Archive:

June 2017, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



A Musical About Pedophilia:  Three weeks ago, I was skimming through the New York Times "Arts" section, as is my habit, when I came across a review of a musical that had made the reviewer, Jesse Greenmay, uneasy.
But the authors of “The Boy Who Danced on Air” have taken the challenge of difficult source material too far.  Their troubling new musical, which opened Thursday in an Abingdon Theater Company production, was inspired by “The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan,” a 2010 documentary about, well, pedophilia.

Sure, the practice of bacha bazi — “boy play” in the Dari language of Afghanistan — includes much more than that.  As Tim Rosser (who wrote the show’s music) and Charlie Sohne (who wrote the book and lyrics) explain in a program note, it is also an “ancient tradition where wealthy men buy boys from poorer families” and “train them to dance.”  So the sexual abuse, which the show does not ignore, is seen in the context of historical precedent and local culture, much as those who defend it ask us to see genital cutting. Imagine that musical.

This one is about Paiman, a boy of 16, who was only 10 when he was sold to Jahandar, a married man then about 40.  Jahandar explains that Paiman’s father “didn’t want you as much as I do.”  But now that Paiman is sprouting each fuzz, tradition decrees that their liaison must be severed.  Jahandar arranges to marry him off: a prospect that each of them, in different ways, dreads.
So it is a love story, though not the kind of love story common in our culture.  Instead of boy meets girl, it's man buys boy.

Greenmay is uneasy about “The Boy Who Danced on Air”, but never answers the question that will occur to most of us:  Why was this musical made?

It is unlikely that Rosser and Sohne expect to make a lot of money from it; it had a short premiere, off Broadway.

Most likely, they made this musical to send a message, and I think we can all figure out what that message is.
- 4:42 PM, 16 June 2017   [link]


Violence From The Left, Violence From The Right:  Michael Barone says, correctly, that there is more violence from the left.
Violence is increasingly visible from or threatened by ski-masked, hammer-armed antifas -- people employing fascist-style intimidation on those who disagree -- on campuses from Berkeley to New England and in the streets of "cool cities" such as Portland.   Contrary to mainstream media expectations, the violence and threats come almost entirely from the political left, not the right.
The folks over at Monkey Cage recycled an older post describing surveys that found that a large minority of Americans approve of political violence, and that the approval could be found about equally on the left and the right.
Although most people opposed violence, a significant minority (ranging from 5 percent to 14 percent) agreed with each violent option, and 10 percent to 18 percent expressed indifference about violence in politics.  This implies that millions of ordinary Americans endorse the general idea of violence in politics.

Interestingly, these violent attitudes did not depend on standard political and demographic characteristics.  For example, Republicans and Democrats were indistinguishable in their support for political violence, and liberals and conservatives were, too.
Assume for the moment that both Barone and Nathan Kalmoe are right; there is more violence from the left, but not because leftists are more likely to approve of political violence.

So, why are the minority of violent leftists more likely to act on their violent beliefs than the minority of violent rightists?

I don't have a full answer to that question, but am certain that this is part of the answer:  Our "mainstream" journalists are far more likely to tolerate violence from the left, so the political costs from leftist violence are much lower.
- 12:43 PM, 16 June 2017   [link]


Ed Murray Update:  Here are the essentials.
The man accusing Seattle Mayor Ed Murray of abuse when he was a teenager has dropped the lawsuit, but will refile next year, The Seattle Times reports.

According to paperwork filed by Lincoln Beauregard, the accuser’s attorney, Delvonn Heckard of Kent wants to finish drug rehab before continuing with the case, the Times reports.
Murray has not ruled out re-entering the race for Seattle mayor, as a write-in candidate.
- 10:05 AM, 16 June 2017   [link]


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

My favorites:  In Politico, Mike Lester's Loretta Lynch; in RealClearPolitics, Michael Ramirez's batter (for the historical reference) and Steve Benson's bear (for the literary reference).

