Archive:

September 2015, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



This Cartoon isn't bad — even though President Putin would probably like it.

And, no, I have no idea how something like that ended up in the New York Times.

By way of Professor Althouse.   (You may want to skip most of the comments, which degenerated fairly rapidly.)
- 6:38 PM, 30 September 2015   [link]


"Americans' Trust In Media Remains At Historical Low"  That's the Gallup headline, and it is true, as far as it goes.  But I thought part of their discussion of their findings was misleading.
Americans' confidence in the media has slowly eroded from a high of 55% in 1998 and 1999.  Since 2007, the majority of Americans have had little or no trust in the mass media.  Trust has typically dipped in election years, including 2004, 2008, 2012 and last year.   However, 2015 is not a major election year.
Let's take a close look at their third graph, which shows the decline, by party.

Trend: Trust in Mass Media, by Party, Gallup 2015

If you look at the Democrats, you may conclude that there is no net trend, between 1997 and the present.   For Democrats, trust in media first rose, and then declined to about where it was at the beginning of that period.

But the results for independents and Republicans are entirely different.  There has been a steady decline among independents over the time period, and a sharp break for Republicans between 2002 and 2008.

If I were to re-write that first Gallup sentence, I'd say something like this:  Democrats are about as likely to trust the media as they did in 1998 and 1999; independents and Republicans are much less likely to trust the media than they were.  The divergence between Democrats and the rest is the big story, in my opinion, because that's what changed.

(You can find the exact question and the results since 1972 in this small PDF file.   Note that trust was highest when they first asked the question in May 1972, with 18 percent saying they trusted the media a "great deal", and 50 percent saying they trusted the media a "fair amount". * The comparable figures in this month's poll are 7 and 33 percent.

My own answer, by the way, would be "not very much" — on some subjects.)
- 2:24 PM, 30 September 2015   [link]


Sioux Attack In Britain:  You may find that headline a little puzzling, perhaps thinking that the Sioux are a North American tribe, and that they haven't staged many attacks for more than a century.

But the headline is literally true.  As I learned two days ago, there is a Labour activist named "Sioux Blair-Jordan" who created quite a fuss, with her attack on David Cameron.
Jeremy Corbyn sparked fury today after hugging a Labour member who said disabled people “might as well walk into the gas chambers” if the PM reforms human rights law.

Speaking at the Labour conference in Brighton, Sioux Blair-Jordan compared David Cameron’s bid to replace the European Convention on Human Rights with a UK Bill of Rights.

Her inflammatory comment won an an awkward smattering of applause from the party faithful, but Corbyn embraced Ms Blair-Jordan and thanked her for her speech.
You may wonder just what those reforms are, so here's a brief explanation:
The European Convention on Human Rights was incorporated into British law under the 1998 Human Rights Act.

These rights are enforced by Strasbourg’s European Court of Human Rights, which has the power to overturn rulings made by British courts, including the Supreme Court.  Judges in the UK are also told to take into account the European Convention when making their own rulings.
Along with some examples that explain why Cameron wants to make these reforms.

Cameron wants to replace that European Convention with a "British Human Rights Act", and promised to do so in the Conservative Party's "manifesto" (or as we could call it, their platform) in the last election.

At this point some of you will be wondering when I am going to get to the important question:  How in the world did an English woman get that name?  (And does she have any siblings named Apache, Comanche, and so forth?)  I am sorry to say that I have been unable to find an answer to that question in a brief search, though I did learn that she is disabled.

(She wasn't the only one to make that kind of historical comparison at the meeting; so did a union leader, Len McCluskey.

Here's a description of the European Convention on Human Rights, with more than the usual caveats.)
- 12:53 PM, 30 September 2015   [link]


"David Cameron Slams Obama"  At an anti-terrorism meeting.
Well aware that Mr. Obama shuns the term “Islamist extremists,” the Conservative British prime minister reacted strongly at the meeting when the president, who chaired the session, advised the assembled foreign leaders to avoid profiling Muslims because “violent extremism is not unique to any one faith.”

