Last updated:
4:57 PM, 26 September 2016



Jim Miller on Politics

  Email:
jimxc1 at gmail.com



What's he reading? Francis Parkman.

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*new



Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Election Scorecard, 9/26:  Donald Trump made another small gain in the poll model last week; Clinton was leading him by 4.1 percent; as I write, her lead is down to 3.5 percent.

Almost all of the change came today, presumably as new polls were added to the model.  I don't have any explanation for this late shift.

In the betting market, Trump also made a small gain; Clinton was at 64.7 percent and, as I write, is now at 63.1 percent.

As I should have mentioned last week, other candidates declined in the betting market, as, I assume, bettors saw it as less likely that Clinton would drop out, because of health problems.

(Here's Nate Silver's latest; he gives Trump a little higher chance than I do, and sees more potential for volatility than I do.

There is a little tiny bit of actual vote data from North Carolina.
The best early voting statistics are available for North Carolina, which has been voting since September 9th.  Requests for absentee ballots by registered Democrats and Unaffiliated registered voters are running ahead of 2012, for the same number of days prior to the election.  Requests by registered Republicans is down.  Given that Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by two percentage points, the early voting statistics appear to confirm polling averages which show a narrow lead for Hillary Clinton.
Of course it is possible, though unlikely, that those unaffiliated voters include a majority of Trump supporters.

If you wonder why I think the Republicans are almost certain to win the House, here's an explanation.)  
- 4:57 PM, 26 September 2016   [link]


It Won't Surprise Long-Time Readers to learn that I don't intend to watch the debate tonight, or even listen to it.

Part of it is simple efficiency; I can get information far faster from reading than from watching TV — and so can almost any adult reader.  So I won't watch, but I probably will read the transcript, later.

Part of it is that I have come to see these "debates" as particularly bad ways to choose presidents.  If everyone stops watching them, maybe the sponsors will give up, and get rid of them.

And part of it is that I dislike both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, intensely, and expect both to lie.  In general, people, detectives for instance, get paid to listen to habitual liars.

Jason Gay, who writes on sports and cars for the Wall Street Journal, has low expectations, too.
Friends, I’m sure you know by now:  On Monday night, the first presidential debate will face off against a Monday Night Football game featuring the 0-2 New Orleans Saints and the 1-1 Atlanta Falcons.

Imagine that: the most soul-crushing thing on television has the potential to not be the Saints-Falcons game.
He goes on to provide a survival guide, if you are thinking of watching either, or both; I'll probably just take a walk along the lake, and then listen to some classical music.

(The debate might be worth watching, if they had real referees, able to give penalties for lies and personal attacks, say five minutes silence on the first offence and expulsion on the second.)
- 3:43 PM, 26 September 2016   [link]


Since Australia Is Moving, the Australian government has to adjust its coordinates, regularly.
That map of Australia you have?  It’s wrong.  And the whole country is going to officially relocate to correct the error.

The trouble is caused by plate tectonics, the shifting of big chunks of the earth’s surface.  Australia happens to be on one of the fastest-moving pieces of all, and by geological standards it’s practically flying: about 2.7 inches northward a year, with a slight clockwise rotation as well.
. . .
Four times in the last 50 years, Australia has reset the official coordinates of everything in the country to make them more accurate, correcting for other sources of error as well as continental drift.  The last adjustment, in 1994, was a doozy: about 656 feet, enough to give the delivery driver an alibi for ringing your neighbor’s doorbell instead of yours.
(Sadly, Michelle Innis does not explain the source of that 1994 error, which seems a bit large to be explained by the inevitable imprecision in ordinary surveying.)

One of the reasons they need to make these corrections is to keep remotely-controlled trucks — really large remotely-controlled trucks — going to the right places in mines.

(Wikipedia has a map that shows the plates, and their directions.)
- 9:31 AM, 26 September 2016   [link]


Hillary Clinton, Methodist:  For some, especially those of the Republican persuasion, that combination may seem odd.

But it makes perfect sense, as Kenneth Woodward explains in "The Democrats’ Methodist Moment".

Here's how he begins and ends:
After Bill Clinton, a Bible-toting Southern Baptist, was elected, I repeatedly tried as religion editor of Newsweek to interview him about his religious beliefs and practices.  Ten days before the 1994 midterm elections, the White House offered me Hillary, the sturdy Methodist, instead.

