Archive:

October 2015, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Seumas Milne, Journalist, Left Wing Extremist — And New Labour Party Spokesman And Strategist:  Michael Moynihan begins with this joke:
The Labour Party’s new head of communications is so radically weird, he has to be a Tory plant.
And then explains at considerable length why he made that joke, beginning with this paragraph:
Wherever there’s an aggrieved terrorist or an undemocratic regime engaged in an existential struggle with the West, you can rely on Seumas Milne, Oxford-educated warrior for the Third World and former comment editor of The Guardian, to offer a full-throated, if slightly incoherent, defense.  If your country’s constitution mandates the burning down of orphanages and the conscription of 6-year-olds in to the army, Milne will likely have your back, provided you also express a deep loathing for the United States and capitalism.  So yesterday, in a signal to party moderates that he intends to burn Labour to the ground, Jeremy Corbyn appointed Milne his head of communications.
Milne isn't the only far-left appointment Corbyn has made.   In democracies, most party leaders try to unify their parties; Jeremy Corbyn is trying (as he probably sees it) to purify the Labour Party.

(Here's Seumas Milne's Wikipedia biography, with more than the usual caveats.)
- 1:13 PM, 24 October 2015   [link]


It's A Crude Thought — There, I Warned You — but I can't be the only one who read this article and thought: Donald Trump.

(This Wikipedia article may suggest other similarities to you.)
- 12:26 PM, 24 October 2015   [link]


Sugar Is Brain Food For Babies, Too:  As I've mentioned in the past, here and here, our brains run on a simple sugar, glucose, and when they are short of that fuel, they don't work as well.  (As you probably know, carbohydrates and other sugars get converted to glucose in the body.)

Today, I learned that sugar can prevent brain damage in babies.
Don’t worry about giving your baby a spoonful of sugar.

A new study from the University of Auckland in New Zealand has found that giving babies little amounts of sugar will limit the risk of them having brain damage, according to the National Institutes of Health. Many babies are born with low sugar levels, which can eventually lead to brain damage.  But by giving them some sugar, or foods that will increase their blood sugar levels, it limits the risk, NIH reported.
. . .
This isn’t the first time research has said sugar can help newborns.  Back in 2013, researchers, including [Jane] Harding, found that putting sugar gel inside the cheek of a baby is one method of limiting possible brain damage, according to BBC. The sugar spiked low blood sugar levels for these newborns, freeing them from brain damage risk.
That medicine is cheap, easy to administer, and quite safe, I would guess.

I should add that not all babies need these doses of sugar, according to the medical experts cited in the article.

(This brain dependence on glucose has made me wonder whether those who think hard at their jobs could improve their work by changing their eating habits a little, perhaps by eating smaller meals. and having a cookie or two, as snacks, between them.  Or, if you need to replenish your brain glucose quickly, some candy or a soft drink.)
- 12:45 PM, 23 October 2015   [link]


"Obama Got Punked"  By the "clock boy" says Lee Smith.
The interesting part was how another storyline trumped the school shooter narrative—Islamophobia.  To wit: Ahmed’s teacher and the police weren’t concerned he was some adolescent loser looking to murder as many people as possible with an explosive device, they’re just racists who think that every Muslim is basically a Bin Laden biding his time.  By playing the two narratives against each other, Ahmed’s father, perhaps unintentionally, highlighted something disturbing about the country he is leaving for Qatar—the Americans say how much they love their children, but threaten to expose them as racists and you can put them in a hard place.

Anyway, it wasn’t a real bomb. No one got hurt.  We just got played for suckers, especially Obama. It’s instructive that the president of the United States got played worse than anyone since it’s a typically American story, in spite of the Middle Eastern flavor.
A general observation:  Every day, American teachers have to make literally millions of decisions about how dangerous some situation is, everything from whether to intervene when little Barry pushes smaller Michelle, to whether or not a ticking container might be a bomb.  Inevitably, they will make some of those decisions wrong, will not intervene when they should, or will intervene when they shouldn't.

For instance, one teacher may get excited because a little boy draws a gun, and another may fail to recognize a teenage psychopath.

Mostly, national leaders should not draw general conclusions, should not let these stories, however interesting, determine national policies.  That's a hard thing to do, granted, but it is necessary if we are to make policies in a rational way.

