Archive:

September 2015, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Poll Leaders, Poll Losers:  Today's New York Times had a small bar graph on the front page showing the trust that the voters of each party have for their leading candidates, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump on the Republican side, and Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side.

Right now, as you know, Donald Trump is leading among Republicans, and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are leading among Democrats.

Of those six, which rate lowest on trust in their own parties?  In order, Hillary Clinton (64 percent), Bernie Sanders (58 percent), and Donald Trump (55 percent).  (If I were feeling snarky, I'd say 64, 58, and 55 percent to go, respectively.)

So, for that group of six, the three leaders are also the least trusted in, I repeat, their own parties.

I report, but don't claim to have an explanation for that curious pattern.

And the one who does best in that group?  Joe Biden (81 percent) — who isn't officially running — followed by Ben Carson (79 percent) and Jeb Bush (72 percent).

(The trust question was:  "Do you think the candidate is honest and trustworthy?"

For now, I'm not posting a link because the graph didn't come through with the Kindle edition, so I am not sure where to link to.  You might try the front page story on Trump, or CBS, since they co-sponsored the poll.) .
- 6:24 AM, 16 September 2015   [link]


The United States Army Is Stepping Up Cooperation With The Indian And Japanese Armies:  For example:
Back home, Brig. Guljeet Singh Jamwal leads thousands of Indian army soldiers known for their expertise at fighting in the high altitudes of the Himalayan Mountains.

This month, he and his soldiers are working closer to sea level with a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker battalion.

The Indian army exercise is one of two foreign military trainings the Army is holding in the state.  It’s an unusual combination of exercises that underscores JBLM’s deepening ties with growing armies on the Pacific Rim, three years after it last sent large numbers of troops to Afghanistan.
Some of this cooperation probably can be credited to George W. Bush's successful efforts to strengthen ties between the United States and the two Asian powers.

(Here's the official Army description of the exercise, and here's the Wikipedia article on JBLM.)
- 1:27 PM, 16 September 2015   [link]


Worth Reading:  Andy Kessler, who is a very smart fellow, has some interesting things to say about Donald Trump's business career.

Here are steps 2 and 3 of "The Art of The Donald in 10 Easy Steps":
2. Own politicians.  In 1974 at age 28, Mr. Trump officially took over the family business, the Trump Organization.  His father was a buddy of a guy named Abe Beame, who ended up mayor of New York in the mid-1970s.  That proved good for the Trump bottom line.

In the 1980s Donald Trump bankrolled people campaigning for seats on the New York City Board of Estimate.   Surprise: The board decided land-use matters.  Mr. Trump is one of the top political donors in New York state, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group, and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who received $64,000, is one happy recipient.  Mr. Trump said in a July interview that “when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.  As a businessman, I need that.”  As the saying goes, an honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.

3. Get tax breaks.  Mr. Trump’s first big real-estate win in the 1970s was converting New York’s old Commodore Hotel into a Grand Hyatt.  His dad’s friend Mayor Beame kindly extended a 40-year tax abatement worth $60 million in its first decade.  In 2011 Mr. Trump told the Los Angeles Times that someone had once asked him how he had finagled a 40-year abatement, and Mr. Trump said he replied: “Because I didn’t ask for 50.”

Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue has enjoyed a $164 million property-tax exemption good through next year.   But someone must pay taxes, and oh, that’s right, New York is ranked No. 1 for worst taxes, with an average burden of $9,718—almost 40% more than the national average, according to an analysis by WalletHub.
Younger readers may need to know that Mayor Abe Beame was not as good for ordinary New Yorkers as he was for Donald Trump.

It is odd that voters, most of whom would be angered by a politician accepting bribes, would be backing a celebrity who boasts about giving bribes — to those same politicians.

(Liz Mair is another person who is unimpressed by Trump's business career.)
- 9:23 AM, 16 September 2015   [link]


Prohibition Might Be A Good Idea — For Some People:  That's the heretical idea discussed in this Atlantic article:
It’s true that Prohibition didn’t work in America, and that many cities and towns across the country that have gone dry have actually experienced an uptick in alcohol-related accidents.  But there may be something different at work in rural Alaska, where villages that have tried selling alcohol have then recanted after a dramatic increase in deaths.  Though making alcohol easier to access may decrease its allure, the dilemma of Bethel raises the question: Is it really a good idea to sell alcohol in a region where nearly all of the crimes, most of the health crises, and many of the deaths are related to drinking?

Europeans have had access to alcohol for thousands of years.  But Native Alaskans have only had access to booze for a few hundred.  Even when European settlers brought alcohol to Alaska, local laws prohibited them from selling it to Native Alaskans.
The writer, Alana Semuels, doesn't say this, but it has been known for years that alcohol tolerance varies by race, with Native Americans having the least tolerance.

It is also true, as she does say, that different cultures have different ways of handling alcohol, and that some — for example, those that reject binge drinking — tend to be more successful handling it than others.

