Archive:

October 2015, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Two Worth Reading:  This New York Times op-ed by Arthur Brooks, on "Academia’s Rejection of Diversity".
Unfortunately, new research also shows that academia has itself stopped short in both the understanding and practice of true diversity — the diversity of ideas — and that the problem is taking a toll on the quality and accuracy of scholarly work.   This year, a team of scholars from six universities studying ideological diversity in the behavioral sciences published a paper in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences that details a shocking level of political groupthink in academia. The authors show that for every politically conservative social psychologist in academia there are about 14 liberal social psychologists.
Unfortunately, the people who should pay the most attention to his argument — leftist academics and journalists — are the most likely to ignore it, or even dismiss it, for ideological reasons.

And this Wall Street Journal op-ed by Donald Graham, replying to a Times article attacking for-profit colleges.

Graham begins by conceding that some for-profit colleges deserve criticism, just as some non-profit colleges do.  But he argues that not all do, and that the one where he has worked, Kaplan University, has a fine record.
I do vigorously defend Kaplan’s higher-education programs.  I know the people who run them, and I believe their ethics and values are on a par with those of my former colleagues at the Washington Post or the staff of the New York Times, which I’ll be getting to.  I visit our closest campus whenever I need some inspiration.  The school is run almost entirely by people who grew up in or near its local community and does excellent work helping its students get jobs in a town with perpetual high unemployment.  I also occasionally teach online at the business school of Kaplan University, which has 41,000 students.
Graham has some interesting data to back up that claim, too.

There may be a connection between these two op-eds; ideology may lead some, especially in academia, to attack all for-profit colleges — and ignore the problems in non-profit colleges.

(Graham said one thing that surprised me:  He wrote a letter to the Times complaining about the Times article.  They refused to publish it, which is surprising, considering who Graham is.)
- 3:29 PM, 31 October 2015   [link]


Republicans Will Like This Michael Ramirez cartoon; Democrats mostly won't.
- 9:54 AM, 30 October 2015   [link]


The New York Times And The Seattle Times Welcomed Justin Trudeau's Victory In The Canadian Election:  So did the ISIS terrorists.

There are some parallels; Trudeau has promised to withdraw Canadian fighter jets from the fight against ISIS, and the newspapers hope that Canada will now have a more friendly foreign policy.

You can decide for yourself whether ISIS deserves friendship, from Canada, or any other nation.

(Will being on the same side as ISIS bother those newspapers?  Probably not.)
- 6:47 AM, 30 October 2015   [link]


Which Republican Presidential Candidate Has Won The Most General Elections?  Ohio Governor John Kasich (12).   Former New York governor George Pataki (10), would be second, though I would have to say that his wins are, collectively, more impressive than Kasich's.

But if you include contested primary elections, Pataki probably comes out ahead.

At one time winning records like Kasich's and Pataki's would have been considered strong reasons to support the two men, by many Republican voters (though Pataki would have to promise to name only pro-life justices to the Supreme Court).
- 2:21 PM, 29 October 2015
Correction:  I was thinking only of the Republican candidates, but didn't say so.  I've corrected that in the title.  The presidential candidate with the most general election wins is Bernie Sanders (14).  He is also, I believe, the presidential candidate with the most general election losses (6).
- 8:26 AM, 30 October 2015   [link]


Bernie Sanders Says That He Is A "Democratic Socialist"  What does he mean by that?

Let's start with the easy part.  As far as I can tell, Sanders has been a "socialist" for years, though he was a "Socialist" in his youth, as a member of the Young People's Socialist League.  But he has not been a formal member of a socialist party, for decades, which makes him a "socialist", not a "Socialist".

The "democratic" part of his self-description is also easy.  Sanders is telling us that he believes leaders should be chosen through elections.  (It would be interesting to know whether he also believes that voters should sometimes be able to make policy directly, through initiatives, and the like.)

The "socialist" part is harder because it has been applied to so many different regimes.  Classically, it meant that the state owned the "means of production", which included at least the largest industries.  For example, until it was repealed under the leadership of Tony Blair, Britain's Labour Party had, as part of its constitution, the famous (in Britain, anyway) Clause IV, which included these lines:
To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.[3]
And, when Labour came to power after World War II, it did nationalize some industries.

