Archive:

May 2016, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



RoboBees:  They don't look much like bees, do they?

RoboBees

But they can fly, and now researchers have taught them how to perch, like most flying creatures.
They perch one way or another at some time or another.  Many birds grip tree branches, bats hang upside down, and insects land on just about anything.

For robots bigger than the RoboBee, researchers have developed gripping mechanisms, like spikes that shoot into a tree limb or other kind of perch, and aerial anchors that the robot can throw out.

RoboBee scientists came up with an elegant and, necessarily, lightweight solution involving an adhesive patch on the top of the robot.
If you are wondering what use RoboBees might be, eventually, Wikipedia has some possibilities.
The goal of the RoboBee project is to make a fully autonomous swarm of flying robots for applications such as search and rescue and artificial pollination
And I imagine you can think of some military possibilities, without much effort.

How much smaller can researchers go?  I don't know, but networked floating dust motes play an important part in Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky.  (Vinge is a computer scientist, as well as a science fiction writer.)
- 3:55, 24 May 2016   [link]


More On Donald Trump's "Mandate"  Two weeks ago, I argued that Donald Trump's performance in the primaries and caucuses did not give him a mandate.

In his article, "The Insider", Jay Cost extends that argument.
In fact, Trump has won 41 percent of the primary votes cast to date.  His share of the total primary vote will increase now that he is unopposed, but most—if not all—previous GOP nominees won a larger share than Trump is likely to achieve.  In 2008 John McCain won 47 percent of the Republican primary vote; in 2012 Mitt Romney won 52 percent.  Gerald Ford won 53 percent in 1976, Ronald Reagan 61 percent in 1980, George H.W. Bush 68 percent in 1988, and George W. Bush 63 percent in 2000.  Trump could still eke out a slightly larger share of primary votes than McCain did, but only if there is large turnout in the handful of remaining contests.  In all likelihood, he will be the least-popular nominee in the modern era.
(Emphasis added.)

Bob Dole received 59 percent of the popular vote in 1996, if you were wondering.

And those cheering crowds at Trump rallies? —Trump's supporters are intense but not, by modern standards, especially numerous.

(In the rest of the article, Cost argues that Trump's success owes much to media elites, and to party elites who set up rules intended to make a quick choice of a nominee more likely.)
- 2:06 PM, 24 May 2016   [link]


Andy Kessler Starts His Speech To Graduates with some examples of what not to say.
Debt-laden graduates, affluent alumni, birds-of-a-feather faculty and tuition-burdened parents:  I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that I won’t be sucking up to you with the same old graduation platitudes.  You should have invited Oprah:  “How do you know when you’re doing something right?  How do you know that?  It feels so.”  Or Michael Dell:  “The key is to listen to your heart and let it carry you in the direction of your dreams.”  Or Hillary Clinton:   “Give it your all.  Dare to be all you can be.”

Those are so vapid as to be meaningless—and you young’uns need real advice.   So unscrunchie your man-buns, stop posting anonymous snark on YikYak, and listen up.
(When I saw that quote from Michael Dell, literal fellow that I am, I immediately asked these questions:  But what if your auricles and ventricles disagree, as they usually do?  And how can a pump carry you somewhere?)

Those quotes would be even funnier if we didn't know that the speakers were being paid big money to say those things.

The rest of what Kessler has to say is the kind of practical advice that graduates often need.

(For advice on how the graduates should live their lives, it's hard to beat what Clarence Thomas said.)
- 9:47 AM, 24 May 2016   [link]


Today's New Yorker Hillary Cartoon is just okay, but yesterday's Trump cartoon is pretty funny

(Note on terminology:  For years, I have been calling cartoons from my daily calendar "today's cartoon", not realizing that the New Yorker actually had a daily cartoon at their site.  From now on, I'll say "calendar", if that is where I get a cartoon.

