The preference cascade is building.

June 24th, 2016

brexit

The Brexit vote in Britain has rocked the country with elites and immigrants most affected.

The vote to “Remain” was a majority in Scotland, Northern Ireland and in London and several other large cities with large “immigrant” populations.

Protesters are planning to march to London’s Shard building to demonstrate against the ‘racist’ and anti-migrant rhetoric of the EU Referendum campaign.

The march, announced in a Facebook post by the Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century, was due travel from a park in Whitechapel to the headquarters of New Corporation next to the Shard at 6pm.

All is proceeding as expected.

The decision has prompted a large market selloff, which will probably persist until the effects are better understood. Those campaigning to “Remain” have used various threats and predictions of doom, so the immediate result is not unexpected. Of course, the political left is hysterical at the isea that voters don;t want to be governed by remote elites.

On Thursday British voters willfully walked off a cliff when they decided to leave the European Union. The “Brexit” victory is a defeat for Britain, Europe and the global economy.

Tens of millions of Britons voted for isolation — to go it alone — rather than for cooperation. The European Union just lost a sixth of its economy, roughly akin to Florida and California seceding from the United States. The impact on the British economy could be catastrophic. Europe’s unified stance against a reemerging and aggressive Russia will be splintered.

Who could imagine that people would not want a thousand bureaucrats in Brussels, or for that matter Washington DC, micromanaging their lives ? Well, I know someone.

Donald Trump is a happy guy today, and his timing seems to be excellent. Last week, when the “Remain side” was expected to win, he was told it was a serious mistake to go there.

Trump, on his first trip overseas since he embarked on his White House bid, faced criticism in the US for making what was essentially a business trip at a time when his campaign has been faltering, falling behind Clinton in the polls and in fundraising.

Yes, who can imagine a politician actually conducting business and creating real jobs ?

Some in Britain were pleased, and did not put scare quotes over ‘great victory’ as the Guardian did.

There were two referendums on Thursday. The first was on membership of the EU. The second was on the British establishment. Leave won both, and the world will never be the same again.

It’s impossible to overstate how remarkable this victory is. Twenty years ago, Euroscepticism was a backbench Tory rebellion and a political cult. It was a dispute located firmly on the Right with little appeal to Labour voters. It took Ukip to drag it into the centre of political life – given momentum by the issue of immigration – and slowly it has emerged as a lightning rod for anti-establishment activism.

The British Establishment seems to be doing no better then its American cousin.

But this time the establishment consensus coincided with a historic loss of faith in the experts. These were the people who failed to predict the Credit Crunch, who missed the greatest economic disaster to hit us since the Great Depression. And we were supposed to believe them? Slowly the consensus came to resemble not just a conspiracy but, worse, a confederacy of dunces.

The British voters may be joining the preference cascade that began with the Trump Phenomenon. I don’t want to claim clairvoyance but I did say:

Their panic was best articulated last week in The Daily Beast by GOP consultant Rick Wilson, who wrote that Trump supporters “put the entire conservative movement at risk of being hijacked and destroyed by a bellowing billionaire with poor impulse control and a profoundly superficial understanding of the world .?.?. walking, talking comments sections of the fever swamp sites.”

Some might take that as a backhanded compliment. Can the GOP really be so out of touch with the legions of out-of-work Americans — many of whom don’t show up in the “official” unemployment rate because they’ve given up looking for work in the Obama economy? With the returning military vets frustrated with lawyer-driven, politically correct rules of engagement that have tied their hands in a fight against a mortal enemy? With those who, in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino massacres by Muslims, reasonably fear an influx of culturally alien “refugees” and “migrants” from the Middle East?

The Daily Beast is not exactly the Republican voter and the “GOP Consultant” seems to be ignoring the possibility that his job prospects might be harmed by his contempt for the voters he is supposed to understand and convince.

And now we have had Orlando. And Brexit.

Trump in Mississippi.

June 11th, 2016

mitch-tyner-trump-mississippi-rally

Does the Republican Party want to win this election ?

