June 2014, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Why I Got The Reagan Immigration Amnesty Wrong:  In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill giving amnesty to about 3 million illegal immigrants already living in this country.

At the time, I approved of the decision, thinking it a good way to bring these people out of the shadows, thinking it the kind of policy that a decent and prosperous nation could afford to do.

I was wrong.

And in recent weeks, I have been thinking about why I erred then.  Briefly, I think I erred by thinking only about the effects on this side of the border, thinking only about the people who were already here, rather than the millions more who want to come here.   Or, more accurately, the hundreds of millions who want to come here.

That amnesty turned out to be an invitation to millions of illegals — in spite of the fact that we increased our quota for legal immigrants by 40 percent in 1990.

One amnesty, quite reasonably, inspired hope that there would be another.  As there has been, with President Obama's "Dreamers" amnesty.

So, when we start to think seriously about immigration policy again, as we may be able to do when we have a new president, I suggest that we start by considering every change in light of how it will look on the other side of our border, start by thinking about how that change will affect those potential immigrants..
- 3:21 PM, 30 June 2014   [link]

Edward Jay Epstein Is Investigating Edward Snowden:  And has already come up with some interesting tidbits.

For example:
Hong Kong was a peculiar destination for a fugitive from the U.S.  Mr. Snowden could have gone to Ecuador, Iceland, Brazil, Bolivia or a dozen other countries that had no extradition treaty with the U.S.  Instead he flew to a special administrative region of China that has an extradition treaty with the U.S., a treaty that its courts actively enforce.

Finding sanctuary was not his purpose.  And according to Glenn Greenwald, then a reporter with London's Guardian newspaper, Mr. Snowden did not make an appointment to see him prior to landing in Hong Kong, or even mention where he was.  In Mr. Greenwald's recently published book, "No Place to Hide," he says that he and filmmaker Laura Poitras agreed to meet Mr. Snowden in Hong Kong one week after Mr. Snowden arrived there.

The logical assumption is that Mr. Snowden initially came to Hong Kong to meet someone else.   But who?
Epstein doesn't know, but there is a good chance, I would say, that he will have at least a plausible answer within a year.

(Ever since his flight, I have wondered whether Snowden had help in pillaging NSA's secrets, whether there was someone on the outside — or the inside — who was giving him technical advice.)
- 2:52 PM, 30 June 2014   [link]

"LIBERALS CRUSHED IN COURT"  The Huffington Post is unhappy with the latest Supreme Court decisions.

Here's the list of sub-headings, I guess you would call them.
5-4 Decisions Go After Women, Workers... HOBBY LOBBY HAMMER DROPS... BLOW TO UNIONS: 'Substantial Obstacle To Expanding'... Labor Ruling Sets Stage For Obliterating Unions... Birth Control Decision Could Open The Floodgates... 'People With Religious Objections To The Law Will Be Able To Ignore Many Laws With Impunity'... More Than Half Of U.S. Employees Subject To Ruling... Corporations Are People, And They Have More Rights Than You Do... GINSBURG: 'The Court, I Fear, Has Ventured Into A Minefield'...
(All of those sub-headings link to other articles, but I didn't bother to add the links above.)

Calling that reaction "hysterical" is probably politically incorrect, but I think we can still say that the Huffington Post writers seem rather excited by the decisions, considering how narrow some of those decisions are.
- 10:17 AM, 30 June 2014   [link]

Study The Charts, Skip The Article:  First, two charts from a recent article in the New York Times:

NYT June 2014 labor participation charts

Take a look at the charts and form your own conclusions, before you read mine.   (You can see a larger version of the charts here.)

What I see in the first chart is one obvious point, one mildly surprising point, and one glaring omission.   In order:  Women lost, net, millions of jobs, with labor force participation declining from about 59.5 percent when Obama took office to about 57.0 percent, now.  All of the decline occurred after the recession had officially ended.  They do not give the numbers for men, which would be worse, significantly.

The second chart, showing the changes by sex and age group, is fascinating.  In four of the five age groups, women did better (or less badly) than men.  In the exception, ages 35-44, the two sexes are almost equal.  And then what should jump out at everyone is how badly young men (20-24) are doing, with their labor force participation declining by more than six percent, and how well older women (55 and older) are doing, with their labor force participation rising by more than four percent.

