Archive:

July 2017, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



"You're Fired!"  If some newspapers don't use that headline for their stories on the firing of Anthony Scaramucci, I'll be disappointed.

(So far, I see this as a positive sign.)
- 4:25 PM, 31 July 2017   [link]


Mary Mallon, A Victim Of The "Establishment"  Mallon was a poor Irish immigrant, who worked as a servant in households in the New York area.  She was pursued by the authorities and imprisoned twice, the second time for life, though she was never convicted of a crime.

Before you start feeling too sorry for her, you should know that she is better known by her nickname, "Typhoid Mary".
Mary Mallon (September 23, 1869 – November 11, 1938), better known as Typhoid Mary, was the first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the pathogen associated with typhoid fever.  She was presumed to have infected 22 people, three of whom died, over the course of her career as a cook.[1]  She was twice forcibly isolated by public health authorities and died after a total of nearly three decades in isolation.[2][3]
(If you read the whole article, you'll learn that the 22 infected and the 3 dead are minimum estimates.)

The title I chose for this post is not intended to be sarcastic, but to reflect Mallon's beliefs.  "[S]he refused to acknowledge any connection between her working as a cook and the typhoid cases."

All too often, people believe what they want to believe.

There is a second general lesson in her case, a lesson that those who believe in an "establishment" should take to heart:  Sometimes the "establishment" is right.

Now, if you are feeling even a little ambitious, take a look at that Mankiw column, and see how many of his lessons apply to Typhoid Mary's case.  (I assume everyone will spot the externalities immediately, but there are others.)

(For the record:  Many of us are asymptomatic carriers of diseases.  For example, if, like me, you had chicken pox as a kid, there is a good chance the virus is still inside you, waiting for your immune system to weaken, so it can come out as shingles.)
- 3:22 PM, 31 July 2017   [link]


"The Magic Of The Free Market Sometimes Fails Us When It Comes To Health Care"  Greg Mankiw explains why, at an Econ 101 level.
- 8:54 AM, 31 July 2017   [link]


Whenever I See Flowers For Sale, I am reminded of this cartoon.

(That's a warning, I suppose.)
- 8:30 AM, 31 July 2017   [link]


As I suspected, Ryan Lizza has a recording of that amazing Scaramucci call.
- 7:12 PM, 30 July 2017   [link]


"The Mariners' Bats Kept Their Foot On The Gas"  I swear that I heard that, or something very close to that, from one of our TV sports folks this afternoon.

I knew what she meant, and I was charmed by the way she said it — but I didn't even try to visualize it.
- 6:54 PM, 30 July 2017   [link]


Would Your PBS Station Like this idea?

Probably.
- 8:13 AM, 30 July 2017   [link]


Now Is A Good Time To Bet On A Trump Impeachment, says David Herdson.
Rather than try to speculate about what might occur, or when, we’re better off looking at the politics – because impeachment is ultimately about politics.   Proceedings are unlikely to be brought in 2020: that’s too close to the election and if there were some particularly scandalous behaviour, congress would still be likely to leave it to the voting public in the primaries and – if it got that far – the general election to deal with the matter.

Similarly, while there is a chance of action being taken this year or next, the odds aren’t attractive.  For one thing, Trump is here protected by his otherness.  Politicians will be wary of someone who ignored all the rules and yet won anyway as it implies powers in action that they do not fully understand and hence might suffer from.  That’s not to say Trump is safe – he’s too hyperactive and too unrestrained for that – but it does give a layer of cover.

No, to me, 2019 offers the best value being priced as far out as 18/1 for an impeachment vote with Paddy Power.  2019 is, obviously, after the mid-term elections.
So Herdson believes there is more than a 5 percent chance Trump will be impeached — in 2019 alone.

I agree with his reasoning on the most likely year, but am undecided about which side of the bet I would take at those odds.  Fortunately, the problem is purely hypothetical for me, unless I leave the United States, which I don't plan to do.

(Paddy Power, for those who want to see more odds.  I assume you know they won't accept bets from the United States.)
- 1:43 PM, 29 July 2017   [link]


The NYT Finally Takes A Look At The Imran Awan Case:  And comes to the same conclusion that I did back in March.
But for all the publicity, few if any of the fundamental facts of the case have come into focus.  The criminal complaint against Mr. Awan filed on Monday alleges that he and his wife conspired to secure a fraudulent loan, not to commit espionage or political high jinks.  And Mr. Awan’s lawyer, Christopher Gowen, says the more explosive accusations are the product of an anti-Muslim, right-wing smear job targeting his client and his client’s family.

