November 2017, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Since January, The Biggest Conservative Successes Have Been In The Judicial Appointments:  The man who deserves the most credit for that is . . . Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
As the New York Times reported on the front page of their Sunday edition this past weekend, the Trump administration has outpaced all of its predecessors in terms of the swiftness with which it has nominated and confirmed federal judges.  So far, eight of Trump’s 18 nominees to the federal appellate courts have been pushed through, with a ninth just approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and on his way to certain confirmation by the full Senate.  And as the Times documents, Trump’s nominees are more conservative than those put forward by past Republican presidents.

As they cheer these victories and gloat over the quotes from horrified liberals in the Times feature, conservatives should recognize that they have one man to thank above all others: the same Mitch McConnell who [Steve] Bannon claims is sabotaging Trump.  How is it possible that the man who is responsible for these confirmations, the man who did as much as anyone to block Barack Obama’s liberal agenda, is considered a villain to conservatives?
Good question.

And I do have a number of answers to it.

Two — the most relevant here — are that Steve Bannon has an irrational hatred of a non-existent Republican "establishment".  And that Bannon's quest for power is not constrained by many scruples, as we can tell from some of the candidates he has backed.
- 4:11 PM, 16 November 2017   [link]

Election Betting Odds:  Maxim Lott and John Stossel have updated their site, giving us a better snapshot of what mostly British bettors think will happen in our elections.

Main points:  The bettors think the Republicans will lose the House in 2018, the Republicans will retain the Senate in 2018, and Donald Trump is unlikely to win re-election in 2020.  Oh, and as I write, there is a 51.1 percent chance that Trump will leave the presidency early.

I'm not sure which side of any of those bets I would take, right now.

(Fans of the National Football League may want to click on the tab to see Superbowl odds.)
- 2:07 PM, 16 November 2017   [link]

Enjoyed Some Chocolate Recently?  Thank some flies.

Specifically, chocolate midges.
Every bite of chocolate we eat starts off as seeds in pods that grow on Theobroma cacao, a tree whose name translates to “cacao, food of the gods.”  Cacao is a small tropical tree that grows in the shade of larger trees in Central America, South America, Africa, and Asia.  The trees’ flowers grow directly from the trunks and lower branches, and, when pollinated, produce the prized seed pods.  The flowers are small, white, convoluted, face downwards, and require tiny pollinators.

Enter chocolate midges—very small flies with long, complicated names: Ceratopogonidae, various species of Forcipomyia and Euprojoannisia.  No bigger than the size of pinheads, midges seem to be the only creatures that can work their way into the intricate flowers to pollinate.  They are most active in their pollination duties at dusk and dawn, in sync with the cacao flowers, which fully open right before sunrise.  Without the midges, there would be no chocolate!
I'm thankful for the work of the chocolate midges — and, were they able to think about such things, they would probably be thankful to the human farmers who have spread their tree over much of the tropical world.
- 10:14 AM, 16 November 2017   [link]

Venezuela's Chavista Regime Is Unlikely To Match Mugabe's Inflation Record:  But they are making an impressive effort.
The black market rate blew past 60,000 today.  It’s now up over ten million percent since Chavez became president in February 1999.  That’s a one with seven zeros and a % sign: 10,000,000%.  The black market rate is up by a factor of 10x since May 18th this year.   All the while, the government’s putting the pedal to the metal with the monetary accelerator, fueling an unprecedented expansion in the supply of bolivares.

The government will try to engineer a consumption boom for municipal elections scheduled for December 10th.  That plus the usual year-end Christmas bonuses will likely make November record breaking for money printing and push monthly inflation past the traditional 50% threshold for hyperinflation.  As the economy tanks and the government funds more and more of its spending with monopoly money from the BCV, base money will grow faster and faster and faster, locking in hyperinflation.
That's 60,000 bolivares to 1 US dollar.

Note that Frank Muci believes the regime is accelerating money printing for short-term political gains.