The article is worth reading, both for the problem that it considers, and for its implicit argument that local solutions may often be the best way to handle certain problems.

(Why, if alcohol has so many ill effects, did it become so prevalent in Europe (and elsewhere)?  Possibly because alcoholic drinks were less likely to be contaminated with parasites, bacteria, and viruses.  A man in a medieval English village might have been safer drinking beer than water from a nearby stream.

For the record:  Native American civilizations, such as the Maya, did have alcoholic drinks.   It would be interesting to know whether their descendants have more tolerance to alcohol than native Alaskans.

Some of Tony Hillerman's mysteries describe the problems alcohol causes on reservations in the Southwest.)
- 8:58 AM, 16 September 2015   [link]


They Like Us, They Really Like Us:  Well, all right, a few of them do.

Americans will find the views of those foreigners annoying, interesting, and, in a few cases, gratifying.
'Dumb, obese and very patriotic': People from around the world reveal what they REALLY think about Americans in brutally-honest video
America was the first country to have a large number of officially poor people who are also overweight, so there is some truth in that stereotype.  And Americans aren't very good about geography, which has been de-emphasized in our schools, in recent decades.

I didn't watch the video, just read the article, so I don't know whether any of them mentioned that the United States is, by far, the biggest donor to private charities in the world.

It occurred to me, after reading the article, that our recent presidents haven't been the best salesmen for the United States, haven't said enough about the things we do well.  The reasons Clinton, Bush, and now Obama failed in that task differ, but I think they all failed.
- 6:18 AM, 16 September 2015   [link]


If You Liked The Little Shop of Horrors, You May Enjoy this New York Times survey article on carnivorous plants, including one that has formed a beneficial partnership with a bat.

Here's the single most surprising finding in the article:
Another team has nearly decoded the complete DNA sequence of the Venus flytrap — which is virtually the same size as the human genome — and has seen hints that, at some point in its evolutionary history, the plant may have imported from its insect prey nerve-related genes that in turn allowed the plant's trapping mechanism to shut faster.
Biologists are finding more and more of these "sideways" gene transfers between species, now that they know enough to look for them.  I would guess that the actual transfers are often (usually?) done by viruses,

(Here are the Wikipedia articles on the movie, the Venus flytrap, and a very large, recently-discovered, sundew, which is mentioned in the article.)
- 7:21 PM, 15 September 2015   [link]


Did We Miss A Chance On Syria?  A few days ago, I was trying to think of a rational Syria policy we could have followed, when the civil war first began there.  (I was never a fan of an intervention like that in Libya because I couldn't see any plausible alternatives to the Assad regime that would be better, from our point of view.)

And then a realist alternative occurred to me.  Right now, the Assad regime is a client of Russia and Iran.  It would be better — or perhaps less bad is the right way to say that — if Syria were a client of only Russia, better for us (and most Syrians) if we could talk the Russians into displacing the Iranians.

But I rejected it after thinking about it, because I didn't think it was possible.

And now I learn that it just may have been possible.
Apparently the Obama administration turned down a Russian offer to dump Assad… because the Administration was sure he was going to fall on his own.
It's true that John Kerry might not be the man to negotiate such a deal, but there are a few American diplomats who might have been able to.
- 5:41 PM, 15 September 2015   [link]


Andrew Malcolm's Weekly Collection of jokes.

Malcolm liked this one best:
Fallon: A senior Trump aide says he quit because of all the public feuds. Trump says the guy was fired for quitting.
I prefer these two:
Fallon: President Obama will appear on “Running Wild With Bear Grylls” later this year.  The episode features Obama roughing it on a golf course that hasn't been mowed for a couple of days.
. . .
Conan: Police see a growing trend of street gangs facing off against their rivals online. In fact, earlier today things got so tense that the Crips “un-friended” the Bloods.
And, for what it's worth, I thought this collection was a little cruder, on the average, than usual.
- 11:19 AM, 15 September 2015   [link]


If You Want To Understand Politics In Western Democracies, a simple diagram is often useful.  Rather than give you an example, I'll describe one for you, and let you draw it yourself, if you want to.

Here's how you would draw it for Britain:  Draw a straight line across any handy sheet of scrap paper.   Mark the middle and label it "average voter".  Near the left end of the line, make a another mark and label it "Labour activists".  Between that and the average voter, make another mark, and label it "average Labour voter".  On the other side of the line, do the same for "average Conservative voter" and "Conservative activists".

That simple diagram illustrates something found in many studies: activists tend to be extremists, left-wing extremists in left-wing parties, right-wing extremists in right-wing parties.  And that isn't surprising, if you think about it.  Extremists are more likely to be dissatisfied with the status quo, dissatisfied enough to get involved in politics.

(Please understand that I am being descriptive when I say "extremist", describing where activists are, relative to other voters, not criticizing their views.  For that matter, some of my own views, notably on freedom of speech, can fairly be described as extreme.)

