Archive:

August 2015, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Jeff Jacoby Makes The Case For Civility:  Beginning with a recent president, and ending with one from the 19th century. .
In “Rendezvous with Destiny,” his superb chronicle of Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, Craig Shirley quotes a “remarkably candid” assessment that appeared in The Washington Post eight months before the election.  It was written by reporter Lou Cannon, who had covered Reagan’s political career from the outset and seen the candidate from every angle, at his best and his worst.  Reagan had gotten plenty of disparaging press coverage, Cannon acknowledged — some of it under Cannon’s own byline.  Yet the governor had never treated him or any other detractor with hostility or rudeness.

“He has, on the contrary, been unfailingly courteous and responsive to his media critics,” Cannon remarked, “never whining about the treatment he has been given or suggesting that the liberties of the press should be curtailed.”  Cannon esteemed Reagan’s ability to remain genial and respectful even in the midst of hard-fought, high-stakes political battles. Shirley clearly did too.
. . .
“We must not be enemies,” Abraham Lincoln implored his countrymen in his first inaugural address.  “Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”   But Lincoln implored in vain.  The bonds of affection did break, and a terrible calamity ensued.

America today may not be on the verge of a civil war.  But our ability to find common ground is diminishing by the day, and even those who should know better are calling not for more civility, but less.  We are heading in the wrong direction, and it will not end well.
It's an obvious point, but deserves making, anyway, because there are so many who do not want to see Jacoby's argument:  Reagan and Lincoln were successful leaders, in part, I think, because of their civility.

(Here's the final paragraph of the Lincoln speech:
I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Though his plea failed, I think it nearly certain that Lincoln's effort made the difficult task of re-uniting the United States less difficult than it would have been, without that plea and without Lincoln's civility.)
- 8:04 PM, 16 August 2015   [link]


Chemistry Teacher Takes On Pre-Schoolers:  Spanish speaking pre-schoolers.

Lucia, who often has interesting things to say about climate change, switches from her usual subject, and describes her mother's experience teaching a class for which she had no credentials.   Here's how Lucia begins.
My mother taught high school chemistry for many years.  Having learned to speak Spanish while living in Latin America, she also occasionally spent summers teaching in government funded educational programs for children of migrant workers.  Today, I’m going to relate a little story about the summer my mother taught pre-schoolers.  I’m relying on possibly inaccurate memories, but I thought some of those debating educational practices might get a kick out of the story.
If you are at all interested in education, you'll like her story.
- 3:31 PM, 16 August 2015   [link]


Yesterday, The British Marked the 70th Anniversary Of V-J Day:  The ceremonies went very well, judging by this article.
They had faced death every day amid the unimaginable horrors of Japanese prisoner of war camps.

Yesterday, it was clear that age has wearied the survivors of the campaign fought in the Far East – but their spirit remained indomitable as they gathered to remember their fallen comrades.

The parade by the phalanx of veterans in their wheelchairs through Central London was the climax of an emotional day commemorating the 70th anniversary of victory in the war against Japan – a conflict that claimed the lives of 27,000 British and Commonwealth troops.
. . .
Earlier, the Queen led the ceremony to remember the sacrifice of those who had fought and died.  She and the Duke of Edinburgh – himself a veteran of the Far East war – were joined by David Cameron and former POWs for the service at St Martin-in-the Fields church.

The congregation sang hymns and a piped lament paid tribute to the dead.  Veteran John Giddings, 92, read the Kohima Epitaph – remembering a crucial battle of 1944 – with the haunting line: ‘When you go home, tell them of us.  And say for your tomorrow we gave our today.’
But then the British have had hundreds of years of practice at such ceremonies.

(Some Americans will wonder why the 15th, rather than the 14th, when the surrender was announced.  It's just a matter of time zone differences; it was the 15th already, in Britain.  For more, and a description of how and when many nations mark the surrender, see this Wikipedia article.

