January 2017, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Federal Regulations Spiked under President Obama.

That graph is dramatic, even without his 2017 regulations.

(Yes, pages is not the best measure of regulations; instead you want to know what they cost in dollars per year, or something similar.  But estimating that number would be expensive and difficult.)
- 7:46 PM, 31 January 2017   [link]

"Arizona Man" Convicted Of Recruiting For ISIS:   Yesterday I mentioned the annoying habit many of our news organizations have of referring to Somali terrorists as "Minnesota men", just because they happen to be residing in Minnesota.

Today, the New York Times provided another example of that kind of evasion, only this time with an "Arizona man".
An Arizona man who prosecutors said helped a college student from New York City join ISIS, sending him “down that trail to terror” — and to his eventual death — was convicted Monday of terrorism charges.

The man, Ahmed Mohammed el-Gammal, 44, was found guilty after a three-week jury trial and faces up to 55 years in prison, according to a spokesman for Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.
I did some simple searches and learned that el-Gammal was a Muslim, was probably a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and was born in Egypt.  None of those facts were mentioned in the Times article, though each of them is more relevant than the fact that el-Gammal resides in Arizona.

(I did not learn from those simple searches whether he is an American citizen, though I suspect not, or when and how he came to the United States.   The Times could find those things out for its readers — if they wanted to.

The three sources I found most helpful are here, here, and here.)
- 3:40 PM, 31 January 2017   [link]

Incompetence Or Malevolence?  Daniel Drezner is certain that Donald Trump's executive order putting a temporary stay on visitors from seven majority-Muslim nations is an "unmitigated disaster".  But Drezner isn't sure whether the move should be ascribed to Steve Bannon's incompetence or malevolence.
The most plausible story to assume in this instance is incompetence.  Ordinarily, when the federal government does something stupid, it’s best to assume incompetence rather than malevolence.  This is Bannon’s first week in a White House job and, like most other really smart people who lack high-level government experience, there will be a lot of rookie mistakes at the outset.
However, some see malevolence, and think that the purpose of the executive order was not to strengthen our national security, but to provoke the protests we are seeing now.

Near the end of the piece, Drezner says that it could be a mixture of incompetence and malevolence, and that seems most likely to me, but, like Drezner, I'm not sure what the proportions are.
- 9:57 AM, 31 January 2017   [link]

It's A Small Mistake:  But it should embarrass the Trump team.
As President Donald Trump looks to create jobs in the U.S., his press office is demonstrating an urgent need to hire a proofreader.

The White House just put out a memo highlighting Trump’s meeting on Friday with “United Kingdom Prime Minister, Teresa May.”  The release sent to media organizations from the Office of the Press Secretary dropped the “h" in all three mentions of her full name: Theresa May.
It should embarrass them, but probably doesn't.

(Actually, her full name is Theresa Mary May, though she doesn't use her middle name, or even a middle initial.)
- 8:53 AM, 31 January 2017   [link]

This Procedure Is Probably Not in Boeing, or even Airbus, maintenance manuals.
- 8:33 AM, 31 January 2017   [link]

Where Does Donald Trump Get His Information?  This article answers that question, accurately, as far as I know.
President Trump spends substantial time and energy ridiculing the media.  He spends even more time consuming —and obsessing about — it.

Print copies of three newspapers.  When Billy Bush was on, "Access Hollywood" every night.  TiVo of the morning and evening news shows so he can watch the tops of all of them.  Always "60 Minutes."  Often "Meet the Press."  Lots of New York talk radio.

He's not a book guy:  In fact, some advisers say they don't recall seeing him read one or even talking about one beyond his own, "The Art of the Deal."  And, as he told us, he's not one for long reports or detailed briefings.  One page usually suffices.   Bullet points are even better.  But he does consume — often in huge doses — lots of traditional media.

"He's an analog guy," one top adviser told us, saying he never sees the boss on a computer or using his phone for anything but calls.
He "studies" the gossip page in the New York Post, but "skims" the Wall Street Journal.

Since they don't mention any, we can assume he reads no serious magazines.

Presumably, some of his advisors have read at least one serious book in recent years.  We can hope that he listens to them, at least occasionally.

