Archive:

August 2017, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



What Has Been Happening To Trump's Approval Ratings?   They've been declining.
But let’s not lose sight of the big picture.  Despite the relatively small shift after Charlottesville, the overall trend in Trump’s numbers so far has been toward decline.  In fact, a simple linear trend line captures most of the variation in his approval ratings so far2 and implies that his approval ratings are dropping slightly more than 1 percentage point per month.3  If Trump were to continue losing ground at this rate — though he probably won’t (see below) — it would be truly catastrophic for him, as his numbers would fall into the low 20s by midterms.
That's rule 2 in Nate Silver's "7 Rules For Reading Trump’s Approval Rating".  It's a solid analysis, though I would have added a few remarks on what a recession, a boom, or a war could do to the numbers.

(Last week, I was looking at the same numbers and was struck by the same linear trend.  Fortunately, I didn't get around to writing about it, because Silver took the time to do far more than I would have.)
- 7:23 PM, 24 August 2017   [link]


French Presidents Like To Look Good:  Including Emmanuel Macron.
Emmanuel Macron spent €26,000 (£24,000) on makeup during his first three months as president of France, it has emerged.

In potentially damaging news for the 39-year old centrist leader, whose popularity is waning, Le Point reported that his personal makeup artist - referred to only as Natacha M - put in two bills, one for €10,000 and another for €16,000.
Natacha?  That doesn't sound like a French name to me.

(The article made me wonder whether Charles de Gaulle was as obsessed with makeup as some of his successors.  I don't think so, but I could be wrong.)
- 3:31 PM, 24 August 2017   [link]


Worth Reading:  (Though, sadly, it is behind the Wall Street Journal's pay wall.)

William Galston's column, "The Assault on Free Speech".

If you read only the little bit the Journal shows you, then you will be happy to learn that Cambridge University Press reversed itself.
Cambridge University Press, the world's oldest publishing house, has changed its mind on censoring content in China.

The 485-year-old publisher, based in England, had agreed to suppress access to 300 articles from The China Quarterly that dealt with subjects sensitive to the Chinese authorities, including the Tiananmen Square massacre.  China said the publisher would not be able to publish other material in the country if it didn't concur.

But it reversed its decision after a petition Monday signed by more than 600 academics from around the world protested what they called China's attempts to "export its censorship on topics that do not fit its preferred narrative."
In the short term, this will probably cost the Press some money.

(Here's another good piece on free speech, this one by Conor Friedersdorf.  It's not behind a pay wall.)
- 3:05 PM, 24 August 2017   [link]


Congratulations To Donald Trump on this milestone.
We have been tracking President Trump’s false or misleading claims for more than seven months.  Somewhere around Aug. 4 or Aug. 5, he broke 1,000 claims, and the tally now stands at 1,057.   (Our full interactive graphic can be found here.)

That’s an impressive number by any standard.  In fact, we are a little late with this update because we have simply been overwhelmed keeping track of the deluge of claims made by the president in the later part of July.  Things slowed down during the president’s “working vacation,” so we have finally been able to catch up.
Oddly enough, Trump's stream of whoppers seems to provide him some protection; before we can complain about one, he is on to another, and another after that, and so on.

Trump's constant complaints about "fake news" are, I believe, intended to discourage Trumpistas from thinking about his falsehoods.

I find all his falsehoods insulting — and you should, too.

(For the record:  Over the years, I have found Glenn Kessler to be a reasonably accurate fact checker.  If I were to take weeks to go through that list, I expect that I might be able to reduce the number to 950, or even 900 — but I also think he and his team have missed some.

Here's Kessler's list of "Obama’s biggest whoppers", and here's my comparison of our last three presidents.)
- 9:27 AM, 24 August 2017   [link]


He Hasn't Been Canonized:  But in Naples, soccer player Diego Maradona is already treated as a saint.
Neapolitans venerate an array of saints.  They hold feasts for Santa Patrizia, who devoted her life to the needy, and honor the city’s patron saint, San Gennaro, in a ceremony in which his preserved blood is said to miraculously liquefy.