“Barack, you said it and you’re right — every religion has its extremists,” Mr. Cameron said.  “But we have to be frank that the biggest problem we have today is the Islamist extremist violence that has given birth to ISIL, to al-Shabab, to al-Nusra, al Qaeda and so many other groups.”
By now, we have almost all made up our minds about why Obama avoids saying that.  What's interesting in this interchange is why Cameron is rebuking Obama, now.

I don't claim to be an expert on Cameron, so what follows is speculation:  Cameron, like almost all of us, may be able to tolerate only so much PC nonsense.  And Cameron may be thinking of the political advantages back in Britain for saying something popular there — and breaking with Obama at a time when Obama's popularity is fading, and can do little to help, or hurt, a British politician.
- 9:28 AM, 30 September 2015   [link]


Naipaul On Europe's Migrant Crisis:  A little over four years ago, I posted a long quotation from V. S Naipaul's Among the Believers.

Yesterday, it occurred to me that the post was even more relevant now than it was in 2011, so I am re-posting it, with three additional paragraphs at the end.

How Did Europe End Up With All Those Muslims?  In many ways, but in part as a consequence of deliberate "manpower export" from badly-governed nations.

V. S. Naipaul describes how it worked in Pakistan.  (And probably still works, with some variations.)
The business was organized.  Like accountants studying tax laws,, the manpower-export experts of Pakistan studied the world's immigration laws and competitively gambled with their emigrant battalions: visitor's visas overstayable here (most European countries), dependents shippable there (England), student visas convertible there (Canada and the United States), political asylum to be asked for there (Austria and West Berlin), still no visas needed here, just below the Arctic Circle (Finland).  They went by the planeload.  Karachi airport was equipped for this emigrant traffic.  Some got through; some were turned back.   Germans shoot 4 Pakistanis; Illegal entry.  This was an item in Dawn, sent from Turkey, on the emigrant route, and it was the delayed story of the humane disabling (men shot in the leg) and capture of one batch.

Abroad, the emigrants threw themselves on the mercies of the civil-liberties organizations.   They sought the protection of the laws of countries where the planes had brought them.   They or their representatives spoke correct words about the difference between poor countries and rich, South and North.  They spoke of the crime of racial discrimination and the brotherhood of man.  They appealed to the ideals of the alien civilizations they denied at home.

And in the eyes of the faithful there was no contradiction. (p. 101)
(Emphasis added.)

They appealed to our universal ideals, without seeing them as universal, as ideals that ought to apply to the Muslim countries they were leaving.

And though these emigrants recognized that economic opportunity was far greater in the West, few were willing to take the next step and admit that Western values may, in part, explain Western advantages.

(As you probably guessed, Dawn is a Pakistani newspaper.)

Doesn't that description sound familiar?

The "manpower export" business has expanded in this last year, just as you would expect it to, when demand increased, and European countries changed their rules to make it easier to get into them.  I've seen one estimate that it is now a billion dollar a year business.

Naipaul's book was first published in 1981, so this effort to get Muslims into Europe has been going on for more than three decades.
- 8:00 PM, 29 September 2015   [link]


Major Defeat For Obama's Afghanistan Policy:  I can't say I had known much about the city of Kunduz before today, but it's an important city.
Kunduz[pronunciation?] (Pashto: کندز‎; Persian: قندوز‎‎) is a city in northern Afghanistan, which serves as the capital of Kunduz Province.  It is sometimes spelled as Kundûz, Qonduz, Qondûz, Konduz, Kondûz, Kondoz, or Qhunduz.

Sitting in the Kunduz District, the population of the city was recorded as 304,600 in 2012–13.[2]   It is about the 5th largest city of Afghanistan.
. . .
The city is strategically important because it is the only way connecting Takhar province and Badakhshan provinces,[citation needed] which play a critical role in the existing government.
Yesterday, Kunduz was captured by the Taliban.
Afghan forces have been battling Taliban fighters to retake the city of Kunduz, a day after it fell to the insurgents in their biggest victory since their removal from power in 2001.

Heavy fighting has been reported, and President Ashraf Ghani said his forces had regained some government buildings.

Police said more than 80 militants had been killed, although there is no independent confirmation of this.

