August 2015, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Here's A View Of Trump's Appearance In Alabama that you may not have seen before.  As a regular contributor to National Review, conservative Quinn Hillyer ooesn't like Donald Trump, and it shows.  Here's Hillyer's lead paragraph:
Toto the dog wasn’t needed in Mobile, Ala., Friday night to pull the curtain from behind The Great and Mighty Trump.  Trump let his own curtain flutter open, showing to much of the audience the humbug within.
Hillyer continues with more along those lines.

But what I found most interesting is what Hillyer says happened with the crowd:
Well, not entirely droves, but by my estimate, about 15–20 percent of the 18,000 or so attendees — Trump publicity organs had earlier said they expected up to 35,000 — had filed out before Trump wound up his many-versed hymn to his own toughness and deal-making skills.
Since I wasn't there, I can't verify Hillyer's claim that Trump offended (or bored) enough of the crowd so that many actually walked out on him, but I have found Hillyer reliable in the past.  (Most likely the video coverage didn't show enough of the crowd so that you could check what Hillyer says happened.)

Trump's speech was about an hour long, according to Hillyer.  Most adults can tolerate a speech that long, unless it is really awful.

Finally, this line is too good not to share:
The line of the evening belonged to Rob Holbert, a former press aide to Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi and now the co-publisher of the port city’s Lagniappe weekly.  “That speech was more disjointed,” he said, “than a skeleton after tumbling down four flights of stairs.”
Now that's a metaphor that works.

(Well-informed conservatives almost all don't like Trump because they know about his record; despite what he may be saying now, he does not have a conservative record.  If he has changed his mind on all these issues, he should explain when and why he changed.

Here's an example of what he was saying about immigration in 2012 — which is not what he is saying now.

Is it a coincidence that this post follows a post on lettuce — which looks good, but has almost no substance?  Not entirely.)
- 9:13 AM, 24 August 2015   [link]

"Why Salad Is So Overrated"  Because, says Tamar Haspel, salads contain lettuce, and lettuce is worse than useless as a food.
There’s one food, though, that has almost nothing going for it.  It occupies precious crop acreage, requires fossil fuels to be shipped, refrigerated, around the world, and adds nothing but crunch to the plate.

It’s salad, and here are three main reasons why we need to rethink it.

Salad vegetables are pitifully low in nutrition.  The biggest thing wrong with salads is lettuce, and the biggest thing wrong with lettuce is that it’s a leafy-green waste of resources.
According to Haspel, lettuce is basically "a vehicle to transport refrigerated water from farm to table".

I have thought for many years that the lack of nutrition (calories) was the point of lettuce, that people ate it because it made them feel full, even though it has hardly any calories.

(Of course, salad makers often defeated that by adding other ingredients, notably dressings, that have all kinds of calories.)

I am not endorsing her views, but I did find the piece interesting, because it shows the kinds of conclusions a leftist who tries to think seriously about an important issue might come to.  And thinking seriously about most issues almost always requires that we think with numbers — which many of us are reluctant to do.

(Similarly, if you think global warming is a great threat — and think with numbers — you will, almost inevitably, come to the conclusion that we need to switch to nuclear power.

I would guess that she would approve of my suggestion that people grow their own lettuce, though she doesn't say so.)
- 8:29 AM, 24 August 2015   [link]

Those Lazy, Hazy, Smoky Days Of Summer:  The winds shifted and brought smoke from the wild fires first to Portland, and then to the Seattle area, making our air "unhealthy".

All today, there was a haze over the area, often colored a very light yellow, as it is now.   For tomorrow the weather forecasters are predicting that we will get cooler, cleaner air from the Pacific.  I hope they are right.

(It never got as bad here as it did in Spokane, on the eastern edge of the state, and down wind from most of the fires.  For a time, the air quality there was rated as "hazardous", and the authorities were telling everyone to stay inside, if possible.

Here's the song, which probably would not be very popular in this area, right now.)
- 6:46 PM, 23 August 2015   [link]

Birthright Citizenship Is In The Constitution — Almost Certainly; And It Can't Be Changed — Easily:  You can, as I do, wish that there were some limits on birthright citizenship, can wish, for example, that only those born to people here legally were automatically citizens, but you should recognize that it is very, very hard to change.

There are many legal arguments that the 14th Amendment established birthright citizenship, and that that was what those who wrote the Amendment intended.  Here's a particularly lucid one from John Yoo.

