March 2017, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

It's Hard For Me To Get Excited About "International Women's Day", when one of the organizers is a convicted terrorist, Rasmea Odeh.

(The organizers are traditionalists in their choice of a color; they have chosen red, the color of leftist revolution in most of the world, and in the United States, before about 2000.)
- 4:23 PM, 8 March 2017   [link]

How François Mitterand Crushed The French Communist Party:  In my youth, the French Communist Party (Parti communiste français, PCF) had a powerful position in French politics, controlling many local governments, and routinely receiving 20 percent of the vote in national elections.
It was also once the largest French left-wing party in a number of national elections, from 1945 to 1960, before falling behind the Socialist Party in the 1970s.  The PCF has lost further ground to the Socialists since that time.
The PCF was crushed by the first socialist president of the 5th Republic, François Mitterrand.

How he did it surprised me at the time:
Although at times a politically isolated figure, Mitterrand outmaneuvered rivals to become the left's standard bearer in every presidential election from 1965 to 1988, except 1969.  Elected President in the May 1981 presidential election, he was re-elected in 1988 and held office until 1995.

Mitterrand invited the Communist Party into his first government, a controversial move at the time.  In the event, the Communists were boxed in as junior partners and, rather than taking advantage, saw their support erode.  They left the cabinet in 1984.  Early in his first term, Mitterrand followed a radical economic program, including nationalization of key firms, but after two years, with the economy in crisis, he reversed course.  His foreign and defense policies built on those of his Gaullist predecessors.
(Emphasis added; links omitted.)

In 1969, the PCF presidential candidate received 21.27 percent of the popular vote; by 1995, their share was down to 8.66 percent.  In their last independent run (2002), they received just 1.93 percent of the vote.)

In retrospect, I can understand what Mitterand knew at the time, and I (and many other observers) didn't.

By bringing the PCF into the government, he made them responsible for its failures, and made it impossible for them to be a pure protest party, nationally.

If I recall correctly, studies of voters in France during the 4th Republic and early 5th Republic found that the share of the vote the PCF won was relatively stable, but its composition changed from election to election, as different groups used the party to cast protest votes.

After the PCF joined Mitterand's government, they no longer provided a pure way to protest.

(Similarly, Britain's Liberal Democrats had disastrous losses, after becoming the junior partner in David Cameron's Conservative government.  They are beginning to recover, thanks to the weakness of the Labour Party.)
- 3:26 PM, 8 March 2017   [link]

That Must Make Cate Blanchett's Compass Awkward to read when other people are around.

(Since I try to be a gentleman, I didn't inquire into how she reads it.)
- 1:35 PM, 8 March 2017   [link]

The Wild French Presidential Election:  First, the essential facts.
The first round of the 2017 French presidential election will be held on 23 April 2017.  Should no candidate win a majority, a run-off election between the top two candidates will be held on 7 May 2017.  Incumbent president François Hollande of the Socialist Party is eligible to run for a second term, but declared on 1 December 2016 that he would not seek reelection in light of low approval ratings.  He is the first incumbent president of the Fifth Republic not to run for a second term.  The presidential election will be followed by a legislative election to elect members of the National Assembly on 11 and 18 June.

François Fillon of the Republicans and Marine Le Pen of the National Front led in first-round opinion polls between November 2016 and mid-January 2017.   Polls tightened considerably by late January and early February 2017, with Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! slowly rising in the polls and Benoît Hamon of the Socialist Party (PS) gaining ground after winning the Socialist primary on 29 January.  After the satirical weekly Le Canard enchaîné published revelations about Fillon's use of nearly €1 million in public funds to employ his wife as a parliamentary assistant for little work in late January, in what came to be known as "Penelopegate," Macron surpassed Fillon to consistently come second in first-round polling.  Polls for the second round of voting suggest either Fillon or Macron would beat Le Pen and that Macron would defeat Fillon.
(Links omitted.)

So, if the polls and the bettors are right, Marine Le Pen is likely to win the first round, and then lose to Emmanuel Macron in the second.  Le Pen's National Front has never come close to winning a French election; Macron's En Marche! didn't even exist a year ago.

And Penelopegate is a weird name for a French scandal.

(Emmanuel Macron's views on domestic policies remind me of Tony Blair's.

