January 2018, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Fact-Checking The State Of The Union Speech (1):   Here's what Glenn Kessler and company found.

For example:
“Since the election, we have created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone.”
Trump often inflates the number of jobs created under his presidency by counting [from] Election Day, rather than when he took the oath of office.  There have been about 1.8 million jobs created since January 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.   That’s the slowest gain in jobs since 2010, which indicates how well job growth was going before Trump took office.
(Emphasis added.)

I have been watching GDP and job growth statistics since Trump was elected, to see if there was any evidence that he was affecting our economy.  So far I haven't seen any.  For example, GDP growth was a little faster in 2017 than in 2016, but a little slower than in 2014 and 2015.

I am not blaming him for that; it takes time for a president's policies to be put in place by executive order, and even longer for substantial laws to be passed.

But I do blame him for his persistent efforts to claim he has gotten great results, already.  He hasn't, and he insults us by claiming otherwise.

Fortunately, most of the public doesn't believe him.

(Earlier presidents haven't gotten credit for the economy in their first year, either.  That shows that voters can be sensible, some of the time.)
- 1:32 PM, 31 January 2018   [link]

The Latest "Pepper . . . And Salt" Is, I assume, a tribute to this children's story.
- 12:39 PM, 31 January 2018   [link]

Another Golfer with a mixed opinion of Donald Trump.

(I'm inclined to believe what she said first — because it is consistent with what other golfers have said.  He's fun to be with — and he "cheats like hell".)
- 4:05 PM, 30 January 2018   [link]

How Not To Watch The State Of The Union Speech:  Instead, do something useful, like straightening out your sock drawer.

Later, if you are interested, read a transcript.

Unless you are a very slow reader, you will be able to read it in less time than it will take you to listen to the speech.  That will give you time to check points that seem dubious — and we can be nearly certain that there will be some.

(If you want a challenge, try to spot as many falsehoods in the speech as possible.  Then compare your list to one by a professional, for example, Glenn Kessler.)
- 3:27 PM, 30 January 2018   [link]

Germany Held Their Federal Election Last September; Germany Still Doesn't Have A Permanent Government:  The negotiations for a new permanent government are going slowly.
Six hours of top-level talks to forge a German coalition government have stalled over refugee issues.  Negotiators adjourned at two in the morning saying only they were "determined to find solutions."
. . .
A Social Democrat (SPD) source quoted by Reuters said "squealing" summed up the tone of Sunday night's talks, with the three parties still at odds on a SPD call to allow relatives abroad to join refugees granted subsidiary protection status.  The unusual description is taken from a speech by SPD parliamentary leader Andrea Nahles, who promised at a recent party congress that the SPD would negotiate at coalition talks "until the other side starts squealing."
From what this outsider can tell from a great distance, Angela Merkel will be able to get the support of the Social Democrats if she adopts most of their platform.  That may seem perverse considering that the Social Democrats received just 20.5 percent of the votes in the election.  But such oddities should be expected from time to time, when nations use proportional representation to choose their national legislatures.

(A note on terminology:  Germany does have a government, which I and others have described as "provisional".  "Caretaker" would be a better adjective, I think.

Earlier posts on the election here, here, here, and here.)
- 8:34 AM, 30 January 2018   [link]

Good Advice can come from unexpected sources.
- 6:27 AM, 30 January 2018   [link]

Some Likely Answers To The Manafort Mysteries:  Last November, I asked why Donald Trump had chosen Paul Manafort to run his campaign — and why Manafort wanted a job that would expose him to such scrutiny, and possible legal risks.

What seemed most likely to me is that Trump didn't know about Manafort's serious problems — though many of them could be found with a simple search, or a few questions to a Washington insider.  (A month later, I found some evidence supporting that conclusion.)

That would make Trump's decision to hire Manafort incompetent, not evil.

But that didn't explain Manafort's decision, which I was still wondering about until I read this Atlantic article, "The Plot Against America".

According to Franklin Foer:
By the early months of 2016, Manafort was back in greater Washington, his main residence and the place where he’d begun his career as a political consultant and lobbyist.  But his attempts at rehabilitation—of his family life, his career, his sense of self-worth—continued.  He began to make a different set of calls.  As he watched the U.S. presidential campaign take an unlikely turn, he saw an opportunity, and he badly wanted in.  He wrote Donald Trump a crisp memo listing all the reasons he would be an ideal campaign consigliere—and then implored mutual friends to tout his skills to the ascendant candidate.