Incidentally, for years I have believed that starting the work day with a cartoon or joke was a good idea, that it made me more productive.  Sadly, I have no evidence for that belief, other than my feelings.)
- 8:55 AM, 24 May 2016   [link]


Justin Trudeau Gets Physical:  With a female member of the Canadian parliament.

Well, he "identifies as a feminist", so the Canadian Prime Minister might have elbowed a male MP, in just the same way.

(Canadians haven't lost their sense of humor.)
- 4:18 PM, 23 May 2016   [link]


More On Trump's Temporary Polling Advantage:  Four days ago, I argued that Donald Trump had a temporary advantage over Hillary Clinton because he no longer had an active opponent.

Now Philip Bump is making the same argument.
As it stands, registered voters prefer Trump by a narrow two-point margin.

But that figure is probably a bit misleading.  No one is actively running against Trump. Clinton is still being challenged by Bernie Sanders, whose vocal base of young voters continues to hope that he’ll defy the odds between now and the convention.  Republicans who were leaning against Trump while he was still battling for the nomination have, largely, fallen in line.  Democrats who don’t want to vote for Clinton haven’t.
But more extensively, and with an annotated graph from 2008, to illustrate the point.

(Nonetheless, it is still true that Trump has been gaining on Clinton among British bettors, during this last week.)
- 3:49 PM, 23 May 2016   [link]


Scylla Or Charybdis, Medusa Or The Erymanthian Boar, Evita Or Hugo, Hillary Or Donald:  There are no good choices in those pairs, are there?

But I have been thinking about what those who are dissatisfied with that last pair should do, in the rest of this year, and afterward.  And I hope to say something useful on those subjects, soon.

(I put up that list of pairs so you can tell which is which; for instance, in the second pair, it should be obvious that Donald Trump is the boar.   (For Charybdis I am using the traditional "whirlpool" definition.)

Perhaps I haven't been following popular culture closely enough, but I don't know whether Clinton is Kang or Kodos, whether Trump is the Alien or the Predator, or which one is the pack of wolverines.)
- 1:28 PM, 23 May 2016   [link]


"What If Clinton Gets Indicted?"  Karl Rove asks that question, and provides tentative answers.

Here's how he begins his speculative column:
Despite losing the Oregon primary while barely eking out a win in Kentucky, Hillary Clinton emerged with 51 of Tuesday’s delegates to Bernie Sanders’s 55.  To reach the 2,383 needed for the nomination, Mrs. Clinton now needs only 92 of either the 890 still-to-be-elected delegates or the 148 still-unpledged superdelegates.   This is because she is already supported by 524 superdelegates—the Democratic Party’s unelected overclass—to Mr. Sanders’s 40.

Still, she must be concerned about losing the FBI primary.  If the bureau recommends that the Justice Department indict Mrs. Clinton or close aides like Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin or Jake Sullivan for acting with gross negligence—disregard of known or easily anticipated risks—in sending classified information over a private email server, the campaign could be completely scrambled.
(You can use the usual Google search trick to read the rest of the article at the Journal.)

His speculations seem reasonable to me, though, as I've said, I think the FBI will delay any decision until after the election.

(This wouldn't affect the election, but it occurs to me that — if Clinton loses the general election — the FBI might decide that would be a good time to recommend an indictment.  That would dump the problem in Loretta Lynch's lap, in time for President Obama to offer Clinton a pardon, if he wanted to.)
- 10:46 AM, 23 May 2016   [link]


Steven Hayward's Weekly Collection of pictures.

