Archive:

August 2016, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Yesterday's a"Pepper & Salt" has an unorthodox evolutionary theory.
- 8:35 AM, 25 August 2016   [link]


What Do Migrants Do After They Find A Job?   Often, they send money home.
The millions of migrant workers who drill for oil, deliver pizza or take care of older adults far from home sent nearly $582 billion back to their countries in 2015, according to the World Bank.
. . .
Even so, remittances have become crucial to relieving some of the world’s poorest people from hunger and want, just as they have become a major revenue source for a number of fragile nations.

Nepal’s remittances equal a whopping 29.4 percent of the country’s entire economic output.  A separate World Bank study found that remittances were the main reason poverty had declined so sharply there in recent years.  Not only do families of migrant workers benefit, the study found; so does everybody else, when the families spend that money locally.
(Links omitted.)

There other poor nations that are just as dependent on remittances, as Nepal.

The New York Times doesn't mention this, but these remittances also pay for the travel of other migrants, legal and illegal.  If you need an example, think of a construction worker in Britain sending money to his brother in Nigeria, who then uses it to pay people smugglers to get him to Britain.
- 10:52 AM, 24 August 2016   [link]


Details In Signs can be important.
- 10:19 AM, 24 August 2016   [link]


Palestine Or South Sudan?  Every administration has to set foreign policy priorities, has to decide where to put most of its efforts.   Events may force a change in those priorities, but administrations still have choices about how to respond to those events.

The Obama administration came into office determined to try to solve the Palestinian problem, and President Obama put a lot of effort into that.  (His tactics were completely wrong, in my opinion, but that's another story.)

In my view, that effort was almost certain to fail, something Obama could have learned from George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, or any number of diplomats.  If Obama were a little more informed, a little less arrogant, and less blinded by ideology.

At the same time, there were places where vigorous American diplomacy might have made a difference, notably South Sudan.

Note, please, that I said might.  The new nation had so many obvious problems at independence that even our best efforts might have failed.  But we should have tried, should have worked hard to find a way the sometimes warring ethnic groups could live with each other.

Now, it may be too late.
- 10:58 AM, 23 August 2016   [link]


Drudge Won't Link To This Story:  So I am, as a public service, of course.
Lawyers for Melania Trump are pursuing legal action against the Daily Mail for reporting “100% false” rumors that she worked as an escort in the 1990s as well as raising questions about her immigration status at the time.

While Donald Trump has a reputation for threatening and pursuing litigation, it is unusual for a major party nominee or their spouse to mount legal action against a publication only months before an election.
Yes, that is unusual.

This, I believe, is the Daily Mail story that triggered the lawsuit.

There are three principal accusations against Mrs. Trump.

First, she posed for nude pictures that, at one time, would have been considered "soft" pornography.  That's true, and you can see the pictures for yourself.

Second, she violated immigration laws.  That's possible, perhaps even plausible.  I believe that the Trumps have yet to release her immigration file which, as I understand it, they have the right to do.

Third, she worked as an "escort".  That's possible, though there seems to be no direct evidence, on the record, to support the accusation.
- 10:15 AM, 23 August 2016   [link]


Trumpistas Won't Like Today's New Yorker Cartoon:  But I did.

(And if you scroll down a bit, you'll see something unusual: a cartoon correction.)
- 9:18 AM, 23 August 2016   [link]


Just Another Example of Political Correctness At A University:  Until you get to the chancellor's quote, at the end of the post.

(The painting looks harmless enough to me, if perhaps more than a little idealized, with everyone in the picture looking far too clean and neat.)

The article mentions a second painting, "Perrault's Trading Fort", I believe, that will be locked away as if it were a piece of hard-core pornography, accessible only to serious scholars.

You can find more about the two paintings, and a third, in this article.)
- 4:28 PM, 22 August 2016   [link]


Worth Reading:  Jay Solomon's feature article, "Why the Ayatollah Thinks He Won".

The Obama administration thought (hoped?) that their "deal" with Iran would strengthen moderates in Iran.  So far, that hasn't happened.
U.S. officials have always cautioned that it would take time for the salutary effects of engagement with Iran to take effect.  They have even conceded that, in the short term, the agreement might energize hard-liners opposed to engagement with the West—and that, indeed, seems to be what is happening.

Since the accord was announced last summer, Mr. Khamenei and his elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, have moved to solidify their hold.  As international sanctions against Iran have slackened, the ayatollah and his core allies have expanded the Iranian military and pursued new business opportunities for the companies and foundations that finance the regime’s key ideological cadres.  Iran has continued to fund and arm its major regional allies, including the Assad regime in Syria, the Lebanese militia Hezbollah and Houthi rebels in Yemen—all of which are at war with America’s regional partners—and the regime has continued to test and develop ballistic missiles.  The government has also stepped up arrests of opposition leaders and political activists.
And, I might add, made a point of humiliating President Obama with the ransom-for-hostages exchange.

Perhaps the regime will change as Obama and company predicted, but right now that doesn't look like the way to bet.
- 10:40 AM, 22 August 2016   [link]


Election Scorecard, 8/22:  Again, there has been little change in the two indicators.

