Archive:

November 2016, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



News On Breathing You May Be Able To Use:   According to this New York Times article, there are real health benefits to controlled breathing exercises.
Take a deep breath, expanding your belly.  Pause.  Exhale slowly to the count of five.  Repeat four times.

Congratulations.  You’ve just calmed your nervous system.

Controlled breathing, like what you just practiced, has been shown to reduce stress, increase alertness and boost your immune system.
No numbers unfortunately, so they don't tell you how much controlled breathing can help, but they do include three simple exercises you can try.

(Skeptics will wonder whether "placebo" is in the article.  It's not, though advocates should think of ways to test for placebo effects in these studies.)
- 2:57 PM, 16 November 2016   [link]


Eric Schmidt's Chinese Afterthought:  The New York Times gathered prominent business leaders together for an after-election conference, and then summarized what each had to say in a few paragraphs.

For no obvious reason, Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, was at the very end of the article, and at the end of their summary of his thoughts was this:
Mr. Schmidt added that the United States government had not yet figured out how to deter digital attacks from other countries.

”China has been responsible for the vast majority of commercial attacks, and yet we maintain good relations with China over all,” he said.
I've seen estimates — and for obvious reasons have no idea how good those estimates are — that put the value of their commercial espionage in the United States at more than $1 trillion.

Since the Chinese regime competes with us economically, politically, and militarily, one would think those thefts deserve more than an afterthought.

But somehow the fact that those thefts are done electronically, rather than physically, done by hackers in Beijing rather than spies sneaking into companies all over the United States, makes it hard for us to see how important this is.

(You can find two earlier posts of mine on this subject here and here.

And I continue to suspect that the timing of Edward Snowden's flight, which distracted the world's attention from Chinese cyber-theft, may not have been coincidental.)
- 10:13 AM, 16 November 2016   [link]


Too Funny Not To Share:  Unless, of course, you live in North Korea.
North Korea has made a state request to officials in China pleading for them to stop referring to ‘glorious leader’ Kim Jong-un as fat.

Ministers have reportedly asked their neighbours to refrain from referring to the chunky Swiss cheese fan as Jin San Pang or ‘Kim Fatty III’ in media or conversations.
The amateur cartoonists are already having fun with the story.

On a more serious note, I can't help wondering whether hunger has worsened in North Korea — and the Chinese journalists are hinting at the problem, in this indirect way.
- 6:01 AM, 16 November 2016   [link]


Not A Great Cartoon:  But a pretty good prediction, especially when you consider when and where it was first published — the 2010 New Yorker.
- 5:40 AM, 16 November 2016   [link]


KGW Has Some Fun With The Portland Protesters/Rioters:  By looking at their voting records.
More than half of the anti-Trump protesters arrested in Portland didn’t vote in Oregon, according to state election records.

At least sixty-nine demonstrators either didn’t turn in a ballot or weren’t registered to vote in the state.

KGW compiled a list of the 112 people arrested by the Portland Police Bureau during recent protests.  Those names and ages, provided by police, were then compared to state voter logs by Multnomah County Elections officials.

Records show 34 of the protesters arrested didn’t return a ballot for the November 8 election.  Thirty-five of the demonstrators taken into custody weren’t registered to vote in Oregon.
To be fair, it wouldn't have made any difference if they had voted, since Clinton carried the state by more than 200,000 votes.

Bit it is still fun to see a news organization make this point.

(I have started using that slash combination to describe the dual nature of so many of these events.  Typically, a violent minority will hide behind a peaceful majority.  The violence makes extensive coverage more likely; the peaceful majority protects the violent minority.

So what results is a protest/riot — which our news organizations will almost always call a "protest", rather than a "riot".

I think I first started doing this when I was describing our annual May Day protest/riot.)
- 2:30 PM, 15 November 2016   [link]


If You've Seen "Casablanca", you'll understand this cartoon.
- 9:59 AM, 15 November 2016   [link]


Worth Reading:  Ben Shapiro's article, "3 Thoughts On Steve Bannon As White House 'Chief Strategist'".

