Archive:

September 2015, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



"Obama’s Syria achievement"  Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor at the Washington Post, has some sharp words for President Obama.
This may be the most surprising of President Obama’s foreign-policy legacies: not just that he presided over a humanitarian and cultural disaster of epochal proportions, but that he soothed the American people into feeling no responsibility for the tragedy.
. . .
Today the Islamic State is blowing up precious cultural monuments in Palmyra, and half of all Syrians have been displaced — as if, on a proportional basis, 160 million Americans had been made homeless.  More than a quarter-million have been killed.  Yet the “Save Darfur” signs have not given way to “Save Syria.”

One reason is that Obama — who ran for president on the promise of restoring the United States’ moral stature — has constantly reassured Americans that doing nothing is the smart and moral policy.  He has argued, at times, that there was nothing the United States could do, belittling the Syrian opposition as “former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth.”
There's much more, but there are two things that Hiatt doesn't say — but probably should:   First, if President Obama had been trying, all along, to prolong and worsen the Syrian civil war, he would have done about the same things he has done: demanded that Assad go, while doing little to force him to go, helping the opposition, but not enough so that they can make significant gains, and so on.

Second, there is reason, some would say good reason, to think that Obama has followed that policy as part of his effort to reach out to the Iranian regime.

If that theory is correct, and I believe it is, then the Syrians are "collateral damage" in Obama's efforts to reach an agreement with the Iranian mullahs.  And I am willing to believe that Obama is sorry for the Syrians — a little.

Not sorry enough, perhaps, to give up a golf game for them, but a little.
- 7:05 PM, 8 September 2015   [link]


In The State Legislatures, President Obama Has Been A Gift To The Republican Party:  Philip Bump provides still another summary of those Republican gains since January 2009.
There's another way to look at that.  The NCSL's annual breakdown of the composition of each state's Senate and House or Assembly goes back to 2009, when President Obama was inaugurated.  Since then, the ratio of Republicans to Democrats has tilted to the right in nearly every Senate and nearly every legislature.
. . .
Overall, of the 98 state senates and houses/assemblies, the Republicans saw gains in 40 upper chambers and 45 lower ones.  Meaning far fewer elected Democrats, and a smaller bench.  Many of those Democrats are necessarily from swing districts, as our Aaron Blake pointed out last year -- the sort of districts from which parties like to recruit.

How many Democrats are we talking about?  According to the NCSL data, there were 4,082 Democrats in state senates and state houses in 2009.  In 2015, there were 3,163 -- a decrease of 22.5 percent.
(Nebraska has a single, nonpartisan chamber.  NCSL = National Council of State Legislatures.)

That 22.5 percent is even more impressive when you recall that many Democratic seats are "safe"; they might change in a Democratic primary, but are unlikely to change in almost any conceivable general election.  (For example, there are seats in Seattle where a Socialist has a better — though still not good — chance of winning than a Republican.)

You can look at his big table to see the changes for every state, except Nebraska.

Here are the exceptions:  In Arizona, Democrats made a small gain (3%) in the state senate.  In California, Democrats made small gains in both houses (3% and 1%).  In Delaware, Democrats made a small gain (2%) in the state house.  In Florida, Democrats made a small gain (1%) in the state senate.  In Hawaii*, Democrats made a small gain (4%) in the state senate.  In Illinois, Democrats made small gains (3% and 1%) in both houses.  In New Jersey, Democrats made a small gain (3%) in the state senate.

And there were four state houses in which there was no net change since January 2009.

Two thoughts (for now):  First, although Republicans gains in 2014 were smaller than in 2010, they are more impressive, because Republicans had already won many of the seats that you would expect them to win after the losses in 2006 and 2008.

Second, the few areas where Democrats gained may show a strategic error by Obama and the Democrat; they concentrated on urban problems at a time when most voters live in suburbs.

(*Republicans now control just 7 of 51 seats in the Hawaiian house, and just 1 (!) of 25 seats in the Hawaiian senate.  Here's hoping that Sam Slom has company again, after the next election.)
- 1:57 PM, 8 September 2015   [link]


Andrew Malcolm's Collection of jokes.  (From last week.)

