Archive:

December 2016, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



"The Revenge Of Analog"  That's an intriguing title for a book and, judging only by this Michiko Kakutani review, the book may be worth reading:
In his captivating new book, “The Revenge of Analog,” the reporter David Sax provides an insightful and entertaining account of this phenomenon, creating a powerful counternarrative to the techno-utopian belief that we would live in an ever-improving, all-digital world.  Mr. Sax argues that analog isn’t going anywhere, but is experiencing a bracing revival that is not just a case of nostalgia or hipster street cred, but something more complex.

“Analog experiences can provide us with the kind of real-world pleasures and rewards digital ones cannot,” he writes, and “sometimes analog simply outperforms digital as the best solution.”
(I usually skim the "Arts" section of the Times, but I sometimes find something in it worth more than a few seconds of my time.)
- 4:01 PM, 8 December 2016   [link]


Paul Ryan's Big Win:  In spite of the drag of Donald Trump on the Republican Party, Paul Ryan scored an impressive win in November's election.

There are still a few votes to be counted, most of them in California and the two Louisiana districts where they are having run-offs this Saturday, but the total popular vote for Republican House candidates is already at almost 61.5 million, easily a record.   Republicans won a solid, 2.6 percent margin in the total popular vote —while Trump was losing by about 2 percent.

That 2.6 percent margin may not seem impressive, but given the Trump drag, the relative stability of the popular vote in recent elections, and the Republican advantage in districting (some of it natural, some of it from gerrymandering), it is.

Like me, you may find the comparisons to two previous presidential years, 2012 and 2004, instructive.  You'll notice, for instance, that the Democrats under Nancy Pelosi, had more than a million votes fewer this year, than in 2012, in spite of the growth in the electorate.

(The map I used two days ago came from the 2016 article, as I should have mentioned in the earlier post.  The article is detailed enough so that it may answer questions you may have about the map.  For example, that rural district on the west side of Minnesota, Minnesota 7th, looks as if it should be Republican.  And it does lean Republican, but it is held by Collin Peterson, a moderate Democrat, who first won the district (on his fourth try!) in 1990.)
- 3:16 PM, 8 December 2016   [link]


Should There Be A Medal for this?

Perhaps.
- 9:12 AM, 8 December 2016   [link]


75 Years After Pearl Harbor:   This year, as I have before, I will recycle three of my four posts from 2011: the complete failure of the first phase of the Japanese attack, why we were surprised, and Roosevelt's "day of infamy" speech.

(I particularly recommend the surprise post, since I think it has relevance today.)

This year, as usual, Bing has an appropriate picture; this year, for a change, Google is remembering the day — barely.
- 10:04 AM, 7 December 2016   [link]


Republican Rural Dominance:  You can see it clearly in this map of the House seats each party won in November's election.

Map of House election results, 2016

(Red districts are Republican holds, orange, Republican gains, dark blue, Democratic holds, and light blue, Democratic gains.  The two districts in Louisiana (3rd and 4th), where they are holding run-offs this Saturday, are heavily Republican, and almost certain to be Republican holds.

I expect the map to change after the final results come in.)

About 19 percent of Americans live in rural areas, so the population of rural America is about the same size as that of Britain or France.

As far as I can tell, urban Democrats, elected officials and "mainstream" journalists alike, see no reason to change in order to compete in the rural areas, or even to ask why they are so unpopular outside the big cities.

For example, in Washington state, rural Grays Harbor County voted for a Republican presidential candidate for the first time since 1928.  And Washington's secretary of state, Republican Kim Wyman, won all but three counties: Jefferson, San Juan, and King.  The first two are small, heavily Democratic counties; King, as you probably know, is Seattle and most Seattle suburbs.

You'd think results like that would pique the curiosity of our journalists, and worry elected Democrats, but neither seems to have happened.

(Younger readers may need to know that the United States did not always have this sharp division with Democrats holding almost all urban core districts, and Republicans holding almost all rural districts.  Decades ago, Republicans tended to win wealthy, "silk-stocking" districts in cities, and Democrats tended to win the poorer rural districts.)
- 2:14 PM, 6 December 2016   [link]


This 538 Post won't make my friends in Happy Valley happy.

On the other hand, fans of the University of Washington will be pleased to learn that the model gives them a 36 percent chance of beating Alabama.

(I have no opinion on either claim.)
- 8:26 AM, 6 December 2016   [link]


Voice Acting In The Videogame Business Is Weird:   For one thing, you often don't know what part you are saying, or even what game it will be in.
Colleen O’Shaughnessey was stunned when a fan asked the voice actor to sign his copy of a videogame, “Fallout 4,” at a pop-culture convention earlier this year.

That’s because Ms. O’Shaughnessey, who provided the voice for three minor roles in the top-selling title, had no idea she was in it.
According to the article, "So, You Were the Blue Zombie!", that kind of experience is not all that unusual in the videogame business.