Since Sanders uses two distinct characteristics to describe himself, we can use them to think of four different categories of governments, non-democratic non-socialist, democratic non-socialist, democratic socialist, and non-democratic socialist.  Which of those two adjectives is more important to Bernie Sanders, the democratic or the socialist?  Would he prefer a democratic non-socialist government to a non-democratic socialist government, or the other way around?  Is he a DEMOCRATIC socialist or a democratic SOCIALIST?

There is a powerful clue in, of all things, his choice of a place for his honeymoon.
During Bernie’s mayoral tenure, Burlington formed an alliance with the Soviet city of Yaroslavl, 160 miles northeast of Moscow.  When in 1988 he married his wife, Jane, the mayor decided it would be a perfect place for his honeymoon.  In a tape of his interview with Yaroslavl’s mayor, Alexander Riabkov, Sanders acknowledges that housing and health care appear to be “significantly better” in the U.S. than in the socialist paradise.  “However,” he added, “the cost of both services is much, much, higher in the United States.”

Sanders made further globe-trotting expeditions to socialist countries. He visited Cuba, scoring a meeting with Havana’s mayor.  In 1985 he attended the celebrations marking the sixth anniversary of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.  “In a letter addressed to the people of Nicaragua, penned in conjunction with that trip, Sanders denounced the activities of the Reagan administration, which he said was under the influence of large corporations,” the Guardian notes.  “In the long run, I am certain that you will win,” Sanders wrote, “and that your heroic revolution against the Somoza dictatorship will be maintained and strengthened.”  (The Sandinistas were ousted by Nicaragua’s voters in 1990).
At that stage in his life, I'd say that he was more a socialist than a democrat, that how an economy was organized was more important to him than elections.

Is that still true?

It's hard to tell, though he now says that he admires the "social democrats" of Scandinavia.  And I would believe him if he had, in recent years, criticized the governments he once admired.  As far as I know, he hasn't.

(By "social democrats", most people mean parties that favor a mixed economy, with private enterprise dominating production, and the government providing pensions, medical care, and the like.  In the United States, the Democratic Party fits that category, and, so, to some extent, does the Republican Party.

Yaroslavl wouldn't be my first choice for a honeymoon, though it is certainly an interesting city.)
- 9:57 AM, 29 October 2015   [link]


China Ends Its One-Child Policy:  That was the lead story on BBC GMT this morning, and rightly so.

I looked at three other versions of the story at the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Guardian, and thought the Guardian's was the best of the four, overall.
China has scrapped its one-child policy, allowing couples to have two children for the first time in more than three decades, official media reported on Thursday.

The announcement was made at the close of a party meeting focused on financial reforms and maintaining growth at a time of heightened concerns over the country’s economy.
. . .
Opponents say the policy has also created a demographic “timebomb”, with China’s 1.3 billion-strong population ageing rapidly, and the country’s labour pool shrinking.  The UN estimates that by 2050 China will have nearly 440 million over-60s.  Meanwhile, the working-age population – those aged between 15 and 59 – fell by 3.71 million last year, a trend that is expected to continue.
But only the Wall Street Journal gave the crucial number:  China's total fertility rate is now 1.17, just a little over half of the replacement rate.  (And there are many more boys born than girls, because of widespread sex-selective abortion.)

And, in a supplementary article, the BBC had the best description of how the one-child policy was enforced.

None of the four mentioned a fact I suspect is relevant:  If current trends continue, India will pass China in total population, about ten years from now.

All of the news organizations, except the Journal, quoted demographers who thought the change had come too late, in part because the Party had not realized that many urban families did not think they could afford more than one child.
- 7:07 AM, 29 October 2015
Correction:  The Journal article now says the rate is 1.7, not 1.17.  In this post, I give my best guess at the real number, about 1.54.
- 9:45 AM, 5 November 20015   [link]


What Do Americans Want To Know About The Presidential Candidates?  Among other things, how tall they are.
“How tall is Jeb Bush?’’ has consistently been a top query put to Google this year, edging out questions about the former Florida governor’s biography or policies.  Height is also a frequent search about Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky, who at 5-foot-10 and 5-foot-8, according to their campaigns, stand well below the 6-foot-4 Mr. Bush.

