October 2017, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Ours Is Better:  This November a special election will decide the control of the Washington State Senate, which the Republicans now control (with the help of a dissident Democrat) by one vote.

(The 45th district election is being held because the incumbent, a wonderful man and fine legislator, Andy Hill, passed away from a second bout with cancer.  His temporary replacement, Dino Rossi, is running for Congress, rather than a seat in the legislature.)

No doubt I am biased, but I think our candidate, Republican Jinyoung Englund is better than their candidate, Democrat Manka Dhingra.

(The race has drawn so much attention and money that I have even seen a negative TV ad attacking Dhingra for being soft on crime.)
- 7:40 PM, 24 October 2017   [link]

Mitzi For Sheriff?  In this area, and, I believe, in most of the country, yard signs usually have just three things on them: the name of the candidate, the office they are seeking, and, in recent years, the campaign web site.

So I was surprised when I first started seeing these signs.  Instead of the full name, as it will appear on the ballot, the sign just had a first name, and that name didn't seem to fit the office.  I think of sheriffs as being named Joe, or Dave, or Bill, and, if the sheriff is a woman, I wouldn't expect her to use a name that sounds so frivolous.

Mitzi for sheriff

But then as I thought about it more and more, I decided that perhaps it was a good idea, after all, since her name certainly stands out in a group of signs.

(I have to do some research, but I may end up voting for Mitzi Johanknecht, in spite of two very dubious endorsements.)
- 6:56 PM, 24 October 2017   [link]

Harvey Weinstein, Ed Murray, And "Mainstream" Journalists:  With the former Seattle mayor back in the spotlight, now is a good time to point to similarities in the way "mainstream" journalists reacted — or, to be more precise, didn't react — to these stories.

The re-filing of the lawsuit against Murray will not, I predict, get much attention outside this area, although the story is sensational enough.  When Murray resigned, the PBS evening news program put the story last in the hour, and, as far as I know, has never done any follow-up stories.  Next day, the New York Times put the story last in their national section, just before the obituaries.  I haven't seen any follow-up stories there, either.

By now, we all know, or should know, that there were journalists who could have broken the Weinstein story years ago.  The same is true of the Murray story.  For instance, in 2008, the Seattle Times investigated the charges from the first accuser, but did not dig up the evidence it found last year.  (I do not know whether any other local news organizations even did that much in 2008, or whether the Portland Oregonian ever investigated those charges.)

Why did all these "mainstream" journalists fail in the Weinstein and Murray cases?  As far as I can tell, the reasons are similar.  It was hard to find credible accusers who would speak on the record, both men had enough political power to suppress some stories, and both men were, though for different reasons, useful to leftist causes and the Democratic Party.

All three reasons should trouble us, and make us wonder how many other stories there are out there that "everyone" knows about — except the people.
- 4:14 PM, 24 October 2017   [link]

Harry Enten Reminds Of Us Of A Fundamental Fact About Polls:  You should worry more when they agree, than when they disagree.
Polling averages work best when pollsters are working independently. You have different pollsters using different methods and making different estimates of the electorate, and you get a more accurate picture of the race by averaging their results together than by looking at any individual poll.  It’s kind of like the old “wisdom of the crowd” principle.

That doesn’t work if pollsters “herd” — which my colleague Nate Silver defined as “the tendency of polling firms to produce results that closely match one another.”  When pollsters release results that are closer to each other than is statistically plausible, it may make individual polls more accurate, but it makes the average less so.  That is, there should be a big spread among polls of the same race.  Unfortunately, herding happens, particularly as Election Day approaches.
Note the crucial qualifier: "than is statistically plausible".

So polls should be different — but not too different.  And I would add, polls should be more different for primaries and special elections, because it is harder to predict who will turn out for those elections.
- 9:29 AM, 24 October 2017   [link]

Worth Reading:  Max Hastings' opinion piece.
Is China marching towards the worst world war in history?  MAX HASTINGS examines how the new superpower became emboldened AND embittered - and how its leaders' desire for global domination may lead to a conflict with America
In the piece Hastings summarizes the conclusions of some worried academic experts, on both sides of the Atlantic.  I don't consider myself an expert in international relations — it has been too long since I read works in that field — but I have come to similar conclusions, independently.

