July 2015, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
The Daily Mail has a large collection of pictures from the Chattanooga murders. There is even an aerial photograph, which will show you the locations of the attacks.
Four Marines were killed this morning, when a heavily-armed gunman opened fire on two military centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee in what is being described as an 'act of domestic terrorism'.As I (almost) always do, I'll remind you that early reports often get details wrong, and, as I should have said in the previous post, sometimes the obvious explanations of motives are wrong.
- 3:01 PM, 16 July 2015 [link]
Terrible News from Chattanooga.
But not unprecedented. There was a similar attack in Arkansas in 2009.
And a foiled attack in the Seattle area in 2011.
- 2:02 PM, 16 July 2015 [link]
In 1994, Bill Clinton Signed A Non-Proliferation Agreement With North Korea: The networks loved it.
At the time, CBS’s Dan Rather declared the deal “could end the long-running crisis with North Korea over nuclear weapons” as well as perhaps “open the way for normal relations between the U.S. and one of the world’s last old-line, hard-line Communist states.”The networks were not bothered by the weak inspections parts of the agreement, though many critics were, even at that time.
How did the Clinton agreement with North Korea work out?
Poorly, from our point of view.
In 1994, North Korea pledged, under the "Agreed Framework" with the United States, to freeze its plutonium programs and dismantle all its nuclear weapons programs in return for several kinds of assistance, including construction of two modern nuclear power plants powered by light-water reactors.Quite well, from the North Korean point of view. They received large amounts of aid, including hundreds of millions of dollars worth of food aid, but did not slow down their efforts to build nuclear weapons in any significant way.
In the United States, Bill Clinton has received almost no criticism for signing this agreement, but George W. Bush has received considerable criticism for recognizing that the North Koreans were breaking it.
(Here's a description of the Agreed Framework, for those interested in the details. The usual caveats apply.)
- 10:09 AM, 16 July 2015 [link]
Chuckle: While looking for some background information, I opened the Wikipedia article on North Korea.
It begins with this warning:
"Democratic People's Republic of Korea" redirects here. It is not to be confused with the Republic of Korea (South Korea).No, it shouldn't.
I suppose they have to put that warning in, but it still strikes me as pretty funny.
- 9:17 AM, 16 July 2015 [link]
Black Children Hardest Hit: That's the conclusion of a Pew Study.
The share of American children living in poverty has declined slightly since 2010 as the nation’s economy has improved. But the poverty rate has changed little for black children, the group most likely to be living in poverty, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.If you look at the first graph carefully, you'll see that the percentage of poor black children rose slightly during the recession George W. Bush inherited from Bill Clinton, stabilized, rose sharply as Barack Obama was taking office, and has not fallen since then.
Why? In particular, why has there been improvement in the last few years for the other three groups, as the economy improved, but not for blacks?
Partisans can easily come up with explanations that satisfy themselves, and roughly fit that data. (For fun, you might try to think of how both Democrats and Republicans might do that.)
It is a fact that blacks have fallen further behind whites economically during Barack Obama's presidency. And you can see that in the child poverty data, as well as other data I have seen.
It is possible that Obama's policies worsened the divergence, had no effect on the divergence, or lessened the divergence from what it would have been, otherwise. And again, I can construct theories to fit all three possibilities.
My best guess, right now, is that there is at least a little truth in the first theory; in other words, I think Obama's policies have been bad for blacks, net. But I will repeat that I am guessing.
What is certain is that Obama's policies have not been a great success for blacks.
(Let me urge you to take some time to study that graph — and the Pew researchers have made it easy to do. You can mouse over the graph to read individual points, or you can click on the data tab to convert the graph to a table of data.
You might, for instance, try to explain this fact: The child poverty rate for whites has stayed close to 10 percent since 1976, in spite of enormous economic growth during that period, and the policies of presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, and Obama. I have a hypothesis that may explain that, a hypothesis that I will share with you in a future post.)
- 4:26 PM, 15 July 2015 [link]
Yesterday, An Event Reminded Me of this decades-old Greek joke.
The two leaders of the Greek dictatorship, Papadopoulos and Paddakos, are together at Headquarters when the Governor of Korydallos, the largest prison in Greece, comes to see them.Which event? This one.
(I should be ashamed of making that connection — but I'm not.
If you've forgotten Georgius Papadopoulos, here's his Wikipedia biography. The dates are probably correct, but I wouldn't guarantee anything else in that biography.)
- 1:10 PM, 15 July 2015 [link]
How Do You Negotiate With A Liar And A Cheat? (For example, the Iranian regime.)
There are ways to do this, as any detective can tell you, since detectives have to negotiate with liars and cheats all the time.
Sometimes, you can establish a long-term relationship, in which small favors go both ways over a period of time. (For fans of game theory, I'll add that these exchanges can sometimes be described as an iterated Prisoner's Dilemma.)
More often, there will be at most a few agreements over a period of time. In those situations, you will almost always be wise to pay after performance, to give nothing to the liar and cheat until after they have given you what you want.
For example, a detective would promise to speak to a prosecutor only after a criminal has given the detective the information he is seeking.
From what I have read about it so far, I would conclude that the nuclear "deal" with Iran does not follow that simple pay-for-performance principle consistently, that Iran will receive many benefits before they have done what they have agreed to do.
- 11:03 AM, 15 July 2015 [link]
Max Hastings Makes The Case For the nuclear "deal" with Iran.
If all this sounds appallingly confusing, it is. Iran deserves some sympathy because it has suffered centuries of humiliation at the hands of Westerners, and is determined to walk taller in the future. It deserves none, however, for the murderous domestic policies of its rulers, and for its persistent support for terrorism abroad.(Emphasis added.)
That's his case for the "deal"?
Yes, because Hastings thinks the alternative is an attack on Iran with tactical nuclear weapons. (Which he claims, falsely I believe, that the Israelis have been advocating, "for years".)
And so he would rather wait, and hope the "deal" works, even though he doesn't expect it will. No one can accuse him of being a cockeyed optimist.
I think he's wrong, but I think we should all look at honest arguments on both sides of this "deal". And I do think Hastings is being honest in that opinion piece.
(I don't know what it would take to knock out Iran's nuclear programs, and if I did know, I couldn't tell you. But I do know that we have been developing conventional "bunker busters" for that mission, And that you can get down to any buried facility eventually, if you use enough explosives.
Here's his Wikipedia biography, with more than the usual caveats.)
- 8:16 AM, 15 July 2015 [link]
Want To See The New Pictures Of Pluto? The Daily Mail has them.
Nasa has confirmed its New Horizons probe worked flawlessly on its flight past Pluto - and is now set to begin sending back images that will unravel the mystery of the dwarf planet's strange features.Here's the Wikipedia article on the probe. You may be amused to learn that this visitor to Pluto is powered by — plutonium.
And here's their article on Pluto, which I expect will be updated as data from the probe comes in.
- 7:22 AM, 15 July 2015 [link]
As Venezuela's Economy Collapses, What's The Regime Doing? The kids are partying.
Upon my arrival in Caracas, I expected to hear lots of stories about Leopoldo, or about scarcity, or about the lack of freedom in the press. Instead, the latest gossip revolved around a party.(The country's name is now the "Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela", after Simon Bolivar, so those who have profited from the regime are often called "boligarches", a word that combines Bolivar and oligarch.)
And the adults are claiming two-thirds of a neighboring country.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is facing a staggering array of problems far too numerous and severe to list here. Things were already going badly before global oil prices tanked, so now they're a lot worse.Why? Probably because of this:
Guyana was seemingly intent on closing this petro-gap and cashing in on its geography when it signed an offshore drilling agreement with ExxonMobil. In May, the company announced a "significant find" 120 miles off the Guyanese coast adjacent to the disputed Essequibo.Neither the partying nor the land claim will do much to help the Venezuelan economy.
(Here's the Wikipedia article on Guyana.)
- 3:35 PM, 14 July 2015 [link]
A Very Brief History Of Nuclear Proliferation: First nuclear tests:
United States: 1945
Soviet Union: 1949
North Korea: 2006
What I conclude from that list is that there have extensive periods, most of 1974 to 1998 for example, when our efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons have had some success.
(As I recall, except for Britain and probably France, all of those tests came as surprises to American intelligence experts.
I don't know of any open, authoritative descriptions of Israeli nuclear capabilities. I have seen estimates (guesstimates?) that the Israelis have several hundred nuclear weapons.)
- 7:06 AM, 14 July 2015 [link]
This Morning I Watched Most Of Obama's Speech Defending The Nuclear "Deal" With Iran: And concluded that we may need new words to this old Tom Lehrer song.
It's a "deal" rather than a formal treaty, because a treaty would require confirmation by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. It is unlikely that this deal will have majority support in the Senate, much less two-thirds.
Could the "deal" be cancelled by a new president in January 2017? Almost certainly, though I'll be looking for formal analyses of that question from experts on the subject.
(Minor technical point: There is, in fact, an important difference between a nuclear device, and a nuclear bomb. The second can be delivered by an ordinary bomber or missile; the first can not.)
- 6:28 AM, 14 July 2015 [link]
Michael Oren Has Doubts About The Way Americans Choose Presidents: I've been reading the former ambassador's Ally, and will have much to say about it, in a series of posts.
Here's a critique from early in the book (about 12 percent of the way through), during the 2008 Democratic nomination fight:
The longing for that hope as well as for change lured millions to hear Obama's speeches, at once earthy and soaring. The possibility of electing the first black president captivated a great many Americans, but some Israelis looked on confused. Accustomed to leaders like McCain, crusty old soldiers and seasoned pols, they could not understand why Americans would choose a candidate lacking in any military, administrative, or foreign policy experience. Overweight, short, bald, or bespectacled candidates stand little chance in a U. S. presidential election, but Israelis readily voted for portly Ariel Sharon, diminutive Ehud Barak, and Menachem Begin, who was both follically and visually challenged. Americans prefer their presidents to be eloquent, attractive, and preferably strong-jawed. Such qualities, in the life-and-death stakes of Israel, are irrelevant(Oren may have forgotten Eisenhower, who was certainly "follically challenged" — and very popular. Or he may be thinking only of more recent presidents.)
Fans of diplomacy — and skillful writers — will admire that passage. A less diplomatic person, or a less skillful writer, might have put it more bluntly, for example, beginning like this: How in the world, many Israelis wondered, could Americans choose a man who was so obviously unqualified to be president?
And then Oren could answer that by saying that Americans, unlike Israelis, judge candidates by appearances more than qualifications.
That is, in fact, more or less what Oren said — but he said it much more diplomatically.
And if we Americans are honest with ourselves, we will admit that there is some truth in what he said; we do judge candidates too much by how glib they are, and how much they look like presidents (or governors, or senators, or whatever). Some truth, but not the whole truth.
(If you don't have pictures of those Israeli prime ministers in your head, here are Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak, and Menachem Begin. None of the three would be an obvious choice for a leading man in Hollywood. And, for a bonus, here's Golda Meir, who wouldn't be an obvious choice for a leading lady in Hollywood.)
- 7:12 PM, 13 July 2015 [link]
Is The NYT Keeping Ted Cruz Off Its Best Seller List? Probably.
It's not the most important issue, but it's interesting for what it tells us about our newspaper of record.
Dylan Byers has been doing the reporting on this question. Here's his first article.
The New York Times informed HarperCollins this week that it will not include Ted Cruz's new biography on its forthcoming bestsellers list, despite the fact that the book has sold more copies in its first week than all but two of the Times' bestselling titles, the On Media blog has learned.Byers followed up here and here.
