January 2017, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
Reverse Coattails In 2016 (2): In 2016, House Republicans won more total votes (63,153,387-62,980,160) and a higher percentage (49.1-46.0) of the total vote than Donald Trump.
This is not unprecedented, but it is unusual, since voting tends to drop off as you go down the ballot from the presidency.
It did not happen in 2012, when Barack Obama ran ahead of House Democrats by more than 6 million votes.
Nor did it happen in 2008, when Barack Obama ran ahead of House Democrats by more than 4 million votes.
It did not happen in 2004, when George W. Bush ran ahead of House Republicans by more than 6 million votes.
Nor did it happen in 2000, when George W, Bush ran ahead of House Republicans by more than 3 million votes.
(I haven't checked, but I believe, if we exclude the three-way races in 1992 and 1996, then the last time a winning presidential candidate ran behind the House candidates of his party was in 1976, when Jimmy Carter was elected.)
If there were any coattails in the 2016 elections, they may have been reverse coattails, with the House candidates helping Trump more than Trump helping them.
(Here's the first post in this series.
There are three minor technical points I should mention. The first weakens my argument slightly; the second and third strengthen it.
House incumbents, especially after two or three terms, will often be stronger than their party in the district, because they have built support by doing favors for individual voters in the district, for instance, helping them with social security or one of the many other government programs.
Second, unfortunately for those who would like to see total votes from all the districts, the two major parties do not have candidates in all the districts, not even sacrificial candidates. You can see four 2016 examples in New York state (8, 9, 16, and 17) alone. If you look at them, you will see they are all Democratic districts, as is typical.
Third, in recent years, California and Washington have adopted "top-two" primaries, so sometimes the general elections pit two Democrats, or two Republicans, against each other. There were two such House districts in Washington state in 2016, one Republican (4) and one Democratic (7). There were seven in California (17, 29, 32, 34, 37, 44, and 46), all Democratic.)
- 5:48 PM, 24 January 2017 [link]
I've Assumed For Years That Some Of The Book Reviews At Amazon Were Written By People Who Had Not Read The Books: But this is the first time I can recall seeing a reviewer admit that he hadn't read the book he was reviewing.
I haven't read this book but neither will I after reading Charlie Savage's review of it on NYBooks.com entitled "Was Snowden a Russian Agent?". It is full of speculation, misinformation, and errors.(I think Tim Locke means the book is full of errors, not the review.)
Locke deserves, I suppose, some credit for his honesty.
- 10:53 AM, 24 January 2017 [link]
In His Meeting With Congressional Leaders, President Trump repeated a falsehood.
Days after being sworn in, President Trump insisted to congressional leaders invited to a reception at the White House that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal votes, according to people familiar with the meeting.(Last November, I wrote about Trump's claim, noting that Republicans — who control most of the states — have a strong incentive to fight voter fraud, and that illegal immigrants have strong incentives to avoid the attention they might attract by illegal votes. That doesn't mean that there were no illegal votes in the 2016 election, but the total of such votes would be in the thousands or tens of thousands, not millions.
And some of the illegal votes were for Donald Trump.
Yesterday, I said that we couldn't tell whether President Obama believed what he said about voter-IDs and vote fraud. For similar reasons, we can't tell whether President Trump believes what he said to those leaders. So I can repeat, with a little editing, what I said then:
If Trump does believe there were millions of illegal votes cast against him, then he is willfully misinformed. If he doesn't believe that, then he is lying about a very sensitive subject.
Speculation: Most likely, in my opinion, is a mixture of the two; he hasn't bothered to learn the facts, but has picked up what he considers a useful talking point, and is repeating it.
- 10:29 AM, 24 January 2017 [link]
Washington State Has An M60 Tank: In case there is another WTO riot? No.
To prevent Eastern Washington from seceding? No, one tank wouldn't be nearly enough.
It's used for avalanche control on the state's most heavily traveled mountain pass, Snoqualmie.
Even with the tank, and much other equipment, in the winter the pass is often closed for hours, and sometimes days, for avalanche control, and by actual avalanches.
- 7:40 AM, 24 January 2017 [link]
You May Not Want To Show This Cartoon to conspiracy theorists.