(One of the reasons I am still undecided about making a prediction for Trump, as I did for Barack Obama, is those missing books, which provide such powerful clues to most leaders' minds.)
- 7:05 PM, 30 January 2017   [link]

Mostly Political Theater:  That's how to understand both President Trump's temporary ban on visitors from seven Muslim countries — and the hysterical reaction to it from so many journalists.

Trump is clumsily keeping a campaign promise — without paying much attention to the countries he named.  (The countries chosen came from a list created by the Obama administration.)

Today's Wall Street Journal includes a list of those seven countries, with counts of the "[n]ationalities of people who committed terrorist attacks in the U.S. or were arrested for plotting attacks on or after September 11, 2001":  Somalia (5), Iraq (3), Yemen (2), Iran(1), Libya (0), Sudan (0), and Syria (0).  In contrast, there were 81 attacks or arrests of United States citizens.

Looking at that list, I would say that citizens of Sudan, Libya, and for the time being, Syria, are unlikely to be terrorist threats — here in the United States.

Iran is a special case; in 1984 the State Department labeled Iran as a "state sponsor of terrorism", and it has been on that list ever since, rightly.  However, Iran has been careful to avoid committing terrorist attacks in the United States.  (I believe that single exception was a planned attack on a Saudi diplomat.)

Somalis are a problem, both here and in their own nation.  No doubt most of those here in the United States are willing to live in peace with their neighbors but a significant minority are not.  Since so many settled in Minnesota, you often hear of attacks by "Minnesota men", which may be literally true, but is misleading, probably intentionally.

(Yemenis would probably be a similar problem were they not involved in a civil war, or were there more of them living here.)

Finally, there is Iraq, which is now our key ally in the fight against ISIS, a point which seems to have escaped Trump when he signed that executive order.  It is idiotic to insult those who are fighting on our side — and taking almost all the casualties.

But it does allow Trump to say he kept a campaign promise.
- 4:23 PM, 30 January 2017   [link]

Two Stories From Russia That Make You Go H'mmm:  First, three arrests.
Ever since American intelligence agencies accused Russia of trying to influence the American election, there have been questions about the proof they had to support the accusation.

But the news from Moscow may explain how the agencies could be so certain that it was the Russians who hacked the email of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.  Two Russian intelligence officers who worked on cyberoperations and a Russian computer security expert have been arrested and charged with treason for providing information to the United States, according to multiple Russian news reports.
Second, a possible murder.
An ex-KGB chief suspected of helping the former MI6 spy Christopher Steele to compile his dossier on Donald Trump may have been murdered by the Kremlin and his death covered up. it has been claimed.

Oleg Erovinkin, a former general in the KGB and its successor the FSB, was found dead in the back of his car in Moscow on Boxing Day in mysterious circumstances.
Most likely — with a probability greater than 75 percent, in my opinion — the obvious explanations for both stories are correct.

Most likely, we did lose three human sources in Russia, after we revealed that we had them, and most likely Erovinkin was murdered because he talked to Steele.

If so, we are still paying for Hillary Clinton's blankety-blank private server, and Trump's blankety-blank refusal to reveal his secret deals — if any — with Russia.

If those three Russians were working with us, we have lost three incredibly valuable sources.

And possibly a fourth.
- 10:50 AM, 30 January 2017   [link]

Two Cartoons This Morning:  I think women will prefer this one.

And men this one.
- 10:09 AM, 30 January 2017   [link]

Guess Who Misses George W. Bush Now:  You're right.
It was in February 2010, on Interstate 35 in Wyoming, Minn., according to Wikipedia, that the billboards first began to appear:  “MISS ME YET?” ran the message over a picture of George W. Bush.

“Kind of,” say today’s Democrats.

With Obama out and Trump in, the mental malady known as Bush Derangement Syndrome has finally begun to recede, and the 43rd president is enjoying an unlikely renaissance.   Progressive journalist David Corn approvingly quoted Bush on Inauguration Day.  Time magazine, Slate The Atlantic and the op-ed page of The New York Times have all run pieces in which left-wing writers favorably compared the second President Bush’s rhetoric to President Trump’s.
And there are more examples in the rest of the column, if you want more.

