Archive:

April 2016, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



How Posh Is Your Obama?  That light-hearted piece in the Tattler on Jeremy Corbyn inspired me to ask the same question about President Obama:  How "posh" (upper class) is he?

It was fun trying to translate the British upper class markers into their rough American equivalents.  There isn't anything quite like Eton here, but Punahou is about as close to it as you can get, on Hawaii.  Obama's mother may have been middle class or upper middle class, but both his father and step-father were aristocrats — in their own societies.  Martha's Vineyard is definitely an upper class place.  Even his time at Business International fits the pattern.  He says he was unhappy there, as would any old-fashioned English gentleman, who was forced to go into "trade", even temporarily.

And so on.

You might think that Obama's lack of a pure aristocratic lineage keeps him from being truly "posh".  But there has always been some movement, up and down, in Britain's class structure.  And one of the ways you move up is by choosing the right symbols, hence that common question: How posh is your . . . ?

On a 0 to 10 posh scale, I'd rate Obama at about 8.5, not quite David Cameron's level, but close.  And that difference may be part of the reason why Obama has found it hard to get along with the British prime minister.

If you try this little exercise and get a very different answer from mine, let me know.
- 4:25 PM, 9 April 2016   [link]


Two Complementary Articles On The EB-5 Program:  First, from the New York Times an article on how the program became corrupted — and lost support from honest elected officials.
The easiest way to gain entry into the United States is not to walk across the border in the dead of night.  It is to write a check.

A visa process enacted by Congress in 1990 to create jobs and pump billions of dollars into the economy has evolved into a program that federal investigators and some prominent lawmakers say has become a risk to national security and an easy mark for abuse, particularly from China.
Those who are familiar with the two senators won't be surprised to learn that Charles Grassley (R, Iowa) is trying to kill the program, and that Chuck Schumer (D, New York) is trying to save it.  The program also has defenders in the Obama administration, which won't surprise you, either.  To their credit, some Democrats, including Dianne Feinstein of California and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, are critical of the program.

Second, from the Wall Street Journal, an article giving a brief statistical summary of the program.
The program, known as EB-5, received applications from 17,691 investors in 2015, up from 11,744 in 2014 and 6,554 in 2013, according to figures released last week by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In all, there were 21,988 investor applications pending at year-end, and given that the program allows just 10,000 visas a year, that means a backlog of at least five years for most investors.  Typically each investor secures two to three visas, including family members.
About 80 percent of those investors are Chinese.

Sometimes, in more cynical moods, I think we should replace this program with one that put visas up for sale at open auctions.  I am nearly certain that we could get at least a million dollars for each visa, assuming we continued the current limit of 10,000 visas a year.

(Key understanding:  The program was originally set up to encourage job creation in poor rural areas.  It devolved into a program that lets investors put their money into real estate in wealthy cities.  According to the Wikipedia article, some of the key changes came in 2011, with new regulations.)
- 10:44 AM, 9 April 2016   [link]


Did Tactical Voting Give Ted Cruz His Big Win In Wisconsin?   Did enough Republican voters who preferred Kasich switch to Cruz to give him a much larger margin than he would have had, otherwise?

Probably.  In fact, almost certainly, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, the exit pollsters didn't ask the kind of questions that would allow us to make a direct estimate.  But it is true that, according to the polls, Kasich — who had been gaining on both leaders — lost support in the last few days, and that Cruz out-performed the polls.

This suggests that some voters may have difficult choices in the next primaries.   Suppose, for example, a voter in Pennsylvania has as his top priority defeating Donald Trump, and prefers Kasich to Cruz.

If Kasich is ahead of Cruz in the Pennsylvania polls, then the voter's choice is easy.  If Kasich is behind Cruz by a large and stable margin, the choice is also easy.  But, what if the margin is small, or Kasich has been rapidly gaining on Cruz?

Then the voter may be tempted to go into the voting booth and flip a coin — and I wouldn't blame anyone who chose that scientific method of making a decision.  (I will be looking for clues to help such voters.)

(Professor Althouse made a rough estimate of the amount of tactical voting in Wisconsin.  It is, I think, a minimum estimate, because some may have decided to vote tactically, earlier.