The curiosity is bipartisan.  In the first week of October, “How tall is” was one of the top Google queries for 13 of the 19 most prominent presidential contenders.
Somehow the different numbers for Hillary Clinton's height seem appropriate.
Former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive Carly Fiorina, at 5-foot-6, is taller than the average height for American women, which is 5-foot-4.  Hillary Clinton also is, though her height is a matter of dispute.   In the 2008 campaign, she was widely reported at 5-foot-5.  Now, many news reports put the former senator and secretary of state at 5-foot-7.  Her campaign didn’t respond to questions about the gap.
Bernie Sanders is said to be six feet tall, but doesn't stand that way.  And that too seems appropriate, considering the kind of foreign policy he favors.

For what it is worth, Bush, and former New York governor George Pataki, are the tallest in the entire field.

(Preferring taller candidates, as Americans tend to do, may not be irrational.  Height, like intelligence, and other desirable characteristics, is partly a matter of nutrition.  That was especially true in the past, of course.)
- 6:29 PM, 28 October 2015   [link]


The NYT And The WSJ Agree On The Budget Deal:  Both newspapers say it should be passed; neither is enthusiastic about it.

In their lead editorial, "A Budget Deal to Live By, for Now", the New York Times says:
As with any compromise, the deal is not perfect.  Medicare beneficiaries are shielded from having to pay more by cutting payments to doctors and hospitals, a workable though painful trade-off.

The deal also leaves for another day — another president and a future Congress — the most divisive and serious budget issues
In their lead editorial, "The Best Worst Budget Deal", the Wall Street Journal says:
The Obama Presidency staged a last policy gasp Tuesday, as the White House and congressional leaders completed a budget deal that defers every serious choice to the next Administration.  The mutual nonaggression pact is the product of a hyper-polarized Washington, and perhaps the only thing worse than passing it would be not passing it.
(The two even agree that the reforms in the about-to-go-bankrupt disability program are a good first step.)

They also agree in what you might call "mirror-image" ways.  Each thinks the other side has been unreasonable, and each wishes its side was more unified.  The Times thinks the Democrats should unify around a call for higher taxes and spending; the Journal thinks the fractious Republicans should agree on some common, practical goals.

Some may see this convergence between two newspapers that are often on opposite sides, politically, as more evidence of a bipartisan "establishment" conspiracy; for me, it's the kind of unhappy compromise you should expect in a deadlocked "Madisonian" system.

(My own views on the budget deal?  I haven't read enough about it to have a firm opinion.  But I do see some hope in this fact:  On the whole, John Boehner and the Republicans got more from the "sequester" deal than Obama and the Democrats did.  So I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they came out ahead, net, on this deal, too.)
- 12:37 PM, 28 October 2015   [link]


Congratulations To President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, And Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid:  We're Number 7, in the World Bank's "Doing Business" ranking, behind Singapore, New Zealand, Denmark, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Britain.

Granted, we are down one step from last year.

And, granted again, we have terrible rankings in some categories, notably starting a business (49th), getting construction permits (33rd), and paying taxes (53rd), but Obama, Pelosi, and Reid can't be blamed for those.

Or can they, to some extent?

By way of the Daily Mail, which is pleased to see that Britain has moved past the United States.

(Perhaps the single most troubling thing about our slow recovery is the lack of new businesses, compared to other recent recoveries.  You may not want to share this thought with your Democratic friends, but it is possible that the federal government has been discouraging business formation, in recent years.)

- 7:45 AM, 28 October 2015   [link]


Biometric Voting In Tanzania:  On Sunday, I glanced at the Wikipedia article on the Tanzanian election, wondering if the ruling party there, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (Party of the Revolution), might finally lose a national election.

As I was reading through the article, I was mildly startled (though I shouldn't have been) to read this paragraph:
All eligible voters were registered using the Biometric Voters’ Register (BVR) kits.[13]  In June 2015, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimated that were 24,252,927 eligible voters based on the adjusted national population census.[14]  By 2 August, NEC succeeded in registering 24,001,134 voters.[2]  The Tanzanian diaspora will not be able to vote in this election.[15]
Does that "Biometric" mean what you think it does?  Yes, as far as I can tell.  Although the systems vary and are customizable, to vote in Tanzania, you need a very good ID.  (I would guess that they require at least a picture and either fingerprints or palm prints.)  Here's a list of what can be on those identifications systems, from one of the companies in the business: "fingerprints, face, iris, voice etc.", which seems fairly comprehensive to me, especially with that et cetera at the end.

