September 2017, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

This Week's Collections Of Political Cartoons from Politico and RealClearPolitics.

My favorites:  In Politico, Chip Weyant's taco bowls and Mike Lester's baker; in RealClearPolitics, Mike Luckovich's flying pig.

Bob Gorrell's Trump/Kim cartoon didn't make either collection — but it should have.

(Reminder:  I often like cartoons I don't agree with.)
- 7:12 AM, 30 September 2017   [link]

Nate Silver Has some advice for for Donald Trump:  "Never Tweet, Mr. President".

Most Americans, and even many Trump supporters, agree with that advice.
- 3:48 PM, 29 September 2017   [link]

How Could Tom Price Be So Stupid?  If you are following politics minute by minute, you know that he has just resigned.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned Friday, after an uproar over his use of a private jet for official business.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Price offered his resignation to President Trump Friday, and Trump accepted.
Few voters follow policy closely, but almost all of them object to elected and appointed officials living it up — as the voters see it — on the taxpayer's dime.

As it happens, any efficiency expert could make an argument that any head of an organization as big as HHS should have a plane available to him or her at all times — and any smart politician could tell you why that's a bad idea for people in public service, the president, the vice president, and some military people excepted.

So why did Price commit this blunder?

My guess — and it is only a guess — is that he saw what the bullfrog was getting away with, and thought the rules had changed.
- 2:52 PM, 29 September 2017   [link]

Could Richard Lugar Have Slowed North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Program?  Probably not, but I wish he had been given six more years to try.

In 1991 as the Soviet Union was breaking up, Lugar recognized the danger of increased proliferation from the breakup, and did something about it
Lugar has been influential in gaining Senate ratification of treaties to reduce the world's use, production and stockpiling of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and has spearheaded many bipartisan nonproliferation initiatives.  In 1991 he initiated a partnership with then-Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn aiming to eliminate latent weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union.[5]  To date, the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program has deactivated more than 7,500 nuclear warheads.
(All but the one link omitted.)

It is no secret that North Korea has been helped by former Soviet scientists in its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.  Lugar worked for many years to prevent just that, and he might have been able to do more had Indiana voters decided, in 2012, to give him one more term.

I'm not suggesting that the odds favored that outcome, but we do know he would have tried.

(Why didn't he win re-election, as he had so many times before?  He lost touch with the voters in his state, partly because of his age, and partly because he was doing so much good work on international problems.  Incidentally, I think he would have won the general election, had he survived the primary.)
- 10:48 AM, 29 September 2017   [link]

I Laughed Out Loud at today's "Pepper . . . and Salt".
- 10:08 AM, 29 September 2017   [link]

American Analysts Now Think North Korea Is Making Its Own UDMH:  Its own what?

Its own Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine.

Which just happens to be used for:
UDMH is often used in hypergolic rocket fuels as a bipropellant in combination with the oxidizer nitrogen tetroxide and less frequently with IRFNA (red fuming nitric acid) or liquid oxygen.  UDMH is a derivative of hydrazine and is sometimes referred to as a hydrazine.  As a fuel, it is described in specification MIL-PRF-25604 in the United States.[5]

UDMH is stable and can be kept loaded in rocket fuel systems for long periods, which makes it appealing for use in many liquid rocket engines, despite its cost.
(Links omitted.)

Wouldn't it be nice to have some good news from North Korea, for a change?

This New York Times article, "Remote Textile Plant May Secretly Fuel North Korea’s Weapons", is a fairly extensive discussion of the analysts' findings.  It doesn't say much about UDMH, which is why I linked to the Wikipedia article on the fuel, first.
- 1:44 PM, 28 September 2017   [link]

Mt. Rainier Is Looking Beautiful Today:  As I write, you can even see off the mountain from Camp Muir.

(If it stays clear, that view might be especially interesting around sunset.)
- 10:03 AM, 28 September 2017   [link]

She Forgot To Mention Her Great Modesty:  Most folks, regardless of their political views, won't find this initial Michelle Goldberg column funny.

But I did, because these lines reminded me of that old punch line.
This would matter less if the United States weren’t so geographically polarized.   But America is now two countries, eyeing each other across a chasm of distrust and contempt.  One is urban, diverse and outward-looking.  This is the America that’s growing.  The other is white, provincial and culturally revanchist.  This is the America that’s in charge.
Presumably, Goldberg does not know that, on the whole, states governed by Republicans have been growing faster than states governed by Democrats.  Presumably, Goldberg has never heard of Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush (married to a woman from Mexico), Elaine Chao, Bobby Jindal, Greg Abbott (white but handicapped), Susana Martinez, or Brian Sandoval.

Nor does she seem to know that Republicans have won the popular vote in three of the last four elections to the House of Representatives (2010, 2014, and 2016, the last in spite of the drag from Donald Trump).

(I have long believed that those votes are a better measure of party strength than the votes for the presidency.)

But, if she were aware of those things, she might not be so convinced that her tribe is superior to that other tribe she sees, somewhere out there.

Next time, I hope she will mention her great modesty.

