Friday, September 20, 2019

Rudy Giuliani is a favor to lawyers everywhere

Everyone makes mistakes, but whenever I mess up something at work it triggers a deep dark fear that I could have totally sunk a client's chances.

The next time those fears are triggered, I will think about Rudy Giuliani. Whatever I did wrong no matter how bad it is, I will rest assured that I am not the worst lawyer in the United States.


There should be a word...

...for a presidential campaign you forgot was happening until the candidate announces he's dropping out.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

The telephone call was not about normalizing relations with Russia

Lot's of people seem to be assuming that the promise Trump made to a foreign leader that prompted the whistle-blowing complaint was a promise to Putin to normalize relations with Russia. But Trump has been openly talking about that throughout his presidency. For Inspector General Michael Atkinson, a Trump appointee, to have considered the complaint to be "credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of 'urgent concern'" which required a report to Congress, it must have been something much worse than merely an improved relationship with Russia.

To be honest, I have no idea what it might be. But for this to happen it had to be something really really bad.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

So basically, O'Brien is going to be National Security Adviser because his experience as a hostage negotiator means he is good at dealing with narcissistic psychopaths

Biden, Harris, or other?

This ad popped up on Facebook this morning and it made me laugh.
According to today's polling average, "other" is supported by 67% of Democrats.

(Is the DGA on team Biden? The only sense I can make of this is if the organization is trying to erase the candidates who pose a more serious threat to their guy. Is that what is happening with this unscientific clickbait poll?)


I don't get it

Saudi Arabia attacked the Houthis in Yemen years ago, claiming that the Houthis are nothing more than Iranian puppets. For the past few years they have been brutally bombing Houthi forces and the Yemenis unfortunate enough to be living in Houthi-controlled areas. So now someone bombed them back. Whether it turned out to be the Houthis or the Iranians (if the Houthis are just an extension of Iran, it shouldn't make any difference), isn't this what they should expect when they bomb the fuck out of their neighbor? If anything the Saudis have been extremely lucky they have been picking on a group so much weaker than them it lacks much capacity to strike back.

Everyone wants war without consequences. "We get to kill your people whenever we want, but if you kill us back that is an outrageous act of terrorism and aggression!" seems to be the prevailing attitude.


Bibi may not survive, but the next Israeli government will be on the right

I think a much overlooked example of racism inherent in Israeli political culture is the long-standing tradition, followed by both left and right, of not formally including any Arab parties in the governing coalition.1 It is simply unacceptable to Israelis across the political spectrum to let Arabs hold any cabinet posts. All major Israeli parties have been willing to not have their party gain control to avoid including Arab parties in their coalitions.

Because Arab parties often 8-12 seats in the Knesset (which has 120 total seats), this means that 6-10% of the seats are out of play when the winning party in an Israeli election attempts to assemble a governing coalition. This gives an enormous structural disadvantage to the left who might otherwise be able to use Arab parties to get over 50% of the seats.  That, plus the striking rightward swing of the Israeli public over the past decade or two means that Israeli governments can only swing between the extreme right and the center-right.

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1- Arab parties have been informally involved on occasion. For example, Yizthak Rabin used a "confidence and supply" scheme where he got the Arab parties to support him in any confidence votes in return for promises of funding of the Arab parties' priorities. But the point of that scheme was to use Arabs to stop the government from falling while at the same time avoiding formally including Arabs in the government or allowing Arab parties to hold any cabinet posts.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

People only want to get into wars with countries that can't hit back

I think the answer to Marshall's question is that if the Saudis retaliate against Iran, then Iran will retaliate back against Saudi Arabia. Iran is not very far from KSA and it has plenty of hardware that can easily reach across the Persian Gulf to the oil-producing center of the Saudi economy.

If, on the other hand, the U.S. retaliates against Iran for the Saudis, then the Iranian leadership will curse the U.S. and their Saudi stooges, but won't respond militarily against Saudi Arabia because the U.S. will be viewed as the real enemy.

The Saudis have a big shiny military. But they won't use it because they don't want to face the consequences of their actions. So instead they are not publicly pinning the blame for the oil refinery on Tehran, while privately lobbying the U.S. to kill the Persians.


The one (only) thing I like about Donald Trump

Perhaps Trump’s only redeeming characteristic is his seemingly instinctive aversion to war. He will sometimes make pretty belligerent statements, but within a day or two, his general avoidance of military violence will tend to re-emerge. Thankfully this pattern has held even as his apparent mental decline has advanced. At least so far.


Monday, September 16, 2019

Election Tuesday

Is Israel the only other country that holds their elections on Tuesdays? Did they just copy off of us or is there some other reason their election is being held tomorrow?


The rock-solid logical foundation of America's next war

Some oil refineries blew up in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis tend to blame Iran for just about everything but have remained closed-mouthed about who is responsible so far. The Trump Administration is enthusiastically blaming Iran because they also blame Iran for anything bad that happens in the Middle East, plus the U.S. has such a weak-willed President, he seems to be taking orders from the Saudis about who to attack in retaliation. The Iranians deny they did it, because, of course they do (they would deny it whether they were behind it or not).

Meanwhile the Houthis are off to the side, jumping up and down, insisting they did it, but the Americans and Saudis don't believe they could have done it on their own because something or other about how strapping some explosives to a bunch of drones is too complicated for those ignorant Houthis. Plus both KSA and the Trump administration subscribe to the "shiite Arabs have no agency" theory of the Middle East so even if the Houthis did really do it, that just means the Iranians did it.

Meanwhile, none of them--not the Trump administration, the Saudi government, the Iranian government, or the Houthis--have any credibility at all to give an accurate account of what happened or who is responsible. That's where we are.


Winning isn't everything and sometimes it is nothing

I've written this before in past election cycles, but let me say it again for the 2020 race: Can we stop talking about who "won" each debate? Debate's don't have victory conditions. There is no formal point system and no objective system to adjudicate who did better. Sure people might have different opinions about who had a better performance, but that opinion is going to mostly influenced by what the opinionator already thinks about the candidate, much more than what actually happened in the debate.


Thursday, September 12, 2019

The issue is really about Arab rights

So basically, whether Israelis are in favor of annexing various parts of the West Bank depends upon whether Palestinian residents will get any civil rights in the annexed territory. If they get equal rights, the Israeli public, right, left and center, are overwhelmingly against it. If Palestinians do not get full civil rights, the Israeli public is generally fine with grabbing the territory.


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

John Bolton, man of restraint

That's a pretty unique spin:
A longtime Republican hawk known for a combative style, Mr. Bolton spent much of his tenure trying to restrain the president from making what he considered unwise agreements with America’s enemies.
Consistently pushing to bomb other countries instead of talking to them is "restraint" because it stops the President from entering into agreements. (Narrator: Trump doesn't know how to enter into agreements)


Today is not a holiday

Oddly, I think the fact that we have not made 9/11 an official federal holiday has kept people's focus on memorializing the event itself. If everyone had a day off on 9/11, people would start planning their lives around this extra day to get stuff done around the house or to get a longer time away without using as many vacation days. It wouldn't be long before the day was about furniture sales, crowded airports, and one last run to the beach before it gets too cold.

I bet less than 1% of the U.S. population can say what the original meaning of Veterans Day is.