April 2018, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Joanne Jacobs Has Written Another Important Post On Math Education:  And there is no reason you can't enjoy the wonderful Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that illustrates the post, too.

(Calvin and Hobbes)
- 3:07 PM, 30 April 2018   [link]

"The Parties In Our Heads"  Are caricatures of the actual parties.

We document a large and consequential bias in how Americans perceive the major political parties:  people tend to considerably overestimate the extent to which party supporters belong to party-stereotypical groups.  For instance, people think that 32% of Democrats are LGBT (vs. 6% in reality) and 38% of Republicans earn over $250,000 per year (vs. 2% in reality).  Experimental data suggest that these misperceptions are genuine and party specific, not artifacts of expressive responding, innumeracy, or ignorance of base rates.  These misperceptions are widely shared, though bias in out-party perceptions is larger.
Those findings help explain why identity politics is so powerful now; voters see the other party's supporters as far more different from themselves than they actually are.

(This may also help explain why so many voters thought that Barack Obama cared about ordinary people — and Mitch Romney didn't.  In fact, Obama is a cold fish, and Romney has shown throughout his life that he cares about everyone.)
- 12:53 PM, 30 April 2018   [link]

That Strange WSJ Merkel/Trump Photo:  The weekend Wall Street Journal used this photograph on their front page.

It's an odd choice for two reasons.  First, it doesn't fit the caption below the picture:
FRIENDLIER RELATIONS:  Chancellor Angela Merkel described merits of the Iran nuclear deal to President Donald Trump Friday, as the leaders displayed more warmth following an awkward visit last year.
Second, Trump is invading Merkel's personal space in a way no gentleman would.

(I would put my hand there only in private, and only if the woman and I were very good friends, and she wanted me to.)

It isn't hard to figure out what Trump is doing; he's playing the same silly dominance game he has done with other world leaders.

It is harder to read Merkel, a more clever political tactician than Trump.  But I think she is laughing at Trump.

And the Journal editor who chose that picture?  I am nearly certain they chose it because it makes Trump look crude and stupid.

(It took me a while to find a publicly available copy of the photo to link to.  I think that one will work for most of you.)
- 9:23 AM, 30 April 2018   [link]

At The White House Correspondents Dinner, Comedian Michelle Wolf Set Out To Prove She Could Be As Crude And Cruel As Donald Trump:  Having read this transcript — something I do not recommend you do — I can say she succeeded.

And probably gave Trump a small political victory by her performance.

(Full disclosure:  I did laugh at her first joke, despite its crudity.  But I wouldn't tell it to a family audience.)
- 8:03 AM, 30 April 2018   [link]

The Right Background Noise can be "comforting".
- 7:45 AM, 30 April 2018   [link]

Worth Reading, Possibly:  Sharyl Attkisson tackles the mysterious Awan case.
When it comes cybersecurity scandals, as tough as Congress is on private companies like Equifax and Facebook, you might be surprised to learn that they've been quietly dealing with a scandal of their own. Some claim it's the most important investigation you've never heard of in Washington D.C. It involves the FBI, an Inspector General, 42 members of Congress, and five Pakistani American IT workers.
Those who have been following this story won't find much new, but may learn some interesting details.

(I've been following it for more than a year, and still don't know how large it is.

Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson)
- 4:02 PM, 29 April 2018   [link]

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan Gets An Unpleasant Surprise:  And even those of us who have learned to expect such surprises were surprised by size of these cost overruns..
The news that voter-approved bike lanes in downtown Seattle are costing more than 10 times the estimates is said to have nearly sent our new mayor to the ER.

“I thought the mayor was going to have a heart attack when I showed her,” said the interim director of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).   Bike lanes that voters were told would cost about $860,000 per mile were actually clocking in at an eye-watering $12 million per mile.

This was part of the news that the $930 million Move Seattle package — passed in 2015 and by far the largest tax levy ever in this city — is nevertheless already short of funds to accomplish anywhere near what the voters were promised.
Seattle has been building bicycle lanes for years now, so you would expect them to have good data on how much new ones would cost.

Would it be fair to conclude that the politicians who sponsored that levy didn't bother to make sure that the data was used?

I think so.

(Does Danny Westneat name any of the those politicians?


From which we may conclude that they are all Democrats.)
- 2:13 PM, 29 April 2018   [link]

This Modern Twist On Cinderella made me smile.
- 1:39 PM, 29 April 2018   [link]

A Disclaimer Almost No One Believes:  There is a full page in The Last Hurrah, with only this disclaimer on it.
All characters and situations in this novel are fictional, and any resemblance to any persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Almost no informed person believes that.
The similarities between Skeffington and Boston mayor James Michael Curley are many.  Skeffington's age and background, his worship of his dead wife, his layabout son, his antagonistic relations with the members of his city's Protestant upper class, as well as his eventual defeat by a much younger candidate are all features of Curley's life and the conclusion they are one and the same seems obvious.   Author Edwin O'Connor, however, always denied this.  The city of the novel is never named; but it is certainly implied that it is supposed to represent Boston (O'Connor also lived for a period in Boston).[5]

When a Boston newspaper asked Curley to review the novel he refused, saying "The matter is in the hands of my attorneys."  When he saw that the roguish Skeffington charmed readers the former mayor began praising the novel, however, including in person to O'Connor.  In a lecture at the University of New Hampshire on the book, Curley treated The Last Hurrah as a de facto biography of himself and discussed things he believed the novel had unfairly omitted.[6]
Did O'Connor believe that disclaimer?

