Last updated:
5:09 PM, 4 May 2015



Jim Miller on Politics

  Email:
jimxc1 at gmail.com



What's he reading? Francis Parkman.

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<pudge/*>
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R-Rated:
Horse's A**
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*new



Pseudo-Random Thoughts

UCLA Professor Volokh Supports Free Speech:  At one time, the idea that a UCLA professor would support free speech — and would say so, publicly — would not have been news, but now it is, not big news, but still news.

You can see that support in his gentle reproof of our two Muslim congressmen, Keith Ellison and André Carson, who called for the Dutch legislator, Geert Wilders, to be banned from this country, for his views on Muslims.

Here's Volokh's conclusion:
Whether “Christian culture is superior to other cultures,” which groups should be allowed to immigrate into a country, and even whether Islam should be viewed as an ideology rather than a religion (an unsound distinction, in my view) are matters that the First Amendment allows us all to debate.  The Congressmen quite clearly don’t want to allow Rep. Wilders to debate such matters here in the U.S.  But their “In the U.S.” paragraph suggests that they view even such debates by Americans as constitutionally unprotected.
You can decide for yourself whether Volokh should have mentioned the congressmen's religious beliefs, or their frequent association with radical Islamists.

Whatever you decide, I hope you will join me in admiring his stand, which would not be approved by all of his colleagues at UCLA.  (I suspect a fair number of them agree, in part, with Volokh, but wish he would not say such things publicly, not about Muslims, anyway.
- 5:09 PM, 4 May 2015   [link]


Females Are More Likely To Ask People For Directions:  That's not news, you may be thinking, but the females I am talking about are female dogs.
Researchers set more than 400 pedigree beagles an impossible puzzle.  They were put in front of three boxes, each of which had a clear lid and contained a biscuit.

Two of the lids slid back, allowing the dogs to eat the treat, but the third was stuck shut.

Females were more likely to look to a researcher for help, making eye contact and physical contact, such as putting their paw up
The researchers seem to think this shows the superiority of females, just as some people see the greater willingness of women to ask for directions as showing superiority.  Actually, I think both strategies have advantages and disadvantages.  Asking for help (or directions) may solve an immediate problem more quickly; trying to solve it by ourselves may let us learn something that will help us in the future.
- 7:42 AM, 4 May 2015   [link]


Does Ed Miliband Think He's Moses?  The Labour leader made one of the oddest campaign promises I've seen:
Just days before one of the closest General Elections in years Ed Miliband will no doubt be delighted to discover he is currently the number one talked about topic on Twitter - but his joy will be short-lived when he realises he is not necessarily trending for the right reasons.

Following the Labour leader's baffling decision to have the party's manifesto engraved on an 8ft limestone slab - which he intends to erect in Downing Street's garden if he is successful on Thursday - internet users have posted thousands of hilarious tweets and memes mocking the harebrained move.
And, naturally, the Daily Mail has a few pictures of them to show you.

One of the pictures may need an explanation for American readers.  The face on the naked woman is that of the head of the Sottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon.  Few expect her party to play an entirely constructive role in the election, and possible negotiations, afterward.
- 7:10 AM, 4 May 2015   [link]


The Betting Odds On The Next British Prime Minister Have Now Shifted so that some bookies are offering the same odds on Conservative David Cameron and Labour Ed Miliband.

(Currently, five firms are giving these odds for both men: 10/11.  I am guessing that means that if you bet 11 pounds on either and he wins, then you win 21 pounds.  After all, there has to be a little profit for the bookies.)

As I said before, I don't plan to make any predictions, because I know so little about individual constituencies, and because the race is so complex.  To make a good prediction, you would have to do a seat-by-seat analysis of the "marginals", as the British often call them.  And make a guess at how many voters will decide, in the last few days, to cast "tactical" votes, to vote for their second or third choice parties.
- 6:37 AM, 4 May 2015   [link]


The Maduro Government Is Making It Difficult to export cocoa beans.
The quality of Venezuela’s cocoa is legendary.  Cocoa plants all over the world have been cross-bred to make them resistant to plagues, but ours have been preserved, so much so that our cocoa is often times heralded as the world’s best.

But when you combine the world’s best cocoa with the world’s worst government … well, beans beging to rot in warehouses.  The government revoked the “export permits” of many cocoa producers, and has still not amended the problem.
Why is the Venezuelan government doing this?   Reuters couldn't find out, couldn't even get an answer from Maduro and company.

So I will turn to pure speculation:  Perhaps one or more of the producers did or said something that annoyed the regime.
- 7:36 PM, 3 May 2015   [link]


Socialists Good, Anarchists Bad:  Seattle had its annual May Day riot, as everyone expected.  It was smaller and less destructive than many past Seattle riots.

Perhaps it was that smaller scale that made me notice something I should have noticed years ago:  For our local journalists, socialists are good, but anarchists are bad.

