Archive:

August 2017, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Texas And Louisiana Aren't The Only Places with floods.
Heavy monsoon rains have brought Mumbai to a halt for a second day as the worst floods to strike south Asia in years continued to exact a deadly toll.

More than 1,200 people have died across India, Bangladesh and Nepal as a result of flooding, with 40 million affected by the devastation.  At least six people, including two toddlers, were among the victims in and around India’s financial capital.

The devastating floods have also destroyed or damaged 18,000 schools, meaning that about 1.8 million children cannot go to classes, Save the Children warned on Thursday.
It seems likely that there will be more bad news from the area, before these floods are over.

(Mumbai.)
- 3:14 PM, 31 August 2017   [link]


"Takes A Licking And Keeps On Ticking"  Yesterday, I somehow managed to put my inexpensive Timex watch in the laundry basket, probably by not checking pockets carefully enough.

It came through one wash cycle with no obvious damage, though it did lose about 20 minutes, perhaps because the stem got pulled out a little.

It is easy to forget just how high quality some inexpensive products are.

(I bought it at Amazon, where they have a wide variety of styles.)
- 11:33 AM, 31 August 2017   [link]


Worth Reading:  Eugene Volokh's post, "The ‘bourgeois culture’ controversy".

Professor Volokh introduces the problem:
Professors Amy Wax and Larry Alexander wrote an op-ed condemning the decline of “bourgeois culture” and suggesting that this decline helps explain many of the problems afflicting America today.
(Links omitted throughout.)

And then Volokh draws on his own experience:
My thinking: My parents brought me from a place — Soviet Russia — that had not just an oppressive political system and a failed economic system, but also (largely as a result but perhaps partly a cause of) a destructive culture, a culture characterized (much more than American culture) by cheating, shirking and distrust.  They brought me to a country that thrived because of its superior cultural assets (which is not to deny that it had cultural weaknesses as well).

It seems to me indubitably clear that certain cultural traits, including the ones that Wax and Alexander note, are more conducive to societal success and long-term individual happiness and others are not.  (The norm of raising children in stable, married two-parent families is one well-documented example.)
You can tell from his careful language just how delicate this subject is.  He is saying things that almost everyone knows to be true — but can't be said on many college campuses, without attracting charges of racism and classism.
- 10:45 AM, 31 August 2017   [link]


High Trust Solar Eclipse Behavior:  As I mentioned last week, I watched the near-total solar eclipse with a crowd, a crowd of strangers, as it happens.

What I didn't mention was the most surprising part of that experience: trust jumped up, temporarily, before, during, and immediately after the eclipse.  Strangers spoke to each other, and offered to share eclipse glasses with people they did not know.   I had at least five such offers in just fifteen minutes.

Kirkland, where I live, is a relatively high trust place — compared to other urban areas in the United States.  But it is not a place where strangers routinely offer to share personal items.

The eclipse demonstrated that we could, however, trust each other, at least temporarily, more than we ordinarily do.

And then, to my surprise, I learned that Peggy Noonan had observed strikingly similar behavior in Manhattan — which is not ordinarily thought of as a high trust place.
In Manhattan on eclipse day I had planned to go by Central Park to witness how people would react to the big celestial event.  But I didn’t get there because of what I saw on Madison Avenue.

It was so beautiful.
There too, strangers spoke to each other; there too, strangers shared those eclipse glasses with others they did not know.
- 8:11 PM, 31 August 2017   [link]


If There Is A Good Answer to this question, I haven't been able to think of it.
- 6:59 AM, 31 August 2017   [link]


Harvey Compared, So Far, To The Galveston Hurricane:  The death toll from Harvey continues to rise.
Crews in Texas have found the bodies of 21 victims of Harvey's wrath, and warned on Wednesday that the number of dead would almost certainly soar as water levels across much of the Houston area start to recede.
But we can be nearly certain that the toll will not come close to that of the Galveston Hurricane.
The Great Galveston Hurricane was a Category 4 storm, with winds of up to 145 mph (233 km/h), which made landfall on September 8, 1900, in Galveston, Texas, in the United States, leaving about 6,000 to 12,000 dead.  It remains to the present day the deadliest natural disaster in US history.
The Galveston Hurricane, bad it was, is not the most deadly known Atlantic hurricane; both the Great Hurricane of 1780 and Mitch (1998) were worse.  (In the latter, there were "unofficial reports of up to 75 inches" of rain.)