And here's the Wikipedia article on the Battle of Kohima.)
- 2:17 PM, 16 August 2015   [link]


Black And White Together — And Off To Join ISIS:  If you have been paying attention to ISIS's recruitment in the West, this front-page New York Times story will seem familiar.  A young man, raised Muslim, decides to practice his religion seriously; a young woman, in love with him, decides to join him.

Again, if you have been paying attention to these cases, you won't be surprised to learn that she converted to Islam after she met him, and that they became radicalized at a university, specifically Mississippi State.

Any security officer in Britain could probably find dozens of similar cases, with very little effort.

But, for someone of my generation, there is one big surprise; the young man, Muhammad Dakhlalla, is white, and the young woman, Jaelyn Young, is black — and they grew up in Mississippi.  Judging by the article, the inter-racial romance didn't bother people in the college town of Starkville, nor did the Muslim faith of the Dakhlalla family.

(With one possible exception:  Her father, a police officer and a veteran who served in Afghanistan, refused to sign an Islamic marriage document.  Because of race?   Religion?  Because he guessed that his daughter might be about to do something really stupid?  The article doesn't say.)

And now the two of them are facing prison sentences, possibly as long as 20 years, thanks to an FBI sting operation.

(A friend of the two found their arrest surprising because, Glenn Reynolds believes, it doesn't fit the narrative we get from our "mainstream" journalists.)
- 4:00 PM, 15 August 2015   [link]


Another Embarrassing Book List:  This one from President Obama.   These are the books, according to the White House, that he is taking along with him on his summer vacation:
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
All That Is by James Salter
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
In order, there is a book by a man who often sounds like a black racist, a novel, a novel, a propaganda book on the environment, a novel, and — looking out of place in that list — a standard biography of Washington.

No books on economics, history, the military, or science (besides Kolbert's), nothing, with the possible exception of the Washington biography, that would make him a better president.

In fact, I would say the Coates and Kolbert books, if he reads them, would be actively harmful.

If I were to describe that list in a single word, it would be fashionable, not fashionable in the sense of having mass appeal, but fashionable in the sense that they would appeal to mid-level literary types in New York, or the faculty at a third-rate liberal arts college.  Having read them shows your friends and acquaintances that you are cultured.  In a poliically correct way, of course.

You may want to compare those books to some of the books that George W. Bush read while he was president, though I must warn any Obama supporter that you will find the comparison embarrassing.

(The Hill says that: "Obama will have to read quickly to finish his entire list before he returns to Washington on Aug. 23."  Any bookworm would find that amusing.

I said another because it reminded of Hillary Clinton's list.

Here's a more complete list of Bush's and Rove's reading.  I would recommend most of them to anyone in a high office.)
- 9:59 AM, 14 August 2015   [link]


Andrew Malcolm's Weekly Collection of jokes.

Malcolm liked this one best:
Meyers: Donald Trump is still leading the Republican polls.  Of course, it’s only a matter of time before Trump slips up and says something completely sane.
But I preferred this non-political joke:
Conan: In Hong Kong, a woman was sent to prison for assaulting a police officer with her breast.  The police officer is demanding an apology and that she do it again.
Yes, that's a little crude — but only a little.

(There's probably more to that story from Hong Kong, but I haven't looked it up, fearing that knowing more would spoil the joke.)
- 2:35 PM, 13 August 2015   [link]


There's A Real Chance That The Iran Treaty "Deal" Will Be Rejected By Congress:  Partly because of President Obama's self-defeating tactics.

Who says so?  Left-wing New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.
Perhaps because the stakes are so high, the debate has become poisonous.  Critics are (ludicrously) accusing President Obama of appealing to anti-Semitic tropes.  And Obama (petulantly) suggested that some opponents were "alarmist", "ignorant", "not being straight", and "making common cause" with Iranians who chant "Death to America."

Obama's rhetoric was counterproductive.  As former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchiison, a Texas Republican, told me, "At this point, the president has made it impossible for a Republican to vote for it."  Constituent calls to congressional offices are overwhelmingly against the deal, and with Senator Charles Schumer defying the White House by opposing it, the opposition is more bipartisan than the support is.
(I'd say those Obama insults go beyond mere petulance.)