The first lady spoke candidly about her Methodist upbringing, her core Christian beliefs and prayer habits, and how she frequently consulted the latest Methodist Book of Resolutions, the church’s official handbook on social and political issues, which she kept upstairs in the family quarters. Piety plus politics was her message.
. . .
In sum, many of today’s Nones have retained the Methodists’ ethos of righteous politics while jettisoning the beliefs, behavior and belonging that made righteous Methodists Methodists in the first place.  Many Jews and Roman Catholics can and do find in progressive Democratic politics aspects of their own social-justice traditions.

But the emergence of the Nones shows us that anyone can think and act like righteous Methodists just by being a liberal Democrat.
The Methodists have always worked for changes in society, but the changes they pursue now are rather different from those they pursued in John Wesley's time, or even fifty years ago.

(This influence of Methodism may explain, partly, the tendency of so many on the left to see their political opponents as evil.)

Some will naturally wonder how Clinton's beliefs compare to Donald Trump's.   As I said in July, I think Peter Wehner is probably right to describe Trump's views as a crude version of Friedrich Nietzsche's.  This brief selection will give you a review of Nietzsche's thinking, if you need one:
Some prominent elements of his philosophy include his radical critique of reason and truth in favor of perspectivism; his notion of the Apollonian and Dionysian; his genealogical critique of religion and Christian ethics, and his related theory of master–slave morality;[5][13] his aesthetic affirmation of existence in response to the "death of God" and the profound crisis of nihilism;[5] and his characterization of the human subject as the expression of competing wills, collectively understood as the will to power.[14]
Those beliefs are better described as anti-Christian, rather than non-Christian, in my opinion.

You can decide for yourself how to describe Hillary Clinton's beliefs, but I think you will agree, after you read Woodward's essay, that she is, in fact, a Methodist.
- 5:51 PM, 25 September 2016   [link]


Funny Looking Fruits And Vegetables have their fans.
Steve Lutz used to sell banged-up apples for a loss on the juice market.  Until the day Wal-Mart called.

Suddenly, his company was hauling unattractive apples, which had been pelted by hail, out of storage.

“We are not trying to produce ugly produce,” said Mr. Lutz, vice president of marketing at CMI Orchards, based in Wenatchee, Wash.  But ever since Wal-Mart Stores Inc. started an ugly-apple pilot project this summer at 300 Florida stores, he has fretted about keeping up with demand.  “If you do have fruit that doesn’t make the grade cosmetically, you try to find another channel for it.”
And it turns out that there are a few customers who like the funny looking fruits and vegetables, like them enough to seek them out.

(My own view?  Unless I am serving them to company, I don't care much what they look like, as long as they taste good.  And for most fruits, my nose is a better guide than my eyes.

That said, I'll admit that I do get a kick out of the real oddities, but not enough to deliberately seek them out.)
- 10:32 AM, 25 September 2016   [link]


Well, This is odd.
President Barack Obama used a pseudonym in email communications with Hillary Clinton and others, according to FBI records made public Friday.

The disclosure came as the FBI released its second batch of documents from its investigation into Clinton’s private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
But I think it provides a little support for my contention that President Obama must have known about Clinton's private email server.
- 4:16 PM, 24 September 2016   [link]


No New News On The Burlington Mall Murders:  I did a quick check of local news sources and found nothing that wasn't known last night.

But that didn't stop our local TV stations from telling us they had nothing new to report — at considerable length.

From which I conclude that the police forces involved don't know more, or they are, perhaps for good reasons, not telling the reporters what they know, for now.

(My sympathies to the families and friends of the five victims.)
- 3:50 PM, 24 September 2016   [link]


The Two Phases Of The Trump Foundation:  If you read far enough through the David Farenthold article I linked to the other day, you learned something peculiar about the foundation.
Trump founded his charity in 1987 and for years was its only donor.  But in 2006, Trump gave away almost all the money he had donated to the foundation, leaving it with just $4,238 at year’s end, according to tax records.

Then, he transformed the Trump Foundation into something rarely seen in the world of philanthropy: a name-branded foundation whose namesake provides none of its money.  Trump gave relatively small donations in 2007 and 2008, and afterward, nothing.  The foundation’s tax records show no donations from Trump since 2009.
Before 2009, Trump gave his own money to the foundation, which gave it away; after 2009, he stopped giving to the foundation, and gave some of other people's money, donated to the foundation, to himself.

Why the change?  Farenthold, who probably knows as much about the foundation as any outsider, doesn't say.  But almost anyone who thinks about it will wonder whether Trump ran into cash-flow problems in 2006.
- 3:59 PM, 23 September 2016   [link]


Some Will Like This Afternoon's New Yorker Cartoon:  Others will like this morning's, and some will like both.

