May 2016, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
If 40 percent is a mandate, As Trump Says, What About 42 Percent? Because that's the share of the popular vote Comrade Sanders has captured, so far.
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton has captured 56 percent of the popular vote.
By the usual standards — assuming you accept adding up votes that way — Democrat Hillary has a mandate, socialist Bernie doesn't, and Bill Clinton Democrat Donald doesn't.
- 3:34 PM, 16 May 2016 [link]
Worth Reading: Adam Garfinkle's angry diatribe, "Rhodes to Ruin", against Ben Rhodes and Barack Obama.
Two samples. the first on the Iran "deal", and the second more generally on Obama:
Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is indisputable: As I have written several times over the past few years, the truth was always the reverse of what President Obama often declared: “Better no deal than a bad deal.” The President’s real view was better a bad deal than no deal, because no deal meant a likely need to use force in the context of two other Middle Eastern wars that were neither concluded nor going particularly well. Indeed, some at the NSC engaged on the issue were actually candid enough, or foolish enough, to tell some interlocutors that from the start. The rest of us had to infer it.There's much more, almost all of it worth study, though I can't say I agree entirely with every argument he makes.
(Garfinkle quotes, at more length than usual, a quote from Karl Rove that has always baffled me. He does give a location, so I suppose I'll have to find the whole article, for the context Some time.) .
- 3:08 PM, 16 May 2016 [link]
From A Wikipedia Article To A Press Release: On Saturday, when I mentioned the big party celebrating the opening of two light rail stations, I put in a link to the Wikipedia article on the system, so those not familiar with this area would have some idea of what they were celebrating.
Except, it isn't an article; it's a press release.
Here, for instance, is how the contributors describe that little cost problem:
In the late nineties and early 2000s, Sound Transit underwent a series of financial and political difficulties. The cost of the line rose significantly, and the federal government threatened to withhold necessary grants.Would you guess from those rather bland sentences that the system set per-mile cost records for the United States — by a lot? I don't think many readers would guess that fact from that soft word, "significantly".
(A very quick search found this site, which has some claims you won't see in that Wikipedia article. No guarantees, but the numbers look about right, to me.)
In the past, when I looked for articles on the system in Wikipedia, those record costs were mentioned, and they may still be, somewhere. That they aren't in the main article shows editing, I am nearly certain, by public relations folks, perhaps even those working for Sound Transit.
It occurs to me that this gives us another general rule about when you should distrust Wikipedia articles: A large organization is likely to have a big advantage at Wikipedia over scattered critics.
(Anyone who wants to play detective can look at the editing history to see who is responsible for that article. You could even experiment with adding the record costs, to see if the regular contributors allow those facts to stay in the article.)
- 9:57 AM, 16 May 2016 [link]
"How About A Hug?" Here's an unusual campaign technique, now being used against Brexit.
Some expatriates are surprising the British with hugs to show they are still welcome in Europe, but it can be awkward; ‘not a very British thing to do’How effective is the technique? For me, it would depend on who was offering the hug.
(Currently, the huggers are leading in the betting markets, 71-29.
Hugging for votes would probably work in some parts of the United States, Hollywood, for instance, but not in others.)
- 8:39 AM, 16 May 2016 [link]
It's Not Just A Good Idea, Mr. Kristof. It's The Law: Four days ago, I linked to a Nicholas Kristof column that called for liberals to be more tolerant of conservatives and evangelicals.
Today, the letters replying to his column reminded me of something he (and all the letter writers) missed: Discriminating against a man for his faith is illegal. Under our civil rights laws, it is just as illegal to discriminate against a man because he is a Mormon, as because he is black.
Kristof's newspaper may be able to discriminate against conservatives — and they probably do, but they can't discriminate against evangelicals, legally — and they probably do that, too.
Neither Kristof, nor any of the letter writers, mentioned that fact.
(Religious organizations can discriminate on the basis of religion for some jobs, which won't surprise you.
There is at least one exception; Washington state's Initiative 200 does not make religion a protected class. There may be others on the state and local level, but I am nearly certain that all federal civil rights laws include religion.)