And I suppose I should warn some of you that Donald Trump is a frequent target in that collection.   Which probably doesn't bother him, at all.

Malcolm liked this one best:
Conan: Hillary Clinton’s new ad stresses her personal, humble economic background.  In it, she says, “Just 15 years ago, my family and I were evicted from our house.”
But I prefer these two:
Fallon: Reports that if Joe Biden runs for president, he would promise to serve for only one term.   Because nothing says confidence like promising your presidency would be over quickly.
. . .
Meyers: Hillary Clinton disputes Trump's claim she attended his wedding because of his campaign donations.  She attended because she thought, "It would be fun."  Adding, “Am I saying that right?  Fun?”
I needed some jokes, since there ae so many posts to do on grim subjects.
- 10:41 AM, 8 September 2015   [link]


Update On Troy Kelley:  The Washington state auditor, a Democrat, is facing new charges.
The scandal surrounding disgraced Democrat State Auditor Troy Kelley just got worse.  As Shift has reported, Kelley already faces 10-counts of criminal activity, the most serious of which carries a 20-year prison sentence.  The Democrat pleaded not guilty to the charges and will stand trial in January.  Federal prosecutors are also seeking “forfeiture of more than $1.4 million in cash” in addition to the criminal charges.

As of Thursday evening, Kelley faces a whole new set of charges—eight new charges for a grand total of 17 indictments to be exact.  The new charges, handed down by a federal grand jury, allege that he “laundered money and evaded the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) while he was in office.”
(Links omitted.)

Review:  His opponent in the 2012 race, Republican James Watkins, attempted to draw attention to Kelley's shady business practices — but our news organizations mostly ignored the evidence against Kelley.

Why?

From what I can tell, partisanship and laziness.  There aren't many Republicans covering politics in this state, and the charges required some study to understand.
- 5:59 AM, 8 September 2015   [link]


David Duke And Paul Krugman, Strange Bedfellows:  About two weeks Ago, David Duke praised Donald Trump.
David Duke, the anti-Semitic former Ku Klux Klan leader, praised Republican front-runner Donald Trump for his immigration policy proposals and said Trump is "the best of the lot."

After ranting about "Jewish supremacy" and Jewish domination of the media, Duke took time out of two of his radio programs last week to talk up Trump's candidacy as a "great thing," praising the Republican candidate's plan to deport the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
Today, Paul Krugman praised Donald Trump.
So Jeb Bush is finally going after Donald Trump. Over the past couple of weeks the man who was supposed to be the front-runner has made a series of attacks on the man who is.  Strange to say, however, Mr. Bush hasn’t focused on what’s truly vicious and absurd — viciously absurd? — about Mr. Trump’s platform, his implicit racism and his insistence that he would somehow round up 11 million undocumented immigrants and remove them from our soil.

Instead, Mr. Bush has chosen to attack Mr. Trump as a false conservative, a proposition that is supposedly demonstrated by his deviations from current Republican economic orthodoxy: his willingness to raise taxes on the rich, his positive words about universal health care.  And that tells you a lot about the dire state of the G.O.P.  For the issues the Bush campaign is using to attack its unexpected nemesis are precisely the issues on which Mr. Trump happens to be right, and the Republican establishment has been proved utterly wrong.
You will notice that each man praises Trump for being right on the issues that are most important to him, race and illegal immigration for Duke, economic policies for Krugman.

No doubt the two men would be dismayed to learn that they are on the same side, but, if we look at their histories, we can see that the two of them may even have similar motives, a dislike for the Bush family.  David Duke's dislike is more understandable, since President George Herbert Walker Bush denounced him when he was running for governor of Louisiana in 1991.  Krugman's dislike covers almost all modern Republican leaders, so, naturally, Jeb Bush comes in for his share.