(Here's a good summary of the real clock boy story.)
- 9:47 AM, 23 October 2015   [link]


The Raj Chetty Finding We — Almost — Can't Discuss:  Professor Chetty is a hotshot young economist, so good that he won what I like to call the "rookie of the year" award in economics, the Bates prize.  (Even though it isn't technically limited to rookies, just American economists younger than 40.)

In recent years, he has been investigating mobility in the United States, what makes some kids rise in the United States, and others fail to rise.  So far he has one big finding, and a number of much smaller findings.

And the big one is very hard for our "mainstream" journalists to discuss.  I first noticed this in this New York Times article, headlined "How an Area's Union Membership Can Predict Children's Advancement".

Noam Scheiber begins with three paragraphs on the positive effects of unions, and then gives us this summary of the data:
The size of the [union] effect is small, but there aren’t many other factors that are as strongly correlated with mobility.  Raj Chetty of Stanford, Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard, and Patrick Kline and Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, who pioneered this method of examining economic mobility, established five factors that are strongly correlated with a low-income child’s likelihood of making it into the middle class: the rate of single motherhood in an area, the degree of inequality, the high school dropout rate, the degree of residential segregation, and the amount of social capital, as measured by indicators like voter turnout and participation in community organizations.

Single motherhood is the most strongly correlated factor with mobility.  The latest study, which relied on the Chetty/Hendren data, says union membership is roughly as strongly correlated with mobility as the other four factors.
(Emphasis added.)

Yesterday, I saw a second example in this Wall Street Journal article, headlined: "Economist Raj Chetty’s Proposals on Inequality Draw Interest on Both Sides of the Political Aisle".

Bob Davis gives us an interesting discussion of Chetty, and some of his findings, but waits until the 12th paragraph to tell us this:
High-mobility metro areas have a combination of greater economic and racial integration, better schools and a smaller fraction of single-parent families than lower-mobility areas.  Integration is lagging in Atlanta, he said.  “The strongest predictors of upward mobility are measures of family structure,” Mr. Chetty said.
(Emphasis added.  Interestingly, that quote was not in this area's print version of the Journal.)

The finding that having two parents is better for kids would not have surprised our parents, or grandparents, if you are much younger than I am, but it has become almost impossible to discuss, for many journalists, and almost all politicians.

There are two main reasons for that, in my opinion.  First, it is hard to think of public policies that would have large effects on the decisions of people to have children only after they are married, and to stay married, once they do have children.  (Assuming, that is, that we are considering only policies that could pass our current legislatures.)

Second, as the author of the Moynihan Report could have told you, discussing this finding openly touches on painful issues of race, sex, and class, so painful that most of us prefer not to talk about them, openly.

(I've often wondered what kind of reception "Love Child" would get, if it were released now.)
- 2:59 PM, 22 October 2015   [link]


Another Victory for Robert Mugabe.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been awarded China's alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize for what the prize committee called his inspired national leadership and service to pan-Africanism.

The 91-year-old Mugabe is the latest in a series of critics of the West who have received the Confucius Peace Prize, first awarded in 2010 amid Beijing's anger and resentment over the granting of the Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
.. . .
Mugabe received only 36 of 76 votes, but was awarded the prize following a meeting of the committee's 13-member review board.  Other candidates included Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Prior recipients of the prize, granted by a non-governmental committee composed mainly of scholars, include former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Russian President Vladimir Putin.  None has come to claim the prize in person.
There are a few defects in his record.  For example:
Soon after independence Mugabe set about creating a ZANU–PF-run one-party state, establishing a North Korean-trained security force, the Fifth Brigade, in August 1981 to deal with internal dissidents.[2]   Mugabe attacked former allies ZAPU in which the Fifth Brigade crushed an armed rebellion by fighters loyal to his rival Joshua Nkomo, leader of the minority Ndebele tribe, in the province of Matabeleland.  Between 1982 and 1985 at least 20,000 people died in ethnic cleansing and were buried in mass graves.[3][4]   Mugabe consolidated his power in December 1987, when he was declared executive president by parliament, combining the roles of head of state, head of government, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, with powers to dissolve parliament and declare martial law.
(Links omitted.)

