Archive:

August 2017, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Elizabeth Warren, Senator and Entrepreneur:   We can conclude that at least one of those two jobs is part time.
Prayer candles.  Action figures.  Temporary tattoos.   Coloring books.

Elizabeth Warren isn’t just a progressive icon, she’s a merchandising industry unto herself.

The Massachusetts senator and presidential prospect is at the center of a sprawling business built around her appeal to liberals across the country — a reminder of the unabashed devotion she inspires on the left and the footprint she’ll cast in the 2020 Democratic primary.
. . .
It’s impossible to know the true size of the Warren merchandising-industrial complex.  The bulk of it exists beyond the Democratic senator’s control on sites like online marketplace Etsy.  And her campaign, which hosts its own online store, declined to disclose the exact amount of money it raises from merchandise sales.

But it’s safe to say no other senator has anything like it.
Prayer candles?  I suppose that does tell us something about her followers.

There's no mention of any Native American items.
- 4:22 PM, 16 August 2017   [link]


Republicans Should Be Putting Up Lincoln Statues:  Not arguing over Confederate statues.

I think that's the right thing to do, and would be a plus politically, net.

Here's the kind of statue I have in mind. Note that it was erected in 2003 — in Richmond, Virginia.
- 12:43 PM, 16 August 2017   [link]


Talk About Stepping On Your Own Message!  That Trump appearance yesterday was supposed to be about infrastructure:
The president had originally returned to Trump Tower to meet with Cabinet officials about agenda items, namely an infrastructure proposal at the center of his campaign policy promises.  Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney joined the president, who had been staying at his New Jersey golf club while the White House undergoes renovations.

Tuesday's event was designed to showcase a new executive order that would streamline the approval process for infrastructure projects.
(Links omitted.)

As you may have noticed, that proposal, and that executive order, didn't get much coverage, compared to Trump's "impromptu" press conference.

Which did get applause from all the wrong people.

(That streamlining order may even be a good idea.  It is easy to believe we need to remove some bureaucratic barnacles from the ship of state.)
- 11:05 AM, 16 August 2017   [link]


If You Are An Investor, you'll like this cartoon.  Probably.

If you are a broker, probably not.
- 7:37 AM, 16 August 2017   [link]


Worth Reading:  Alice Callahan's article, "More Vaccines, Fewer Antibiotics ".
It seems like a major part of keeping kids healthy these days is managing their microbial exposure.  On the one hand, we’re told that letting our kids get dirty and tempering our use of hand sanitizer can help cultivate a healthy population of good microbes in and on the body, which is associated with lower rates of chronic maladies like asthma and allergies.  On the other hand, we know that among all the benign and beneficial bacteria in the world lurk some that are deadly, causing diseases such as whooping cough, pneumonia and meningitis.
There's much of interest in the article, including some persuasive graphs.

(I should clear up an ambiguity in the title; Callahan is in favor of developing new antibiotics — like almost everyone else — but wants to replace current antibiotic use with vaccines, where possible.)
- 3:43 PM, 15 August 2017   [link]


Trump Is Following Obama's Example:  Bret Stephens is bold enough to say what should be obvious to everyone.

And bold enough to say it in the New York Times, even though it will infuriate most of the newspaper's readers.

Stephens begins by giving six "propositions", starting with this one:
(1) James Alex Fields Jr., the young man who on Saturday, police say, rammed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd in Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others, was not a “domestic terrorist.”
And then switches to some reminders:
O.K., now here’s hoping you’re revolted by each of the six preceding points.   Because, if you are, then maybe we can at last rethink the policy of euphemism, obfuscation, denial and semantic yoga that typified the Obama administration’s discussions of another form of terrorism.
Every one of those six has direct parallels in the way the Obama administration spoke about Islamic terrorism.