Some are quite good; one has a serious factual error.  Here's a correction:
In 1973, the Justice Department sued the Trump Management Corporation for alleged racial discrimination, which Trump's company disputed.  The corporation was charged with quoting different rental terms and conditions to blacks and making false "no vacancy" statements to blacks for apartments they managed in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.[474]  In response, Trump sued the government for $100 million, asserting that the charges were irresponsible and baseless.[475]  The ensuing countersuit was thrown out of court.[47]  The corporation settled out of court in 1975 and did not admit guilt, but promised not to discriminate against minorities.  In addition, the corporation was required to send a bi-weekly list of vacancies to the New York Urban League, a civil rights group and give them priority for certain locations.[476]  In 1978, the Justice Department sued Trump Management in Brooklyn for not satisfying the requirements of the 1975 settlement following allegations of discriminatory housing practices; Trump denied the charges and there is no indication that the Justice Department's suit was successful.[47][477]
There is other, more recent evidence on that question,  If you are curious, look for articles on Trump's long-time butler, Anthony Senecal.

(Were Trump and his father guilty of racial discrimination?  Almost certainly, I would say, given the evidence, and the strong financial incentives they would have had to discriminate.

Incidentally, Trump's father had had other run-ins with the law.)
- 8:56 AM, 23 May 2016   [link]


You Don't See Typos in cartoon captions very often.
- 8:10 AM, 23 May 2016   [link]


Turns Out We Do Know Something about some of Donald Trump's federal income tax returns.
The last time information from Donald Trump’s income-tax returns was made public, the bottom line was striking:  He had paid the federal government $0 in income taxes.

The disclosure, in a 1981 report by New Jersey gambling regulators, revealed that the wealthy Manhattan investor had for at least two years in the late 1970s taken advantage of a tax-code provision popular with developers that allowed him to report negative income.
The rest of the article is interesting, but I should warn you that you may get dizzy trying to follow Trump's twists and turns on this subject.

(I've read that big real estate developers can often exploit special provisions in the tax code to avoid taxes — and that's all I know about the subject.)
- 3:51 PM, 22 May 2016   [link]


Google Isn't The Only Tech Firm Behaving Badly:  So is Twitter.
Silicon Valley’s hostility to U.S. intelligence and law enforcement reached a new low last week when Twitter rejected the Central Intelligence Agency as a customer for data based on its tweets—while continuing to serve an entity controlled by Vladimir Putin.
Presumably the two decisions were made independently, but they sure look bad, when juxtaposed.

The CIA had been working with a Twitter subsidiary, Datminr, for two years, with, as far as I know, no problems.
- 2:42 PM, 22 May 2016   [link]


Google's Latest Pin-Up Girl Wouldn't Be My First Choice:  Okay, she's more a poster girl than a pin-up girl, but she still wouldn't be my first choice.
On Thursday Google unveiled an astonishingly controversial choice of Google doodle, the whimsical temporary alteration the homepage logo that hundreds of millions of people load each day.  Go to Google’s homepage and you’ll see the funky horn-rimmed spectacles of Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese-American activist who befriended Malcolm X and was iconically photographed cradling her dying friend after he was shot on February 21, 1965.

Then she joined the black separatist group known as the New Republic of Africa, advocated for the blood-soaked Peruvian Marxist terrorist movement known as Shining Path, defended multiple convicted cop-killers, and praised Osama bin Laden as “one of the people I admire… I thank Islam for bin Laden.”
(I assume she's no longer featured on their home page.)

There are times when I think that Google's political philosophy can be summed up as follows:  The company is opposed to "truth, justice, and the American way".   That's probably too strong, but it isn't a bad summary of Ms. Kochiyama's philosophy.

Oh, and Google isn't the only one who thinks she deserves praise; so does the Obama White House (among others).
- 1:50 PM, 22 May 2016   [link]


Where Do Opera Singers Get Their Love Of Opera?   Some from Bugs Bunny cartoons.
Many of the people involved in the Washington National Opera’s production of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle say their first exposure to opera came from the same source—Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd cartoons.
- 8:10 AM, 22 May 2016   [link]


"Deja Vu, All Over Again"  Last week was odd, because I kept getting confirmations, or at least support, for arguments I had made, earlier.

On 9 May, I said Donald "40 percent" Trump was acting as if he had a mandate; a day later Trump was using the word.