But it could have been much worse.  After all, he was first elected on a platform of peace and reconciliation.
- 12:36 PM, 22 October 2015   [link]


Madisonian Deadlock Is Almost Inevitable If A Democrat Wins The Presidency:   That's not how leftist Paul Waldman puts it, but it's a fair description of his thinking.
It’s almost a certainty that Republicans will retain control of the House.  Democrats have a chance to win back the Senate (Republicans have to defend many more seats, because everyone who won in 2010 is up for reelection), but even if they do, it certainly won’t be with a filibuster-proof majority.  Not only that, if Democrats make gains, it will be in those few competitive states and House districts, which would mean that the remaining Republicans would as a group be even more conservative than they are now.  Are they going to be in the mood to work with a Democratic president?
A Democratic president who ran on a — by American standards — far-left platform.

In a piece the day before, Waldman had proposed eleven questions for the Democratic debate, beginning with these two:
If you’re elected, you might have a Democratic Senate, but if you do it won’t be filibuster-proof, and you will almost certainly face a Republican House.  You have some pretty ambitious goals.  How are you going to get them passed through Congress?  This may be the most important and most difficult question for a Democrat to answer.  Barack Obama had his greatest legislative successes in his first two years, when he had large majorities in both houses.  If anyone has an idea of how to pass liberal legislation through a Republican Congress, they haven’t shared it.  So how are the candidates going to solve this problem?

President Obama has faced unusual hostility from Republicans, both personally and legislatively.  Do you expect the same treatment if you win?  Why or why not?
(As I am sure you know, I would assign the blame for the current deadlock somewhat differently than Waldman does.)

If they were to win in 2016, a President Clinton, Sanders, O'Malley, or Chafee would propose leftist programs; the Republicans would pass conservative programs (at least in the House); neither would be enacted — and nothing much would change.

The Democratic president would, as President Obama has, turn more and more toward executive actions — which would be limited by Congress's control of appropriations — and by court challenges.  And, to some extent, by Republican officials in the states.

None of the remaining Democratic candidates look like the kind of politician who could work out grand compromises with the Republicans — without inspiring a revolt in their own party.
- 10:14 AM, 22 October 2015   [link]


Canadian Global Warming Irony:  In the Canadian election, the winner, Justin Trudeau, promised to fight harder against global warming than the incumbent, Stephen Harper, who has been something of a skeptic on the subject.

Since Trudeau won, we can conclude that his promise did not hurt him fatally, may even have helped him a little.

As far as I can tell, almost no one in Canada, even Harper supporters, noted this fact:  Canada would benefit from global warming.  British Columbia would be better off if it had a climate more like Washington state's, Manitoba would be better off if it had a climate more like Minnesota's, Ontario would be better off if it had a climate more like New York state's, and so on.

This is not a secret, but it is something that climate modelers don't emphasize when discussing their results.

It is possible, of course, that most Canadians would be willing to give up those benefits to help the parts of the world that would be hurt by global warming.  Canadians are (mostly) decent people, and I could believe many would be willing to give up the benefits of a warmer nation, to help most of the world.  But that sacrifice wasn't discussed, either.

Instead, opponents of Harper did the usual, arguing that they could do their part to stop global warming at almost no net cost to Canada.

(Russia is another nation that would benefit, net, from an increase in the world's temperature of, say, two degrees centigrade.)
- 9:00 AM, 22 October 2015   [link]


"Back To The Future" Villain Is Donald Trump?  That's what one of the trilogy's writers says:
So, Bob Gale—writer of Back to the Future Part II and man who helped predict the IMAX theater and the self-checkout line—in these past few months, were you thinking what we’re all thinking?

“We thought about it when we made the movie!  Are you kidding?” he says.  “You watch Part II again and there’s a scene where Marty confronts Biff in his office and there’s a huge portrait of Biff on the wall behind Biff, and there’s one moment where Biff kind of stands up and he takes exactly the same pose as the portrait? Yeah.”

Of course, in the movie, Biff uses the profits from his 27-story casino (the Trump Plaza Hotel, completed in 1984, is 37 floors, by the way) to help shake up the Republican Party, before eventually assuming political power himself, helping transform Hill Valley, California, into a lawless, dystopian wasteland, where hooliganism reigns, dissent is quashed, and wherein Biff encourages every citizen to call him “America’s greatest living folk hero.”