Perhaps the regime should start thinking about printing some 100 trillion bolivar notes.
- 7:14 AM, 16 November 2017   [link]

This Anti-Trump Cartoon Doesn't Really Work:  Except for that mirror, which made me laugh out loud.
- 6:13 AM, 16 November 2017   [link]

Two Notable Robert Mugabe Achievements:  He set an inflation record that is unlikely to be broken.
Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe was a period of currency instability that began in the late 1990s shortly after the confiscation of private farms from landowners, towards the end of Zimbabwean involvement in the Second Congo War.  During the height of inflation from 2008 to 2009, it was difficult to measure Zimbabwe's hyperinflation because the government of Zimbabwe stopped filing official inflation statistics.  However, Zimbabwe's peak month of inflation is estimated at 79.6 billion percent in mid-November 2008.[1]
(Links omitted.)

In 2015, the Chinese gave him their equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Americans who were impressed by the reception the Chinese dictatorship gave Donald Trump should note that Trump has not been given that prize, so he is trailing Robert Mugabe in the Chinese government's esteem.

(Fun fact:  At the inflation peak in Zimbabwe, the government issued a 100 trillion dollar note.  If I saw one for sale, cheap, I would probably pick it up as a souvenir.)
- 1:11 PM, 15 November 2017   [link]

The End Of Power For Robert Mugabe?  It appears that a gentle coup finally ended his years of misrule.
Zimbabwe's military has placed President Robert Mugabe under house arrest in the capital Harare, South African President Jacob Zuma says.

Mr Mugabe told Mr Zuma in a phone call that he was fine, the South African leader's office said.

Troops are patrolling the capital, Harare, after they seized state TV and said they were targeting "criminals".

The move may be a bid to replace Mr Mugabe with his sacked deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, BBC correspondents say.
The BBC doesn't usually welcome coups — but they welcomed this one.

(Robert Mugabe)
- 10:09 AM, 15 November 2017   [link]

Directors Can Demand A Lot from actors.

(I don't know about you, but I'd like to see that scene.)
- 9:40 AM, 15 November 2017   [link]

Almost Obligatory Fall Picture:  I am rather fond of these partial pictures, which, to my eye, look almost like abstract paintings.

Fall colors 2017, 1

Incidentally, I could have taken that yesterday morning, because there was an hour or two of sunshine before the storm came in.
- 6:05 PM, 14 November 2017   [link]

Xi's Worrisome Phrase:  The Communist dictator of China, Xi Jinping, recently declared that his objective was "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics".

Some of us will wonder whether by that he means a kind of "national socialism".

And will remember that the two movements have often been described as feuding half-brothers, closer together in ideology than either is to their enemies in the West.

(Originally, the phrase was used by Deng Xiaoping to describe his market-oriented reforms in China, but there are many people (besides me) who doubt that Xi means the same thing by the phrase.)
- 3:15 PM, 14 November 2017   [link]

This "Prickly City" Comic Strip made me smile.

(I look at the strip regularly, but for its political commentary, not its humor.)
- 1:33 PM, 14 November 2017   [link]

Troubling:  This BBC story, "Raqqa's Dirty Secret".

A truce allowed hundreds of ISIS fighters to escape.
- 10:44 AM, 14 November 2017   [link]

Between Windstorms:  Yesterday, a big windstorm hit this area, as predicted.

One dead, at least five seriously injured, and tens of thousands lost power during the storm.

Today, a second storm is supposed to hit, though it is not predicted to be as strong.  (Although there have already been many lightning strikes on the coast, something that didn't happen yesterday.)

I'm hoping it will hold off long enough so I can go out for lunch, without getting soaked.

