Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for June 26th, 2017

Interesting finding: Easier to fool Americans than citizens of other nations

leave a comment »

This pretty much shows it all:

That’s from an article by Isaac Stanley-Becker and Scott Clement in the Washington Post:

President Trump has alarmed citizens of the nation’s closest allies and others worldwide, diminishing the standing of the United States in their eyes, according to a wide-ranging international study released Monday.

But in the survey of 37 countries, Russia is a bright spot for Trump. As beleaguered as the president is at home, a majority of Russians say they have confidence in him. And Russians’ attitudes toward the United States have improved since Trump took office.

Elsewhere, though, and with remarkable speed, Trump’s presidency has taken a toll on the United States’ image abroad.

The international survey by the Pew Research Center found that favorable ratings of the United States have decreased from 64 percent of people across all countries surveyed at the end of Barack Obama’s presidency to 49 percent this spring. The new figures are similar to those toward the end of the George W. Bush administration.

The president himself has fared even worse: A median 22 percent are confident that Trump will do the right thing in global affairs, down from 64 percent who had confidence in Obama.

From Chile to Italy, from Sweden to Japan, majorities consider the president arrogant, intolerant, unqualified and dangerous. On the flip side, most view him as a strong leader. And many expect their country’s relationship with the United States to withstand his presidency. . .

Continue reading.

More charts at the link. Later:

. . . What is surprising, said Frank G. Wisner, a former diplomat who served under Democrats and Republicans, is the degree to which Trump has scorned principles the United States has not only long espoused but also helped to define in the previous century. These include democratic governance, free markets, collective security, human rights and the rule of law — commitments that together, Wisner said, delineate the liberal international order.

“America’s image has taken hits in recent years, from the decision to invade Iraq to the events of 2007 and 2008, when the American financial model took a huge hit,” he said. “But the most consequential is the ascent of Mr. Trump to the Oval Office.”

Global popular opinion matters, Wisner said, in part because it defines how foreign leaders engage with American interests. . .

And among the other charts:

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2017 at 7:11 pm

E.P.A. Official Pressured Scientist on Congressional Testimony, Emails Show

leave a comment »

Coral Davenport reports in the NY Times:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s chief of staff pressured the top scientist on the agency’s scientific review board to alter her congressional testimony and play down the dismissal of expert advisers, his emails show.

Deborah Swackhamer, an environmental chemist who leads the E.P.A.’s Board of Scientific Counselors, was to testify on May 23 before the House Science Committee on the role of states in environmental policy when Ryan Jackson, the E.P.A.’s chief of staff, asked her to stick to the agency’s “talking points” on the dismissals of several members of the scientific board.

“I was stunned that he was pushing me to ‘correct’ something in my testimony,” said Dr. Swackhamer, a retired University of Minnesota professor. “I was factual, and he was not. I felt bullied.”

Dr. Swackhamer’s testimony came two weeks after the dismissals, which were met with fierce pushback from a scientific community that saw it as evidence that the Trump administration is seeking to weaken the role of academic science in environmental policy.

That criticism has sharpened in recent weeks, after the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, and the energy secretary, Rick Perry, openly questioned the established science of human-caused climate change, and as the E.P.A. has taken down websites about climate change. Scientists have also expressed concern that Mr. Pruitt has staffed his senior offices with several former senior staff members of Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, a prominent denier of human-caused climate change. Mr. Jackson also came from Mr. Inhofe’s staff.

Among other requests in his May 22 emails, Mr. Jackson asked Dr. Swackhamer to note that “a decision had not yet been made” about whether to dismiss her colleagues on the agency’s scientific review board. However, at that time, several scientists on the board had already received notices that their terms would not be renewed. Since that testimony, the E.P.A. has sent out dozens more notices to academic scientists that their terms on the board will not be renewed.

“The Board of Scientific Counselors had 68 members two months ago. It will have 11 come Sept. 1,” Dr. Swackhamer said. “They’ve essentially suspended scientific activities by ending these terms. We have no meetings scheduled, no bodies to do the work.”

James Thurber, the founder and former director of the Center for Congressional Studies at American University, said he had never heard of an administration pressuring a witness, particularly a scientist, to alter testimony already submitted for the official record.

“It’s shocking and insulting to be told before you go in to alter your testimony to what the administration wants,” he said. “This just shows a certain amount of amateurishness about how these hearings work. They’re supposed to be places where you get objective views. You don’t go around telling people what to say.”

Mr. Jackson and the E.P.A. communications office did not respond to emailed questions about Mr. Jackson’s communications with Dr. Swackhamer.

Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the chairman of the committee, dismissed the accusations.

“It’s disappointing that the minority is politicizing what seems to be nothing more than a federal agency making sure that information provided to Congress is accurate,” he said in a statement. “Dr. Swackhamer and the Minority have repeatedly stated that she was testifying in her personal capacity and not in connection with her role as chair of the E.P.A. Board of Scientific Counselors. However, it is clear that the Minority invited her in an attempt to hijack the stated purpose of the Committee’s hearing on states’ role in E.P.A. rulemaking and shift the focus to recent E.P.A. actions involving the” Board of Scientific Counselors.

“Any attempt by E.P.A. to ensure that what Congress heard in testimony about official E.P.A. matters included the full breadth of information seems entirely appropriate,” Mr. Smith continued. “Unfortunately, the Minority has made the choice to waste taxpayer dollars as part of a politically motivated agenda.”

Dr. Swackhamer said she had already submitted her testimony to the congressional committee by the time she received Mr. Jackson’s email. She had also told the Science Committee and the E.P.A. that she planned to speak in her role as an independent scientist rather than an E.P.A. employee, and that she would make this plain at the outset of her testimony. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2017 at 6:22 pm

Just wait: Watergate didn’t become Watergate overnight, either.

leave a comment »

Frank Rich writes in New York magazine:

“Let others wallow in Watergate, we are going to do our job,” said Richard Nixon with typical unearned self-righteousness in July 1973. By then, more than a year had passed since a slapstick posse of five had been caught in a bungled burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex. It had been nine months since Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein reported in the Washington Post that the break-in was part of a “massive campaign of political spying and sabotage” conducted by all the president’s men against most of their political opponents. Now the nation was emerging from two solid months of Senate Watergate hearings, a riveting cavalcade of White House misfits and misdeeds viewed live by 71 percent of the public.

Even so, Nixon had some reason to hope that Americans would heed his admonition to change the channel. That summer, the Times reported that both Democratic and Republican congressmen back home for recess were finding “a certain numbness” about Watergate and no “public mandate for any action as bold as impeachment.”

For all the months of sensational revelations and criminal indictments (including of his campaign manager and former attorney general, John Mitchell), a Harris poll found that only 22 percent thought Nixon should leave office. Gallup put the president’s approval rating in the upper 30s, roughly where our current president stands now — lousy, but not apocalyptic. There had yet to be an impeachment resolution filed in Congress by even Nixon’s most partisan adversaries.

He had defied his political obituaries before, staging comebacks after a slush-fund scandal nearly cost him his vice-presidential perch on the GOP ticket in 1952 and again after his 1962 defeat in the California governor’s race prompted the angry “last press conference” at which he vowed that “you won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.” Might Tricky Dick pull off another Houdini? He was capable of it, and, as it happened, it would take another full year of bombshells and firestorms after the televised Senate hearings before a clear majority of Americans (57 percent) finally told pollsters they wanted the president to go home. Only then did he oblige them, in August 1974.

In the decades since, Watergate has become perhaps the most abused term in the American political lexicon. Washington has played host to legions of “-gates,” most unworthy of the name, and the original has blurred in memory, including for those of us who lived through it. Now, of course, invocations of Watergate are our daily bread, as America contemplates the future of a president who not only openly admires Nixon — he vowed to put a framed Nixon note on display in the Oval Office — but seems intent on emulating his most impeachable behavior. And among those of us who want Donald Trump gone from Washington yesterday, there’s a fair amount of fear that he, too, could hang on until the end of a four-year term that stank of corruption from the start. Even if his White House scandals turn out to exceed his predecessor’s — as the former director of national intelligence James Clapper posited in early June — impeachment is a political, not a legal, matter, and his political lock on the presidency would seem secure. Unlike Nixon, who had to contend with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, Trump has the shield of a Republican Congress led by craven enablers terrified of crossing their Dear Leader’s fiercely loyal base. That distinction alone is enough to make anti-Trumpers abandon all hope.

I’m here to say don’t do so just yet. There’s a handy antidote to despair: a thorough wallow in Watergate, the actual story as it unfolded, not the expedited highlight reel that most Americans know from a textbook précis or cultural artifacts like the film version of All the President’s Men. If you look through a sharp Nixonian lens at Trump’s trajectory in office to date, short as it has been, you will discover more of an overlap than you might expect. You will learn that Democratic control of Congress in 1973 was not a crucial factor in Nixon’s downfall and that Republican control of Congress in 2017 may not be a life preserver for Trump. You will find reason to hope that the 45th president’s path through scandal may wind up at the same destination as the 37th’s — a premature exit from the White House in disgrace — on a comparable timeline.