(I'm not sure how many will like yesterday's "pumpkin spice" cartoon.)
- 3:23 PM, 23 September 2016   [link]


Don King's Colorful Life:  You may have seen the boxing promoter endorse Donald Trump, and even add a little spice to the occasion.

But I doubt if many of the news programs bothered to give you much background on King, which is unfortunate, because King has not led a boring life.
Donald "Don" King (born August 20, 1931) is an American boxing promoter known for his involvement in historic boxing matchups.  He has been a controversial figure, partly due to a manslaughter conviction (and later pardon), and civil cases against him.

King's career highlights include, among multiple other enterprises, promoting "The Rumble in the Jungle" and the "Thrilla in Manila". King has promoted some of the most prominent names in boxing, including Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Julio César Chávez, Ricardo Mayorga, Andrew Golota, Bernard Hopkins, Félix Trinidad, Roy Jones, Jr. and Marco Antonio Barrera.  Almost all of these boxers sued him for defrauding them; King settled most lawsuits for six- to eight-digit pay-offs while managing to avoid a conviction of felony fraud.

In 1966, King was convicted of nonnegligent manslaughter for killing Sam Garrett, one of his employees.[1][2]  He served almost four years in prison.[2]  After being released, he was later pardoned in 1983.[3]
(Links omitted.)

Earlier, King had killed another man, apparently in self defense.  Even an illegal bookmaker, which is what King was at the time, has a right to defend himself.

I doubt that many newspapers headlined the endorsement like this:  Trump Endorsed by Convicted Murderer.  Which is too bad, because that happens to be true.

According to accounts I've seen, Trump and King have been friends for years.  We can all speculate on what they see in each other.

(There's more.  A King employee, Dollree Mapp, was the Mapp in Mapp v. Ohio, one of the most famous police powers cases, ever.).  
- 4:06 PM, 22 September 2016   [link]


Oliver Stone's Latest Crazy Talk:  Now, he doesn't like President Obama, either.
US film director Oliver Stone on Thursday accused President Barack Obama's administration of implementing a surveillance system worse than that of the feared Stasi secret police in East Germany.

Speaking at the San Sebastian film festival in northern Spain, where he presented his film "Snowden," Stone said many in the US had grown disillusioned with a president they once saw as "a man of great integrity."

"On the contrary, Obama has doubled down on the (George W.) Bush administration policies," said Stone, whose latest movie is a biographical political thriller about Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who revealed a vast US surveillance programme in 2013.

Obama "has created... the most massive global security surveillance state that's ever been seen, way beyond East Germany's Stasi, way beyond that."

"In the name of one thing -- terrorism -- to change all the rules is not a marginal response, it's an extreme response," he told reporters.

"Let's beware of fascists and tyrants who tell us 'we are going to protect you'.   I don't want that."
As you may have noticed, I am not a big fan of our current president, but to compare his policies to those followed by the Stasi is absurd.

Sadly, there are a few of our fellow citizens who don't realize that.

Here's a hint for Stone, and others like him:  When the Stasi were in power, people died trying to get out of East Germany.  Today, many risk their lives trying to get into the United States.
- 2:26 PM, 22 September 2016   [link]


Want A Zika Test?  You probably can't get one.  The tests are complex.
Testing for Zika is surprisingly complex, and may require three tests to be sure of a result.  One type is called a polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., designed to detect the active virus in blood and urine.  The test is similar to those used for more common viruses like West Nile and influenza.

But the P.C.R. test is reliable only if it’s used within a week or two of exposure. Since most people don’t have symptoms for Zika, many can’t pinpoint the date of exposure.  While a positive P.C.R. test shows definitively that a person has Zika, a negative test does not mean a person is Zika free.

If a P.C.R. test is negative, the next step is to test the blood sample for Zika antibodies.  Antibody tests are not widely available and can also produce equivocal results.

A negative antibody test means a person wasn’t exposed to Zika.  But a positive result requires a third test to be sure the detected antibodies aren’t other viruses, such as dengue or chikungunya, both of which cause flulike symptoms and are present in Latin and South American countries.

The third type, the plaque reduction neutralization test, or P.R.N.T., determines conclusively if a person was exposed to Zika.  But the test is now done only by the C.D.C. and a limited number of local health department labs.
(Links omitted.)

So the Centers for Disease Control is rationing the tests, with "strict guidelines".

You don't have to be an expert in disease control to understand that this complexity makes the fight against Zika more difficult.

