Archive:

May 2016, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



More Trump Scandals:  It may be hard for some to believe, but I really would rather not spend time covering that subject.  As I've said, it's like cleaning up after an incontinent horse — and it's a solved problem; anyone who wants to know whether he is fit to be president can find out, easily enough.

But then I realized that popularizers — Matt Drudge, for instance — were covering for Trump, were refusing to link to the many Donald Trump scandal stories.

And so I decided I should provide a few of those links, myself.  Not every day, but enough to make up, a little, for what Drudge and company should be doing.

Golfers will understand the details in today's scandal link, better than I do.

A few days ago, when I linked to that story about Oscar De La Hoya accusing Trump of cheating a golf, I did a quick search to see if there were other, similar stories,  And found that the Washington Post had actually done a formal investigation.

Here's a summary from one of the men Trump played against:
“Golf is like bicycle shorts: It can reveal a lot about a guy,” said Rick Reilly, the sportswriter who hit the links with Trump for his 2004 book “Who’s Your Caddy?” — in which Reilly lugged clubs for several of the world’s best golfers and VIP amateurs.

As for Trump? “When it comes to cheating, he’s an 11 on a scale of one to 10,” Reilly said.
But Reilly enjoyed playing with Trump, in spite of that.  (Narcissists are often quite charming,)

And who else rates an 11, according to Reilly?  Bill Clinton.  (I've been telling you that Trump is probably a Bill Clinton Democrat).
- 3:16 PM, 8 May 2016   [link]


Massive Canadian Fire, Syrian Refugees Hardest Hit:   All right, that wouldn't be quite fair as a headline for this New York Times article — but it's close enough so that the article reminded me of the famous joke.

(There are probably a few people who haven't seen it, or need reminding.  The usual form of the joke goes something like this:

What headline would the Times use for an impending asteroid strike?
Answer:  "World Ends Tomorrow, Women and Minorities Hardest Hit")
- 2:08 PM, 8 May 2016   [link]


Another Theory Of Everything Fails a crucial test.

(Here's a more serious treatment of the subject, if you need one.)
- 10:53 AM, 8 May 2016   [link]


Happy Mother's Day!  I first started using mother ducks on this holiday in 2003.  The next year I snapped this picture, and it is still one of my favorites in the series, for the story it tells.



This year, like last year, for whatever reason, I have seen mother ducks on Lake Washington only when I am not carrying a camera.  Maybe they have decided they deserve modeling fees for posing, a few scraps of bread, for instance.
- 10:34 AM, 8 May 2016   [link]


Worth Buying:  This weekend's Wall Street Journal, for this essay, "Hard Truths About Race on Campus", by Jonathan Haidt and Lee Jussim.

Haidt and Jussim have come to this conclusion about campus reforms pushed by groups like the "Black Lives Matter" movement:
We are social psychologists who study the psychology of morality (Haidt) and the causes and consequences of prejudice and stereotypes (Jussim).  As far as we can tell, the existing research literature suggests that such reforms will fail to achieve their stated aims of reducing discrimination and inequality.  In fact, we think that they are likely to damage race relations and to make campus life more uncomfortable for everyone, particularly black students.
I had come to similar conclusions decades ago, from personal experience, and from reading a little of the same literature.

If this scientific knowledge is so well established, why haven't social psychologists, and other social scientists spoken out against such "reforms"?  I haven't been in close touch with academia for decades so I am speculating, but I think there are two principal reasons they haven't.  The first is the obvious one:  Speaking out can damage one's career; if, for example, you oppose a chartreuse studies program, then those who support it are likely to label you as "anti-chartreuse", which would be a very bad thing on many campuses.

The second is less obvious.  Like everyone else, academics don't always apply what they know abstractly to what they see in their daily life.  And that is especially true when that abstract knowledge conflicts with their ideologies.

If you were to present the argument that Haidt and Jussim are making abstractly, taking out actual groups, to social psychologists, perhaps as many as 90 percent would agree with it, and cite literature that supports the argument.

But as soon as you apply the argument to specific, politically correct, groups, those same academics would find it much harder to agree with Haidt and Jussim.

(Full disclosure:  I bought Haidt's book some time ago, but have just begun to read it.)
- 9:16 AM, 7 May 2016   [link]


Two Early Confirmations:  It was odd this morning, waking up, skimming the New York Times and the Wall Stret Journal, and finding strong support for the arguments I made yesterday, that Donald Trump would not unify the Republ9cajn Party, and that he would have trouble raising money from traditional Republican donors.

What I said was obvious, but I wasn't expecting it to be confirmed, so soon, and so dramatically.

