January 2018, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Some Like It Hot, Some Like It Cold, And Some Like It Just Right:  For example, Green sea turtles:

green sea turtle

These turtles have a curious problem, in part of Australia.
Male sea turtles are disappearing from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

A new study of gender ratios found that 99 percent of immature green turtles born in the northern part of the reef are female.  Among adult turtles, 87 percent are female, suggesting that there has been a shift in gender ratios over the last few decades.

A sea turtle’s sex is determined by its nesting environment.  As sands warm, more females will hatch relative to males; if the sand temperature tops 84.7 degrees during incubation, only females will emerge.
Naturally, the scientists suspect global warming.

Whether you agree or not, it is an interesting finding, and a useful reminder that our mammalian rules don't apply everywhere.

Temperature-dependent sex determination was discovered relatively recently (1966), and is found in some species of fish and reptiles.

(Judging by the article, this should not be a difficult conservation problem to solve.   You might be able to do it with something as simple as some thermostat-controlled sun screens on the breeding beaches.

Green sea turtles)
- 3:38 PM, 16 January 2018   [link]

How The Bed Got Into His Underwear, I'll never know.  (And don't really want to know, now that I think about it.)

(I was inspired, of course, by some famous Groucho Marx lines.  If you don't recall the lines, try this search:  "Groucho Marx + elephant + pajamas".)
- 1:45 PM, 16 January 2018   [link]

Where's My Bicycle?  That was my reaction to this story.
Local residents tend to ride off with the free bicycles Google provides for employees to get around its giant headquarters in Mountain View
There's a Google headquarters just a few blocks away from where I live, and so far I haven't seen any of those free bicycles.

To be more serious for a moment, what struck me about the article was not the difficulty Google has had keeping track of the bicycles — but the attitudes of so many residents of Mountain View, who, I think it safe to say, do not ordinarily borrow other people's bicycles without permission.

What I think is happening is that those people are, perhaps not consciously, borrowing (and in a few cases stealing) Google's bicycles as a mild protest against Google's policies.

And I wouldn't be surprised to see something similar happen here, soon.

When Google decided to locate here permanently, it was considered a triumph for Kirkland and the city manager who gave them all those concessions.

But it is not clear to me that Google has been good, net, for this neighborhood, and I haven't seen them contribute to city programs, as other companies do.
- 8:18 AM, 16 January 2018   [link]

Do British Voters Think Donald Trump Is A "Genius"?   (Stable or not.)  Mostly, no.
One of the questions was whether British voters thought that Mr Trump was above or below average intelligence.  The findings by party splits are in the chart above.

As can be seen overall there was an extraordinary low view of Mr Trump’s intelligence almost across the board.  Just 18% of those polled thought that Trump was above average intelligence and even UKIP voters, the most favourable to the president, it was just 34%.
No doubt, some of that low opinion is the result of biased coverage by British news organizations — but that doesn't change the fact that British politicians, even those who agree with Trump on some issues, will want to keep their distance from him.

(For the record:  As I have said before I believe that Trump (and Barack Obama) are not geniuses, but are "smarter than average".)
- 6:40 PM, 15 January 2018   [link]

Excellent Political News From Arizona:  Martha McSally has entered the Senate race .
U.S. Representative Martha McSally, a former Air Force combat pilot, said on Friday she would run against former sheriff Joe Arpaio, a close ally of President Donald Trump, in the race for the Republican nomination for a key Senate seat from Arizona. The August primary contest is shaping up as the latest election to expose the divisions roiling the Republican Party, pitting the establishment-backed McSally against the bomb-throwing Arpaio.

McSally, 51, and Arpaio, 85, are expected to try to capture the insurgent appeal of Trump, a popular figure among Arizona Republicans. Both are seeking to succeed Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who announced he would not seek re-election after emerging as a leading critic of Trump within the president’s own party.

Arpaio, who entered the race on Tuesday, was pardoned by Trump last year after being convicted of criminal contempt of court for refusing to obey a court order in a racial profiling case focusing on Hispanics targeted as potential illegal immigrants.
The first public poll shows a competitive race.
A Tuesday poll from ABC15/OHPI shows Joe Arpaio skyrocketing to the top of the Republican Primary for U.S. Senate in Arizona.

