Archive:

April 2017, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Donald Trump's Need For Applause:  Back in January, I made this prediction:
Presidents generally begin the transition with a "honeymoon" period, with higher popularity than they had at the end of the campaign.   That was true, to some extent, even for Trump, but it looks as if this man — who craves public applause — will be getting less and less of it, from the general public.

Which leads me to this prediction:   Within the first six months of his presidency, Trump will start doing campaign events, again.   (As you probably know, he did several of them after the election.)
In February, I noted that I had been too timid, and that he had begun campaign rallies even sooner than I predicted.

This need for applause explains why Trump skipped the White House correspondent's dinner, and instead went to a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, which is not important.

But this may be:

Trump's need for applause worries me, because I think other leaders, including some of our enemies, will exploit it.  (That may have already happened during his meeting with President Xi Jinping of China.)

I worry, in other words, that this "master of the deal" will be an easily fooled patsy in his negotiations with foreign leaders (and special interests here in the United States).
- 4:43 PM, 30 April 2017   [link]


This Sport Is New To Me:  But it looks cool — figuratively and literally.
North American snowkite pioneer Aaron Sales breaks the non-motorized speed record to Mt St Helens' summit rim.  Using the power of wind, Sales ascended 3,150 vertical feet in under 35 minutes.
There are a few other mountains in this region that might tempt Sales, now that he has shown what he can do.

(The usual Wikipedia article.)
- 3:38 PM, 30 April 2017   [link]


Dairy Farmers Will Like this cartoon.

(Others may learn something from it.)
- 3:18 PM, 30 April 2017   [link]


Worth Buying:  This weekend's Wall Street Journal, if only for Stacy Meichtry and William Horobin's biography of Emmanuel Macron, "The Calculated Rise of Macron".

Macron is a bold and brilliant moderate reformer, who is very likely to be the next president of France.
- 3:36 PM, 29 April 2017   [link]


This Week's Collections Of Political Cartoons from Politico and RealClearPolitics.

My favorites:  In Politico, David Horsey's wall and Chip Bok's judicial double standards; in RealClearPolitics, Steve Kelley's Obama's speaking fees.
- 3:10 PM, 29 April 2017   [link]


Punjabi Parents Really Want To Have Sons:  Even when the Punjabis live in Canada.
While Canadian-born women give birth to about 105 boys for every 100 girls, Urquia and his team from the University of Toronto and St. Michael's Hospital, showed Punjabi-speaking mothers in Ontario, at their third birth, had 240 boys for every 100 girls.

"We expected that with longer exposure to Canada's environment of greater gender equality, immigrants from India would progressively shift toward valuing daughters and sons more equally," Urquia said.  But it seems that's not so.

Instead of finding a decrease, they actually found a slight increase in preference for boys.
(From the rest of the article, I suspect that 240-100 ratio occurs after the families already have two daughters.)

A glance at the Demographics of India (and a little arithmetic) will show you that sex selection for boys has been important there too, for about two decades.

By way of Kate McMillan.
- 3:02 PM, 28 April 2017   [link]


Tunnels, Dynamite, Bulldozers, Cutting Torches, Ramps, Grappling Hooks, Ladders, Speedboats, Sailboats, Rowboats, Rubber Rafts, Paddle Boards, Submarines, Swimming, Jet Planes, Propeller Planes, Helicopters, Drones, Gliders, Hang Gliders, Hot Air Balloons, Blimps:  And, of course, overstayed visas.

Those are just a few of the ways I can think of to get under, through, around, or over Donald Trump's proposed border wall with Mexico.  (The last is by far the most important.)

So, although there are places a wall makes sense — and many of those places already have walls — a wall along our whole border with Mexico is not a practical way to control who enters the United States, and who does not.

I don't know whether Trump knows this, and doesn't care, or whether he believes his old campaign speeches.

(So far, I haven't figured out how one could use a skateboard to get past the wall, but there probably is a way.)
- 1:56 PM, 28 April 2017   [link]


Another Statement From Donald Trump That Will Make Some People Want To Laugh, Other People Want To Cry:  And still other people — me, for instance — want to do both.
President Donald Trump said Thursday he expected the presidency to be "easier" than his "previous life" as a real estate mogul.