(It is good to see I am not alone is seeing so many similarities between Trump and Obama.)
- 1:09 PM, 15 August 2017   [link]


ABC Settles A Libel Case:  The New York Times has a reasonable guesstimate for how much.
The Walt Disney Company said in its latest quarterly financial statement that it had $177 million in costs related to settling litigation.  The announcement came just weeks after ABC News, a Disney unit, reached a settlement with a meat producer that accused the network of defamation for its reports about so-called pink slime, a processed beef product used as low-cost filler.

The company’s statement, released on Aug. 8, said in a footnote that the $177 million charge was “incurred” in the nine-month period ending July 1, in addition to what was covered by insurance.  It gave no details about whether that charge — or how much of it — was directly related to the processed beef product case.
Three things to note:  First, South Dakota law apparently gave the plaintiffs an advantage.  Second, ABC did not issue a retraction and apology, and you can still see the faulty story on line.  Third, the Times might be a target of a similar lawsuit.

I hope the workers who lost their jobs get some of the settlement.

(For background, see this 2012 post.)
- 9:36 AM, 15 August 2017   [link]


Today's "Pepper . . . And Salt" Cartoon made me smile.

And reminded me of this famous cartoon.
- 8:44 AM, 15 August 2017   [link]


Smokezilla Sunset 2:  The smoke from the British Columbia wild fires doesn't give us beautiful sunsets, but they are interesting.

Smokezilla Sunset 2

Notice how much redder and smaller the sun is, than in the previous photograph.

The smoke cleared out, as promised, on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  We even got a little rain, to the cheers of almost everyone here.
- 8:01 PM, 14 August 2017   [link]


Angela Merkel Is One-Fourth Polish:  And I think we can be happy that her ancestry hasn't hindered her political career, in modern Germany.
Merkel is of Polish and German descent.  Her paternal grandfather, Ludwik Kaźmierczak, was a German policeman of Polish ethnicity, who had taken part in Poland's struggle for independence.[14]  He married Merkel's grandmother Margarethe, a German from Berlin, and relocated to her hometown where he worked in the police.  In 1930 they Germanized the Polish name Kaźmierczak to Kasner.[15][16][17][18]  Merkel's maternal grandparents were the Danzig politician Willi Jentzsch and Gertrud Alma née Drange, a daughter of the city clerk of Elbing (now Elbląg, Poland) Emil Drange.  Merkel has mentioned her Polish heritage on several occasions, but her Polish roots became better known as a result of a 2013 biography.[19]
There are other surprises in that biography, including how she came to grow up, almost entirely, in East Germany.

(Judging by the current polls, her parties, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) have to be rated the favorites in the September Bundestag election.)
- 7:38 PM, 14 August 2017   [link]


The Odds Are 250-1 Against The Democrats Winning The Next Election:  The next election in Great Britain, that is.
I’m always impressed by the way bookies can sometimes create markets that appear to be designed to appeal to the wishful thinking of some punters.  Today sees Ladbrokes offering 250/1 on the “Democrats” , currently a theoretical party suggested in a Tweet by James Chapman, winning most seats at the next general election.
This James Chapman, if you were wondering.  (I was.)

Presumably, Chapman is hoping to duplicate Emmanuel Macron's success in France.
- 1:09 PM, 14 August 2017   [link]


The Internet And Extremism:  This is an obvious point, but sometimes the obvious needs repeating:

The Internet has made it far easier for extremists, of all sorts, to link up with those who agree with them.

Suppose, for instance, that 1 in 10,00 Americans is a neo-Nazi or sympathizer.   Before the Internet, each such person probably did not know more than one or two people who agreed with him.  Nor did he have any practical way to meet others who agreed with him.

Now, the Internet has provided him ways to meet the other 32,500 or so people who share his beliefs.

And it is likely that those extremist meetings are reinforcing extremist beliefs.

So we should expect more demonstrations — and sometimes violence — from groups who could never win an election here in the United States, even an election for dog catcher.

