Archive:

December 2016, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Glenn Kessler Gives Out His Annual "Pinocchio" Award:   You won't be surprised by the winner.  (Even though he beat out some stiff competition.)
In the past, we have tried to assemble a relatively equal number of claims by Democrats and Republicans but find that this is impossible this year.  Donald Trump earned five of the “biggest Pinocchio” ratings; the previous record was three (President Obama in 2013 and Trump in 2015).

There has never been a serial exaggerator in recent American politics like the president-elect.  He not only consistently makes false claims but also repeats them, even though they have been proven wrong.  He always insists he is right, no matter how little evidence he has for his claim or how easily his statement is debunked.
Trump fans aren't pleased, as you can see in most of the comments after this post.

On the whole, I would say that Kessler is the best fact checker that I have seen.  I do think he is a little biased toward Democrats, but I also believe that he tries honestly not to be — and I think he was right about Obama in 2013, and is right about Trump this year.

(There are a few Trump fans who openly admire Trump for his lying.  I haven't studied his arguments, but I suspect "Dilbert" cartoonist Scott Adams is in that group, though he might not like my way of describing his views.)
- 4:11 PM, 16 December 2016   [link]


Thinking, Fast And Slow, About Venezuela's Economic Problems:  In thinking about Venezuela's economic problems, you can think fast, or slow; you can give a fast, automatic reaction, or you can take the time to understand their problems, rationally.

For example, a leftist might explain their problems with a simple phrase: "low oil prices" — and I have heard a BBC news reader do exactly that.

Similarly, a conservative or libertarian might explain their problems with a single word: "socialism" — and I have seen the Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds, do exactly that.

Those answers, though not wrong, are so incomplete as to be misleading.  Both show an unwillingness to go beyond the first, automatic answers.  Neither followed up with something as simple as a search for a counter-example and, as it happens, there is a nation that provides a counter-example to both "fast" conclusions — Norway.

Like Venezuela, Norway gets much of its national income from oil; like Venezuela, Norway is more socialist than the United States.  But Norway, on the whole, is doing just fine.  So neither low oil prices nor socialism is enough, by itself, to explain Venezuela's problems.

(What does?  You still don't have a complete answer, but you are much closer to one, if you add in the incredible corruption and the fantastic incompetence of the regime.   For example.)

That simple search for a counter-example is often enough to let us think slow and rationally, instead of fast and automatically.

For many readers, what I have said in this post is obvious, so obvious that it may seem odd to go to the bother of putting up a post about it.  Let me remind them that I chose examples from two smart, well-informed people, the BBC news reader and Reynolds.  I know I make similar mistakes, think fast when I should think slow, all the time.

And I have never met anyone who didn't do the same thing, at least occasionally.

(Here's my introductory post on fast and slow thinking.)
- 2:20 PM, 16 December 2016   [link]


On A Brighter Note — Literally — The Views From The Mt. Rainier Web Cams Should Be Very Pretty This Morning:  You can watch the sunrise best through the "east" web cam.

(There are more clouds around Mt. St. Helens, but it might be worth a look, too.)
- 8:12 AM, 16 December 2016   [link]


Obama's Excuses For Failing To Stop Russian Hacking:   He has a bunch.
The Obama administration didn't respond more forcefully to Russian hacking before the presidential election because they didn't want to appear to be interfering in the election and they thought that Hillary Clinton was going to win and a potential cyber war with Russia wasn't worth it, multiple high-level government officials told NBC News.

"They thought she was going to win, so they were willing to kick the can down the road," said one U.S official familiar with the level of Russian hacking.

The administration did take action in response to the hack prior to the election.  In September, President Obama privately confronted Vladimir Putin about the hacks at the G-20 summit in China.  He warned the Russian President of unspecified consequences if the hacks continued.
So, after knowing about their burglary and election sabotage for about a year, President Obama gave the head burglar a stern talking to.  That's not even as forceful as sending Vladimir Putin a stern letter.

John Podhoretz says this is consistent with Obama's inaction against other foreign enemies, inaction that "invited" Russian attacks.

I would add that Obama inaction is also consistent with a view of the United States that sees us as guilty of many crimes, and so, in some sense, deserving of punishment.  That view is common among the left in the Democratic Party and, of course, in our newsrooms.
- 7:17 AM, 16 December 2016   [link]


Even Terrorists Need Vacations from time to time.
- 5:56 AM, 16 December 2016   [link]


The Rest Of The Election Results:   You know the three big stories.  Donald Trump was elected president, with just less than 47 percent of the popular vote, Republicans lost two seats, but retained control of the Senate, 52-48, and Republicans lost 6 seats in the House but retained a large majority of 241 — which I believe was a big victory for Paul Ryan.

The rest of the elections show modest, net gains for Republicans, in spite of the Donald Trump drag.