Terminology:  Tactical voting is also called strategic voting, sophisticated voting, insincere voting, and, probably, other things, too.  The phrases all mean the same thing.)
- 8:49 AM, 9 April 2016   [link]


Today's Cartoon is a modern ghost story.

The expressions are what really make this cartoon work, I think.

- 6:59 AM, 8 April 2016   [link]


Not Learning From Tony Blair's Success:  In 1994, Tony Blair won the leadership of the Labour Party, which was demoralized after four successive general election defeats.  He moved the party toward the center, and led them to three successive election victories.
Under Blair's leadership, the Party used the phrase "New Labour", to distance it from previous Labour policies and the traditional conception of socialism.  Blair declared support for a new conception that he referred to as "social-ism", involving politics that recognised individuals as socially interdependent, and advocated social justice, cohesion, equal worth of each citizen, and equal opportunity.[4]  Critics of Blair denounced him for having the Labour Party abandon genuine socialism and accepting capitalism.[5]  Supporters, including the party's public opinion pollster Philip Gould, stated that after four consecutive general election defeats, the Labour Party had to demonstrate that it had made a decisive break from its left-wing past, in order to win an election again.[6]

In May 1997, the Labour Party won a landslide general election victory, the largest in its history, allowing Blair, at 43 years old, to become the youngest Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812.  In September 1997, Blair attained early personal popularity, receiving a 93% public approval rating, after his public response to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.[7][8][9]  The Labour Party went on to win two more elections under his leadership: in 2001, in which it won another landslide victory, and in 2005, with a reduced majority.
So, did Labour activists learn from Blair's victories?  Not permanently, or they never would have chosen Jeremy Corbyn as their new leader.

At this point, I am going to make a sharp turn.  Suppose you were to recount that little bit of recent history to a Republican activist, for instance one who takes much of his thinking from Rush Limbaugh or other, similar talk show hosts.

Most would, I suspect, nod in agreement.

But then, perhaps out of a sense of mischief, you went on to say that there is a symmetry in politics and, just as a center-left politician is more likely than a pure left politician to win in Britain, so a center-right politician is more likely to win than a pure right politician here in the United States.

I am not suggesting you actually do this experiment, because I think most such activists would find that simple appeal to symmetry upsetting, to say the least.

Nor would I suggest that you make the parallel argument to a Labour activist in Britain.

But that doesn't meant the argument is false, in either country.

(For the record:  I am not arguing that purists can't win, since there is more to elections than simple ideological positioning.  Scandals or serious economic problems can allow a purist to win, though probably by a smaller margin.  And, after a series of losses, a purist might win simply because people are ready for a change, almost any change.)
- 4:03 PM, 7 April 2016   [link]


Kasich Leads Clinton In Pennsylvania by 16 points!   (Sanders by 8 points.)

It is difficult to think of a scenario in which a Republican presidential candidate wins Pennsylvania — and loses nationally.  You can see that by looking at the electoral map from the last time a Republican, George H. W. Bush in 1988, won Pennsylvania.

The 2016 map wouldn't be the same, but it would be similar enough: the South, the Mountain states, Indiana. Ohio, and Pennsylvania would all be Republican, just to start with.
- 9:36 AM, 7 April 2016   [link]


This Trump Story Is Almost too symbolic.
While Donald Trump turns up the heat on companies that have moved their manufacturing outside the country, his own daughter's scarf collection is under fire for being recalled over a "burn risk."

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled about 20,000 of Ivanka Trump- branded scarves because they failed to meet fire safety standards required for clothing textiles, the recall notice states.
The scarves were made in, you guessed it, China.

(Consult your local fashionista on whether the scarves are, otherwise, a good value.

That rayon can be a fire hazard is something that has been known since it was invented; it was so well known that rayon appeared in some of those grim jokes about how to dispose of an unwelcome mother-in-law.  There are ways of treating it to reduce that risk; presumably Trump's Chinese manufacturer didn't use them, or didn't use them correctly.)
- 8:00 AM, 7 April 2016   [link]


Another Similarity Between Donald Trump And Bernie Sanders:  Neither man has released his full federal tax returns.

