May 2018, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Victory Day:  Which, Russians living in the Seattle area celebrated, early, with a parade.
Soviet and Russian flags and songs lit up downtown streets Sunday afternoon for the third annual Victory Day in Seattle celebration.  From Occidental Square to Seattle Center, hundreds of marchers carried photographs of family members who served in World War II.

Victory Day marks the surrender of Nazi Germany to Allied forces.  It is starting to be more widely recognized in the U.S. and Canada, said Sergey Gladysh, 26, of Lynnwood, president of the Russian-American Cooperation Initiative.
Neither Bettina Hansen, who wrote the story, nor Gladysh, appear to realize that this holiday is called VE Day in the United States — and is celebrated a day earlier.

It isn't surprising that Gladysh doesn't know that and, by now, I am no longer surprised that a Seattle Times staff photographer doesn't know it either.

Not surprised, but disappointed.

(A day earlier because of different time zones:
The instrument of surrender stipulated that all hostilities had to stop at 23:01 (CET), 8th of May, just an hour before midnight.  Since it was already 9th of May in the European part of the USSR, most post-Soviet states, including Russia, as well as Israel commemorate Victory Day on 9 May instead of 8 May.
And there had been a signing a day earlier in France, which the Soviets wouldn't accept, so the signing had to be done over.)
- 12: PM, 9 May 2018   [link]

This Is Not Important, but I can't help noticing that the nominee to head the CIA , Gina Haspel, doesn't look like a spy.

If I understand the spy business correctly, that's a good thing.
- 12:43 PM, 9 May 2018   [link]

Before Yesterday's Primary, Nathaniel Rakich Was Skeptical About Polls Showing Don Blankenship "Surging" in West Virginia.
The political world’s perception of Tuesday’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate in West Virginia is largely being shaped by a pair of stories — one in Politico, the other in the Weekly Standard — claiming that Don Blankenship, the coal magnate who spent a year in prison for safety violations relating to the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in 2010, is surging in the race’s final days.  That’s a problem:  Both stories relied on that most dangerous of sources, the biggest tease in politics: the internal poll.
Rightly skeptical, since Blankenship came in a distant third.  (For which we may be grateful.)
- 10:12 AM, 9 May 2018   [link]

1,000 Hostages Freed From Boko Haram In Nigeria?   Excellent news, if true.
Nigeria's military says it has rescued more than 1,000 people held captive in northeastern Nigeria by the jihadist group Boko Haram.

Brig Gen Texas Chukwu said Monday the hostages were rescued from four villages in the Bama area of Borno State.

He did not say when the rescues took place, but said the military and the Multinational Joint Task Force helped with the release of mostly women and children.  He said some men who had been forced to become Boko Haram fighters were among those rescued.
So far, the only news I have found on this rescue is that brief Associated Press story, which is why I put a question mark in the title.
- 7:18 AM, 9 May 2018   [link]

These Two Andy Marlette Cartoons are too funny not to share.

Even if you disagree with the political points Marlette is making.
- 6:29 AM, 9 May 2018   [link]

An Iran Deal, Not An Iran Treaty:  The United States Constitution is admirably clear about how we make treaties with foreign nations.
[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;
No agreement negotiated by a president can be a treaty until it is ratified by a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

President Barack Obama, knowing that he did not have the support of a majority in the Senate, much less a two-thirds majority, chose to ignore that part of the Constitution and made the deal (or, if you prefer its official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) anyway.

Which meant that the next president could leave the deal, also without a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

Obama's failure to follow the Constitution was a fatal flaw in the deal, as we have just seen.

(Was a better deal with Iran, one that could have gotten two-thirds support in the Senate, possible?  If you asked ten experts on Iran, I suspect you would get ten different answers.  But it would have strengthened our negotiating position If Obama had explained the United States Constitution to the other negotiators.)
- 2:29 PM, 8 May 2018
More:  It occurs to me that a future president, for example a Democrat elected in 2020, would be able to rejoin the "deal", again without any affirmative two-thirds vote in the Senate.
- 7:56 AM, 9 May 2018   [link]

Will Trump's Withdrawal From The Iran Deal Be Popular?  Probably not.
Almost two-thirds of Americans -- 63% -- believe that the US should not withdraw from the agreement made with Iran to prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons. Only 29% believe the US should withdraw, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.
Now that Trump has actually made the decision I would expect some Trumpistas to rally round him, and push that 29 percent up to 35 percent, or so.

Americans prefer peace to war, and may well see this withdrawal, rightly or wrongly, as making a war with Iran more likely.

(For what it is worth, I think we have been in a low-level war ever since the Iranian revolution.)
- 12:25 PM, 8 May 2018   [link]

The Current "Pepper . . . And Salt" made me smile.