June 10th, 2016

trumpflag

I’m starting to wonder if the Republican Party, that is the institutional party not the voters, really wants to win the election if it means accepting Trump as the nominee.

I was skeptical at first when it looked like Trump was not collapsing of his own weight.

About December, he began to look like there was a real chance of winning.

Now, after months of whistling past the graveyard of Trump’s seemingly inexorable rise and assuring themselves that his candidacy will collapse as voters come to their senses, a CNN poll released Wednesday showing Trump now lapping the field has the GOP establishment in full meltdown mode. The survey shows Trump with nearly 40% of the primary vote, trailed by Ted Cruz at 18%, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio tied at 10%, and the also-rans (including great GOP hope Jeb Bush) limping along far behind.

I am not a Trump supporter but I am intrigued at the steady progress he is making toward success.

I am still not that enthusiastic but it seems that he has attracted a large following of people who might be motivated enough to elect him president. The Republican Party seems horrified by the prospect.

This talk of ousting Trump as the nominee seems more likely to be a big flashing public signal to Trump to get his act together right away. (The smart lefty writer John Judis thinks Trump’s scripted speech Tuesday night is a sign he got this message.) If you were really going to depose Trump from being the GOP nominee in Cleveland, I’m not sure you’d go big with lots of public chatter about it as you’re seeing right now.

For example, Michael Mukasey a former Attorney General, has written a pearl clutching op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about Trump’s feud with the judge in the Trump U case.

Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in Indiana to parents of Mexican origin and belongs to an association of lawyers of Mexican origin, is sitting on a case in the Southern District of California that charges fraud against Trump University. Donald Trump in recent days has attracted much attention by suggesting that Judge Curiel should be disqualified for bias because the judge’s rulings are adverse to Mr. Trump and because, in campaigning for the presidency, the candidate has criticized Mexicans and proposed building a wall on the southwest U.S. border.

Mr. Trump’s claim against Judge Curiel is both baseless and squalid, but some in the chorus of critics are not themselves entirely without fault.

The accusation about the “association of Mexican (Mexican-American ?) lawyers” neglects to mention it’s name, La Raza Legal Lawyers Association.

Not all agree with Mukasey.

Curiel served on the selection committee in 2014 for the La Raza Lawyers of San Diego Scholarship Fund. Six of seven of the recipients of these scholarships ranging from $1500 to $1600 were born in Central America. One of them, Ricardo Elorza, described himself as “undocumented.”

Donald Trump has been critical of Curiel, calling him a “hater” over the weekend. “The judge was appointed by Barack Obama, federal judge. Frankly, he should recuse himself because he’s given us ruling after ruling after ruling, negative, negative, negative,” Trump said. (RELATED: Trump U Docs: Employee Calls Program A Huge Scam)

“What happens is the judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great. I think that’s fine,” Trump added.

I think Trump was inartful in his statement but, is he so wrong ? A scholarship for an illegal immigrant student might suggest bias against Trump and his emphasis on illegal immigration.

Mukasey again. Whether they know it or not, judges demonstrate symbolically every time they mount the bench that personal considerations have no place in deciding cases.

If only that were true.

The left seems to understand what is going on.

Never Trump Republicans like Bill Kristol, and whoever else would rally behind French’s potential third-party candidacy, do not take the presidency as seriously as they claim to: If they did, they’d admit that they find Hillary Clinton to be a better choice than Donald Trump.

There seems to be no doubt on the Democrats side in spite of all the baggage that Hillary brings.

Even those who should support the nominee seem doubtful.

The reluctant Trump supporters in the upper echelons of the GOP keep expressing surprise and/or dismay at the fact that Trump hasn’t toned things down or been “reined in” yet. If they truly thought this was a possibility, it’s further proof that the party has transcended clueless. Trump is a 69-year-old man who has never had a filter, he isn’t going to develop one overnight, especially simply because some people he deems inferior are exhorting him to.

I don’t think Trump believes the “donor class” is inferior. He probably knows most of them think he is “inferior.”