We have been learning how to prepare for these disasters, and how to react to them, once they come.
- 2:10 PM, 30 August 2017   [link]


Harvey's Rainfall Is Probably a record, according to the National Weather Service.
Preliminary data from at least one Texas rain gauge appears to have broken the Texas tropical cyclone rainfall record and a new contiguous United States tropical cyclone rainfall record may have also been established.  Cedar Bayou, near Mont Belvieu, Texas, recorded a preliminary rainfall associated with Tropical Storm Harvey of 51.88 inches as of 3:29 pm CDT (rainfall accumulation since 7 am CDT, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017).  This reading is higher than the previous record for Texas of 48 inches during tropical cyclone Amelia of 1978 in Medina, Texas.

The all-time United States tropical cyclone rainfall record of at least 52 inches occurred during tropical cyclone Hiki in Kauai, Hawaii in 1950.  It is certainly still possible rainfall from Tropical Storm Harvey may exceed the all-time United States record but no official rain gauge has reported a value in excess of 52 inches as of 5 pm EDT.
But I wouldn't call it "unprecedented", even for the contiguous United States, since 51.88 is not that much larger than 48.

(Careful readers will have noticed that "at least 52 inches" implies that the total from that cyclone may have been higher.)
- 9:42 AM, 30 August 2017   [link]


Programmers Will Appreciate this cartoon.

(Others may learn something from it.)
- 9:22 AM, 30 August 2017   [link]


Worth Reading:  Sarah Zhang's article, "Yes, That's a Huge Floating Mass of Live Fire Ants in Texas".
When there is flooding along the Gulf Coast, there are fire ants. The invasive ants congregate into living rafts, drifting through water until they reach solid ground again.  It’s a time-honed survival strategy.

But when there is Hurricane Harvey-level flooding, there are not just small rafts but huge, dense mats of fire ants.
There are two bits of good news in the article:  You can break up the rafts with dish soap, and fire ants love to eat ticks.
- 4:31 PM, 29 August 2017   [link]


Including Nukes? (2):   Back in 2011 I criticized President Obama for saying that a "full range" of options were open for dealing with Libya.

Now President Trump has made the same mistake.
President Donald Trump sought Tuesday to reassert an American military threat against North Korea, saying that "all options are on the table" in response to its launch of a missile over close U.S. ally Japan.
President Obama was not considering a "full range" of options then, and President Trump's table is missing many options now, for which we may be grateful.

Both statements are crude and obvious bluffs, almost certain to inspire, not fear, but contempt in our enemies.
- 10:59 AM, 29 August 2017   [link]


Having Solved All Their More Serious Problems, Seattle is now tackling plastic straws.
An ordinance banning plastic straws and plastic utensils will take effect next year in Seattle.

Starting July 1, 2018, eateries in the city will no longer be able to dispense plastic items, Seattle Public Utilities’ Strategic Adviser for Product Stewardship Sego Jackson said.

The ordinance banning plastic silverware has been on the books since 2010, Jackson said, but an exemption has been in place.  That exemption is set to expire and won’t be renewed.
There are, according to our TV news folks, biodegradable alternatives, though they are more expensive.
- 6:53 AM, 29 August 2017   [link]


This Is One Of The Better Critiques I've Seen of the Internet of things.
- 6:34 AM, 29 August 2017   [link]


Nicholas Kristof Should Know Better:  Or, if he is going to be silly, he should be direct about it.  I am no fan of Donald Trump, but I think it is absurd to compare him to Emperor Caligula.
What happens when the people of a great nation gradually realize that their leader may not be, er, quite right in the head?

When Caligula became Roman emperor in A.D. 37, the people rejoiced. “On all sides, you could see nothing but altars and sacrifices, men and women decked in their holiday best and smiling,” according to the first-century writer Philo.

