February 2018, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Last Friday, Trump Settled Another Lawsuit:  Joe Nocera, who has been covering this for years, has the story.
It's a time-honored tradition: When you've got bad news to release, you put it out late on Friday, hoping no one will notice.  Thus it was that at 6:27 p.m. last Friday, a short Bloomberg News dispatch disclosed that President Donald Trump's golf club in Jupiter, Florida, had agreed to pay 65 former members $5.45 million to settle their legal claim that Trump tried to cheat them out of refundable deposits they were owed when he took over the club in 2012.
Donald Trump often claims he never settles — which isn't exactly true.

His lawyers must have been happy that the Parkland story was getting so much attention; they may even have chosen this time to settle, knowing there would be little coverage.

(Here's my 2016 post on this scandal.)
- 4:05 PM, 28 February 2018   [link]

The Parkland Shooter Committed Many Crimes In School:   But he was never arrested.
When he got in trouble there for fighting, profanity and an “assault,” the school conducted a “threat assessment.” Cruz was sent to an alternative program, then another.  On Feb. 14, he skipped his GED class to commit mass murder.

In 2013, hoping to stop the “school-to-prison pipeline,” Broward schools “stopped referring students to police for infractions ranging from alcohol and drug use to bullying, harassment and assault,” reports the Washington Post.  “Instead, students . . . are offered an alternative program that emphasizes counseling, conflict resolution skills and referral to community social service agencies.”
Nor was he arrested for what appear to be many crimes committed outside the school.

If he had been arrested and convicted of a felony before he turned 18, he would not have been able to buy his guns, legally — though he might have found a way to get some anyway.

(This speculative post makes me wonder whether the local sheriff would have arrested him, even if the school had asked them to.)
- 3:11 PM, 28 February 2018   [link]

This NYT Correction Will Make Some Of Us Smile, Some Of Us Frown:  And some of us do both (though not simultaneously).
Less than a billion years ago, a series of chemical and biological changes culminated in an increase in the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere to today’s 21 percent from a longtime level of about 5 percent.  Humans require a minimum concentration of about 19.5 percent.

Correction: February 25, 2018
An earlier version of this article misstated when chemical and biological changes led to an increase in the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere.  It was less than a billion years ago, not less than a million.
I smiled because that's a pretty funny mistake to find in the Science section of the New York Times; I frowned because it is another example of careless editing in that section — and because I am nearly certain there are some humans, for instance Tibetans, who can get by on less than 19.5 percent oxygen.

(I'm not sure why the correction didn't make it into the print edition that I bought yesterday.  It is dated February 27, but the section may have been printed days earlier.

This Wikipedia article is, as far as I know, a reasonably accurate description of the rise in oxygen in the earth's atmosphere.)
- 8:26 AM, 28 February 2018   [link]

"Pepper . . . And Salt" Made Me Chuckle this morning.
- 7:33 AM, 28 February 2018   [link]

Jared Kushner Loses His Top Secret Clearance:  He has had it for more than a year on an interim basis, but now has lost it.
Presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has had his security clearance downgraded — a move that will prevent him from viewing many of the sensitive documents to which he once had unfettered access.

Kushner is not alone.  All White House aides working on the highest-level interim clearances — at the Top Secret/SCI-level — were informed in a memo sent Friday that their clearances would be downgraded to the Secret level, according to three people with knowledge of the situation.
You would expect those investigating Kushner to try to clear him — quickly — if at all possible.

There are some hints here about why that hasn't happened.

As for Kushner himself, let's just say that I have less faith in his foreign policy abilities than Donald Trump has.

(Jared Kushner)
- 4:14 PM, 27 February 2018   [link]

I Still Don't Know Why Obama's Speech Was Secret:   When I heard that former president Obama had given a secret speech on sports(!) at MIT(!), I was baffled.

And now that I have read this account of the speech, I am still baffled.
On Friday, former President Barack Obama spoke for an hour to an audience of hundreds of people at a major sports analytics* conference at MIT, but his remarks were off-the-record and kept completely secret by virtually all attendees, who had to agree that they would not record, photograph, tweet, or report on the event before being granted a seat in the audience.  Reason obtained a recording of the speech, however, and the most newsworthy thing about it is the simple fact that the public wasn't supposed to hear it.
Why weren't the public supposed to hear the speech, or even accounts of the speech?

Robby Soave doesn't know.

And neither do I.

(I suppose I should add this to my "Strange Obama" list, but I think I'll wait a bit to see if there is some public explanation.)
- 3:34 PM, 27 February 2018   [link]

Time to visit Sidney Harris again.
- 10:40 AM, 27 February 2018   [link]

Mitt Romney Is No Sunshine Patriot:  By now, you have almost certainly heard this news.
Mitt Romney launched his long-anticipated campaign on Friday, tweeting, “I am running for United States Senate to serve the people of Utah and bring Utah’s values to Washington.”

Over recent weeks, much of the national pundit chatter has focused on whether he will be returning to the political arena as a friend or foe to Donald Trump.  But in interviews this week, advisers and allies close to the candidate told me he will seek to avoid direct combat with the president this year, and emerge instead as a full-throated pitchman for his adoptive home state—making the case that Utah’s distinctive brand of conservatism could offer a better way forward for the GOP and the nation.
Romney surely knows that, if he is elected to the Senate, he will find it hard to avoid — if you will forgive this vulgarity — pissing contests with the skunk in the White House, and his supporters.

In spite of what sounds like an intelligent strategy to avoid those confrontations, at least for now.  (And we can be sure that "mainstream" journalists will be trying to provoke those confrontations.)

So why is Romney re-entering politics?