On 18 March, I said that giving ISIS prisoners to our Iraqi allies would pose security and human rights problems; on 11 May, the New York Times published an article noting those human rights problems (but missing the security problems).  (If only there was a safe place to put these prisoners of war.)

On 20 April, I agreed that it was unlikely that Hillary Clinton would be indicted before the election; on 11 May, FBI Director James Comey said the inquiry "won't be rushed".

And it hasn't stopped happening.  On 6 May I said that Donald Trump would have a hard time fund raising for the general election; today, the Times reports that top donors are shifting their money to House and Senate races.

(If I thought there was any causality in this pattern, I'd be making more optimistic predictions.)
- 2:43 PM, 21 May 2016   [link]


Google Searches Often Fail:  But you would think they would have gotten this one right.

(I checked so you don't have to; Google is currently displaying the wrong flag — surrounded by a number of correct images.  Bing had twelve correct images in its image search.)
- 10:26 AM, 21 May 2016   [link]


Golfers Will Like this cartoon.  (Non-golfers may need an explanation.)

(Don't know how long the link will work, since I am linking to the site, not the individual cartoon.)
- 10:00 AM, 21 May 2016   [link]


Strong Hillary Supporters May Not Like this New Yorker daily cartoon — but most of the rest of us will.
- 11:59 AM, 20 May 2016   [link]


Another Victory For John Boehner:  The Wall Street Journal noticed, though not many others did.
John Boehner isn’t popular with conservatives these days, but the former House Speaker deserves an apology from those who derided his lawsuit challenging President Obama’s usurpation of legislative power.  Mr. Boehner went ahead despite skeptics from the left and right, and on Thursday the House won a landmark victory on behalf of Congress’s power of the purse.

Federal Judge Rosemary Collyer handed down summary judgment for the House, ruling that the executive branch had unlawfully spent money on ObamaCare without congressional assent.  Judge Collyer noted that Congress had expressly not appropriated money to reimburse health insurers under Section 1402 of the Affordable Care Act.  The Administration spent money on those reimbursements anyway.
That Boehner and the House won is not surprising, since the constitutional principle is so clear — but I am still a little surprised that the Obama administration violated the Constitution, so directly, and so openly.

By now, however, the administration has lost so many court cases, some 9-0, that perhaps I should no longer be surprised,

(Here's a post describing the decision, the central constitutional issue: standing, and the coming appeal.)
- 11:35 AM, 20 May 2016   [link]


Funny, unless you happen to live in New York City.

And probably funny to most who live there, though they may not want to share the joke with everyone they know.
- 9:27 AM, 20 May 2016   [link]


Matt Ridley Has The Most Interesting Argument For Brexit That I've Seen:  Britain should leave the European Union in order to preserve its edge in science.
Britain – for its size – is probably the world’s leading scientific country. We have less than 1% of the world’s population, but 15% of the most highly cited scientific papers, and more Nobel prize winners than any other European country.  We are world leaders in biotechnology and digital technology and our greatest potential collaborators and potential rivals in both fields are in Asia and America, not Europe.

So it is vital that we remain open to the world, not stuck in little Europe.  A regional customs union protected by tariff walls and run from a central bureaucracy is a 1950s idea – an analogue project in a digital era, as Michael Gove puts it.
(Israelis would probably disagree with his first claim.)

His argument seems plausible to me, on general grounds; having two bureaucracies regulate science is likely to be much worse than having just one.  And he is right to call attention to the risk-averse Greens that do so much to hold back scientific progress in Europe.

In fact, it seems likely that his argument could be extended to engineering, and invention, generally.
- 5:41 PM, 19 May 2016   [link]


This Is A Difficult Time For Presidential Polling:  We have one candidate, Trump, who has no active opponents and us trying, sort of, to unite his party.  And we have another candidate, Clinton, who still has a very active opponent, and is not ready even to begin uniting her party.