Above all, they worship Diego Maradona, whose past is, to say the least, somewhat checkered.
Why?  Because he led the local team to championships in 1987 and 1990, in a part of Italy that hasn't seen much good news in recent decades.

(If you are wondering just how "checkered" his past is, Wikipedia has some answers.)
- 8:32 AM, 24 August 2017   [link]


Kshama Sawant Is Being Sued:  By two Seattle police officers.
The two Seattle police officers who fatally shot Che Taylor last year have filed a defamation lawsuit against City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, alleging she falsely declared they had committed a “brutal murder” before they were cleared of wrongdoing by an inquest jury.

The suit, filed Friday in King County Superior Court, was brought against Sawant as an individual.
Not being a lawyer, I won't offer an opinion on who is likely to win this case, though I do sympathize with the police officers.

(Our news organizations routinely refer to Sawant as a "Socialist", which she is, but they neglect to add that she is the kind of socialist called "communist".)
- 8:44 AM, 23 August 2017   [link]


In Every National Election, Some Journalists Are Likely to quote Adlai Stevenson's famous thinking person reply.
A supporter once called out, "Governor Stevenson, all thinking people are for you!"  And Adlai Stevenson answered, "That's not enough.  I need a majority."
That's mildly funny, if not the kind of thing that a pure politician would say — so we should not be surprised that Stevenson is better known for his election losses, than his one victory.

But the quip does raise an interesting question.  Stevenson was dividing voters into "thinking" and "non-thinking".  I think it makes more sense to divide each person's thoughts about politics into Kahneman's "fast" and "slow" categories.

Almost everyone can think slow and rationally about politics, but far too often we voters are not willing to make that extra effort.  That is true, by the way, of those with PhDs, as well as those who never finished grade school.
- 7:59 AM, 23 August 2017   [link]


Ralph Peters Is Not Optimistic about Trump's plan for Afghanistan.
In outlining his vision for applying “principled realism” to the war in Afghanistan, President Trump Monday night insisted there will be no precipitous American withdrawal.   Though he didn’t specify the number, Trump will be sending additional troops — likely up to 4,000 — to Afghanistan.  That would boost our commitment to just above 12,000 men and women in uniform.

And they’ll be expected to accomplish what 140,000 US and allied troops couldn’t achieve at the peak of our engagement, when the Taliban was considerably weaker.
I don't share his pessimism entirely, but he does know far more than I about what our military can — and can not — do.
- 4:22 PM, 22 August 2017   [link]


France, Germany, Demography, And World War I:   Demography may be destiny, but it is not a subject our "mainstream" journalists like to touch.  (A century ago, it was quite openly discussed.)

Although they may ignore it, we shouldn't.

The famous French/German case, which I have alluded to before, is one of those parts of history that every thinking American should know.
The French population only grew by 8.6% between 1871 and 1911, while Germany's grew by 60% and Britain's by 54%.[11]  Ferdinand Foch joked that the only way for France to permanently improve its relationship with Germany was to castrate 20 million Germans.[12]
. . .
French concerns about the country's slow population growth began after its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War.  For four years in the 1890s, the number of deaths exceeded the number of births.  The National Alliance for the Growth of the French Population (ANAPF) was formed in 1896, and the Cognacq-Jay and other prizes were created for the parents of large families.  Émile Zola's 1899 novel Fécondité is representative of contemporary concerns about the birthrate.  The 1.3 million French deaths in World War I, along with even more births forgone by potential fathers being off at war, caused a drop of 3 million in the French population, and helped make Dénatalité a national obsession; by 1920 ANAPF had 40,000 members.  The society proposed that parents of large families receive extra votes, and the belief that women's suffrage in other countries caused birth rates to decline helped defeat proposals before World War II to permit women to vote.  Concern further increased during the "hollow years" of the 1930s, when the number of new conscripts declined because of the lack of births during World War I.  Even the French Communist Party ended its opposition to anti-birth control and anti-abortion laws in 1936, and its leader Maurice Thorez advocated for the "protection of family and childhood".  Existing financial incentives for large families increased in 1939, enough to double the income of a family with six children.[11]   Also, France encouraged immigration, chiefly from other European countries such as Italy, Poland, and Spain.  (In fact, with its low birth rate, stagnating or declining native-born population, and role as a destination for migrants from other parts of Europe, France's situation before World War II was not unlike that of Germany today.)
(Links omitted.)