(Goldberg is already famous for a rather large factual error.)
- 9:29 AM, 28 September 2017   [link]

Worth Buying:  Today's Wall Street Journal, if only for Jason Riley's column, "I Used to Sit for the National Anthem Too".

Riley begins by explaining how, raised as a Jehovah Witness, he used to sit through pledges of allegiance at school, then moves to the larger issue.
The players have said they are protesting the unjust treatment of blacks by law enforcement and cite the spate of police shootings that have come to light in recent years.  Team owners and NFL officials will have to decide whether to continue indulging such behavior on company time, but the larger question is whether what is being protested has some basis in reality beyond anecdotes and viral videos on social media.

There is no national database of police shootings—some departments report more-detailed data than others—but the statistics that are available suggest that police today use deadly force significantly less often than in the past.  In New York City, home to the nation’s largest police force, officer-involved shootings have fallen by more than 90% since the early 1970s, and national trends have been similarly dramatic.

A Justice Department report published in 2001 noted that between 1976 and 1998, the teen and adult population grew by 47 million people, and the number of police officers increased by more than 200,000, yet the number of people killed by police “did not generally rise” over this period.  Moreover, a “growing percentage of felons killed by police are white, and a declining percentage are black.”
With millions of encounters between police and citizens every day, it is inevitable that some will go badly — both ways.  A few police officers will use force when they shouldn't; a few police officers will fail to recognize a threat in time.   Even worse, some of those failures will happen when good officers are following well-designed procedures, so the failures could not have been prevented by better selection and training.

So, it will always be possible to find examples that illustrate either side of the argument about the police.  And activists on the left have shown that they are willing to distort examples, if they need a particularly striking one.  (No doubt some on the far right do the same thing, but their examples get little coverage from our "mainstream" journalists.)
- 3:54 PM, 27 September 2017   [link]

Could President Trump Help Puerto Rico By Suspending The Jones Act?  Nelson Denis says yes.
Hurricane Maria was the most powerful storm to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years.  It left the entire island without electricity, which may take six months to restore.  It toppled trees, shattered windows, tore off roofs and turned streets into rivers throughout the island.

President Trump declared that “Puerto Rico was absolutely obliterated” and issued a federal disaster declaration.  But the United States needs to do more.  It needs to suspend the Jones Act in Puerto Rico.

After World War I, America was worried about German U-boats, which had sunk nearly 5,000 ships during the war.  Congress enacted the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, a.k.a. the Jones Act, to ensure that the country maintained a shipbuilding industry and seafaring labor force. Section 27 of this law decreed that only American ships could carry goods and passengers from one United States port to another.  In addition, every ship must be built, crewed and owned by American citizens.
According to Denis, "Thanks to the law, the price of goods from the United States mainland is at least double that in neighboring islands, . . . ."

The Wall Street Journal agrees that the Jones Act should be suspended.

And so do I.

(The Bush administration suspended the Jones Act after Katrina, so there is a precedent.)
- 7:30 AM, 27 September 2017   [link]

Judging By The Dates, The New York Times Has Stopped Running The "What In The World" Stories:  Which is unfortunate, because those stories are almost all amusing and interesting.

I think they provided some needed balance to the more usual kinds of stories you find in the Times.

(There's an email address — which may still go to someone — if you want to ask for more of these stories.)
- 6:42 AM, 27 September 2017   [link]

Creepy, But Fascinating:  Natalie Angier's article, "Birds Beware:  The Praying Mantis Wants Your Brain".

That's literal, not metaphorical.

There's more, including, naturally, a discussion of the mating habits of some species of praying mantises.
- 4:22 PM, 26 September 2017   [link]

Worth Re-Reading:  Charles Krauthammer's March column, "The real world of Obamacare repeal".
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, but for governments it’s not that easy.  Once something is given — say, health insurance coverage to 20 million Americans — you take it away at your peril.  This is true for any government benefit, but especially for health care.  There’s a reason not one Western democracy with some system of national health care has ever abolished it.
Krauthammer goes on to explain why Republicans will find it difficult to repeal ObamaCare, in spite of its many defects.

I thought he was right then, and think he has been proved right, now.

(It is natural to wonder whether a conventional — I was about to say competent — Republican president would have succeeded where Trump has failed.  My tentative answer is possibly, but they would have had to go about it in the conventional — I almost said competent — way.

They would have presented a detailed plan to the public, something Trump has yet to do, asked Congress to hold the usual hearings, and made speeches around the country, to build political support for the plan.

That president would have worked hard to gain the support of at least some of the important interest groups.

And, I think it would have been sensible to present the plan not as "repeal and replace", but "reform and improve", even if much of the content was similar.

A conventional approach might have failed, too, but it would have had a better chance than Trump's approach.)
- 2:04 PM, 26 September 2017   [link]

Sometimes The Best Thing To Do About A Demonstration Is . . . Nothing:  During the era of the big civil rights demonstrations, the police chief of a major city (Baltimore?) was faced with a difficult problem:   Demonstrators staged a sit-in, blocking a major intersection in the downtown.

The demonstrators wanted a telegenic confrontation, with the police dragging them away, as the TV cameras rolled.