- 6:26 PM, 15 May 2016 [link]
Here's A Practical graduation speaker.
- 10:53 AM, 15 May 2016 [link]
Numbers And The College Mating Game: I must begin by warning you that what follows is not at all romantic, though I think it is consistent with evolutionary theory, and with what we can see, if we look objectively at how and when men and women find mates.
(And I suppose I should add that I can be romantic, in the right circumstances.)
Let's begin with the numbers; currently, women earn about 139 degrees for every 100 degrees men earn.
Rounding off, just a tiny bit, that means there are roughly 14 women for every 10 men on collage campuses.
To those numbers let us add something most of know from experience, something consistent with evolutionary theory: Women are likely to get serious about finding a mate, forming a pair bond, getting married — however you want to say it — a few years earlier than men do.
And with the current ratio of women to men on college campuses, a great many men see no reason to settle down.
Which, inevitably, makes many women unhappy with men in general, and often with particular men.
That ratio, and those different expectations, explain much of the turmoil over sex on campuses.
- 4:07 PM, 14 May 2016 [link]
On 19 March, Local Officials Held A Party Celebrating Victories Over Local Taxpayers: All together the party cost $858,379.
(The officials say the party was to celebrate two new Link Light Rail stations, but I think my version is more accurate.)
The cost of the party is drawing some criticism, but I think the critics are looking at the wrong problem. The area would be better off if we could persuade the officials to spend a little more money on parties — as long as the public is invited — and no more money on light rail, which has been fantastically expensive, so far.
Parties, not trains. How's that for an election slogan?
(If we want to improve transit here, we could spend a moderate amount more on bus rapid transit, and stop trying to jam so many people into an area, downtown Seattle, where the geography is against us.)
- 2:59, 14 May 2016 [link]
Two New Yorker Cartoons, One Amusing And One Baffling: The first, showing the aliens, I think almost everyone will understand, assuming they have heard about Hillary Clinton's interest in UFOs. The second, Canada's electoral college problem,. baffled me yesterday, and baffles me today.
(You may have to scroll down a bit, because I am linking to their general daily cartoon site.
Though I like the alien cartoon, I have a feeling it could be improved, though I'll admit I do not, as yet, have a specific idea on how to do that.)
- 2:07 PM, 14 May 2016 [link]
Looking For Michael Ramirez Cartoons, now that Investor's Business Daily has stopped daily publication?
You can find them at the Jewish World Review.
(And just in case you aren't familiar with the site, I'll add that you can find many other cartoonists and columnists there, and even some comic strips.)
- 1:44 PM, 13 May 2016 [link]
What's Donald Trump Hiding In His Tax Returns? Timothy L. O'Brien can make pretty good guesses, because he has seen some of Trump's earlier tax returns.
Which he can't tell us about, for legal reasons.
But he can give us some hints, starting with this one:
1) Income: Trump has made the size of his fortune a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, implying that it’s a measure of his success as a businessman. He has also correctly noted that the income shown on his tax returns isn’t a reflection of his total wealth. Even so, income is a basis for assessing some of the foundations of any individual’s wealth -- and would certainly reflect the financial wherewithal of the businesses in which Trump is involved.That one seems nearly certain to me — and is one of the reasons I don't think we'll ever see those returns.
(I suppose I should say again that I dislike doing posts on Trump scandals, but feel obligated to, since people like Matt Drudge, for whatever reasons, aren't.)
- 9:49 AM, 13 May 2016 [link]
Donald Trump's Long-Time Butler Is Even More Interesting Than I Originally Thought: When I saw the March New York Times article (link fixed) on Anthony Senecal, I thought it one of the more revealing pieces about Trump.
Butlers have a more intimate view of the men they work for than any outsider can, so it wasn't surprising that Senecal would know revealing things about Trump, but it was surprising that he would be so frank in talking to the reporter.
. Despite that, I was not expecting Senecal to have such strong political opinions, and to post them on Facebook.