It isn't hard to guess why Trump hasn't released his, in spite of his promise to do so.  There are, almost certainly, one or more political embarrassments in those returns.  For instance, they might contain evidence that Trump is not as wealthy as he claims he is.  And I think it almost certain that he has used tax shelters that are unavailable to the average middle class family.

But that Sanders hasn't released his is surprising.

There is — and this is something I had not known — a site, The Tax History Project, that collects all the available presidential candidates' tax returns.   Here's what the Washington Post found on that site, for Sanders:
There is one entry from 2014 available for Sanders on the Tax History Project website: a Form 1040 (a summary of his federal income tax return) and a one-page Vermont state income tax return.  The campaign referred to this entry when we inquired about Sanders’s claim.

Sanders and his wife reported a total income of $205,617 in 2014.  The vast majority came from his Senate salary ($156,441 after contributions to savings and health insurance).  They paid $27,653 in federal income tax and $7,903 in Vermont in 2014.

The couple received another $46,213 in Social Security benefits, and $39,281 of it was taxable.
Sanders blames his wife, which doesn't seem very gentlemanly, or very responsible, of him.

The Post dug back into Sanders' past and found that he is opposed to charities and, to the extent they could tell, has acted consistently with that belief.  He's not been a big giver.

(According to the Post, only two candidates have released all their tax returns: Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, so there is "one area where Clinton may be immune to transparency criticism".)
- 7:33 AM, 7 April 2016   [link]


Baseball Fans Will Like this cartoon.
- 6:48 AM, 7 April 2016   [link]


Sitting Too Much Isn't Good For You:  Yesterday, Nicholas Bakallar summarized a large study, with lots of numbers, showing how bad it can be.

The researchers estimated that about 433,000 people die early, worldwide, each year, because they spend too much time sitting.  The number is too precise for my tastes, but, assuming the study is basically correct, does give us an idea of the size of the problem.

It occurs to me that activity monitoring devices such as Fitbit might give us much better data for these studies, if researchers can persuade a large number of subjects to report their data regularly, for years.

(Caveat:  As Leandro Rezende, the lead author of the study, notes, what they showed was correlation, not causation.)
- 4:33 PM, 6 April 2016   [link]


Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn Reads The Morning Star?! Or at the very least he subscribes to the Communist newspaper.
Jeremy Corbyn has ordered copies of the communist Morning Star newspaper to be delivered to his office every morning, The Sun can reveal.

Once the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party of Great Britain, the red rag was kept afloat throughout the 1970s by bulk orders from the Soviet Union.

Now the hardline Labour leader is using his taxpayer funded office allowances to subscribe daily – with an insider saying copies are left “lying about all over the place”.
That certainly sounds as if he, or someone in his office, is reading the newspaper.

(By way of Guido Fawkes.)
- 4:00 PM, 6 April 2016   [link]


Worth Buying:  Today's New York Times, if only for the Mike McIntire article on another Donald Trump dodgy deal.

The article is too long and too complex to summarize in a few exerpts, without going beyond what fair use allows, so I'll just give you the headline: "Donald Trump Settled a Real Estate Lawsuit, and a Criminal Case Was Closed".

Trump and his partners paid off unhappy investors in a failed condominium/hotel,  As part of the settlement, the investors agreed to stop cooperating with a prosecutor, forcing him to drop the case.

Trump's partners in this dodgy deal are rather interesting fellows, some with experience in the rough world of the old Soviet Union.
- 8:48 AM, 6 April 2016   [link]


Yesterday, I Spent Much Of The Afternoon And Evening Looking At The Numbers:  Not the numbers from the Wisconsin primaries, though I did look at those, too, but the rapidly-changing betting odds on the presidential election.

For a time, Donald Trump, who had been running at about a 70 percent chance of winning the Republican nomination, was actually below 40 percent.

(He's now running about 50 percent for the nomination, and about 12 percent for the general election.)

In contrast, the numbers for the other front-running loser, Hillary Clinton, changed by only a few points, less than 3 percent for the Democratic nomination, and less than 4 percent for the general election.