These two paragraphs remind me of the Peter Wehner op-ed, "The Theology of Donald Trump", that I linked to in July.
Bannon has goals.  One of those goals is maximization of personal power, which is why he spent the last decade and a half glomming onto powerful right-wing personalities (Bachmann, Morris, Palin), kissing their asses, and then moving on up the chain.   With Breitbart and Trump, he picked two winners in a row – and that means he’s now at the pinnacle of American power.

So, what will he do with that power?  He’ll target enemies.  Bannon is one of the most vicious people in politics, which is why I’ve been joking for months that should Trump win, I’d be expecting my IRS audit any moment.  That wasn’t completely a joke.  He likes to destroy people
We expect politicians to pursue power, just as we expect businessmen to pursue profits.   But we hope that both will do so within legal limits, and even within moral limits — and we hope those pursuits will benefit the rest of us.

(FWIW, Bannon is, among other things, another Goldman Sachs alumni.

For contrast, you may want to look at this defense of Bannon by David Horowitz.  Shapiro and Horowitz don't disagree on the facts, but Shapiro makes many more claims about Bannon, claims that can be checked.  And I hope they will be checked, and soon)
- 8:22 PM, 14 November 2016   [link]


Need A Better Explanation Of That Super Duper Moon?   According to Wikipedia, it is the "perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system".

Or, if you want the translation:
. . . the coincidence of a full moon or a New moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, resulting in the largest apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth.
Astronomers prefer perigee-syzygy; astrologers prefer "supermoon".
- 7:12 PM, 14 November 2016   [link]


Sometimes An NFL Game Is Interesting:  Interesting enough even to attract the attention of the Guardian, which does not, as far as I know, give much space to American football.

And that's why there weren't any posts here yesterday afternoon.
- 2:52 PM, 14 November 2016   [link]


Chris Vance Outperformed:  If you are not from Washington state, you probably are wondering who Chris Vance is.
Chris Vance is an American politician, a two-term member of the King County Council and a former member of the Washington State Legislature. Vance is also a former chair of the Washington State Republican Party. He and his wife Ann raised their son and daughter in Auburn, Washington. Vance lost his Senate bid to Patty Murray in 2016.
(Links omitted.  Auburn is a suburb of Seattle.)

Even if you are familiar with Vance, you probably are wondering how I could say he "outperformed", since he lost badly to Murray, about 60-40 percent.

He had little money for his campaign; Murray had millions.  Washington is a very Democratic state, and Murray is moderately popular here.  He was far better on the issues than Murray, but had not the means to tell most voters about his stands.  He refused to support Donald Trump, which must have annoyed many Trump voters.

Despite all that, he outperformed.  Outperformed who?  Outperformed Donald Trump, winning about 80,000 more votes.

In general, as you probably know, vote totals fall off as you go down the ballot, but there were actually more votes cast for official candidates in the Senate race than in the Presidential race.  (I haven't seen even an estimate of the number of write-in votes in the Presidential race.)

There is a reason I am describing this race, which drew almost no national attention.   No doubt, Vance's stand against Trump hurt Trump in this state — but it is also likely that, by running, Vance encouraged some Republican voters to fill out their ballots, and that a few of these then held their noses and filled in the oval for Trump, too.

That effect made no difference in the results here, but it may have, in other states.   And I plan to discuss those states, in later posts.

(Vance currently has 1,124,826 votes, Trump 1,043,648.  Although they are still counting the votes here in Washington state, those totals should be close to the final numbers.)
- 10:30 AM, 14 November 2016   [link]


In Hong Kong, Tutors are treated like movie stars.
The slick entrance hall at one of Modern Education’s Hong Kong centers has the look and feel of a movie theater lobby, crowded with teenagers after school lets out.  But the matinee idols in the portraits lining the walls aren’t movie stars — they’re tutors.

The exam-preparation business has become as fiercely competitive in Hong Kong as school itself.  Cramming centers like the ones run by Modern Education jockey for business by turning their employees into celebrities, plastering their names and faces on the city’s buses, metro stations and billboards.
They are paid like movie stars, too, with a few earning "millions of dollars a year".

(Here's a description of Modern Eduction, and here's the company's web site, for those who read Chinese, or are willing to try a machine translation.)
- 9:23 AM, 14 November 2016   [link]


In His Usual Entertaining Way, Dan Neil Reviews VW's Recent Problems:  And, almost as an afterthought, the Audi S3.

