Ego Trumps Trump

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The best self-promoter since Barnum, Donald Trump has risen to an art form the axiom that crazy people with money are “eccentric”. Mr Trump suffers from some of the illusions that dogged another “eccentric” gadfly, Ross Perot. Both rose to success by being absolute dictators of their business empires. Well, government doesn’t work that way. Trump, like Perot, would be mired in senseless protocols, traditions, and partisan sniping that bogs everything down to an insufferable crawl. Perot would have suffered the additional albatross of being an Independent, meaning he had no constituency in Congress – both parties would be out to scuttle “this outsider [of the two-party old boys club].” Power is never willingly shared.

Mr Trump suffers an additional handicap: an ego the approximate size of Venus. And it is this that will be his most potent opponent in the 2016 race. Assuming we believe him about meaning what he says, then the last thing he wants to see is a second consecutive Democratic administration. Yet, the moment he realizes that he’s not going to get the GOP nomination, his overwhelming urge will to be to file as an Independent, handing the election to Hillary Clinton. He has to know these things – he won’t get the GOP nomination, and that filing as an Independent will elect Hillary. The question is, can he stop himself from doing it anyway.

His campaign is the Xanadu of vanity publishing. This whole thing is an exercise in brand-building. Trump has figured out a way that he can be on television every night! He can’t say anything too outrageous – the news media will cover it as news! In a rare break from their fantasy land, the Huffington Post is the only organization that has it right – they announced yesterday they would move Trump coverage from the news/politics section to the entertainment section.

The problem in the interim, of course, is the damage he will do the Republican Party, specifically, and to the process of seeking the presidency, in general. None of this bothers Liberals, of course, as they see Trump as the archetypal Republican, the rest of the field being dupes put up by the Party to convince the public that Republicans are human. The primaries will devolve into the Democrats and Donald Trump trying to outdo each other in demonizing Republicans.

“Hey!” I hear Trump supporters yell. “He’s the only one willing to stand up to Washington.” Not true. There’s Ayatollah Khamenei, Vladimir Putin, Raul Castro, Edward Snowden, Bowe Bergdahl, ISIS … all kinds of people. We know what he’s against. What we’d like to know is what he’s for – other than a Brownsville-to-San Ysidro fence, paid for by Mexico (yeah, that’s going to happen).

There is no possibility that Donald Trump, after winning an election he turned into a reality show, wouldn’t turn the presidency into a reality show – with same results as Barack Obama’s passion play presidency: the utter contempt of the rest of the world. To say that Hillary Clinton (or Bernie Sanders, or Ted Cruz, etc) would make a better president than a performing elephant is captioning the obvious.

the Iran Deal

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Early Tuesday morning in Vienna, the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran agreed to an understanding to “significantly limit Tehran’s nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions.” I haven’t seen the actual agreement[1], but there has been sufficient commentary by those who have that I have confidence in what I will say here[2].

Mr Obama made it abundantly clear that he would fight to preserve the deal in its entirety, saying, “I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.” What this means is that all he needs is one-third plus one of one house of Congress (34 Senators will do it) – a veto is over-ridded by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress. He added that the accord was preferable to the alternate scenario of an unbridled Iran touching off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. “Put simply, no deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East,” he said. He added that his successors in the White House “will be in a far stronger position” to restrain Iran for decades to come than they would be without the pact.

Not everyone was as pleased. Benjamin Netanyahu, called it a “mistake of historic proportions” that would ultimately create a “terrorist nuclear superpower.”

What this accord amounts to is kicking the can down the road to be addressed again in a decade or two. Our official bargaining position went from “preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon” to “not on my watch.” Overall, the agreement isn’t as bad as I feared – but bad enough.

The objective of denying Iran a deliverable nuclear weapon has two obvious components – the physics package and the delivery platform. The surest way of preventing the development of the physics package is to deny them the ability to enrich uranium. This agreement does not do that. The surest way of preventing Iran from developing a delivery platform is to deny them the acquisition of long-range aerial vehicles. This agreement does not do that. One could limit Iran’s cascade array to a thousand or fewer centrifuges, rendering it extremely laborious to produce highly enriched uranium, and more so to produce enough to produce multiple warheads. This agreement does not do that. Another way to curb long-range delivery of a warhead is to halt Iran’s work on ICBMs and ban the development of an intercontinental bomber, manned or unmanned. This agreement does not do that.

What we’ve done is to legitimize the existence of Iran’s nuclear program with international regulation for ten- fifteen- and thirty-years (depending on what’s being regulated). After regulation falls away, Iran is then a legitimate nuclear power. We went from denying Iran membership in the nuclear club to welcoming them after an initiation period.

The agreement will require Iran to reduce its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) by 98%. They currently hold 8,714.7kg of LEU, meaning that they must reduce their inventory to a maximum of 174.294kg for the next fifteen years. They will, most likely, ship much of the excess to Russia, where it can quickly be re-acquired when this aspect of the agreement lapses. Iran acknowledges that will enrich to a maximum purity of 3.67% for 15 years.