The portion of the electorate that has propelled Trump to this point are attracted to the very things that the “Harumph!” wing of the GOP finds problematic. When they say they want him to be more of what their vision of a proper candidate is, they are asking him to do a 180 from the version of him that his supporters love.

It isn’t just the Trump faithful who are in love with the lack of a connection between Trump’s brain and mouth, however. Trump himself sees it as an asset. He is very much adopting an attitude of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” now. He’s earned the right. The idiots who let him rise to power have no real basis for their claims that he needs to be the kind of candidate they view as a winning candidate.

That’s largely because they rarely win.

The left is already planning to describe him as mentally unbalanced, as they did Goldwater.

In a speech last week, Hillary Clinton took her befuddlement with Donald Trump and dropped it squarely at the feet of America’s mental health professionals. “I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants,” she said, in response to comments Trump had made marveling at the political effectiveness of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

She’s not the first person to suggest the Republican presidential candidate could use a session on the couch. Back in November, Vanity Fair got five psychiatrists and psychologists to weigh in on Trump’s mental health.

Goldwater did not fight back. Trump does and that is why his supporters love him.

Also, the political left is doing a good job of explaining why we should choose Trump.

Much more about the city sanctioned riot at the Trump Rally here.

San Jose is a sanctuary city for illegal aliens. Remember, all of these videos took place within sight of the San Jose police department, the police officers therein, and the San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia. According to his own statements, Chief Garcia spent two full days preparing his officers and leadership for the event. He was right there on scene, at the mobile command center. Garcia watch this all as it took place.

It’s pretty clear the rally-goers were set up. Here is an eye witness account.

The Trump event attendees were forced to walk past the protesters afterward, after the event was over, to get to their cars. Broad areas of sidewalks and streets, that were not blockaded before the event started, were blockaded by barriers after the event ended, and standing in front of those barriers were lines of individual police officers telling Trump event attendees what route to follow to get to their vehicles.

I had parked in a parking garage right next door to the event. Before the event, an easy walk to the event, after event over, had to square 4 blocks of sidewalk lined with protesters who somehow knew the exact route that Trump supporters/event attendees had to walk, and were waiting for them.

But the GOPe is planning to try to wrest the nomination away from him at the convention.

Is there a better definition of a suicide pact ?

To Stop the Train.

June 4th, 2016

I have been using the analogy of pulling the cord to stop the train when it is headed for the cliff, even if you don’t know what happens next. I see that Richard Fernandez has now adopted the analogy.

I don’t see Trump voters as doing anything noble or particularly courageous but it is a risk and many of us are willing to take it.

Fernandez uses the example of Torpedo Squadron 8 which was a factor in the success of the US Navy in the Battle of Midway. John Waldron did not sacrifice his men and his own life voluntarily but he had a mission and he carried it out in spite of everything that stood in his way. The fighters of Fighting 8 that were supposed to provide cover got lost in the confusion. According to Alvin Kernan’s book “The Unknown Battle of Midway: The Destruction of the American Torpedo Squadrons ,” other pilots nearly attacked the leader of Fighting 8 after the battle.

Fernandez uses the sacrifice of Waldron and Torpedo 8 as a metaphor for the 2016 election while remembering the crucial battle fought 74 years ago today.

While the path leading to the present is disputed, no one appears to deny America has now arrived in a critical place whose abnormality is most evident in a contest between two presidential candidates neither of whom is widely supported by their nominating parties. None of the two candidates is actually expected to solve the multiple foreign policy and domestic crises currently besetting the country. In fact one candidate may have helped cause many of the current problems while the other’s main attraction is that he may function as a demolition charge which will clear out the roadblocks that have paralyzed America.

If political columnist Ron Fournier is right about this election cycle, it is less about achieving incremental policy change than precipitating a radical institutional change. In that case the current unpopularity contest can be seen as an deliberate process to increase instability by hoping the worst man wins, not in order to continue the status quo but to tear things down and start afresh.

I think it is more important to stop the trends initiated by Obama and the increasingly radical Democrats than to attempt any serious foreign policy initiative.