Many cartoonists had fun with President Trump's cabinet meeting; my favorite in that group is by Mike Luckovich.

Does Trump realize that kind of flattery makes him look silly?  I don't think so.   Barack Obama has the same problem, though not as severely and openly.
- 9:43 AM, 16 June 2017   [link]


Make That Five Percent, Plus Or Minus Two:  From time to time, I have reminded you that five percent will say almost anything to pollsters.

When I wrote that, I should have added an error range, as this example shows.
Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a nationally representative online survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy.
Would that percentage have been as high back when almost all Americans had some contact with farms?  Probably not.

(Incidentally, some city children (and probably a few city adults) think that milk comes from . . . factories.)
- 4:09 PM, 15 June 2017   [link]


WaPo Fact Checks NYT:  And gives them, in effect, Four Pinocchios.

The Fact Check is too long and detailed to be explained with excerpts, without violating copyright laws — but the headline will tell you what Michelle Ye Hee Lee is objecting to in a New York Times editorial:  "The bogus claim that a map of crosshairs by Sarah Palin’s PAC incited Rep. Gabby Giffords’s shooting".

The Times has admitted some error by partially correcting the editorial, but it is still a disgraceful mistake to make.

Congratulations to Lee and the Post for making this correction.

(The most prominent person murdered in the attempted assassination of Gabby Giffords was a federal judge, John Roll — who had been nominated by President George H. W. Bush.)
- 3:34 PM, 15 June 2017   [link]


Venezuela's Troubles Worsen (2):  Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published a second article, "Court Ruling Puts Venezuela in Crosshairs", describing the latest blow to the nation's finances.  (Again no link, because of the pay wall.)

In the article, Julie Wernau described the ruling, which will allow a Canadian mining company, Crystallex, to go after after Venezuelan assets in the United States, notably Citgo.  
Canadian mining company Crystallex has won a court order that advances its efforts to collect on a $1.4 billion award linked to a dispute with Venezuela over the 2008 expropriation of the Las Cristinas gold project.

Crystallex in 2016 won an award of $1.2 billion plus interest from a World Bank Tribunal.  In March, it won a ruling by a U.S. District of Columbia court upholding that award, a crucial step in being able to seize Venezuelan assets in the United States.

Crystallex can now seek to enforce the ruling in other U.S. jurisdictions, the same District of Columbia court said in a decision dated Friday.
The litigation is likely to take some time, since dozens of other companies also have claims against Venezuela.

Meanwhile, according to the Journal article, Venezuela will have to pay $10 billion this year to bond holders, money the nation almost certainly doesn't have.

Finally, accompanying the article is a simple line graph showing a Nomura estimate on when Venezuela will default.  There is a 40 percent chance that will happen in six months, almost a 90 percent chance it will happen in two years, and close to a 100 percent chance it will happen in four years.

(There is a direct connection between the two Journal articles.  As I understand it, the Venezuelan regime has chosen to pay its international creditors, mostly big investment firms, rather than buy food and medicine for its people.  Presumably, they think that is the only way the regime can survive.)
- 9:46 AM, 15 June 2017   [link]


It's Wrong To Frighten Little Children like this.
- 7:27 AM, 15 June 2017   [link]


Venezuela's Troubles Worsen:  That's not news, exactly, since I could have used that headline at least once a month for several years.

But today the Wall Street Journal published an article by Ryan Dube, "Physicians Flee Venezuela's Chaos", describing what is happening to the nation's health care system.   (No link, because of the pay wall.)

People, especially educated, productive people, have been fleeing the Chavista regime for years.
Nearly 2 million Venezuelans have fled their country since the late strongman Hugo Chávez took office in 1999 and put his country on the path to socialist revolution, according to Tomás Páez, a sociologist at Venezuela's Central University.
(That'a about 1 out of every 16 Venezuelans.)