The diagram is still incomplete; I haven't told you where to place the Members of Parliament for each party.   And that's because British MPs, like elected politicians almost everywhere, choose, or at least emphasize, positions that they think will allow them to win elections.  (And the politicians that don't are usually eliminated — in elections.)

In choosing those positions, elected MPs, especially in marginal districts, will act as if they think there is some truth in the median voter theorem, act as if positions close to the center are the best way to win.

So, if you were to place them by their platforms, you would, in most elections, place the Labour MPs a bit to the left of center on that diagram, and the Conservative MPs a bit to the right of center.

And that simple diagram explains why Jeremy Corbyn just won the leadership contest in the Labour Party:  The new rules shifted the final decision from the MPs to the activists.  Corbyn was barely nominated by the MPs, receiving just 36 nominations, when the minimum required was 35, but he won easily, when the vote went to the activists.

For fun, you may want to work out who would have won the leadership contest in Australia's Liberal Party, if they had a similar system for choosing a leader.  Here are some hints, if you need them.

That was easy, and may even have been fun for some of you.  But at this point, to be fair to you, I have to remind you that I said "often", and that there are instances in which that simple diagram does not apply.  For example, sometimes you need more than a single dimension to describe most voters,  And sometimes party activists are most interested in keeping their patronage jobs, not ideology.

So, "often" useful, but not "always".

(I have been wondering, ever since Corbyn was nominated, and I learned about the new selection rules, whether those who drew them up knew that they would give candidates like Corbyn a big advantage.  So far, I haven't found even a tentative answer to that question.)
- 9:15 AM, 15 September 2015
Correction and amplification:  In the post I said that change in selection procedure "shifted the final decision from the MPs to the activists".  That's too simple.

In the previous leader selection, three groups had equal voting power in choosing the Labour leader:
Under the former system, a three-way electoral college chose the leader, with one-third weight given to the votes of the Parliamentary Labour Party (i.e., Labour members of the House of Commons and Labour members of the European Parliament), one-third to individual Labour Party members, and one third to the trade union and affiliated societies sections.  Following the Collins review, the electoral college was replaced by a pure "one member, one vote" (OMOV) system.  Candidates will be elected by members and registered and affiliated supporters, who all receive a maximum of one vote and all votes will be weighted equally.[10]  This meant that, for example, members of Labour-affiliated trade unions needed to register as Labour supporters to vote.
So Labour activists had one-third of the vote, and now have all of it.  Not surprisingly, many more of them voted this time (422,871) than last (127,330).

In an August post, I quoted a number from a well-known British web site on the number eligible: about 390,000.  Actually, 554,272 were.  I'm not sure whether the site was mistaken, the electorate expanded, or both.   I've added a correction to that post, too.
- 4:45 PM, 15 September 2015   [link]


Tony Abbott Is Out:  As Leader of Australia's Liberal Party, and as Prime Minister.
Malcolm Turnbull has been sworn in as Australia's new prime minister, after Tony Abbott was ousted by his party in a leadership challenge.

Mr Turnbull, who was communications minister under Mr Abbott, is the fourth prime minister since 2013.
For those who don't follow foreign politics as closely as I do, here's a brief description of the changes:   In June 2013, Kevin Rudd defeated Julia Gillard in a leadership contest in the Labor Party and replaced her as prime minister; in September 2013, Kevin Rudd lost to Tony Abbott in a general election, and now Abbott has lost to Malcolm Turnbull in another leadership contest, this time in the Liberal Party.

Both leadership contests were motivated by fears that the party would lose the next election.  In the latest, the Liberal Party seemed especially worried that they might even lose a by-election, in what had been a safe seat.

The leadership change will not, for the moment, result in any large policy changes.  Turnbull has promised to follow Abbott's policies on two important issues where they had differed, climate change and gay marriage.

In 2009, Abbott had defeated Turnbull by a single vote in another leadership contest.  Abbott won, from what I can tell, because more Liberal MPs agreed with him on the issues, though they may have thought that Turnbull was a better politician.

On most issues I agree with Abbott, but I have always had doubts about his political skills.   John Howard, who preceded Turnbull as leader of the Liberal Party had both the right views, and the political skills needed to win most elections, as his long run as prime minister — March 1996 to December 2007 — shows.

(In June 2010, Julia Gillard had defeated Kevin Rudd in another leadership contest in the Labor Party.  She called a snap election, which resulted, essentially, in a tie.  In the maneuvering that followed, she was able to win the support of more independents than Abbott, and so stayed on as prime minister, barely.  When it looked certain that she would lose the 2013 election, her party brought back Rudd.

In Australia, these leadership contests are called "spills", and are fairly common.   I don't know why they have that name, or how the system evolved.)
- 7:36 AM, 15 September 2015   [link]


KIndle Freebies:  My Kindle came with two dictionaries the Oxford American and the Oxford English.  When I installed the Kindle app on my PC, I got three more books, Aesop's Fables, Pride and Prejudice, and Treasure island.