(Unless there is some important event, I would expect the probabilities for both candidates to vary little over the next week, as bettors wait for more current polls on the next set of primaries.  But I'll still be looking at them regularly.)
- 7:14 AM, 6 April 2016   [link]


Two Cartoons Today:  One showing a woman recounting her happy vacation.

And another showing the result of an unfortunate business decision.
- 6:37 AM, 6 April 2016   [link]


Why Did No Women Democratic Governors Run Against Hillary Clinton?  As I mentioned in a February post, I thought identity politics was one of the reasons that California Governor Jerry Brown and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had chosen not to contest for the Democratic presidential nomination this year.  Both are the wrong sex.

But there are women Democratic governors and ex-governors, who didn't have that little problem, and none of them chose to run, either.

Part of the reason may be that Clinton looked so formidable at the beginning of the race, high approval ratings from her time flying around the world, a big war chest, and backing from hundreds of party leaders.

But I think at least two of them may have decided not to run for other reasons, even though they had shown they could win in usually Republican states, which is a good sign that they would have been strong national candidates, too.

It is easy to understand why Kathleen Sibelius; didn't run; she had had success as the governor of Kansas, but she failed as Secretary of Health and Human Services, failed publicly in the roll out of ObamaCare.

Janet Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, was also a cabinet secretary (Department of Homeland Security), but doesn't have the same kind of failure on her record.

She still wanted to run something after she left the cabinet, and is now the president of the University of California system.  That she didn't aim higher may be because she did not want to go through another round of the rumors that inevitably arise about a man or woman who has never married.

As I said of Cuomo and Brown, I think either would have made a better president — not necessarily a good president, but a better president — than Hillary Clinton would.

(I have some sympathy for Sibelius.  Heading HHS has seemed like a nearly impossible job for a very long time.)
- 3:47 PM, 5 April 2016   [link]


Worth Reading:  Today's Wall Street Journal editorial, "The Real Kasich Threat":
Mr. Kasich did the public service of winning Ohio’s delegates—with which Mr. Trump might have locked up the nomination—and he deserves a chance to see if he can win Pennsylvania or pick up delegates in the East and California.  He has no hope of reaching 1,237 delegates before the convention, but what Messrs. Trump and Cruz really fear is that the convention might want to nominate a potential winner.
What a strange idea, picking a candidate who is likely to win!

I think the conventional wisdom, and the polls, are probably right; Trump is almost certain to lose if he gets the nomination, Cruz is likely to lose, and Kasich is likely to win.

But there are those two potential wild cards, a possible indictment of Hillary Clinton and a possible damaging trial involving Donald Trump, so there is no certainty about this year's campaigns.  (It isn't even clear to me which would be the most damaging to the candidate.)

(For what they are worth, here are the opinions of the British bettors..  As I write Trump is down to a 46.5 percent chance of winning the nomination, having fallen 22.7 percent in the last week.)
- 2:51 PM, 5 April 2016   [link]


Dahlia Lithwick Isn't Joking:  (I think.)

Slate's legal correspondent has a novel suggestion for resolving the conflict over the Merrick Garland nomination to the Supreme Court.
Judge Garland has been nominated by President Obama. Senate Republicans refuse to give him a hearing.  After a suitable period of time—let’s say by the end of September of 2016—Judge Garland should simply suit up and take the vacant seat at the court.   This would entail walking into the Supreme Court on the first Monday in October, donning an extra black robe, seating himself at the bench, sipping from the mighty silver milkshake cup before him, and looking like he belongs there, in the manner of George Costanza.

Really, what could the other justices do?  They aren’t going to have the marshals tackle him.  He is, after all, the chief judge of the second most important court in the land, respected across the ideological spectrum.  And in the absence of a Senate hearing on his nomination, one certainly might infer that the Senate has by now consented to his presence there.
Oh, I don't suppose she is entirely serious, either; I don't suppose she thinks anything like this will actually happen.

But her anger in that column is so great that it deserves an explanation.  Here's my brief guess at what's behind that anger:  Leftists have become used to the idea that it is possible to skip all that difficult process of amending the Constitution — as long as you can get five Supreme Court justices to agree with your latest proposal.