OK, what does that mean? Well, a single warhead, by the simplest method of construction, would require ~52kg of highly enriched uranium (HEU), which is at least 90%-pure U235. How much LEU does it take to produce 52kg of HEU? Around 750kg. So reducing Iran’s stockpile of LEU to <175kg will leave them short of the ability to “build one in the closet while no one was watching.” This assumes, of course, that Iran won’t have thousands of kilos of LEU hidden somewhere. If you’ve got 2,000kg of LEU, for example, you can get 52kg of HEU out of around 300kg of LEU – the process is more efficient with a larger than minimum feed stream. But that’s a problem for the IAEA inspectors.

Iran claims that the Arak Heavy Water Reactor will retain its heavy water nature. This is unmentioned in the New York Times review – it will be interesting to see the language on this. Heavy water reactors are “breeders” in that a natural by-product of their operation is plutonium, a more efficient and more toxic fissile material than uranium (and breeders can burn raw milled uranium – no enrichment required). This is vital because there is no mention of plutonium in any of the caps on low-enriched stockpile … only uranium.

Iran must reduce the number of centrifuges spinning at Natanz by 2/3. Depending on the actual language of the agreement, that would leave Iran with a cascade of between 5,994 and 3,330 centrifuges. That would extend to about a year the amount of time it would take Iran to make enough HEU for a bomb should it abandon the accord and race for a weapon – the “breakout time.” There is an additional rider in the agreement that prohibits Iran from producing or acquiring HEU or plutonium for fifteen years. “Verification measures,” Secretary Kerry said, would “stay in place permanently.” Iran says it will spin 5,060 at Natanz, and have some 1,044 others at Fordow on standby[3]. This makes Fordow a prime spot for inspectors. Iran claims it will have 1,044 IR-1 centrifuges with all necessary infrastructures will be kept in Fordu, two strings of which being on and rotating. Will the number of Fordu spinning centrifuges be stated in the language?

In year 13, 14, 15 of the agreement, the breakout time could asymptotically shrink toward zero, as Iran is expected to develop and use advanced centrifuges then. This is why the excess centrifuges, and their infrastructure, should be destroyed, not put in “guarded” storage. Making Iran acquire or manufacture the additional, more advanced centrifuges could add an another year to the breakout time.

Tehran and the IAEA had “entered into an agreement to address all questions” about Iran’s past actions within three months, and that completing this task was “fundamental for sanctions relief.” This is of little substantive value as we know that they’ve worked on all aspects of warhead design, including the re-entry vehicle. But it will test their veracity at an early stage. I haven’t heard whether the inspectors would be able to interview the scientists and engineers who were believed to have been at the center of an alleged effort by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to design a weapon that Iran could manufacture on short order. My guess is no, or under such supervisory control by the Iranians that the interview would be worthless. But again, I don’t know, as this part of the text wasn’t reviewed by the New York Times.

One of the last, and most contentious issues, was the question of whether and how fast an arms embargo on conventional weapons and missiles, imposed starting in 2006, would be lifted. This aspect – the arms embargo and the ballistic missile sanctions – were only made public last week. They initially were out of the discussion. Relaxing the arms embargo after five years means that Iran will be able to import and export arms again; releasing the sanctions for work on long-range ballistic missiles after eight years allows Iran to resume R&D on ICBMs. SecState Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, agreed that the missile restrictions would remain for eight years and that a similar ban on the purchase and sale of missiles would be removed in five years. Those bans would be removed even sooner if the IAEA is able to reach a definitive conclusion that the Iranian nuclear program is entirely peaceful, and that there was no evidence of cheating on the accord or any activity to obtain weapons covertly. These concessions were not part of the framework agreed to earlier. This is a mistake. Both of these restrictions should remain in place for the duration of the agreement. Additionally, according to Iran, neither the IAEA or any other person or institution will have the permission to access Iran missile systems or centers.

According to Iran, all the UNSC sanctions imposed on Iran will be removed in the first phase within the framework of Article 41 of the UN Charter under which all the previous sanctions will be declared null and void and all the financial and economic sanctions will be lifted. Diplomats also came up with unusual procedure to “snap back” the sanctions against Iran if an 8-member panel[4] determines that Tehran is violating the nuclear provisions. This is shameless prevarication – once sanctions are relaxed, there is no “snapping-back”. Sanctions are unpopular on their face, and after prolonged sanctions are removed, these corporations aren’t going to “snap back” to inactivity. Also, once the agreement clears the UN, and it will, all international sanctions are removed, leaving only the United States enforcing sanctions. The whole issue deflates once Turtle Bay declares that Iran has met its conditions, the sanctions go away. This has been flim-flam from the start.

In those places where what we’ve been told and what Iran is saying, I tend to think the Iranians are closer to the truth than the White House. I say this because the IRNA bulletin reads like it was lifted directly out of the text of the agreement – it wasn’t authored by a writer … the language is stiff technical. The memo ticks off 105 specific stipulations of the agreement, and they all read like legal documents.

