Sunday, March 26, 2017


Holy shit another year.

In other words, welcome to that day each year that I make some cryptic remarks about years passing. Actually, you can figure it out if you way back into the archives. It also helps if you can read Kazakh, but not much. The way back is better. Definitely.

(The way back:  Жеті! Алты! Бес! Төрт! Үш! (жоқ жазу) Бір!)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Blaming his allies for his own failures

I wonder how many of these debacles the Republicans will have to go through before they realize that Trump is going to shit all over them as soon as the deal turns South?

And how many times does this have to happen before Republicans really turn on the President?

The buck stops there

Our moron-in-chief doesn't realize that part of being the president is taking the blame for anything your party does. A president can't publicly support a doomed effort by congressional Republicans to force through unpopular legislation without being blamed for it. In fact, it goes the other way. Congressional Republicans may be able to dodge some of the responsibility for this debacle by pinning the blame on the President.

Hosni Mubarak is free

This is more about symbolism than anything else. Mubarak has been technically in prison for the last few years. But his prison was a "military prison hospital," which actually was a pretty luxurious place to be. People were free to visit Mubarak, he had a nice room with a view of the Nile and he had restaurant food delivered, etc, It was a far cry from what it is like in an actual Egyptian prison. Actually, I bet the "prison hospital" was better a regular Egyptian hospital too. Sure Hosni couldn't leave, but it isn't clear how much mobility he has these days (I suspect now that he is free, he will rarely, if ever, leave his mansion). And with the world free to come to him, with free access to newspapers and internet, he wasn't really that confined.

Symbolically it is important. Freeing Mubarak is a signal that the Sisi government is ditching the last vestiges of any claim that its legitimacy is based on the 2011 uprising. Egypt is back on its usual system (at least its usual system for the last half century) of being ruled by a strong man with no real public accountability. The only thing the Arab Spring really accomplished in Egypt is it managed to settle the succession question that hung over the late Mubarak years.

There is no grand strategy

Republicans have lost their mind:
There’s simply no reason to be doing this. At best, House members will be taking a politically tough vote for an unpopular bill that doesn’t become law. At worst, it will somehow actually become law, and members will find themselves accountable for the catastrophic consequences they haven’t even bothered to try to understand. All out of misguided loyalty to a president who never supported these ideas and doesn’t appear to have any interest in the content of the legislation.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

we can't win, so charge!

I can't tell if the Republican House leadership actually believes that they have any chance of winning today's vote on their health bill or if they expect it to go down and want to be able to say they tried.

I don't really understand what the point of this strategy of plowing ahead with a vote today no matter what, other than the fact that the Republicans really have no good options on healthcare right now. But what makes this the least-bad option?

UPDATE: If this is true, that means Ryan et. al. actually thought they had a chance of winning the vote. They are not trying to go down swinging, they do not want to go down at all. Now that they finally see the writing on the wall, they will put off the vote.  But that makes me wonder why they ever thought this piece of shit bill that is hated by the left and right could ever pass? (Again, this is assuming that report from The Hill is right.)

UPDATE2: And it's official. The Hill report that I linked to in the first update was correct. Ryan canceled the vote, again leaving us with the question: why the hell did they think this bill could ever pass?



I wouldn't be surprised if after the next big terrorist attack it turns out that the FBI had a trove of intercepted communication discussing the attack ahead of time that they just didn't have the ability to translate.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Things that don't make sense or are unclear about the laptop flight ban

1. Why doesn't it apply to U.S. carriers?
2. Why only those 10 airports?
3. Why is it only for U.S.-bound flights and not outbound flights from the U.S.? (It can't be because outbound flights have screening by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. U.S.-bound flights from Abu Dhabi are screened by DHS personnel stationed in that airport)
4. Why are tablets and laptops banned  but not smart phones?
5. Are phablets banned?
6. Couldn't terrorist just put an exploding iPad on a flight to the U.S. that originated somewhere else?
7. Doesn't the ban create more danger for passengers?
8. Why is Britain imposing a similar ban?
9. Why are the countries affected by the British ban different from the ones in the U.S. ban? (Britain included flights from Lebanon and Tunisia, which are not included in the U.S. ban, and the British ban does not include Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, or Morocco, which are included in the U.S, ban)
10. If this is based on some specific intelligence, why aren't other allied countries imposing similar bans?