The Taliban overran Kunduz on Monday, forcing government troops to retreat.
During the 2008 campaign, President Obama said that the war in Afghanistan was worth fighting and that he would strengthen our forces there.  After he was elected, he did send more forces there but, bizarrely, set a time limit on how long they would stay.  (He did not send as many troops as our commanders wanted him to send.)

The best explanation for his decisions is that he was nearly certain that a temporary increase in American troops would give the Afghans time for a build-up that would enable them to defeat the Taliban on their own.  (I won't speculate here on other possible explanations for his decisions.)

Obviously, if that was Obama's strategy, it is failing.  Just as many predicted it would.

(I was curious to see whether any of our journalists would blame Obama for this failure, so I read the articles on the capture in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, and watched the BBC America, ABC, NBC, and CBS evening news programs.  If CBS mentioned the capture, I missed it.  NBC noted that the capture would pose problems for Obama's planned withdrawal, but didn't mention the failure of his strategy.  None of the others even mentioned Obama.

Our "mainstream" journalists are determined to give him credit for any successes, whether or not they are the result of his actions — and even more determined not to blame him when he is failing.)
- 7:36 PM, 29 September 2015   [link]


Worth Reading:  Sean Trende's defense of John Boehner, "Why the GOP May Regret Losing Boehner".
For all the kvetching about Republican majorities not accomplishing anything, Boehner’s Republicans managed to accomplish an awful lot.  There are three clear examples where Boehner helped get Republicans far better deals than they could reasonably have expected.  First, under Boehner, Republicans really have managed to apply the brakes to federal spending. If you don’t believe me, consider the following chart:
. . .
Since 1948, there have been exactly 18 quarters (out of 270) where federal spending was lower than it was in the previous year.  Ten of those instances occurred between 1948 and 1955. The other eight occurred between 2011 and today.  It is true that this number has begun to rise again, but again, perspective is needed.  Of the 250 quarters between 1948 and 2011, 191 of them have larger increases than the largest increase in the 2011-15 period.  Since 2001, only one quarter (Q4 2006) saw a smaller increase (the increase was smaller by .03 percent).
There's much more, and I hope you'll read the whole thing.

I'll just add three points:  First, like Trende, I was both surprised and impressed that Boehner was able to do as much as he did to control spending, given the weakness of his bargaining position.

Second, that accomplishment is especially impressive when you recall that entitlements have been automatically expanding while Boehner was speaker.

Third, it is even more impressive when you compare what the United States has done, against the records of other industrial democracies.  Since World War II, government spending as a proportion of GDP has risen more, in almost all of them, than in the United States.  Sometimes a government has been able to keep it constant for a few years, but then the expansion continues until taxes are taking more than half of the nation's GDP.  Speaker Boehner was actually able to reduce spending as a proportion of our GDP.

(In yesterday's column, Paul Krugman conceded that under Boehner, "Republicans did manage to put a severe crimp on federal spending, . . . ".  (Krugman was opposed to large deficits when Republicans controlled the Congress and the White House, but changed with the party changes.)

Here's a question to ponder:  Did Boehner have more support among Republicans who are good with numbers than Republicans who are good with words?  I suspect so, but have seen no evidence on the question, either way.)
- 12:57 PM, 29 September 2015   [link]


Today's New Yorker Cartoon shows a man hoping to be a victim.

(This desire isn't new, and sometimes turns into fraud.  Years ago, I read of an insurance fraud problem in New Jersey.  When there was a bus accident, people would rush toward it, in order to pretend that they had been passengers on that bus.  It got so bad that insurance companies actually staged a few accidents, in order to catch some of the cheaters.)
- 9:44 AM, 29 September 2015   [link]


Don't Tell Senator Ted Cruz about this little study.
To Cruz, the logic is simple: more moderate Republicans have lost some presidential elections, so the party should nominate someone less moderate.  It’s an unsurprising view from a guy who is on the conservative flank of the party and is now a presidential candidate.

It’s also a view that is largely wrong.  Political science research shows that ideological moderation actually is rewarded at the ballot box in House elections and presidential elections.   The same thing is true in the 2016 presidential race.  In fact, we estimate that in 2016, the electoral penalty for choosing a true believer rather than a moderate is a 23-percentage point decline in the probability of winning the general election.
The data Matthew Atkinson and Darin DeWitt use may surprise some — but I agree with them that it is the best data available — right now.

