Saturday, April 30, 2016

Promises, promises, part 2 of ?

An updated list for our pocket. Once again, I bet at least 70% of the people on this list end up supporting Trump by November. Either they will find some justification for their flip-flop (probably pointing to some random thing that Clinton and/or the Democrats did) or they won't explain the change at all. No matter how it goes down, at least 70% will fall in line.

I'll make this a series as prominent GOPers make their #nevertrump pledge and then check my answers in November.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Legal restrictions on NGOs

Just about everyone is doing this these days. Or at least the countries with governments that have a hard time tolerating criticism of their regime are doing it. Aside from China, Off the top of my head, I can think of the following nations that have recently passed or are passing legislation to restrict foreign-funded NGOs from operating in their country: Russia, Kazakhstan, Israel, Venezuela, Vietnam, India.

I would guess there are a lot more (alas, I can't keep up with the politics of most countries) and there definitely seems to be a fad for NGO crackdowns world wide.


The weird thing about U.S.-Israel relations is that while on the surface it looks like it should be a normal patron state-client state relationship, with the U.S. functioning as the patron and Israel functioning as the client state. After all, the U.S. is the larger and stronger country that gives Israel an enormous military aid package. Usually in such situations, the client state tries hard not to rock the boat with its patron and considers it a political priority to avoid insulting the political leadership of the patron-state for fear of losing the benefits from its patron.

But because of the internal politics of the U.S., that relationship is completely upside-down, with Israel brazenly demanding that its sugar-daddy put more even more sugar on the table. The only reason it gets away with it is because it is unacceptable for an American politician to be anything other than strongly pro-Israel (with "pro-Israel" defined in a way that, in my mind at least, does not actually help Israel in the long term). While most leaders of client states would never dare act like Netanyahu does towards the U.S. President because it would endanger their aid package, Bibi gets away with it because in our political culture it is simply unacceptable for a mainstream American politician to be against Israeli militarism, or to criticize Israel in any serious way. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016


"With Iraq Mired in Turmoil Some Call for Partitioning the Country" says the headline. But if you read the article, the people calling to partition the country are: Ali Khedery, an American former official, and (of course) U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Versions of this article have been written hundreds of times in the U.S. media since 2003. But it's really rare to ever see one that quotes an Iraqi citizen who advocates partitioning his own country. (The crazy thing is they could easily find such a person if they just interview some Kurds! At least pretend this is not a purely colonial exercise and get some Kurd quotes!)

This is the usual process for advancing women's rights in the U.S.

Duncan Hunter proposed an amendment that would require women to register for the draft as a "gotcha" amendment, assuming it would be voted down. Instead it passed and, assuming the final bill makes it through, young women and men will be subject to the same draft registration requirements.

This type of thing has happened before. When Congress debated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was originally written to outlaw employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin or religion, a pro-segregation congressmen proposed an amendment to add the word "sex" to that list, assuming that would be a poison pill and the whole bill would go down. Instead, the bill passed and federal law now prohibits sex discrimination in employment.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cruz-Fiorina WTF?

I know everyone in the world has already remarked about how weird it is for Ted Cruz, a candidate's whose biggest liability is the fact that he is deeply disliked by a whole lot of people, to pick another widely disliked former candidate like Carly Fiorina. It is shaking things up a bit. Tonight he is getting a lot more attention that he would have if he just kept campaigning like everyone else. It seems to have overshadowed Trump's big foreign policy speech (although drawing attention away from the speech might have helped Trump. Whenever a candidate's big promise is "coherence," you know he is setting a really low bar.)

But let me join the crowd. Cruz would get this attention no matter who he named as his Veep. What possible benefit can he get with Fiorina? Her campaign cratered when the media started pointing out that virtually nothing that came out of her mouth was true. So what does she bring to his campaign? An extra dose of bullshit so he can live up to Trump's "lyin' Ted Cruz" label even better than he already is? A failed businesswoman to be the perfect counter to a failed businessman like the GOP frontrunner?

Actually, I can think of two things: (1) Fiorina was the only candidate during this endless primary who directly confronted Trump and seemed to benefit from it, and (2) Fiorina has proven that she can win a GOP primary vote in California. In fact, it's the only time she has ever won any election. But it so happens that the CA primary is still coming up and Cruz must do well there if he is going to steal the nomination from Trump.

So for those two reasons maybe it does make a little sense. I still think he could have picked others who didn't have as many negatives as Fiorina has.

ASIDE: Blogger's spell checker keeps suggesting that "Fiorina" be changed to "firing."

Tehran dresses down some random Swiss Diplomat because of what Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote

It is funny to see Iran summon the Swiss ambassador to complain about a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The Swiss, much less the Swiss Federal Department of Federal Affairs (their equivalent to the U.S. State Department), have nothing to do with the United States court system.

When governments are pissed off at each other, one of the ways they express their anger is to summon the other country's ambassador to yell at them. It is a little silly, but that is one traditional way for governments to express their displeasure to another government.

