December 2017, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Germany Still Doesn't Have A New Government:  Even though the federal election was held almost three months ago.
Germany's acting finance minister, Peter Altmaier, is fond of playing the cosmopolitan European diplomat on visits to Brussels.  Articulate and multilingual, Altmaier doesn't shy away from speaking a bit of Dutch into the microphone and is perfectly at home chatting with outgoing Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem or delivering a withering critique of U.S. President Donald Trump's tax plan.

But once the doors close and his counterparts begin asking him the question that is foremost on their minds -- when is Europe's most important country going to finally assemble a new government? -- Altmaier has no choice but to tell them the sobering truth.  The constitutional situation in Germany, he notes, is complicated.  Furthermore, if a renewed coalition between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) -- a pairing known as a "grand coalition" -- does, in fact, take shape, the SPD has said it plans to have the grassroots vote on it.  That will take time, Altmaier says, looking into the shocked faces surrounding him.
They have, of course, a "provisional" government — and may have a new government by . . . Easter.

For a country that values efficiency and stability, this is embarrassing.

Der Spiegel would probably disagree with me on this, but I think Merkel's fundamental mistake was excluding the AfD — in advance — from any possible coalition.

That both encouraged those who disagreed with her "refugee" policy to vote for the AfD, and drastically reduced her bargaining power in forming a new coalition.

(Earlier posts on the election here, here, and here.

German federal election, 2017)
- 4:43 PM, 16 December 2017   [link]

Yesterday Was The Bill Of Rights Day:  (And I should have put up this post, then.)

It did get a little official recognition.

But almost everyone should at least read the ten amendments, and glance over this Wikipedia article.

My favorite is the First:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Perhaps because I exercise it almost every day.

(Fun fact:
Contrary to Madison's original proposal that the articles be incorporated into the main body of the Constitution, they were proposed as supplemental additions (codicils) to it.  Articles Three through Twelve were ratified as additions to the Constitution on December 15, 1791, and became Amendments One through Ten of the Constitution. Article Two became part of the Constitution on May 5, 1992, as the Twenty-seventh Amendment.[1][3]   Article One is technically still pending before the states.
I'm not sure what effects ratifying One would have had.)
- 8:49 AM, 16 December 2017   [link]

This Week's Collection Of Political Cartoons from Politico.

My favorites:  Michael Ramirez's majority leader, Sam Delonas's ghost, Clay Bennett's Fox News, and Pat Bagley's partisan attacks.

(The second cartoon, by Bill Bramhall, is too crude for a family newspaper — but I will admit that it made me laugh.)
- 7:54 AM, 16 December 2017   [link]

Here's The Simpsons' Take on the Mueller investigation.
The Simpsons have not been shy about going after President Donald Trump during the first year of his administration over various things.  But the latest Simpsons' parody goes further than any before it.  Much further.

In a two-minute video posted to Twitter on Thursday, a cartoon version of the president is shown trying to bribe a cartoon version of special counsel Robert Mueller.
Now why would anyone think that Trump might bribe someone?
- 12:16 PM, 15 December 2017   [link]

This New Yorker Cartoon is so bad, it's . . .


No, but it is interesting.
- 9:44 AM, 15 December 2017   [link]

Here's Some Weak Evidence Of Trump/Russia Collusion:  Vladimir Putin is denying it, again.
Vladimir Putin has once again denied playing any part of a campaign to collude with President Trump or interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

In his annual press conference in Moscow, the Russian president insisted that any interactions his government had with Trump campaign officials were politically normal.  He also said the notion of collusion is a fantasy to undermine Trump’s credibility, and all it does is damage the U.S.’ internal politics and international relationships.

“It’s all invented by those in opposition to Trump to make his work seem illegitimate,” said Putin.  “Diplomatic representatives or even government officials hold meetings with all candidates
Weak evidence, not proof, but it is evidence.

(For the record:  I would say that the probability that the Russians interfered in our 2016 election is more than 99 percent.  And we all should remember that Trump called on the Russians to interfere, asking them to release more of Hillary Clinton's private emails, some containing classified intimation.

So whether we should say that Trump "colluded" with the Russians depends partly on how you define that word — but mostly on what happened in all those meetings.

I prefer a stricter definition than some, and I don't know what happened in most of those meetings, so, for now, I can't even estimate the probability that there was collusion, and, if there was, whether Trump himself had anything to do with it.

That's unsatisfying, I know.)
- 12:40 PM, 14 December 2017   [link]

This NPR Headline is cute:  "This Mouse Swallows Part Of A Fox: Disney Buys Most Of Murdoch Empire".

(Though I'll admit that calling Disney a "mouse" sounds a little odd, these days.)
- 11:499 AM, 14 December 2017   [link]

Our "Super" Inversion:  Ordinarily, it gets cooler as you gain altitude.  (For years, I have used the 3 degrees cooler for every thousand feet of altitude gain approximation, and found it close enough to be useful.)

But sometimes you get inversions.

And we just had a super one:
At Camp Muir, 10,000 feet up Mount Rainier, the temperature Monday morning was 41 degrees, warmer than the 33 degrees recorded at the same time at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.  At Hurricane Ridge in the Olympics, it was 55 degrees on Monday morning, the weather service reported.

