May 2018, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Does The BBC Believe In Religious Tests?  At least one "presenter" appears to.
Should being a Roman Catholic be a bar to holding high office?  This is what Jo Coburn asked [Conservative] Jacob (the only Catholic in the village) Rees-Mogg on the Daily Politics yesterday.  It seems that the Catholic Emancipation laws of 1829 were a waste of vellum.
It is not hard to find journalists here in the United States with similar views, though most are more careful about how they show them.  And it is more complicated here, because there are so many prominent politicians — for instance, Nancy Pelosi — who are formally Catholics, but disagree with their church's teaching on fundamental issues.

(As you no doubt recall, the American Constitution forbids religious tests.

Jacob Rees-Mogg)
- 10:31 AM, 24 May 2018   [link]

Time To Recycle The "North Korean" Joke:  Since 2013, I've been telling what I call the North Korean joke.  I got it from Jimmy Fallon, but have modified it over the years:
Kim Jong-un.

We all know about the nasty North Korean dictator, whether we want to or not.

But you may have missed this news.  Some months ago he was showing off a smart phone.

And we know it's a smart phone because it left North Korea the next day.
Usually when I tell it, I wait till people have stopped laughing and then say this:  "I figure we have to tell that joke, because you can't tell that joke in North Korea, so we have to tell it for them."

And that gets a second laugh.

In my experience, almost every adult likes it, and so do boys down to the age of 12.  (Most girls like it too, but there are a few exceptions.)

It's a joke that unifies Americans, so I encourage you to tell it, too.

(When I tell the joke, at the third paragraph I hold up my hand as if I were showing off a smart phone.  I say "months" because I think that is about right to keep your listeners from starting to think about whether they missed some recent news, or wondering why you are digging up something ancient.  And I say the punch line in a flat voice, with no pauses.

Here's the original Fallon version.)
- 9:42 AM, 24 May 2018   [link]

Xi 1, Trump 0:  The first round of trade negotiations with China was an unqualified victory for Xi Jinping.  As far as I know, he hasn't written a book on deals, but he is obviously far better than Donald Trump at that art.  As I said last September, Trump simply isn't in Xi's class.  (I wish I were wrong about that.)

Trump's defeat was so obvious that the print edition of this New York Times article is headlined:  "With Tariffs Postponed, China Takes Victory Lap".

And then followed that with a column by Andrew Ross Sorkin on how a real expert negotiates.

What disturbs me most about this fiasco is that I don't think Trump will learn anything from his failure — and I hope I am wrong about that.
- 7:35 PM, 23 May 2018   [link]

It Is Immodest Of Me, But I Don't Think the NFL's rule change is as good as my practical solution.

(Or as interesting as my wild solution.)
- 3:23 PM, 23 May 2018   [link]

Law Professor Eugene Volokh gives us some advice:  "Never Turn Things Over to a Law Professor".

(He was inspired, of course, by events in Italy, where two mismatched coalition partners just chose an obscure law professor as their candidate to be prime minister.)
- 1:44 PM, 23 May 2018   [link]

Worth Reading:  Jonah Goldberg's column, "Conspiracy Theorists In Trump-Russia Investigation See Black And White In An Ocean Of Gray".

Key point:
The problem is that both stories might be true.  The cartoon versions offered by the usual suspects on the left and the right are surely shot through with hyperbole.  But both stories have some truth to them.
It is possible to believe that the Justice Department let off Hillary Clinton easy — and that the Trump campaign had too many suspicious contacts with the Russians, contacts that still haven't been fully explained.

Similarly, it is possible to believe that the Clinton Foundation had severe conflicts of interest, especially while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State — and that there is no way the Trump organization can avoid even worse conflicts, while Trump is president.

(As Dave Barry said, this double problem is the fault of American voters.)
- 9:23 AM, 23 May 2018   [link]

Chicken Feathers:  This morning, that's the big local story.
A semi filled with chicken feathers overturned on northbound Interstate 5 in Federal Way, snarling the morning commute.