(The local public TV and radio stations did little to inform the public about the storm yesterday; somewhat to my surprise, neither did one of our main TV stations, King 5.)
- 10:16 AM, 14 November 2017   [link]

These 2017 CO2 Emission Projections Are . . . Interesting:  From the BBC, I learned that a group of scientists already had made estimates for 2017 of changes in carbon dioxide emissions.
Global emissions of CO2 in 2017 are projected to rise for the first time in four years, dashing hopes that a peak might soon be reached..
. . .
The most important element in causing this rise has been China, which is responsible for around 28% of the global total.  Emissions there went up 3.5% in 2017, mainly because of increased coal use, driven in the main by a growing economy.
. . .
US emissions have continued to decline but the fall has been less than expected.  Higher prices saw a drop in the use of natural gas for electricity - with renewables and hydro-power picking up the slack.
. . .
Europe also saw a smaller decline than expected, falling by 0.2% compared with 2.2% over the last 10 years.
If you are as suspicious as I am, you will wonder why there are numbers for China and Europe in that article, but not the United States.

Possibly that's because the projections show the United States doing better than Europe, reducing emissions in 2017 by .4 percent.

I wouldn't get too excited by that number, or any of the other numbers in the projections, but it is . . . interesting.

(If you are wondering just how accurate those projections will be, take a look at the Anthony Watts post.  He includes the error ranges — as the BBC should have done.)
- 8:05 AM, 14 November 2017
Update:  Credit where due:  When I went out for lunch — and, no, I didn't get rained on — I picked up a copy of the New York Times, which contained an article by Brad Plumer, accompanied by two graphs by Nadja Popovich, one of them showing the emission estimates — with the error ranges.

The combination was fairer, more informative, and more accurate than the BBC article.
- 2:28 PM, 14 November 14, 2017     [link]

This New Yorker Cartoon made me smile.

(Some readers may need this hint.)
- 6:56 AM, 14 November 2017   [link]

Trump Just Gave Us a neat example of apophasis.
In a response to North Korea calling Trump’s speech in South Korea “reckless remarks by an old lunatic,” Trump tweeted from Hanoi on Sunday morning: “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’”
It can be a surprisingly effective rhetorical trick.  (And I'll admit that I may have used it once or twice myself.)
- 3:53 PM, 13 November 2017   [link]

The Ed Murray-Roy Moore Parallels:  This post will not please the supporters of either man, but I have been struck by the similarities between the two scandals.

Both men have been accused, by multiple accusers, of sex crimes against minors.   (So far the accusations I have seen against Murray are more serious.)

The accusations describe acts that happened decades ago, making them difficult to prove — or disprove.

The accusations came while both men were in election campaigns, and appear to have been intended to defeat them.

Both men have denied the accusations, repeatedly.

Both men are seen as symbols by minorities that feel persecuted, gays for Murray and evangelicals for Moore.

Given those similarities, I find myself in the odd position of coming to the same tentative conclusion about Moore that I did about Murray, after he dropped out of the mayoral race.
If he is innocent — and I still think that possible, though unlikely — this is terribly unfair to him.

If he is guilty, then his accusers are getting a little justice, but far too late.
And I would be pleased if Moore followed Murray's example, though I think that unlikely.

(Of course, there is a difference in the way our "mainstream" journalists have covered the two stories.

Ed Murray and Roy Moore)
- 2:37 PM, 13 November 2017   [link]

The Attacks On Our Diplomats In Cuba Are Still Mysterious:  But our intelligence officials have a new — or perhaps I should say old — theory to explore.
Two intelligence officials tell POLITICO they’re confident that the attacks were conducted with an “energy directed” or "acoustic" device, possibly similar to one used by Soviet intelligence in Havana more than four decades ago, but remain unsure of its exact nature.

That has officials combing classified files and even contacting retired intelligence officers for clues to a mystery that has triggered a diplomatic crisis less than three years after President Barack Obama restored diplomatic relations with Havana.
If you read the whole article, you'll know as much as I do, which is almost nothing.