- 5:56 AM, 24 January 2017 [link]
In His Final Press Conference, President Obama said two false things about voting.
At his final press conference, Obama promised that he would continue to fight voter-ID laws and other measures designed to improve voting integrity. The U.S. is “the only country among advanced democracies that makes it harder to vote,” he claimed. “It traces directly back to Jim Crow and the legacy of slavery, and it became sort of acceptable to restrict the franchise. . . . This whole notion of election-voting fraud, this is something that has constantly been disproved. This is fake news.”(Three false things if you count the historical mistake.)
Many other nations have voter-ID laws, and there is some vote fraud in every national election.
So why did Obama say what he did? We can't tell for certain whether he believes either of those things. If he does, then he is willfully misinformed. If he doesn't believe them, then he is lying about a very sensitive subject.
Speculation: Most likely, in my opinion, is a mixture of the two; he hasn't bothered to learn the facts on either issue, but has picked up what he considers useful talking points, and is repeating them.
- 4:00 PM, 23 January 2017 [link]
People In Pittsburgh Are Polite: Maybe too polite, say some traffic experts.
- 7:19 AM, 23 January 2017 [link]
The Trend In US Manufacturing Employment: An article in Friday's Wall Street Journal, "Challenges Lurk in the Economy", was annoying and instructive. (It was so annoying that I'm not even going to provide a search link to it, but you can find it by looking for articles by Nick Timiraos.)
Nonetheless, it is also instructive, with a set of graphs showing changes in the economy during the presidencies of Eisenhower through Obama.
One of the graphs showed the changes in manufacturing employment — as a percentage of total employment. During Eisenhower's time in office, that percentage fell; manufacturing jobs were a smaller share of total jobs when he left office than when he came into office. The percentage fell again while his successor, John F. Kennedy, was in office.
Are you beginning to see the trend?
The percentage continued to fall during each of the following presidencies: Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
In 1953, when Eisenhower took office, about 32 percent of the jobs were in manufacturing; now, as Obama leaves office, about 8 percent are.
(There are similar trends in farming and mining jobs.)
Everyone knows — or should know — why there has been that decline in the percentage: As productivity increased, we needed fewer and fewer workers to produce more and more goods. That has made us far richer as a nation, but has often been hard on the workers (and farmers and miners) who are no longer needed.
Is it possible to bring back all those manufacturing jobs, as a certain presidential candidate promised? Not without making all of us much poorer.
There are things we can, and should, do to create and preserve manufacturing jobs. But it is dishonest and cruel to promise that we can go back to even ten years ago, much less sixty.
(I said I found the article annoying; I should explain why. By presenting the data by presidents, Timiraos is implying that the presidents caused the changes in the graphs and, even more absurdly, that their effects end when they leave office. I've seen similar examples of this error in the Journal recently, and think them out of place in the best business newspaper in the world.
Instead of presenting this data by presidents, they should present it by year, or even by quarter or month, if possible.)
- 9:34 PM, 22 January 2017 [link]
Speaking Of Absurd, As I Just Was, for the Trump administration, the big issue this weekend was — crowd size.
The first official White House press conference is on Monday, but Sean Spicer called a Very Special Presser Saturday evening. Why? He had something he wanted to get off his chest. "[P]hotographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall," he said. After trotting out some scientific-sounding numbers, he then insisted that "This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period —both in person and around the globe." And that "These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong."You can believe Donald Trump and Sean Spicer, or your lying eyes (to borrow a line from Groucho Marx).
(For the record: Like Jonathan Last, I see no reason why anyone, other than specialists in counting crowd sizes, should care about this.
Fun fact: The Maoist regime used to ask visiting leaders they wanted to impress how large a crowd they wanted. If the leader asked for 100,000, for example, that's what they got.)
- 10:45 AM, 22 January 2017 [link]
If You Need A Little Absurdity, this cartoon will provide it.
- 9:41 AM, 22 January 2017 [link]
Eight Years Ago, I Made These Predictions About Barack Obama's Presidency: I think they were reasonably accurate — and I wish I had been wrong.
But That's Not The Way To Bet: Of course, I hope Barack Obama succeeds as president, because I love my country. If Obama succeeds, the country will be better off, and all Americans should wish for that. (Not all do. Many Americans, most of them on the left, think our nation is not fundamentally good. For some of them, the ills that come our way are just punishments.)