The poll, conducted the same day Arpaio announced his Senate run, shows the former sheriff with 29% of the vote, a statistical tie with first place candidate Martha McSally at 31%.

Former state senator Kelli Ward, who has been the front runner in recent polls, drops to 25% in this latest survey.
I'm hoping my friends in Arizona can tell me more about this race.

(Martha McSally)
- 2:59 PM, 15 January 2018   [link]

For Those Who Are Celebrating MLK, Jr. Day this touching Andy Marlette cartoon.

(For why I have found it harder to celebrate in recent years, this 2017 post.)
- 8:06 AM, 15 January 2018   [link]

Here's A Modern Twist on a very old fairy tale.

(And here's more than most of us need to know about that fairy tale.)
- 7:37 AM, 15 January 2018   [link]

Worth Buying, Possibly:  This weekend's Wall Street Journal, if only for Shelby Steele's gloomy op-ed, "Black Protest Has Lost Its Power".
The recent protests by black players in the National Football League were rather sad for their fruitlessness.  They may point to the end of an era for black America, and for the country generally—an era in which protest has been the primary means of black advancement in American life.
Nonetheless, protests continue and, where they have an effect on public policy, it is often negative.
- 10:53 AM, 14 January 2018   [link]

This Cartoon Made me smile — and the discussion that follows made me think.
- 10:42 AM, 14 January 2018   [link]

I Should Have Put This Link Up This Morning:  But the Atlanta-Philadelphia game isn't over (and the score is close as I write), so here are FiveThirtyEight's NFL Predictions.
- 3:43 PM, 13 January 2018   [link]

The Most Popular Governor In The United States Is . . .   a Massachusetts Republican.
Trump’s rock-bottom ratings should be dragging Republican Gov. Charlie Baker to defeat in 2018.  Instead, the opposite is occurring.  Baker is not only more popular than any other politician in solidly Democratic Massachusetts, he’s the most popular governor in the nation.

His defiance of the laws of political gravity is proving maddening to opponents who once viewed him as a certain one-termer.  And it offers a ray of hope to the handful of other Republican governors facing blue-state electorates in November with the prospect of an unpopular president in the background.
Last July, Republican governors held the bottom two spots — and the top eleven spots — in the national rankings.

That should worry Democrats, long term.
- 3:14 PM, 13 January 2018   [link]

Two Cartoons Made Me Smile This Morning:  One from "Pepper . . . and Salt".

And one from the New Yorker.
- 2:49 PM, 13 January 2018   [link]

Boris Johnson Does Have a way with words.
Boris Johnson has dismissed critics of Donald Trump as "puffed up pompous popinjays", hours after the US president cancelled a visit to London to open the new American embassy.

The Foreign Secretary said people who welcomed news the US leader would not visit Britain were "determined to put" a "crucial relationship at risk".
Johnson's jibe was aimed at, among others, London's Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan.

For the record:  I suspect that Khan is secretly disappointed that Trump is not coming, and that Johnson is secretly relieved.

(Khan is an interesting political figure.  He is, at least nominally, Muslim — and he supports same-sex marriage.)
- 3:42 PM, 12 January 2018   [link]

Another Trump Self-Hug:  Last night, I saw Trump hug himself again.  It's the fourth time I have seen him take that defensive position in the last month or so — and I don't often watch him on TV.

He looks incredibly defensive, almost as if he is expecting someone much larger and stronger to hit him.

It isn't simply the crossed-arms position, which is often described as a self-hug.   He puts one arm around his waist, and the other arm over the first, close to his shoulder. (I made a quick search, but didn't find a picture that showed what I have been seeing.)
- 9:32 AM, 12 January 2018   [link]

Donald Trump And Gresham's Law In Politics (2):  First, a review of Gresham's Law.
In economics, Gresham's law is a monetary principle stating that "bad money drives out good".  For example, if there are two forms of commodity money in circulation, which are accepted by law as having similar face value, the more valuable commodity will disappear from circulation.[1][2]
In December 2015, I argued:
Similarly, in political debates and campaigns, bad rhetoric often drives out good.  You can often see that in comment sections, where a nasty and unfair comment will draw similar replies, and end a rational discussion.

