August 2016, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Is Donald Trump Nuts?  According to the New York Times, that's the question more and more psychiatrists are asking, even though that violates their profession's Goldwater Rule.  (Of course, being psychiatrists, they can't ask the question as directly as I did.)
On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media.  In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general.  However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.2
The Times gives a good account of the history of the rule, and mentions a number of other politicians who have inspired mental diagnoses, by amateurs and professionals.

But what struck me most about the article, since I knew most of that history, was what wasn't in it: any mention of another prominent politician often called a "narcissist", Barack Obama.  And by some pretty respectable people, including Charles Krauthammer.

Media bias often comes in that form, as we all should know by now.

(For the record:  I think both Barack Obama and Donald Trump are narcissists and, not being a psychiatrist, can say so without breaking any professional rules.)
- 4:27 PM, 16 August 2016   [link]

Did Florida Use The Wrong Insecticide Against The Zika-Carrying Mosquitoes?  Evidently, since they have admitted it failed to reduce their numbers, and they have switched to a different insecticide.

Now, for a harder question:  Why did they use the wrong insecticide?

I spent about an hour searching this morning, with no hard results, so what follows is almost pure speculation.

I suspect they began their control efforts with a pyrethrin insecticide.
The pyrethrins are a class of organic compounds normally derived from Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium that have potent insecticidal activity by targeting the nervous systems of insects.  Pyrethrin is synthetically made by industrial methods, but it also naturally occurs in chrysanthemum flowers, thus is often considered an organic insecticide, . . .
(Emphasis added.)

Green superstition is so widespread that a pest control officer would prefer the pyrethrins, to reduce public objections to the spraying.  And they do work against some mosquitoes, some of the time.

But apparently they didn't, against these mosquitoes.

And so they switched to a pesticide that can't claim to be "organic", Naled.  Which, according to reports I've seen, is reducing the population of aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries the Zika virus.

(They also switched to delivering the pesticide by air, instead of from the ground.  I would guess they did that to get more complete coverage.)

If you have followed my argument so far, you won't be surprised to learn that there are already objections against this use of Naled.
- 2:23 PM, 16 August 2016   [link]

Another Disappointing Reading List for Barack Obama.

I suppose I should be expecting to be disappointed by now.

I probably should add that I have no objection to politicians reading light books for entertainment; it's his serious and semi-serious choices that bother me, both for what books are there — and what books aren't.
- 11:04 AM, 16 August 2016   [link]

If You Are Even A Little Tired Of The Olympics, you'll like today's New Yorker cartoon.
- 9:29 AM, 16 August 2016   [link]

The 500-Foot-Radius Zika Infestation Circle In Miami:   Last week, I read two substantial articles on the Zika cases in Florida, one relatively optimistic in tone, and one relatively pessimistic.

The relatively optimistic article was in the New York Times, and included this fascinating detail — though not in the original article:
Correction: August 10, 2016

An article on Tuesday about the Zika virus in Florida included a quotation from Dr. Thomas Frieden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in which he misstated the size of the area in Florida with active Zika transmission.  The C.D.C. said on Tuesday that the area has a radius of 500 feet.  It is not a 500-square-foot area, as Dr. Frieden said at a news conference.  The error was repeated in the headline.
So, a little less than 800,000 square feet, not 500 square feet, but that still isn't a very big area.  (If you need to picture it, try translating it into football fields, or some other familiar area.)

The article is deliberately vague in places, but two small businesses are at the center of the infested area, and it seems likely that a visitor from Brazil to one of the businesses brought the virus to Miami.

The relatively pessimistic article was in the Wall Street Journal, and it puts more emphasis on the cases which are not traced to that area.
Referred to as Miami-Dade #1 for the county she lives in, the woman isn’t known to be connected to the “warning zone” of about a square mile in the neighborhood of Wynwood, just north of downtown Miami, that is now the focus of Florida and federal health investigators.

Two other cases in the report, a man from adjacent Broward County and a man from Miami-Dade, also don’t have a clear connection to the area, showing that significant questions remain about how and where patients are being infected with Zika, and how widespread the transmission may be.
Here's how I would summarize the two articles:  The less bad news is that when Zika gets established in American mosquitoes, it will probably spread slowly enough so that it can be found and destroyed before it becomes a major problem.  The bad news is that there will still be occasional cases here, transmitted by a mosquito that bites an infected visitor, and then one of us.