I was halfway expecting this to happen during the campaign — and it may have, and I just missed it.

But we shouldn't expect much serious reconsideration of Bush's actual record by these same Democrats.  Unfortunately.

(Here's the Wikipedia article, and here are some images of the picture used on that famous sign.)
- 7:26 PM, 29 January 2017   [link]

In Czarist Russia, The Secret Police And The Underground Watched Each Other:  Constantly.  (And sometimes it was hard to tell which side any given agent was on.)

And so, from time to time, you got conversations like this one:
Ivan:  "I see you are preparing for a trip."

Boris:  "Yes, I am going to Minsk."

Ivan:  "You can't fool me.  You just said you were going to Minsk to make me think you were going to Pinsk.  But I know you are really going to Minsk."
(Some readers will have noticed that this is an extreme version of the audience problem I mentioned in this post.)
- 5:10 PM, 29 January 2017   [link]

This Is A Special Case — but I am old-fashioned enough to think the man should take a bullet for the woman, not vice versa.

(Wouldn't it be fun if some reporter asked the man who he would take a bullet for?   I have a feeling that the question has never crossed his mind.)
- 10:56 AM, 28 January 2017   [link]

Sometimes You Need Help From more than one professional.
- 10:43 AM, 28 January 2017   [link]

Reviewing The Basics On Mexico:  (My apologies to those who think what follows is obvious — but there are many people who do not know this, or have forgotten this.)

The United States is better off when Canada is friendly, stable, and prosperous.

That is, I hope, non-controversial.

The United States is better off when Mexico is friendly, stable, and prosperous.

That also should be non-controversial, because, although the arguments for the two countries differ in details, they are the same in the essentials.

Donald Trump's quarrel with Mexico has already made Mexico less friendly, is likely to make the country less prosperous, and may destabilize it.
[Mexican President] Peña Nieto’s political enemies are wasting no time capitalizing on his weakness.  The same poll that showed his approval ratings cratering found that 27 percent of Mexicans support Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, leader of the leftist MORENA party.  AMLO, as he’s popularly known, was almost elected president in 2006.  He lost by less than 1 percentage point.  His anti-free market and anti-American rhetoric have many likening him to the deceased Venezuelan socialist leader, Hugo Chavez, and he’s currently the leading 2018 contender.
In recent years, there has been a net flow of Mexicans out of the United States.

Should we expect that trend to continue if we wreck Mexico's economy and destabilize its government?

(Here's López Obrador's Wikipedia biography, with the usual caveats.)
- 10:49 AM, 27 January 2017   [link]

Some Parents May Feel Guilty when they see this cartoon.
- 10:04 AM, 27 January 2017   [link]

Donald Trump Has Record Poll Ratings:  In Mexico.
Eighty-nine percent of Mexicans have a “bad” or “very bad” impression of President Donald Trump, according to a mid-January poll from BGC-Excelsior. Only 3 percent said they have a “good” or “very good” impression of the new U.S. president.
You are probably as shocked by that result as I was.  Shocked that he got good grades from as many as three percent.  But then I remembered that there are a few people in every large poll who give odd answers.
- 4:24 PM, 26 January 2017   [link]

Speaking Of Skepticism, I probably should mention that I now look at Mattt Drudge's site less often — and much more carefully.

For example, I now almost always "hover" over a link at his site, so I can see the source before clicking on it.  If it is dubious, as it often is, I look elsewhere for material.

Drudge has never been as careful about sources as I prefer, but he has gotten worse since he became something of a Trumpista.

(You can probably think of leftist journalists who deteriorated in similar ways after Barack Obama came on the scene.)
- 8:22 AM, 26 January 2017   [link]

In The Next Four Years, We Should Be Even More Skeptical, even cynical, than in the last eight.

To keep our skepticism and cynicism at the right levels, we may, from time to time, want to consult The Devil's Dictionary.  Here, for example, is Ambrose Bierce on trade policy:
TARIFF, n. A scale of taxes on imports, designed to protect the domestic producer against the greed of his consumer.
You won't find arguments that succinct in many economics texts.

