Last updated:
3:34 PM, 28 July 2015



Jim Miller on Politics

  Email:
jimxc1 at gmail.com



What's he reading? Francis Parkman.

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References:

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My Group Blog:
Sound Politics

Northwest:


The American Empire
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Croker Sack
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Federal Way Conservative
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<pudge/*>
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*Progressive Majority
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Other US:


Ace of Spades HQ
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Little Green Footballs
Megan McArdle
Michelle Malkin
Greg Mankiw
Marginal Revolution
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The ModerateVoice
*The Monkey Cage Mudville Gazette
"neo-neocon"
Betsy Newmark
Newsbusters
No Watermelons Allowed
Ambra Nykola
*The Optimistic Conservative
The Ornery American
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Daniel Pipes
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zombietime


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Babalú
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Overseas:


"Franco Aleman"
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samizdata
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Bjørn Stærk
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This is Zimbabwe

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Watts Up With That?

Media Blogs:
Andrew Malcolm
Dori Monson
David Postman
Rhetorical Ammo
Tierney Lab
*White House Dossier

R-Rated:
Horse's A**
Huffington Post

*new



If You've Been In Any Tourist Areas Recently, you'll appreciate this cartoon.
- 3:34 PM, 28 July 2015   [link]


First Thoughts On The Kindle:  As I've mentioned, I've been using an Amazon Kindle recently, specifically, if you are curious, this one.

I had an unhappy out-of-the box experience with the device and am still learning to use it, so I am not ready to do a full review, but I can say a few things about it.

First, currently it does not save you money on your book purchases; the costs for standard paperback and Kindle versions of a book are about the same, typically.  (You can save money on a few Kindle-only versions.  For example, I found a collection of Poul Anderson stories for only 99 cents the other evening.  They aren't among his best, but they are worth reading and, as far as I know, mostly not available elsewhere, except in old science fiction magazines.)

Second, the screen is readable, even for old eyes like mine, in bright light, and no light at all.

Third, the designers chose to make it almost exactly the size of a standard paperback.  That may have been a mistake.  Many of us would prefer a larger screen size, as large as a typical quality paperback, or even a typical hardback.  And some would probably prefer a smaller screen size.
- 3:09 PM, 28 July 2015   [link]


Urban Planners Versus Mental Health Experts:  As far as I can tell, almost all urban planners think everyone should live in cities.  They would, I suppose, if pressed, admit that, for the moment, it is necessary to have a few of us live on farms, for food production.   (And a few do not practice what they preach, and instead live in suburbs, or even exurbs, while advocating greater density for everyone else.)

The urban planners seem unaware of many of the costs of greater density, in particular the damage that cities do to our mental health.

But mental health experts know about them as Gretchen Reynolds reminded us, in this recent New York Times article.

Most of us today live in cities and spend far less time outside in green, natural spaces than people did several generations ago.

City dwellers also have a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban centers, studies show.

These developments seem to be linked to some extent, according to a growing body of research.  Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.

(Only a snarky Republican would add that urban dwellers in the United States have another psychological problem, a propensity to vote for the Democratic Party.)

What Reynolds is saying, though she never uses the "s" word, is that people who live in classical, tree-lined suburbs or in the country, are likely to be healthier, mentally, than those who live in urban cores.  (Here, I am using "suburb", not as it is legally defined in the United States, but as a description of neighborhoods.  In that sense, there are parts of Seattle that are "suburban", and parts of some of Seattle's suburbs that are "urban".  Put simply, the more trees and the fewer people per acre, the less "urban" an area would be.)

She doesn't cite any of those studies; instead she goes on to discuss an interesting experiment that may show one of the ways cities damage the people who live in them.

Any numbers guy (or gal) will be annoyed that Reynolds does not give us even a hint about the size of the mental health damages from living in cities.

I can't give you an overall number — and don't know whether anyone else can, either — but I can give you a startling example that I ran across a couple of years ago.

Environmental factors associated with the development of schizophrenia include the living environment, drug use and prenatal stressors.[4]  Parenting style seems to have no major effect, although people with supportive parents do better than those with critical or hostile parents.>[1]  Childhood trauma, death of a parent, and being bullied or abused increase the risk of psychosis.[37]  Living in an urban environment during childhood or as an adult has consistently been found to increase the risk of schizophrenia by a factor of two,[1][4] even after taking into account drug use, ethnic group, and size of social group.[38]  Other factors that play an important role include social isolation and immigration related to social adversity, racial discrimination, family dysfunction, unemployment, and poor housing conditions.[1][39]

(Emphasis added.)