There is really very little in the way of interpretation necessary when reading the Facebook feed of one Anthony Senecal, former butler and estate historian to Donald Trump. Senecal maintains a social media feed that has drawn the attention of the Secret Service because on Wednesday Senecal updated it with a post suggesting that President Obama, whom he usually refers to as "zero" or "0," should be killed. He paired it with a kind-of-endorsement for Trump.Senecal has put up other posts that can fairly be called extreme.
Can Senecal's opinions be tied to Trump? David Corn thinks so, and you can read his argument on that point.
I am not entirely sure, because it is so hard to tell what Trump actually believes, about anything.
But I do think that we can draw one inference from some of Senecal's posts, and that original NYT article. Senecal and Trump brought in Rumanians as servants at Mar-I-Crooko. If they had hired Americans instead, many of them would have been black. It seems almost certain that, like Leonard Bernstein, Trump and Senecal hired foreign servants in order to avoid hiring American blacks.
(Credit where due: Mother Jones broke this story.)
- 9:01 AM, 13 May 2016 [link]
If You Work In An Office, you may have felt this urge from time to time..
- 7:20 AM, 13 May 2016 [link]
It's Just A Little Study, but its conclusion, that boys can beat girls in reading, is fascinating.
When they do it is consistent with my experience:
The research, in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, showed that boys outscored girls on reading tests if they were told the tests were a game. But boys scored significantly lower than girls when told the tests were assessments of their reading skills.It is politically incorrect to say this, but I have found that boys are more likely to respond positively to open competitions than girls.
And that's true, though to a lesser extent, even of boys of a certain age.
But — let me repeat — it's just one little study, so far.
- 7:39 PM, 12 May 2016 [link]
Obama Lied — Genocide: I've read, but not yet studied, the Ben Rhodes profile, "The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama's Foreign-Policy Guru" , that Thomas Friedman reacted so negatively to. (Along with many others.)
Calling it a profile is incomplete; it is a profile, but it is also an indictment of the Obama/Rhodes Middle East policies, and the dishonest way they were sold to the public.
As I read through that part of the article, I began to think of a brief and vivid way to summarize it, and came up with the title of this post,
That title may be unfair; as I said, I haven't studied the profile yet, much less any of the replies to it.
But for now, I think that title is a fair summary: Obama and Rhodes were willing to lie, and to accept terrible costs, in order to get their agreement with Iran.
(Of course, if I change my mind after study and reflection, I'll tell you.)
- 5:36 PM, 12 May 2016 [link]
"Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment Woes Aren’t Unusual in Brazil’s Turbulent Politics" Here's the bottom line:
Of Brazil’s eight elected leaders since 1950, only three—Juscelino Kubitschek, Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—have managed to serve out their full terms. One died before assuming office, while another committed suicide. Yet another mysteriously resigned, and his successor was overthrown in a coup. Ms. Rousseff would be the second forced out by impeachment.Over the same period, the United States has elected ten presidents; two, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, did not complete their terms. (I'm assuming President Obama will complete his second term.)
Such comparisons don't make me happy, but they do make me feel less bad about the United States.
- 10:01 AM, 12 May 2016 [link]
Artificial Tribes, Imaginary Tribes: As I've said more than once, humans form tribes as naturally as wolves form packs. For both groups it is the most natural way to organize.
Almost every politician understands this tendency, and will use it, sometimes unscrupulously, to manipulate people.
Tribalism is so powerful that politicians sometimes create what I like to think of as artificial tribes. That's one way of understanding what community organizers do, when they organize a community. A neighborhood becomes a sort of tribe, unified against outsiders, sometimes officials, sometimes other neighborhoods.
As Barack Obama could tell you, there can be big payoffs for this kind of organizing.
The power of tribe versus tribe is so strong that some leaders even create imaginary tribes. That's what Paul Krugman was doing, when he suggested, half jokingly, that leaders invent an alien invasion, in order to stimulate the world economy.