Republicans won 2 governorships, net, winning in Missouri, Vermont (!), and New Hampshire, while losing in North Carolina.  (The Vermont result still amuses me, not because Phil Scott won, but because he won by almost 9 points, in that very Democratic state.)  Republicans tied their record high.
All totaled, the Republican Party gained 2 states' governorships, increasing its total to 33, a record high last seen in 1922.  The Democrats finished with 16 governorships - losing two state houses, with one independent governor in Alaska accounting for the 50th gubernatorial seat.
In the state legislatures, Republican also made small net gains.  They won one house in Connecticut, one in Iowa, one in Kentucky, one in Minnesota, while losing one in Nevada and one in New Mexico.  Republicans will now control both houses in 32 of the states, up 2 from before the election.  (I wouldn't be surprised if that, too, is a record.)
- 4:06 PM, 15 December 2016   [link]


This Story on whooping cranes reminded me of this "Far Side" cartoon.

(Incidentally. similar techiques were used with California condors, with some success.)
- 12:46 PM, 15 December 2016   [link]


The NYT Article On The Russian Attack On The DNC Is Fascinating:  But far too long to be a quick read.

Here's how they begin:
When Special Agent Adrian Hawkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation called the Democratic National Committee in September 2015 to pass along some troubling news about its computer network, he was transferred, naturally, to the help desk.

His message was brief, if alarming. At least one computer system belonging to the D.N.C. had been compromised by hackers federal investigators had named “the Dukes,” a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government.
You'll be surprised by what didn't happen after that call, and after many subsequent warnings.

NBC's story is sensational.
U.S. intelligence officials now believe with "a high level of confidence" that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.

Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used.  The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said.
Obviously, I can't confirm that story, and couldn't tell you, if I could.

Jonah Goldberg's column is interesting, but flawed in two ways.  First, we do not know, as far as I can tell, whether the Republican National Committee was penetrated by the Russians.  Second, and far more important, we do not know what effect the Russian activities had on the election.

But Goldberg is absolutely right about this:
Of course Donald Trump thinks it’s “ridiculous” to claim the Russians rigged the election for him.

Even if Vladimir Putin confessed to the crime on Russia Today, Trump would not believe it, because to do so is not in his nature.  I do not want to shock the reader, but Trump has a very high opinion of himself and a tendency to reject evidence that contradicts that opinion, combined with an eagerness to find corroboration of his self-regard wherever possible.
Unfortunately, our enemies know that about Trump, too.
- 7:41 PM, 14 December 2016   [link]


News About Nuts you may be able to use.
A handful of nuts a day may be enough to reduce the risk for death from heart disease and other ills.

In a review combining data from 20 prospective studies, researchers found that compared with people who ate the least nuts, those who ate the most reduced the risk for coronary heart disease by 29 percent, for cardiovascular disease by 21 percent and for cancer by 15 percent.
There's more good news in the rest of the article, including this:  You can get those benefits by eating relatively small amounts of nuts, "one ounce of nuts a day, the amount in about two dozen almonds or 15 pecan halves".

The study used the ordinary definition of nuts, so peanuts were included, even though a botanist might not consider them nuts.

(You can read the study here.

Having seen articles on earlier studies, I've been eating that ounce a day for several years now, often as a snack in the middle of the afternoon.)
- 3:23 PM, 14 December 2016   [link]


Donald Trump Is Building A Cabinet Filled With Randians?!  This shouldn't have surprised me, but it did.  (Perhaps because we now know that Trump claims to have read at least one book.)
THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump has decided to risk a confirmation fight, officially nominating ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state this morning. Tillerson and Trump had no previous relationship, but the Texas oilman and the New York developer hit it off when they met face to face.  One of the things that they have in common is their shared affection for the works of Ayn Rand, the libertarian heroine who celebrated laissez-faire capitalism.

The president-elect said this spring that he’s a fan of Rand and identifies with Howard Roark, the main character in “The Fountainhead.”   Roark, played by Gary Cooper in the film adaptation, is an architect who dynamites a housing project he designed because the builders did not precisely follow his blueprints.   “It relates to business, beauty, life and inner emotions.  That book relates to ... everything,” Trump told Kirsten Powers for a piece in USA Today.
Andy Puzder (Labor) and Mike Pompeo (CIA) are also fans of Ayn Rand.   And, according to the article, Trump regularly consults with other prominent Randians.

Trump's strategist, Stephen Bannon, has directly criticized Rand in the past, which seems odd, given Trump's views.  (I have read that criticism, and didn't know what to make of it, since it seems inconsistent with other pieces I have read about the man.)

(For the record:  In college, I encountered Rand's thinking when I tried to read Atlas Shrugged.  Although I was an even more compulsive reader then than I am now, I got less than half way through the book, before I gave it up as not worth my time.  I've never regretted that decision.)
- 10:19 AM, 14 December 2016   [link]


Thanks For The Warning, BBC:  This morning, I saw a BBC story (probably this one) on the new Star Wars movie, "Rogue One".

Judging only by the BBC story, the film is, at least in part, a politically correct propaganda piece.