Now, suppose the Republicans are able to block any appointment until a Republican president takes office.  A Republican president would probably choose a justice who would restore the 4-1-4 balance that existed before Justice Scalia's death (with Justice Kennedy in the swing position).

Which justice is most likely to leave the court, one way or another, after that?  You could get a good prediction on that from an actuary, but you don't need to be a member of that profession to recognize that it is Ruth Bader Ginsburg.   Which, of course, is why Democrats were hinting in 2013 and 2014, when they still controlled the Senate, that this might be a good time for her to retire.

So, for Lithwick, and those who share her ideology, the nightmare scenario would be first a restoration of the 4-1-4 balance, and then, after Ginsburg, a change to 3-1-5, with conservatives having a solid majority.

Any number of precedents, precious to leftists, might be reversed, were that to happen.

(By way of the Weekly Standard.)
- 9:58 AM, 5 April 2016   [link]


Andrew Malcolm's Latest Collection of jokes.

Malcolm liked this one best:
Conan: Cuban President Raul Castro asked President Obama to return ownership of Guantanamo Bay to Cuba. Obama agreed, but only if Cuba takes Florida.
So did I, and I liked it even more with the little improvement Malcolm added.

I also liked these two:
Conan: President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro watched a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National baseball team.  The Rays won, so the Cuban team was sent to prison.  It was a great game.
. . .
Meyers: Reports that Donald Trump plagiarized an article by Ben Carson.  People first became suspicious when Trump’s op-ed began, “As a black doctor …”
There were no Kasich jokes, no Cruz jokes, and no funny jokes about Sanders or Clinton.

(Here's the plagiarism story, which I had missed.  Carson says he's OK with the plagiarism, which is nice of him.  But it does make you wonder how Trump got through college.)
- 8:46 AM, 5 April 2016   [link]


Sanders Has More Supporters Among Democrats Than Trump Does Among Republicans:  I just did the calculation again, using the data from the usual source, and got the same answer as I have before.

Right now, Trump Republicans are about 12 percent of the electorate, and Sanders Democrats are about 15 percent.
- 3:23 PM, 4 April 2016   [link]


Class In Great Britain:  Every once in a while, I run into a reminder of how openly the British discuss class.  In the last few days, I ran into two, one serious, discussing who supports Britain leaving the European Union (Brexit).
2. Conversely, there is a very clear divide between the two sides, in terms of social class.  The same Ipsos MORI poll showed that voters from Social Classes AB and C1 split 2:1 in favour of Remain, whereas voters from Social Classes C2, D, and E break heavily for Leave.  Nor is there anything surprising about this.  Those groups that do best out of the status quo are likely to support the status quo.  Those that don’t will vote against it.  The same pattern was seen in the Referendum on Scottish independence.  Although voting by social class is nothing like as polarised as it was in the past, the Conservatives still led Labour by 19% among AB voters in 2015 and by 14% among C1 voters.  By contrast, they trailed Labour among working class voters  Yet, with certain exceptions, well-heeled Conservative-voting areas are likely to support Brexit.  How to explain what appears to be a paradox?
Sean Fear assumes that his readers will know what those letters stand for, without any explanation — and he is probably right, for his British readers.  (If you are trying to figure them out, this Wikipedia article may help.)

And one intended to be (mostly) funny, "How posh is your... Corbyn?", which establishes, to my satisfaction anyway, that the Labour leader is definitely upper class.

Matthew Bell assumes that his readers will understand those class markers, without any added explanation.

(Discussions of class in the United States tend to be much less direct.  When, for instance, a talk show host attacks "country club Republicans", he is appealing to class envy, without ever saying "upper class".

At one time, politicians, especially Democrats, often appealed to the "working class"; now politicians from both parties appeal to the "middle class".)
- 2:48 PM, 4 April 2016   [link]


What's A Short Word For A Google Oops?  Perhaps Goops!
An app created by the Taliban to attract people to its cause has been removed from the Google Play store.

Known as Alemarah, the app was filled with stories and statements written in the Pashto language and contained videos created by the extremist Islamic group, Bloomberg reported on Sunday.  The app "is part of our advanced technological efforts to make more global audience," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told Bloomberg.

