January 2017, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

What Do Mexicans Think Of NAFTA?  They think it's been good for Americans.
A recent poll by Parametría, a respected Mexican pollster, found that more than two-thirds of respondents believed that Nafta had benefited American consumers and businesses, while just 20 percent believed it had been good for them.  The poll, consisting of 800 interviews in people’s homes, had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

“There is a grand narrative in the United States that Mexico was the great winner of Nafta,” said Fernando Turner Dávila, the secretary of the economy and labor in the industrial state of Nuevo León.  “Meanwhile, here in Mexico, they only see the benefits, which are glorified.  They never see the downsides, much less talk about them.”

Mr. Turner cited the loss of nearly two million jobs in the agricultural industry because of the treaty, which benefited highly subsidized industries in the United States like corn to the detriment of Mexican farmers.  And while the federal government lauds the increase in manufacturing exports, Mexico still relies on a tremendous number of imports from the United States
(It's a longish article, but worth reading, if you share my interest in economic policy.)

Those arguments may sound eerily familiar, to anyone who followed our presidential campaign — or recalls that Barack Obama promised, during the 2008 campaign, to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.  (One of his advisors told the Canadians not to take that promise seriously.)

I haven't seen Canadian polls on the subject, but it occurs to me that the treaty may be unpopular with large numbers of people in all three nations.

(From what I can tell, economists seem to mostly think that NAFTA did not cost Americans jobs, net, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't disruptive, in many places.)
- 7:04 PM, 8 January 2017   [link]

Worth Reading:  Thomas Sowell's "Farewell" column.
Even the best things come to an end.  After enjoying a quarter of a century of writing this column for Creators Syndicate, I have decided to stop.  Age 86 is well past the usual retirement age, so the question is not why I am quitting, but why I kept at it so long.
If you want to read more Sowell — and you should — you can find more columns here.

(Here's his Wikipedia biography, which lists his books, in case you want to go further.)
- 6:13 PM, 8 January 2017   [link]

Blended Religions:  On Christmas, one of the local TV stations, KZJO, ran hours of a Yule log burning.

But, perhaps recognizing that might not keep everyone's attention, they promised that representatives of the most popular local religion, the Seattle Seahawks, would appear from time to time in front of the log.  (I assume they kept that promise; I didn't watch long enough to see any examples.)

I hope I am not shocking anyone when I say that a football team is a tribal religion for many people.  It isn't a novel idea, but not everyone is used to thinking that way.

And the idea of blending religions, of having more than one faith at the same time, is fairly common outside the three Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  For example, a person in Japan might see no conflict between being a follower of Shinto — and a Buddhist at the same time.  Nor any conflict in adding a few Christian celebrations to the mix, for that matter.

(If you are wondering which religion was being blended with the Seahawks, this Wikipedia article has enough information to answer that question.)
- 3:05 PM, 8 January 2017   [link]

Calendar Disclaimer:  Yesterday, I looked at the end of my 2016 New Yorker daily calendar and found this disclaimer:
Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of listed holiday dates, however some may have changed after publication for official or cultural reasons.
This comes at the end of a cartoon calendar.

I can't decide whether that is one of the best jokes in the calendar, or a sad commentary on the proliferation of unnecessary legal warnings.

Maybe both.
- 9:21 AM, 8 January 2017   [link]

This Cartoon Is So Bad, it's good.
- 3:54 PM, 7 January 2017   [link]

Sean Hannity Won't Like this Ramirez cartoon.

But the talk show host could learn something from it.
- 8:31 AM, 6 January 2017   [link]

James Woolsey Retells The Famous James Woolsey Joke:  As the former CIA director under Clinton explains in this CNN interview, he had trouble getting appointments to brief President Clinton.  (In that way, Clinton was similar to President Obama and President-elect Trump.  None of them like to spend much time getting intelligence briefings.)

Which inspired this joke:
WOOLSEY: When that little airplane crashed into the White House fall of '94, the White House staff joke was --

KEILAR: A lot of people remember that.  Incredible, South Lawn.  Yes.

WOOLSEY: White House staff joke, Woolsey still trying to get an appointment with Clinton.  But I would have preferred it, but we got the information the way he wanted it, which was to speed read.
(The CNN news reader, Brianna Keilar, shouldn't have stepped on the joke that way, even if she didn't like it.)
- 7:40 AM, 6 January 2017   [link]

What Do You Need To Win A General Election In Britain?  Among other things, a degree from Oxford.

The two exceptions, Winston Churchill and John Major, are Conservatives.

For what it's worth, Theresa May has a degree from Oxford; Jeremy Corbyn does not.
- 11:56 AM, 5 January 2017   [link]

"The Real Housewives Of ISIS"  Sometimes the BBC produces something very clever.