For the sake of the babies, I hope we have a vaccine, soon.

(In principle, I suppose it would be possible to test all visitors for the virus, but that would not be easy to set up, without a fast, accurate, and cheap test — which we do not have.)
- 6:44 PM, 15 August 2016   [link]

An Irish Betting Firm is looking ahead.
Paddy Power have a market up on if Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be impeached and resign during their first term.
(Link omitted.)

The odds are 50-1 against for Clinton, and 33-1 against for Trump.

(The author of the post is confused about impeachment in the American system.   Under our Constitution, the House alone can impeach a president, as it did with Andrew Johnsnon after the Civil War and Bill Clinton, somewhat later.  Both survived trials in the Senate.

It's not hard to understand if you recall that, under our rules, an impeachment is an indictment, not a conviction.

Possibly the post will be corrected by the time you read it.)
- 3:18 PM, 15 August 2016   [link]

More Top-Two Primary Fun In Washington:  On August 2nd, Washington state held its state primary.  (Since we are now a vote-by-mail state, that date was the last day ballots could be postmarked.)

As a result, voters will have no party choices in two important races this November.  In the state treasurer's race, two names will be on the ballot, Duane Davidson and Michael Waite, both Republicans, since they were the "top two" vote getters in the primary.

(Democrats could run a write-in candidate, though that is never an easy way to win.  On the other hand, a Democratic write-in could, theoretically, win with just 34 percent of the vote.)

For the same reason, voters in the 7th congressional district will choose between two Democrats, Brady Piñero Walkinshaw and Pramila Jayapal.

(In a nice bit of symmetry, both are "two-fers"; he is a gay Hispanic, and she is an immigrant from India.  Incidentally, both ran against Donald Trump, rather than their opponents in the primary.)

The first result was a mild surprise; the second was expected, since the district is so Democratic.

(Some time I suppose I should try to understand why our Constitution permits the "top-two" primary, but not the blanket primary, which Washington used for so many years.  But the change annoyed me so much I have never gotten around to studying the issue.  That is not, by the way, because a blanket primary is my first choice, but because I thought the will of the voters should be respected.)
- 1:15 PM, 15 August 2016   [link]

Election Scorecard, 8/15:  There has been little change in the last week; Hillary Clinton still has a substantial, but not overwhelming, lead.

Last week, she had an 8.1 percent lead in the poll model; now it is 7.2 percent.  Last week, the British bettors gave Trump a 21.5 percent chance of winning; as I write, that's down to 19.0 percent.

You can find still more estimates in this Nate Silver post, "What A Clinton Landslide Would Look Like".

(Trumpistas may not like that title, but they might learn something from the post.)
- 11:23 AM, 15 August 2016   [link]

This Cartoon Will Remind Some People of the Clinton Foundation.

Not entirely fairly, I suppose.
- 10:29 AM, 15 August 2016   [link]
How Charitable Is Donald Trump?  Not very.

As David Farenthold found, in his extensive investigation, Trump wants to appear charitable — as cheaply as possible.
I've tried 259 of those charities so far.

I've found one gift, out of Trump's own pocket, between 2008 and this May.

In 2009, he apparently gave a gift worth less than $10,000 to the Police Athletic League in New York.  (In May, under pressure from the media, Trump made good on his own pledge to give $1 million to a veterans' charity).
You have to wonder, given that record, whether that gift to the Police Athletic League was a mistake, wonder whether Trump or one of his underlings wrote a check from the wrong account.

This charity record will suggest, to almost everyone, one of the reasons Trump has refused to release his tax returns.
- 2:23 PM, 14 August 2016   [link]

Friday's Calendar Cartoon Asks a good question, one that I don't think Edgar Rice Burroughs ever answered.
- 1:35 PM, 14 August 2016   [link]

Michael Hayden Says Presidents Need To Be Good Listeners:  And that he isn't sure Donald Trump is one.
But with Mr. Trump, the issue goes even deeper.  Earlier this week I joined 49 other former national security officials who had served in Republican administrations in declaring that he lacked the “character, values and experience” to be president.  Our letter noted that “being willing to listen to his advisers” is crucial to a good leader’s temperament.  That temperament will be tested in his first classified intelligence briefing.
Having briefed two presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and dozens of congressmen, Hayden knows something about intelligence briefings.