Mujahed told Bloomberg the app was taken down to resolve "technical issues," but BBC News reported on Monday that Google removed the app because it violated a policy that prohibits hate speech
I wonder what other kinds of "games" might be in that store.
- 1:55 PM, 4 April 2016   [link]


Here's Steven Hayward's latest Week in Pictures.

The quality is uneven (as usual), but I thought several were quite good.
- 8:46 AM, 4 April 2016   [link]


Don't Know Exacrly Why this cartoon strikes me as funny — but it does.

No guarantee that you will have the same reaction.
- 12:12 PM, 3 April 2016   [link]


Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied:  There is a twist to that old truism this election year, because those who are not getting justice are the voters.

The two candidates currently leading for their party's nominations, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are both, as I have said before, in potential legal trouble.  The FBI is about to "question" Clinton over her private email server, and Donald Trump may be called as a witness in a fraud trial.
Donald Trump and his real-estate school are headed toward a potentially unprecedented trial this year that could feature the Republican presidential front-runner taking the stand, barring a surprise ruling from a New York state judge or a last-minute settlement.

Justice Cynthia Kern could decide in a hearing scheduled for April whether to hold a trial over allegations by the New York Attorney General that​ Trump University fraudulently bilked students out of a collective $40 million.  Mr. Trump is a defendant in the case.
(Oh, and there is the possibility of a similar trial in San Diego.)

Both of these issues should have been settled last year, before the voters began making their choices.  Voters deserved to know — before they began voting — whether Clinton would be indicted, and whether Trump cheated all those "students" at Trump University.

Now, in the middle of the campaigns, I see no way to be fair to the voters, no matter what the Justice Department and the courts do.  If they act now, they'll be accused, perhaps truthfully, of meddling in the campaigns; if they fail to act now, they'll be accused, perhaps truthfully, of protecting candidates who have broken our laws.

Let me give you just two of the many possibilities to illustrate just how absurd the two situations are.  Suppose, for instance, that Clinton is elected and then,, after the election, indicted,  Then what?

Or, suppose the Trump trial starts just before the Republican convention, and Trump is forced to spend his time on the witness stand, rather than trying to find a few more delegates.  What then?

Perhaps the very worst possibility is if one of the candidates is affected before the election but not the other.  Do you think the partisans in the affected party would accept that outcome as fair?

I wish I could end this post with "April Fool!", but I can't.  We really are in this absurd situation.
- 1:29 PM, 1 April 2016   [link]


The Trends Aren't Donald Trump's Friends:  Especially the trend among women.
Donald Trump's image among U.S. women tilts strongly negative, with 70% of women holding an unfavorable opinion and 23% a favorable opinion of the Republican front-runner in March.  Trump's unfavorable rating among women has been high since Gallup began tracking it last July, but after rising slightly last fall, it has increased even further since January.
. . .
Trump's image is also more negative than positive among men.  As a result, his overall image is the most negative of any of the five remaining major candidates from both parties who are running for president.  Still, men are not nearly as negative toward Trump as women are.   The gap between his favorable and unfavorable rating among men averaged 22 percentage points in March 1-28 interviewing, compared with a 47-point gap among women.
Since last October, the increase in his unfavorability ratings has been almost linear, for both men and women.  A few more months, and he might break -40 net approval.

Which would be, in its own way, rather impressive.

And, no, the other two Republican candidates don't share his little problem with women.  In fact, most women like John Kasich, and men are as likely to dislike Ted Cruz, as women.
- 9:53 AM, 1 April 2016   [link]


April Fools' Day:  So it is time to point you, again, to this list of classic pranks, this list of tech pranks, this list of 2015 pranks and this list of stories that sound like pranks, but aren't.

(The BBC is consistently good at covering these stories, and even inventing a few, such as the famous "spaghetti trees" prank.  Is that, perhaps, a reaction to being such a serious news organization all the rest of the year?  Seems plausible.

Recycled, with one update, from 2015.)
- 6:38 AM, 1 April 2016   [link]


Here's My Kind of psychiatrist.
- 6:00 AM, 1 April 2016   [link]