(Note:  If my intro to a "Pepper . . . and Salt" cartoon seems not to fit, try clicking on the arrow to the right of the title to see earlier cartoons.)
- 6:49 AM, 8 May 2018   [link]

An Affirmative Action Story Too Good Not To Pass On:  This weekend, I was half listening to NPR when I heard the following story:

These days, most of the doctors who choose to be obstetrics/gynecology specialists are women.  Understandably.

These days, most women patients prefer their ob/gyn to be a woman.  Again, understandably.

You and I might say that sounds like a win/win.

But, if you are up on affirmative action thinking, you will see the flaw immediately:   too few male ob/gyns.

And you might even guess how some medical schools are trying to remedy that, though I will admit the solution surprised me, mostly because they were so frank about it.

They lowered the cutoff score for men to get more men into the program.

What made me give the program my full attention was what appeared to be a casual admission of a violation of our civil rights laws — and the fact that no one on the program mentioned that fact.

(Caveat:  As I said, I was half listening when that story began, so I may have missed some details.)
- 6:33 PM, 7 May 2018   [link]

Intriguing:  John Ziegler's speculation about the Trump-Russia connection.
You see, my father was directly involved in some very high-profile loans Trump took in the late 1980s just before the future president’s world collapsed in the early 1990s, with the banks finally deciding the nearly broke Trump was marginally more valuable to them “alive” than he was “dead.”  Since then, it was always clear that Trump wasn’t really very rich, especially when it came to cash.   So, being an avid golf fan, it was confusing when Trump was eventually able to go on an extensive buying spree of extremely valuable golf properties in the last years before his presidential run.
Ziegler speculates that the money for those purchases came from Russians — and he has some evidence to support his speculation.

If so, were Trump's Russian backers also supporters of Putin?  It wouldn't surprise me, since most rich Russians do support the Russian ruler.
- 10:45 AM, 7 May 2018   [link]

Now That The Baseball Season Has Gotten Started, you can check to see whether your team is gaining or losing from the original FiveThirtyEight predictions.

For example, the Mariners have gone from a predicted 80-82 record to a currently predicted 84-78.   Their probability of making the playoffs is now 28 percent.
- 8:25 AM, 7 May 2018   [link]

Good Timing Can Be Helpful in court.
- 7:29 AM, 7 May 2018   [link]

Those Mine-Detecting "Rats" Are Still At Work In Africa, And Elsewhere:  As I was reminded by this article in this weekend's Wall Street Journal.

As far as I can tell, not much has changed since I first wrote about these animals in 2010.  The Belgian nonprofit, APOPO, is still training the giant pouched rats.  The rats, once trained, are still much faster at finding mines than human technicians.  (In a test, one cleared a tennis-court-sized area in 30 minutes, a task that would take a human technician two days.)  And the rats work for peanuts (and other food treats).

They have a perfect safety record; in twenty years, no rats have died from mines.  Since they weigh just two to three pounds, they are too light to set off mines.

And there is more:  They have been trained to detect tuberculosis, and endangered animals being smuggled out of Africa.

(Although they are called "rats", and look like our rats, they are not closely related, belonging to a different family of rodents.).
- 7:18 PM, 6 May 2018   [link]

Some People Won't see this as funny.

But if they can learn to, they will be better off.
- 4:49 PM, 6 May 2018   [link]

As A Science Fiction Fan, I rather like this Alex Jones story.
Infowars host Alex Jones declared during his show on Friday that the only thing standing between a rogue computer program and the destruction of all humanity is President Donald Trump and a handful of non-global elite others, according to a video flagged by Right Wing Watch.

Jones, who is known for his far-right conspiracy theories and wild claims, lamented while speaking to a guest that humans are currently living in an “information apocalypse” where global elites are working hard to “keep you in-the-moment confused.”
Although I do worry that at least a few will take it seriously.
- 11:42 AM, 5 May 2018   [link]

The Current "Pepper . . . And Salt" made me smile.
- 11:30 AM, 5 May 2018   [link]

Is Donald Trump A Racist?  It isn't hard to find people who are sure they know the answer to that question.

But I am not one of them, though I do have a tentative answer.

