June 2018, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Need A Key For That Merkel/Trump Picture?   Here's one from the BBC.

Along with some alternative pictures from other nations — pictures that have very different emotional impacts.
- 4:11 PM, 15 June 2018   [link]

"Worst (Real) Name For A Repeat Drug Offender"?  I can't recall a worse one.

By way of Charles Lipson, from whom I borrowed the post title.
- 12:59 PM, 15 June 2018   [link]

Which Party Is Winning The Race For The House?  Right now, the Democrats have a lead in the generic vote of 7.8 percent.

A few weeks ago, Trumpistas and some conservatives were touting the narrowing of that gap; now the gap has gone back to where it was.  (The narrowing, as you can see from the graph, was not caused by Republican gains, but by Democratic losses.)

I now think that the Democrats have at least a 90 percent chance of winning the popular vote for the House of Representatives.

(Republicans won the popular vote in 2016, 2014, 2010, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1998, and 1994, usually by very small margins.)

But I am not ready to estimate the chance that the popular victory will translate into Democratic control of the House.

(As I write, British bettors give the Democrats a 58.7 percent chance.

House of Representatives elections, 2018)
- 11:14 AM, 15 June 2018   [link]

This Week's Collection Of Cartoons from Politico.

My favorites:  Pat Bagley's blank check and Michael Ramirez's deep thoughts.

Andy Marlette hasn't forgotten North Korea's Gulag.
- 10:04 AM, 15 June 2018   [link]

President Legal Troubles (4):  The latest is a big one, politically.
The New York attorney general filed suit against President Donald Trump and his three eldest children Thursday (June 14), alleging "persistently illegal conduct" at the president's personal charity, saying Trump repeatedly misused the nonprofit organization - to pay off his businesses' creditors, to decorate one of his golf clubs and to stage a multimillion-dollar giveaway at his 2016 campaign events.

In the suit, filed Thursday morning, Attorney General Barbara Underwood asked a state judge to dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation.  She asked that its remaining $1 million in assets be distributed to other charities and that Trump be forced to pay at least $2.8 million in restitution and penalties.
. . .
In the suit, Underwood noted that Trump had paid more than $330,000 in reimbursements and penalty taxes since 2016.  New York state began looking into the Trump Foundation in response to an investigation by The Washington Post.
(Link added to the investigation.)

The findings of the Post investigation are striking.
[David] Fahrenthold covered the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, reporting on the Donald J. Trump Foundation as well as claims Trump made as the 2016 Republican nominee that he had given away millions out of his own pocket.[9]  In May 2016, Fahrenthold began an effort to verify Trump had made these personal donations.  To solicit leads and for transparency, he periodically posted updates to Twitter via a hand-written list of charities he had contacted to ask whether they had received contributions from Trump, as well as the charities' responses.[9]  After four months, Fahrenthold and colleagues at the Post had contacted more than 400 major charities, with only one charity confirming they had received a personal donation from Trump between 2008 and May 2016 when Fahrenthold began publicly reporting on the question.[10]
Emphasis added.

I can't help thinking that the one contribution was a mistake.  And wondering whether Trump was having serious cash-flow problems, since earlier the Foundation had sometimes given actual donations.

(Earlier posts in this series here, here, and here.)
- 7:31 PM, 14 June 2018   [link]

By Now I Really Wish Jonathan Turley Hadn't Been So Right:  Last June, I quoted, approvingly, this Turley line:
Donald Trump continues to show a remarkable ability to bring out the worst in people — supporters and critics alike.
Yesterday, cartoonist David Horsey gave us an example of the latter.

I give cartoonists more latitude than journalists, but that cartoon does go too far.

(David Horsey)
- 9:29 AM, 14 June 2018   [link]

This Morning, "Pepper . . . And Salt" surprised me, and made me smile.
- 7:53 AM, 14 June 2018   [link]

How Good Are The Polls?  According to Nate Silver, about as good as they have been, historically.
But here’s a stubborn and surprising fact — and one to keep in mind as midterm polls really start rolling in:  Over the past two years — meaning in the 2016 general election and then in the various gubernatorial elections and special elections that have taken place in 2017 and 2018 — the accuracy of polls has been pretty much average by historical standards.

