Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Post-Helsinki Thoughts

Lots of folks are upset that President Trump said some off-the-wall stuff following his Helsinki meeting with Russian President Putin. Honestly, Trump stepped on his d**k with some of that stream-of-conscious blather.

Whether in the long run the summit will turn out to be a winner or a loser for the U.S. remains to be seen. Trump thinks it will be okay. Others disagree, but he, they and we are all "in the moment."

I think we can wait awhile to make those judgments. Hindsight is usually more accurate in such matters. Let's agree that Trump could have spoken with more circumspection, and move on to other matters.

Wednesday Snark

Stephen Green, guest blogging at Instapundit, describes an iconoclastic view of "diplomacy."
Diplomacy is the art of saying “Nice doggie” until you can find a rock.
That's probably the best way to understand the behaviors of both Trump and Putin in Helsinki, stalling for time while groping for a rock.

School Choice Popular

The College Fix reports what happened in North Carolina when the state legislature moved to seriously improve school choice options for parents. Usage of alternatives went outa sight.
Nearly 20 percent of students are attending something other than a traditional public school, where attendance is falling “rapidly,” according to The News & Observer.

The rush toward charter, private and even home schools is largely due to the Republican takeover of the Legislature in 2010.

Lawmakers have since removed the 100-school cap on charter schools (it’s up to 185 as of this fall), created a $4,200 voucher for low-income families and two programs for special-needs kids to get out of public schools (where they are often treated poorly), and even made it easier for non-parent adults to teach homeschoolers.
A career in the traditional public schools doesn't look advisable, under this new regime. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Mueller - Out of Bounds and Unrepentant

Power Line's Paul Mirengoff writes something sensible about the timing of the Mueller indictments of 12 more Russian GRU officials.
It is not the business of the special counsel to influence U.S. foreign policy and/or domestic politics — whether by creating added pressure on the president to raise topics with a foreign leader, by supplying him with ammunition to use in such talks, or by supplying the president’s political opponents with ammunition to use against the president for holding the talks.

Should we assume that Mueller’s timing was intended to achieve one or more of these objectives? Absent a persuasive alternative explanation, I believe we should. His team is full of partisan Democrats and, in all likelihood, Trump haters.

Mueller has failed to maintain the appearance of political neutrality and therefore is not entitled to the presumption of it.
And why the one-sided emphasis on Russian attacks on Democrats? It is not merely speculated but known that Republicans were also targeted, see a RealClearInvestigations article which makes this point. As has Chairman Devin Nunes.

Happiness Lurks in the Headlines

I was just looking over RealClearPolitics' afternoon list of "things to read." It reminded me of one of my favorite parts of the Trump presidency.

What is that part, you might reasonably ask? It's the fact that people I don't much like - Chuck Schumer,  Nancy Pelosi, Max Boot, Julia Ioffe, Rachel Maddow, and their pigsty mates - get to spend somewhere between 4 and 8 years being upset, angry and disgusted.

Psychologists, who give things German names, call my happiness at their sourness "schadenfreude." In this modern age, you have to take your happiness where you find it; their angst is a source of my satisfaction.

It's only fair, they enjoyed my discomfort with the Obama presidency. Now the proverbial worm has turned, the shoe is on the other foot. With a hat tip to the late Jackie Gleason, "How sweet it is."

Monday, July 16, 2018

Brexit Status Report

If you're following the ins and outs of Brexit, as the Theresa May government approaches the exit date next spring, politico.eu has an update on the Tory "hard" Brexiteers forcing May to back down on some of the less palatable aspects of her Brexit negotiation plan.

As the article makes clear, May's coalition consists of Tories who are for "hard" Brexit, others who seek a "soft" Brexit and yet others who hate the whole idea of Brexit and wish to kill it. Whatever pleases one group ticks off another, or maybe both "others."

Her task is like being a tight rope walker who is pelted with nerf balls from all sides. It would serve them right if she just quit, but chances are there's no one else in the Party who could get the bare majority she's got.

The impossible Ireland/Northern Ireland border issue is still tying everybody in knots. I'd guess the odds on a "no deal" exit are going up.

Stinky in Helsinki, or Not so Much?

The guys at Power Line are taking a dim view of Trump's meeting with Putin, see here and here. Seems to me Trump was too agreeable with Russia's latter-day tsar, too willing to admit our shortcomings and to overlook their intentional misdeeds.