I shouldn't have been surprised because I have been seeing stories, for several years now, about the spread of these systems around the world, even in countries that don't have much money for luxuries.   Tanzania, for instance, has a per capita income of about a thousand dollars a year (or about $2500 if you use the purchasing power parity measure).

As far as I know, few in these countries see these systems as tools of "voter suppression", as so many do, or claim to, for voter IDs here in the United States.  I am certain that some of those claims are cynical efforts to increase the black vote for Democrats, but don't doubt that some who make the claims believe them.

(If you want to see just how widely those systems are used, just search on "biometric voting systems", or something similar.

And the Tanzanian election?  Results are incomplete, but the ruling party has suffered some defeats.)
- 6:54 AM, 28 October 2015   [link]


Another Human Chimera:  One that required considerable medical detective work to identify.
A Washington [D.C.] man who was told he was not the biological father of his son has discovered, after extensive genetic testing, that the father of his son was actually his own lost twin brother whose DNA he had absorbed in the womb.

The 34-year-old, who has chosen to remain anonymous, discovered that he was a so-called 'human chimera', someone with extra genes coming from a nascent twin - and his is the first reported case of the condition ever fooling a paternity test.

Around one in eight single childbirths are believed to have started out as multiple pregnancies, and in some cases, cells from one sibling can be absorbed by the other.
The article goes on to describe the detective work needed to establish his paternity.

But I must add that the Daily Mail does not describe what happened in the same way I would,   For me the father is a single individual — with two sets of genes.  He is the result of a merger of two fertilized eggs, or two developing embryos, and he is as much one as the other.  (A biologist might say, considering which parts are from which fertilized egg, that he is more one than the other, but we don't need to get into those questions, here.)

(In this post from September 2013, I described, briefly, some of the ways we can end up with more than one set of genes.

There's much more in this Wikipedia article on chimeras, including these interesting fact: "most marmosets are chimeras", something I would not have guessed from looking at these New World monkeys.)
- 2:09 PM, 27 October 2015   [link]


In Britain, It's Easy For Most Voters To Find A National Newspaper That Agrees with their politics, and makes arguments on their level.

If you aren't familiar with all those British newspapers, here's a start.  If you are well educated and support Labour, you can read the Guardian, and if you are less well educated and support Labour, you might prefer the Daily Mirror.

Similarly, if you are well educated and support the Conservatives, you can read The Daily Telegraph, and if you are less well educated and support the Conservatives, you might prefer the Daily Mail.

So, almost everyone there can get a newspaper that they find agreeable, politically, though I do have to add that a good citizen would be wise to spend some time looking for news from sources they disagree with.  (For Conservatives that's easy, because of the leftist slant of the BBC.)

(I'll be coming back to this, with some American comparisons, soon.)
- 10:36 AM, 26 October 2015   [link]


How Big Is The Islamic Terrorist Threat From Those Migrants Streaming Into Europe?  Let's do a quick, back-of-the-envelope estimate.  (In fact, this is so simple, I'll do it without even using an envelope.)

Let's suppose that 1 million migrants enter Europe and end up staying there.  From the very rough estimates that I've seen, about 80 percent of them will be Muslims.  About half of those will be nominal Muslims, whose faith is not central to their lives.  So we are down to 400 thousand.

Lets's suppose that 10 percent of those support the terrorist ideals of Al Qaeda and ISIS, and that 10 percent of those are willing to act on those beliefs.

So Europe may be importing 36,000 people who support Islamic terror, and 4,000 who may commit terror.  Those numbers are, in my opinion, more likely to be on the low side than the high, because most of the migrants are young men, and because the European Union has given terrorists a great opportunity to enter Europe.

That rough estimate troubles me — and should trouble every European Union official who has seen how much damage even a few terrorists can do.
- 9:16 AM, 26 October 2015
More:  German security services, who mus have way more data than I do, agree with my conclusion.
Germany's intelligence agencies have expressed serious concerns over the huge influx of migrants harbouring extremist views, it has been reported.

A security document has warned of the damaging consequences of Berlin's open-door policy which is expected to see around one million refugees enter the country this year alone.

