandable that the Obamas kept it secret.
Prince played two shows in Washington, DC, on Sunday, but he also gave a private VIP performance at the White House on Saturday night to celebrate African-American Music Appreciation Month.Like Keith Koffler, I am impressed that they were able to keep this secret as long as they did, but I can also understand why a reporter might be peeved by the secrecy.
No doubt this party was just another example of President Obama fighting for the middle class — though no middle-class person was invited, judging by the partial guest list in that Page Six column.
(It's hard to think of an artist whose songs better exemplify middle-class values than the artist formerly (and currently) known as Prince.)
- 8:02 AM, 16 June 2015 [link]
Condoleezza Rice Versus Hillary Clinton: Which of the two former secretaries of state wins?
That depends on how you are scoring, and their speeches before the same non-profit show that you can make a case for either lady.
When Condoleezza Rice headlined a 2009 fundraising luncheon for the Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach, she collected a $60,000 speaking fee, then donated almost all of it back to the club, according to multiple sources familiar with the club’s finances.If you are scoring by who helped the club the most, Rice won; if you are scoring by who made the most money for her family, Clinton won.
And I suspect that you would come to the same general conclusion, if you compared their careers as heads of the State Department. If you score them by who did the most for the nation (or the least harm), Rice wins; if you score them by family profits, Clinton wins.
There's much more in the article about those Bill and Hillary Clinton speeches before non-profits. I'll just add that most celebrity speakers at fund raisers for these groups either take only expenses, or do what Rice did, and give most of the money back.
- 7:15 AM, 16 June 2015 [link]
What Kind Of Books Should A President Read? Or, better yet, have read before they become president?
Opinions will differ on this question, but I think I can make a good argument for these three kinds of books: history (including biography and military history), economics, and science and technology.
A president needs to know how we got here to understand where we should be going. There won't be general peace in my time (or in yours, even if you are much younger than I am), so a president has to be able to think seriously about military problems. A president need not devise our nation's strategies, but they are the only one who can select them.
The other two categories are, I hope, mostly obvious.
We don't know a lot about Hillary Clinton's past reading but we do have this list of her recent reading:
(I've added Amazon links so you can learn more about the books if, like me, you are unfamiliar with some of them. And I suppose I should mention that I haven't actually read any of them.)
If you are thinking that Clinton would rather read biography than history, would rather read novels than either, and has no interest in economics and science, you are probably right. I say that, not just because of the books on that list (which might not be representative of her reading), but because of who she lists as her favorite authors: "Laura Hillenbrand, Walter Isaacson, Barbara Kingsolver, John le Carre, John Grisham, Hillary Mantel, Toni Morrison, Anna Quindlen, and Alice Walker".
There is an oddly old-fashioned feeling to that list, and those authors. They are the kind of books and authors that a respectable middle class, or upper middle class, woman might have read in the 1950s. Read, and perhaps enjoyed, along with the rest of the ladies in her book club.
When Barack Obama was about to take office as president, I said that I was in despair about his prospects, partly because he did not appear to have read the books he should have.
Clinton's list is even worse than Obama's.
- 4:17 PM, 15 June 2015 [link]
"How Neil Young, Greenpeace Work To Starve The World's Poor" That's an arresting headline. (If, perhaps, a bit long for a tabloid newspaper.)
Owen Paterson thinks that Young is a fool, taken in by Greenpeace propaganda on genetically modified organisms.
The aging songwriter is following the lead of activists who claim that GMOs are harmful to health, farmers and the environment.Paterson appears to approve of this remedy:
Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace in the 1970s, broke with his creation and now works to expose Greenpeace’s actions in the developing world. He’s joined with Golden Rice inventor Ingo Potrykus in calling for putting Greenpeace on trial for crimes against humanity.(Emphasis added.)
That should get their attention.
Almost all of the people who die from lack of Vitamin A are among the poorest of the poor, people who live mostly on rice in South America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia.