Perhaps it will look better in hindsight. I certainly hope so; it looks darned lame now and I'm on Trump's side. Imagine how pathetic it looks to those disposed to dislike him.

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On the other hand, David P. Goldman whose analyses I tend to like a lot, thinks President Trump got Helsinki just right, see his column for PJ Media. Goldman is for sure a contrarian, while often correct.  He is certainly correct that Russians are accustomed to brutal governments and, perhaps, prefer them.

Why Appoint Mueller?

National Review's Andrew C. McCarthy has been the go-to guy on the Mueller probe and the Russian involvement in our 2016 election. Russian hackery occurred - without meaningful American assistance - whether or not President Trump wants to admit those nefarious activities.

Now McCarthy sums up the bottom line for the whole investigation:
There is no conflict of interest. There never was. Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was never something that the Justice Department was unable to investigate in the normal course. In fact, for months, the Trump Justice Department was investigating it in the normal course, just as the Obama Justice Department had done.

Then, President Trump fired FBI director James Comey. It was this event that prompted Rosenstein to appoint Mueller. We got a special counsel not because of Russia’s espionage or any evidence indicating actual Trump-campaign complicity in it; we got a special counsel because Rosenstein was deeply involved in Comey’s ouster and wanted to fend off Democratic attacks on him over it.
According to McCarthy, Rosenstein appointed Mueller to preserve his own bonafides in the eyes of the Democrat-loving swamp. That makes the Mueller probe actually worse than a "witch hunt," it's a Potemkin village, camouflage, a smoke screen.

And the Numbers Are ...

We wrote immediately below about Democrats mistakenly thinking they can win with a straight, cisgender white nominee. Not 5 minutes later I came across the Washington Post’s quarterly ranking of the top 15 Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls, as reprinted in the Chicago Tribune.

What do I see? Fully 10 of the 15 are white and, mostly if not all, straight and cisgender. The remainder are non-white (with ranking): Kamala Harris (3), Cory Booker (5), Deval Patrick (7), Eric Holder (9), and Oprah (15).

No Hispanic makes the WaPo top 15, perhaps because Hispanics as a group neither (a) vote in huge numbers, nor (b) vote exclusively Democratic.

Numbers 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 all represent the triumph of hope over experience: Bernie Sanders (1), Elizabeth Warren (2), Joe Biden (4), Kirsten Gillibrand (6), Terry McAuliffe (8), etc., etc.

Having Really Stupid Enemies

Whenever you get depressed, feel the need for a pick-me-up, you can count on Kurt Schlichter over at Townhall to write something so laden with overwhelming sarcasm/snark as to evoke an involuntary giggle from even a confirmed sourpuss. Today he writes about Trump’s luck in opponents.
One of the secrets of Trump’s success is having really, really stupid enemies, enemies who are so tone-deaf and out-of-touch that they simply cannot adopt commonsense positions that resonate among normal Americans. The establishment instead insists on telling Americans that up is down, black is white, and girls can have penises. Nope.

No wonder the Normals have gotten militant, and no wonder a leader like Donald Trump came along with the vision to exploit the opening the establishment left for an outsider to rise and prevail by embracing the obvious.
How stupid? Democrats have yet to accept they cannot win, in the foreseeable future, with a white, straight presidential candidate of either cisgender.

The GOP has most of the white, straight cisgender vote locked up. Credit the Democrats who accidently converted them into a new identity group, one whose interests go zero-sum against the identity groups Democrats represent. That’s stupid-on-steroids.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Dissing DiFi

I haven't been a California resident for 15 years, but DiFi (Diane Feinstein) was my Senator for 10 years as she took office 26 years ago. Now POLITICO reports the CA Democratic Party executive committee has voted "no confidence" in her bid for reelection.

The vote was 65% for her Dem. opponent de Leon, 28% for "no endorsement," and 7% for Feinstein. My horseback estimate says roughly 2 party activists out of 3 want her to lose in November.

CA's odd "jungle primary" system means she faces another Democrat - Kevin de Leon - as they were the two leading vote getters in June. Polls suggest she will win anyway, being much more well-known than de Leon.

Good News for Snow Bird Destinations

The Associated Press reports Canadians are still visiting the U.S. in large numbers, even with a hint of trade war between Trudeau and Trump. I can't say I'm surprised.