(Here's a description of "Fallout 4" for those like me who are both ignorant and curious.)
- 8:08 AM, 6 December 2016   [link]


Snow Has Arrived In This Area:  In spotty snow showers down here in the lowlands.  But in serious amounts, up at Paradise (altitude approximately 5400 feet), on Mt. Rainier.

Paradise parking lot, 4 December 2016

I saved the picture yesterday.  As you can see, there weren't many visitors there because, I assume, the road below was blocked.

If the weather forecasters are right, and they often are, there may be good views from cameras up on the mountain. starting late tomorrow morning, or afternoon.

Here's a hint, if you are wondering just how much snow they have already.  The low building on the left is a covered entrance way to the public restrooms.  As I recall, the door you see is a standard size.  Or, you can call the park.  They used to put up a recording with the snow accumulation and the snow in the last 24 hours, and I wouldn't be surprised if they still do.
- 7:50 PM, 5 December 2016   [link]


Doggy See, Doggy Do — On Command?  In studying "episodic memory" in dogs, researchers have used a "pretty amazing" training technique:
All attempts to understand thinking and memory in nonverbal animals are difficult, and Dr. Fugazza, Adam Miklosi and Akos Pogany developed a technique that depends on something called “Do-as-I-do training,” which itself is pretty amazing.

In this training, dogs learn to imitate any action the trainer takes.  First the trainer does something like touch an open umbrella with his hand.  Then he says, “Do it.”  Then the dog taps the umbrella with its paw — assuming the training is going well.
That's a much more impressive trick than "shake" or "roll over", or the other common tricks we teach our dogs.
- 4:02 PM, 5 December 2016   [link]


Heinlein's Double Star And Donald Trump:   Recently, I have been speculating that Robert Heinlein's science fiction novel, Double Star, may — I repeat, may — tell us something about Donald Trump's presidency.

In the novel, an out-of-work actor, Lawrence Smith, is hired to impersonate John Joseph Bonforte, who is the leader of His Majesty's Opposition, the Expansionist Party, in a solar system wide constitutional monarchy.  Bonforte has been kidnapped by enemies, shortly before a vote of confidence that will result in a new election, an election Bonforte's party is likely to win.

Smith is able to impersonate Bonforte successfully because he is a good actor, and has the support of Bonforte's inner circle.  (A politician at Bonforte's level is often better understood as a team, rather than a single individual — and all the team, except for Bonforte, is still in place when Smith takes the job.)

In a somewhat similar fashion, Trump has been impersonating a conservative populist, first to get the Republican nomination, and now as he puts together an administration.

And, since he won the nomination, much of the Republican team has been helping him in that role.

There is a good chance, I think, that he will continue that impersonation — because the role requires it.  To get the applause he craves, he will have to, usually, continue in that role.

Having said that, I have to add qualifications.  We will, I assume, occasionally see the private man behind the actor, some leftist positions on trade, and some money grubbing that no conservative could support.

If this argument seems a little strange to you, consider this:  One of the most successful parts of his checkered business career was his acting job on "The Apprentice", where he impersonated a successful business executive.

(Wikipedia's article on Double Star is brief, but gives away the ending.)
- 3:25 PM, 5 December 2016   [link]


Michael Barone Was Right The First Time:  I think.

Here's what Barone thought last year.
Last fall, I shared the widespread view that Clinton was the only Democrat who could lose to Trump and Trump was the only Republican who could lose to Clinton.   Given the fact that elections are a zero-sum game because one candidate must win, this view was more an expression of distaste rather than a prophecy.

But it was based also on polling conducted during the spring, before Trump eliminated his remaining Republican opponents in the Indiana primary on May 3.   National polls and some state polls showed Marco Rubio running stronger against Clinton than Trump, with John Kasich running even stronger and Ted Cruz a bit better.
(I thought, and still think, that the strongest ticket would probably have been Kasich-Rubio.)

That analysis still seems correct to me, but Barone has had second thoughts, as he explains in the rest of the column.

Though I disagree with him, I think his discussion is interesting enough to share.   (And I always like it when a smart analyst admits he might have been wrong.)
- 10:06 AM, 5 December 2016   [link]


Fans Of Time Travel will like this cartoon.
- 9:29 AM, 5 December 2016   [link]


Worth Buying:  This weekend's Wall Street Journal, if only for Roger Pielke Jr.'s op-ed, "My Unhappy Life as a Climate Heretic".
Much to my surprise, I showed up in the WikiLeaks releases before the election.  In a 2014 email, a staffer at the Center for American Progress, founded by John Podesta in 2003, took credit for a campaign to have me eliminated as a writer for Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website.  In the email, the editor of the think tank’s climate blog bragged to one of its billionaire donors, Tom Steyer: “I think it’s fair [to] say that, without Climate Progress, Pielke would still be writing on climate change for 538.”

WikiLeaks provides a window into a world I’ve seen up close for decades: the debate over what to do about climate change, and the role of science in that argument.   Although it is too soon to tell how the Trump administration will engage the scientific community, my long experience shows what can happen when politicians and media turn against inconvenient research—which we’ve seen under Republican and Democratic presidents.
Here's a summary of the findings that made Pieklke into a heretic:  "There is scant evidence to indicate that hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or drought have become more frequent or intense in the U.S. or globally."