I'm not going to quote from it, or from a legal expert who disagrees, because I think the chance that this Supreme Court will change its mind on the interpretation is almost zero.  (For one thing, it would mean that hundreds of thousands would suddenly lose their citizenship, and the Court does pay attention to such practicalities, sometimes.)

If the Court is unlikely to change its mind, what about amending the Constitution?  ,That is possible, but also unlikely, because it requires three super majorities.  The House and the Senate must each pass the amendment by two-thirds majorities, and then it must be ratified by three-fourths of the states, at least 38 currently.  So, it could be blocked by 146 House members or 34 senators or 13 states.

And, as you no doubt recall, it can be blocked by a single house in each of those states, unless the Congress specified that it be ratified by state conventions, which the Congress has done only once.

Ask yourself these two questions: Would almost all elected Democrats see blocking it as in their party's interests?  Do Democrats have more than enough elected officials to block such an amendment in the House, the Senate, and the states?

So, it is fine to discuss what our laws should be — but it is deluded, dishonest, or both to promise that this one can be changed, easily.
- 3:35 PM, 23 August 2015   [link]

Good Thinking, Brave Acting:  We can be proud of Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler.
US airman Spencer Stone, who on board the train during the attack, spotted the 26-year-old Moroccan acting suspiciously and heard him trying to load his weapon in the toilet.

He was travelling with Oregon National Guard member Alek Skarlatos, 22, who was on leave and travelling through Europe at the time after returning from a tour in Afghanistan.

With the help of their friend Anthony Sadler, from Pittsburg, California, and fellow passenger British IT consultant Chris Norman, they managed to wrestle the attacker to the ground, stopping what could have been a deadly terrorist attack.
And Britons can be proud of Chris Norman, who joined in to do the right thing, even though he didn't know the other three.

Sometimes life imitates art.  In many Hollywood films of World War II, the directors were careful to include an ethnic mix in the sailors and soldiers they showed audiences.  Those three friends are a pretty good mix, all by themselves.

(I picked that Daily Mail article rather than a later, and probably more accurate, article, for two reasons:  First, because you can look through it and see how the article evolved.  For example, the article originally said the heroes were three Marines, relying on an early report, which had some details wrong, as early reports often do.  But, as I write, there are still references to the Marines, farther down in the article.

Second, because it include this "worst rated" comment:
So, US Marines were travelling on the service 'by chance' ..... I f you believe that you believe in the fairies!  What this incident tells us is that the US operating within European countries, with or without the consent of their governments.  WE should be very, very worried!
Any story that includes the United States (or our citizens) will draw comments like that; there are a significant number of Europeans who are certain that we are up to no good, and see everything involving us as more evidence for that conclusion.

It's true that Sullivan's comment drew way more down arrows than up arrows — 6621 to 507, as I write — but it is also true that the Mail is a right-wing British publication, and so less likely to be read by people in the grip of anti-Americanism.)
- 2:34 PM, 23 August 2015   [link]

Presidential Candidates As Party Recruiters:  Jeff Greenfield summarizes the much-discussed decline in the Democratic Party during Barack Obama's time in office.
As historians begin to assess Barack Obama’s record as president, there’s at least one legacy he’ll leave that will indeed be historic—but not in the way he would have hoped.  Even as Democrats look favorably ahead to the presidential landscape of 2016, the strength in the Electoral College belies huge losses across much of the country.  In fact, no president in modern times has presided over so disastrous a stretch for his party, at almost every level of politics.
The argument, and even some of the numbers, will be familiar to regular readers.  Read the article for a review, if you like, but in this post I want to extend the argument in a way I haven't done before, and haven't seen elsewhere.

Presidential candidates, especially winners, are often party recruiters.  Their examples bring ambitious young men and women into a party.  There is no doubt that — limiting this to the 20th and 21st centuries — Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan brought many people into politics, and into their parties, people who might have done something else, otherwise.

There is also no doubt that losing candidates sometimes do the same thing.   I'd say that was true for Barry Goldwater in 1964, and George McGovern in 1972.

But the Democratic candidates since McGovern: Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama?

It's a big country, so no doubt each of these men inspired a few to follow his example — but not nearly to the extent those earlier candidates did.

And the worst, from the Democratic Party's point of view, may be Obama.  You will recall that, when he first came into the public eye, he was touted as unique — and he certainly is unusual.  That made him attractive to many voters, but must, at the same time, have discouraged many from trying to emulate him.