I can remind readers that, back in the old days of the Soviet Union, and now in Putin's Russia, harassment of our diplomats was, and is, routine.
- 7:54 AM, 13 November 2017   [link]

Corrections can be awkward.
- 7:36 AM, 13 November 2017   [link]

Grim, But Worth Reading:  Graham Allison's Politico article, "Will Trump and Xi ‘Solve’ North Korea?"
The centerpiece of President Donald Trump’s conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday will doubtless be North Korea.  Before their first meeting in April, Trump’s message to Xi was unmistakable:  You solve this problem, or I will, and you won’t like the way I do it.  Then, just after he served Xi and his wife chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago, Trump excused himself and went to an adjacent room to announce that the U.S. was launching 59 cruise missiles against Syria.  Message:  I’m serious.

Trump has repeatedly complained that his predecessors left him a mess in North Korea, with an emboldened regime in Pyongyang that threatens to soon have a credible capability to hit the United States with a nuclear weapon.  “It should have never been given to me,” he told an interviewer in October.  “This should have been solved long before I came to office, when it would have been easier to solve.  But it was given to me and I get it solved.  I solve problems.”

But will Trump really “solve” North Korea?  The answer is most certainly no.  Indeed, I am so confident in answering no that I am prepared to bet $100 of my money—against $1 of anyone who wants to wager—that when Trump leaves office, a nuclear-armed North Korea will remain a major challenge for his successor.
Would I take that bet?  No, because I believe Allison's analysis is broadly correct.


Trump may be beginning to understand that the North Korean problem is not solvable by any American president.  That would explain why he and Xi didn't issue a joint statement describing new actions to rein in Kim's regime.

(Graham T. Allison)
- 3:52 PM, 12 November 2017   [link]

Another Good Joke from Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump did not answer a direct question about whether he believed Mr. Putin’s denials, but his account of the conversation indicated he was far more inclined to accept the Russian president’s assertions than those of his own intelligence agencies, which have concluded that Mr. Putin directed an elaborate effort to interfere in the vote.  The C.I.A., the National Security Agency, the F.B.I. and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence all determined that Russia meddled in the election.

“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Putin.  “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.”
(Emphasis added.)

After all, if you can't trust a former KGB agent to tell you the truth, who can you trust?

(Some may think Trump was serious, but I think my explanation — that Trump was joking — is kinder.)
- 3:17 PM, 12 November 2017   [link]

Here's A New Twist on an old philosophical problem.
- 2:48 PM, 12 November 2017   [link]

Armistice Day:  On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice ended the fighting in World War I.  (Though not without difficulty.   Some American troops, having spare shells and wanting the glory of having the last shot, competed with each other, for a time, after the official end.)

For many European countries, the war was a disaster from which they have never completely recovered.  The casualties they suffered were so immense that, even now, they astonish.  They were so large that, from the very beginning, the combatants lied about them on a grand scale, and even now historians argue about the numbers, especially the numbers in eastern Europe.  This Wikipedia article gives some of the common estimates of the casualties.  The almost 1.4 million French military dead are more than all the deaths the United States has suffered in all our wars, combined.  More than 1 million of them were from France itself, with the rest coming mostly from the French colonies.  Since France then had a population of about 40 million, more than 1 in 40 died in the war; for us, now, the equivalent loss would be about 8 million deaths.

After World War II, we renamed Armistice Day to Veterans Day, to honor the soldiers of all our wars.  When we honor, as we should, especially today, the American soldiers who served, and sometimes died in our wars, we should also spare some thought for those who fought at our side and who suffered far more than we did.

(This is an edited version of a post I first put up in 2002.)
- 2:47 PM, 11 November 2017   [link]

Beijing Is "Playing Trump Like A Fiddle"  A former Mexican ambassador to China, Jorge Guajardo, has come to the same conclusion that I did, though he uses a different metaphor.

Here's a description of the techniques used by Japan and China to fool Trump.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s recent hosting of Donald Trump was a masterclass in how to make the US president comfortable—feed him familiar food, take him on his favorite outing, golf, and tell him how much you like him.