Here's his summary on the car:
A tarted up VW?  Perhaps, but who doesn't like tarts?
And, for a while, it may be a bargain tart.
- 10:28 AM, 13 November 2016   [link]


She Didn't Ask; He Didn't Offer:  And the result is not as good as it could have been.

Inter-species communication can be difficult, given the different assumptions each has.
- 9:45 AM, 13 November 2016   [link]


Girl Talk In The Gym:  The Seattle Times arranged for WNBA star point guard Sue Bird to meet University of Washington star point guard Kelsey Plum for a friendly chat in the gym.

I found the selections they published fascinating, for the ways in which they talked like male point guards.  For example, both had thought about who would win a one-on-one game.

And for the ways they didn't, for example:
Plum:  “This might be kind of weird, but I’ve always really wanted to know how do you get your hair the way you do.”

Bird:  “I knew that was coming.  I wore this ponytail just for today.  If I told you, then everybody would know.”

Plum:  “That’s true.  That’s so true.  But at least off camera at least tell me.”

Bird:  “Off camera?  Do you want me to talk about what you just did off camera how you had to fix the braid before it (the camera) came on?”

Plum:  “No.  Like I knew this was happening today, so I literally, I was in the locker room like (mimics brushing her hair) with hair spray and everything.”

Bird:  “A little bit water.  A little bit of hair spray.”
Okay, Bird knew that question was coming how?  Because she had been asked it many times before?

I will cheerfully admit that, though I have sen her play a number of times, I had never noticed anything mysterious about her hair style.  Which shows, I suppose, how little I know about some subjects.

(This is as good a time as any to mention that, flipping through channels, I have found the WNBA games enjoyable to watch, often more so than the men's games.  I have begun to speculate that the men may need a larger court, that, at the top levels, they are just too big for a standard basketball court.)
- 3:58 PM, 12 November 2016   [link]


Friday Afternoon's New Yorker Cartoon shows one pundit who didn't fail.
- 3:09 PM, 12 November 2016   [link]


President Legal Troubles:  In July, I warned that, whichever nominee was elected, they would have legal troubles.
If we elect Clinton, there's a good chance we will have another bitter impeachment fight; if we elect Trump, there's a good chance we will have to watch him giving depositions in fraud trials.
The first Trump University trial is scheduled to start on the 28th.
When lawyers filed a class action lawsuit in 2010 against Trump University, they could hardly have expected that six years later they’d be coming up against the president-elect in the courtroom.

But that’s exactly what stands to happen during the trial, which is scheduled to start on Nov. 28, as Trump and his lawyers will defend against allegations that Trump University defrauded students by presenting itself as an accredited institution and pressuring people to spend up to $35,000 for classes taught by people advertised as “hand picked” by Trump.
Even if that case is settled, as the judge is urging, there are other states where we may see Trump University trials, and many, many other unsettled Trump legal problems.
“It is unusual for a president-elect to be entering the Oval Office with these types of live legal issues involving the business entities that he had been running,” says Caleb Burns, a partner at Wiley Rein LLP focused on election law and government ethics.
Yes, it is unusual, perhaps even unprecedented for any high office.

Moreover there are Democratic prosecutors all over the country who now have an additional motive for bringing cases against him, and many, many ordinary citizens he may have wronged, who now might be able to find lawyers to take on Trump and his businesses.

(I don't know why his opponents in the primaries didn't make more of his legal problems.  Or perhaps they did, and what they were saying got drowned out by all the things Trump was saying.)
- 4:11 PM, 11 November 2016   [link]


Armistice Day:  On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice ended the fighting in World War I.  (Though not without difficulty.   Some American troops, having spare shells and wanting the glory of having the last shot, competed with each other, for a time, after the official end.)

For many European countries, the war was a disaster from which they have never completely recovered.  The casualties they suffered were so immense that, even now, they astonish.  They were so large that, from the very beginning, the combatants lied about them on a grand scale, and even now historians argue about the numbers, especially the numbers in eastern Europe.  This Wikipedia article gives some of the common estimates of the casualties.  The almost 1.4 million French military dead are more than all the deaths the United States has suffered in all our wars, combined.  More than 1 million of them were from France itself, with the rest coming mostly from the French colonies.  Since France then had a population of about 40 million, more than 1 in 40 died in the war; for us, now, the equivalent loss would be about 8 million deaths.

