July 2016, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

The Chilcot Inquiry Is Out:  And so is the Wall Street Journal's review.
Britain’s establishment never forgave itself for taking the country to war in Iraq in 2003, and Wednesday’s publication of a public inquiry into the invasion provided a fresh opportunity for self-flagellation.  At four times the length of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” the so-called Chilcot Inquiry tells us nothing we didn’t know.
Obviously, I'm not going to read all of the report, but if the news accounts I've been seeing are even roughly accurate, the Journal is right to give the Inquiry a failing grade.
- 4:38 PM, 7 July 2016   [link]

Welcome To The Hotel European Union:  The New York Times was mad as hell after the Brexit vote.  You could see the anger not only in the editorial pages, but in the news pages, as well.

By July 2nd, they had calmed down enough so that they could admit that the European Union did have a democracy deficit, and could use some reform.
One of the most basic critiques of the union is that it is not democratic. This is an exaggeration, but it includes a kernel of truth.  Of the E.U.’s three main institutions, the most powerful is the European Council, which is made up of 28 national governments. Its decisions, which are subject to political compromise, rarely reflect the pure preferences of the people of any of its member nations.

Then there is the European Commission, which negotiates trade agreements, enforces antitrust rules and proposes legislation.  Voters do not directly elect the commission’s president; instead, the president is selected by the European Parliament.  While voters in every member nation do elect the 751-member Parliament, its members cannot introduce legislation and have limited control over the union’s budget.  As a result, the Parliament is weak and doesn’t actually dictate the union’s direction.
(Links omitted.)

Another, blunter way to say the same thing is that the European Parliament is a facade, put up to hide the bureaucratic structures.

The Times does not explain why they think the people running the EU would reform, even after the shock of Brexit.

Nor does the Times confront this unpleasant fact:  The EU has lost referendums, notably in France and the Netherlands — and then ignored the results of those referendums.

For me, that is enough to make the great constitutional changes of 2005 illegitimate, and I gather that many Europeans agree with me on that point.

(The EU hasn't lost all the referendums; for instance they won the 2005 Spanish referendum.  In general, they lose referendums in nations that have had successful democratic governments for generations, and win them in nations that haven't.

I found this Marine Le Pen op-ed amusing, and you may, too.

The post title refers to the hotel that you "can never leave", as most of you probably guessed.)
- 2:30 PM, 7 July 2016   [link]

If Donald Trump Is Such A Brilliant Executive, why can't he hire and keep a competent campaign staff?
He's not alone.  Even as it tries to build up, the Trump campaign has been hemorrhaging staff in recent days.  Republicans Kevin Kellems, Erica Freeman, Vincent Harris, and now Bennett have all left recently — Harris after two days on the job and Kellems after a little less than three weeks.  And that is on top of Trump's firing of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.   Earlier, Rick Wiley, a former top Republican National Committee official and Scott Walker campaign chief, also left Trump after a brief tenure.
If you were considering investing in a start-up, would you see that level of turmoil as a plus?
- 9:59 AM, 7 July 2016   [link]

Today's New Yorker Cartoon isn't bad.

But I think I like Tuesday's even better.
- 9:38 AM, 7 July 2016   [link]

Want To Call Male Fireflies?   Joey Stein has invented a gadget, the Firefly Communicator, that lets you do just that.

From the description, I think it only works with one species so far, but it should be possible to extend it to others.

(Mildly surprising fact:  "But only some continue to flash as grown-up beetles that we know as fireflies."  You might get that adult suppression if some predator started using the flashes to prey on particular species.)
- 7:57 PM, 6 July 2016   [link]

Insightful:  Peter Wehner's op-ed, "The Theology of Donald Trump".

After reading that, I hope he does a parallel piece on Hillary Clinton's theology.

(Caveat:  It has been a long time since I read any Nietzsche.   Wehner's description of his thinking looks right to me, but I can't say any more than that.)
- 7:06 PM, 6 July 2016   [link]

What Did President Obama Know About Clinton's Email Server, And When Did He Know It?  As soon as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began using her private email server for official business, people would have noticed.

Anyone who received an official email from her could have noticed that the return address was wrong, that it was not an official government email address.  From what I can tell from news stories, some people in the State Department noticed immediately, just as you would expect.  (And, as I have mentioned before, some bureaucrats tried to get her to use the government system, but were rebuffed.)

Her emails didn't just go to the State Department; they also went to the Defense Department, the CIA, and, sometimes — to the White House.  A few of them, undoubtedly, even went to President Obama.

We have, I think, three possibilities for what happened when the White House began receiving those emails.
  1. No one noticed that the emails were not coming from a government account.
  2. Aides noticed, but did not tell President Obama.
  3. Aides noticed and did tell President Obama.
The first seems nearly impossible, even if you have a low opinion of Obama's aides.

The second seems less likely than the third, though it may have taken some time for the story to reach the president.

Which would make President Obama an accessory, after the fact, in the server scandal, because he did not stop it.

If he did not know, then he was not paying enough attention to his job.