I've been arguing for years that a president's ability to listen is more important for doing his job, than his ability to talk.  The skills that help a man win elections are not exactly the same as those he needs to govern well.

(Judging from his book, Hayden would give Bush an "A" in listening, and Obama, a "C".)
- 2:53 PM, 12 August 2016   [link]

If Hillary Clinton Is Elected President, Could Her Agenda Pass Congress?  Mostly, no.

Here are seven reasons why, beginning with the most important:
1.Republicans are almost certain to hold the House.  The tea party wing might actually wind up with more leverage, not less, after November.  Paul Ryan can afford to lose 29 seats, but even a loss of 15 to 20 seats would make his job as speaker much more difficult.  “That’s because his losses in November would not likely come from Freedom Caucus members in their deeply conservative districts,” Paul Kane explains in his column today.  “Instead, mainstream Republicans — Ryan’s most loyal allies — would suffer and, therefore, the Freedom Caucus’s size inside the entire Republican Conference would grow.”
As the piece goes on to explain, Democrats will not come close to sixty seats in the Senate, even if they take back control.

Does Clinton know this?  Bill probably does, but I am not so sure about Hillary.

Most likely, she is hoping that Trump does enough damage to Republicans lower on the ticket so that Democrats can win back control of both houses.  Even then, the Republican minority in the Senate could block much of her agenda.
- 8:21 AM, 12 August 2016   [link]

If You Are Looking For Some Grim, But Timely, Humor, you'll like this cartoon.
- 7:43 AM, 12 August 2016   [link]

"Herbal Foot Massage"  That's a sign I saw when I went out for lunch today.  And, mischievous fellow that I am, I read it, briefly, as if it had a hyphen: "Herbal-Foot Massage", so they were offering to treat people with herbal feet.

(And I suppose it doesn't hurt to review the rules about compound modifiers, from time to time.).
- 2:52 PM, 11 August 2016   [link]

The Three Latest "Pepper & Salt" Cartoons are worth a look.
- 2:25 PM, 11 August 2016   [link]

Any New News Today?  Any big stories that tell us something we didn't know already?

Not that I have seen.

Instead we have stories that, at most, add a few details to what we already knew; Black Lives Matter is continuing to put out a false story about Michael Brown's death, "mainstream" news organizations are continuing to give BLM uncritical coverage, the Clinton Foundation looks even more like a "pay-for-play" operation, the Rio Olympics are still troubled, polls continue to look bad for Donald Trump, and yesterday he said something silly, or reckless, depending on your point of view.

Not a surprise in the bunch.

There was one small surprise:  Hillary Clinton is making a play for the Mormon vote.  It could make the difference in states that neighbor Utah, Arizona, for instance.

A Republican presidential nominee who alienates most Mormons has achieved something impressive, impressive in the way that a train crash is impressive.

(Democrats can get away with assassination jokes; Republicans can't, even Democrats posing as Republicans, like Donald Trump, can't.)
- 1:11 PM, 10 August 2016   [link]

Today's New Yorker Cartoon Is Political — And Pretty Funny:  No, really.
- 12:28 PM, 10 August 2016   [link]

Human Rights Lawyer, Or Human Rights Liar?  The Phil Shiner case hasn't received the attention here in the United States that it deserves.
One of the country's leading human-rights lawyers faces a criminal inquiry into claims Iraqi civilians ​were bribed ​to bring abuse claims against British soldiers, The Telegraph can reveal.

Phil Shiner is accused by legal regulators of ​knowing about the bribes which were allegedly disguised as expenses and then submitted as legal aid claims funded by the taxpayer.

​ Mr Shiner's law firm has brought more than 1,000 allegations against British soldiers, some of whom have been pursued through the courts and had their lives ruined.
The case is in the "charged with" phase, not the "convicted of" phase, but there is enough evidence so that Shiner is no longer receiving funds from the government's Legal Aid Agency.

I haven't followed these cases closely though I assumed, from the beginning, that they were part of the "lawfare" attacks on Britain and the United States.  But I hadn't guessed that British lawyers would go this far.  (I did expect them to be less, shall we say, diligent, in investigating the truths of those claims than they should have been.)

John Hinderaker has more, along with some analysis.
- 10:27 AM, 9 August 2016   [link]

A Magician Gets A Chance to pick up a little extra money.
- 9:17 AM, 9 August 2016   [link]