As it happens, none of the five made much difference to me.  I already have two good dictionaries on my desk, the Shorter OED and the American Heritage, and I have good versions of the other three books.

But those five may be books you want (assuming Amazon continues to include them).  And, the other day, I got a very nice freebie, indeed.  My copy of Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, which I bought used, is falling apart.  So I decided to take a look at the free sample from the Kindle version.  Much to my delight, the sample includes all of a long, and very informative, essay on the book by Christopher Hitchens.  I think almost every modern reader could learn something from the essay, and some would find it almost essential for understanding parts of the book.

And, obviously, the price of the sample is right.

(Will I eventually buy the book?  Maybe.  they were quoting a price of $18,99, but have come down to $16.99.  Another price drop or two, and I'll be tempted.)
- 7:31 PM, 14 September 2015   [link]


What Do Our Good Friends The Germans Think Of The Iran "Deal"?  Judging by this Deutsche Welle article, they are delighted by the commercial prospects:
President Obama’s victory in Congress finally clears the path for his Iran deal. While the nuclear agreement with Tehran could be a boon for European and Asian businesses, US companies will be left in the cold.
(Americans tend to forget that other nations would, mostly, prefer not to have their companies compete with our companies.)

But still cautious about running into legal difficulties with the United States:
But non-US firms better not get too giddy and greedy about the potential windfall they could reap; for instance, by investing in Iran's oil and gas sector without having to deal with any US competitors.  That is because even Washington's remaining direct sanctions have a secondary effect which penalizes international firms if they do business with an entity that remains blacklisted by Washington.
The reporter who wrote this, Michael Knigge, doesn't seem to realize that, since the "deal" is not formally a treaty, it can be dropped by the next president (or even, in principle, by Barack Obama), nor that public opinion in the United States is against the "deal" by about a 2-1 margin.

(There is some interesting discussion in the article about how the United States was able to bring so many nations along on sanctions.  It wasn't just because they like us.)
- 3:55 PM, 14 September 2015   [link]


This Is Not A Joke:  Andrew Malcolm begins his recent post with that reassurance.
First things first:  This is not an Onion story.
Why?  Because — and I am not making this up — the Obama administration just chose Janice Jacobs to be "transparency czar" at the State Department, where she will, among other things, check on all those Hillary emails.

Janice Jacobs has already "maxed out her primary campaign donations to that same Hillary Clinton".

(The Roman poet Juvenal said that it was hard not to write satire.  Although historians don't know exactly when he lived, his times must have had some similarities to our own.)
- 3:15 PM, 14 September 2015   [link]


Worth Buying:  Today's Wall Street Journal, if only for the Michael Mukasey op-ed, "Cleaning Up After The Obama Team's Iran Deal".

Here's how Mukasey begins:
‘We couldn’t have negotiated a better deal.”  That is one of the two pillars of the Obama administration’s argument in favor of its nuclear arrangement with Iran, the other being, “there’s no alternative but war.”   Those two propositions appear to have won the day—at least with enough Democrats in Congress to prevent a vote disapproving of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  The Iran deal remains deeply unpopular with the American public and with the Republican majority in Congress.

Over the past few months, the two propositions regarding the deal left opponents sputtering a catalog of its numerous defects.  But it must be admitted that the first proposition—“we couldn’t have negotiated a better deal”—is plainly true.

Consider who the “we” are. President Obama, the deal’s principal proponent, has repeatedly refused to recognize the existence of Islamist radicalism and failed to enforce even his own red line against Bashar Assad’s use of poison gas in Syria.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are the "we", and I agree with Mukasey that the two of them couldn't have negotiated a better deal.  Which is unfortunate, to say the least.

Mukasey then turns to some practical steps for cleaning up the mess that those two men have made.  Some can be taken now, others will require a president who is serious about stopping Iran from producing nuclear weapons.

(Incidentally, Amazon will sell you single electronic copies of the Journal for your Kindle, or Kindle "app".)
- 11:05 AM, 14 September 2015   [link]


"More Than 100,000 New Codes"  Planning to see a doctor or hospital soon?  Then you may want to do it right now — or, if possible, wait a couple of months — at least.

Why?  Because on 1 October, doctors and hospitals will be required to use a whole new, and greatly expanded, system of codes.
The more than 100,000 new codes, which will take effect on Oct. 1, have potential benefits, as they will require doctors to make a deeper assessment of many patients.

But the change is causing waves of anxiety among health care providers, who fear that claims will be denied and payments delayed if they do no use the new codes or do not use them properly.
There's a good chance that your doctor or hospital will be spending weeks or even months, trying to figure out this new system.  The wealthier and better hospitals may have been preparing for this change for years, by, among other things, training and hiring more professional coders, but even those institutions will have some learning to do.