So what's the article about?  The career problems of middle aged women.  The article is titled: "For Women in Midlife, Career Gains Slip Away", and that's a fair description of its contents, as this sample shows:
“It’s a disaster for the women concerned,” said Ian Shepherdson, an independent economist, “but it’s also bad news for the economy because they are not contributing to growth and their skills are eroding through extended inactivity.”

As the economy struggles to get back on track, the labor participation rate remains feeble for almost everyone.  Still, the losses affecting this group of women — who normally would be in the prime of their careers — stand out from the crowd and highlight the challenges facing middle-aged workers who, for whatever reason, find themselves out of a job.
Two paragraphs down Dionne Searcy grudgingly admits that "Men, too, have been pushed out of the labor market", but then immediately tries to minimize what she just admitted.  I don't know whether she hasn't studied that second chart, or just doesn't like what it shows.

By way of Tom Maguire, who has some more criticisms.

(Two minor, but significant, technical points:  First, some of the gains by women 55 or older must have been made by women who were in the next younger (45-54) age group at the beginning of the recession.   Second, it would have been better if the second chart had shown the absolute percentages, rather than the changes.

I believe publishing these charts is fair use, since I am criticizing the New York Times article that contains them.)
- 7:41 AM, 30 June 2014   [link]

Three Examples Of Obama's Legal Extremism:  Here's the first:
(1) Hosanna-Tabor: At oral argument, the Justices clarified that the administration’s position was that churches have no free exercise or establishment clause right to choose their clergy free from government interference.  This was contrary to the position previously taken by every circuit court ruling on the issue, and contrary to what just about all law and religion scholars, save a few on the far left who think that the government should force the Catholic Church to accept women priests and the like, believed the First Amendment to require.  At oral argument, Justice Kagan deemed the government’s position “amazing.”  The government argued that, hey, churches could still rely on the right to expressive association, which applies to all non-commercial entities, if the government tried to interfere with their choice of clergy via antidiscrimination law or otherwise.  Making that argument required a huge amount of chutzpah, given that everyone knows that liberal lawyers of the sort who populate the Obama Administration DOJ hate the leading case on expressive association, Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, precisely because it provides private non-profit institutions with some autonomy to discriminate in employment.  Not surprisingly, the government lost Hosanna Tabor 9-0.  If it could have been 50-0, it would have been.
Law professor David Bernstein lists five other examples of extremism, but does not discuss them.

(Here's a brief Wikipedia article on the Hosanna-Tabor case.  The usual caveats apply, though I didn't see anything wrong with it, in a quick scan.)
- 6:32 AM, 30 June 2014   [link]

One Side Can Start A War, One Side Can Win A War, One Side Can Lose A War, But One Side Can't "End" A War:  Almost eight years ago, I quoted historian Samuel Eliot Morison making essentially that point, in explaining why Japan did not surrender earlier in World War II.

As I said then, Morison considered the point so obvious that he didn't bother to explain it; as I also said then, there are people in the United States who refuse to accept it.

One of them is President Barack Obama.  As you know, he does not say that his objective is to "win" the war in Iraq (and keep it won), or to win the war in the war in Afghanistan, but to "end" them.  And it is as true now as it was in 1945 that we can not end the wars by ourselves.

His failure to recognize this simple — if unpleasant — fact is one of the many reasons I have come to believe that he can not, or will not, think strategically.

(There was a similar problem in the European theater; Nazi Germany fought long after it was clear that their defeat was inevitable.  But Churchill and Roosevelt did not speak of "ending" the war, but of winning it, and unconditionally, at that.

The Nazis should have recognized that their defeat was inevitable after the July 1943 Battle of Kursk (and the nearly simultaneous allied landings in Sicily).  Some did; for example, as I learned from Alan Clark, in August 1943 Heinrich Himmler encouraged a respectable neighbor of his, Dr. Carl Langbehn, to go to Switzerland and open secret negotiations with the British and Americans.  (Langbehn was caught, tortured, and executed; Himmler somehow managed to talk his way out of trouble with Hitler.  That time.)