How, after all, do you emulate someone who is unique?

And, since then, his record of failure must have discouraged many others.

This is not — and I say this as someone who is a patriot first, and a Republican second — good for the country, in the long run.  We need competent leaders in both major parties, because the parties will, invariably, alternate in office.
- 1:37 PM, 21 August 2015   [link]

I Hope They Read The Dolphin his rights, first.  Although I will admit the article isn't quite as good as the headline: "Hamas naval commandos arrest dolphin who 'spied for Israel'"

And, of course, that the dolphin knows that he only has to give his name, rank, and serial number.
- 12:47 PM, 21 August 2015   [link]

The Washington Fire News Got Worse yesterday, and over night.
A day after a rampaging wildfire near Twisp killed three U.S. Forest Service firefighters and injured four others, large blazes burned out of control across Washington as gusting winds pushed flames over parched wild lands and broadened a statewide crisis.

By Thursday, the Okanogan complex fires had exploded over bone-dry terrain in the North Cascades, tripling in size, consuming or threatening dozens of homes and outbuildings and displacing hundreds of people.
This afternoon will be hot in the fire areas — though not quite as hot as yesterday — and windy, with gusts more than 40 miles and hour — though perhaps not quite as gusty as yesterday.

The state has, finally, called for volunteers — but may not be able to use more than a few of them because it is asking that the volunteers have fire fighting training, at least forty hours worth, before they go into line.

You can get some idea just how large the fires are from this fact:  They have caused bad air quality in about half of Washington state, and all of Idaho.

(At one time, laws allowed local authorities to conscript men to fight fires.  I don't know if any of those laws are on the book in Washington state, and am nearly certain that lawyers would be able to block their use until this emergency is over, even if they are on the books.

The worst of the fire "complexes" as they are calling them are around Lake Chelan and in Okanogan County.   Worst because they are threatening the most people, not because they are necessarily the largest.)
- 12:31 PM, 21 August 2015   [link]

Has The Muslim Brotherhood Infiltrated Amnesty International?   The Times (of London) thinks so.

Their article is mostly behind their pay wall, so I found this re-written version in an Israeli newspaper.
An expose by a British paper has revealed that a senior Amnesty international official has links with Hamas and a wider secret global Islamist network, once again raising questions about the NGO's alleged "impartiality."

The report by The Times revealed that Amnesty's director of faith and human rights, Yasmin Hussein, is linked to a British "aid agency" which helps finance Hamas, and held a private meeting with a senior Muslim Brotherhood official at his house in Egypt.

What's more, Hussein's husband Wael Musabbeh was named in documents released by the United Arab Emirates after a 2013 trial which saw 60 UAE citizens accused of conspiracy and sedition, over a plot to overthrow the government.  While Musabbeh was not himself a defendant in that case, he and his wife were both directors of a Bradford-based charity "said by the authorities to be part of a complex financial and ideological network in which the UK and Ireland served as important hubs, linking the (Muslim) Brotherhood to its group in UAE," the paper said.
There's more, for those who want more details.  I don't have anything to add except that the Brotherhood is known for its often successful efforts at infiltration, and that there are some who think it has agents in the United States government.

By way of Amy Miller (who is, as far as I know, no relation).

(There are Wikipedia articles on Amnesty here and here.   AsI write, neither has anything on the charges in the article.)
- 6:26 PM, 20 August 2015   [link]

Worth Reading:  Charlie Martin's post describing how a simple model, a model you can run on a calculator, or on a sheet of paper for that matter, beats the complex global climate models scientists have been using in attempts to predict climate change.

His start is a little ragged, but he gives a fine description of what makes one model better than others, before giving his conclusion.
Early this year, Christopher Monckton of Brenchley, Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, David Legates of the University of Delaware, and Matt Briggs, “Statistician to the Stars” and sometimes PJM contributor, published a paper in Science Bulletin (the Chinese equivalent of Science) entitled “Why models run hot: results from an irreducibly simple climate model”.

They took a different approach.  Observing the issues with the current climate models, they constructed a very simple model working from first principles.  “Irreducibly” here means “it can’t get simpler and reflect basic physics.”  (If you want a detailed discussion of of their model, read Rud Istvan’s post at Climate Etc.)