You can make up your own mind about that, but I think you will agree with me that a lawyer would have advised him not to say so, even if he did.

(James Michael Curley)
- 4:19 PM, 28 April 2018   [link]

The Current "Pepper . . . And Salt" may amuse wine lovers.

(And will remind many of this famous James Thurber cartoon.)
- 11:17 AM, 28 April 2018   [link]

NHK World's North Korean Propaganda Show:  As I have said before, NHK World's Asia Insight is best understood as propaganda.

And that is one of the reasons I watch it.  I'm interested in what Asian nations are trying to make us think about them.

Usually, the stories are what I would call "soft" propaganda, small stories about individuals doing admirable things.

But on April 6th, they broadcast a program that could have been put out by the North Korean regime — and was certainly produced with the cooperation of that regime, since most of it was filmed in North Korea.

That regime has, for decades, exploited the understandable desires of families on the opposite sides of the border to be reunited, if only for brief visits.  This description of the "episode" will give you a rough idea of what they showed viewers.
In October 2015, for the first time in 2 years, an inter-Korean family reunion took place near scenic Mt. Geumgang in North Korea.  The meeting brought together 187 families who had been separated since the Korean peninsula split nearly 70 years ago.  One of those families was a father and son who had not seen each other for 65 years.  The father now 98, fled to South Korea from the North during the Korean War.  Throughout his life, he regretted leaving his family behind, including a 5-year-old son.  What was the father thinking as headed to North Korea?  What did he have to talk about with his son, now 70, after all these years?  This episode tells the story of one family trying to bridge the divide of war - and time.
But it was much worse than you might guess, from that description.

Nowhere in the program did they tell us that the families were separated because of the cruel policies of the North Korean regime.  They didn't say the Korean War began when North Korea attacked the South; they said it "erupted".

And so on.

It was, all in all, quite professional propaganda, and should remind us that there are some very clever people in that evil regime.


1.  The local PBS station, KCTS, where I saw the episode, should interview an expert on North Korea, for example Nicholas Eberstadt, to correct some of the mistakes in the episode.

2.  KCTS should contact NHK World and ask them to put out a similar correction.)
- 4:15 PM, 27 April 2018   [link]

The Spectator Is Skeptical About Donald Trump's Deal-Making Abilities:  And worries that he may rush into a bad deal with North Korea.
It was Nixon, not Kennedy or Johnson, who normalised US relations with China; Reagan, not Carter, who achieved disarmament with the Soviet Union.  To rattle sabres before making unexpected overtures for peace has become established as a tactic of Republican presidents.

Yet it should not be assumed that Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong-un will be as successful.  On the contrary, it could all too easily backfire as the President, too eager to tweet that he has persuaded a bellicose Kim Jong-un to down his weapons, fails properly to read North Korean intentions.
Unfortunately, I agree with their skepticism.

(The Spectator errs when they say that "US-North Korean dialogue has been virtually nonexistent" in recent decades.  In fact, every recent US president has tried to get the North Koreans to keep the agreements they had already made with us, with no success.)
- 2:41 PM, 27 April 2018   [link]

The Bill Cosby Scandal Reminds Me Of The Brock Adams Scandal:  The late Adams was a very successful Washington state politician who was accused of preying on women in the same way Cosby did.
On November 4, 1986, Adams was elected as a U.S. senator, narrowly defeating incumbent Republican Slade Gorton (677,471 to 650,931 votes, 50.66% to 48.67%).[3]  Serving one term, he compiled a liberal record and was strongly supportive of his party's leadership.  In 1992 he chose not to be a candidate for reelection after eight women made statements to The Seattle Times alleging that Adams had committed various acts of sexual misconduct, ranging from sexual harassment to rape.[4]   Adams was accused by Kari Tupper, the daughter of a longtime friend, of drugging and assaulting her in 1987.[5][6]  Adams denied the allegations, but his popularity statewide was weakened considerably by the scandal and he chose to retire rather than risk losing the seat for his party.  Adams never lost an election, and lived in Stevensville, Maryland, until his death due to complications from Parkinson's disease.[7]
Adams was never charged.

Perhaps he should have been.
- 8:58 AM, 27 April 2018   [link]

This Week's Collection Of Cartoons from Politico.

Just one favorite:  Matt Davies's collusion.

That was disappointing, so I looked elsewhere and found this Michael Ramirez cartoon I had missed, earlier..
- 8:23 AM, 27 April 2018   [link]

Have The North Koreans Destroyed Their Nuclear Test Site?  That's what Chinese geologists are saying.
Research by Chinese geologists suggests that the mountain above North Korea's main nuclear test site has likely collapsed, rendering it unsafe for further testing and requiring that it be monitored for any leaking radiation.

