Archive:

September 2017, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Peggy Noonan, Prophet:  In her weekly column for the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan gave Donald Trump credit for a good UN speech, and generally good behavior in the "past few weeks".

But then Noonan continued with this thought:
Which gets us to point two:  This is a very important moment for him.  History suggests he will ruin it any minute with intemperate statements, wiggy decisions or crazy tweets.

He does this because he’s somewhat compulsive and has trouble governing himself.  He also does it because he thinks his supporters like it.  Some do, but most don’t.  He thinks they all do because he misunderstands his base.
(Noonan's column was written and submitted before Trump's remarks about the NFL.)

We can't give Noonan a lot of credit for this successful prediction, since she only said that Trump will keep doing what he has been doing all his "adult" life.   But she deserves some, because sometimes pointing out the obvious is our "first duty", as Orwell told us years ago.
- 7:37 PM, 24 September 2017   [link]


In The Spring Of 1929, First Lady Lou Hoover Invited Congressional Wives To The White House For A Series Of Teas:  The last tea was controversial.
Among the spouses to be invited that year was Jessie DePriest, the wife of freshman Chicago Congressman, both of whom were African-American.  As far as her own personal views, Lou Hoover was a staunch egalitarian with a genuine belief in the utter correctness of social interaction between people of all races.  Although her own circle of close friends was of the same racial and socioeconomic background as herself, she herself had traveled the world and interacted with people from completely different origins than her own.  She never had any hesitation about inviting Jessie DePriest, only how to handle those white segregationists who might balk or treat their fellow spouse congressional spouse poorly.
. . .
Lou Hoover decided to hold five separate teas.  Inviting Jessie DePriest to one of the first of these might well have provoked a boycott of the remaining teas and so Lou Hoover invited her to the final tea on 12 June 1929.

Among the other congressional wives in attendance, each had been sounded out to ensure their support of the social integration; Lou Hoover also widened the list to include her supportive women staff, her sister and several other officials and spouses, including the State Department's Chief of Protocol – an important symbol signaling the rightness of the invitation.  Lou Hoover made it clear to the White House guards that they were to permit the African-American woman into the mansion and made it a point to be seen shaking the hand of Jessie DePriest.
This caused quite a fuss among Southern Democrats, since DePriest was the first African-American woman to be invited, socially, to the White House.  (They had been in the White House — as servants — from the beginning.)

Lou apologized to her husband for the trouble she had caused.  Bob Dole tells us that Herbert reassured her with this thought:
Don't worry, Lou.  One of the consolations of orthodox religion is that it provides a hot hell for the Texas legislator.
That's a cheery thought, if you assume, as I do, that Herbert Hoover was joking.

(Lou Hoover was an impressive woman, even for a Republican.

Oscar DePriest, Jessie's husband, was an impressive man, even for a Republican.  It is likely, I think, that he owed some large part of his success to Jessie.)
- 6:55 PM, 24 September 2017   [link]


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

My favorites:  In Politico, none; in RealClearPolitics, Chip Bok's dogma, Andy Marlette's White House, Michael Ramirez's Emmys, and Mike Luckovich's tribute to the "Rocky and Bullwinkle Show".

(If you want to see attacks on Graham-Cassidy, you'll like the Politico collection.  I don't think the ObamaCare replacement will pass the Senate, so I have paid little attention to the bill.)
- 8:11 AM, 23 September 2017   [link]


Amazon Tries Hard To Help Its Customers (And Sell Extra Items):  Even when those customers are bomb makers.
LONDON — Amazon said on Wednesday that it was reviewing its website after a British television report said the online retail giant’s algorithms were automatically suggesting bomb-making ingredients that were “Frequently bought together.”

The news is particularly timely in Britain, where the authorities are investigating a terrorist attack last week on London’s Underground subway system.  The attack involved a crude explosive in a bucket inside a plastic bag, and detonated on a train during the morning rush.
If you are like me, you will wonder just how many bomb-making customers Amazon has in Britain, to trigger that “Frequently bought together" message.

Of course, those who buy the ingredients need not be terrorists; any young man who has played around with chemistry can tell you that it is fun to make explosives, even when your only target is, for example, a tin can.