(Hastings cites a British author, Christopher Coker; on this side of the Atlantic, Graham Allison has been more influential.)
- 7:35 AM, 24 October 2017   [link]

I Like All of the recent A-Hed stories.

Except for the one about Xi Jinping, which is a little creepy.
- 6:42 AM, 24 October 2017   [link]

Make That Three Big Questions:  (At least.)  On the 13th, I said:
There are two big questions about the 2020 election, assuming Trump runs:    Will he face a serious primary challenge from, for instance, John Kasich?    Will a self-financed independent candidate run?
I didn't think of the possibility of a self-financed Republican challenger, but there is already one man considering such a run.
During an in-depth feature-style interview on Fox News Objectified, billionaire Mark Cuban said — if he runs for president in 2020 — he will “probably” run on as a Republican.

In the interview, host Harvey Levin pressed Cuban on his political aspirations — eventually getting the entrepreneur to start a candidate-sounding monologue on issues that the American people face.

“We’re going into an era where people want someone who comes up with solutions.  I think we’re going into a time where you need somebody who can connect to people and relate to people at a base level and appreciate what they’re going through — and I think I qualify on each of those,” said Cuban.
Cuban says he's "socially a centrist but . . . very fiscally conservative."

Cuban could challenge Trump in the primaries, or run as an independent, calling himself a Republican.

(British bettors currently give him a 0.6 percent chance.)
- 4:03 PM, 23 October 2017   [link]

Another Lawsuit Against Evergreen State?!  The charges in this one seem improbable.
Two students have filed a lawsuit against The Evergreen State College and its former women’s basketball coach Jennifer Schooler.

The 15-page complaint for damages was filed by ShaMarica D. Scott and Linda A. Wilson, both of Olympia, on Oct. 13 in U.S District Court’s Western Washington district in Tacoma.

On June 12, the women’s attorney, Ada Wong with AKW Law of Mountlake Terrace, filed a tort claim, which is a prerequisite for suing the state, with the state Department of Enterprise Services Office of Risk Management.  It stated that the women are claiming damages of $500,000 each.

According to the latest court documents, Scott and Wilson are seeking damages for “intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and racial and sexual orientation discrimination.”
The former coach has denied the charges.

If you read the whole article, you'll know as much about the case as I do.

(Those interested in basketball will wonder what kind of records the coach and the two players have.  Unfortunately, there are no stats in the article.

Evergreen State)
- 8:32 AM, 23 October 2017   [link]

This New Yorker Cartoon isn't bad.

Bonus:  If you have a macabre sense of humor — and I do, occasionally — you'll like this "Wizard of Id" strip.
- 7:39 AM, 23 October 2017   [link]

It Was A Cruel Joke:  So we should be pleased that it didn't last long.
The World Health Organization has revoked the appointment of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador following a widespread outcry.

"I have listened carefully to all who have expressed their concerns," WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

He had previously praised Zimbabwe for its commitment to public health.

But critics pointed out that Zimbabwe's healthcare system had collapsed under Mr Mugabe's 30-year rule.
That does seem to be something Tedros, who is Ethiopian, should have noticed before making the appointment.

(Mugabe and Tedros)
- 10:45 AM, 22 October 2017   [link]

If You Are Watching Football This Weekend, you may appreciate this cartoon.
- 7:10 AM, 22 October 2017   [link]

This Week's Collection Of Political Cartoons from RealClearPolitics.

My favorites:  Mike Lukovich's golfer, Michael Ramirez's joke, and Scott Stantis's welcome sign.
- 3:27 PM, 21 October 2017   [link]

More Evidence That Vladimir Putin is a fox.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Americans to show more respect for their president in response to a question posed to him at the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi, Russia, on Thursday.
Now that is sly — and yes, I do think that he probably set up that question in advance.

Putin does understand how to divide us.
- 10:25 AM, 20 October 2017   [link]

Salman Rushdie Understands This:  But most "mainstream" journalists don't, or are ignoring it for the moment.

