Archive:

June 2017, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Barack Obama's "Carbon Footprint" Continues To Grow:   Earlier this month I noted that his carbon footprint may be literally larger than that of some very small nations.

Since then he has continued his travels, to Montreal, and then to Bali.  (From there he will continue on to Java.)
Barack and Michelle Obama, along with their two daughters, are taking a luxury vacation to Indonesia - where the former president lived in the 1960s.

Soldiers fell into formation in the popular tourist destination of Bali on Friday in preparation for the Obamas' five-day vacation at the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, Ubud, where villas cost upwards of $2,500 a night.
But what makes it even better is his reason for going to Montreal.  He was making a speech, for which he was very well paid.  In it he called for, among other things, using less fossil fuels.
In his speech, Obama once again decried what he called the lack of American leadership on climate change, saying Tuesday his country's absence as an international force on the issue is only temporary.
And then flew away, demonstrating that leadership, as he continues to do.

Now that's funny — but I don't think Obama gets the joke.

He's like a man calling for a fight against obesity, while he gobbles down one seven-course meal after another.

(Younger readers may not know this, but when President Jimmy Carter wanted us to use less fossil fuels (to save money, not the planet), he turned down the White House thermostat, and put on a sweater.  Obama turned up the thermostat when he moved in.

There is another joke in that Montreal appearance:  Serious researchers generally agree that some nations would be better off with a warmer climate — and Canada would be one of the big winners.)
- 1:07 PM, 24 June 2017   [link]


Jack Shafer Is Having Some Fun with this column.
Donald Trump doesn’t really want to be president.  If he did, he’d nominate candidates to the 350 important but vacant administration jobs and get on with the job of governance.  He doesn’t seem to want to be commander in chief of the armed forces, either, having outsourced Afghanistan troop-level decisions to Secretary of Defense James Mattis.  Don’t burden him with foreign policy—which so daunts him that he’s postponed an official trip to Britain because (as some report) he fears the inevitable protests that will greet him.  Nor is he much interested in upholding the oath he took on Inauguration Day, promising to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  He proves this lack of interest every day by ignoring the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause.

Instead, Trump lusts for the job of White House communications director, a position that has been open since mid-May, when Michael Dubke resigned.
Shafer is having some fun — and making some serious points along the way.

We are better off, I think, if Trump outsources the more important jobs to serious people like Mattis and Rex Tillerson.

One job Trump apparently won't outsource is filling those empty positions.  That's unfortunate, because so many departments are being left to drift with no policy guidance.
- 8:18 AM, 23 June 2017   [link]


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

My favorites:  In Politico, David Horsey's participant and Matt Davies' witch hunt; in RealClearPolitics, Mike Lukovitch's lawyers and Clay Bennett's airplane.

(One curiosity:  There are three Michael Ramirez cartoons in Politico's collection — and three different ones in RealClear's collection.)
- 7:38 AM, 23 June 2017   [link]


How Did Karen Handel Win In Georgia's 6th?  Partly by ignoring Donald Trump.
Still, though Handel supported most of Trump’s policies and held a private fundraiser with him in April, she did not go out of her way to mention the president on the campaign trail, in a bid for the district’s moderate voters.  In 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney won the district by 23 percentage points, but it became much closer last year.  In 2016, Trump won the district by just 1.5 points.
Republicans running in similar districts will probably follow similar strategies.

(Handel did something in her long career that is less common than I would like:  She gave up a job for a principle; specifically, she resigned from the Susan G. Komen foundation when it restored ties with Planned Parenthood.)
- 6:21 PM, 22 June 2017   [link]


Emmanuel Macron's 90/10, Short Term/Long Term Problems:  American journalists were so focused on Marine Le Pen that they paid little attention to Macron's economic policies.  Which is unfortunate, because we can learn from them, whether he succeeds or fails.

Unemployment has been high in France for years, usually around 10 percent, though it dipped to 9.3 percent, recently.  It's been much higher, more than 20 percent, for young people.

To change that, Macron is proposing to, among other things, make it easier to fire employees.
Among other changes, Macron is proposing to bring down corporate tax rates to the European average of 25 percent, from 33 percent; reduce the public sector workforce by 120,000 posts; make it easier to fire and cheaper to hire workers; loosen collective wage bargaining rules; and level out the nation’s social security net and pension system so that more are covered and privileged groups receive less.
(Emphasis added.)

To some, that will seem paradoxical, but not to many small business owners, who will tell you that they are much more likely to hire a worker, especially an inexperienced worker — if they can fire that worker if he or she doesn't work out, or if business slows.

Most economists think Macron's proposed reforms will make France better off.

However, to enact them, he will have to overcome two great problems.  Almost 10 percent may be unemployed, but the other 90 percent have very secure jobs — and many, probably most, in that 90 percent will not be happy about giving up some of their legal protections.