There's one more strange Trump bedfellow that deserves mentioning: Al Sharpton.
Sharpton and Trump forged an unlikely friendship over Atlantic City boxing deals that has lasted for decades, through ups and downs.  Even as the Tawana Brawley scandal unfolded and Sharpton faced a 67-count indictment involving how he used funding for his youth organization, Trump remained a prominent supporter of the agitator, numerous sources close to the two men tell National Review.
The National Review has accumulated considerable evidence of the long-running partnership between Al Sharpton and Donald Trump — which probably explains why: "Trump’s campaign did not respond to repeated inquiries by NR about the candidate’s relationship with Sharpton."

So, there you are, one bed holding Al Sharpton, Paul Krugman, Donald Trump, and David Duke.   Along with many others, no doubt.

Politics does make for strange bedfellows, but that collection is one of the strangest I've seen.

(To be fair, later on in the column, Krugman includes some obligatory criticism of Trump's economic proposals — but he doesn't couple that with any kind words for Jeb Bush, or any other Republican leaders.)
- 3:45 PM, 7 September 2015   [link]


For Labor Day, The New Yorker Chose a cartoon that shows a much-disliked worker, in an unpleasant situation.

(There is a serious point to the complaint behind that cartoon.  We often would like more predictability from those who come to our homes on business, whether to install or fix cable, or to deliver a package.  I can't think of a time when I wanted a package from Amazon in an hour, but I almost always would be happier if I knew which hour their delivery service would come by, would like that enough so that I would be willing to pay a little extra for it.)
- 2:45 PM, 7 September 2015   [link]


Which Party Will Win The 2016 Presidential Election?  According to a Moody's model, the Democratic Party.
Our Moody's Analytics election model now predicts a Democratic electoral landslide in the 2016 presidential vote.  A small change in the forecast data in August has swung the outcome from the statistical tie predicted in July, to a razor-edge ballot outcome that nevertheless gives the incumbent party 326 electoral votes to the Republican challenger's 212.

Just three states account for the change in margin, with Ohio, Florida and Colorado swinging from leaning Republican to leaning Democrat.  The margin of victory in each of these important swing states is still solidly within the margin of error though, and will likely swing back and forth in Moody's monthly updates ahead, underlining the closeness of the election to come.  Furthermore, three of the candidates for the Republican nomination enjoy favorite-son status in Ohio or Florida, potentially making the outcome of those important states even more unpredictable.
The main reason for the shift, according to Dan White, is "lower gasoline prices".

The result surprised me — I haven't tried to come up with my own prediction yet, but am leaning to the Republicans — so I checked the betting markets.  Iowa shows a similar result, and the British bookies also favor the Democrats.

Why have I been leaning in the opposite direction?  Because I think the "time for a change" sentiment is so strong, and because I don't expect the economy to strengthen much, if at all, during the next year.

And, of course, because I don't think the Democrats will nominate a formidable candidate.

(If, like me, you don't visit bookies regularly, you may need an explanation of those odds.

For the record:  I haven't checked the model, yet.)
- 2:38 AM, 6 September 2015   [link]


What Does Pope Francis Know About The United States?  Not much, according to this New York Times article.

This visit will be his first, and, though he has been studying since he became pope, he's has had a lot to learn.
During his first private meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican two years ago, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said, the pope took out an atlas with a map of the United States and asked Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, to point out the various regions and cities and talk about how they differed.

Francis seemed to recognize that he had some homework to do:  When he travels this month to Washington, New York and Philadelphia, the visit will be his first to the United States.  Both of his most recent predecessors, Benedict XVI and John Paul II, traveled to the United States before rising to the papacy.  Other Catholic prelates from around the world have come for fund-raisers, speaking engagements or global Catholic events, like World Youth Day in Denver in 1993.
And, probably, unlearn, since much of what he knows appears to be wrong.
Francis has long been troubled by what some Argentines of his generation call “savage capitalism.”  They see the United States as the home of mining companies and agribusinesses that chew up natural resources, as the military power that propped up dictators during the Cold War and as the neighbor that tries to close its border to migrants fleeing hunger and violence.