You read that right.  Polls of the November 2016 presidential election were about as accurate as polls of presidential elections have been on average since 1972.   And polls of gubernatorial and congressional elections in 2016 were about as accurate, on average, as polls of those races since 1998.
That certainly surprised me, since polling has gotten harder to do during that time, as response rates went down.  Somehow the pollsters have managed to compensate for that decline.

If you are wondering which polls to trust — to some extent — you'll want to look over the latest grades FiveThirtyEight has given American pollsters.
- 4:11 PM, 13 June 2018   [link]

"Fact-Checking President Trump’s Claims About The North Korea Deal"  As you should expect by now, Glenn Kessler found a number of falsehoods.

Here's my favorite:
“We have a big trade deficit with Canada.  It is a surplus.  It is not a surplus.  It is either 17 or it could be 100.  I don’t know if you saw it.  We found it.  Perhaps they were trying to show the power they have.  It is close to $100 billion a year loss with Canada.”

This is false.  Our fact-check on this Four-Pinocchio Trump claim appeared on The Washington Post website during Trump’s news conference.  The reality:  The United States has a surplus, not a $100 billion trade deficit, with Canada.
Which beat out the last, only because I wrote about the United States surplus two days ago.

When I read that odd Trump statement on Canada, I came to this conclusion:  Trump does not know our trade balance with Canada — and does not care to know it.

The continuous stream of falsehoods from Trump has, no doubt, worn some people down.  Which is just what Trump wants.

We shouldn't give in to him, or to any other persistent liar.
- 2:04 PM, 13 June 2018   [link]

This Cartoon May Help Men understand why Kate Spade's death received so much coverage.

Or maybe not.

(And, yes, the cartoonist is a man.)
- 10:24 AM, 13 June 2018   [link]

Fun Reading:  Natalie Angier's article — in anticipation of Father's Day — on the Y chromosome.  (The print version has this headline:  "Men Are Different: Here's Y".)

These findings were a complete surprise to me:
As a sizeable percentage of men age, their blood and body cells begin to jettison copies of the Y chromosome, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.  That unfortunate act of chromosomal decluttering appears to put the men at a heightened risk of Alzheimer's disease, leukemia and other disorders.
And that wasn't the only surprise I found.

(In places, the article has the tone one might expect from a giggling adolescent.   I found that charming, considering the subject.

Natalie Angier)
- 8:18 PM, 12 June 2018   [link]

The "Decade Of The City" Is Ending Early:  Brookings demographer William Frey was surprised by this reversal of a trend.
Newly released census data for city population growth through 2017 show that what I and others previously heralded as the “decade of the city” may be less valid during the waning years of the 2010s.   While most big cities are still gaining population, the rates of that gain are falling off for many of them as the nation’s population shows signs of broad dispersal.
. . . .
Yet the pervasiveness of declining big city growth, which began to become evident with last year’s numbers, reflects a broader dispersal of the nation’s population—from large metropolitan areas to smaller ones, from cities to suburbs, and from the Snow Belt to the Sun Belt.
In some areas, including Seattle, there would have been more dispersal if public policies had not made it more difficult to escape the city and the inner suburbs.

By way of Orrin Judd.

(William Frey)
- 4:25 PM, 12 June 2018   [link]

It's Of No Great Importance — but I can't help noticing that the South Korean flag looks Korean, while the North Korean flag looks as if it were copied from a certain American oil company.
- 1:27 PM, 12 June 2018   [link]

First Thoughts On The Trump-Kim "Deal"  From early reports, it looks like the earlier agreements with North Korea, only worse.  In those agreements, the North Koreans got tangible things immediately, in return for promises to behave better in the future.  Promises they broke.

Some will say that at least the two leaders are talking to each other, instead of insulting and threatening each other.  And I could understand, and even sympathize with that argument — if it weren't for the fact that I suspect this was Kim's plan all along.

And for me, that is more than counter-balanced by Trump's failure to consult with the South Korean president before calling off our joint military exercises.  (And I suspect that Trump did not even raise the Japanese abductee issue, as he had promised to do.}

Yesterday, John Ziegler made this gloomy prediction.  So far, I haven't seen any reason to think that Ziegler will be proved wrong.