So that gives Trump a temporary advantage, but how large is very hard to say.  For now, I'll continue to pay more attention to the betting markets than the polls, and they haven't moved much since the new polls have come out.

As I write, Trump is up 3.0 percent in the last week, but Clinton is down only 1.4 percent.

(Natalie Jackson had some sensible remarks about another set of polls that had some people freaking out.

Here's the Democratic scorecard for those who are wondering just how close Clinton is to clinching.  The betting markets) are giving Sanders a 2.8 percent chance of winning the nomination.  That's way too high, in my opinion, unless, of course, there is an indictment.)
- 3:21 PM, 19 May 2016   [link]


Worth Reading:  Jason Riley's column, describing how he was "disinvited" from a campus talk.
‘Progressives rule higher education,” write political scientists Jon Shields and Joshua Dunn Sr. in “Passing on the Right,” a new book on the dearth of conservative professors.  “Their rule is not absolute.   But conservatives are scarcer in academia than in just about any other major profession.”

Profs. Shields and Dunn aren’t exaggerating.  In the humanities and social sciences, they note, surveys show that the percentage of self-described Marxist professors is around 18%, or nearly double that of self-described Republicans.
This is awkward, but needs to be said:  In my opinion, Marxist beliefs are evidence of incompetence, not proof, but definitely evidence.  If you haven't noticed that Marx's central prediction, that workers would get poorer and poorer until the revolution, was falsified more than a century ago, you just haven't been paying attention.

In some fields, Victorian literature for instance, Marxist beliefs wouldn't be a fatal flaw, but in others, economics for instance, they would be.

(Here's the book he mentioned, and here's Riley's own recent book, which will show you why he gets invited — and now disinvited — to campuses.)..
- 10:56 AM, 19 May 2016   [link]


What Are British Leftists Saying About The Chaos In Venezuela?  Almost nothing.

After giving the regime their strong support in the 2013 presidential election, and before then.

For the most part, American leftists have also remained silent, with one small exception: Comrade Bernie Sanders.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said nice things about Sanders.
“He is an emerging candidate with a renovating and revolutionary message,” Maduro told a crowd congregated in Caracas to commemorate the “Anti-Imperialism Day” — a holiday created last year to mark March 9 as the day President Obama declared Venezuela a national security threat.
But Sanders hasn't returned the favor, calling Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chávez, a "dead communist dictator".

Despite that recent statement, I have the feeling that a man who honeymooned in the old Soviet Union might not be entirely hostile to the Venezuelan regime.

(Technically speaking, Sanders was right on one of three; Chávez is dead, but was not formally a communist, nor a dictator.)
- 10:26 AM, 19 May 2016   [link]


What Do You Get When You Combine Corruption, Incompetence, And Socialism?  Venezuela.

Here's a brief survey of the country's current food problems.
In his craving for power, the late Hugo Chávez pledged to redistribute Venezuela’s wealth to the poor masses.  The god-father of “21st-century socialism” seems to have been unaware that the resources he promised to shower on his people had to first be produced.

Fifteen years into the Bolivarian revolution, Venezuela is facing dire food shortages.  A crisis may still be averted—but only with a sharp reversal of the policies that have destroyed the country’s productive capacity.  A nation either has to produce what it consumes or must import it.  What it imports is paid for with foreign exchange from exports or debt.
Although Mary Anastasia O'Grady is right about the those policies, we should not ignore the effects of corruption and incompetence.

Hugo Chávez's followers have been stealing billions for years, and now that the price of oil is down, find much less to steal.  I suspect many of them are reacting to the current crisis by stealing even more, and sending it abroad, in case the regime collapses, as it may.

It is not entirely clear to me why Chávez and his successor,, Nicolas Maduro, have tolerated so much corruption.  Perhaps it is as simple as this:  They, or people very close to them, were stealing, too.  Or perhaps they thought they were stealing from the rich, as they were, in a few cases.