The Rev. Richard Ryscavage, a Jesuit who is the director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Fairfield University and has met Francis twice, said Francis’ views should be seen “in the context of many Latin Americans who see the United States as really a problem, not actually a positive force in the world.”

“I’ve seen this among Latin American Jesuits who have similar approaches,” Father Ryscavage said.  “And it’s often rather difficult for the North American Jesuits to completely accept their perspective on things, because we come from such a different angle.”
If I understand what Father Ryscavage is politely hinting at, he is saying that most Latin American Jesuits, including the pope, have a distorted picture of the United States.

Will his visit make his picture of the United States more accurate?  We can hope so and, if we share his faith, pray so.
- 10:30 AM, 6 September 2015   [link]


When The Iranians Cheat On The Nuclear "Deal", Will Sanctions "Snap Back"?  No, says James Taranto, in a longish argument, with much supporting evidence.

Here's a summary paragraph:
So the ayatollah is already citing the possibility that sanctions will be reimposed as justification for violating the agreement.  At the same time, allied diplomats are making clear to Senate Democrats that the threat of reimposing sanctions is an empty one.  And even though that threat was supposed to make the deal worthy of support, as per the Times Senate Democrats were persuaded to support the deal precisely because the threat is hollow.
Our principal allies were rushing to make commercial deals with the Iranians, as soon as the "deal" was signed.  Do you think they will rush to reimpose sanctions, and kill those deals, when there is new evidence that the Iranians are cheating?

Neither do I.

Let me repeat this fundamental criticism of the "deal":  We are, in effect paying the Iranians now, by releasing assets and allowing commercial deals, for changes in their behavior we hope will happen some time in the future.  They get cash; we get promises.

You don't have to be a cynic to see the problems with that kind of bargain.
- 1:08 PM, 5 September 2015   [link]


How Does Unemployment In The United States Compare To That In Europe?  You almost certainly have heard a headline or two about the latest monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job gains were lower than expected last month, but the unemployment rate was fell to 5.1 percent.

That's not great news, but it's much better than the job news in the European Union.

Yesterday, while searching for something else, I came across the Eurostat site, which, I assume, is the official statistics site for the EU.

Here's what they say about their unemployment.
The euro area seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 10.9 % in July 2015, down from 11.1 % in June 2015, and from 11.6 % in July 2014.  The EU-28 unemployment rate was 9.5 % in July 2015, down from 9.6 % in June 2015 and from 10.2 % in July 2014.

Among the Member States, the lowest unemployment rates in July 2015 were recorded in Germany (4.7 %), the Czech Republic and Malta (both 5.1 %), and the highest in Greece (25.0 % in May 2015) and Spain (22.2 %).
(They give two sets, because they want to differentiate between all the nations in the EU (EU-28), and the subset that uses the euro.)

Since countries estimate unemployment rates differently (and the European Union includes some countries that produce statistics that are not entirely trustworthy), we shouldn't say the unemployment rate is almost twice as high in the European Union as it is in the United States.  But we can say that the unemployment rate in the European Union is roughly twice as high as the rate in the United States.

The second third graph makes that comparison directly (and adds Japan).   You'll notice that the job losses were greater here, but that our recovery is much more impressive or, perhaps I should say, less depressing.

(If you share even a little of my interest in national statistics, you'll be tempted to browse the Eurostat site, looking for valuable nuggets of information.  And I am almost certain that you will find some.  The site does often make comparisons to the United States, by the way.)
- 3:36 PM, 4 September 2015   [link]


"How Hugo Chavez Trashed Latin America's Richest Economy"   The damage Chávez did to the Venezuelan economy is impressive for its scale, and its perversity; he and his followers have almost destroyed the economy of that oil-rich nation, with no benefits, even to their own movement.

