December 2016, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Home For The . . .  It's a few days before Christmas, and Smith and Jones are talking about their plans for the holiday.

Smith: "I'm really looking forward to Christmas.  It's such a special time of year."

Jones: "So you are looking for a chance to see your family, and share in the usual Christmas celebrations?"

Smith: "No, I see them fairly often during the year, so that's not it.  But only at Christmas does my mother make this wonderful sauce, with eggs, butter, lemon juice, . . . ."

"I see", Jones interrupts.  "You really want to be home for the Hollandaise."

(Think that one's bad?  Here's one that's worse.)
- 7:49 AM, 24 December 2016   [link]

Wednesday's New Yorker Cartoon May Be a year or two early.

But it has a fun Christmas theme.
- 11:11 AM, 23 December 2016   [link]

Anis Amrim, The Suspect In The Attack On The Berlin Christmas Market, Is From Tataouine:  No, really.
Star Wars fans who once flocked to the Tunisian town of Tataouine - which was used as the model for Luke Skywalker's home planet Tatooine - have stayed stayed away in recent years due to the proximity of violent jihadists.

Now, another name can be added to those who have lived there - Anis Amri, prime suspect in the Berlin massacre which left 12 people dead and 48 others injured after a truck ploughed through a Christmas market on Monday.
But he's no Luke Skywalker.
- 6:37 PM, 22 December 2016   [link]

The Daily Mail Gives The Berlin Terror Attack the full tabloid treatment.
A string of security blunders left a failed Tunisian asylum seeker free to carry out the Berlin Christmas market massacre, it was feared last night.

German security services face difficult questions after it emerged that Anis Amris, a lifelong criminal, should have been deported months ago.
Most of the article is probably accurate.

Two speculative thoughts:  First, when the German authorities announced that they had arrested a suspect just two hours after the attack, the timing seemed wrong to me, too late to have followed a hot pursuit, and too soon to result from a tip.  So I wasn't surprised when they decided that Pakistani was the wrong man.

Second, it seems likely that Anis Amris expected to die in the attack on the Christmas market.  That would explain why he had ID with him, and why he left it in the truck when he fled.
- 7:50 AM, 22 December 2016   [link]

All These Years, I've Been Practicing Therapy — Without A License — and didn't know it.
- 5:56 AM, 22 December 2016   [link]

Worth Reading:  William Galston's column, "Romney Was Right About Russia".
President Obama owes Mitt Romney an apology.  And so does President-elect Trump.

In an interview with Wolf Blitzer on March 26, 2012, Mr. Romney said that Russia is “without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”  He went on to explain:  When countries such as Iran and North Korea cross the line, “when Assad . . . is murdering his own people” and we go to the United Nations looking for ways to stop them, “Who is it that always stands up with the world’s worst actors? It’s always Russia.”

In the final presidential debate of the 2012 election, Mr. Obama mocked Mr. Romney’s thesis: The 1980s are “calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War has been over for 20 years.”

There it is, the Obama syllogism:  The Cold War is over, and therefore Russia cannot be our principal geopolitical foe.  This is faulty logic and even worse empirical analysis.  What was evident in 2012 is even clearer today:  Because Vladimir Putin believes that the collapse of the Soviet Union was, as he said in 2005, the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century, he is determined to reverse it by all means necessary.  His incursion into Georgia, his seizure of Crimea, his role in the “frozen conflict” in eastern Ukraine—all these are part of a ruthlessly consistent strategy.
Mitt Romney won't get those apologies — but he is owed them.
- 6:37 PM, 21 December 2016   [link]

John Kass Has Some Fun with Michelle Obama's Oprah interview.
"What else do you have if you don't have hope?" the first lady told Oprah.  "What do you give your kids if you can't give them hope?"

You mean, if you don't give your kids eight years of top private schools and lavish vacations all over the world, including stays in luxurious Spanish castles with friends and a houseful of retainers?
The private school the kids went to in Chicago is pretty good, too.
- 9:25 AM, 21 December 2016   [link]

So Far, No Plumber:  As Donald Trump puts together his Cabinet, I am reminded of a quip made about Eisenhower's Cabinet, that it consisted of "nine millionaires and a plumber".  (The plumber had been president of the plumber's union.)

