November 2017, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Worth Reading:  Jim Brunner's article, "As they condemn Alabama’s Roy Moore, Seattle Democrats wonder: Were they too slow and too quiet about Ed Murray?"
Some prominent Seattle Democrats have had plenty to say about sexual misconduct allegations against Alabama’s embattled Republican Senate candidate, Roy Moore.

State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski called Moore a “bigot” and “child predator” in a Nov. 9 tweet, adding “He must go now.”
. . .
Yet this spring and summer, as four men came forward to publicly accuse Seattle Mayor Ed Murray of raping them or paying them for sex as teenagers, those same politicians remained mostly quiet about their fellow Democrat.

Like many in the city’s liberal political establishment, they never publicly sought Murray’s resignation.
(Links omitted.)

I am cynical enough to think that most won't wonder too long, or too hard.

It isn't hard to find Republicans making similar mistakes.

(For the record:  The accusations against Murray are significantly worse than the accusations against Moore.  It is not clear to me, for instance, that Moore ever caught any of the teenage girls he is accused of chasing.)
- 10:18 AM, 30 November 2017   [link]

Inside This Long Article On The Troubled Turkish-American relations is a startling pair of sentences about Barack Obama.
Officials in Ankara had high hopes for Trump because he promised to undo whatever Barack Obama had done, and the Turks figured that included Turkey policy.   But from their perspective, Trump has proved no better than his predecessor, whom [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan came to loathe.
There were disagreements between Obama and Erdogan on policy, some of them described in the article, but "loathe" suggests that the disagreements became personal, too.

Now that is interesting because Obama began by courting Erdoğan, spending more time on the phone with him than any other world leader, according to one account I read.

Clearly that courtship failed, which is not what Obama supporters would have predicted, in January 2009.

(As far as I know, there was not a similar breakdown between George W. Bush and Erdoğan despite their differences on policy.

- 9:32 AM, 30 November 2017   [link]

We Can Only Hope this man's wife can give him the help he needs.
- 8:01 AM, 30 November 2017   [link]

Have We Been Collecting Those Expended North Korean Rockets?  When they make one of their missile tests and fire a rocket into the sea, do we, and/or our allies Japan and South Korea, pick up the rockets afterward?

If you know the answer to that question, don't tell me, unless you found it in an open source.

I think we have, and that we have already learned much about their rocket programs from those expended rockets.  It wouldn't be a difficult problem, technically, since we know, fairly exactly from our radar, where the rockets land.  A visual, sonar, or magnetic search should locate the pieces exactly and then they could be retrieved, by divers in shallow water, or submersibles in deep water.

I would guess that the most important thing we could learn from those pieces is how far along the North Koreans are in developing rockets that can survive re-entry, without destroying their warheads.

(If I, or almost anyone else, can do that simple analysis, so can a North Korean officer.   So our analysts have to consider the possibility that the North Korean rockets we collect are different in some significant ways from the rockets in their arsenal.  Intelligence analysis gets complicated, fast.)
- 7:29 AM, 29 November 2017   [link]

Worth Reading:  Marc Thiessen's column, "How Democrats left us vulnerable to North Korea’s nukes".
With last weekend’s surprise nuclear test, North Korea has reached final stage of its crash course to develop thermonuclear weapons that can reach and destroy U.S. cities.  So why are we not on a crash course to protect our cities from North Korean nuclear missiles?

Answer:  Because for more than three decades, Democrats have done everything in their power to prevent, obstruct or delay the deployment of ballistic missile defense.
(I should have linked to this column in September, when it was first published.)

I have always thought that what one might call the North Korean argument was one of the strongest for missile defense.  But few elected Democrats have agreed with me on that, over the years.

Democrats aren't the only ones who deserve blame:
Amazingly, on taking office, President Trump’s budget continued Obama’s missile defense cuts, reducing funding by another $300 million.  Trump has since recognized his mistake, promising “We are going to be increasing the anti-missiles by a substantial amount of billions of dollars.”  Time to do so is short.   He should immediately deliver Congress an emergency supplemental spending bill to speed the deployment of ground-based interceptors, and he should revive the Multiple Kill Vehicle, the Airborne Laser and Kinetic Energy Interceptor — and then work with Congress on a long-term plan to build and deploy space-based interceptors.
(Links omitted in both block quotes.)