(I did like Trump's joke; as you probably know, he said the two-page agreement is "comprehensive".)
- 9:55 AM, 12 June 2018   [link]

The Current "Pepper . . . And Salt" made me laugh.
- 9:21 AM, 12 June 2018   [link]

Did Merkel Stage This Picture?  As I have watched German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the years, I have come to have more and more respect for her poltiical shrewdness.  (And, sadly, more and more doubts about some of her policy decisions.)

And so, yes, I do think she "staged" this picture.

Which will delight most German voters.

Note that the picture was "snapped by German government photographer Jesco Denzel", who may get a reward for his work.
- 3:10 PM, 11 June 2018   [link]

Essential Reading:  Robert Samuelson's column, "The cowardice of the political class".
The trustees for Social Security and Medicare issued their annual reports last week.  This is cause for discouragement because it reminds us how much we’ve mortgaged the country’s future to spending for older Americans.

From 2017 to 2028, they estimate that Social Security spending, after inflation, will grow 3.8 percent a year and Medicare 4.9 percent.  Meanwhile, defense spending increases only 0.3 percent a year and most other spending — food stamps, highways, federal courts — rises a mere 0.7 percent annually.
Samuelson blames Democrats more than Republicans — rightly, in my opinion.

And I would particularly blame Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.  After the 2004 election, George W. Bush put forward a plan to rescue Social Security.  Pelosi has boasted — let me repeat, boasted — that she blocked reform by preventing her party from presenting any plan of their own.

Enough Republicans were reluctant to go ahead without some Democratic support, so that nothing happened.

(Megan McArdle has also written on this failure.)
- 2:17 PM, 11 June 2018   [link]

Updated MLB Predictions:  The latest from FiveThirtyEight will make Mariners fans (among others) happy.

At the beginning of the season, FiveThirtyEight predicted an 80-82 season for the Seattle team; now that prediction is up to 91-71, with a 61 percent chance of making the playoffs
- 10:07 AM, 11 June 2018   [link]

Last Year, The United States Had A Trade Surplus With Canada:  Here are the official numbers.
U.S. goods and services trade with Canada totaled an estimated $673.9 billion in 2017.  Exports were $341.2 billion; imports were $332.8 billion.   The U.S. goods and services trade surplus with Canada was $8.4 billion in 2017.
(Those who claim differently do so by omitting the United States surplus in services.)

So why is Trump picking a trade fight with Canada?

If there is a good answer to that question, I have't come up with it.
- 9:16 AM, 11 June 2018   [link]

You May Find This Trump Story Funny, Dismaying, Or Both:  (At first, it struck me as funny, but then, as I thought about it, I decided it was dismaying, too.)
Under the Presidential Records Act, the White House must preserve all memos, letters, emails and papers that the president touches, sending them to the National Archives for safekeeping as historical records.

But White House aides realized early on that they were unable to stop Trump from ripping up paper after he was done with it and throwing it in the trash or on the floor, according to people familiar with the practice.  Instead, they chose to clean it up for him, in order to make sure that the president wasn’t violating the law.

Staffers had the fragments of paper collected from the Oval Office as well as the private residence and send it over to records management across the street from the White House for Lartey and his colleagues to reassemble.
Trump did promise to create jobs — he just didn't tell us how many of them would be jobs cleaning up his messes.

(Why does Trump do this?  The only possiblity I can think of is that he thinks it protects him from some legal problems.)
- 8:45 AM, 11 June 2018   [link]

We Tend To Forget this possibility.

(Understandably, but mistakenly.)
- 8:06 AM, 11 June 2018   [link]

Trump Trade Advisor Peter Navarro Is Not Just An Economist:  He's also a theologian.

But not a diplomat.

Incidentally, if you include services, as you should, the United States has a small trade surplus with Canada.

(Peter Navarro)
- 3:15 PM, 10 June 2018   [link]

This Apology Probably isn't going to work.
- 1:16 PM, 10 June 2018   [link]

The Current "Pepper . . . And Salt" made me smile.
- 2:28 PM, 9 June 2018   [link]