(Early encyclopedias often gave practical directions for making explosives like nitroglycerin.)
- 8:19 AM, 22 September 2017   [link]


Airline Reservations Sometimes produce surprises.
- 7:56 AM, 22 September 2017   [link]


Merkel's Winning 36 Percent:  If the polls are right — and I have no reason to think that they aren't — Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat alliance will win about 36 percent of the vote in Germany's federal election this Sunday.

If the bettors are right, she has about a 95 percent chance of continuing to be Germany's chancellor.

How is that possible?

The are three answers to that question.  First, the largest opposition party, the Social Democrats, are expected to win about 22 percent of the vote.

Second, Germany's electoral system (which is far too complex for me to summarize in a sentence or two) gives bonuses to the larger parties.  In the last election, Merkel's CDU/CSU alliance came close to winning an absolute majority of the Bundestag with less than 42 percent of the popular vote.

Third, in post-war Germany, the leading party in a coalition always gets the chancellorship.

So Merkel is very likely to stay as chancellor, but again as leader of a coalition.

Which one?   No one knows.

(Fun fact:  Germany won't know how many members the new Bundestag will have until the votes are counted.)
- 2:08 PM, 21 September 2017   [link]


Germany's AfD Has at least two striking campaign posters.   They are worth a look, even if you have no interest in the current German federal election.

(I see that some people agree with me that "nationalist" is a better single-word description for such parties than "far-right".)
- 10:59 AM, 21 September 2017   [link]


Yesterday's "Prickly City" Showed a famous map.

Which you can see in more detail here.

(You may find this 2003 post helpful, even though I probably should revise it.)
- 7:17 AM, 21 September 2017   [link]


This Cartoon Is Just So-So:  But it left me wondering how many Americans would understand it, without an explanation like this one.

Less than half?
- 6:51 AM, 21 September 2017   [link]


How Is President Trump Doing In Other Nations?   Badly, with a few interesting exceptions.
Two patterns jump out. First, since Trump took office, confidence in the president has gone down further, on average, than favorability toward the U.S.:   Confidence dropped 47 percentage points; U.S. favorability just 13 points.  Since 2005, perceptions of the U.S. have changed less than those of the president.4

Second, while respondents’ views of both America and the president have decreased in the past year, the drops are not uniform.  Some of the biggest declines have been in countries with whom the U.S. has a collective defense agreement, such as NATO members and Japan, especially when it comes to confidence in the president.   Mexico, unsurprisingly, also saw a big public opinion drop on both questions.   On the other hand, public favorability toward the U.S. has gone up in Russia, and public confidence in the president has gone up in both Israel and Russia since Trump took office.5
(Links omitted.)

Although there is no way to prove this, I think similar, though smaller, drops would have happened had another Republican been elected president.  The world's news organizations are (mostly) run by leftists, who are inclined to dislike any moderate or conservative American president.

How much smaller?  At best, perhaps 10 percent for the new president, and 5 percent for the US.

(The 538 analysts err by comparing Trumps's current numbers to Bush's 2005 numbers; the correct comparison would be to Bush's pre-9/11 2001 numbers.)

Do these approval drops matter?  Won't national leaders continue to negotiate with us as before, since their national interests require it?  Unfortunately, the answer to that question is the annoying, but often correct:  It depends.

Britain will want a free trade agreement with us, regardless of how Trump behaves; Germany is already looking for different nuclear guarantors.  And so on.

Agreements that require national leaders to trust Donald Trump will be very difficult to negotiate.

Moreover, democratically elected leaders will often find they are more likely to win elections if they openly oppose Trump, as Chancellor Angela Merkel has done.   Those election tactics may make it impossible for them to reach agreements with the US, after an election, even when it is in our common interests to do so.
- 2:26 PM, 20 September 2017   [link]


Deportation Deserved:  Convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh has lost her illegally-gained American citizenship, and been deported.

Professor William Jacobson's link-filled post has all the background almost anyone could want on the case.

I'll just add this point, which is probably so obvious to him that he doesn't mention it in that post:  It seems nearly certain that Odeh emigrated to the United States in order to be a more effective propagandist for Palestinian terrorists.