This model is about one step advanced from a “back of the envelope” calculation, since it requires taking a natural logarithm as well as some multiplication, but it’s easily done with a scientific calculator — or even a slide rule.

But it models actual temperature observations better than the complex models.
(Links omitted.)

From his description, it sounds to me as if the authors simply calculated the warming from additional carbon diocide — without either negative or positive feedback.  (The global climate models all assume positive feedback.)
- 3:46 PM, 20 August 2015   [link]

John Hockenberry, Lion Behavior, Crossbows, National Forests, And Stay-At-Home Moms:  John Hockenberry is a famous journalist; according to his Wikipedia biography he has won four Emmys, and other awards.

Yesterday, I listened to much of his show, "The Takeaway", which is carried by our local NPR station, KUOW.  He gave me a whole series of surprises.

He began the first segment — on the conflicts between shooters and others in national forests and parks — with an imaginary audio, which you can listen to, here, on the killing of Cecil the lion.  It starts with cheerful sounds of birds, and then is interrupted by a shot from what sounds like a rifle.

This is wrong for two reasons:  According to some stories, Cecil was lured out of the park with a bait animal, probably a recently killed goat or something similar.  If so, Cecil probably would have been growling, in order to warn competitors away.  That's what male lions do.  And any birds that spotted him would have been giving warning calls.

Second, Cecil was not killed with a single shot from the dentist's rifle.
Cecil was wounded with an arrow by Walter Palmer, an American recreational big-game hunter,[1][2][3][4] was then tracked, and on 1 July 2015, approximately 40 hours later, killed with a rifle.
An arrow shot from a crossbow, which doesn't sound at all like a bullet fired from a rifle.

(Killing any large animal with a crossbow requires excellent aim, and, probably, a little luck, since the arrows cannot penetrate in the same way a bullet from a high-powered rifle would.  You would have to aim, I presume, for a spot that would be fatal — and that would not be protected by bones.)

Then the segment turned to the conflict, mostly in our National Forests, where shooting has always been permitted, between shooters and those who dislike guns.   (Hockenberry may have been inspired by this New York Times article.)  In the discussion that followed, Hockenberry appears not to understand the vast difference between national parks, where guns have been permitted only since 2009, and national forests, where guns (and hunting) have always been permitted.  The Sierra Club representative, Dan Chu, tried to correct Hockenberry, but it sounds to me as if Chu failed.

(And, no, Hockenberry did not have on any representative of the other side.)

In the next segment, Hockenberry interviewed Sharon Lerner about her article in a small, far-left magazine, In These Times.   In her article, Lerner used three sad cases to argue for greater paid maternity leave in the United States.  (You can listen to the interview, here.)

(And, no, Hockenberry didn't describe the magazine, ideologically, as he should have, or bring anyone else on for balance.)

But neither Hockenberry nor Lerner took even a moment to discuss the benefits to young children of a full-time mother, a stay-at-home mother, or what extra effort fathers should make when a new baby arrives.  The first mother Lerner described is married, the second appears to be in a long-term relationship with the father of her four children, and the third apparently does not have a relationship with the father of her child.

Essentially, Lerner and Hockenberry want all of us to do what these three men can't, or won't, do.

Having listened to those segments, I can understand why Hockenberry won those awards, and I hope this post will help you understand why I am not recommending that you listen to his show, if you want accurate information, and "fair and balanced" reporting.

(For the record:  I probably should add that Hockenberry was pleasant to listen to.  The pace of the show was about right, he didn't shout, and didn't sound like a hater.)
- 3:05 PM, 20 August 2015   [link]

The More We Learn About Those "Side Deals" With Iran, The Worse They Look:  Yesterday, the Associated Press put out a stunner.
Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms, operating under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.
(The site is Parchin, a military base long suspected of being, in part, a research center for nuclear weapons.)

That sounds like a grim joke, like something that might appear in The Onion, doesn't it?

But it appears to be true, as the Wall Street Journal said in their editorial.
The AP report hadn’t been contradicted by our deadline on Wednesday, and a White House spokesman told AP merely that the U.S. is “confident in the agency’s technical plans for investigating the possible military dimensions of Iran’s former program.”  That sounds like a confirmation.
If so, it should be a tentative confirmation because White House officials do not have a copy of the agreement.
But that spin started to unravel three weeks ago with the discovery that the Parchin inspections were part of a secret side agreement between the IAEA and Iran—not between Iran and the six negotiating countries.  Secretary of State John Kerry has said he hasn’t read the side deal, though his negotiating deputy Wendy Sherman told MSNBC that she “saw the pieces of paper” but couldn’t keep them.  IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has told Members of the U.S. Congress that he’s bound by secrecy and can’t show them the side deals.
So the Obama White House is now asking Congress to ratify a "deal", which has at least one crucial part that even the White House doesn't have, probably hasn't even read, in full.