The skids of Trump’s collapse are already being greased by some of the same factors that brought down his role model: profound failings of character, disdain for the law (“If the president does it, that means that it is not illegal,” in Nixon’s notorious post-resignation formulation to David Frost), an inability to retain the loyalty of feuding White House aides who will lawyer up to save their own skins (H. R. McMaster may bolt faster than the ultimately imprisoned Nixon chief of staff H. R. Haldeman), and dubious physical health (Trump’s body seems to be bloating in stress as Nixon’s phlebitis-stricken leg did). Further down the road, he’ll no doubt face the desertion of politicians in his own party who hope to cling to power after he’s gone. If the good Lordy hears James Comey’s prayers, there may yet be incriminating tapes as well, Trump’s weirdly worded denial notwithstanding.

The American University historian Allan Lichtman, famous for his lonely prediction of Trump’s electoral victory, has followed up that feat with The Case for Impeachment, a book-length forecast of Trump’s doom. The impeachment, he writes, “will be decided not just in the halls of Congress but in the streets of America.” I’d go further to speculate that Trump’s implosion is more likely to occur before there’s an impeachment vote on the floor of the House — as was the case with Nixon. But where Nixon’s exit was catalyzed by an empirical recognition that he’d lost the votes he needed to survive a Senate trial, in Trump’s case the trigger will be his childish temper, not the facts. He’s already on record as . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2017 at 5:04 pm

Republicans make decisions based on tribal affiliation, Democrats decide based on content: Why and an example

leave a comment »

This question came up on Quora:

Liberals hate Trump, but not all Republicans. Why do almost all Republicans and Trump supporters hate all liberals?

My answer:

Conservatives and liberals have different mindsets, as described in this article. Conservatives value loyalty above all (see Conservatives v. Liberals) and as a result are very tribal: intensely loyal to “us” and very much opposed to “them.” Liberals, as you see from the links, don’t value loyalty all that much but instead value fairness and caring.

The result is that conservatives will judge a proposal not on its content but on who proposed it, whereas liberals are not so concerned with who proposed it as with its content. For example, take the idea of the US doing bombing raids in Syria. What that was proposed by Obama, 22% of Republicans supported it; when the same idea was proposed by Trump, 86% of Republicans supported it. (Democratic support was basically unchanged by who proposed it: 37% and 38%.) “Republicans Love the Same Attack on Syria They Hated When Obama Considered It

You see the same thing happening on, for example, cap-and-trade for carbon emissions. Conservatives developed and pushed the idea, but as soon as Obama supported it, conservatives immediately switched to opposing the idea.

So liberals tend to look at content and judge based on that, conservatives look at tribal affiliation and judge based on that.

UPDATE: Good example: “GOP’s message on ObamaCare is us versus them” Note that the GOP leadership is explicitly asking Senators to vote not based on the content of the bill, but based on their affiliation as Republicans. This is as clear an illustration as I could ask.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2017 at 10:10 am

Posted in Congress, GOP

SCOTUS allows some limits on travel from some Muslim countries (those which no terrorist has ever attacked the US)

leave a comment »

In the meantime, travel from Saudi Arabia (home to 15 of 19 9/11 terrorists) is not restricted at all.

What’s weird is that the decision is now beside the point, or should be. The idea of the restriction was to allow the Trump Administration to define extreme vetting procedures, which they said would take at the most 120 days. That time has long since expired, so no travel ban is needed since presumably the new vetting procedures are in place—except, of course, they’re not: the Trump Administration can’t get anything done due to a bad combination of infighting and incompetence.

NY Times report here.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2017 at 9:12 am

WSP Monarch, Barrister & Mann Lavanille, and the RazoRock Stealth

with 8 comments

Lavanille has an interesting fragrance and a disconcertingly tan lather. I am so accustomed to lather being white and the tan this morning was a bit of a shock, but it worked fine and smelled great. I used the WSP Monarch brush and brushed vigorously to go for a whiter lather, but it remained tan.

RazoRock’s Stealth slant was based on/inspired by the vintage Merkur white bakelite slant, and IMO it does a somewhat better job: more comfort, equal efficiency. Three passes to an easy BBS with no difficulties.

A splash of the Lavanille aftershave, and the morning beings and the week is launched. (No launch on Sunday because no shave that day.)

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2017 at 8:54 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: