Archive:

September 2016, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Well, This is odd.
President Barack Obama used a pseudonym in email communications with Hillary Clinton and others, according to FBI records made public Friday.

The disclosure came as the FBI released its second batch of documents from its investigation into Clinton’s private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
But I think it provides a little support for my contention that President Obama must have known about Clinton's private email server.
- 4:16 PM, 24 September 2016   [link]


No New News On The Burlington Mall Murders:  I did a quick check of local news sources and found nothing that wasn't known last night.

But that didn't stop our local TV stations from telling us they had nothing new to report — at considerable length.

From which I conclude that the police forces involved don't know more, or they are, perhaps for good reasons, not telling the reporters what they know, for now.

(My sympathies to the families and friends of the five victims.)
- 3:50 PM, 24 September 2016   [link]


The Two Phases Of The Trump Foundation:  If you read far enough through the David Farenthold article I linked to the other day, you learned something peculiar about the foundation.
Trump founded his charity in 1987 and for years was its only donor.  But in 2006, Trump gave away almost all the money he had donated to the foundation, leaving it with just $4,238 at year’s end, according to tax records.

Then, he transformed the Trump Foundation into something rarely seen in the world of philanthropy: a name-branded foundation whose namesake provides none of its money.  Trump gave relatively small donations in 2007 and 2008, and afterward, nothing.  The foundation’s tax records show no donations from Trump since 2009.
Before 2009, Trump gave his own money to the foundation, which gave it away; after 2009, he stopped giving to the foundation, and gave some of other people's money, donated to the foundation, to himself.

Why the change?  Farenthold, who probably knows as much about the foundation as any outsider, doesn't say.  But almost anyone who thinks about it will wonder whether Trump ran into cash-flow problems in 2006.
- 3:59 PM, 23 September 2016   [link]


Some Will Like This Afternoon's New Yorker Cartoon:  Others will like this morning's, and some will like both.

(I'm not sure how many will like yesterday's "pumpkin spice" cartoon.)
- 3:23 PM, 23 September 2016   [link]


Don King's Colorful Life:  You may have seen the boxing promoter endorse Donald Trump, and even add a little spice to the occasion.

But I doubt if many of the news programs bothered to give you much background on King, which is unfortunate, because King has not led a boring life.
Donald "Don" King (born August 20, 1931) is an American boxing promoter known for his involvement in historic boxing matchups.  He has been a controversial figure, partly due to a manslaughter conviction (and later pardon), and civil cases against him.

King's career highlights include, among multiple other enterprises, promoting "The Rumble in the Jungle" and the "Thrilla in Manila". King has promoted some of the most prominent names in boxing, including Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Julio César Chávez, Ricardo Mayorga, Andrew Golota, Bernard Hopkins, Félix Trinidad, Roy Jones, Jr. and Marco Antonio Barrera.  Almost all of these boxers sued him for defrauding them; King settled most lawsuits for six- to eight-digit pay-offs while managing to avoid a conviction of felony fraud.

In 1966, King was convicted of nonnegligent manslaughter for killing Sam Garrett, one of his employees.[1][2]  He served almost four years in prison.[2]  After being released, he was later pardoned in 1983.[3]
(Links omitted.)

Earlier, King had killed another man, apparently in self defense.  Even an illegal bookmaker, which is what King was at the time, has a right to defend himself.

I doubt that many newspapers headlined the endorsement like this:  Trump Endorsed by Convicted Murderer.  Which is too bad, because that happens to be true.

According to accounts I've seen, Trump and King have been friends for years.  We can all speculate on what they see in each other.

(There's more.  A King employee, Dollree Mapp, was the Mapp in Mapp v. Ohio, one of the most famous police powers cases, ever.).  
- 4:06 PM, 22 September 2016   [link]


Oliver Stone's Latest Crazy Talk:  Now, he doesn't like President Obama, either.
US film director Oliver Stone on Thursday accused President Barack Obama's administration of implementing a surveillance system worse than that of the feared Stasi secret police in East Germany.

Speaking at the San Sebastian film festival in northern Spain, where he presented his film "Snowden," Stone said many in the US had grown disillusioned with a president they once saw as "a man of great integrity."

"On the contrary, Obama has doubled down on the (George W.) Bush administration policies," said Stone, whose latest movie is a biographical political thriller about Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who revealed a vast US surveillance programme in 2013.

Obama "has created... the most massive global security surveillance state that's ever been seen, way beyond East Germany's Stasi, way beyond that."

"In the name of one thing -- terrorism -- to change all the rules is not a marginal response, it's an extreme response," he told reporters.

"Let's beware of fascists and tyrants who tell us 'we are going to protect you'.   I don't want that."
As you may have noticed, I am not a big fan of our current president, but to compare his policies to those followed by the Stasi is absurd.

Sadly, there are a few of our fellow citizens who don't realize that.

Here's a hint for Stone, and others like him:  When the Stasi were in power, people died trying to get out of East Germany.  Today, many risk their lives trying to get into the United States.
- 2:26 PM, 22 September 2016   [link]


Want A Zika Test?  You probably can't get one.  The tests are complex.
Testing for Zika is surprisingly complex, and may require three tests to be sure of a result.  One type is called a polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., designed to detect the active virus in blood and urine.  The test is similar to those used for more common viruses like West Nile and influenza.