Here's an example of the first:  One of our local news readers showed us a picture of Fidel Castro meeting Venezuela's Maduro for a celebration of May Day.  She was obviously pleased by the meeting and the recent Obama-Castro rapprochement.  (Is she misinformed about Castro and Maduro, or does she actually like what the two men have done to their countries?  I don't know, but I suspect it is mostly the first.)

Similarly, the anti-police demonstration and the amnesty-for-illegals demonstration on May Day here (which were mostly peaceful) received the usual respectful coverage.

But our local journalists don't like the anarchists, and when they began to demonstrate around 6 PM on May Day, the coverage became negative.  There were none of the these-people-have-legitimate-grievances excuses that you hear, routinely, in other kinds of leftist demonstrations.  Instead, there were mostly these-people-are behaving-badly, for-no-good-reason stories, and luckily-the-police-seem-to-be-prepared-for-them stories.

I am not entirely sure why the local journalists dislike anarchists so much; perhaps it is simply that the journalists want to use the power of the state, and the anarchists want eliminate that power.

(The coverage was extensive, with stations dropping their ordinary Friday night programs to show us pictures, from the ground and the air, of what was going on in Seattle, and how the police were trying to keep the anarchists away from downtown Seattle, and Interstate 5.

If you are feeling serious, you can take a look at the Wikipedia article on anarchism — or you can just appreciate this joke:

Why do anarchists use only lower case letters?
Because they are against capitalism.

The "proper tea" joke is pretty good, too, but perhaps little too English for a general audience.)
- 7:05 PM, 3 May 2015   [link]


Worth Reading:  In spite of the misleading headline, and the muddled presentation of the data.  (Which, to be fair, has problems.)

Here, however, is the bottom line of this front page New York Times article.
A number of criminologists believe police homicides are near their nadir. In New York City, for example, 91 people were fatally shot by police officers in 1971 — and a record-low eight in 2013, the last year for which figures are available.  In Los Angeles, officers used “categorical” force — gunfire, chokings and other violence that could lead to death — in 84 of nearly 149,000 arrests in 2012, down 17 percent in seven years.

That data suggests that any perception that higher numbers of unarmed African-Americans are being killed by the police in recent months is driven by citizens’ postings of unsettling cellphone videos and pictures, like that of police officers dragging Freddie Gray, his legs apparently not working, into a van.
(Michael Wines and Sarah Cohen appear to be using absolute, rather than per capita, numbers, in their comparisons.  But, because of the rise in the population of the United States, just over 200 million in 1970, and about 320 million now, one would expect the total shootings by police to rise, by about 50 percent.)

So, almost certainly, killings by police have been declining for decades, and the decline has been dramatic since crime peaked decades ago.

Some of that decrease, just like the general decrease in murder, has been caused by improvements in emergency care.  Many people who would have died years ago now survive, though they may be crippled.

Since this issue is prominent because so many of our political leaders and "mainstream" journalists are obsessed with race, I'll add this from further on in the article.
“Blacks are three times as likely to be killed by cops as are whites, on a per-capita basis,” said Dr. Moskos of John Jay.  But part of that is because of crime in predominantly black neighborhoods.

“Blacks are four or five times as likely to be victims of homicides, and they are five times as likely to feloniously kill a cop,” he said.
In general, I'll repeat what I have said before:  If a trend is good, you should probably continue doing what you are doing.  These declines show that our police have been doing something right in recent decades, though it may not be clear what they have been doing right.

(The article would be much better, if it were illustrated with a simple graph or two, along, of course, with some caveats about the quality of the data.)
- 2:13 PM, 1 May 2015   [link]


How To Do Fact Checking, And How Not To:  Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post gives us an example of the first.
It may be the case that Baltimore schools should get more federal funding — or that too much was spent in Afghanistan, with not much impact.  But [Jon] Stewart suggested that an extraordinary amount was spent on schools in Afghanistan while Baltimore did not even get a “taste.”

In fact, in a direct comparison of federal spending on Baltimore schools and spending on Afghanistan education, Baltimore easily comes out on top.  So, even with allowances for comic effect, Stewart earns Four Pinocchios.  Given his stature and influence, he should not reinforce stereotypes about the impact of foreign aid on the federal budget.
(Full disclosure:  I've never watched Stewart, so I can't say whether Kessler is correct in his generally positive assessment of the man.)

Michelle Lee He Yee of the Washington Post gives us an example of the second.  Senator Ted Cruz noted that the IRS tax code is longer than the Bible, and Yee spent an entire column addressing that common comparison, finally concluding:
This is a nonsense fact, something that is technically correct but ultimately meaningless.   Thus it is not worthy of a Geppetto Checkmark but neither does it qualify for a Pinocchio.

Cruz makes the point that tax policies need to be drastically simplified, and many Americans likely would support that sentiment.  But such a crude comparison, which provides no nuance or context, doesn’t capture why the tax code has become so complex and how it affects taxpayers.
Yee concludes that what Cruz said was true — but that he shouldn't have said it, which is not what a "fact checker" ought to be doing.