Last week, Hillary Clinton had a 7.1 percent lead in the poll model; this week her lead is 7.9 percent.  Last week, the British bettors gave Donald Trump a 19.0 percent chance of winning; this week they give him a 21.1 percent chance.

We are now far enough from the conventions so that we should take the polls, collectively, more seriously, far enough away so that we should all recognize that the polls are "usually right".
- 10:15 AM, 22 August 2016   [link]


Old Montenegrin Joke:  A little background for those unfamiliar with that little nation:  Unlike every other Balkan nation, Montenegro was never conquered by the Ottoman Turks.  That resistance, which lasted hundreds of years, bred a nation of fiercely loyal warriors.

Before World War I, Montenegro, like its larger neighbor, Serbia, received aid from imperial Russia, as part of Russia's "pan-Slav" policy.  The Montenegrins appreciated that aid, which is why they told this joke.
It is said that a traveller said to a Montenegrin, 'How many of your people are there?' and he answered, 'With Russia, one hundred and eighty millions,' and the traveller, knowing there were not two hundred thousand of them, said, 'Yes, but how many without the Russians?' and the Montenegrin answered, 'We will never desert the Russians.' (p. 1009)
Montenegro would like to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, so we may see a new version of that joke.

(If you are at all familiar with Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, you may be surprised to learn that it includes a joke — but West gives the joke to her character, "Constantine", who insists that it is not a joke.)
- 9:33 AM, 22 August 2016   [link]


The British Don't Like Their Politicians Much, Either:  Here's a graph showing net approval ratings for prominent leaders and groups, with a few foreigners thrown in.

Americans will be interested to see who came in first — and last.

(Smithson doesn't explain what he is showing in that first graph clearly, so I checked his source, and, yes, those are the usual net approval ratings.)
- 10:34 AM, 20 August 2016   [link]


The Sad Case of Caster Semenya:  Yesterday, I mentioned that, for me, one of the enjoyable things about the Olympics was seeing the differences between men and women.

There are, unfortunately, a few exceptions, notably the South African runner.
Semenya, 25, has testosterone levels three times the normal level found in women and approaching those of a man.  Furthermore, she has no womb or ovaries, and instead, owing to a chromosomal abnormality, internal testes.
I did a brief search yesterday, looking for more specifics on his medical condition, but found little besides propaganda.

Probably, there was some failure in Semenya's development so that, lacking the usual male external equipment, he was raised as a girl.

That's not his fault, of course, but it does mean that he should compete against other men, not women.

As I am sure you know, that common sense conclusion is not fashionable these days.

(Here's a weird thought:  Possibly, with some surgical help and, of course, a cooperative woman, Semenya could become a father.  Even if that were to happen, I think journalists would continue to call him "she".)
- 9:55 AM, 20 August 2016   [link]


300 Miles Per Hour:  That's how fast a badminton shuttlecock can go.  Though not very far at that speed, since, as Wikipedia says, it decelerates rapidly.)

But the most surprising thing in the New York Times article — for me at least — was this:
Yonex, which provides most of the badminton equipment being used at the Rio Games, shipped nearly 15,000 F-90 shuttles to Brazil from its factory outside Tokyo.  Fans in the stands and viewers watching on television have no way of telling, but Yonex included four grades of shuttles, from slow to fast, that are deployed based on the conditions at the badminton venue, a boxy convention space with ceilings almost 40 feet high.
. . .
Shuttles are chosen to align with the temperature and humidity at a competition.   When the air is dense, the shuttles fly slower.  In those cases, tournament officials choose a faster, or heavier, shuttle to compensate.  By contrast, when the air is less dense, competition officials pick a slower, lighter shuttle.
In every other sport that I can think of, the players are supposed to compensate for different conditions, not the official equipment.
- 9:17 AM, 20 August 2016   [link]


Vive La Difference!  As revealed by the Rio Olympics.

Yesterday I watched some of the events, and was charmed by how different we are, by how differently the women competitors behave.  Two examples:

Before the 100-meter women's hurdles, the camera went from one young woman to the next, in order — and as each woman took her turn, she flirted with the camera, giving more than a brief nod and smile.  (After the event, the three American winners posed together, all of them in that model's stance, with one leg a little forward, and bent a little.

During the women's volleyball, a group of the American reserves gathered in a circle, and began working up group cheers.

I found all that charming, just as I was supposed to.

(And, though I didn't find it charming, I was not surprised that a few of the hundreds of young American men there celebrated by getting very drunk, and misbehaving.  The news folks have been acting surprised by this, which is pretty funny when you think about it.)
- 11:09 AM, 19 August 2016   [link]


Barriers That Animals Don't Cross:  Many of you would be bothered by that first Larson cartoon because you know which hemisphere has penguins.
Although all penguin species are native to the Southern Hemisphere, they are not found only in cold climates, such as Antarctica.  In fact, only a few species of penguin live so far south.  Several species are found in the temperate zone, and one species, the Galápagos penguin, lives near the equator
(Link omitted.)