Kristof is saying these things because he wants President Obama to be a more effective salesman, not because he opposes Obama's tactics on moral grounds*.

And then Kristof uses most of the column to suggest better tactics.  (And, to give him credit, makes a better case for the "deal" than Obama has.)

Kristof thinks that rejecting the deal would be a "catastrophe"; I think that the deal is already a disaster, because, no matter what Congress does, Iran will get most or all of the money that we have been able to tie up with sanctions, variously estimated at $100 or $150 billion dollars.  By way of comparison, that would be about ten percent of Iran's GDP.  And the trade deals that our European allies are already trying to make will give Iran billions more.

We have never had a set of choices for dealing with the Mullah's Iran that included a good option; we have always had to choose among a range of choices from bad to very bad.  I now think that range has shifted to from very bad to catastrophic, though I see those possible catastrophes differently than Kristof does.

(*He may, but there is no evidence in that column, or in anything else I have read by Kristof, to suggest that he thinks those tactics are wrong.)
- 2:09 PM, 13 August 2015   [link]


Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Leader?  In May, Britain held their general election, and, to almost everyone's surprise, the Conservatives won an absolute majority (330 of 650 seats).  As often happens after such losses, the leader of the main opposition party, Labour's Ed Miliband, resigned, triggering a leadership election.  (Oddly enough, his party had made a larger gain in the popular vote than the Conservatives, 1.5 to 0.8 percent, but their gains weren't in the right places, so they lost 26 seats.)

An elderly, far-left member of parliament, Jeremy Corbyn, entered the leadership contest.  Somewhat to most people's surprise, he received enough nominations from fellow Labour MPs to get on the ballot.   To almost everyone's surprise, the activists loved him and, as they are the ones who will vote, have made him the favorite.

(Here's a description of the new process for choosing a Labour leader:
Under the former system, a three-way electoral college chose the leader, with one-third weight given to the votes of the Parliamentary Labour Party (i.e., Labour members of the House of Commons) and Labour members of the European Parliament, one-third to individual Labour Party members, and one third to the trade union and affiliated societies sections.  Following the Collins review, the electoral college was replaced by a pure "one member, one vote" (OMOV) system.  Candidates will be elected by members and registered and affiliated supporters, who will all receive a maximum of one vote and all votes will be weighted equally.[4]  This means that, for example, members of Labour-affiliated trade unions will need to additionally register as Labour supporters to vote.

To stand, candidates now need to be nominated by at least 15% of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), i.e. 35 MPs.
About 390,000 will be eligible to vote.

In Britain, as in the United States, activists tend to be more extreme than both elected officials and ordinary voters, so the new process increased the power of the left.  By a lot.)

Ballots will be "sent out", which I assume means mailed, tomorrow, and must be returned by 10 September.  Results will be announced on the 12th.

So, it is likely that, in one month, Britain's second party will be led by a man who makes Bernie Sanders looks like an arch conservative, a man who doesn't particularly like the United States.

As you probably guessed already, Tony Blair, who led Labour toward the center, and to three successive victories, is appalled.

(Here are brief descriptions of the platforms of the four candidates.)
- 10:18 AM, 13 August 2015
Correction:  Actually, 554,272 were elegible to vote.  I'm not sure whether the Guy Fawkes web site got it wrong, the electorate expanded, or both.
- 4:42 PM, 15 September 2015   [link]


Have You Been Wondering Where The Animas River Is?   Where the river that the EPA just polluted is located?

I was, so I looked it up.  The Animas is the largest tributary of the San Juan, which flows right through the "Four Corners" area, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet.

That explains why those states are already involved.

As you almost certainly know, those states don't have a lot of water to spare.

(Fun fact: Aminas means "souls" in Spanish.  Some think that the river's name was shortened from '"Rio de las Animas Perdidas" (River of Lost Souls)'.)
- 8:34 AM, 13 August 2015   [link]


Is Hugo Chávez's Favorite Daughter The Richest Person In Venezuela?   Possibly.
According to the Miami-based Diraro Las América, Venezuelan media sources will soon publish materials showing that María Gabriela Chávez has bank accounts in the U.S. and Andorra with assets totaling nearly $4.2 billion.