The single strongest piece of evidence that he is a racist is in the suit the Justice Department filed against Trump and his father.
In 1973, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a civil rights suit against the Trump Organization (TO; Fred Trump, chair, 27-year-old Donald Trump, president) charging it with "violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968."[21]  In response, Trump attorney Roy Cohn filed a counter-suit against the government for $100 million, "portray[ing] the Trumps as the victims," claiming the DOJ's "falsely accusing them of discrimination."[21]

The suits arose after complaints to the New York City Commission on Human Rights and to the Urban League led the League and other groups to send black and white "testers" to apply for apartments in Trump-owned complexes, which led them to conclude that whites got apartments in the buildings of their interest, while blacks generally did not; both advocacy organizations then raised the issue with the Justice Department.[21]  As reported by Wayne Barrett and Jon Campbell for The Village Voice, citing court records, "four superintendents or rental agents confirmed that applications sent to the [TO] central office for acceptance or rejection were coded by race."[22]  An early Village Voice article by Wayne Barrett in 1979 cited court records from the case and reported that a TO rental agent indicated he had been given instructions by Fred Trump "not to rent to blacks" and to "decrease the number of black tenants" by encouraging their relocation to other housing.[23][22]  After approximately two years in court, a consent decree between the DOJ and the TO was signed (June 10, 1975), with both sides claiming victory[21]—the TO for its perceived ability to continue to deny rentals to welfare recipients,[23][21] and the head of DOJ's housing division for the decree being "one of the most far-reaching ever negotiated,"[21][23] as it personally and corporately prohibited the Trumps and the TO from "discriminating against any person in the terms, conditions, or priveleges [sic.] of sale or rental of a dwelling,"[21]
But is that enough to show that Trump is a racist — or was, back then?

Not necessarily.  Trump may have just been following his father's orders.  And it is also true that there were then good commercial reasons, in some places, to discriminate against blacks.  Donald Trump could have feared that, if the Trump organization rented to blacks, they would lose white tenants.

There is an argument on the other side, made by Ann Althouse months ago, that I also reject.  Althouse argued that Trump could not be a racist because he likes associating with black celebrities, as well as white ones.

But that argument fails because a racist can be perfectly happy associating with those he sees as inferiors, may even have a paternalistic attitude toward them.

In the past, blacks in the United States sometimes said that blacks could get "close" to whites in the South, but not high, while in the North they could get high, but not close.

In the South, they could often form close relationships, even friendships, with whites but they would be blocked from holding office, getting higher education, and so forth.  In the North, it was the other way round.

Some believe his insults show him to be a racist, but they could just show ethnic prejudice, which is almost universal.

So, having told you some arguments I reject, I should tell you the one I accept:   Racism is a systematic way of seeing humans — and Donald Trump is not a systematic thinker.

In other words, I am saying, tentatively, that racism is too abstract and theoretical for Trump.

Having said all that, I suppose I should go a little further and say, tentatively, how I think Trump does see the rest of us.

Simplifying a bit, I think he sees us as divided into two types, a few great men like himself and Vladimir Putin, and a large mass of potential customers, or, if you prefer, suckers.

As one of his players once said about Vince Lombardi, Trump "treats us all the same -- like dogs".  And he doesn't particularly care what color the dogs are.
- 4:25 PM, 4 May 2018   [link]

Michael Gerson Has Joined My Boycott:  Or maybe I have joined his*.
In keeping with our era of ideological boycotts, I will no longer be purchasing Kind bars.  Or Barilla pasta.  Or Triscuit crackers.  Or Del Monte diced tomatoes.  Or Nutro dog food.

A one-person boycott, of course, is really just a change in your shopping list.   But the companies that produce these brands are guilty of crimes against rationality.  All advertise on their packaging, in one way or another, that they don’t contain GMOs — genetically modified organisms.  Walking down the aisle of my supermarket, I could have picked many other examples. Some food companies seem to be saying that GMO ingredients are not even fit for your dog.
As Gerson says, these claims are "anti-science".  (I have been harsher, saying that these claims appeal to "fear and superstition".)

If that surprises you, take a look at his evidence.

Gerson is right to point out that the attacks on GMOs hurt people in poorer nations, most.

(*I'm not sure who was first, not sure even exactly when I started my one-man boycott.)
- 12:38 PM, 4 May 2018   [link]

Worth Watching:  Judy Woodruff's Michael Hayden interview.

Key point (for me, anyway):  When Woodruff asked Hayden about the "Steele Dossier", Hayden said it should be labeled as "raw intelligence", that is, information that an intelligence organization would want to verify, if possible, before using.

That leaves those of us who do not run an intelligence organization in this unsatisfactory position:  Parts of the dossier might be true, but we have no way of proving them right — or wrong.

One small caveat:  Hayden is, understandably, loyal to the intelligence organizations he worked in for so long.  I don't think that affects what he says, much, but I do think you should be aware of it.

(Hayden is plugging his new book.(
- 10:24 AM, 4 May 2018   [link]

This Week's Collection Of Cartoons from Politico.

Again, just one favorite:  Signe Wilkinson's Mueller.
- 9:37 AM, 4 May 2018   [link]

NASA Is Testing A Small Nuclear Reactor:  For use, naturally, in space.
NASA and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have successfully demonstrated a new nuclear reactor power system that could enable long-duration crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and destinations beyond.