“Yeah,” says Gale. “That’s what we were thinking about.”
If, like me, you haven't seen any of the movies in the trilogy, you might benefit from this Heather Wilhelm comparison:
Is the comparison over the top?  Absolutely.  Yet, in the movie, there’s power-hungry, sordid Biff, bragging about how he buys off the police; in reality, one might remember Mr. Trump proudly describing his own ability to buy off cash-poor politicians in the first Republican debate.  In the movie, there’s Biff bending whatever’s left of the law to exploit hapless victims; in reality, there’s our friend Donald Trump, a man with a proud past of targeting elderly Atlantic City widows using the government’s power of eminent domain.
(Wilhelm goes on to claim that Hillary Clinton also has some similarities to Biff Tannen.)

Since I haven't seen any of the movies, I will only add this stray thought:  Would Donald Trump be secretly pleased to learn that a wealthy, powerful movie villain had been modeled after him?
- 8:10 AM, 22 October 2015   [link]


If You Know Even A Little Math, you'll like this joke.
- 1:22 PM, 21 October 2015   [link]


Plebiscitory "Democracy"  When we think about democracies, we usually think only in terms of representative or direct democracies.  But there is another way of governing that can be called democratic, though not all would do so.

Let me introduce it with a famous example, though it may be less well known than it ought to be.  In December 1848, a nephew of Napoleon I, Louis-Napoleon, later known as Napoleon III, was elected president of France.   Almost four years later, his term was about to expire, and the constitution they had adopted did not allow him to run for a second term.

So he staged a coup on 2 December 1852.

And then asked the French voters to ratify it, in a plebiscite.
Louis-Napoleon wished to demonstrate that his new government had a broad popular mandate, so on 20–21 December a national plebiscite was held asking if voters agreed to the coup.  Mayors in many regions threatened to publish the names of any electors who refused to vote.  When asked if they agreed to the coup, 7,439,216 voters said yes, 641,737 voted no, and 1.7 million voters abstained.[54]  The fairness and legality of the referendum was immediately questioned by Louis-Napoleon's critics,[55] but Louis Napoleon was convinced that he had been given a public mandate to rule.
The plebiscite may have been held in an unfair way, but with that large a margin, it seems certain that he would have won one held in a fair way.

Whether you call that result "democratic" depends on how you define "democracy".  (And it is only fair to add that his opponents in the Assembly had just changed the basic rules, by drastically reducing the franchise, disqualifying about 3.5 million voters.)

But the French people did vote to accept the coup.

(Since then, many other rulers have used plebiscites in similar ways.  Here's a recent example, though the presidential election wasn't formally a plebiscite.)

Soon after the plebiscite, the great English writer, Walter Bagehot, explained why Napoleon had won.
The best reason why Monarchy is a strong government is, that it is an intelligible government.  The mass of mankind understand it, and they hardly anywhere in the world understand any other.  It is often said that men are ruled by their imaginations; but it would be truer to say they are governed by the weakness of their imaginations.  The nature of a constitution, the action of an assembly, the play of parties, the unseen formation of a guiding opinion, are complex facts, difficult to know and easy to mistake.  But the action of a single will, the fiat of a single mind, are easy ideas: anybody can make them out, and no one can ever forget them.  When you put before the mass of mankind the question, "Will you be governed by a king, or will you be governed by a constitution?" the inquiry comes out thus—"Will you be governed in a way you understand, or will you be governed in a way you do not understand?"  The issue was put to the French people; they were asked, "Will you be governed by Louis Napoleon, or will you be governed by an assembly?"  The French people said, "We will be governed by the one man we can imagine, and not by the many people we cannot imagine".
If Bagehot's essential point is unclear, try this thought experiment:  Imagine how long it would take you to explain to a naive listener these three forms of government: one-man rule (possibly with plebiscites), parliamentary government, and Madisonian democracy.

Or consider how hard it can be to explain, even to fairly well-educated people, why some popular measures can't get through Congress.

And so, from time to time, we should not be surprised to see voters, even in mature democracies like our own, attracted by a man who promises, not a constitution with limits on his power, but one-man rule.  "You want these changes?  I'll give them to you", they'll say.  "And I won't let the Assembly, the ruling class, the power elite, big business, or the establishment stop me."