(Unless, of course, the NSA or the CIA has obtained a copy — as I hope they have.)

Moreover, we know that there are two of these "side deals", but we don't know, for certain, that there are only two.

(Here's more from Jennifer Rubin and "Allahpundit".)
- 7:12 AM, 20 August 2015   [link]

Three Firefighters Lost:  In one of the battles against the forest fires in Washington state.
Three firefighters died after their vehicle crashed and was likely caught by flames as they battled a blaze in Washington state, authorities said. Four other firefighters were injured.

The casualties came Wednesday as firefighters on several fronts fought against raging wildfires advancing on towns in the north-central part of the state.

The crash during the wildfire occurred near the town of Twisp, the National Forest Service said.
(Twisp is a small town in north-central Washington.  According to the news this morning, it has been ordered evacuated, because of the threat of fires near the town.)

My sympathies go out to the relatives and friends of those three men.
- 6:00 AM, 20 August 2015   [link]

"Donald Trump, Moderate Republican"  Yesterday, Josh Barro had some fun making that argument in the New York Times.
Donald Trump may be the "post-policy candidate," but when you strip away the bluster and the outrageous commentary that have defined his campaign to find his occasional, substantive statements, a surprising fact emerges: Trump is a moderate Republican.
Barro uses the rest of his analysis to make that argument, but I think that, if you look at the facts he presents, you'll come to a different conclusion: Trump is a moderate Democrat   Or would be if he were in the party where he fits best, ideologically..

(You may not want to share that thought with friends or relatives who are pro-Trump.)

And that would explain why most of his political contributions have gone to Democrats, and why the Clintons were welcome guests at his latest marriage.

Trump isn't always politically correct, which would make him unusual in the Democratic Party, at least among the leaders, but not unique
- 3:02 PM, 19 August 2015   [link]

Why Platte River?  We can understand why Hillary Clinton would want to have her own email server for official State Department business; she wanted to hide her emails from Freedom of Information requests and, possibly, from the Obama White House.  As I said, it was a bad idea, even from her point of view, but it is an understandable mistake.

We can also understand why, after managing the server themselves for while, her team would want to find someone else to manage it.  Most of the work managing such servers is routine, but some of it requires fairly specialized security skills.

But what is hard to understand is why they chose a small Colorado firm for that job.  The Daily Mail has been investigating that question, and has found out some interesting things, but, so far, no answer.  In fact, for their latest article, they interviewed former employees of Platte River — who couldn't understand why the firm had been chosen, either.

For example:
Daily Mail Online spoke to former employees of the firm, including Tera Dadiotis, who was a customer relations consultant between 2007 and 2010.

Describing it as 'a great place to work, but kind of like a mom and pop shop', Tera reacted with disbelief that her former company was hired to manage the email system of Democratic juggernaut Hilary Clinton.

Speaking to Daily Mail Online at her home in Castle Rock, Colorado, Tera said: 'I think it's really bizarre, I don't know how that relationship evolved.

'At the time I worked for them they wouldn't have been equipped to work for Hilary Clinton because I don't think they had the resources, they were based out of a loft, so [it was] not very high security, we didn't even have an alarm.
There are many firms in the greater New York and greater DC areas that could have managed the server.  Some would have political connections that would appeal to the Clintons, some would be able to provide better security, and a few, probably, would qualify on both grounds.  So it wasn't as if the Clinton team didn't have other choices.

(One possibility is that putting it in Colorado was part of the attempt to hide it.  That idea might appeal to someone who didn't understand computer networks, and how easy it is to locate servers, physically.

Incidentally, most computer people would find nothing surprising about putting the server in a spare bathroom, as they would have had experiences with adapting to whatever spaces happen to be available.

This AP article includes a time line that some will find useful.)
- 8:26 AM, 19 August 2015   [link]

Istanbul Has So Many Cats that Joe Parkinson thinks it should be called   "Catstantinople".
In this ancient city once ruled by sultans and emperors, the real king is the humble alley cat.