The Obama administration delayed this change for a year, and Congress delayed it for another year, which will give you an idea of just how big a change our doctors and hospitals are being required to make.

So you shouldn't be surprised if they seem a little distracted, for at least the next few months.

(Formally, this new system is the "10th revision of the International Classification of Diseases, or ICD-10".   Although Robert Pear doesn't mention it in the article, it's a product of the World Health Organization, as modified by, assuming this Wikipedia article is correct, American bureaucrats.

According to Pear, ICD-10 is about an order of magnitude larger; for example, there are "68,0000 diagnostic codes compared with the 14,000 in the current compendium".  (I assume both numbers are approximate.)

Pear doesn't say what law is requiring this switch, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it was another provision of ObamaCare.

If you know even a little about "code gaming", changing diagnostic codes to get larger payments, you will have already guessed that this new system will provide many new opportunities for unscrupulous medical providers.

And, in principle, it could be a big help to medical researchers because of the increase in detailed information in medical claims.)
- 6:25 AM, 14 September 2015   [link]


Worth Reading:  Daniel Hannan's op-ed on Jeremy Corbyn, the new Labour leader.
For the first time in a lifetime of political analysis, I find myself lost for words.  Nothing I write can do justice to the calamity that Britain's Labour Party has just inflicted on itself.  The best I can do, to give you a sense of the man newly elected as Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, is to summarize some of his opinions.

Jeremy Corbyn is happy to talk to Irish Republican Army men, avowed anti-Semites and Hezbollah militants; but he refuses "out of principle" to talk to the Sun newspaper, a right-wing tabloid.

He campaigns for the national rights of Venezuelans and Palestinians; but he opposes self-determination in Northern Ireland and the Falkland Islands.
. . .
He is, in short, happy to ally with any cause, however vile, provided it is sufficiently anti-British and anti-American.
(Here's a description of The Sun, and here's the newspaper's web site.)

Corbyn doesn't just hold those views, he is a fanatic about them, so much so that his first two marriages failed at least in part because of his fanaticism.

(Fun fact:  Corbyn has not been the most loyal member of the Labour Party and, because he has been a member of parliament so long, he has actually "voted against Labour more times than David Cameron", the Conservative Prime Minister.)
- 4:14 PM, 13 September 2015   [link]


Do You Know The Difference Between A Clip And A Cartridge?  Someone at the the New York Times doesn't.

This is from today's "Corrections":
An article on Aug. 23 about a thwarted attack on a passenger train traveling from Amsterdam to Pariis , as recounted by French officials, witnesses, and the passengers who helped subdue the gunman, misstated the amount of ammunition he carried, using information from French officials.  It was at least nine clips of cartridges, not nine cartridges.
Oh, and they repeated the mistake in an article on 26 August.

To put it simply, you would carry nine cartridges if you hoped to kill two or three people; you would carry nine clips, if you hoped to kill dozens.

Some of the very first pictures to come out showed those clips, which I recognized even though I am no expert on guns.

It's not just schadenfreude that inspires me to write these posts on mistakes at the Times; I think the mistakes they make often show their weaknesses.   Almost no one at the newspaper likes guns, so they often err when writing about them.  And the same is true of other subjects.

(That strange first sentence appears to be an attempt to blame French officials for the newspaper's mistake.

For the record:  I know enough about weapons to recognize that he was carrying either clips or, as the Daily Mail said at the time, "magazines".  Either would have made him far more dangerous than if he had just been carrying cartridges.)
- 3:21 PM, 13 September 2015   [link]


French Christians Welcome Christian Family:  Not a big story, you may be thinking, but there is a significant detail.
One migrant family from Iraq finally arrive in France greeted by a buffet of pizza and cold meats after fleeing their home town when it was seized by ISIS a year ago
(The article never says, explicitly, that the family is Christian, but they come from a predominately Christian town, and they were served wine.)

The article left me wondering just how many Christians there are in that flood of migrants entering Europe.

The demographic articles aren't definitive, but they do offer some clues.  Syria is about 10 percent Christian, Iraq either about 5 percent or about 1 percent, and Eritrea about 50 percent.  : (Put strong emphasis on "about" for all three countries.)

Since Christians have especially good reasons to flee ISIS and other radical Islamist groups, we might expect them to be, if anything, over-represented in that migrant flood.

We might also expect, for similar reasons, that secular people are over-represented in that flood.   Many people in predominately Muslim countries are formally Muslim, but have no great attachment to the religion.  They don't, for example, attend their local mosques regularly.

If I had to make a guesstimate, I would say that 5-10 percent of those migrants are at least formally, Christian, another 10 percent belong to other religions or no religion, about 30 percent are Muslims, and about 50-55 percent secularized Muslims.

But that is only a guesstimate, and if I find any real data, I'll share it with you.

(I would not be surprised to learn that some European governments are deliberately not collecting religious data on the migrants, because of political reactions, especially to those last two groups.