I don't think I have to tell you which presidential candidates are making those kinds of promises, right now.

If, like me, you want limited government rather than one-man (or one-woman) rule, you'll find other candidates to support.
- 10:39 AM, 21 October 2015   [link]


Grade Inflation Is Everywhere:  For example, both these grades are too high.

Overall, local drivers give Washington state a D+ for its transportation system, according to results from a Washington State Department of Transportation survey given in June 2015.  Statewide, the grade was C-, the same as it was in three previous years.

WSDOT used the Washington State Transportation Commission's Voice of Washington State (VOWS) online panel.  More than 7,500 people completed surveys, the bulk of them from the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) area that includes Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.

Both should be at least a half step lower.

Who is responsible for the mess?  Principally Washington's state's governors, since the 1984 election: Jay Inslee (D), Christine Gregoire (D), Gary Locke (D), Mike Lowry (D), and Booth Gardner (D).

None have been willing to build enough new road capacity to meet the needs of a growing population.  All seemed to hope that other people would use mass transit.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Note:  The article, and another similar one, both linked to a report — which is protected by a password, so I can't tell you much about the survey, though I am fairly sure that it didn't use a random sample.   Apparently, each reporter simply re-wrote a press release, without bothering to check that link.  I did some searching at the WSDOT site, but didn't find the report.)
- 8:00 AM, 21 October 2015   [link]


Yesterday's New Yorker cartoon was pretty good.

(And it reminded me of Harry Harrison's science fiction novel, West of Eden, where a race, descended from the dinosaurs, developed a civilization different from our own.
The Yilanè, having had millions of years of civilization, have a very advanced society primarily based on a mastery of the biological sciences, especially genetic engineering, so much so that almost every tool and artifact they use is a modified lifeform.  Their boats were originally squids, their submarines are enhanced ichthyosaurs (here called uruketos), while their guns are modified monitor lizards which eject projectiles using pressurised gas.
Other science fiction writers have described high civilizations based on bio tech, though usually they are encountered on other planets, which seems more plausible to me.)
- 7:20 AM, 21 October 2015   [link]


If You Would Like To Know More About Neutrinos, And How They Are Detected, this New York Times article could be a good place to start.

I'd add just one point:  When scientists found only one-third as many solar neutrinos as they had calculated there should be, there was speculation that the sun had slowed down its fusion, which would have been very bad news for us here on earth.

(This Wikipedia article describes the Homestake Mine, its history, and its use for the first solar neutrino detector.  Note that it was, for many years, both a working gold mine and the site of a solar neutrino detector.)
- 2:39 PM, 20 October 2015   [link]


The Canadian Election Results Came Between Two NYT Editions:  Which gave me a chuckle at lunch time.

Early this morning, in the Kindle edition of the New York Times, I read Ian Kershaw's article on the stunning Liberal victory in Canada, a story that the Times put on their virtual front page.  Very occasionally, I pick up a print version of the Times, too, as I did at lunch time today.

That version, printed in Seattle, also had an Ian Kershaw article on the election (on page 5), an article that explained how uncertain the outcome was, even though Kershaw finished it after the first results had come in.

(I have some sympathy for Kershaw because, faced with that deadline for the print edition, I would have written something similar, though I think I would have said something about the whole range of possible outcomes.)
- 12:54 PM, 20 October 2015   [link]


Hillary's The One!  Those old enough to remember Richard Nixon will recognize the pose in the Michael Ramirez cartoon.

The cartoon is unfair, as cartoons often are, but pretty funny — unless you happen to be a supporter of Clinton.
- 10:30 AM, 20 October 2015   [link]


Andrew Malcolm Reminds Us of a little Obama mistake.
Back in a 2007 Democratic debate, Barack Obama announced that two of his early actions as president would be to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and call the president of Canada to start that process.

Of course, Obama never did that.  Changing the treaty that's brought economic bounty to both countries was just another empty rhetorical sop to a group of voters, in that case union members.

Also, as Harvard grad Obama quickly learned, Canada has no president.  It has a prime minister.
If you are wondering whether that actually happened, here's some evidence.

And it's amusing to learn that Joe Biden corrected Obama in that debate.