(Sometimes, in my opinion, this is done intentionally, by one or more commenters who want to damage a site, or drive away other commenters.)

And so it has been in this year's campaign; again and again Trump's lines get the publicity and more rational arguments from the other candidates are drowned out.  When, for instance, he talked about building a wall on the border, he did not mention that about half of the illegal immigrants here in the United States crossed our borders legally — and overstayed their visas.  Or that we have been building such a wall for years now.

And today, we are seeing the same thing; we really need a rational discussion of immigration policies, but instead we are talking about his vulgar comment — which he is now claiming he didn't say.

In my own small way, I plan to continue to provide facts and, I hope, rational arguments on this subject.  But I am not foolish enough to think that facts and rational arguments from me, or others, will get much coverage from our media.

I just hope Trump hasn't wrecked the chances of a sensible compromise on immigration.
- 8:38 AM, 12 January 2018   [link]

This Week's Collections Of Cartoons from Politico.

My favorites:  Michael Ramirez's juxtaposition, Steve Kelly's Oprah, and Ruben Bolling's tribute to "Calvin And Hobbes".

Bonus:  Last week's collection of cartoons from Politico.

My favorites:  Kal's buttons and Steve Sack's loose Bannon.
- 7:27 AM, 12 January 2018   [link]

Want Some Numbers on Chain Migration?  Mark Krikorian has them.
My colleague Jessica Vaughan has found that each green-card recipient eventually sponsors an average of more than three additional immigrants, a multiplier that has grown in recent years.  For some nationalities, the multiplier is larger; the average immigrant from India or the Philippines eventually sponsors more than five additional immigrants, and the multiplier for immigrants from Mexico and China is over six.

Over the last 35 years, some 20 million of the 33 million legal immigrants admitted (61 percent) were chain-migration immigrants.  Though they undergo the same perfunctory health and security checks as all legal immigrants, those who come via chain migration are not selected on the basis of their skills or potential to contribute to the well-being of the American people.  They qualify to move permanently to the United States on the basis merely of whom they’re related to.
How good are those numbers?

I don't know.

As far as I know, Krikorian is respected, even among those who disagree with him on immigration.  But the questions he and Vaughn are trying to answer are not easy ones.  (I did glance at Vaughn's paper, just long enough to decide it would take me at least several hours to form even a rough opinion on its quality.)

It is probably safe to say that the numbers are in the ballpark, to use an appropriately vague metaphor.

(Mark Krikorian)
- 7:47 PM, 11 January 2018   [link]

Steven Pinker Shares Some Radical Ideas With Harvard Students  He even tells them that "men and women differ in their tastes and interest[s]".

(The students are young, so they should be able to recover from exposure to such shocking ideas.)

He's making a general point, which the leftists who dominate our campuses (and much of our media), should think about.

(Steven Pinker)
- 3:19 PM, 11 January 2018   [link]

It Helps To Have Donald Trump As A Salesman:  Just ask Michael Wolff.
Sales of Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” have gotten off to a sizzling start.

John Sargent, chief executive of publisher Macmillan, confirmed that a million copies had been sold by the close of business on Monday, . . .
Bret Stephens makes a counter-intuitive, but plausible, argument that the book will help Trump.  (I haven't decided whether I agree with Stephens.)
- 1:12 PM, 11 January 2018   [link]

For Years I Have Wondered How Uber Was Able To Evade Local Laws And Regulations:  Now, thanks to this Bloomberg article, I have a partial answer to my questions.
Most tech companies don’t expect police to regularly raid their offices, but Uber isn’t most companies.  The ride-hailing startup’s reputation for flouting local labor laws and taxi rules has made it a favorite target for law enforcement agencies around the world.  That’s where this remote system, called Ripley, comes in.  From spring 2015 until late 2016, Uber routinely used Ripley to thwart police raids in foreign countries, say three people with knowledge of the system.  Allusions to its nature can be found in a smattering of court filings, but its details, scope, and origin haven’t been previously reported.