Of course, leaders are rarely as frank as Krugman when they create imaginary tribes, and some even believe in the imaginary tribes they have created, or borrowed from others.
Imaginary tribes have one great advantage for politicians over real tribes and artificial tribes — they can't fight back. If the world were to adopt Krugman's suggestion, no alien spokesmen would appear at the UN to protest, and no aliens would try to organize their voters against Krugman.
What I am going to argue, over the next week or so, is that many of our current ills are the result of unscrupulous leaders persuading voters of the existence of imaginary tribes. Far too many voters have been persuaded to follow leaders who are attacking phantoms.
(Here's the usual Wikipedia article on tribes.)
- 9:14 AM, 12 May 2016 [link]
The Father Is 79, The Mother Is Probably 72, and their baby is just weeks old.
With her wispy grey hair Dalijinder Kaur appears besotted as she looks down on her newborn baby.This is probably a record age for giving birth, but not certainly, since Kaur does not have a birth certificate, and so does not know her exact age.
According to this article, Kaur is now breast feeding her son, Arman. Doctors think that's a good sign.
So 72 is the new 22?
Not so incidentally, Indian law forbids adoption for couples over 45 years old.
- 7:44 AM, 12 May 2016 [link]
Her Plan May Not Be Practical, but we know how she feels. (Link fixed.)
Though most of us would have different conditions for the opening.
- 6:30 AM, 12 May 2016 [link]
Mt. St. Helens Is Rapidly Losing Its Snow: As you can see it you compare this recent picture:
With a current picture, which you can see by clicking on the St. Helens picture in the left column.
Both pictures show the Crater Glacier, which is now extending out from the crater. (Wikipedia is not up to date on the glacier's growth.)
As photographers would know, the best times to see the mountain are usually around sunrise and sunset.
- 4:42 PM, 11 May 2016 [link]
Two New York Times Columns Worth Reading: One from Nicholas Kristof, "A Confession of Liberal Intolerance".
We progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table — er, so long as they aren’t conservatives.What he has to say won't surprise many conservatives, but it is good to see it coming from a bleeding heart liberal like Kristof.
And one from Thomas Friedman, "Trump’s Miss Universe Foreign Policy".
The most interesting part isn't about Donald Trump, but about the Obama administration:
The New York Times Magazine just profiled one of the president’s deputy national security advisers, Ben Rhodes, reporting how he and his aides boasted of using social media, what the writer called a “largely manufactured” narrative, and a pliant press to, in essence, dupe the country into supporting the Iran nuclear deal. The Donald is not the only one given to knuckleheaded bluster and misrepresentation on foreign policy.Thomas Friedman doesn't like being lied to, even by a president he often supports.
For some Obama supporters, the comparison to Trump would hurt the most.
(For the record: For me, "bleeding heart liberal" is not a completely, or even mostly, negative label. I think of Kristof, and those like him, as people who may be biased, who may be unrealistic, but who want the best for all of us. And there are bleeding heart conservatives, too. I may be a little bit of one, myself.)
- 3:07 PM, 11 May 2016 [link]
What's Donald Trump's Favorite Newspaper? The National Enquirer.
As Carl Cannon says, that's a problem.
(This campaign has left me wondering about Trump's reading habits. As far as I can tell, he hasn't read any books, as an adult, other than the ones he has had ghost written about himself.
And I am not entirely sure he has read all of those. Some years ago, I recall reading about a sports star, in Philadelphia if I recall correctly, who had had a book written for him. When a reporter asked him about something in the book, he replied that he didn't know because he hadn't read the book.)
- 9:39 AM, 11 May 2016 [link]
Hillary Clinton's Loss Of Support In West Virginia: In 2008, Hillary Clinton defeated Barack Obama in the West Virginia primary by more than 40 points (67-26). This year, Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in West Virginia by 15 points (51-36).
So what changed in the last eight years?
A simple answer seems the most likely to me; in 2008 she was running against Obama; this year she is running as his heir. (And, of course, she made an unfortunate remark about coal miners.)