But the police chief was a smart man, and it was a hot day, so he didn't give them the confrontation they wanted.

Instead, he directed traffic around them, and let them sit there, and sit there, and sit there — in the hot sun.  Eventually, they gave up.

Similarly, ignoring them would have been the best way to handle those few NFL demonstrators.  Eventually, they and the TV journalists who have given them so much coverage would have given up.

The best for the nation, that is, though not for leftist political activists, who must be delighted by the help they have received from Donald Trump.
- 10:25 AM, 26 September 2017   [link]

Mitt Romney Is Probably Right:  (He usually is.)

We need to do more — soon — for Puerto Rico.
Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Monday joined the chorus of voices calling on lawmakers to prioritize hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands before a humanitarian crisis unfolds.

Romney made the plea in a tweet to "put aside controversies" and "prioritize rescue" efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Maria tore through the Caribbean last week.
After the big tsunami hit Indonesia in 2004, an American aircraft carrier came to provide emergency power and distilled water.   I've been wondering whether we could do something similar for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
- 9:15 AM, 26 September 2017   [link]

Family Revelations can be troubling.
- 8:39 AM, 26 September 2017   [link]

In The German Federal Election, There Were Two Losers, And Four Winners:  The two parties in the governing coalition, the Christian Democrats, the CDU/CSU alliance, and the Social Democrats (SPD), lost votes and seats, while four minor parties all gained both.

Nonetheless, news organizations have been telling us that Angela Merkel has been re-elected chancellor.  Strictly speaking, that's not true; she was re-elected to her seat in the Bundestag (Vorpommern-Rügen-Greifswald), but must put together a coalition to be re-elected chancellor.

Nonetheless, Merkel is the overwhelming favorite to continue to hold the top office.

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.

(It is always difficult to decide whether to treat the CDU/CSU alliance as one party, or two.  Most of the time, it is easier to treat them as one party, as I have done here, but I do recognize that they are, formally, two, and that, sometimes, they should be treated separately.)
- 2:42 PM, 25 September 2017   [link]

Worth Reading:  (Or watching, if you prefer.)   Mike Wallace's Bill Gates interview.  (It begins about two-thirds of the way through yesterday's Fox News Sunday.)

Mostly, Wallace and Gates discuss the conclusions in the recently-released "Goalkeepers Report".

WALLACE:  Let's talk about child mortality, because it is such a dramatic and clear example.  In your Goalkeeper's report, you do have this chart which shows that over the last -- since 1990, the number of people, number of children under the age of five who die has gone from 11 million to 5 million.  Then you project out to 2030, and you have three different scenarios.  Explain the significance of those three different outcomes in terms of lives lost or saved.

GATES: Yes, this is the first time that the aide field has been able to take our progress and not only track where we are, but also look at the possibilities for where we'll be 15 years ahead.  So we took and we set if all the countries adopted the best practices, if the donors stayed very generous in their giving, and if innovation is going full speed, and we show that as the best case.  Then we take just business as usual.  And then we take a case where people pull back.  Where they're saying that they don't care as much about other countries in the deaths and things there and that there's less money, less R and D, less adoption, best practices, and we showed it's quite a range.
That's from "11 million to 5 million" per year.

In other words, foreign aid, especially from the United States, is saving millions of lives every year.

Gates admires one recent president, the one with the Harvard MBA:
The U.S. has a huge economy and what we have given is phenomenal.  We also fund a lot of the research that's very important in to creating these new tools.   If we back off from the commitments that were actually made under President Bush, PEPFAR, the HIV and the malaria work, come from his initiatives, then it would be tragic for these countries, for their stability, for having their health systems be able to stop pandemics early on.  And so people like Secretary Mattis has said, if you cut the development budget, you're going to have to spend more on bullets because you're simply not there averting these problems of instability.
Neither Gates nor Wallace mention President Obama in the interview.

(The Report is 44 pages long, but you can just look at the graphs, if you want to get the essence of the argument.)
- 9:35 AM, 25 September 2017   [link]

Why Did Donald Trump Pick A Fight With The Few Demonstrating NFL Players, Now?  The Washington Post says, in order to distract from his many defeats.
Trump talks about the world in black-and-white terms:  You’re either with him or against him.  He’s been around long enough to know that this is a time-honored form of civil disobedience, but he recognizes that his base hates such displays.  So Trump is using the bully pulpit of the presidency to seize a political opening that might keep his core supporters from losing faith in his leadership.

He is also looking for distractions.  Trump went all-in last week on the Cassidy-Graham health-care bill, which could fail this week.  The candidate he endorsed in Alabama could go down in a GOP primary.  Puerto Rico has been ravaged by a hurricane, and there are mounting questions about the federal response.
I think they are right as to his motivation.  Distraction is a standard political tactic, often successful in the short term.

Unfortunately, there is a serious cost to such tactics; they tend to drive out discussion of serious issues.  Entitlement reform is essential if the nation is not to go bankrupt; what a few NFL players do before a game is trivial, but we are talking about the second, not the first.
- 7:19 AM, 25 September 2017   [link]

To Get Homework Done, Motivation is essential.
- 6:11 AM, 25 September 2017   [link]