December 2018, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

AKK In For AM:  But it was close.
Germany's ruling Christian Democrat Union has chosen Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as its new party leader, ending Angela Merkel's 18-year reign.

The CDU general secretary narrowly beat Friedrich Merz, a millionaire lawyer, in a run-off vote in Hamburg.

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, or AKK as she is also known, received 517 of 999 votes
I am not an expert in German politics, but I believe that, if the CDU's "sister party", the CSU, could have voted, Kramp-Karrenbauer would have lost, since the CSU is more conservative that Merkel's CDU.

(Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer)
- 4:14 PM, 7 December 2018   [link]

She Forgot To Mention their great modesty.

(Mazie Hirono)
- 1:25 PM, 7 December 2018   [link]

Good News On Sickle Cell Disease:  A drug that works well in advanced nations also works well in poor African nations.  Which is where it is most needed.

(Sickle cell disease)
- 1:00 PM, 7 December 2018   [link]

Sometimes Choosing The Right Painting is easy.
- 10:55 AM, 7 December 2018   [link]

Best Joke Of The Day:  The world's largest violator of human rights — by far . . . . is complaining about a violation of human rights.
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer and the daughter of its founder, was detained at Vancouver airport on a US extradition request.

China has demanded her release, calling the arrest a human rights violation.
As you most likely know, there is much more to be said about this arrest, but I think we ought to take some time to enjoy the absurdity, before moving on to the more serious parts.
- 6:29 PM, 6 December 2018   [link]

Bush 41, Environmental Champion:  Here's a summary of his achievements:
You nay not want to hear this, but when the history of environmental politics is written, George Bush will indeed be ranked as "the environmental president."

These things happened under Bush: the 1990 Clean Air Act, the strongest air-pollution legislation in the world; international agreement to abolish CFCs; the end of ocean disposal of sludge; the Exxon Valdez cleanup, which was flawed but did work; bans on driftnet fishing and importation of fish caught in driftnets; acceleration of Superfund cleanups; a moratorium on most offshore oil exploration; new drinking water standards; the Rio global warming treaty; the Basel Convention, which in most cases bars the First World from exporting hazardous wastes to the Third (negotiated by Bush, ratified under Clinton); the closing of hundreds of old landfills; an energy policy act that mandates new efficiency standards for appliances and new buildings; various measures to encourage nonpetroleum fuels; the "land ban," which says that chemical wastes can not be placed in landfills unless first neutralized; a law diverting federal agricultural water to species protection in California; and many lesser milestones. (p. 456)
Of these the Clean Air Act is the most important; tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, are alive today because our air is so much cleaner than it was.
- 10:09 AM, 5 December 2018   [link]

Finally!  This Alyssa Rubin article in today's New York Times has an estimate of how high the proposed new French fuel taxes are: "a few cents per liter".  That isn't as precise as one would like, but from the context I would guess that she means between 3 and 7 cents per liter, or roughly between 12 and 28 cents per gallon.

That isn't as large as I would have guessed, but it hit when the French were already unhappy about cost of living increases, and it hit the working poor in rural areas and exurbs especially hard, just as a similar tax would in the United States.

Some context: According to the article, French gasoline costs about six dollars a gallon, before the new taxes.

(I'll keep looking for better numbers.)
- 5:58 PM, 4 December 2018   [link]

China Promises — Again — To Stem The Flow Of Fentanyl To The United States:  The New York Times is as skeptical about the latest promise as I am.

There are, I think, two broadly different ways of thinking about America's China problem:  Some — call them businessmen — see the central problem as China's unfair trade practices, and hope the problem can be resolved through negotiations.  Others — call them statesmen — see the central problem as China's drive to dominate the world, a drive that would push the United States (and other democracies) out of their central place in the world.

Businessmen are likely to hope that, as part of trade agreements, China will agree to stem the deadly flow of fentanyl to the United States; statesmen are likely to believe that China is pleased to see the way the drug weakens the United States.

As far as I can tell, Trump is in the first group.  I am in the second, as is Sui-Lee Wee, the reporter on the Times story.

(For the record:  I would be happy if I were proven wrong.)
- 2:04 PM, 4 December 2018   [link]

The Current "Pepper . . . And Salt" Is Weird — and made me smile.
- 9:52 AM, 4 December 2018   [link]

I Was Hoping He'd Win:  Just for the sheer absurdity.
Emile Ratelband, still aged 69, wanted to change his birth date by 20 years to avoid what he called discrimination.

"We live in a time when you can change your name and change your gender. Why can't I decide my own age?" he said.

But the court disagreed, highlighting that many rights in law are based on a person's age, and changing it at will could cause many problems.
Dutch courts can be tough, it appears.
- 3:27 PM, 3 December 2018   [link]

Some Numbers On Those Fuel-Tax Protests In France Would Be Helpful:  By now, I have seen more than a dozen stories on the massive fuel-tax protests in France.

For example:
France's interior ministry says about 136,000 people took part in the protests nationwide on Sunday, showing widespread support for the movement known as the "gilets jaunes" (yellow vests), who complain about a sharp increase in fuel taxes.

They are so called because they have taken to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow clothing that is required to be carried in every vehicle by French law.
But so far I haven't seen any numbers on those taxes.  And that is in spite of watching the French network, France 24, for many of those stories.

From the anger in the protests, I am guessing the increases are very high, but to make sense of the stories, you really need to know how high.

It is discouraging, but no longer surprising, to see that foreign journalists are as bad with numbers as American journalists are.

(I did learn one interesting number from an American on a France 24 panel.  He said that the same percentage of French workers and American workers drove to work, 80 percent.)
- 10:38 AM, 3 December 2018   [link]

This New Yorker Cartoon made me smile.

(It would have made me laugh out loud if I hadn't just spent more than three weeks waiting for the apartment manager to repair a dryer.)
- 8:52 AM, 3 December 2018   [link]

From Bob Dole's Collection:  A joke George H. W. Bush told while he was vice president:
It's important for a Vice President not to upstage his boss, and you don't know hard it has been to keep my charisma in check these last few years.
Not bad, as self-effacing jokes go.
- 6:31 PM, 2 December 2018   [link]

RIP, 41:  Thank you for your many services to our nation — and the world.
- 3:24 PM, 1 December 2018   [link]