(I suspect that many Trump supporters will be surprised by the extent of opposition to Trump within the Republican Party, though people have been trying to tell them this would happen, for months and months.  Sometimes they remind me of that old joke, usually told about Harvarf:  "You can always tell a Harvard man — but you can't tell him much.")
- 7:50 AM, 7 May 2016   [link]


Parents Of College-Age Children will like this cartoon.   (In spite of the obvious mistake in biology.)

Here's a generic political cartoon, which I like partly because I am not absolutely sure what the cartoonist was trying to say.
- 7:24 AM, 7 May 2016   [link]


The State Of The Presidential Race:  (Assuming, as seems almost certain, that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the nominees.)

At about this point, the polls begin to be half-useful predictors, especially when the candidates are as well known as these two.

The pattern shown in this series of match-ups is quite striking.  The two converge rapidly in the early part of the campaign, with Trump gaining and Clinton losing, until around the beginning of September.  And then the pattern reverses, with the two diverging, gradually.

You'll notice that Trump has never been ahead in those poll averages, though he has been quite close, at times.

So Clinton has to be rated the favorite, right now.  But not an overwhelming favorite, given how close those averages still are.

The British bettors appear to agree; as I write, they are giving Clinton a 70.7 percent chance of being elected president, and Trump a 24.4 percent chance.

If you are trying to decide whether those odds are about right, here are four things to keep in mind:

First, there are more Democrats than Republicans.  If the issues and candidates are equal, you would expect the Democrats to win every presidential election.

Second, Trump will not unify the Republican Party, and, as the smaller party, Republicans need unity more than Democrats.  Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse is not alone in his refusal to vote for Trump, and many more prominent Republicans will only give lip service to supporting Trump.

Third, Trump will have trouble raising money for the general election; I wouldn't be surprised to see him out-spent by three or even four to one.  The usual donors don't like him, and I don't see him attracting many new ones, or using much of his own purse, which is, almost certainly, much smaller than he says it is.

Fourth, Trump is a better campaigner than Clinton.  And he will have an odd advantage of having no record that voters can use to judge his promises, wild and otherwise.

I'm not ready to make even a wild guess about how all that adds up, especially given the possibility of legal troubles for one or both candidates.
- 5:06 PM, 6 May 2016   [link]


The NYT Is In Favor Of "Restoring Sanity"  And who could be opposed to that, abstractly speaking?

Where do they want to restore sanity?  In North Carolina bathrooms.

How do they want to restore sanity?  By allowing men who think they are women — or claim they are — to use women's bathrooms, and women who think they are men — or claim they are — to use men's bathrooms.

Opposing that is, according to our newspaper of record, insane.

Sadly the Times does not tell us when the newspaper itself stopped being insane.  I am absolutely certain that the newspaper used the traditional bathroom rules — those with XY chromosomes go in the men's rooms and those with XX chromosomes go in the women's rooms — until rather recently, no more than ten years ago, at a guess.  That was, according to the Times, insane.

I am nearly certain that that anti-science editorial was not intended as satire.  Nearly.

(As satire, it would be too heavy-handed for my tastes, unlike the George Mason article I mentioned .earlier)
- 1:08 PM, 6 May 2016   [link]


Philip Sheridan And Cinco De Mayo:  Many Americans celebrate the holiday, often thinking it is Mexico's independence day.

It's not; instead it commemorates the Mexican victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.  After that battle Napoleon III sent heavy reinforcement, and soon controlled much of Mexico.

The United States disapproved, but we were kind of busy with our own problems at the time.  After our Civil War ended in 1865, we were able to give the Mexicans some support, and some practical help.
[General] Grant was also concerned about the situation in neighboring Mexico, where 40,000 French soldiers propped up the puppet regime of Austrian Archduke Maximilian.   He gave Sheridan permission to gather a large Texas occupation force.  Sheridan assembled 50,000 men in three corps, quickly occupied Texas coastal cities, spread inland, and began to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border.  The Army's presence, U.S. political pressure, and the growing resistance of Benito Juárez induced the French to abandon their claims against Mexico.  Napoleon III withdrew his troops in 1866,[36] and the following year Emperor Maximilian was executed for treason.  Sheridan later admitted in his memoirs that he had supplied arms and ammunition to Juárez's forces: "... which we left at convenient places on our side of the river to fall into their hands".[37]
(Links omitted.)

As I recall from reading elsewhere, Sheridan left about 30,000 guns, along with ammunition, for Juarez.  And those battle-hardened American troops probably helped Napoleon III decide to withdraw.