In historic neighborhoods along Istanbul’s Bosporus and Golden Horn waterways, an army of furry-tailed street cats are fed, sheltered and cooed at by an adoring public. Hundreds of fleece-lined houses have been erected at street corners by cat-mad residents.  Most are flanked by makeshift feeding stations fashioned from yogurt pots or plastic bottles and overflowing with tasty scraps.

In some districts, ground-floor windowsills are lined with pillows and blankets, offering a cozy place for the discerning kitty to recline.  In restaurants and cafes, cats are often part of the furniture, curling up next to dining tables or patiently waiting for leftovers from patrons.
This love for cats is ancient, perhaps because of their prowess as rat catchers and is, to my surprise, consistent with Islamic teachings.  (I knew Muslims disliked dogs; I didn't know they loved cats.)

(Readers of a certain age, on seeing that name, will, inevitably, be reminded of a popular song from the 1950s, "Istanbul".)
- 7:28 AM, 19 August 2015   [link]

Worth Reading:  Yesterday's "Best of the Web", where James Taranto asks what William F. Buckley would do.    About Donald Trump, of course.

Asks, and gives what I think is a sensible answer; Buckley would criticize Trump's views — to the extent they can be determined — but praise his supporters.

That strikes me as the right strategy, in fact, as the obviously right strategy.  You build a majority (or enlarge one) by adding supporters, not subtracting them.

(It is possible, I suppose, that Taranto and I are wrong, that it is possible to build or increase a majority by purging members.  A great many activists in both our major parties believe that — but I have never seen any of them make a rational argument for winning through subtraction.)
- 6:00 PM, 18 August 2015   [link]

Kindle Temptations:  I've been having fun with the little e-reader, which makes it so easy* to acquire new books.

A couple of days ago, for instance, I was browsing the C. S. Forester books on Amazon, thinking I might get another Hornblower book, when I saw that Forester had written a popular history, The Barbary Pirates.

I bought it, and so far have found it both entertaining and instructive.  The entertaining part won't surprise anyone who has read anything by Forester, or even seen one of the movies made from his books, but I should give you a couple of examples of the instructive part.

Forester says that the construction of an American navy was partly the result of what Portugal did, or rather what it stopped doing.  The Portuguese, angered by the Barbary pirates, had conducted a years-long campaign against them, and had closed the Straits of Gibraltar against the pirates, preventing them from getting out into the Atlantic.  When the wars between France and Britain began after the French Revolution, the Portuguese realized they could make more money by directing their ships to supplying the belligerents, bought a "hasty peace" with the Algerine pirates, and ended their blockade of the Straits.  (Eventually, of course, the Portuguese were drawn into the war against Napoleon.)

The pirates began sailing into the Atlantic again, and found easy pickings among the American ships.

Earlier, President Jefferson had proposed that a league of smaller powers join together to "establish a fleet that would keep the Barbary Coast under constant blockade".  There was interest in his proposal, but it failed when the other countries found that the United States "had no money, no ships, and no men to contribute".

(*Perhaps too easy, since there are other things I should be doing besides buying and reading books that I chance to see at Amazon.

Here's Forester's Wikipedia biography.)
- 4:42 PM, 18 August 2015   [link]

Was The 2000 Presidential Election The Great Exception?   Sunday's New York Times included a piece by their new political data guy, Nate Cohn, titled "Is Hillary Clinton Really in Danger of Losing the Primary?".

The title is misleading because, after answering that question — he says no — Cohn moves on to the general election and says something interesting about the 2000 presidential election.
For this cycle, the fitting analogy might be Al Gore, who started with far weaker favorability ratings than George W. Bush, with the backdrop of Mr. Clinton's scandals.  The economic fundamentals seemed to suggest that Mr. Gore was in line to score a decisive victory.   Indeed, the gap between Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore's rating closed as the race went on in 2000.   But Mr. Gore, who like Mrs. Clinton was seeking to make it a third presidential victory in a row for Democrats, fell short.
(Emphasis added.)

In other words, if the voters had decided to reward the incumbent party for peace and prosperity, as voters often do, Gore would have been elected president.

But they didn't.  Why not?

Here's a tentative answer that will drive all kinds of people nuts:  Bush and his team, notably Karl Rove, ran a far better campaign than Gore and his team.