A front that blew into the coast on Monday night weakened the inversion factor — bringing Hurricane Ridge’s temperature back down to 39 degrees, said Dustin Guy, also of the weather service.
Camp Muir is at 10,188 feet, and Hurricane Ridge is at 5,242 feet.

The inversion was trapping our air pollution — and protecting us from the smoke from the California wild fires.

And it caused very dangerous driving conditions, in places.
- 9:09 AM, 14 December 2017   [link]

Today's "Pepper . . . And Salt" made me smile.
- 8:15 AM, 14 December 2017   [link]

Good For Professor Volokh And His Fellow Conspirators:  They have moved their site out from behind a (fairly porous) Washington Post paywall.

Here's the new location.  (I have updated my list.)
- 2:19 PM, 13 December 2017   [link]

Last Night, Instead Of Watching The Alabama Votes Directly, I Watched Two Sets Of Watchers:  Specifically, Nate Silver's crew and the British bettors.

FWIW, I got the same overall picture from both groups; the betting odds shifted wildly as results came in favoring first Jones, then Moore, then Jones, and so on.  And the mood of Nate Silver and company shifted more or less in sync.  (Incidentally, Silver, bright as he is, has made s serious mistake by not hiring two or three Republican voting analysts.)

(Could I have made a correct prediction earlier than Silver did?  Possibly, but I would have had to spend an hour or so preparing before election night, something I had not done.)
- 1:56 PM, 13 December 2017   [link]

Too Funny Not To Share:  This Sarah Rumpf post: "Is This the Dumbest Insult Ever Uttered in Alabama?"
You would have to be an idiot to insult Bama while speaking to a crowd of Alabamians in Alabama, right?

Well, that’s exactly what Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon apparently did tonight, at a rally to support Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in the special election for Alabama’s Senate seat, who is currently battling allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct with teenage girls back when he was a prosecutor in his thirties.

According to NBC reporter Jonathan Allen, Bannon was speaking to the crowd in Midland City, Alabama, and decided to attack MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, by mocking where he went to college.  Bannon went to Virginia Tech for undergrad, and then received a master’s at Georgetown and an MBA at Harvard, while Scarborough went to Alabama for undergrad and the University of Florida for law school.
Will Bannon follow that up by sneering at Nittany Lions in Pennsylvania, Buckeyes in Ohio, Badgers in Wisconsin, Ducks in Oregon, Huskies in Washington state, and so forth?

Probably not.  (But there are times when I wonder — briefly — whether Bannon is working for the Democratic Party.)
- 9:44 AM, 13 December 2017   [link]

Some Kings Are Both Sneaky and decisive.

(Machiavelli would probably approve of both.)
- 9:19 AM, 13 December 2017   [link]

Family Preference Visas And Intense Minorities:  About ten minutes after I put up that post on Akayed Ullah's F4 visa, I realized why family preference visas exist — and was embarrassed that I had missed the reason, even for minutes.

Those "family preference" visas are, almost certainly, the result of an intense minority, specifically the American citizens who have family members they want to bring into this country from somewhere overseas.

They may not be a very large minority, perhaps 5 percent, but they feel very strongly about the issue, more strongly than the rest of us, who care more about other issues.

And so that minority has been able to get Congress to give them quotas for their family members.

(You can find more examples of the power of intense minorities here and here.)
- 3:43 PM, 12 December 2017   [link]

From "Sexual Harassment" To "Sexual Misconduct"   It may be my imagination, but I think journalists are switching from the first phrase to the second.  (Here's an example.)

I don't know why the change, but I suspect it is because "harassment", in many jurisdictions, is illegal, and the journalists want to include more objectionable behavior, without implying that all of it is illegal.

Unfortunately, "sexual misconduct" doesn't really work very well, because it is too inclusive, covering everything from the forcible rape of a minor to a slightly off-color joke, overheard by someone the teller did not even know was listening.   It would also cover — and this is a real example — a female politician sleeping with an old boyfriend shortly before he is about to be married.  (She was named as a "correspondent" in the subsequent divorce suit.)
- 10:53 AM, 12 December 2017   [link]

According To News Accounts, Yesterday's Terrorist, Akayed Ullah, Came To The United States On An F4 Visa  Assuming I lucked out and found the right description in a brief search, here's an explanation.
Family Preference Immigrant Visas (Limited):  These visa types are for specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR).  There are fiscal year numerical limitations on family preference immigrants, shown at the end of each category.  The family preference categories are:
Family First Preference (F1):  Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children, if any. (23,400)
Family Second Preference (F2):  Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of LPRs.  At least seventy-seven percent of all visas available for this category will go to the spouses and children; the remainder is allocated to unmarried sons and daughters. (114,200)
Family Third Preference (F3):  Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children. (23,400)
Family Fourth Preference (F4):  Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age. (65,000)
Note: Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration.

