Archive:

June 2017, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Sobering:  David Ignatius has been thinking about Graham Allison's latest book, and asks this question: "Is War Between a Rising China and a Dominant America Inevitable?"

He then tries to understand Allison's argument from the Chinese point of view.  (It is always a good idea to try to understand the other side, whether you are playing a game of cards with a friend, or confronting a nuclear-armed adversary.)
Let's imagine a Chinese "applied history" project, similar to the one at Harvard's Belfer Center that helped spawn Professor Graham Allison's widely discussed book "Destined for War."

Allison's historical analysis led him to posit a "Thucydides Trap" and the danger (if not inevitability) of war between a rising China and a dominant America, like the ancient conflict between Athens and Sparta chronicled by the Greek historian Thucydides.  A study by the Belfer Center's Applied History Project identified 16 similar "rising versus ruling" cases over the past 500 years, 12 of which resulted in war.  What would the Chinese say about the lessons of past interactions with the West?
You can decide for yourself whether Ignatius made the problem clearer, or not.

I was a bit disappointed that he did not discuss two aspects of the problem: China's demographics and the effects of nuclear weapons on possible conflicts between the United States and China.

But perhaps he will write about them in future columns.

(Here's my earlier post on the book, and here's the book.)
- 2:48 PM, 30 June 2017   [link]


One Of The Nice Things About Being A Lone Blogger is that you don't have to write about stories like this one.

I will, however, suggest that the participants stage a mud wrestling event, for charity.

Now back to stories that are amusing, interesting, instructive, or even important.

Unlike that story.
- 9:10 AM, 30 June 2017   [link]


Too Weird Not to share.
A report on Alex Jones’ InfoWars claiming child sex slaves have been kidnapped and shipped to Mars is untrue, NASA told The Daily Beast on Thursday.

“There are no humans on Mars.  There are active rovers on Mars.  There was a rumor going around last week that there weren’t.  There are,” Guy Webster, a spokesperson for Mars exploration at NASA, told The Daily Beast.  “But there are no humans.”
I don't think that is an intentional joke — but I could be wrong.
- 8:19 AM, 30 June 2017   [link]


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

My favorites:  In Politico, Darrin Bell's questionnaire; in RealClearPolitics, Andy Marlette's paper bags, Mike Lukovich's cuddling, and Steve Breen's Ivanka.
- 7:51 AM, 30 June 2017   [link]


Worth Reading:  Jason Riley's provocative column, "A Better Direction for Black Lives Matter".

It is, alas, mostly behind the Wall Street Journal pay wall, but you should be able to find it in almost any American library.

These numbers, from the middle of the article, are striking:
Police shootings have fallen dramatically in recent decades.  In New York, for example, cops shot 314 people in 1971, 93 of them fatally.  In 2015, New York police shot 23 people, killing eight. . . . . A 2016 paper released by Harvard economist Roland Fryer examined the use of force since 2000 in some of the country's largest urban areas and found that "blacks are 23.8 percent less likely to be shot at, relative to whites."
If you are like me, you would like to see that Fryer paper; if you are like me, you aren't going to spend what's left of a beautiful morning, looking for it and studying it, if you can find it.

Riley makes his general argument at greater length in his latest book.

(The book credits are odd:  "Jason L. Riley (Author), John McWhorter (Contributor), & 1 more".  I assume the "1 more" wants to be anonymous.)
- 10:47 AM, 29 June 2017   [link]


Jimmy Gomez Was Elected To Congress:  But he is in no rush to be sworn in and begin work.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) is calling on Representative-elect Jimmy Gomez (D., Calif.) to resign if he continues to wait to assume his House duties in order to vote on a California assembly cap-and-trade bill.

Gomez won the June 6 special election to replace former Rep. Xavier Becerra who resigned to become California attorney general in January.  However, Gomez has put off his House swearing in ceremony for more than three weeks.
Jimmy Gomez's Wikipedia biography is thin, but has some interesting bits.  His name, combining an English diminutive with a Mexican last name, appears to fit him.
- 9:00 AM, 29 June 2017   [link]


James Stewart Couldn't Resist Ending his article on dynamic pricing on Broadway with an old joke:
Dynamic pricing and super-premium prices may be relatively new, but the scarcity of tickets for hit shows has a long tradition.  Mr. Schumacher cited “My Fair Lady,” the “Hamilton” of the 1955-56 Broadway season.  As Broadway lore has it, a man in the audience turned to his neighbor, an older woman, and asked why the fifth-row center seat next to her was empty.