Those who listen to some conservative talk show hosts may find that conclusion surprising, even disturbing, but most who study elections professionally would see it as obvious, or almost so.

Still, if you have been listening to, for example, Rush Limbaugh, you may want to see some examples, and I hope to have a set of them for you soon, perhaps even as early as tomorrow.

(It is possible that Senator Cruz knows these facts, but is not being entirely honest with his supporters by saying what he does.  He's a very smart fellow and may be thinking a couple of steps ahead, hoping more to establish himself as a factional leader than to win the nomination and the general election.

Incidentally, Cruz likes to pose as an outsider, but a glance at his biography will show you that he hasn't been one, at last since he entered Princeton.  Oh, and his wife, Heidi Nelson, is "currently taking leave from her position as head of the Southwest Region in the Investment Management Division of Goldman, Sachs & Co.", so she's an insider, too.

For the record, I would be happier if Atkinson and DeWitt had stated their results as ranges, rather than single numbers.  But it's a post, not an academic paper.)
- 7:50 PM, 28 September 2015   [link]


Two Minor Tech Problems, Two Simple Tech Fixes:  )I am putting this post up as much to remind myself to check the obvious stuff, as to share any knowledge.)

Last week, I was having trouble signing in to the Washington Post.  I tried several times, with variations.  Finally, I did what I should have done at the beginning; I took a close look at the status under the sign-in,  It said I was already logged in, so I logged out, logged back in, and haven't had any troubles since then.  (And, no I don't know exactly why or how I got into the wrong state, but can imagine a few possibilities.)

Two days ago, I connected my Kindle by a USB cable to Windows 7.  For some reason my system didn't recognize it, and locked up the Kindle.  The user manual is on the Kindle — which strikes me as a serious error — so I didn't look for directions there.  I looked hard for a reset button, thinking one might be hidden in a small hole, as they sometimes are, couldn't find one, then tried a few simple experiments, and finally gave up.

The next day, with the help of a little sleep, I realized I hadn't tried the obvious: looking for help on the Amazon site,  I entered the URL they give with their Kindle messages: http://www.amazon.com/kindlesupport.  And then one click took me to this page, where I saw the third FAQ: "My Kindle is Frozen", which explained how to reboot it.  (You just hold the power button down for a while, a trick I recall seeing before, but had forgotten.)

At this point, people who had worked with software, hardware, or both, will probably be chuckling at my boneheaded mistakes.  But possibly a little ruefully, since I have seen smart and experienced people make similar errors.

(The fact that how to reboot is third in that list is a little troubling, since it suggests this happens more often than one would like.)
- 7:07 PM, 28 September 2015   [link]


The NYT And The WSJ Agree On Putin And Syria:  A few days ago, I was surprised to see the two editorial pages agreeing about Chinese cyber theft.

Today, I was surprised by the lead story in both newspapers — not by the fact that they agreed on what the lead story should be, but by the story itself.

Here are the first two paragraphs of the New York Times version of the story:
For the second time this month, Russia moved to expand its political and military influence in the Syria conflict and left the United States scrambling, this time by reaching an understanding, announced Sunday, with Iraq, Syria and Iran to share intelligence about the Islamic State.

Like Russia’s earlier move to bolster the government of President Bashar Assad by deploying warplanes and tanks to a base near Latakia, Syria, the intelligence-sharing arrangement was sealed without notice to the United States.  U.S. officials knew that a group of Russian military officers were in Baghdad, but they were clearly surprised when the Iraqi military’s Joint Operations Command announced the intelligence sharing accord on Sunday.
Here are two key paragraphs from the Wall Street Journal version of the story:
The deal is another challenge to U.S. influence in the Middle East at a time when Russia is deploying new military assets—primarily in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—including fighter aircraft and attack helicopters in the coastal region of Syria.