In the past, I would have assumed that Obama just misspoke, as well all do from time to time, but now I'm not entirely sure he did.  Canada doesn't seem like a nation that would interest him much.

(Sadly, Malcolm goes on to makes some mistakes of his own.  For example, Stephen Harper was the leader of the Conservative Party, not one of its predecessors, the "Progressive Conservative party".)
- 10:18 AM, 20 October 2015   [link]


The Canadian Election Surprise:  As soon as I saw the first results from the Canadian election last night, I was almost certain that the Liberal Party would win, and I suspected they would win a majority.  The win was so large that even someone who follows Canadian politics only casually, like me, could see it in the first returns.
The Liberal Party steamrolled to a stunning political comeback Monday night, forming a new, majority government and creating Canada’s first family dynasty at the highest level of national politics as an historic campaign came to a dramatic end.

The Liberals had collapsed to just 34 seats and third place in the 2011 election.  But they were elected in 184 constituencies by early morning, taking from both the NDP and Conservatives and riding a wave of resentment toward Harper.
(They needed 170 of the 338 seats for an absolute majority.)

Although the Liberals won a sweeping parliamentary victory, they did not, as Americans might think, win an absolute majority of the popular vote; in fact their share of the popular vote (39.5% as I write) is almost exactly the same as the share the Conservatives won in the previous election (39.62%).  If that seems confusing, take a look at this post explaining the Canadian four-party system.)

I am nearly certain that the size of the Liberal victory was partly a consequence of tactical voting; specifically, voters who prefer the New Democratic Party shifted to the Liberals in this election, in order to defeat Harper and the Conservatives.  (The NDP lost an even larger share of the vote than the Conservatives (10.9 to 7.7%).

And the fourth party, the Bloc Québécois?   They lost 1.2 percent of the popular vote, going from 5.9 percent to 4.7 percent — and they gained 8 seats, going from 2 to 10.  (They had won 4 in 2011, but lost 2 of those seats since then.)

Way back in 2004, I argued that, just as markets fluctuate, parties alternate, and predicted that the Conservatives would take power in Canada.  (They did in 2006.)

But the logic of that post applied yesterday to the Liberals, and they won with these slogans: "Real Change" and "Changer ensemble" (Change together).

(Americans will be interested to know that the Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, promised to work for better relations with the United States.  I doubt that he'll have much success with President Obama, and he may be in for some unpleasant surprises if a Republican president is elected next year.)
- 7:22 AM, 20 October 2015   [link]


Data And Predictions For Today's Canadian Election:  You can find the data in this Wikipedia article.

I have collected a number of predictions, none of which I endorse, because I don't know enough about Canadian politics, or the people making the predictions.  And because I expect a fair amount of tactical voting, which makes it even harder to use polling data and past elections to make predictions.

From the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: "The Liberal Party leads with 146 seats and is 24 seats from winning a majority government."

From ThreeHundredEight.com (which helped the CBC make their prediction):
Based on their current standing in the polls, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau have the best chance of winning the 2015 federal election.  But their victory is not assured, and Stephen Harper's Conservatives have a chance to win a victory of their own.  Thomas Mulcair's New Democrats will almost certainly finish third, with Gilles Duceppe's Bloc Québécois and Elizabeth May's Greens finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.  A minority government of one hue or the other is the most likely outcome, though a majority is within the realm of plausibility.
From "a British Columbian and former Quebecer":
This projection implies a Liberal seat plurality short of a majority with probability around 70-75% 65%.  The probability of a Conservative seat plurality is around 20-25% 25%.   Either of these scenarios would likely result in a Liberal minority government.  There is a roughly 5% 10% chance of a Liberal majority government.  The probability of a Conservative majority and of an NDP seat plurality are negligible.  (Please note that these probabilities are not derived from simulations, as would be ideal.  They are instead estimated using the method outlined here.)
From the commenters at Kate McMillan's site.
To this point in time, and making some effort to count multiple entries only once, I have compiled the following averages and ranges for the 93 predictions (multiple entries and chat have inflated the post count):

CON ... median 147, range 87 to 216

LIB ... median 110, range 36 (60) to 160

NDP ... median 68, range 30 to 111

BLQ ... median 7, range 0 to 68

GRN ... median 1, range 0 to 8 (3)

OTH ... median 0, range 0 to 6

A few notes, there were two places where I felt that the extreme was enough of an outlier that I listed the second most extreme value in brackets (low for Liberals, high for Green).  That's not to say they are wrong, of course.  I went with median rather than mean partly to save time but because it is more indicative of consensus in skewed samples (notably Bloc which has a mean of about 11 as compared to the median of 7).
(It's a conservative site, so the commenters tend to be conservative, too.)