So, almost two years before the Nazi regime collapsed, many in it knew that they had lost — but most of them went on fighting anyway.)
- 2:05 PM, 29 June 2014   [link]

Carter Changed Course, Obama Hasn't:  James Kirchick reminds us, that for all his faults, President Carter did react to the failures of his policies, did change course.
It is barely remembered today, but, for all the derision heaped upon Carter as a weak and feckless President, he eventually responded to foreign aggression in tough and concrete ways.  In November 1979, Iranian revolutionaries — fresh after having overthrown the American-allied Shah — seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking 52 American diplomats hostage.  In December, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

Gone was the President Carter who had scolded Americans for their “fear” of the communist behemoth.

By January, Carter announced a series of proposals directed at weakening America’s adversaries.  First was a 5% increase in defense spending, a move that angered many of his Democratic allies in Congress who had taken to slashing the defense budget in the wake of the Vietnam War.
Kirchick thinks it unlikely that Obama will react in the same way, unlikely that Obama will change his policies to make them compatible with reality.  Sadly, I have to agree.   Although Obama has adopted some of the anti-terror tactics of the preceding administration, tactics Obama had criticized before he became president, there is no evidence that Obama is even able to think strategically, able to grasp the problems we face and understand what strategies might succeed.

(Early in his post-presidential career, many saw Carter as a failure as president and a success as ex-president.  Those pictures of him helping build houses for Habitat for Humanity didn't hurt.)  But I have always given him mixed grades on both, and in recent decades flunking grades for his persistent interference in foreign policy.  For example, when George H. W. Bush was building support for the first Gulf War, Carter was contacting foreign leaders, secretly, asking them to oppose Bush.)
- 1:09 PM, 29 June 2014   [link]

Dr. Ibrahim And Her Children Are Safe, For Now:  After being re-arrested, Meriam Ibrahim has been re-released, and is now in the American embassy.
A Sudanese woman whose death sentence for renouncing Islam was overturned has been released from jail again, after she was detained at Khartoum airport on Tuesday.

Meriam Ibrahim's lawyer, Muhannad Mustafa, said that she was currently in the US embassy with her family.
The original position of the Sudanese government is consistent with standard Muslim theology.
Even though Mrs Ibrahim was brought up as an Orthodox Christian, the authorities considered her to be a Muslim because of her father's religion.

At her trial in May in the capital, Khartoum, a judge also sentenced Mrs Ibrahim to 100 lashes for adultery because her marriage to a Christian man was not valid under Islamic law.
Her father deserted her mother when she was quite young, but that doesn't matter under Islamic law.

(Under Islamic law, a Muslim man may take a non-Muslim wife, because it is assumed that the husband will be dominant in the marriage.)

Because she married an American citizen, Daniel Wani, her two children are American citizens, so our diplomats had every reason to intervene to save them.  (There is some dispute about how much they have actually done.)

You may be wondering why the regime had her re-arrested, after agreeing to release her.  The BBC's James Copnall speculates that a faction within the regime disagreed with the decision to release her.

(Charlotte Allen reminds us that Ibrahim is only one of millions of Christians persecuted for their faith, and that the persecution has been growing in recent years.

I assume almost all of you know that you can get by the WSJ pay wall by searching with Google.

For more background, here's her Wikipedia biography.)
- 10:12 AM, 29 June 2014   [link]

One Hundred Years Ago Today, Gavrilo Princip Assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand And His Wife Sophie:   Princip shot the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne in order to bring about a union of south Slavs, Yugoslavia.  He was successful in his act of terror; after World War I, Yugoslavia did unite most south Slavs (and the new country lasted longer than many expected).

Author Simon Winder argues that, had Franz Ferdinand lived, we might have avoided World War I, and the horrors that followed from it.
There were many reasons Franz Ferdinand was the perfect target for the Serbian-sponsored terrorists of 1914.  They knew that his plans for reform within the empire were a profound threat to them.  And in symbolic terms, he was ideal.

But what they could not have known was was that Franz Ferdinand was probably the most senior antiwar figure in Central Europe, a man acutely aware of Hapsburg weakness, scathing about the delusions of his generals and a close friend of the German monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm.  The recklessness and stupidity of the Hapsburg response to the assassination — the ultimatum of humiliating demands served on Serbia, a response so crucial to the outbreak of World War I — would not have occurred in face of some other provocative outrage that had left Franz Ferdinand alive.
That is a best case analysis, but it isn't obviously wrong.  There had been no major war in Europe since the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), so we know that it was possible for the great European powers of that time to stay at peace with each other.