If the claim is true, Chávez’s daughter would be the richest person in Venezuela, a country with industrialists like telecommunications magnate Gustavo Cisneros (worth $3.6 billion, according to Forbes) and food and beverage mogul Lorenzo Mendoza ($2.7 billion).

Those figures stand in stark contrast to the overall state of the Venezuelan economy, which has been plagued by the collapse of oil prices, spiraling inflation rates caused by untenable fiscal policies and massive shortages of the most basic commodities, such as food, diapers and beauty products.
We should treat this report, and similar reports, with some skepticism, given the difficulties of reporting on such matters.  But it would help explain why Venezuela, with all its oil riches, is so broke — and it is consistent with the widespread corruption in the Venezuelan regime.

So I would say that it is nearly certain that she is quite rich, and that her wealth is stolen, but that she may not be the richest person in Venezuela.

We know that she is not troubled by petty legalities; after her father died, she stayed in the presidential palace for more than a year, illegally.  (She had been acting as his first lady after the break up of his second marriage.)

And there appears to be fairly good evidence that she made millions in a corrupt trade deal with Argentina.

(I should note that "Venezuelan media sources" may have the story — but choose not to publish it, or broadcast it, out of prudence.

If you are curious about Chávez's marital history, you can find that, and much more, including gossip about his love life, here.)
- 6:28 AM, 13 August 2015   [link]


Surprise Thunderstorm:  This morning, the weather forecasters told us that we would have a few, scattered showers, most along the foothills, and that they were nothing to worry about unless we happened to be crossing the Cascades though one of the passes.

At about 10 this morning, I noticed that the sky to the south had that ominous yellow color, and decided that the weather here was about to get more interesting than predicted, just a few hours earlier.

Shortly thereafter, thunderstorms began south of here, and by about 11:30 AM had reached where I live.
Strong thunderstorms formed over the Puget Sound region Wednesday morning, bringing a much-needed drenching to parts of the rain-starved region, but also causing some problems with the lightning.

Seattle City Light said lighting knocked out power to about 5,500 customers in the Rainier Valley. in South Seattle, lightning hit a bucket on top of a power pole in the 9600 block of Martin Luther King Way South, causing some minor burn damage.

Seattle City Parks said they were temporarily closing all outdoor aquatic facilities due to lightning, and the storms also forced an early end to outdoor practice for the Seattle Seahawks at their practice facility in Renton, forcing the team inside and the crowd to disperse.

In addition, small hail up to 1/4" in diameter was reported around parts of Pierce and southern King County.
We've gotten used to weather forecasts that are quite good for 24 hours ahead, good for three days ahead, and usually accurate even 5 days ahead, which made this event such a surprise.  It would be interesting to know whether all our local forecasters missed, and, if so, why.

They are unlikely to tell us, so I'll have to look for the answer, elsewhere.
- 1:05 PM, 12 August 2015   [link]


This NYT Error Correction deserves quoting, in full.
An article last Sunday about the 50-year fight over the Voting Rights Act referred incompletely to the significance of Georgia’s revised voter-ID Law.  While it did include a provision allowing those without ID to file provisional ballots, the more relevant feature involved offering free voter-identification cards to those who needed them.  The article also misidentified the court that upheld the revised voter-ID law.  It is the Georgia Supreme Court, not the Supreme Court of the United States.  The article also misidentified the location of the residence of a member of the New Black Panther Party who was accused of intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling station in 2008.  He lived in a house a few blocks away from the polling place, not in the building that housed the polling station.  In addition, the article misspelled the surname of a state senator who helped pass North Carolina’s sweeping new voting law.  He is Tom Apodaca, not Apadoca.  And a picture with an accompanying timeline was published in error.  It showed President Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, on July 2 of that year—not the Voting Rights Act.  A picture of Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act, on Aug. 6, 1965, can be found at nytimes.com/magazine.
I have long thought that the editorial insistence at the New York Times that vote fraud was not a problem in the United States, that it was mythical, affected their coverage, made the reporters there unwilling to look into even obvious cases.