Good news, right?  But not if you have been predicting weather disasters.

Incidentally, I think he is right to use a religious term, "heretic".

(You can read much of the op-ed at Watts Up With That?, or use the usual Google search trick to get the whole article, if that issue of the Journal is sold out by the time you look for it.)
- 4:22 PM, 4 December 2016   [link]


Sometimes You Wonder Whether TV News Readers Know Anything About What They Are Reading:  And sometimes you don't.

For instance, yesterday I heard KOMO's Lee Stoll refer to South Korean President Park Geun-hye as "him".

I listened to the rest of the program to see if anyone would correct the mistake.   No one did.

(Stoll has quite pretty hair — and interrupts her co-anchor on their Saturday morning program so often that, when I watch their program, I have begun doing so with my finger poised over the mute button.)
- 3:27 PM, 4 December 2016   [link]


I Think I May have Linked To this cartoon before, but it is so good that it is worth a second look.

(This painting may be one of the inspirations for the cartoon.  And, on a more serious note, here's a map showing the campaign.  It's on my top-ten list of greatest graphics of all time.)
- 10:57 AM, 4 December 2016   [link]


Two 4 Percenters:  Think Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are unpopular?  You are right; in fact, you might even say they are historically unpopular.

But neither comes close to President Park.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s approval rating fell to 4% amid a deepening political crisis, marking an all-time low for any democratically elected leader in the country, according to Gallup Korea polling.

Fears of policy paralysis prompted by the political crisis also dealt a blow to consumer confidence, which fell to its lowest in more than seven years in November, South Korea’s central bank said.
Or to President Hollande.
François Hollande, France’s unpopular Socialist president, announced Thursday night that he would not seek reelection in 2017.

“I’ve decided not to be a candidate to renew my mandate,” he said on French television.
. . .
A recent poll conducted by Le Monde newspaper placed Hollande’s approval rating at 4 percent.
In the circumstances, his decision is not difficult to understand.

President Park's problems should worry us more, since they may tempt North Korea's Kim Jong-un to do something rash.
- 3:21 PM, 2 December 2016   [link]


Three Fun Facts About Vitamin D:  Which I discovered just the other day.
  1. Vitamin D is not a single compound, but a group of them, of which D2 and D3 are the most important.
  2. Some authorities believe that Vitamin D should be classified as a hormone, rather than a vitamin, since we synthesize it ourselves (with some help from the sun).   The term vitamin, they think, should be reserved for chemicals we have to get from what we eat and drink.
  3. Like everything else, Vitamin D is poisonous in large quantities.  Since those quantities are smaller, proportionately, for rats and mice, it is sometimes used as a rodenticide.
And one serious fact:   Rickets, the best known Vitamin D deficiency disease was almost eliminated in the United States by 1945, but is still common in some developing nations.
- 10:03 AM, 2 December 2016   [link]


There Are Some Puns That Are Almost Too Perfect:  For instance:
A man's three sons went out West to raise cattle.  Soon their ranch was a going concern, but they hadn't been able to think of a good name for it, so they asked their father for a suggestion, when he came out for a visit.

He thought for a few minutes, and said:  "Call it Focus — because that's where the sons raise meat."
Though I love that joke, I wouldn't tell it and expect gales of laughter, even from people who love puns.

(I found the joke, in a different version, in Asimov's first collection of jokes.)
- 8:00 AM, 2 December 2016   [link]


Two Tacoma Shooting Deaths are this area's big local story.
TACOMA, Wash. - A man suspected of fatally shooting a veteran Tacoma, Wash. police officer was shot and killed by authorities early Thursday after an hours-long standoff in which he was using two children as shields, reports CBS affiliate KIRO.

The 45-year-old officer was killed after responding to a domestic violence call around 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
So far, our local news organizations have given us hours of coverage, but very few details less than a minute of actual news.
- 2:21 PM, 1 December 2016   [link]


There Is Many A Dry Eye In Cuba, After Fidel Castro's Death:  But Cubans know not to show their real feelings.
Many Cubans, especially those old enough to remember the Revolution and the early years of communist nation building on the island, are genuine in their grief over the death of the man they saw as a national icon who defied the United States for more than half a century.  But the state-imposed nine-day period of mourning also left little room for Cubans with a more dissenting view of the deceased leader.

“You need to be very careful about what you say”, one artist in Havana, who asked not to be named out of fear for reprisals, told FNL.   “Any opinion that isn’t in line with the national mourning can have consequences."
I watched some of the mourners on BBC, and listened to some of what they had to say.   For the most part, they looked, and sounded, like people who were doing a chore their jobs required, not people who felt a great sense of loss.
- 10:08 AM, 1 December 2016   [link]


Yesterday Afternoon's New Yorker Cartoon is more likely to make you think than laugh.

But you are almost certain to get a chuckle out one or more of the recent "A-Hed" articles.
- 9:43 AM, 1 December 2016   [link]