It reminded me of something I wrote nearly 2 years ago. Back in 2016 I noted the following:
You see far more Canadian license plates in the U.S. than U.S. plates in Canada. An average Canadian visits the U.S. roughly every 18 months, the average American visits Canada every 24 years.
Many Americans never go north. The DrsC are average raisers in this regard, we've visited Canada in each of the last two years and perhaps a dozen times before that.

The Canadian Rockies is one of our favorite RV destinations. The Icefields Parkway connecting Banff and Jasper is one of North America's most beautiful drives, truly world-class.

Occupied France 2.0

A French scholar, Dr. Guy Millière, writing for the Gatestone Institute, pens something profoundly sad about jihadi violence in beautiful France.
"France is at war, and leaves the enemy in peace", wrote the journalist Ivan Rioufol recently in the daily Le Figaro. Macron and the French government, however, do not seem to think that France is at war. They speak and act as if the enemy has won and as if they want to gain some time and enjoy the moment before the final surrender.
Read the whole thing; Millière demonstrates clearly he is not exaggerating. When the tourists finally become fearful and stay away, that will be the wakeup call France heeds.

The "it's not safe to travel there" feeling is beggaring Egypt. France could soon be next followed by Germany, parts of Belgium are already unsafe in my opinion.

Nunes: Mueller's Bias Evident

Scott Johnson of Power Line posts this video: Fox Business News' Maria Bartiromo interviews House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) about the Strzok hearings and Mueller's indictment of 12 more Russians. Nunes drops a bombshell.

Mueller's indictment speaks only of Russian hacking of Democrat organizations and operatives. Nunes claims that his committee's April report, heavily redacted, shows they also attacked Republican operations during the election. Nunes asks why those were left out, and claims his committee has the proof but are not allowed for national security reasons to release it.

The clear implication is that Mueller wants to buttress the claim Russians favored Trump, when their mischief-makers were truly making trouble for both sides. If they made more trouble for Democrats it was because Hillary was expected to win by nearly everyone.

Nunes inferentially claims Mueller's actions are biased to slander the Trump administration, perhaps in support of an eventual claim of obstruction of justice. Trump should declassify the committee's unredacted April report immediately, and let the proverbial chips fall wherever they will.

Fake News

A choice example of Trump’s obsession - fake news - presents itself in a USA Today article about Putin subtitled “What does he have on Trump?” Taking the bait, I discovered that the author not only didn’t say what Putin might have on Trump, he didn’t mention such leverage in the article until the very end where he asks if it exists. Instead he concludes:
Putin is punching well above his weight. Why is Trump so enthralled with this man?
The answer is simplicity itself - because Putin really is “punching well above his weight.” I expect Trump admires Putin’s ability to play a weak hand skillfully, and to get wealthy in the process.

Trump appears to admire people who, like himself, have succeeded in tough, ugly competitions for leadership, requiring a combination of toughness, guile, luck and blarney. He admires successful “poker players.” How surprising is that?

How They Stand Today

The always interesting Conrad Black, he of British citizenship, Canadian residence and birth, and American exposure, aka Baron Black of Crossharbour, writes a tour d’horizon of the major elements of NATO, for the National Post of Canada, as they stand today, before he leaves for vacation.

He sees Trump, Macron and new Italian leader Conte secure, Merkel and May in trouble, and Trudeau somewhere in between. I see little to argue with in his assessments. It is, however, interesting nobody seems to care much about the leaders of largish places like Spain and Poland.

Black seems relatively sure things will not change markedly between now and early September. It’s an assessment with which I am not entirely comfortable. Murphy (of the famous Law) takes no vacations.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Punctilio of Power

There is a mini-tempest about whether the President "forgot" to bow to Queen Elizabeth II, and Melania to curtsy. The short answer is "no." As some noted, Americans as non-subjects of the queen would not bow but shake her hand, if she offers it.

More to the point, heads of state do not normally kowtow to one another, unless they're the clueless Barack Obama bowing to the Saudi king. Elizabeth II is the symbolic head of state of the U.K. and associated Commonwealth dominions, Donald Trump is the symbolic head of state of the U.S.

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Many nations have a symbolic head of state 'president' or royal who is basically an apolitical figurehead, and another very political person (often a prime minister) who is the executive head of government.