The Washington State Department of Transportation said 40,000 pounds of feathers were spilled onto the roadway.  All lanes were blocked at times as crews worked to remove the truck and scoop up the feathers.  All lanes reopened about 7:30 a.m., but the backup stretched for miles.
I wasn't following this minute by minute, but the backup stretched at least eleven miles at one time, and added at least an hour of commute time for tens of thousands of commuters.

(The feathers are headed for British Columbia, where they will be used for "agricultural purposes".)
- 8:49 AM, 23 May 2018   [link]

Script Writers Should Expect to be asked to make minor changes.
- 8:24 AM, 23 May 2018   [link]

Interstellar Immigrant?  That's what some scientists have concluded is the best explanation for the orbit of asteroid 2015 BZ509.
BZ is in a retrograde orbit, moving around the Sun in the opposite direction to the eight planets, and the majority of other objects in the Solar System.

This immediately makes it stick out, as almost everything which formed from the disk of gas and debris around the Sun follows the direction of the star's rotation.
. . .
Thinking that BZ might have been drawn in from another group of small bodies in the Solar System, [Dr Fathi] Namouni and colleague Helena Morais from the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil set out to model the object's orbital history.

"We had this simulation which uses intense computing... to actually trace back in time to where this asteroid was when the planets finished forming," Dr Namouni explains.

The results suggested that BZ's only possible origin was outside our Solar System.
Not only is the orbit retrograde; its in a "resonance lock" with Jupiter.

(Science fiction writers will notice that the asteroid appeared here about the time life started on Earth.

2015 BZ5090
- 2:49 PM, 22 May 2018   [link]

Too Funny not to share.
A new report suggests that President Trump not only doesn’t write all of his own tweets, but the aides who sometimes tweet for him make deliberate errors to make them seem more authentic.
Is it true?

I have no idea.  But it is certainly plausible.
- 10:46 AM, 22 May 2018   [link]

The Current "Pepper ... And Salt" made me smile.
- 10:35 AM, 22 May 2018   [link]

This BBC Venezuelan Election Summary Should Answer Most Questions:  Here's the part that I found most interesting.
Why is there a row about the turnout?

The National Electoral Council (CNE) put it at just 46% but the opposition alleges it was even lower.
. . .
The CNE said turnout would probably rise to 48%, still well below the figure in the 2013 presidential election, when almost 80% of eligible voters cast their ballots.

The opposition, however, accused the CNE of inflating its figures and claimed the real number was closer to 30%.  A source within the CNE told Reuters that only 32.3% of eligible voters had cast their ballot by 18:00 local time, when most voting stations closed.
(The CNE runs elections in Venezuela.)

That's quite a disagreement on turnout, which is easy to measure.

(Venezuelan presidential election, 2018)
- 3:24 PM, 21 May 2018   [link]

There Was A Deadly Cougar Attack In Washington State:  Probably because the cougar was close to starvation.
S. J. Brooks and Isaac Sederbaum did what they were supposed to do, authorities say.  They made loud noises to scare the cougar away.  One of them even struck the animal with a bicycle.

But none of it worked.  The big cat that had been following the two friends as they were mountain biking in rural Washington state pounced, lunging at Sederbaum’s head and killing Brooks, whom the animal mauled in its den.
. . .
"Something was wrong with this cougar,” Sgt. Ryan Abbott, spokesman for the King County Sheriff’s Office, told the Associated Press.

Myers said a preliminary examination of the animal, which has been euthanized, revealed that the 3- to 4-year-old, 100-pound male cougar was slightly emaciated.  Adult male cougars usually weigh 140 to 180 pounds.
Washington state does have a hunting season for cougars — which is a big reason they avoid people here, ordinarily.

(Cougar attacks in North America are rare, but not so rare that you can't see patterns.)
- 12:40 PM, 21 May 2018   [link]

Donald Trump Is Being Unfair To Animals:  As you know, Trump has been comparing MS-13 to "animals".

This is wrong for two reasons.

First, it is true that the gang members are animals — and so am I, and so is Donald Trump, and so are you, unless you are a computer program.