Shortly before the announcement of his job inside Trump’s campaign, Manafort touched base with former colleagues to let them know of his professional return.  He exuded his characteristic confidence, but they surprised him with doubts and worries.  Throughout his long career, Manafort had advised powerful men—U.S. senators and foreign supreme commanders, imposing generals and presidents-for-life.  He’d learned how to soothe them, how to bend their intransigent wills with his calmly delivered, diligently researched arguments.  But Manafort simply couldn’t accept the wisdom of his friends, advice that he surely would have dispensed to anyone with a history like his own—the imperative to shy away from unnecessary attention.
So Manafort was desperate for money, and the access to power that would let him earn it, and Trump either didn't see or ignored the warning signs.

I am inclined to think that some people did try to warn Trump about Manafort, and that he ignored them.

(Franklin Foer)
- 2:33 PM, 29 January 2018   [link]

People Can Be Sensitive About their their weights.
- 12:41 PM, 29 January 2018   [link]

There Are Stronger Supporters Of Free Speech than Donald Trump.
[In a phone call to Prime Minister Theresa May,] Trump went on to say that he would not visit the UK unless there were guarantees that he would not be met with protests.

Advisers who had been listening to the phone call are reported to have been "astonished" at the demands.
Does Trump know that a British prime minister does not have the power to control the newspapers (as he also asked), and prevent peaceful demonstrations?

I would like to think so, but that doesn't explain why he asked for something May can't possibly give him.*

To its great credit, Britain is not Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Russia, or China, countries where the leaders do control the press and can forbid demonstrations.

(*One possible explanation is that Trump was looking for a way out of an almost-certain-to-be-disastrous visit.  But our diplomats could have thought of a better excuse for him.

It is odd that Trump, like Obama, has begun by botching his relationship with the British prime minister.  The two men failed in different ways, but both failed in what should be one of their easiest beginning diplomatic tasks.

As you may remember, George W. Bush worked very well with Tony Blair.)
- 4:39 PM, 28 January 2018   [link]

"Chinese Comics Go Worldwide"  This morning, I watched that Asia Insight episode.
For decades, the image of Asian comics has been dominated by Japanese manga, the characters of which are known across the globe.  Attempts by various countries to create their own similar IP has resulted in little more than derivative products.  However, a new generation of Chinese comic artists now seeks innovation over imitation: They use distinct visual techniques to create a worldwide Chinese cultural industry, while still respecting its rules on media.  In this episode, we introduce the artists who attempt to convey the values of China to the world.
And was baffled almost all the way through.

In the introduction, the announcer explained that the Chinese government was subsidizing this comic book industry, which seemed odd, since I don't think of comic books as war material.  I could understand them censoring the industry — which they do with a heavy hand — but not subsidizing it.

But an explanation came near the end.  The Chinese are already exporting these comic books and, at a ceremony near the end, a man I took to be a party official said they hope to use them to spread, if not truth, at least socialist justice, and the Chinese way of life.

The Chinese regime is thinking long term.

(In Japan and the West, "IP" often stands for "intellectual property", but it has a different meaning in China.


Here's An Updated Scene from a World War II movie.
- 7:22 AM, 28 January 2018   [link]

Longish, But Worth Reading:  This New Yorker article, "Jared Kushner Is China’s Trump Card", describing how the Chinese are attempting to manipulate the Trump administration through Trump's son-in-law.

For example:
Kushner and [Chinese Ambassador] Cui [Tiankai] also met repeatedly to prepare for Trump’s first meeting with China’s President, Xi Jinping, on April 6th, at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.  Daniel Russel, who, until last March, was the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and is now a diplomat-in-residence at the Asia Society, in New York, said, “It was clear that heated arguments were taking place among the President’s advisers.” On one side, hard-liners, including [Steve] Bannon, who has said he believes that China is “bent on world domination,” advocated a confrontational stance on trade and other issues.  On the other, according to Russel, “Jared Kushner was described as adamant that Mar-a-Lago should be exclusively about bonding.”  Russel continued, “We were told that the theory was to first establish a warm family friendship, using meals and Trump’s personal charisma.”

In the event, China overwhelmingly achieved its objectives: a soft-focus summit with regal photo ops and little talk of trade and other touchy subjects.  It was also an auspicious occasion for the Kushner family.  While Xi met with Trump, Beijing regulators approved three trademark applications from Ivanka’s company, to sell bags, jewelry, and spa services.  Ivanka is also an adviser to the President, and her deals with the Chinese were hardly unusual.  Since Trump assumed office, the Chinese government has approved scores of trademark applications by the Trump Organization.
(Emphasis added.)