(In Boss, Mike Royko observed that the late Mayor Daley was not corrupt himself — but ignored corruption he must have known about.  Barack Obama has followed the same strategy in Illinois, and then in national politics.)
- 9:50 AM, 6 July 2016   [link]

Boris Johnson's Little Fibbing Problem Will Remind some of us of the far more serious Profumo affair, with its famous limerick:
"Oh what have you done?" said Christine.
"You have ruined the party machine.
To lie in the nude
May be terribly rude
But to lie in the House is obscene."
(Profumo, like Johnson, lost his position not because of the adultery, but because he lied about it.)

I've heard other versions of the limerick, and you may have, too.
- 6:45 AM, 6 July 2016   [link]

It's A Crude Joke, But Boris Johnson Laughed At It:   And you may, too.
(When the then Tory leader Michael Howard sacked Boris in 2004, for fibbing about his extra-marital antics, I told the adulterous miscreant my favourite joke about him:   ‘A new poll asked 10,000 women if they wanted to have sex with you, and 8,567 said:  “Never again, no”.’  Boris roared with laughter.)
If you are wondering why Johnson is the target of that joke, you can find some answers here.
- 6:10 AM, 6 July 2016   [link]

Juno Is Now Orbiting Jupiter:  (Which, according to Roman mythology, is where you would expect her to be.   No word yet on whether there has been an increase in Jovian marriages.)

If, like me, you are more interested in the space probe than the myth, you'll probably want to take a look at this Wikipedia article.
Juno completed a five-year cruise to Jupiter, arriving on July 4, 2016.[5]  The spacecraft traveled over a total distance of roughly 2.8 billion kilometers (18.7 AU; 1.74 billion miles) to reach Jupiter.[11]  The spacecraft will orbit Jupiter 37 times over the course of 20 months.[4][12] Juno's trajectory used a gravity assist speed boost from Earth, accomplished through an Earth flyby two years (October 2013) after its August 5, 2011 launch.[13]  On July 5, 2016, the spacecraft performed an orbit insertion burn to slow it enough to allow capture.  It will make two 53-day orbits before performing another burn on October 19 that will bring it into a 14-day polar orbit.

Once in the 14-day orbit, infrared and microwave instruments will begin to measure the thermal radiation emanating from deep within Jupiter's atmosphere.  These observations will complement previous studies of its composition by assessing the abundance and distribution of water, and therefore oxygen.  This data will provide insight into Jupiter's origins. Juno will also investigate the convection that drives general circulation patterns in Jupiter's atmosphere.  Other instruments aboard Juno will gather data about its gravitational field and polar magnetosphere.  The Juno mission is set to conclude in February 2018, after completing 37 orbits of Jupiter, when the probe will be de-orbited to burn up in Jupiter's outer atmosphere,[4][12] so as to avoid any possibility of impact and biological contamination of one of its moons.[14]
(Links omitted.)

It was clever of them to have it arrive on the 4th of July.  I suppose someone noticed that it was going to be close to that date, in the original planning, and decided to be patriotic.
- 4:27 PM, 5 July 2016   [link]

James Comey Decides Not To Overrule Millions of Voters:  Were you surprised by the Comey decision?  I wasn't, because I thought he, and the Justice Department, were in an impossible situation; they could follow the law and overrule millions of voters, or they could punt.

He chose to punt, wrongly perhaps, but understandably.

Incidentally, Comey is a Bush appointee, which may have actually made it harder for him to do the right thing.

(For the record:  I'm not sure which of the two, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, belongs in prison, more.  Is it worse to have bribed elected officials, as Trump boasts of having done, or to have accepted bribes, as Clinton has done?  They have committed different crimes, because they have had different opportunities, but neither is an example you would want your children to emulate.)
- 10:53 AM, 5 July 2016   [link]

Trump's Vice Presidential Pick:  The criteria for the pick are different depending on whether you think Trump will win, or lose.

(Like most observers, I think it unlikely that the pick will influence who wins the election.  John Kennedy's pick of Lyndon Johnson in 1960 may have made the difference in that race, but I can't think of any examples since then.)

Whether Trump wins or loses, his running mate will be tarnished by the association, so you don't want Trump to pick a rising star, who might do more for the party in years to come.  So, if you think Trump will win, then you will want him to pick an elder statesman, someone who is capable of being president, if necessary, and someone who might be able to block the worst of Trump's ideas, someone like — Dick Cheney.

If you think that Trump will lose, then you want the pick to be someone who has as little connection to the party as possible, and I think I have the perfect choice — Les Moonves.

It's true that the CBS chairman is not a Republican or a conservative, but neither is the Donald, judging by his past statements and actions.  The two are similar in an important way:  Both entertainers are willing to put profit ahead of national interests.

And, of course, Trump owes Moonves.
- 9:46 AM, 5 July 2016   [link]

This New Yorker Cartoon is the winner of a caption contest.