(I've thought for years that we weren't doing enough to mock our terrorist enemies.)
- 10:23 AM, 5 January 2017   [link]

Electricians Will Be Appalled by this story, and these pictures.

Others may want to see metaphors for, among other things, software development, and government bureaucracies.
- 9:54 AM, 5 January 2017   [link]

Another Eyebrow-Raiser From Donald Trump:  He welcomed a "special guy" to his New Year's Eve Party.
President-elect Donald Trump rang in the new year together with Joseph "Joey No Socks" Cinque — a convicted felon with ties to notorious Gambino crime family boss John Gotti, a recently released video has revealed.

Cinque can be seen in a video obtained by the Palm Beach Daily News, cheering loudly as a tuxedo-clad Trump runs through a number of campaign promises before the hundreds of guests attending the New Year's Eve bash the President-elect threw at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Saturday.
I wonder who drew up the invitation list.

(You can find more details in this article.  Here's Cinque's Wikipedia biography.)
- 6:11 PM, 4 January 2017   [link]

Nancy Pelosi Has Now Lost Four Straight Elections, 2010, 2012, 2014, And 2016:  Moreover, two of those losses, 2010 and 2014, were blowouts.

A team that has four losing seasons in a row usually looks for a new coach, but the House Democrats elected her as their leader again.  Although she had a serious challenge in her caucus, only four Democrats dissented in the vote for Speaker.
On the other side of the aisle, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi saw four defections in her own caucus: Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) voted for fellow Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan, and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisc.) voted for Cooper.  Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-New York) also voted for Tim Ryan, and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voted for Rep. John Lewis.
The first three have districts that a Republican could win — in a very Republican year.   Sinema's district "was drawn as a 'fair-fight' district, and voted for President Obama by just 4 points in 2012.[3]"  Judging by her Wikipedia biography, she's a formidable campaigner, but she could lose to the right Republican candidate — in a very Republican year.

(Sinema claims to be both bisexual and bipartisan.)
- 4:02 PM, 4 January 2017   [link]

The Views Of Mt. Rainier And Mt. St. Helens Were Beautiful Yesterday:  If the weather forecasters are right, the views should be beautiful today, tomorrow, and most of Friday.

(In recent weeks, the best views have usually been in the morning, not around sunset, as they often are during other seasons.)
- 7:38 AM, 4 January 2017   [link]

Yesterday's New Yorker Cartoon is double-edged.

(It took me about a minute to figure it out.)
- 7:25 AM, 4 January 2017   [link]

Another Unscrupulous Republican Operative?  For years, I have been having fun by suggesting — jokingly — that an unscrupulous Republican operative had infiltrated the Obama White House, and was causing them to do foolish things, politically.

This opinion piece, "The White House's dirty campaign against Keith Ellison", made me wonder whether it had been written by an unscrupulous Republican operative, posing as a leftist.
With Democrats almost totally shut out of government, the most important position in the party is now the chair of the Democratic National Committee, who would be in charge of organizing the attempt to retake power.  Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), perhaps the second- or third-most prominent member of the Bernie Sanders wing of the party, presented himself as a candidate.
. . .
After losing in the 2016 presidential race, centrist liberals were stunned and disorganized, and so initially it seemed as though Ellison would cruise in unchallenged.  He has very strong working-class bona fides, and is a black Muslim in a party composed in large part of minorities.  He seemed like the perfect choice to unite the working class of all races that failed to turn out sufficiently for Clinton, and demonstrate the party's commitment to social justice.
And the party's commitment to staying a minority in Congress.

(Here's Ellison's Wikipedia biography.

If Democrats were to ask me for advice, I would suggest they look for a technician, rather than a spokesman, and that, if they want to play identity politics, they choose a Midwestern Catholic, from a working class family, or a farm family.)
- 4:30 PM, 3 January 2017   [link]

More Evidence That Russia Was The Source Of The Clinton Email Leaks:  Julian Assange, founder of Russoleaks Wikileaks, is denying it.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said Barack Obama is 'trying to delegitimize the Trump administration' by claiming the Russian government hacked Democrats' emails during the bitter presidential election.

Assange, whose interview with Sean Hannity will air on Fox News tonight, also reiterated his claims that Russia was not the source of the hacks.

He told Hannity 'with a thousand per cent' confidence that the Russian government was not responsible for emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman.
(Picky folks will note that it is impossible to be more than 100 percent confident of anything.)