This rash of errors in a single article provides some — admittedly indirect — evidence for that conclusion.
- 2:59 PM, 11 August 2015   [link]


News You Can Use:  If you are a runner, or know one.   In "Choosing the Right Running Shoes", Gretchen Reynolds discusses a survey article in "The British Journal of Sports Medicine", an article that concluded that "most" popular beliefs about running shoes are mythical.  (For example, pronation probably makes injuries less likely.)

And how should you choose shoes to minimize injuries?  The researchers have some simple advice, based in part on an Army study.
What matters, the researchers conclude in their review, is comfort.  In one study from 2001 (overseen by Dr. [Benno] Nigg) researchers asked soldiers to try six inserts, which varied in terms of cushioning, arch height, heel shape, thickness and other variables.  The soldiers were asked to pick the one insert that felt the most comfortable to them and wear that insert inside their shoes during their subsequent military training.  A separate group of soldiers wore standard footwear as controls.

After four months, the soldiers wearing the shoes fitted with inserts that felt comfortable to them had a much lower incidence of injury than those wearing standard shoes.
So, Dr. Nigg concludes, when choosing a pair of running shoes, you should try on "four or five pairs" and pick the pair that feels most comfortable in a short jog.  (I'll add that you might try on more pairs, if none of the first ones you try feel comfortable.)

That's easy enough to do.

(This reminds me of a study I read about years ago.  In World War II, the Army sent some men to cold places like the Aleutians, others to hot places like New Guinea.  The Army really wanted to know which men would be best in which places, and devised a number of tests to predict where to send men.  As I recall, after the war, a researcher took another look at the data and found that none of the elaborate tests worked as well as a simple question, something like this: "Do you like hot weather or cold weather?)
- 1:35 PM, 11 August 2015   [link]


It Took Me A Day To Figure Out this New Yorker cartoon.

But, now that I have, I like it.
- 9:42 AM, 11 August 2015   [link]


This White House Aide isn't living a boring life.
A White House staffer was arrested and placed on unpaid leave after allegedly grabbing her boyfriend's gun and shooting at him during a tense argument, police said Monday.

Barvetta Singletary, 37 - a special assistant to the President and the House legislative affairs liaison - was arrested on Friday after the alleged incident.

She reportedly confronted her boyfriend, a Capitol Hill police officer, about another woman he was seeing before grabbing his two cellphones and his .40 caliber Glock 23 service weapon, NBC reported.

When the officer refused to give Singletary his cellphone passwords, she took the gun and pointed it at him, saying:  'You taught me how to use this.  Don't think I won't use it,' according to the arrest warrant.
This incident won't get much attention from "mainstream" journlaists, since the president isn't a Republican.

(If she had kept the gun on him until she got the passwords, I'd consider putting her in charge of our policies toward Iran.)
- 8:28 AM, 11 August 2015   [link]


Some Scientific Papers Now Have More Than 1,000 Authors:  There is a legitimate reason for the increase in the number of authors: some experiments are now so complex that many scientists have bit parts in these big shows.  But mostly it's a matter of competition for jobs and tenure.
In fact, there has been a notable spike since 2009 in the number of technical reports whose author counts exceeded 1,000 people, according to the Thomson Reuters Web of Science, which analyzed citation data.  In the ever-expanding universe of credit where credit is apparently due, the practice has become so widespread that some scientists now joke that they measure their collaborators in bulk—by the “kilo-author.”
. . .
The exponential growth has a number of causes, one of which is that experiments have gotten more complicated.  But scientists say that mass authorship makes it harder to tell who did what and who deserves the real credit for a breakthrough—or blame for misconduct.

More than vanity is at stake.  Credit on a peer-reviewed research article weighs heavily in hiring, promotion and tenure decisions.  “Authorship has become such a big issue because evaluations are performed based on the number of papers people have authored,” said Dr. Larivière.
(The record, to date, is probably a paper with 5,154 authors.)