"I loved my previous life.  I had so many things going," the president told Reuters in a wide-ranging Oval Office interview.  "This is more work than in my previous life.  I thought it would be easier."
It is possible to guess how Trump might have come to think the job of being president is relatively easy.  He has such a high opinion of his own abilities, and such a low opinion of his presidential predecessors, that he would think they were not producing amazing results because they were not him.

We should, I suppose, be grateful that he is giving up a little bit of his delusions, and coming closer to reality.
- 1:12 PM, 28 April 2017   [link]


The Death Toll In Venezuela Has Almost Reached 30:   And there is reason to think it will continue to rise.
Violent protests against the government continued in the capital Caracas on Wednesday, with one protester killed.

He was hit by a tear gas canister during clashes with police.

Nearly 30 people have been killed since the wave of protests against President Nicolas Maduro began last month.
Not everyone is marching; some are too hungry.

Large majorities now oppose the regime — but the regime still controls the police and the armed forces, and is unwilling to give up power.

It seems likely that this slow tragedy will continue, perhaps until fall, when Venezuela is likely to become formally bankrupt, when a big bond payment is due.

(Some think a compromise might have been reached earlier, if it hadn't been for the clumsy interference by Pope Francis and President Obama.)
- 9:29 AM, 28 April 2017   [link]


One Of My Favorite "Far Side" Cartoons:  And you can look at it without violating any copyrights.

(It took me a while to figure out how to do that.

I've long thought that Gary Larson should be a little more relaxed about protecting his copyrights, that he would sell more books if, for instance, he allowed Wikipedia to use one or two of his cartoons, and allowed Amazon buyers to see a few before purchasing a collection.

And, as I am sure you know, it is easy enough to find his cartoons with an image search, so they aren't really being protected, anyway.)
- 6:08 AM, 28 April 2017   [link]


Greg Mankiw's Column On Business Tax Reform seems sensible — but I am no expert on the subject.  (Long ago, I decided that I could understand our federal tax system, or have a life, but not both.)

Sample:
The motivating force behind business tax reform is that the statutory corporate tax rate in the United States is one of the highest in the world.   The high rate encourages all kinds of perverse behavior, such as leaving money parked in overseas subsidiaries and inverting corporate structures to take advantage of lower rates abroad.

The current corporate tax finds no fan in Kevin A. Hassett, the economist recently nominated by President Trump to lead the Council of Economic Advisers.   Some of Mr. Hassett’s research suggests that our high corporate taxes may be so distortional that a cut in the rate might increase tax revenue.

In another paper, Mr. Hassett finds that corporate taxes depress wages for manufacturing workers. In a world where capital is mobile and labor is not, capital escapes from high-tax nations, leaving workers behind to bear the burden of lower productivity and reduced incomes.
(For the record:  These changes in business taxes seem sensible to me, but I oppose a "massive" individual tax cut.  Anyone who has looked at the numbers knows we can't afford one, without entitlement reform — which Donald Trump opposes.)
- 8:06 AM, 27 April 2017   [link]


That May Not Be Too Much to hope for.
- 7:13 AM, 27 April 2017   [link]


Catch-And-Release Pirates in 1801:   After American independence, American ships lost the protection of the British navy, and began to fall prey to the Barbary pirates.  Under the Articles of Confederation, there was little the American government could do but complain.   Once the Constitution was ratified and in effect, the United States could do more, and began to do so, though our first actions weren't entirely admirable.
While the United States did secure peace treaties with the Barbary states, it was obliged to pay tribute for protection from attack.  The burden was substantial: in 1800 payments in ransom and tribute to the Barbary states amounted to 20% of United States federal government's annual expenditures.[23]
We had begun to build a navy under George Washington; by the time Jefferson took office in 1801, we were ready to use it against them.

But we still had much to learn, as C. S. Forester shows in The Barbary Pirates.
However the action lacked force, because President Jefferson decided that he could not, under the Constitution, consider the United States to be at war with Tripoli, even though Tripoli was at war with the United States.  The result of this was seen when the schooner Enterprise fell in with the Tripolitan ship of war Tripoli, out-maneuvered her, fought her, beat her into a wreck and forced her to surrender, and then allowed her to go free again. (Chapter 3)
The American captain, Lieutenant Andrew Sterett, was following his orders; since we were not at war with Tripoli, he could fight and even destroy a ship from Tripoli, but not capture one.

