Archive:

June 2018, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Get Ready For Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador:  In January, 2017, I predicted that Donald Trump's policies would make the election of López more likely.

Unless the polls are very wrong, López will win tomorrow's presidential election, easily.

Since he is on the far left, that will be bad for Mexico — and the United States.

(But, possibly, good for both Trump and López, politically.)

Naturally, I hope my prediction is wrong.
- 3:09 PM, 30 June 2018   [link]


When I read this:
The BBC’s head of comedy said this week that Monty Python’s Flying Circus would not be commissioned today.  Too white, too Oxbridge.
Contrary fellow that I am, I decided to watch some of the episodes that I have on DVD.  The two I have seen so far were just as funny — and weird — as I remembered.

It is odd how often "diversity" means excluding particular groups.

(Monty Python)
- 2:27 PM, 30 June 2018   [link]


I Hope None Of You are ever in this situation.

On either side.
- 1:51 PM, 30 June 2018   [link]


Worth Reading:  Megan McArdle's column, "Behold the priest-kings of the future Supreme Court".
One can easily imagine a 24th-century American civics class in which the teaching bot is struggling to explain how the United States passed from having a roughly representative democracy into the more modern arrangement of having the priest-kings of the Supreme Court make all the important laws.

Remarkably, in a fairly short period of time, almost everyone seemed to agree that this was a good idea.  Oh, of course they complained bitterly when the other party got enough judges to impose its preferences.  But conservatives who lamented the outrageous overreach of the Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage simultaneously wish to hand the courts sweeping powers to strike down things like labor law; liberals who complained about the court “legislating from the bench” about campaign finance (Citizens United) simultaneously insisted on the sacred constitutional rights to be found in Roe v. Wade.
(For the record:  I think Citizens United was decided correctly, and am a little surprised that a libertarian like McArdle uses it as a contrary example.)

I have long thought that our federal and state courts have been making many decisions that should be made by elected legislatures.

If our courts did respect democratic processes more, our country would, I believe, be less divided, because legislatures routinely produce the compromises that courts usually do not.

(McArdle does not mention this, but one of the reasons the courts grabbed so much power is that they often took the lead in civil rights, something that our journalists almost universally approved.)
- 1:31 PM, 29 June 2018   [link]


Troubling:  According to a new study, the psychopath capital of the United States is Washington, DC.
Ryan Murphy, an economist at Southern Methodist University, recently published a working paper in which he ranked each of the states by the predominance of—there’s no nice way to put it—psychopaths.  The winner?   Washington in a walk.  In fact, the capital scored higher on Murphy’s scale than the next two runners-up combined.

“I had previously written on politicians and psychopathy, but I had no expectation D.C. would stand out as much as it does,” Murphy wrote in an email.
Most of you will find the rest of the findings interesting, too.

Caveat:  Since it is a working paper, the study hasn't been formally peer reviewed, or accepted for publication in a journal.  But the findings seem strong enough so I think it likely they will hold up.

(Psychopathy)
- 9:27 AM, 29 June 2018   [link]


This Week's Collection Of Cartoons from Politico.

My favorites:  Michael Ramirez's solution and (barely) Matt Wuerker's USA Mart.
- 9:06 AM, 29 June 2018   [link]


Eli Lake Thinks That Trump Meeting With Putin is a lousy idea.

Especially one on one.

Lake is right, so we can only hope not too much damage comes from their meeting, that Trump won't, for instance, offer to give Alaska back to Russia.

I confess that I have yet to figure out why Trump is so attracted to Putin.  Oh, I have bits and pices, but not enough all together to explain one of the great one-sided love affairs of our time.

And the only cure I have been able to think of, aversion therapy, is impractical.  (Although the thought of Trump wearing a shock color, triggered by some aide every time Trump says something nice about Putin, does cheer me up.)
- 7:31 PM, 28 June 2018   [link]


It Takes Real Courage to run for office in Mexico.
Mexico City (AFP) - A total of 133 politicians have been murdered in the run-up to Mexico's elections on Sunday, the consulting firm Etellekt said, as the violence gripping the country exploded into politics on a record scale.

The murders -- mostly of local-level politicians, the most frequent targets for Mexico's powerful drug cartels -- were recorded between September, when candidate registration opened, and the close of campaigning on Wednesday, when an interim mayor was killed in the western state of Michoacan.
Especially during this election.  (According to the firm, there were nine political murders during the last election.)

You have to admire the brave Mexican men and women who are running for those local offices, in spite of the risks.
- 3:25 PM, 28 June 2018   [link]


Will Justice Anthony Kennedy's Retirement Mean The End Of Roe v. Wade?  Not necessarily.