In the U.S. we combine the symbolic and executive functions in our president which is why he both pardons a turkey every Thanksgiving and has legislative veto power, officiates at the Easter egg roll on the White House lawn, and appoints Supreme Court justices, and is the government CEO.

The busy two-track schedule is a big part of why most presidents age (in appearance) 20 years during 8 years in office. They are "on" nearly all the time, and it's wearing.

It will be interesting to see if the office ages Trump as it has most presidents. It is possible he has operated at this frenetic pace ever since he left school, and is accustomed to it whereas, for example, senators and governors often are not.

Saturday Snark

Power Line’s Steven Hayward has been collecting fun stuff all week and here it is, the weekly collection of cartoons, captioned photos, and snarky slogans. Some favorites described:

Photo of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in a crowd, Sanders speaks:
You know we may be the Democrats’ only hope.
Warren replies:
What do you mean “we,” pale face?
Photoshopped™ mashup of Elizabeth Warren wearing fringed buckskin standing in a restaurant seeking a table from head waiter Donald Trump. The dialog:
She: I’d like a table.
He: No.
She: Why not?
He: You don’t have a reservation.
Photo of the Statue of Liberty, with this caption:
So there I was minding my own business and a Democrat starts climbing all over me & touching me inappropriately
#MeToo
Wonderful photo of the leaders at NATO, Trump is grinning and Theresa May is looking down aghast and holding her hands maybe 10” apart. Captioned:
I understand now
They’re this big and made of brass.
Photo of London, with cartoon Baby Trump blimp floating. Underscored with a CNN-style chyron with this Breaking News headline:
UK: Non-Muslim Baby Spotted
Londoners in shock to see first baby not named Mohammad in 15 years
Photo of PM Theresa May on phone, voice balloon has her saying:
Hello, is that IKEA? I need a new cabinet.
Bizarro™ cartoon of man entering plea before judge:
He: Fox News made me do it.
Judge: So you’re pleading not guilty by reason of Sean Hannity?

No Will to Fight

One of COTTonLINE’s favorite sources - David P. Goldman - is a long-time columnist for the Asia Times, where he channels Spengler. Today he writes about the NATO foot-dragging President Trump criticized while meeting with them in Brussels.

Goldman points out that a recent poll shows relatively few Europeans say they would be willing to fight for their country “under any circumstances.”
At the bottom of the rankings were the Netherlands and Germany, at 16% and 18% respectively; at the top was Poland, with 48%. Outside of European NATO, 56% of Russians, 66% of Israelis, 44% of Americans and 74% of Finns said they were willing to fight.

If you don’t plan to fight, you don’t need weapons, and it is no surprise that Germany, with its budget surplus, can’t bring itself to vote for urgently-need funds for its military. Germany’s armed forces are in disrepair.

There is a reasonably close correspondence between the willingness of the Europeans to fight for their nations and their willingness to have children. If you care so little for your country that you will not defend it, you are likely to be too absorbed in hedonistic distraction to bother with children. Conversely, if there are to be no future generations, who will lay down his life to fight for them?
And that is what is wrong with the EU model, it downplays the idea of nationalism and puts up nothing in its place about which to care passionately. It has done too well its job of forestalling nationalist wars in Western Europe, basically by devaluing nationalism for most people.

Gemans fought and died in great numbers for Germany. Brits did the same for Britain. Fighting and dying for the amorphous gray, bureaucratic EU? It’s not happening, people don’t identify with it. It doesn’t feel like their “home team.”

Friday, July 13, 2018

Cyber-War

The news this morning is that Mueller has indicted 12 Russian army officers for hacking the DNC. One supposes his intent is to force the President's hand in his upcoming talks with Russian President Putin. It's clear Mueller knows none of those Russians will ever stand trial, making it an empty gesture.

My reaction: if we don't have army officers (or the functional equivalent) doing the same thing to them, somebody should be courtmartialed. Outfits like NSA need to be both info-gatherers and disinformation promulgators, although the two functions must be separated operationally.

We should certainly employ people to mess with what Trump called "our competitors" in sub rosa ways like hacking, placing fake news on line, spreading rumors, stealing their technology, funding their rebels, etc. It's the modern deniable way of war, minus the mass deaths which is certainly an improvement.