“My husband died,” she replied.

“Didn’t anyone else want to come?” he asked.

“No,” she answered.  “They’re all at the funeral.”
Greg Mankiw reminded me of that article, and joke.  As a free market economist, he is all in favor of dynamic pricing for theater tickets, so much so that I suspect some of his pleasure at seeing "Hamilton" came from the very high prices he paid for the tickets.
- 7:23 AM, 29 June 2017   [link]


Did Angela Merkel Deliberately Pick A Fight With Donald Trump?  That's what Christopher Caldwell says.
Since November Merkel has made Trump swallow one insult after another.   Her contemptuous congratulatory note after his election victory promised cooperation, provided the United States managed to respect "democracy, freedom, . . . the rule of law and the dignity of each and every person, regardless of their origin, skin color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or political views."  Her participation in a forum in Germany with former president Barack Obama during Trump's NATO summit visit was a humiliation.  Worse, the insults were delivered to a gallery of like-minded Trump-haters in a tone of knowing, nodding confidence that he would be too slow-witted to pick up on them.  But egotists are always attentive when the talk is about them.  It may be that Merkel has simply misplayed Trump.  More likely she sought his enmity.  She seems to have acquired it, along with Spielraum for her government and some potential problems for her country.
I think Caldwell is right.

So why did the German chancellor pick a fight with the American president?

Here's a hint:  The German federal election is on September 24th.

(Caldwell doesn't mention it, but I think Merkel's visit to Mexico was also intended to annoy Trump.

Spielraum means "room for maneuver".)
- 12:45 PM, 28 June 2017   [link]


Fox Has Some Details on Obama's immense carbon-footprint vacations.
Since leaving office in late January, Obama has visited late actor Marlon Brando’s private island; the Four Seasons in Bali -- where rooms cost upward of $2,000 per night; a Palm Springs estate; Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island; the exclusive Mid Pacific Country Club in Oahu; the 13th-century Borgo Finocchieto in Tuscany; and the Rising Sun, Hollywood studio mogul David Geffen’s private yacht.
Don't wait for "mainstream" journalists to ask elected Democrats whether Obama should set a better example.
- 7:22 AM, 28 June 2017   [link]


I haven't Linked To An A-Hed Story Recently:  And some recent ones are pretty good.

I like the insurance zombies, and sympathize with the gorillas.
- 7:06 AM, 28 June 2017   [link]


Bush's Anti-Malaria Program Has Saved Nearly 2 Million Children In Africa — So Far:  That's the conclusion of a new study.
Over the last decade, American donations to fight malaria in Africa have saved the lives of nearly two million children, according to a new analysis of mortality rates in 32 countries there.

The study, published by PLOS Medicine this month, looked at the long-term effects of the President’s Malaria Initiative, a program started by President George W. Bush in 2005 that has spent over $500 million a year since 2010.
That's in addition to the almost 12 million lives saved in Africa by Bush's PEPFAR.

This PMI success hasn't drawn much attention, even from Wikipedia.

(Did the Obama administration initiate any programs with successes like those of PEPFAR and PMI?  Not that I know of.  But, credit where due, they didn't kill the Bush programs, either.)
- 6:05 PM, 27 June 2017   [link]


Have President Trump's Nominees Faced "Record-Setting" Delays?  Yes, says Glenn Kessler.
What’s more interesting is that the median wait between nomination and Senate vote for Trump was 25 days, according to data collected by our colleagues Kevin Schaul and Kevin Uhrmacher.  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 1 day.

Those presidents were blessed with Senate control by their own party.   George H.W. Bush, by contrast, faced a Senate run by Democrats — and his nominees faced a median wait of 13 days.
Trump is partly at fault; he has chosen many nominees with complex business interests who are hard to check, and he failed to "pre-clear" nominees.  But it is also true that Senate Democrats have been more obstructionist than usual.