At the same time, the U.S.-led international coalition that has been striking Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria from the air since last fall is grappling with a series of setbacks.
Let's summarize:  President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and — I assume — our intelligence agencies were surprised by this agreement.  President Putin is, more and more, pushing President Obama and the United States aside in the Middle East.  Our military operations against ISIS have, so far, not met with great success.

That last may explain the first two; if leaders in the region see the United States as ineffectual, they will seek other partners.

(To me, the most troubling aspect of this agreement is that we were surprised, for two reasons;   First, it shows that either our intelligence collection or our analysis is failing badly.  Either we didn't collect the data that would have allowed us to detect this in advance, or our analysts didn't put the clues together and get them to the top people.

Second, this shows the yawning gap between our leaders and the Iraqi leaders,who didn't even bother to inform Obama and Kerry that these negotiations were going on.)
- 1:49 PM, 28 September 2015   [link]


The Terrorist Veto Again, this time in London.
Visitors to a London exhibition celebrating freedom of expression this week found plenty of familiar taboo-busting work, from Jamie McCartney’s The Great Wall of Vagina, a nine-metre long cast featuring the genitals of 400 women, to Kubra Khademi’s video of an eight-minute walk she made through Kabul in Afganistan, dressed in lushly contoured body armour.  But they will have looked in vain for one work detailed in the catalogue by an artist known only as Mimsy.

Isis Threaten Sylvania is a series of seven satirical light box tableaux featuring the children’s toys Sylvanian Families.  It was removed from the Passion for Freedom exhibition at the Mall galleries after police raised concerns about the “potentially inflammatory content” of the work, informing the organisers that, if they went ahead with their plans to display it, they would have to pay £36,000 for security for the six-day show.

In Isis Threaten Sylvania, rabbits, mice and hedgehogs go about their daily life, sunning themselves on a beach, drinking at a beer festival or simply watching television, while the menacing figures of armed jihadis lurk in the background.
The artist, who goes by the name of "Mimsy" for protection (and perhaps as a tribute to Lewis Carroll), found that she was predicting events, as she created the tableaux:
She added that she had made the tableaux between December 2014 and May 2015 and had looked on in horror as, one by one, her imagined scenarios came true.  In one scene, jihadis lurk outside a schoolroom, while a class of girls sit at their desks; in another, gunmen bristle on the horizon as holidaymakers sunbathe on a beach.  “It was creepy, because each time I imagined a scene it happened in reality.  I made the beach scene before the Tunisian massacre and the schoolroom scene before Boko Haram abducted the schoolgirls in Nigeria,” she said.
Since Westminster is where much of the British government is located, there should be no shortage of police in that part of London.

But there may be a shortage of police officials there who have a "Passion for Freedom".

(Americans have been discussing the far milder heckler's veto for decades.  It's my impression that strong defenders of freedom of speech are almost entirely in agreement on the subject — but that some police officers, and some university officials are still inclined to allow hecklers to win, in that seems like the easiest way to keep the peace.

That's unfortunate, because it leaves us less able to meet this new threat.)
- 10:13 AM, 28 September 2015   [link]


Andrew Malcolm's Weekly Collection of jokes.

Malcolm liked this one best:
Fallon: You can tell Trump's star is fading.  Today he was named a contestant on 'The Celebrity Apprentice.'
As did I, but I must warn you that fans of Trump may not find it funny

This one isn't bad:
Meyers: A new study has found that 8% of Americans sleep naked.  Unfortunately, the study was conducted on the F train.
And may be an indirect criticism of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
- 9:23 AM, 28 September 2015   [link]


The Daily Mail Has A Good Collection of pictures of the latest lunar eclipse.
A 'super blood moon’ appeared in the skies across the world last night for the first time in 30 years.

The eerie light created from the lunar eclipse with the moon near to its closest point to the Earth delighted astronomers while filling others with dread.
I particularly liked the three from these sites: Glastonbury Tor, Washington Monument, and Belarus.