Thanks to that Trump blunder, we have lost, I would guess, close to a year.   We would be better off if he thought a little more, and tweeted a little less.

(Thiessen writes two columns a week for the Washington Post.  They are, in my opinion, often worth reading.

Fun fact:  Thiessen graduated from Vassar.)
- 5:38 PM, 29 November 2017   [link]

The Timing On This Garrison Keillor Op-Ed Is Superb:  Here's how it begins — now.
Update, 1:14 p.m. Nov. 29: After we published this column, Minnesota Public Radio announced it was terminating its contracts with Garrison Keillor due to “allegations of his inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him.”  The Post takes allegations of this kind seriously and is seeking more information about them.

My friend Pastor B.D. Christensen said something so good Sunday morning that I woke up and wrote it down:  “[something something] . . . about making peace with the mistakes of the past [blah blah blah] and learning from them.   It’s slippery ground, in general, to judge past actions by present standards and with a benefit of hindsight that is, morally, highly questionable.”
Keillor is defending Democratic Senator Al Franken against “allegations of his inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him”.

You have to admire the timing.  It may have been accidental, but it is still superb.
- 10:58 AM, 29 November 2017   [link]

It Doesn't Have To Be "Or" On Warren And Trump; It Can Be "And"  Professor Jacobson gets it right in this post, "It’s time for Elizabeth Warren to apologize for her Native American deception".
As explained many times, Pocaho[n]tas (or Faucahontas) is not a term we use because it is disrespectful to actual Native Americans.  But it’s not disrespectful to Warren, because it mocks her for how she ripped off Native American identity.

The “Pocahontas” branding is back in the news today because Trump used that term, obviously referring to Warren, in a ceremony honoring Navajo code talkers who served in World War II.  Both Trump’s use of the term at that ceremony and Warren’s claim it’s racist, were cringeworthy.
I'd call her a "fake Indian" myself, since I remember when Pocahontas was considered a heroine.

Warren is wrong not to apologize for her deception and Trump is wrong to have brought it up during that ceremony.

(Earlier posts in this series here. and here.)
- 10:17 AM, 29 November 2017   [link]

Was This A Successful Prediction?  After the September German election, I wrote:
We can even make a tentative prediction about her new coalition.

Merkel's Christian Democrats won 246 seats.  A majority in the new Bundestag will be 355 seats, so she needs 109 more votes.  Only the Social Democrats have that many (153), and they have rejected another grand coalition with Merkel.  (Understandably, since they had big losses after the last two times they joined her.)

Before the election, Merkel rejected the idea of a coalition with the populist/nationalist AfD and the far-left Left Party (Die Linke).

By elimination, that leaves what the Germans sometimes call a "Jamaica" coalition, after the colors in the Jamaican flag.  The coalition would consist of the CDU/CSU (black). the Free Democrats, a classic liberal party (yellow), and the Greens (green).

Not surprisingly, negotiations are expected to take some time, perhaps until the end of the year.  (And it is possible that the Social Democrats will change their minds during the negotiations.)

But Jamaica is, for now, the way to bet.
What I said was likely to happen has happened; the negotiations were long and difficult, and the Social Democrats are having second thoughts.

But I think I overestimated the chances that the negotiations for the "Jamaica" coalition would succeed.  That most other political commentators did the same is no excuse; I still should have recognized the difficulty of putting together a coalition from such disparate parties.

I made that error because I paid too much attention to the conventional thinking and — I suspect — for a funny reason:  The name of the potential coalition, "Jamaica", is so cute that I didn't pay as much attention to the ideologies of the parties as I should have.

(German federal election, 2017)
- 7:04 AM, 29 November 2017   [link]

Audiophiles May Already have seen this New Yorker cartoon.

(I like it because I think it is true, for some men.)
- 6:10 AM, 29 November 2017   [link]

Worth Reading:  Ronald Rubin's case against Richard Cordray, the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

When the CFPB was established, I thought this was, by itself, a fatal objection:
Since 2010, Republicans have argued that the CFPB’s unique structure — an independent agency whose single director the president can fire only for cause, with guaranteed funding through Federal Reserve Bank profits rather than the congressional appropriation process — is a recipe for government abuse, if not unconstitutional.  Cordray proved them right.
In democratic countries, the people, through their legislatures, control taxing and spending.  Taking that power away, even for a single agency, is a direct attack on democracy.