Although it isn't hard to find experts who say so.

But I recall that after Clarence Thomas was confirmed (by a 52–48 vote), many experts were saying the same thing.

(They were wrong because Anthony Kennedy switched sides.)

For Roe to be reversed, all of the following things would have to happen:

First, Mitch McConnell would have to choose a conservative nominee.  (I know journalists routinely say Trump will make the choice, but he will do so from a list provided by McConnell.)

Second, the nominee would have to get through a tough fight in the Senate, where the Republicans have a mere 51-49 majority — and John McCain is on sick leave in Arizona.

Third, the nominee, once on the court, would have to vote as expected.

Fourth, all four of the current conservative justices would have to keep their current positions.

Even if you think each of those is more likely than not, you may conclude that the whole sequence is not.

Just to complicate things, if Mitch McConnell thinks that Republicans will gain seats in the Senate in November, he might postpone a vote until January.  I am nearly certain that he and his staff are already thinking about that possibility.

(For the record:  If Roe v. Wade was reversed, it would not mean the end of legal abortions in the United States.  Instead, the issue would return to the states, which would, as they had before the decision, make very different laws on the subject — laws that voters could change by electing different legislators.  Or even directly, in states that provide for initiatives.)
- 1:51 PM, 28 June 2018   [link]


Aliens May Not Find Us especially attractive.
- 10:40 AM, 28 June 2018   [link]


Discouraging:  But not surprising.
Despite the president’s assurances, North Korea has been upgrading its nuclear program in the two weeks following the June 12 summit in Singapore.  That’s according to watchdog group 38 North — which posted satellite imagery to its website backing its assertions.

The images show that North Korea has made a series of infrastructure upgrades to its only known nuclear reactor.  Among the improvements; new buildings have been erected, covered pipe trench has been completed, and cooling units have been added.
These upgrades don't prove that the North Koreans have no intention of getting rid of their nuclear programs — but they aren't a positive sign, either.

(38 North)
- 3:13 PM, 27 June 2018   [link]


How Accurate Is Your Picture Of The Other Party?  If you are a Republican, you can get a rough idea by asking yourself how many Democrats are agnostics or atheists, black, LBG, or union members.

If you are a Democrat, ask yourself how many Republicans are 65 or older, Evangelicals, southerners, or earn $250K or more a year.

And then check your answers here.

You will almost certainly do better than most of our fellow citizens.
- 1:39 PM, 27 June 2018   [link]


Ethnic Succession?  The surprise victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over incumbent Joseph Crowley in New York's 14th congressional district primary has inspired many news stories.

But so far I haven't seen any that mentioned what is likely one of the most important reasons for her victory: ethnic succession.

In multi-ethnic big cities, it is routine for districts to be drawn so as to give ethnic groups good chances to elect their own, Italians in Italian districts, Jews in Jewish districts, and so on.

But sometimes this happy situation is interrupted by population change, redistricting, or some combination of the two, so an elected official no longer fits his district.  Eventually, the incumbent is likely to face a challenger from the new majority.

The 14th is about 18 percent white, 11 percent black, 16 percent Asian — and 50 percent Hispanic.  Ocasio-Cortez won 57.5 percent of the vote.

(It is likely that Crowley made a common mistake, for losers; he spent too much time on internal Congressional politics, and neglected his district.

If you haven't already, take a look at a map of the district.  It would take a real expert in New York City politics to explain those convoluted boundaries, but we can all admire their artistry.)
- 12:49 PM, 27 June 2018   [link]


Erdogan Ran Stronger In Germany Than He Did In Turkey:  Some numbers.
Roughly 1.4 million people in Germany are eligible to vote in the Turkish elections, making them a crucial source of votes for politicians in Ankara.

Erdogan scored a much better result among Turks living in Germany than he did domestically.  After over 70 percent of the votes in Germany had been counted, the strongman had 65.8 percent of the vote share, clearly ahead of his nearest rival Muharrem İnce, with 21.5 percent of the vote in Germany.
That result is even more impressive when you remember that many of those Turkish citizens in Germany are Kurds, who are not fond of Erdogan.

Erdogan did not have the almost complete support of the news organizations in Germany, as he did in Turkey; in fact, as far as I can tell, German news organizations have been hostile to him for years now.

And that may have been one of the reasons he did so well in Germany.

The rising nationalism in Germany, and the growing anti-Muslim sentiments, may also have inspired a backlash among Turks in Germany.

(Fun fact:  Until recently, the leader of Germany's Green Party was Cem Özdemir, who is, as his name suggests, descended from Turks.  He's not very popular in Turkey, right now.