Now doctors are leaving because of the violence, the chaos, and the impossible working conditions.
Figures released last month by the health ministry showed that maternal mortality increased 66% last year; infant mortality, which rose 30% last year, is now higher than in war-torn Syria.  Malaria and diphtheria rates are now soaring amid shortages of insect repellents, vaccinations, and public-health funding
Have I mentioned recently that Venezuela has the largest oil reserves of any nation?
- 7:17 PM, 14 June 2017   [link]


This Daily Mail Article On The Shootings in Alexandria is probably reasonably accurate, by now.

And, as I write, it has almost 5,000 comments, if you want to get some sense of what readers think.

There are more details about the domestic violence charges in this Daily Beast article.
- 6:39 PM, 14 June 2017   [link]


In Britain's Election, Young Voters Gave Labour A Landslide; Old Voters Gave Conservatives A Landslide:  The differences in vote, by age groups, are simply astonishing.

With an exception that makes the results even more astonishing:  The Liberal Democrats are, in general, between Labour and the Conservatives on issues.  They received 7, 9, 9, 9, 9, and 10 percent of the vote, by age group.

I haven't seen an explanation for this remarkable pattern, but if I do find one, I'll share it with you.

(FWIW, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn was born 26 May 1949; Conservative Leader Theresa May was born 1 October 1956.)
- 10:00 AM, 14 June 2017   [link]


Here's Hoping All Those Wounded By The Gunman In Alexandria Make Complete And Early Recoveries:  From early reports, it appears that the Capitol Police acted bravely and competently.  It also appears that Arizona Senator Jeff Flake and others acted promptly to give first aid.

More, when we know more, for certain.
- 9:30 AM, 14 June 2017   [link]


Albert Hunt Has Some Beach Reading For You:  If your idea of beach reading is On the Beach.

Here's how Hunt begins his review of Graham T. Allison's new book.
Before settling in for pleasurable summer books, read Graham Allison's "Destined for War: Can America and China escape Thucydides's Trap?"

A warning label: It's going to scare the hell out of you.

It starts with the Athenian historian's chronicle of the conflict between Sparta and Athens in the fifth century B.C. as a way to tackle the larger question of whether war can be averted when an aggressive rising nation threatens a dominant power.  Allison, a renowned Harvard University scholar and national security expert, studied 16 such cases over the past 500 years; in 12 there was war.
It's been many years since I read anything by Allison, but I can still tell you that he is a serious scholar — and that I have had similar worries for years.

(Perhaps that dragon below isn't actually smiling.)
- 8:42 PM, 13 June 2017   [link]


Dragon Boat:  I don't recall why this boat was at the Kirkland dock in August 2014, but I like the smile enough to share the picture with you, anyway.

Dragon boat, 2014

And I thought you might like a small break from politics.
- 4:25 PM, 13 June 2017   [link]


Expletives Undeleted:  More and more Democratic leaders are using the words that were censored from Richard Nixon's tapes.
Al D’Amato was once widely known as “Sen. Pothole” for focusing on local issues.   Kirsten Gillibrand is earning a different nickname: Sen. Potty-mouth.

In recent months, leading Democrats from national chairman Tom Perez on down have been unleashing f-bombs, s-bombs and everything in between as they try to rally their party to “resist.”  And New York’s junior senator seems to be leading the charge.

“If we are not helping people, we should go the f - - k home,” Gillibrand told the Personal Democracy Forum. at NYU last Friday.  Of President Trump, she asked: “Has he kept his promises? F - - k no.”
It's almost as if these Democratic leaders don't think they have rational arguments to give us.  Or that their voters wouldn't pay attention to them if they did argue rationally.

Perhaps they think civility is for losers, as far too many on both the left and the right now do.

Can we can look forward to presidential debates that have to be bleeped out?   A few years ago, I would have laughed at the idea; now I am not so sure they won't happen.

(Kirsten Gillibrand.)
- 2:33 PM, 13 June 2017   [link]


An Unimportant Senate Hearing, An Important Senate Hearing:  Last week, I said I wouldn't bother listening to the Comey testimony, because I thought we already knew what he was going to say, "that Donald Trump behaved inappropriately, which should not surprise anyone, but not illegally".