(Bierce's disappearance is an unsolved mystery.)
- 7:42 AM, 26 January 2017   [link]

Worth Reading:  Jim Geraghty's review of Michael Wear's Reclaiming Hope.
Conservatives will have a hard time finding a more like-minded guide to the decision-making inside the Obama White House than Michael Wear.

Wear served in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships during Obama’s first term, and then directed faith outreach for the president’s reelection campaign.  His memoir of his time in the administration, Reclaiming Hope, is a spectacularly readable portrait of a unique niche in Obama-world to which many progressives grew hostile over time, representing as it did faith in general and Christianity in particular.
Those paragraphs aren't as clear as they should be, but the rest of the review is fine.
- 8:08 PM, 25 January 2017   [link]

In My Recent Posts on Obama and voter-IDs and Trump and the scale of vote fraud, I was careful not to say that either man lied — even though what each said is false.

I did that because to know that someone lied, you have to know what they actually believe — and mind reading is not among my talents.

It is possible that each man believed what he said.  It is also possible that neither man made any effort to check the facts on his claims, before making them.  If the first is true, they are deluded; if the second is true, they are reckless.  But they would not be lying in either case.

That said, I am more willing to say that someone is lying than some news organizations.  When I do, I like to have strong evidence, enough so that a reasonable person would have little doubt about the conclusion.  (Juries often have to make similar decisions.)

There is a further complication that I can explain through an example:  The New York Times has claimed that vote fraud is "mythical".  To disprove that, all you have to do is find one example of vote fraud, which is easy enough to do.

If you pressed the editors on that subject, they would probably say that the claim was not to be taken literally — and that their readers know that the newspaper is saying that vote fraud is rare, not nonexistent.  So sometimes to prove that someone is lying, you have to know what their audience believes, as well as what they believe.
- 7:23 PM, 25 January 2017   [link]

Venus Smiled At The Japanese Space Probe, Akatsuki:   In infrared:

Venus smiles

You can find the picture and a tentative explanation here.
When the Japanese space probe Akatsuki slotted into Venus orbit in December 2015, it was greeted with a smile – of sorts.

A giant wave emerged from infrared images that peered through the hot, turbulent, thick atmosphere of our nearest neighbour.   And what's behind it remains a mystery.

Tetsuya Fukuhara from Rikkyo University in Tokyo and colleagues in Japan think it might be a gravity wave generated between two layers of different density, perhaps thanks to mountains on the Venusian surface.   But if that is the case, they posit in Nature Geoscience, the winds in the deep atmosphere must shift differently than planetary scientists first thought.
You don't see smiles that wide — at a guess, about 6,000 miles — every day.

(Here are the Wikipedia articles on Venus and the Akatsuki probe.)
- 1:45 PM, 25 January 2017   [link]

Donald Trump Has Been Threatening A Trade War With China:  And has just abandoned a large number of potential allies.
The Chinese New Year holiday, approaching this weekend, is traditionally a time of gift-giving and celebration in the Middle Kingdom.  This year, no one is likely to be celebrating more than China’s President Xi Jinping.

On Monday, Xi's U.S. counterpart signed an order withdrawing American support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  The move fulfilled one of President Donald Trump's central campaign pledges. Since the 12-nation free-trade pact was a Washington initiative, and other signatories made concessions largely in expectation of access to the huge U.S. market, his signature all but issued the deal's death warrant.  Trump touted the move as a “great thing for the American worker.”

In fact, it's a great thing for the Chinese economy and government.
You need not agree with Michael Schuman that the agreement would be good for the United States economy to recognize that this is a strategic defeat for the United States.

You can understand why Bernie Sanders — who has always had a soft spot in his heart for Communist regimes — would oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but it is a little harder to understand why someone who says he wants to be tough on China would.

Does Donald Trump understand that TPP was directed at China?  I honestly don't know, but suspect that he doesn't.

(It's far too late to change our policies, but I have wondered, ever since I heard about TPP, whether it was too ambitious, whether the Obama adminsitration might not have been better off to pursue one or two smaller trade agreements, as the George W. Bush administration had done.

I made a similar argument about TPP last November.)
- 9:48 AM, 25 January 2017   [link]

Don't Know How Accurate this Michael Ramirez cartoon is — but I liked the literary reference.  
- 8:22 AM, 25 January 2017   [link]