Similarly, it is not entirely clear to me why they tolerated so much incompetence.   In the old Soviet Union, there were often debates over whether positions should be filled by "Reds" or experts, by loyal party members or people who actually knew how to do the jobs.  Chávez and Maduro appear to have chosen "Reds" every time.

And so, we now have a country that is running out of food, has run out of medical supplies, and has spectacularly high levels of crime.

A country, let me remind you, that, by some measures, has the largest oil reserves in the world.  And many other resources, including much potentially productive farm land.
- 8:21 AM, 19 May 2016   [link]


Handling Hecklers The Taft Way:  Almost every politician will sometimes face hecklers, or even violent protesters.  Some politicians, if they are quick and clever with words, may invite the protesters to speak, and then refute them.  Others leave the protesters to security, and a few even encourage their supporters to attack the protesters

. One of the best responses, ever, came from William Howard Taft.
A heckler once tossed a cabbage at William Howard Taft during a political speech.  He paused, peered at the vegetable, and then placidly said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I see that one of my opponents has lost his head."
Taft 1, protester 0.

(Source, p. 10.)
- 6:46 AM, 19 May 2016   [link]


Thirty-Six Years Ago Today, Mt. St. Helens Exploded:   Here's how Wikipedia describes the event.
On May 18, 1980, a major volcanic eruption occurred at Mount St. Helens, a volcano located in the state of Washington, United States.  The eruption (a VEI 5 event) was the only significant one to occur in the contiguous 48 U.S. states since the 1915 eruption of Lassen Peak in California.[1]  The eruption was preceded by a two-month series of earthquakes and steam-venting episodes, caused by an injection of magma at shallow depth below the volcano that created a huge bulge and a fracture system on the mountain's north slope.  An earthquake at 8:32:17 a.m. PDT (UTC−7) on Sunday, May 18, 1980, caused the entire weakened north face to slide away creating the largest landslide ever recorded.  This suddenly exposed the partly molten, gas- and steam-rich rock in the volcano to lower pressure.  The rock responded by exploding a hot mix of lava and pulverized older rock toward Spirit Lake so fast that it overtook the avalanching north face.

An eruption column rose 80,000 feet (24 km; 15 mi) into the atmosphere and deposited ash in 11 U.S. states.[2]  At the same time, snow, ice and several entire glaciers on the volcano melted, forming a series of large lahars (volcanic mudslides) that reached as far as the Columbia River, nearly 50 miles (80 km) to the southwest.   Less-severe outbursts continued into the next day, only to be followed by other large, but not as destructive, eruptions later in 1980.

Fifty-seven people were killed, including innkeeper Harry R. Truman, photographer Reid Blackburn and geologist David A. Johnston.[3]  Hundreds of square miles were reduced to wasteland causing over a billion U.S. dollars in damage ($2.88 billion in 2014 dollars[4]), thousands of game animals were killed, and Mount St. Helens was left with a crater on its north side.
In time, the Forest Service installed a low-resolution camera that gives us pictures of the mountain.  From time to time I capture them, and made this collection in 2009.

(Click on a picture to see the full-sized version.)

(The high resolution camera, installed later, is currently out of service.)

As the eruptions subsided, Crater Glacier began to grow around the central lava dome.  This picture, from 2006, shows the glacier in the process of surrounding the dome.  The convex lobes show that the glacier is advancing.

Mt St. Helens Crater Glacier, 22 October 2006
(Click here for a somewhat larger version, and a link to the full-size, 3008x2000 pixel, original.)

(More:

A video from NASA showing the changes in the mountain over ten years.

An astonishing set of scrolling, full-screen 360 degree pictures of the mountain.