And there is a corollary that will also drive all kinds of people nuts.  If Republicans want to win in 2016, they should study what Bush and Rove did in 2000.  Not to imitate it in detail, of course, but to look for what the team did right, and use that to choose a similar strategy.

(I have long believed, and there is some poll data to support me, that Bush would have won the popular vote had that drunk driving story not come out at precisely the worst possible time.  Possibly not; it may be that the shift to Gore in the weekend before election day was mostly composed of Democrats going, reluctantly, home.  But the timing of the shift better fits the first theory.

And, no, i have never thought that timing was accidental.)
- 1:54 PM, 18 August 2015   [link]

Another Example For The Segmented Sleep Theory:  If you haven't run across the term, here's a brief explanation:
Segmented sleep, also known as divided sleep, bimodal sleep pattern, bifurcated sleep, or interrupted sleep, is a polyphasic sleep or biphasic sleep pattern where two or more periods of sleep are punctuated by periods of wakefulness.  Along with a nap (siesta) in the day, it has been argued that this is the natural pattern of human sleep.[1][2]  A case has been made that maintaining such a sleep pattern may be important in regulating stress.[2]

Historian A. Roger Ekirch[3][4] has argued that before the Industrial Revolution, segmented sleep was the dominant form of human slumber in Western civilization.  He draws evidence from documents from the ancient, medieval, and modern world.[2]   Other historians, such as Craig Koslofsky,[5] have endorsed Ekirch's analysis.
(Links omitted.  Emphasis added and subtracted, in order to highlight the main point.)

There's an experiment that supports Ekirch's theory.
In one experiment Thomas Wehr had eight healthy men be confined to a room for fourteen hours of darkness every day for a month.  At first the participants slept for about eleven hours, presumably making up for their sleep debt.  After this the subjects began to sleep much as people in pre-industrial times had.  They would sleep for about four hours, wake up for two to three hours, then go back to bed for another four hours.  They also took about two hours to fall asleep.[11]
When I first read about this, I wondered why humans would have such a sleep pattern, and came up with this hypothesis:  That pattern would make it easier for small bands of humans to keep watch at night, easier for them to post four-hour watches.  I have seen no direct evidence to support that hypothesis (which may not be original), but I think it's worth testing.

Oh, and the example?  That's me.  For most of my adult life, I had the sleep pattern that doctors recommended, usually a regular bed time, and the same amount of sleep every night, about seven hours straight through.  In recent years, however, I sometimes have polyphasic or biphasic sleep.

So I am relieved to learn that polyphasic or biphasic sleep is nothing to worry about, and may even be better for me.  (It might be awkward for people with regular 9-5 jobs, though.)

And I really think we need to learn more about the effects of artificial lighting, and TV, on our sleep patterns.
- 12:51 PM, 18 August 2015   [link]

202 Attacks On Refugee Shelters This Year:  Where?  In Germany, as I learned from this New York Times article:
Asked about the 202 attacks this year on refugee shelters in Germany, and about hostility to immigrants, Ms. Merkel said: "Every person who comes is a human being and has the right to be treated as such."
(Oddly, this news came at the end of a long article, "Merkel Seeks to Head Off Opposition to Greek Bailout", that began, as the title suggests, with a discussion of the Greek bailout.)

Treated as a human being, but not allowed to stay if they were just looking for better economic prospects, as Chancellor Merkel had explained, earlier.

202 attacks!  I knew, of course, that many Europeans were unhappy — understandably — with the flood of migrants, but I had no idea so many were taking direct action.   Those 202 — the number comes from an official report — attacks include everything from graffitti on up to arson and physical attacks on refugees, but the number still comes as a surprise.

(You can find a discussion of some of the worst attacks in this article.)
- 4:39 PM, 17 August 2015   [link]

Could The Election Of Jeremy Corbyn Split The Labour Party?   Sure.  In fact, there is a 1981 precedent, the Social Democrats, who split away from Labour when the party went too far left.
The SDP began life as the Council for Social Democracy on 25 January 1981, and was founded as a party on 26 March 1981 by four senior Labour Party 'moderates', dubbed the 'Gang of Four': Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams, in a statement known as the Limehouse Declaration.[5]  At the time of the SDP's founding, Owen and Rodgers were sitting Labour Members of Parliament (MPs); Jenkins had left Parliament in 1977 to serve as President of the European Commission, while Williams had lost her seat in the 1979 general election.  The four left the Labour Party as a result of policy changes enacted at the January 1981 Wembley conference which committed the party to unilateral nuclear disarmament and withdrawal from the European Economic Community.  They also believed that Labour had become too left-wing, and had been allegedly infiltrated at constituency party level by Trotskyist factions whose views and behaviour they considered to be at odds with the Parliamentary Labour Party and Labour voters.
The Social Democrats soon formed an alliance with the old Liberal Party, and then merged with them.