Turkish presidential election, 2018 and Recep Tayyip Erdogan)
- 9:02 AM, 27 June 2018   [link]


The Current "Pepper . . . And Salt" made me laugh out loud.
- 6:51 AM, 27 June 2018   [link]


Even Seattle Leftists Can't Block Market Forces Indefinitely:  Though they try.
For years, the Seattle rental market was so heated that renters would constantly monitor online listings and quickly show up to available apartments with checkbooks and references in hand.  For many apartments, they’d have to fill out applications on the spot and cross their fingers.

Those days are over.  A glut of new apartments washing over the city has quickly turned the tables as vacancy rates hit their highest levels since the recession, led by downtown Seattle, where one-fourth of all apartments are now sitting empty.

Landlords who are increasingly hard-pressed to fill their open apartments are offering deals like a free month’s rent, lucrative gift cards and even free electronics.
I've been seeing the trend in this area, too, with established apartment complexes continually advertising apartments for rent.  I've even seen one new apartment building — within walking distance of Microsoft — offering the first month free.

Housing costs are still way too high here, easily 30 to 50 percent higher than they would be with more reasonable regulations, but they have stopped rising for renters.  (I don't see much hope for those looking to buy a first home, within the next five years.)
- 11:29 AM, 26 June 2018   [link]


Where Are Harley-Davidsons Made?  In more nations than I would have guessed: Australia, Brazil, India, Thailand, and the United States.

The plant in Thailand is recent.
It is worth mentioning that Harley could make the decision to shift production because it had chosen, in 2017, to open a new manufacturing plant in Thailand.

At the time, the company said it was moving manufacturing there to avoid a different tariff: this one being the 60% duty levied on Thai imports.   That decision, of course, was made after Trump decided to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade treaty that Harley had said it supported.
If the company is telling the truth, that plant in Thailand is the result of Trump's trade policies.

(For the record:  Hillary Clinton also opposed the TPP during the 2016 campaign — although her own State Department had negotiated it.)
- 9:57 AM, 26 June 2018   [link]


All Of The A-hed Stories make me smile.

My favorite?  Probably the library bats.
- 9:19 AM, 26 June 2018   [link]


Months Ago, I Started Wondering When Our Trading Partners Would Think Of These Tactics:  I assume some of them have been thinking about them for some time, but now they are discussing them, openly.
But so far these responses have done little to deter Trump from moving forward with his trade agenda, prompting the the consideration of an out-of-the-box response for an out-of-the-box president.

Op-eds in The Houston Chronicle and the Canadian news magazine Maclean's suggested the only way to quell the rising trade tensions is to strike at Trump's businesses.  While some countries, such as China, have appeared to try and sway the president through treating his family's businesses more favorably, countries have not made moves to curtail the businesses' activity within their borders.
Such tactics can be used by local governments, bureaucracies acting on their own, and even groups of private citizens.

i For instance, a local government in Scotland might decide that a good location for a drug rehabilitation center would be right across the street from a Trump golf course.
- 3:27 PM, 25 June 2018   [link]


Some Thoughts About Border Patrol Numbers:   According to Stephanie Leutert, there are now about 16,000 Border Patrol agents on our southern border.

Since there are 168 hours in a week, the Patrol will need at least four shifts, so on the average we would expect there to be 4,000 agents on duty at any given time.

The agents can not be on the border full time during their shifts, since they have other things to do, for instance getting to their border posts, going to court as witnesses, and so on.

If those other things take up half their time, which seems reasonable to me, there will be an average of 2,000 agents actually guarding the border at any given time.

Leutert says the border is 2,000 miles long, so each agent has one mile to guard — on the average.

That doesn't seem like enough agents to me.

(In practice, you would probably want the agents to work in pairs at least, so that, for example, two agents would have two mile to guard.

I used Leutert's estimate of 2,000 miles, but I am sure she is neglecting the water part of our southern border.)
- 9:31 AM, 25 June 2018   [link]


This Morning NPR Got The Arlene's Flowers Case Wrong:  At least twice I heard announcers say that Arlene had refused to sell flowers to a gay couple.

In fact, Arlene had sold flowers to the two men for years and was still willing to sell them more.  What she wasn't willing to do was make the flower arrangements for their wedding.

(When they asked, she referred them to another florist who did not have her religious objections to gay weddings.)

NPR did get it right later in the morning, but did not make a formal correction, while I was listening.

(Arlene's Flowers lawsuit)
- 8:28 AM, 25 June 2018   [link]


The Current "Pepper . . . And Salt" made me laugh.
- 7:26 AM, 25 June 2018   [link]