Second, although the reforms are likely to make France better off, they are unlikely to do so quickly — and they are likely to impose considerable short-term pain.   That's what happened in Germany when Chancellor Gerhard Schröder forced the adoption of similar reforms, Agenda 2010.
The immediate aftermath of the Agenda 2010 reforms was that unemployment rose to over 5.2 million people in February 2005 [4] and Schröder called German companies "lazy" for failing to hire more workers.[5]  Beginning in 2005, however, unemployment figures began falling and, in May 2007, unemployment was at 3.8 million people, a 5½ year low.[6]  The apparent success of Agenda 2010 in reducing unemployment in Germany has been cited in the debate over extending long-term unemployment insurance benefits in the United States.[7]
. . .
The SPD lost by a wide margin in the 2005 regional election in its North-Rhine Westphalia "heartland", where the regional SPD government was replaced by a CDU-FDP coalition, giving the winners a working majority in the Bundesrat, the federal legislature's upper house.  The Social Democrats losses were widely attributed to voters' discontent with the Agenda 2010 reforms.
The political results may be even worse in France, says economist Charles Wyplosz.
Macron is facing a far tougher challenge than former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s in the early 2000s, when he introduced the so-called Hartz reforms that transformed Germany from the sick man of Europe into its powerhouse.   Unlike in Germany, Macron would be introducing these changes against -- rather than with -- the country’s ideologically driven labor unions, according to Wyplosz.

Instead, he likened the task to that of former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s.  She had to first defeat what she referred to as “the enemy within,” taking on Arthur Scargill’s National Union of Mineworkers before moving on to implement her agenda of economic reform.  The scars from that fight remain 30 years later.

“I deeply believe there will be a Scargill moment early on in Macron’s presidency,’’ said Wyplosz, who predicted large-scale strikes and street protests in France.   If Macron is forced to back down, “his presidency will be over,” he said.
On that cheery note, I'll turn to what it all means for the United States.  Although we do not have, in most places, similarly rigid labor laws, we do have immense systems of entitlements, principally Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, that can not continue as they are, without enormous tax increases.

George W. Bush knows this; his two successors either do not know it, or will not share their knowledge with the public.

(Links omitted throughout the post.)
- 4:04 PM, 22 June 2017   [link]


Worth Reading:  Ayaan Ali and Asra Nomanijune's op-ed, "Kamala Harris, Speak Up. Don’t Be Silent on Women’s Rights."

Ali and Nomanijune testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, but didn't get any questions from the "progressive" women on the committee.
But they never came.  The Democrats on the panel, including Senator Harris and three other Democratic female senators — North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill — did not ask either of us a single question.

This wasn’t a case of benign neglect.  At one point, Senator McCaskill said that she took issue with the theme of the hearing itself.  “Anyone who twists or distorts religion to a place of evil is an exception to the rule,” she said.   “We should not focus on religion,” she said, adding that she was “worried” that the hearing, organized by Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, would “underline that.”  In the end, the only questions asked of us about Islamist ideologies came from Senator Johnson and his Republican colleague, Senator Steve Daines from Montana.
. . .
No, what happened that day was emblematic of a deeply troubling trend among progressives when it comes to confronting the brutal reality of Islamist extremism and what it means for women in many Muslim communities here at home and around the world.  When it comes to the pay gap, abortion access and workplace discrimination, progressives have much to say.  But we’re still waiting for a march against honor killings, child marriages, polygamy, sex slavery or female genital mutilation.
Waiting, but not with bated breath.

There's more, including a "hard truth" paragraph that I never thought I would see in the New York Times.

(The op-ed is dated today, but is not in the print copy I picked up an hour ago.  It might be in tomorrow's paper.)
- 10:53 AM, 22 June 2017   [link]


Why Is John Koskinen Still Running The IRS?  If you aren't sure why I am asking that question, here's an explanation.
On August 1, 2013, the White House announced President Obama would nominate Koskinen as Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.[6]  On December 20, 2013, the Senate voted 56-39 for cloture on the nomination, thereby cutting off a Republican-led filibuster.[7]  Senators then confirmed Koskinen in a 59-36 vote.  On December 23, 2013, he was sworn in as the 48th IRS Commissioner.[1]

Koskinen took office following the IRS scandal in which conservative political groups were targeted for extensive scrutiny by the IRS.  The Washington Post awarded Koskinen "Three Pinocchios" for stating during congressional testimony on March 26, 2014 that "the inspector general found inappropriate criteria were used to select organizations for further review — he did not refer to it as targeting."[8]  In June 2014, Koskinen informed Congress that 30,000 emails from the account of a central figure in the scandal, Lois Lerner, had been lost.  It later came to light that Koskinen had known about the lost emails in April and had waited until the information was disclosed in a court case to notify Congress.  Koskinen stated: "We confirmed that backup tapes from 2011 no longer existed because they have been recycled, pursuant to the IRS normal policy."  In September 2014, the Treasury Department Inspector General reported that it had found 760 tapes from which it later recovered Lerner's emails.[9]
(Links omitted.)