Justin Fox describes their largest mistake.
Venezuela isn't running out of oil.  Its proven reserves have skyrocketed since 2000 as geologists have learned more about the heavy crude of the Orinoco Belt.  But getting at that oil will take a lot of resources and expertise, both things that Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA, best known in the U.S. for its Citgo subsidiary), has been lacking in since Chavez initiated a sort of hostile takeover starting in the early 2000s.  First he kicked out 18,000 workers and executives, 40 percent of the company’s workforce, after a strike.   Then he started demanding control of PDVSA’s joint ventures with foreign oil companies.   One could interpret this in the most Chavez-friendly way possible -- he was aiming for a more just allocation of his nation’s resources -- and still conclude that he made it harder for PDVSA to deliver the necessary tax revenue.
Chávez didn't kill the goose that laid the golden eggs, but he so mistreated it that it laid fewer eggs than before.

Why?

I am no expert on Venezuela, but it appears to be a matter of power; PDVSA and its union were still independent of the regime, and Chávez found that intolerable.
- 8:48 AM, 4 September 2015   [link]


Paul Krugman, Ace Geographer:  In today's column, the Nobel-Prize-winning economist writes:
While the dollar nations have all done well, however, they occupy very different positions in the world economy.  In part, I mean that quite literally: Australia and New Zealand are a long way from everyplace, while Canada, most of whose people live near its southern border, is effectively closer to the United States than it is to itself.  And the U.S. is, of course, an economic giant around whose gravity smaller economies revolve.
(Emphasis added.)

New Zealand is isolated if you don't count small islands, but Australia is quite close to the second largest island in the world (after Greenland), New Guinea.   The western half of New Guinea is now part of Indonesia.  Indonesia has a population of about 255 million, making it the fourth largest nation in the world, and the largest Muslim nation.

How close is Australia to Indonesia?  This map shows us, approximately, if we remember that Indonesia begins at the western edge of the map.

Torres Strait

The Torres Strait is 93 miles wide at its narrowest.  However, since Australia owns those small islands in the strait, we can see that Australia and Indonesia are about 100 miles apart.

Which is not a "long way", when we are talking about distances between nations.

Way back in 2003, I joked that you could explain Paul Krugman's columns if you assumed they were written by someone else, someone who was "trying to discredit Krugman".

Every year since then, I have seen evidence that makes me wonder whether there might be some truth in my joke.

(Australia's closeness to Indonesia is why, for many years, Australia had its own smaller version of Europe's migrant crisis, with boat loads of migrants regularly arriving in Australia from Indonesia — and hundreds of them dying in the attempts.  That migration has largely been stopped by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
- 7:36 AM, 4 September 2015   [link]


This Daily News editorial may not be the very best argument against the Iran "deal" that I've seen, but I can't resist the headline: "Iran devils get their deal ".

And having enjoyed the headline, I'll add that the editorial isn't bad.  I particularly like its direct replies to some of President Obama's claims about the "deal".
- 4:34 PM, 3 September 2015   [link]


If You Want An Overall Picture Of Europe's Migration Crisis, this BBC article, "Why is EU struggling with migrants and asylum?", is probably a good place to start.  (It even has graphs.)

It begins with a few of the essential numbers:
More than 350,000 migrants were detected at the EU's borders in January-August 2015, compared with 280,000 detections for the whole of 2014.

That 350,000 figure - an estimate from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) - does not include the many who got in undetected.

The conflicts raging in Syria and Afghanistan, and abuses in Eritrea, are major drivers of the migration.

More than 2,600 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean this year, trying to reach Greece or Italy, the IOM says.
And there is much more, including maps of migration routes.

When you read it, you should keep in mind that the European Union distinguishes between migrants (often called "economic migrants"), people who are looking for better jobs, and "refugees", people who are fleeing persecution.  People in the latter group — once their refugee status is verified — have legal rights that ordinary migrants do not.  The article explains those rights briefly, and then links to an official document for more.

From what I can tell, the proportion of genuine refugees has increased in recent years.

When you read it, you will notice that it is an example of what I wrote about in the post below; the BBC does not mention who the migrants are fleeing from, and does not mention President Obama, or his policies, at all.  (There is, as I write, a link to a video showing Obama buying cinnamon buns in Alaska.)