After World War II, we renamed Armistice Day to Veterans Day, to honor the soldiers of all our wars.  When we honor, as we should, especially today, the American soldiers who served, and sometimes died in our wars, we should also spare some thought for those who fought at our side and who suffered far more than we did.

(This is an edited version of a post I first put up in 2002.)
- 11:00 AM, 11 November 2016   [link]


We Should Believe What Trump Is Saying Now, Because?  During the campaign Donald Trump said one or two nasty things about Hillary Clinton; when he claimed victory, he said some nice things about her.

I didn't believe him then, and I don't believe him now.  And neither should anyone else, since he is a habitual, perhaps even pathological, liar.

During the next four years, he is going to say many things, often contradicting what he has said before.  When you hear him saying something that pleases you, ask yourself that question in the title of this post.

If you do that, and conclude, as you usually should, that there is no reason to believe what Trump says, you will avoid many disappointments.
- 8:24 AM, 11 November 2016   [link]


"Ours Is Better." (2):  During the Cold War, loyal Soviet citizens learned to react, automatically, to any American achievement with:  "Ours is better."  It didn't matter whether the Soviet version actually was better, or whether they even had a comparable achievement; that simple three-word sentence settled matters.

It was so useful, it even crept into other areas.

For example, a high Soviet official — who I will call, simply, Ivan — had acquired a Bolshoi ballerina as a mistress.  Mrs. Ivan was not happy with the situation, but had come to accept it.

One evening, when the two were attending the ballet, Mrs. Ivan spotted another beautiful young woman talking to Ivan's mistress.  Immediately suspicious, she asked, "Who's that?"

Ivan answered, "Oh, her.  That's Boris's mistress."

Mrs. Ivan looked at her briefly and said, automatically:  "Ours is better."

(I think the businessman version, which I linked to last Friday, is the original, but I could be wrong.

However, there is a political point to this version:  We should not forget that Vladimir Putin grew up saying, more or less automatically:  "Ours is better.")
- 7:55 AM, 11 November 2016   [link]


President Obama's Two Miscalculations:  In July, 2008, I made this prediction about then Senator Barack Obama:
Briefly, I think that Obama will govern as close to his leftist ideas and values as he can get away with.   Note that I am not saying that Obama will govern as far to the left as he can.   In his Chicago neighborhood, Hyde Park, Obama is a moderate, and it would be easy to find people there who would govern much farther to the left than he would.   But, relative to the country as a whole, Obama is on the left and, on some issues, on the far left.
That strategy, which I think Obama followed, involved some risk to himself and his party, as compared to a more centrist, less divisive strategy.

Obama got part of what he wanted in his first two years, but then lost the House, and control over most domestic policy changes.

That miscalculation was something Obama did; the second miscalculation was something he and his staff failed to do.

We now know that some White House staffers knew about Hillary Clinton's private email server from the beginning.  I now believe that Obama himself probably knew about it, and certainly should have known about it.

And, of course, they should have shut it down as soon as they found out she was using it for official business.

Without either of those miscalculations, I believe Hillary Clinton would have defeated Donald Trump — assuming he ran and got the nomination in those circumstances.  But the two together proved to be too much.
- 1:56 PM, 10 November 2016   [link]


Today's "Wizard Of Id" is weird.

Which may be why I like it.
- 1:17 PM, 10 November 2016   [link]


Romney Probably Received More Votes In 2012 Than Trump Did In 2016:  They are still counting votes in California, Washington, and some other states, but Mitt Romney's total, 60,934,407 votes looks as if it will still be larger than Donald Trump's total, now at 59,507,741 votes.

Trump does have a small edge in percentage, 47.34 to 47.15.

Credit where due:  Trump's strategist was probably correct to try, in the last weeks of the campaign, to drive down Hillary Clinton's vote, rather than drive up Trump's vote.