The article has a brief explanation for the red color; here's a longer one:
The moon does not completely disappear as it passes through the umbra because of the refraction of sunlight by the Earth's atmosphere into the shadow cone; if the Earth had no atmosphere, the Moon would be completely dark during an eclipse.[6]  The reddish coloration arises because sunlight reaching the Moon must pass through a long and dense layer of the Earth's atmosphere, where it is scattered.  Shorter wavelengths are more likely to be scattered by the air molecules and the small particles, and so by the time the light has passed through the atmosphere, the longer wavelengths dominate.  This resulting light we perceive as red.  This is the same effect that causes sunsets and sunrises to turn the sky a reddish color; an alternative way of considering the problem is to realize that, as viewed from the moon, the sun would appear to be setting (or rising) behind the Earth.
("Umbra" is just Latin for shadow, in this case, the earth's shadow.)

In a lunar eclipse, most of the sun's light is blocked by the earth.  A small part of the sun's light is bent (refracted) a little by the earth's atmosphere so that it hits the moon,  That part consists mostly of the longer wave lengths of visible light, which we see as red.

(For much more on the moon, here's the Wikipedia article.)
- 7:44 AM, 28 September 2015   [link]


Jeremy Corbyn Is A "9/11 Truther"?!  If not, the Labour leader is awfully close to being one, judging by the articles he wrote, years ago.
In the 2003 article for The Morning Star newspaper, Mr Corbyn wrote: “Historians will study with interest the news manipulation of the past 18 months.

“After September 11, the claims that bin Laden and al-Qaida had committed the atrocity were quickly and loudly made.

“This was turned into an attack on the Taliban and then, subtly, into regime change in Afghanistan.”
. . .
Mr Corbyn has previously shared a platform with Ken O'Keefe, who has alleged that President Bush was a member of The New World Order who had orchestrated the September 11 attacks for personal gain.

The phrase was also used in a speech by George H.W Bush.  Mr Corbyn’s spokesman refused to deny that the new Labour leader was referring to the “New World Order” conspiracy theory in his articles.
(Emphasis added.)

Most Americans will be unfamiliar with The Morning Star.  It's a Communist newspaper, and always has been.

By way of the Daily Mail, which re-wrote the Telegraph story and added some pictures, and some background.

(For the record:  It may be obvious to many of you, but I probably should say, directly, that the Corbyn stories interest me, in part because I think there are similar would-be leaders in both our major parties, men and women whose extreme ideologies make them unelectable in national elections, but, for the same reason, attractive to many activists.

Fun fact:  According to a sidebar in the Telegraph article, Corbyn is still refusing to say whether he will sing Britain's national anthem, "God Save the Queen".  Even from this distance, it is clear that he is not a conventional British patriot.  Americans may be reminded of Barack Obama's — temporary — refusal to wear a flag pin during the 2008 campaign.)
- 10:57 AM, 27 September 2015   [link]


People In This Area Are Still Unhappy About The Traffic Disruptions Caused By Chairman Xi's Visit:  Which explains this somewhat heavy-handed, but still funny, spoof, "For Xi’s Visit, Comrades, Celebrate the Freedom of Immobility!".
Transcript of remarks by Chairman Murray on Tuesday, broadcast over state television.

COMRADES OF SEATTLE!  As I look out from City Hall onto a sea of glinting, stationary windshields on I-5, I say with joy and excitement: It is a bright day for our great city.

This week we welcome Xi Jinping, president of China, and his 1,000 closest advisers, in worker solidarity, to the Westin Hotel.  Let me say to you: President Xi’s visit bestows upon Seattle the prestige of being one of the great socialist cities of the world!  Beijing has heard about our $15 minimum wage!  Beijing has heard about our mandatory composting!  Beijing has heard about our resolution asking the legislature to lift the ban on rent control, which we may or may not someday have in Seattle!  And Beijing has found it good!   Let us celebrate!  [Raucous applause]
. . .
As you know, and as is becoming of a republic founded by and for the workers, we have long been working to give you the freedom to stop driving to work so that you may experience the more civilized modes of transportation, such as bicycling or the E Line.  We have eliminated parking downtown and instituted road diets to ensure that the bourgeois who continue to resist this freedom do not impede our inevitable march toward the future.
(In this area, "Chairman Murray" is better known as the Seattle mayor, Ed Murray.)