(The Wikipedia article on the assassination has enough details and historical background to satisfy almost anyone.)
- 1:08 PM, 28 June 2014   [link]

More Clinton-Obama Gossip from Edward Klein.

Hillary Clinton berated President Barack Obama as ‘incompetent and feckless' and said he had become 'a joke' after having one too many glasses of wine at a reunion dinner last year with friends from college, a new tell-all book reveals.

'When her friends asked Hillary to tell them what she thought — really thought — about the president she had served for four draining years, she lit into Obama with a passion that surprised them all,' former Newsweek editor Edward Klein writes in his book Blood Feud.
I call these pieces gossip, because we have no way of verifying what Klein is telling us.   Or rather what his informants told him.  I am reasonably sure that informants, some of them in a position to know about these matters, did tell Klein these stories.  But we don't know who many of these informants are, or why they are saying these things.   We don't even know how accurate their recollections are.  (So-so, I would guess.)

But they are still interesting to read, and almost certainly contain some truth.
- 10:22 AM, 27 June 2014   [link]

President Obama Loses Another 9-0 Supreme Court Decision:   The court, including two of his appointees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, rejected his argument that, as president, he can decide when the Senate is in recess.
The U.S. Supreme Court curbed the president’s power to make temporary appointments without Senate approval, backing congressional Republicans and dealing a blow to President Barack Obama.

The justices ruled unanimously that Obama exceeded his constitutional authority when he appointed three members of the National Labor Relations Board in January 2012.  Four Republican-appointed justices would have gone further in limiting the appointment power.

The case was the court’s first look at a constitutional provision that lets the president make temporary appointments to high-level posts during Senate recesses.  The decision leaves the Senate with broad power to thwart the president’s nominations, letting lawmakers all but nullify the recess-appointment power by holding brief, “pro forma” sessions every few days.
This ruling "raises questions about more than 1,000 decisions and orders issued by the NLRB since 2012".

According to John Fund, this is the 13th 9-0 loss by the Obama administration since January 2012.

According to an analysis last year, the Obama administration has been losing a majority of cases in the Supreme Court.  (In the past, solicitor generals have won about 70 percent of the cases they argued before the court.)

Fund argues that these decisions show that Obama has adopted, on a whole range of issues, an extreme view of presidential power (a view that, I would add, is inconsistent with many criticisms Obama made of President Bush).

What I find mildly surprising is that Obama (and Eric Holder) — whatever their views are — are so willing to take cases to the court that they should know they will lose.   I suppose they see political benefits, in some of the cases.  For example, there is no doubt that many labor unions liked his appointees to the NLRB.  But in some of the cases that Fund mentions, it is hard to see even political benefits to the president.

(Here's the decision, for the ambitious, or just curious.)
- 10:59 AM, 26 June 2014   [link]

Did Australian Businessman Clive Palmer Con Al Gore?  For those who do not follow Australian politics closely, some background:  In 2010, Julia Gillard (who had replaced Kevin Rudd as leader of the Labor Party and Prime Minister) called an early election.  During the campaign, she promised not to impose a carbon tax.

Her party did not win majorities in either house of the Australian parliament, but she was able to form a government with support from the Greens and a number of independents, and shortly thereafter imposed a carbon tax.  In 2013, the leader of the Liberal/National coalition, Tony Abbott campaigned against the carbon tax.

Abbott's coalition won a majority in the House, but not in the Australian Senate (which is elected proportionately).  The balance of power in the Australian Senate is held by the "Palmer United Party", led by an eccentric Australian businessman named Clive Palmer.

(Among other things, Palmer has "accused Drew Hutton and Greenpeace of receiving funding from the CIA", in order to reduce coal exports.)

On Wednesday, Clive Palmer announced that he would support the repeal of the carbon tax, and standing next to him was — Al Gore.
Once again, the question: what the hell was Al Gore doing at Palmer’s press conference.   Why did the great global warming guru help to sanctify a press conference called by a coal baron to announce the destruction of Australia’s climate change policies?
Good question, to which the most plausible answer is that Palmer conned Gore.

(Here's some background on the courtship between the two men, but I won't say that it explains Gore's appearance at that press conference.)
- 8:49 AM, 26 June 2014   [link]

Another Great (And Gruesome) tabloid headline.