The Uber HQ team overseeing Ripley could remotely change passwords and otherwise lock up data on company-owned smartphones, laptops, and desktops as well as shut down the devices.  This routine was initially called the unexpected visitor protocol.  Employees aware of its existence eventually took to calling it Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver’s flamethrower-wielding hero in the Alien movies.  The nickname was inspired by a Ripley line in Aliens, after the acid-blooded extraterrestrials easily best a squad of ground troops.  “Nuke the entire site from orbit.  It’s the only way to be sure.”
Such a program, if well-designed, would be faster and more effective than physical locks.

(For the record:  I have long thought that taxi service was over-regulated in many, many places — but I have never been sure that Uber was the right solution to those problems.)
- 11:19 AM, 11 January 2018   [link]

After You See This Cartoon, you'll wonder exactly what was in that description.
- 10:36 AM, 11 January 2018   [link]

Is This A Big Gain Or A Small Gain?  A brief article in the New York Times begins as follows:
From 1991 to 2015, the cancer death rate dropped about 1.5 percent a year, , , ,
And then continues:
. . . . resulting in a total decrease of 26 percent — 2,378,600 fewer deaths than would have occurred had the rate remained at its peak.
The 1.5 percent will look small to most of us, and the 2,378,600 big, but they are just different ways of looking at the same thing.

Saving all those lives is not a small thing, and the steady progress tells me we have been doing something right.

Or, perhaps, not doing something, since much of the progress has come from people giving up smoking.

I think that, in 1991, I would have expected larger gains by now, given the resources we have put into this fight.

(For years, I have wondered how much smoking marijuana increases the risk of lung cancer.  I haven't seen any recent estimates, and the subject is so politicized that I would treat any estimates with some caution.  But I can say that it seems unlikely that inhaling the smoke from any kind of burning leaves is good for your lungs.)
- 7:46 PM, 10 January 2018   [link]

Immigration Principles For The United States (1):  Most of the news coverage of immigration issues seem to fall into one of two categories:
  1. An admirable immigrant (or immigrant family) is described who would be hurt by the enforcement of our immigration laws, or the passage of new ones.  Therefore, we are supposed to conclude that laws should not be enforced, and new ones should not be enacted.
  2. A destructive immigrant (or group) is described.  Therefore, we are supposed to conclude that our laws should be enforced more strictly and, perhaps, that we need new executive actions or even new laws.
These news stories should seem unsatisfactory to anyone who wants to think about policy, seriously.  As everyone should know by now, it is easy to find both kinds of examples, and as anyone who is willing to "think slow" will realize, it is an error to generalize from individual cases in this way — especially when we are discussing tens of millions of people.

And so, in my own, semi-informed way, I am going to suggest some principles that we should use in determining our immigration policies.

Principle 1:  The United States should decide which foreigners can visit, reside, or work here, and, especially, which foreigners can become American citizens.

Some will consider this obvious — though there are millions of foreigners who would disagree — but some of our programs violate this principle.  For example, the Diversity Visa.
The Diversity Immigrant Visa program, also known as the green card lottery, is a United States government lottery program for receiving a United States Permanent Resident Card.  The Immigration Act of 1990 established the current and permanent Diversity Visa (DV) program.

The lottery is administered by the Department of State and conducted under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).  It makes available 50,000 immigrant visas annually and aims to diversify the immigrant population in the United States, by selecting applicants from countries with low rates of immigration in the previous five years.  As of 2017, around 20 million people apply for the lottery each year.
(Links omitted.)

Even our bureaucracies can do better at selecting immigrants if we don't choose them randomly.

(Sometimes I think "Diversity" is a pagan religion, common among leftists all over the world.)
- 4:22 PM, 10 January 2018   [link]

On 1 January 2019, Thousands Of Copyrights Will Expire:  Unless Congress extends them — again.
Copyright protection for works of all kinds produced during the first half of the 20th century - novels, motion pictures, musical compositions, poems, etc. - had originally extended for 56 years from the date of publication.  In 1976, Congress lengthened the term to 75 years.

As a result, while works produced in 1923 - films like DW Griffith's The White Rose and Charlie Chaplin's A Woman in Paris, novels like Hugh Lofting's Doctor Doolittle's Post Office and Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, songs like Silbur & Kohn's Yes! We Have No Bananas and George and Ira Gershwin's I Won't Say I Will But I Won't Say I Won't - were originally scheduled to enter the public domain in 1979, thanks to the 1976 extension they got an extended lease on their copyrights, which would now be valid until 1999 (1923 plus 75 years); later works received the same retroactive extension, i.e., copyright in works from 1924 would now run until 1/1/2000, those from 1925 until 1/1/2001, etc.