(I think I was right.)

Today, for similar reasons, I am not watching Jeff Sessions testify, even though I could, last I checked, watch him live, on three different TV stations.

I think Sessions has already told us what he knows — not much — about the Trump campaign's possible connections to Russia.  Sessions is not now, and never has been, a Trump confidante, so there is no reason to expect him to know about those possible connections, unless he has learned something from our intelligence agencies, something he can share in a open hearing.

(If he has learned something, it is unlikely that he can share it with us, now.)

Today, there was a far more important hearing, which does deserve our attention.
The United States is not winning in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress on Tuesday, saying he was crafting a new war strategy to brief lawmakers about by mid-July that is widely expected to call for thousands more U.S. troops.

The remarks were a blunt reminder of the gloom underscoring U.S. military assessments of the war between the U.S.-backed Afghan government and Taliban insurgents, classified by U.S. commanders as a "stalemate" despite almost 16 years of fighting.

"We are not winning in Afghanistan right now.  And we will correct this as soon as possible," Mattis said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
I hope you will not think me too partisan if I mention that Mattis is implying that President Obama's strategy failed, that we are worse off than when he took office, early in 2009.  (Some "mainstream" reporter should ask Obama whether he agrees with Mattis, and whether Obama thinks he should have chosen a different strategy.)

There may be another failure revealed in General Mattis's testimony.   It is routine for military organizations, including ours, to make "contingency" plans, to prepare for changes in tactics and strategy.  I would have expected the Pentagon to have several contingency plans for Afghanistan, drawn up months or even years ago, sitting in their file cabinets.

But Mattis is implying that, either they didn't have those contingency plans, or President Trump hasn't chosen one yet, or Trump doesn't like any of them, so they are having to start over.

None of those three possibilities is encouraging.
- 1:43 PM, 13 June 2017   [link]


It's Time To Link to Sidney Harris's cartoon site, again.
- 9:38 AM, 13 June 2017   [link]


Good Migrants/Bad Migrants; Good Journalism/Bad Journalism:  On Sunday mornings, the local PBS station, KCTS, runs "Focus on Europe", a half-hour program from Deutsche Welle.
What drives people in Europe – politically, socially and culturally?  How do Europeans lead their lives?  What are their views, hopes and fears?  Focus on Europe – Spotlight on People provides the answers.
In other words, "Focus on Europe" provides what an American editor would call "human interest" stories, which may or may not be part of some large issue.

After I had watched the program a few times, I began to notice patterns.  Many of the stories had the same moral.   For example, feminists are always right.  (Which won't surprise many thoughtful Americans, since you can see the same pattern here.)

That one didn't surprise me, but, considering the controversies, I was mildly surprised by this moral, which I see in story after story:  Migrants are good people, who behave well, once they reach the safety of Western Europe.

For example, yesterday they ran a story on a woman from Moldova who, for fourteen years, had been earning a living cleaning homes in Greece.   When the Golden Dawn party talked about cleaning up Greece, she joined other migrant cleaning women to put on a show about who was really cleaning up Greece.

Judging by that story, she is a good person, who is doing something useful for Greece.

No doubt that is true of most of the individual migrants they profile.  But, as we all know, it isn't true of all migrants.  By presenting only stories like hers, "Focus on Europe" may be telling the truth — but it isn't telling the whole truth.

And that, in time, becomes bad journalism, even though there is nothing particularly wrong with the migrant stories they do run.

(I would like to see them be more enterprising in these stories.  For instance, they might ask a young Afghan man whether he planned to go back to Afghanistan to fight the terrorists ravaging his country.)
- 3:32 PM, 12 June 2017   [link]


There Was One Big Winner In Britain's Election:   The bookies, says Matthew Shaddick:
I can only speak confidently for Ladbrokes (and Corals!) but the 2017 general election was almost certainly the most profitable in history for UK bookies.  After the bloodbath of a Tory majority in 2015, we managed to win most of that back with the result on Thursday.