So calling them animals doesn't say anything special about them.

Second, nearly all animals behave, even by our moral standards, better than those gang members.  A cat may play with a mouse, but it does so for its own pleasure, not to inflict pain on the mouse.

Where we do find cruelty in animals, it is nearly always driven by instinct, what some people call "gut feelings".

(MS-13 is an American product, having been founded in Los Angeles.  Donald Trump probably doesn't know that.

E. J. Dionne is so angry at Trump that he has forgotten basic biology)
- 10:279 AM, 21 May 2018   [link]

The Current "Pepper . . . And Salt" is especially appropriate for the Wall Street Journal.
- 9:56 AM, 21 May 2018   [link]

This Michael Ramirez Cartoon nade ne laugh out loud.

I even saved a copy, something I do less than once a year.
- 9:10 AM, 20 May 2018   [link]

Joseph Wulfsohn Thinks Journalists Should Be More Responsible In Covering Mass Shootings:  In order not to inspire copycats.
When a mass shooting is active, it’s obviously the media’s instinct to cover it minute by minute and report any updates as they occur.  When the suspect is identified, we become obsessed with knowing everything about the killer; their name, their age, their race, their religion, their social media history, where they got the gun, if there were red flags, any hint of a motive.  This is all information we should know, but there comes a point when our responsibility as journalists morphs into inspiration for future mass shooters.

Whether you look at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Fort Hood, Charleston, San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas, or Parkland, the similarities in execution are striking, and there is a strong case that some were inspired by others
Wulfsohn is right I believe, but I doubt that many journalists will show the restraint they ought to, unless we stop listening to them, watching them, and reading them.
- 4:20 PM, 19 May 2018   [link]

"Pepper . . . And Salt" is surprisingly nasty — but it made me smile.

And I kind of like the New Yorker comment on a certain wedding.
- 3:37 PM, 19 May 2018   [link]

This Week's Collection Of Cartoons from Politico.

My favorites:  None.

But I do like Andy Marlette's tribute to Tom Wolfe.

And some will find this political cartoon from the New Yorker funny.
- 11:20 AM, 18 May 2018   [link]

Since I Have Nothing To Add To The News About The Attack on the Texas school, I won't waste your time by repeating what others are saying.
- 10:31 AM, 18 May 2018   [link]

Most Americans Don't Think Donald Trump is "honest and trustworthy".
Only thirteen percent of Americans said they would consider President Trump to be honest and trustworthy, according to a new Survey Monkey tracking poll.

Trump's honesty and trustworthiness score is down 3 points from when Survey Monkey started conducting the tracking polls in February of 2017.
Meanwhile, his average job approval is running at about 40 percent.

So, we can conclude that at least 27 percent of Americans think that Trump is not honest and trustworthy — but approve of his job performance, anyway.

(Or 25 percent, if you want to allow for sampling error and such.)
- 3:56 PM, 17 May 2018   [link]

Is John Bolton Trying To Sabotage The Trump/Kim Talks?  That's what I suspect.

Bolton, who is smart and well-informed, would know that the North Koreans often use the Libyan example to explain why they can't give up their nukes.

And so describing it as a model would make the North Koreans extremely suspicious.
If you’re serious about peace and denuclearization, maybe don’t mention Libya.  That appears to be the message North Korea had for the United States on Wednesday when Pyongyang postponed talks with South Korea and threatened to cancel the June 12 summit between Kim Jong Un and President Trump.

Apart from the ongoing U.S.-South Korean air force drills, North Korea appeared especially dismayed by suggestions from U.S. national security adviser John Bolton that a Libya-style solution could work with North Korea.
Bolton would expect that reaction from the North Koreans.

(For the record:  Since I don't expect anything good to come of the talks, if they do occur, I don't particularly object to this sabotage, if that is what it is.)
- 8:22 AM, 17 May 2018   [link]

Two For Today:  "Pepper . . . and Salt" is amusing.

And so, for a change, is this daily New Yorker cartoon.
- 7:51 AM, 17 May 2018   [link]