In 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War, France and Germany had almost identical populations, 36 million to 41 million.   When World War I began in 1914, France had fallen far behind, 39.5 million to 65 million.  (A little thought will show you that Germany's edge in men of military age was even larger, since Germany's population was younger.)

Would World War I have begun in 1914 if France had kept up with Germany's population growth?  Would France have attacked Germany then, if the rates had been reversed?

My answers to those two questions are probably not, and possibly.
- 3:59 PM, 22 August 2017   [link]


John Kass Reminds Us Of Some American History:  And has some fun doing it.
But there's one thing wrong with [Al] Sharpton.  It's not that he goes too far.  It's that he doesn't go far enough.

Because if he and others of the Cultural Revolution were being intellectually honest, they'd demand that along with racist statues, something else would be toppled.

And this, too, represents much of America's racist history:

The Democratic Party.
Some state Democratic parties have been embarrassed enough by this history to rename their Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners.

(Kass is being sarcastic, so he gives he most extreme version of the Sally Hemmings story.)
- 7:53 AM, 22 August 2017   [link]


Every Medical System has to set priorities.
- 7:14 AM, 22 August 2017   [link]


Andrew McCarthy Has More On The Strange Imran Awan Case:  To say the least, McCarthy finds much about the case, suspicious.
To summarize, the indictment is an exercise in omission.  No mention of the Awan group’s theft of information from Congress.  Not a hint about the astronomical sums the family was paid, much of it for no-show “work.”  Not a word about Wasserman Schultz’s keeping Awan on the payroll for six months during which (a) he was known to be under investigation, (b) his wife was known to have fled to Pakistan, and (c) he was not credentialed to do the IT work for which he had been hired.  Nothing about Wasserman Schultz’s energetic efforts to prevent investigators from examining Awan’s laptop.  A likely currency-transportation offense against Alvi goes uncharged.   And, as for the offenses that are charged, prosecutors plead them in a manner that avoids any reference to what should be their best evidence.

There is something very strange going on here.
Indeed there is.

(For the record:  I believe some of the offences McCarthy mentions are still "alleged".  And I still haven't come to a conclusion about how large this scandal is.)
- 4:32 PM, 21 August 2017   [link]


That Statue Isn't The Only Tribute To Lenin in Seattle:  There's also this local beer.

As far as I can tell from a very quick search, Mayor Ed Murray has not yet asked Hale's to find a less offensive name and label.  (I have seen the beer for sale a few times, though not recently — and never saw a reason to add it my shopping cart.)
- 2:55 PM, 21 August 2017   [link]


Human Eyes Versus Automatic Lights:  During the eclipse, which reached 92 percent of totality here, I wandered down to Marina Park to join the crowd watching it.

The sunlight seemed almost as bright when the moon covered almost all of the sun, as it had before.  But the automatic lights weren't fooled.  Lights on the main dock came on, as did lights at the entrances to the public restroom.
- 2:40 PM, 21 August 2017   [link]


Worth Reading:  This FiveThirtyEight post, "Earth Has The Solar System’s Best Eclipses".

The best, but not unique.
In the excitement surrounding this year’s eclipse, some astronomers have speculated that Earth is the only place where conditions for a total solar eclipse, in which only the sun’s corona is visible, exist in the solar system.  Is there anywhere else we could find an alignment of planet, moon and sun that could produce total, corona-only eclipses as well as an alignment that could produce ring-of-fire eclipses, in which the sun’s outer circumference is visible behind the moon?