Read the rest of this entry »

Memorial Day

May 29th, 2016

MIkeMedals

I don’t remember much of the Second World War although I was alive for all of it. I can remember being taught some of the WWII songs, like “Don’t Fence Me In” and “Mairzy Doats.”

Most of the friends and relatives of military age went in and most returned after it was over. Not all did and the man in Bud Kerrison’s squadron who sent me the medals in the photo, was shot down and killed before I received them.

theSalute

Here, I am saluting Bud Kerrison before he went overseas. He had completed bombardier training. He served in the North African Theater and flew 50 missions, from June 1943 to January, 1944. He served in The 301st Bomb Group, 352nd Squadron.

His B 17 was named by the pilot, “Spirit of Phyllis” after his girlfriend or wife and also after an earlier plane that had crash landed in England, named “Phyllis.”

Bud's plane

There is “Phyllis” after the crash landing in England.

When the war ended, the guys all came hime and my parents had parties for them.

Saloon

That is one of the parties in 1946. My father is behind the bar and Bud Kerrison is also behind the bar with Pat Neary who would later marry a friend of Bud’s named Frank Flanagan. Frank stayed in Chicago after that although his father had been Chief of Detectives in Philadelphia. Pat’s father was an Inspector in the Chicago PD so they were a police family. I have previously recounted the story of Frank.

Well, we all get old. Bud did too and is gone now.

BudKerrison

There he is with his kids who are now all grown. I would love to have been able to take him up in a B 17 as I did my son for a birthday present a few years ago.

B 17 nose and Joe

There’s Joe in what had been Bud’s “office” as Dana Andrews described in in the pivotal scene of “The Best Years of Our Lives. “

What happened to Venezuela?

May 21st, 2016

venzuela

Venezuela is in the news as the country cannot even buy paper to print money.

This all goes back to 1998 when Chavez was elected by the people.

He was an army officer and had previously attempted to overthrow the government, a coup that failed.

in the early 1980s. Chávez led the MBR-200 in an unsuccessful coup d’état against the Democratic Action government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1992, for which he was imprisoned. Released from prison after two years, he founded a political party known as the Fifth Republic Movement and was elected president of Venezuela in 1998.

Venezuela is an example of The Curse of Natural Resources.

The idea that resources might be more of an economic curse than a blessing began to emerge in debates in the 1950s and 1960s about the economic problems of low and middle-income countries.[3] The term resource curse was first used by Richard Auty in 1993 to describe how countries rich in mineral resources were unable to use that wealth to boost their economies and how, counter-intuitively, these countries had lower economic growth than countries without an abundance of natural resources. An influential study by Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Warner found a strong correlation between natural resource abundance and poor economic growth.

Venezuela is only the latest and worst example. The history is depressingly familiar.

Read the rest of this entry »

Genetics and Archeology

May 9th, 2016

Neanderthal

I recently read a book titled, The 10,000 Year Explosion.

Its premise is that evolution did not stop or “pause” with the development of modern man 40,000 years ago.

A few basic facts about genetics. Genes are sets of nucleotides that encode proteins by encoding RNA. This is all in my book, A Brief History of Disease, Science and Medicine. One key fact is that:

Genes can acquire mutations in their sequence, leading to different variants, known as alleles, in the population. These alleles encode slightly different versions of a protein, which cause different phenotype traits.

I discussed this at some length two years ago and then, because it stirred a hornets nest at Ricochet, I posted some of the nasty replies here.

Mutations occur at random or under the influence of outside influence like UV radiation. Some are harmful, like cancer, and are not continued in the “gene pool.” Some are beneficial and may persist as they provide an advantage to the individual who may live longer, have more children and have more of the children survive to reproduce.

Humans evolved in Africa and spread outside of Africa before 50,000 years ago. There have been successive waves of modern humans that were better adapted to life, especially in areas that were new and often inhospitable like Ice Age Europe. One such group was called the “Neanderthal, as they were found in the Valley of the Neander River in Germany.

Neanderthals came to Europe some 300,000 years ago. They hunted big game with stone tools. Their territory spanned Europe and Asia. They left distinctive “Mousterian” artefacts.