In an interview that I saw on BBC America — probably this one — the writer was asked whether President Obama, who Rushdie has supported, had contributed to the growing divisions in the United States.  Rushdie admitted that Obama had, as any honest, and reasonably well-informed, person would.

That should be obvious to anyone who recalls that Obama is a disciple of the late Saul Alinsky, or remembers the sermons preached in Obama's Chicago church.

It was a little less obvious watching Obama's behavior as president, since he preferred, for tactical reasons, to let his allies and subordinates do most of the dirty work of division.   Donald Trump is an open, crude divider, while Obama is a sneaky, sophisticated divider, but the results are similar.

And that is why the linking of an Obama speech on unity to a George W. Bush speech on the same subject, as so many journalists are doing — for example — is so dishonest.

Bush was saying what he had said before, and what he had, on the whole, practiced as president; in arguing for unity, Obama was cynically ignoring his own record of division, a record that in many ways paved the way for Donald Trump.

Moreover, Bush made his speech to a nonpartisan group; Obama made his at a campaign rally, an inherently divisive event.

That last should have been enough of a clue for our "mainstream" journalists — but it hasn't been in the stories I have seen.

(Here's a notorious example of Obama's divisiveness.   At one time I was surprised that his administration had picked this fight; now I think they did it deliberately.)
- 9:50 AM, 20 October 2017   [link]

As Far As I Know, Password Proliferation hasn't reached the level shown in the "Pepper . . . and Salt" cartoon, but I am not as in touch with new technology, as I once was.

(I think the cartoon will be up until about noon, PDT, but I could be wrong, either way.)
- 6:24 AM, 20 October 2017   [link]

Did Trump's Change In Tactics Speed Up The Campaign Against ISIS?  Jonathan Tobin says yes, but, in my opinion, makes too strong an argument.

The coalition against ISIS was making steady progress before Donald Trump took office, notably in Mosul.
The offensive, dubbed Operation "We Are Coming, Nineveh" (قادمون يا نينوى; Qadimun Ya Naynawa),[67][68] began on 16 October 2016, with forces besieging ISIL-controlled areas in the Nineveh Governorate surrounding Mosul,[69][70][71] and continued with Iraqi troops and Peshmerga fighters engaging ISIL on three fronts outside Mosul, going from village to village in the surrounding area in the largest deployment of Iraqi troops since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[72]  The battle was also the world's single largest military operation in nearly 15 years.[clarification needed][44]

At dawn on 1 November 2016, Iraqi Special Operations Forces entered the city from the east.[73]  Met with fierce fighting, the government advance into the city was slowed by elaborate defenses and by the presence of civilians,[74] but the Iraqi Prime Minister declared "full liberation of eastern side of Mosul" on 24 January 2017.[75]  Iraqi troops began their offensive to recapture western Mosul on 19 February 2017.[76]
So Tobin is wrong to speak of a "stalemate" before the change in tactics, but right, in my opinion, to say that the campaign has gone faster thanks to Trump's more aggressive tactics.

Some critics would probably argue that the change in tactics has meant more civilian casualties.  I would agree, as long as they add this qualifier: in the short run.

(What were the changes in tactics?  As far as I can tell from rather sketchy press accounts, the US made our targeting quicker by, for instance, giving forward air controllers more direct authority.  This would have made our air strikes significantly more effective.)
- 3:30 PM, 19 October 2017   [link]

Worth Study:  John Solomon and Alison Spann's article, "FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow".
Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.
You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to be fascinated by some of the people connected, however indirectly, to this scandal.

I should mention this possible reason for the delays in bringing charges and publicizing these crimes:  The FBI may have been protecting that confidential informant.  Even if that is so, some in Congress should have been informed.

(If this seems familiar, it's because Peter Schweizer and the New York Times dug up part of the story some years ago.)
- 10:24 AM, 19 October 2017   [link]

Lawyer Bob Ferguson, Limousine Chaser?  A few, not very respectable, lawyers are called "ambulance chasers" because they rush to the scenes of accidents, hoping to profit from them.*

It occurs to me that we need a similar term for Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and others like him.  In this last year, he's brought lawsuits against the Trump administration 17 times — so far.
In the past week and a half alone, Attorney General Bob Ferguson has challenged the Trump Administration three separate times in court.  On October 9, it was over women’s access to contraceptive care; on October 12, it was a motion in the ongoing fight against Trump’s hotly-contested travel ban; on October 13, it was over the administration’s decision to end an Affordable Care Act (ACA) funding provision.