There is still another reason for the delays (and his failure to get any significant legislation passed, so far) that Kessler does not discuss:  Trump has given other elected leaders no reason to trust him, no reason to think they will be repaid later, if they work with him, now.

Trumpistas like the way he insults other elected officials — but it is a really stupid way to behave if you need their cooperation from time to time.  As you almost always do.
- 4:09 PM, 27 June 2017   [link]


President Donald Trump Lost Another Handshake Contest:  This time to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The BBC is pleased.

(Now that other world leaders have figured out how to defeat the Donald, will the Japanese and British prime ministers ask for re-matches?  Will Trump realize he is making a fool of himself?  Possibly and probably not.)
- 9:49 AM, 27 June 2017   [link]


This Cartoon Will Leave You Wondering:  About what happened before.

(If I had a clue, I'd share it with you.)
- 9:23 AM, 27 June 2017   [link]


Three Fun Facts About HMS Queen Elizabeth:  (Which should have gone into this morning's post.)

When the ship was christened in 2014, the reigning monarch did the honors, so the headline writers could have said:  "Queen Elizabeth Christens Queen Elizabeth".  A very quick search turned up no examples, and I assume that she is far too dignified to quip that they had chosen a very nice name for the new ship.

Since the ship was built in Scotland, she didn't use champagne for the christening.
Instead of smashing the traditional bottle of champagne on the hull, she used a bottle of whisky from the Bowmore distillery on the Scottish island of Islay.
Her captain has a nice piratical last name: Kyd — I kid you not.
- 3:22 PM, 27 June 2017   [link]


What's Mitch McConnell's Plan?  I haven't paid much attention to the Replace-ObamaCare-with-TrumpCare House legislation, nor to the Senate's proposed version.

That's because I don't think any final version — if there is one — will be exactly like any of the versions we have seen so far.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell has a deserved reputation for being a skillful compromiser, who is always careful to protect the Republicans in the Senate.  (Understandably, since it is more fun being Majority Leader than Minority Leader.)

So my guess is that McConnell has in mind something like this step-by-step plan:

A.  Try to find a majority for the current plan, or something very much like it, before the beginning of September.

B.  If that fails, as it probably will, let the defeat sink in for weeks or even a month or two, and then try to find revisions that will let you put together a majority.  (As you probably recall, that's what happened in the House.)

C.  If A or B succeeds, then do everything you can to protect your members during the negotiations in the conference committee with the House.

D.  If you are unable to produce a majority even on a second or third try, make sure your senators have a chance to vote in ways that protect them, which is tricky because some will need to be pro TrumpCare, and others anti.

And at this point, I will stop guessing because I don't know how far ahead McConnell is looking.

(Nate Silver isn't sure whether a Replace-ObamaCare-with-TrumpCare bill will pass the Senate, either.)
- 2:39 PM, 27 June 2017   [link]


Britain Will Soon Have Capital Ships, Again:  (Besides the Trident submarines.)

Specifically, two aircraft carriers.  The first, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, is about to start her sea trials.
The largest and most powerful ship ever built for the Royal Navy is preparing to leave her home port for the first time.

HMS Queen Elizabeth, a 280-metre, 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier is due to set out from Rosyth on the Firth of Forth on Monday, subject to final checks, tides and the Scottish weather.

The £3 billion behemoth, which is set to be the nation’s future flagship, and her 700-strong ship’s company, are ready to undertake her maiden sea trials over the summer.
She'll soon be joined by her sister ship, the Prince of Wales.

Excellent.

(For comparison, here is the last of the Nimitz class, the USS George H. W. Bush and here are some World War II fleet carriers.

In comparing the carriers, don't forget that the British tonne is about 10 percent larger than the American ton.)
- 7:36 AM, 27 June 2017   [link]


We All Know That Taste:  Now we have a word to describe it, if we didn't before.
- 6:32 AM, 26 June 2017   [link]


Do Robots Have Feelings?  This one does.

(Advanced robots in science fiction often have feelings, for better and for worse.  For example, in Isaac Asimov's collection, I, Robot, all of the robots have feelings, only two of them for worse.).
- 11:07 AM, 25 June 2017   [link]