But the P.C.R. test is reliable only if it’s used within a week or two of exposure. Since most people don’t have symptoms for Zika, many can’t pinpoint the date of exposure.  While a positive P.C.R. test shows definitively that a person has Zika, a negative test does not mean a person is Zika free.

If a P.C.R. test is negative, the next step is to test the blood sample for Zika antibodies.  Antibody tests are not widely available and can also produce equivocal results.

A negative antibody test means a person wasn’t exposed to Zika.  But a positive result requires a third test to be sure the detected antibodies aren’t other viruses, such as dengue or chikungunya, both of which cause flulike symptoms and are present in Latin and South American countries.

The third type, the plaque reduction neutralization test, or P.R.N.T., determines conclusively if a person was exposed to Zika.  But the test is now done only by the C.D.C. and a limited number of local health department labs.
(Links omitted.)

So the Centers for Disease Control is rationing the tests, with "strict guidelines".

You don't have to be an expert in disease control to understand that this complexity makes the fight against Zika more difficult.

(Here's the Wikipedia article on the plaque reduction neutralization test.)
- 9:45 AM, 22 September 2016   [link]


Sidney Harris Doesn't Have A Politics Category:  Which might be a relief, for a change.
- 8:53 AM, 22 September 2016   [link]


The Trump Foundation Found An Especially Deserving Recipient:  Donald Trump, for his legal problems.
Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.
Sometimes I get the feeling that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump think our laws apply to them.

Just to make this even more symmetrical, I'll remind you that the Trump Foundation has also contributed to the Clinton Foundation.

(As I have said before, I hate covering these Trump scandals, but someone has to do it.)  
- 3:16 PM, 21 September 2016   [link]


Will Jeremy Corbyn Survive The Labour Leadership Contest?  Today is the last day for voting, so it's good time to ask that question.  (The results will be announced on Saturday.)

Corbyn has been a disaster as Labour leader.  He's wildly unpopular with both the public and his own members of parliament.  Polls show that he would lose, by historic margins, were Prime Minister Theresa May to call an election soon.  He lost a confidence vote among Labour MPs, 172-40.

Nonetheless the polls show him with a lead over his challenger Owen Smith, and the bookies make him a very heavy favorite.  (Polling for these internal elections can tricky, for some of the same reasons that it is harder to poll caucuses, here in the United States.)

Why?

Because Labour activists still love him, and would rather lose with Corbyn than win with someone else.
Many Labour MPs despairing at Corbyn's takeover of the party have adopted the tactic of waiting for Corbyn to fail on his own terms.  Allow him to be rejected by the public at a general election, their reasoning goes, and he'll either step down or will be easily ousted and control of the Labour party will pass back to the mainstream.

Unfortunately, this may turn out to be wishful thinking, with the majority of Corbyn supporters (51%) believing that he should remain leader of the party even if Labour loses the next general election.  Fewer than three in ten Corbyn supporters (28%) think he should step down if Labour are defeated.  If Corbyn is able to continue to attract more and more of his followers to join the party, it may prove impossible for his opponents to wrest back control.
Corbynistas don't blame him for his poor showing, but they do blame many others, including the media.  (Take a look at the blinking graph at Question 2 for some examples.)

A few Corbynistas attack his Labour opponents in shamefully familiar ways.  (Americans may not know that, since his election in 2015, there has been an upsurge in anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.)

None of this will surprise anyone who has followed American politics; activists often back sure losers and, on both the left and the right, it is possible to find activists who misbehave, badly.
- 2:38 PM, 21 September 2016   [link]


Science Fiction Fans may like this cartoon.
- 7:36 AM, 21 September 2016   [link]


Too Funny And/Or Revealing Not To Share:  I had forgotten about this strange bit from the Democratic governor of Minnesota.
It was only last year—coincidentally, in St. Cloud—when Governor Mark Dayton warned Minnesotans concerned about the state’s ever-growing Somali population to pack up and move on.  Dayton weirdly instructed “white, B-plus, Minnesota-born citizens” to suppress their qualms about immigrant resettlement in Minnesota.  If they can’t, he added, they should “find another state.”
(I don't believe he said what A- students should do; he may be implying they can stay, even if they have politically incorrect beliefs.  I don't want even to speculate on what he thinks appropriate for C students.)

I suspect that Governor Dayton was only saying what many others on the left feel.

(Dayton's electoral history is interesting; it looks to me as if he was helped by the Independence Party more than once, though these things are hard to judge without good poll data.)
- 3:35 PM, 20 September 2016   [link]


Those Still Hoping For A Meteor may like yesterday morning's New Yorker cartoon.
- 2:41 PM, 20 September 2016   [link]


Where Should We Put Syrian refugees?  Here's my suggestion.   It's a little obvious perhaps, but I haven't seen anyone else make it.

Right now, it has plenty of free space.  Since it's an island, security will be less of a problem than it would be in most other places.