(Here's the usual Wikipedia article on Golden Rice, with some of the usual caveats.)
- 10:15 AM, 15 June 2015 [link]
Philae Phoned Home: Briefly.
The Philae probe made three short contacts of about 10 seconds each at roughly 2130 GMT on Sunday.(Philae had landed in an area that was then in the shade, and solar panels don't work well in such locations.)
That's good news.
(There's much more in the Wikipedia article.)
- 7:41 AM, 15 June 2015 [link]
Maureen's Muddled Metaphors: As she often does, Maureen Dowd muddled her metaphors in yesterday's column.
The president might want to catch some shows, as the lame duck’s chickens come home to roost.Ducks, lame or otherwise, don't keep chickens, and Obama's problem is that many Democrats are fleeing from him, not coming home.
There's another set of examples at the end:
President Obama has vowed to degrade, destroy and defeat ISIS, but it seems more like delay, so it won’t look as though he lost Iraq on his watch. He’s putting a bandage on the virulent gash, sending American advisers to work with Iraqi troops and tribesmen in “lily pad” bases near the front lines.There are — I hope — copy editors at the Times who winced when they saw those paragraphs.
I mention these writing errors from time to time, because they often show thinking errors, and, if you study them, you can often see where Dowd, and others, have gone wrong.
(Not all of her metaphors in that column fail; this one, describing Nancy Pelosi, is actually quite good:
But you could almost see the thought bubble above her head as she spoke on Friday: “I’ve done a lot of heavy lifting for this guy and I’m not going to do this. He’s on his way out. I may be on my way out, too, but I want to keep my friends.”And probably reasonably accurate.)
- 7:23 AM, 15 June 2015 [link]
Peter Schweizer Keeps The Pressure Up: In this op-ed, where he notes that the Clintons haven't answered any of the questions he raised in his book, such as this one:
For example, Hillary hasn’t explained why her State Department approved the transfer of 20% of US uranium to the Russian government — even as her family foundation hauled in $145 million from investors in the deal, and Bill received $500,000 from a Kremlin-backed bank for a speech in Moscow.You don't have to be abnormally suspicious to think that sequence of events needs explaining.
- 5:18 PM, 14 June 2015 [link]
Maureen Dowd Agrees With Me: (Which caused me to re-think the argument I made yesterday.)
To be more precise, Dowd sort of agrees with me. I put President Obama's failure on the House trade vote on Friday down to incompetence; Dowd ascribes it to it to arrogance.
Obama has always resented the idea that it mattered for him to charm and knead and whip and hug and horse-trade his way to legislative victories, to lubricate the levers of government with personal loyalty. But, once more, he learned the hard way, it matters.We could both be right.
The rest of the column won't surprise you, except, perhaps, for the very beginning:
On Saturday mornings, I love to watch reruns of the TV Western “The Rifleman.” Each show is a little moral fable, with Chuck Connors’s widowed rancher and crack shot, Lucas McCain, teaching his son, Mark, about actions and consequences.Which is both more interesting, and way more subtle, than her usual father-son arguments.
What Dowd is saying is that Obama needs to learn the moral lessons that many sons get from their fathers. Obama may have gotten "dreams" from his father, but he didn't get any discipline — and it shows.
I doubt very much, by the way, that Obama learned from that defeat — though he should have.
(Does Dowd actually watch "The Rifleman" on Saturday mornings? It's a charming thought — and she may from time to time.)
- 4:56 PM, 14 June 2015 [link]
BHO Is No LBJ: The House vote yesterday, rejecting the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill, demonstrated that, once again.
Sensing his free trade agenda was hours from a stunning defeat, President Barack Obama went to Capitol Hill on Friday morning to make a personal plea for his own party's support.LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson) would have known, months ago, that the trade deal was in trouble in the House. BHO (Barack Hussein Obama) sensed it, according to CNN, at the last minute. (The vote was not close; 302 opposed TAA, and just 126 voted for it, so you didn't have to be an ace vote counter to know that it was in trouble.)