Cordray's actions as director shows that that danger is not just hypothetical.
- 3:17 PM, 28 November 2017   [link]

Aloha, 'Oumuamua:  The first detected visitor from the stars.
Visit the galaxy before the galaxy visits you.

This fall, the galaxy came calling in the form of a small reddish cigar-shaped object named Oumuamua by astronomers based in Hawaii.  They discovered it in October, careening through the solar system at 40,000 miles an hour, an interstellar emissary from points unknown.

Oumuamua (Oh-moo-a-moo-a), Hawaiian for “scout” or “messenger,” was not here long.
Actually, it will be in the solar system, broadly defined, for about 20,000 years.   And I did spell it right in the headline; "[t]he first character is a Hawaiian ʻokina, not an apostrophe, and is represented by a single quotation mark and pronounced as a glottal stop".

Despite those mistakes, I thought it better to quote from Dennis Overbye's article, rather than explain the astronomical terms in the Wikipedia article.  But there is no reason you can't do as I did, and look at both.

Overbye is right, in my opinion, to draw attention to its strange shape, which requires an explanation, but hasn't received one, yet.

(Fun fact:  'Oumuamua has had three official names, since astronomers first thought it was a comet and then a solar system asteroid.

An earlier interstellar visitor may have been detected by radar.  I recall reading, years ago, of a search for an interstellar meteorite on the Greenland ice cap.   (They didn't find one.)  The article I read about the search didn't say, but I assumed that its speed was what made scientists think it came from outside our solar system.)
- 2:46 PM, 28 November 2017   [link]

Would Jeff Bezos Like This New Yorker Cartoon?  It seems likely.

(I think the animation works well.)
- 9:11 AM, 28 November 2017   [link]

Another Win For The Donald:  If, that is, you consider going from 1st to 6th a win.
Germany has replaced the US as the country with the best "brand image," according to a new study of 50 countries released Thursday.

The Nation Brands Index (NBI) survey, carried out by German-based market research firm GfK and the British political consultant Simon Anholt, measured public opinion around the world on "the power and quality of each country's 'brand image.'"

Germany moved up to first place after coming in second in 2016. The US dropped from top to sixth, with France, Britain, Canada and Japan taking spots two to five.
And there are probably some Trumpistas who do consider that a win.

No doubt the changes in public opinion around the world are due, in part, to biased and even dishonest reporting — but that doesn't mean they don't impose real costs on the United States, especially in foreign policy.
- 6:35 PM, 27 November 2017   [link]

Some Much-Needed Comic Relief From Paul Krugman:   Unintentional, of course.

In his latest column — no link, because I don't want to inflict the whole thing on anyone unnecessarily — Krugman gave us this paragraph and, a little later, a sentence contradicting it:
As someone who specialized in social science that's supposed to be relevant to policy, I'm grateful for the years in which it seemed as if logic and evidence actually mattered, at least a bit, to people in power.

And I don't believe for a minute that this turn against higher education is a reaction to political correctness.
To examine that question using "logic and evidence" would require the most accomplished scholar many hours, not just one minute.

Would Krugman understand why that combination is funny, if you explained it to him?

I don't think so.

(Fun fact:  Paul Krugman worked for Ronald Reagan.)
- 6:03 PM, 27 November 2017   [link]

No Jamaica For Germany?  After the September German federal election, informed observers predicted that Angela Merkel would form a "Jamaica coalition".
Following the SPD's announcement that it would return to the opposition, the media speculated that Chancellor Angela Merkel might need to form a Jamaica coalition (black-yellow-green) with the Free Democrats and the Greens as that is the only viable coalition without the AfD or The Left, both of which had been ruled out by Merkel as coalition partners before the election.[18]

On 9 October 2017 Merkel officially announced that she would invite the Free Democrats and the Greens for talks about building a coalition government starting on 18 October 2017.[19][20]
(Links omitted.)

Those talks have collapsed, which is not surprising, considering the ideological differences among the parties.  (There is no close American analogy, but you can get some idea of the problems if you imagine putting together a coalition of Republicans, Greens, and Libertarians.)

And so now there is a meeting to discuss another grand coalition between the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats.

As far as I know, there are only two other real possibilities, neither attractive:  Merkel could form a minority government, or she could call for a new election.

The first seems unlikely to provide the stability Germany prefers; the second seems unlikely to produce a very different result than the September election did.