So is the family’s story the stuff of a spy novel, ripe for sleuthing and criminal prosecution, or simply an overblown Washington story, typical of midsummer? Many here are finding it hard to say.

The tale more or less began six months ago, when investigators for the United States Capitol Police started looking into allegations by unnamed House lawmakers that the Pakistani-Americans had executed some sort of scam.  What, exactly, has not been clear.  News outlets have alluded variously to a procurement scheme, outright theft of computers or unauthorized access to computer networks — in addition to more extreme crimes like espionage.
(Others suspect their Muslim religion has protected the family, so far.)

The reporting on this case has been so confused that I am not absolutely sure whether the Awans were employees of the House, or contractors.  (The second seems far more likely.)  Or how Imran Awan came to be employed there, to begin with.

Nor has any official explained why this investigation has taken so long, with, until the arrest, no visible results.
- 9:09 AM, 29 July 2017   [link]


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

My favorites:  In Politico, Ruben Bolling's tribute to "Calvin and Hobbes" and David Horsey's boy scouts; in RealClearPolitics, Signe Wilkinson's better slogan.

This is probably a good time to explain why I regularly link to these collections.  I think looking at political cartoons — especially cartoons with which you disagree — gives you a better understanding of the feelings of voters.  When Thomas Nast drew the Tammany organization as a tiger, he both reflected and shaped public sentiments.

("Calvin and Hobbes".)
- 8:13 AM, 29 July 2017   [link]


If You Have Worked With Computers For A Few Years, you may have had this feeling already.
- 6:55 AM, 28 July 2017   [link]


Are Three "Bill Clinton Democrats" Running The White House?  Last year, I came to this tentative conclusion about Donald Trump:
If I had to describe his political beliefs in a single phrase, I'd say he is a "Clinton Democrat", specifically a Bill Clinton Democrat.
After Trump the two next most powerful men in the White House are probably his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and now the new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci.  From what I know about Kushner and Scaramucci, they too could be described as "Bill Clinton Democrats".

Perhaps some of the fighting in the White House is caused by the ideological differences between Republican conservatives like Reince Priebus and Bill Clinton Democrats, posing as Republican conservatives.
- 8:57 PM, 27 July 2017   [link]


Anthony Scaramucci Is Not Off To A Good Start:  The new Trump communications director accused Trump's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, of a felony — falsely.
At 10:41 p.m. Wednesday, Scaramucci tweeted: “In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept. #swamp @Reince45.”  The inclusion of Priebus in the tweet immediately set political reporters about calling, emailing and texting their White House sources to confirm that Scaramucci was in fact doing what he appeared to be doing:  Publicly accusing the White House chief of staff of a felony.
. . .
[Except . . . ]  There had been no leak.  The Politico reporter, Lorraine Woellert, obtained Scaramucci's disclosures by making a routine request to the Ex-Im bank for the form 278e that Scaramucci completed before working there. Woellert tweeted: "Mr @Scaramucci's Form 278e is publicly available from ExIm.  Just ask."
And then Scaramucci followed that up with an obscene and incredibly vulgar phone call to a New Yorker reporter, Ryan Lizza, attacking enemies — as Scaramucci sees them — in the Trump White House.

It appears that Priebus was right to block Scaramucci from a job in the White House, as Priebus had done earlier.

(If you read some of the comments after the Althouse post, you'll notice that Trumpistas are having a hard time accepting that phone call as real — even though it is nearly certain that Lizza has a recording of the call.)
- 8:16 PM, 27 July 2017   [link]


Some Days I Get Tired Of These Mud Wrestling Contests:  A small example:

It was wildly inappropriate for Donald Trump to make a campaign speech to the Boy Scouts; it was crazy, and way over the top, for a few of his critics to describe the event as being similar to a Hitler Youth rally.

But I haven't seen any sign that any of the mud wrestlers intend to behave better in the future.  Which is unfortunate, because we really need some serious discussions of serious issues, and this nonsense drowns those out.  The shows may be entertaining, but they are destructive.