(Obama's policies are unlikely to make much difference to me personally, since I am retired and do not live in a likely target for terrorists. Where they might affect me negatively, for example by increasing the price of gasoline or housing, I expect to be able to change my own behavior to cope.)
And because I wish the people in the rest of the world well. Americans are inclined to forget this, but others often pay most of the price for our failures. Rwanda, Iran, and Cambodia are the most prominent examples of others paying for our failures, and it is easy to add to that list.
But I would not bet that Obama succeeds. And the reasons he is unlikely to succeed are so obvious that even "mainstream" journalists should be able to see them. He is poorly educated for the presidency. He knows little about economics, so little that he apparently does not understand something as basic as the advantages of free trade. He knows little about American history. One telling example: While campaigning for president, he had to admit that he did not know where Hanford was. Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times is much impressed by the books Obama has read, or says he has read. I am almost in despair when I read the same list. Obama will be the commander in chief — but he appears to have read almost nothing on military history or strategy. And he does not seem to see that as a defect in his preparation for the presidency. There no books on science, technology, or economics in the list.
He has no executive experience. He has never even headed a small law firm, much less commanded a regiment, ran a company, headed a Cabinet department, governed a state, or served as vice president. As far as I know, he hasn't even coached a basketball team. (He does have some legislative experience, of course, but he was not a leader in either the Illinois senate or the United States senate. Though head of a Senate sub-committee, he never bothered to call a hearing.)
He has few significant accomplishments, other than writing two books about himself. His work as a community organizer did little to help his community, though it did provide a foundation for his political career. He was not a particularly successful lawyer, though he received significant help from political allies. He was chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge while it passed out fifty million dollars to improve Chicago schools — and made no improvements in those schools. (The CAC did provide jobs for some of Obama's political allies.) He published no academic papers while working as a part-time lecturer at the University of Chicago law school. He did little in the Illinois senate, other than funneling money to his political allies. (He did claim credit for the work others did before him.) He had almost no accomplishments as a United States senator.
He has the fewest accomplishments of any person elected president in at least the last hundred years, perhaps the fewest ever.
He has been wrong on the great issues of our time. He opposed the Reagan build-up that helped bring down the Soviet Union. He opposed welfare reform. He favors affirmative action, in spite of its many failures. He opposed the surge in Iraq and predicted that it would fail.
He is either a poor judge of character, or he does not care about the moral failings of his associates. We still do not know the whole story of his association with terrorist William Ayers, but we do know that Obama saw nothing wrong with the man. He did not know or care that his long-time supporter, Tony Rezko, was a crook. For two decades, he belonged a church where doctrines some call racist were preached — and was not bothered by Reverend Wright, until Wright became a political liability. He backed many of the corrupt politicians from the Chicago political machine, including Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
He does not have the character required in the presidency. In particular, he does not have the humility that the position requires. I am not the only, or even the first, person to suggest that Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" might be an appropriate theme song for him. Since a president is almost always surrounded by flatterers, he should have more humility than most of us do. Enough, for instance, to reject all the comparisons to Lincoln, rather than encouraging them.
There are, I should say in closing, some positive signs. In some areas Obama has adopted Bush policies and even a Bush nominee, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. And he has backed off some of the promises he made to get the Democratic nomination. But even those are not entirely positive signs, since Obama may be making these shifts out of political calculation, rather than an understanding of his own errors.
So I wish him well, but I would not bet on him being a successful president. There are simply too many reasons to expect him to fail, and almost none to expect him to succeed.
(I'll have more specific predictions on how I expect Obama to fail in the next few weeks and months.
Will our "mainstream" journalists recognize Obama's failures? And will they report them if they do recognize the failures? Probably not, and almost certainly not.)
(I haven't decided whether I will do a similar post for Donald Trump. I would like to, but am not sure I can do a reasonable job at it, since there is still so much uncertainty about how he will govern.)
- 11:36 AM, 20 January 2017 [link]
No Desks For Cabinet Secretaries? Charles Duhigg describes one of the problems Trump's cabinet members will face.