(Yes, I'm a day late, but the history is so interesting I wanted to share it anyway.)
- 10:17 AM, 6 May 2016   [link]


Worth Buying:  Today's Wall Street Journal, if only for this brief article on impact fees.
Sluggish entry-level construction is putting a squeeze on families that would like to buy their first home. A new report blames City Hall.

The culprit: “Impact fees” that builders have to pay municipalities when they get permits for new construction, says the report from Zelman & Associates, a housing-research firm.  These fees fund the local infrastructure needed to support a growing population—schools, transportation, environmental mitigation and utilities.
In the cities studied, the impact fees for a single home ranged from "$2,600 in Houston to $72,000 in San Francisco", and averaged about $21,000.

As I assume most of you have deduced already, these impact fees are extremely regressive, hitting the working class and middle class much harder than the rich.

(For fun, woek out how many years a workier, earning $15 an hour, would have to work to pay the impact fees in San Francisco.)
- 9:05 AM, 6 May 2016   [link]


Yesterday's New Yorker Cartoon is pretty funny.

And not at all political.
- 8:12 AM, 6 May 2016   [link]


I Finished Michael Hayden's To the Edge last week, and can recommend the book, conditionally.

It is not a book full of exciting spy stories; Hayden wouldn't have been allowed to put those in.  It is, instead, a discreet book describing how national security policies are executed by our intelligence bureaucracies, and, to some extent, how those policies are formed.

It's a terribly important subject, but not to everyone's taste.

So what I would suggest you do, if you think might be interested, is read at least the first chapter, to see if what he is saying interests you.

(I have the Kindle version and think it is not only cheaper, but for many, superior.   There are no pictures, so you don't lose anything there, and you can do simple searches on the content.)
- 8:41 PM, 5 May 2016   [link]


This Pretty Blue Butterfly Has A Secret:  In fact, the Large Blue butterfly has a deep, dark secret.

The butterfly begins its life as butterflies commonly do, as an egg laid by its mother on a plant.  The egg hatches, and the little caterpillar begins nibbling on the plant.   It grows to a certain stage (third moult).

And then . . . . . . .

Large Blue butterfly

And then the caterpillar drops off the plant and waits for an ant to come along, pick it up, and take it back to the ant's nest, where the caterpillar becomes the house guest from hell.
Like many members of the genus Phengaris, large blue butterfly caterpillars exhibit a form of parasitism in which they take advantage of a host species.  In this case, the hosts are specific species of the Myrmica ant.[21]  By being similar to Myrmica ants physically and chemically and possibly using other forms of mimicry, large blue caterpillars are able to trick the ants into taking them back to the ant nest.[22]  Once there, the caterpillar will either become a predator of the ant larvae or beg for food by acting like an ant larva in what is known as a “cuckoo” strategy.[23]  Through much research, it has been well documented that large blue butterflies act as predators in the host nests.  Currently, the “cuckoo” method is viewed as a more viable strategy as studies have found more larvae per nest of “cuckoo” butterflies than predator butterflies.[18][19][24]
When the caterpillar has eaten enough, it forms a pupa, develops into a butterfly, and crawls out of the ant's nest.  (It is sometimes attacked while making its escape.)

Is there a political point to this post?  By analogy, yes.  But I think i'll save that for another day.

(There's more in this Nicholas Wade article.)
- 7:48 PM, 5 May 2016   [link]


Donald Trump Cheats At Golf?!  That's what boxer Oscar De La Hoya says.

For the record:  I have no idea whether what De La Hoya says is true.  The story he tells is almost too bad to be believed.  On the other hand, he isn't the first to accuse Trump of cheating at golf.
- 4:27 PM, 5 May 2016   [link]


The War On Women Comes To Seattle:   Financier Chris Hansen has been trying for years to bring NBA basketball back to Seattle.   He has proposed building a sports complex south of down town, near where the Seahawks and Mariners play.

His plan requires that the city give up part of a street in that area, Occidental, to be specific.

The city council voted on that, and he lost, 5-4.  The five "no" votes were cast by the women on the council; the four "yes" votes were cast by the men.

As anyone would expect who knows sports fanatics, that has some men upset, and behaving badly.  Now Chris Hansen is trying to repair the damage his supporters have caused.
Would-be developer Chris Hansen wants an immediate halt to "highly inappropriate and offensive comments" directed at five women on the Seattle City Council whose votes Monday dealt a blow to his proposed NBA arena.

"While we may not agree with the Council's vote, misogynistic insults, vile comments and threats are unacceptable and need to stop," Hansen said in a statement.