If sanctions cannot be reinstated in response to violations, what will the P5+1 do in the face of Iranian cheating? And they will cheat – they’ve been cheating during the negotiations, why wouldn’t they after it’s signed? They constantly went over the cap on their uranium stockpile; Iran has a long history of trying to obtain nuclear technology, particularly by seeking ways to transport merchandise in circumvention of international sanctions; since November 2013, Tehran has sought industry computers, high-speed cameras, cable fiber, and pumps for its nuclear and missile program. It appears that Iran’s readiness to negotiate does not reflect any substantive policy change. Rather, it is a diplomatic tactical retreat forced by economic distress, not a strategic rethinking of its priorities. As critics have mentioned throughout the negotiations, once the sanctions are gone, Western leverage is gone. Think about it – this isn’t a treaty, so there’s no new international law involved; when sanctions are removed, there are no more constraints on Iranian activity; once European businessmen flood Iran looking for contracts, Iran will be immune from Israeli air strikes – it’s a no-loss environment for cheating.

Mr Obama will have to manage the breach with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the leaders of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states who have warned against the deal, saying the relief of sanctions will ultimately empower the Iranians throughout the Middle East. This will cause Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan to turn to the Russians, with whom dignitaries from those four Arab nations have met, for purchase, in whole or in part, a nuclear program with samples. This deal not only guarantees Iran a nuclear weapon, but creates five nuclear states in the Greater Middle East, joining Israel (the sixth).


[1] At this writing, the text was being downloaded in New York by the various news organizations, which will go through it with their legal staffs and then report on it, probably tomorrow morning.

[2] The facts and figures are from David E Sanger and Michael R Gordon, Iran Nuclear Deal Is Reached After Long Negotiations, in New York Times, July 14 2015.

[3] Iranian commentary from Summary of provisions of the CJPOA, Islamic Republic News Agency, July 14 2015.

[4] Britain, PRC, France, Germany, Russia, the US, the EU and Iran itself. A majority vote is required, meaning that Russia, PRC and Iran could not collectively block action. The investigation and referral process calls for a time schedule of 65 days.

Here Be Dragons

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Old World maps only went out to the mid-Atlantic because no one knew what lay beyond. The edge of these maps was inscribed with the sailor’s warning: “Here Be Dragons.” Liberals are flirting with the dragons of extremism.

The Great Confederate Hysteria is a prime example of Leftist Lunacy. After the Charleston shootings, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley ordered the legislature to consider removing the Confederate battle flag from state property, and placing it instead in a museum. It was a symbolic gesture meant to match the marvelous manner in which the citizens of Charleston came together to offer support to those suffering loss. Old, young, black, brown and white, rich and poor – all came together without divisiveness or rancor. They even forgave the shooter. It was a national moment that coalesced before Al Shparpton could get there to inflame it.

It was a perfect example of how adults handle tragedy.

Then other states joined in. States that don’t even have the battle flag on state property are contemplating removing them from public view; statues commemorating Confederate soldiers are mentioned for removal; streets, buildings, parks and schools named for Confederate heroes are being flagged for re-naming. TVLand has even cancelled re-runs of Dukes of Hazard! It’s a feeding frenzy, based on nothing to do with the Charleston shooting. It’s Liberal political correctness and the assumption that we all have the right not to be offended – or Newspeak, to readers of George Orwell’s 1984. It’s Liberalism gone off the deep end.

Revisionist history is something we always criticized the Soviets for, but it apparently has become Liberal-chic these days. From the playbook of Dynastic Egypt-to-Stalinism, it’s an erasure of history in favor of a “preferred,” whitewashed version. It’s childish. It’s un-American. It’s also deliciously ironic in that the battle flag in question was raised (over the capitol building in South Carolina) by a Democrat, the Confederacy was largely supported by Democrats, and the civil rights movement was initially resisted by Democrats (Eisenhower had to send the 101st Airborne in to enforce integration in Little Rock, remember?).

This is nothing short of censorship – “here’s another word you can no longer use” – calling Islamist terrorists “Islamist terrorists” comes to mind. This comes, not from common sense – like personal slurs – but from a self-assumed superior class that make these decisions “for” us. It’s arrogant and elitist.

Liberals just can’t take “yes” for an answer.

They got gay marriage, now they’ll want churches that can’t find it in their beliefs to perform them to lose their tax exempt status. They’ll want family-owned companies that can’t be part of a gay ceremony to be run out of business. They’ll scour for past comments they deem offensive, and vilify the speaker – try to get them fired. This is “tolerant” Liberals at work.

Liberals fear freedom. They’re sure we’ll make the “wrong” decision if we’re left to our own devices. If you don’t conform, you’re wrong – no, you’re a hater. If you don’t agree with a decision of President Obama’s, you’re racist (never mind that Liberals don’t support his trade policies). If you argue against an idea of Hillary’s, you’re a misogynist (never mind that Liberals think she’s too hawkish, or too tied to Wall Street). If you want voter ID, you’re anti-poor (never mind that you need identification to pick up your entitlements).

Liberals have wandered so far off the rational path they find themselves in that region marked as Here Be Dragons.