And then, instead of asking for the vote to be delayed while he worked with House leaders to find the votes, made a speech to the Democrats that, according to Congressman Peter Defazio, a loyal Democrat, "insulted our integrity". (When trying to win votes, LBJ routinely flattered, sometimes outrageously, his targets.)
It is true that few presidents have been as good as LBJ in rounding up votes; it is also true that few presidents have been as bad as BHO at that basic presidential task.
(That entire video with Congressman DeFazio is worth watching.
A brief, and, I hope, not too misleading, description of those three confusing acronyms, TAA, TPA, and TPP" TAA (Trade Adjustment Assistance) is a bill providing help for any workers who might be displaced by a free trade agreement. It was included in order to make it easier, especially for Democrats, to vote for free trade. TPA (Trade Promotion Authority) is the "fast track" bill; it provides that trade agreements can be voted on without amendments. TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) is a gigantic treaty being negotiated with countries in Asia. TAA was defeated, and TPA passed, but since the two are tied together, the passage of TPA doesn't matter. TPP is unfinished and so, officially, secret, though much is known, from leaks and otherwise, about what it includes. Without TPA — and perhaps some evidence that it will be approved by Congress — other nations are unlikely to sign it.)
- 8:28 AM, 13 June 2015 [link]
Rachel Dolezal, Passing For Black: As you can imagine, this story has gotten a lot of coverage here in Washington state.
An NAACP leader's parents have made a startling revelation: their daughter, for years a highly visible civil rights activist in Eastern Washington, is white.(I picked the Daily Mail version of this story because I figured they would have the most pictures.)
I'll just add one point: If the EWU department she is working for is like most such departments, she would be more likely to get a job there if she were of the correct race.
- 8:36 AM, 12 June 2015 [link]
Merkel And Obama, Merkel And Jeb Bush: Chancellor Angela Merkel met with both men this week, President Obama at the G7 meeting on 8 June, and Bush at a party conference on 10 June.
And the pictures I saw of those two meetings left me wondering what Merkel — a very smart politician — thought of the two men. Here's what CNN said about the first meeting, along with a picture you may already have seen.
A photo captured Monday shows the president stretching out on a wooden bench, chatting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel with the jagged Bavarian Alps rising in the distance.And here is a similar article and picture showing her meeting with Jeb Bush.
Addressing some 2,000 politicians and business people at an economic conference organized by Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party, Bush received a warm welcome, but it was a far cry from an address the then Senator Barack Obama gave in Tiergarten park in 2008 with more than 200,000 people cheering.(The two also met privately, though not for a long meeting.)
When I look at that picture of Merkel and Bush together, I see her looking friendly and interested, but not committed, which is what you would expect.
But when I look at the picture of her with Obama, I find it very hard to interpret. For one thing, Obama hasn't offered her the seat, as old-fashioned politeness would require him to do; instead, he is sitting and she is standing. And then there is her arms-out gesture.
Is she just enjoying the day, or thinking how much she has enjoyed working with Obama, or thinking that he will be gone in January 2017 and she won't have to work with him any more, or what? I really don't know.
She is so smart that I assume she has figured out ways to get some of what she wants from Obama. But it may be that the effort (which almost certainly includes considerable flattery) has tired her over the years.
If you think you know what is going on in that picture, please let me know.
(For what it's worth, Bush got good marks on his three-country visit.)
- 7:31 AM, 12 June 2015 [link]
Another Recycled Clinton Joke: Two weeks ago, I mentioned how startled I was when I opened a 1986 joke collection at random, and found that the first two jokes I read could easily be recycled into current Clinton jokes.
Now Bill Clinton is telling jokes directly from that collection. Here's one from page 4:
During an official reception, a guest rushes toward a politician: 'You know,' he says, shaking his hand, 'I've heard a lot about you.'And here's what Bill Clinton said in an interview on Wednesday:
Former President Bill Clinton did an interview with Bloomberg in front of a live and friendly audience at the Clinton Global Initiative, and offered a response to allegations of influence-peddling and worse from the nexus of power and cash involving the family foundation and Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State. “Has anybody proved that we did anything objectionable?” Clinton asked, and then provided his own answer: “No.”Ed Morrissey and Chris Cillizza found that answer obnoxious, as I did — after I stopped laughing.
