Archive:

July 2018, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Trump's Performance In Helsinki Is Not Getting Rave Reviews:  Even from some who ordinarily support him.   (For example.)

It is always interesting when a politician does something so against his own interests — for good or ill.  And so it is natural to ask why Trump did something that almost any political operative would tell Trump not to do.  (In a similar way, it is fascinating that Hillary Clinton set up that private server, with all the risks to her, as well as the nation.)

Part of the explanation for Trump's performance is that he has been out-foxed by Vladimir Putin, just as I predicted last year.

Putin was able to manipulate Trump because he understands Trump's weaknesses.  I think the folks at Axios — sorry, no link — had it right when they said that Trump is simply unable to accept the fact of Russian meddling in our election because that puts the legitimacy of Trump's election in doubt.

(For the record:  I don't know what difference, net, the Russian interference may have made, don't even know whether it is possible to estimate their effect, with the data that is available.

Nor do I have a strong opinion on Trump's long history of contacts with Russia.

I realize both of those are unsatisfactory, and it probably doesn't matter much that they are unsatisfactory to me as well as you.

But often honesty requires admitting uncertainty.)
- 1:59 PM, 16 July 2018   [link]


How Much Is A "Ton" Of Money?  There is a certain kind of person — me, for instance — who, when told that they can save a "ton" of money on a purchase, will start wondering just how much a ton of money is worth.

Or, to be more specific, what the minimum amount in American money is, which would be a ton of pennies.

That's a problem that most of you can do in your heads, if you remember what a penny weighs, and make one reasonable assumption.

I had to look up what a penny weighs: 2.5 grams.  After I did so, I realized that I could simplify the problem by assuming the ad was referring to a metric ton, 1,000 kilograms.

The rest is left as an exercise.

(The ad was for a sale on new RVs.  You can decide for yourself whether a ton is a great discount.

As I think I have mentioned before, the word "ton" has a surprising origin.)
- 8:18 AM, 16 July 2018   [link]


How Much Is A "Ton" Of Money?  There is a certain kind of person — me, for instance — who, when told that they can save a "ton" of money on a purchase, will start wondering just how much a ton of money is worth.

Or, to be more specific, what the minimum amount in American money is, which would be a ton of pennies.

That's a problem that most of you can do in your heads, if you remember what a penny weighs, and make one reasonable assumption.

I had to look up what a penny weighs: 2.5 grams.  After I did so, I realized that I could simplify the problem by assuming the ad was referring to a metric ton, 1,000 kilograms.

The rest is left as an exercise.

(The ad was for a sale on new RVs.  You can decide for yourself whether that is a great discount.

As I think I have mentioned before, the word "ton" has a surprising origin.)
- 8:18 AM, 16 July 2018   [link]


There Have Been Times In My Life when I could have used a mustache like that.
- 7:17 AM, 16 July 2018   [link]


Too Funny not to share.

(However, just to be fair, I should mention that there are many places to make cheap clothes, besides China.)
- 2:07 PM, 15 July 2018   [link]


Worth Reading:  David French's analysis, "Mueller's Latest Indictments Show That ‘Witches’ Are Very Real".

(David French)
- 11:14 AM, 14 July 2018   [link]


If You Know About Parents In, for instance, Manhattan, you'll understand this cartoon.

(It could be drawn better, but the beard is a nice touch.)
- 10:36 AM, 14 July 2018   [link]


The Odd Stability Of Political Opinion In The United States:  As I am sure almost all of you know, I look at the Trump approval ratings, the generic vote for Congress, and the British betting markets regularly.  What surprises me is how little change I have seen in these indicators (with one exception) over the last two years.

For an example of what I mean, take a look at the approval and generic graphs at FiveThirtyEight.  Or at the betting markets.

Low unemployment doesn't seem to move us, nor do failures like the Singapore summit.

I think most of the stability is the result of the increasing tribalism of our politics.  We are, all too often, far too willing to follow a tribal leader, rather than think about our problems and opportunities.

And since the tribes are relatively stable in size, we see few net changes in public opinion.

Donald Trump did not cause this tribalism, but he exploits it, constantly.