The reports of mass conversions to Christianity in Germany are even harder to interpret than the demographic data, such as it is.  No doubt some are real, no doubt some are not, but I haven't the faintest idea what the proportions are, from the news articles I've seen.  Even worse, we have no idea how many among those false conversions are secular people who go along with whatever religion is most convenient where they live, and how many — and I suspect there are a few — are radical Muslims infiltrating an enemy religion.)
- 8:23 AM, 13 September 2015   [link]


Jeremy Corbyn Has Been Elected Leader of the Labour Party.
Jeremy Corbyn has promised to lead a Labour "fightback" after being elected the party's new leader by a landslide.

The veteran left-winger got almost 60% of more than 400,000 votes cast, trouncing his rivals Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.

He immediately faced an exodus of shadow cabinet members - but senior figures including Ed Miliband urged the party's MPs to get behind him.

Mr Corbyn was a 200-1 outsider when the three-month contest began.
The Daily Mail has the same story, here and here, with some details the BBC omits.
'I won't bomb ISIS': New Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tells thousands at refugee rally he wants peace with jihadis - after popping into the pub to sing socialist anthem The Red Flag.
(If you are unfamiliar with that song, or just need a review, here's the Wikipedia article.)

This is bad news for Britain, the United States, and the world.

(My previous posts on Corbyn are here, here, and here.  (There's an error in the first that I will correct, probably later today.)

Here's the Wikipedia article on the leadership contest, for those who want to know much more.)
- 10:45 AM, 12 September 2015   [link]


Alternative Headline For Yesterday's Lead Story In The NYT:  The New York Times put this headline on their lead article:   "Democrats Hand Victory to Obama on Iran Nuclear Deal".

I looked at that headline and instantly changed it to:  "Democrats Hand Victory to Iran on Obama Nuclear Deal".

Which it certainly is — in the long run.  One can argue about who came out ahead in the short run, but even President Obama admits that the agreement will let Iran develop nuclear weapons in 10-15 years from now.  He hopes that Iran will change in those years to be less of a menace.  That's not impossible, just unlikely.

The Times seems greatly pleased by this Obama victory, so pleased that it does not note that the "deal" is a treaty, and should have been submitted to the Senate for formal ratification.  Nor do they say anything in that article about the near certainty that Iran will cheat on the deal, which will be awkward for the Democrats who supported it.

The article doesn't even mention this fact:  Since it is not, formally, a treaty, it can be dropped by the next president, in less than 500 days from now.

(Essentially, the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty offered nations without nuclear weapons this bargain:  If you don't develop nuclear weapons, we'll cut back on our stockpiles, and we'll help you with peaceful applications of nuclear power,  Iran signed that agreement and has been violating it for decades.  One way to understand the Iran "deal" is to say that we have decided to accept their violations, in exchange for their promise — and some actions — to slow down their efforts to build nuclear bombs.

It seems to me nearly certain that other nations will follow their example.)
- 9:16 AM, 12 September 2015   [link]


David Foster Remembered 9/11 with a link-filled post.

Among the links, I particularly recommend Monica Crowley's column describing what Barack Obama wrote just days after 9/11.

What troubles me is not just that he got it wrong in 2001 — but that he doesn't seem to have learned anything since then, though he may now be better at disguising his leftist ideology.
- 2:58 PM, 11 September 2015   [link]


9/11 Jumper:  The New York Times will not show you this picture today, so I will.

9/11 jumper

This man jumped from one of the World Trade Center towers, rather than burn to death.  From the picture we can see that he was a young black man, probably American though he might have been an immigrant, and that he worked in a kitchen.

We can not know whether he knew why he was about to die, though I think it unlikely.  Few Americans then understood how much the fanatics who planned the 9/11 attack hated us, and how little they cared for innocent life.  Whether this victim knew or not, I hope that he rests in peace.

He, and nearly three thousand others, died in order to create a propaganda poster for Al Qaeda.

(I scanned the picture from a New York Times book, Nation Challenged.   I believe this to be fair use because I am criticizing the Times, and most other "mainstream" news organizations, for suppressing this picture, and similar pictures, in the years since 9/11.)

Reposted from 2008.)

Although I think it appropriate to remember the victims of 9/11, including this man, I have come to believe that we make a mistake when we call this a "tragedy", as so many now do.  It was an attack, like Pearl Harbor in 1941, and that's what we should call it.
- 6:54 AM, 11 September 2015   [link]


This Is Definitely Weird:  Right now, an avowed socialist who has never been a formal member of the Democratic Party, is leading in Democratic contests in polls in two early states, Iowa and New Hampshire.

At the same time, a long-time Democrat, whose conversion to the Republican Party is, well, recent, is leading in all the Republican polls.

(For the record:  Bernie Sanders is a socialist, not a Socialist; he's someone who believes in a socialist ideology, but is not a formal member of any socialist party.