Fun fact: "Macron is married to Brigitte Trogneux, who is 24 years older than him and was his teacher in La Providence high school, Amiens.[69][70]  The pair first met when he was a student in her class, aged 15, but were only officially a couple once he was 18.[71]")
- 8:34 AM, 8 March 2017   [link]

This Ingenious CIA Hacking Tool has received less attention than it deserves.
- 6:39 AM, 8 March 2017   [link]

Peering Through The FISA Fog:  Have I mentioned that I hate cleaning up after Trump messes?  (Editor:  Yes, and if you keep saying that, you are going to bore readers, soon.)

Nonetheless, the mess is there, and I will try to clean it up, a bit.

Stephen Hayes, a fine journalist, begins with an admission, and then describes what he sees as the main possibilities:
The admission: Even after weeks of reporting, with good sources in the national security world, on Capitol Hill, and (believe it or not) among Trump's team, I cannot claim with any real confidence to know the ground truth about Trump and Russia or potential federal investigations or Obama loyalists pushing storylines.
. . .
Either: the president used thinly sourced media reports to float a conspiracy theory about his predecessor and he was wrong; or, citing thinly sourced media reports, he overstated the details of an actual investigation into his activities or the activities of those around him, alleging presidential involvement without evidence; or, citing thinly sourced media reports, he accurately accused the former president of doing something highly illegal and accidentally uncovered what would surely be one of the biggest scandals in U.S. history.   Whatever the case, the events of the last two days will undoubtedly have lasting effects.
Any direct evidence for any of the possibilities?  Hayes says, no: "White House sources acknowledge that Trump had no idea whether the claims he was making were true when he made them."

As Michael Hayden noted, Trump didn't check that suspicion by asking the people who should know — people who work for him.
. . . My gut is I think the president forgot for a moment, in the morning Saturday, that he was actually president and that he actually could have called the acting director of National Intelligence and the director of the FBI and asked them questions if the Breitbart article or the other articles --which, frankly, didn't say -- which they've alleged to have said -- he simply could have asked.
Orin Kerr says Trump was just following his "simple rule".
I’m not sure why those tweets have drawn so much attention.  It seems really predictable.  As I pointed out back in October, Trump’s view of events is governed by a simple rule:
Everything that breaks his way is proof that Trump is amazing.  Everything that doesn’t break his way is proof of powerful, corrupt forces conspiring against him.  There is no room for any other explanation.
That rule is simple, but I will admit that it seems to explain much of Trump's thinking.  And why he didn't ask Comey and company to provide evidence for his charge.

Now, back to the evidence, such as it is.  There has been much discussion of two FISA warrants, one granted, and one denied.  But do one or both of them actually exist?

Hayes says:  "The short answer:  We don't know."

And we don't know the answer to the other big question, what people close to Trump were talking to the Russians about during the campaign.  According to Byron York, the Obama administration found no evidence they were colluding with the Russian government.

But they were talking to the Russians about something, or, more likely, some things.

At this point, many will be thinking, well, let's stop speculating, and have a real investigation, or investigations.  Kevin Williamson, who is not the most optimistic man in the world, agrees with the need for an investigation, but doesn't know who can be trusted to do it.

I am not as pessimistic as Williamson, but I see his point.

In sum, almost all of us are in the fog.  Those who insist they can see clearly are probably fooling themselves.  Which is unsatisfactory, as the world often is.

(If you feel in need of still more punishment, you may want to look at this "definitive Trump-Russia timeline", or this speculative post by J. E. Dyer, who has worked in intelligence.)
- 8:01 PM, 7 March 2017   [link]

Seek Or Sick?  The unfortunate attack on a Sikh man south of here brought more attention to this religious group, and even a bit of trivia.

I've been pronouncing Sikh as "seek" all these years, and the Sikhs say that "sick" is closer.  Wikipedia agrees.

(Fun fact:  "Male Sikhs have "Singh" (Lion), and female Sikhs have "Kaur" (princess) as their middle or last name.")
- 2:26 PM, 7 March 2017   [link]

Know Someone Applying To College?  Here's some sensible advice.
- 10:20 AM, 7 March 2017   [link]

Gruesome, but funny.
- 9:45 AM, 6 March 2017   [link]

Donald Trump Was Complaining about "McCarthyism".
Trump suggested Saturday that “a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”   In a separate tweet, he wrote “Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory.   Nothing found.   This is McCarthyism!”
Which is odd when you remember that Roy Cohn was Trump's mentor, lawyer, and confidante, for decades.

(Roy Cohn was disbarred, eventually, but, according to news accounts, still advised Trump from time to time.