There were other groups and we are starting to find out who and what they were from their DNA.

We know that modern humans first arrived in Europe about 45,000 years ago when the continent was still a Neanderthal stronghold. Over the next 30,000 years – archaeological work has revealed – a procession of different cultures, each associated with different artefacts and lifestyles, rose in Europe.

Archaeologists tend to think these sort of cultural shifts reflect the spread of new ideas through an unchanging population. But a new analysis of nuclear DNA taken from 51 ancient Eurasians tells a different story. They actually reflected the spread of different peoples.

The Neanderthals were gone earlier than recently believed.

“Until recently, I and many with me had thought that Neanderthals survived until 30,000 years ago, or perhaps even slightly later,” says Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. “The new dates make it clear that they disappeared 10,000 years earlier.”

What happened ?

For Pat Shipman of Penn State University, this supports her theory that modern humans acted like an invasive species in Europe, beating the Neanderthals in a competition for resources. That’s a “distinct possibility”, Higham says.

But that does not mean we murdered our cousins. There is no evidence humans ever killed Neanderthals, and they probably didn’t meet often, says Higham.

So what role did we play? Many now suspect we were the last straw for an already fragile species. Genetics suggests Neanderthal numbers dropped sharply around 50,000 years ago. This coincides with a sudden cold snap, hinting climate struck the first blow.

The Ice Ages were a huge stress.

Over the next 30,000 years – archaeological work has revealed – a procession of different cultures, each associated with different artefacts and lifestyles, rose in Europe.

Archaeologists tend to think these sort of cultural shifts reflect the spread of new ideas through an unchanging population. But a new analysis of nuclear DNA taken from 51 ancient Eurasians tells a different story. They actually reflected the spread of different peoples.

Some of this change involved breeding with Neanderthals, and many of us (including me) have some Neanderthal DNA. Why ? The Neanderthals might have been better adapted to Ice Ages which waxed and waned.

During this period, there were several changes between glacier advance and retreat. The Last Glacial Maximum, the maximum extent of glaciation within the last glacial period, was approximately 22,000 years ago. While the general pattern of global cooling and glacier advance was similar, local differences in the development of glacier advance and retreat make it difficult to compare the details from continent to continent (see picture of ice core data below for differences).

From the point of view of human archaeology, it falls in the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods. When the glaciation event started, Homo sapiens were confined to Africa and used tools comparable to those used by Neanderthals in Europe and the Levant and by Homo erectus in Asia. Near the end of the event, Homo sapiens spread into Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Maybe Neanderthals were better adapted to glacial epochs.

The Aurignacian culture was dominant between about 45,000 and 35,000 years ago. This culture produced fine bone and stone tools, and some of Europe’s oldest and most beautiful art – for instance at Chauvet cave in southern France.

By about 33,000 years ago a new culture that began in south-east Europe was beginning to spread across the continent: the Gravettian. This is famous for big-game hunting of mammoths and bison.

And later, at the height of the Ice Age about 19,000 years ago, yet another culture swept across west and central Europe. This Magdalenian culture is famous for its reindeer hunts and for its artwork, carved into bones and antlers.

One of the oldest individuals examined by David Reich at Harvard Medical School in Boston and his colleagues is represented by a thigh bone found at a site called Goyet cave in Belgium. Radiocarbon dating shows it is 35,000 years old, meaning the Goyet individual is associated with the Aurignacian industry.

Now, it appears that these people were quite different genetically.

the Aurignacians were pushed aside by an expanding wave of Gravettians.

“It is exciting and striking how a relatively homogeneous population sweeps across large parts of Europe between 33,000 and 26,000 years ago, displacing the populations that were there before,” says Reich.

But that’s not the full story. The genetic analysis also looked at six Magdalenians: they are descendants of the displaced Aurignacians.

This is a real surprise, says team member Cosimo Posth at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. It shows that the Aurignacian lineage didn’t disappear when the Gravettians swept across Europe.