So living in a city doubles the chances a person will come down with schizophrenia, a terribly debilitating disease.

Given that finding, few of us would be surprised to learn that urban living also doubles the chance that a person will suffer from "anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses".  Though, of course, anyone serious about this subject will want to see lots of studies, with lots of numbers, before coming to any firm conclusion about the size of the problem.

And almost all of us would — I hope — want to ask our urban planners whether they consider those costs when they make their plans calling for greater density.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 2:16 PM, 28 July 2015   [link]


Yes, Women Are Prejudiced Against Short Guys:  Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had a mildly interesting article on a lawsuit against price fixing in the human egg market.  (In the United States, donors usually receive no more than $10,000 per "egg-donation cycle".)

As part of the article, there was a brief description of the other reproductive market, a description that included this paragraph:
Sperm banks generally don't charge a premium for sperm from men with particularly desirable characteristics of looks or intelligence.  Such screening is often done by sperm banks, said Ms. [Rene] Almeling, by requiring donors to either be enrolled in a four-year college or have a college degree, and to be taller than around 5 feet 8 inches.  "Short doesn't sell," she said.
In my experience, most women want a mate who is at least somewhat taller than they are.  (Do lesbians want the fathers of their children to be taller than they are?  The article doesn't say, but lesbians do sometimes use these banks.)

(I was going to put Napoleon in the title, as a famous example of a short guy.  But it turns out that he was of average height, 5 feet 6 inches, for his time.  That's something I had known, now that I think about it, but forgotten, in favor of the myth.

You should be able to find the Journal article at MSN, with this search.   Here's Almeling's book.)
- 6:47 AM, 28 July 2015   [link]


President Obama Lectures The African Union:  This morning, I did something I often do; I watched a half hour of BBC America.  As a result, I ended up doing something I rarely do; I watched Barack Obama give a speech.

If you are wondering why I broke my usual rule against watching political speeches, it was because the BBC had promised another story in their series on human trafficking, and I wanted to see that story, both for what they said — and what they didn't say.  But they cut to a live feed of Obama's speech and so I kept watching, hoping they would soon get back to what I did want to watch.

However, not wanting to spoil my breakfast, I watched, but didn't listen.  As soon as Obama came on, I pressed the mute button.

What I saw was a man lecturing other men and women, in a rather condescending manner.  He didn't seem to be interacting with his audiences, as good speakers always do.

He was, I thought, literally looking down his nose at them.

But, perhaps I was seeing what I wanted to see, as we all do, at times.  I suppose now I'll have to read the speech to see if the impression I got from his appearance was accurate.
- 5:56 AM, 28 July 2015   [link]


The Seattle Mariners Turned A 3-6-2-2 Triple Play:  (With a little help from Toronto base runners.)

Even if you don't know much about baseball, you probably realize that's unusual, and it is; it last happened in the major leagues in 1955.

You can watch it here, or read a longer description of it here.

What I like most about that play is that one of the players involved didn't realize it was a triple play, until he was told about it after the game.  When something really weird happens right in front of us, we don't always see it.
- 4:03 PM, 27 July 2015   [link]


Barack Obama And Hillary Clinton, Ideologues Frozen in Time:  There is a famous quotation from John Maynard Keynes that explains much about this leader, and this would-be leader, of the Democratic Party:
The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood.  Indeed the world is ruled by little else.  Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.  Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.  I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.  Not, indeed, immediately, but after a certain interval; for in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest.  But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.
Our political leaders almost always have theories about how society should work, and how it does work, theories that they acquire before they have reached twenty-five or thirty.  They may not realize that their political beliefs constitute a theory, and they do not always realize that their theories are necessarily incomplete and flawed, as all theories of how humans behave must be.

Although much about that part of Obama's life is obscure, we can be reasonably certain that he had acquired his theories by the time he had graduated from Columbia.  And we can be quite certain that Clinton had acquired hers by the time she had graduated from Wellesley.

So far I haven't said anything very controversial, anything that a supporter of Obama or Clinton would likely object to — but I think many of them would object to this conclusion:  As far as I can tell, neither Obama nor Clinton has modified their theories, significantly, since they left college, even though events should have forced them to.  They are stuck with the ideas they had then; they are frozen in time.

They are not, just as Keynes said, alone in this.  On Saturday, the New York Times ran an article on Bernie Sanders that argued that he had not changed his ideas since his days growing up in Brooklyn.  Nor is this stability — to give it a nice name — found only on the left.  Talk show host Rush Limbaugh has not changed his ideology for decades, even though it conflicts with the real world in some places.  Occasionally, you can even hear from him echoes of intra-party fights from the 1940s. which, presumably, Limbaugh inherited from his father and grandfather.  (Oddly, though Limbaugh seems unaware of this, he has also picked up some ideas from the left of his youth.)

But I do think that Obama and Clinton are unusual, for working politicians, in their ideological rigidity, in their unwillingness to test their theories, from time to time, against the real world.

(The "academic scribbler" who most influenced them?   Saul Alinsky, of course, though he wasn't just an academic scribbler.)
- 3:13 PM, 27 July 2015   [link]


Philip Bump Agrees with what I said about Hillary Clinton in this post, and adds data from other polls to strengthen the argument.
A poll released Sunday from NBC/Marist reinforces one from last week by Quinnipiac University that found her to be as unpopular as Donald Trump in key swing states.  In Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton's net favorability — those who view her positively minus those who don't — was negative-23 and negative-20, respectively.
Nationally, Democrats still love her, but independents dislike her and Republicans hate her.  So, assuming those numbers don't improve for her, she might win the nomination — and lose the general election.

Though Bump doesn't discuss this, there is some reason to think that her numbers among Democrats will decline during the nomination campaign, since her opponents will be forced to attack her.  Those attacks may help them in the short run — and may help Republicans in the long run.

(If you read the whole post, you'll find that Bump thinks she might succeed in the general election by appealing to the "non-white vote".  Perhaps, but I don't see her having the appeal to non-whites of a natural politician like her husband, or for obvious reasons, Barack Obama.)
- 12:51 PM, 27 July 2015   [link]


Is A Kiss Just A Kiss?  It depends on the culture.
Science has taught us a lot about a smooch.

Researchers have discovered kissing helps you choose the right mate and helps you live longer.   They have found you use 146 muscles when you pucker up and swap 80 million new bacteria when you lock lips. And you will spend some 20,000 minutes — or two weeks — of your lifetime doing it.

But the cultural significance of a kiss may not be that widely shared, according to new research published in American Anthropologist.

Researchers at the University of Nevada and Indiana University found fewer than half of the world’s cultures kiss in a romantic way.  Although many societies consider kissing to be a romantic or erotic activity, others have gone as far as to call it “gross” and ask why anyone would “share their dinner.”
The Washington Post article describes this as a new finding.  It's not; I've known about this cultural difference for years, but it does appear that the researchers did a more comprehensive study than most (all?) earlier studies.

There is a small political point.  In some cultures, Myanmar's for instance, kissing is something husbands and wives do, in private.  So President Obama committed a serious faux pas when he kissed Myanmar dissident Aung San Suu Kyi in public.  (You can find pictures of their encounter with this search.)

If Obama knew about these cultural differences, he wouldn't have made that mistake — I hope.

(The title of the post comes from the song, "As Time Goes By", best known from Casablanca.)
- 9:01 AM, 27 July 2015   [link]


Some People Are So Separated From Nature In Their Daily Lives that they don't understand that some animals are wild.
Every year, more than three million people pour into Yellowstone National Park, eager to escape the cramped cubicles and tiny apartments from whence they came.

They gaze upon the geysers.  They marvel at the mountains and valleys.  They hike around miles of picturesque trails.  In other words, they get closer to nature.

Occasionally a little too close.

On Tuesday, a 43-year-old Mississippi woman and her six-year-old daughter were snapping a selfie in front of a wild bison when the massive animal attacked.
Or that even large tame animals, domestic cows for instance, should be treated with respect.
- 7:36 AM, 27 July 2015   [link]


Worth Buying:  (And you may still have time to do it.)  This weekend's edition of the Wall Street Journal, if only for this essay by Niall Ferguson.

Ferguson begins by quoting some insights on "conjecture" from Henry Kissinger, and then turns to the nuclear "deal" with Iran:
In short, for all the high-flown rhetoric of the president’s speeches, his goal is the classic realist objective of a balance of power in the region.  The technicalities of the Iran deal—the number of centrifuges, the size of the enriched-uranium stockpile, the rigor of the inspections regime—need not detain us here.  The key question is whether or not slowing down Iran’s nuclear program will increase regional stability.  Critics of the deal should acknowledge that it might, for in the realm of conjecture there are no certainties.   But the president and his advisers should admit that the probability is very, very low.
(Emphasis added.)

