December 2018, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

It May Show A Lapse Of Taste, But today's "Lola" made me laugh out loud.
- 7:04 PM, 16 December 2018   [link]

40 To 50 Million Per Orca:  Washington State Governor Jay Inslee is proposing to spend more than $1 billion over the next two years to help our local orcas (usually referred to as "southern resident").

That's almost 2 percent of the total budget.

If his plan is successful — and there is no guarantee that it will be — it will increase the number of southern resident orcas by 20-25.

Call me a human chauvinist if you like, but I would rather spend that money on, for example, the Lammi Indians, the Darrigton loggers, the Yakama Indians, the Colville Indians, and similar groups.

(There are now 74 local orcas, down about 20 from 10 or 20 years ago, but about the same number as there were earlier.  I think it likely that their recent decline is caused by a cyclical decline in their main food, salmon.

World wide, orcas are not even close to being endangered, by any reasonable reading of the evidence.)
- 1:41 PM, 14 December 2018   [link]

As Always, it depends on your point of view.
- 10:07 AM, 14 December 2018   [link]

AI Judges For Gymnastics?  They will be used, experimentally, in the 2020 Olympics.

Americans of a certain age will be sure they will be better than the old East German and Soviet judges.

In principle, AI judges could be better than human judges, able to see more and to score more consistently.
- 2:29 PM, 13 December 2018   [link]

Trumpistas — And Some Republicans —Are Refusing To Face The Facts:  The party "got creamed" in the November election.
For any Republican, the most alarming detail to come out of the midterms isn’t that Democrats gained at least 40 seats in the House.  Rather, it’s the sheer size of the anti-Trump vote in 2018, and what it portends for 2020.
. . .
But in 2018, 118 million Americans voted.  Nationally, Democrats thumped Republicans by 9 points, the most lopsided margin in a midterm in modern history. Approximately 62 million people voted Democratic last month.  Hillary Clinton garnered 65.8 million ballots in 2016.

In other words, Democrats achieved midterm turnout numbers only a few percentage points lower than the presidential number in 2016 — in an election widely viewed as a referendum on Trump.
John Podhoretz agrees with the thinking behind my WAR analysis — but would give Trump an even lower score.

(2018 United States House of Representatives elections)
- 1:35 PM, 13 December 2018   [link]

If You Like Numbers, You May Want To Look At The Economist From Time To Time:  When I buy a copy, as I do occasionally, I always look in the back for what I call their big table, which gives the basic "Economic data" for more than 40 nations.

From the table in the November 24-30 issue, I learned that Poland is growing faster than any of the other European nations (5%), that India is growing faster than China (7.4-6.6%), and that Greece still has a terribly high unemployment rate (18.9%).

All three of those have important political consequences.

Earlier in the issue, in an article titled "The green House effect", I was reminded that the United States has been cutting carbon dioxide emissions more than any other nation (about 40 million tons in 2017, the last year for which data is available).  The European Union increased its emissions by about the same amount.  The four nations with the biggest increases were Iran, Turkey, India, and, of course, China.

Those facts would not surprise a careful reader of Axios or the New York Times, but they won't appear on many television screens, here, or elsewhere.

(There are other important numbers in that issue, and I hope to come back to some of them.)
- 11:13 AM, 13 December 2018   [link]

I Like All The Recent A-hed Stories, especially the Nigerian clone rumor.
- 7:06 AM, 13 December 2018   [link]

Trump's Senate Wins Above Replacement:  Donald Trump has been crowing about the two-seat gain the Republicans made in the November Senate elections.

Should he?

I think not, and I will explain why, using a phrase borrowed from baseball analysts, Wins Above Replacement.
. . . a non-standardized sabermetric baseball statistic developed to sum up "a player's total contributions to his team".[1]  A player's WAR value is claimed to be the number of additional wins his team has achieved above the number of expected team wins if that player were substituted with a replacement-level player: a player who may be added to the team for minimal cost and effort.[2]
Before the 2016 election, the Republicans had 54 Senate seats; now they have 51.   They lost 2 seats in the 2016 election, Illinois and New Hampshire.  They lost a third seat in the Alabama special election to replace Jeff Sessions.

Even with the 2 seats gained in last November's election, in January Republicans will still be 1 seat short of where they were before Trump came on the scene.

So, if we were looking just at those two numbers, 54 and 53, we would say Trump has a WAR score of -1, that he has lost, net, 1 seat for the Republicans.

But we can do a little better than that, if we use some reasonable hypotheticals.

Suppose the Republicans, instead of Trump, had nominated John Kasich.

In 2016, Mark Kirk would still have lost in Illinois, but I don't believe Kelly Ayotte would have lost in New Hampshire, without Trump dragging her down.  (She lost to Maggie Hassan by just 1,017 votes.)

Kasich would not have chosen Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General, so the Republicans would not have lost that seat.  (Sessions is a good man — as we can see by the fact that Trump fired him — but not a natural choice for that position.)

The 2018 Senate election does not provide such clear examples, but I think it likely that, with Kasich as president, Republicans would have kept Jeff Flake's Senate seat.

Given these hypotheticals, the Republicans would have 55 or 56 seats in January, rather than 53, giving Trump a WAR score if -2 or -3.

He has not helped his team.  A general manager, if the Republicans had one, would want to trade him to the Democrats, if that were possible.
- 6:17 PM, 12 December 2018   [link]

The Election Betting Site is now displaying Super Bowl odds.

(If you are new to using betting sites to estimate probabilities, two suggestions:  Add the probabilities for all the teams.  If the market is working correctly, the sum should be close to 100 percent.  Look at the weekly changes to see if the market is raising and lowering the probabilities in the ways you would expect after the most recent games.)
- 9:54 AM, 12 December 2018   [link]

Yesterday's New Yorker Cartoon made me chuckle — after I figured it out.

(If you need a hint, you can find one here.)
- 9:37 AM, 12 December 2018   [link]

No Wonder We Lost World War II:  In today's Seattle Times there is an op-ed headlined:  "Transgender troops are critical to military readiness".  (No link or name, so as to protect the guilty.)

The author has no idea how many "transgender" troops we now have, or what positions they hold, but he is sure they are critical.

Oddly, he doesn't mention the most famous "transgender" soldier of all, Bradly/Chelsea Manning.  Who made a great contribution — to our enemies.
- 11:29 AM, 11 December 2018   [link]

The Current "Pepper . . . And Salt" made me laugh out loud.

And wonder what conclusions we can draw if he gets the job.
- 10:21 AM, 11 December 2018   [link]

12 Cents A Gallon For Gasoline, 28 Cents For Diesel:  (Or, if you prefer, 3 cents and 7 cents a liter, respectively.)

Those, according to a Washington Post article (which I am not going to try to locate) were the fuel-tax increases that sparked the demonstrations/riots in France.

From what I can tell, "sparked" is the right word; many in France were already angry with the Macron government, and so small percentage increases were enough to start a massive fire of protests.

(Why the higher increase for diesel?  Probably because the French government has been encouraging the use of diesel by taxing it less than gasoline.)
- 6:19 PM, 9 December 2018   [link]

The New Yorker Reveals a clever seller's trick.
- 4:21 PM, 9 December 2018   [link]