(Somewhat similarly, our interstate highways provided ways for people and goods to move around the nation more swiftly — and provided ways for criminals to escape capture.)
- 12:38 PM, 14 August 2017   [link]


David French's Take On Charlottesville seems about right to me.
America is at a dangerous crossroads.  I know full well that I could have supplemented my list of violent white supremacist acts with a list of vicious killings and riots from left-wing extremists – including the recent act of lone-wolf progressive terror directed at GOP members of the House and Senate.  There is a bloodlust at the political extremes.  Now is the time for moral clarity, specific condemnations of vile American movements – no matter how many MAGA hats its members wear – and for actions that back up those appropriately strong words.
Except for one important omission:  The authorities failed badly in Charlottesville; they did not keep the dueling demonstrations apart.  (Yesterday, in Seattle, the police successfully kept pro-Trump and anti-Trump rallies apart, and probably prevented serious violence.)
- 10:00 AM, 14 August 2017   [link]


Here's A Challenge for experts in artificial intelligence.
- 9:34 AM, 14 August 2017   [link]


The "Madman" Tactic, And A Little Game Theory:   If you have been following our little problem with North Korea, you may have heard someone refer to the "madman" tactic, and even that Richard Nixon used it.

But, if you didn't grow up during the Cold War, or study it thoroughly, you may be puzzled by the references.

It is fairly easy to understand if you use a standard analogy, the game of chicken, which is both an incredibly stupid game, and a much-studied problem in formal and informal game theory.
The name "chicken" has its origins in a game in which two drivers drive towards each other on a collision course: one must swerve, or both may die in the crash, but if one driver swerves and the other does not, the one who swerved will be called a "chicken", meaning a coward; this terminology is most prevalent in political science and economics.  The name "Hawk-Dove" refers to a situation in which there is a competition for a shared resource and the contestants can choose either conciliation or conflict; this terminology is most commonly used in biology and evolutionary game theory.  From a game-theoretic point of view, "chicken" and "hawk-dove" are identical; the different names stem from parallel development of the basic principles in different research areas.[2]  The game has also been used to describe the mutual assured destruction of nuclear warfare, especially the sort of brinkmanship involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis.[3]
(Links omitted.)

There are tactics which can give you an advantage in chicken.  For example, one driver can throw his steering wheel out the window, after the cars have started toward each other.

That will suggest to many of you a similar tactic; a driver will have an advantage if the other driver thinks his opponent is not in control of himself, that he is crazy.  If your opponent thinks you are irrational, a "madman", you are more likely to win.

The Nixon-Kissinger team used this tactic against the Soviets.  They decided that Kissinger would tell the Soviet leaders, privately, that Nixon was unstable, and that it would be risky to provoke him.

Did the tactic work?  It is hard to say, since the best evidence is that some bad things didn't happen while Nixon was president.  But it is true that Nixon had far more success negotiating with the Soviets than his predecessors, Johnson and Kennedy.

So when I see Donald Trump mouthing off about North Korea, I can't say that he is necessarily wrong, even though that isn't the strategy I would have followed.

(Some believe that Trump's tweets are directed, not at North Korea, but China.   That changes the details, but not the logic, of the "madman" argument.

If this tiny bit of game theory interests you, you might explore further by looking at that classic problem, the Prisoner's Dilemma.)
- 2:47 PM, 13 August 2017   [link]


Dog Lovers May Find this cartoon disconcerting.
- 1:25 PM, 13 August 2017   [link]


Worth Reading:  The Weekly Standard's editorial, "When Loretta Met Bill".
In many quarters of the American news media today, seasoned journalists seem incapable of pondering those parts of reality that don’t complement their political worldviews.  It goes beyond “bias”—we’re all biased.   This is negligence.