(The exception:  British bettors have slowly been figuring out that Trump is unlikely to leave office early.)
- 4:38 PM, 13 July 2018   [link]


The Timing Of The Russian "Spear Phishing" Attacks is troubling.

(For the record:  It was disgraceful for Trump to call openly for a hostile foreign power to interfere in our election.)
- 3:35 PM, 13 July 2018   [link]


Is The Trump Blimp Fair Criticism?  Judge for yourself.
- 1:06 PM, 13 July 2018   [link]


This Week's Collection Of Cartoons from Politico.

My favorite:  Lisa Benson's Hillary.
- 12:33 PM, 13 July 2018   [link]


Chancellor Angela Merkel Deserves Some Credit for this release.
BEIJING/BERLIN (Reuters) - Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning political dissident Liu Xiaobo, arrived in Berlin on Tuesday, in news welcomed by rights groups who had long pressed for China to let her leave what was effectively house arrest.

Liu Xia, 57, landed at in Berlin’s Tegel airport at around 1700 local time.  She left the airport by a private exit to circumvent crowds of waiting reporters and activists.  German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced her arrival on Twitter.

Her departure, following a year of pressure on Beijing from activists and rights groups, comes at the end of a visit to Germany by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, during which the two countries signed commercial deals worth more than $23 billion.
Just as Merkel deserves some credit for standing up for Jehovah Witnesses in Russia, as she has also done.

(Liu Xiaobo)
- 3:29 PM, 12 July 2018   [link]


If It Is Being Fixed, There's No Reason To Threaten To Break It:  That's my thought on NATO.

In response to Putin's increasing aggressiveness, NATO is being fixed.
THE FACTS: Trump prodded Stoltenberg to give him credit for rising military spending by NATO members, the NATO chief obliged and various officials in the alliance think Trump’s tough talk has had an effect.  But the overarching move to increase defense spending by NATO countries began under President Barack Obama.

In 2014, NATO members agreed to stop cutting their military budgets and set a goal of moving “toward” spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their own defense by 2024.  Most NATO members are spending less than 2 percent, though more are moving in that direction.
The shift happened during Obama's presidency, but because of Putin's aggressions.

The best way for the US to encourage this?  Most diplomats would say by praising the progress made already, and avoiding any of the public comments that would make it harder for NATO leaders, politically.

What we should not do, as the Congress tried to explain to Trump, is cast any doubt on our commitment to NATO.

(Fun fact:  According to a graph I saw a day or so ago in Axios, the NATO nation that spends the smallest proportion (less than 0.5 percent) of its GDP on defense is Luxembourg.  That's not because the nation can't afford to spend more; their per capita income is $109,192.   But it may have something to do with the fact that any infantry that tried to march into the nation would have to march through one or more other NATO nations first.)
- 1:41 PM, 12 July 2018   [link]


George H. W. Bush Would Appreciate this cartoon.

(Why?  In a news conference, he once explained why he was rejecting a certain action by saying simply:  "Wouldn't be prudent."  That impressed me, coming from a man who had been a carrier pilot, an independent oil man, and head of the CIA.)
- 9:50 AM, 12 July 2018   [link]


The House Vote Was Unanimous; The Senate Vote Nearly So: Congress supports NATO.
The House on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution expressing support for NATO as President Trump roiled allies with escalating calls for increased spending from alliance members.

The House, which added the NATO resolution to its schedule this week, approved the item via voice vote, according to multiple reports.  It calls NATO “the most important and critical security link between the United States and Europe.”
. . .
The House resolution came a day after the Senate approved a nonbinding motion 97-2 expressing support for the alliance.
Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky were the two no votes.

In a parliamentary system, that vote of no confidence would lead to a new leader, promptly.
- 2:18 PM, 11 July 2018   [link]


Yesterday Evening, To Celebrate The RAF's 100th, I watched "The Battle of Britain", which, Wikipedia tells me, is reasonably accurate, historically
The film is generally faithful to events and, although merging some characters, it sticks to the orthodox view – that the Germans threw away strategic advantage by switching bombing from RAF airfields to London in revenge for RAF raids on Berlin.
(Naturally, there are historians who disagree with the orthodox view.)