It is really hard to see how this isn't just a ham-handed effort to give a competitive advantage to U.S.-based carriers posing as an anti-terrorism measure. The only thing that gives me pause in reaching that conclusion is the British ban (which applies to both British and foreign airlines).

ADDING: James Fallows calls this Trump's first credibility crisis.


Having the most unpopular president since the invention of modern polling telling a bunch of Republicans who don't want to vote for the Trumpcare bill--a bill which is itself extremely unpopular, so unpopular that the president's own staff is trying to get people to stop calling it "Trumpcare" for fear that mere association with the bill would further sink Trump's approval ratings--that if they don't pass the bill they will face the wrath of the voters is genius-level absurdism.

I guess there is the argument that Republican primary voters are still deeply snuggled in their pro-Trump information bubble. In that alternate universe, Trump is popular. So maybe they would risk a primary challenge if Trump remains popular with the GOP base for another year. But showing independence from Trump is going to be a bigger advantage in the general election. At least that's how I see it. But I'm not in the bubbler

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What a bunch of morons

Are they aware that if they are in Mexico and the border wall goes up to keep people out, they wouldn't be able to get home?

On the other hand, I can't say that I would be upset if those idiots did get stuck in Mexico.

Will this fly?

Banning tablets and laptops on flights from foreign airlines leaving from eight Muslim countries, but not banning those same laptops and tablets from European and American aircraft on those same routes makes no sense at all. It is going to have a devastating effect on those airlines, and really just comes down to unfairly advantaging domestic and European carriers over middle-eastern based carriers for no good reason.

I mean, if I were planning a round-trip from Philadelphia to a place with no direct air connection (like India, for example), I would have to choose between using Qatar Airways (with a switch in Doha) or taking either American Airlines or some European airline with a transfer in Europe. Either way, it will be a long flight, so going without my electronic device is going to be a big deal. That goes double if I am traveling with Noz Jr. (who mostly enjoys air travel because the normal limits on his screen time go out the window in an effort to just keep him happy and quiet). Even if Qatar Airways has a much better price and a more convenient itinerary, I probably am going to go with someone else. Banning laptops by itself is going to stop many business travelers from using the airline.

I don't know enough about aviation law, but surely this kind of carrier of origin based discrimination is going to violate some law or treaty governing international air travel. Does anyone know what laws govern these things?

Monday, March 20, 2017

If Ossoff wins it may change the House

If Ossoff pulls this off and actually turns this solidly red House seat blue, it is going to be like a lightning bolt through the heart of every Republican member of Congress. Just 4 months ago, Tom Price won that seat in a blowout, beating his Democratic opponent by 23.4%.

If Ossoff takes the seat in an upset, the national media will be talking about how Trump's unprecedented unpopularity may drag down Republicans in even safe carefully gerrymandered seats. That conclusion might not be true. At the same time Georgia's 6th district was giving that easy win to Price, it only went for Trump by 1.5 points. This would not be an example of a solidly pro-Trump district turning for the Democrats. but I think that detail will be lost in all the buzz about how the Trump dumpster fire has jeopardized safe Republican seats everywhere. And that talk will change the dynamic for Republicans in the House. They all will face reelection next year and they will have to find some way to demonstrate their independence from the President to hedge against the risk that he will drag them down.

The special election is April 18. Although it is likely that Ossoff won't win outright (he is currently polling at 41% and the Republicans are split with the highest two candidates getting 16% each), just getting into the runoff should trigger some "Is Trump endangering all Republicans" stories. A win in the June runoff vote would solidify the narrative.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The President still doesn't know what NATO is

Trump's latest shabbat tweet storm plays into one of my recent pet issues: the fact that the President of the United States doesn't know what NATO is. He thinks its a protection racket where member states have to pay dues to the U.S., rather than a mutual defense treaty.