(Although this evening will be an exception, mostly I intend to ignore the mud wrestling, and do what little I can to discuss serious issues, seriously.)
- 5:52 PM, 27 July 2017   [link]


Here's A Solution For Those long waits in doctors' offices.
- 10:21 AM, 27 July 2017   [link]


Murder Trends In Chicago:  They are much talked about, with some saying murders are way down in the city, and others saying that murders have spiked.

Oddly enough, both are right — depending on the time period:

 Annual murder totals in Chicago

Source:

The total number of murders is down since the peaks in the 1970s and 1990s — and the murder total has jumped up sharply since 2015.  The decline since the 1990s is similar to that found in the rest of the nation; the sharp increase since 2015 is peculiar to Chicago, and some other large cities.

Specifically the large cities where you would expect to see the "Ferguson effect", where police under heavy criticism — deserved or not — retreat, and the bad guys are emboldened.

The running totals kept by different organizations vary slightly, but this year's total looks as if it will be about as high as last year's.

(In comparing murder totals over long periods of time, it is important to keep in mind the changing demographics.  Chicago has lost almost one million people since 1950, and the population has aged since then.)
- 3:31 PM, 26 July 2017   [link]


Imran Awan Arrested:  And — finally — fired.
Imran Awan, a House staffer at the center of a criminal investigation potentially impacting dozens of Democratic lawmakers, has been arrested on bank fraud and is prevented from leaving the country while the charges are pending.

A senior House Democratic aide confirmed Awan was still employed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) as of Tuesday morning.  But David Damron, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, later said that Awan was fired on Tuesday.
However, the mysteries continue.

In March, I said I didn't know whether this was a small, medium, or large scandal.  I still don't know.  And I still don't know why so many House Democrats chose a Pakistani family to take care of their computers, or why neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post has covered this story.

(I am reluctant to mention this, but there is a spooky possibility:  The Awan family may have been working for one of our intelligence agencies, and given cover jobs in the House.  For what it is worth, their car dealership was named "Cars International A".)
- 7:21 AM, 26 July 2017   [link]


The Wall Street Journal's Expert Reviewer doesn't think much of the Discovery Channel's shark/Phelps race.
- 6:05 AM, 26 July 2017   [link]


The "Mixed Axial-Gravitational Anomaly" Mystery:  This New York Times article left me puzzled.
The equations that describe the universe at the smallest and largest scales — how the tiniest elementary particles dance, how the space-time of the cosmos bends — predicted a slight incongruity, a tiny unbalancing in the numbers of certain particles under certain circumstances.

The imbalance is negligible except when the warping of space-time is extreme — like next to a black hole or the moment after the Big Bang.  Now physicists may finally observed this phenomenon, mixed axial-gravitational anomaly, in a class of exotic materials known as Weyl semimetals.

A solid Weyl semimetal crystal was first created a couple of years ago.  The anomaly leads to more electrons of one spin moving from the hot side to the cold side of the semimetal ribbon, generating an electric current, which physicists were able to measure.
So I looked for the original paper and found this abstract.   Which, believe it or not, left me slightly less puzzled — say 97 percent instead of 99 percent.  And then I read this IBM blog post.  Which left me about 95 percent puzzled.

But I'll keep trying, at least until I figure out what gravity has to do with it.

The IBM folks think this might be as fundamental an advance as the transistor, so there are practical reasons to pay attention to it.

(Wikipedia on Weyl semimetals.)
- 7:06 PM, 25 July 2017   [link]


Repeal And Replace Survived:  Barely, thanks to John McCain.

But today's vote just continues debate on ObamaCare, and a possible replacement.  Now the question is whether Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can somehow put together 50 votes for an actual bill.

I would still say the odds are against that, but McConnell has shown considerable skill in keeping the effort alive, so far.

One thing that is hurting Republicans is that they lost 2 Senate seats in the 2016 election.  I believe that, with a stronger candidate at the head of the ticket, Kelly Ayotte would have won in New Hampshire.  (She lost by just 716 votes.)   They might even have won the Nevada race, where Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto defeated Republican Joe Heck by just 2.4 percent.
- 2:24 PM, 25 July 2017   [link]


Some Days You May Feel your company should have the last benefit mentioned in today's "Pepper...and Salt" cartoon.
- 8:21 AM, 25 July 2017   [link]