It would surprise no one familiar with British politics, if Labour were again to lose a few MPs to the merger, the Liberal Democrats.

Labour might also lose a number of MPs who decide to become independents, from ideology, practical electoral reasons, or both.
- 3:05 PM, 17 August 2015   [link]

Jeremy Corbyn's Far Left Friends include terrorists and anti-Semites.

And that's been true, all through his career.  Early in his political career, he sympathized with the IRA; he has always been a fan of the Communist dictatorship in Cuba and their friends in Venezuela; and now he is friendly with the terrorists who wish to destroy Israel.

There is a consistency in his stands that would be admirable, if they were in support of decent causes.

Jeremy Corbyn is, as I said four days ago, the favorite to become the new leader of the Labour Party, the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition.

(Minor clarification:  Professor Jacobson says the Corbyn may be the favorite Of "Labour voters".  Americans may read that and think Corbyn will be chosen in a primary, where anyone who identifies with Labour can vote; in fact, the vote is limited to those who have formally joined the Labour Party (or one of the organizations formally allied to it).  That's why I describe them as "activists", rather than "voters".  For a rough American equiivalent, imagine that the voters in this leadership election were limited to the precinct captains of the Democratic Party.

This is not simply an academic point; if Labour were holding a primary like ours, even a "closed" primary, the polls show that Corbyn would be much less likely to win.  And if the Labour MPs were picking a leader, he wouldn't have a chance.)
- 2:41 PM, 17 August 2015   [link]

Monthly Inflation Numbers Look Bad In Venezuela:  (All right, horrible.)  So the Chavist regime decided to stop publishing them.

Which has forced those trying to study the economy to improvise.
CARACAS—On monthly trips to his native Venezuela, Miguel Octavio heads to the same restaurant for the cornmeal cakes he enjoyed as a boy known as arepas, which are a staple here.  The price, however, is never the same.

Over nine months, the Miami-based financial analyst and blogger has recorded a fourfold increase in what he calls his Hyperinflated Arepa Index, a yardstick he created to trace soaring consumer prices in this economically crippled country.

President Nicolás Maduro’s government stopped publishing monthly inflation data last December when the level hit 68% annually, the world’s highest. With the Venezuelan economy worsening and the ruling party facing tough congressional elections this December, the central bank hasn’t reported inflation, balance-of-payments or gross-domestic-product figures all year.
Those numbers must really be bad, since such regimes usually react by continuing to put out numbers — but editing them carefully before publication.  This failure to publish suggests to me that, even after such editing, the numbers still look horrible.

(Here's Octavio's latest post on his index, and here's a description of the arepa.

One oddity:  Usually, governments that cause hyper-inflation react by printing larger and larger bank notes.  But Venezuela's largest is still the 100 Bolivar note, which is now worth "less than a quarter", or, perhaps, less than 15 cents.)
- 9:44 AM, 17 August 2015   [link]

That Was Nice of the aliens.
Aliens came to Earth to stop a nuclear war between America and Russia, according the bizarre claim of a former astronaut.

Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the moon, says high-ranking military officials witnessed alien ships during weapons tests throughout the 1940s.

The UFOs, he says, were spotted hovering over the world's first nuclear weapons test which took place on July 16, 1945 in the desolate White Sands deserts of New Mexico.

Mitchell's aliens may just not have wanted us to damage Earth, before they take it over, or they may see us as potential domestic animals.

(Science fiction writers have explored the possible motives of aliens in thousands of stories.  For a modern example, see David Brin's Uplift Universe, which has many aliens, with many motives, but almost all of them claiming to believe in an "uplift" religion.

Although I must have, by now, read dozens, perhaps hundreds, of such stories, I can't say that I have read many that were consistent with what we know about human history, and pre-history: that we prospered by eliminating competitors, and by learning to cooperate with other humans, first in small bands, and then, eventually, in larger and larger groups.  We have formed partnerships with other species, notably dogs, but those have not been partnerships between equals.)
- 8:18 AM, 17 August 2015   [link]