He will tun 71 in March, so he is past the usual retirement age.  He has never been obsessed with power.  I think he is running for the Senate for the best of reasons:  He believes that the country needs him (and people like him).  He's a superb manager, with a clear view of our problems, domestic and foreign, and mostly sensible ideas about how to solve them, or at least alleviate them.

The Senate is where he can have the most impact, for now.

And Romney is probably encouraged by the success men (and women) like him have already had at containing Trump.
Basically, Republican politicians who accommodated themselves to Trump during the 2016 campaign offered the following reassurance to their more Trump-wary voters:  Vote for us, and we will contain him.   Yes, the Republican nominee indulged in wildly irresponsible and authoritarian rhetoric; yes, if he followed through on many of his promises, various disasters could ensue.  But vote for us, and we will contain him.

There were good reasons to be skeptical of this promise.  The presidency’s powers (over foreign policy especially) have waxed as Congress’s have waned, the bully pulpit belongs to the White House, and since Trump’s populist ideas on economics were more popular than the existing G.O.P. agenda, it was easy to see how he could roll over efforts at containment.

But a year later, the project of containment has been much more successful than its critics feared.  Here is a short list of moves — some authoritarian, some just destabilizing — that Trump promised or threatened during the campaign: reinstating waterboarding and allowing torture, even over military objections; shaking up NATO and striking a deal that abandons American allies to a Russian sphere of influence; pulling the United States out of Nafta; changing libel laws to make it easier to bankrupt his critics in the press; launching a major trade war with China; pulling the United States out of the Iranian nuclear deal; installing cronies and relatives in high judicial posts; banning Muslim entry to the United States; and deporting millions of illegal immigrants in an enormous sweep.

A year later none of these things have happened; few have even been meaningfully attempted.  In almost every case the establishment Republicans crowding his cabinet or influencing him from the Senate have had a gentling or restraining (or, from an alt-right perspective, cucking) effect upon Trump’s presidency.
Almost certainly Romney thinks restraining Trump will continue to be a dirty job — but someone has to do it, for the good of the nation.

I hope other statesmen join him, and that some who have chosen to withdraw from the fight will change their minds

(As many of you will have guessed, I borrowed that phrase from Thomas Paine's The American Crisis.
THESE are the times that try men's souls.  The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
Of course I am not saying that the problems we face now are of the same magnitude as those we faced then, but I do think we should praise those who, like Romney, are taking on difficult and unpleasant tasks, rather than retreating from them, as so many elected Republicans are doing.

Thomas Paine)
- 7:55 PM, 26 February 2018   [link]

Andrew Murray Was A Communist For Forty Years:   Not just a communist, but a Communist, a formal member of Britain's Communist Party.

Murray switched to the Labour Party in 2016, after Jeremy Corbyn became the Labour leader.

Now Corbyn has made Murray a "part time consultant".
Andrew Murray has been enlisted by the Labour leader as a part time consultant as the party hones its Brexit strategy.

But his appointment has sparked anger among party moderates who have concerns about his political beliefs.

Mr Murray was a member of the British Communist party for 40 years before he quit to join Labour under Mr Corbyn's left-wing leadership.

He has defended the Russian tyrant Stalin, suggesting his regime was better than living in the West.
The approximately 100 million victims of Communism do not appear to have affected his thinking.  (Most likely he would claim that number is too high, and suggest that many of those victims deserved to die, as enemies of the people.)

An intelligent and informed American president would be doing what he could to prevent Corbyn from ever becoming the British Prime Minister, most likely by doing what he could to strengthen Theresa May.

Sadly, Donald Trump's stock is so low in Britain that we have to hope he says nothing about Corbyn.

(Here's the Guardian article.   I did not find an article at the BBC site, when I searched, a few minutes ago.)
- 4:27 PM, 26 February 2018   [link]

Susan Wright is distressed by this latest Trump claim.

I think it's funny, and suspect that a reporter with a sense of humor might be able to get similar claims from Trump, for instance:  Trump might say that he could beat Stephen Curry in a game of Horse, or that he decided not to become a theoretical physicist because he knew it wouldn't be challenging enough, mentally.

Maybe not those, exactly, but similar ones, I am sure.
- 2:38 PM, 26 February 2018   [link]

Worth Reading:  Joseph Epstein's article, "Chicago, Then and Now".

Epstein begins with these horrifying statistics — which somehow fail to horrify most "mainstream" journalists.
The big news out of Chicago, city of my birth and upbringing, is murder. According to a reliable website called HeyJackass!, during 2017, someone in Chicago was shot every 2 hours and 27 minutes and murdered every 12 hours and 59 minutes.  There were 679 murders and 2,936 people shot in the city.  This, for those who like their deviancy defined down, is an improvement over 2016, when 722 people were murdered and 3,658 shot.  The overwhelming preponderance of these people, victims and murderers both, are black, and the crimes committed chiefly in black neighborhoods on the city’s south and west sides.
And then continues with a long — too long for some — description of the Chicago of his youth to explain how Chicago came to be the American city with the most murders each year.

(Not, I must add, the city with the most murders per capita each year; other cities with similar problems, notably Baltimore and St. Louis, are well ahead of Chicago in that statistic.)

He then returns to the general problem, putting much of the blame on Chicago's Democratic leaders, including, by implication, Barack Obama.

Let me end with this question:  Why are our journalists paying so much attention to the murders in Lakeland almost two weeks ago, and so little to the murders in Chicago every year?

I can think of a number of answers to that question, none of them complimentary.

- 1:48 PM, 26 February 2018   [link]

Pest Control Officers must sometimes remove unusual pests.
- 10:29 AM, 26 February 2018   [link]