As for Donald Trump, I am one hundred percent certain that he believes in Donald Trump, but uncertain about what else, if anything, he believes in.  Judging by his past record, he would be a better fit for the Democratic Party than the Republican.)
- 2:45 PM, 10 September 2015   [link]


After Those Grim Posts, this grim cartoon seems appropriate.

I'll admit that I laughed at it.

(Here's a description of the game or, more likely, large set of games, that cartoon refers to.)
- 1:41 PM, 10 September 2015   [link]


Some Numbers On Syrian Refugees:  Today's Wall Street Journal has them, in this article.
Lebanon, a small nation of only about four million, has been struggling to cope with more than one million Syrian refugees.  They are costing the government almost $1 billion a year, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said in May.
. . .
Jordan, with a population of about eight million, has more than 600,000 Syrian refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or UNHCR.  But the government says there are actually 1.4 million refugees counting those not registered with the U.N.
. . .
Turkey hosts more than two million Syrian refugees.  But with a population of nearly 80 million, it is a much larger country than Lebanon or Jordan.  The government says it has increased the amount it is spending to support the refugees.  In total, aiding the refugees has cost $6 billion since the beginning of the civil war in 2011—almost a third of it spent since 2014, according to government officials.
So, somewhere around 4 million refugees, in those three countries.  (Syria's population, before the war began, was about 18 million.)

The graphs accompanying the article show how fast the numbers have been growing in all three countries.  (And that Egypt and Iraq, which have problems of their own, have taken in about 100,000 and 250,000 refugees, respectively.)

Not surprisingly, these countries are running out of money.
Since January, the United Nations’ World Food Program has cut its monthly food aid stipends to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon twice, from $27 per person a month to half that.  It has cited lack of resources.
Also not surprisingly, the three countries are no longer as welcoming to the refugees as they once were.

I wouldn't object if the United States were to increase aid, so they could get back to that $27 a month in Lebanon.

(How good are the numbers?  At best, so-so.  Even if the United Nations bureaucrats were doing their jobs perfectly, they would find it hard to register and keep track of all these millions.

The lead reporter, Karen Leigh, may also be the managing editor of this web site, which specializes in news from Syria.)
- 1:22 PM, 10 September 2015   [link]


Ambassador Robert Ford Told The Obama Administration Their Syrian Policies Were Failing:  Somehow, I missed his resignation in protest, when it happened, in February 2014.

But I was reminded of it by today's Nicholas Kristof column, which includes this grim summary.
The Obama administration has repeatedly miscalculated on Syria and underestimated the problem, even as the crisis has steadily worsened.
Further along in the column, Kristof relays some grim thoughts from the former ambassador.

Resignations in protest are rare in the United States, much rarer than they ought to be, in my opinion.

(Although Kristof sees the problem, his own solution — a no-fly zone — is almost certainly inadequate, and ignores the possibility that actions against the Assad regime might allow ISIS to take over almost the entire country.

Here's an interesting PBS interview with Ford, which will give you some idea of his thinking.)
- 6:01 AM, 10 September 2015   [link]


From My Little Pony To 5.4 Million Deaths:  Here's how an article in yesterday's New York Times business section begins:
A pink My Little Pony balloon does not usually evoke images of rifle-toting warlords in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Still, Party City Holdings, the decorations and costumes retailer, recently disclosed a possible link to securities regulators, helping to put it near the bottom of a list ranking companies on their compliance with laws against using minerals mined in war-torn regions across Africa.
And here's what the reporter, Lynnley Browning, throws in as an aside, in the seventh paragraph:
The 356-page disclosure rule is tied to State Department efforts to stamp out militias that are financed by minerals; such militias helped lead to 5.4 million deaths from 1998 to 2006 in Congo alone.  The rule requires companies to conduct a “reasonable country of origin inquiry” in “good faith” to ferret out conflict minerals in a company’s final products.  But the rule doesn’t define those subjective terms, leaving room for interpretation.  At the end of May, companies filed their annual disclosures for the second consecutive year.
The rule is a result of provisions in the bloated Dodd-Frank bill.

Browning is interested in how companies are trying, with varying degrees of success, to comply with that rule — and, as far as I can tell, not at all interested in those 5.4 million deaths.  (That number is larger than the total of American war deaths in all our wars, much larger.)

This description of the origins of the wars that led to those 5.4 million deaths, is, as far as I know, reasonably accurate:
By 1996, following the Rwandan Civil War and genocide and the ascension of a Tutsi-led government in Rwanda, Rwandan Hutu militia forces (Interahamwe) fled to eastern Zaïre and used refugee camps as a base for incursion against Rwanda.  They allied with the Zairian armed forces (FAZ) to launch a campaign against Congolese ethnic Tutsis in eastern Zaïre.[33]

A coalition of Rwandan and Ugandan armies invaded Zaïre to overthrow the government of Mobutu, and ultimately to control the mineral resources of Zaïre, launching the First Congo War.  The coalition allied with some opposition figures, led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, becoming the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Zaïre (AFDL).  In 1997 Mobutu fled and Kabila marched into Kinshasa, naming himself president and reverting the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
(Links omitted.)