“In fact from the end of the Last Glacial Maximum some 19,000 years ago, its genetic component reappeared in Spain. From then to around 14,000 years ago this nuclear signal spread in Europe again,” he says.

They may have been pushed into a cul de sac in Spain but returned as the glaciers retreated. Why ?

We know a few things, such as why white skin evolved. As humans moved from Africa to Europe and faced cold climates, they needed Vitamin D which is synthesized in the skin.

Dark skin is useful and provides and evolutionary advantage in tropical settings. It also has some protective effect on sun burning and skin cancer. One negative consequence of inadequate Vitamin D is Ricketts, a disease of bones.

Rickets is defective mineralization or calcification of bones before epiphyseal closure in immature mammals due to deficiency or impaired metabolism of vitamin D,[1] phosphorus or calcium,[2] potentially leading to fractures and deformity. Rickets is among the most frequent childhood diseases in many developing countries.

This provides a strong feedback for selecting beneficial mutations.

Some of this will lead to modern therapy and that is why I wrote that I would not recommend a student for medical school who did not believe in evolution. Here is some of the negative response I got. I quit Ricochet when my subscription expired.

What is going on in Syria ?

May 7th, 2016

Rhodes

Our feckless president has been lecturing the US public about various topics he considers important but what has actually been going on ? We do know that a Navy SEAL named Charles Keating was killed in Iraq.

(CNN)When a team of less than a dozen U.S. military advisers came under attack in Iraq Tuesday from more than 100 ISIS fighters, Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV was part of the force sent in to rescue them.

All the advisers made it back. Keating, a decorated combat veteran and star athlete who decided to enlist after the 9/11 attacks, did not.
Providing new details Wednesday about the operation that took the life of the grandson of prominent financier and World War II pilot Charles Keating Jr., Coalition spokesman Col. Steve Warren said that the clash between ISIS and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces the advisers were assisting was “a big fight, one of the largest we’ve seen recently.”

That’s Iraq, where Obama pulled out all US forces but is now sneaking a few back in, hoping no one notices.

In Iran, Obama’s foreign policy “advisor” named Ben Rhodes, admits it was all a lie.

“I immediately developed this idea that, you know, maybe I want to try to write about international affairs,” he explained. “In retrospect, I had no idea what that meant.” His mother’s closest friend growing up ran the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which then published Foreign Policy. He sent her a letter and included what would wind up being his only piece of published fiction, a short story that appeared in The Beloit Fiction Journal. It was titled “The Goldfish Smiles, You Smile Back.” The story still haunts him, he says, because “it foreshadowed my entire life.”

From writing short stories, Rhodes now writes fiction as national policy.

Rhodes strategized and ran the successful Iran-deal messaging campaign, helped negotiate the opening of American relations with Cuba after a hiatus of more than 50 years and has been a co-writer of all of Obama’s major foreign-policy speeches. “Every day he does 12 jobs, and he does them better than the other people who have those jobs,” Terry Szuplat, the longest-tenured member of the National Security Council speechwriting corps, told me. On the largest and smallest questions alike, the voice in which America speaks to the world is that of Ben Rhodes.

Is the policy that Rhodes writes working ? Better not to know.

Iran has been supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. They have spent a lot of money and lives defending him against his people and the Russians. How is that working out ?

The Russians are back in Palmyra, which the ISIS types tried to destroy.

The orchestra played pieces by Johan Sebastian Bach and two Russian composers, Sergei Prokofiev and Rodion Shchedrin, in a second-century Roman amphitheater, the set for a 2015 film produced by the Islamic State that featured the execution of 25 people.

The contrast was intended to underscore what Russia sees as its underappreciated role in helping Syrian forces liberate Palmyra from zealots and fighting on the side of civilization against barbarism.

The Russians were so eager to make that point that they flew a group of reporters from Moscow to Syria and then bused them to Palmyra to see the performance. The production, attended by a heavily guarded V.I.P. guest list, was broadcast live on Russian state television.

Does Obama know about this ? Probably not. Ash Carter seems to be running foreign policy these days.