Six months later, Congress passed a declaration of war, and the orders were changed so American ships could capture pirate ships, as well as sink or burn them.

As the war went on, the United States began to find the right combinations of ships, men, commanders, and strategy, but it was not an easy learning process.

(The Barbary Pirates is fun to read, and instructive if you want it to be, though modern historians might quibble with some of the details.

Wikipedia has an article on the fight.)
- 3:08 PM, 26 April 2017   [link]


Eric Allie Satirized political fashions on Monday, and again on Tuesday.

I hope to see more of these, though I fear the intended targets won't understand them.

(I had forgotten that "Prickly City" has been banned, though not, I think, since Eric Allie took over the strip from Scott Stantis.)
- 9:02 AM, 26 April 2017   [link]


Worth Reading:  Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox's analysis, "The Politics of Migration: From Blue to Red".
In 2016 alone, states that supported Donald Trump gained 400,000 domestic migrants from states that supported Hillary Clinton.  This came on top of an existing advantage in net domestic red state migration of 1.45 million people from 2010 through 2015.  Contrary to popular perception, these blue state emigres aren’t all fleeing economically challenged places such as upstate New York or inland California.  Mostly, they have left the biggest cities, which are the electoral base of the Democratic Party.  Metropolitan New York has led the way in out-migration, followed by Los Angeles and Chicago.  Since 2000, these metropolitan areas have lost a net 5.5 million domestic migrants to other parts of the country.
Net, Americans are continuing to move away from areas governed by Democrats and toward areas governed by Republicans.

They make those moves mostly for personal reasons, but the result is profoundly important, politically.

(It is not surprising that leaders of cities that are continuing to lose native-born Americans would be pro-immigrant, even pro illegal immigrant.)
- 7:30 PM, 25 April 2017   [link]


Joanne Jacobs Has Some Sensible Things To Say about tomboys, including this:
Looking at a variety of studies, “it appears that about 80 percent of kids with gender dysphoria end up feeling okay, in the long run, with the bodies they were born into,” writes Jesse Singal in New York Magazine.
Giving a child hormones, or even surgery, can prevent that natural outcome, I suspect.

I have seen many tomboys become less so — after puberty.

(For the record.  If you believe in evolution, you will find it hard to believe in "transgender" individuals.  If you believe in intelligent design and "transhender" individuals, you are going to have to assume that the designer is sometimes perverse.)
- 3:23 PM, 25 April 2017   [link]


Trump's Personnel Problems:  The Washington Post has a little list.
-- The first three tumultuous months of Trump’s term have seen a perhaps unprecedented number of personnel casualties.  A big part of the problem is that his transition team did a lousy job of vetting.  Red flags that might have been discovered by a simple Google search didn’t emerge in some cases until after nominees were named publicly.  The president also gravitated toward billionaires as he stocked the government, and the richer someone is the more conflicts they are likely to have.  Complying with the requirements of the Office of Government Ethics proved too onerous for some.  The premium that this president places on loyalty over experience and qualifications cost others their postings. Backstabbing and palace intrigue — which created a brutal, joyless work environment in the West Wing — drove others away after only weeks in their dream jobs.
In my opinion, the problems are insoluble, though better vetting would help.  There simply aren't that many experienced, competent executives — who are willing to give President Trump the personal loyalty he demands.

Since personal loyalty is critical, he has to rely far too much on those few he can trust, mostly members of his immediate family.  In that, Trump is like a typical tribal leader, or more than a few dictators.  In contrast, most presidents are able to choose from a much wider group, those who share their ideologies.
- 2:52 PM, 25 April 2017   [link]


This Story May Not Be Completely True:  But it is so much fun that I am sharing it, anyway.
Three Islamic State jihadis have reportedly been killed by rampaging wild boars near Iraqi farmland.

The three Islamic State militants were cut down by the feral boar known to inhabit Kirkuk in the the al-Rashad region, a local news site claims.

They attacked the militants and left three killed, Iraqi News reports.
Here's Kirkuk, if you are wondering where it is, and what kind of city has wild boars.

(Berlin has had a wild boar problem for years.  Perhaps we could ship some of them to ISIS-held areas.)
- 8:54 AM, 25 April 2017   [link]


Yesterday's New Yorker Cartoon was mildly funny.

(Today's not so much.)
- 8:06 AM, 25 April 2017   [link]