The Senate embraced him, and he was hailed as a breath of fresh air after the dourness, absenteeism and miserliness of his great-uncle, Emperor Tiberius. Caligula was colorful and flamboyant, offering plenty of opportunities for ribald gossip. Caligula had four wives in rapid succession, and he was said to be sleeping with his sister. (Roman historians despised him, so some of the gossip should be treated skeptically.)

He was charming, impetuous and energetic, sleeping only three hours a night, and he displayed a common touch as he constantly engaged with the public. His early months as emperor brimmed with hope.
But, if Kristof wants to make that comparison, he should do so directly, not indirectly, as he does in that column.

Trump is a creep, not a Caligula.

(This will remind some of Paul Krugman, who compared President George W. Bush to Caligula.)
- 3:46 PM, 28 August 2017   [link]


Here's Another Linear Trump Trend:  More and more, British bettors are betting against his survival through 2020.
After another stormy period punters make it a 56% chance that Trump won’t survive a full first term
No doubt the bettors have been paying attention to this linear trend.

Mike Smithson says this "continues to be the biggest political betting market in the UK", which surprised me.

You can see more betting odds here, and compare them here.

(For the record:  I am not sure which side of that bet I would take.  Before I bet serious amounts of money, I would want to know how the bookies treat a death in office from illness or, sadly, an assassination.  Trump does not look especially healthy to me, even for his age.  You can see that he is overweight, and we know that he does not exercise.  And he has acquired a few additional enemies since he took office.)
- 2:06 PM, 28 August 2017   [link]


Of Course I Disagree With The Sentiment in this cartoon — but I still smiled at it.

And I fear that it may explain the motivations of at least a few golfers.
- 1:09 PM, 28 August 2017   [link]


Sibling Rivalry Returns To China:  China's one-child policy resulted in many 4-2-1 families, four doting grandparents, two loving parents, and one child.  (Not surprisingly, some of those children became "little emperors", as the Chinese called them.)

It also resulted — and this should have been obvious to me, but wasn't — in many marriages between only children.  Typically, these marriages resulted in just one child, at least in urban areas, until recently.

When the regime abandoned the one-child policy, suddenly parents who had never experienced sibling rivalry, got to see it, a subject explored in this Asia Insight program:
China's one-child policy, created as an effort to prevent overpopulation, was ended in 2016 after 37 years.  Now, those born during the first generation of the policy are reaching middle age, and are raising their own families.  Although hard work among economic prosperity has granted many of them wealthy lifestyles, their wishes for large families are accompanied by the challenge of parenting siblings with different needs than they had as only children.  In this episode, we catch up with families from the one-child policy generation who take careful steps into a new era of parenthood.
Specifically, the program looked at two families, one with two boys, 2 and 4, as I recall, and one with a boy, 9, and a girl, 2, again as I recall.

Most of you will not be surprised to learn that the little boys in the first family sometimes fought, and that the boy in the second family ignored his little sister.

But the Chinese parents were surprised, and, I think, somewhat distressed by this entirely normal behavior.

(Asia Insight, like the program that follows it on the local PBS station, Focus on Europe, is best understood as propaganda.  By that I mean that they both present stories intended to make particular arguments — and omit stories that do not advance those arguments.

The stories are, as far as I know, true or mostly true, but they are far from the whole truth.)
- 4:25 PM, 27 August 2017   [link]


Three Editorial Cartoons from Andy Marlette.

I like all three.  If the Hillary cartoon is gone by the time you click on the link, you may be able to find it here.

(Cartooning runs in the family.)
- 1:51 PM, 27 August 2017   [link]


Commendable Public Spirit:  From these newspapers.
The nation's three most storied newspapers — The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal — lowered their paywalls this weekend for coverage of Hurricane Harvey.

The rare, concurrent move by the three titles gave non-subscribers unlimited access to their on-the-ground reporting as Harvey continues to inflict damage along the Texan coastline.  It also gives readers access to weather and safety coverage.
Good for them, and for the other newspapers that have done similar things.
- 2:36 PM, 26 August 2017   [link]


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

My favorites:  In Politico, Steve Sack's Bannon; in RealClearPolitics, Steve Kelley's Hillary and Ramirez's robots.

(I liked Ben Garrison's Bannon drawing (second slide in the Politico collection), but didn't think it worked as a political cartoon.)
- 2:04 PM, 26 August 2017   [link]