Essentially, a hung parliament with the Tories remaining as the largest party and in government was our optimal result.  If I were being greedy, I would have preferred to move a few seats out of the Labour column and into the Lib Dem totals, but otherwise it worked out as well as we could have hoped.
(As a bookie, naturally he has a nickname: "Shadsy".)
- 8:21 AM, 12 June 2017   [link]


One From Column XX, One From Column XY; One From Column Red, One From Column Blue; One From Column Inside, One From Column Outside:  That's a crude, but reasonably accurate, description of how the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, is putting together his party and his government.

For instance, there is his cabinet.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday appointed his first cabinet, two days after choosing a prime minister from the conservative Républicains party, Édouard Philippe.

The 22-member cabinet (Philippe included) is made up of 11 men and 11 women, and includes representatives from all political stripes apart from the far-right National Front.
Macron has tried to balance men and women, leftists and rightists, insiders and outsiders.

Will that work in practice, will it provide a coherent government, or will it prove as practical as making a team using half cats, half dogs?

Sometimes cats and dogs can learn to play together, but you wouldn't bet that will happen when you mix a bunch together.

On the other hand, Macron has already shown himself to be an above average animal trainer, so we shouldn't say what he is trying to do is impossible, either.
- 6:36 AM, 12 June 2017   [link]


Definitions Of Good Cop/Bad Cop can vary.
- 5:44 AM, 12 June 2017   [link]


The Charge Of Collusion Between Aid Agencies And Smugglers Is Sensational:  And it might be true, in whole or part.
Refugee charities are paying people smugglers to ferry migrants to their rescue boats patrolling off Libya, it was claimed last night.

A senior Libyan coastguard official told The Mail on Sunday he had evidence that aid agencies were stumping up cash for migrants desperate to reach Europe but who cannot afford to pay ruthless traffickers.

Colonel Tarek Shanboor said he had obtained bank details and phone records that proved the charities were making payments to criminal gangs who have put hundreds of thousands of migrants into unseaworthy boats – leading to thousands of deaths each year.
He's a named source, and he claims to have specific evidence that can, in principle, be examined.

This detail adds plausibility to his charges:
Col Shanboor’s extraordinary accusation comes just months after an internal EU report revealed charity officials in boats were in direct contact with migrant vessels and even gave them precise directions to find rescue vessels.
Shanboor says he thinks the charities are "well-meaning but misguided".
- 6:53 PM, 11 June 2017   [link]


Worth Buying:  This weekend's Wall Street Journal, if only for John Tierney's interview of Philip Hamburger, "The Tyranny of the Administrative State".
What’s the greatest threat to liberty in America?  Liberals rail at Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration and his hostility toward the press, while conservatives vow to reverse Barack Obama’s regulatory assault on religion, education and business.  Philip Hamburger says both isdes are thinking too small.
Tierney and Hamburger are promoting Hamburger's new book, The Administrative Threat, a brief and popular treatment of the subject covered in his more scholarly earlier book, Is Administrative Law Unlawful?.

(I believe Amazon will sell you a digital copy of the newpaper, if all you want is the interview.)
- 3:03 PM, 11 June 2017   [link]


"Pepper . . . And Salt" This Weekend:  The latest cartoon, in this weekend's Wall Street Journal, isn't bad.

A doctor is examining a girl's arm.  (The girl looks to be about twelve or thirteen.)

The doctor is telling her his preliminary diagnosis:  "Looks to me like you have RSI — repetitive selfie-injury."

(Parents will have to decide for themselves whether to share that cartoon with adolescent daughters.)
- 2:20 PM, 11 June 2017   [link]


Entertaining:  Richard Littlejohn's indictment of Jeremy Corbyn.
Is there any sentient being in Britain, over the age of 21 and outside the ranks of Momentum, who seriously believes that Corbyn is a fit and proper person to entrust with our national security — let alone management of the economy or leading the Brexit talks?
And accurate, as far as I know.