- 5:24 AM, 12 June 2015 [link]
George Will Makes The Case for giving President Obama "Fast Track" Authority.
Before presidential politics — the game of getting to 270 electoral votes — completely eclipses governing, there is the urgent task of getting to 217 votes in the House of Representatives to pass trade-promotion authority (TPA). This would guarantee a vote without amendments on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Without TPA, any trade agreement will be nibbled to death in Congress by those eager to do organized labor’s bidding. So, Republicans who oppose TPA are collaborating with those who oppose increasing the velocity and rationality of economic life.There's more along those lines, but I think that's enough for you to grasp Will's essential argument, which goes something like this: This secret agreement is a free trade agreement. Free trade agreements are good things. Republicans, especially, have an obligation to pass free trade agreements because they sinned back in the 19th century, putting too high tariffs on imports.
You'll notice, if you read the whole column, that Will never tells us exactly what this secret agreement will do, what effects it will have on imports, exports, and American jobs.
Instead he has rolled out the same argument he might have made for NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, or the trade agreements made with Colombia and South Korea.
Which makes me wonder, yet again, whether the devil might be in the details.
(Just a little bit of history: The Republicans were, just as Will says, in favor of high tariffs in the 19th century. Many believed, sincerely, that those tariffs were good for the American working man; others understood that they could get support from wealthy manufacturers by imposing tariffs that excluded foreign competition.
At that time, Democrats tended to favor lower tariffs because so many of their constituents were likely to benefit from lower prices for manufactured goods. Think of farmers in the South, if you need an example.
That changed when unions, especially industrial unions, became a key element in the Democratic coalition.
There were tariff fights in Britain during the 19th century that may be instructive; for an example, take a look at the Corn Laws.)
- 12:43 PM, 11 June 2015 [link]
Belgium Defeats France: By creating a new euro coin commemorating the battle of Waterloo, after France had blocked their first proposal.
Belgium announced this week it would issue a special €2.50 coin to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, circumventing French objections that had blocked issuance of a €2 coin.(I wonder if they thought of making that coin €18.15.)
That defeat still hurts many in France though it brought peace to most of Europe, for decades. They object, for instance, to the Waterloo railway station in London, even though they have a similar station in Paris, named after one of Napoleon's greatest victories, Austerlitz.
(That description of the two sides is inaccurate. A majority of the 68,000 men under Wellington 's command were not British. There were 17,000 from the Netherlands, 11,000 from Hanover, 6,000 from Brunswick, and 3,000 from Nassau. And the British army included 6,000 men of the "King's German Legion". When you add in the 50,000 under the Prussian commander, Blucher, you realize that roughly one in five of the soldiers who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo were from Britain.
It shows, I think, something about Wellington's skills that he was able to keep this coalition together on the battlefield, in spite of Napoleon's attacks.)
- 9:29 AM, 11 June 2015 [link]
To Begin With, Two X Chromosomes: That was my answer to the question posed by the lead opinion piece in Sunday's New York Times. The headline asked: "What Makes a Woman?"
And I was so certain that the author, Elinor Burkett, a "journalist, a former professor of women’s studies and an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker", would not even mention that obvious point about the chromosomes, that it took me some time to get around to reading the piece.
Which you can read if you are interested in how a former professor of women's studies feels about Bruce Jenner and company, but which I wouldn't recommend, otherwise.
Especially if you have any respect for science, history, or even what our everyday experiences should teach us.