(The furniture of political appointees is removed during each presidential transition, and — spoiler alert — it often takes weeks for new desks and bookcases to arrive.)That problem will have a solution in weeks; most others described in the article are permanent.
The permanent problems are likely to be more severe than in 2008, since so many federal bureaucrats are not just Democrats, but leftist Democrats.
- 8:40 AM, 20 January 2017 [link]
Here's A Prediction on Donald Trump's inaugural speech. It seems plausible, but I won't go any further than that.
I'll be following my usual practice, and not watching or listening to the speech, though I do intend to read it, later.
(Because the chance of interruption is higher this time than in most inaugurals, I suspect his speechwriters — no, I don't think he wrote it all himself — have lines prepared, just in case.)
- 7:17 AM, 20 January 2017 [link]
Before His First Inauguration, Ronald Reagan Borrowed A Line From William Buckley: It's a good enough line to get included in Bob Dole's Great Political Wit.
Just before he assumed office, Ronald Reagan was briefed by his advisers on the many problems that the country faced. He joked, "I think I'll demand a recount." (p. 61)(Here's the Buckley story. Reagan's advisors would have know he was quoting Buckley.)
If you need more jokes today, Amazon will let you read many more in Dole's book.
- 6:46 AM, 20 January 2017 [link]
Thor Halvorssen Takes A Big Hammer To Corruption In Venezuela: Here's how he begins (link fixed):
Venezuela is no longer a country with a government, institutions and a civil society. It’s a geographic area terrorized by a criminal enterprise that pretends to govern, with a civil society made up of two sets of people: accomplices and victims.The United States has more than ten times as many people as Venezuela, so the proportionate looting here, by population, would be more than $10 trillion. (You may want to work out for yourself what the proportionate amount would be, by GDP.)
The scale of the looting, and the number of people involved, make me fear that the Chavista regime will end in mass violence. There is little reason to think that top members of the regime will be able to retire, peacefully, in Venezuela. And strong reason to think that they will defend their loot and their lives when the violence escalates, as it is nearly certain to do, probably within the next two or three years.
- 2:49 PM, 19 January 2017 [link]
Glenn Kessler Celebrates President Obama's Departure with a review of Obama's 10 greatest whoppers.
This one isn't the most important, but I like it best because of that second sentence:
“Republicans have filibustered 500 pieces of legislation”(Emphasis added.)
A Republican partisan, me for instance, might add that, during that time period, then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked the Republicans from even submitting amendments on many bills, and that he blocked votes on many bills that had passed the House.
- 10:03 AM, 19 January 2017 [link]
"Type Faster." Isaac Asimov was an writer for whom the adjective "prolific" seems inadequate.
Asimov was a prolific writer, and wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. His books have been published in 9 of the 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification.So it is not terribly surprising that, when asked what he would do if he found out that he had just six months to live, he replied: "Type faster."
And that, it turns out, is just what he did, some years later. I have complained, from time to time, that his second collection of jokes is not nearly as good as his first.
Last year, I finally got around to reading the end of that second collection, where I found this:
I'm afraid that my life has just about run its course and I don't really expect to live much longer.But he lived long enough to finish that book by, I suppose, typing faster.
(The Wikipedia article explains the cause of his death — and why it was suppressed, for so many years.)
- 9:06 AM, 19 January 2017 [link]
Eight Days Ago, I made a general argument about demography and urbanization.
Yesterday, I ran across this cartoon, illustrating my argument.
- 8:28 AM, 19 January 2017 [link]
The Question To Donald Trump Was Easy: His answer was "very, very strange".
(Two obvious answers: Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. Trump claims to be a Republican, and he is answering a question from a British newspaper. And then he might add that when he was a kid (insert name of sports star here) was one of his heroes.)
- 4:25 PM, 18 January 2017 [link]
Betting On Trump In 2017: Just because the election is over doesn't mean you can't bet on Trump — especially if you live in Europe.
Here's a collection of possible Trump wagers, some frivolous, some not.
In the latter class, the ones that interested me were the ones that implied that bettors and bookies over there think that Trump has about an even chance of completing his first term. For instance, one can get 11/10 odds that Trump will "leave office via resignation or impeachment before end of first term".
(Another wager in the two lists gives him a better chance of surviving his first term.)