In 1998, Congress was at it again. It gave copyright owners another big, juicy gift: the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act ("CTEA"), which took all works then under copyright and extended their protection by another 20 years.  So copyright in those 1923 works, instead of expiring in 1999, would now last until January 1, 2019.

That date will therefore mark the first time in the last 20 years that any protected works will fall - finally! - into the public domain in the U.S.
I think it unlikely that Congress will extend them again, since Hollywood was the biggest beneficiary of the earlier extensions, and Hollywood is not all that popular these days.

(You can look at their Wikipedia entry or glance at the Gutenberg site to get an idea of what we have to look forward to.)
- 2:39 PM, 10 January 2018   [link]

You'll Have To Take My Word For It, but for months I have been thinking about recycling this old joke, which I first put up in July 2015.
The two leaders of the Greek dictatorship, Papadopoulos and Paddakos, are together at Headquarters when the Governor of Korydallos, the largest prison in Greece, comes to see them.

'The prisoners have several grievances, and are threatening to go on a hunger strike unless their demands are met.'

'What do they want?' asks Papadopoulos.

'They want to see their wives once a week for sex.'

Papadopoulos agrees.  Paddakos is shocked at his leniency.

A week later the Governor returns:  'There is more trouble at the prison.  The prisoners now want television in their cells and say they'll go on strike if the demand is not met.'

Papadopoulos again agrees.  Paddakos is appalled but again says nothing.

After a month, the Governor again visits Headquarters.

'The prisoners now demand weekends off for good behavior just like they have in Denmark.'

Papadopoulos agrees but Paddakos can no longer keep silent.

'Why are you so generous to these prisoners?  We should be generous to our schools, not to our prisons.'

'Look,' Papadopoulos replies, 'When we finish up here, we won't be going to school.'

I have been thinking about it because I have been half expecting something like this.
Senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner has reportedly tacked on another responsibility to his grocery list of White House duties: prison reform.

The President’s son-in-law has been meeting with stakeholders, including reformed convicts and religious leaders, about changing how America incarcerates, Axios reports.

President Trump on Thursday will have a listening session about the topic, according to Axios.
Jared Kushner may be thinking of his father's experience.

(There are, as far as I can tell, good arguments for prison reform — in some states, though the needed reforms probably vary greatly.

Georgios Papadopoulos)
- 11:21 AM, 10 January 2018   [link]

Many Mothers Have Felt this way, at one time or another.
- 10:33 AM, 10 January 2018   [link]

Somaliland Takes A Big Step Forward:  And sets a good example for its neighbors.
For the first time in its history, the self-declared republic of Somaliland has passed a law against rape.

In the past, a victim's family could force them to marry their rapist to avoid being shamed.

Rapists now stand to face at least 30 years in prison.
Somaliland is an independent country — according to them, and part of Somalia — according to the larger country.

We can hope that the other parts of Somalia follow that example, soon.

- 3:06 PM, 9 January 2018   [link]

Kyle Smith Watched The Golden Globes:  And, if you missed them, his article should make you glad you did.

This, he believes, was the "most crystalline moment of self-unawareness":
[F]or me it was when the house rolled over for Oprah Winfrey, the nation’s most prominent retailer of quack medicine, the celebrity shill who made herself some $3 billion pitching supernatural wishful thinking and life-endangering crackpot pseudoscience to poor people and women, and NBC declared her our next president in a tweet.   Oprah, friend to women and the oppressed, the coming anti-Trump?  Say what you want about our president, but no one has linked him to a surge in whooping cough.   Winfrey’s prominent place in the anti-vaccination movement is far more appalling than the behavior described in the Access Hollywood tape.  If Trump kills, it’s only by tweet-induced apoplexy.
It should not surprise us, I suppose, that those who make a living selling illusions should be more subject to them, than most.
- 2:40 PM, 9 January 2018   [link]

Here's My Kind of corn.

(You can find a picture of the other kind, here.)
- 9:11 AM, 9 January 2018   [link]