Consider the trove of emails between FBI and Department of Justice officials published this week.  The emails concern the June 27, 2016, meeting between former president Bill Clinton and then-attorney general Loretta Lynch.  As readers may remember, Clinton paid an apparently impromptu visit to the attorney general aboard her DoJ plane while it was parked at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport.   It was extremely improper for the two to meet for any reason.  Clinton was the husband of the subject of an FBI investigation, and Lynch, as attorney general, had the ultimate authority over that investigation.
But that meeting drew, at most, perfunctory attention from most "mainstream" reporters.  They really didn't want to cover it — as you can tell from their emails.

In general, I would say the most serious problem with our "mainstream" news sources is not "fake" news, stories that aren't true, or biased news, though that certanly is a serious problem, but the stories that receive little or no coverage.   Our partisan journalists find it difficult to report stories that reflect badly on elected Democrats.  That's understandable — but it isn't professional.
- 10:59 AM, 12 August 2017   [link]


This Week's Collections Of Political Cartoons from Politico and RealClearPolitics.

My favorites:  In Politico, Michael Ramirez's leaks; in RealClearPolitics, Steve Kelley's unthinkable, Chip Bok's Google, Steve Breen's tough love, and Michael Ramirez's flag.

(If you aren't sure whose flag that is, here's a clue.)
- 10:35 AM, 12 August 2017   [link]


Mountain Goats In Glacier National Park Like To Hang Around People:  Because we scare away predators.
A few years ago, employees at Glacier National Park in Montana noticed that mountain goats were hanging out — even sleeping — far away from cliffs, and spending much of their time near humans.  Researchers who investigated this atypical behavior determined that where there were people, there were fewer predators.
And for another reason, which is a little awkward to explain.
- 9:20 AM, 11 August 2017   [link]


It's Friday:  Choose your own cartoon(s) from Sidney Harris's gallery.

(I see he has a new book out, which you can order directly from him.)
- 7:05 AM, 11 August 2017   [link]


Smokezilla Sunset 1:  The smoke from the British Columbia wild fires doesn't give us beautiful sunsets, but they are interesting.

Smokezilla Sunset 1

The weather folks are promising us improvement tomorrow and Saturday, and possibly even a little rain on Sunday.  I hope they are right.
- 3:40 PM, 10 August 2017   [link]


This Wasn't The Lead Story On Wednesday Night:  But. if you believe that demography is destiny, perhaps it should have been.
New numbers show fertility rates in the U.S. are at their lowest rate since the government started keeping track in 1909.

A study released by the National Center for Health Statistics found there were 61.5 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 during the past study year.

That’s compared to 62.5 births per 1,000 women during the previous year.

Researchers say the decrease is greater than what would be produced by pure change.
. . .
Researchers note U.S. fertility rates have been on the decline for years, since the baby boom after World War II.
Although researchers may have said that, it's deceptive.

At the peak of the baby boom (1959), the total fertility rate for the United States was 3.66 births per woman.  It declined to 1.738 in 1976.  It then rose, irregularly, to just a little over 2 (and just under the replacement rate).  It stayed there all through the George W. Bush administration, but then fell while Barack Obama was president, to 1.818 in 2016.

Just to be absolutely clear:  While is not because, but I do believe that President Obama slowed the recovery and lowered our morale, thus at least contributing to our lower fertility rate.
- 3:04 PM, 10 August 2017   [link]


"How Did The Dems' IT Scandal Suspects Get Here?"   Michelle Malkin asks a good question.
Here is a radical proposition:  The public has a right to know the immigration status and history of foreign criminal suspects.  Their entrance and employment sponsorship records should not be treated like classified government secrets — especially if the public's tax dollars subsidized their salaries.
We will, eventually, know these things, thanks to Senator Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who takes his oversight responsibilities seriously.

Even Democrats are beginning to be openly unhappy about Debbie Wasserman Schultz's long delay in firing Imran Awan.