Some scientists have played practical jokes on the system.  Pretty good ones, I thought, though you do have to wonder about a system that can be so easily subverted.

And some journals have tried to impose controls:
Among the 24,000 or so scholarly journals that publish peer-reviewed research, many now require that all authors read and approve a manuscript, and explain their contribution.  Most important, they ought “to be accountable for all aspects of the work,” according to standards developed by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors.  Some insist on a designated “guarantor” who takes formal responsibility for the veracity of the work.
(Emphasis added.)

It is charming to think that a scientist could be a co-author of a paper he hadn't read.  But, if that weren't happening with some regularity, there wouldn't be a need for that requirement.

Is it possible for one scientist to guarantee the work of more than a thousand others?  Not in any real way; in fact, I'd say that it would be difficult for any scientist to guarantee the work of more than, say, ten others, and usually not even that many.

I should add, I suppose, that I see no way for a single reviewer to review the work of that many authors, either.

(A brief, and possibly dated, explanation for those not familiar with academic conventions.  If a paper has a single author, the citations will often look something like this: John Doe, 2011.  If a paper has two authors, the citations will often look something like this: John Doe and Jane Roe, 2011.  If the paper has three or more authors, the citations will often look something like this: John Doe, et al., 2011.  As a consequence, every additional author, after two, doesn't cost the lead author anything.  And so it is easy for them to add names to those ever longer lists.) .
- 7:20 AM, 11 August 2015   [link]


You Can Grow Lettuce Almost Anywhere:  Including in space.
Astronauts have made history by tucking into fresh food grown on board the International Space Station.

A crop of lettuce planted in July was harvested from Nasa's plant experiment system, dubbed Veg-01, and enjoyed by the current ISS crew for the first time.
. . .
In addition to eating the lettuce as harvested, the astronauts also added extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to create a dressing and described the lettuce as tasting 'awesome and fresh.'
This is a small step toward longer missions, such as one to Mars.

(By the way, this winter you might consider growing lettuce for yourself, indoors.  (If you don't have a sunny window sill, just get a grow light — a fluorescent shop light with a pair of tubes, one warm and one cool, will work.)  I've had good success with leaf lettuce, of several varieties.  You just pick leaves as you need them until the plant gets too old and ragged.

The right varieties can even be rather attractive, before you start harvesting.)
- 6:48 PM, 10 August 2015   [link]


Left Versus Left In Seattle:  Some were surprised that the rally for socialist Bernie Sanders in downtown Seattle was blocked by a "Black Lives Matter" protest.   (He had a successful, and much bigger, rally that evening at the University of Washington.)

Those even slightly familiar with the city's politics weren't surprised because all the important political fights in Seattle are left versus left, since the leftists there outnumber the conservatives and the moderates, combined.

Two examples of such fights, one small, and one large:

Last year, a Seattle policewoman arrested a retired black man for swinging a golf club.  (He uses it as a cane.)  After some descriptions of her record came out, I wondered why she was on the police force at all — but then learned that she was a lesbian.

So, from the point of view of a Seattle leftist, there were two victims in that incident.

The larger example, which you probably recall, is the 1999 WTO riot, which was staged against Bill Clinton's policies, and which revealed sharp divisions between demonstrators who wanted to be peaceful, or at least legal, and those who wanted violence.
- 4:28 PM, 10 August 2015   [link]


On the Importance Of Those Small Political Fights:  The post below may have struck you as not terribly important, perhaps even a little boring.  If so, then I succeeded, because I want to remind readers that many of the struggles in our politics are composed of these small, local fights that — at most — get a mention on TV news, but usually not even that, and a paragraph or two in the newspapers, if that.

But those local fights add up over time.  Winning most of them is how Democrats were able to take over Colorado, despite the advantage Republicans had in registrations.  Winning most of them is how Scott Walker and company were able to take control of the the Wisconsin state government.