Finally, the best book I know of on the Cascade volcanoes, Stephen Harris's Fire Mountains of the West.
Recycled from last year.)
- 6:41 PM, 18 May 2016   [link]


The World Health Organization Says The US Is Number 1:  At what?  At reducing air pollution.
European countries, which rely heavily on diesel-fueled vehicles, remain far behind the United States in their efforts to reduce harmful air pollution, according to a report to be issued Thursday by the World Health Organization.

The report, which compiled air quality readings from 3,000 cities in 103 countries, found that more than 80 percent of people in those cities were exposed to pollution exceeding the limits set by W.H.O. guidelines, above which air quality is considered to be unhealthy.  And in poorer countries, 98 percent of cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants were out of compliance with the health organization’s guidelines.
. . .
That disparity was greatest in wealthier countries; more than 60 percent of European cities failed to meet the guidelines, compared with less than 20 percent in North America.
. . .
“The United States primarily has done an excellent job, moving from being a very dirty place in the 1950s to quite a clean place today,” said Dr. Carlos Dora, the health organization’s coordinator for its department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health.
(By North America, they probably mean Canada and the United States, since Mexico City has terrible problems with air pollution.)

Do any American leaders deserve special credit for this clean-up?  Yes, Republican presidents Richard M. Nixon and George H. W. Bush, and, possibly, Republican president George W. Bush, for his administration's "clean diesel" initiative.

So, if you live in an urban area in the United States, take a deep breath, and don't worry much about the health effects.  Unless, of course, there is a lot of pollen floating around, and you are allergic to it.
- 4:21 PM, 18 May 2016   [link]


One More Sour Conclusion About Those Republican "Debates"  For years, I have been arguing that the primary and general election debates are lousy ways to evaluate candidates, lousy ways to choose presidents.   That's especially true, of course, when there are many candidates, as there were in the Republican field.

I won't repeat the arguments I've made before, but I will give you the conclusion I came to, a week or so ago:  These debates are a good way, perhaps even a great way, to choose a reality TV star.
- 10:33 AM, 18 May 2016   [link]


Too Funny Not To Pass On:  Donald Trump's speculation about why he is regularly audited.  It's because he's a "strong Christian".

Fans of deceptive rhetoric will enjoy reading that part of the interview; Trump speculates, but provides no evidence, so there are no facts to check.  There isn't even a direct claim that can be evaluated — but Trump gets his message across, anyway.

Almost everyone who doesn't support Trump, and some that do, will recognize that his argument insults his audience.

By way of Catherine Rampell.

When I saw that in her column, I had to check it, and found the Goldberg post.

As far as I know, Trump hasn't been making that claim, recently.
- 10:12 AM, 18 May 2016   [link]


What's The Highest Mountain In The World?  The answer depends on where you are measuring from.  From sea level, it's Mt. Everest.  From the center of the earth, it's an Ecuadorian volcano, Chimborazo.

That's because, as we all know, earth is not a sphere, but an oblate spheroid, like most of the other large objects in the solar system.

Chimborazo is one degree south of the equator, and Everest is 28 degrees north.

According to the Times, if you measure from the center of the earth, Everest doesn't even make the top 20.

Everest is still way harder to climb than Chimborazo, though.

For years, I've wondered what mountain would be highest, measured from its base.  Assuming, that is, that you could come up with a reasonably precise definition of "base".  It's a natural question to ask when you have Mt. Rainier in your neighborhood, because that mountain rises almost from sea level.  That makes it much larger than many mountains that are taller.

If you could make such a definition, I suspect the tallest mountain would be a volcanic island, like Hawaii.

(Here's more on Chimborazo.)
- 9:29 AM, 18 May 2016   [link]


Today's New Yorker Cartoon made me laugh.

But then I like almost all Kim Jong-un jokes.
- 8:23 AM, 18 May 2016   [link]


Kim Kardashian, Secret Agent?  That's what the Iranians are saying.
Iran is accusing Kim Kardashian of being a secret agent - and she need do is post her selfies.