To be blunt, Obama has never shown much affection for working class white folks, especially those living in rural areas, and many of those folks have noticed.
Quite early in his presidency, a devastating ice storm, centered on Kentucky, hit many rural areas hard. I was expecting Obama, if only for political gain, to show empathy, and make some effort to help those affected.
And he hasn't tried to do much for those areas since then.
(Those who can do arithmetic will have noticed that in both 2008 and 2012, the two leading candidates did not come close to winning 100 percent of the vote, between them. In 2008, most of the missing vote went to John Edwards; this year, the largest share (9%) went to a West Virginia attorney, Paul T. Farrell, Jr.)
- 9:10 AM, 11 May 2016 [link]
After His Massive Defeat In 1964, Barry Goldwater came up with this reply to Stevenson: "It's great country, where anybody can grow up to be President . . . except me."
Source, p. 59.
- 8:03 AM, 11 May 2016 [link]
Ant's Nests And Western Societies: When I described the Large Blue butterfly that preys on ant's nests, I mentioned that I saw a political analogy in that butterfly. (Actually, more than one, but I'll just discuss one, today,)
Ant societies are fantastically productive; they are superb hunters, scavengers, gatherers, and even farmers. They are so successful that ants, together, "may form 15–25% of the terrestrial animal biomass".
That success has, inevitably, attracted predators, parasites, and symbiotes.
Ants form symbiotic associations with a range of species, including other ant species, other insects, plants, and fungi. They also are preyed on by many animals and even certain fungi. Some arthropod species spend part of their lives within ant nests, either preying on ants, their larvae, and eggs, consuming the food stores of the ants, or avoiding predators. These inquilines may bear a close resemblance to ants.In other words, many other species pretend to be a particular ant species in order to get at the resources in those nests, using visual and chemical clues to fool the ants.
Western Societies are fantastically productive. Inevitably, they have attracted symbiotes, parasites, and predators.
Often the predators and parasites gain entrance to Western nations by pretending to share the values of those nations, as described, so vividly, by V. S. Naipaul.
Abroad, the emigrants threw themselves on the mercies of the civil-liberties organizations. They sought the protection of the laws of countries where the planes had brought them. They or their representatives spoke correct words about the difference between poor countries and rich, South and North. They spoke of the crime of racial discrimination and the brotherhood of man. They appealed to the ideals of the alien civilizations they denied at home.Instead of using chemical clues, they use verbal clues. They may come from a tribal society, but they know enough about the West to speak of universal human rights, when interrogated.
I see no perfect way to distinguish between the symbiotes and the others, between those who will make our societies even more productive, and those who will be net losses. I do think, as I've said before, that we can do better if we pay more attention to the values that those who want to join our societies hold. That's not easy to do since some will work hard to fool us, but we should try, anyway.
And, as we can learn from the Large Blue, we need to pay attention to what they do, not just what they smell like, or say.
- 4:14 PM, 10 May 2016 [link]
John F. Kennedy Was Not A Populist: The president who became, especially after his assassination, a great popular hero, believed that elected leaders should, sometimes, go against the will of the people.
In fact, that's the theme of the book he and Ted Sorenson wrote, Profiles in Courage.
The book profiles senators who defied the opinions of their party and constituents to do what they felt was right and suffered severe criticism and losses in popularity because of their actions. It begins with a quote from Edmund Burke on the courage of the English Statesman, Charles James Fox, in his 1783 attack upon the tyranny of the East India Company in the House of Commons.You can think of the book as a series of illustrations of the arguments the great conservative thinker, Edmund Burke, had made, especially in his "Speech to the Electors of Bristol", where Burke said: "Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion."
(The issue they were arguing over was free trade with Ireland; Burke was for it, and powerful interests in Bristol were against it.)
There is an inevitable tension in representative democracies; we expect our elected leaders to represent us, to do what we want — but there are times when they should go against the popular will, even if it means they lose their offices in a future election.
(If you would like to read a little more Burke, you can find many free eBooks at Gutenberg, Volume 2 has the speech I quoted from.)