The findings by the scientists at the University of Science and Technology of China may shed new light on North Korean President Kim Jong Un's announcement that his country was ceasing its testing program ahead of planned summit meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump.
North Korea's neighbors, including China, would prefer not to have radiation from the site spread into their nations, as very probably would happen after another test, and might happen, anyway.

Presumably, the North Koreans are developing another site, which might take them months to accomplish.  Presumably, we are watching very carefully for signs of that work, and might well be able to spot it.
- 4:17 PM, 26 April 2018   [link]

If You Are Wondering Why I Call Paul Manafort A Swamp Creature, you'll want to at least skim this David Ignatius column: "We know an awful lot about Manafort and Russia.  Trump can’t make it disappear."

Here's how Ignatius begins:
When August 2016 began, Paul Manafort was about 11 weeks into his job as chairman of Donald Trump’s campaign.   But despite the political tumult, Manafort found time that month to meet at a swank Manhattan cigar bar with someone the FBI has suggested has ties to Russian intelligence.

By the time August ended, Manafort was gone — having resigned after allegations that he had received millions of dollars “off the books” to support pro-Russia figures in Ukraine.  On the very day he was forced out, the financially strapped Manafort created a shell company that received $13 million in loans over the next few months from people or financial institutions with links to Trump.
For months, I wondered why Manafort had wanted the job, knowing that it might put him at risk of prosecution — and why Trump had hired Manafort, given Manafort's sleazy record, some of which Trump could have learned about with a simple Internet search.

I believe I found an answer to the first question; Manafort was desperate for money.

But I haven't found an answer to the second, though I can say that the nicest answer is that Trump didn't bother to make even the simplest of checks on Manafort.
- 3:12 PM, 26 April 2018   [link]

Is Venezuela Edging Closer To A Collapse?  Decisions by two US oil companies, Chevron and Halliburton, suggest that those companies fear a collapse.

Historically, American oil companies have been willing to accept much greater risks than most American companies.

Will the Chinese, the Cubans, the Russians, or the Iranians rescue the Maduro regime?   If I were in the CIA or the NSA, I might have an informed answer to that question — but then I couldn't tell you.

(These decisions make me think that the recent run-up in the Venezuelan stock market is a bet on an early collapse.)
- 9:16 AM, 26 April 2018   [link]

Some American Men will appreciate the current "Pepper . . . and Salt" cartoon.
- 8:47 AM, 26 April 2018   [link]

The Republican Won In Arizona 8th; The Republicans Should Be Worried By The Margin:  Though I wouldn't go as far as Democrat Nate Silver does.
And although the Republican, Lesko, is the apparent winner, the election represents another really bad data point for the GOP. Lesko’s margin of victory was only 5 percentage points in a district that typically votes Republican by much, much more than that. The outcome represented a 20-point swing toward Democrats relative to the district’s FiveThirtyEight partisan lean, which is derived from how it voted for president in 2016 and 2012 relative to the country.
In an ordinary general election, with roughly equal candidates, I would expect the Republican to win the district by about 20 points.  In a special election — with a Republican in the White House — I would expect the Republican to win the district by about 15 points.

(Although special elections, here and in Britain, sometimes produce really strange results.)

So, where Silver sees a 20 point gain — against expectations — for the Democrats, I see about a 10 point gain.  That's still bad news for Republicans, but not as bad as Silver says.
- 4:47 PM, 25 April 2018   [link]

Arizona's Confusing 8th District:  In discussions of yesterday's special election there, some bloggers are getting confused about the district's history.
Arizona's 8th congressional district is a congressional district located in the U.S. state of Arizona.  It includes many of the suburbs north and west of Phoenix, in Maricopa County, Arizona.

After redistricting for the 2012 general election, the new 8th district encompasses most of the Maricopa County portion of the old 2nd district, while most of the former 8th district became the 2nd congressional district.[3]  It is the geographic and demographic successor of the old 2nd; while the 4th district contains most of the old 2nd's land, more than 92 percent of the old 2nd's constituents were drawn into the 8th.[4]
There was a special election during 2012 in the old 8th district, so the two 2012 elections were in completely different districts.

If you want to go further back in comparisons than the 2012 general election, you should look at the results for the old 2nd district.

(I don't know why they swapped the names of the two districts.)
- 4:00 PM, 25 April 2018   [link]

Outing Clubs That Can't Go Out?  That's the strange situation at Penn State.

I am told by a friend that the university is currently in one of those "health and safety" frenzies that go through organizations here and elsewhere from time to time.

(For the record:  I have hiked, camped, built trails, canoed, and kayaked, but I haven't done any scuba diving.  Other than a blister or two, I can't recall any injuries,)
- 8:49 AM, 25 April 2018   [link]

Basketball Players Will Be Surprised by this story.
- 7:57 AM, 25 April 2018   [link]