May 2017, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

VE Day:  Though you won't hear much about the day in the United States.
The term VE Day existed as early as September 1944,[4] in anticipation of victory.  On 30 April 1945, Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader, committed suicide during the Battle of Berlin.  Germany's surrender, therefore, was authorised by his successor, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz.  The administration headed by Dönitz was known as the Flensburg Government.  The act of military surrender was signed on 7 May in Reims, France and on 8 May in Berlin, Germany.
(Links omitted.)

The Soviets wanted a ceremony in Berlin to make it absolutely clear to future generations who had won.

You can see pictures of celebrations here and read Eisenhower's victory statement here.
- 7:12 PM, 8 May 2017   [link]

South Korea's Presidential Election Tomorrow May Be More Important Than Yesterday's French Election:   Unfortunately, I can't tell you much about that Korean election, other than that the front runner, Moon Jae-in, has a record that is worrisome, in part..
Moon has favored a peaceful reunification between the two Koreas.  He was widely criticized and praised for his comments stating that his first visit if elected president would be to visit North Korea which would not be unlike Roh Moo Hyun's visit to the country in 2007.  Similarly, Moon's foreign policy towards North Korea is considered to closely align with the Sunshine Policy embraced by former liberal presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.[5]
(Links omitted.)

I can say that I wish they had a run-off.

(As far as I can tell, there is little discussion during this election of South Korea's demographic problem, which is similar to but worse than Japan's.)
- 4:23 PM, 8 May 2017   [link]

Scott Adams Makes a funny mistake on Emmanuel Macron.

"Douglas2" corrects Adams.

(That error makes me even more reluctant than usual to pass on this nugget, but it is so possibly valuable that I will pass it on anyway, having told you that I haven't verified its content.  This morning, on BBC's GMT program, I heard a man who had known Macron when Macron was just getting started say that Macron was brilliant — at telling people what they wanted to hear.)
- 3:43 PM, 8 May 2017   [link]

Macron Defeated Le Pen By Almost Two To One:   The numbers in Wikipedia are, I assume, unofficial, but probably quite close to the final results.

Macron: 20,753,798 votes (66.10%)
Le Pen: 10,644,118 votes (33.90%)

The final polls understated Macron's win by a three or four points.  Mike Smithson argues, plausibly, that the pollsters could have done better had they been allowed to poll on Saturday.

There was a very large drop-off from the first round (36,054,394 votes) to the second (31,397,916 votes).

Marine Le Pen is now in an interesting position; she lost decisively, but did far better than any previous National Front candidate — and she may believe that events will continue to shift French opinion in her direction.

(Smithson appears to be baffled — I certainly am — by the large number of last-minute bets on Le Pen.  Perhaps some alt groups were spreading alt "facts" by social media?)
- 8:10 AM, 8 May 2017   [link]

Another Cartoon about a clueless criminal.
- 7:08 AM, 8 May 2017   [link]

Last Week's Collection Of Political Cartoons from RealClearPolitics.

My favorites:  Michael Ramirez's mountains and Steve Breen's Darth Vader.
- 4:19 PM, 7 May 2017   [link]

Some Facts About Marine Le Pen:  (I expect her to lose today, but I also expect her to continue to be a force in French politics.)

"Marine" is a nickname; her full name is Marion Anne Perrine Le Pen.  (That explains something that has been bothering me; "Marine" doesn't look like the name of a French woman.)

Someone attempted to murder her family when she was young.
In 1976, when Marine was eight, a bomb meant for her father exploded in the stairwell outside the family's apartment as they slept.[22]   The blast ripped a hole in the outside wall of the building, but Marine, her two older sisters and their parents were unharmed.[23]
(I believe the bomb started a fire which forced them to flee the apartment.)

You can understand why that experience might have made her harder than the average politician.