If you are a fan of American football, you may want to think of them as the basic blocking and tackling play that does so much to determine which team wins — but rarely makes the highlights on TV.

In both politics and football, teamwork is critical — if you want to win.
- 3:25 PM, 10 August 2015   [link]


From 51-47 To 50-48?  If you follow Washington state politics closely, you know what I am talking about; if you don't, you may need this review:

President George W. Bush's second term was a disaster for Washington state Republicans; they lost most of the statewide offices and lost many seats in the legislature.  Having been counted out in the 2004 gubernatorial election, they lost a rematch in 2008.

But their fortunes began to improve just as Bush left office; they gained seats in the legislature in 2008, and have been gaining since.

After the 2012 election, they had gained enough seats so that they could take control of the state senate, with the help of two dissident Democrats.   (Much to my surprise, that coalition, with no votes to spare, dominated budget making in that legislative session.)  In the 2014 election, they won a majority in the state senate.

Republicans have been gaining in the state house, too, and now have 47 of the 98 seats.  And Republicans have a very good chance to pick up one more in a special election in the 30th district, where Teri Hickel is leading the appointed incumbent, Carol Gregory, in the primary vote count.  (Usually, in Washington state, the leader in the primary goes on to win the general election.)

If they do, then they would need to gain only one more seat to gain a tie, and two more seats to gain control,  For those who think of Washington state as solidly Democratic, that will be a shock, should it happen.

But even gaining the one may be enough to give them effective control, just as it did in the state senate, earlier.  In the last session, the state house was unable to pass a budget during the regular session, unable to even bring one to the floor.  As I watched this failure, I began to speculate that there were a number of dissident House Democrats, too, speculate that the powerful speaker, Democrat Frank Chopp, did not have the votes to pass a Democratic budget, even for bargaining purposes.

(Those who work with numbers will wonder what would happen if each party won 49 seats.  In that case, there would be "co-speakers", as there were after the 1998 election.

Political types will wonder who deserves credit for this Republican revival in the Washington state legislature.  Much of it has been a natural "bounce back" after the 2006 election.  It has occurred under three different party chairs; I am inclined to think that the latest, Susan Hutchison, has been the best of the three, the best at doing the day-to-day work of finding candidates who can win, and putting resources where they are most likely to have an effect.

And those who follow the media will be amused, or possibly distressed, to learn that this special election in the 30th district, the second most important in the state after the race for country executive in Snohomish County, has drawn almost no attention from our local "mainstream" journalists.)
- 10:58 AM, 10 August 2015   [link]


Victor Davis Hanson Argues That Leftists Are Reactionary, and that Hillary Clinton appears "ill-informed".
Given the above, Hillary can run on the promise of being our first female president and try to avoid any specifics and as many interviews as possible.  Soak the rich like herself, attack Fox and the right-wing press, warn about the Republicans’ war on women and minorities — that’s about the extent of her toolbox.  She won’t pledge any new tax or entitlement or budgetary reform, and instead will hope that no one cares, as no one cared during the era of vacuous hope and change.  If Obama icon-ed his way to the White House, why cannot she?

But again her first-woman-president theme will be harder than Obama’s first-black-president model.   She is nearing 70.  She is wise to avoid the press, because she comes off as petulant and cranky, if not confused and self-contradictory in every interview she gives.  Her recall is bad and she seems ill-informed about most issues other than offering a platitude or two about fighting for the underdog. In a larger sense, the Democrats themselves seem reactionary: a coronation or inauguration rather than a true primary fight, with far fewer candidates, ideas, and debates than the Republicans have.  The podiums were be staffed mostly by older white people who believe it’s their turn, and whose presence is antithetical to their own dogmas about diversity and how we look being more important than who we are.  Hillary is a reactionary candidate for a reactionary party.  When a septuagenarian socialist like Bernie Sanders cannot speak in Seattle of all places, because further-to-the-left race-mongers hijacked the podium, we are replaying the ’60s not as history, but as farce.
(Emphasis added.)