That doesn't mean the movie won't be enjoyable — I have liked many stories and films I disagreed with — but I would suggest waiting for a review by, for example, Michael Medved, before you rush out and see it.
- 8:16 AM, 14 December 2016   [link]


Resistance To Government Snooping — Even in a New Yorker cartoon.
- 6:33 AM, 14 December 2016   [link]


Inflation Has Taken Off In Venezuela:  A year ago, their largest bill, the 100 bolivar banknote, was worth about 14 cents.   A month ago, it was worth about 5 cents.   Today, it's worth about 2 cents, and the Maduro government has finally decided to replace it.
Venezuelans on Monday were trying to make sense of the announcement the day before that the government is pulling out of circulation its largest bill – 100 bolivars, currently $0.2 worth – by Wednesday.

President Maduro said the move looks to combat smuggling on the Colombian border.
. . .
The move comes just a few days after the government announced it will start releasing six new notes and three new coins, ranging in value from 500 to 20,000 bolivars – worth less than $5 on the streets.  The new bills and coins are due to start circulating on Thursday.

But the 100 bolivar bill makes up to nearly 50 percent of the banknotes used in the country, according to Central Bank data released in November, with more than 6.1 billion of the 100 bolivar bills currently in circulation.
Those lines at the banks should be amazing.

Not surprisingly, some Venezuelans have given up on bolivars and are using dollars, instead.

(Ironically, the bolivar is formally known as the "bolívar fuerte", the "strong bolivar".)
- 3:51 PM, 13 December 2016   [link]


America's First World War II Draftee:  This historical tidbit doesn't have much to do with David Gelernter's thesis in America-Lite, but it is so interesting that he couldn't resist including it.
In fall 1940, President Roosevelt asked for and got America's first peacetime draft.   Starting in October, men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-five are randomly chosen for twelve months of service.  (Duty was extended when America entered the war, and men became eligible starting at eighteen.)  At noon on October 19, 1940, Secretary of War Stimson reached into a glass bowl and, in a dazzle of flashbulbs, drew the name of Yuen Chong Chan (18 Pell Street, Manhattan) to be the nation's first peacetime draftee.  Chan announced that he was pleased to be picked, was considered a crack shot by his friends (shooting galleries were a favorite urban amusement), and couldn't wait to start battling Japan. (pp. 29-30)
And I can't resist sharing it.

You can find a little more of the story at his source, this issue of Life magazine.

(I think I've mentioned this before, but it won't hurt to repeat it:  I found America-Lite interesting and instructive, but too mono-causal for my tastes.   Our universities deserve considerable blame, but there is enough blame to go around.)
- 8:44 AM, 13 December 2016   [link]


Sometimes, The Caption And The Drawing work together, beautifully.
- 7:45 AM, 13 December 2016   [link]


My Soccer Team Had A Good Run, winning four in a row, against Egypt (2-0), South Africa (1-0), Zimbabwe (2-0), and Ghana (1-0).

But then the Indomitable Lionesses lost to the perennial powerhouse.
Nigeria won the women's Africa Cup of Nations for an eighth time after a 1-0 win over hosts Cameroon in front of a capacity 40,000 crowd in Yaounde.

A late goal from Desire Oparanozie was enough for Nigeria to retain the trophy they won in Namibia two years ago.

The Super Falcons have dominated this competition, winning all but two of the ten editions played so far.
Here's hoping the Lionesses win it all in 2018.
- 4:26 PM, 12 December 2016   [link]


Worth Reading:   Ethan Bronner and Michael Smith's long article, "Why Witnesses to Venezuela’s Catastrophic Corruption Keep Turning Up in the U.S.".

Here's the one-sentence summary:
If you have the goods on the Maduro government, Martín Rodil might be able to get you a deal.
If you don't have time to finish it today, glance through it, and come back to it when you do.

(Americans may find it ironic, at the very least, that the Venezuelan regime was violating American laws by sending dollars to Iran — through the United States.)
- 7:54 AM, 12 December 2016   [link]


The "Pepper & Salt" Cartoon showing the woman being examined by the doctor is pretty good.  Right now, it's the third from the top.
- 7:00 AM, 12 December 2016   [link]


The Venezuelan Regime has its own "Toys for Tots" program.
Venezuelan authorities have arrested two toy company executives and seized almost four million toys, which they say they will distribute to the poor.
I think I like the original one better.

(If you are wondering, four million won't be enough toys so that every poor kid in Venezuela can have one.  Even assuming the regime doesn't steal most of them before they are distributed.)
- 3:34 PM, 10 December 2016   [link]


The Snow Arrived Here Last Night:  There's just enough to close or delay many local schools, and make a mess of many local roads, but not enough, at my altitude, for cross country skiing.

As usual, drivers lack of experience with snow is causing many problems on the roads.  For example, many drivers are still surprised that, though the freeways and main arterials are clear enough, the off-ramps and side streets may not be.

Most of the mess should be gone by this afternoon, except up in the mountains.

(The weather forecasters got the amount and pattern of the snow about right, but had trouble with the timing.)
- 9:19 AM, 9 December 2016   [link]


Urban Crime Has Decreased In Recent Decades:  But it hasn't disappeared.

(That cartoon seems especially appropriate for the New Yorker.)
- 8:44 AM, 9 December 2016   [link]