She has been married twice, divorced twice, and is now in a "relationship".
Since 2009, she has been in a relationship with Louis Aliot, who is of ethnic French Pied-Noir and Algerian Jewish heritage.[29]  He was the National Front General Secretary from 2005 to 2010, then the National Front vice president who was in charge of the Project.[30]
(Both her marriages were also to men in the National Front.)

She and her father aren't getting along well these days.
Described as more democratic and republican than her nationalist father, Le Pen has led a movement of "de-demonization of the National Front" to detoxify and soften its image, based on renovated positions and renewed teams, also expelling controversial members accused of racism, antisemitism, or pétainism.  She expelled her father from the party on 20 August 2015 after he made new controversial statements.[12][13]
(All but that one link omitted.)

She is not a friend of the United States:
Le Pen has pledged to take France out of NATO and the US sphere of influence.[236]
And into the Russian sphere of influence, though she would never say that.

(I don't know what she has against us, and NATO, but I do think Americans inclined to support her should notice those facts.)
- 10:16 AM, 7 May 2017   [link]

Friday's New Yorker Cartoon Is Topical:   And mildly funny.

(I suppose we should be grateful for even a mildly funny Trump-related joke, coming from the left.)
- 7:52 AM, 7 May 2017   [link]

A Thirty-Eight Percent Landslide For Theresa May's Conservatives:  Britain's Conservatives did very well in yesterday's local elections.
The Conservative Party enjoyed the best local election performance in a decade, making significant gains at the expense of the Labour Party, this despite the party having been in government for nearly seven years.[3]  The UK Independence Party lost every seat they were defending, but gained just one seat at the expense of the Labour Party.[3]  The Liberal Democrats lost 41 seats, despite their vote share increasing.[4][5][6]  The Conservatives won four out of six metro-mayoral areas,[7] including in the traditionally Labour-voting Tees Valley and West Midlands.
(That summary will probably change in minor ways, as the entry is updated.)

Thirty-eight percent was enough for a landslide because Labour won only 27 percent of the vote.  (The numbers aren't exactly comparable, but in the 2016 local elections, the Conservatives won 30 percent, and Labour 31 percent.)

The BBC is less happy about these results than the Daily Mail.  Note that the Conservatives made big gains in Scotland, too, as you can tell from those Ruth Davidson smiles.
- 4:09 PM, 5 May 2017   [link]

The Puzzling Thing About The Betting On The French Election is that bettors are still giving Marine Le Pen almost a 10 percent chance of winning.  (9.7 percent, as I write.)

Emmanuel Macron has had a relatively stable lead of about 20 percent, and French pollsters have had good records for accuracy in recent years.

I can not think of a single example of pollsters being that wrong in a major general election, in a nation with good polling firms.

(Mike Smithson, of Political Betting, says he has bet on Macron, and is "looking forward confidently to picking up some nice winnings after the weekend".

I don't know why Le Pen is leading in that southeast region.  Possibly because Nice, where the terrorist truck attack killed 86, is the principal city in the region.)
- 9:39 AM, 5 May 2017   [link]

This Week's Collection Of Political Cartoons from Politico.

My favorite:  In Politico, Matt Davies's Lincoln cartoon.  (I liked the historical reference and the subtlety.)

(As I write, RealClear doesn't have a new collection up, but as always you can find more cartoons at Jewish World Review.)
- 8:00 AM, 5 May 2017   [link]

Celebrating The House Passage Of TrumpCare is like celebrating a trip from New York to Los Angeles — when you have landed in Chicago, and have yet to change planes.

Judging by this article, Republican senators will write their own bill.  Which may or may not pass the Senate.  And if it does pass the Senate may be too different from the House bill to allow compomise legislation.