- 10:38AM, 10 May 2016 [link]
Although John F. Kennedy Did Not Originate the "risk" line I quoted yesterday, he did once say: "Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president, but they don't want them to become politicians in the process."
(Mothers can be unrealistic, at times.)
- 9:12 AM, 10 May 2016 [link]
A Partial Answer Answer To The ISIS Logistics Question: For years I've wondered about the logistics of the larger terrorist organizations. How, for instance, does Boko Haram acquire guns, ammunition, trucks, and the fuel for those trucks?
On the whole, journalists seem less interested in these questions than I am, so I haven't seen many answers, not even best-guess answers from intelligence officials.
But today the Wall Street Journal published an article that gives us an answer to how ISIS converts some of the natural gas and oil it produces into cash: George Haswani.
Haswani, a dual Russian-Syrian national, buys oil and natural gas from ISIS — and sells it to the Assad regime. The natural gas is especially crucial because burning it supplies most of Syria's electricity.
I'm sure Haswani isn't the whole answer, and equally sure he is a large part of it.
And I am fascinated by the fact that he spoke to the Journal on the record.
- 7:00 PM, 9 May 2016 [link]
The 40 Percent "Mandate" Although Donald Trump has yet to win a majority of the delegates to the Republican national convention, he is already claiming a "mandate" to rule. (I don't know whether he has used the word "mandate" yet, but the word describes what he is claiming.)
Ordinarily, we say a politician has a mandate if they won by at least a solid majority, for instance 55 percent rather than 50 percent.
So, what percentage of the vote has Trump won, so far, in the Republican contests? 40.2. For every two Trump voters, there are three voters, who chose other candidates.
Let me say, immediately that, as something of a purist, I recognize that there is something hokey about adding up caucus votes and primary votes, as the Wikipedia contributors have done. Nonetheless, I think the general conclusion stands, that Trump has no claim to a mandate, no claim to be able to force his policies on the Republican Party.
(Some will wonder how well Mitt Romney did, by this same measure, in the 2012 contest, where there was also a large number of candidates. 52.1 percent.
For the record; I expect Trump's percentage to rise, in the mostly uncontested primaries to come, but I doubt whether he'll reach Romney's level.)
- 4:40 PM, 9 May 2016 [link]
First Clinton, Now Trump: When Bill Clinton first came on the national scene, American news organizations were reluctant to say much about his personal peccadillos. But the British tabloids weren't, and provided some of the most interesting coverage of the man.
Now, the Daily Mail is doing something similar for Donald Trump, in an article describing some of his personal scandals.
There's a lot there, for example:
The man who now demands a wall along the Mexican border wasn’t always so hostile towards illegal immigrants. In 1980, he demolished an architecturally acclaimed Manhattan building, using 200 undocumented Polish workers.Trump has a reputation for such tactics, a reputation he appears to have earned.
Anyone who has followed Matt Drudge for a few years will recognize that this is a classic Drudge story, but if he has even linked to it, I've missed that.
- 7:57 AM, 9 May 2016 [link]
Britain's Local Elections: Last Thursday, Britain held local elections. Most of the attention went to the London mayoralty race, where a member of the Labour Party (and Muslim), Sadiq Khan, won.
But that was what you would expect, since London usually chooses Labour candidates in mayoralty elections.
Overall, the results were mixed.
The British electorate rarely fail to surprise. It shouldn’t be possible to produce elections where all are losers and most are simultaneously winners and yet that’s precisely what happened.David Herdson then goes on to discuss the results, party by party.
(Some may be unfamiliar with the "curate's egg", as I was until a few years ago.)
- 7:07 AM, 9 May 2016 [link]
Adlai Stevenson Once Said: "In America, any boy may become president, and I suppose it's just one of the risks he takes."
(Source. Incidentally, it took me a little while to find the quote, because I mistakenly thought John F. Kennedy had said it That's another example of how we tend to attribute quotes to more famous people. I have known about that trap for years, but didn't think about it while I was searching.)
- 6:15 AM, 9 May 2016 [link]