Rhodes’s opinions were helpful in shaping the group’s [Iraq Study Group] conclusions — a scathing indictment of the policy makers responsible for invading Iraq. For Rhodes, who wrote much of the I.S.G. report, the Iraq war was proof, in black and white, not of the complexity of international affairs or the many perils attendant on political decision-making but of the fact that the decision-makers were morons.

One result of this experience was that when Rhodes joined the Obama campaign in 2007, he arguably knew more about the Iraq war than the candidate himself, or any of his advisers. He had also developed a healthy contempt for the American foreign-policy establishment, including editors and reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and elsewhere, who at first applauded the Iraq war and then sought to pin all the blame on Bush and his merry band of neocons when it quickly turned sour. If anything, that anger has grown fiercer during Rhodes’s time in the White House. He referred to the American foreign-policy establishment as the Blob.

How is Iran, Obama and Rhodes ally, doing ?

They seem to be having trouble as they are recruiting child soldiers, as they did in the Iraq-Iran War.

Iran’s regime has done this before. During the Iran-Iraq War, which killed around a million people between 1980 and 1988, the Basij recruited thousands of children to clear minefields.

After lengthy cult-like brainwashing sessions, the poor kids placed plastic keys around their necks, symbolizing martyrs’ permission to enter paradise, and ran ahead of Iranian ground troops and tanks to remove Iraqi mines by detonating them with their feet and blowing their small bodies to pieces.

Children have been fighting in wars as long as there have been wars, but shoving them into the meat grinder in the 21st century is a war crime expressly prohibited and sometimes even punished by all civilized governments. The International Criminal Court in The Hague, for instance, convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of war crimes in 2012 for “conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years and using them to participate actively in hostilities.”

The Basij is a paramilitary branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Pasdaran, and it’s commanded by the iron-fisted head of state, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It’s mostly used for internal repression and provided many of the shock troops who brutally suppressed non-violent demonstrations during the Green Revolution in 2009.

Why are they now going back to the tactics of 1988?

“Second,” he continued, “the war in Syria and keeping the dictator Bashar Assad in power is so crucial for the Iranian regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei that he is willing to pay any price for this objective. In February in a meeting with the families of the regime’s forces who were killed in Syria, Khamenei said that if we did not fight in Syria, we would have had to fight with our opposition in major Iranian cities. Resorting to the tactic of mobilizing teenagers only leads to one conclusion, the mullahs are facing a deadly impasse in Syria.

So, the Russians seem to be winning and the Iranians are losing and who does Obama ally with ?

Rhodes’s innovative campaign to sell the Iran deal is likely to be a model for how future administrations explain foreign policy to Congress and the public. The way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented — that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought moderates to power in that country — was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal. Even where the particulars of that story are true, the implications that readers and viewers are encouraged to take away from those particulars are often misleading or false. Obama’s closest advisers always understood him to be eager to do a deal with Iran as far back as 2012, and even since the beginning of his presidency. “It’s the center of the arc,” Rhodes explained to me two days after the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was implemented.

And some people think Trump will be a foreign policy disaster.

The Trump Preference Cascade is moving.

April 30th, 2016

rally

Earlier in the year, I predicted that a preference cascade is forming around Trump.

“This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. (Click here for a more complex analysis of this and related
issues). Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don’t realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it – but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

We are in a similar period right now. No one wants to put a Trump bumper sticker on their car because it seems an invitation to vandalism.

Siva is accused of slashing the tires of a Ford Focus and pouring yogurt into the car’s open sunroof while it was parked at a Gig Harbor Fred Meyer.

Police say Siva told them he attacked the vehicle because of the Trump sticker on the rear bumper. Siva allegedly told police he considered the sticker a “hate symbol” and vandalizing the car “improved the community.”

The victim of the crime is considered to be at fault because his bumper sticker was a “hate symbol.”

Rioters at the Trump rally in Costa Mesa California this week felt the same way. They showed their anger in obvious ways.