(The drawings for the caption contests are mixed; sometimes, it looks as if the cartoonist had a caption in mind, and was hoping a contestant would guess it, and other times it looks, to me at least, as if the cartoonist was hoping that someone else could think up a caption for the cartoon.)
- 8:57 AM, 5 July 2016   [link]

Happy 4th Of July!  And thank you to those who make it possible.

Veterans of Foreign Wars at Kirkland 4th of July, 2015

The picture is from last year's Kirkland 4th of July parade, which traditionally (and appropriately) begins with a veterans group.
- 10:28 AM, 4 July 2016   [link]

Changing Attitudes On Genocide:  The death of Elie Wiesel is a bitter reminder of how attitudes on genocide have changed in recent decades.

When the Cambodian genocide occurred, the facts were denied widely, especially by leftists such as Noam Chomsky.

When the Rwandan Genocide was occurring, President Bill Clinton hid it from the public, so he would not be forced to intervene.

(Intervening there would have been a far easier operation than intervening against the Cambodian genocide.)

When candidate Barack Obama admitted that his proposed Iraq policy might result in genocide, few paid much attention.  And no one seemed to think it strange that he has made Susan Rice — who helped in the Rwandan cover-up — an important official in his administration.

When Secretary of State John Kerry announced that ISIS was committing genocide against Christians and Yazidis, it drew less attention than the plight of a few orcas at SeaWorld.

And President Obama has not changed his policies even a tiny bit, as the result of that announcement.

We have gone from "Never again" to "No big deal".
- 7:11 PM, 3 July 2016   [link]

Tech Support:  With a twist.

(It occurs to me that that might be good advice, in many circumstances, because to get a good night's sleep you have to do those two things.)
- 5:24 PM, 3 July 2016   [link]

Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump's Legal Problems Have Gotten Worse:  Or, to be more precise, we have learned more about their legal problems.

In April, I began a post as follows:
Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied:   There is a twist to that old truism this election year, because those who are not getting justice are the voters.

The two candidates currently leading for their party's nominations, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are both, as I have said before, in potential legal trouble.   The FBI is about to "question" Clinton over her private email server, and Donald Trump may be called as a witness in a fraud trial.
At the time, I thought that these legal matters could have been settled, one way or another, before the campaigns began.

Now I am not so sure, as I learn more and more about the Clinton Foundation, and Trump's business deals.  For instance, just a few days ago, I learned about Trump Institute, which appears to be an even bigger scam than Trump University.
As with Trump University, the Trump Institute promised falsely that its teachers would be handpicked by Mr. Trump.  Mr. Trump did little, interviews show, besides appear in an infomercial — one that promised customers access to his vast accumulated knowledge.  “I put all of my concepts that have worked so well for me, new and old, into our seminar,” he said in the 2005 video, adding, “I’m teaching what I’ve learned.”

Reality fell far short.  In fact, the institute was run by a couple who had run afoul of regulators in dozens of states and had been dogged by accusations of deceptive business practices and fraud for decades.  Similar complaints soon emerged about the Trump Institute.
They even plagiarized much of their printed material.

If we elect Clinton, there's a good chance we will have another bitter impeachment fight; if we elect Trump, there's a good chance we will have to watch him giving depositions in fraud trials.

It's wrong of me, but I am beginning to think that perhaps a little tiny meteor might solve some of our problems.
- 3:41 PM, 2 July 2016   [link]

These Voters Are Joking — I Hope:   Because a Giant Meteor would be very bad.
More than 1 in 10 voters say they'd prefer a giant meteor hitting earth over supporting Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

The left-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) offered the hypothetical "Giant Meteor" option in its latest survey.  Forty-three percent picked Clinton, 38 percent picked Trump and 13 percent picked the Giant Meteor hitting earth.  Another 7 percent were unsure.

The Giant Meteor has support across the ideological spectrum, with 23 percent support among somewhat or very liberal voters, 16 percent among moderate voters and 21 percent among somewhat or very conservative voters.
It isn't a joke that would have wide appeal in an ordinary election year.
- 2:07 PM, 2 July 2016   [link]

If Things Move, Guys Will Race Them:  I know of no exceptions to that general rule.

But it hadn't occurred to me that it applied to rototillers.

Those races look like fun, to be in if you are a young guy, to watch if you aren't.
- 99:99 AM, 2 July 2016   [link]

Happy Birthday!  To our Canadian friends, who are celebrating Canada Day.  (Which they used to call "Dominion Day".)

Canadian flag

Since Canada was founded in 1867, this is their 149th birthday.  The man most responsible for that founding was Canada's first Prime Minister, John Macdonald.

Recycled, with some changes, from 2008.

(Picture notes:  This flag appears every Canada Day, a few blocks from where I live, along with the American flag, which you can just see behind it.  In 2008, I finally met the couple that own the flags.  He's American; she's Canadian.  And the two seem to be getting along very well, which may be a lesson for our two nations.)
-49369 PM, 1 July 2016   [link]

Steven Hayward's Weekly Collection pf pictures.

My favorite?  Probably the "I love Brexit."
- 4:17 PM, 1 July 2016   [link]