By this point, of course, we can hardly be surprised.  Before we even knew for sure that President Donald Trump would win the election, Ferguson was already promising to sue the guy.   “If the truly unthinkable were to happen, I want to tell you who the most important officials in the country are:  Your Democratic attorneys general,” he said on election night.  “We can hold your elected officials accountable to the rule of law.”
There are cynics who think Ferguson is less interested in the "rule of law" than in gaining political power, for himself.

(Ferguson is expected to run for governor in 2020.  He probably believes that his toughest fight will be in the top-two primary, not the general election.)

But we should not miss out on the fundamental issue:  Ferguson is attempting to delay or reverse the results of a national election, on issue after issue.  It is possible that he has legitimate grounds for his suits in a few of those cases.  But in all 17?  That seems unlikely.

(*Old story, worth sharing:  Years ago, I recall reading about a sting operation in New Jersey, where the local bus companies were being hit by false claims in accidents.   Whenever there was even a small accident, at least a few people would rush to jump on the bus, and pretend they had been there during the accident.  Often it was cheaper to pay them off than fight them in court.

Finally, the insurance companies and police got tired of these scams and arranged one or more fake accidents.  When the fraudsters rushed to get on the buses, the authorities were watching and, if I recall correctly, filming.

A little bit of thought will show you that that scam required at least the tacit cooperation of some ambulance-chasing lawyers.

Some will wonder whether Ferguson is doing his actual job, as attorney general.  He may be, but I have seen no evidence that he is.

Bob Ferguson)
- 6:17 AM, 19 October 2017   [link]

Basketball Players Will Appreciate the current "Pepper . . . and Salt" cartoon.

(It might be replaced, within a few hours.)
- 6:16 AM, 19 October 2017   [link]

Reverse Coattails In 2016 (5):  Like Wisconsin, Michigan is one of the swing states that, very narrowly (10,704 votes), gave Donald Trump his electoral vote majority.

In the states I looked at previously, there were Republican governors or Senators running last year, so we could make a direct comparison between their votes and Trump's.  (So far, they always ran ahead of him.)

Michigan elects governors in off years, and there was no Senate race there last year, so we can't make the same comparison.  We can compare Trump's vote in Michigan to the total for House seats, and for a change the result is ambiguous:  The Republican candidates received fewer votes than Trump (2,243,402-2,279,543), but had a higher margin (49,422-10,704).

The safest conclusion is that there were neither big coattails nor big reverse coattails.

Incidentally, I think that Barack Obama might have won the state for Clinton, if he had worked hard to increase black turnout.

(George W. Bush lost Michigan in 2000 and 2004.  John McCain and Mitt Romney both lost the state.

You can find the earlier posts in this series here, here, here, and here.)
- 1:47 PM, 18 October 2017   [link]

We're Number Two!  (At best.)

Not in potential power, but in actual effective power, says the Economist.
Donald Trump is no less wowed.  The Washington Post quotes him as saying that China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, is “probably the most powerful” China has had in a century.

Mr Trump may be right.  And were it not political suicide for an American president to say so, he might plausibly have added:  “Xi Jinping is the world’s most powerful leader.”  To be sure, China’s economy is still second in size to America’s and its army, though rapidly gaining muscle, pales in comparison.  But economic heft and military hardware are not everything.  The leader of the free world has a narrow, transactional approach to foreigners and seems unable to enact his agenda at home.  The United States is still the world’s most powerful country, but its leader is weaker at home and less effective abroad than any of his recent predecessors, not least because he scorns the values and alliances that underpin American influence.
That's an unpleasant conclusion, but it is essentially the same as the one I reached months ago.

And I would go even further.  I think that the United States lost ground strategically, because of Barack Obama's failures.  It is still an open question which man's failures will cost us more, in the long run.