Eclipse chaser Bill Kramer, who first saw a total eclipse as a 13-year-old standing on a cruise ship in the North Atlantic, aimed to find out.
. . .
In the end, he found two moons with eclipse potential — both orbiting Saturn.   The moon Pandora, which looks like a dented potato, can produce a total eclipse as viewed from Saturn’s cloud tops, but its weird shape makes it less likely to produce a perfect black hole surrounded by a corona.  There’s just one moon with that distinction: Epimetheus, a dinky thing just 84 miles across at its longest point that hangs out in a gap amid Saturn’s rings and zips around the planet every 17 hours.
(Links omitted.)

There are other moons in our solar system — five of them around Jupiter alone — that completely block the sun for parts of their planets.

But they don't show any watchers that wonderful ring of fire that our eclipses do.
- 9:01 AM, 21 August 2017   [link]


Eclipse Cartoons:  The Washington Post claims these are the "best".  (My favorite in that article: "Calvin and Hobbes".)

If you want to make your own best list, a simple search will turn up many possibilities.
- 7:07 AM, 21 August 2017   [link]


Seattle Mayor Ed Murray Thinks The Lenin Statue Ought To Go:  The mayor was asked about that when he said Confederate memorials in the city ought to go.  (A private cemetery has a few memorials put up by the Daughters of the Confederacy, about a century ago.)

The mayor agreed with some Trump supporters.
During an interview with KIRO Radio 97.3 on Wednesday, Murray advocated for the statue's removal in response to a question, saying:
"In the last few days, Seattleites have expressed concerns and frustration over symbols of hate, racism and violence that exist in our city.  Not only do these kinds of symbols represent historic injustices, their existence causes pain among those who themselves or whose family members have been impacted by these atrocities.  We should remove all these symbols, no matter what political affiliation may have been assigned to them in the decades since they were erected.  This includes both confederate memorials and statues idolizing the founder of the authoritarian Soviet regime.  Both are on private property, but I believe the confederate memorial at Lake View Cemetery and the Lenin statue in Fremont should be removed.  We should never forget our history, but we also should not idolize figures who have committed violent atrocities and sought to divide us based on who we are or where we came from."
Murray's statement came a day after a small group led outspoken Trump supporter Jack Posobiec demonstrated in front of the statue, equating it with Confederate memorials being removed on the East Coast in the wake of last weekend's deadly violence in Virginia.
My take?  I disagree with both Murray and the Trump supporters.  I think the statue should stay — with the kind of context I suggested in 2004.   A small memorial to the victims of Communism, as near the statue as possible, would be a good solution.

Seattle defenders of the statue usually claim it is hip and ironic, and not at all intended to be a tribute to the founder of Communism, even though that was why it was created.  (If you want to see a typical such argument, look in today's Seattle Times for a letter from Craig Knebel.  It is so annoying, I am not going to link to it.)

(Here's the history of the statue, if you are curious.)
- 3:32 PM, 20 August 2017   [link]


It's A Funny Mistake:  Especially when you remember that's what we tell well-trained dogs to do.
- 2:15 PM, 20 August 2017   [link]


Today's "Pepper . . . And Salt" Cartoon made me smile.

And then made me worry — briefly — thinking it might be true.
- 12:59 PM, 20 August 2017   [link]


Smokezilla Moonset:  The smoke from the British Columbia wild fires made the moon look strange, too.

Smokezilla Moonset

I might have gotten a slightly clearer picture if I had used a tripod, but I doubt it.
- 4:31 PM, 19 August 2017   [link]


Worth Reading:  Patterico's post on Trump's Venezuelan blunder.
Donald Trump has finally fulfilled his role as The Great Unifier . . . in a way.   Namely, he has unified Latin America against him, at a time when we need their support against the incipient dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.
By talking loosely about a "military option" in Venezuela.  It is hard to think of anything he could say that would be more likely to unify the Latin American nations — against us.