(Because our population is growing, we would expect, everything else being equal, vote totals to rise in every presidential election, so Romney's edge is more impressive than it may seem, just comparing raw numbers.  A quick glance at the Wikipedia article suggests that we should expect the voting population to increase about 1 percent a year.)
- 8:37 AM, 10 November 2016   [link]


52:  Senator Kelly Ayotte has conceded.
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte was defeated in her re-election bid, losing to Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan by just over 1,000 votes, officials said today.

The race was so close that it took the New Hampshire Secretary of State well into Wednesday afternoon to make the results official, announcing that Hassan won by 1,023 votes among approximately 740,000 total ballots counted so far.

In a statement shortly after the secretary of state’s announcement, Ayotte said she spoke to Hassan to congratulate her.
Given the margin, I think Ayotte's defeat can be attributed, fairly directly, to Donald Trump at the head of the ticket — and to the way she handled that problem.

As you probably know, she was asked, again and again, what she thought about Trump's statements and behavior toward women.  No matter what she said, she would lose, just as the reporters intended.

(What should she have done?  Refused to answer the questions.   George W. Bush showed how to handle that kind of problem in his 2000 presidential campaign, when he was asked, over and over, about drug use when he was a young man.  He had a stock reply, something like this: "When I was young and foolish, I did some foolish things."

After a while, reporters stopped asking him the questions, because that was all he would say on the subject.  Ayotte should have worked up a similar stock reply, and followed it with something substantive on an issue.)
- 7:56 AM, 10 November 2016   [link]


Honesty in labeling.
- 7:16 AM, 10 November 2016   [link]


Political Storms Elsewhere, Political Calm Here:  You could almost sum up the results of Washington state's elections in two words:  Nothing happened.  We re-elected our mediocre (at best) Democratic governor, Jay Inslee.   No incumbent running statewide lost.  No incumbent congressman was even seriously challenged.  The 7th district's annoying leftist, Jim McDermott, who is retiring, will be replaced with an even more annoying leftist, Pramila Jayapal.  Republicans will continue to control the state senate, Democrats the state house.  Voters in this area just approved another immense spending package for more light rail.

And so on.

It is not as if we don't have problems, problems that anyone can see, if they want to.   In this area, homelessness is growing, and housing costs are soaring.  Congestion is terrible.  Our schools, in spite of favorable demographics, are, on the whole, mediocre.  Our mental hospitals are in terrible shape.

There are rural parts of this state with persistently high unemployment, and problems with drug abuse.

But voters here are not ready, yet, to try different solutions to any of these problems.   For example, they are still willing to spend billions on light rail, in spite of evidence that every commuter can see, that in spite of the billions spent already, congestion has gotten worse.

Part of the problem can be seen in one of the few exceptions, the defeat of state senator Steve Litzow, a Republican running in a heavily Democratic district.  Because he favored some school reforms, he was opposed by the powerful state teachers union, the Washington Education Association.

They have been able to veto most reforms, and even defeat those who propose them.
- 3:40 PM, 9 November 2016   [link]


The New York Times Is Still Predicting A Clinton Popular Vote Victory:  As I write, by 0.6 percent.

As I write, she currently has a lead of 0.2 percent (47.7-47.5) in the popular vote.

And there are many votes yet to be counted in California.
The independent Target Book, a publication that handicaps congressional and legislative races, called it "probable" that as many as 3 million ballots could remain uncounted by time Tuesday night ended.  And traditionally, said the analysts, those ballots tend to have come from Democrats, young and Latino voters.

As of early Wednesday morning, about 5 million ballots had already been counted, but there was no official word on how many remained.  State election law gives counties 30 days to finish their canvassing of votes cast.  Secretary of State Alex Padilla must receive certified results from each of California's 58 counties by July 8.
I don't know anything about Target Book, but there were more than 13 million votes cast in 2012 in California, so that 3 million estimate doesn't seem implausible.

For similar reasons, Washington state will add to her lead, as the votes come in and are counted.
- 8:34 AM, 9 November 2016   [link]


Thought For The Day From Lord Melbourne:  "What all the wise men promised has not happened, and what all the d——d fools said would happen has come to pass."

(Lord Melbourne was an interesting character.

That quotation was his reaction to Catholic Emancipation, if you were wondering.)
- 7:48 AM, 9 November 2016   [link]