That millions of British citizens, most of them over the age of 21, voted for Corbyn anyway must be a great disappointment to Littlejohn (as it is to me).

It would be too strong to describe Corbyn as pro-terrorist, but almost every anti-Israel, anti-American, and anti-British terrorist has received at least his sympathy over the years.

(Momentum.)
- 4:48 PM, 10 June 2017   [link]


It Doesn't Have To Be "Or"; It Can Be "And"  That's a bit cryptic I know, but it should make sense shortly.

Our politics has become so tribal that it is easy to slip into the mistake of thinking that if their tribesman is wrong in a dispute, ours must be right.  For example, we slip into thinking that either Trump behaved well in his dispute with Comey, or Comey did.  We conclude that either Trump was "vindicated" or that he should be "impeached".

Put that plainly, I think most people can see the logical fallacy — but that doesn't stop us from "thinking fast" (and tribally) when we encounter an actual dispute.   (And I am absolutely sure I make that mistake from time to time, though I try hard not to.)

As it happens, "and" is appropriate in the Trump/Comey dispute.  Trump and Comey behaved badly.
The testimony of James Comey proved long on atmospherics and short on ethics.  While many were riveted by Comey’s discussion of his discomfort in meetings with President Trump, most seemed to miss the fact that Comey was describing his own conduct in strikingly unethical terms.  The greatest irony is that Trump succeeded in baiting Comey to a degree that even Trump could not have imagined.  After calling Comey a “showboat” and poor director, Comey proceeded to commit an unethical and unprofessional act in leaking damaging memos against Trump.
Jonathan Turley concludes:
Donald Trump continues to show a remarkable ability to bring out the worst in people — supporters and critics alike.  In this case, he was able to bait Comey with his tweets and cause Comey to diminish his own credibility.   If the comments of Trump were grossly inappropriate, Comey’s response to those comments were equally inappropriate.
(Link omitted.)

Trump and Comey behaved inappropriately.  (As far as I know, in their dispute, neither behaved illegally.)
- 10:51 AM, 10 June 2017   [link]


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

My favorites:  In Politico, Kal's Bannon/Trump cartoon; in RealClearPolitics, Chip Bok's "College Critical Thinking".  (My answer would be "all of the above".)

For the record:  I disagree with the Kal cartoon and think it brutal and unfair, even for a cartoon — but it did make me laugh.
- 8:39 AM, 10 June 2017   [link]


If You Are Like Me, When You Think Of Candidates of the Scottish National Party, you expect them to have deep roots in Scotland, and to have typically Scottish virtues such as party loyalty, fiscal prudence, and a rejection of the flashy ways to make a living.  If they have a religion, you expect it to be Presbyterianism, though they may not attend church as often as their ancestors did.

You expect them to be, in short, just like the SNP Member of Parliament Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, and you wonder why the Scottish voters in her district rejected her in yesterday's election.
- 12:54 PM, 9 June 2017   [link]


BBC Presenter Lucy Hockings Was Quite Happy With The Election Results This Morning:  Which we can take as strong, but not conclusive, evidence that the election was, on the whole, bad for Britain.

In brief:  As I suggested last night, the Conservatives will, almost certainly continue to govern, with the help of the Democratic Unionist Party.

Theresa May will probably be replaced within a year, by a Conservative who is better at campaigning.  (Boris Johnson?)

The Brexit talks will drag on even longer, and with more acrimony.

Most British pollsters will — again — try to figure out what they are doing wrong.

Worst of all, Jeremy Corbyn will continue to lead the Labour Party, so Britain will not have a viable opposition party.

The good news is almost all from Scotland, where the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats all made gains against the Scottish National Party.

(You can find detailed results here.)
- 8:16 AM, 9 June 2017   [link]


If You Like Purple Prose — And Who Doesn't, Occasionally — you'll like this cartoon.
- 7:02 AM, 9 June 2017   [link]