I don't think we're going to get a plumber this time.  Unfortunately.

(As you probably know, Ronald Reagan had been a union president.

Here's Eisenhower's plumber, and here's why he didn't last long.)
- 8:59 AM, 21 December 2016   [link]

You'll Like Yesterday's New Yorker Cartoon if you think advertisers have overused a certain adjective.
- 8:15 AM, 21 December 2016   [link]

How Did The FBI Know About The Attacks On The DNC?   It's not a crucial detail, but it does make me wonder.

Here, again, are the first two paragraphs of that New York Times article:
When Special Agent Adrian Hawkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation called the Democratic National Committee in September 2015 to pass along some troubling news about its computer network, he was transferred, naturally, to the help desk.

His message was brief, if alarming. At least one computer system belonging to the D.N.C. had been compromised by hackers federal investigators had named “the Dukes,” a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government.
So how did Special Agent Hawkins know that?  On-line monitoring of some kind?   A paid informant?  Or some other way?

If the warning had come from the National Security Agency, you'd guess that they had intercepted some probes or messages, but the warning didn't come from them, at least not directly.
- 4:25 PM, 20 December 2016   [link]

Unlucky Timing For The Seattle Times:  On the front page of today's newspaper is a story about the terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin; on the editorial page of the print version, the lead editorial asks us to "Share the holiday spirit with Muslim neighbors".  (The on-line version has a different headline.)

It's hard to know what to say after that.

The Times is simply unwilling to accept the fact that, though a majority of Muslims, especially in the United States, may be willing to live in peace with their neighbors, a minority does not want to "share the holiday spirit" with the rest of us, a smaller minority would like to see us die, and an even smaller minority would rather kill us than "share the holiday spirit".

The newspaper apparently is unwilling to even think about the San Bernardino terrorist attack, which happened when non-Muslims were trying to "share the holiday spirit" with two Muslims.
- 3:23 PM, 20 December 2016   [link]

You've Heard About The Terrorist Attack in Berlin:  But the terrorist attack in Jordan may be more serious.
Four Jordanian security personnel have been killed in fresh clashes with armed men near the central town of Karak, state media report.

Sources said the gunfight began during a raid on a house where wanted suspects were believed to be hiding.

A security source told the official Petra news agency that the operation was not linked to Sunday's shootings in Karak that left 10 people dead.
The Jordanians say they found a large cache of arms, suggesting that the terrorists had a series of attacks planned.

(Karak is most famous for this Crusader castle.)
- 2:09 PM, 20 December 2016   [link]

There's A Useful Warning in last Thursday's New Yorker cartoon.
- 6:31 AM, 20 December 2016   [link]

Four Of Washington State's Twelve Electors were faithless.
The electors in Washington state have spoken, giving eight Electoral College votes to Hillary Clinton, three to Colin Powell and one to Faith Spotted Eagle, a Native-American tribal leader.

The split vote marks the first time in 40 years that Washington electors didn’t all support the candidate who won that state’s presidential election.
A Washington state law provides for $1000 fines for each faithless elector (though there is some doubt about whether those fines are Constitutional).

I think that makes Powell the winner of the bronze in the presidential race.

(If you are wondering about the vote for Faith Spotted Eagle, there's a simple explanation:   Indian tribes are not a large voting bloc here in Washington state, but Indian casinos are important donors to the state Democratic Party.)
- 7:33 PM, 19 December 2016   [link]

The Venezuelan Regime Ordered People to turn in their 100 Bolivar banknotes — before the regime had new, larger banknotes to replace them.
Caracas (AFP) - A jetload of new currency finally arrived in Venezuela after its delayed arrival sparked protests and looting that jolted President Nicolas Maduro's unpopular government.

The government had briefly pulled from circulation the largest-denomination 100-bolivar bill without replacing it on Thursday, due to the delay.