It was foolish to rush things in this way.  Most likely, the House leaders, who should know better, were trying to please Trump.
- 3:49 PM, 4 May 2017   [link]

Young Carson Has A Good Question:  Maggie Koerth-Baker takes a circuitous route to the answer, but tells us some interesting facts along the way.
Q: What weighs more: all of the people or all of the bugs? — Carson S., age 4

This answer1 is maybe best illustrated by two unrelated studies whose authors probably never guessed they’d be used together.  In 2012, scientists estimated the global human biomass (i.e., how much we all weigh) at 287 million metric tons.2   Five years later, a different group of scientists set out to estimate how much the world’s spiders were eating.  They came up with a horrifying (if somewhat inexact) estimate of 400 million to 800 million metric tons’ worth of prey each year.  In other words, just the subset of bugs eaten by spiders last year probably outweighs all the humans on Earth.
Interesting, I would say, to anyone who has been a little boy — or just appreciates them.
- 8:16 AM, 4 May 2017   [link]

Vladimir Putin Told A Pretty Good Joke At A News Conference in answer to a reporter's question:
Allegations about Russia trying to get Donald Trump elected as U.S. president were "rumours," Putin said, generated as part of internal political battles in the United States.

"We never interfere in the political life and the political processes of other countries and we don't want anybody interfering in our political life and foreign policy processes," said Putin.
Putin's delivery was quite good; he told that joke matter of factly, without even a trace of a smile on his face.

(Although it was in answer to a reporter's question, Putin was probably expecting the question, and had his joke ready.)
- 7:17 AM, 4 May 2017   [link]

Worth Watching:  This BBC story on Qaraqosh, "Inside the Iraqi Christian ghost town".

The BBC won't tell you this, so I will:  The Christians of Qaraqosh would not have been forced to flee if President Obama had left a residual force in Iraq — as most Iraqi leaders wanted him to do.

(Qaraqosh is ancient, and has been Christian for almost two millennia.)
- 3:53 PM, 3 May 2017   [link]

Donald Trump "Don't Know Much About History"  And much of what he knows is wrong.
In his latest foray into what might be called the alternative past, Mr. Trump suggested that Andrew Jackson had been “really angry” about the Civil War, which did not break out until 16 years after his death.  And for good measure, Mr. Trump questioned “why was there the Civil War” in the first place, suggesting that it should have simply been worked out.

The comments, made in an interview broadcast on Monday, may have been attributable to imprecision, but for historians they underscored what seems to be a tenuous understanding by Mr. Trump of the course of events that preceded his ascension to power.  At various points, he has seemed to suggest that Frederick Douglass is still alive, appeared surprised that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, and mounted a plaque at a golf course marking a Civil War battle that never happened.
All that is dismaying — and pretty funny.

Newt Gingrich's defense of Trump concedes the main point:
“There’s a certain amount of hunting for ‘what is it that Trump has done that’s dumb?’” said Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, who taught history as a college professor in Georgia and has written multiple historical novels.  “Trump’s not a student of history.  Trump’s an extraordinarily successful, entrepreneurial personality who learns what he needs to know when he needs to know it.  Trump is learning history as he governs.”
(Emphasis added.)

Translation:  Our head pilot doesn't know where our airplane has been, or where it is going, but he's a fast learner.

(As you probably guessed, that headline refers to a popular song.

Incidentally, if you read the whole article, you'll see that Peter Baker and Jonah Engel Bromwich tacitly concede that George W. Bush knows more about history than Trump — and Barack Obama.)
- 3:19 PM, 3 May 2017   [link]

Stephen Colbert Can Be Funny:  (Or so I have heard; I've seen a few minutes of him on other programs, but have never watched any of his shows.)

So what explains this vulgar rant, which is not suitable for children — and not at all funny?

It is odd that so many who make their living from jokes find it hard to be funny about Donald J. Trump.

(Need an example of how easy it is?  Take Trump's weird habit of clapping for himself.  It should take you no more than a minute or two to think of ways to turn that into a skit that most people would laugh at.  Similarly, his promise to give us "everything" is a straight line begging for a punch line.)
- 2:22 PM, 3 May 2017   [link]

In My Experience, The Word "Refute" Is Almost Always Used Incorrectly:  (As I was reminded this morning, while listening to our local NPR station.)