Protest organizers in Southern California said the anti-Trump demonstrations spread through word of mouth and involved mostly young people, including many high school and college students. They brought with them Mexican flags, which were once discouraged at immigrant rights rallies for fear they would be regarded as un-American.

The demonstrations outside the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa on Thursday night blocked traffic and caused tense moments. Some protesters performed screeching burnouts in their cars or did doughnuts at intersections. Others kicked at and punched approaching vehicles, shouting expletives. Ranchera and hip-hop music was blasted throughout the streets. At least 17 people were arrested, and both a Trump supporter and a teenage anti-Trump protester were hurt.

No mention of payment but many of us believe these “demonstrations” are being funded.

What is particularly interesting to me is who is attending these rallies ?

I would like to have attended but I worked that day and was heading home when I heard about it. It was too late and I am not up to that much excitement at my age, anyway. What were the people waiting in line to attend like ?

As noted, the most interesting part of the rally proved the demographics: it was probably 60% women. Lots of minorities as well, plenty of people holding “Latinos for Trump” signs. It was a good mix of African-American, Asian, White, and Hispanic–everybody got along well. Over the loudspeaker, we kept hearing somebody saying over and over that if we saw protestors in the crowd, please do not touch them or say anything to them, just alert security by yelling “Trump! Trump! Trump!” Initially, I thought this was ridiculous, but it worked. Random protestors would get in with the rally crowd and start yelling, and folks would shout, “Trump! Trump! Trump!” The very efficient security personnel would escort the protestors out. No violence.

Doesn’t this sound like the Tea party rallies in 2010 ?

The national polls now show closer numbers and Rasmussen has them tied. Given what I believe is a Bradley Effect, in which people being polled may conceal their real choice to avoid being labeled bigoted by a pollster, I think we might be looking at a Trump landslide. I have wondered if he would implode at some point but I don’t see it.

I really hope the GOP Convention is not attacked by rioters and I do worry about assassination attempts but we will see how this goes on.

Planning another vacation.

April 24th, 2016

After our bad experience last year with Europe, we have decided to stay in north America this summer. In June, we plan a trip to Chicago, partly to review family history.

In September, I am planning a bit more adventure in Denali National Park.

I have been there before and we had a family trip 20 years ago with all my kids. We rented a motorhome.

kids alaska copy

This worked well and we spent almost two weeks with time in Denali Park and in the towns of Seward and Valdez.

Kids in Alaska

My youngest was 13 and the other three were all adults. My older daughter had just taken her bar exams in Washington State.

We drove from Anchorage to Palmer where there was a nice RV park with water and power at each site. There we parked for a couple of days and did a couple of local tours.

Camper dinner

The dinners were prepared in the motorhome and we would often be having dinner at 10 PM or later because the sun did not set until 1 AM at that time of year. It was easy to forget how late it was but we weren’t getting up early anyway.

Claire Alaska

The kids got to walk on glaciers. My younger daughter, Claire, is wearing my wool shirt for the glacier jaunt. She had to sleep in the folded down dinette and her brother got her up early every morning so everyone could have breakfast.

Bears

The kids got to see few bears and the rest stops had big warning signs to never take food with you out of the bus.

This year we are going to do something different.

denali-backcountry-lodge

We are going to fly to Anchorage and take a Princess tour that includes a bus to Denali Park and a three day stay at the Backcountry Lodge in the park. It is 50 miles into the park and surrounded by wilderness. The lodge is not roughing it.

BN-DBL-River-View

It is located on a creek that flows past and there is a lake nearby. There are day tours for those more energetic.

Anyway, I have made reservations for early September which is after most of the tourist season. I’m looking forward to it. I tried to interest our English friends in coming over to go with us but they have other things to do.

Denali_Backcountry_Lodge4

I can’t think of a much better way to spend a week. After the lodge, we will go back to Anchorage and then to one of my favorite places, Homer Spit.

homer spit

It doesn’t get much better then this although the hotels are a bit basic. Some of the kids who work on fishing boats just camp on the beach. They got out for days at a time and no one bothers their stuff.

tents

Life is good. Some of these kids can make $50,000 in a summer with no expenses.