February 2018, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

This Story About Jeremy Corbyn Being A Communist Agent Might Be True:  But, as I am sure you understand, I have no way of either verifying — or disproving — it .
Jeremy Corbyn was a paid informant of the Czech secret police during the height of the Cold War, it has been claimed.

Former Czech secret agent Jan Sarkocy - also known as Jan Dymic - said he met the Labour leader in the 1980s and Mr Corbyn was paid money for information.
I can say that the story doesn't seem implausible to me.

And we do know that, more recently, he was receiving payments from the Iranian regime.
- 1:05 PM, 16 February 2018   [link]

"There Have Been 18 US School Shootings This Year"   So says the BBC.

As does Australia's ABC.

And, as do other news organizations and politicians.

Fortunately, the Washington Post has corrected the record.
The stunning number swept across the Internet within minutes of the news Wednesday that, yet again, another young man with another semiautomatic rifle had rampaged through a school, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in South Florida.

The figure originated with Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit group, co-founded by Michael Bloomberg, that works to prevent gun violence and is most famous for its running tally of school shootings.
And they include, in that running tally, many dubious cases, so much so that in 2015 the Post gave them a "four Pinocchios" award.

Everytown has not improved their methodology since then, according to the Post.

There is enough violence in our schools so that the organization could make its case without inflating the numbers.

Will the news organizations that uncritically repeated the Everytown claim issue corrections?  One can hope so, but it would probably be a mistake to count on it.

(Small credit, where small credit is due.  Everytown did remove 1 of the 18 cases after the Post questioned them about it.)
- 12:33 PM, 16 February 2018   [link]

"Pepper . . . And Salt" Reminds Us that, in some cities, apartments can be quite small.
- 11:02 AM, 16 February 2018   [link]

There Is A Hypothesis About Nikolas Cruz That I Hope Investigators Will Explore:  There's a hint in this BBC story.
Mr Cruz was adopted at a young age, and had recently [lost] his mother who raised him, according to local media.

The suspect's adoptive father Roger Cruz died of a heart attack several years ago.  His adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, passed away of pneumonia in November last year.
Here is how I would state the hypothesis:  Cruz inherited a tendency to violence from his birth parents.  He was able to keep it mostly under control while his adoptive parents were alive, but not after they passed away.

I hope the investigators will explore it, but do not expect them to, since the hypothesis touches so many sensitive issues.

There are, of course, other hypotheses that also should be explored, and perhaps one of them will turn out to be correct.

(This brief post may remind older readers of this creepy novel from the 1950s.)
- 8:14 PM, 15 February 2018   [link]

A Man Can Breastfeed A Baby:  With A lot of help from hormones.

That isn't how the BBC describes what happened, but it is scientifically accurate, unlike their description.

I have known about this possibility for some time, having seen it suggested, though in a more honest way, about two decades ago.  (As I recall, the author wanted men to do more of the work in child bearing.)

(This shouldn't surprise us too much, since men have an X chromosome to go with their Y chromosome.)
- 3:37 PM, 15 February 2018   [link]

This Story From Moscow should make you smile.
Moscow residents say they have found that the only way to get the council to clear snow is to write the name of opposition leader Alexei Navalny on it.

Posts on Facebook and Twitter have received thousands of likes, after disgruntled residents took to social media, saying that they tried spray-painting "Navalny" on the city's deep snow out of frustration at the authorities' slowness in removing them.

One user said the move prompted immediate reaction and that council workers removed the graffiti "within hours".
And may inspire citizens in parts of the United States to take similar actions.
- 2:39 PM, 15 February 2018   [link]

Jacob Zuma Resigns:  Having run out of peaceful alternatives.
South Africa's embattled President Jacob Zuma has resigned from his office with immediate effect.

He made the announcement in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday evening.

Earlier, Mr Zuma's governing ANC party told him to step down or face a vote of no confidence in parliament.
And, I suspect, having lost control of much of his own government.

It looks nearly certain now that there will be another peaceful transfer of power in South Africa, something many would not have believed possible, decades ago.

There may even be a decrease in corruption, which would be very good thing.