Numerical Limitations for Limited Family-Based Preference Categories

Whenever the number of qualified applicants for a category exceeds the available immigrant visas, there will be an immigration wait.  In this situation, the available immigrant visas will be issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed using their priority date.  The filing date of a petition becomes what is called the applicant's priority date.  Immigrant visas cannot be issued until an applicant's priority date is reached.  In certain categories with many approved petitions compared to available visas, there may be a waiting period of several years, or more, before a priority date is reached.  Check the Visa Bulletin for the latest priority dates.
So Ullah was able to get in because he has a brother or sister who is an American citizen.  And, probably because he was willing to wait in line for years.

The other categories I can understand — whether I agree with them or not — but I do not know why brothers and sisters are given preferences.
- 9:59 AM, 12 December 2017   [link]

Nate Silver Doesn't Know What Is Happening In Alabama:  (Neither do I.)

And he is rather peevish about it, judging by the title of this post:   "What The Hell Is Happening With These Alabama Polls?".
What we’re seeing in Alabama goes beyond the usual warnings about minding the margin of error, however.  There’s a massive spread in results from poll to poll — with surveys on Monday morning showing everything from a 9-point lead for Moore to a 10-point advantage for Democrat Doug Jones — and they reflect two highly different approaches to polling.
When the pollsters are being honest, their results should differ — but not by that much.

What do the British bettors think?  As I write, that Roy Moore has a 68.5 percent chance of winning.
- 8:28 AM, 12 December 2017   [link]

Since It Is Election Day In Alabama, it's a good time to recycle a very old election joke:
A little Protestant boy in East Belfast was standing in the street, crying his eyes out.  A lady stopped to console him.
'What's the matter, little boy?'
Between sobs, the child replied:
'My father doesn't love me.'
'Of course he does,' she tried to reassure him, 'What makes you say such a thing?'
''He's been back to vote three times since he died, but he's never come to see me once.' (p. 85)
If I were telling that joke here in the United States, I'd change it, making the location Chicago or Louisiana, or some other place famous for vote fraud.

I'm not sure where that joke originated, though I wouldn't be surprised if I learned that similar jokes were told in ancient Athens.

(For some audiences, especially younger audiences, you might have to mention the vote fraud before telling the joke.)
- 7:37 AM, 12 December 2017   [link]

Judging By The Size Of That Settlement, Alcee Hastings Has Been A Very Bad Boy:  Again.

Or perhaps we should say as usual, considering his record.
It appears yet another elected official on Capitol Hill has been exposed for inappropriate behavior.

Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida reportedly settled a sexual harassment case back in 2014.  His accuser was rewarded $220,000 from the Treasury Department.   In other words, it was funded by taxpayers.
For the record:  Hastings denies both the harassment and the settlement.

So far, I haven't seen any reaction from Nancy Pelosi.

(Alcee Hastings)
- 1:26 PM, 11 December 2017   [link]

This Latest Terrorist Doesn't Appear To Be Competent:  For which we may be grateful.
An ISIS-inspired would-be suicide bomber set off a homemade explosive device at the Port Authority Bus Terminal subway station Monday morning, seriously wounding himself and injuring three others, law enforcement sources said.

The man — a 27-year-old Brooklyn man identified by high ranking police sources as Akayed Ullah — had wires attached to him and a 5-inch metal pipe bomb and battery pack strapped to his midsection as he walked through the Manhattan transit hub.
According to the police, Ullah has been in the United States for seven years, which suggests to me that he may have become radicalized here.

As I have said from time to time, to know us isn't necessarily to love us.

So far, I haven't seen anything on his immigration status, or why he was permitted to come here originally, though I would guess that he didn't come on an H1-B visa.
- 1:03 PM, 11 December 2017   [link]

It's Foggy Down Here, But Clear Above The Fog:  So the Mt. Rainier cameras are showing some lovely scenes.  (And the Mt. St. Helens cameras may do the same later this afternoon.)

As I write, you can see a good view of Mt. Adams from the Muir camera.

The weather forecasters are predicting that this inversion, unusual for Decembers here, will last a few more days.
- 10:29 AM, 11 December 2017   [link]

Today's "Pepper . . . And Salt" is amusing.
- 10:11 AM, 11 December 2017   [link]

It Is Probably Just A Coincidence:  But in recent weeks, local TV stations have run these three movies:   All the King's Men (2006 version), The Caine Mutiny, and The Manchurian Candidate.

In order, a movie about a corrupt demagogue with strong appeal to poor Southern whites, a movie about a leader who cracks up under pressure, and a movie about an American who is a Russian agent.

As I said, it is probably just a coincidence.
- 5:41 PM, 10 December 2017   [link]

Dour George Will Finds Reasons For Hilarity in this last year's events.

For instance.
Washington's subway banned a civil liberties group's ad consisting entirely of the text of the First Amendment, which ostensibly violated the rule against ads "intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions."
Now that is almost too perfect.

(Will has reasons to be dour.)
- 3:03 PM, 10 December 2017   [link]

This Week's Collection Of Political Cartoons from Politico.

My favorites:  Gustavo Rodriguez's Kim, Michael Ramirez's Kim, and Ramirez's Palestinian.

(The fourth cartoon, by Jeff Danziger, comes awfully close to bigotry.)
- 10:31 AM, 9 December 2017   [link]