From the bookies, betting odds here and here,   I don't know how to translate either into probabilities, unfortunately, but I can see that both expect the Liberals to win the most seats.

From Political Betting, an argument explaining why those nasty Conservatives might win.

Which, oddly enough, is the one link that gives me some reason for hope that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives will at least win pluralities of the vote and seats.

In May, in the British election, the polls "underestimated the Conservative vote, which bore resemblance to their surprise victory in the 1992 general election.[3]"  Some commenters think that some Conservatives, or Tories as they are sometimes called, are "shy" about revealing their vote intentions, which is why there were those surprises this year, and in 1992

So I'll be hoping that there are many "shy Tories" in Canada, as I watch the election returns this evening.  And hoping there was a last-minute shift to the Conservatives.

(What happens if no party wins a majority?  Then a minority government will be formed, most likely led by Justin Trudeau, the Liberal leader, unless Harper's Conservatives are very close to a majority.  That might last for some time, since only the Conservatives are likely to have enough resources to run another campaign, any time soon.

Fun fact:  Since the parties, except for the Bloc, campaign in English and French, they have slogans in both languages, but the slogans aren't always exact translations.)
- 2:11 PM, 19 October 2015   [link]


Andrew Malcolm's Weekly Collection of jokes.

Malcolm liked this one best:
Fallon: Joe Biden said he considered showing up at the Democratic debate.  But at the end of the day, his head was stuck in a banister.
But I preferred this one:
Fallon: Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his 63rd birthday the other day.  He had a nice party, but it got awkward when two of his friends got him the same country.
And I liked the Columbus joke, too.
- 12:59 PM, 19 October 2015   [link]


Alice In The Venezuelan Wonderland:  As today's New York Times reminds us, Venezuela's economy is getting worse and worse, and stranger and stranger.
A year ago, $1 bought about 100 bolívars on the black market. n These days, it often fetches more than 700 bolívars, a sign of how thoroughly domestic confidence in the economy has crashed.

The International Monetary Fund has predicted that inflation in Venezuela will hit 159 percent this year (though President Nicolás Maduro has said it will be half that), and that the economy will shrink 10 percent, the worst projected performance in the world (though there was no estimate for war-torn Syria).
Venezuelans are, naturally, trying to cope with this collapse:  Carjackers are rejecting bolivars and demanding dollars.  People are quitting regular jobs so they can stand in line to buy scarce items like diapers — to re-sell on the black market.  People needing new batteries for their cars sleep over night in them, while waiting in line.

The largest bolivar bank note in general circulation (100 bolivars) is worth either about 14 cents (black market) or about 16 dollars (official exchange rate).  Whatever its actual worth, people are having to carry immense amounts of them around, just for ordinary purchases.

And how is the Maduro government attempting to cope with this disaster?  By bribing its supporters: " . . .the government has begun to make refrigerators, air-conditioners and household appliances available to government workers and the party faithful at rock-bottom prices".  You don't have to be a financial genius to see that this program provides even more opportunities for the black market.

Their parliamentary election is scheduled for 6 December, which explains why they are passing out those bribes, now.
- 9:05 AM, 19 October 2015   [link]


No More Solid Silver For Japanese With Silver Hair?  For more than fifty years, Japan has sent a solid silver sake bowl to each centenarian.  But that may change because there are just too many Japanese turning 100.
About 30,000 Japanese turn 100 every year.  By 2050, the government projects, there will be about 680,000 citizens at or above a century.  And agencies like the health ministry need to trim their budgets, what with Japan’s national debt ballooning.
And so the health ministry "may begin making the bowls out of a mix of copper, nickel and zinc—with a silver finish".

This would just be a mildly interesting story except for this fact:  Japan's fertility rate is 1.40.