We can be certain that she didn't say that on her application for American citizenship.

(Rasmea Odeh.)
- 10:13 AM, 20 September 2017   [link]


It's So Nice When Little Kids teach each other basic skills.
- 8:39 AM, 20 September 2017   [link]


Seattle Has Its Third Mayor In Less Than A Week:   As expected, the city council elected Tim Burgess.
The Seattle City Council picked Councilmember Tim Burgess Monday to replace Council President Bruce Harrell as temporary mayor and serve for the next 71 days, until a new mayor is elected.

Sworn in shortly after the council’s 5-1 vote, Burgess became the city’s 55th mayor — and its third in less than a week.  Only Councilmember Kshama Sawant voted against selecting the former radio journalist, police officer and public-relations professional.
(Sawant opposed Burgess, who she says she likes, because he favors "sweeps" of the homeless from under the freeways.)

Burgess will not serve until the end of Ed Murray's term — 31 December — but only until the winner of the November mayoral election is certified, which is scheduled for 28 November.

Burgess had one great advantage over other couniclmembers:  He was planning to retire at the end of the year.

When Burgess was sworn in, he promised to uphold the United States constitution, the Washington state constitution, and the Seattle city charter — but did not end with the usual "So help me God."  Presumably, Seattleites decided, at some time in the past, that they did not need divine assistance.

(Tim Burgess.)
- 3:05 PM, 19 September 2017   [link]


Worth A Look:  In fact, worth some study.

Ironman's animated chart comparing CO2 emissions by the United States and China.
As an interesting aside, from 1988 through 2015, both nations have emitted approximately equal amounts of carbon dioxide.  Looking at the first and last years of that period, the U.S.' carbon dioxide emissions totaled 4,889 [million] tonnes in 1988 and 5,093 [million] tonnes in 2015, peaking at 5,790 [million] tonnes in 2005.

Meanwhile, China emitted 2,368 [million] tonnes in 1998 and 10,216 [million] tonnes in 2015, with a peak value of 10,294 [million] tonnes in 2014, almost doubling the U.S.' carbon dioxide emissions in that year.
(Corrections added in brackets.)
- 9:42 AM, 19 September 2017   [link]


Why is Apple's New Phone So Expensive?  In order to sell more, says Josh Zumbrun.
Thorstein Veblen was a cranky economist of Norwegian descent who coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption” and theorized that certain products could defy the economic laws of gravity by stoking more demand with superhigh prices.

His 1899 book, “Theory of the Leisure Class,” made him famous in his time and more than a century later his ideas are embodied in products like Hermès handbags, Bugatti cars and Patek Philippe watches.

Now Apple and Samsung are testing whether the social commentator’s theory on what has come to be known as the “Veblen good” can work for one of the most common of all consumer products—the phone.
In other words, Apple and Samsung are setting the prices high on their latest phones — so that people who buy them can use them to signal their wealth and status.

(High status tech toys usually have some whizzy new feature that the buyer can use to make his peers jealous.  That may explain Apple's facial recognition.)

Because Veblen products are status symbols, they often inspire cheaper, often illegal, copies, which may or may not work just as well.

Years ago, when just having a cellphone was a status symbol, some enterprising British manufacturer produced fake cellphones that young men could use to impress young women in singles bars.  I assume the young men who bought them were not looking for long-term relationships.

(Veblen.)
- 9:10 AM, 19 September 2017   [link]


According To Polls, Young Voters In Australia Favor Same-Sex Marriage:  But they may not vote for it in the national referendum, because they lack experience with an older technology.
CANBERRA, Australia—The future of democracy faces an unexpected challenge from within.

Can young voters learn to use a mailbox?
Many younger voters have no recent experience in mailing letters, and aren't sure how to use tricky devices like mailboxes.

(I assume this also means that they haven't sent thank you letters, or even love letters.  That's sad.

In ordinary Australian elections, voting is compulsory, and in person.  I'm not sure how they handle people who are out of the country, or too sick to make it to the polls.)
- 8:34 AM, 19 September 2017   [link]


In Spite Of The Bullfrog Croaking In The Swamp, The House Is Getting Real Work Done:  They have even returned to "regular order".
The House on Thursday voted to send 12 appropriations bills to the Senate.  The chamber approved four of these 2018 spending measures prior to its August recess, and the remaining eight were debated and passed as part of the broader Thursday vote.  They had previously passed out of committee.  This is the first time since 2004 that a House Republican majority has passed all of its individual spending bills, . . .
Now, if the Senate will do the same, we will finally avoid one of those awful "omnibus" spending bills.  Odds are against that, since the Republican majority is so small, and the Senate rules provide so many opportunities for obstruction, but we still have to give credit to the House Republicans for this good start.

(Here's a review of regular order, if you need one.)
- 9:39 AM, 18 September 2017   [link]


Another Struggle against an oppressive law.
- 8:58 AM, 18 September 2017   [link]


The Westneat Exception To "No-Fault" Democrats:  Over the years, I have often been annoyed, — and sometimes amused — by the way elected Democrats in this area are never at fault for their mistakes.  Our local journalists are simply too partisan to ever blame their fellow Democrats, no matter how big and costly the blunder.  (That was especially true, by the way, for President Obama, while he was in office.  They didn't even criticize him for messing up commutes, as he did regularly on his fund raising trips to this area.)

But there is one exception, which I am naming after Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat, because I see it, from time to time, in his columns.  Today's column provides a clear example of that kind of exception.

As you know if you have been reading this site, former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray resigned after a fifth accuser came forward to accuse him of exploiting vulnerable underage boys for sex.  Or, to put it more bluntly, accuse him of statutory rape.

Although there is still a very slim possibility that Murray is innocent of some or all of the charges, any reasonable person has to admit that the preponderance of evidence is against Murray.  Most likely the accusers are telling the truth.

In today's column, Westneat finally got around to writing about the scandal.   Did he sympathize with Murray's victims, or even give them credit for having the courage to come forward?  (And I think we can all recognize that it is likely there are others who have not spoken out.)  Did he criticize Murray for exploiting these vulnerable boys?  Did he criticize authorities, including his own newspaper, for not doing enough to investigate the charges against Murray?

No, no, and no.

Instead, Westneat criticized Murray for bad tactics:
It’s quite possible Ed Murray would still be Seattle’s mayor if not for that day a few months back when he defied the gods.

That’s how the ancient Greeks would see it, anyway. They did know a thing or two about tragedy.

It was June 14, and one of the four men accusing Murray of sex abuse had just dropped his lawsuit. At City Hall, Murray took to the podium to pronounce himself completely vindicated — so much so that he was considering getting back into the campaign.
Westneat is not alone in this attitude; I have heard several other local journalists express sympathy for the former mayor and, so far, none express sympathy for his victims.

Nor is this "no-fault" attitude, with occasional Westneat exceptions, limited to this area, though it may be worse here than in most other parts of the nation.
- 6:54 PM, 17 September 2017   [link]


Harvard Now Recognizes Their Joke:  Though a little late.
Twelve Harvard University student groups are condemning the school's reversal of a decision to name Chelsea Manning a visiting fellow.

The groups released a statement Saturday calling for Harvard to reinstate Manning as a fellow.

Harvard reversed its decision on Friday, one day after CIA Director Mike Pompeo scrapped a planned appearance over the visiting fellow designation for the soldier convicted of leaking classified information.

Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf says on the school's website that naming Manning a visiting fellow was a mistake.  He says Manning is still invited to spend a day at the school and speak to students.
It's an odd mistake for someone with as much political experience as Elmendorf to make.  If I had to guess, I would say he erred because "trans" folks are so incredibly fashionable right now — in some circles.  I think that's also why Manning got that commutation from President Obama.
- 5:47 PM, 17 September 2017   [link]


Apple's New Phone Inspired this cartoon.

And reminded me of this 2015 joke.
Conan: In China, people are selling their kidneys to buy an iPhone 6S.   But don’t worry, those people will still have one kidney left six months from now when the iPhone 7 comes out.
They may have run out of kidneys by now.

(Some security experts have doubts about the new phone's facial recognition feature.)
- 6:49 AM, 17 September 2017   [link]