The councilwomen have received a barrage of sexist insults on Twitter and Facebook, as well as claims that women do not understand sport, after they voted against vacating Occidental Street in Sodo.
I may be risking abuse here, but I am inclined to think the women are right — but then I am skeptical about all proposals to subsidize pro sports, and opposed to all schemes that bring more traffic to down town Seattle.
- 1:07 PM, 5 May 2016   [link]


"Obama’s Gradual Iraq War"  The Wall Street Journal describes President Obama's slow build-up in Iraq. (Link fixed.)  They even include a useful table showing the troop deployments.

The Journal is not impressed by the results so far.
The Obama Administration has been touting its military progress against Islamic State, to the extent of counting the ISIS dead and predicting victory by next year.  Well, maybe not.  The latest political turmoil in Baghdad is throwing that timeline into doubt and again highlights the risks of President Obama’s policy of gradual escalation.
The Journal believes, as I do, that much of the chaos could have been prevented if Obama had chosen to keep a residual military force in Iraq.

Where the Journal and I differ is on who is responsible for this gradual build-up; the Journal thinks it is Obama, but I think it more likely that Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is doing what he can to win the war against ISIS, while not getting too much grief from Obama during Obama's "victory" tour.

Let me say, immediately, that I have no direct evidence for my theory.  But it is consistent with what we know about the two men.

Moreover, similar things are almost routine in the last year or so of a presidency; as a president's power declines, those under him begin to more and more do what they want, rather than what he wants.

(Carter is a very smart man, so I would expect him to have a good understanding of just how much he can do to win the war, without annoying Obama.

As I recall, proposals for a residual force mostly ranged between 15,000 and 30,000 men.  I would expect Obama to resist getting anywhere near even the lower number.)
- 10:38 AM, 5 May 2016   [link]


The Way George Washington Feels in this cartoon is the way I felt yesterday.

All four of the leading candidates for president: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, and Bernie Sanders fail the character test — but primary voters in the two parties chose them, anyway.
- 7:18 AM, 5 May 2016   [link]


Another Tech Bubble Indicator?  Here's the headline: "Is the Tech Bubble Popping?  Ping Pong Offers an Answer".

Specifically, the sales of ping-pong tables.

You can decide for yourself whether there might be any value in this indicator.  (If I were still an active investor, I'd be tempted to look for some statistics on the question.)
- 6:53 AM, 5 May 2016   [link]


Firefly Squid:  The popular name is appropriate; these little animals light up like fireflys, even using the same pair of chemicals, the luciferin fuel, and the luciferase catalyst.

Right now, they are putting on a show off Japan, as they do every year about this time,

They aren't very well understood, as you can see by comparing that article from the Times with this Wikipedia article.

But they are definitely fascinating.

Bing and Google turned up similar collections of images.

(Thought you might enjoy a break from politics; I know I needed one.)
- 7:36 PM, 3 May 2016   [link]


The NYT Has Not Changed Its Position On Genocide:  In March, I noted that the New York Times, to its credit, was opposed to the genocide in the Middle East — and that the newspaper rejected any serious attempts to stop it.

They haven't changed their minds.  A week ago, they objected to the deployment of an additional 250 troops to Syria, which is where much of the genocide is occurring.
On the face of it, President Obama’s decision to send 250 more members of the military to Syria to fight the Islamic State may seem like a small move.  The number is a far cry from the 180,000 American troops who were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan when he took office in 2009.

But there is good reason to be concerned about this expanding mission, which increases the United States’ involvement in Syria well beyond the 50 Special Operations personnel there now.
You may find reading the whole editorial painful; the Times claims that the best solution to ISIS' is to end the civil war in Syria, and then concedes that is unlikely to happen.

What they propose instead doesn't match the urgency that you would expect if they really wanted to stop genocide.

(I am hoping to do these posts on genocide at least once a week, generally on Sunday.  I missed this week because I spent all that time watching the coverage of the anarchist protest/riot in Seattle.)
- 6:51 PM, 3 May 2016   [link]


Noemie Emery Is Anti-Cruz, And Pro-Cruz:  And she's right in both, in my opinion.

Here's how she begins:
Yes, the stupidest thing ever done by a really smart person was Ted Cruz's strategy for 2013, when he really believed he could become president in 2016 by trying on purpose to shatter his party, pitting the far-right against the somewhat-right center, threatening the career prospects of his colleagues in Congress by making them vote on things against their own interests, and driving them into frenzies of rage.  Yes, those colleagues were right to despise him.  "Republican regulars, you see, actually hate Ted," as Carl Cannon informs us.  "They have much more antipathy for him than for Hillary.  They don't want to hear Cruz's voice again when this campaign is over," much less to see him as president.  Or as John Boehner put it, "I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life."
(I could probably think of some even stupider things — but not off hand)

In the next paragraph she switches to the "pro" side of the argument.