(Here's the Wikipedia article on the plaque reduction neutralization test.)
- 9:45 AM, 22 September 2016   [link]


Sidney Harris Doesn't Have A Politics Category:  Which might be a relief, for a change.
- 8:53 AM, 22 September 2016   [link]


The Trump Foundation Found An Especially Deserving Recipient:  Donald Trump, for his legal problems.
Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.
Sometimes I get the feeling that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump think our laws apply to them.

Just to make this even more symmetrical, I'll remind you that the Trump Foundation has also contributed to the Clinton Foundation.

(As I have said before, I hate covering these Trump scandals, but someone has to do it.)  
- 3:16 PM, 21 September 2016   [link]


Will Jeremy Corbyn Survive The Labour Leadership Contest?  Today is the last day for voting, so it's good time to ask that question.  (The results will be announced on Saturday.)

Corbyn has been a disaster as Labour leader.  He's wildly unpopular with both the public and his own members of parliament.  Polls show that he would lose, by historic margins, were Prime Minister Theresa May to call an election soon.  He lost a confidence vote among Labour MPs, 172-40.

Nonetheless the polls show him with a lead over his challenger Owen Smith, and the bookies make him a very heavy favorite.  (Polling for these internal elections can tricky, for some of the same reasons that it is harder to poll caucuses, here in the United States.)

Why?

Because Labour activists still love him, and would rather lose with Corbyn than win with someone else.
Many Labour MPs despairing at Corbyn's takeover of the party have adopted the tactic of waiting for Corbyn to fail on his own terms.  Allow him to be rejected by the public at a general election, their reasoning goes, and he'll either step down or will be easily ousted and control of the Labour party will pass back to the mainstream.

Unfortunately, this may turn out to be wishful thinking, with the majority of Corbyn supporters (51%) believing that he should remain leader of the party even if Labour loses the next general election.  Fewer than three in ten Corbyn supporters (28%) think he should step down if Labour are defeated.  If Corbyn is able to continue to attract more and more of his followers to join the party, it may prove impossible for his opponents to wrest back control.
Corbynistas don't blame him for his poor showing, but they do blame many others, including the media.  (Take a look at the blinking graph at Question 2 for some examples.)

A few Corbynistas attack his Labour opponents in shamefully familiar ways.  (Americans may not know that, since his election in 2015, there has been an upsurge in anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.)

None of this will surprise anyone who has followed American politics; activists often back sure losers and, on both the left and the right, it is possible to find activists who misbehave, badly.
- 2:38 PM, 21 September 2016   [link]


Science Fiction Fans may like this cartoon.
- 7:36 AM, 21 September 2016   [link]


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February 2011, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
March 2011, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
April 2011, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
May 2011, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
June 2011, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
July 2011, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
August 2011, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
September 2011, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
October 2011, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
November 2011, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
December 2011, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

January 2012, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
February 2012, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
March 2012, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
April 2012, Part 1 Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
May 2012, Part 1 Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
June 2012, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
July 2012, Part 1, Part 2 Part 3, and Part 4
August 2012, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
September 2012, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
October 2012, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
November 2012, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3and Part 4
December 2012, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

January 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
February 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
March 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
April 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
May 2013, , Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
June 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
July 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
August 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
September 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
October 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
November 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
December 2013, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

January 2014, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
February 2014, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4
March 2014, Part 1. Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
April 2014, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
May 2014, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
June 2014, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
July 2014, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
August 2014, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
September 2014, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
October 2014, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
November 2014, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
December 2014, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

January 2015, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
February 2015, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
March 2015, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
April 2015, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
May 2015, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
June 2015, Part 1 Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
July 2015, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
August 2015, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
September 2015, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
October 2015, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
November 2015, Part 1 Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
December 2015, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

January 2016, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
February 2016, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
March 2016, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
April 2016, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
May 2016, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
June 2016, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
July 2016, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
August 2016, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
September 2016, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4






Coming Soon
  • Plan 17 Conservatives
  • FDR and Waterboarding
  • How Long Do Wars Last?
  • Carbon, Carbon Dioxide, and Crescent Wrenches
  • De-Lawyering and Attorney General McKenna


Coming Eventually
  • JFK and Wiretaps
  • Green Republicans
  • The Rise and Fall and Rise of Black Voting
  • Abortion, Cleft Palates, and Europe
  • Kweisi Mfume's Children
  • Public Opinion During Other US Wars
  • Dual Loyalties
  • The Power Index
  • Baby Dancing
  • Jocks, but no Nerds
  • The Four Caliphs




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