People around the country took to the streets protesting, there was widespread looting in the south and the government boosted the number of troops on the streets.
At least three people have died in the riots following the order.

According to Mary Anastasia O'Grady's column in today's Wall Street Journal, about one-third of Venezuelans have only cash, no bank accounts, not even debit cards.

As I mentioned three days ago, many of Venezuela's problems are caused by the regime's incompetence.   Even so, I didn't expect them to do something this stupid.

(I haven't seen an explanation for the delay.  The regime may have messed up its timing, or the firm in Sweden that is printing them may have held them for a few days, until they were paid for their work.)
- 4:22 PM, 19 December 2016   [link]

That Weird Habit Donald Trump Has Of Clapping For Himself?  There's another leader who has the same weird habit.

There are probably others, but those two are the only ones I can think of, off hand.
- 7:15 AM, 19 December 2016   [link]

A Mother Tries Sarcasm in this New Yorker cartoon.

It probably won't work.
- 7:05 AM, 19 December 2016   [link]

President Obama's Priorities:  In May, Secretary of State John Kerry warned the world about South Sudan.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned of a possible genocide in South Sudan if more peacekeepers are not rapidly deployed to end the conflict.

South Sudan had been hit by "ethnic, tribal, targeted nationalistic killings", he said.
UN officials now agree with Kerry's assessment.
For three years South Sudan has tumbled deeper into self-inflicted chaos, and it now finds itself on the brink of something even more terrifying.

United Nations officials rarely use the words "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing," but they now say potentially both could envelop the world's youngest country.
In yesterday's news conference, President Obama said that he knew about those problems.
OBAMA:  Mike, I always feel responsible.  I felt responsible when kids were being shot by snipers.  I felt responsible when millions of people had been displaced.  I feel responsible for murder and slaughter that's taken place in South Sudan that's not being reported on, partly because there's not as much social media being generated from there.

There are places around the world where horrible things are happening and because of my office, because I'm president of the United States, I feel responsible.  I ask myself every single day, is there something I could do that would save lives and make a difference and spare some child who doesn't deserve to suffer.
So what is he doing to prevent that possible genocide?  He is flying off for his usual long vacation in Hawaii.

No doubt the children in South Sudan will be pleased to learn that he cares, assuming they survive.

There is a consistency in his inaction; when his own administration announced that there was a genocide against Christians and Yazidis in the Middle East, he didn't change what he was doing then, either.
- 4:45 PM, 17 December 2016   [link]

Worth Reading:  Naomi Schaefer Riley's article, "Bury Their Future at Standing Rock: The truth about the shutdown of the Dakota Pipeline".

Riley gives you the background on the dispute, background that you are unlikely to have seen elsewhere (though there was a useful op-ed in the Wall Street Journal recently) and uses the decision to illustrate the argument she makes in her book, The New Trail of Tears: How Washington Is Destroying American Indians.

Here's her beginning:
"Today we’re celebrating.  For the first time in U.S. history, the U.S. government is going to honor tribal sovereignty and the treaties that were signed by the U.S. government.”  So said Tomas Lopez, a representative of the International Indigenous Youth Council, on the day after the Army Corps of Engineers decided it would not grant an easement through South Dakota’s Lake Oahe for the construction of the last mile of the Dakota Pipeline.  Lopez was surely speaking for thousands of protesters who were camped out for months at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation when he declared, “For the first time, I feel like we’re being acknowledged as a people and we’re being seen and being heard and honored.”

No doubt the decision has given some a renewed sense of pride, but whether the administration’s decision was about acknowledging the rights of Native Americans or rather was a final bow to the interests of powerful liberal lobbies in Washington is an open question.  And while Standing Rock leaders may be pleased with their success, American Indians will be bearing the devastating economic consequences of this decision for years to come.
The celebrities that have been supporting the tribe are unlikely to know about those results.
- 3:33 PM, 17 December 2016   [link]

Yesterday's New Yorker Cartoon Is Timely:  And, for a change, moderately subtle.
- 2:32 PM, 17 December 2016   [link]