I would say he's won the argument with the Times — and that the newspaper now looks both dishonest and petty.
Cruz is smart enough to be delighted by this feud with the Times, since it will help him sell books, and advance his political career.
(If you are interested in how the Times decides which books to put on their lists, you might want to read this post — though I must warn you the post has become somewhat garbled, since it was first published I assume, and that I know nothing about the author. Post by way of Jazz Shaw.)
- 3:04 PM, 13 July 2015 [link]
Did The Iranians Ask For Another Concession At The Last Minute? As you almost certainly know, yesterday the news services were reporting that a nuclear deal with Iran was near, that the diplomats would announce it, today.
As I was driving back from grocery shopping and lunch, I listened for that announcement — which didn't come. I was guessing that Austria was probably ten hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time, which meant that it was already past 10 PM in Vienna, which is rather late for a signing ceremony.
And then a thought occurred to me, later than it should have, frankly — but I've been busy today. The Iranians know that President Obama and Secretary Kerry really, really want a deal, so it would be an obvious thing for them to do to agree to a deal tentatively — and then, after the news stories come out, demand one more concession.
And that appears to be what has happened.
One of the final sticking points standing in the way of a historic nuclear deal with Iran is the wording of a United Nations Security Council resolution and the issue of a conventional weapons embargo, CNN has learned from multiple sources Monday taking part in talks.I added the emphasis to "wording" because I think the Iranians, supported by the Russians, are asking for a big concession. This is not, I suspect, a matter of getting a few trivial details right.
- 12:46 PM, 13 July 2015 [link]
Too Funny Not To Pass On: A caller — whose name I didn't catch — to a local talk show (John Carlson's) suggested that the escape of "El Chapo" gave Seattle an opportunity.
The tunnel stretched a mile long, from the jailhouse shower to an empty building in a cornfield, and was deep enough for drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to stand upright as he made his escape.Why Seattle? Because of problems completing a tunnel in Seattle. Whatever else you may say about the man, it is clear that he knows how to dig tunnels. Moreover, Seattle is a "sanctuary city" so he might feel safe there. (It's also a place where illegal drugs are tolerated, which should please him.)
And, though the caller didn't mention this, Guzman may be less obsessed with process and finicky legal details than most leaders in this area.
(If you were wondering — I was — "El Chapo" means "Shorty". He has a brother nicknamed "El Pollo", "Chicken" in English. Which shows, I suppose, that you shouldn't take gangster nicknames too literally.)
- 8:25 AM, 13 July 2015 [link]
"Those Are My Principles, And If You Don't Like Them, . . . Well, I Have Others." - Groucho Marx
As you may have noticed, I've been playing no Trump here; I haven't put up a single post on the Donald, despite all the press coverage he's been getting. That's because I have no idea what, if anything — besides Donald Trump — he believes in.
Here's a very partial list of his flip-flops.
Perhaps no presidential candidate has the self-confidence he does, even in the face of some glaring flip-flops on his political positions. Where lesser candidates would dodge questions about why they've changed their mind or give a focus-group-tested line about how they evolved, Trump doesn't admit to ever having a different opinion.And here's a two-minute video from "Meet the Press" highlighting some of his bigger flip-flops.
There's nothing wrong with a politician changing his mind on issues; in fact, we should be wary of politicians like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton who often refuse to change their minds, when confronted with inconvenient facts.
But Trump, like Groucho Marx, appears to adopt whatever principles he thinks his immediate audiences will like. His shows can be entertaining, but serious people who know about those flip-flops will find it hard to take what he says, seriously.
(Need some more Groucho quotes? Here you are.)
- 6:30 AM, 13 July 2015 [link]
Women Tennis Pros Mostly Want To Be Strong, But Not Look Strong, according to this New York Times article.