So Eskimos need not worry about penguin pests.

But why not?  Why have these very successful birds not spread across the equator and, eventually, up to the Arctic?

The only thing I can think of is that there may not have been places where they could breed just north of the equator, but that's just a pure guess.

Similarly, it is not clear to me why hummingbirds never spread into the eastern hemisphere, never crossed from South America to Africa.  Some hummingbirds do fly quite long distances, so that doesn't seem impossible.

Perhaps the prevailing winds blocked them there, and the distances were too great, farther north.

I did mention, just below, that Larson's cartoons sometimes make you think.
- 9:54 AM, 19 August 2016   [link]


Yesterday, Two "Far Side" Cartoons Reminded Me that I miss seeing new cartoons from Gary Larson.

In the first, an Eskimo is crawling out of his igloo, while his wife is going over the grocery list:  "Remember, milk, eggs, loaf of bread . . . and pick up one of those No-Penguin-Strips."

And you can see that the igloo is filled with penguins.

In the second cartoon, a stagecoach is being held up by . . . three rabbits.  One driver is saying to the other:  "This ain't gonna look good on our report, Leroy."

Many of his cartoons make you laugh, and some of them make you think.

If you are young enough to have missed Larson, you might look for one of his collections in any used book store.

(No links to any images, since Larson and his lawyers are rather sensitive about copyrights.  The two quotes, on the other hand, are, in my opinion, clearly "fair use", since they are part of a mini-review.)
- 9:14 AM, 19 August 2016   [link]


Comrade Sanders Can Be Quite Evasive:  When he wants to be.

Two obvious thoughts:  First, the FEC shouldn't have let him have either extension, but especially not the second.

Second, you have to wonder whether he is disorganized, or whether he has something to hide.  It could be both, I suppose.
- 3:15 PM, 18 August 2016   [link]


$75,000:  That's how much Chelsea Clinton gets per speech, I learned (or re-learned) today.

(From time to time, I have thought it might be fun to write some of the organizations that pay the Clintons these speaking fees, and offer to do their next speech, at a modest discount.)
- 2:44 PM, 18 August 2016   [link]


The Washington Post Explains Why The Trump Campaign Is Having Problems:  In their long list, this one struck me as the most interesting.
Trump offered a revealing window into his management style when he said in 2007 that you should never hire people who are smarter than you.   “You have to keep great people around you,” Trump told CNBC.  “You always have to be on top of them.  And you have to be smarter than they are.  I hear so many times, ‘Oh, I want my people to be smarter than I am.’  It’s a lot of crap.   You want to be smarter than your people, if possible.”
Do you think that reveals a deep insecurity?  I do.

As well, of course, as being a really stupid way to manage an organization.

Trumpistas won't like this, but the conclusion is inescapable:  So far, Hillary Clinton has managed her campaign better than Donald Trump has managed his.

(In January, I speculated that Trump had come to fear intelligence in wives, as well as employees.)
- 8:57 AM, 18 August 2016   [link]


This Jimmy Kimmel Sequence Is Just Okay:  Until the last one.
The New York Post yesterday published several nude photos of Melania Trump that were taken during her modeling days.  Trump's communications adviser said the photos are a 'celebration of the human body as art.'  To me they look more like a celebration of the human body as a paycheck, but OK — art.

In any other election, nude photos of the candidate's wife would be far and away the biggest story of the campaign.  It would be crazy.  For Donald Trump this isn't even a blip.  By Wednesday we'll never hear about this again.

This isn't the first time they've done something like this.  I remember many, many, many years back when they pulled the same move with Eleanor Roosevelt.   Bernie Sanders has a copy of that hidden under his mattress.
(Kimmel is probably right about the issue vanishing.)
- 7:43 AM, 18 August 2016   [link]


Sometimes It's Hard to follow the money.

There's more speculation here.

I don't have any favorite theories about what happened to the money — assuming it existed — but I wouldn't be terribly surprised if Trump was paying himself back for that loan, indirectly.
- 4:34 PM, 17 August 2016   [link]


Recently, Matt Drudge Has Been Making Me Laugh:   Unintentionally, I am nearly certain.

This morning, for instance, he is putting one poll near the top of his page, a poll that shows Clinton with a mere 1 point lead over Trump.

There's nothing wrong with linking to such polls — as long as you put them in context, as long as you tell your readers those polls are outliers.

If you don't include the context, you risk fooling your readers, and yourself.

And you look foolish, and perhaps a little desperate.

(Here's most of the poll data on the Clinton/Trump race.)
- 9:31 AM, 17 August 2016   [link]


Workers Who Can't Talk To Each Other About Work:  That's the odd situation at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, now that there are just three commissioners.

If there were five, as there should be, they could talk about work one on one, but not in groups of three or more.
- 9:09 AM, 17 August 2016   [link]


Time For Another Sidney Harris Cartoon:  Which you can choose for yourself from his cartoon gallery.

(If you like them, you might consider ordering one of his collections.  If you are at all interested in science, you'll probably like them, perhaps even as much as I do.)
- 8:42 AM, 17 August 2016   [link]