Like many of the best pieces from our "mainstream" journalists, it will be most informative if you read it critically, keeping in mind their biases.

(How accurate are those numbers?  Not very, I would guess, given the difficulty of counting all these kinds of illegal behavior.  I would not be terribly surprised if any of them were off by 25 percent, either way.  Note that the BBC gives the numbers, and their source, without endorsing them.)
- 1:24 PM, 3 September 2015   [link]


Two Things They Left Out Of Those Migrant Stories:  When I was watching those four TV news programs last night, I saw extensive coverage of the flood of migrants from the Middle East and Africa, who, having reached Europe, were now trying to get to Germany, or Sweden.

All of them showed me scenes of confusion and disorder; all of them showed me sad cases, including pictures of the little boy who had drowned, and whose body was being carried away by a Turkish policeman.  (If you watch the news at all, you probably saw that picture, too.)

But there were two things none of them mentioned.  First, most of those migrants were fleeing from civil wars started by radical Islamists.  Second, this migration has vastly increased in size since Barack Obama became president, and withdrew American forces from the Middle East.

The first, by now, we should all be familiar with.  Our "mainstream" journalists, on the whole a devoutly secular bunch, find it hard to understand people with religious motives.  But the journalists routinely cater to groups they see as mistreated minorities, Muslims in this case, by not mentioning the group, when members of that group commit crimes.

And, if that requires the journalists to leave out the who part of a big story, they'll do it.

The second, for most journalists, began in 2007.  Bad things are always happening to Obama, as James Taranto often jokes, but they are never the result of his policies.  If order breaks down after Obama withdraws those troops — against the advice of most American commanders — that does not lead our "mainstream" journalists to ask whether it might have broken down in part because of that withdrawal.

And so we see, or hear, or read, all these stories about the migrants, without any of our journalists telling us who they are fleeing from, and why they are fleeing now.

(For the record:  Of course I do not put all the blame on Obama for these migrations, or even most of it,  He is like a police commissioner who withdrew police from a dangerous neighborhood,  The principal blame for the disorder that would follow must be given to the criminals, not the commissioner.  But that doesn't mean we should ignore the commissioner's enabling of the violence, even if it was unintentional.)
- 10:52 AM, 3 September 2015   [link]


United States Version Of The Ministry Joke?  There's an old joke that's been bothering me, recently.  It comes in many versions; here's one from the Lukes/Galnoor collection:
In the 1960s, the Czech government announces its intention to establish a Ministry of the Navy.   The Soviet government responds with astonishment:
'But you have no sea coast.'
'Why is that a problem?' ask the Czechs.  'You have a Ministry of Justice and the Bulgarians have a Ministry of Culture.' (p. 107)
The joke bothers me because, since Barack Obama became president and appointed first Eric Holder and then Loretta Lynch to be attorney general, it has been too easy to see how to adapt that joke so that the United States is in the punch line.

Our Department of Justice is now an immense organization, including many bureaucracies.  I don't mean to imply that all, or even most, of it has become rotten under Obama.  But some parts of it have, which is why an American version of that joke seems more and more appropriate.

(Here's another version, one that reminds us that Israel was not always as prosperous as it is, now.
Ben Gurion decides to appoint Sharet as Minister of the Israeli Commonwealth.
'But we have no colonies,' protests Sharet.
'So what?' replies Ben Gurion,  'We have a Ministry of Finance.'
That joke, with minor changes would work well in Illinois, right now.

I was surprised, when I glanced at the Wikipedia article, to learn how long the United States had a part time attorney general, with no department under him, at all.)
- 6:20 AM, 3 September 2015   [link]


Do You Know What Today Is?  If not, it's not entirely your fault because President Obama didn't attend even a small ceremony, and our news organizations ignored it, almost* entirely.

But we shouldn't ignore it , because today is the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender in World War II, the day the United States officially marks as VJ Day.