(Does President Xi ever wonder how he was so lucky as to get first Obama, and then Trump, as adversaries?  Probably not; judging by his public statements, he thinks it shows the superiority of his system.)
- 10:03 AM, 18 October 2017   [link]

#%&*#!  There, now I feel better, having replaced the expletives with the usual cartoon substitutes.

Why did I feel the need to express myself so vigorously?

Because we are spending our time discussing small problems, and ignoring big ones.  For example, if you look at memeorandum right now, you'll see article after article, post after post, discussing whether President Trump said the right things to a widow.  (He probably didn't, and is probably lying about what he said.)

And nothing about President Xi Jinping's speech.
China has entered a "new era" where it should "take centre stage in the world", President Xi Jinping says.
It should no longer be news that Trump often says hurtful things, but that "centre stage" claim should alarm every thinking American — and everyone who hopes for peace in the world.
- 9:27 AM, 18 October 2017   [link]

We Can All Understand Why A Young Man might yield to this temptation.
- 6:35 AM, 18 October 2017   [link]

Why Did We Drain All Those Swamps Back In The 20th Century?  Not to get rid of alligators, in spite of that wonderful line.*

Alligators aren't really that big a problem, once you know where they live, and how they behave.  And we drained a lot of swamps that are hundreds, even thousands, of miles from any alligators.

As I understand it, we did it for two main reasons, to reclaim land for farming, and to destroy places where disease-carrying mosquitoes could breed.  We were fighting hunger and malaria (and other diseases), not alligators.

One of the most famous, perhaps the most famous, swamp drainer was the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini.  He made new farmland, and reduced disease.

So, if you are going to use the draining-the-swamp metaphor — I would use it sparingly, if at all — visualize mosquitoes and diseases, not alligators.

(*Here's one version:  When you are hip deep in alligators, it is no time to start thinking about draining the swamp.

As I've mentioned before, one of the main reasons Aedes aegypti is such a nasty problem is that it doesn't need swamps to breed.)
- 2:29 PM, 17 October 2017   [link]

Worth Buying:  Today's New York Times, if only for Dennis Overbye's article, "LIGO Detects Fierce Collision of Neutron Stars for the First Time".
Astronomers announced on Monday that they had seen and heard a pair of dead stars collide, giving them their first glimpse of the violent process by which most of the gold and silver in the universe was created.

The collision, known as a kilonova, rattled the galaxy in which it happened 130 million light-years from here in the southern constellation of Hydra, and sent fireworks across the universe.  On Aug. 17, the event set off sensors in space and on Earth, as well as producing a loud chirp in antennas designed to study ripples in the cosmic fabric.  It sent astronomers stampeding to their telescopes, in hopes of answering one of the long-sought mysteries of the universe.

Such explosions, astronomers have long suspected, produced many of the heavier elements in the universe, including precious metals like gold, silver and uranium.  All the atoms in your wedding band, in the pharaoh’s treasures and the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and still threaten us all, so the story goes, have been formed in cosmic gong shows that reverberated across the heavens.
As luck would have it, this explosion reached Earth just as astronomers had the right detectors in place to see, and some would say, to "hear" it.

(Quibble:  The Big Bang produced a smidgen of lithium, as well as hydrogen and helium.

- 10:14 AM, 17 October 2017   [link]

When I Saw The Headline, I Cracked Up:  And then didn't bother to read the opinion piece.

Here's the headline:  "Trump takes wrecking ball to the swamp that is D.C."

If that puzzles you, try visualizing it; you could swing a wrecking ball at a swamp for days, making big splashes, but never changing the swamp in any significant way.

I fear that may be all too accurate as a description of Trump's efforts, but I doubt that's what Charles Hurt intended to say.

(If I could draw, I would draw a bullfrog operating a wrecking ball in a swamp.)
- 7:02 AM, 17 October 2017   [link]

Democrats Won't Like this Michael Ramirez cartoon.

But they should realize it could have been worse; Ramirez could have drawn Barack Obama giving Weinstein that big hug.
- 6:22 AM, 17 October 2017   [link]