Which means that Japan will have fewer and fewer young people to support all those centenarians.
Based on the latest data from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan's population will keep declining by about one million people every year in the coming decades, which will leave Japan with a population of 86 million in 2060.>[5][6]
Japan's population is about 127 million, now.
- 6:36 AM, 19 October 2015   [link]


Worth A Listen:  This Michael Medved interview with Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer.  (It's from last Thursday, and is about 8 minutes long.)

If you watch TV, or read almost any "mainstream" newspaper in the United States, you have probably seen stories on the "cycle of violence" in Israel, stories that suggest both sides are to blame for the current spate of violence in Israel.

In fact, almost all the blame is on one side.  The Palestinian leaders have rejected peace proposals again and again, have filled their schools with anti-Jewish propaganda that matches the worst that the Nazis put out, and have recently stepped up incitements to violence.

Ambassador Dermer provides a usual corrective to all that propaganda.

(Here are some examples of that bias.

As bad as the bias can be here in the United States, it is worse in Europe, and one of the worst offenders is the BBC.  There have been so many complaints about their coverage over the years that they commissioned a report examining it.   It was written in 2004 — and has been kept secret ever since, at considerable legal cost to the BBC.  Because of this secrecy, I think it reasonable to infer that the author, Malcolm Balen, found that the BBC was seriously biased.)
- 10:38 AM, 18 October 2015   [link]


Worth Buying:  This weekend's Wall Street Journal, if only for this article on the many connections of Ng Lap Seng.

Here's Kate O'Keeffe's lead paragraph:
The Chinese billionaire charged with bribing a former top United Nations official has also been linked to a campaign-finance scandal and named by Congress as a front for Communist Party cadres.
There's more, much more.

Which campaign-finance scandal?  Chinagate.
While questions regarding the U.S. Democratic Party's fund-raising activities first arose over a Los Angeles Times article published on September 21, 1996,[1] China's alleged role in the affair first gained public attention when Bob Woodward and Brian Duffy of The Washington Post published a story stating that a United States Department of Justice investigation into the fund-raising activities had uncovered evidence that agents of China sought to direct contributions from foreign sources to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) before the 1996 presidential campaign.
There are people, not all of them Republicans, who think that was an even bigger scandal than the perfectly legal donations from the Koch brothers.

Some might consider this little detail suspicious: "Since at least 2007, Mr. Ng has frequently traveled to the U.S. from China in his private jet, bringing $4.5 million in cash with him since 2013, according to prosecutors who last month charged him with lying about the purpose of those funds."

Maybe he's just a big tipper.

(Here's O'Keeffe's page at the Journal.)
- 3:46 PM, 17 October 2015   [link]


For Some, The American 2016 Presidential Election Is Mostly A Chance To Put Down Some Winning Bets:  For those people, David Herdson has this frank advice.

Here's how he begins:
Ten tips for successful prediction

The US presidential election is the biggest single political betting event, which is excellent news for serious analysts and players because it probably means that there’s a lot of amateur, uninformed money to be matched against.   Not every election will produce a 50/1 winner but there’s nearly always value to be found for the astute.   How?  Here are some tips:

1. Follow US media: America is a different country

Deceptively so.  Some surface similarities mask two countries divided by a great deal more than a common language.  Cultural and political values differ significantly, especially once away from the more popular tourist destinations.  To the extent that Britain’s media does cover the election, it invariably does it through British eyes and with British attitudes which can be hugely misleading in setting expectations.  The only real option is to tune in to what US outlets are saying (at which point, the usual rules apply: don’t be too reliant on any single source etc.).
(Note that Herdson's advice can be read from the other side:  If you are an uninformed amateur, you should recognize that you are, to some extent, betting against semi-professionals and professionals.)

I would add this reminder to that first tip:  The BBC, the principal source of news about the United States in Britain, is routinely biased in its coverage of American politics, so much so that it would deceive many British bettors, if they weren't adjusting for that bias.

(So, how good is that advice to bettors?  So-so, I'd say, not so much wrong as lacking in useful specifics.   For instance, if were a British bettor, I would begin by looking at the data from the Iowa Electronic Market, which attracts a number of sophisticated, American bettors.)
- 9:29 AM, 17 October 2015   [link]