As it happens, I was wrong; Burkett does mention the chromosomes — but only to deny that they matter:
The struggle to move beyond such stereotypes is far from over, and trans activists could be women’s natural allies moving forward. So long as humans produce X and Y chromosomes that lead to the development of penises and vaginas, almost all of us will be “assigned” genders at birth. But what we do with those genders — the roles we assign ourselves, and each other, based on them — is almost entirely mutable.(Emphasis added.)
No doubt most of you are pleased to see that she at least qualified that with "almost", but I have to add that she does not tell us what she thinks is not entirely mutable.
If you are beginning to conclude that I am not taking her argument, or the arguments of those trans activists, seriously, you are right. To me, they are about as unscientific as the claim that the earth is flat. We are not "assigned" sexes at birth (with a few rare exceptions) any more than we are "assigned" hair colors at birth. Our mothers, and any attendants, recognize what the genes have already constructed.
To say that, or similar things, would ban me from many leftist circles — but you wouldn't find many biologists who would disagree.
But I can not imagine how I would persuade Burkett of that, even if she were willing to listen to me. Earlier in the piece, she says, speaking of her differences from the trans activists: "Their truth is not my truth."
If we are each entitled to our own "truth", then there is no point in appealing to science, history, or even everyday experiences, when we are trying to determine what is true, and what is not.
(She begins the piece with a common, and, by now, annoying mistake about what Lawrence Summers said that got him forced out of his Harvard presidency. There's an explanation of what he actually said at the end of this post.)
- 8:38 AM, 10 June 2015 [link]
President Obama Just Doesn't Like Israel: That's the conclusion that John Podhoretz draws from a pre-publication copy of Michael Oren's latest book.
Throughout his tenure, [Ambassador] Oren believed he was uniquely well-equipped to explain Israel to Americans and America to the Israelis. But how to explain a president who recently said that the Israel he admires is the Israel of kibbutzim and Golda Meir — a ludicrously rosy and unrealistic image of the Jewish state on par with wanting to look like Disneyland’s Main Street USA?At one time, many on the left supported Israel. It was a small socialist state surrounded by hostile neighbors governed by military dictators. But that changed as Israel became more successful, and as the left began to see issues more and more in terms of race (with race defined politically).
For Obama and others like him, the modern Israel looks like a outpost of the West, oppressing innocent third-worlders — and they are always innocent, regardless of what they actually do. And at that point rational thought ends, and they are unable to treat Israel decently, even for practical reasons.
(Here's Oren's Wikipedia biography, with more than the usual caveats.
You can pre-order the book at Amazon and, no doubt, other places.)
- 7:05 AM, 10 June 2015 [link]
A Modern Young Woman Uses A Modern Way to judge her guy's commitment.
It's a long way from a ring, even a class ring, but it's something.
(I found the cartoon in 2014 New Yorker cartoon collection, which has definitely been worth the $11.99 (plus tax) I paid for it.)
- 10:16 AM, 9 June 2015 [link]
Here's The Latest On The NYT Donation/Hillary Endorsement Story: The Washington Free Beacon owns this story, so you won't be surprised to see that it comes from them.
The New York Times is clamming up about the specific date Bill and Hillary Clinton contributed $100,000 to the paper’s charity group in 2008, but denies the donation played a role in its coverage and endorsement of Clinton in the Democratic primaries that year.The amount is large enough so that it looks suspicious, either way. If it came before the endorsement it looks like a bribe; if it came afterward, it looks like a thank-you present.
I don't want to go too far; I don't think there was any explicit agreement between the two organizations, but it is one of those Clinton coincidences that make you wonder.
(In the past, I've found the reporter, Alana Goodman, to be reliable. She's in my small "trust but verify" group of journalists.)
- 6:57 AM, 9 June 2015 [link]
The Pentagon has Sent "Lots Of Options" for defeating ISIS to President Obama, just as I said must have happened, yesterday.
The anonymous official is quoted a little after one minute into the video. His opinions are, shall we say, vigorous.
Understandably, because President Obama in effect accused that officer, and others, of not doing their duties.
By way of Debra Heine.
- 6:15 AM, 9 June 2015 [link]