The Muslim country's agency charged with protecting its women and young people from the ravaging influences of Western culture, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp, has targeted the reality show star for her provocative selfies, reports Vanity Fair.
Excellent news if true — and pretty good news, even if isn't.

I'd much rather have them worrying about Kardashian, than doing some of the other things they've been doing.

Maybe some of our computer people can send a few provocative pictures their way.
- 4:34 PM, 17 May 2016   [link]


The NYT Editorial Writers Are Afraid Of The Little Sisters Of The Poor:  Afraid even to say the name of the order in this editorial on the Supreme Court's decision ordering a lower court to find a compromise.  Instead the Times gives the formal name of the case, Zubik v. Burwell, which the Times then describes it as follows:.
. . . which challenges the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers’ health care plans cover the cost of birth control for their employees.
Unless you happened to know that formal name — I didn't — you would probably have to think for a while even to figure out what the Times was discussing.

Usually, newspapers strive for clarity in their writing.

(In contrast, the Wall Street Journal editorial on the case was admirably specific, even mentioning that the nuns object to contraceptives they consider abortfacients.)

But the name of that order was just too much for the Times.

(Many have wondered why the Obama administration picked a fight with Little Sisters of the Poor, since it seems like such an obvious political loser.  I have two explanations for that decision and may get around to writing a post describing them some time.)
- 2:26 PM, 17 May 2016   [link]


"The Power Of Contradiction"  For those who try, at least from time to time, to think logically, that will seem, well, contradictory.  A contradiction is, after all, a fatal flaw — in a rational argument.

But, as Philosophy Professor Michael T. Lynch pointed out, in this recent New York Times opinion piece, "Trump, Truth and the Power of Contradiction", contradictions are a powerful tool for Trump.

Lynch begins with with a well-known fact from logic:  If you begin with two contradictory assumptions, you can prove, literally, anything.  (If, like me, you had forgotten that, you can find a review, here.)

Lynch then turns to an explanation of how Trump's endless contradictions actually help him, politically.

First, Trump's bold contradictions make him look like a strong leader.  For those who buy his act, he is showing that he is not afraid of journalists or other candidates, or whoever is questioning him at the time.  Trump's tactic is a way of following the advice often given to student debaters:  If you aren't sure of your argument, speak louder.

Second, and more important, contradictions allow his followers to choose whichever Trump position they like, and say that's what Trump really believes.  Think the minimum wage should not be raised?  Trump has taken that position.  Think it should be raised?  Trump has said that, too.

So, whichever position you hold, you can believe that Trump agrees with you, if you want to believe him.  And many do.
- 11:01 AM, 17 May 2016   [link]


What's Troy Kelley Been Doing Since His Trial?  As you may recall, our elected state auditor was acquitted on one count, and there was a hung jury on the other thirteen.  The federal prosecutors have not announced whether they will retry him on the other charges.

Despite that little unsettled legal problem, Kelley is back in his state office, firing people (for disloyalty?), and quarreling with our Democratic governor, Jay Inslee.

So far, I haven't seen any news on the election this November, not even whether he plans to run, or who his opponents might be.  (I believe the final day for filing is this Friday.)

For those unfamiliar with Washington state politics:  This is not just unusual for Washington state, but almost unprecedented.  Unlike, for instance, Barack Obama's Illinois, we rarely see top state officials in serious legal trouble.

(Speculation:  I've been wondering how his legal team won that acquittal and that hung jury since, judging by news accounts, the prosecutors had a pile of evidence against him.  It occurred to me a week or so ago that they might have used what Wikipedia (and trial lawyers) call "Scientific jury selection", and the rest of us might call stacking the jury.

But that's just speculation, so far.)
- 9:13 AM, 17 May 2016   [link]


Steven Hayward's Weekly Collection of pictures.

Not his best collection, though almost everyone will find some they like.
- 8:23 AM, 17 May 2016   [link]