(Emery is one of the few writers that I read almost automatically, since she is almost always worth reading.)
- 4:39 PM, 3 May 2016   [link]


"Too Much?"  Well, yes it is.

But I am afraid that's a preview of the kind of presidential campaign we'll be seeing soon.
- 4:07 PM, 3 May 2016   [link]


5000-1 Bets Don't Pay off Very Often:  So it's fun when they do.
Leicester's unprecedented title triumph "made mugs of all of us", according to Premier League chief Richard Scudamore.

The 5,000-1 outsiders beat bigger rivals Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea to land their first top-flight title.
(For Americans as ignorant of the Premier League as I was, I should add that those other, wealthier teams always win the title.)

I don't know of any professional teams that have beaten such heavy odds, in any sport.

They are celebrating this event in Thailand, since the team is owned by a group of Thai businessmen, who provided the team with amulets, blessed by a Thai monk.  We should not be surprised if other teams contact that monk.

(Something I had not known:  British bookies will allow bettors with winning bets to cash out early, at a heavy discount, of course, and will even allow bettors to cash out part of a bet.  For example, one man cashed out two pounds of a five pound bet.)
- 3:49 PM, 3 May 2016   [link]


Her Filing System looks a lot like mine.
- 1:07 PM, 3 May 2016   [link]


If I Had Written This NYT Article On George Mason, It Would Be Satire:  Since a reporter for the Times wrote the article, we can be nearly certain that it is not intentional, but unintentional, satire.

(And pretty good, if you read it as satire.)

For those who don't want to read the whole article — and there's no special reason you should — here's the story:

One of the Koch brothers has been contributing to the economics department and the law school at George Mason University, making them more hospitable to libertarian ideas,  Now, along with another, anonymous donor, he has given $30 million to the law school, with strings attached, one of them being that the law school will be renamed after the late Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia

This has leftists at the university, and elsewhere, extremely upset,

Including the leftist reporter who wrote the story, Nicholas Fandos.

So, let's summarize:  Having one economics department and one law school at one university that tolerate libertarian ideas is unacceptable to our leftist friends.  Especially if the law school is named after an eminent conservative justice.

Our leftists are a tolerant bunch, aren't they?

(Fandos is confused, as many people are, by the differences between conservatives and libertarians.  The two groups often agree on economic issues, and, these days, freedom of speech, but disagree on many other issues.  The Koch brothers are libertarians, not conservatives.) .
- 4:00 PM, 2 May 2016   [link]


Yesterday, I Spent Hours Watching Two NBA Playoff Games, And The Live Coverage Of The Annual May Day Anarchist Protest March/Riot:  I wanted to learn whether Jeremy Lin would be fouled, hard, and not get a call, whether the Golden State Warriors could win without Stephen Curry, and whether the annual march/riot would take its usual form.

In short:

He was.
They could, at least against the Portland Trailblazers.
It was the usual, almost ritualistic by now, combination of a protest march and riot that we have come to expect in Seattle every May Day.

Here's a brief account of the protest march/riot. with lots of pictures.
Seattle police arrested nine demonstrators and five officers were hurt Sunday evening during the annual anti-capitalist march that proved to be less chaotic than last year's protest.

But protesters and police officers still exchanged fire, with firecrackers, rocks and Molotov cocktails coming from the crowd that were met with pepper spray and blast-balls from cops.
(Blast balls are crowd control devices.   They are probably less dangerous than large firecrackers.)

Near the end of the march/riot there may have been as many reporters and photographers covering it, as there were protesters.

So for all those hours of TV, all I saw was the same old, same old, and same old.

(Some may wonder why Seattle didn't arrest the anarchists at the beginning, since the group had no permit.  That's against city policy, at least for groups that are, broadly speaking, on the left.  I don't know what they would do to a violent group on the right.)
- 11:26 AM, 2 May 2016   [link]


You May, If You Are Like Me, get some guilty pleasure from this New Yorker cartoon.

Unless you are a Ted Cruz supporter with no sense of humor.

(For the record:  If I were voting in the Indiana primary tomorrow, I'd vote for Cruz.)
- 10:25 AM, 2 May 2016   [link]


Happy Easter!   To all those who celebrate it today.

Easter flowers, 2008

Which is most Orthodox Christians, this year.
- 7:21 AM, 1 May 2016   [link]