Japanese Surrender, 2 September 1945

Here's a description of what you are seeing there:
Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Japanese Government, on board USS Missouri (BB-63), 2 September 1945.  Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland, U.S. Army, watches from the opposite side of the table.  Foreign Ministry representative Toshikazu Kase is assisting Mr. Shigemitsu.
We ought to be proud enough of our victories to celebrate them, at least as well as the British did, 18 days ago.

(I said "almost", because I did see one mention of the day, a brief CBS evening news piece on a small ceremony in Washington, D. C., with Bob Dole and a few other World War II veterans.  Seeing just that one wasn't for lack of trying; I read three newspapers today, and watched almost all of four half-hour news programs this evening, BBC America, ABC, NBC, and CBS.)
- 7:32 PM, 2 September 2015   [link]


Worth Reading:  Two Rather Different Opinion Pieces In Today's Wall Street Journal:  First, Douglas Feith explores the odd way we ignore crimes — if they are committed over the Internet.
One of the best lines of the U.S. presidential race so far comes from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. “It’s sad to think right now,” he joked in the first round of Republican presidential debates, “but probably the Russian and Chinese governments know more about Hillary Clinton’s email server than do the members of the United States Congress.”

A cheeky zinger with a serious point: It would be alarming if, as U.S. intelligence veterans worry, Chinese, Russian and other hackers were able to steal U.S. secrets through Mrs. Clinton’s private email server.

Yet the cybertheft would also be perversely appropriate.  Because for all their differences, Mrs. Clinton’s email schemes and the Chinese and Russian cyber campaigns share a certain symmetry:  They all rely on the fact that in cyberspace, it’s easier to misbehave and, if caught, easier to brazen it out.
And easier, for all too many of us, to see such crimes as misdemeanors, at most.

But, if we translate them from their electronic form to their physical equivalents, we can almost all see how serious Hillary Clinton's reckless behavior was, and how extensive and serious the cyber spying and theft by Russia and China are.

For the first, we can think of Clinton hiding secret government documents in her own ordinary locked file cabinet, a cabinet that hundreds of people must have known about.

For the second, imagine that the Russians and Chinese had managed to infiltrate hundreds of spies, armed with Minox cameras, into our government and corporate offices.

You should read the whole column.


Second, William A. Galston summarizes some of what political scientists have learned about presidential races, and applies them to 2016.

Here's a sample:
One long-standing trend favors the Republicans. Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz has shown that candidates vying to succeed incumbent two-term presidents of their own party face an uphill climb—all else being equal, a penalty of between four and five percentage points relative to the incumbent’s second-term share of the vote.

Mr. Abramowitz calls this the “time for a change” factor, and related research has helped explain why it is so powerful.  Republican presidents tend to pursue agendas that are more conservative than the electorate as a whole; Democrats, more liberal.  This not only arouses the antipathy of the out-party’s base but also troubles the less committed and more persuadable portion of the electorate.
(I don't know whether there are similar "time for a change" factors in competitive legislative races.  I wouldn't be surprised if there were, but would expect them to be somewhat weaker, since legislators are less visible.)

There's much more, and I agree with almost all of it, though I don't think that very many African-Americans have been angered by changes in voting laws, and I don't think any should be.

(Feith's column reminds me of a coincidence I can't stop wondering about:  Edward Snowden's flight came at a perfect time for the Chinese government, just as many governments, and even some "mainstream" journalists, were becoming alarmed by the massive Chinese cyber thefts.   Snowden's flight distracted almost everyone from those thefts, and we have never really gotten back to giving them the attention they deserve.

William Galston and I have been voting for different presidential candidates for decades now, but I have found him to be an honest, and often, interesting liberal, one I sometimes learn from.  I suspect some on the left dislike him for much the same reasons I like him.)
- 2:40 PM, 2 September 2015   [link]


Bigger, Better, And Brighter:  In fact, too bright until I adjusted the monitor down from the 100 percent brightness it had been set to at the factory.

That's my four word summary of my one-day experience with the new monitor.