- 2:15 PM, 18 January 2017 [link]
Okkupert: The New York Times reporters are ambivalent about that Norwegian TV series.
Neuroses about Russia continue to exert influence in Norwegian popular culture. The political television thriller “Okkupert” depicts a future in which Norway is occupied by Russia, and with the backing of the European Union, takes over the country’s oil production.So the fears are neurotic — and have a real basis. That's not an impossible combination, but it is an odd one.
The series is not the product of a few obscure film makers, as Leonid Bershidsky explained in 2015.
Next month, Norwegians will be treated to the premiere of "Okkupert," or "Occupied," the most expensive TV series ever produced in their country. The occupier in question is Russia, which takes over Norway for its oil. The author had the idea long before President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea, but it betrays the unease of many of Russia's neighbors.The series is now available in many other nations, including the United States.
With a budget of kr 90 million (USD 11 million), the series is the most expensive Norwegian production to date, and has been sold to the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Spain. It is also streamed by Netflix in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands.I suspect the series will not be shown in Russia, however.
Note that that Wikipedia article is full of spoilers, in case you are thinking of watching the series.
- 10:10 AM, 18 January 2017 [link]
Yesterday's New Yorker Cartoon is brutal — but it made me laugh out loud.
- 9:10 AM, 18 January 2017 [link]
A Big Surprise From The NYT: (And a very pleasant one.)
This afternoon, I glanced at the last paragraph of the lead editorial in today's New York Times, and found this:
On Mr. Obama’s first Inauguration Day, in 2009, President George W. Bush gave him a good piece of advice: Pick a pardon policy and stick with it. Perhaps President-elect Donald Trump will learn from Mr. Obama’s failure to heed that wisdom.You don't see that kind of conclusion every day in the Times, or, I would guess, every year in their editorials.
- 6:59 PM, 17 January 2017 [link]
The Bradley/Chelsea Manning Commutation Was Political: You can see that in the reporting.
President Obama on Tuesday commuted the prison sentence of former Army soldier Chelsea Manning, according to the White House.(I am mildly surprised that The Hill didn't mention the key point until the sixth paragraph.)
If Manning were not "transgender", had different but equally severe mental problems, President Obama would never have issued this commutation.
But "transgender" people are now the most fashionable "civil rights" cause, so I suppose we should have been expecting this.
- 4:01 PM, 17 January 2017 [link]
Worth Reading: Jeff Jacoby's evaluation of Barack Obama's presidency.
Here's his summary:
Obama's accession in 2008 as the nation's first elected black president was an achievement that even Republicans and conservatives could cheer. It marked a moment of hope and transformation; it genuinely did change America for the better.You will find the column a useful corrective to the "doting coverage in the mainstream media", coverage that, alas, will continue long after Obama leaves office.
- 2:10 PM, 17 January 2017 [link]
Mostly For Fun: Charts and maps from FiveThirtyEight.
In addition to a number of interactive graphics and updating dashboards, this year we published almost 1,000 charts and maps on FiveThirtyEight. Here are 52 of our favorites, in no particular order:But I think almost everyone can learn something from one or more of the charts and maps.
(I may come back to these, since I saw several that I would have done differently.)
- 1:36 PM, 17 January 2017 [link]
Reverse Coattails In 2016 (1): Most of us have a vague idea of the coattail effect in elections. (If you don't, you may want to look at the Wikipedia article.)
But, as a metaphor, it isn't as good as another one, usually attributed to a Brooklyn Democratic leader, Hymie Shorenstein (though he didn't originate it).
There are many versions of the story; this one comes from William Safire's New Political Dictionary. A local candidate said:
"Why is it, Hymie, that your whole budget for posters and literature is for Governor Roosevelt, and nothing for the candidates on the local level? I need to become better known, Roosevelt doesn't. How about a few signs for me?"Isn't that a better metaphor than coattails?
And I plan to come back to it in the final post in this series.
(I see from Amazon that my copy of Safire's dictionary is worth way more than I paid for it. Perhaps I should sell it, and get a copy of his Political Dictionary, which, confusingly, is the newer version, in spite of the name.)
- 8:59 AM, 17 January 2017 [link]
Parents Of College Students may find this cartoon worrisome.
- 7:33 AM, 17 January 2017 [link]