Friday, April 24, 2015

The other Clinton Fatigue

Back in the 1990s, after Whitewater, "travelgate", et cetera I would read about how the scandals (especially Whitewater) were too convoluted for many members of the public to really follow, but the public still had developed the sense that the Clintons must have done something wrong, because otherwise, why was everyone spending so much time talking about scandals. That hurt Bill Clinton's approval even though those scandals pretty much all turned out to be bullshit. At the time people were calling the phenomenon "Clinton Fatigue."

So now Hillary Clinton has declared her intention to run for President, we have had another few years of new bullshit Clinton scandals (e.g. Benghazi!TM) and we have some more scandals on the horizon. This new one about soliciting donations from foreign governments while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, I think, might actually raise a real scandal-worthy problem (it also might not, a lot of bullshit scandals looked real in the beginning, when we only have heard the side of the people pushing the scandal).

But even if it is real, I don't think it will stop Hillary Clinton from being elected President. After literally decades of bullshit Clinton scandals I think we have a new kind of Clinton Fatigue, a kind of fatigue that actually inoculates the Clintons from scandal-related harm. The new scandals all get the chattering class chattering, and the people who hated Clinton and would never vote for her now have another thing to add to their long list of reasons why Clinton is evil.

But I don't see anyone who would actually be inclined to vote for Clinton changing a vote over this. That's because in order to get to this point and still want to vote for her, you must have already heard about those other scandals and concluded they are all horseshit.Which means those people are predisposed to assume that any new allegation is also horseshit, dismissing them out of hand without considering the merits of the allegations. Considering Hillary Clinton's approval numbers and polls showing her whipping the ass of all the plausible Republican candidate, I think there are a lot of those people who will assume any new scandal is horseshit.

(this post is an expanded version of a discussion on FB)


Yesterday I was listening to the latest episode of the Judge John Hodgman podcast. At the end there was a short discussion about how on a prior episode Hodgman mentioned there is a town in Idaho with the unfortunate slogan is "The Land of Rape and Honey", with "Rape" referring to the rapeseed crop that is grown there rather than sexual assault. Hodgman had also mentioned that Canola oil is actually rapeseed oil. The reason why it came up again in this week's episode is that those comments from the earlier episode prompted complaints that: (a) the town with the rape slogan was in Saskatchewan and not Idaho, and (b) that canola oil is made from a separate variant seed that is related to rapeseed but is not the same as Rapeseed oil. Hodgman acknowledged his error about the location of the town. But it was odd that there were Canola oil partisans who would write to him to save that oil from the stigma of rapeseed oil.

None of this would have been worth noting here except that today on TPM, there are all these posts about the pretty much the same thing. There is a post about the "Land of Rape and Honey" town, rightly attributed to a town in Saskatchewan rather than Idaho. There is the story of canola oil and its connection to rapeseed oil, and, even more surprisingly, the backlash by pro-canola oil partisans.

As far as I can tell, the Judge Hodgman discussion was not inspired by the TPM post (Hodgman's original discussion started weeks before TPM's). Nor is there any indication that Josh Marshall got interested in the rapeseed/canola and the town of Tinsdale, SK from Hodgman. So why are both of these places having the same discussion right now? Is rapeseed/canola in the air? And why are there so many canola oil partisans waiting to raise their voice is anyone besmirches the honor of their oil?

Reparations for the Armenian Genocide

If the goal is to actually get money for the descendants of the genocide survivors this makes sense. But if the goal is really just to further shame Turkey into acknowledging the Armenian genocide, as a purely practical matter demanding reparations is not going to accomplish that objective. If reparations are on the table, it gives Turkey a massive incentive to never acknowledge what really happened and will further support conspiracy theories that the entire story of what happened between 1915 and 1923 is an anti-Turkish plot.

As I said last week, if reparations are not a factor, the Turkish government's refusal to call the Armenian genocide a genocide does not make sense and ultimately harms Turkey more than acknowledging it would. Demands for reparations change that calculation considerably.

That is not to say that reparations are not deserved. Actually, I am not sure where I come down on that question. We are talking about an atrocity happened 100 years ago and (I believe) none of the victims who survived the genocide are alive today. Also both the political movement (the Young Turks) and the country (the Ottoman Empire) that perpetrated the genocide no longer exists either. It comes back again to the question of what the reparations are for. Is it to compensate the current Armenian community for the losses they sustained from that atrocity? Or is it a way to make a statement that genocide is a terrible thing and to force Turkey to recognize that dark chapter in its history? If it is the latter, I don't think reparations are a strategy that can work.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

By definition this new FOIA exception cannot be justified by national security

There already is a FOIA exemption that covers information that is classified in the interest of national security. So that means the new exemption would cover information collected by the federal government as part of its online surveillance activities that is not classified in the interest of national security. Otherwise, a new exemption would not be necessary.

Tenge forever!

Given the Euro's woes over the past few years, it is surprising that anyone is still seriously considering a new multi-nation currency union without a political union. But it's even crazier to think that anyone would want to base such a union right now on the Russian Ruble.

Monday, April 20, 2015


هل تذكرين عندما في الماضي كتبت شيئا باللغة العربية كل عام في 20 نيسان؟

Nerds are the unpopular underdogs, you morons

Someone made a documentary about the White House Correspondents Dinner and called it "Nerd Prom." I have no idea whether the movie is any good (it might be!), but as I have said before, the "nerd prom" nickname for what is essentially a gathering of privileged rich and powerful people is completely ridiculous. The event is about as far from nerdy as something can be.