(It is, I suppose, a weakness, to like those headlines as much as I do.  But the best of them are — in their own way — great writing.)
- 6:12 AM, 26 June 2014   [link]

Should Obama Spend More Time Golfing?  As you probably recall, I think President Obama should spend more time on golf courses, and less time in the Oval Office, because I think any blunders he may make on golf courses will do no damage to the nation.

For a partially disagreeing view, see this Dana Milbank column.
Yes, a president needs down time.  And, yes, he can run the country whether he’s in a sand trap or the Situation Room.  But Obama’s golf habit needlessly hands his critics a gimme.

Former vice president Dick Cheney, writing in the Wall Street Journal with his daughter Liz, complained: “Terrorists take control of more territory and resources than ever before in history, and he goes golfing.”  House intelligence committee Chairman Mike Rogers gave a TV interview asking Obama to “please come back from the golf course” and find an Iraq solution.
Obama's golf habit even annoys, Milbank tells us, some of Obama's strongest supporters, the White House press corps.

I said partially because I agree with Milbank's political analysis; Obama is hurting himself politically by spending so much time on the golf courses.  (For me, that's a plus.)

But Milbank never addresses my main argument, that the country will be better off if Obama spends less time trying to be president, and more time trying to be a golfer.   No doubt Milbank, if asked, would say the reverse — but it is interesting that he doesn't bother to make that argument.
- 11:11 AM, 25 June 2014   [link]

The Cochran Surprise:  I wasn't following the Mississippi senate primary run-off closely, but like most other observers I expected the challenger, Chris McDaniel, to beat the incumbent, Thad Cochran.  McDaniel had come in very slightly ahead of Cochran in the first round, he appeared to have momentum, and the one poll I noticed had McDaniel ahead by 10 points.

So I was a little surprised by Cochran's win last night.

Chris Cillizza was following the race closely, and he was very surprised.
Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran's stunning runoff victory over conservative state Sen. Chris McDaniel on Tuesday night broke almost every rule of politics.

After trailing the lesser known McDaniel in the June 3 primary, Cochran, in three weeks time, managed to: a) grow the electorate in his favor by, among other things, recruiting African Americans to his cause b) run successfully on a message of keeping his seniority in Washington and c) win despite, quite clearly, being the less naturally skilled candidate on the stump.

Doing one of those things in three weeks time would be astounding.  Doing all three is like watching someone pitch a political perfect game; you'll not see a victory like this one any time soon.
Cillizza's discussion, which follows, seems plausible to me.  And is consistent with the details in this Politico article.

(For the record, I am not sure which candidate I would have voted for, though I lean toward Cochran because I fear that McDaniel might have hurt other Republicans.
National Republicans were watching the Mississippi race nervously, fearing McDaniel’s far-right positions and history of insensitive comments on matters of gender and race could give Democrat Travis Childers an advantage in this solidly Republican state and weigh down GOP candidates elsewhere.
Emphasis added.)
- 6:53 AM, 25 June 2014   [link]

The IRS "Did Not Follow The Law", according to U.S. Archivist David Ferriero.
The U.S. Archivist told lawmakers on Tuesday that the IRS “did not follow the law” when it failed to report the lost Lois Lerner’s emails, which could have included official documents.

During a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing David Ferriero stopped short of saying the tax-collecting agency “broke” the law, saying “I am not a lawyer.”

But when pressed by Michigan Republican Tim Walberg about whether the IRS failure to inform the National Archives when it learned that two years of the former head of the tax exempt division’s email were lost, he said: “They did not follow the law.”
It's a small part of this mystery, but his testimony does resolve, at least for me, one important detail — and casts a little more doubt on the story about the hard drive crash that Lois Lerner has been telling us.

(Although I have read a number of articles on the missing emails, I am still not entirely clear on: (1) what the law required the IRS to do to preserve emails, (2) what the IRS procedures were for preserving emails, and (3) whether Lerner (and perhaps others) followed those procedures.

Example of my confusion:  According to some accounts, the IRS is required to print copies of emails and file those copies.  If that is true, then those paper files should, in principle, be available, somewhere.  (Assuming, of course, that Lerner was following correct procedures.)  But, as far as I know, the Obama administration hasn't offered those paper copies, and, again as far as I know, the Congressional investigators haven't requested them.

So I suspect I may be missing something.)
- 6:14 AM, 25 June 2014   [link]