(So far I haven't seen anything on what will happen to his four — that's right, fourFirst Ladies.)
- 2:49 PM, 14 February 2018   [link]

You Will Understand, I Hope, That I have not said anything about the Florida school shootings, not because I don't care, but because I have nothing to add to the rather confused reports — except the usual reminder that first reports often contain errors.
- 2:19 PM, 14 February 2018   [link]

"Did Trump's Lawyer Pay Stormy Daniels Out of His Own Pocket?"  Probably not, says Orin Kerr.
To "facilitate", the dictionary tells us, means to assist with or to make something easier.  Given that, I would think that the most literal reading of [Michael D.] Cohen's statement is just that he used his own funds to arrange the payment.  He's not making any statement about whose $130,000 was paid.  For example, if it took Cohen a few hundred dollars to set up an entity to pay Daniels, and to wire someone else's $130,000 to her, then he would have been using his own personal funds to faciltate that payment.  Sending on the money would be a transaction between two parties, Daniels and the entity Cohen set up, and there would have been no need to reimburse Cohen $130,000 because it wasn't Cohen's money that was sent.
Even though journalists keep saying it was Cohen's money.

Probably Cohen chose that confusing phrasing, on purpose.

(Kerr is right to remind us, earlier in the post, that the affair, and the payment once "would have been a major Presidential scandal.  That seems like a long time ago.")
- 11:25 AM, 14 February 2018   [link]

Too Funny Not To Pass On:  An Iranian official believes we have all kinds of spies.
Is it possible that Western espionage agencies used lizards to try to unearth Iranian nuclear secrets?

Former chief-of-staff of the Iranian army Hassan Firuzabadi seems to believe so, AFP reports.
I don't know if it is possible, but if it is, I hope we are using lizards as spies.
- 9:16 AM, 14 February 2018   [link]

North Korea's "Diplomatic Triumph" At The Winter Olympics:  Many journalists, here and abroad, have said that North Korea scored a "diplomatic triumph" at the Winter Olympics.

Many conservatives, David French among them, found that conclusion appalling, and blamed those journalists for their absurdly friendly coverage.

But French went further than most press critics, making these sobering general points:
It’s a simple fact that we’ve reached a point where American partisans will applaud when foreign leaders oppose or (allegedly) humiliate their domestic political opponents.  And lest we think this is a progressive phenomenon only, consider this — Republican approval for Vladimir Putin almost tripled (from a too-high 12 percent to a disturbing 32 percent) even as the brutal dictator conducted comprehensive intelligence and military operations aimed directly at America’s vital national interests.  Partisans hate each other that much.

But partisanship is an incomplete explanation.  If the North Korean regime were perceived to be a right-wing horror show, I sincerely doubt you’d see the same, widespread acclaim.  There exists a lingering and exceedingly strange willingness of some even in the most elite quarters of the media to whitewash or find the positives in the most brutal of left-wing regimes.  Who can forget the New York Times op-ed celebrating the idea that women had “better sex under socialism”?   Or who can forget the Times op-ed that declared, “For all its flaws, the Communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big.”  And let’s not get started on Cuba.  Did the modern media give any dictator better press than Fidel Castro?
Both the partisan division and the ideological sympathy among leftist journalists have grown stronger in recent years.  For the first, both Obama and Trump deserve some blame — as do their uncritical followers.

(Jake Tapper didn't go with the crowd — for which he deserves some credit.)
- 8:52 AM, 14 February 2018   [link]

The Current "Pepper . . . And Salt" made me laugh out loud (perhaps because I needed a silly, non-political joke this morning).
- 8:30 AM, 14 February 2018   [link]

Wonder How Often Your Senators And Congressman Vote With Trump?  FiveThirtyEight has the numbers, along with a simple prediction as to how often the congressmen should, considering their state or district's vote for Trump.

I found some surprises, and you may too.
- 2:09 PM, 13 February 2018   [link]

This Cartoon Made Me Think a bit before I understood it.

But then I liked it, because it made me think.
- 9:05 AM, 13 February 2018   [link]

Remember This Man?  Today is his birthday.

Abraham Lincoln with his youngest son, Tad

And I think the birth of our greatest president is worth celebrating.

If you need some reasons to celebrate, you might look at this post on how Lincoln became a surveyor, or this post on his greatest speeches.

As I said in that post, and have said in other posts, my favorite Lincoln speech is his Second Inaugural, with its marvelous final paragraph:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
If you haven't read the whole speech recently, today would be a good day to do so.  You won't regret the few minutes that will take.