NASA announced the results of the demonstration, called the Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology (KRUSTY) experiment,during a news conference Wednesday at its Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The Kilopower experiment was conducted at the NNSA’s Nevada National Security Site from November 2017 through March.
It would probably be used first in robot missions, which would give it the field testing you would want before relying on it for manned missions.

Looks good, so far.

(The project team may include Simpson fans, judging by a couple of the names.

- 7:36 PM, 3 May 2018   [link]

"Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories Roil DC City Government"  This AP story gives us another example of what I believe is a growing problem.
A spiraling controversy over anti-Semitic comments and conspiracy theories has roiled the Washington city government, seemingly getting worse with every public attempt to ease the tensions.

The issue nearly derailed a City Council meeting Tuesday morning and resulted in the resignation of a city official who organized a disastrous “unity rally” that featured a speaker who called all Jews “termites.”

At the heart of the debacle is Trayon White, a council member who ignited a firestorm on March 16 by posting a short video on his Facebook page claiming that an unexpected snowfall was because of “the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters.”
White is a black Democrat, which won't surprise anyone familiar with the District of Columbia.

(Here's an amusing reaction to the story.)
- 10:10 AM, 3 May 2018   [link]

"Did Giuliani Directly Contradict Trump Last Night?"  That's the question that fascinates bloggers and journalists alike, judging by all the entries on compiler sites like Memeorandum and Mediate.

It's not a question that interests me, particularly — except to make this point:  The endless stream of stories on Trump scandals make it harder for us to think about more important problems — which we really, really need to do.

(If you are interested in the question posed in the title, here's Patterico's answer.)
- 9:36 AM, 3 May 2018   [link]

Sadly, This New Yorker Cartoon seems . . . topical.
- 7:54 AM, 3 May 2018   [link]

Congratulations To Donald Trump:  On reaching his third milestone.
In the 466 days since he took the oath of office, President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president.

That’s an average of nearly 6.5 claims a day.

When we first started this project for the president’s first 100 days, he averaged 4.9 claims a day.  Slowly, the average number of claims has been creeping up.
It troubles me that so many people who should know better, for instance law professors Ann Althouse and Glenn Reynolds, have come to accept his endless stream of falsehoods.

Oh, I suppose both would, if you pressed them on the point, say that they would be happier if Trump told fewer falsehoods and made fewer misleading claims.

But they don't say that regularly, as they should.

We need well-informed citizens, not misinformed ones.

(Here's my comparison of our three most recent presidents.

Here are Glenn Kessler's recent articles.  You'll notice that he has criticisms for Democrats, as well as Republicans.)
- 8:52 AM, 2 May 2018   [link]

How Many People Will Understand The Biblical Reference in the current "Pepper . . . and Salt"?

A minority, I would guess.
- 8:06 AM, 2 May 2018   [link]

Worth Reading:  Doriane Lambelet Coleman's analysis of the new rules for woman's track and field, and the reasons for them.

Briefly, the new rules are intended to prevent biological males — though they may not look like men on the outside — from using their additional testosterone to compete, unfairly, against women.

I was pleasantly surprised to see this in the New York Times, but not surprised to see that it was written by a Duke law professor, rather than a journalist.

(Significant fact:  According to Coleman, the top runners in the 800 meters women's race at the Rio Olympics were, reportedly, all "intersex"; that is, though they looked like women on the outside, they have testes rather than ovaries.)
- 7:10 PM, 1 May 2018   [link]

Too Funny (And Too Plausible) not to pass on.
Michael Zeldin, a CNN legal analyst and former assistant to Robert Mueller, said Tuesday he believes President Trump leaked the list of nearly 50 questions the special counsel allegedly wants to ask Trump.

“I think these are notes taken by the recipients of a conversation with Mueller’s office where he outlined broad topics and these guys wrote down questions that they thought these topics may raise,” Zeldin said on CNN's "New Day."
Why?  Partly because of the grammatical mistakes
- 2:59 PM, 1 May 2018   [link]

Will There Be A May Day Riot In Seattle This Year?  There usually is, though there wasn't one last year, when most were expecting one.

(Usually, there is a mix of peaceful demonstrations and riots, with the peaceful demonstrators often giving cover to the rioters.)
- 10:10 AM, 1 May 2018   [link]

May Day Is A Good Time To Recycle this ancient joke:
Under capitalism, man exploits man.

Under socialism, it's the other way round.
(I actually used that joke recently.  I was accosted by a woman who was a recent convert to socialism and wanted to tell me all about her new faith.

If she had been a little more polite, I would have listened to her, since what people believe about politics almost always interests me, however much I may disagree with them, but she wasn't, so I told her that joke instead.)
- 9:15 AM, 1 May 2018   [link]