The problem in this case is that the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with Iran. There is no U.S. ambassador in Tehran. In such an ambassador's absence, the Swiss government has agreed to act as an intermediary for the U.S. government in Iran and to provide basic consular services for U.S. citizens in Iran through the foreign interest section of its embassy in Tehran. That leaves the Swiss ambassador to Iran the best stand-in for a U.S. ambassador if Tehran is looking for someone to yell at.

Still, I imagine the yelling could not have been completely satisfying. The Iranians are (to some extent understandably) upset that the U.S. law that will allow their assets to be seized has been upheld, so they want to exercise their right under diplomatic protocol to rant and rave at someone. But instead of a representative of the actual subject of their ire, the world's sole remaining superpower, they have to resort to a representative of a small European alpine nation that has long prided itself at being as inoffensive as possible for pretty much everyone. (Well, everyone except Libyan dictators). As he was being dressed down by the Iranians, I wonder what was going through that Swiss diplomat's head,

Treating minorities like shit is not the best way to quell separatist sentiment

Pan-Turkic advocates get more evidence that life is not good for Turkic people unless they get their own state even though that is probably the opposite of the message that Russian and Chinese authorities wanted to send.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Anyone who is not 100% in favor of all trade agreements is a Communist or a Nazi

Apparently any position other than being in support of every free trade agreement is "extreme."

I'm actually on the fence about most "free trade" agreements--I'm not automatically for or against them and I see costs and benefits on both sides of every trade agreement. Most, if not all, are a real mixed bag, usually with the negatives hitting the least economically insecure harder than they benefit from the positives. Besides, none of these trade agreements are really "free trade" agreements. They generally lower tariffs without eliminating them and include a bunch of horse trading over tariff rates for particular categories of goods. If they were really free trade agreements the treaties wouldn't have to be so long. It just takes a single sentence to reduce all tariffs on all goods to zero.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Welcome to Blog Guilt

I just noticed that I haven't posted here in a while, at least a while for me. I tend to post when I feel like I have a point to make that is bubbling within me, trying to get out. I guess there just hasn't been much bubbling in the last five days. Also, the posts that are currently on the front page here are all pretty long, which meant that, even with my non-posting, that blank space that I am obsessed with has still not appeared on the lower left.

Anyway, it wasn't a posting hiatus or anything. I just had other stuff going on. Also, everyone must listen to Welcome to Night Vale, all 86 episodes as of this writing. It is the bestest podcast ever. It has an ongoing story, so you need to listen to it from the beginning. That gives you about 36 hours of stuff to do if you are looking to ward off the ennui of postless days here at Rubber Hose. I bring this up, because I saw their live show last night and it was amazing.

And by a total coincidence, this post should push the left content down a bit more, saving me from further blog guilt for a while. Suck on that non-existent-blank-space-to-the-lower-left!!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Trump is better for down-ballot races than Trump and Cruz

Who knows if I am right, but I think this is good news for the Democrats' prospects in the November election. Hillary Clinton (who I am confident will be the Democrat's nominee) should easily beat Trump or Cruz in the general election. The electoral map simply favors any Democrat in a presidential race. Both Trump and Cruz happen to have even higher negative approval ratings than Clinton, so it should come out in favor of the democratic victory no matter which one runs.

But there is a difference. If Cruz is the nominee, I think there is a not-insignificant chance that Trump would run as an independent or third party candidate. While that would make it even more unlikely for the Republicans to take the presidency (and Trump and Cruz would likely split the red vote), it might hurt the democrats overall compared with the scenario where Trump is the nominee.

If Trump is the nominee, his outrageous and unpopular behavior is going to dog all the Republicans running this year. When Trump inevitably makes some over-the-top sexist remark about Hillary Clinton, all the other Republican candidates are going to be asked whether they support those remarks, which will force them to either criticize their party's nominee in a hard fought presidential race, or endorse something that will hurt them personally. Trump also will be a great motivator for Democrats to turn out in the general election. That increased motivation and turnout is not just likely to help Democrats win the White House, it probably will put them in control of the Senate and to make some gains in the House (although I doubt if it will be enough to put the House back into Democrat's control, though that would be a possibility) It might also pay dividends in various State races, tipping things back a bit from the Republicans' utter domination of State governments.

If Cruz is the nominee and Trump runs as a third party candidate or independent, it will be a lot easier for Republicans to disavow whatever dumb shit that Trump says. While Cruz and Trump will lose the presidency, having two conservative candidates in the general election is going to boost Republican turnout. I think that will blunt democratic gains in the down ballot races.

The People's election campaign

I did a news search for articles about the Presidential race and the top result was an article from People Magazine.

On a related topic, both the Ted Cruz and Donald Trump campaigns have released tax plan they promise to enact if elected. Without googling, does anyone reading this have any idea what those plans say?

Even as someone who has closely followed the campaign, reading multiple articles about the candidates every single day, I can't give an affirmative answer to that question.