(In an earlier post, I wondered whether Awan was a contractor or an actual employee of the House.  According to this, which I found through Awan's Wikipedia biography, he was a "shared employee".).
- 2:06 PM, 10 August 2017   [link]


Is Google Violating The Spirit* Of Our Civil Rights Laws?  That's a question, not a statement, and I suppose I should explain why I am asking it.

Almost all our civil rights laws protect against discrimination by religion, as well as race.  For example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination "based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin".

You can't discriminate against a black atheist woman from Nigeria — or against a white evangelical man from Germany.

I suspect many of our news organizations — and Google is, among other things, a news organization — are ignoring the second half of that prohibition.  Not, let me hasten to add, as a deliberate, formal policy, but from, among other things, the human tendency for people to hire people like themselves.

Polls and, in some places, referendums, have shown that Americans are deeply divided on issues like abortion and gay marriage — but you wouldn't know that from the coverage of these issues by our "mainstream" news organizations.

And that leads me to wonder whether those organizations are discriminating against members of religions with traditional beliefs on those issues.  Would the New York Times hire a (pro-life) Catholic to be their executive editor?  Would ABC put an out-of-the-closet evangelical in charge of their news division?  Would Google accept a Mormon as president?  Would an Orthodox Jew have the same chance of being hired at any of those organizations as a Reform Jew?

If the answer to any of those questions is no, then the organizations may be violating the spirit of our civil rights laws.

(For years, I have wondered whether Brendan Eich was forced out as Mozilla president because of his traditional Christian beliefs.   I'm not the only one to wonder about that.

*I say "Spirit" because I am not a lawyer, much less one specializing in civil rights law.

It's hard to say just how many people in the United States hold those traditional religious beliefs because religious organizations have such different ways of counting members.  I would guess somewhere between 35 and 40 percent.)
- 10:47 AM, 10 August 2017   [link]


Seattle's Homeless RV Owners:  To some of you, that may sound like a contradiction, since a person who owns an RV has a home.

But not to many of our elected Democrats.
The growing homeless problem in our area is happening just about everywhere you look from wooded areas, to the underpasses, to your neighborhoods.   Homeless people are camping out wherever they can.

Newly released numbers from Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness shows there’s 3,857 unsheltered homeless in Seattle, with 40% living in their vehicles.

That’s why one City Council member — Mike O’Brien — says he wants to change city code to allow people to live in their vehicles anywhere in the city for however long they want as long as they enter a diversion program.
One estimate I have heard is that about 1,000 of those vehicles are RVs.

I don't claim to understand this, or much else about Seattle's homeless problem, but thought you might be interested in the story.

But there is one thing I do understand:  Our local journalists are reluctant, to say the least, to hold any elected Democrat responsible for the growing homeless problem.
- 7:19 AM, 10 August 2017   [link]


Today's "Pepper. . . And Salt" made me chuckle.

(The latest New Yorker cartoon is less heavy handed than most have been, recently.)
- 6:22 AM, 10 August 2017   [link]


Want A Million Dollars — And A Bridge?  You can get them from the Washington state Department of Transportation.

There is a catch.
If you want a million dollars, read on.

No, really.  The state Department of Transportation stands ready to write the check.  Eager, in fact.  Officials put up an ad and everything.

The catch, and it’s a rather large one, is that along with the money comes the obligation to properly care for the antique, 371-foot metal bridge that has stood astride the Puyallup River since 1925.

Also, there’s the small matter of its dismantling, moving and reassembling the span to adhere to historic-preservation standards.
Unfortunately, you may be too late.

(For the record:  I am not sure that particular bridge deserves to be treated as a precious antiquity, rather than being sold for scrap.  But that is what state law requires.)
- 8:04 AM, 9 August 2017   [link]


Trumpistas Won't Like the second Marlette cartoon.

But they should understand that, fairly or not, that is how many world leaders see Donald Trump.

(A few people may wonder about the tiny hands.  If you are one of them, just do a search on "short-fingered vulgarian".)
- 7:25 AM, 9 August 2017   [link]