It read: 'We are importing Islamic extremism, Arab anti-Semitism, national and ethnic conflicts of other peoples as well as a different societal and legal understanding.'
This will not end weill.
- 1:03 PM, 26 October 2015   [link]


Another EB-5 Scandal, With A Twist?  I have been opposed to EB-5 visas, ever since I heard about them.  If foreigners think they have found a good place in the United States to invest, they can just send their money, and visit it on tourist visas, if they need to.

Oh, one can think of cases in which the investor really needs to be here, full time, but those are extremely rare.

We are not an impoverished country that needs to sell the right to live here, with all the possibilities for corruption that those sales bring with them.  For an example of the corruption possibilities, see this Washington Post article, on a scheme involving the Democratic governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and Hillary Clinton's brother, Anthony Rodham.

Until this summer, the examples of corruption I have seen so far were of this kind:  A dubious investment, or an investment that did not need foreign money, made money by selling visas to foreigners.

Now, if the prosecutors are right, we have a twist on that scheme, a scam within an EB-5 scam.
Lobsang Dargey, once an impoverished Tibetan monastery student, shot from obscure immigrant to well-to-do real-estate developer in barely a decade.

This summer, having raised more than $125 million from Chinese investors through the EB-5 visa program, he began construction on a 40-story downtown Seattle tower and was finishing up a $60 million Everett project.  This month he was scheduled as the main speaker on EB-5 investments at a big Florida real-estate conference.
. . .
On Aug. 24, however, his classic American success story took a startling turn as federal regulators filed civil fraud charges against Dargey. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) now accuses him of misappropriating anywhere from $17 million to more than $50 million of the would-be Chinese immigrants’ money for his personal use or unapproved expenditures.
(Originally, EB-5 investments were to go to impoverished areas, not prosperous cities.)

I put a question mark on the title because so far this is all "alleged", but it doesn't look good for Mr. Dargey.

And I can't help but wonder whether a Tibetan might not have additional reasons for conning Chinese investors.

(This case has even inspired the Seattle Times to come out against EB-5 visas.  They are a little late on this, but welcome anyway.

The EB-5 program was fairly small until the Obama administration changed the rules in 2011, making it far easier to make such investments.)
- 8:34 AM, 26 October 2015   [link]


Today's New Yorker Cartoon is a touch morbid, but still funny.
- 7:31 AM, 26 October 2015   [link]


Odd NYT/Amazon Failure:  For several weeks now, I've been getting the New York Times on my Kindle.  Usually, it comes in about 2 in the morning, which is plenty early for me (and lets me read the newspaper in bed, if I want to).

This morning there was a new edition, labeled October 25th, just as there should have been, but it was yesterday's newspaper.

I can think of only two ways this could have happened:  Either the NYT sent the wrong file (or set of files) to Amazon. and Amazon didn't check it, or Amazon sent me the wrong file.

Oddly enough, as of a few minutes ago, the mistake still hadn't been corrected, though I am almost certain that others must have been affected.

It doesn't seem as if it would be a hard mistake to fix.

(In trying to find a fix for the problem, I learned that the Kindle subscription includes full digital access to the NYT, which is likely to be quite helpful, at times.)
- 4:34 PM, 25 October 2015   [link]


Donald Trump Attacks Ben Carson's Faith:  In a revealing way.
Donald Trump on Saturday contrasted his Presbyterian faith with that of Seventh-day Adventists, apparently attempting to draw attention to and raise doubts about Republican presidential rival Ben Carson's religious beliefs.

Speaking at a campaign rally here, Trump was in the midst of discussing his standing in the polls, including recent Iowa surveys that showed him falling behind Carson in the GOP race.  Then, he brought up religion.

"I love Iowa.  And, look, I don't have to say it, I'm Presbyterian," said Trump.  "Can you believe it?  Nobody believes I'm Presbyterian.  I'm Presbyterian.  I'm Presbyterian.  I'm Presbyterian.  Boy, that's down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don't know about.  I just don't know about."
Those three paragraphs should be enough for you to draw your own conclusions about what Trump was trying to do, politically, especially if you remember that evangelicals are an important voting group in Iowa.

Washington Post article by way of Professor Althouse.

(If you want to explore the question of how genuine Trump's own faith is — a subject I usually try to avoid — you might want to start here and here.)
- 10:41 AM, 25 October 2015   [link]