Oh, and one more thing:  "Koskinen contributed almost US$100,000 to Democratic candidates and groups as of June 25, 2014.[23]"

A competent, Republican president would have had a replacement chosen for Koskinen before the president took the oath of office, and he would have asked for Koskinen's resignation, immediately.

Unless . . . .

(Unless what?  Unless that president had some reason to fear what is in IRS files.  But incompetence is still a more likely explanation.)
- 7:33 AM, 22 June 2017   [link]


This Morning, The BBC Was Discussing The Succession To The British Throne:  To which I say:  "Long live the Queen!"

(If you are curious, here's the story.)
- 6:52 AM, 22 June 2017   [link]


Karen Handel Ran Better In Georgia's 6th Than Donald Trump Did:  He won the district in 2016 by "less than two points"; she won it by almost four (51.9-48.1%).

(John McCain won the seat by 19 points in 2008, Mitt Romney by 24 points in 2012.)

Handel did a bit better than the poll averages, which showed a tied race.

She may have been helped a little by the attempted murder of Steve Scalise and other Republicans in Alexandria, but I have no direct evidence on that.

Which party should celebrate?  Neither, in my opinion.  Republicans showed weakness in a district where they should be strong; Democrats invested tens of millions of dollars — and lost.

(Democrats might have been able to win the district had they been able to find a candidate who was a better fit for the district.   Jon Ossoff doesn't even live there now, a fact Karen Handel was happy to share with the voters.)
- 9:44 AM, 21 June 2017   [link]


The Usual Searches Didn't Turn Up A Link To This Cartoon, so I'll describe it, instead:

An alien has landed his flying saucer somewhere in the Southwest, and approached a cowboy, who is sitting on a rock.

The cowboy tells him:  "We don't cotton to strangers around these parts, Mister!"

(The cartoonist somehow made the alien look disappointed, which — you'll have to take my word for this or buy the 2014 New Yorker collection — makes the cartoon work.

By the way, if you search on the cowboy's sentence, you'll find a number of attempts to explain the phrase "don't cotton to".  I glanced at a few, but didn't find one that satisfied me.)
- 8:53 AM, 21 June 2017   [link]


Andrew Malcolm Has Some Fun With The Trump White House's Spelling Mistakes:  Here's Malcolm's conclusion:
Perhaps a new communications set-up will be more successfull in meating their needs and detectiving misspilled wurds.
I don't ordinarily do this, but I will suggest, this time, that you read a few of the comments, most of them from Trumpistas, after the post.  Trumpistas don't like to see their hero criticized, especially when he deserves it.

(In answer to the question in the title of Malcolm's post:  That Trump and his staff need to be more professional — and in particular learn to use a spell checker.)
- 4:18 PM, 20 June 2017   [link]


Bush Rising (3):  In 2010, I predicted:
The more Americans see of Barack Obama, the better they will like George W. Bush.   (And maybe even Jimmy Carter.)
I think that prediction came true some years ago.

Now, I see an interesting pattern in the latest Gallup retrospective ratings.
Former President George W. Bush's national image continues to improve in his retirement, with his favorable rating rising seven percentage points over the past year to 59%.   This continues the fairly steady improvement in Bush's favorable rating since it registered a meager 35% at the start of his post-presidential years in March 2009.
If you look at the graph, you will see that description is misleading, even with the qualifier, "fairly".  Bush's rating fell 7 points between 2014 and 2015, and has risen 13 points since then.

Which leads me to make another fearless prediction:  The more Americans see of Donald Trump, the better they will like Barack Obama — and George W. Bush.
- 3:33 PM, 20 June 2017   [link]


Douglas Murray's Irritating Omission:  Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Douglas Murray, "Europe's Elites Determined to Commit Suicide by 'Diversity'", advertising his new book.

I wasn't impressed as I read the op-ed, which contains passionate conclusions, but not much rational argument, or evidence.

But then, near the end, I came to this exception:
Yet still it is possible that the publics will not go along with the instincts of their leaders.  Earlier this year, a poll of European attitudes was published in which citizens of 10 countries were asked a tough question: whether they agreed that there should be no more Muslim migration into their countries.  Majorities in eight out of the 10 countries, including France and Germany, said they wanted no more Muslim immigrants.
Murray does not tell us, anywhere in the op-ed, where we can find that poll.   There were enough clues so that I was able to find, first articles on the survey, and then this brief report on the survey itself from the Chatham House.