I've been arguing for years that many of the ideas common on the left are best seen as "reactionary" rather than "progressive", that activists who are arguing for ideas like rail transit and social insurance schemes are looking back to the 19th century, not forward.

And we might say something similar about a woman who appears not to have changed her thinking much in almost a half century, that she is looking back to the ideas she absorbed at Wellesley, not at the future, or even the present.

Hanson's suggestion that Clinton is "ill-informed" would have surprised me, if I had not recently seen her current reading list.

It is odd to think that someone who served as secretary of state for four years would be "ill-informed", but I suppose it is possible.  A high official doesn't have to listen to briefings if they don't want to, doesn't have to read the zillions of memos written by their underlings, and, after they have left that job, doesn't have to read serious books on serious problems.  (I doubt that she has actually read the books by McCain and Bush, though she probably checked the indexes for references to herself and her husband.)

(Yes, Hanson shouldn't have verbed "icon", even in a casual piece.  I say that partly because I think the word is almost always misused, that those who use it forget its specific religious origin.)
- 9:03 AM, 10 August 2015   [link]


Worth Reading:  If, that is, you want to know more details about the Hillary Clinton email scandal.  This New York Times article by Scott Shane and Michael S. Schmidt.

More details, but not all.  You'll learn that the private email system back-up was done by a small Colorado company, Platte River Networks, but not why a Clinton aide chose that particular company for something so sensitive, or how the back-ups were done.  (Every competent computer person will wonder, immediately, whether the back-ups were encrypted.)

Shane and Schmidt are careful to say that the FBI investigation of the classified emails sent through the Clinton system is not yet a criminal investigation, but they do give three examples where similar behavior led to a dismissal, a possible dismissal, and criminal charges.
Scott Gration, ambassador to Kenya, resigned after a 2012 inspector general’s report accused him of flouting government rules, including the requirement that he use State Department email.
. . .
A New York firefighter and decorated combat veteran who served in the Marines in Afghanistan, Jason Brezler, is currently fighting dismissal from the Marine Corps for sending, via his personal account, an email attachment the government said was classified.
. . .
Mrs. Clinton and her aides had noted that the material the inspectors general call classified was not labeled as such in the emails.  But in 20110, Thomas Drake, a former National Security Agency official, was indicted under the Espionage Act for keeping an agency email printout at home that was not marked as classified.  (Mr. Drake pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.)
Five thoughts:  First, the State Department email system appears to have been difficult to use, though the reporters don't explain how, or why it hasn't been replaced.

Second, Clinton now, officially, agrees with me that setting up a private email system was a mistake.

Third, there were other reasons for asking Gration to leave, and there may have been other reasons in the other two examples, as well.  Officials might have used security lapses to try to get rid of someone they wanted out for other reasons.

Fourth, people are inevitably going to compare the treatment that David Petraeus received with the treatment Clinton is receiving.  In his case, I would say there was considerable embarrassment, but — probably — minimal real security risks.

Fifth, those who track these kinds of scandals will remember the behavior of former Clinton aide Sandy Berger, who stole documents from the National Archives — but appears to never have lost the support of the Clintons.

(I have never seen an adequate explanation for Berger's thefts, but this one seems plausible:  He removed material that would have embarrassed him, the Clinton administration, or both, if it had become public through the 9/11 investigation.)
- 8:24 AM, 9 August 2015   [link]


A Little Theology From Calvin And Hobbes:  In a strip, which you can find on page 90 in this collection:
Calvin: Do you think babies are born sinful?  That they come into the world as sinners?

Hobbes: No, I think they're just quick studies.

Calvin: Whenever you discuss certain things with animals, you get insulted.
That is, as any theologian can tell, you, an interesting question.  (Not being a theologian, I won't try to answer it.)

Having raised a serious question, Bill Watterson quickly steps away from it, turning it into a joke, something he often does in his strips.

(If you want that collection, you'll have to buy it used, though there is a Kindle version — which strikes me as bizarre, considering that many of the strips are in color, and some of the Sunday strips have quite large drawings.)
- 5:39 AM, 9 August 2015   [link]