(Michael Barone believes the German voters have "rebuked" Merkel for her policy failures, failures that were popular with the Davos crowd, but not, in the end, with the German voters.)
- 4:11 PM, 27 November 2017   [link]

Susan Sarandon Thinks That, If Hillary Had Won, We'd Still Be At War:  For saying that, Sarandon has taken much criticism from leftists.
Did she really say that Hillary was more dangerous than Trump?

“Not exactly, but I don’t mind that quote,” she says.  “I did think she was very, very dangerous.  We would still be fracking, we would be at war [if she was president].  It wouldn’t be much smoother.  Look what happened under Obama that we didn’t notice.”
(Emphasis added.)

Sarandon is right that we would still be at war if Hillary Clinton were president — but not for the reason Sarandon thinks.

The unpleasant fact is that we would be at war, regardless of who was elected president — and it is likely that this war will last at least another hundred years — again regardless of who we elect as presidents, during that time.

We did not start this war with radical Islamists; al Qaeda did
In 1996, al-Qaeda announced its jihad to expel foreign troops and interests from what they considered Islamic lands. Bin Laden issued a fatwa (binding religious edict),[155] which amounted to a public declaration of war against the US and its allies, and began to refocus al-Qaeda's resources on large-scale, propagandist strikes.

On February 23, 1998, bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, a leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, along with three other Islamist leaders, co-signed and issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to kill Americans and their allies where they can, when they can.[156]
We did not start this war and, worse yet, there is no reasonable way we can finish it, quickly.  To think otherwise requires you to ignore the facts on the ground, and thousands of years of human history.

There are people on the left, Sarandon among them, who can ignore both, just as there are people on the isolationist right who can do the same.

It is understandable that so many ignore facts and history, because the thought of a war that never ends is so disagreeable that all of us must be tempted from time to time into believing there is some quick solution.

But there isn't, and we will be better off if we face that unpleasant fact.
- 12:49 PM, 27 November 2017   [link]

Is The Customer Asking That Question in order to choose that special — or avoid it?

I think the cartoonist intended the first, but the second works almost as well.
- 6:58 AM, 27 November 2017   [link]

Bringing Out The Worst (2):  In June, Jonathan Turley wrote:
Donald Trump continues to show a remarkable ability to bring out the worst in people — supporters and critics alike.
Here's another example from a critic:
. . . a White House reporter decided to question a bit of humblebragging the White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did on social media.  Sanders offered up a picture of her holiday dessert – chocolate pecan pie – on Twitter during Thanksgiving Day.  Now there is #PieGate.  Yes, it’s a thing.
. . .
April Ryan, a White House reporter known for such hard-hitting journalism as asking Sanders if slavery was wrong and her personal tiff with Trump aide Omarosa Manigault, decided to question the authenticity of Sanders pie baking skills.  In order to prove the pie’s existence, Ryan demanded a picture of the pie on Sanders’ Thanksgiving meal table.
I am not making that up.  (For one thing, it's too wild even for my imagination.)

(April Ryan)
- 5:36 PM, 26 November 2017   [link]

The Deadly Attack On The Sufi Mosque:  This BBC article summarizes what is now known, and includes many links to other articles.
Egyptian officials investigating the massacre of worshippers at a mosque in Sinai say the attackers were carrying the flag of the Islamic State group.

At least 305 people died in the assault, which was launched during Friday prayers and has not yet been claimed by any group.

Egypt's public prosecutor said there were up to 30 attackers at the scene.

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has vowed to respond with "the utmost force".
This New York Times article explains why ISIS hates Sufis.
The suicide bomber who stepped inside the gold-domed shrine in southern Pakistan n February was wearing a vest packed with ball bearings, bolts and screws.   When he hit the detonator, he killed more than 80 people.

To the world, they were Muslims.

But to the Islamic State, which quickly claimed credit for the attack, they were something else:  Mushrikin, an Arabic word meaning polytheists.
According to this source, there are about nine million Sufis.

- 4:05 PM, 25 November 2017   [link]

This Week's Collection Of Political Cartoons from RealClearPolitics.

My favorites:  Two by Andy Marlette (the turkeys and the three lists), Mike Luckovich's Roy Moore (brutal but funny), and Michael Ramirez's deficit spending.
- 3:16 PM, 25 November 2017   [link]