After that meeting, I decided it was kind of Xi to let Trump keep his pants and shoes.  Now I think Xi was just being far-sighted, not being too obvious about his manipulation because he plans to keep on doing it, through Kushner, or whoever else the Chinese can manipulate.

(Last September, I said that Trump has about as much chance against Xi as a bullfrog has against a lion.  Sadly, I haven't seen any reasons since then to change that conclusion — and a few more reasons to support it.)
- 4:34 PM, 26 January 2018   [link]

Another Medical Professional/Serial Killer:  This one in Germany.
Convicted serial killer Niels Högel was charged with 97 further counts of murder in the northern German city of Oldenburg on Monday.  The former nurse is already serving jail time for murdering other patients.

In court, Niels has admitted to acting "out of boredom" and to impress his colleagues — by giving patients medicine to cause heart failure or circulatory collapse and then trying to revive them.
Such men are rare, for which we may be grateful.  But that rarity may also be part of the reason some of them have gone undetected for many years.

(The worst I know of is England's Harold Shipman.)
- 9:49 AM, 26 January 2018   [link]

Greedy And Wrong, Nasty And Funny:  The White House asked the Guggenheim if they could borrow a Vincent van Gogh painting.

That was greedy; paintings like that should be in public museums, not the White House.  It was also wrong; paintings in the White House should show American scenes, and be painted by American painters.

Guggenheim's reply was nasty and funny:
The emailed response from the Guggenheim’s chief curator to the White House was polite but firm:  The museum could not accommodate a request to borrow a painting by Vincent van Gogh for President and Melania Trump’s private living quarters.

Instead, wrote the curator, Nancy Spector, another piece was available, one that was nothing like “Landscape With Snow,” the 1888 van Gogh rendering of a man in a black hat walking along a path in Arles, France, with his dog.

The curator’s alternative: an 18-karat, fully functioning, solid gold toilet — an interactive work titled “America” that critics have described as pointed satire aimed at the excess of wealth in this country.
You can see images of the painting here.  It's rather bleak, in my opinion.
- 8:54 AM, 26 January 2018   [link]

This Week's Collection Of Cartoons from Politico.

My favorites:  Pat Bagley's police car, Kal's Kurds, Matt Davies's hostile delegations.
- 7:48 AM, 26 January 2018   [link]

An Obama/Farrakhan Picture Finally Surfaces:  It was taken in 2005, at a Congressional Black Caucus function.
This is not the greatest scandal in journalistic history, but it is a pretty revealing anecdote.  Obama met with Farrakhan.  In the photo the two men are smiling; there’s no indication that Obama has or is about to confront Farrakhan about his long history of outrageous statements, anti-Semitism, claim that whites are a “race of devils,” declaration that “Hitler was a very great man,” labeling Judaism a “gutter religion,” and so on.
(The whole article is worth reading.)

Sadly, it is not surprising that the photograph was hidden all these years; it is mildly surprising that it finally was released to the public.

Now, it will be interesting to see how much national coverage this photograph gets.

As I have said before, the bias in our "mainstream" news shows up more in what they don't say than in what they say that isn't true.

(Louis Farrakhan)
- 7:23 PM, 25 January 2018   [link]

The Relationship Between Prime Minster Theresa May And President Donald Trump Is "Dysfunctional", according to Bloomberg's Tim Ross and Margaret Talev.

Why?  Among other reasons because Trump won't listen to May.
During formal phone calls between the two leaders, May finds it almost impossible to make headway and get her points across, one person familiar with the matter said.  Trump totally dominates the discussion, leaving the prime minister with five or ten seconds to speak before he interrupts and launches into another monologue.
And he has done much the same thing in their personal meetings.

This is as bad, though in a different way, as the way Barack Obama treated Prime Minister Gordon Brown.  (He did get along better with David Cameron.)

I want to apologize to the British people for the behavior of Obama and Trump.

(Back in 2008 I argued that we should judge presidential candidates by how good they are at listening (and arithmetic and thinking), as well as how good they are at talking.  I think our last two presidents show why those skills are needed in a president.

Theresa May)
- 1:17 PM, 25 January 2018   [link]

I Think this cartoon is referring to Chinese espionage.

(A year or so ago, I saw an estimate that the Chinese had stolen secrets from us worth one trillion dollars.  I assume that's right — within an order of magnitude — because of the massive scale of their efforts, but see no way to check that rough estimate.)
- 10:02 AM, 25 January 2018   [link]