If that "Russoleaks" jibe seems too harsh, consider this:
Wikileaks has frequently been criticized for its absence of whistleblowing on or criticism of Russia.[329]  The Guardian claimed that Assange has said that there is no need for whistleblowing in Russia because of the open, competitive and "vibrant" media environment he claims exists there.[330]  The Guardian, however, notes that journalists are killed frequently in Russia, and notes that Freedom House has ranked Russian press freedom as "not free...  The main national news agenda is firmly controlled by the Kremlin.  The government sets editorial policy at state-owned television stations, which dominate the media landscape and generate propagandistic content."[330]
In 2010, Julian Assange promised a big set of leaks from Russia — but never delivered.

In my semi-informed opinion, Assange is probably an ally of Russia, not an actual agent.  There were many such people in the West, during the Cold War.
- 11:05 AM, 3 January 2017   [link]

Techies Will Like this cartoon.

It isn't hard to think of political parallels, if you are so inclined.
- 9:37 AM, 3 January 2017   [link]

2,000 Percent!  Every once in while, you run across a number so amazing that you think it should be printed many times normal size, that it should be followed by a whole series of exclamation points, and that, if on line, it should be flashing.

That was my reaction to this rather bland presentation of an estimate from the IMF.
The country is currently in the grip of an economic crisis and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that inflation will hit 2,000 percent next year – the highest in the world.
If the IMF is right, then Venezuela may have already seen about 10 percent inflation — just in the first two days of 2017.

Most consumers there can't even make the usual response to hyper inflation, buy now and hoard, because there is so little for sale.

(How good is the number?  It's a very round number, which suggests that the IMF doesn't think it is exactly right.  I'd be inclined to add that it could be half as much, only 1,000 percent, or twice as much, 4,000 percent.)
- 6:55 PM, 2 January 2017   [link]

Bill Clinton Democrat Likes Chuck Schumer:  This shouldn't surprise anyone.
Donald Trump told Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer in a phone call he likes him more than his GOP brethren House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a source close to the transition team said.

During a recent phone call, the president-elect “said to Schumer he likes Schumer more than Ryan and McConnell because they both wanted him to lose,” the source said.  “They are Republicans and Trump knows they didn’t support him.”
Last February, I argued that, if I had to summarize Trump's political beliefs in a single phrase, I'd call him a "Bill Clinton Democrat".  However, as I said last December, the logic of his position will force him to continue impersonating a conservative Republican.  In that post, I also predicted that he would let the impersonation slip from time to time, as I think he did in that phone call.

(A few Trumpistas are beginning to have doubts; most, judging by those comments, are trying to explain this friendship away.)
- 1:22 PM, 2 January 2017   [link]

Hazards Of Life in Mayor de Blasio's New York.
- 7:08 AM, 2 January 2017   [link]

"Dave Barry’s Year in Review: 2016 — What the ... ?"  Enough said.

And we voters did our part, passing judgment on the candidates, thinning the herd, rejecting them one by one.  Sometimes we had to reject them more than once; John Kasich didn’t get the message until his own staff felled him with tranquilizer darts.  But eventually we eliminated the contenders whom we considered to be unqualified or disagreeable, whittling our choices down until only two major candidates were left.  And out of all the possibilities, the two that We, the People, in our collective wisdom, deemed worthy of competing for the most important job on Earth, turned out to be …

… drum roll …

… the most flawed, sketchy and generally disliked duo of presidential candidates ever!
I tried to think of a counter-example, and failed.  The Clinton-Trump pair really is the worst, ever.

But I think you will enjoy Barry's review anyway, though parts of it may be too close to gallows humor for some tastes.
- 7:37 PM, 1 January 2017   [link]

Worth Buying:  This weekend's Wall Street Journal, if only for Edward Jay Epstein's op-ed, "The Fable of Edward Snowden".
Of all the lies that Edward Snowden has told since his massive theft of secrets from the National Security Agency and his journey to Russia via Hong Kong in 2013, none is more provocative than the claim that he never intended to engage in espionage, and was only a “whistleblower” seeking to expose the overreach of NSA’s information gathering.  With the clock ticking on Mr. Snowden’s chance of a pardon, now is a good time to review what we have learned about his real mission.
. . .
This was not the only lie Mr. Snowden told.  As became clear during my investigation over the past three years, nearly every element of the narrative Mr. Snowden has provided, which reached its final iteration in Oliver Stone’s 2016 movie, “Snowden,” is demonstrably false…
One of the things we've learned is that Snowden took a cut in pay in order to get the job in Hawaii, which "gave him access to secret lists of computers that the NSA was tapping into around the world".

He stayed there just six weeks, long enough to steal more than a million documents, most of them military secrets.

No doubt you are as shocked as I am to learn that an Oliver Stone movie may not be completely accurate.

(Presumably, Epstein's book, due out later this month, will have many more details.)
- 11:09 AM, 1 January 2017   [link]

Happy New Year!

- 10:35 AM, 1 January 2017   [link]