For the record:  The essence of McCarthyism was not wiretaps, but reckless accusations.  It's likely that Joe McCarthy helped the Communist cause, more than he hurt it.)
- 4:54 PM, 5 March 2017   [link]

Here's Another Reason to like North Dakota.

For now, anyway.
- 3:56 PM, 5 March 2017   [link]

Somehow, The Cartoonist Obtained a picture of my office.

(Although he shouldn't have added the cat, since I don't have one.)
- 3:06 PM, 4 March 2017   [link]

Small Scandal, Medium Scandal, Or Big Scandal?  I have been following the story of congressional employees Imran Awan and his family for some weeks now, and am unable to decide just how big the scandal is.

Here's the most recent story from Politico:
Multiple Democratic lawmakers have yet to cut ties with House staffers under criminal investigation for wide-ranging equipment and data theft.

Imran Awan, a longtime House staffer who worked for more than two dozen Democrats since 2004, is still employed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, though his access to the House IT network has been blocked since last week.
. . .
Multiple relatives of Imran Awan, including his wife Hina Alvi, Abid Awan and Jamal Awan — all House staffers until recently — are also being investigated in connection to the alleged procurement scam, according to a senior House official close to the investigation.
So, if the charges are true, a small or possibly even a medium scandal.

But there is more, possibly.
Imran Awan and four of his relatives were employed as information technology (IT) aides by dozens of House Democrats, including members of the intelligence, foreign affairs and homeland security committees.  The aides’ administrator-level IT access was terminated earlier this month amid a criminal probe by U.S. Capitol Police of a suspected security breach, including an off-site server housing congressional data.

The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group has reported that while working for Congress, the Pakistani brothers controlled a limited liability corporation called Cars International A (CIA), a car dealership with odd finances, which took–and was unable to repay–a $100,000 loan from Dr. Ali Al-Attar.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, wrote that Attar “was observed in Beirut, Lebanon conversing with a Hezbollah official” in 2012–shortly after the loan was made.  Attar has also been accused of helping provoke the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq as a leader of Iraqi dissidents opposed to Saddam Hussein.
So, possibly a very large scandal.

Tyler Durden thinks he knows why House Democrats were slow to fire these aides (or at least put them on administrative leave).

So far, I haven't seen any explanation of why a family from Pakistan was hired for those jobs, to begin with.

(I did site searches of the New York Times and the Washington Post, and found no mention of the scandal at either newspaper.)
- 3:36 PM, 3 March 2017   [link]

Well, This is weird.
Authorities investigating recent bomb threats against Jewish institutions nationwide arrested a former journalist Friday morning and said he was behind at least some of the threats, describing them as part of the man’s campaign to harass a woman.

The arrest in St. Louis appears to be the first made in response to a recent wave of bomb threats at Jewish centers and schools across the country in recent days.
Note, please, that the FBI believes that Juan Thompson was responsible for only some of the calls, may even have been a "copycat" who came in after all the news coverage.

When I heard about the calls, I realized, as everyone should have, that there might be a weird explanation behind them — but I don't think I would have given "weird" more than a 5 percent probability.

Now that the person who allegedly made some of the calls has turned out to be a black leftist, we can expect some on the left to be less interested — and some on the right to be more interested in this story.

Even though Thompson's motives appear to be deeply personal.
- 11:02 AM, 3 March 2017   [link]

This Week's Collections Of Political Cartoons from Politico and RealClearPolitics.

My favorites:  Michael Ramirez's "La La Land" cartoon and Steve Sack's tribute to "Little Shop of Horrors".  (They are third and seventh, respectively, in the Politico collection.)
- 10:19 AM, 3 March 2017   [link]

Sweden Is Getting Nervous About Putin's Russia:  So they are reintroducing conscription.
The Swedish government has decided to reintroduce military conscription - a move backed by the country's MPs.

The decision means that 4,000 men and women will be called up for service from 1 January 2018, a defence ministry spokeswoman told the BBC.

They will be selected from about 13,000 young people born in 1999, who will be asked to undergo a military assessment, Marinette Nyh Radebo said.

Non-aligned Sweden is worried about Russia's Baltic military drills.

In September, a Swedish garrison was restored to Gotland, a big island lying between the Swedish mainland and the three ex-Soviet Baltic states
At the end of the article, there is a brief review of conscription in some European countries.  Russia has universal military service for men; so do Finland and Ukraine.

Germany is considering reintroducing conscription, though not universal service.
- 6:39 PM, 2 March 2017   [link]

Could Democrats Win Tom Price's Seat?  They hope so.
Democrats are betting big that voter pushback against President Trump’s young administration can help them turn a Georgia special election into a House seat pickup.