My out of date AP Stylebook explains:
rebut, refute Rebut means to argue to the contrary:   He rebutted his opponent's statement.
Refute connotes success in argument and almost always implies an editorial judgment.  Instead, use deny, dispute, rebut, or respond to.
(No link, because I don't have the current version.  But I wouldn't expect that entry to have changed in any significant way.)

So refute is appropriate when one side has proved that the other side is wrong.

(The context may be of interest.  A fourth accuser has come forward to accuse Seattle Mayor Ed Murray of sex abuse.  In a story this morning, the station, KUOW, said a Murray spokesman had "refuted" the latest charges.  They should have said denied.)
- 8:23 AM, 3 May 2017   [link]

Even Products That Give Us Great Benefits have costs.
- 7:38 AM, 3 May 2017   [link]

Maryland Is Trying A New Solution for the snakehead invasion.
Unable to control a surging population of slimy, toothy snakeheads—the stuff of horror movies—the state issued fishing licenses.  Now some restaurants are serving it as a $30 entree.   ‘If you can’t beat it, eat it’
Controlling the fish this way is not a great solution, but it may be the best available.

(This Wikipedia article makes me think that people imported the fish because they like to eat it.)
- 6:47 AM, 2 May 2017   [link]

The Daily Express Headline is dramatic: "Macron PLUMMETS in the polls as Marine Le Pen enjoys boost a WEEK AWAY from election vote".

In contrast, this graph, from Wikipedia, is boring.

Opinion polling for the French presidential election, 2017 Macron–Le Pen.png

Matt Drudge preferred the first.  You can decide for yourself which gives the more accurate picture.

(As I write, bettors are choosing the second, putting up Macron's chances of winning to nearly 90 percent.)
- 4:13 PM, 1 May 2017   [link]

Bret Stephens Is A Bold Journalist:  For his first column at the New York Times, he chose to attack the global warming religion.
As Andrew Revkin wrote last year about his storied career as an environmental reporter at The Times, “I saw a widening gap between what scientists had been learning about global warming and what advocates were claiming as they pushed ever harder to pass climate legislation.”   The science was generally scrupulous.   The boosters who claimed its authority weren’t.

Anyone who has read the 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change knows that, while the modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the Northern Hemisphere since 1880 is indisputable, as is the human influence on that warming, much else that passes as accepted fact is really a matter of probabilities.   That’s especially true of the sophisticated but fallible models and simulations by which scientists attempt to peer into the climate future.   To say this isn’t to deny science.   It’s to acknowledge it honestly.
(Emphasis added.)

Since I have been making similar arguments for years, I was pleased to see this column in our newspaper of record — and amused to see reactions like this one.

As far as I know, no one has suggested that Stephens be burned at the stake for his heresy, but I would not be totally surprised if someone does.

(Bret Stephens grew up outside the United States, which may help explain his boldness.)
- 3:37 PM, 1 May 2017   [link]

Authorities In Seattle Are Expecting The Usual May Day Demonstrations/Riot:  Only bigger and worse than usual.

A few stores in likely riot areas have already put up plywood, and closed for the day.

There are three marches with official permits, and somewhere around a dozen more demonstrations planned, without permits.

As usual, I expect the peaceful demonstrations will provide cover for the violent ones.  For example, I wouldn't be surprised if rioters hide behind crowds to throw rocks and bottles at the police.

So, is the city of Seattle trying to reduce crowd size to prevent such tactics?   Nope.

In fact, they are allowing city employees to take the day off, without pay.
- 7:53 AM, 1 May 2017   [link]

Software Developers Should Like This Cartoon:   (Most of the better ones will like it.)

(To thank Randall Munro for allowing hot links, here's his author's page at Amazon.)
- 7:17 AM, 1 May 2017   [link]