The only interesting thing about the "nerd prom" phenomenon is that it is more evidence of one of the strangest cultural development over the past twenty years: the triumph of nerd culture. These days there is some cachet in being called a "nerd." That is very different from when I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s. By calling their ridiculous vapid event a "nerd prom", the Wolf Blitzers of the world are trying to say that their event is important to smart people and that there is something obscure and meaningful about a bunch of celebrities, media personalities, and powerful politicians, including the president of the United States, laughing at each others' bad jokes. If this is a nerd event, then the word "nerd" has lost all its meaning.

Is there anyone left who thinks Chris Christie has any chance of being president?

The entire logic behind Chris Christie for President is that a tough-talking conservative can "tell it like it is" and still be popular in a deeply blue state like New Jersey.

The premise isn't holding up.

(via Memeorandum)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cold War analogies are sloppy

Shorter Natan Sharansky: Iran is exactly like the Soviet Union and the U.S. should learn its lessons of the Cold War and not entered into a nuclear deal with Iran, because arms control agreements were completely unheard of during the Cold War.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ted Cruz is half right about something (but the not-right half is really not right)

I'm no fan of Ted Cruz, but Treehouse of Horror VII is a great episode, especially the "Citizen Kang" segment at the end. I will even endorse Cruz's favorite quote from the episode as one of the best parts.

But he is totally and completely wrong to think that "Round Springfield" is any good. Seriously? That is easily the weakest episode of Season Six. Worse even than the clip show. Cruz's misguided opinion is even worse when you consider how many really great episodes there are in that season. I mean, this is a season with "Sideshow Bob Roberts", "Itchy and Scratchy Land", "Treehouse of Horror V" (that's the one with the Shining parody), "Homer the Great" (the stonecutters episode), and "Who Shot Mr. Burns Part One" (the better of the two parts). Just writing this post makes me want to run home and watch the entire season except the sullen depressing "Round Springfield." (Yes, I own the season on DVD).

(via Memeorandum)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I ask again: Can any GOP presidential candidate win his home state?

Waaaaay back in June 2011, I noticed that none of the likely Republican presidential candidates were polling ahead of the President in their home state, which did not bode well for the GOP in the 2012 election. The pattern held in the general election when Mitt Romney lost all four states that he could claim as his "home state", plus the home state of his Vice President candidate Paul Ryan.

It's even earlier now in this presidential election cycle but the same pattern seems to be emerging.

Walker polls behind Clinton in Wisconsin.

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are behind Clinton in the polls in Florida.

I can't find any Cruz vs. Clinton polls for Texas, but I would guess that Cruz is probably ahead because it's Texas (on the other hand in June 2011 Perry managed to trail Obama in TX, so who knows?)

Not sure about VOA, but keep RFE!

Given how easy it is to get news from a wide variety of news sources from around the world, I am not sure how necessary Voice of America is these days. But I do think that Radio Free Europe (another U.S. funded news source that came out of the cold war) is one of the best places to find news about the non-European former soviet republics that is published in English. Central Asia and the Caucuses are not well covered in other English language media.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Removing Cuba from a purely political list because of politics!

Cue right blogistan's freakout.

(consider this post as another chapter in my ongoing beef against the State Department's list of countries supporting terrorism)

via Memeorandum

Dire Straits

It's buried in this Vox piece, but I think that every time some idiot like Senator Cotton advocates attacking Iran and makes it seem like it would be a walk in the park, he should be asked what the U.S. should do to avoid a worldwide economic collapse if Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz (by filling it with mines) and one-fifth of the world oil supply suddenly goes off the market.

That's the thing. The U.S. has the capability of doing tremendous damage to Iran. But Iran has the capacity to do tremendous damage to the U.S. and the rest of the world just by virtue of geography. Because of the world economy's dependence on oil, Iran effectively has an economic doomsday weapon and there is little in the short term that anyone could do to stop them from using it.

The fact that Iran has not ever pulled that particular trigger is also pretty good evidence that its government is comprised of rational actors and not mindless religious zealots dedicated to evil for its own sake.

"Right to exist"

The United States does not recognize Abkhazia's right to exist. It doesn't recognize Northern Cyprus' right to exist either. During their brief periods of effective self rule, the U.S. refused to recognize the rights of Biafra or Azawad to exist. It is the same with an independent Karakalpakistan, South Ossetia, Novorossiya, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Transnistria, and countless others--the U.S. refuses to recognize those countries' right to exist. And it is not just obscure places. The U.S. also does not technically recognize Palestine's or Taiwan's right to exist, at least not right now.

Of course when people speak or write about the U.S.'s relationship to those places, they don't use the phrase "right to exist." Instead, they just say the U.S. does not "recognize" the state, or does not "extend diplomatic relations" with it. In fact, that's how the phenomenon of one political entity not recognizing the existence of another political entity is always phrased anywhere throughout the world, except when the country not recognized is Israel.

The "does not recognize Israel's right to exist" phrasing drives me crazy because it is pure propaganda. As a practical matter, it really just means "does not recognize Israel," just as the U.S. does not recognize Abkhazia and dozens of other places that claim or aspire to have an independent country throughout the world. The "right to exist" makes what is essentially a bureaucratic and political decision seem like a dark sinister thing. The U.S. might not recognize Abkhazia, but that does not suggest that America means the Abkhaz people any harm. If we rephrase it as "does not recognize Abkhazia's right to exist" it turns what is essentially a bureaucratic classification issue into an implicit threat of violence.

The phrase "right to exist" is a crass attempt to make something that is quite common into something extraordinary and scary. It constantly surprises me to see how often people casually and uncritically use the "right to exist" language when talking about Israel. What prompted this particular rant this morning is the description of the Rubio amendment in this article. "Right to exist" isn't even in quotes, as if it is an actual thing and not a political spin.