The suburban Atlanta seat left open by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has received a groundswell of interest from both parties.  The historically red district that Trump carried by only 1 point looks set to gather national attention as a well-funded contest before the 2018 midterms.
There will be a "top-two" primary on April 18th, and, if necessary, a runoff on June 20th.

Because it's a top-two primary, there are many possibiities — including a runoff between two Democrats.

But, if we assume the most likely outcome, a runoff between a Democrat and a Republican, what then?

I'd say that the Democrats do have a chance to pick up the seat, especially if voters choose an ardent and crude Trump supporter in the primary.  The wrong Republican could lose the district, in spite of Price's electoral successes, and the district's R14 rating.

I say that because it is a special election, and special elections often are bad for the incumbent party.  And, of course because of Trump's lousy showing there in 2016.

(Fun fact:  Before Price, the district was held by Republican Johnny Isakson, and before him, by — Newt Gingrich.)
- 1: PM, 2 March 2017   [link]

The New Interior Secretary will be entertaining, judging by his entrance.
Newly minted Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke rode a horse to his first day of work at the department’s Washington, D.C., headquarters, Thursday morning.

Zinke wore a cowboy hat, boots and jeans for the Thursday morning ride, which preceded a welcoming event in the lobby of the building.
I like the fact that he earned a geology degree, while playing football for the University of Oregon.
- 11:32 AM, 2 March 2017   [link]

Another Story from Bob Dole's Great Political Wit.
When word came that Herbert Hoover had a new granddaughter, he remarked, "Thank God she doesn't have to be confirmed by the Senate." (p. 79)
- 10:28 AM, 2 March 2017   [link]

If Demography Is Destiny, Then The 21st Century belongs to India, not China.
India is the second most populated country in the world with nearly a fifth of the world's population.  According to the United Nations in July 2016, the population stood at 1,326,801,576.[1]

India is projected to be the world's most populous country by 2022,[5][6] surpassing China, its population reaching 1.7 billion by 2050.[6][7][8]   Thus, India is expected to become the first political entity in history to be home to more than 1.5 billion people.  Its population growth rate is 1.2%, ranking 94th in the world in 2013.[9] The Indian population reached the billion mark in 1998.
I knew India was going to pass China, but didn't realize it would be this soon.

Does this partly explain why China has dropped its one-child policy?  Of course.

I don't expect the Chinese government will celebrate this change in 2022.  They have been the most populous nation for thousands of years, and so have gotten used to being first.

(Here's the comparable article on China, for comparison.

It would be an interesting exercise to estimate how soon the working age population of India will pass China's, and how much larger it will be in, say, 2050.)
- 6:40 PM, 1 March 2017   [link]

An Apple A Day . . . . can provide researchers with cellulose scaffolding to grow human organs, for example, external ears.

Researchers have tried other scaffolding, including titanium and lab mice, but apples (and other plants) may have advantages over both metals and lab animals.
- 2:16 PM, 1 March 2017   [link]

The Trump Administration Corrects A Mistake on Iraq:  In January, I criticized the travel ban on Iraqis:
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.
Now, the Trump administration has changed its position.
President Trump’s new executive order on immigration will not include a blanket ban on citizens from Iraq, among a host of other revisions meant to allay legal and diplomatic concerns, people familiar with the matter said.
It took me a moment to figure that out; it took Donald J. Trump a month.

That time difference isn't because I am smarter than he is, though I may be, but because I had thought about the problem — and he hadn't.
- 1:18 PM, 1 March 2017   [link]

This Is Not A Promising Beginning to a "fact check".
An address to Congress is such an important speech that presidents generally are careful not to stretch the truth. The “16 words” in George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address that falsely claimed Iraq’s Saddam Hussein sought uranium from Africa led to significant turmoil in the administration, including the criminal conviction of a top aide.
First, it mis-states what President Bush said:
The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
Second the claim is true, according to the British government — and the Washington Post.

Third, the description of "Scooter" Libby's conviction is, to say the least, misleading.  Libby was convicted by an out-of-control prosecutor and a partisan jury of having a different memory of a conversation he had with a journalist, than the journalist did,

(I suppose I should look at the rest of the "fact check" — and perhaps I will, later.)
- 8:06 AM, 1 March 2017   [link]

I Think Women Will Like this cartoon more than men.

And I think men will like this cartoon more than women.
- 6:51 AM, 1 March 2017   [link]