Nor is it correct to say that the comparison is "meaningless".  We use word lengths (or, a close substitute, page counts) all the time to compare reading and comprehension times.   It's an imperfect measure, but not a meaningless one.

(My own view:  The comparison of the Bible to the IRS code has been used so many times, that, were I Cruz, I would have looked for a different comparison, just to keep my audience awake.)
- 7:37 AM, 1 May 2015   [link]


The WSJ Fills In Another Piece Of The Warren Weinstein Ransom Puzzle:  When I read their first story on the attempt to ransom the al Qaeda captive, I assumed that the family had made the attempt, because of the amount of money paid, $250,000.  It sounded like what a family like his might be able to raise, not the amount available to a government or a wealthy benefactor.

But what puzzled me was how the family had found a middleman, something I doubt most of us could do.  (I'm not even sure how I would go about finding a trustworthy middleman in Pakistan, even if I had months to do so.)

Yesterday, the lead story in the Journal explained how the family checked out that middleman.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation helped facilitate a 2012 ransom payment to al Qaeda from the family of kidnapped aid worker Warren Weinstein, senior U.S. officials said, in an unsuccessful bid to secure the release of the American, who was killed in January in a U.S. drone strike.

The FBI’s previously undisclosed role reveals a contradiction in the U.S.’s longstanding position against paying ransoms for hostages.  While the White House sharply criticizes the practice in public and private, new details about the Weinstein case show how the FBI provides some families with guidance towards that end.

In the Weinstein case, the FBI vetted a Pakistani middleman used by the family to transport the money and provided other intelligence to enable an exchange, actions that some senior U.S. officials said encouraged the family to go ahead with the transaction.
It isn't hard to think of how the FBI might have enough contacts in Pakistan so that they could vet this middleman, and it is understandable that officials in the FBI, wanting to help the family, might violate US policy.

What is still unknown is whether the middleman was, in fact, trustworthy, but was conned by al Qaeda, or whether he was simply a scammer, whether, in short, he was a victim or a con man.

(If you read the whole article, you will probably conclude, as I did, that the FBI does not agree with official US policy, and has undermined it more than once.  This won't surprise anyone familiar with bureaucracies, which often go their own ways.)
- 5:42 AM, 1 May 2015   [link]


Who Loses From Riots?  Mostly, as I said at the end of this post, the people who live where the riots happened.

In this rather muddled post, Megan McArdle agrees with me, and provides some examples from a Washington, D. C. riot.
But regardless of justification, rioting is incredibly destructive, mostly in the neighborhoods where the rioters live.  In my own city, Washington, D.C., the major retail corridors that were destroyed in the 1968 riots have only really begun to recover in the last five years (and one of them still hasn't).  Who suffered because of that?  The store owners, obviously, and their insurers.  But the people who suffered most grievously were the mostly black people who lived in those neighborhoods.  The commercial craters left by the riots attracted crime, raised unemployment and left the residents of the neighborhood nowhere to buy the necessities of life.  People who had just started to get a toehold in homeownership saw the value of their homes depressed for decades.
It has been 47 years since those riots, and those Washington neighborhoods have still not completely recovered.

But — and this is something she doesn't mention — the riots increased the power of "leaders" like Al Sharpton.

(Why muddled?  I could give a number of examples, but will settle for just one.   McArdle, perhaps because she is trying to appeal to leftists, criticizes the law-and-order reactions to the riots.  In fact, one of the worst things about being poor, especially if you live in a poor neighborhood, is that you are far more likely to be a crime victim.  The reductions in crime brought by, for instance, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, did far more for the poor than official anti-poverty programs.)
- 8:28 AM, 30 April 2015   [link]


Speaking of Traffic Problems, here's one caused by a too successful fast-food restaurant.
The city of Bellevue has had to change its traffic plans one week after a Chick-fil-A opened, garnering overwhelming attention.

The city now has the right-most lane of eastbound Northeast 8th Street dedicated to Chick-fil-A customers trying to turn into the lot.
In the first weeks, the restaurant also paid for two traffic officers to help direct traffic.

I had been planning to try out their food, since this outlet is just a few miles away, but have decided to wait a little while, until the traffic calms down.

(A little background:   Bellevue is Seattle's largest suburb, and an important city in its own right.  This intersection is right at Bellevue's traffic center.

The company has opened another store in Tacoma, south of Seattle, and will be opening a third in Lynnwood, north of Seattle, next week.  So Chick-fil-A will soon have the city surrounded.)
- 7:48 AM, 30 April 2015   [link]


Seattle Officials Are Preparing for the annual May Day riots.
As the May Day marches descend upon the city, business owners and local leaders aren't taking any chances.  Police expect to be challenged on multiple fronts, knowing that passions have re-ignited with the crisis in Baltimore.
But not to the extent of promising serious fines, or even jail time, for those who disrupt traffic and vandalize property.

Would Seattle officials be this soft if the perpetrators were, for example, drunken frat boys?  Probably not.
- 6:01 AM, 30 April 2015   [link]


Archives

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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






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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Vote Fraud


The Gang of Four


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