But readers shouldn't have to make such searches.

(The survey is interesting enough so that I may do a post on it, later.)
- 9:54 AM, 20 June 2017   [link]


Astronomers Will Like This Election Analysis:  And it probably isn't any worse than much of what you will hear tonight and tomorrow.

Luckily for my interpretation, no precincts were won by the Green Party.

If, that is, you plan to watch any of the talking heads try to analyze the Georgia special election.

(To thank Randall Munro for allowing hot links, here's his store.)
- 7:35 AM, 20 June 2017   [link]


The Trump Administration Is Slow To Fill Top Jobs:  Here are the comparative numbers.
At this point, Trump has 43 confirmed appointees to senior posts, compared with the 151 top political appointees confirmed by mid-June in President Barack Obama’s first term and the 130 under President George W. Bush, according to data tracked by The Post and the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Presidential Transition.

For Cabinet posts, the median wait between nomination and Senate vote for Trump was 25 days, according to data collected by The Post.  By contrast, Obama’s nominees faced a median wait of two days, George W. Bush had a median wait of zero days and Bill Clinton had a median wait of one day.
(Reminder:  Bush was able to get that many confirmed, in spite of the Republicans losing control of the Senate in May 2001, when Jim Jeffords jumped.)

The headline on the Washington Post article is: "Help wanted: Why Republicans won’t work for the Trump administration".

A careful reading of the article shows that they are having trouble filling top jobs, and that there are many reasons for the delays, including, recently, the fear of being caught up in a scandal, or even legal problems.

In April, I said his personnel problems were "insoluble".
In my opinion, the problems are insoluble, though better vetting would help.  There simply aren't that many experienced, competent executives — who are willing to give President Trump the personal loyalty he demands.
What I should have added to that then, and will now, is this:  Trump expects loyalty from those who work for him, but he doesn't give loyalty, in return.

Finally, something to think about:  If personnel is policy, is no personnel, no policy?
- 7:10 PM, 19 June 2017   [link]


Emmanuel Macron Won A Smashing Victory In France's Legislative Elections:  If, that is, you are measuring by seats won; his coalition won 350 of the 577 seats in the French Assembly.

His victory is less impressive, however, when you look at the popular vote share that produced those seats: 49.12 percent.

And still less impressive when you look at the turnout in the first and second rounds, 48.70 and 42.64 percent, respectively.  Both are, I believe, record lows.

Turnout was much higher in the first and second rounds of the French presidential election, 77.77 and 74.56 percent, respectively.
- 9:27 AM, 19 June 2017   [link]


Here's The BBC Account Of The Latest Terrorist Attack in London, this time against Muslims.

No one should be surprised by this.

(The BBC says the attack was "near" the notorious Finsbury Park Mosque, implying a connection between the mosque and the "Muslim Welfare House", where the attack occurred.)
- 8:03 AM, 19 June 2017   [link]


Worth Buying:  This weekend's Wall Street Journal — and it may still be available — if only for Bjorn Lomborg's opinion piece, "The Charade of the Paris Treaty".
Environmentalists were aghast when President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate treaty, with some declaring that the very survival of our civilization was at stake.  But is the Paris accord really all that stands between the planet and the worst of climate change?  Certainly not.
Although Lomborg does not put it this way, both the Paris treaty and Trump's withdrawal are what I like to call political theater, shows put on to fool the public into thinking that effective actions are being taken.

In fact, the treaty, though very expensive, will have little effect on the world's temperature, and the withdrawal will do little, if anything, to help the American economy.

(For some reason, Lomborg prefers not even to mention nuclear power.  I'm not sure why; perhaps he feels he has already picked enough fights to last his lifetime.)
- 5:40 PM, 18 June 2017   [link]


Reactions To Father's Day:  I have begun looking forward to Father's Day, though my own father passed away many years ago.

It may be that distance in time that allows me to be mostly amused by the ways our popular culture and our "mainstream" journalists react to the day.

Lynn Johnston celebrated it with a sentimental comic strip that would make a good Hallmark card.

Antenna TV is running a "Father Knows Best" marathon.

And the Seattle Times is celebrating the day by running a long editorial, "Preserve Transgender Protections".   (No link, because I don't want to encourage anyone to read it.)  I am nearly certain that those on the newspaper's editorial board do not see anything odd about the timing.

(For the record:  The Times did run an op-ed on the day, by Marcia Bronstein.  What she appreciates most about her late father is that he was a left-wing activist.

Wikipedia.)
- 3:01 PM, 18 June 2017   [link]


You Don't Have To Be A Farm Boy To Appreciate The Update On This Post:  But it helps.
- 2:18 PM, 18 June 2017   [link]