So that horrendous conflict in the Congo began as a result of the Rwandan genocide, which Bill Clinton might have been able to prevent.
Intelligence reports indicate that President Clinton and his cabinet were aware before the height of the massacre that a "final solution to eliminate all Tutsis" was planned.[227]

Fear of a repeat of the events in Somalia shaped US policy in subsequent years, with many commentators identifying the graphic consequences of the Battle of Mogadishu as the key reason behind the US's failure to intervene in later conflicts such as the Rwandan Genocide.  After the battle, the bodies of several US casualties of the conflict were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by crowds of local civilians and members of Aidid's Somali National Alliance.   According to the US's former deputy special envoy to Somalia, Walter Clarke: "The ghosts of Somalia continue to haunt US policy.  Our lack of response in Rwanda was a fear of getting involved in something like a Somalia all over again."[228]  President Clinton has referred to the failure of the U.S. government to intervene in the genocide as one of his main foreign policy failings, saying "I don't think we could have ended the violence, but I think we could have cut it down.  And I regret it."[229]  Eighty percent of the discussion in Washington concerned the evacuation of American citizens.[230]
(Again, links omitted.)

At least Clinton says he's sorry.

(I don't know whether he has ever apologized for the death toll in the wars that followed.)
- 3:34 PM, 9 September 2015   [link]


Long May She Reign Over Them:  The United Kingdom is celebrating 23,227 days of Elizabeth's II's reign.

Why that number in particular?  Because it puts her in first place.
At 17:30 BST she had reigned for 23,226 days, 16 hours and approximately 30 minutes - surpassing the reign of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.
(Approximately, because they don't know precisely when her father, George VI, died.)

She has been served by 12 British prime ministers, and many more in other countries, including a few that surprised me.

This is a good time for this republican to admit that most* of the stable democracies in the world are constitutional monarchies — and I don't think that's just a historical accident.  Most likely, the monarchs in those countries serve as unifying symbols that help keep the nations together, even when the competition between parties and factions is fierce.

As you would expect, the Daily Mail has more and better pictures than the BBC.

(*The two best-known exceptions are Switzerland and the United States.  Each has institutions that act as unifying symbols in somewhat the same way a monarch often does.)
- 1:59 PM, 9 September 2015   [link]


Today Is The First Day Of School In Seattle:  Today the Seattle teachers are on strike.  Illegally, though our local journalists are reluctant to say so.   There is a hint in this King 5 story, but only because the school board is taking a stronger stand than usual.
The 2015-2016 school year was scheduled to begin Wednesday.  Instead, teachers will hit the picket line for the first time in 30 years.  There are 53,000 students impacted.
. . .
Soon after, the Seattle School Board took its next step, authorizing its superintendent to take legal action against the union.
In this area, the Washington Education Association likes to have a big strike at one school district, every two or three years.  I have long thought that these strikes were more reminders to other districts than local fights, that the WEA was showing what it could do, in order to strengthen its bargaining position with other districts.

As far as I can tell, this militancy hasn't done much for teachers, or other public school employees, in this state, but it has given the WEA considerable political power — which it has used to block many school reforms.

(I am pleased to see that the WEA gets the color coding right; many of the strikers are wearing strike shirts, in red, the traditional color of the left, especially the violent left.

One odd issue:  The WEA wants 30-minute recesses in the lower grades, a good idea in my opinion.  It isn't clear why some Seattle schools don't have it, or have only 15 minute recesses.  A discussion on KUOW's "Weekday" last Friday made me think that some schools had cut it back, or eliminated it, because of safety issues, though it wasn't clear to me whether the schools were worried about what the kids would do to each other, what outsiders might do to the kids, or both.)
- 7:41 AM, 9 September 2015   [link]


"Spitting On The Constitution To Pass The Iran Deal"  John Podhoretz says what needs to be said from time to time; the Iran nuclear "deal" is a treaty, and so should require ratification by a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

Instead, the Obama administration is now celebrating because they believe they will be able to block a direct vote in the Senate, now that they have signed up 42 senators, all Democrats, in support of the "deal".
Thus, it may well be that for the first time in American history, a president will simply impose a treaty on the country without even the pretense of seeking and obtaining the advice and consent of the Congress.

And how?  With 42 percent.

To call this a scandal doesn’t even begin to do justice to what it is.  It really does suggest we are fast turning into a banana republic, whose leaders feel free to spit on a Constitution whose central purpose is to restrain the ambitions of strongmen and their shameful toadies.
President Obama took an oath, at his inaugurations, to defend the Constitution,  I can't be the only person who wonders whether he had his fingers crossed, figuratively if not literally, when he took that oath.
- 6:58 AM, 9 September 2015   [link]