How bad was the traffic mess?  Pretty bad, though I haven't seen anyone put numbers on it, yet.  Our main roads are so close to capacity on weekdays (and even during some weekends) that a minor accident can be a serious disruption.  Xi's visit had the same impact that dozens of serious accidents might have had; it meant hours of additional time stuck in traffic, for tens of thousands of commuters.
- 9:55 AM, 26 September 2015   [link]


The Best Take I've Seen So Far On John Boehner's Resignation is in this Wall Street Journal editorial.
Mr. Boehner has spent nearly five years trapped between an implacable President Obama and an uncompromising faction within his own party.  Conservatives blamed him for not delivering victories no Speaker could.   The Ohio Republican said at a press conference Friday—he looked like he’d just been released from prison—that he’d concluded that “prolonged leadership turmoil” would damage the House of Representatives and the Republican Party.
. . .
Mr. Boehner made his share of mistakes as Speaker, and the biggest was trusting Mr. Obama to bargain in good faith.  He entered solo negotiations with the White House, told his conference to wait and see, and behind closed doors even cut preliminary deals on modest tax and entitlement reform—not once but twice.  Mr. Obama suddenly raised his demands each time and then ambushed Mr. Boehner publicly.  These double-crosses damaged his credibility among conservatives.
. . .
Yet Mr. Boehner’s Speakership also accomplished more than his conservative critics give him credit for.   One achievement that deserves more attention is spending restraint.  In the liberal heyday of 2009, outlays soared to 24.4% of GDP and stayed near that level until Republicans took back the House.

But in the fiscal 2012 budget, their first as a majority, spending fell in real terms, and then again the next year.  By fiscal 2014 federal spending had fallen to 20.3% of the economy.  This fulfilled a GOP promise from the 2010 campaign and would never have happened if Nancy Pelosi ran the House.
(Emphasis added.)

Some of us think that stopping the rush toward national bankruptcy is a significant achievement; others disagree, or are unwilling to give Boehner and the other Republican leaders the credit they deserve.

I don't often say it, but — read the whole thing.

(I may have more to say about Boehner, later.)
- 9:11 AM, 26 September 2015   [link]


The NYT And The WSJ Agree On China:  This morning I was pleasantly surprised to see that the New York Times agreed with much of what the Wall Street Journal said in their lead editorial.
But it is now impossible to ignore that China is attempting to redefine its relationship to America and the rules of world order.  Under Mr. Xi, Beijing sees itself as a strategic rival rather than a partner.  Its foreign policy is increasingly aggressive, sometimes lawless, a reality that’s become clear even to the Obama Administration.  The U.S. needs to show that it will resist this behavior—even as it seeks to steer China’s leadership back toward global norms.
. . .
The new code of cyber-conduct in the works for this summit is supposed to address this threat, but it will likely do little more than hamper U.S. efforts to hold Chinese assets at equal risk.  It also won’t stop acts like last year’s hack of the Office of Personnel Management, involving some 21.5 million stolen records, along with previous hacks of companies ranging from Nortel to Google to this newspaper.

All of this amounts to perhaps the greatest theft in history.  It has been compounded in recent years by China’s attempts to require foreign firms to hand over proprietary technology as the price of doing business in China, a price those firms are increasingly reluctant to pay.  The truism of 30 years—that China is a profitable, open, investor-friendly market—is now open to question.  While it promises further reform, which it certainly needs, the regime has too often become an economic predator.
In their editorial, the Times said:
China has a long way to go in protecting the rights of foreign businesses, and Mr. Xi seemed dismissive of the legitimate complaints about unfair, coercive treatment of foreign companies.  The government has used its power to favor state-owned and domestic private firms.  There is little transparency in how it makes decisions and few rights of appeal.  And of immediate concern is the continuous threat posed by hackers based in China.

Chinese officials are believed to be behind some of the many cyberattacks against American companies and government agencies.  Some of these hackers clearly work for the government and are stealing corporate secrets to help Chinese companies, American officials and cybersecurity experts say.  Mr. Xi’s government denies that it is involved in the attacks, despite evidence collected by the United States that a unit of the People’s Liberation Army has stolen corporate secrets.
They are both right, of course.  Businessmen have been slow to complain because they were making money, or hoped to, in deals with China; government officials have been slow to complain because they hoped for better relations with that country.  But many in both groups are beginning to wonder if staying silent about Chinese crimes is really the best strategy, in the long run.