(It is odd that our news organizations now say so little about Lincoln, even on his birthday.  If they were only interested in attracting readers, listeners, and viewers, they would give him more coverage, because he is so fascinating, and so popular.

But most news organizations now prefer a "warts'only" version of American history, which doesn't leave much room for our great men, even our greatest.

That's unfortunate, because there is still so much we can learn from Lincoln and the others.)
- 12:49 PM, 12 February 2018   [link]

The Cartoonist May Have Read A Popular Children's Story one too many times.
- 9:10 AM, 12 February 2018   [link]

Worth Buying:  (Though you may have to hurry.)  This weekend's Wall Street Journal, if only for Steven Pinker's essay, "The Enlightenment Is Working".

Here's the bottom line:
Don’t listen to the gloom-sayers.  The world has improved by every measure of human flourishing over the past two centuries, and the progress continues, . . .
And here are two of his many examples:
In 1988, 23 wars raged, killing people at a rate of 3.4 per 100,000; today it's 12 wars, killing 1.2 per 100,000.
. . .
When the Enlightenment began [two centuries ago] a third of the children born in the richest parts of the world died before their fifth birthday; today that fate befalls 6% of the children in the poorest parts.
There's much, much more in the essay, including the names of three web sites where you can see most of the data he is summarizing:   Our World in Data, Human Progress, and Gap Minder.

I would add one point, which I think Pinker would agree with:  His argument is about long-term trends that we see in decades, or centuries.   It is possible to find short-term trends that are bad, such as the recent drop in life expectancy in the United States.

But we are not helpless against those trends; for many of them we already know much of what we should do to reverse them.

(Steven Pinker)
- 11:24 AM, 11 February 2018   [link]

Either Way, I Wouldn't Mind Joining this "Pepper . . . and Salt" club.

(Though I suspect I wouldn't meet the membership requirements.)
- 9:36 AM, 11 February 2018   [link]

More Evidence That You Shouldn't Watch the Golden Globe Awards:  The last one appears to have driven Steve Bannon nuts.

Temporarily, I hope.
- 3:16 PM, 10 February 2018   [link]

This Week's Collection Of Cartoons from Politico.

My favorites:  Lisa Benson's dunce caps and Mike Lukovich's parade (mostly for the Dr. Strangelove reference).

It isn't in the collection, but I also like Andy Marlette's selfie,
- 2:11 PM, 10 February 2018   [link]

Whenever There Is A Market Correction, I start thinking I should re-read my copy of this book.

It is startling to hear how similar the reassurances are each time there is a correction — and most of the time those reassurances are right.

By the way, the book is quite entertaining and, as far as I know, mostly accurate.

(I have decided to start linking to Amazon competitors, where possible, since I think monopolies are bad for us, in the long run.

John Kenneth Galbraith)
- 10:26 AM, 9 February 2018   [link]

In Recent Months, Washington State Has Been Taking A Hard Line On Illegal Aliens:  A large number of them escaped when a barrier failed.   The state fears that they will spread disease and compete with, and displace, natives.

So the state has been urging natives to hunt down these aliens.

Before anyone gets excited, I suppose I should say that the aliens are Atlantic salmon that escaped from a fish farm, when the net holding them in failed.

But it does amuse me to see how differently the state government treats these illegal aliens, in spite of the similarities in the arguments.

(If recent accounts are correct, the net failed because the farm was too good at producing protein-rich food.  Mussels accumulated on the net, and finally broke it.

This failure is something that, I suspect, state inspectors should have been able to prevent — but you will not be surprised to learn that no one appears to be blaming them, or the Democratic officials they report to.

But those officials are urging that the company fish farm be phased out.)
- 8:58 AM, 9 February 2018   [link]

The Visits Of The North Korean Entertainers And Athletes to South Korea reminded me of this Cold War era joke:
What do you call a Polish orchestra after it returns from a tour of the West?

A quartet.
(Journalists have been thinking similar thoughts; I have seen two stories on possible North Korean defections during the Olympic games.  The journalists agree that they are unlikely, assuming, I suppose, that the North Korean regime has taken even stronger measures than usual to prevent them.)
- 8:08 AM, 9 February 2018   [link]