But Chinese president Xi Jinping added a creamy layer of pomp and circumstance to the mix when the White House delegation reached Beijing.  Trump has been feted with everything from an unprecedented private dinner in the Forbidden City to a red carpet welcome in Tiananmen Square, the Beijing landmark where hundreds of students were killed by the Chinese military in 1989.
The Saudis used a similar technique, also with some success, so we can infer that foreign leaders all over the world have figured out how to con the Donald.

If you think that's too harsh, consider this:  We would very much like to have some help from China on restraining North Korea.  If Trump got any such help, it has been kept a secret — in an administration that leaks like a sieve.
- 11:33 AM, 10 November 2017   [link]

This Week's Collection Of Political Cartoons from RealClearPolitics.

My favorites:  Michael Ramirez's Donna Brazile and Andy Marlette's Hillary Clinton.
- 10:05 AM, 10 November 2017   [link]

Name Diversity In Local Elections:  (And probably in many other parts of the United States.)

In the past, immigrants to the United States often anglicized their names, in order to fit in better with the locals.   (Bobby Jindal, a child of immigrants, is a recent example.)

That was true, forty years ago, even of temporary immigrants like college students.  I recall meeting students from Hong Kong and India who had been advised to adopt an American first name while they here — and had followed that advice.

Now, with the worship of diversity on the left, an immigrant, or child of immigrants, would often be better off, politically, if their name demonstrated their diversity.

That explains some of the names I found in this year's voter pamphlets:  Ahmed Abdi, Preeti Sridhar, Uzma Butte, Tanika Padhye, Rituja Indapure, My-Linh Thai, Caifeng Wu, Manka Dhingra, and Jinyoung Lee Englund.

(I received two voter pamphlets, one from King County and one from Washington state.  I included only the names that were clearly non-European in that list.)

You should expect to see similar names wherever the Democratic Party is dominant.

This is not, by the way, the same as traditional appeals to ethnic groups, the Irish, Italians, Jews, and so forth, though there may be a little of that, too.  Instead, the candidates are giving others a chance to prove their devotion to diversity by voting for someone obviously different.

(Every once in while, I come up with a hypothesis that I know is false, but explains so much that I begin to wonder whether there might not be a little truth in it.  Shortly after I began writing this blog, for instance, I joked that Paul Krugman's columns were being written by someone trying to discredit the Princeton economist.

Recently, I have begun to amuse myself by imagining that our local Democratic officials adhere to a pagan religion with two deities, Diversity and Density.  If you were to search their offices, you might find two idols, with those names, or some similar religious objects.)
- 2:57 PM, 9 November 2017   [link]

Judging By The Accounts Of Trump's Trip To China I Have Seen So Far, the bullfrog was no match for the lion.

Here's a hostile, but reasonably accurate, description of Trump's failures.

(For the record, Trump did not actually kowtow to Xi, in public anyway.

It occurs to me that Xi would probably rather be referred to as a tiger than a lion.   He can take it up with Machiavelli, should they meet in a hot place, in the future.)
- 10:21 AM, 9 November 2017   [link]

"The One County In America That Voted In A Landslide For Both Trump And Obama"  It is in the Midwest, though not necessarily where you might expect it to be.
In a nation increasingly composed of landslide counties — places that voted for one side or the other by at least 20 percentage points — Howard County, Iowa (population 9,332), stands out as the only one of America’s 3,141 counties that voted by more than 20 percentage points for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016. Democrats can’t credibly blame Howard County’s enormous 41-point swing in just four years on a last-minute letter to Congress, voter ID laws or Russia-sponsored Facebook ads.
(Actually Democrats can do all of those things, and some probably will — but they shouldn't.)

David Wasserman thinks we can draw national conclusions from this fascinating example.  I am not so sure about that, but I do think it is interesting in itself.

(Howard County, Iowa)
- 9:42 AM, 9 November 2017   [link]

Bitter, But Funny:  This New Yorker cartoon.

(For the record:  The accusations against Trump are not as serious, or extensive, as those against, for instance, Harvey Weinstein.  But they are troubling.)
- 8:11 AM, 9 November 2017   [link]