In short, Ferguson thinks that President Obama and Secretary Kerry have made very bad bet for the United States — and that it is likely that their successors, and the world, will pay a very heavy price when the bet comes due.

As I usually avoid saying, read the whole thing.  (This search should get you there, if you aren't able to buy a copy.)

(This Wikipedia biography of Ferguson is probably reasonably accurate, though more than the usual caveats apply.

If you know even a little game theory, and want to pursue the question further, I'd suggest constructing a payoff matrix, and then assigning probabilities to the regional stability outcomes.)
- 12:52 PM, 26 July 2015   [link]


Jackie Mason Has Some Bitter — And Funny — Things to say about the Iran "deal".

For instance:
"First Obama said we can inspect them any time, any place, whenever we please.  Now it turns out ‘whenever we please’ except when they don’t allow it.  If they don’t want it it’s up to them.  So then we have to wait 28 days [sic] to inspect, as if to say for the 28 days we can trust them completely, because they’ll do nothing.  They’ll just hold the bomb in front of us waiting for us to come so they can show it to us.  That’s how stupid this negotiation is to us," he said.

"Do you know that in the restaurants of New York, they have an inspection system.  You can surprise any restaurant without notice that you can walk in and inspect them. . . So we are protected in this city from a bad tuna fish.  We’re not protected from a bomb but we’re protected from a bad quality of a tuna fish," Mason joked.
Not bad, I'd say, whether you see it as bitter commentary, a joke, or, as I do, both.

(I've been looking for an authoritative explanation of the inspection rules, but haven't found one yet.  I don't even know if there are other secret agreements governing the inspections.  But I have already learned enough to conclude that they will not do much to delay Iran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons.)
- 9:48 AM, 26 July 2015   [link]


Bernie Sanders Got His Job With A Little Help From The NRA:  The National Rifle Association helped a socialist in an election?

Yes, they helped him win his first state-wide election in Vermont.
A few days before Election Day in 1990, the National Rifle Association sent a letter to its 12,000 members in Vermont, with an urgent message about the race for the state’s single House seat.

Vote for the socialist, the gun rights group said.  It’s important.

“Bernie Sanders is a more honorable choice for Vermont sportsmen than ­Peter Smith,” wrote Wayne LaPierre, who was — and still is — a top official at the national NRA, backing Sanders over the Republican incumbent.
Why?  Because the Republican incumbent, Peter Smith, had temporally gone soft on "assault" weapons.

Sanders won easily (56-40), though he had lost six state-wide races before then, including one to Smith in 1988.  And he has been in Congress ever since, first as member of the House (1991-2006), and then the Senate (2007-present).

(Did the NRA endorsement make the difference?  It's hard to say, without detailed polling data.  In 1988, Sanders had come in second to Smith in a three-way race, 41-36, with a Democrat, Paul Poirier, getting 19 percent.

Republicans came close to defeating Sanders in the 1994 election (50-47), but not before or since.

Formally, Sanders is usually called an independent, even though he caucuses with the Democrats, and is running for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.  I hesitated over whether to call him a "socialist", that is, a person who holds socialist beliefs, or a "Socialist", as the current Almanac of American Politics does, but decided to go with the first since he is not now — as far as I know — a formal member of a socialist party.  If this Wikipedia article is correct, he has not even joined the Vermont Progressive Party.  (He was, early in his political career, a member of the Liberty Union Party, which is socialist.)

So Sanders is a socialist, an independent, or a Democrat, depending, I suppose, on which audience he is talking to at the time.)
- 8:33 AM, 26 July 2015   [link]


Fans Of Donald Trump won't like this Gary Varvel cartoon — I think — but most others will, though Democrats and Republicans will like it for different reasons.

(That link won't last, but you should be able to find the cartoon here, soon.)
- 12:57 PM, 24 July 2015   [link]


Most Americans Don't Approve Of The Job President Obama Is Doing:  That's been true for most of his presidency.
Gallup has kept regular track of presidential approval since the Truman administration.   It reports that the most popular postwar presidents were Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton; their job approval ratings were 50 percent or better for at least two-thirds of their tenures.  The least popular presidents were Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter; theirs were below 50 percent for at least two-thirds of their tenures.  Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush fall somewhere in between.