(This is about as idiotic as his ban on Iraqi nationals, something I discussed here and here.)
- 2:40 PM, 19 August 2017   [link]


And Another One Bites The Dust:  Just in case you hadn't seen this picture.  Or an equivalent one.

(For the record:  I don't think any of the four men were good fits for their White House jobs.  For instance, the abilities that made Reince Priebus a good party chairman — as far as I can tell — are not the abilities needed in a chief of staff.)
- 9:53 AM, 19 August 2017   [link]


Pure Nonsense:  With no political content.

Though some have tried to find it in that nursery rhyme.
- 9:03 AM, 19 August 2017   [link]


Worth Reading:  Michael Barone's column, "What Identity Politics Hath Wrought".
President Trump was widely criticized -- by many conservatives, as well as liberals -- for his Saturday statement condemning "this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides" without specifically denouncing white nationalism.   Barack Obama faced much less criticism in July 2016 when he lamented the Dallas police murders but went on to decry "the racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system."
. . .
Like Obama in 2016, Trump this week was (mostly) accurate.   But both presidents made themselves vulnerable to the charge of sending dog whistles to favored groups -- playing identity politics.   Both failed, to varying degrees and with varied responses, to deliver undiluted denunciations of criminal violence and bigotry.
Most political analysts would, I believe, say that Obama and Trump hurt themselves, too, by those "dog whistle" appeals.
- 1:20 PM, 18 August 2017   [link]


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

You won't be surprised to learn that many of them are about Charlottesville.   Unfortunately.

My favorites:  In Politico, Steve Kelley's "fascism" and Scot Stantis's "many sides"; in RealClearPolitics, Chip Bok's "transgender" and Gary Varvel's "few questions".
- 10:04 AM, 18 August 2017   [link]


Communists Then, White Supremacists Now:   Professor Volokh "can’t stand" either — but he thinks both should have freedom of speech.
I’ve been struck by the similarity between recent calls for suppressing white supremacist speech and past calls for suppressing Communist speech.  Of course, there are differences as well — there always are for any analogy — but I thought I’d note some likenesses:
The similarities are striking, which should not surprise us, since the hard freedom of speech cases are almost always about people with disgusting ideas.  Ideas that tempt us to supress them.
- 2:08 PM, 17 August 2017   [link]


This BBC Article Is Probably A Reasonably Accurate Summary of what authorities know about the Barcelona terror attack.
A van has ploughed into pedestrians in Barcelona's famous Las Ramblas tourist area, killing 13 people and injuring at least 80.  Spanish police have described it as a terror attack.

Here's what we know so far about what happened.
(The article may be updated, as more is learned.)
- 1:42 PM, 17 August 2017
More:  As I suggested, the article has been updated, several times at least, and may still be changing.  Generally the BBC does this kind of article very well, but it occurs to me that it might be even better if they added tabs pointing to earlier versions, so a reader could see how it evolved.
- 11:14 AM, 18 August 2017   [link]


Too Funny Not to share.
It was a strange moment of triumph against racism: The gun-slinging white supremacist Craig Cobb, dressed up for daytime TV in a dark suit and red tie, hearing that his DNA testing revealed his ancestry to be only “86 percent European, and … 14 percent Sub-Saharan African.”  The studio audience whooped and laughed and cheered. And Cobb — who was, in 2013, charged with terrorizing people while trying to create an all-white enclave in North Dakota — reacted like a sore loser in the schoolyard.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute, hold on, just wait a minute,” he said, trying to put on an all-knowing smile.  “This is called statistical noise.”
No, it isn't.

And Cobb isn't the only white supremacist to have had this kind of surprise.

Those who are surprised often react as he did — by rejecting the evidence.
- 8:47 AM, 17 August 2017   [link]


Joanne Jacobs Recycles a "Calvin and Hobbes" classic.

(The problem she discusses in the post is real — and has no easy solution.)
- 8:29 AM, 17 August 2017   [link]