The two newspapers don't agree entirely; the Journal is worried about the Chinese military build-up, and its aggressive moves against its neighbors, while the Times doesn't even mention those military problems.   (The editorial board there would probably concede, if pressed, that the United States has legitimate security interests, but it's not a subject they like to discuss.)

And they disagree, somewhat, on what we should do about these Chinese actions.  The Times ends their editorial with a weak call for "reciprocity" from the Chinese, while the Journal suggests that we be a little more assertive, militarily, and that we should "reduce the chances of Chinese miscalculation by drawing clear lines against lawless behavior".  (President Obama may not be the best person to draw those "clear lines", in my opinion.)

Unfortunately, neither approach seems likely to change Chinese behavior in any significant way.

(For the record:  I can't claim that I can see any obvious strategy for coping with China's attacks and challenges.  But I am certain that we need to have some of our best people, from diplomats to hackers, working on the problems China is causing.

Today's Times also has an article, "Cultural Revolution Shaped Xi Jinping, From Schoolboy to Survivor", which will interest anyone who wants to understand China's "paramount leader".  If nothing else, it will persuade you that Xi is tough.

If you need a review on the Cultural Revolution, you can find one here, and the Wikipedia article on the subject, here.)
- 1:33 PM, 25 September 2015   [link]


Temper, Temper, Donald:  You'd think someone who wants to be leader of the free world would be able to shrug off small slights, in this case a photograph he didn't like.

And would be able to avoid obscenities and vulgarities when speaking on the record.

What I like most about Donald Trump's campaign is the way he has raised the level of debate, and kept us focused on important issues.  There has been little discussion of nuclear proliferation, our troubling budget problems, the slow economy, or other such frivolous subjects.  Instead, we have spent more time on important issues, notably whether journalists are being fair to the Donald.

I know, I know; some of you are shocked by the very idea that journalists might be unfair to a man running as a Republican.  But it has happened once or twice before.

(For the record:  I'm not sure whether this was an intentional slight.  In general, politicians book halls they hope to fill.  It looks to me as if Trump, or his advance team, booked too large a hall for the likely crowd.  It's the kind of mistake you expect in even the best-run campaigns.)
- 10:04 PM, 25 September 2015   [link]


Jeremy Corbyn Begins in a hole.
UPDATE Corbyn becomes first LAB leader EVER to record negative ratings in his opening Ipsos MORI satisfaction ratings
That's net negative; 33 percent were satisfied with the way Jeremy Corbyn was running the Labour Party, and 36 percent were dissatisfied.  The previous five leaders, Kinnock, Smith, Blair, Brown, and Miliband, had done much better with net satisfaction ratings of 20, 18, 18, 16, and 19, respectively.

Significantly, the Labour leader before Kinnock, Michael Foot, had a net satisfaction rating of just two percent.  Foot was the farthest left of six who preceded Corbyn:
Associated with the left of the Labour Party for most of his career, Foot was an ardent supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and British withdrawal from the European Economic Community.  He was appointed to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Employment under Harold Wilson in 1974, and he later served as Leader of the House of Commons under James Callaghan.  A passionate orator, he led Labour through the 1983 general election, when the party obtained its lowest share of the vote at a general election since 1918 and the fewest parliamentary seats it had had at any time since before 1945.[5]
Jeremy Corbyn seems to have learned nothing from Foot's 1983 defeat, which is, in a perverse way, impressive.   It's as if he had helped build a house on a river bank, seen it washed away in an enormous flood, and now is building an almost identical house in the same place.

By way of Guido Fawkes.

(The precise question was:  "Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way Jeremy Corbyn is doing his job as leader of the Labour party?"

You can find a discussion of the poll here, along with a link to the full poll results.  Not all the results are bad for Corbyn, but some are simply devastating.  For instance, 30 percent more think that Prime Minister Cameron is a "capable leader" (62 to 32 percent).  And 76 percent think Cameron is patriotic, but only 37 percent say the same about Corbyn.)
- 8:16 AM, 25 September 2015   [link]