(Feel free to send this suggestion to President Obama, if you like it.)
- 4:12 PM, 19 September 2016   [link]


Electoral Scorecard, 9/19:  Donald Trump made another gain in the poll model; since last Monday; Clinton's lead declined from 5.0 to 4.1 percent.  In contrast, Clinton gained slightly in the betting market, going from 62.3 to 64.7 percent.

Why has Clinton's lead declined in the last two weeks?   Most likely, because her case of walking pneumonia appeared to validate Trump's claim that she is not well enough to be president.  If she continues to look and act well, I would expect that issue to fade in voters' minds.  But I also expect the terrorist attacks to help Trump during this next week or so, perhaps giving him another small gain.

John Hinderaker now thinks Trump will win; I still think he has less than a 30 percent chance of winning.   One reason I am skeptical about his chances is that so many voters view him as "too extreme".

(The Political Betting site also gives odds for the Republican control of the House of Representatives (89.0 percent) and the Senate (45.0).  Neither seems wildly off to me, though the first may be a little low, and the second a little high.)
- 9:58 AM, 19 September 2016   [link]


Terrorist Attacks As Civil Rights Problems:  After a terrorist attack, journalists have to decide what aspect of the story to cover, have to decide what is important in the story.

For some journalists, the most important aspect is civil rights, how the attack might inspire discrimination against a minority community.  That, for example, was what was most important to the BBC's GMT program this morning, after the knife attack in Minnesota.  The BBC gave the basic facts, and then switched to a piece on how some Somalis and Somali-Americans are worried that Americans now suspect them.

For the BBC producer of the show, the important aspect of the terrorist attack is how it might affect the civil rights of this dark-skinned, Muslim community.

This isn't the only example I have seen of this emphasis on civil rights, even recently.  Last week, I saw a BBC piece in which the effects of the 9/11 attack on a Moroccan community in New Jersey appeared to be the most important issue to the BBC.

It's as if some producers know how — or think they know how — to do civil rights stories, but not how to do terrorist stories.

(I did learn something from the New Jersey story.  Apparently there were many illegal immigrants in the Moroccan community.  After 9/11, we stepped up enforcement and deported many of them.

It's my impression that the BBC is even worse than American news organizations, even more likely to see terrorist attacks in the United States as civil rights problems,)
- 8:26 AM, 19 September 2016   [link]


Like The Rest Of Us, Criminals Adapt To New Opportunities:  Like the rest of us, criminals don't always get the adaptions right, at first.
- 6:51 AM, 19 September 2016   [link]


Reading Mostly For Fun (1):  I've been suggesting so many serious articles, columns, and editorials that I have neglected to tell you about some of the books and stories that I've enjoyed, and think some of you may, too.

Most will be science fiction, because that's what I mostly read, for fun.

So, to begin with, James Schmitz's The Demon Breed.  (It appears to be out of print, but you should be able to get a used copy from Amazon, or elsewhere.)

It's not, I believe, as well known as his fantasy, The Witches of Karres, but it has a tighter plot, and a heroine with no magical powers.  The baddies are really bad, in interesting ways, the planet's ecology is complex, and fairly plausible, and there is some very grand strategy thrown in near the end that may make you think.

(The Witches is fun, too, though hard science fiction fans will be bothered by many of the details.)
- 8:03 PM, 18 September 2016   [link]


As A Guy, I'm Not Sure I Should Like This Cartoon:   But I do.
- 6:15 PM, 18 September 2016   [link]


Worth Buying:  This weekend's Wall Street Journal, if only for Robert Gates's essay. "Sizing Up the Next Commander-in-Chief".

Here's how he begins, and ends:
You wouldn’t know it from the presidential campaigns, but the first serious crisis to face our new president most likely will be international. The list of possibilities is long—longer than it was eight years ago.
. . .
At least on national security, I believe Mr. Trump is beyond repair.  He is stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government, and temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform.  He is unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief.
I would say uninformed — and misinformed.

These are the issues we should be discussing, not a silly smear floated by Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal in 2008, and then made the center of Trump's 2012 campaign.
- 3:24 PM, 17 September 2016   [link]


Austria Still Hasn't Figured Out Why their election envelopes sometimes come unglued.
VIENNA—Austria’s politics are coming unstuck. Or more precisely, unglued.

Special envelopes designed to hold mail-in ballots for the Oct. 2 runoff presidential election are rimmed with a glue that should seal them tight.  But it is mysteriously malfunctioning, and that has provoked a crisis, which in the words of one TV anchor is leading to a “Bundespräsidentenwiederholungswahlverschiebung”—the postponement of the rerun of the presidential election.
The company that manufactures the special envelopes has made them before, with no problems.

Just to complicate matters, the glue was imported from Germany, in three separate batches.

As you probably know, this election is a re-run, since they had problems in their first try, earlier this year.

(I had thought that making glue was a solved problem, but when I mentioned this story to the manager of a local drug store, he told me they had occasionally received batches of envelopes with glue that didn't stick.)
- 10:22 AM, 17 September 2016   [link]


Today's New Yorker Cartoon Is Funny:  And, by cartoon standards, fair.

(Trumpistas may not agree.)
- 8:52 AM, 17 September 2016   [link]