The controls are a little better; they are in front, instead of on the side, and in metal instead of disguised in the same black as the case.  And a little worse; Viewsonic put two on each side of the power button, instead of separating them from it.

(People who have been playing with computers as long, or longer, than I have will appreciate this point:  To install the new monitor, I shut my system down, unplugged the power cord and the DVI connector, and then plugged in the new monitor — which worked fine in both Ubuntu and Windows.  It took a long time for the hardware and software people to achieve "plug and play", but now we are surprised when we don't have it, or even when we have to do something as simple as running an install program for a new device.)
- 1:04 PM, 2 September 2015   [link]


If You Are Tired Of "Seize The Day", you'll like yesterday's New Yorker cartoon.
- 6:06 AM, 2 September 2015   [link]


An Astronaut Took Legos Into Space:  Can we guess which country he comes from?   Sure we can.

Though I was mildly surprised to learn that he is the first astronaut from that country.

(This comes just a few months after Samantha Cristoforetti took one of her country's best-known products up to the International Space Station.   For fun, you might try to guess which country will be the next to use this form of advertising.)
- 5:57 AM, 2 September 2015   [link]


Here's A Different Birthright Citizenship Case:  For one thing, it's Canadian.
The sons of two Russian “deep cover” spies are fighting to keep the Canadian citizenship they acquired while their parents were living in Toronto under assumed identities and secretly working for Russian intelligence.

Alexander and Timothy Vavilov, 21 and 25, are the children of Elena Vavilova and Andrey Bezrukov, Russian operatives who were sent to Canada to develop “legends” that would mask their spying activities in the United States.
. . .
The brothers also returned to Russia at the time but are now claiming they are Canadians, and they have taken the government to court to be recognized as such, arguing that since they were born in Toronto they have a right to citizenship.
But, as you can see, that isn't the most interesting thing about the case.

Knowing nothing about the specifics of Canadian law, or their courts, I won't make a prediction on the outcome, though I think they should lose.

Incidentally, there were similar "deep cover" families here in the United States, and, if i recall correctly, some of them did have American-born children.

By way of Mr. Fur.

(Canada's citizenship laws appear to be broadly similar to ours, and, like ours, sometimes produce curious results.
In general, everyone born in Canada from 1947 or later acquires Canadian citizenship at birth.   In one 2008 case, a girl born to a Ugandan mother aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Boston was deemed a Canadian citizen for customs' purposes because she was born over Canada's airspace.[7]

The only exceptions concern children born to diplomats, where additional requirements apply.
In general, nations in the Americas have birthright citizenship, or, if you want to say it in Latin, jus soli; in general, nations elsewhere don't.)
- 12:13 PM, 1 September 2015   [link]


Iran President Rouhani Doesn't Want Iran To Vote On The "Deal"?   That's what the Associated Press says.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday he opposes a parliamentary vote on the landmark nuclear deal reached with world powers because terms of the agreement would turn into legal obligations if passed by lawmakers.

Rouhani told a news conference that the deal was a political understanding reached with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, not a pact requiring parliamentary approval.  The deal also says Iran would implement the terms voluntarily, he said.
If — and this is a big if — Rouhani is telling the truth, he wants Iran not to be bound by the "deal", even though they are getting very large economic benefits from it.  He thinks we should pay Iran now, but that we shouldn't even receive formal promises, in return.

But there are other possibilities, which is why I began that paragraph with "If".  I'll be looking for speculation on this from specialists on Iran.  As well, of course, as watching to see whether the Iranian parliament does vote on the "deal".

One thing is certain, however:  Rouhani must have great contempt for President Obama and Secretary Kerry, because he is telling them that the agreement they worked so hard for isn't really an agreement at all.

Will this statement make either Kerry or Obama call for the re-opening of negotiations, or even "clarification" from the Iranian government?  Probably not.

By way of Ed Morrissey.

(Here's the usual Wikipedia biography, with more than the usual caveats.  Interestingly, he has a PH. D. in Constitutional Law from a Scottish university.)
- 9:41 AM, 1 September 2015   [link]