A simple search will find some of the British celebrations, if you prefer seeing them to the movie.

Recently, I have been thinking about the usefulness of this film and other similar films, for teaching history.  They aren't documentaries, but, with caution, they can be used in place of them.

I repeat, with caution.

(Battle of Britain)
- 1:35 PM, 11 July 2018   [link]


This New Yorker Cartoon made me smile.
- 8:36 AM, 11 July 2018   [link]


Brett Kavanaugh's Wikipedia Biography:  (With the usual caveats.)

Some bits I found of interest.
[His mother] earned her law degree from Washington College of Law in 1978 and served as a Maryland state Circuit Court Judge from 1995 to 2001.[11][12]
. . .
Kavanaugh had his first date with his future wife Ashley Estes, then-personal secretary to President George W. Bush, on September 10, 2001.  They were among the occupants of the White House evacuated during the September 11 attacks.[60]
. . .
Kavanaugh is a Catholic[61] and serves as a regular lector at his Washington, D.C. church, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament.   He has voluntarily helped serve meals to the homeless as part of church programs, and has tutored at the Washington Jesuit Academy, a Catholic private school in the District of Columbia.[62][63]
(Episcopalian Neil Gorsuch is the lone Protestant on the Supreme Court.)
- 12:23 PM, 10 July 2018   [link]


David Kramer Makes A Clear Prediction About The Helsinki Meeting Between Trump And Putin:  Putin will try to con Trump — and may succeed.
The scariest part about all of this is that it just may work.  Trump’s eagerness to meet with Putin, his call in March congratulating Putin on his “reelection” and his willingness to believe Putin’s denial of interference in the 2016 U.S. election do not bode well.  We can only hope that Trump’s unpredictability proves this dire forecast wrong.
Those who find Kramer's op-ed fanciful should remember this fact:  Putin conned both George W. Bush and Barack Obama in their first meetings.  Neither stayed conned, but that sad fact should remind us not to underestimate Putin.
- 10:41 PM, 10 July 2018   [link]


The Current "Pepper . . . And Salt" made me chuckle.
- 10:04 AM, 10 July 2018   [link]


They Say That Brexiting Up Is Hard To Do:  Now I know I know that it's true.  (Someone had to say it.)
Boris Johnson has launched a scathing attack on Theresa May's Brexit strategy, saying the "dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt".

In his letter resigning as foreign secretary, he said the prime minister was leading the UK into a "semi-Brexit" with the "status of a colony".

His resignation came hours after Brexit Secretary David Davis quit the cabinet.
Prime Minister May has my sympathy in this difficult task.

(the song)
- 6:07 PM, 9 July 2018   [link]


An Extreme Example Of Those Suspicions:   On Saturday, I said that Trump's love affair with Putin was costing him, and that one of the costs was increased "suspicions about his connections with Russia".

To see an extreme example of those suspicions, take a look at Jonathan Chait's speculative article, "Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?"

Note, please, that I am not endorsing Chait's speculation — but I do think you should know this kind of thinking is out there, and that Trump has encouraged it by his love affair.

And, though most of you know this, I still should mention that Chait is not a journalist known for his unbiased treatment of Republicans.
- 12:36 PM, 9 July 2018   [link]


Ideological Ratings On Potential Supreme Court Picks:  I have no idea how accurate the ratings are, but thought you might be interested, anyway.
What’s more interesting is that all of them may be less conservative than Justice Samuel Alito was when he served on the 3rd Circuit.  And Kethledge, Tymkovich, and Hardiman are all similar ideologically to Gorsuch when he served on the 10th Circuit.
(Amy Coney Barrett doesn't have a long enough record to be rated.)
- 10:19 AM, 9 July 2018   [link]


It's An All-NATO Final Four At The World Cup:   Belgium, Croatia, England, and France.

Which must annoy Vladimir Putin.

Maybe Jens Stoltenberg should attend, just for fun.
- 9:06 AM, 9 July 2018   [link]


The First Time I Looked At The Current "Pepper . . . And Salt", cartoon I said "H'mmm"; the second time, I smiled.
- 8:38 AM, 9 July 2018   [link]