To date, Obama has been unpopular for more than two-thirds of his tenure.  If he stays under 50 percent for the remainder of his term, he will have been unpopular for longer than any postwar leader.

Obama’s numbers have been remarkably stable, typically hovering between 42 and 45 percent approval, outside those honeymoon periods.  This distinguishes him from Truman, Ford, and Carter, whose numbers sunk much lower (as did George W. Bush’s and Nixon’s). The difference is that Obama has retained strong support from Democrats, while other presidents lost substantial intraparty support.
This, in spite of having favorable, sometimes fawning, coverage from most of our "mainstream" journalists.

(Here's an interactive graph summarizing the approval polls, along with a table of results.)
- 12:32 PM, 24 July 2015   [link]


The BBC Interviews The Greatest Gun Salesman In American History:  And fails to congratulate him on his success.

Here's the question, and, after a considerable gap, President Obama's answer:
[JON] SOPEL: But is there an issue that there are be going to be unfinished business?   Perhaps most notably on race and on guns by the time you leave the White House?
. . .
[Barack Obama] You mentioned the issue of guns, that is an area where if you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I've been most frustrated and most stymied it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun-safety laws.  Even in the face of repeated mass killings.

And you know, if you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it's less than 100.  If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it's in the tens of thousands.  And for us not to be able to resolve that issue has been something that is distressing.  But it is not something that I intend to stop working on in the remaining 18 months.
And here's Obama's record:
Gun production has more than doubled over the course of the Obama administration, according to a new report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The manufacturing boom has come in the face of the president’s push to expand background checks and place new restrictions on guns in the wake of high-profile shootings like the recent mass-killing in Charleston, S.C., and the 2012 massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

The numbers paint a picture of gun owners who are concerned about new restrictions on their Second Amendment rights, activists say.
The activists are right; the more Obama talked about gun control, the more Americans decided they should buy guns while they could.

Did Sopel know about this Obama success?  (Which, I assume, Sopel would call a failure.)  If so, it isn't obvious from the transcript.

(Incidentally, the headline shows that BBC editors judged that Obama's routine answer on guns, an answer that he has given certainly dozens, possibly hundreds, of times before, was the most important part of the interview.)
- 9:48 AM, 24 July 2015   [link]


Michael Oren Versus The NYT's Andrew Rosenthal:  This post, a general indictment of the editorial page editor of the New York Times, includes a reference that may escape people who haven't read Oren's Ally.

So here it is, in full:
Most malicious was the op-ed page of the New York Times, once revered as an interface of ideas, now sadly reduced to a sounding board for only one, which often excluded Israel's legitimacy.  The page's contributors accused Israel of ethnic cleansing, brutal militarism, racism of several stripes, and even "pinkwashing"—exploiting its liberal policy toward lesbians and gays to cover up its oppression of the Palestinians.  After a while, I simply gave up trying to debunk such lunacy.  Only once, when an op-ed by Mahmoud Abbas suggested that the Arabs had not rejected the UN's partition plan in 1947, did I feel compelled to phone the page's editor, Andy Rosenthal.

"When I write for the Times, fact checkers examine every word I write," I began.   "Did anybody check whether Abbas has his facts exactly backward?"

"That's your opinion," Rosenthal replied.

"I'm a historian, Andy, and there are opinions and there are facts.  That the Arabs rejected partition and the the Jews accepted it is an irrefutable fact."

"In your view."

"Tell me, on June 6, 1944, did Allied forces land or did they not land on Normandy Beach?"

Rosenthal, the son of a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and famed executive editor, replied, "Some might say so." (about 62 percent of the way through)
(I corrected an obvious typo in the Kindle version.)

Oren may not have realized that the younger Rosenthal has long believed that some contributors to the Times have a right to their own facts.

(That interchange may help you understand why George W. Bush once described Rosenthal to Dick Cheney with a common vulgarism.  Bush didn't realize a microphone was on, which is why we know about the incident.)
- 6:42 PM, 23 July 2015
Correction:  Bush was talking about another Timesman, Adam Clymer, not Rosenthal, when he was caught by that microphone,  But I wouldn't be surprised if he applied the word to Rosenthal privately some times, too.
- 8:53 AM, 24 July 2015   [link]


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