Even, to some extent, Serena Williams. And it is even more true for other pros.
While most celebrities go incognito behind a hat and sunglasses, Serena Williams uses a different tactic to blend into a crowd: long sleeves.There are other examples in the article.
Ben Rothenberg doesn't mention it, but there is another problem for athletes in many sports: asymmetry. I still recall being startled years ago by a picture that showed how much bigger Rod Laver's left arm was than his right. A zillion serves will do that to you.
(For the record: Rothenberg doesn't mention this either, but a conventionally pretty women tennis pro will make considerably more money from endorsement contracts, so many of these women have strong financial incentives to look cute.
Also for the record: I've long thought that women athletes — and men athletes — are, on the average, better looking. That's especially true for athletes who are close to normal sizes, like point guards in basketball or — tennis players.)
- 2:53 PM, 12 July 2015 [link]
What A Great Job For A Supporter Of Terrorists: The Telegraph has a scoop.
For almost two years Abdullah al Andalusi, led a double life, the Telegraph can reveal.In his day job, he had access to "highly sensitive and classified police and intelligence information".
He was discovered when one of his colleagues saw him ranting on TV.
I assume — all right, I hope — that the British government will do an extensive inquiry into how he was hired for such a job.
(The Daily Mail re-wrote the Telegraph story, and added a few details. As I write, there is nothing at the BBC, or the Guardian.)
- 12:12 PM, 12 July 2015 [link]
How Many "Sanctuary Cities" Are There? It depends on how you define them, but more than 200, probably.
There are over 200 "sanctuary cities" in 32 states that give safe harbor to illegal immigrants, even violent ones with felony records like the man accused of killing a San Francisco woman last week, according to a new analysis.Here's the CIS map, which is interactive.
Note that they are counting jurisdictions, not just cities, and that many of the jurisdictions are counties, not cities. One is even a state, North Dakota.  (One of North Dakota's state penitentiaries is not honoring requests from ICE — and, no, I don't have any explanation for that oddity.)
In general, where leftists control local governments, you find sanctuary cities and counties. Typically, it isn't a big issue in such places, but there are organized groups pushing these policies, and little opposition.
- 8:29 AM, 12 July 2015 [link]
Why Would An Iranian Businessman Donate To The Clinton Foundation? In particular, an Iranian businessman who has violated the sanctions against Iran?
An Iranian businessman accused by the U.S. government of violating sanctions on Tehran donated money to the Clinton Foundation, The Daily Beast has confirmed.Cynics will suspect that Alaghband’s motives were not entirely charitable. Some cynics may even suspect that he is an agent of that "Death to America!" regime.
- 7:41 AM, 10 July 2015 [link]
This Michael Ramirez cartoon is obvious, but fun.
(Incidentally, that phrase is found in many languages, but the target language varies.)
- 4:02 PM, 9 July 2015 [link]
Vote Harvesting In The Rio Grande Valley: This vote fraud isn't new news; for instance, the Wall Street Journal had a series of good articles on it years ago — but I was mildly surprised to learn that NPR was covering it.
A new FBI anti-corruption task force is trying to clean up the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. According to the Justice Department, in 2013, more public officials were convicted for corruption in South Texas than in any other region of the country. One of the practices the task force is looking at is vote-stealing.But then I realized that they weren't reporting on the vote fraud — which anyone who follows these matters knew about — but reporting on an official investigation into corruption, including vote fraud.
(That part of Texas has been infamous for vote fraud for decades. The best-known example is "Landslide Lyndon's" victory in the much-disputed 1948 Senate primary. The Wikipedia article doesn't mention, as it should, that there were fraudulent votes cast against Johnson, as well as for him.
Politiqueras helped Hillary Clinton win Texas in the 2008 Democratic primary.
Similar practices, though under different names, occur in some of our big cities, especially in the Northeast. The cash passed out is usually called "walking around money" or "street money".)
- 1:42 PM, 9 July 2015 [link]